Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History is Made

This will be short - it's late.
I've just watched history unfold. Barack Obama has been elected president of these United States.
Now I'm actually something of an Independent, not really married to one party or the other, although I've voted for the Democratic presidential candidate ever since I was old enough to realize that my parent's view of the world was not the only view that existed. I'm ashamed to admit that I bought into the venom spewed about Jimmy Carter being responsible for all of America's problems in 1980 and I voted for Reagan. Not since, however. Yet I have occasionally voted for a local Republican I admired or respected, and have occasionally voted Republican in some of the state elections. I almost never vote a straight party ticket.
I also don't buy into the "Obama-will-make-world-all-better" bullcrap. Obama is after all a politician and I haven't run into one of those yet that I would trust with my own family's well-being. He has been bought and paid for just as McCain has been and Bush was before. But I distinctly remember watching him give that speech in '04 I think it was and thinking "wow, this guy gets it". I can only hope that some of the beautiful, inclusive, uniting words he spoke came from somewhere below the politician in him and will be there underneath what he actually does in office.
The 2 parties will still control the shots, and for those who think we are now doomed because a black man, or a democrat, or a man with a Muslim sounding name, is our leader, take heart. Things are not really going to change that much. The Democrats have not done much differently than the Republicans have in recent years. You couldn't hardly tell the difference between the last 2 candidates we had to choose from, Bush and Kerry. The cycles have gone on the same whether we have Red or Blue in the White House. The Bush administration pushed us to the brink of economic ruin with their deregulation, but it was Clinton who initially opened that door for the Republicans to bulldoze their way through. Everyone associates the Republicans with stricter immigration laws, but Bush's policies were more liberal than Clinton's in that aspect.
Here is what I think is great.
Maybe, just MAYBE, we are starting to see the degradation of our our old fears and prejudices.
Maybe, just MAYBE, we are starting to see past the old seperating factors.
Maybe, just MAYBE, we'll look at what someone has to offer without loading them up with the baggage of their ancestry.
And we can finally say - ANYBODY can grow up to be ANYTHING in this country and not be lying through our teeth when we say it.
It has to start somewhere, maybe this is it. The time is surely many generations away when we will be completely past all this, but maybe we have finally started on a path to truly accepting all of our fellow men, regardless of ethnicity and ancestry.
Now if we can just elect a gay oriental next time :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shana Tova - Part 1: Behind in the Count

We're gonna party like it's 5775!
OK, it's actually a week past New Year, but.......
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, was last week and tonight we observed the arrival of Yom Kippur. Now I'm not about to delve into the deep significance of Yom Kippur, especially since I'm not actually Jewish, but I did see this as a catylist for kicking myself back into existence on my blog.
My poor, neglected blog has been a real trooper, waiting patiently for me to acknowledge it's existence, and not complaining about or showing resentment towards the "other blogs" in my life, even though I spend copious amounts of time at those blogs while my own sits at home being ignored. I am a cad, aren't I?
I am far behind right now in the game of life in general, not just in blogging. There are so many aspects of my life that I am behind in that blogging has had to take a back seat to some of them which are much more critical to our family's well-being. Today being a holiday, however, and a holiday that is dedicated to reflection in particular, I will try to renew my relationship with my own blog, and possibly catch some people who stop by occasionally up on the reasons they have not seen anything new on my blog since August.
Ah, August. The month my behindedness :) really escalated. I tend to stay behind in most aspects of my life anyway. So much so that I feel I could never make a decent pitcher. Besides the fact that I'm over the hill, out of shape, and never could pitch worth a damn anyway, there's the fact that a pitcher should always get ahead of the batter. A pitcher who works "behind in the count" consistently will never get too far. That's me, behind in the count. But in August, things took a nasty turn which was of course made worse by the fact that I was already in my usual "behind" state.
So there are legitimate reasons for my absence at my blogsite. Among them would be following:

Working kind of backwards -

8 - It IS High Holy Days season. This is first on the list because it's the LEAST of the reasons I am so far behind. I did miss a day of work last week, and will not work tomorrow as I will be at Temple all day, but this simply added to an already severe tardiness. It did not cause it. And of course, you could say "well you're not REALLY Jewish, so why hurt yourself to participate?" Well, that's another story. Suffice to say I consider myself a part of the Jewish community and will continue to honor their traditiions and principals, and may even join that community "officially" one day.

7 - The baseball season is in full playoff mode - so there are games almost every night, and I watch the games while chatting with my friends at Joy of Sox, the "other blog". Fortunately, the Sox won the ALDS Monday night, so I will not be missing a game tonight while at service.

6 - Cathy's car is on the blink and if she needs to get anywhere, it's pretty much up to me to take her. She calls on her friends a lot during the day, but in the evening it is, and should be, on me. I in no way, shape, or form have enough money to get her a new one right now, although I'm working feverishly toward that goal. She has actually taken matters into her own hands and has started on on-line fund-raising effort, which I will get into shortly.

5 - Fall Ball is also in full swing, meaning practices or games 2 or 3 nights of every week, field prep work and games on Saturdays, and stat keeping some evenings.

4 - My son, the idiot, has gotten himself in trouble with the law and is "doing time". He has had problems in the past with substance abuse. He had gotten himself straight after his son was born and seemed to be getting more and more on the right path after his wife left him AND the baby, making him the primary parent. But he fell off the wagon a while back, got caught, (which was probably the best thing that could have happened), and because of prior offenses is now the guest of our state for 6 - 8 months. This means I'm working by myself instead of having a helper, and it means a lot of extra time caring for the grandson as well. The "working by myself" part has turned out to be a good thing from a financial standpoint. I had already started leaving him at home on days when I didn't absolutely need him. However it does mean each job takes longer, and since the jobs are really picking up, I am getting behind on the jobs as well as everywhere else.

3 - I have gotten incredibly behind on paperwork for my business, both billing, which you kind of have to do if you want people to pay you, and taxes for last year, which have to get done soon to avoid penalties and also so Cathy can reapply for her Medicare benefits. After the fall LL season got going, there were nights when I would come home at 8:30 or 9 and sit at the computer until after midnight with 4 or 5 screens open, not an easy thing on my antique, overworked hard drive. I was doing bills or taxes, watching the Sox on Gameday, checking out comments on JoS and occasionally jumping in with one of my own, and listening to music on I-tunes, not to mention checking and replying to e-mails.

2 - The pile-up of paperwork is also related to a sudden upswing in business. More billing to do, less time to do it in. After sitting and watching the paint dry an awful lot of the summer, when there were fewer other things going on, the phone is now ringing off the hook. Which is a good thing, but......sheez! It doesn't help to have all this business if people get pissed about waiting too long and call someone else. Fortunately I have some VERY loyal customers, and the ones I've added recently came to me because of very strong recommendations from my loyal regulars and they seem to be willing to wait. But for how long......

1 - To kick off this whole mess, the biggest contributor to my "state of behindedness" was the loss of just about the entire month of August, business wise, baseball wise, and paperwork wise, to an extended stay at the hospital with Cat. We'll start there.

Around the 1st of August, Cat started having a lot of trouble breathing. She went in for an X-ray and they found an effusion (hope I'm spelling that right), a build up of fluid around the lung. They performed a procedure on a Friday to drain it off, an out-patient process that wasn't bad at all. But by Monday she was just as bad as before so she went in for a follow-up X-ray. She went to the Imaging Center first, then was to take the X-ray over to her doctor's office. As luck would have it, she came out of the Imaging Center and had a flat tire. I, of course, was about 40 minutes away on a job. Sounds like a TV sit-com episode, doesn't it? I told her I would head that direction but she said to wait and let her try to find someone closer. When she called back 30 minutes later she had WALKED to the Dr's office. It was only a half a mile or so, but seriously - she's already having trouble breathing, she couldn't walk across the yard without gasping for breath, and on top of that it's freaking August!
The next call, about 30 minutes later, was to tell me it had indeed gotten worse, not better, and she was being admitted. So now I did pack up and leave the job and head straight to the hospital. The next morning more X-rays showed the effusion was getting progressively worse. They said they would put in a drain tube, leave it in a few days, then perform a procedure which involved blowing talcum powder through the same tube into the cavity to irritate the lining around the lung. This was supposed to cause the lining to swell, essentially closing the cavity so there would be no place for fluid to congregate. We'd be home in a week at most.

Nice plan. Easy, right?
Yeah right.

First they didn't put the tube in until Thursday. She was sent down to have it put in on Tuesday, but the radiologist disagreed with Cat's oncologist (cancer doctor) and the pulmonologist (lung doctor) and sent her back without doing it, saying there was not enough fluid to warrant the procedure. Would he have said that if we had insurance? Who knows, but I have to wonder. By the next afternoon the fluid build-up was so bad her pulse-ox (never mind) was getting low so they ordered the tube in again. This time radiology went ahead and did it.

Then it took several days longer than they anticipated for the fluid to drain enough to do the talc powder process. Thoracentesis, I think it was called. I think a lot of the problems that followed were because the fluid never did drain enough to do it properly, but they did it anyway. I'm not 100% sure about the days, but I think it was Wednesday (over a week in) when they tried the talc powder.
It never had a chance.

By thursday night she was in excruciating pain, so they pumped her full of the serious stuff, morphine, etc., and put the tube back in to start the whole process over again. By now the drugs were beginning to seriously affect her. She was getting very anxious, and couldn't sleep at all. I stayed there practically every night, and hardly left during the day either. She would drift off to sleep, never very soundly, and would wake up after only a short time in a state of near-panic. I hated to think of her waking up alone in that state of mind, so I rarely left unless someone else was there to fill in for me. This meant sleeping on the old fold-out chair in the room, not exactly a deep, restful sleep, especially with a nurse popping in every so often. I would get people to come up during the day, at least some days, so I could go try to get a little bit of work done and generate a little income. But even on those days, what with going home to let the poor dog out a while, change into work clothes and get the van, I got very few hours of actual charged out time on a job.

The first weekend she was in an old friend from her high school days came up from Rock Hill, SC and stayed overnight Friday and Saturday. That allowed me to get in a whole day of work on Saturday and also to get the grandson for the night and sleep in my own bed for the first time in a week. There is a great story about how she and Cat reunited that I recounted in brief on JoS because it actually involved that site. But this is already a lengthy post so I'll come back to that another time.

The second weekend I got relief again, this time from another old friend who, strangely enough, we had literally just reacquaited with the day before she went in the hospital. Ran into her at a mutual friend's cookout, not even knowing it was a mutual friend. Hadn't seen her or talked to her in years. Talk about devine providence! But Sunday night things got a little ugly. She was feeling better physically but awoke from a nap with a room full of people there and had no clue what she was doing there or how long she had been there. She was completely panicked and it took a while for me to realize this was not just a case of waking up groggy and getting yourself oriented in a few minutes. After we tried to fill in all the details, she still didn't remember, and was very upset that I was leaving to go somewhere with a friend, not aware that she herself had insisted that I do so just to get a break while her friend was there to stay with her. Eventually I got her somewhat comforted and got her to think back. She remembered going to the doctor's office and learning she was going to be admitted, but she never did remember anything after her arrival at the hospital. With prodding she finally did remember that her friend from SC had been there, but had no recall of when, how long, what they did, or that she had stayed overnight. Since then small parts of those 2 weeks have come back, but not much.

After over 2 1/2 weeks they tried the ..thoracentesis?... again, on a Thursday I believe. This time it worked better although they still kept her a few more days to watch her progress, given the problems with the first attempt. We finally got to return home on the next Tuesday. A day more than 3 full weeks! We had spent practically the entire month of August in that hospital. I was SO glad to get home! The problem is that we are now having to adjust to a new set of parameters. The procedure helped, but it did not get rid of all the fluid, nor did the damage done repair itself. They may have resolved that particular crisis, but the effusion is still there, and will remain there. Cat cannot do nearly as much activity as she could before without getting very short of breath, practically gasping for air. And she was already fairly limited in what she could do before.

She has had to resume chemo treatments, since the assumption is that the effusion is related to an increase in tumor activity, and the marker numbers they use to track these things bear that out. We are hopeful that the chemo will reduce the effect the tumor growth is having and will help her breathing capacity. We can only wait and see. In the meantime she is more frustrated than ever with her limitations. She wants nothing more than to spend time with our grandson, raising him in his father's absence, and to pursue her love of all things crafts, particularly her beading. And she does those things, but has to do them in short doses. That's not so bad with the beads, but as anyone who has raised kids knows, there is no such thing as short doses with a 5-year-old! That's a full time job.

So now I'm going back and changing the title to "part 1", because this is all I can do for this night, not to mention it is already excessively long. I have wanted to get this story down ever since we got home, but you can check out the aforementioned list to see why I haven't. The hospital stay itself compounded all the other things that normally get in the way of my blogging. There is also the undeniable fact that the whole experience was completely overwhelming, and very scary. We've known she has stage 4 cancer now for almost 4 years. But there's always been the defense mechanism of "well, at least we know we've still got several years together to go". This was the first time I had a sense of foreboding, a worry that perhaps my wife of over 30 years now would not be with me much longer. That's a very uncomfortable thought and I guess maybe it took me quite a while to decide I could talk about it. Then, when I did, all those other things on that list kicked in, and it got put off for way too long.

I am now, however, back in the wonderful land of denial. My Fall Little League team has finally won a couple of games, after getting trounced our first 4 times out, and the Red Sox are on their way to the AL Championship Series against Tampa Bay, hopefully just a stop on the way to another World Series! The Tarheel football team is 4-1, something that they haven't been able to say in quite a few years. For the first time in a long time I'm not singing the familiar "wait until basketball season" song. The year 5769 has begun, and tonight I sang in the Temple Choir for the evening Yom Kippur service. I will be back there again tomorrow morning, missing another day of work and getting even further behind, but it's worth it. I said earlier that I'm not actually a Jew. I should have said I'm not technically a Jew, because actually, I believe I am a Jew. I will address all of this and more, soon, very soon, as soon as I'm just a liitle bit less behind, in parts 2 - ?.

Until then - Happy New Year, and Go Red Sox Go!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Health and Jesus, er um God, er um Whoever, er um Whatever

OK, this is going to be a long one. But mainly because it's 2, yes 2, 2 posts in one. Wait, that was a mint gum thing wasn't it?
I ventured onto Cathy's blog tonight, something I have only done once before. I don't know why, it just seems kind of private, and I don't want her holding back because she's afraid I'll read something she doesn't want me to.
Tonight however I'm writing in the hospital room where we have lived now for the past 2 weeks. We have been on a roller coaster ride since we got here, with several instances of uncertainty and fear about what might be happening and it seemed okay to see if she had been writing anything lately. I'll get back to our adventures in Hospital Land soon, but that's not what got me writing tonight
It turns out that the last time she had written was over a month ago, and she was relating some thoughts she had experienced with regard to me and the rest of the family and how we would still be here and would get by after she is gone. Not the kind of thing you want to dwell on constantly, but certainly a normal line of thought given her prognosis. There was 1 comment to her post, from an anonymous writer. This person thought Cathy was thinking too much, and about the wrong things. That Cathy should find Jesus and her life would be better.
I posted the following comment -

Interesting, the idea that changing the way you refer to God can somehow make your illness go away. If God decides to invoke a miracle, which is incredibly unlikely, he will do it regardless of what name you call him by. I'm absolutely positive that if you look at the instances of "miraculous recoveries" you would find equal numbers of beneficiaries from all walks of faith, and probably some from people with no faith. Although I really question how many people truly have NO faith. I think most that claim that just don't have a name for their belief, so they don't acknowledge that it exists. And I did say most, not all.
God has made a lot of lives better through Jesus. He's also made a lot of lives better through other avenues. I tend to give him credit for making possible all the good things that go on in our world. It seems unlikely to me that if good things happen to someone who hasn't "found" Jesus, someone besides God must be responsible. I certainly don't consider the undisputed fact that sometimes bad things happen to Christians to be proof that God doesn't like Christianity.
And as for thinking about the right things - I do think one can dwell on the negative aspects of life too much. But the truth is we all have thought at one time or another about life after we have gone, and how the people and the world we know will react to our departure. At least I have, and I think it creeps in there a little more often as we age. So if one knows that one's life is, in all likelihood, not going to be as long as one would hope, it seems only natural that you would think these thoughts even more often. And the best way to get past them is to voice them so you can move on to better thoughts, instead of suppressing them and have them stay under the surface, always there.
Then again, what do I know?
Maybe I think too much as well.

OK, so that's a long comment. But I really wanted to say so much more. I condensed almost every aspect of what I was saying as I wrote that. I didn't mention that if one gives God credit for all the good stuff, you kind of have to give him credit for the bad as well. Oh, I know, there's the old Satan thing you can lay that off on, but seriously now. Are you going to tell me you believe there's another God out there as powerful as "your" God, which he would have to be if he can make things happen that God doesn't want to happen. No, I kind of think that God created all these wondrous possibilities, and that he created a perfectly balanced universe, meaning that the wondrous possibilities automatically necessitate some not so wondrous possibilities.
And another thing. I used the old "he" term for God. It's just easier and flows better if you use either he or she instead of placing the word God, or G*d, or Adonai, or whatever, in a single sentence 3 or 4 times. Maybe I should have used "she" to make a point, I often do, but it seemed a little combative, which I was not trying to be. The thing is, I don't visualize God as a "he" or a "she" or even as a carbon based life form at all. I don't buy the whole "made us in his image" thing. To give God physical characteristics seems actually a little condescending to me.
And that is also why I can't buy the Christian philosophy of "believe that Jesus is my Son or you will rot in Hell". Forget the argument about whether he is or isn't. That's another post entirely.
But if he is, I still wouldn't assign the VERY human trait of vanity to God. And that's what that philosophy sounds like me. "Do it my way or suffer eternally". Doesn't even sound "Christian." Sounds "Bushian", maybe, but that's another post as well. Sounds angry, hateful, arrogant, and vengeful. All of which seem like very human characteristics. None of which sound like the God I commune with. Of course I have a rather eccentric view of God, one that I will not delve into right now. Suffice to say that it encompasses a lot of beliefs and science as well. I do consider myself to be part of the Jewish community, but one reason I do so is that Judaism allows me space to have my own beliefs without ostracizing me or condemning me for thinking for myself and developing my own unique relationship with God.
Then again, maybe I just think too much

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Title of This Post Is : A Title!

After, let's see, about 18 years of involvement in Little League Baseball, and 15 years as a manager, a team I coach has brought home a district title.
District Champions. It has such a nice ring.
On Sunday afternoon my Big League team, that's the 16 - 18 year olds, went to Walkertown and beat them 8-6 to end our season at 14-2. The game had been started the week before and called due to rain in the top of the second inning with us down 2 - 0 and 2 outs in our half of the inning. I will not repeat the details of our season, the build-up to this game, or the reason we were playing a district title game after the end of the Big League World Series. If you haven't done so, you should read the post just before this one. Suffice to say that if Walkertown had won this game, we would have been tied for the season and would have played a "playoff" game immediately afterward.
Mmmmm, 1-game playoff. Familiar and not very comforting territory for Red Sox fans.
The completion did not start at all well. In the original start, we had a man at the plate with no one on base, 2 outs, and a 2-2 count when a huge bolt of lightening hit nearby and the umps cleared the field. It never cleared up and we were sent home after an hour wait.
When we resumed last Sunday, the player at bat was not at this game. So I had to send a poor kid up with 2 outs and 2 strikes who wasn't even in the game the previous time. The home team, Walkertown, took the field, went through all their warm-ups, and then ran right back into their dugout after my batter looked at a called strike 3 on the first pitch of the day. Not a very common occurance I'm sure.
In the bottom of the 2nd inning Walkertown scored 2 more and we were down 4 - 0. We pushed 1 across in the top of the 3rd, but they got it back with a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th. At the beginning of the 5th inning, down 5 - 1, I found myself in a good spot with my lead-off hitter up first. I called my first 5 batters out in front of the dugout and told them I did not want to have to play a second game, that I needed them to get serious right now. I told them not to give in to the ego thing and try to match the guy's home run with one of their own. Just get me some baserunners I said, quit chasing the high shit he was throwing, take the walk if he wouldn't bring it down, and hit line drives if he did. The first man walked, the next 4 got singles. During the 5th man's at-bat, with men on 2nd and 3rd, he asked for time as the pitcher, who had gone to a wind-up, was starting his motion. The umpire apparently thought it was too late to do so and said nothing. But their pitcher stopped mid-motion and stepped back - Balk! 1-run game! My man then ripped a single to tie it, and the next man added a 5th straight hit just for good measure.
Now tied with 2 on, their guy hit our next batter to load 'em up, and that was it for him. We proceeded to score 3 more off of his relief on an error, a walk and an RBI groundout.
They scored 1 more in the bottom of that 5th inning, and I started warming up my closer. But my starter made it through the 6th with no more damage and I was able to bring in my closer in the end to face their 2, 3, and 4 hitters. He struck out the 1st, got the next one to ground out right back to himself, and struck out the last one for an emphatic victory. Playoff game my ass!
I said at the beginning that "a team I coached" had won a championship, not that I had. That's really how I feel. I do keep referring to it as "my" first title, but these guys did this themselves. All I did was make sure that they were having fun, at least as much as possible. And it's interesting how many parents have mentioned to me that this was the 1st time their son had fun playing for a team in several years, since they started high school in most cases. I guess these high school coaches are so absorbed in their image and their win-loss record that they push the kids past the point of it being any fun at all. They say they are trying to give the kid a chance to "make it" but seriously, almost none, if any at all, of these kids will even play college ball, forget pro ball. It's a game. They love the game already or they wouldn't be there. Don't take that love away from them. If they have the tools, they'll get their shot. Baseball has the most all-encompassing system of finding talent that exists. I can't tell you how many scouts I've met myself at various USSSA or showcase events, just checking out some kid they heard something about and looking over everyone else while they're there. So we just made sure they were having a good time, instead of making them feel like they were at boot camp or something. Don't get me wrong, we expected 100% effort, and let them know when we felt like we weren't getting it. And we worked them at practice, hard. But then we let them be loose and we trusted them to do their sprints and such themselves, instead of standing there counting them out ourselves. I think they really responded well to that trust and to our recognition of the fact that they were here to play a game, not to further a career.
I am extremely proud of them, and also proud of whatever small part I was able to play in bringing them together as a team.
On Monday, following the big game, my wife was admitted to the hospital once again. That will be covered in my next post. I've been here with her ever since, and have not felt particularily celebratory, so that's why I'm just now getting this posted. However, on Thursday I was able to leave her long enough to go to our field and bask in our success for a while. We gathered the team and had a Home-Run Derby, which was won by one of the weaker hitters on our team, a kid we often DH'ed for. That was a wonderful surprise. Then we unfurled our championship banner, handed out our pins, took some pictures and marched over to the flag poles in the commons area. There we took down the '03 banner, which was the last time any team from our league had won a district title, and raised up our new trophy flag. It was incredibly satisfying.
I am obligated to point out that winning a Big League title is easier than winning a district title at the younger ages, simply because there is less competition. Only 4 other leagues in our district fielded a team this year, compared to the 21 teams that were entered in the 12 year-old tournament this year. I have coached a runner-up team twice in that age group and finished third once.
However, even though those runner-up efforts may have been more difficult achievements in the strictest sense, they do not compare with seeing that flag flying as I turn into the complex. Finally, the job was finished instead of just getting close.
Fourteen wins, three of them against arch-rival Kernersville, only two losses, and a district championship. This was indeed a special season and I will not forget it, nor will I forget this special group of young men who made it happen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Big League Baseball

As everyone who knows me at all knows, much too well, I coach Little League baseball. Right now I'm coaching our Big League Team, 16-18 yr-olds. We are at the end of a remarkable season, my best ever as a coach. We are 13 - 2 and in first place in our district. Last Sunday we swept a double-header against East Surry in what was supposed to be the final day of the season. We should be hoisting a District Championship Banner as we speak, the first for a team I've coached in my 16 years or so as a head coach.

We have beaten our arch-nemesis, Kernersville, 3 out of 4 games. And to make it sweeter, one of those wins was after K-ville pulled one of their typical stunts and brought in a bunch of ringers from the local American Legion team after their season had ended. They added 3 All-Conference players, 2 of whom were also All-State, and 1 of whom is a damn All-American signed to play at LSU, no less. You will probably see Tyler Hanover on someone's draft list in a few years, and you read it here first. When they showed up at our field with those 3, and several other newer, stronger, faces as well, my guys were taken aback, but just for a minute or two. Much to my liking, they then said, in effect, "Bring it on, suckers. If you're so scared you have to trade in your whole team, we'll take that as a compliment, and still kick your ass." Kernersville won that game, but it was close, 7 - 4. My pitchers kept Hanover to a 1 for 4 day, and we had them on the ropes before we made a couple of late game errors, then my pitcher reached his limit under the LL pitch count rule. My reliever promptly walked in their last 2 runs. A few days later we went to their place and beat them 7 - 5, even with their beefed up squad.

Here's where it gets tricky. We are 13-2. Walkertown has lost 4 games now, including 2 they lost to us. They did beat us once. We also started a 4th game in the last week of the season at their place that was rained out after 1 inning, with them leading already 2 - 0. We tried to reschedule that game but have had a hard time due to guys being gone after the season was supposed to end, and several guys who have started football practice for their schools. I had assumed that it was no big deal because we had 1st place locked up regardless. Now I've found out different.

It turns out, when Walkertown played Kernersville they aked for rosters and pitching affadavits before the game. We are required to fill out affadavits after each game to insure we follow the LL requirements concerning pitch limits, days of rest, and their pesky rule about consecutive games. I fill them out, but I have never asked to see one, nor have I been asked. When Kernersville could not produce said documents, Walkertown played the game under protest.

That protest has been upheld, so they are now 12-3, and can tie us with a win in the rained out game. If we are going to hoist my first ever District Championship flag at our complex, we have to win one more game. If they do beat us in the completion, we'll have to find a way to play a play-off game. Stay tuned.

Now, In the "Small World" dept. -

Literally as I'm writing this story about our Big League team, I'm sitting here watching a replay of today's Big League World Series Championship game in South Carolina. The team from SC is playing Puerto Rico. South Carolina always has a strong Big League program and has won several national championships. They always play the finals at this complex near Greenville, just as they always play the 12 year-old division finals at Williamsport, PA.

Now get this -
Our district is the only district in North Carolina with a Big League program. In Big League play, each league in the district fields a team. At the end of the season, well at least seasons past, the coach of the winning team gets to manage the District All-Star team in the State tournament. He selects his squad from all of the teams, and of course takes a majority from his own team. With no other district in the state involved, if we win our district, we automatically win the State and go to Florida for the Regionals. Unfortunately, our district bowed out of the Regionals this year. Here's why. Last year the team couldn't raise the money to get to Florida. It was an embarrassment to the state people to be on the schedule and then not show. In addition, what with school conflicts and graduations we just can't seem to start the games until after school is out and "beach week" is behind us. The season has to end in time to meet the national schedule. Our district representative would have to be selected and in Fla. by July 15 or so. Rather than end the season after just 10 or 12 games and then not have anyone go to the next level anyway, they opted to extend our season till this past weekend, playing 16 games, and skip participation in the Regional tournament. Now I'm sitting watching the Big League World Series on ESPN and thinking "what if".
My team was undefeated after 12 games and I would have gone to Florida as the manager of a state champion team. How cool! With mostly guys from my own team, of course.

THEN - I see that the South Carolina team that is in the final against Puerto Rico is mostly made up of guys from Riverside High, just a short drive from where they are playing this championship. My best friend from LL, who was my assistant coach for 7 years, moved to Greenville, SC just so his kid could go to Riverside. They have a super-strong baseball program. The older son has graduated but the younger one is still there. I'm not saying his kid is on this team, he's probably not. But I bet my friend is there. And I'm not saying that we would have advanced past the Regionals to get to this championship game. We probably wouldn't have. These guys in this game are STRONG! But we could have. Stranger things have happened, and we are certainly not bad.
What a small world it can be.

And now, even as I write these words, the South Carolina team has come from a 4-0 deficit in the last inning and scored 5 runs to win the Big League World Series.
Strange things do happen.
Good for them.
Wish it was me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Manny Being a Dodger

Well, it finally happened. The Boston front office and the media sharks succeeded in making it an absolute necessity to deal away the best hitter in baseball.
It was obvious the last few days that the suit didn't fit anymore. Manny would be gone after the season if not before. I kept holding on to a shred of hope that this, like all those other MBM moments, would just go away, that he would get back to being the most feared hitter in the game, and that by the end of the season he would be talking about finishing his career in the Red Sox uniform. But as Wednesday wore on the talk got worse, and then Manny himself started to show signs that he was ready to move on. Even then I held on to the fact that he had acted like he wanted out before, but had always come around to a "I like it here and want to stay" stance after the spat.
But this time the vitriol was just too sour. And as much as I would have loved for Manny to Be Manny in Boston for the remainder of his career, I'm also glad that this whole affair is behind us now. I still blame the FO and the media MUCH more than I blame Manny, (although he certainly made his contribution to the fuel supply on the fire), and I think the idea that it was "necessary" to move him was created and sold to the public by those entities.
Did he sit out a couple of games recently complaining of a sore knee? Yes, but Manny actually had played in more games than any other player this year. Go back through the game logs. Practically every person on the team, and every other team too, has sat out here and there just because they were sore and needed to recupe a bit.
Did he occasionally not hustle out a ground ball? Sure, but watch the games. The same can be said for almost every other player in the game. And yes, it drives me mad when they do that, especially as I try to teach my younger Little League players how important it is to ALWAYS beat it down the line. But as I said, they ALL do it. At least all of the veterans.
Did he occasionally make a gaff in the field? Sure he did, but there are quite a few outfielders in the game , not to mention some first basemen and even third basemen, who are not there because of their defense. And Manny would sometimes make a spectacular play. It was obvious he was not the most accomplished defensive player when he arrived in Boston. But to his credit, he took his position there very seriously and worked very hard at making himself better there. He took countless reps in the outfield, often long before his teammates had even showed up at the stadium. He learned something every time a ball came off of that wall, and in the last few years it has paid off in an almost uncanny ability to be at the right spot when it happens. It will take Mr. Bay a while to replicate that experience.
Did he occasionally come out with some completely knee-jerk comment or action? Sure, but this is what I'll miss more than anything. Jason Bay will probably come close enough to Manny's numbers to keep us in contention for a repeat title. Who knows? He may even end up with better numbers by the end of the season. And if not this season, maybe next year he'll just break things wide open. I certainly hope so. But I doubt he'll ever be the character that Manny is. And I just LOVE a good character. Give me Bill Veek and his midget, Wade Boggs and his chicken, Ozzie Smith and his gymnastics. I love a colorful character, and that's what we've lost. The most colorful character in the game today, AND one who could produce like no one else as well. That's a rare combination. Not to mention he was the MVP of the team's first victorious World Series appearance in 86 years for God's sake.
Having said all that, the trade itself was not as bad a deal as it could have been. I wouldn't rank it as a fire sale or anything. Bay's an accomplished major league hitter with quite a few good years in front of him, probably more than Manny. I think this was better than just letting Manny go after the year, although being in the thick of a pennant chase kind of trumps that normally. But this wasn't normal, was it? Losing Hansen was certainly no big deal, given the way he's been pitching lately. I do kind of regret not having Moss around to use as trade fodder for some bullpen help, but we certainly don't need another outfielder at the moment.
In all of this, I also hope that Jason Bay makes out all right. I can't help but think that he'll end up being compared to Manny in every move and every stat possible. Manny's stats will be hard to replace. I hope that those who felt like I did, and wanted to keep Manny, will not be too hard on Bay if he doesn't match those lofty numbers.
Best of luck to Manny in LA. I've never disliked the Dodgers, which is something I can't say about many teams. I always liked Lasorda, and Gibson's gimpy homer in, what, '88 wasn't it, is still one of my all time favorite moments. A "colorful" moment I guess. I'll probably follow them a little closer now that Manny is there. May he tear up the NL, and only suffer letdowns if and when he plays against the Red Sox. And may the fans at Fenway always cheer him when he comes back there. As a matter of fact, if it was a meaningless game, it wouldn't bother me a bit to see him single-handedly rip us apart one game. Kind of a F-You to the management.
If Jason Bay ends up a flop, we will certainly hear someone say "well it's better than having that misfit out there".
I kinda like misfits. Let the conformists pull for the Yankees
Adios Manny, buena suerte

Manny Post Coming

Thanks to Shorey for visiting and requesting a Manny post. I've been thinking a lot about a post the last couple of days, and was all set to write all my objections to any trade when it happened. I've been gathering thoughts since, but have got to get my butt to work this morning. I plan to write some this evening. No Little League or anything else, for a change, unless we go to temple, which is doubtful. (More medical issues - I'll cover that too.)

And my Little League team has a dilemma. The season should have ended last Sunday with our sweep in the double-header and we should be District Champions as we speak, but Walkertown is pulling a stunt and it appears we are not going to be hoisting that banner without finishing our game with them that was rained out after 1 inning.

More to come tonight

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sox End Road Woes - by Leaving the Road

The Sox ended up their road trip with a dismal 3 - 7 record after dropping the last 2 games against the Evil Empire.
I really felt they would take 3 of those 4 even though they have been a much weaker team it seems every time they leave Fenway Park. So much for my prognostic abilities.
Paps blew the last game at the Toilet Bowl, allowing a damn rookie to get a hit and drive in the winning run in the 10th inning. This after a pretty good showing by Wakefield, who once again got absolutely no run support to speak of. On JoS the joke (although it's not really funny) is that Wake always gets the weak line-up. It's time to rest somebody key every time he pitches, and this time it was Manny. Tito did bring Manny in as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning, but Manny has never been particularily effective as a PH and this time he sat and watched 3 straight strikes go by. Three straight strikes, and never moved his bat. That's effective! Even worse was Francona's move right before that one. He brought in Varitek to pinch-hit for Lugo with the go-ahead run at 2nd base. Now I love Tek to death, I have a real soft spot for veteran catchers, actually for catchers in general, but Tek has been crapping the bed lately, badly. To put him in that spot if there was ANYONE else sitting over there to try was absolutely nuts. We'd have been better off with Lugo himself.
At least we did win last night on our first night back home. A 1 - 0 victory over the Twins. Once again I missed the game because of Little League. I keep getting home right after the last out is made, and pull up Joy of Sox just in time to catch the end-game comments. Wouldn't you know the only game I get to watch in the last 2 or 3 weeks is the one they lose to the Damn Yankees, of all teams.
Oh well, time for mini hot streak before the All-Star break, and then a smoking second half to catch those pesky DEVIL Rays.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blue Again

On Sunday, June 23, Kevin Youkilis hit a 2-run walk-off home run in the 13th inning to give the Red Sox an interleague win over the Cardinals. The game had a little of everything. Seven and a third strong innings from Jon Lester, he who had spent the year before battling cancer. A rare blown save by the Papelbot. A game-saving throw from the outfield by JD Drew to nail a would-be Cardinal scorer at the plate. An absolutely wonderful game.

The news was not as good in Omaha, Nebraska. The Diamond Heels walked way too many batters earlier in the day and it cost them a 3rd straight trip to the Championship series in the College World Series. That's twice on the Big Stage this year for Carolina, and twice heading home empty-handed. Damn!

The loss came after 2 very dramatic back-against-the-wall wins. First a 7 - 3 win over LSU that came with a grand slam by Tim Federowicz in the top of the ninth to snap a 3 - 3 tie. Next came a 2-run home run by Chad Flack in the eighth against Fresno State when the Heels were down by 1 that forced the deciding final game. In the final game, though, the pitching staff started showing the signs of 3 straight hard-fought games and Fresno St. took the game 6 - 1 and will face Georgia in the championship series.

But hey, 3 straight years being in Omaha is pretty damn good, especially given the everchanging nature of the college game. Hard to believe that 2 years ago my Little Leaguers were facing the Ackley kid, and now he's one of the premier hitters, if not THE premier hitter, in college ball. He was one of the few bright spots against Fresno State, going 3 - 5, and finished the season with a .417 average. That was best on the team and the 3rd best in school history, and this is a team that was ranked #1 in the country for a while, and in the top 5 all year. No wonder we could never get him out. It's kinda cool, although it would be even better if any of my kids could say "I struck out Dustin Ackley way back when". We've checked the old scorebooks - none of them did :( He did hit 7 home runs off of us, in ONE day, in a doubleheader up in the boondocks known as Walnut Cove on a Sunday afternoon, though. A rather dubious statistic for sure! One of my pitchers in that game was Michael Brown, a young man who is now ironically enough at Georgia, the other team in the finals this year. His dad and I are long-time LL buddies and coached together even after neither of us had sons playing any more. Michael threw a pitch to Ackley that he still talks about to this day. It was supposed to be outside, but drifted back into the zone and Ackley unloaded. That ball needed a passport when it landed. Brown didn't even turn and watch it. He hung his head down as the ball came off the bat and shook it a couple of times before singnaling to the umpire for another ball. The umpire hadn't even given the home run sign yet, as he was watching the ball still climbing as it sailed over the tall pine trees in right field. The only pitcher that day who kept Ackley "in the park" was a 15 year-old who technically was too young to be playing, but we were short-handed and he was filling in. Ackley "only" pounded a double off the left-field fence against him. That's opposite field power.

It's the stuff of legends, and I'm sure, like most legends, it will only grow over time. It might be up to 20 home runs by the time those guys reach my age, but for now we're going with 7.

And I have the scorebook to show it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Finally - 500

So Manny hit #500 on Saturday night at Camden Yards. It came against Chad Bradford in the 7th inning of a game the Red Sox won 6 - 3. He took Bradford's 1st pitch over the right-centerfield wall, right into an area I've actually sat in before. I wasn't there, I wasn't watching, not even on GDGD, my acronym for the Gameday program that allows you to follow the games on computer. When I first started participating in the Joy of Sox gamethreads, almost everyone else on line was watching the game on NESN or some local affiliate. I was waiting on the Gameday program to catch up and usually by the time I saw a play and responded to it on-line, everyone else was talking about the next pitch. I would simply say G**damn Gameday, and it happened so often I started shortening it and everyone still knew what I meant. It's a common term around JoS now, and I hope one day to have it entered in the site glossary - a very big honor on JoS.
Manny has sealed his spot in the Hall already, and I hope now that the big one is in his hindsights he'll settle down and start ripping the cover off the ball. It's amazing that I had May 13th (I think) picked in the contest at RSFPST, another of my favorite Sox blogs, to guess the date the homer would come on. On that date, almost 3 weeks ago, I had a shot at it. He had hit #498 the night before and 2 homers in 1 night are certainly not out of his reach. But there it stayed, at 498, for over 2 weeks. He finally hit #499 on May 28, then on Saturday night, May 31st, in Baltimore, the Big Being hit the Big One.
The Red Sox are in very good shape in the standings, but for a truly successful season they'll need to get a little more consistant pop out of the #3 and #4 spots, Manny and Papi, than they have lately. Papi is sitting on a .252, not so hot for him. Manny had a good enough early part of the season that he is still at .294, even after a slow couple of weeks, but we need those guys to be in the mid-300s.
Here's hoping the sweep in Baltimore and the end of the distraction about #500 will get things rolling.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Second Opinions

Hard to believe it's been 3 weeks, almost 4, since I last wrote. Work has actually picked up finally and I'm way behind, which is really a good thing since the first few months of this year were so slow we almost went belly-up. And of course Little League has been consuming almost every non-working moment. What little time that leaves I have tried to devote to Cathy, "the baseball widow", as she refers to herself. When I do sit down at the computer to write, I've been trying to catch up my Little League team's website. It's a very cool thing, which I love doing for the kids, but it is time consuming. There's a link here somewhere, on the right side I think.
Cathy spent the last 2 days in Durham (NC, not Conn) at Duke University seeing the doctor who was her oncologist when she was first diagnosed as having cancer. Our friend Chris took her down there and they stayed with a couple who are his "other" best friends. Chris is our closest friend. He lost his father this past January, after losing his mother a few months earlier. I wrote about his father in a January post entitled "Getting Old". Chris stays with this couple who live near Durham quite a bit, though not as much now that he's retired and not travelling all over the state all week. Seems backwards, doesn't it? We know them ourselves, through Chris, and have been to their place a few times in the past, but this is the first time either of us have been to their new home. It's on a lake, and very nice, I understand. When the doctor asked Cathy to stay another day for some more tests, Chris just said "hey, I get to go fishing another day". He's the best.
The real story is that Cathy is seeking answers to her questions about her treatment. The doctor she sees now uses a test that tracks "cancer markers" in the cells. I'm not medically literate, but essentially it measures a particular chemical level in the body which will tend to rise when cancerous cells are present. Apparently it gives you very early warning about these cells, but some believe it gives TOO early of a warning. Doctors such as the woman Cathy saw at Duke believe these markers only show the possibility of cancer, not necessarily the presence. Therefore, in their opinion, one could be getting treatment for a non-existent condition, treatment that is extremely destructive to one's quality of life. She believes in treatment only when a biopsy shows a definite cancer presence.
The other side is that we deeply respect the doctor she is seeing now at Forsyth Memorial's Cancer Center. He is a long-time Little League acquaintance. That alone, of course, is not reason enough to trust him with one's life, but we've known him long enough to know that he's a straight shooter, he's completely honest with us, and he's very in tune with the cutting edge of cancer treatment. He believes the markers he tracks are very reliable indicators of tumor growth, or at least of impending tumor growth, and by treating when those numbers go up he is running interference on the spread of the disease. Stopping it before it gets started.
That is a wonderful thought, never let the damn thing get going and you can live indefinitely, right? But the truth is chemo is hard. Cathy has no energy while she's on it, and until the staff infection forced them to remove her portacath, she was getting chemo almost constantly. After several straight months of treatment the numbers would get down to a level that our Dr. was OK with. She would get a break just for a few weeks, then the numbers would start to rise and she was right back at it. It's been weeks now since she's had treatment, and she's feeling better than she has in a very long time. The garden is looking better than it has in several years. I'm doing most of the heavy work there, but she's out there directing me, showing what to plant where, telling me what's a weed and what I'd better not touch, pulling weeds herself, spreading mulch, stuff she hasn't done in a very long time.
So it seems to all come back to the "quality of life" question. But now there's indication from her former doctor, whom she trusts very much and really, really likes, that maybe the treatments aren't even necessary at this point. Maybe we're not gaining any time together by constantly going through the hardship of chemo. Maybe we can go on as normal until we see a definitive tumor presence in a biopsy and then treat it and still have just as much time. Two doctors, two different views. Who can know? How does a simple lay-person decide?
Of course, Cathy is no simple lay-person. She is an RN, and was in oncology when she worked at the hospital. She also spent a few years working with Hospice, which gave her even more experience with cancer, from a different perspective. So she is on-line a lot, looking up reports, reading up on new medicines and treatments, and checking out the medicines they are giving her already. This has proved very valuable a few times as she has caught symptons she was having and tied them to one of her meds.
Eventually she will make her own decision and I will support it regardless of what she decides. I do feel like we are going through this together, but the truth is there is no way I can feel what she is feeling, physically or mentally, and while I certainly can help her talk it out if she wants, I think this is one decision that she has the only vote on.
Kinda like our president, I guess. :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Behind (Not A Sex Story)

I finally got to bring Cathy home this past Wednesday. Since I'm not camped out at the hospital any more I really thought I would be able to catch up on some serious writing and stuff. I've been catching up all right, but not here. The paperwork for my business is still way behind, and I'm trying to get my LL website up to date for the kids. All of this while trying to catch up on jobs, undo 3 weeks of neglect in my yard, help Cathy in her garden some, and then having games or practices 3 nights a week and spending most of the day Saturday at the park. I thought I would get some time Sunday as I was through at the field by noon, but the kids threw a late birthday get-together for me since I was at the hospital last week when it would have been.
I'm not complaining about that, though, it was great. My older son helped out getting the house and yard ready. My youngest brought Buffalo wings from Ronni's, a local legend. My baby sister brought a great homemade banana pudding and her 2 absolutely precious daughters. They are both Chinese, she adopted them on her own, and if you're at all familiar with that process you know what she went through and how determined she had to be to make that happen. My daughter brought my #1 granddaughter, Haley, which is all she needed to bring to make my day. Unfortunately, Gage, the 5-year-old grandson, pretty much confiscated her from the moment she arrived, as he usually does. He worships the ground she walks on, and that's OK. Haley is my softball player now, since her older sister seems to have gone more "girl". She's the #1 shortstop on her team and the #3 hitter. Not bad, eh?
My folks were there, and my younger brother with his daughter, who has become quite the young artist. Actually she's always been quite the artist, but she's getting more and more refined. My brother's wife had the coldest card - a picture of a scale on the front labeled "Age-O-Meter" with the captions "dirt" on one pan and "you" on the other. Inside it just said "Too close to call". Hilaaaaaaaarious (in my most smart-aleck voice). I LMAO, in today's terms.
Along with 3 of my closest friends, who are pretty much family anyway, it was a very nice time. Very relaxed, not as stressful as a lot of family events seem to be. We actually drank some in front of my parents! That doesn't happen very often, Dad is a teetotaller and we all respect that. He was raised in alcoholic environment and it makes him uncormfortable, but we all were very circumspect in our intake levels and no one got sloshed. I don't think anyone even got a good buzz actually, but it was great kid and Dad friendly fun.
I had invited 2 other friends, a gay couple who we are very close to. Lesbians, actually - doesn't it seem like "gay" always implies male, and why is that? Anyway, I really wish they had made it. I worry that they may have been relunctant because they've heard me talk about how conservative most of my family is. They said it was because they had been celebrating their 23rd anniversary for 2 solid days and were practically immobilized, and I know this was that weekend for them. So I hope that was all it was, because I would never want them to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
All right, there's one update out of the way.
Soon I'll get to the LL team.
Oh and..... TYLER"S STAYING!!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Update - Health

The wife's battle against the infection that popped up last week will continue for a while, it looks like. The official diagnosis is mersa - staff infection.
She is definitely recovering, the temps spike at a little lower level every day, but they still spike, and she will not get to come home until all signs of fever and infection are gone completely.
This most likely means another full week in the hospital. So posting on this blog, my Little League website, and my favorite game-time Red Sox site (Joy of Sox) will be very sparse.
I could really spend an entire day doing nothing but catching up my LL website and writing here about the recent events in our lives. But work calls, so just a quick overview -
My LL team has won 2 in a row after starting out 0 - 3. I'm very proud. Maybe I had nothing to do with it, you never know. Maybe it was just their time, but I felt very good about the talk and insights I gave them after that 3rd loss, and the way we approached practice that night. Whether it made the difference or not, they responded with an entirely different attitude and performance the next game and I'll just go ahead and pat myself on the back :)
Oh and today is a birthday for me. Not sure which one. I know it's 40-something, it has to be, but I just can't remember which 40-number comes after 49, so I'm calling it 49B.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cancer Rears It's Ugly Head

Just a quick post today.
Mrs. SoSock is back in the hospital.
Her portacatheter ( the implanted device that they use to run the chemotherapy drugs) has become infected and she was running fevers of 102 - 104 and delirious Friday night. They've been running IV antibiotics since then.
The infection seems to have subsided, at least enough for them to feel safe opening her up and removing the port. She is still feverish, but not nearly as severely as before.
All in all she seems to be out of the danger zone, although she'll most likely be in several more days.
I'm running like a chicken with my head cut off right now, but I'll post a more complete story later.
Oh, very quickly - on a more positive note. The Rockies finally got their first win of the season yesterday. That would be the WSNLL Jr. Division Rockies. My Little League team. Finally!
I'll fill in details later. It was much needed!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Red Sox take 2 out of 3 from Yanks! - updated

I don't have time to write a damn thing this morning, but I just had to write THAT!
I will elaborate later.
Update - 4/19
Beckett whipped the Yanks last night, going 8! First time all season a Sox pitcher has made it past 6. Manny hit TWO dongs!
We are up 3 - 2 on the season and in 1st place, like that really matters at this point. Beating them at their place DOES matter though.
Taxes, Little League, Granddaughter's Softball, Work, and Joy of Sox Game-threading.
All conspiring to keep me away from my blog.
Next week things should loosen up a little and I'll get back to writing.
(As if anyone cares) :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Blue Week

The mourning period continues.
Carolina's loss in the national semifinals was absolutely devestating, and I'm still trying to get over it. Not just because they lost, but because of the way they lost. Fortunately, baseball is in full swing and I have been so distracted by all that entails that I have very little time to think about it.
When I do, it's very disheartening. It's like I wrote a while back about the Patriots' loss in the Super Bowl - the worst part is that this team had an incredible season and their performance in that game is all that will be remembered. They fought through the loss of Frasier, the #2 point guard, for the season. Then they fought through losing the #1 point guard for a big chunk of the conference schedule. They beat Duke at Cameron. They swept through the ACC tournament. They manufactured several of their trademark comebacks during the year, including one for the ages against Clemson. They even made one of the biggest comebacks in tournament history against the Jayhawks last weekend, but couldn't sustain it. They just never quit, which I believe is a testament to Roy Williams and the character of the teams he puts together.
I never have figured out what went wrong that night. Roy puts all of the blame on himself, of course. Says he didn't have the team prepared and focused. They definitely were not prepared and focused, but I doubt that Roy Williams left anything undone that would have prevented this. The team apparently was just a little too pressured. It seemed as though they were so intent on winning it all that the thought of not doing so scared them, and that fear forced them out of their game. They were playing not-to-lose, instead of playing to win.
As a fan, it really hurts because these seasons don't come very often. We've been fortunate enough to have gotten very close several times lately, and did win it all in 05. The fact is, however, it takes a few breaks and a ton of talent to even be in contention for a national title, and when you get so close you always have that thought there - "How long before we get this shot again?" Some people say "well at least you're not like UCLA, 3 Final Fours in a row, and not even an appearance in the title game, much less a title". Maybe they're right. I tend to say that I'm just thrilled when we get to the Final Four, and an appearance there is a victory in itself, and UCLA should be damn proud of getting there 3 straight times. But 3 straight losses in the semi-final would be very discouraging. That really must feel like a wasted opportunity, even more so than the Heels' futility this year. So I will say it once more - it's something I spent entire decades saying as a Red Sox fan - Next Year!!
I just hope Tyler comes back.
And Now For Something Completely Different -
I mentioned last post that there was health news. It wasn't that much. Just that the wife's chemo was postponed till Monday and this was after her usual week off that comes every 4th week. This all added up to about 11 days with no chemo and she was feeling very well for a change. We bought flowers Sunday. Whether they will get planted before they die is another question, but I'm glad she was postive enough to get them and believe she would be able to get them in the ground. I really should plant them myself, for her, and will if I can ever get a break from all of the pre-season crap around the Little League complex that didn't get done pre-season because of the weather. Now I'm having to deal with it all around the games being played and it really slows the whole process down.
We also went out to dinner with a couple that I do some work for. They are very interesting people, both doctors, very intelligent, and just good company. This may not seem like a subject to bother writing about, but when you're going through chemo, any day she feels well enough to get out and DO something is an event.
We had been planning this dinner for the past 3 Wednesdays but every week that would turn out to be a day that Cathy just wasn't up to it physically. I also imagine the posponements were influenced a little by her not feeling real sure about this meeting. She didn't know them as well as I do, and she doesn't seem to enjoy meeting new people as much as before the cancer. I'm sure the fact that they are both doctors and neither of us even went to college was a little intimidating as well. The long break from chemo, however, seemed to allow her to get to a point where she felt like she could be good company, so we went for it this week. She really enjoyed herself, as I was sure she would, and connected very well with them. The woman has a very rare muscle-related condition and is dealing with a lot of pain issues herself, so she empathizes with Cathy's situation more so than most. Her husband has retired specifically for the purpose of researching and trying to cure his wife's illness. I look forward to spending more time with them in the future. We have a fair amount in common, despite the differences in educational background and financial status. I find that the older we get, the less difference that makes, at least when you're dealing with "real" people.
Off to work now, I'll get to my 1st Little League game (maybe games by then) later.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday - and Not a Pretty One Either

Well, this pretty much defines Black Sunday
The Tarheels' season came crashing down in flames last night as they played what might have beeen the worst 15 minutes of basketball that I've seen them play - ever. If not ever - close.
They were down by 28 before they started to play like they actually belonged on the floor there, and made the game very respectable for a while, closing to within 4 points with about 10 minutes to go. The incredible comeback seemed to take everything out of them however, and in the end they just couldn't sustain the energy level and lost by 18 or so. I never though I would see them get out-hustled, out-scrapped, and out-willed the way they did those first 15 minutes. They just didn't look anything like the team I've been watching all season.
At least I can finally get my hair cut.
On top of that bad news - it's been raining for like 40 days here. I think the next door neighbor is working on an ark in his driveway. We are supposedly still way "behind" on rainfall around here, but if I hear, "well, we need the rain" one more time I'm going postal on somebody. It's baseball season, dammit! My team opens up in 2 days and we haven't practiced in 10 days. The only time we were able to do anything at all was last Tuesday, and the infield was unusable then. We just hit in the cage a little and worked my pitchers. At least the team we open against is another from our league, so I know they're in the same boat, er, ark?
Besides not practicing the rain is also going to make things rough today. We are supposed to have a ton of volunteers at the complex for a big clean-up/prep day, including the varsity team from the school I used to coach at. (OK, I just coached the Middle School kids).
I have a list a mile long of things I have needed to get done around the complex before the season starts, but the weather has hampered my efforts. It is not supposed to rain today, in fact the sun is supposed to come out, but the complex is soaked, with standing water everywhere and the clean-up will be much more difficult. In fact, I made several trips down there yesterday doing the old flood watch thing. Our complex has been under 3 - 5 feet of water many times in the past. (If I ever get around to figuring out the image thing I'll post some pictures) We sure as HELL don't need that to start the season. The creek was swelled up close to it's banks, but at my last check, about 5pm, it was still about 3 feet from spilling onto the fields. Of course I've seen it go from that to 3 feet deep in the outfield in a matter of 2 or 3 hours before, but I believe we were past the crest at that point. At least I'm hoping so! We probably won't even be able to get on the infields, but at laest there wasn't much that needed to be done there.
Speaking of that, I am out of here to get coffeed up at the Bagel Shop before heading on over to the complex. No one else will be there till 12 or 1, but I will get there around 10 to unlock everything and start setting up equipment for the various jobs so I can get the most out of these folks when they arrive.
There is news on the health front so I will edit this post a little later tonight to cover that. It will be after a late dinner because my wife is feeling good enough to have invited some friends from Temple over. Good news. And if the fields DO dry up a little during the day, I'm calling my team in for a impromptu emergency practice after the work session. (Is that redundant?)
In the meantime - Go Red Sox!!

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well, if there are any Memphis fans out there lurking you can go ahead and smirk now.
I made the mistake of thinking UCLA should beat Memphis in the 1st game of the Final Four, but the Tigers are now about 1 minute from punching their ticket to Monday night's final and they're up by 11 or so.
So, IF my Heels can beat Kansas in the upcoming game, they will face a very big, very quick Memphis team who has outmanned UCLA in almost every aspect of the game.
I said previously that I think Carolina matches up better with Memphis than with UCLA, and I still believe that. Even though this score (78 - 63, now final) would indicate Memphis is better, therefore we would be better off playing UCLA, I don't buy it.
I think UCLA's style of play would give us a harder time than the Tigers' will. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they aren't perfectly capable of beating us, they are. They are very big, and they run the floor very well for such a big team. I do think, however, that their preferred style is also our preferred style, and I think we are faster, so advantage us.
Too much thinking ahead, though. First things first. MUST beat Kansas, or it's a moot point.
I believe I will comment every so often during the game. Not that anyone is watching, just to record the moments for posterity, or maybe hilarity :)

Go Heels!

Well, I haven't written all week about 'dem Heels.
Maybe it's because I'm still upset that the women lost to LSU. I guess it's a little greedy to want both teams in the Final Four, but that's reality. I really wanted to see the guys and gals both in the BIG Show in the same year.
Maybe I had been assuming all along the men would be there and am afraid to be "satisfied" with making it to this point.
Regardless, it was with an almost smug satisfaction that I watched the final seconds tick off the clock in last Sunday's victory over Louisville. Doubters be damned, the Heels had silenced the critics. I know it's easy to say "what doubters and critics?" when they've been ranked #1 for a while now and came in as the top overall seed in the tournament, but if you live where I do, everyone that is not a Tarheel fan is a Tarheel hater. And I have to admit, the same is true of Duke. You either worship Coach K, or you were glad to see them exit the field prematurely. I shrugged and made a conscious effort not to smile.
I overheard a regular at the Bagel Shop talking on his phone, and apparently the subject of the Heels came up. His end of the conversation went like this - "yeah, well, wait till Saturday. We'll see how far they can go then"
Excuse me? We'll see how far they can go then? Haven't they already gone damn near as far as you CAN go? I believe it's only possible to go one game farther than where they are at. I believe they've already gone farther than over 380 teams in the country, and farther than all but 3 of the "best 64" teams in the country. So THERE!
But the truth is, we will all be terribly disappointed if they don't bring home the trophy. The NCAA is better than most organizations at recognizing teams for the great achievement of actually GETTING there. But the general public will still consider it "falling short" if the Heels don't win it all. And there is some validity behind this, given the lofty ranking and sheer talent the team has. But UCLA is every bit as talented and has what I fear is a big advantage in their previous Final Four experience. They have lost in the National Semi-final the last 2 years, and I think they are hungry to stop that streak and rid that taste from their mouths, just as Carolina was not about to lose in the Regional Final after losing to Georgetown last year in that round.
Of course, the Heels have to get past Kansas first, which will not be an easy task, but it is one I think they will be up to. The Kansas players will be motivated to beat the coach who "abandoned" them to come to Chapel Hill, but I think Roy will be ready for them and I think we are the better team. If I'm right, and UCLA does indeed beat Memphis, I am not taking the position that the Bruins will beat us. I just think that that game will be a dogfight of the largest magnitude. I think the Heels can win that game, but they will have to play a flawless game and somehow equal the sheer determination that UCLA will bring to the table, not to mention their exceedingly high talent quotient. While watchng them play last weekend, I could only say -"Oh my God! They're TOUGH!" But then I think about some of the games Carolina has played this year, and have to believe there are Bruins fans out there right now saying exactly the same thing about us.
That feels pretty good :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Building Better Men

Tonight I had the distinct honor of listening to and then meeting a man of tremendous principle.
Joe Ehrmann was a professional football player for 13 years, mostly with the Baltimore Colts. After he lost his younger brother, to whom he had been more of a father than brother, to cancer at the tender age of 19, Joe reevualated his life and began a new journey. He is responsible for a number of community and society building initiatives that have had a positive impact on countless lives. Among them are The Door, a community center in inner Baltimore dedicated to addressing poverty and racism, and Building Men for Others, a program aimed at creating a better civilization by teaching boys how to be better men. Oddly enough, coming from a former NFL star, this is done by trying to exorcise all the myths and stereotypes that are typically held up as manly - physical prowess, sexual conquest, and material wealth, and instead raising successful relationships up to the level of being one's greatest accomplishment. He also coaches a high school football team in the Baltimore area, teaching the young men that success is measured more in the strength of their relationships than in the win-loss column. In addition he stresses serving the community, and placing the improvement of the human state above the improvement of one's own lot in life. It is his belief that you must have a cause bigger than yourself. Ehrmann so strongly believes in his mission that, when his kids were young, he moved his family to an inner city neighborhood just blocks from The Door, so his kids would grow up experiencing an empathy for those living in poverty that can only come from being close to it.
A little over a year ago I was burned severely in an on-the-job accident. I suffered 2nd degree burns over almost my entire face. The 1st Saturday after I came home, almost all of the tournament baseball team I had been working with showed up at my house and spent over an hour just hanging out, cracking jokes, ragging on each other, and showing their concern. This touched me deeper than you can imagine. I was NOT a pretty sight and I know it made some of them terribly uncomfortable. Yet this group of about a dozen 13-14 year old boys with much better things to do on a Saturday afternoon just hung out with the old fart who coaches them. They also brought me a book which they all signed. It was "Season Of Life", the story of Joe Ehrmann.
The book was written by Jeffrey Marx, and works in the story of his own relationship to his father, but the real story here is Ehrmann. The writer follows Ehrmann and his Gilman High team through a season. The players are taught that masculinity is being able to look each other in the eye and say I love you, without being afraid. It's really hard to imagine a squad of high school boys who hear this at the end of their pre-game pep talk -
"What is our job as your coaches?"
Boys - "To love us!"
"What is YOUR job"
Boys - "To love each other!"
I wish I had what it would take to force a bunch of young men to say that every day.
Ehrmann spoke tonight of the definition of masculinity, what it means to be a man, then about the definition of feminine and what it means to be a woman. Naturally many people immediately thought - "here comes the double standard, the old difference". But he quelled that thought quickly by saying the definitions are the same. That being a man and being a woman are both about being human, and having meaningful relationships without seeing them as shameful or a sign of weakness. That we lift all of humanity when we find a cause bigger than ourselves and place our contribution to the advancement of that cause ahead of our own physical comfort. He talked about the lies that all young people are subjected to at a very young age. The lies stressing first physical strength, then sexual conquest, and lastly material possessions as the keys to a man's success, and those stressing first appearance, then the aquicision of a man, and lastly deferment to men as keys to a woman's success. And he called all them "flat out lies"
I stated earlier that I wish I could make myself put these issues out on the table with my team. That would take as much courage as it would for the 13 year old to tell his teammate he loves him. It's a goal I will now strive toward. At least I can give myself some credit for steps in the right direction even before reading "Season Of Life".
I have always, well, for over 15 years anyway, ended my practices with a "thought for the day." I always try to choose a quote or saying that can be tied to something on the field, but also has a deeper meaning off the field. When I am coaching guys a little older, as I am this year and have been for the last 3 or 4 years, I try to make it a little deeper. After listening to Joe Ehrmann tonight, I will not be as shy as I have in the past about really getting philosophical with them. These boys are old enough to get it, and they need to be getting it. As Ehrmann points out, they have been bombarded with the message that they have to be bigger, stronger, and better in competition or they are failures. I have always tried to teach that the competition is more about improving themselves than defeating the opponent, and the wins will take care of themselves if they make sure no one gives more effort than they do. Through sheer repetition, though, I wonder if my "thoughts of the day" have become stale, and if I'm sending the message I want to. Sometimes I "mail it in" at the end of practice, simply quoting a line and throwing in a simple sentence or two of explanation and ignoring any looks of confusion I see. I have resolved to re-address my choices for daily messages, and to be better at stimulating serious thought. Joe Ehrmann has inspired me to be better at building men.
After his speech, I approached Joe and told him how much I had enjoyed the book and how important I thought his message was. I showed him the copy that my team had brought to me with all their boyish signatures on the inner sleeve and mentioned the visit they had paid while I was weak and down. He said something that meant a lot to me. He said that no gang of teenage boys would make that visit if I had not had some influence in their lives, and signed my book - "To Coach B, To a Builder Of Men For Others".
It will get a little more prominence on the bookshelf now :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tuesday? - on Sunday?

OK, the Tuesday thing just hasn't worked out.
It's Sunday now, and for 4 days I've been saying "I really need to write my Tuesday post".
OK, we're going to make a change. Tuesday Talk will now be Sunday Stuff. (so I'm a sucker for alliteration)
Sundays should be better, although not by much. Today I've already been to the Bagel Shop to solve the world's problems, to the LL field to do a little work, watched the Carolina Girls (I know, they're WOMEN!) kick Bucknell's ass all over the basketball court, swept the porch and patio, filled the bird and critter feeders, finished a bill for a customer, watched the Tarheel Men (OK, boys - now we're even) kick Arkansas' ass all over the basketball court, checked out my favorite blogs and chatted a bit, and wrote a piece about the upcoming Red Sox season, for which I can't wait.
At least this year my family left me alone about Easter. They may have finally gotten the message that I actually have accepted the Jewish tradition as my own, even if I still have some qualms about religion as a whole. It's ironic that they probably think I'll burn in hell for being Jewish, and may never know that Judaism brought me back to religion after Christianity pushed me away.
My wife continues to be very tired, all of the time. Fighting cancer takes a huge toll on the body, then you add the medicines which also take their own toll, and she just has no energy whatsoever. She mentions the idea of discontinuing treatment sometimes, and I understand the premise that it's better to have "good" time, even if there's less of it, but I also worry that without the chemo the cancer itself would keep her just as ill and she wouldn't really gain any "quality" time. This is her week to skip treatment, so hopefully she'll have a better week next week and maybe her spirits will pick up a little. I can't help but believe that better spirits alone would improve her general condition, but that's probably an overly optimistic hope. Regardless, how can one have any positivity about them if they have the knowledge that this disease has them and it can't be stopped. I don't really feel inadequate because I can't do anything about the disease, I know that's out of my control. I often think, however, that I should be able to do more to help her mood. And I question whether I would be able to keep her more upbeat if I had done better in the economic world and we were able to do all those things we wanted to get around to but never have. I guess I just have to keep plugging away at "the list"
Speaking of which - I'm not sure I want to see that movie. Apparently the characters in it have their list to pursue, but they also have all the financial resources to achieve it. Not quite like real life for most of us. I also hate hearing that country song where the guy does the same thing. All sappy and heart-warming supposedly. Go bull-riding, sky-diving, cross-country riding. And just where is the money coming from to do all this? He hopes everyone gets to "live like they were dying." Trust me, it's NOT the best time of your life.
Having said all that - I must add
We have managed to see Alaska, although it took the help of some VERY dear friends to make it happen. We saw it from a boat, a cruise ship to be exact, which was absolutely wonderful, but I would love to return sometime to see more of the inland parts. We stood atop a primitive glacier together, which might just be one of the most memorable moments of my life. It was like being on another planet. We saw killer whales fairly close up from a smaller ship in the bay, and I was one of only a few that managed to get pictures of a brown bear feeding on the salmon on one of the islands we stopped at.
We also managed to take our whole family, all 13 or so of us, to Disney World for a week. That may not sound like much to many of you, but we've never been able to do anything close to that before, and we took all the kids and grandkids, pretty much on us. None of the grandkids had ever been there before, our daughter had never been, and our 2 sons had not been since their grandparents took them a very long time ago. We spent 3 whole days in Disney, 1 in rehab, and 1 at Sea World. The sale of my wife's soap business made that possible.
We've since been on another cruise, this time to the Carribean, and again with some help from our friends. This one, though, really put us behind and I don't know how long it may be before we're able to cross something else off the list. I often feel a little guilty about doing some of these things when the bills aren't caught up, and there's almost no money in reserve. But I get over that quickly when I think that I'll have time to deal with the finances later. I don't know how much time we have to do things on "the list".
So I guess I'd better finish that damn bathroom and get ready to go to Europe, eh?
If that's not optimism, then there's no such thing!

T Minus 33 Hours and Counting

The Sox open up Tuesday morning against the A's in Japan. I plan on gettingup early, and tuning in my computer. I'm assuming I'll be able to follow the Gametracker thing. I hope so.
I'll also be pulling up Joy of Sox and chatting with my on-line friends there during the game.
I'm betting on big things for the Sox again this year. Papi and Manny were both slightly hampered last year and I think they'll both improve this year. I also think JD Drew will have a much better year.
Even if Jacoby Ellsbury (LBJ) doesn't take over the CF job full time, he will play there regularly and should add some offense from that spot. I also think we'll get just a little more from the catcher's spot, because Cash should be a better PH for Tek than Dougie was. I'm betting that Youk and Lugo will stay at about the same pace they've been on.
Pedroia and Lowell are the question marks, but I really think Peds will at least match last year. Many are expecting Lowell to drop off, and they certainly could be right. But I bet it won't be that much of a drop, and he might just surprise them. Let's hope so!
With the extra numbers from Ellsbury and Drew, and even a little improvement from the 3-4 spots, I expect the Red Sox to surpass even last years big numbers.
Dice K opens the season in Japan - fitting. Although there's no doubt that it would have been Beckett if he wasn't hurt. Jon Lester has been throwing very well the last couple of weeks. He'll probably be the 3 man when Beckett returns, which should not be long based on reports from camp. Wakefield will just continue to be Wake, and Buchholz is apparently going to be the 4th man at least until Beckett returns. Wake will probably not get as many wins as he did last year, but I'm still thinking pitching will be about the same, with a little more consistency from Dice making up the wins that we won't get from Schilling and Lester/Buchholz? doing a little better than the revolving door they're replacing.
The one question mark is the bullpen. Of course we have Papelbon to close, and Okajima to set him up. It doesn't get much better than that. But I've not seen enough of the numbers from spring training to get a real feel for what we've got before them. I think Timlim is bound to hit the wall sooner or later, and fear this might be the year. After all, he was very inconsistent last year. Hopefully our starters can consistently get us close enough to the 7th inning that we won't need a huge contribution from the rest of the pen.
If we get the increase in offense I expect, an iffy inning or 2 from the pen shouldn't kill us too often. Down to 32 hours now, so here's to huge numbers, and a repeat in '08!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do You Think He Will Dream?

One of my heroes has left us.
Of course, I kind of think he left most of us behind a long time ago.
Sir Arthur C. Clark was one of the most intelligent writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I have devoured almost everything he's ever put out, although there are a few small holes in my list. I will correct that soon enough.
Naturally my favorites are the Space Odyssey series, although there is one earlier one I like every bit as much. I personally enjoyed reading 2010 a little more than 2001, although there is no doubt which was more significant. Although there were those in the scientific community who preceded him, Clark was one of the first to challenge people's ideas about our place in the universe in the "mainstream" media world. At least he was among the first in my experience, perhaps that is why I was so attracted to his work at a very early age.
By the time 2001 was released, I had already read "The Sands of Mars" and "Childhood's End".
The latter still remains one of my favorite books of all time. If you have not read it, you would do well to pick it up. It holds up well for a science fiction book written in the early '50s.
When 2001 came out in the theaters I was only 10 and my Mom did not let me go see it. I got the book , though, and saw the movie at a late show when I was around 14 or 15. He and Kubrick made a hell of a pair! It was one of the very few movies I ever bought. I have not yet updated it to DVD, but I will.
I bought 3001 when it was released in '97. Yes, I got it right away even though that meant forking out the bucks for the hardback. In it there is a forward featuring an extensive interview with Clark in which he recounts the creation of 2001. It was actually Stanley Kubrick who pushed him into the project. The book and the movie were done simultaneously, so he and Kubrick would constantly be calling each other and saying things like"hey, you've got to rewrite / reshoot this part because I added this and that won't make sense now." Or " hey, I really want to use this effect, can you work that into the story somewhere?" I can almost hear it.
More recently he collaborated with Stephen Baxter on a great little series consisting of "Time's Eye, "Sunstorm", and "Firstborn". The first two were very good, although "Time's Eye" was definitely better. I haven't read "Firstborn" yet, it's in that pile of books waiting to get read on my office shelf. I just keep picking them up, and I'm collecting about 2 now for every 1 that I get around to reading. Mmmm, the downside of blogging, maybe?
I truly regret that Clark will no longer be around to excite me every so often with his amazing prescience. But he leaves a huge library of work, with a number of offerings I haven't gotten to yet, many that are worth the time to re-read, and a new one that is due to be published this year. So I will continue to enjoy his genius for years to come I'm sure!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Woo, Woo!

ACC Tournament champions again!
Tyler had a typical monster game and Wayne Ellington is starting to really heat up as the Tarheels prepare to enter the NCAA Tournament this week.
Ellington led the way with 24 points, continuing his terrorizing of the Tigers. He scored his career high of 36 against them in their first meeting this season, including the last-second three-pointer that won the game, and followed that with 28 in the rematch in Chapel Hill. Tyler scored 18 and battled like a maniac all day against 2 of the few big men who have really bothered him this year, Clemson's Trevor Booker and James Mays.
The Heels also got nice contributions from Ty Lawson, who played his best game since returning from his injury, and from Danny Green, who just has a knack for hitting big shots at the most unexpected times. Of course, he will also occasionally force up a bad shot, but he always seems to redeem himself shortly when that happens.
The only blemishes on the game were an unacceptable 20 turnovers, though they were better in the 2nd half, and an abysmal 14 of 24 at the free throw line. Tyler was his usual self at the line, going 4 for 5. But the rest of the team was only 10 of 19 - Not Good! If they had hit even half of the free throws they missed in the last 3 minutes, Clemson would not have had a chance. As it was, the tigers kept the game exciting till the end. Down by 7 with under a minute to go, they nailed a trey and then forced a turnover, giving them a chance to cut the lead to 2. But Carolina's defense held and, despite the shaky foul shooting, the Tarheels claimed their second straight title and a league-record 17th overall.
The victory gives them the #1 seed in the East Regional of the NCAA tournament, and the #1 seed overall as well. This means their first game is against the winner of the weird "play-in" game that the NCAA added a few years ago. It also means they hardly have to leave their neighborhood for the early rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 (yes, I'm assuming they'll beat Mt. St. Mary's or Coppin St.)are in Raleigh, just a few miles down the road. And the Regional Semi's and Finals are right back in Charlotte, where they just cut down the nets today. A good omen indeed!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Slack, eh?

Wow, I've been very slack. At least about blogging.
Last week was a whirl, with the 1st full week of Little League practices, and a big job going on at the same time. I never had the time to sit down and write.
I'll make up for it now. A week full of Sports!
My grandson Gage had his 1st Tee-ball practice last Saturday. I have been asked to help out with the team by the manager, an energetic man named Comacho. I like it! He's probably not a whole lot over half my age, and he's obviously much more accustomed to working with 5 and 6 yr-olds than I am. However, having Gage live with us has kept me better prepared than I might be otherwise. It was fun just watching the interactions and the oh-so-different personalities and levels of development. While Coach Comacho talked with the parents, I took the kids off to one side and had them just roll whiffle balls back and forth to each other. Then I started having them try to use both hands and "alligator crunch" the ball. What a blast!
I missed today's tee-ball practice because my own team, the Junior Rockies, had a morning practice. Had to schedule it early so I could get home to watch the Heels in the ACC Semis. I'll get back to that!
My Rockies will probably struggle a bit this season, but then, I think all 3 teams in our league will struggle, so hopefully we'll at least be competitive within the league. We interleague with 3 other area leagues, though, and we'll have our hands full with those teams. Last year we dominated against the teams from the other 3 leagues, but I don't see that happening this year. The biggest problem is sheer numbers. We only have 10 players rostered right now, and one of them has a broken wrist and won't be able to throw a ball until halfway through the season. There are also new pitching restrictions this year which will have a huge impact on us. Of course, all of the teams have these restrictions, but we may be the shallowest team from a pitching standpoint, so it will affect us more. Having said that, I also have full confidence in my own ability to teach almost any kid to pitch, at least adequately. To that end I have shocked my team by announcing that every one of them is going to learn to pitch! I have already had every one on the mound, at least for a short session. This is a vast turnaround from the usual process. Usually I have kids begging to get their chance to try pitching, and can't hardly find time to work with all of them, leaving some of them feeling disappointed. This year I've actually had to convince a couple of them to give it a shot. That's never happened before! Interestingly enough, one of the kids who has not pitched since he was 10, and who said he had no real interest in doing so, is looking like he might be my number 3 man. Love those kinds of surprises!
The Red Sox are moving towards opening day. I can't wait! Wife-K (of Dice-K) had a baby boy yesterday, which means Dice will probably make the trip to Japan and can pitch on opening day. Of course, Josh Beckett is the team "ace" and as such is supposed to make the Opening Day Start, but he is still recupping from back spasms and won't be going with the team to Japan.
Now to My Heels -
After avenging their earlier loss to Duke by storming back last Sunday and beating them on their own court - for the 3rd time in as many years - the Heels are in the ACC Championship Game on this Sunday by virtue of a great comeback victory over Va. Tech today. They managed to go from about halfway through the first half until the 3 or 4 minute mark of the 2nd half without leading once. That's 3 or 4 minutes LEFT. At one point late in the 2nd half they were still down by 6. But Wayne Ellington hit 2 big 3-pointers and the team suddenly sucked it up defensively and next thing you know - score tied with under a minute to go. The Heels made a good defensive stop, got the ball back with about 25 to go and Roy called a timeout. Tie game, #1 ranking and a virtual lock on a #1 seed in the NCAAs on the line? No problem. 5 seconds to go, still tied? No problem. Ginyard misses a close in running shot with 2 seconds left? No problem. We have Tyler! Hansbrough muscles down the rebound, takes a half step back and buries a short game-winning jumper as the buzzer sounds. Just Tyler being Tyler!
Once again, I had to go change into "game-gear" in the second half. Once again I had to get out the magic Tarheel fight song bottle-opener and start setting it off every time we scored in our run to get back in the game. I had done the same thing during the come-back against Clemson a couple of weeks ago. Once again, it worked and we pulled off the huge win. And once again, the oblivious TV announcers failed to mention even once that "this amazing run started when Tim got the bottle-opener out of the kitchen, Mike. What a clutch player HE is!" Oh well, I battle on in obscurity.
The Heels will play Clemson, who shocked the world (but not me) by beating Duke in the other semi-final. This will be a tough game. Both of our games against Clemson this year have been overtime games, one of them a double OT! They match up well with us and it's hard to beat a good team three times in a season. But I'm confident that, although it won't be easy, the Heels will take the tournament trophy home again this year.