February 24, 2015

No turds



On Saturday – February 21, 2015 Jerry Dipoto addressed a large group of season ticket holders to provide them with an opportunity to learn more about the current Angels roster and to ask questions.  It was a nice affair and a great way to jump start the season (short of going to spring training).

The “chalk talk” could easily be summarized in two words – “no turds.”  Dipoto touched on a variety of topics, but the thing that really hit home for me were his statements about how the Angels go about putting together their roster.  While there is definitely a focus on sabermetrics, they also give equal value to a player’s “make-up.”  He cited the examples of this in guys like Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout and Matt Shoemaker.  Dipoto pointed to his chest and said something to the effect of “what’s in here is important to us.”

To an “old school” guy like myself – those words were music to my ears.  Dipoto continued on by saying this roster, for lack of a better expression had “no turds.”  The guys on the roster genuinely care for one another, enjoy playing the game and pull for one another.  Dipoto even shared a story about how Albert Pujols recognized Calhoun when the team won the Western Division.

There’s something to this “chemistry” thing.  I remember Jered Weaver saying that last year’s team was the best clubhouse he’d ever been a part of. 

Again, I like it.  I like it a lot. 

As fans we can’t pick and choose who is going to be on our favorite team, so it really is nice when a great group of guys are assembled and appear to be hard working, baseball loving guys who really know how to get after it.  This is a team that also gets after it in the community – making themselves available constantly.  Rooting for this group is easy.

It’s something that clearly starts at the top.  We were told when Arte Moreno addresses the team each year at spring training – he reminds them that he’s looking for some “rings” – as in more than one and he always reminds them “don’t forget the fans.”

Cheryl and I pay attention to this stuff.  Some of the Angels we’ve had over the years have gone above and beyond in their interactions with fans.  Torii Hunter immediately comes to mind, as does guys like David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, Jered Weaver, Peter Bourjos, Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Bengie Molina, Jose Molina, and many others.

The season is a little over a month away. The grind of the season will be here soon.  Having a team full of great individuals makes it all worth it.  As fans, we want to see the team compete daily, win often and look like they enjoy doing it.  It’s not easy, but it is a lot easier when there are no turds.

February 18, 2015

Heroes

On January 27, 2015 I took a day off from work to go fishing.  I always take that day off each year in remembrance of my father, who passed away in 2007.  Bass fishing was one of the things we both loved to do (although we rarely ever did it together).  It’s funny – I feel as if he’s with me now though every time I go fishing and especially on January 27.

This time around, I took a detour.  I didn’t find myself on a lake focused on catching fish.  My life has been incredibly busy with work, the passing of my mother and all the other things that fill up one’s life.  Fishing requires a lot of focus and it’s not enjoyable when your mind is racing all the time. 

My wife Cheryl came up with a great idea for me and a way that I could still feel connected to my father.  I went to the movies, but not to see just any movie – to see “American Sniper.”  My father spent nearly 30 years of his life in the Marines and this was exactly the kind of movie, he would love.  The fact that it was directed by Clint Eastwood would make it that much more appealing to him.

What a movie.

As I walked out of the theatre, I felt a little bit numb.  I knew the movie had an effect on me, but I wasn’t sure what that was.  I kept saying to myself – “nobody died today.”  I kept saying that because I thought no matter how bad my day is, no matter how busy work is or how complicated life is in general – at least, nobody in my family or in my circle of friends – died today.

I saw my father take his last breath.  I saw my mother do the same and I watched her suffer and struggle along the way as she battled pulmonary fibrosis.  I saw my father-in-law Charles battle cancer and I was there when he took his last breath.  Those were horrible days.  Three of the worst days of my life.  Everything else really isn’t that important when you put things into the proper perspective.  And that’s what the movie did for me.  It reminded me of proper perspective.

Sometimes we focus on things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that important.  They’re not life and death matters. 

I haven’t stopped thinking about American Sniper since I saw it.  I haven’t stopped thinking about Chris Kyle and the thousands of others who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.  We’re the land of the free and home of the brave and Chris Kyle represented the very best of that.

What a person.  What a hero.  What an American.

The movie made me want to shake the hand of every solider and veteran I could find.  It made me want to just say thank you, thank you, thank you.  There aren’t words enough that can fully capture the gratitude I have for our veterans.  I’m the product of a military family and I have always respected the armed forces, but sometimes even I need a little reminder.  I don’t think I’ve thanked the men and women who serve enough.

I thought about a time a few years back when I was in Seattle for business.  It also happened to be a time when the Angels were in town to face Seattle.  I was staying in a near-by hotel and after work, headed to the game.  I was in the elevator when an older gentleman joined me.  He was wearing a baseball cap with a Navy logo and the name of a ship he must have served on.  I commented on his hat and he provided me a little background. 

As we hit the ground floor and prepared to step out, I reached out to shake his hand and I said, “Thank you for your service.”  The man looked stunned.  His reaction surprised me, as he gathered himself and said, “No one has ever thanked me before.”  He was very moved by those five little words.

I walked away thinking how sad that here was a man who looked to be in his 70’s and no one had ever thanked him for his service.  How could that be? 

I was about to go do something very American – watch a baseball game and I couldn’t believe that no one had ever thanked this American for what he did.

I love baseball.  I also love my country.  Maybe the two go hand in hand.  I think about the great Americans who not only played baseball, but also served their country.  People like Ted Williams and Jerry Coleman and I feel like the game and the armed forces are somehow connected.  I love it when veterans are recognized at baseball games and are asked to stand and be recognized.  I love it when Navy Seals parachute out of the sky to deliver the American flag before a game and I still get chills when Marine Corp fighter pilots fly over the stadium during our National Anthem.

How lucky am I that I live in America and get to enjoy America’s favorite pastime? How lucky am I that individuals like Chris Kyle have made it possible for me to live the life I live?  How tragic that his life was cut short and that his family has to live on without him.

Baseball will be back soon.  Pitchers and catchers will report in less than a month.  It’s been a long winter and I can’t wait for baseball to be return.  That’s one of the great thing about baseball; it always returns.  Not so with some of the men and women serving overseas in our armed forces.  You might even say they might not return so that baseball can. 

Think about that.

I’ll be thinking about Chris Kyle when I head to the stadium this year.  I’ll also be thinking about my father, who I don’t recall ever thanking him for his service – which included two tours in Vietnam. I probably took it for granted – just like the friends and family of the gentleman I met in Seattle.   Shame on us; shame on me.

October 14, 2014

Running on empty



One day you’re making plans to watch what you hope will be a deep run into the post-season.  The next – you’re sitting in your living room feeling a little numb, trying to put a positive spin on what was a great regular season and a horrific post-season. 

Your eyes glaze over as you watch the opposing team pour champagne over one another.  You try to muster a smile, but it just doesn’t happen.  You want to be happy for a franchise that has had a 29 year drought from the post-season and although you might feel a little smidge of happiness for them – you feel a little sick to your stomach at the same time.

One minute you can’t sleep because you’re excited about the upcoming games and the next – you can’t sleep because you can’t believe it’s over.  You can’t prepare for the moment because you never want to acknowledge the possibility.

Any season that falls short of a World Series Championship is somewhat of a disappointment.  You try to reconcile how hard it is to win it all, but at the end of the day – it’s still a letdown.  You spend so much time, emotion and energy (not to mention money) invested and engaged in a long 162 game season and when it ends, you’re left feeling a little empty.

You start to think about how long the off-season will be and how much time must pass and how many games have to be played before you have a chance to be back in the play-offs again.  That day seems a million miles away and the thought of all the time and energy that will be spent yet again just leaves you cold.

These feelings are not unique to Angel fans by any means, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

 As the days pass and the post-season rolls on, you try to watch the games and choose sides.  Picking a team to “root” for doesn’t feel right.  It’s just not the same.  It’s easier to decide which teams you want to fail; i.e. the Dodgers because they’re the Dodgers or the Cardinals because of John “He’s dead to me” Lackey or A.J. Pierzynski because… well, he’s just a jerk.


You watch in disbelieve as Mike Moustakes looks like a Greek Baseball God homering again and again.  You mutter to yourself… “I thought the Royals didn’t hit homeruns…”  You say things like “Eric Hosmer picked a great time to finally live up to his potential” and you just mumble a lot about this, that and some other things. 

So you tune in here and there.  You don’t make a point to schedule your life around the games, but you watch if you’re home and it’s convenient.  

You get to the point where you just want the season to end.  You grow tired of the talking heads on television because you've come to realize that at the end of the day – your guess as to who’s going to win it all is as good as theirs.  Sure, your interest might pique here and there, but deep down – you just want it to be over. 

It’s then and only then that you don’t feel like you’re not being reminded constantly that your team has to wait till next year yet again.

Life goes on.  The days will continue to get shorter and the nights will get longer and soon the 2014 baseball season will be a distant memory. 

Approximately 121 days till Spring Training.  *Gulp*

October 1, 2014

Ready to Be-Weave



Jered Weaver has provided me with many great memories.  From his no-hitter to his asking the question “How much more do you really need?” when asked if he thought he sold himself short with his contract extension.

I have said it before and I will say it again – I absolutely love watching him pitch.  I dig his competitiveness and the way he wears his emotions on his sleeve.  He’s a fighter and I never feel cheated whenever I watch him take the mound.  I get a sense of peace and calmness whenever he’s starting in a big game. 

We’ve been given glimpses of who he is through the eyes of television and the big stage that is Major League Baseball.  We have seen him hugging his parents after his no-hitter, wearing Cardinals gear and cheering for his brother Jeff as the Cardinals won a World Series.  We see this human side of him that’s endearing.

We get the sense that he’s kind of, sort of just like us.  He’s a regular guy who just happens to have an immense amount of talent.  He works hard and he appreciates everything that he has. 

Thursday night – he will take the mound for the first game of the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals and I couldn’t be happier.  I have no idea what will happen that game, but I know that Weaver will give us everything he has and that’s enough for me.  This is what we want – a player who cares and wants to win and will not let the magnitude of the moment overwhelm him. 

I believe every professional athlete wants to win, but in some – it’s hard to tell based on their persona.  With Weaver it’s easy to come to that conclusion. 

It would be very easy for me to get emotional about this.  There’s something about the way Weaver goes about his business that is inspiring.  I feel connected to him when he screams and pumps his fist after closing out an inning.  I am right there with him in that moment and I absolutely love it.  I want to scream along with him and say – “Yes! You can do that against anyone; absolutely anyone.”

This is what being a fan is all about for me.  Those moments when every care or worry in the world is blocked out by the greatness of a single moment.  Something amazing has happened and you are there to share in the experience.  Nobody brings that to into focus more than Weave for me. 

It is easy for me to focus on every pitch he delivers.  To watch him dissect a lineup and befuddle opponents with a fastball that is no longer over powering is an absolute blast to see.  It’s art.  It’s magical and it’s beautiful.

It’s like watching a fighter step into the ring with a bigger, stronger opponent while the crowd looks on expecting to see a blood bath and then seeing the man do things that utterly frustrates an opponent in such a way that it’s almost comical.  He’s David facing Goliath every time he steps on the mound and Goliath hasn’t got a chance.

Weaver is tall, but he’s not imposing.  He’s not scary looking, but he is extremely fierce.  He is most dangerous when you think you have him figured out.  If you try to size him up, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening because he will rip your heart out in the heat of battle.  He is everything this fan could ever want in a starting pitcher.

I make every effort to see Weaver pitch every time he’s on the mound.  I hate missing any opportunity to watch him compete.  For me, Weaver is always great theater and I don’t want to miss a single act.

I have a tradition that I will carry with me Thursday. Every time Weaver takes the mound, I wear a shirt with his name on it.  That will be the case again.

You can’t imagine how excited I am to see him pitch in game 1.  I feel like I’m 8 years old again waiting the big day.  I’m ready to get lost in the moment that is postseason baseball.  I’m ready to Be-Weave.