2014 NCAA Football Playoff All-Name Team

*Note: I didn’t break these down into specific positions. Anyone who plays on the O-Line, for example, was included in the O-Line section. Same goes for the D-Line and the D-backs. Frankly, this is the first time I’ve heard of many of these guys and I didn’t want to get technical. Also, I once claimed that an Iowa running back was tackled at the 70-yard line, so my football knowledge is somewhat limited.

OFFENSE

Quarterback:

JJ CosentinoThis was probably the toughest call of the whole exercise. There’s a bunch of good QB names among the four playoff teams, but no real great one. Runners-up: J.T. Barrett – Freshman – Ohio State; Cooper Bateman – Freshman – Alabama

Running backs:

Altee TenpennyKenyan Drake

I actually could have gone 3 deep with just ‘Bama backs and none of them would have been named T.J. Yeldon, which is a good name in it’s own right. Runners-up: Jalston Fowler – Senior – BAMA; Bri’onte Dunn – Sophmore – Ohio State

Wide Receivers:

Johnnie DixonKermit WhitfieldJohnnie Dixon isn’t a highlight-reel name, but it’s a solid name for a WR. Also, Kermit! I bet that’s even the face he makes when someone cracks a Sesame Street joke. Runners-up: Parker Barrineau – Junior – Alabama; Chet Iwuagwu – Freshman – Florida State

Tight End:

Pharaoh BrownIt’s pretty tough to make an all-name team with the last name Brown, but if this kid’s parents thought he was King Tut, who am I to disagree? Runners-up: Malcom Faciane – Junior – Alabama; TY Flournoy-Smith – Junior – Alabama

Offensive Line:

Ross PierschbacherBrigham StoehrStetzon BairMatt McFaddenBrock RubleHas anyone considered that Marcus Mariota’s success might be 100% due to the fact that he has a Brigham, a Stetzon, and a McFadden protecting him? Because that’s insane. Ross Pierschbacher might be the most O-Line name ever. Runners-up: J.C. Hassebauer – Freshman – Alabama; Hroniss Grasu (!!!) – Senior – Oregon

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line:

Adolphus Washington Darius Slade     Lorenzo Featherston   Tui Talia I bet Urban Meyer is terrified of telling Adolphus Washington and Darius Slade to ride pine. Runners-up: DeForrest Buckner – Junior – Oregon; DeMarcus Christmas – Freshman – Florida State

**BONUS RUNNER-UP**

Tracy SprinkleA big shout-out to my man Tracy Sprinkle, who has to take an ungodly amount of shit from his teammates. Fight on, T-Sprinkle.

Linebackers:

Xzavier Dickson EJ Levenberry Junior St. LouisI’ve never seen the name Xavier spelled with a Z, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most notable advances in names in the past 100 years. Junior is a great first name, but it has to be paired with the right last name for it to show it’s true glory. St. Louis is perfect. Runners-up: Paden Crowder – Junior – Alabama; Ivan Faulhaber – Freshman – Oregon

Defensive Backs:

Laurence Hootie Jones Mattrell McGraw Osner Valmeus copy Lamarcus BrutusFor some reason Osner Valmeus didn’t have a picture included in his bio. No problem, I just Googled “Guy I don’t want to mess with” and boom! Osner Valmeus. And Lamarcus Brutus! Are you kidding me? Look at his expression in that picture. Football players are not humans to Lamarcus Brutus, they’re just people he needs to destroy.

And there we have it, your 2014 NCAA Football Playoff All-Name Team.

 

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The Legend of Oscar Taveras

San Francisco Giants v St. Louis CardinalsI did not know Oscar Taveras, at least not on any kind of personal level. I never met him, never spoke with him, and other than being in the stands for a handful of games, never saw him in person. Until the summer of 2008, when the Cardinals signed him as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, I had never heard of him. Even then he was just another name on a long list of names. I couldn’t have even pointed him out in a crowd until 2011, when he was assigned to Low-A Quad Cities, the nearest Minor League team to me, a team I had actually interned with for the previous two seasons.

I still had a few friends that worked with the team, and I remember asking one of them about Taveras. His response was great: “Oh my god, that swing. That swing man“. A couple weeks later I went and saw him play in person. I remember him stepping in for his first at-bat. He wasn’t a physical monster or anything, but he certainly looked the part. He held his hands pretty high, and he had this menacing little bat wiggle, like he was just dying to launch a ball into orbit. But what I remember most was that Oscar seemed like he had sort of a presence about him, like he was totally different than the guys around him. It’s totally cliche, but it just felt like something awesome was about to happen. I was sitting down the 3rd base line, so I couldn’t tell you exactly where the first pitch was thrown, but wherever it was, Oscar liked it enough to swing at it. And that swing man.

It’s then I realized that Taveras wasn’t so much swinging the bat as he was swinging a mace. He wasn’t trying to hit the ball, he was trying to erase it from existence. He didn’t so much swing the bat as he unleashed it. He hit that ball so hard at the first baseman that the guy ducked. Ducked! Didn’t even offer a glove at it, just let it pass. And I swear to god that ball, the same ball that almost took the first baseman’s head off, hit the wall on the fly. It couldn’t have ever gotten more than six or seven feet off the ground. The ballpark was damn near silent. Oscar stood at 2nd playing with his batting gloves, seemingly unaware of what he had just done, like this was normal for him. It was one of those holy shit moments.

When most people think of legends, at least in a baseball sense, they think of guys like Babe Ruth & Ty Cobb. We’ve heard the tales of these men and their accomplishments so many times that they seem almost as big as the game itself. And really, that’s what makes them legends, the nearly endless parade of stories and the seemingly bottomless barrel of moments that they produced. But a legend can also be defined as a story that lies within the realm of being believable, but is unable to ever be proven true. On Friday, May 30th the Cardinals announced that they were calling up Oscar Taveras, and he was to make his debut the following day. I remember it well, because I saw the news while en route to St. Louis to see that very game against the Giants. Suddenly, after 6 long years of waiting, Oscar was St. Louis bound, and I was going to be there to see it.

The weather the next day was about as crappy as it could be. It had rained all night and through the morning, and the forecast for the remainder of the day didn’t look much better. It didn’t matter. It was Oscar Day, and Busch Stadium was nuts. I’ve seen grand slams that got less of a reaction out of the home crowd than the one the grounds crew got when they came out to pull the tarp off the field. The Beatles could have played there that day and I’m not sure anyone would have noticed.

When Taveras stepped in for his 2nd at-bat in the bottom of the 5th, he did so under a sky that was ready to burst. It started to mist a bit as he took the first pitch for ball one. Yusmerio Petit took the throw from his catcher and circled the mound looking at the sky. It was coming any second now. He stepped back on the rubber and looked in for his sign. I don’t have any clue what sign he got, or what pitch he threw, but Oscar liked it enough to swing. And that swing man.

The ball traveled 401 feet into the Cardinals’ bullpen. Just like that, almost as if a switch had been flipped,  the skies opened up and it began to pour. It was the kind of rain that turns the warning track into a lake almost immediately. From our seats in the 3rd deck behind 1st base it was hard to even see Oscar as he rounded 2nd. Still, almost nobody left their seats. Not until he got his curtain call. The waiting was over. Oscar Taveras had brought the rain.

 

Fast forward to Sunday, October 12th. Its Game 2 of the NLCS, and the Cardinals trail one game to nothing against the Giants. Taveras, after struggling to really get going for most of the season, had been relegated to the bench for the postseason. In the following days a lot will be made of him & what the Cardinals want to see him do differently in the off season. To his credit, Oscar seemed to take it all in stride. He didn’t look angry or disappointed, he just looked ready to be used in whatever role Mike Matheny would assign to him. That assignment came in the bottom of the 7th with the Cardinals trailing by a run, when Taveras was called upon to pinch-hit for his friend Carlos Martinez. He promptly took a 2-1 pitch from Jean Machi and deposited it into the right field seats to tie the game.

He looked stoic as he rounded the bases. There was no fist-pumping, no chest puffing. Here’s this 22 year-old kid playing in the biggest game of his life, after delivering the biggest hit of his life, and he looks like he’s done it a thousand times before. He’s acting like he was made for this moment. The Cardinals went on to win Game 2 on a walk-off home run in the 9th inning by Kolten Wong. For Taveras, it felt like another story that would eventually be a small part of the narrative of a potentially legendary career. A career like those of Ruth & Cobb.

Taveras NLCSBut Oscar isn’t that kind of legend. He was taken far too soon to put together enough of the of the indelible moments like those guys were able to. What we’re left with is a small collection of special moments and a mountain of what-could-have-been’s. Oscar Taveras might have been the next Ty Cobb; the next Babe Ruth. Maybe he would have taken a shot at Pete Rose’s all-time hits record. Maybe he would have tried to unseat Cal Ripken Jr. from his Iron Man throne. He could have been baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams.

We’ll never know. A couple of years ago I bought a few pictures of Oscar that I hoped to someday get signed by him. Sadly, I never got that chance. I’ll keep those pictures though, in the hopes that someday my kids will find them and ask who that kid is and why he’s smiling so hard. Then I can tell them the stories; like the time I saw him hit a ball so hard the first baseman just gave up, and the time he brought the rain. And then I’ll tell them what Oscar was supposed to be, what he was meant to do. That’s the legend of Oscar Taveras.

The world spins on. The sun came up today, and it’ll come up tomorrow. By this time on Thursday we’ll be without baseball for another long winter, left only to think about what could have been, what could have gone differently. Though he’ll always be remembered by baseball and certainly by St. Louis, we’ll move on from Oscar Taveras. Onto the next kid with the big smile & the big bat.

But that swing man.

 

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Scouting the Kids from Backyard Baseball

In 1997, a little company named Humongous Entertainment released a game called Backyard Baseball. Even today, this remains one of the best baseball games ever made, with unique game mechanics and a diverse roster of kids that allowed you to craft your team in any way you saw fit. If you played the game, at some point or another you may have wondered what these kids might look like as big leaguers (I certainly did). Because I have way too much time on my hands, here’s 10 scouting reports from the league, with each kid ranked by their future potential and where they might fit in the big leagues. I’ve provided their current ratings (from in the game), and also graded out their future tools.

#10. Mikey Thomas

MikeyThomas

Batting: 4, Running: 1, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 3

Mikey is your prototypical first baseman, if only because that’s the only position he can play. His hulking frame severely limits his range on the field, but as long as he can fall on it, he can handle it. His value is almost totally derived from his bat. Power-wise, Thomas is second to none, and he doesn’t need to play his home games at Steele Stadium to inflate his home run totals.

SteeleStadium_edited-1

LOOK AT THAT PORCH IN CENTER

However, much like many pure sluggers late in their career, if Mikey doesn’t hit it out, he’s a huge liability. A severe cold that has hampered him for LITERALLY HIS ENTIRE BBL CAREER has made an already slow runner agonizingly slow. It’s not uncommon to see him get thrown out at first on balls that he lined off the wall late in games, when his energy is nearly depleted. If he manages to reach first, a home run is about the only thing that will bring him around safely.

If he turns out to be one of those kids who grows “up” rather than “out” (if you know what I mean), and his cold clears up sometime before he graduates high school, Mikey might be on to something here. Unfortunately, in the present, his elite-level raw power isn’t enough to make up for his other shortcomings, and he finds himself at the tail end of my top 10.

Future Grades:

Power: 80

Hit: 50

Run: 20

Defense: 30

Arm: 40

Perfect World Comp: Matt Stairs

#9: Amir Khan

AmirKhan

Batting: 3, Running: 2, Pitching: 3, Fielding: 2

Admittedly, this is a bloodline pick. Amir’s older brother Achmed will appear later on this list, so we get a peek into his future. That being said, the younger of the brothers Khan has no real weakness, and benefits from being able to play basically anywhere you need him. His bat makes him sort of a natural right fielder, but his abilities on the mound deserve attention as well. His tools always seem to play up a level when he plays with his brother, so there’s that as well.

Amir’s biggest shortcoming might be his body. While his bro has a big, projectable, athletic frame, Amir is a little on the short side, so it’s hard to see his power remaining above average as he ages. In the end, his value might come mostly on the mound, where he has the potential of a #2 starter with bat suited for the National League.

Future Grades:

Power: 40

Hit: 60

Run: 40

Defense: 50

Arm: 70

Perfect World Comp: Carlos Zambrano

#8. Dante Robinson

Dante Robinson

Batting: 2, Running: 4, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 3

This pick might surprise BBL veterans, but Dante has always been one of my favorites. He has a metabolism that allows him to eat literally pounds of food during each game, and still manages to sport elite-level speed.

His bat has never been more than average, but it should remain there as he grows older. He’ll squeeze out several extra hits a year by simply slapping the ball the other way and running like hell. He also sports a solid glove that makes him a good fit for a corner outfield position or second base.

Dante makes this largely because of his future potential. His body has some room to fill out, so it’s not crazy to think he could add a little power to his game as he moves up the ladder. He will, however, have to reign in his eating habits, as someday that metabolism will slow down. If he hasn’t changed his lifestyle by then, this could come off the rails pretty quickly.

Future Grades:

Power: 40

Hit: 60

Run: 70

Defense: 50

Arm: 50

Perfect World Comp: CoCo Crisp

#7. Jocinda Smith

JocindaSmith

Batting: 4, Running: 2, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 4

Jocinda’s nickname is “MVP”, though it’s pretty obvious she made that up herself, because there are far better options throughout the BBL. That’s not to say Smith doesn’t have talent. The combination of being maybe the best pure hitter in the league and having a glove that can play anywhere makes her any easy selection for any team, and she certainly has some pep in her step.

However, she has a major hitch in her swing, and the awkwardness of it saps much of her power. She isn’t a bad runner, but she’s no burner either. Ultimately, what holds the “MVP” back from being an actual MVP is how disappointing her tools actually play in-game. She has the potential to be a shortstop who can hit in the middle of an order, but instead fits better as a right fielder who hits somewhere in the 6-8 range.

If she can iron out the hitch, there’s still a lot of value here. If not, she could end up as one of those “what could have been” types.

Future Grades:

Power: 50

Hit: 60

Run: 40

Defense: 60

Arm: 50

Perfect World Comp: Cameron Maybin

6: Achmed Khan

AchmedKhan

Batting: 4, Running: 3, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 2

The kid affectionately known as “Axeman” is the first truly great hitter to appear on our list. With a quick, compact swing, Achmed has the power to park any pitch that catches too much of the zone, but the smarts simply go with the pitch as needed. His above-average speed makes him a serious threat on the bases, and allows him to cover a pretty good chunk of real estate in the outfield.

Since the eldest Khan hits enough, the fact that he profiles as a right fielder only doesn’t hurt his stock much. The biggest issue here might be pulling him away from his inevitable punk rock career.

Todd Xavier is PISSED out there.

Todd Xavier is PISSED out there.

With an athletic frame that allows him plenty of room to grow, there’s no reason to think the kid can’t continue to be an elite hitter as he gets older. The biggest thing keeping Achmed out of the top 5 is simply the fact that he plays a position already stocked with elite bats.

Future Grades:

Power: 70

Hit: 60

Run: 50

Defense: 40

Arm: 40

Perfect World Comp: Ryan Braun

#5. Tony Delvecchio

Delvecchio

Batting: 3, Running: 2, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 3

Known simply as “The Vec”, Tony has easily the best outfield arm in the league. He doesn’t quite have the speed you want out of a center fielder, but he handles the position well and can stick there as he grows older. At the plate, he has gap power that makes him a natural 5-hitter, and he has the speed to leg out extra bases when needed.

While there isn’t much in his game that holds him back, most of his issues are the off-field. Never one to get along with coaches and teammates, it’s likely that his attitude will cause problems as he gets older. Despite these issues, “The Vec” certainly has the talent to do some special things. Baseball runs in his family’s blood, as his sister Angela might be the best pitcher in the league. If he can keep the non-baseball stuff off the field, there’s a potential impact player here.

Future Grades:

Power: 50

Hit: 60

Run: 50

Defense: 60

Arm: 70

Perfect World Comp: Jim Edmonds

#4. Keisha Phillips

Keisha_2003

Batting: 4, Running: 4, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 3

 If you’ve played this game, this will be a pretty controversial ranking. A quick glance at the ratings above looks an awful lot like Bo Jackson. If you know anything about the world of baseball scouting, you know that Bo Jackson is a guy you simply do not compare people to, as there’s really never been anyone like him, before or since. Nonetheless, those numbers don’t lie. Phillips has light-tower power, an uncanny ability to barrel up a baseball, and despite being one of the biggest kids in the league, game-changing speed.

This list is, however, based on the future potential of the player. While in the present, Keisha is a perennial all-star and a top three position player, it’s hard to see the body allowing her tools to age well. The speed will be the first thing to go, and once that’s gone, she’s a first base-only player who will have to hit to survive. If size continues to be a problem, she could lose much of her power long-term.

Future Grades:

Power: 60

Hit: 60

Run: 30

Defense: 40

Arm: 40

Perfect World Comp: Jason Giambi

#3. Stephanie Morgan

StephMorgan

Batting: 3, Running: 3, Pitching: 2, Fielding: 3

The reason Morgan is this high on the list is the same reason Keisha Phillips is not: future potential. The daughter of a former minor-leaguer, Stephanie can play shortstop, and she can stick. She certainly looks the part, with a lanky, projectable frame. Her power will never be more than average, but quick hands and a flat swing allow her to drive the gaps and occasionally poke one out. While speed isn’t a major part of her game, good instincts allow her a fair share of stolen bases.

Morgan is what scouts call a “baseball rat”, and with no real weaknesses in her game, she might be the best bet of all the BBLers to make the show someday. What she lacks in flair, she makes up for in polish.

Future Grades:

Power: 50

Hit: 60

Run: 50

Defense: 70

Arm: 70

Perfect World Comp: Derek Jeter

#2. Pablo Sanchez

PabloSanchez

Oh, snap.

SHOCKED FACE

SHOCKED FACE

Batting: 4, Running: 4, Pitching: 3, Fielding: 4

Simply put, Pablo Sanchez is the greatest fictional athlete of all time. Sure, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pickled the Beast, Jimmy Chitwood made something like 98% of the shots he took in Hoosiers, and Steve Nebraska struck out all 27 batters he faced (on a mere 81 pitches) in The Scout. None of them have anything on Pablo. There is literally no position on the field that he can’t handle, and that includes the mound. Honestly, you could probably play with two outfielders if he was one of them.

Wars have been started by people with less presence than Pablo has at the plate. He has power to all fields, and generates an unheard of amount of backspin for a kid his age. True story: one season, Pablo hit home runs in eight straight at bats for me, including a 5 for 5 with 5 home runs day. There isn’t a pitch he can’t handle, and if he can barrel it up, he can hit it out. I’m not sure who Ernie Steele’s neighbors were, but they have to be damn tired of fishing Pablo’s moonshots out of their pool.

That porch...

That porch…

Pablo’s nickname is “The Secret Weapon”, but I’ve never talked to anyone who knows him as anything but “The Legend”. His athletic prowess doesn’t stop with baseball either. He is literally the best player in every Backyard Sports game ever. In the second installment of Backyard Baseball, Humongous Entertainment introduced MLB players into the game (as kids), and Pablo was still the best. Basketball, Football, Soccer; you name it, he dominated it.

Also, the music:

As you’ve probably figured out by now, the problem here is projection. Just look at this kid:

Pablo2

He’s no older than 14 and he already has what appears to be a beer belly. He might be 5 feet tall when he jumps. He’s one of the quickest players in the league right now, but there’s no way his legs allow that to continue to be true. Pablo’s bat plays anywhere with anyone, but it’s going to take an awful lot of growing to maintain that.

Future Grades:

Power: 70

Hit: 70

Run: 40

Defense: 40

Arm: 60

Perfect World Comp: TedWilliamsBot 4000

#1. Pete Wheeler

PeteWheeler

Batting: 3, Running: 4, Pitching: 3, Fielding: 3

Pete Wheeler bats from the left side. Despite this, every single time he comes to the plate, he steps in on the right side, seemingly forgetting what planet he’s on. Eventually though, he always figures it out, and steps across the plate. He toes the dish, straight-legged, arms extended. His stance is a throwback to the days of Cobb and Ruth. He looks at the pitcher with a thousand-yard stare, his mouth slightly agape, as though he’s astounded that he simply found his way to the park that day. The pitcher kicks and deals, and Pete starts his swing. His eyes narrow, his teeth clench, and he loads back. As the ball approaches the plate, he drives his hands and fires his hips with all the fury of a rabid bear. His bat makes contact, sending the ball on a rope to the right-center gap. And then, something special happens: Pete runs.

My god, does Pete run. His speed is the single-greatest tool in the game and maybe the best in all of sports, fictional or not. If he puts the ball on the ground to anyone but the pitcher and the first baseman, there is a better than 50% chance he’ll beat it out. If he puts a ball in the gap, well, look out. He’s one of those rare guys who everyone on the field knows is stealing and nobody can do anything about it. It’s entirely possible, against a catcher with a below-average arm, for Pete to steal second, and then steal third while the throw is still coming from home. He’s literally a modern day Cool Papa Bell.

Defensively, Pete can play anywhere you need him. At second, he can run balls over to first rather than throw them, and still get a good 85%-90% of runners out. He’s got the range to play anywhere in the outfield, and the arm to handle the left side of the infield. If you put him on the mound, he’s a top-five pitcher in the BBL. At the plate he has above-average power with an above-average hit tool. His swing is a little violent, and more conducive to line drives, but he’ll hit more than his share of home runs.

While Pablo Sanchez will always be the legend of the BBL, the legend of Pete Wheeler will live on in its own right. Developmentally, Pete is already tall and athletic with plenty of room to grow. There’s no reason to think that his legs can’t hold up, and although he might lose some power if that swing doesn’t come under a little more control, he should always be a good pure hitter. He looks like an impact talent at the big league level, a cornerstone guy who a franchise can be built around.

Future Grades:

Power: 60

Hit: 70

Run: 80

Defense: 70

Arm: 60

Perfect World Comp: Ichiro Suzuki

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The Billion-Foot Home Run

Last night, during a casual Facebook conversation, Nick Devlin mentioned to me that he was trying to find video of the most recent Justin Upton home run because he heard it traveled “like a billion feet”. Obviously, that’s way too many feet (howmanyaltuves.com tells me it’s north of 184 million Altuves). But this got me thinking: if Justin Upton were to hit a ball one billion feet, where would this ball land? Am I safe? Would this cause some sort of international incident? Because I was bored and take things way too literally, I decided to investigate.

Last night’s game between the Kansas City Royals and the Atlanta Braves took place at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. A quick check of Google Satellite view tells me that the ballpark is orientated in a northeastern direction, turned slightly more toward north. This means that a ball hit toward where a left fielder would traditionally play would be headed almost directly north. Although Mr. Upton pulled his home run last night a little more than that, for the purpose of this exercise we are going to say he hit it directly over Alex Gordon’s head.

Image

Now it’s time for some math. Google Converter tells me that one billion feet (1,000,000,000) is equal to 189,393.94 miles, which we’ll round up to 189,394. The earth, at its north and south poles, at least, is 24,859.82 miles around, which we’ll round up to 24,860. A quick glance at those numbers tells me that this ball is probably going to have to get into orbit to make this trip, but if North Korea hasn’t figured that out yet I’m not going to bother with it either.

Before we try to pinpoint where this ball will land, we need to make a few assumptions. For one, this mammoth shot will have to be almost totally unaffected by the weather. Obviously, over the course of almost 190,000 miles, weather conditions could cause this ball to drop almost anywhere. Also, the angle at which this ball would leave the bat would not allow it to travel directly north. To make this easier, we’re going to say that as it left the ballpark, this ball would encounter a brief Atlantic breeze that would allow it to travel at a longitude of exactly 33.7352° N. This will be the only weather we encounter on the trip.

Image

A more accurate representation.

Now that we have a ball hit hard enough to travel one billion feet, and weather conditions that have allowed it to travel in a direct line, we can begin to pinpoint where this might land. To achieve the “189,394 miles traveled badge” on foursquare, Justin’s blast will have to circle the Earth 7.42 times. After reaching orbit because of science or whatever, the ball would presumably spend a few minutes zipping around globe, passing directly over home plate at Turner Field seven times before beginning its descent. As it crossed the dish at Turner for the seventh and final time, it will have traveled 174,020 miles of the required 189,394, meaning it still has 15,374 miles to go. Ruler time!

Image

Pictured: Nothing.

After using the distance scale on Google Satellite to add the additional 15,374 miles, we finally have a rough landing point. The lucky fan? Some sort of aquatic animal off the eastern coast of Peter I Island in Antarctica. A quick Wikipedia read tells us that Peter I is a dependency of Norway and has probably the most boring name ever. Before you book your next vacation, however, you should know that the island is 95% glacier and the most recent census found the population of the island to be exactly zero (leading me to believe that Norway sent a group of people to Antarctica to look at an island and go, “Nope. Nobody here”). As of 2005 it was estimated that fewer than 600 people had ever set foot on the island, so the chances that this historic blast by Justin Upton is ever seen again are probably a solid 0%.

If you’re one of the three people who clicked on this link, you obviously didn’t come this far to see this ball bounce off of a whale or something (or maybe you did?). No, we want contact with a human being! We want to read that some dude in China or Europe had a really bad morning when a leathery asteroid landed in his Frosted Flakes. Don’t worry, I’m prepared to deliver.

We’re going to use Turner Field as the launching pad for this second experiment as well. This time, however, instead of sending the ball north, we’re headed east. Now, Justin Upton is an incredible talent, and one of the most exciting players in the game to watch. But I cannot, in good conscience, believe that Justin can park a ball one billion feet the opposite way. No, for this exercise we need a lefty. But not just any lefty. We need a true masher. A lumberjack. A monster. We need: Matt Stairs.

Image

An actual Google Image result for Matt Stairs. I did not edit this.

Now that we have our man, we need to establish some assumptions again. First, another look at the orientation of Turner Field shows that it would be pretty hard to hit a ball directly east, as that would result in a foul ball. So, let’s assume that Stairs hooks this ball around the right field foul pole, where it is soon thereafter straightened out by that Atlantic breeze, which puts it flatly on course at a latitude of 84.3896° W.

Image

Physics.

Again, this ball must travel 189,394 miles, which will require it to circle the Earth multiple times. BUT WAIT A MINUTE! Science tells me that the distance around the earth at the equator is actually greater than it is at the poles because SCIENCE. So now that the ball is headed east rather than north, it must travel 24,902 miles (rounded up) to circumnavigate the globe. Obviously, Atlanta isn’t located on the equator, and 84.3896° W doesn’t circle the Earth at its center, so this isn’t going to be all that accurate, but we’re talking about billion-foot home runs here so MOVING ON.

Back in Atlanta, Matt Stairs, who was just signed by the Braves at 45 years old, digs in to face Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie, being Jeremy Guthrie, tries to sneak a low-90’s fastball right down the pipe past Stairs, who promptly puts it into orbit because SCIENCE. The ball takes off, and within a few minutes has circled the Earth seven times. At this point, the ball has roughly 15,080 miles left to travel before impact. Again, RULER TIME!

Image

Boom.

Again, the Google Satellite scale gives us a good idea of the area where this ball might land. In this case, it’s the North Pacific Ocean, somewhere northwest of Hawaii. Unlike our previous home run, however, this one should land in close proximity to a landmass with an actual population. The unsuspecting fan base? The 60 inhabitants of Midway Atoll.

This much warmer and far better named landing spot is an unincorporated territory of the United States, and former home to the Midway Naval Air Station. The Atoll was a focal point of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important battles of the Pacific Theater of WWII. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s Matt Stairs: 1, Justin Upton: 0 in the “Cool places to hit billion-foot home runs” derby. Because we didn’t come this far for nothing, we’re going to assume it made contact with a house.

Image

Probably this one.

So there we have it. While a billion-foot blast off the bat of Justin Upton would be pretty unspectacular as far as globe-circling home runs go, Matt Stairs would likely more than make up for it. Since nobody reading this is an Antarctic sea creature or a resident of Midway Atoll, you’re likely safe, and the spark that will start WWIII has been avoided for another day.

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