The Ol’ College Try


IMG_2739A few months ago when I got an email stating that my company was interested in starting a softball team, I jumped at the chance to join. I figured hell, this would be a heck of a lot of fun and a way to bond with coworkers from other departments.

Besides, I’m always willing to prove myself to a group of younger adults who think they are all that and a bag of chips.

Anyway, when it was given the green light, I decided to go out and find myself a mitt since the last one I used is MIA. I bought a nice Rawlings at a good price and was ready to go.

I broke it in a bit and had it ready for our first practice and team introduction. And I should have known then that things wouldn’t be the way I thought. More on that later.

The season consists of 10 games. Due to scheduling conflicts and other last-minute, once-in-a-lifetime obligations, I played in two of them, the second one being last night with four remaining on the schedule.

I quit this morning. Now let me go into details as to why.

Too Many Rules
I’ve never played in a softball league before so I’m not 100% familiar with their rules but it seemed to me there were too many. For example, the count starting at 1-1 which is done in order to speed up the pace of play. At the same time, you’re kind of under pressure to swing at the next pitch that looks good – even if it’s not. You can also strike out looking which is super-fucking-embarrassing in softball, slightly less embarrassing than missing the ball on a tee. There was also a walk rule where guys took second base on a walk issued after four straight balls. Girls only got one base.

Time Limit
Here’s another one I get but took getting used to. Games ran an hour no matter what, regardless of score unless, of course, the Mercy Rule was called. In last night’s game, in which we scored one run and the opposition scored…more than that, I got one AB and because I was rotating in left field, was on the field only once. The rest of the time I sat in the dugout and watched the opposition cremate us for three innings. It was ugly, and it wasn’t the first time I’d seen this (and remember, I only played in two games).

Teams In Wrong Division/Ranking
If last night’s game was any indication, it’s obvious that some teams sign up in a lower-ranking division just so they can slaughter the competition. Our team was made up of players with varied backgrounds, some with none, in effort to make it a fun learning experience. The others should have been as well. But when they have guys that are 500 pounds and literally hitting the ball out of the ballpark (because they’d never make it to first base with a single), there’s some serious bullshit going on.

Winning Is Fun
I realize that this was all done in fun but when you factor in the division thing I mentioned above and the fact that they’ve yet to win a game, it becomes more frustrating than amusement and it’s no longer worth the effort to show up. I didn’t even break a sweat during last night’s game in the brief moment I was actually on the field. And if I could describe last night’s game to you, it would be like this.

I wish I was joking about that. My only AB produced a long fly ball to right field, the hardest and farthest hit ball from our team all night. It got praise from a few former teammates to which I replied, “It was a long out. That’s it.” Frustrated, I left immediately after the game was over while the rest of the team stayed and socialized. “Embarrassing” was what I muttered to another former teammate as I walked to my car. We had scored one run.

The Outsider
As I had mentioned early on, practice should have been an indication of how things were going to be. Many of the players worked together – currently or in the past – in the same department and already knew each other, so for them rapport on the field was easy to build. As a result the team seemed to break off into little cliques, none of which I belonged to. (And as a general rule, nobody likes proofreaders because we’re inherently nitpicky about mostly everything.) So I felt like I was on my own from the beginning, which isn’t the best way to start a season.

To add to this, I have not been in the best state of mental health this week. I’ve been battling something that has been making me want to cry at any given moment, but it’s nothing I can tell you about because I don’t fucking know what it is. I’ve been moody with bouts of overwhelming sadness, and being in an environment where I felt like an outcast wasn’t helping matters. While I’m better now, I didn’t feel the need to subject myself to any more misery so removing myself from the team seemed like the only viable option while I get my head back on straight.

I wish the team the best of luck for the remainder of the season.

Advertisements

Things I Learned Today: October 22, 2017


First, I want to state that the things mentioned here are a collection of observations over a period of time and not things I noticed just today. It will be that way going forward – now you know.

So here we go!

Things I Learned Today for October 22, 2017

Wait, October is almost over? Holy cripes.

1. After a long bike ride, beer ain’t so bad. I have been riding in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour since 2010 and not once did I ever go for the option of having an ice-cold beer at the completion of the ride. The usual finish line fare consists of a bag of snacks, a banana, water and – ugh! – coconut water. Now I don’t know if you ever tried that stuff but there’s nothing good about it. “Devil’s armpit sweat” is about the only way I can describe it. It’s putrid and people tend to drink it because they’ve convinced themselves it tastes good – just like kale. Don’t believe the hype. The stuff is garbage and so is kale.

So this last time (October 8), I opted for the Beer Garden. Keep in mind it’s about 7:30 am and I just finished riding 20 miles. With medals clanking around my neck, I got in line for a wristband, grabbed my can of beer, cracked it open and took a sip.

Photo Oct 08, 7 54 33 AM

And you know what? Coconut water has got nothing on this after a nice bike ride – this stuff very refreshing and light. I actually enjoyed it and I’m not the biggest beer drinker (which probably explains things). Now I know what I have to do next year.

2. People still use Mapquest. This one will lead into other things. For example, I had no idea Mapquest was still around. You see kids, back in the day we had no GPS or smartphones so outside of consulting the Thomas Brothers street maps for directions, this was our only real option. In fact it was probably the most popular online mapping service back in the ‘90s and it would be years before any competitors would show up. But with smartphones and GPS, Mapquest is all but obsolete but people still use it. How did I find this out? I saw somebody driving with printed directions with the Mapquest logo on it. I realize not all of us are fortunate enough to own a smartphone or GPS unit and some choose to live without either (a coworker comes to mind), but I still found it unbelievable.

3. Newspaper machines still exist. While I wrote about the cost of the daily newspaper in my last “Things I Learned…” post, I guess it never dawned on me that there’s still a demand for newspapers in general. Additionally, people still use slugs to try to fool the machine.

Photo Oct 08, 11 58 44 AM

With the cost of the daily paper now $1.50, I can almost understand why. That used to be the cost of the Sunday Edition of the Los Angeles Times which got you retail ads plus coupons, the Calendar section (a great resource for upcoming concert information), and a killer Classified section.

4. Payphones are still around. And yes, I’ve seen people using them.

Photo Jun 17, 1 35 44 PM

5. “Bette Davis Eyes” is a cover! We all know the classic ‘80s version by Kim Carnes which goes a little something like this:

But through a search on Spotify, I discovered the original version was recorded by legendary songwriter Jackie Deshannon back in 1974. GET OUT! Really!

(Guilty Pleasure alert: this song remains one I would somehow incorporate into a movie scene since I freaking dig it. Night, beach party. Camera pans down from a darkened sky. The scene is lit by unseen moonlight, song playing in the background. And that’s all I’ll say – there’s more.)

And while I’m blowing your mind, Hall and Oates’ “Family Man” is a cover of a Mike Oldfield song. That’s right, the guy that composed “Tubular Bells,” aka the song from The Exorcist, also wrote that one. What a world.

Well, time to throw away that Post-It note and start on another list. And since I spoke of newspapers this post, here’s one you should see.

Photo Oct 22, 12 17 28 PM

THE DODGERS ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES!

Ahem. Pardon my enthusiasm but it’s been 29 FREAKING years! I was still a punk teenager the last time the won it all and I can’t wait to see it all happen again starting Tuesday.

Dodgers. World Series. I can’t stop saying that.

Vin Scully Avenue on Google Maps


Vin Scully.

The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pretty much one in the same.

Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1950 or, if you’re keeping score at home, a whopping 66 years.* He’s been graced with just about every broadcasting award you can think of and is a member of the Hall of Fame—deservedly so, as nobody calls a game quite like him.

The accolades are endless. And now, thanks to a Los Angeles City council vote of 12-0 on January 29, Scully’s name will become a permanent part Los Angeles as his name will be emblazoned in white across a street sign’s blue background—a most appropriate color scheme—as what is now Elysian Park Avenue will be renamed Vin Scully Avenue in his honor.

Ever humble, Scully had always waved off the notion of such honors in the past. But with his announcement that 2016 will be his final year behind the microphone, his reluctance had to give in to the harsh reality that Dodger fans will indeed miss him once this season is over.

Sorry, Vin. You truly deserve it.

And while no official date has been planned for the name change, you can rest assured that it will not be without the usual pomp and circumstance* that accompanies such an event.

But it seems that the people at Google Maps are on top of things.

I discovered this a few days after the City Council vote. For reasons I can’t particularly recall, I was scrolling around Google Maps and came across Dodger Stadium. In the process I noticed that the street that is still, for the moment, Elysian Park Avenue had already been changed (click to enlarge).

scully

Perhaps it’s just Google’s way of being ahead of the game, knowing that this street name will indeed be changed in the near future. Or maybe, just maybe, they are big Dodger fans—or Scully fans at the very least.

Bing? Nope. Yahoo!? Bzzt. Only Google has changed the name.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to react when I hear Scully call his last game, but I can almost assure you that there will be tears involved. As a fan who has heard announcers come and go, the one constant in Los Angeles was the smooth voice of our beloved Vin Scully. We’ve been lucky beyond measure to have him stick around for as long has he has but like all good things, they’ve got to end sometime.

But soon, Los Angeles will forever have a small part of the town named after our Vinny and naturally, it’s the street leading into Chavez Ravine.

And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

DSC_1434

Sunset. Echo Park. Grand.

Vin Scully.

Fits right in there, doesn’t it? 

*That’s Scully talking right there.

Goodnight, Mr. Padre


I’ve made it to this point in my life admiring only a handful of people from different walks of life. It’s worth noting that, for some reason or another, none of them are musicians and even fewer are athletes.

In fact, there’s really only one athlete that I can recall as being someone I looked up to while I was a young adult, so much so that when it came time to name my own son, it was with little hesitation (and input from Ann, of course) that Anthony was chosen.

The Anthony in question here is one Anthony Keith Gwynn, Sr., aka Tony Gwynn, aka Mr. Padre. And it was today that my heart sank just a little bit when I heard the news of Gwynn’s passing after battling salivary gland cancer, something probably caused by years of chewing tobacco. He was only 54.

And to just get it out of the way, Gwynn apparently made a long line of poor financial choices and ended up owing somewhere near $400k in back taxes. But then again, that was his personal business and not why I named my son after him. We’ve all made bad choices (financial or otherwise) and the Hall of Fame is not called the Hall of Morals and Ethics, otherwise the place would be a Hall of Nothing if we question what some of its current inductees did in their personal lives. Think about it.

Let’s move on.

Back in the days before I had cable TV, I would watch the Padres on San Diego’s Channel 39 over a regular broadcast signal just to see Gwynn play. It took some time to tune in with rabbit ears but I was able to do it more often than not, and especially on warmer days. I spent many summers watching the games from the comfort of my second-story bedroom some 80 miles away from San Diego and also drove to what was once called Jack Murphy Stadium to see him make a fool of pitchers.

Naturally, being a baseball fan, the most striking thing I found about Gwynn was his sweet swing. It was straight out of a Charley Lau textbook on the subject of hitting, books I read while I tried to perfect my swing at the local batting cages. I often watched Gwynn and eventually modeled my swing after his. Not only was he a great hitter but also one with an uncanny ability to hit anywhere on the field, especially holes in the infield. There was really nowhere that the opposing team could play the guy because they never knew where he would be spraying the ball.

There are also a few personal memories I have of Gwynn, ones that stand out more than any others.

The first one took place at Dodger Stadium. I was with a group of people I used to work with at Target watching the game. The game started and naturally, Gwynn was the lead-off hitter. I told one of my coworkers, “Watch him. He’s going after the first pitch.”

Tom Candiotti, a known knuckleballer, floated the first pitch of the game to Gwynn which he promptly smacked into right field for a hit. Keep in mind that the knuckleball is one of the toughest pitches to hit and Gwynn just went to town with the thing. It was amazing.

Then there was the time I got his autograph at Anaheim Stadium, where he signed for as many fans as he could. It’s difficult to find a ballplayer even of the lowest caliber doing that in this day and age.

Another time in San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, I witnessed Gwynn and John Kruk throwing baseballs high into the stands during batting practice in an attempt to hit the giant video screen. Kruk came closer than Gwynn who was laughing too hard at what he and Kruk were up to.

Here’s an odd one. When Ann and I were shopping for a spa years ago, we visited a vendor at the Orange County Fair who was from San Diego. He saw me wearing my Tony Gwynn jersey and immediately started to criticize him for his tax problems. We immediately left his booth and went to another where we gladly dropped nearly $3,000 on a spa. Hope he was happy in expressing his opinion, an opinion that cost him a nice sale.

And just last year, I was finally able to make it to PETCO Park to watch the Dodgers battle the Padres. And although I’m smiling in this picture, I have to tell you that I was pretty emotional about standing there with Anthony, in front of a statue erected in honor of my favorite baseball player, the one I named my son after.

2014-06-16-20-10-05_deco

Lastly, I was privileged to witness the greatness that was Tony Gwynn back in the early ‘90s when I had a Field Pass to Anaheim Stadium (when I had connections for such things). I rarely used it but didn’t pass up the opportunity to watch Gwynn during a few Spring Training exhibition games. Watching him up close doing his thing was absolutely incredible. Here are few shots from one of the games that I never posted anywhere up until today when I posted them to Instagram. These are all scans from 35mm film.

And of course, it helps that Gwynn’s family resided in Long Beach for many years and he attended Long Beach Poly, Ann’s high school, where their baseball field is named in the family’s honor.

LongBeachPolyTonyGwynn

So many memories and all of them good. And that’s just from me. The baseball community is still churning out stories on what an incredible guy Gwynn was, not only as a player but as a person. He left an indelible mark on his fellow teammates, fans, and the game of baseball. And these are just my recollections of the man. His numbers and achievements speak for themselves.

2014-06-16-20-35-34_deco

Rest in peace, Mr. Padre. Your legacy will never be forgotten.

What I Want for Christmas


If you were a baseball fan in the ’70s then chances are you know about Oscar Gamble. Back then, Gamble had one of the most blown-out afros you’ve ever seen. I mean, it was tremendously huge but don’t take my word for it. Just click here to get an idea.

Sure, there were others like Bake McBride (always loved that name)…

image

…but nobody came close to Gamble, whose afro has almost gained cult status. In fact I have a shirt from Old Navy that is similar to this one and while it doesn’t state a team or his name, the implication is obvious.

At any rate, I got to thinking which generally means nothing good will come from it. It’s Christmastime again and I’m getting bombarded with commercials for Chia Pets who now shamelessly peddle Duck Dynasty* varieties. Fine and well but not for me.

I need something more up my alley, something with substance that I would enjoy much more that watching a beard grow.

What I want for Christmas is…

Continue reading