12 June 2013

Baseball Chapter 2

Alright faithful readers, I need all three of you to sound off again about the next chapter in my book.  You all gave great suggestions last time, and this chapter is even more of a rough draft than the last one.  I have a couple of ideas I am playing around with to tie the book in with, but have not settled on one yet.  So for now it is more of a travel log, but I want to hear if you think it is worth pursuing.  I am open to all and any feedback, as always.  Thanks in advance, and enjoy.  Also, if you like this so far, stay tuned for Chapter 3...Yankee Stadium!

Chapter 2
Washington Nationals versus San Francisco Giants
June 09, 2008

Though twelve years, ten months, and two days had passed between games; four-thousand six-hundred and ninety days; my newfound quest to see every stadium was again underway.  This time I was excited, my goal officially in my mind and launched.  The short drive from Emmitsburg, Maryland to Nationals ballpark seemed to take days, though it was really only about 90 minutes.  My excitement was just so intense that it actually slowed down time.  It was also contagious, as my high energy amped up the others in the car with me.  I was anxious to see the Giants, whom I had loved during the Will Clark era, and I had heard the brand new ballpark in Washington DC was a great place to see a game.  

We parked our rental car at RFK stadium and took the free shuttle to Nationals Ball Park.  We met a scalper on the short walk from the shuttle stop to ball field, paid him twenty bucks a ticket, and headed to our seats at field level on third base side, 12 rows back.  Best scalper experience ever. 

After purchasing hot dogs, peanuts, and soda pop, we took our seats and watched warm ups.  I began to realize that many of the names were foreign to me. I resolved to do a better job following all teams, not just my favorite Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  

As I stood to sing along to the National Anthem, it dawned on me that I was in the Nation’s capital, singing the nation’s anthem, at a game regaled as America’s past time.  I may or may not have gotten teary eyed.  Or maybe it was allergies?

My excitement and anticipation did not have to wait long to be satiated, in the top of the first inning the Giants got some offense going with a Randy Winn double to deep left center field.  The double drove in Ray Durham.  

I made a silent pact with myself to cheer for the home team whenever I visit a stadium, so I began to root for the Nationals.  “Let’s go Nats,” was the cheer.  In the bottom of the first inning, my pseudo fanmanship was put to the ultimate test when I got to witness my absolute favorite play baseball-the catcher sniping a stealing baserunner.  Benji Molina caught Elijah Dukes trying to steal second.  I was so excited to witness this play that I could have left the game satisfied right then.  Lucky for me I stayed, because only minutes later Molina did it again to the very next baserunner, Lastings Millege.  I was absolutely loving it.  I may or may not have teared up again.  

As the innings continued, there were more hits.  There were some runs, and there were a lot of foul balls.  I wondered to myself just how many balls are used at the average MLB game and promised myself to look it up later.  According to a book about random baseball facts, the average life span of a baseball is 6 pitches.  An average of 60 balls are used in a game.  (Need reference)

My mind again drifted back to the black-top of Gompers Circle, my neighborhood.  Our sandlot.  I remembered a very famous foul ball, the one that careened way outside of our makeshift third baseline, and found itself smashing through the basement window of the Fotheringham’s home with ease.  My first impulse, as the ball rocketed off my bat in the wrong direction, was to run as if I had just hit a home run, except instead of following the base-path I wanted to run straight to my downstairs bedroom where I could shut the door and pretend nothing happened.  Never mind the 10 other players that knew what had happened.  Never mind my conscience.  Who’s to say what is right and wrong anyway?  Was it my fault they built a house so close to our baseball diamond?  Common sense and responsibility won the battle, and I reluctantly owned up to the responsibility.  The remaining details escape my memory, but I am positive that I paid for that window.  

In the fifth inning a newly called-up pitcher, Tyler Clippard came to the mound for the Nationals.  The score was tied at one run each.  Washington had tied it up  the previous half inning with a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly to score the runner from third.  Clippard allowed hits to each of the first three batters.  Ray Durham hit a double.  Randy Winn battled through a long at bat-full of fouls-to also hit a double, scoring Durham.  THe third batter, Molina, doubled to score Winn.  Giants now led 3 to 1, and Tyler Clippard was banished to the land of misfit toys.  I later learned that Clippard had been called up that day to replace Garrett Mock who was called up from triple A the day before, and subsequently got rocked by Giants’ batters.  Mock was shipped back to Columbus, and Clippard was called up.  I wondered if Clippard arrived back in Columbus before the end of the game?  

The Nats scored again in the 8th inning.  Molina tried to pick a runner off at third base, but this throw was off the mark and the throwing error gave the runner enough cushion to score.  Sometime before that, I had gone back for another hot-dog and bought a mini souvenir bat as well.  I decided at that point to buy souvenir bat from every stadium.  The game ended with a score of 3 to 2, Giants win.  

I returned to Nationals ball park one month and one day later, on July 10th, 2008.  I bought tickets from a scalper once again and sat in nearly the same seat.  I ate another hot dog or two, and again sang the anthem-without tears this time.  I sat and watched a very boring pitchers duel.  The Arizona Diamond Backs were in town, having a very mediocre season to this point.  There were quite a few strike outs on each side.  Both starting pitchers pitched late into the game.  The Diamondbacks scored a run in the 6th, and another in the 7th, and the 27,000 or so fans began to empty the stadium.  Not me.  I was staying put to the final pitch.  I loved the cool summer evening in the stadium, the light sea breeze that blew in from the outfield was refreshing.  Besides that, there is not many places to be better than a baseball game.  

A quick 2.5 innings later, it was the bottom of the 9th and the game seemed over for the Nationals.  Looking around the stadium you would have thought it was over.  Suddenly, a couple of errors by Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds allowed the Nats to tie the game.  There was absolutely no offense all game, and then a couple poorly timed errors evened the score.  The Nats got another runner in scoring position, but couldn’t get him across the plate. We’re going to extra innings.  

In the top of the 10th, the D-Backs came alive, scoring three runs, including one off the bat of Reynolds in a sort of redeeming fashion.  Reynolds hit an RBI double, and then later scored a run himself.  Middle of the 10th, and the score is now Diamondbacks: 5.  Nationals: 2.  In the bottom of the 10th, with even more fans leaving, the Nationals caught fire.  A runner had scored, and a couple more were on base.  Austin Kearns hit a double, scoring two runs.  Kearns now found himself at third base, with one out.  One wild pitch or a sacrifice fly would win it for the Nationals.  The sixteen fans that were left were ecstatic.  The next ball was hit to Reynolds and I had visions of error number three, but he fielded the hard grounder cleanly and threw Kearns out at home.  The next batter grounded out as well, which took us to the 11th inning.  The Diamondbacks stayed hot in the eleventh, and scored two more runs.  The Nationals couldn’t answer these runs, and lost after a very exciting final three innings.  

I loved it.  I couldn’t remember a more exciting game than that one.  Even though the first three-fourths of the game was a yawner.  America’s past-time, in America’s capital, in a brand new stadium!  My goal of thirty stadiums seemed even more exciting and the possibilities of what I would experience at each game were endless.  

22 November 2012

Baseball Adventures

Okay friends and readers, I am writing a post here as a test.  I want to write a book.  This is a rough draft of chapter 1.  The book will be about my quest as a commoner to see all major league baseball stadiums, but also hidden within is a story about growing up.  Please read this objectively, and provide me criticism.  If this were the first chapter of a book, would you read on?  Even non sports fans should offer me their opinion.  I can take harsh criticism if you have it.  What did you like?  What did you hate?  Etc etc.  

Chapter 1 
Toronto Blue Jays versus Boston Red Sox
Aug 7th, 1995

I didn’t know it at the time, but my quest to see a game in every major league baseball stadium started in 1995, in Toronto, Canada.  I was living in the Toronto area then, and baseball was the farthest thing from my mind.  It wasn’t even my idea to attend a baseball game, but accepted the invitation from friends as a last minute addition.  Twelve years later, however, my baseball passion would ignite and my quest would launch. 

I’ve had a love for baseball my whole life, and like most boys growing up in America, played little league ball with the local recreation leagues, and played twice as many pick-up games at the neighborhood “sandlot.”  

Our sandlot, for most games, was a black-top residential “circle slash cul-de-sac,” playing in the street in front of the houses.  Our teams usually consisted of 5 or 6 players on each team, depending on who had completed their homework, chores, or other checklists imposed on each of us by our parents.  These teams were never the same.  We divided up based on who was there, and each summer someone else in the neighborhood either moved in, or got “old enough” to join us.  When I say “us.,” I mean everyone that played, but there were a core group of four or five that were seemingly always there.  

We caught the train from North York to downtown Toronto, Ontario and made our way to the Rodgers Center, home-field of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The trains were packed with fans, dressed in various shades of blue, sporting jerseys and t-shirts decorated with the Blue Jays logo.  Blue Jays fans were still riding high from winning to back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993.  In fact, the die hard Blue Jays fans even went on to claim 1994, since Major League Baseball had suffered a player strike part of the way into the 1994 season, and the World Series was cancelled for the first time since World War II.  Since there was not a new champion named, the reigning champs must be the champs again right?  If you were a Blue Jay fan it made perfect sense.  I approved of the logic at the time, mostly because sports fans in Toronto needed something to keep their spirits up.  Professional sports consisted of baseball and hockey, with basketball trying to sneak into the hearts of the locals.  Following baseball’s strike in 1994, the National Hockey league also went on strike, delivering a combination double punch to sports fans all across the great white north.  

We walked into the stadium and it was breathtaking.  Crisp green grass, perfectly manicured a prepped for America’s past time.  America’s past time, in Canada.  The Red Sox were in town.  

We took our seats high in right field, and watched the last few minutes of warm ups.  Players that were previously only known to me from my baseball card collection were now coming to life right in front of me.  I grew more and more excited as I began to recognize many of them from my cards:  Wade Boggs, Jose Conseco, and “the Rocket” Roger Clemens.  I knew these names well.  Toronto had more recognizable names as well:  Joe Carter, Al Leiter, and John Olerud.  I was especially excited to see John Olerud play.  He caught my attention due to his wearing of a hard hat while playing first base.  I learned later that he had suffered a brain injury in college and took extra precautions for his own safety.  Sadly, he went “0 for 4” on the day. 

The Red Sox won the game, 5 to 4. A Blue Jays fielder named Devon White hit a three run homer in the bottom of the 8th to make it all tied up at 4, and got the crowd back into it after being stoic all game, but could not answer run scored by Boston in the top of the tenth, and lost the game.  

So my quest began.  One down, twenty-nine to go.  

02 February 2012

Social Media Social Schmedia

Are social media sites making us less social? Think about it. There is not room for small talk in a 140 character message. We all skip the pleasantries, and get down to business. Just 10 years ago we were required to strike up conversations, learn pleasantries, and ask meaningless questions to act like we cared. Despite this previous post, I have rejoined the facebook/twiiter world, but wonder again if it is more damaging than good.

In some regards, this is a benefit. I was never good at small talk, because I typically just did not care. Sure, its polite to ask how the family is doing, and if there is anything new at the office, but in all honesty, do we really care? Furthermore, do we even understand? Further-furthermore, are we even honest in our answers? Imagine this conversation:

Me to casual friend #1: “ Hey, how you been? It’s been a while eh?”

Casual Friend: “Yeah, it sure has. What’s new?”

Me: “Same old, same old I guess.”

Casual Friend: “I hear ya man. How’s the family?”

Me: “Well, my oldest daughter is really concerned about one of her friends at school always teasing her. She comes home each day talking about how she really wants to be friends with this girl, but that she is mean at recess. She has also been doing so well with her assignments that her friends accuse of her being the teachers pet. My boy loves to come home and watch old episodes of Tom and Jerry, and has recently been playing in a basketball recreation league. He's also obsessed with Star Wars, just like I was and and still am. My youngest sucks her thumb and can’t wait until the next Mickey Mouse clubhouse episode comes on. She also spends all day making messes of the house for her older brother and sister to clean up when they get home from school.”

Or suppose he/she asked me, “how’s work?” Does the casual friend really want honesty? “Well, we responded on a young adult that got so mad at her boyfriend that she overdosed on some medication, ending her life. Her parents found her dead in her apartment when they decided to stop by for a surprise visit. Then later that day, a new driver wrecked the family car while driving home from the drivers license division. Right after that we got called to a care facility for a woman that couldn’t stop throwing up. We were also called by the police office to do a welfare check on a man who lives alone with 96 cats and doesn’t bother cleaning up after them as they crap all over the house. A young family has to replace their entire basement carpet after a sewage system backed up, flooding the place. Then we had to go enforce the new EPA regulations and tell a family to put out the fire they were using in the backyard because another anonymous neighbor down the road was annoyed with the smoke. And to cap it all off, a young kid was left unattended and played with matches, burning down the families dream home.”

At what point does the casual friend zone out? At what point did you zone out just reading about it?

So yeah, social media may be helping our lives? My thoughts though, are that it makes us dumber. When we are with good friends or family, our conversation pieces are lacking, and I bet at any given family party, the majority of attendees are doing something on their smart phones, and hardly interacting at all.

What are the long term consequences of this? Perhaps the Mayans stopped the calendar at Dec 21st because they knew we would all have phones that announce the date to us each morning when we awake? Our social skills are going to deteriorate to the point that it will become a module in history classes in high school before too long.

Perhaps this is the extreme outlook, but think about it next time you are at a social gathering. Pay attention to your next conversation with an acquaintance. Think about if you really care about the answers you are asking for, or if you are doing it because you just want to end the conversation as quick as possible so you can get back to updating your facebook status!

25 September 2011

Gender Roles

Maybe by the time this post is finished, it will contain enough to elicit a response from Rebecca, since this is a "He Says She Says" blog after all. When was your last post Rebecca? 1994?

I absolutely hate ironing. H. A. T. E. it. With this hatred comes bad feelings, cursing, evil speaking, bad thoughts and on and on. That said, I have had to iron a shirt about 20 times in the last month. It all started with some online shopping from Kohls. I needed a new white shirt, and Kohls was having an online special for a wrinkle free white shirt. Perfect right? I was hooked, lined, and sinkered right away (that's a fishing reference). I couldn't wait for my new shirt to arrive. My previous wrinkle free white shirt had served me well. Faithfully keeping the wrinkles off and being wearable right out of the dryer week after week. At about age 10, it gave up the ghost. The other white shirt in the closet was not wrinkle free. It was more like the birthplace of all wrinkles. A wrinkle extravaganza. It required the services of a seldom used item in our house...the hot iron. After just one episode of the hot iron, I started shopping. That's where Kohls comes in. So the day arrives that the Kohl's shipment also arrives. I think I was excited for this as I was for the release of Achtung Baby. I tore open the package like a 6 year old at Christmas. I took it right to the washer and washed it. Then I put it in the dryer. When the dryer buzzed I was there to take it out. Imagine my dismay to see a horribly wrinkled shirt. How could this be? I was mortified. I read the label. No mention of wrinkle free anywhere. As the anger in me began to rise, I once again fetched the iron and ironed out the wrinkles. I did that for the next 5 weeks, including today.

Here is where I interject this thought: Shouldn't my wife do the ironing?

06 July 2011

Life Without Facebook

It was harder than I thought it would be, but I am finally Facebook Free. Since deleting my account I feel so liberated. I don’t miss it one bit. I realize this is bucking the system slightly, especially in a world where everything is turning to social media, but it just had to be done.

I have so much more time each day to be productive without Facebook. Yes, I was getting that bad, checking status updates, browsing friends profiles, browsing fan pages at all hours of the day. It seemed if I didn’t have something specific to do at any given moment, that I would open the computer, or get on my smart phone and pull up Facebook. I was starting to update the world through my status updates. I was starting to wonder if Facebook was made by Skynet and Cyberdine,
then I remembered that is actually Google.

My Facebook departure has really got me thinking about the days before we were so “connected.” Remember when we had to carry dimes (and later quarters) just to be able to use a telephone. Do pay phones still exist? Are we “too” connected?

So I have cut the puppet strings. Feels good, like when you are sitting on a beach and the sun is warming your naked body. Don’t deny it, you know what that feels like.

No Facebook, no twitter. Only blogs. I love the blog world, except it seems like many bloggers are easing up on their posts lately, including me. I liked when it was such a trend and almost everyone was blogging. I have always been a “keep in touch” kind of person. Except not the Facebook kind of keep in touch, the meaningful kind of keeping in touch, with substance. Blogging fills that void much better than Facebook.

I remember when I first joined Facebook. Paul Newman, yep, Paul Newman told me about it. He thought it would be a good way for us to keep in touch. It was so cool at first, reconnecting with old friends. “Liking” random things. Playing all those games. Then it sucked me in like the Mega Maid on Spaceballs.
So much time spent doing nothing. Tagging the elementary school photos is only entertaining for a few weeks.

Now its all done. My Mafia is underground, my bejewels are losing their luster, and my large bankroll in poker is just burning a hole in the cyber-casino. “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” Franklin D Roosevelt said that. “Once free from the vice of Facebook, life gets better.” I said that.

Like I said, I don’t miss it. I enjoy that I have reconnected with old friends, and though Facebook provided that reconnection, it has served its purpose, and ran its course. And I am done.