Family, Fatherhood, Life

Dem Bones, or Das Boot


Ann and I decided early on in our parenthood journey that we would be supportive of Anthony with everything he did. Whatever he wanted to try, we would let him have at least one stab at it and be behind him all the way.

And so we did: tae kwon do, t-ball, violin, trumpet, and even the drums which I use more than him even though I suck. He gave all of these a chance but never really went anywhere with any of them but does indeed spent a lot of time at my drawing table producing abstracts that I can’t even being to comprehend. He’s got an artist’s mind for sure. I have no idea where he got it.

We’ve even so gone far as to not brand him with any one religion and only act as a moral compass along the way. If he decides later in his life that one has the answers for him then that’s great. Adults can’t make sense of that stuff most of the time so why confuse a child?

There was, however, one exception to all of this: playing football, and this goes back to long before we were parents. The sport seems to lend itself to inflicting serious injury onto the other players and for kids, I think it’s over the top and way too much for them. They have enough trouble trying to understand and execute plays and I couldn’t stand to see him or any other kid get flat-blasted on the field and not get up.

Then there’s the whole sports parents thing. I guarantee I would have been in my fair share arguments. Football was definitely out.

We never played it as kids but did toss the old pigskin around during those long, warm summer evenings while listening to the AM transistor radio. None of us would he harmed by that. But as for some of the other things we did as kids, well, that’s up for debate.

I’m not willing to divulge any of the stupid, stupid things we did as kids but let me tell you that it was by some miracle that none of us ever got seriously hurt or maimed. The most painful injury I had as a kid was a sprained pinky finger that I got while catching a kickball at school during a play at home plate. I never hurt myself playing any sports with the guys on the block.

And despite all of that, I’ve made it to the ripe ol’ age of 48 without breaking a single bone, even after my scooter accident. I’m a tough old bird.

So what does my childhood devil-may-care attitude and Knievel-esque propensity for adventure have to do with my son?

First, I haven’t told him half of the things I did when I was his age or younger. He doesn’t need any inspiration for stupid things to do and post on YouTube. In fact, it’s safe to say that me and my friends were the original version of Jackass but without cameras rolling. We were that bad.

Second, he recently started expressing an interest in football. We watched the Super Bowl and for not being a football fan, Ann was amazed at just how much I knew about the game. (The rules are pretty basic; I just get bored sitting for hours on end seeing guys yelling into headsets and watching six-second plays unfold.)

He told me that they were playing flag football at school recently and that he really enjoyed playing. That’s fine because hey, rip the flag off the dude and the play stops. No contact, no injuries.

Then one day after playing at school, he came limping up to me and told me he hurt himself playing football – tackle football, something they weren’t supposed to be doing. So we RICEd it – rest, ice, compression and elevation – for a few days in the hopes it would get better.

A week later and it was still the same so we had to take him to the doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle but they took x-rays anyhow to be sure. They gave us the same RICE recommendation, scheduled a follow-up visit and prescribed some crutches.

Later that day, Ann gets a call: they found something on the x-ray.

Yep. His ankle was fractured. And $300 later, the kid is now sporting a huge boot that he has to wear all the time except to bed for the next 4-6 weeks, a time that includes our vacation in Las Vegas.

The good thing is that he doesn’t have a cast and he can move along pretty well, even better than I expected.

Hopefully this experience was a wake-up call for him.

Then again, if he’s anything like I was as a kid, it probably wasn’t.

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Requiem in Pace, Sports

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Humor, Sports

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)…

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…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 “What I Want for Christmas”

Photography, Sports, Travel

At the Ballpark


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We drove down to San Diego to watch the Dodgers play the Padres. All I can say is that this is a beautiful ballpark. Gonna go check things out in a few.

This was part of an event held by the University of Phoenix Alumni Association of which Ann is a member. Aside from gas in the car and parking, it cost us very little to enjoy the day.

UPDATE: It’s always a good time in San Diego when the Dodgers are in town. The crowd seemed to be 70/30 Dodger fans but it could be that we were making the most noise. Then again, there was a ton of blue everywhere we looked. Besides, the Padres didn’t do much on the offensive side and were shutout 4-0 behind the incredible arm of Clayton Kershaw.

Before any of this, I drove across the Coronado Bridge which is something I’ve always wanted to do and apparently, so do many others. There’s a u-turn at the end of it so you can turn around. Sadly, as scenic as it is, it’s also one of the top suicide bridges in America and there are many suicide prevention hotline signs posted along its path.

Watching a game at Petco Park is only part of the experience. Sure, you can buy your ticket and watch but Petco has gone the extra mile by adding to the experience and making it much more family-friendly because, let’s face it, kids have a hard enough time sitting still in general let alone trying to watch a baseball game.

Just outside the stadium (but still considered a part of it) is the Park at the Park, a nice little area where fans can sit on a hill and watch the game either obstructed by the centerfield backdrop or on the screen attached to the back of it. This is where we spent inning 3-8 and loved every minute of it. It’s more than just “going to the ballpark”: the park includes a playground, affordable food vendors, and best of all, a small diamond where kids can play some baseball while Padres employees pitch to them.

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Here’s Anthony taking his turn at the plate. Remember: he’s a golfer.

There’s also lots of other fun stuff like face painting and balloon animals.

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There’s also this little area that has a sandbox in front of it.

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And to top it off, it’s surrounded by an amazing skyline.

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Petco Park and the Padres have taken just going to a ballgame a more memorable experience, one that I would be happy to have for my home team.

Toward the end of the evening, Anthony and I found ourselves playing catch in the park with a souvenir baseball he bought.

We’ll never forget that moment.

Thank you, San Diego.You should be proud.

See the complete set of pictures on Flickr

Humor, Sports

“Dodgers Suck”


PHOTO_20130918_131121Although my city of residence is closer to Anaheim than Los Angeles, I am a Dodgers fan and always will be. Nothing will change that.

But there are some in the area who choose to make that stadium in Anaheim and its team of residence – the one with an identity crisis that can’t choose which town they hail from – their lifeblood. And that’s fine.

Then there’s those who take their fanaticism to ridiculous levels and think that their current team (now 5 games under .500 with no chance of making the playoffs) is still better than this year’s Dodgers (87-64 with a Magic Number of 2).

I had a run-in with one such gentleman at Anthony’s school today and it was classic.

I had just picked up Anthony and was nearing an intersection bustling with kids crossing in every direction. There was some kind of SUV in front of me, one that could imply more than a few things, whose driver apparently couldn’t decide whether to pull over or stop at the intersection. The driver eventually did park all caddywhompus with the rear of the SUV sticking out into the street. I maneuvered around it to the stop sign.

Approaching the busy crosswalk, I told Anthony – he chatting away as usual – to tone it down while I took in all the sights and sounds around me so as to proceed with caution.

Even with him quiet, there was still a steady cacophony from the kids leaving school and crossing in front of me. Then as I was sitting there, I heard the following being mumbled on my right side.

“Dodgers suck.”

It was from the guy driving the SUV who no doubt saw my lanyard hanging from my rearview mirror (see image above). I turned down the radio and looked over at him, smiling.

“I’m sorry, but what did you say?” Dude probably figured his little sotto voce sentiments would go unheard by me but alas, even with my tinnitus acting up, I heard him loud and clear.

“Oh…I’m just waiting for my son,” he said uncomfortably.

“That’s funny because I thought I heard you say, ‘Dodgers suck’ instead.”

Trying to justify his statement he simply replied, “Well, they do,” which is akin to a child wagging their finger in another’s face and saying, “Told you so!” Put simply, there is no justification for his remark when given the stats from this year’s Dodger season. I won’t bore you with those but he apparently forgot about this.

Maybe he figured I was going to start yelling and screaming. Maybe he thought I was going to get out of my car and get in his face. I did neither. I’m not that fanatical and I know the facts, so I just kept on smiling and replied.

Mr._Krabs_-_OMG“Oh, well I’m sorry you feel that way, guy. See you in the playoffs. Have a good day!” I threw him a peace sign and drove off, still smiling.

Dude didn’t know what hit him. His face was blank, as if Mom just found his porn stash/pot under his bed while she was cleaning his room and confronted him with it.

He had nothing else of substance or fact to contribute to this unscheduled conversation, and it’s doubtful he will bring this up with his wife or anyone else.

A guy named Mahatma Gandhi said it best:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

So thanks for expressing your knee-jerk opinion, Mr. Angels Fan! And I truly hope you have a good day…although my Dodgers may have already ruined 2013 for you…

Commentary/Opinion, Life, Sports

The End of An Era


Gee, it seems like it was just 2008 when I wrote about one of my childhood haunts being shut down for good.

And just today I found out that the second portion of that childhood, Lakewood Batting Cages, was closing their doors forever – today. Like almost everything noteworthy, I saw the news on their Facebook page and that they would be open until 9pm today, allowing customers to use their facility free of charge.

Of course I had to be there for the last night.

As I wrote in the aforementioned post, the guys at the batting cages were always so good to me and everyone else who wandered in there. About the only thing that has changed from the last time I saw them was that one of the sons, Roy, had passed away. But like his dad and brother, he was super nice, always had a smile on his face, and always made time for everyone. He’ll be missed.

What apparently happened was that the owners of the property, Local Laborer’s Union 507, would not let them renew the lease (details here). But as I was there, negotiations were in progress with an interested party in China. And if a deal is struck the place could be saved, but it just won’t be the same without the Tyler family running it. They are what made the iconic place special, a place where players like Chase Utley used to hone their skills before making it to The Bigs.

Then there’s me, a 44-yard-old dufus who never remotely had the chance or skills to become a big leaguer – but who always found great enjoyment taking some hacks in the 80 MPH cage over the years. Here’s one of my last sessions (direct link since embedding was being funky).

Before I left for the last time, I had to get my picture with Kevin (middle) and his dad, Daryl. (They still own and operate another location.) I love these guys for being who they were and giving back to the community through sponsorship of local teams, donations, and for simply operating a place where kids of all ages could come and learn how to hit a round ball squarely, one of the most difficult feats in all of sports.

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The sun has set on Lakewood Batting Cages, and the local baseball community is eternally grateful for having them be a part of their lives for the last 27 years.

Thanks for the memories and best of luck to The Tylers.

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Commentary/Opinion, Sports

Blogging 365, Day 15: 50 Shades of Brent Musburger


It was last week when Brent Musburger was criticized for the following remarks:

But let’s be honest, people. Were they all that bad? Have we gotten that sensitive about things like this that ESPN had to issue an apologize for his words? A few seconds out the broadcast were turned into something seemingly horrific and made Musburger seem like some sort of monster. His remarks were about Miss Alabama, someone who does little more than be known for her looks.

Move on. It’s something from nothing and not a big deal, and it’s not like Musburger was drunk off his ass and gushing over her like this:

Or saying he wanted to do things to her like this (VERY NSFW):

No, his remarks were taken so far out of context it was ridiculous. By the way, 50 Shades of Grey is a worldwide best-seller and will soon be made into a movie.

But let’s pick on ol’ Brent Musburger instead.