Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Post-Valentines Weekend

Friday I frantically tried to get my desk cleaned off before leaving for the week. Around 4:30 an old college roommate forwarded a prayer request…another college roommate’s wife has breast cancer. They live in Houston, and Lisa will be treated at the same hospital as Brantley. Lisa grew up in Dekalb County attending First Baptist, and could very well know Andy.

Sunday morning after Kidstuf we had to backtrack to the Attic. Sandra Stanley was manning the information desk, so I asked her if she knew Lisa from her FBC days. Sandra is younger, and didn’t get to Tech until 1986, but she said Andy may know her.

Saturday’s practice went well…hopefully we’re continuing to get each player lots of reps. We also worked on cutoffs, etc. and each pitcher got to throw again. Hopefully we can have our first practice game next Saturday. Afterwards Will stuck around and practiced with the Colt team while I hustled over to Matthew’s practice.

Saturday night Ceil and I drove down West Paces Ferry to Buckhead. Peachtree was bumper to bumper at least all the way from Lenox down through Pharr Road. Cars were ignoring stoplights…this at 7:30 pm. Lenox was jammed with people as well. We remembered the days 15 years ago when we could quickly scoot over to Lenox from our Morningside house without much traffic, and the mall would be quiet. We ate at the Lenox Mick’s at lot in those days.

To avoid traffic I headed south on Lenox Road, bypassed Sidney Marcus, and took Lindbergh across Piedmont. Then I made a left and went through Peachtree Hills, driving past Ceil’s first apartment in Atlanta. She wanted to eat at Jaliscos, and at 8:45 the crowd was just starting to lighten.

Bowling For Dollars

Will and I attended the bowling fundraiser on Cobb Parkway, just below the South Loop. With it being Wednesday church night and Valentines, only 5 of the 15 team members came, but we had a good time. I passed on the ‘Thumper’ nickname to Corey, who you’ll be hearing about. Will bowled 4 games, but I only bowled one. Thought you’d enjoy the last line of my short recap to the team…

Propelled by three straight spares, Corey “Thumper” Hursh won the first game. The second game was close to the last frame, when Christian “Ronaldo” Amland rallied with a strike and spare to win in comeback fashion. Thomas “Bank Shot” Brainerd won the third game, and Will “Droopy Jeans” Murphy pulled out the last game. John Fulton performed trick shots and came in a close second, and dad George amazed us with his amphibious bowling.

Ceil actually didn’t want to go out Tuesday or last night. Getting rid of lice is a lot of work, with all the baths and extra laundry. Tonight we have to do homework for small group, and Will has indoor practice. I cancelled the outdoor rec practice due to cold.

It’s amazing to go to one of those indoor facilities and see all the players from other leagues working on their game. There are several of those indoor places just in our immediate area, and many more throughout Atlanta. This one was just north of the Big Chicken, not far from the church where we used to go see fireworks.

For some reason it’s been busier than usual, in some part because I’m the head coach for the first time, the season is just getting underway, and there’s no team mom. Ceil and all the kids have head lice, which means tons of extra laundry. We’re usually try to stick in the “less busy” crowd.

Got another comment from a coworker on the Mr. Kay email, from my lunch sponsor Bill whose job I wouldn’t mind. He’s having back surgery tomorrow and will be out for six weeks. We have in common the Textron/EZGo Golf Car account. This week there were meetings with EZGo about expanding the business exponentially, which many say is a long shot. Later Bill quizzed me about office space. I reminded him I’d be available to help out with this expansion.

I’m a big delete-er of emails, once I’ve read them. I used to sneak in and clear out some of Ceil’s unimportant emails, but it’s been a while. I actually don’t know her password to get on her new computer!

Think Tech has a short at the NCAA tourney? I’m not sure…didn’t seem like it was that much of a down year everywhere else, but I haven’t been following it that close.

Leaving SPdL

In 1999 our kids were 6, 3, and one. We had moved from Morningside to East Cobb in 94 (that’s what we were supposed to do, right…have kids, move to the burbs? I jest). Each time we had a baby it got increasingly difficult to make it down to SPdL, especially Wednesday nights. That’s when I accepted a promotion to help run our new Charleston office. We put our house on the market and made several trips to SC to look for a house…real fun with three young kids. The reality of leaving all our friends was starting to hit home when I was asked to delay the move another six months, to work on a project here in Atlanta. After that meeting I stuck around in my boss’s office and asked not to move. There was another guy that could easily take my Charleston spot, and there was another opportunity in Atlanta I could take…with my old boss Steve Apollo, who I used to mention in those SPdL high school Sunday School classes. Things have probably turned out much better staying in town.

We had pretty much already said our goodbyes at SPdL. Since things weren’t like the good old days anyway, decided to look around for another church. That’s how we ended up at North Point. This was several years before the big group left SPdL and started meeting on their own, eventually forming the nucleus of Buckhead Church. When Buckhead opened we considered going down there, since so many old friends were there. Half our North Point small group switched to Buckhead. But with the Buckhead Church crowds, the eventual move to the permanent building further away in the heart of Buckhead, and the roots we’ve made in Alpharetta, we’ll stick out at North Point.

The recent Super Bowl party was fun. It’s one of two annual gatherings of our old SPdL crowd, this one hosted by David & Mary Hurt. Like us, they home school their kids, two daughters aged 13 and 11. They might start modeling, and they’re big into Irish Dance and horseback riding. Mark and Leah Stephens were there…their oldest daughter Ansley is now a sophomore at Auburn. It’s interesting to see all our kids hang out together, especially as they get older. Bob and Myra Marsh showed up, but are heading back soon to Germany. They all enjoyed hearing about Missy. It was the first fun gathering of that gang since Jenny Ewing’s murder last July. Every December Jenny hosted ‘the social event of the season” party, so this year there was none. Some of my August posts tell the story and hopefully capture what a bad time that was.

Charlie Brooks’ brother was married to my aunt (both are long deceased). Once I was riding home from a youth retreat sitting next to young Melanie Sheffield. She mentioned she was related to the Brooks. I perked up and told her that I was also related to them…so we were related to each other! Well, it was exciting at the time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Technology

I don't know anything about TiVvo! I am certainly technologically challenged. Supposedly those who have it love it...you can watch TV without commercial interruption, and set it to automatically record any program or actor or team you want.

I do love my laptop. My father-in-law got one for Christmas, he takes it everywhere. Old School Reid would love Excel, the spreadsheet program. He could put his tourneys on there and have them saved all in one place, and print them out if he wishes.

Every year I start a new spreadsheet that has a calendar, checking, savings, and an expense tracker. So now in addition to my scrapbook calendars, I also have a spreadsheet that I can look back at to see what happened on any particular day, going back to 2002. I have another spreadsheet covering my entire life, with several notes highlighting each year...in my life, family, and other significant sporting and world events. Then there's the spreadsheet where I'm compiling every sporting event I've attended.

Stayed up late Tuesday night making Valentines Cards. Letterman was funny, and he had Peyton Manning as a guest.

Braves: All Is Well

Saw the Fox 5 promo Monday during 24…”a major announcement for the Braves”…since they showed Andruw, I wondered if they had locked him up with a new contract. I fired up the laptop to find that the sale had gone through.

Doesn’t look like too much will change with the new Liberty owners. They bought the Braves to avoid having to pay a lot of taxes, giving Time Warner a bunch of their stock back, which is what Time Warner needed as well. Liberty will probably hang on to the team for 4 – 5 years and sell them. Payroll will stay about the same, around 80 million…that’s right in the middle of all the teams.

Seems like the big-budget teams throw money around at players who aren’t really worth it. John Schuerholz has done an excellent job and getting the best bang for the buck. Moves these days are as much with the budget in mind as improving the team, but Schuerholz makes the moves with the overall team in mind, thinking not just for this year but also several years ahead. Moves are also made based on how many years certain players are signed for, and who’s coming up from the minor leagues.

Since Sid Bream slid home to beat the Pirates 15 years ago, the Pirates haven’t even had a winning record. Only the Yankees have had a record equal to the Braves over that time…other teams have had a good year or two, but not been in the pennant race every year. I expect the Braves to compete for the pennant again this year.

Some people were talking this weekend about how good Nava is. Every time we head down that way Ceil wants to go to Jalisco (I don't complain because the check will be smaller!) I do want to try the seafood place there in Ptree Battle.

Yesterday I was working on an order for Darryl, who me 3 pages of invoices. I thought it was one 3 page invoice, so I used the $7000 total in my calculations. Profit was higher than expected, but I attributed it to freight and internal charges. Only when it was invoiced did I notice that the $7000 was a 2 page invoice…I missed that the other page was a $5000 invoice. The rest of the day I was scrambling to get it fixed, but it finally was corrected.

At the same time Accounting misplaced $40,000 worth of invoices for one vendor. Since Accounting will move to Chicago in a year or two, the department is full of temps who aren’t good English speakers. Their manager can’t be bothered, so the chief Accountant has a mess on his hands. Someone in Chicago said things to the vendor without knowing the whole story, but the vendor stood by us, and the Chief Accountant cut a quick check for the $40,000. Now I’ve got to connect all the dots.

Baseball Bits

Will’s rec team that I’ll coach, the Warriors, will be ok. He has more help than he had in the fall, and he’ll get to play plenty of shortstop. I’ll probably only pitch him later on in games, when the game is close.

He’ll also play on a travel team…the coach is really impressed with Will, but the assistant coach’s son will probably play short. Will enjoys playing outfield and first, and the coach will also pitch and catch him. Supposedly the team won a lot of games last year…they sure be better than that Shaw Park team Will played with this past Saturday.

He’ll probably squeeze in a road game or two with the older Colt team, which will stretch him to his limits, which is good. He’ll play more games this spring than ever, but he needs the games to improve. I think all the off-season practice has helped him.

The Mail Room Guy

Back when I started here at Tull, it was the days of many clerical workers and secretaries. We also had three or four people work in the corporate mailroom. Over the years attrition brought that number down to one. Brantley has worked with the company for almost 15 years, and has what every company needs in that position: efficiency, attention to detail, a great personality, and a great sense of humor.

Every day Brantley makes his rounds in the corporate building not to deliver mail, but to check in and harass everyone. Position does not matter…Brantley will converse with anyone from maintenance workers to the President of the Company. He is always up on the latest gossip, though he’ll keep the lid closed on sensitive information that has yet to be revealed. Remembers everyone’s birthday. His middle name could be ‘sexual harassment’, but he’s the only one around that can get away with it. Women love him, and guys also enjoy his routine. Because of his duties Brantley is also well known across the Southeast in our district offices. The most popular person in our company could very well be this guy in the mailroom.

Even those of us who work off-site aren’t spared of the Brantley experience. Every afternoon he hops in the company van and makes his rounds, delivering mail across the parking lot to the Processing Division, through the security gate to Maintenance, and down the road a mile to our office on North Berkeley. His entrance is similar to Kramer…everything stops in the room. Brantley will share a tidbit of news, ask for gossip, or relate something that just happened to him or a coworker. A lover of music and infotainment, the show can drift in many directions. On slow days we all know several buttons to push to get Brantley going.

Brantley grew up in Milledgeville, so we have the Middle Georgia connection. We’re about the same age. When I purchased my gray Civic, I joked at work that it was so I could be like Brantley. Divorced, he’s been in a long-time relationship. Marriage has been discussed, but years of keeping an immaculate bachelor pad has made commitment hard for him. His Civic is well-maintained and immaculate. He is so particular that he doesn’t want to celebrate holidays with his girlfriend’s family, and doesn’t want her to “suffer” through his family’s gatherings. He’s had medical difficulties for years, and perhaps in the back of his mind he never thought he’d make it to old age.

He looks just like Dr. House on the Fox Network, and I’m told he acts like him as well. But Brantley has always acted like that. He always vowed he was agnostic. In the past he’s sometimes made comment when religious matters were discussed, and other times didn’t say anything.

This past December his Dermatologist wanted to remove a small growth on his forehead, and Brantley mentioned that he’d be out the next day. During the simple procedure the cyst was found to be the size of a grapefruit. It was removed, and Brantley was out over a week. He emailed us a rough looking self-portrait. It took him several days just to get his vision back. Tests were run, and he was sent to Houston the first of February for more tests. Every report seems to bring worse news. Cancer, that continues to grow. Weeks of radiation treatments are to be followed by more surgery. Yesterday came the report that radiation will be increased to twice daily.

All this has hit his coworkers pretty hard. The news has spread like wildfire throughout the Southeast. Human Resources waved their hands, saying coworkers weren’t supposed to discuss a fellow employee’s medical condition. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Fund raising drives are being organized, and his name has been placed on many prayer lists. Our small office has called Brantley several times, usually catching him in a waiting room. His voice is much more quiet and reserved than we are used to. Our company sent him a laptop, and unofficially spread around his email address. Fortunately his emails are more in line with his personality.

In late January I was enlisted by our Houston branch to come out for a week of training…I arrive next Monday. I told Brantley before he left that I’d visit, and he said to look him up. Along with many, I’ve swapped emails with him. We were told to pray big. Pray for my time with Brantley. Perhaps even more is the opportunity for God to work in the hearts of our entire company. Should be an interesting week.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February Doubleheader

Will played a chilly doubleheader Saturday afternoon with some of the boys he played with in Cooperstown this summer, at Shaw Park. They lost both games to the Acworth Warriors. Shaw Park scored seven runs in both games, and Will scored three of them.

He played the first two innings of each game in centerfield, then played shortstop the rest of each game. Will caught at least one fly ball in the outfield, and threw out at least three batters at first on groundouts. He threw a good relay to third from the outfield, and twice held batters to doubles on balls hit to the fence in the outfield gap.

In the first game Will hit a hard grounder past the shortstop for a single, took second on a passed ball, and scored on a hit. In Game Two he hit a nice line drive into left field for a hit. He stole second on the first pitch, advanced to third on a groundout to short, and scored on a single.

His second time up he barely missed a triple, when his line drive landed just foul. Instead he drew a walk, and again stole second on the first pitch. He took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a hit. Will flew out to center to end the game. He said he just got a piece of the ball, but it still traveled a long way.

Will’s Mt. Paran Warriors team practiced from 11:45 to 1:30. Practice was easy on me, as Frank McElwain, Henry Bartlett, and Tracy Ellis were there to help. I was able to catch as all the pitchers took a turn on the mound. Clay McElwain smoked a fastball right down the middle, and it tipped my glove and hit me right in the stomach. It didn’t knock the wind out of me, so I came out of it unscaived…perhaps the three layers of clothes cushioned the blow.

After dropping Will off at Shaw Park, I hustled over to the last half of Matthew’s practice at Sewell Mill Baptist Church. Ceil said Matthew had done well before I got there, and even in the windy conditions, he hit many whiffle balls with authority. Hopefully this season he can focus and hit the ball hard, which will translate into more extra-base hits. He also fielded and tagged well.

After Matthew’s practice we dropped by McDonalds for a beloved Happy Meal. Then we got to the field in time to see Will bat twice in the first game, and the entire second game. When Matthew wasn’t playing around, he sat in my lap to keep warm.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

My Softball Career

Softball. Played a couple of years of adult church softball in Macon, before staying in Atlanta permanently. I was the youngest, at 18 and 19, so I played outfield. Had one of my few inside-the-park home runs then, as I was pretty much a singles hitter. Once coming off the field, the base umpire calmly said not to wear the first-baseman’s mitt in the outfield. I said ok, and we started joking around, near the shortstop position. I was blaming the glove, saying ‘you stupid glove, it’s your fault!” I wheeled around and threw the mitt on the ground. Then the plate umpire, leaning against the backstop, threw me out of the game. He wouldn’t reconsider.

At Tech I played intramural softball with roommates and friends. Actually won the one statewide tourney we played, in Carrollton.

Around 1979 I started playing for the blue church team with Steve Norman, and the same group played together into the early 90’s. Mainly played LF, and a little RF and 3B. We played both spring and fall seasons. The team turned one triple play…a conventional double play, then 1B Norman nailed the runner trying to score from third. At summer camp one year I pulled out my shoulder playing water polo, and lost my decent arm (after years of playing catch with Will, it’s much better – but nothing like it used to be). We played up the road from the OK CafĂ©, at the tiny field where Northside Drive splits. Hit it over the fence and it’s only a double. That’s another reason why there weren’t many inside-the-parkers.

In the early 90’s I played a couple of seasons with a team here at work, way out in Lilburn. Ceil was having trouble conceiving, so I was to have late-April outpatient surgery to help things along. The night before I was playing 2B, and a low line drive skipped once on the dirt and hit my chin. I heard a crack, and it swelled up. Though two months later I ran in the 1992 Peachtree Road Race, that may have been my last softball game.

Rite of Spring: Buying a New Mitt

My Dale Murphy Rawlings Fastback is at about 17 years old. The inside leather is cracked and peeling, and in the spring the laces between the fingers finally broke. My old friend could be fixed, but it seemed time to put her out to pasture. Though this glove didn’t see many years of actual action, it still held several memories. This was the glove I wore at the Cubs Fantasy Camp…you can still barely make out the faded Moe Drabowsky autograph.

I considered buying a replica of a 1950’s era three fingered glove, made by Akedema. Even put it on my Christmas list, to no avail. But that mitt is small and flat, made before basket-type gloves became popular. Though it would be fun to wear while playing catch and during Little-League practices, it would make catching much more difficult.

Since Christmas I haven’t made it a priority to get a glove, only looking one day at Dick’s and Play It Again Sports. Will likes Wilson models, and the Wilson I had borrowed at practice yesterday was comfortable and nice. Mizuno and Nike had many models at Dick’s. Perhaps Rawlings doesn’t have the market share they used to, but they’re still my favorite.

Then Sunday Ceil had to stop by Target on the way home from church. As usual, I stayed in the van, this time with Matthew and Will. Then I remembered I wanted to check out the gloves. Didn’t have my hopes up. I just wanted to get a decent model for a good price. Considering this is a prime glove buying time of the year, Target had a pretty slim selection, much less than I’d seen in the past. Being left-handed, there were even fewer choices. All they had were a few Wilsons and Mizunos – all right-handed. There was one lefty, a Rawlings. I searched around a little more, but it was the only one. A decent model, a two-tone light and dark brown fastback.

Then I noticed it had a $9.99 clearance sticker on it, but when I scanned it, it rang up 50% off…$4.99. Now I have a new Rawlings glove!

I have some lists of important stuff like shoes, Peachtree Road Races run, caps, etc, but not gloves. (Wait, maybe I do!). Yesterday when thinking about celebrating the occasion with writing this story, I thought about other gloves I’ve had…
...Nondescript Little League glove, tan. Left it next to the most northwestern practice field backstop at Macon’s Central City Park after a practice.
...I purchased a McGregor Ron Fairly first-baseman’s mitt from Charlie Wood’s Sporting Goods, probably while playing Pony League ball. The Braves were wearing royal then, so that was the color I bought, though I was never on a royal team. Over time the bright color faded. As much as I can recall, this was my only glove for several years after number one was lost, I must’ve worn it in the outfield as well. This was the mitt that led to me being tossed from a church softball game in the late 70’s (more on that later). Eventually this mitt was also lost, or it may have just become old and unused.
...Don Gullett Fielder’s Glove. At some point I must have purchased another glove, since I don’t recall using the blue mitt in the outfield for 4 years of Tech intramural softball. I remember having a tan Don Gullett autograph model. I must’ve worn this glove through Tech and many years on the same navy blue church team, coached by Steve Norman. Last night I watched the Super Bowl with two former teammates.
...In the late 80’s I upgraded, buying the long-coveted tan Rawlings Fastback glove I had always wanted. Had it less than a year when I lost it at summer youth camp in Alabama. Left it under a tree and never saw it again. Don’t remember the player’s name. After camp I bought the Dale Murphy glove.
...As a boy I also got an old tan first-baseman’s mitt. Instead of webbing the leather looped up, like another finger. Kinda cheap, but the leather was soft. Guess my dad got rid of the mitts I left lying around unused.

In the late nineties I found an ancient mitt at a Salvation Army type store, and since have collected a few old gloves that I’ve run across. I’ll occasionally oil them, but I need to more often. They include…
...A Yogi Berra era catchers mitt, flat and round, not really hinged.
...A flat fielder’s glove with a metal button to buckle on the back, that I unprofessionally date to the 50s.
...Warren Spahn fielder’s glove…right-handed.
...Tiny Rawlings Brooks Robinson glove, with not only his autograph, but also a drawing of Brooks on the mitt.
...Moose Skowron left-handed first-baseman’s mitt, similar to 5 above, just higher quality. Perhaps the prize of the “collection”. I resist temptation to play catch with this nice old mitt.
I may have one or two others as well.

Friday Emergency

Had to take coworker Darryl to the doctor Friday morning. He had taken his prescriptions incorrectly and was woozy, and his elbow was in pain. The doc in a box didn’t open til ten, so we wound up at my doctor, which is nearby. He didn’t take his cell. Meanwhile back at the office, his wife was called, and she got all worried. Then Sue went out driving around trying to find us, without success. This with coworker Renee taking the day off, salesman Randy traveling, the temp gone, and Damon tied up in a meeting. This left new guy Matt running the show by himself. Darryl’s wife showed up here not long after we got back. Darryl should be ok.

Finished three Sports Illustrateds while at the doctor’s office…including the Pistol Pete article. Learned that Ditka played HS basketball on one of Press’ first squads. I’ve been reading / subscribing to SI since the early 80’s. Read them at Tech, then when I got out I treated myself with a subscription. Kept all the issues, with perhaps only one or two missing. Still hate the fact that when Maddux made his one cover, Southeastern readers got an alternate cover…Bama’s football coach, as I recall.

Nice of LaRoche to be so candid. True fans will understand his comments, though the very spoiled fans he spoke of probably won’t.

No practice last Thursday or Friday. Will’s travel team is probably going to drive me nuts. Found out today there’s a tourney Spring Break weekend…that Friday we’ll have small group (Intimate Encounters, we’re not supposed to miss) and a rehearsal dinner, Saturday Ceil and I have separate meetings in Woodstock, and our neighbor’s wedding, which all three kids are in.

Sounds like I’m stressed out and venting. I would say I’m not, but perhaps I am.

Saturday Will practiced from 10:15 to noon with the travel team, from noon to 1:45 with our rec team, then practiced with the Colt team til after three…all on the same field. He was tired afterwards. Saturday the Shaw Park team wants him to play a DH…after he has 2 practices. He loves it, but he may tire as the season progresses. The higher-ups don’t want him to play games for the Colt team, and once the season starts he can’t play for Shaw Park. Saturday I went in his batbag…he had four bats in there, including a wood one.

Our Saturday practice went well. Even without the official assistant coach, we had four things going on at once, spread out on two fields…infielders taking grounders, outfielders shagging flies, someone hitting in the cage, and someone pitching off the mound. Everyone got two rounds of infield, outfield, and BP. They all need lots of repetitions. One of Will’s teammates went to the Braves Fanfest. They got there early, waited in line to get in, then waited over 2-1/2 hours to get Francoeur’s autograph.

Turned on Tech vs. NC State and they were down big. Can’t believe they came back. The GT team dentist confirmed my suspicion why GT no longer has names on the backs of jerseys.