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With the spring comes all sorts of youth sports and while I’ve garnered many stories from coaching along the way, I reflected on a tale that I thought I’d share with you from when I coached my daughter’s 9-10 fast pitch youth softball team.

It was a 10 AM game at the North School diamond. It was borderline brisk, but a sunshiny spring day, not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning, trying to teach the girls the love and fun of the game.

Our team was a dynamo that year and after retiring the side in the 3rd inning, we took our raps comfortably in the lead. The other team’s pitcher could not find the plate and our first two batters walked. The umpire was a nice enough guy and called a fair game.

Now fast pitch softball for 9-10 year old girls yields some occasionally erratic pitches. None though, quite as memorable as this one.

With a one ball, one strike count, the opposing pitcher bounced one low, landing off the back of home plate. The ball caromed oddly, passing by the catcher, hitting the umpire squarely where the sun don’t shine.

With an audible “Oomph” the man in blue instantly called it a ball then respectfully turned and doubled over moaning. The count was now fittingly two balls and one strike.

Some parents snickered, most fathers groaned in sympathy, the poor umpire stood clutching the backstop quite obviously in pain. The girls were oblivious to what happened. The ump waved me away when I asked if he needed an ice pack.

Play was stopped. This umpire literally was so good, he actually raised his hands to signal a stoppage in play before turning around.

The girls from my team, the ones who were really paying attention, started asking questions:

Why is the game stopped?
Is Morgan (the batter) OK?
Is the game over?
Can we have our snacks now?

I dutifully defrayed their queries with random answers that satisfied their youthful inquisitiveness. Except for Nikki.

Nikki had older brothers. Innocently and quite matter of factly she asked me, “Coach, did that hit him in the nuts?”

I paused. There was no other answer. “Yes, yes it did, Nikki.” As a coach, you must be honest.

To his credit, the man in blue sucked it up and finished the game. After the game, he asked me, “I’ve got two more games to go. Somewhere around here I can buy a cup?”

“There’s a Kmart down the block. Sporting goods. Aisle 10. Maybe they’ve got a Blue Light special. ”

“Thanks, man,” He added, ”I’ve already seen the blue lights.”

“I hear ya. You called a good game,” I replied,

“Thanks.”

That pitch gave a whole new meaning to the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

FOOTNOTE: To lend authenticity to the tale, I traveled back to the very diamond where the event happened. Although this happened about ten years ago, the cover photo shows the backstop and home plate still remain.

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I need to rant on a couple pet peeves on driving.

Did you ever have one of those days when every asshole driver seems magnetically drawn to your car? I just had one. (Wedwand apologizes for the asshole reference. I pride myself on not stooping to borderline profanity in these posts, but, do you have a better term for such drivers? If so, please share, cause asshole works for me.)

The octagonal red sign means STOP. Not slow and coast through. Not ignore it totally and blast on through oblivious to other vehicles at the intersection. STOP. Proceed with caution. Geez, there’s likely a very good reason there’s a stop sign at that intersection.

Yellow light at the intersection. It does not mean speed up to beat the light. When you see yellow, check to see if you can slow to a stop safely. First reaction should be hit the brakes, not the gas.

Right turn on red light. This was a traffic law enacted sometime in the 70’s as a convenience to drivers stuck forever at a traffic light with no oncoming cars. It was hailed as progressive at the time. As years passed, many drivers now abuse the privilege and turn right into traffic as their inalienable right to turn and cause havoc.

Put down the cell phone. In fact, turn the cell phone OFF when driving, There is absolutely no call OR text that merits answering while driving a moving vehicle on the road. None. None whatsoever. Previous generations actually were able to live a noble life in the absence of a cell phone. You can too.

Several years ago, when our daughters were younger and dependent on the “Middle School” ride or pick up, they’d text us on the cell phone saying, “Ready. “ Either my wife or I would dutifully leave the house to pick them up.

When we arrived at the point of pick up, we’d park the car and fumble through the mini-keypad and ultimately text, “Here” sometimes “Jeer” sometimes “Hero” but no matter what, we felt oh so with it at our technological savvy.

On most occasions, our offspring would eventually dutifully come to the car, thanking us profusely for picking them up. Hahahahhahahahaha.

One time, our youngest asked me, “Dad, what did you do before cell phones when YOU had to be picked up in Middle School?”

I reflected, cringed and recalled. Now, my dad was an impatient man who had a fuse as short as the whiskers on a teenaged boy’s beard.

I simply replied, “Papa Don said be on the corner of Montrose and Milwaukee at 9:00 and I was there at 9:00.” In fact, I learned to be there at 8:55 or all hell would break loose. That was HIS phrase but I do know what it means. I know that from the ONE time I arrived at the coroner at 9:05. (Hah, auto correct fittingly put that in, but it nearly was coroner time for me when I was late to the corner.)

So, it should be simple enough. Don’t be an asshole when you’re driving. Unless you’ve got another word for it.

FOOTNOTE: The cover photo was conveniently observed at the exit of my local grocery store’s parking lot today. I have titled it, “The Leaning Stop Sign of Octagonal Compliance.”

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In 1941, Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight baseball games. From May 15, 1941 until July 17, 1941, Joltin’ Joe had a base hit in each game he played. It’s considered a record that will never be broken.

The record has stood for 75 years as unapproachable for baseball hitting streaks. Only Pete Rose has even come close to the cusp of this record by hitting safely in 44 games in 1978.

From June 1, 1925 until April 30, 1939 Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games setting the Major League Baseball record for the most consecutive games played.

Sadly, April 30, 1939, the first game Gehrig sat in fourteen years, turned out to be the last game Gehrig ever played, having been diagnosed with the devastating disease of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aptly referred to now as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” He was just 36 years old at the time.

His “Iron Man” record stood until Cal Ripken broke a seemingly unbreakable record 56 years later in 1995. Ripken’s record ended up being 2,632 games in a row.

In 1996, the Chicago Bulls set the National Basketball Association (NBA) record for most wins in the regular season finishing with a record of 72-10. The Los Angeles Lakers had previously held that top honor for their fabulous run 24 years earlier in the 1972 season, which netted the Lakers a 69-13 record.

The Bulls record seemed one that would never be matched, since it had taken 24 years to beat the previous best and had stood nobly for twenty years as the standard of excellence for one NBA season.

But, lo and behold, this 2016 season, the Golden State Warriors matched the top number of wins, 72, this Sunday past. As I publish this, this very very night, they stand at the precipice of establishing a new NBA hallmark of 73 wins versus only 9 defeats.

As a lifetime Chicago Bulls fan, my first reaction was NOOOOOOOOOOOOO as the Warriors approached the watermark of 72 victories in a season.

Now, as I ponder the pending accomplishment of 73, I’m thinking, there’s a lot of negative thinking out there in the world today. A lot of things, like political campaigns and even the nightly news broadcasts, perpetuate that negative environment that has become a part of our everyday lives.

Murder, robberies and fraud fuel the headline news stories, as if THAT’s the news. In this election year, politicians gallantly throw stones at their opponents in their ads as if they live not in glass houses. The media gladly accepts their money to broadcast this propaganda setting no standards on what they will air. Just show the networks the money.

Then, why oh why I wondered would I cheer AGAINST this achievement that the Golden State Warriors stand on the brink of?

To quote from the 1979 apocryphal movie, “Warriors, come out to play-i-ay.”

I am cheering for you to break the record of my beloved Bulls. The world could use a little positive energy these days.

As Mark Spitz, who set a 1972 Olympic record for most gold medals once said, “Records are meant to be broken. “

FOOTNOTE: The cover photo is of course, records albeit of a different source.

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