baseball

Bronx Zoo Memories

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

By Elias Rodriguez

October memories bring me to declare a few words in commemoration of our just retired Yankees team captain, reliable #2, Derek Jeter. Babe Ruth was #3. Baseball season will soon be over and a new champion will be crowned. Our region is distinct and one source of pride is that we are home to the winningest team in professional baseball history. Sadly, for my beloved New York Yankees, the season is already over given their uncharacteristically poor hitting and anemic pitching this year. Ever optimistic, perhaps we will add to our 27 World Series championships next year?

I am not sure what El Capitán’s stance is on the environment, but he certainly warmed the earth with his obvious love for the game and changed the climate in professional sports with his on and off the field goodwill. There is no real need to review Jeter’s illustrious career but for the unfamiliar: on his way to helping the team win five championships, he was also named Rookie of Year in 1996, Sports Illustrated’s 2009 Sportsman of the Year, a five time winner of the Golden Glove (which you do not get for dropping the ball) and winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given each year to the league player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Yep, our shortstop only played on one team during his career and he was a paragon in pinstripes. We lovingly refer to Yankee Stadium as the Bronx Zoo for its spectacular atmosphere and wild incidents.

Of course, becoming a world renowned competitor does not signify that you are an inherently positive role model. Yet, according to most accounts, Jeter leaves behind a legacy of professionalism, hard work and earned the respect of peers and fans alike.

We will sorely miss the Bronx Bomber. What legacy will you produce? Each of us can contribute to a better world and healthier environment. Switch to clean energy. Use less energy. Watch your water use. Reduce waste. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to bat in a run or score a point for planet Earth!

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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What Does Climate Change Have to do with Weather…and Baseball?

By Andy Miller

Nationals Park, Washington, DC

Nationals Park, Washington, DC

A question I often hear is whether a particular weather event or condition is caused by climate change, and my answer is almost always no.  You can’t say that a specific tornado, torrential downpour or 100 degree plus day is caused by climate change.

So if the answer is that the weird weather isn’t caused by climate change, then why are we so concerned?  Before we get to that, let’s remember what climate is.  Climate is the long-term average of the weather.  As has been said, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”

Climate change means that the expected weather patterns are no longer what they used to be—that is, the long-term average weather is changing.  While the climate has changed in the past, now we are seeing changes that can only be explained by the rising level of greenhouse gases caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests.

The question about whether climate change has “caused” a particular weather event is like asking whether a baseball team scored on a specific play because it has a better win-loss record than its opponent. The win-loss record doesn’t determine the outcome of an individual play, but all those individual plays determine the win-loss record.  Climate is like a team’s win-loss record—it doesn’t determine a specific weather event, but rather all the individual events determine the weather patterns that make up climate. And with climate change, it’s becoming clearer that the losses are starting to stack up against us.

If climate doesn’t determine a specific weather event, why do we often hear that climate change is affecting the weather?  What we need to remember is that this is just shorthand for what the science is really telling us.  What the science is really saying is, “higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are trapping greater amounts of solar energy, which is causing a change in how the atmosphere and oceans circulate, the amount of moisture in the air, and the amount of ice, all of which are causing changes to weather patterns across the globe.”  That’s a lot to say, so you can see why we simply talk about climate change as the cause of these impacts.

The “impacts of climate change” (which we can use now that we know what that’s really saying) are discussed in considerable detail in the new National Climate Assessment that will be published in the coming weeks.  The assessment explains what changes we are seeing now, and what we expect to see in the coming years.  It shows why we’re concerned about climate change and its impacts. And most importantly, it explains why we need to take action now on climate change.

We are only starting to see the impacts of climate change.  To turn to our sports analogy again, it’s like we’re at the start of a new season.  It’s often hard to see which team is going to be the best after only a few games.  But as the season progresses, it will be easy to see which teams have prepared well by bringing in the best players and training hard before the season starts.

Likewise, taking action on climate change now means that we will be much better prepared to meet the challenges we face in the coming years.  EPA is taking action now on climate change, and that includes EPA’s scientists and engineers.  They are teaming up to develop the scientific information and tools that will help the nation and the world prepare a winning game plan to respond to climate change.

A team that waits to begin training until after it falls behind in the standings has no chance of winning, and waiting to act on climate change until the impacts are even worse is also a losing strategy.

About the Author: Andy Miller is the Associate Director for Climate in EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program that conducts research to assess the impacts of a changing climate and develop the scientific information and tools to act on climate change.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Greening of America’s Favorite Pastime

Yankee Stadium

By Jim Ferretti

Professional sports in the New York area have a large and historic following, whether you are a fan of the Jets or Giants, Mets or Yankees, and Devils or Rangers. Over the past 10 years, these teams have implemented substantial sustainability and eco-friendly programs and processes. Met Life Stadium, where the Jets and Giants play, is considered one of the greenest stadiums in pro sports.  Major League Baseball has also implemented a number of programs to be green while still keeping the field green.

Many major league scoreboards seem to be getting bigger and bigger. Many teams have switched to LED lighting and have saved substantial energy. Scott Jenkins is vice president of ballpark operations for the Seattle Mariners and he’s also a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance. It’s a group of 30 pro teams – hockey to soccer – working to shrink the environmental footprint of pro sports teams. For example, replacing high-energy-use bulbs in the scoreboards with LED lights and other electric saving measures saved one team half a million dollars a year on power bills. A simple scoreboard uses enough energy to power 100 homes for a year.

The scoreboard at Seattle’s Safeco Field.

The Green Sports Alliance has made progress in the areas of renewable energy, a greater use of recycled products and products made from biodegradable materials, and carbon offsets where teams can pay up to one half of the carbon costs of their travel. In the 2008 All Star Game played at the new and cavernous Yankees Stadium, the game was powered 100 percent by donated wind power and used hybrid buses to brings fans to the stadium (for those not on the subway!), used materials that were recycled and biodegradable and also gave out 700,000 re-usable grocery bags.

The Washington Nationals built a brand new stadium that was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council a few years ago and implemented lighting that was energy efficient, low-flow sinks and toilets, and recycling bins with recycled materials. Eco friendly services include VIP parking for hybrid vehicles. The field has a state of the art water filtration system and is built on a former Brownfields site.

Also, the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox have installed solar panels at their older-built stadiums. Other clubs, including the New Jersey Devils hockey team, have initiated food waste recycling programs and many have switched their concession stands to bio-made materials. Also the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are using incentives to reach the fans in their area. They have developed an innovative program to recognize organizations in the area that have implemented eco friendly solutions in their own business. They have awarded a number of businesses $1,000 and tickets for recognition on the field during the game for their environmental stewardship in the community. So here’s hoping that whatever baseball or football team you root for, they have the greenest field possible.

About the Author: Jim is a team leader for the Sanitary Chemistry and Biology Team for the Laboratory Branch in the EPA’s Division of Environmental Science and Assessment.  He has a Masters Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and a BS Degree in Water Analysis Technology from California University of PA.  Jim has a diversified background in environmental studies and biological laboratory testing.  He has been employed at the EPA since 1990, starting out in the water program in headquarters and moving to New Jersey in 1992.  Prior to the EPA, Jim was a project manager for five years at a consulting firm in New Jersey where he performed laboratory and field environmental studies. Jim is an avid baseball fan and has been heavily involved in youth baseball as a manager and was president of his son’s high school Baseball Booster Club for the past two years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The New Ball Game

About the author: Jeff Maurer manages Web content and does communications work for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. He has been with EPA since 2005.

photo of Jeff Maurer at Wrigley FieldBefore I moved to DC, I lived next to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. I love Wrigley Field – it’s like stepping back in time. The scoreboard is still manually operated. There are no billboards for advertising. They don’t play rock music over the PA system, though they do play polka music on the pipe organ during rain delays. You can still buy standing-room tickets at Wrigley, which is good because the seats were apparently installed when the average American was three feet tall and suffered from tapeworms.

Compare that to recently-completed Nationals Park here in DC. Nationals Park boasts 41,888 American-sized seats (my description, not theirs), a 4,500 square foot high-definition scoreboard, and every other amenity you could possibly imagine. The fan experience is great, though their music choices tend to favor Fergie and Fall Out Boy, with surprisingly little polka.

It just goes to show how much attitudes and planning have changed. Fans in 2008 expect a lot when they come to a ballpark. They expect quality food. They expect not to sit behind a post. They expect to do the chicken dance (why?). As a result, the designers of Nationals Park had to consider a lot more than did the designers of Wrigley Field.

And finally – finally! – it seems that environmental impact is becoming a major consideration. Nationals Park is the first LEED-certified ballpark Exit EPA Disclaimer in Major League Baseball. It has several “green” features, including a plant-covered roof that reduces water runoff, an elaborate water filtration system, high-efficiency lighting, and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Compare that to Wrigley Field, which barely features plumbing.

I’m glad that ballpark designers – and designers in general – are starting to figure this out. People in 1914 – the year Wrigley was built – didn’t care too much about the environment, but people in 2008 do. For example, people at public events expect to be able to recycle their empty bottles. I know this because EPA’s Recycle on the Go initiative – which encourages recycling at public events – has held several well-received events in public spaces, including at the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Attitudes and expectations change over time, sometimes for better (e.g., ballparks should have more than one bathroom), sometimes for worse (e.g., Lady Lumps is acceptable music during a pitching change). I think the message is clear: in 2008, the public expects environmentally-friendly buildings and spaces.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Take Me Out to the "Green" Ballpark

About the author: Alan J. Steinberg is the Regional Administrator for the New York Regional Office.

I might just be the biggest baseball fan in the world, and, you might say, I am also a major fan of the planet Earth. This year, I had the chance to truly combine business and pleasure, and I’m proud to share my story as the first contributor to a new Agency-wide blog.

Alan Steinberg holds up a baseballAs a baseball “nut,” I’ve been blessed. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and rooted for the Pirates of Roberto Clemente. I also had great affection for a bunch of “Bums” from Brooklyn, including the courageous Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. In my adult years, I became a New York Mets fan. All’s right in my world when baseball is being played at Shea.

Next year, Shea Stadium will give way to the new Citi Field. Recently, I had the pleasure of announcing that our “green team,” a multi-discipline group of EPA staffers focused on pollution prevention, had hit a virtual homerun with the signing of an agreement with the Mets calling for many outstanding green practices at their new ballpark.

The agreement underscores the team’s innovative and comprehensive commitment to sustainable development, spelling out design, construction and operational principles that will ensure that the stadium meets the highest environmental standards. The Mets are building the new ballpark with 95% recycled steel. They’re installing a green roof to decrease energy needs. Water conserving measures, such as hands-free faucets and automated flush valves, will save millions of gallons of water every year.

When Citi Field is fully operational, the Mets plan to join EPA’s WasteWise program and Energy Star. And, that just scratches the surface of the many planned, environmentally friendly features of the new ballpark. Citi Field will be a model for other sports arenas (hint, hint…Yankees).

As I announced the agreement from Shea Stadium, I couldn’t help but think that the New York Mets had hit a grand slam, converting a “field of dreams” into a “field of green.”

And, what better time is there to be green than the start of baseball season and the Earth Day celebration? I hope you all do right by the planet, and I encourage you to keep reading this blog as staffers from across the Agency share their stories. Happy Earth Day everyone!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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