Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Wickman Trade

Nice trade…little downside, considering how loaded we are at catcher. JS could make another trade if another team bites, but there’s less desperation now. Less of a chance that Betemit will go now. Seems like the Indians were having a harder time justifying their end of the trade, saying they were weak at catcher, and that Wickman is a free agent at the end of the year. Sounds like he had a lot of charities up there, but it’s nice that he approved the trade.

I'm one Braves fan who hasn't given up hope. The Mets have learned how to win just this year, but with Pedro hurting thier pitching may not hold up, and they could lose ground. The Braves would have to stay hot and not have disasters like Friday night. At this point I'd be happy with the wild should be an exciting two months!

A 680 caller yesterday was talking about the high price the Reds paid for the two Nats middle relievers, but the guy was acting like the two were bums, when in fact at least one of the guys was pretty good. I guess guys just like to talk on the radio…I swear Chris Dimino doesn’t let people away with such uneducated comments.

Doing anything this weekend? I’ve been gone the last five weekends, so hopefully I can stick close to home. Ceil and Anna are halfway finished painting Anna’s bedroom. Once we get Will’s single bed set up in Anna’s room, we’ll put her old double bed downstairs in the bonus room, clearing out the play table and the other unused table.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Braves Make a Move

John Schuerholz pulls another rabbit out of the hat...getting a veteran for basically nothing in return. Even if Wickman flops in the NL, the Braves are loaded at catcher: McCann is a young all-star, Brayan Pena is hitting over .300 at AAA (as he did during his cup of coffee this year in the ATL), Salty just hit another HR in AA (his 26th?!), and the Georgia kid playing at Mrytle Beach is highly touted as well. Young Ramerez was a Sally League all-star hitting .285, but it's no loss...he was the 20th ranked Braves minor leaguer.

So many guys who call in to sports talk radio discuss trades with no concept of the financial aspect in mind…or what other teams would want. One guy yesterday went through who could be traded from all the starters, and settled on Renteria as the most tradable. Everyone would much rather have the lower salaried Betemit or some of the prospects.

Hadn’t been sleeping good coming out of the vacation, so I fell asleep on the couch watching the game, shortly after Cox took out Barry. I thought that starter pitched well, too.

I’d just read the Hanks story myself. What I figured was they were going to all the “new” parks…Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincy. When Hanks was on Letterman plugging the Code, he talked about camping with a bunch of guys, how they all had these individual brightly colored tents. I know Miller plays golf, but he’s more into football and baseball than some older celebs who golf, party, or travel overseas. I’ve read how Bill O’Reilley (who I don’t watch) still goes on annual camping-type trips with his old high school/college crowd, but you’re right, you don’t hear too much of that. Letterman jokes about doing stuff like that (or just eating dinner) with Regis and Steve Martin, but I doubt much actually takes place.

I always thought it would be fun, if I was in that position, to take 18-20 friends and fill out a baseball camp.

Missed Webber, as well as the promo on the Friday show about the greatest plays in history, which I’d be a sucker to watch. Peyton enjoyed college, as did Pollack and Greene. Most ballers are looking to jump to the NBA. Heard some recent Mike Vick comments, how in high school he was thinking NFL, not about the college experience.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Monday Funeral

Lang was in town this weekend, and hung out with our friend Bruce, whose father had died. Lang couldn’t change his flight, and went back to NYC early this AM. His parents and sister were at the funeral, as were a few other old friends. Bruce is around 50, never married, but was supposed to be at a NC beach this week with 3 families we know…so those friends weren’t at the funeral. Bruce said he was leaving tomorrow for the beach. The funeral lasted an hour, but two old doctors got up and told some good stories…one even quoted Lewis Grizzard.

Learned something at the funeral…the original Piedmont Hospital was located where AFC stadium was built. Bruce’s dad used to operate there. During the funeral I noticed a lone young (30-ish) black man sitting in the balcony…nicely dressed, but no suit. As the crowd filed out of the front of the sanctuary to the reception, the man started shouting a message from the Lord. Strange.

I like the Turner South Braves replays…I’ll come in late and catch the end of a game, then watch the beginning of the game later the same night. I’ve noticed on the TV listings that they’re continuing to do it. Wonder if they had a long rain delay, and they returned to regularly scheduled programming, if eventually they’d show a replay of the beginning of the game while waiting for the rain to stop (sorry).

Scoring all those runs reminds me of 1996…wasn’t that the year they were down to the Cardinals in the NLDS, then came roaring back and blew them out to win that series. Skip has a radio commercial about it, that they keep replaying. 2000 must’ve been when the Cards killed them. That was the year I was in Charlotte and watched the playoffs at Jocks & Jills. When Sid slid I was alone in my Greensboro hotel room. 1996 I was at the last game in AFC…the loss to the Yankees. Young Will could’ve gone, but he was sick that night.

I’m going to be a great old guy, remembering all this stuff. Like yesterday’s Terrance Moore column on the ND/GT fish/bottle throwing game. If you read it on line, all the commenters were more accurate than Moore and Montana. I was at that game, as well as the 3 – 3 tie in 1980, but was still in high school when GT beat ND for homecoming in 1976.

Never played at the SCC, though I knew where it was. It went to Dekalb College in Clarkston for 2 quarters before it was built, and drove past the site every day. That was my sophomore year, when I had flunked out of Tech. Learned how to study, made A’s at Dekalb, and did ok the rest of the time at Tech. CPA saw Shannon Melindi there. Reading about her, it appears she worked at a salon in Virginia Highlands…Ceil and I probably used to walk past it, and I would jog past it as well.

We tried to see Pirates at the beach…the 9 pm show was sold out 30 minutes early. That was the closest we got to the Pelicans game…the ballpark was across from the theatre/mall. The game was already in the 6th inning…you could see the scoreboard. Ceil will take the kids to see it this week during the day, and I’ll take them again when it gets to the dollar theatre.

Our group is supposed to break up sometime…our leader Lee is pretty by the book…but he keeps scheduling meetings throughout this summer, though many members are traveling. We missed this past Friday, and they canceled one when I was in NY. The rest of the group isn’t crazy about disbanding, though it’s been a while since we’ve all been together. The wives and kids had a pool party July 5th, and are having another one tomorrow. So I don’t know when our group is ending. I told leader Lee that I didn’t want to be a new leader, and another guy didn’t want to either.

Media Still Ripping Braves

John Kincaid was ripping Kruk for still wanted Smoltz traded, yesterday. Torborg was saying how the hitting is contagious…all the guys in the lineup are benefiting from this run…and it may spread to the pitching as well. Usually Torborg seems to talk much about the guys he knows, like the guy who played 3rd fro SD Sunday. Seems like he’d have plenty of material, as many Braves games as he’s done lately.

ARod used to have perfect throwing form…point, step, strong overhand throw. The other night he was flipping the ball. Haven’t heard anyone talk about that. Chipper has basically the same flip often times…sometimes with similar results, though often saved by LaRoche.

Tonight it’s Clemens and Maddux, right? Highest combined win total in history.

Added some pictures to my blog last night…making that long Cooperstown post even longer.
Also added some pics to a June posting about the day at the lake.

Would be nice if we could outscore them tonight.

We got the Charlotte paper ever day last week at the beach. Their minor league team sent a knuckleballer to the minor league all star game in Ohio, the one where Marte won the HR derby. The pitcher did well in the all-star game. He had dropped out of ball as a regular pitcher, took off 2 years, and made a comeback with the knuckler. The CWS hired Charlie Hough as a spring tutor. The guy was called up in May to make a spot start, but didn’t fare well that one day.

I’m working in Charlotte some next week, so I’ll check the Knight’s schedule. Anna may go with me, to spend the night with a neighbor that moved up there.

Funny story about the KC all-star game, where Buck O’Neil got traded after walking in the top of the first.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More On Francoeur, Etc.

My friend Lang Whitaker had an excellent column on the Braves last week on - with an interesting linked article detailing Francoeur's season putting him on track to rank close to worst all-time in outs produced at the plate. But for that to happen, JF's BA will have to decrease...down below .240. Instead, in the last few weeks his average has risen from around .240 to over .260. Leading baseball in clutch hits, and still on track for 35/100...not bad for a young guy who should be in AAA this year.

His ROY rival Ryan Howard is impressive...but Howard played college ball, as well as working his way up through the minors...including AAA, the level JF skipped.

Wednesday matchup...Clemens vs. Maddux...most victories ever by two starting pitchers.

ARod's throwing problems...has no one mentioned how he's throwing sidearm? I remember watching him warm up at short, playing for the Rangers...with perfect form...pointing with his left arm, stepping, and making a strong OVERHAND throw.

Cooperstown Pics: HR Trot, Etc.

Peachtree Road Race

Stuck in time group 8 again, this year Will and I better timed our arrival for the Peachtree Road Race. On our drive downtown we listened to the wheelchair race on the radio, arriving at our parking space near the finish line just as the winner was finishing the race. Perhaps next year we’ll watch the wheelchair finish before heading to the start.

As we rode MARTA to Lenox Square, you could see the helicopters hovering over the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center…the leaders of the footrace were nearing the 3 mile mark. By the time we had exited the train and walked to Time Group 8 at the corner of Peachtree and Weiuca, the winner had finished the race. We didn’t cross the start line for another 37 minutes, and it was so crowded that we walked much of the first mile.

We ran past the second mile marker and stopped to visit friends at Second-Ponce de Leon. Chatted with Reid and Edie Whitaker, the Irwins, Danny Starnes, Debra Light and her mother, David Hall, all the Head kids (Don & Angela, Debra, Steve, and Staci), the Wisenbakers, Wells Maddox and his mother, and many more. Later we saw Maggie Tadros and Denton Harris watching near their houses, and state representative Preston Smith from Rome, who I used to teach in high school Sunday School. After hanging out for well over ten minutes, we jumped back in the race.

The nine o’clock sun was beating down, and the late hour made it the hottest Peachtree I could remember. Will enjoyed the watersprays, and I made use of them as well. It was the first time since a rainy Peachtree that my shoes were soaked. We ambled on, Will sometimes a few steps behind, only to race ahead with a burst of energy. I had never seen so many walkers, and we had to weave around them.

We finished the race in little over an hour, not bad at all, considering the crowd and the heat. We picked up some Poweraides and shuffled to the car a few blocks away. After a stop at the Phipps Plaza Niketown for two nice Peachtree/Nike mini-backpacks, we headed home.

Will was so exhausted that he took a nap, but I managed to help Anna strip wallpaper in her room. She also did some painting.

In the evening we went up to Roswell High School for music and fireworks, meeting our small group and several other families we knew. The police managed the crowd well. Atlanta’s Banks & Shane provided the music, though Anna disliked all the ‘country’ songs. The breeze was nice, and we missed the thunderstorms that marred the fireworks at Centennial Park, Lenox, and the Braves game. It had only rained a little at our house.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

June Tourney in Jasper

Friday June 16th Game

I never recapped the tournament Will played the weekend before we left for Cooperstown. Friday night June 16th Will’s Shaw Park Cougars played the Blue Bombers at 8:30. The field in Jasper GA was larger than the Cougars usually play on, and the extra distance between the pitching mound and plate seemed to help the Cougars and hurt the Bombers…the Cougars knocked out 17 hits in the 3 inning game, and the Bomber pitchers walked or hit 10 batters.

Will had a big game, scoring three runs, going 2 – 2 with 2 walks and 2 RBIs, and he was robbed of 2 RBIs and a run scored. He played centerfield.

In the first he walked and stole second, then scored from second on a single.

Will led off the second by beating out an infield hit. The next pitch hit Clay, advancing Will to second. Again Will scored from second on a hit.

In the third Will walked again, and took second on a wild pitch. Once more he scored from second on a single…the second run of the inning. The batter after Will struck out, then the next eight Cougar batters reached base.

Will came up to bat with the bases loaded, and drove the ball to the left-centerfield fence. I had my eyes on the ball, seeing how close it came from being a home run. When I turned my attention back to the infield, the runners on 2nd and 3rd had already scored, and Will was running hard, on his way toward third. He rounded the base and headed home.

That’s when I noticed that the runner from first, T.K., had fallen down on his way home. On the ground, Will didn’t see him until he was right on him. T.K. was trying to stand up, and Will ran right into him. Both boys would’ve scored easily for an inside-the-park grand slam home run. Instead the throw came in, and the pitcher tagged out both runners, for an unassisted double play!

After the Cougars retired the Bombers in the bottom of the third, the game was called due to the mercy rule. The Cougars won 22 – 4.

Saturday Morning Game, June 17th

The next morning the Cougars continued winning, outscoring the Thunder 13 – 8. Will had an even bigger game, combining more offensive output with three big defensive plays in centerfield.

With a runner on second in the second inning, the batter hit a line drive into the gap in left center. The baserunner watched several steps off second, as Will ran to his right, away from the plate. Then Will reached across his body with his glove and dove, stretching completely horizontal, making an unbelievable catch. The runner on second thought Will had dropped the ball, and took off, rounding third and scoring. Everyone had been watching the catch, and when we saw the runner, we all knew that there was no way he could’ve tagged up. Everyone knew, except the umpires. On the ground in left-center, Will somehow knew as well. He got up and threw not home but to second, to double off the runner. Even after appealing the tag, the umpires ruled safe.

With T.K. on second in the bottom of the first, Will singled to right on the first pitch. A faster runner could’ve easily scored on the hit, but T.K. held at third. Will stole second base, but was stranded on 3rd, as the next three batters made outs.

Will came up in the third with two on and drove the ball to the right-centerfield fence. This time all the runners rounded the bases without a problem, and Will had an inside the park home run.

In the 4th inning Will walked, took second on a hit, and scored from second on another hit.

Will walked again in the 5th, on four straight balls. After advancing to third on two wild pitches, the game was called due to the time limit.

Championship Game, Saturday afternoon, June 17th.

After lunch in the north Georgia mountain town of Elijay, the tourney championship game was played in the town of Ball Ground, on a smaller field with regular 12-year dimensions. The Canton Cannons provided tough competition, scoring single runs in 5 of the 6 innings, taking a 4 – 3 lead into the bottom of the 5th. Then the Cougars broke out for 6 runs in the bottom of the 5th to win the championship.

Once again Will had a big game at the plate, going 2 – 3 with a RBI and run scored. In the first inning he just missed hitting the ball over the right-field fence, driving home the runner from third. T.K. was on first and for some reason he didn’t run, so Will had to settle for a single instead of an easy double or possible triple.

In the 5th inning Will doubled to center, and scored on Clay’s home run over the left field fence.

Will played shortstop the first two innings, throwing out two runners from first.

In the 3rd inning Will was brought in to pitch with two runners on and no out. His first pitch was lined back to Will, who made the catch, and quickly flipped to first for a double play. One pitch, two outs! After throwing a first-pitch strike to the next batter, the next pitch was grounded back to Will. Again Will threw to first…three pitches, three outs!

The next inning Will struck out the first two batters and got the third to pop out. He pitched the last four innings, giving up only one earned run on one hit, striking out three, and walking none…32 of his 51 pitches were strikes.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cooperstown Recap

Thursday – Friday June 22 – 23…The Drive Up to New York. I spent most of the morning at work preparing for the trip. At noon I went home to finish packing and take Will to his doctor’s appointment. Then it took me until 6:20 to finish up all the work had to do. Even with a quick stop in Commerce to pick up supper, we made it to Jefferson by 11 pm. We stayed up a while longer talking to the Millers. After Mr. Miller’s bacon and egg breakfast, we got off at 6:20. We drove through Charlotte and halfway through Virginia, not stopping until 12:15, north of Roanoke. Will napped most of the way. We gassed up and grabbed some Wendy’s. For the rest of the trip Will manned the atlas, figuring and recording when we’d reach the next state line or other major point. We made Pennsylvania by two and New York by five, with one pit stop. Most of the trip was made in overcast weather, which was great. In northern PA the rain came down pretty good, and didn’t stop until we were driving into Cooperstown. The New York interstates were a scenic drive through green valleys, passing tiny villages. There were no billboards and little development, making our final dinner and gas stop challenging. As we got off at the Cooperstown exit, Will was as excited as I’ve seen him, calling Ceil and both grandparents. With nothing but unpacking on the Friday evening schedule, I wasn’t in the biggest hurry to arrive, as I knew there would be a crowd. We turned in and went to the back of a long line of cars. It took well over an hour to get through and unpacked and get the car parked. Cooperstown Dreams Park CDP hosts 96 teams a week throughout the summer, employing over 300 young people. Unaffiliated with the Hall of Fame, each of the 60 numbered barracks sports a photo of a hall of famer, based on the number. Seven is Mickey Mantle, 42 is Jackie Robinson. We’re in 49, Hoyt Wilhelm. Each barrack sleeps twenty. There are 22 fully manicured, lighted fields…so nice that no practice is allowed, only games. There are batting cages and a practice field located near the barracks, across a creek from the fields. The business has been in operation for ten years, boasting that this is every young boy’s dream, to play ball in Cooperstown. This year over three thousand teams were turned away. This week there are 33 states represented, including Hawaii, as well as a team from Canada. There are twelve teams here from Georgia, most from North Atlanta - including another team that had recruited Will. Frank McElwain, Will’s coach this year at Mt. Paran, is here this week with his younger son Clay. CDP seems to placate to the big budget “select” teams scattered throughout the country. In the player’s organizational meeting they boasted of the various home run and pitching records, and how eleven players selected in the recent MLB draft had played here. There are concession stands open from dawn until 10 pm, as well as a large souvenir stand, custom photo booth, and video game arcade. As well as drawing in the extra money, it at least gives the kids a chance to slow down a bit between the many games There are stories of the select teams that charge $1,000.00 just to try out, $10,000.00 if you make the team, with no guarantee of playing time. If a 12-year old comes along that’s better, you can be kicked off the team. One team hired ex-Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland to manage the team. Another money maker is the trading of team pins. Each player buys a hundred of their team pins, at a cost of over a dollar. When they get to Cooperstown the boys swap pins for the pins of the other teams. Teams try to outdo each other for the most elaborate pin…some blink, others have bobbleheads, some are really big. Hawaii has two pins…one is a surfboard shaped keychain. Even umpires have pins. We’ll be relaxing in the barracks and a boy from another team will peek in, wanting to make a trade. Some boys put their pins on towels, others buy ‘pin books’ to hold their pins. There are pages and pages of rules and instructions. Most are for the safety of the players, others to keep things organized and running smoothly. All players must wear their pants legs pulled up to their knees. Each player is issued both a home red and a road blue jersey. Combined with the mandatory plain, unstriped white pants, it’s quite hard to keep up with which is your team. There’s at least one other camp that has opened up in the area copying the idea…to serve as competition. They offer air conditioned rooms and maid service! Saturday June 24th…”opening ceremonies / skills competitions” The first full day was designed to create chills and memories, though by the age of twelve, many of these boys aren’t impressed. After breakfast and team pictures, we hit the batting cages and practice field. I worked with Will a bit to get ready for that evening’s “Golden Arm” competition…hitting a target at home plate with a throw from centerfield. After lunch the boys played wall ball, traded team pins, and we attended the organizational meeting. After an early dinner all the teams congregated in the meal tent to line up to march into the stadium for the opening ceremonies. A mom on the team reported the same stories were told that we heard in our meetings, the same grandchildren and nephews introduced. Three guys parachuted onto the field, we marched in and were introduced by team. Since many events are conducted in alphabetical order by team, it’s not fun being named Shaw Park. I hear that on Thursday we are dismissed in reverse order, which is nice. The Canadian and USA national anthems were played. The skills competition came after the Opening Ceremony…home run derby, fastest runner, golden arm, and around the horn…where the teams are timed making twelve throws around the field. The winning time turned out to be under 21 seconds. Shaw Park took over 35 seconds, due to a couple of errant throws. All the teams stayed on the main field for Around the Horn, and one player from each team went to adjoining fields for the individual competitions. Throwers scored five points in the Golden Arm by hitting a one foot bull’s-eye at home plate from centerfield. Hitting the outer three foot diameter red circle was worth three points, and hitting the rest of the target was one point. A bounced throw hitting anywhere on the target scored one point. You got three throws. Most boys were bouncing the ball due to the distance, and most missed on all three throws. Many more only scored one point. Only two of the 96 hit the bull’s-eye, and only a few more hit the red circle. About ten boys scored three or more points to advance to the finals. Will’s first throw easily covered the distance, but missed to the left. The strong throw awakened the crowd. He also missed to the right on his second throw, but hit the target on his last throw. After the 96 teams had completed the Around the Horn, the finals of the individual competitions were conducted. The fastest runner circled the bases with a time under 13 seconds. Many home runs were hit completely out of the park, providing all the other players packing the stands a thrill. Will Pitches 5 Shutout Innings The boys got to sleep in Sunday morning, having only to make it to breakfast before 8:30. The first game was at eleven against the Utah Curve. The Curve’s number three hitter hit a two-run homer in the top of the first, and even after the Cougars tied the score with Trevor’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning, two leadoff walks in the top of the second inning put the Cougars in the hole again. Will came in to pitch with nobody out and struck out two batters, and allowed no further damage. He pitched five shutout innings, throwing 42 strikes in 54 pitches, striking out three and walking none, retiring the last eleven batters in a row. It was his best pitching performance ever, and this was a tough team. He also had an assist. At the plate he walked all three times, only seeing two strikes. In the third he was balked to second, reached third on a fielder’s choice, and scored when the catcher’s pickoff throw sailed past the third-baseman. Trevor accounted for the other six runs, going 3 for 3 with 5 RBIs. Game Two: Web-Cam Loss After lunch the sunny day turned cloudy, and we felt a few raindrops as we warmed up for the 4:30 game. The rain slowly continued to increase, and as we walked to the field an announcement was made postponing the game, as more rain was expected. We went back to the barracks to rest, and then went to dinner early in expectation of a later game. As we began eating, we noticed other teams hastily rushing to the fields…so much for supper, the games were starting in 15 minutes. The Cleveland School of Baseball extended an early lead to 4 – 1 after four innings. Will had flown out to deep right and caught a pop in center, then rifled a line drive to the fence in right center during the Cougars three-run fifth inning. The game was played in a steady rain. Shaw Park could’ve won, but had three runners thrown out on the bases, failed to execute a squeeze bunt, and allowed three unearned runs on defense. Will Homers in Monday’s Rain Delayed Game The rain continued throughout the night. This allowed the boys to get some extra sleep, having gone to bed early for their 8:30 game. The game started on time, but the rain steadily increased. They were playing the Santa Fe Red Sox, a select team from near Gainesville Florida. They had plenty of fans, one of the nicest pins to collect, and they sported team issued red Nike spikes. Coach Bauer mixed up the order and defense, including moving Will to bat leadoff and play shortstop. Will threw out two batters at first, and scored on a wild pitch, and the Cougars led 3 – 2. Then Santa Fe nearly batted around in the bottom of the third, scoring five runs to retake the lead…two of them unearned. Then the game was suspended for the rain. We had lunch and tried to get the players to rest a little. Finally the game was resumed at almost four in the afternoon. The scoreless fourth inning went by quickly, with only six batters coming to the plate. Will threw out another batter from short. Will came up in the top of the fifth with one out and working the count to two balls and a strike. A tall right-hander was pitching for Santa Fe, and he seemed to have a speedy fastball and a good curve, as well as a changeup. He had entered the game in the third inning and faced six batters before Will came up, striking out four. The next pitch to Will was on the outside corner, and Will hammered it deep to rightfield, far over the eight foot fence for a home run. The right-hander quickly retired the side, then the rain increased, and the game was postponed again. The other parents had secured the home run ball, but soon all games were suspended for the rest of the day. As the rain continued, the parents were taking their kids out to dinner. Will and I finally got the chance to drive into Cooperstown and walk around the many shops. Tuesday…More Rain I woke up early Tuesday morning to the sound of a steady downpour. The rain continued from at least 5 am through 10 am, and made yesterday’s rain seem light. While Coach Tom and the rest of the team slept, I showered, ate a quick breakfast, and picked up the laundry. Just before breakfast ended at 8:30, I woke everyone up. The small lake was now overflowing its banks, and the small stream was now a thundering river, flowing down and flooding the practice field. With little to do during the downpour after breakfast, Coach Tom and I got the boys to clean the filthy room. We got all the wet shoes drying by the fan, distributed all the clean laundry, gathered all the dirty laundry, hung the wet batbags on the railing of the bunk beds, and swept the floor. The transformation was amazing. Then the boys took showers and played whiffleball. At noon it was decided that Sunday suspended games would finish at three, and our Monday game would finish at four. I jumped at the chance to hit downtown Cooperstown again, and took Bengie and Ryan to meet their dads. The sky opened up again, so we ate lunch at the park while waiting…we still got drenched going to the car. The rain continued throughout the afternoon, eventually postponing all games again. This meant we could take our time at the Hall of Fame. The National Baseball Hall of Fame. With all there was to see at the Hall of Fame, I actually thought there would be more…but much more would be overkill…how many old mitts, jerseys, and spikes could you see? There was an introductory multi-media presentation, baseball art exhibits, the Who’s On First? Video, a locker room displaying mementos from all the teams. Greg Maddox had shoes, caps, and jerseys in both the Braves and Cubs lockers, as well as in an area displaying the dominance of the Braves. There were sections devoted to the Negro Leagues, amateur baseball, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, the World Series, balls from all the no-hitters, and women in baseball. The section displaying the top ten lifetime and active statistical leaders was interesting, particularly to see how Aaron, Maddux, Barry Bonds, and other former Braves stack up. There were World Series championship rings from every year, that increased in size. The entire museum was laid out in chronological order, from baseball’s beginnings to the recent World Baseball Classic. There were displays on stadiums and ballpark entertainment, replete with part of the exploding scoreboard from old Comminsky Park, old turnstiles and cornerstones from Ebbets Field, and the Phillie Phanatic costume. Our journey through the museum took us to the small theatre just in time for the daily trivia contest, organized like ‘Who Wants to be A Millionaire”. I knew lots of the questions, but never knew the first question quick enough to make it down to the hot seat. I doubt I could’ve made it through all ten questions in a row, even with the two lifelines. After the HOF we wandered around the downtown area. Former Yankee and Brave Clete Boyer was there signing autographs for $25.00. Playing in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the salaries were still in the low pre-free agency era. One store was devoted solely to Yankees and Red Sox merchandise, and had some unique T-shirts. One store still had merchandise on the sidewalk, but the door was locked, with a “back in 10 minutes” notes posted. Turned out the merchant was downstairs pumping out his flooded basement! Doubleday Field is a nice old stadium just off the main street, where two MLB teams play the annual HOF game. During the summer teams book games there, though none going on due to the rain. Just south of the HOF is a park, and a large lake is just two blocks north of the Hall. Wednesday…More rain It was still raining Wednesday morning, but the single–elimination tournament was scheduled to begin anyway. I took a quick trip to town, but many roads were blocked due to the flooding. Parking lots were washed out, and one small store was in danger of being dragged into the creek. People couldn’t make it to work, and the hospital and HOF were closed. The Cougars had a first round bye, and played the Thunder from south Florida at 4 pm. It was a tight game. Will played another errorless game at shortstop, and had two putouts and an assist. He hit the ball hard all three times. In the fourth he drove the ball to right field, where the ball appeared to have been dropped, but the umpire said the fielder had made the diving catch. Will did single to left in the sixth and stole second, but he was stranded there. Clay had started the game and walked the first two Thunder batters. Both scored. Then Parker came in and pitched great…striking out five in 3-2/3 innings. He only walked one batter…who scored. The Thunder only managed two hits the entire game, but they made them count…driving in the three runners who had walked. The Cougars had six hits…exactly one every inning. They were only able to score one run. Will was brought in to pitch with two out in the last inning. He threw two pitches. The first hit a batter, but the second induced an easy grounder to end the inning. The Cougars lost 3 – 1, and were out of the tourney. We spent the evening watched some good baseball as the better teams kept advancing. I was shepherding players around and coordinating with their parents. Thursday…Another Loss. I woke to the sound of players thumping their batbags on the pavement in unison. I opened my eyes and glanced out the screen door…it was 7:45, and the players were dressed and headed to their 8:30 games. There would be consolation make-up games for the teams already bounced from the tourney, since so many were rained out in the days before. The schedule hadn’t come out the night before, so I was panicked. I ran out to the info board to find we were scheduled to play at 10:30…against the East Cobb Eagles. Most of the Cougars were spellbound by the talented opposition, blaming umpires and each other for their own mistakes. Will had another great game, reaching base twice, stealing second, scoring a run, and almost making another remarkable diving catch in center. Stretched out horizontal, he snowconed the ball…but when he landed, the ball popped out of the end of his glove. Batting second in the top of the first, the first pitch to Will came inside. Will turned away, but the pitch hit him in the helmet. It was immediately apparent that he was fine, and he stole second on the next pitch. He then took third on a wild pitch, and tagged up and scored from third on T.K.’s fly to left…a rare feat in Cooperstown. He came out of the game after the third inning, as the team had played these games batting only nine. Will re-entered the game in the 5th as an injury replacement, as the right-fielder. The first pitch was hit deep to right. Will caught the ball and fired home, as there was a runner tagging from third. The throw was perfect, and catcher Andrew made a one-handed catch and tagged the runner. Unfortunately Andrew slightly bobbled the ball, and the call was safe. Will finished the game having caught four flies in the outfield. The Cougars made 5 errors in the field, and lost 12 – 6. It was 12:30 in the afternoon. I would’ve liked to make the 7 pm Phillies game, but with more pictures to take, all the packing to do, many roads and highways washed out, and a thousand other details to take care off, it was logistically impossible. We also watched more playoff games and attended the closing ceremony, when everyone was awarded their Cooperstown ring. During the rainy championship game between two Florida teams I finally got to spend some time talking to my friends Frank McElwain and Steve Cannon, who had recruited Will for their travel team. Frank had been Will’s coach this year at Mt. Paran. I stayed up until 12:30 packing. Friday…New York City and Washington DC. With the remaining players and Coach Tom still asleep, Will and I tip-toed out and got on the road before 6 am. We headed north and east to Albany, then south to New Jersey. We circled Newark on the perimeter, and were doing so good on time that when we were ten miles from Staten Island, I decided to take Will on the Ferry. The drive across the island was interesting enough, and Will enjoyed the ferry ride past the huge bridges, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty to Manhattan. The fun detour took longer than I had hoped, and we had to hustle to Washington. The interstate through New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland was loaded with holiday traffic. Will enjoyed the large bridges and tunnel under Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, but he slept most of the trip. We turned into the parking lot of Washington’s RFK Stadium at 5:25 pm, just missing the planned 5 pm arrival time. We had no trouble finding our friends Myron and Kirkland, and we enjoyed watching the Rays trounce the Nationals 12 – 1. There were no good spots to catch BP home runs, so we relaxed in our shady seats under the press box. New owner Stan Kasten struck a familiar pose, pacing behind the cage talking on his cell. We later saw him walking into the GMs box, and he was interviewed on the TV broadcast. Carl Crawford hit two homers, and Rocko Baldelli hit one. We stayed for the whole game, and didn’t make it to the Broadwells house in Fredericksburg until after midnight. We hung around socializing most of the morning, and more heavy traffic made the trip home take eleven hours. For the second straight day Will slept a good part of the trip.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Goin' To The Beach

Leaving shortly for the beach. I’ve almost dug myself out of the hole from the last vacation. I’d better call in next week to see if anything happens with our department regarding replacing my boss.

Thought Sosa’s pitch to Valentin in the 9th was good…low with movement. The .209 hitter with one HR went down and did a good job of hitting. Didn’t hear what BC had to say about it. Nice for JF to bail them out.

Bad Rap on Francoeur

What SI is forgetting about JF’s “lousy” 30 HR/ 100 RBI pace…last year he was playing AA ball, and should be in Richmond this year. It’d be interesting to rank all the outfielders statistically to see how he ranks, to see all the outfielders below him. His value based on his low salary would outrank many higher salaried / low BA/OBP/HR/RBI outfielders. This doesn’t even include his defense, clutch-hitting, or hustle…makes me want to write a letter to the editor.

The same feature praised Giles, saying though he has low stats, he’s been hitting the ball at people. Nice that in the last 2 games, the people he’s hitting to are in the bleachers.

A few years ago I had plotted out the distances between MLB cities…it would be almost impossible to drive and see a game a day in a different city, even figuring possible two-game days in some areas.

I never plan on driving late at night for the same reason…I know I’d go to sleep. I’d like to not run the AC much just to get the MPG up, but it’ll be too hot for that. I’m also taking two extra batbags for some of the boys who are flying, and some other stuff. I like taking the trip and seeing the country…I usually make too many stops, so it takes me a long time. I’ll have to stay on the road more this time.

It would be neat to hit Gatlinburg sometime. I’ve driven to Jacksonville and Richmond twice, Little Rock, Chicago, Detroit, Ohio, Greensboro, and Memphis. Detroit was broken up, so this one to NY will be just as long or longer. Knew a guy that took a trip after college…drove a northern route to Seattle, down the coast, and home a southern route.

A driving trip to all the MLB parks would be interesting. It wouldn’t be worth it to try and see a game a day, and almost impossible anyway. Would take too long anyway.

There’s a nearby class A team near Cooperstown…Oneida Tigers, so I didn’t check Syracuse or Buffalo, and I don’t feel like trekking to NYC or Boston…both four hours away.

2006 Cooperstown Overview

Made it back, now I’m swamped here at work, even with the holiday. Got back Sat night. Tomorrow is the Peachtree Road Race, Wed is Will’s birthday, then we leave for the beach on Friday. Will and I will be in the back of the pack.

Left early Friday, our planned route back through Binghamton & central PA was washed out, so I took Will for a quick look at NYC, then to the Nats blowout loss to TB in Washington. (George Hendrick was the TB 1B coach, and new owner / ex-Braves VP Stan Kasten was wandering around on the phone during pregame).

Took the laptop and wrote 5 pages of trip recap…will forward it even though it’s not as organized as I’d like. Doesn’t include the last part of the trip.

Will played well, but his team won one and lost four. He didn’t allow a run while pitching, and only gave up 2 hits in 6-1/3 innings…didn’t walk a batter, either. They won the game he pitched 5 innings (54 pitches…42 were strikes.) He hit one HR, got several hits, and scored several runs.

The rain was just about constant from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning…delaying the Sunday afternoon and Monday morning games. Instead of 8 games, they only played 5…lost the first round tourney game. On Thursday they scheduled makeup games for the teams already bounced from the tourney, had we won the AM game, we could’ve played a PM game. Drew East Cobb and lost. There were 94 teams…12 from GA (most from N.Atlanta).

We were pretty well cut off from news up there…even about the flooding. Thursday the hospital and HOF were closed, as well as several roads. A parking lot in town was washed away, and a small store was in danger of washing off as well. Several stores were closed…people couldn’t get to work. We were only effected by the rainouts.

Went to the HOF Wednesday and got to take as much time as we wanted.

We’ll have to discuss the Hawks draft…Sheldon is related to Matthew’s LL coach’s wife…could be some tickets if we inquire.

The girl in the Golf Channel’s Big Break reality show, from Ceil’s home town, came in 20th in the US Open yesterday…Kristina Tucker, originally from Sweden and then Duke. Not on the LPGA tour yet, she had to go through qualifying to make the Open.

I was wondering if Hudson and the Braves are hiding an injury

packing for Cooperstown...

Still got a bunch to do…I have to go home to get Will, take him to the DR for a checkup & sign the medical form. We’ll come back here and hopefully leave by five.

The Phillies have a stadium tour at 10 am on Fridays…over 4 hours from Cooperstown…I doubt we can make it on the way home. Mapquested C’town to RFK…quickest route doesn’t go thru Philly…that would be over an hour longer…we’ll see. RFK doesn’t have stadium tours, but you can go down behind the catcher to watch during the game.

The only part of the Tuesday game I saw was the inning they scored 3 runs, and I missed most of last night’s game as well.

Nice how Turner South is re-running the game later that night…just what I need.

I packed most of my throwback caps…Brooklyn, Ruth-era Yankees, Browns, 70’s era Orioles, 1890’s Nationals, Boston Braves, Chicago American Giants. Forgot my Angels cap with the halo.

Wade was on Letterman last night…in shorts, a cap, and a tee. Said they trashed their Dallas locker room…got back to Miami about 7 am. I know they tape Letterman around 4 or 4:30, so he had a day. I liked both teams, but I was rooting for the Heat.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cooperstown Preamble

Taking Will to Cooperstown for the tourney this next week…here is a preamble:

Will does like the guys on the team, and the parents have been nice to me. The parents like Will because he’s played well, and the fact that they were desperate for a player to fill out the roster.
Had they not had an 11th player, they could’ve wasted their money (I’m sure they would’ve done something).

The parents don’t seem to mind that I’m staying in the barracks with the boys and other coaches…almost giving me assistant coach status. I'm amazed...I thought another dad would've already jumped at the chance. I have been keeping score in the stands, as usual. The parents seem to be more interested in what they are going to do, like trip to NYC, and plan team parties.

They do have some decent players…I was just expecting a travel team to be tons better than the rec teams Will has played on, but there’s not much difference. Seems like these boys are just busier, doing more athletic activities, perhaps less church stuff.

I haven’t had time to recap the weekend games…they won all three. The Jasper field was bigger, and the mound was 53’ instead of 50’, so it was easier on the hitters. Friday Will missed an inside the park grand slam, when the runner on first fell down before reaching home. They won 22-4.

Saturday AM they also won…Will had an amazing catch in center, and an inside the park HR. That afternoon they played at a smaller park in Ball Ground, with a 50’ mound. Will just missed hitting one out over the further RF fence. The same runner didn’t run, so Will got a single. It was a tight game, and Will came in to pitch for the first time with this team. The first pitch was lined back to Will, and he threw to first to double off the runner. After throwing a strike, the next pitch was grounded back to Will, and he threw to first for the out. Three pitches, three outs. He pitched 4 innings and gave up one run, against a ‘tough’ team.

Looks like we’re diving to Jefferson tomorrow night, and we’ll leave early from there Friday morning. We come back early next Friday…we could drive the whole way, but I’m trying to get my friends to meet us at RFK for the game. The Phillies and Orioles are on the road.

Cooperstown Bound

Call me crazy, but I’m taking Will to play with the Shaw Park team at Cooperstown. We’ll leave late Thursday or very early Friday and check in late Friday or early Saturday. Saturday they have some events and meetings, and play two games a day Sunday through Wednesday. The single elimination is Thursday, and we’ll come home Friday…perhaps with a stop in Philly or DC. I’m staying in the barracks with the team, kinda like a chaperone.

Basically Will is the hired gun to help bolster the team’s chances, though I hear the competition is competitive, with select teams with budgets in five (or six?) figures. The other parents don’t seem to mind, since it’s helping the team’s chances. They seem to be just as interested to traveling to NYC, four hours away. I’ll stick with the Hall of Fame…after driving 15 hours, I don’t want to drive more!

Will needed rubber cleats, and he dug out the Nikes I wore ten years ago for my week at the Cubs fantasy camp. They still had the polish from where they shined them every night. The big difference between them and current Nike models is that these have the old NIKE above the swoosh, instead of the swoosh only. He likes them. He has a sore ankle, which is unusual.

Watched Glory Road last night. Have you seen it? About the NCAA final where Kentucky got beat by that small school in Texas. Anna is at a knitting day camp this week. Thursday Matthew is taking this class where they take raw wool and make a teddy bear. Yesterday he went to the JFBC VBS. He loves to make crafts and eat cookies, but he didn’t know anyone in his class, so it wasn’t his favorite. This is the guy who like to play baseball for the teammates.

I’ve got to get to one of those Chickfila breakfast buffets…are they only on Saturdays?

June 21st Braves Update...

The Braves did replace the injured Thompson, Jordan, and Reitsma, but they were a big part of the problem. I haven’t been keeping with all the comings and goings, but they were grooming James to be a starter. The tall Aussie and Thorman were both tearing it up in Richmond, earning their promotions. Just when guys like McBride and Ray start looking good, they have a bad outing.

Eight of the 12 pitchers next year will be different from last week’s roster. Cormier was the return for dumping Estrada’s salary, so if we were to get anything out of him, it would be a bonus. Paronto and Yates were also cheap free agents with little downside…hopefully one or two would work out, like Ray.

No MLB team has good middle relief, and only a few teams have excellent closers…the key is having the starters get you deep in the game, like Maddux and Glavine used to do. Smoltz had the lead when he left the game Sunday…when you score seven runs you should win. Perhaps this is the week Sosa is taken out of the rotation.

They play Betemit, and his average has been dropping. My friend thinks Giles could be gone after this year. The Braves say Thorman will get some playing time at first base as well. I don’t see what’s wrong with Diaz.