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.

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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.

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.

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…

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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