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.

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