Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Weekend Stuff

We went to 12:20 service Sunday…we slept in and waited until the in-laws left before going to church. With them in town, I stayed up and watched most all of the three Arizona games, while I was sitting at the table ‘working’ on my laptop…compiling Matthew’s team stats. Nice to know McCann wasn’t seriously hurt, but the pain will probably remain the rest of the year.

Matthew’s coach had me ‘scout’ the end of the first-round playoff game Saturday, as Matthew’s practice was starting. We play a team I had missed while out of town. We should win, as the Muckdogs weren’t hitting it hard…but anything can happen.

The other night the coach's son hit the first ever over-the-fence home run, that that age group, on that huge field they play on. He's not that good of a hitter…bad form, etc…but when he gets the bat on the ball, it goes a long way. Watching the ball, he missed first base, and had to go back to touch it. I'd thought Will or his ex-teammate Chad would be the first to homer. Maybe Will can hit one out it the fall. Killian Owen’s brother plays on the Blue Pony team, and has been a teammate of Will’s in the past. His parents started the Coaches Curing Kids Cancer organization. I was thinking about writing up one of those “sunshine reports” about the game, since it was so exciting and because of Luke’s home run…which was great.

Tuesday after the game I couldn’t believe it when the coach announced the Rome trip. I’ve never been to a Rome game (Will, Ceil, Anna, and Matthew have, with the Atkins)…but Tuesday afternoon, before leaving work, I called and bought the family tickets to the Saturday May 27 game! So the rest of us won’t go back on Sunday, though Will will be happy to.

Ceil enjoyed Wicked…sort of a prequel to the Wizard of Oz.

Finances...I put the monthly category totals in their own chart, so I can see how we’re doing every month in every category. Usually I spend a day a month on it, but I’m behind. I do the same thing with my checking account ledger…putting in future expenses to project my checking account balance. I finally made a month by month projection of expenses, inputting quarterly and annual expenses the month they come due. Then I could tell which months would be the tightest.

This temp is catching on pretty good, but it’s taking up lots of time teaching her. The last two trainees were trained by someone else, and their overall grasp isn’t that good. Proud, aren’t I?

Braves notes...Chipper’s hips are big, but over the years I wondered if he did steroids. Last night his head and neck (and shoulders?) looked smaller…may have been the buzz haircut. Was reading some AJC bloggers wondering if Chipper is playing hurt. Perhaps Sunday's gaffe was just the thing to get LaRoche going. I didn’t get offered any tickets to this day game…every now and then it happens. I stuck with the game the other night and it turned out good. Only 4.5 back.

Last year I got Matthew a white Braves jersey that's hanging in his closet…we always forget about it. He likes the light blue polyester Dale Murphy era replica jersey that's hanging next to it, but it's still a little big. Anna seems to be more into the Braves this year, so perhaps she'll tag along when we go.

Last week Lang had front row tickets at Yankee Stadium…caught a foul ball off ARod's bat. Good game to see, if he stayed to the end.

Laura’s dad Lindsay worked with Catherine’s dad as well as Tech, they don’t live too far from each other. When Steve got sick Lindsay took over the ongoing engineering projects and gradually closed down the business. He also organized meetings of friends to structure support for the family, and helped Becky’s brother (an accountant) with the finances, insurance, etc. We know each other, but Laura’s aunt Julianne was my age and a contemporary of mine…her ex-husband played softball with me and Steve.

I'll have to get the AirTran vouchers before I can book the flights. If we go to SF, it'll have to be September…or next year.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Notes

We’ll see the Freunds tomorrow at the ballet recital. The kids will probably pick where the in-laws take us to eat, which probably means O’Charleys, up Sandy Plains. Friday dinner was at Zaxby's. At least that beats Chili’s on Upper Roswell.

Going to see Da Vinci this weekend?

My friend Matthew’s coach is obsessing going into the playoffs. With a bye tomorrow, they go 9 days off before the tourney game on Tuesday. He had the weak hitters come for individual instruction early this week, then had a practice yesterday, tomorrow, a pickup practice Sunday, a dress rehearsal Monday in uniform, and the game Tuesday. His fear is that these young guys are easier to fall out of practice than older boys. You can even tell which boys arrive late and don’t have time to warm up…they don’t hit as well. He is a good teacher of how to hit.

Since Will had a game Tuesday, Matthew took BP after a weaker hitter. The coach said he’s not worried about Matthew. He did strike out once or twice in the last part of the season, particularly when the two strike pitch was in the dirt, and Matthew didn’t realize he didn’t have to swing. Since then we’ve talked about that.

The lineup is strong top to bottom…Diaz is doing so well he’ll replace Langerhans…even making the nice defensive play.

Ceil is going to see the play Wicked Sunday night, so the rest of us will go to the movies.

Will's May 16th Game

After several humdrum games without much action, Will’s team had an exciting come from behind victory last night against their friends on the other Mt. Paran team. Will has stepped up his play in the last few games, and played a key role in the win. He was the starting pitcher and pitched the first 3 innings, allowing only one earned run, striking out 5, and throwing about 60% strikes, including over 70% first pitch strikes.

Batting second, Will blasted a long fly ball to the centerfielder in the first inning. The runner at second went back to tag up, and could’ve made third easily, but for some reason didn’t run. The next time up Will hit a hard ground ball past the second-baseman for a base hit. The centerfielder misplayed the ball, and Will hustled to second. When the throw in got away from the second-baseman, Will continued on to third.

Robbie, the next batter, lofted a fly ball into short right field. Will correctly went back to tag, but since it was a good player making the catch, with his momentum bringing him toward the plate, I thought it best that Will hold at third. But he tagged up and hustled home anyway, sliding home safe on a close play. The next batter Jared flied out to end the 4th inning, so it was good Will scored when he did. It was the first run his Cougars scored since the 1st inning, bringing them within 2 of tying the game.

Will played third base in the top of the fifth. A runner took third when the pitch got away from the plate, and the catcher threw late to third. As the runner was standing up from his slide, Will pretended that the ball had gone past him into left field, taking off after it…then quickly turned around, almost tagging out the confused runner, who barely stepped back on the bag.

Will played shortstop the last 2 innings, catching two critical popups. He also made a perfect eye-level throw to 1st after catching a grounder, but the first-baseman failed to catch the ball.

The Cougars found themselves down 8 – 4, with 2 out in the bottom of the 6th…with the #12 batter in the order up. The sun was setting, and the thought was that the Angels would win if they got one more out. But Russell singled to center, driving home run number five. Corey doubled, driving home Russell.

Desperately wanting to extend the game with a hit, Will worked the count to 2 and 2. But then he swung and missed a pitch in the dirt…strike three, game over. But the pitch got away from the catcher, rolling to the backstop. Will tore off and was safe at first. Corey scored on the play, and Will represented the tying.run on first.

Will stole second. Then Robbie singled to left, and Will played it save, holding at 3rd as the throw quickly came home. This allowed Robbie to head to second base. When the ball got away from the catcher, Will charged home to tie the game. But when the throw to 3rd bounced past the third-baseman, Robbie scored, giving the Cougars the lead.

Adding salt to the wound, our babysitter Jared hit the ball just over the right-fielder’s head, the ball glancing off his glove for almost a spectacular catch. Jared motored around to 3rd, and continued home when the shortstop didn’t handle the throw in from right. Then Malcolm hit a line drive to center. The fielder moved left to cut it off, but the ball took a bad bounce back to the right, and it rolled to the fence. The fastest player on the team, Malcolm easily circled the bases for a home run.

The Cougars had scored 7 runs with 2 out, to go ahead 11 – 3. Since it was the last game, they played the top of the 7th inning. Worried about defensive lapses and weak pitching, I knew the game wasn’t in hand. But Will caught a pop at short, and Garrett made 2 nice plays at second, and the Cougars had their win.

Coach McElwain had ordered pizza to celebrate the end of the season, and gave a speech to the team and parents. After he finished, no one noticed Will sneak behind him…Will dumped the ice bucket on his head!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Two Games May 11th

Once again both Matthew and Will had games at the same time last night. It was a busy Thursday at work, and I left later than I’d wished, but I made it to the field just as Matthew’s 5 pm game was beginning. The were playing the powerful Bees team on the tiny tee-ball field, and hard hit balls were taking bad hops where the grass merged with the dirt, and several boys were hit in the face.

Matthew started the game at pitcher. He played two innings there, two innings in right-center, and an inning at third base. He made a nice stop of a grounder at third, going to his left on a ball in the hole, preventing a run. He almost caught a deep fly ball in the outfield as well.

He had a nice two-strike hit to centerfield, and took second on the throw to third. He scored on a single. Another father commented on how Matthew spent his time in the on-deck circle timing the pitcher’s pitches, swinging as the ball crossed the plate. I don’t know if someone taught him that, or if he picked it up on his own.

But things didn’t go good for the RockHounds, and everything went right for the Bees. The ball or tag would be a step late for the Hounds, and just in time for the Bees. The Hounds fell behind and lost, it just wasn’t their day. But the more they lose, the greater the chance they’ll play on the 20th, the day of Anna’s recital.

The moment the game ended, Anna and I took off for the Pony field. Batting second in the order, Will was at the plate when I walked up. It was the bottom of the first inning. He singled through the hole into left. He stole second, and scored on a base hit.

It was another game of Will’s team not making plays in the field. The pitching faltered as well, so Will was brought in to pitch the third inning. He had just thrown 71 pitches in the three innings he pitched late Tuesday night, but Will pitched very well. He only needed 45 pitches to get through his first three innings, and only giving up two earned runs. Tired, he pitched another inning, and suffered at least four times when a play in the field would’ve ended the inning earlier. He finished with 74 pitches, about 60% strikes.

Will had another single to left, stolen base, and run scored later in the game. He started the game at shortstop, and threw out a runner at first.

We went home and turned on the Braves. When a Marlin came up to bat using an unorthodox stance, Matthew commented on what poor form it was.

Will's May 9th Game

Will’s good-hitting team once again failed to make plays in the field, and lost a five run lead in the bottom of the last inning, to tie the Hobgood Green team way up in Cherokee County last night. The Cougars played with nine players, with three of the team’s best players missing. The umpires were working a game on the adjacent field, so the game didn’t start until 8:30.

Will played a good game. He hit a hard line drive that the right-fielder made a circus catch on. In the fourth he hit a grounder to the second-baseman, who made a normal catch and throw to first, but Will hustled all the way and beat the throw. He stole second base, and scored on Malcolm’s single to right.

The next inning Will hit another hard line drive to centerfield. The outfielder leaped, but could not catch the ball. Will later made it to third before the side was retired.

Will played shortstop the first two innings, but didn’t get any balls hit to him.

He pitched the last three innings and gave up only two earned runs, striking out five. Rain began to fall in the fourth inning, but Will retired the side on eleven pitches, nine of them strikes.
It turned to a downpour by the fifth inning. With the game on the line, and a no balls - two strike count, the cleanup hitter hit a low line shot up the middle, that speared Will in the upper leg. Will fell down in pain, but sucked it up and stayed on the mound.

With two out and the game-tying run on third, Will got the next batter to hit a routine grounder to short. Robbie took a little too much time, and the first-baseman had to stretch to his right for the ball. The catch appeared to arrive a split-second before the batter reached first, but the umpire’s call was safe…tie game. Now the winning run was on third, but Will ended the game by striking out the next batter on four pitches.

Mother's Day

Sunday I got the kids up early to fix Ceil breakfast. She had to be at church early to work in her 4-year old class. Anna worked with her and the boys went to the service with me...the kids didn't go to Sunday School. We all went to the children's service, then hustled to the north point mall p.f.chang to beat the crowd. They were hustling because it would be so busy all day, so the service was good and quick. People were waiting, I guess without reservations, because there were a few unoccupied tables.

Ceil wanted to go to Perimeter Mall, so that was our next stop. On the way home we stopped by Bruesters and Starbucks. Then Will and I got the oil changed and car washed, got our hair cut, and ran by Old Navy, Home Depot, and Kroger...it was a day full of errands. We caught the Braves on the radio, and at the car place.

Another nice comeback for the Braves last night. Seems like the thing to worried about is the starting pitching, with Davies going on the DL, Sosa struggling, etc. Hopefully Horacio can come back and make an impact.

Notes from earlier days...Seems like Jordan was already getting most of the playing time, since he was going so well. Adam played Sunday because it was a day game after a night game, and the pitching matchup was right. Cox will keep playing it the same way. If LaRoche goes on a hot streak, they could always trade him down the road. Interesting comments in the paper about his decisions on medication. I always figured he was like Horner, in that no matter how hard he played, he looks like he is coasting. Wasn’t Ruth like that?

I'm no fan of Rathburn. Interesting weekend with the Braves. Francoeur's walk-off grand slam, which I missed, and LaRoche's gaffe. May be another nail in his coffin. With Brian Jordan hitting so well, that may keep Jurries in the minors longer. They may have lost, but they'll be ok if they can go back to winning most series.

Watching the Braves last week, a Marlin had an unorthodox stance. Matthew criticized it. Seven back playing more road games than anyone…not bad. Hear Cox say that even too many home games can sometimes also be bad? The announcers were laughing about that last night. But there is some truth in it, but it’s better that the opposite.

The designated driver signup booth is where I saw John Parkes. You get a free Coke, and a chance to win a warmup jacket. The same lady has been manning the booth at the Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers games for the last few years.

I like this sermon series…another topic that hits me where I live.

I'd kinda like to go to the China Exhibit opening on Friday, we'll have to see how busy things are. The in-laws are coming to town that day, and we have a bunch of cleaning up to do. Heard an ad on the radio for that China thing...it talked about the opening ceremonies and Carter and SPdL. Didn't know the choir was singing. I do remember Carter saying that Bush stuff at the funeral, and remember thinking to myself that that was him speaking his Democrat views...too bad it had to be at that funeral.

...Interesting hubbub in the AJC about the Hawks. Marvin may turn out fine, even better than the Josh’s...Joe Johnson is good too.… But Chris Paul is going to be real good for a long time.
...Got another temp in, and my pile is really decreasing, but it’s full time keeping her busy.
...Remember the final four contest, where you could win a basketball goal? Ceil won a basketball.
...I have to write about all the Cokes I won in a Winter Olympics contest.
...Will has a game tonight, his last scheduled game of the year.
...Friday small group was different, because a different guy led it. Nice to change things up every once in a while. The same couple always misses...my movie buddy.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cougars and RockHounds

Both Will and Matthew won their games Saturday. Will’s Cougars played the Shaw Park Braves at 9 AM, and won 10 – 7. After falling behind five runs in the top of the first, Mt. Paran came back with an interesting sequence of events.

Leadoff hitter Corey’s fly ball glanced off the centerfielder’s glove for a two-base error. Will then walked on four straight balls. Ball four got away from the catcher, allowing Corey to reach third, and set up the double steal. On the first pitch Will stole second. The pitch got away from the catcher, and Corey scored. Will continued running and took third base on the play. Robbie then drove in Will from third. Cleanup hitter Malcolm then made the second out of the inning.

This same exact sequence repeated itself again in the third inning!

Mt. Paran scored those two in the first, another two in the second, and three more in the third, to take the lead 7 – 6. Will played shortstop in the second and center in the third inning, before pitching the last two innings.

In the top of the fourth Will struck out the side. In the fifth two errors by the third-baseman allowed an unearned run to score, but Will struck out the last batter to end the game. He finished with four strikeouts in two innings, and no walks. Twenty-three of his 39 pitches were strikes.

Will also drove home three runs in the fourth inning when the left-fielder couldn’t catch Will’s fly ball.

Matthew’s game started at 10:30, just as Will’s team was coming up to bat in the bottom of the fourth. For the second straight game Matthew batted second in the order, just like Will. As the visiting team, the RockHounds took an early lead, with the first five batters all scoring.

Matthew hit a hard grounder that the talented third-baseman couldn’t catch, and the ball bounced past into left field. Matthew then scored all the way from first on Scott’s fly to deep left field. In the second Matthew also singled, and again scored from first on Scott’s hit.

His biggest hit came in the fifth. With runners on first and second, Matthew hit a hard grounder past the shortstop into left field, deep enough for both runs to score. The throw went home, and Matthew was able to motor all the way to third on the play.

The play at the plate was exciting…little Lucas was headed home, but he slowed when the ball made it to the catcher first. Lucas realized he was a dead duck, but when the catcher dropped the ball, Lucas made a play for the plate. He slid home under the catcher, who blocked the plate and reached down to tag Lucas…but Lucas’ slide bowled over the catcher. Just before the catcher applied the tag, Lucas stretched out his hand and slapped the plate…safe!

Matthew later scored his third run of game…one of five Hounds to score that many.

Matthew fielded the pitcher position in the first inning, played two innings of third base, and played short field and left field an inning each…fielding a few balls. After the game he wanted to practice hitting and catching fly balls, and he’s really improving with his glove.

The RockHounds scored five runs in three of the innings, and four more runs in each of the other two innings. They played good defense, getting three outs in all but one of the innings, to win the game 23 – 15.

Here's what his coach had to say about the 3 games I missed...
I would not add the batting stats from the Sat. game. My awful pitching should not be held against our boys. Matthew smacked one to the outfield though...Hebdon hit a homer. We had 3 double plays in one game on Saturday...one by Christian and 2 by Lucas. Lucas made 3 or 4 additional putouts. Most outs in one game by one player that I personally have ever seen when pitching strikeouts was not involved or counted.

Thursday we scored 22 or 23 against the Muckdogs. A real barn burner. Put Clint in last inning to see if he could pitch is only reason why we didn't score 25 runs. Probably would have held back though as to not run up score.

We had a real tough loss Tuesday night. Just too many kids struggling to hit like Stephen, Nate, Ellis, Dillon. Josh and Matthew had bad luck popups right to the other players.

Lions or Lambs?

A dad said the Bees coaches hadn’t taught dirty tricks when Matt was on the team, but it seemed like some of the things the Bees were doing wasn’t good fundamental baseball.

Tagging Runners Standing On a Base
A fielder running all the way to the base and tag the baserunner standing there could cause raised tempers when playing other parks……some could interpret this to be poor sportsmanship. This incorrect teaching can spread to other teams. RockHounds would see what the Bees were doing and do the same thing.

Once or twice the fielder with the ball would run a step or two past the base, giving an alert baserunner an open path to the next base. That’s what happened when Scott was able to round third and continue home, because the Bee chasing him with the ball was running straight to 3rd base, instead of getting the ball ahead of the runner, like the RockHounds coaches teach.

Fielders Standing on the Base Without the Ball
...an unsafe practice, as unneeded collisions could occur. It also could be interpreted as poor sportsmanship. Even if the fielder backs off the base just as the player arrives, the fact that he was standing there means the runner has slowed up, making a difference in runners reaching as many bases as possible, and can make the difference in being safe or out.

Fielders without the ball should be taught to move into cutoff position, back up the throw, etc. There are right and wrong ways to cover a base.

It may be competitive baseball, but it’s questionable sportsmanship…doesn’t seem to be what the Mt. Paran Recreation Ministry should be teaching to 7 & 8 year olds. There’s not enough time to teach and practice hitting and fielding! I know we’re dealing with young boys just learning baseball...often the message doesn’t get completely through. An outfielder may be positioned in the grass just behind second, and doesn’t understand not to creep in to the dirt. Certainly understandable, but still unfair to the opponent, and against the rules (as I understand it). A Mt. Paran coach positioning a fielder there should be make sure rules aren’t broken.

Mt. Paran is a great Christian baseball program, and everything should be done to keep that up.

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to put a guy behind second... ...particularly when a runner is on first, which is most of the time. It would hold more runners at first on a single as well.

The Atlanta Braves want to win World Series...but in their minor league system they'd rather have their pitchers hit than use a DH, because the pitcher will have to hit when he reaches the majors. To the Braves, winning in the minors is less important than coaching / teaching / learning.

If Mt. Paran wants to win at travel ball, seems like they'd want the younger boys learning hitting, fielding, positioning, rather than teaching them to make sure the runner doesn't step off the bag. That won't help much in a few years, particularly in travel ball.

Perhaps we can exploit the way the Bees go to the base. A player like Scott could wait on the base as the player approaches, then sneak around/past him to the next base. It could backfire.

April 25th I heard on the radio that JF had buzzed his hair, but didn’t get to see it until the 30th. There were 2 dads on the trip who were huge fans, particularly of the Cardinals. The only info we got was from USA today box scores.

Stuff From the Pile

Finally compiled the stats for Matthew’s team. His average has risen to .588, and he’s tied for second on the team in doubles. He could very well finish sixth on the team in average.

Lucas, the smallest boy on the team is the best fielder, making several double plays and other nice stops. He also leads the team in hitting, batting .941…going 32 for 34 without striking out. I hope he makes the all-stars! Matthew wanted to vote for himself, and I didn’t think that would be against the rules. The second smallest is a year younger than all the rest, playing up a league. He is batting .862 with no strikeouts.

Both Saturday and Sunday afternoon Matthew had me outside playing ball. First we hit, then I got him working on catching the ball in the air…”line drives” and pop-ups. Saturday we used a tennis ball, but he worked up to a baseball on Sunday. He was also throwing harder. Games tonight, Thursday, and Saturday. Hoped it would be movie night, but Will has a late game out past Woodstock.

Interesting that Bonds sat out after hitting 713. Haven’t heard anyone compare that to when Aaron sat in Cincy after hitting 714, only to have the commissioner order him to play the third game of the season.

You’d think Chipper would see he'd help the team more playing first, though isn’t he buds with LaRoche? He probably has an eye on the HOF, and wants to pad his 3rd base stats. Gammons said Andruw was a HOF shoo-in…nice to hear from someone like that.

Saw Ron Howard on Leno last night…and Jeter on Letterman. Dave was trying to get some nightlife stories out of Jeter, who wasn’t biting. Derek didn’t have anything bad to say about Bonds, either. Hanks had been on Letterman not long ago as well.

Friday was the home school conference. Being out 6 of the last 8 days has stuff piled up. They brought in a temp to help with the account everyone is struggling with, and she is actually doing stuff that will help me more than anyone...so that's good, except I'll be spending time with the temp instead of catching up.

Used the line just the other day…the pen is mightier than the sword, to a boy on my son’s science trip. He had left his pen on a sand sculpture, and was using it as a sword. But then he said it was actually only a mechanical pencil, not a pen. So we agreed that the pencil is probably AS mighty as a sword.

We haven’t neared the teen driving bridge, so I know nothing of what the current laws are. I am sure my brother's family is getting well informed on the subject. Government and businesses are probably sending them plenty of unsolicited information. Anything I could add would probably be simple stuff they learned long ago.

C mentioned my mom's offer, and I have the newspaper clipping here in my pile of paperwork. Hope to be able to look at it this week. I have a hard time getting bills paid on time! Our new PC isn’t completely set up yet, though I’ve been on the phone with Nita and Brad for long periods of time. We’re still getting out spring summer clothes, putting up winter clothes, and going through junk to give away. C has cleaned out several rooms, but we still have a ways to go.

We try and complete the essential tasks. We got a bunch done this weekend, considering we were gone Saturday from 8 am until after 4 pm, at ball games, birthday parties, and home school conferences.

Generally during the summer the plan is to prepare for the next school year…lining up the new curriculum, clean out / box up the old books, write lesson plans, etc. There are a few home school seminars to attend…it’s a year around, full time job! Last summer we weren’t able to get to the swimming pool as much as the year before. We are such thermometers, the day-to-day stuff keeps us so occupied that we rarely do much extracurricular.

Have yet to plan a summer work trip yet…we have some airline tickets that I need to schedule before they expire. Perhaps Boston or San Francisco, not that we have money for hotels, food, etc. It’ll be a short trip, but worth it, considering how much fun the NYC trip was.