Stanford's Baseball Gem -- Sunken Diamond

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Stanford's Baseball Gem -- Sunken Diamond

April 23, 2010URBAN ARCHIVECAL PAGE STANFORD PAGE

If you dont want to haggle with scalpers at AT&T Park or subject yourself to a stunning lack of intimacy in Oakland this weekend, but still need to satisfy an unquenchable thirst for baseball, do yourself -- and your family, if you have young children -- a favor and head to Sunken Diamond.Stanford Universitys perennial powerhouse of a baseball program has one of the greatest home parks in the country, and the name says it all. Its not a stadium. Its a diamond.Its baseball boiled down to the reason we fell in love with it in the first place: green grass, brown dirt and the game unencumbered by contracts or free agency -- or anything else thats soured so many people on big-league ball.Its a great weekend to introduce yourself -- or get reacquainted with -- Sunken Diamond, too. Currently ranked No. 22 in the country, Stanford is hosting rival Cal, which is ranked No. 15. Fridays game is an evening affair (5:30 p.m.), Saturday and Sundays first pitches are scheduled for 1 p.m. It's a vital series in the Pac-10, with Stanford (18-13, 7-5) in a tie for third place in the conference, trailing the second-place Bears (22-11, 8-4) by a game.And if two top-25 teams with a raging rivalry werent enough to entice you, both teams are playing some of their best baseball of the year. The Cardinal has won its past five games, the Bears their past four.But unless you have serious ties to either school, a trip to Sunken Diamond isnt as much about watching baseball as it is about feeling baseball, and the best way for you and your family to feel the college game is to sit on one of the grassy hills on either side of the diamond. Bring a blanket, spread it out, plop little Jimmy or Joan in your lap, crack open a peanut and grab your scorebook. Talk about the game. Stay until the final out. On your way home, stop off for some ice cream. Its how the game is meant to be passed down, Sunken Diamond is the perfect place to do it. --Mychael Urban
What's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

Jeff Samardzija is entering Year 2 of the five-year contract he signed with the Giants following the 2015 season.

With spring training underway, what is the hardest part about getting his body and mind prepared for the upcoming campaign?

"The pitching aspects of things, the older I get, the more they kind of just fall right in line with feeling my mechanics out," Samardzija explained on KNBR 680 on Wednesday morning. "For me, it's probably the cardio (laughter). The older I get, the more I realize that you put more weight on in the offseason, then it's a little harder to get off.

"You hear about it, right? You hear about it all the time when you're younger ... and my offseasons, I like to have offseasons. I don't watch my calories. I don't watch my intake (I don't really watch any of that anyways). But the offseason -- I have fun, I relax ... then you get working out again and usually those first five or six poles, two-mile runs, camelback hikes -- they're always pretty interesting the first couple times."

The former college wide receiver is listed at 225 pounds.

Samardzija turned 32 years old in January and is entering his 10th big-league season.

He went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA over 32 starts last year.

Over his final 10 starts, he went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA.

"The splitter came back for me there toward the end of the year," Samardzija said. "I kind of brought the curveball in to not replace, but kind of take up some of the space of the splitter that wasn't there.

"And then come September, the splitter showed up and then we had the curveball and we ran with it from there."

I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

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I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while – a guy I like a lot – said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls -- papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players -- were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.
I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked – the things boys liked – were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.