Observations on a Tiff

It’s like an aggressive Where’s Waldo picture.

When the Cubs and Nationals “brawled” last week many fans immediately got on their high horses to give their opinions on the whole thing. And that’s fine. I, on the other hand, tried to get down as close as I could to the action so I could see what was going on.

Baseball fights fascinate me. Most of the time it looks like a typical “guy fight” (some pushing, some shoving, a few crappy punches maybe, and a whole lot of yow-yowin’). The cause doesn’t interest me as much as who does what during the confrontation. Who’s first out of the dugout? Who leads the charge from the bullpen? Who’s playing peacekeeper? Who’s looking for a piece of the action.

I must have watched this tiff forty times (and paused 140 times) to get an idea of what was going on. And since this bruhaha had two bench clearings and three separate altercations, there was a lot to see.

Round One:

-The Cubs in the dugout really weren’t paying much attention to Jamie Quirk yelling at Bo Porter.

-When Bo Porter stopped at the top of the dugout stairs, the first guys to Dale Sveum’s side were Tony Campana, Luis Valbuena, Wellington Castillo, and Jeff Samardzija.

-James Russell led the charge from the bullpen.

-Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro strolled over to the confrontation. Alfonso Soriano and Brett Jackson hustled.

-Jeff Beliveau peeking over the bullpen fence at the fuss cracks me up every time I see it.

Round Two:

-Joe Mather, Campana, Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt, Samardzija, and Anthony Recker were first out of the dugout after Lendy Castillo went inside on Bryce Harper.

-Russell again led the charge from the bullpen. Carlos Marmol and Manny Corpas were laughing and nudging each other as they ran in. Franklin Font runs pretty damn fast while wearing shin guards.

-Even Lester Strode ran in! (PS. I love Lester.)

Round Three:

-Corpas was part of the reason round three started. Anthony Rizzo tried to play peacemaker.

-Russell, Samardzija, Recker, and Blake Parker were right on the front line.

-Barney kind of got sucked into the crowd at one point, but they spit him out unharmed. Same thing happened to Rizzo.

-Some guys moved to the back of the crowd, some guys couldn’t get close enough. Chris Volstad, Campana, and Wood were three looking to get in on it. Travis Wood looked like this wasn’t his first rodeo. (I’m sure he and his mullet have seen many bar brawls.) (That was a joke.)

-Bryan LaHair was one of the peacekeepers.

-A Nats player had a hold of the front of Samardzija’s jersey and was swinging from it like a monkey when everyone was doing their share of shoving and I’m not sure Shark noticed.

-Some how Kurt Suzuki managed to keep a towel around his neck the whole time despite being in the thick of things at one point. (I wasn’t going to keep this strictly Cubs, but that really impressed me.)

-Dale Sveum and Dave McKay looked pretty calm throughout the whole thing. Pat Listach must have rowdy kids. He looked like a dad breaking things up. James Rowson was right in the thick of things, pulling guys apart and separating them.

-Many of the guys had a look of “WTF?” on their faces. Those guys were more to the back of the most pit. Several players (David DeJesus was one) didn’t seem to get too excited.

I was kind of impressed with the way the Cubs came together. Everyone answered the fight bell (okay, the second time Soriano jogged in, but he really needs to preserve his wheels) and while tempers flared, there were enough cooler heads to keep things from getting too out of hand. Everybody seemed to feel the need to protect his teammates. Nobody was left to hang. I appreciate that.

Yes, I realize this is unpopular opinion. But then, isn’t every opinion I have about baseball/the Cubs unpopular?

Yeah. Put away your surprise face.

Pictures: My Last CornBelters Game of 2012

My last game was actually July 21st, but I didn’t realize it was going to be my last game of the season. I also didn’t realize until this week that I never posted the pictures I took from that game. How could I deprive you of that?

First pitch: Normal CornBelters vs. London Rippers
The Rippers uniforms look a lot like track suits.
Swing as they might…
…the Belters just couldn’t score.
Game worn jersey auction for the Special Olympics. The jerseys came straight off the guys’ backs.

The season wasn’t the greatest and I would have rather my last game of the season not be a blowout loss, but it I’m still going to miss sad to the see the season end.

And I can’t wait for next year.

2012 CornBelters Season Ends

I’m afraid I didn’t go to many CornBelters games this year. Aside from the Home Run Derby and the All-Star game, I only went to two. One was a suspended due to rain in the 3rd inning. The other was a blowout loss, but at least I got all nine innings in.

There were two reasons I didn’t go much this season. One was, of course, money. Not that the tickets cost much; those prices are quite nice. But the cost of gas and the cost of concessions add up and all told, it was money I couldn’t afford to spend even if I wanted to.

And the second reason is I didn’t really want to. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Corn Crib and I love the Belters, but this team was in such flux it was hard to get into a groove. It seemed like every other week a player was traded. I realize that the manager was trying to put together a winning team (that didn’t work out since they went 29-67), but as a fan, it was rough.

Part of the fun of last season was rooting for the players individually as well as the team. We knew the names and the numbers. The 2011 team was blown up pretty early and I was up to the challenge of learning the new guys and finding new favorites. But then the new guys didn’t hang around very long either. There was no time to get to know many of them because if you blinked, they were gone. Once Alvaro Ramirez got traded after the All-Star game, I gave up. There was no point. I didn’t know the team and wasn’t going to be given time to get to know the team.

I like going to ballgames, but for me, I like it when I can relate to the team I’m rooting beyond the numbers on the jersey. It was a lot of fun cheering for Mike Mobbs and Ramirez and Bobby Pritchett last year. I knew their names, knew their numbers, knew their walk-up music. It was like rooting for friends.

This season I was rooting for a bunch of strangers that I wasn’t allowed to get to know. It wasn’t as much fun. As such, I wasn’t as het up and driven to go to games. I feel bad about that.

I hope next year the players are able to hang around longer so the fans have someone to root for. Winning draws fans, but so does a little consistency.

Frontier All-Star Pictures

Here are a few more pictures from the Frontier Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.

The West Division signing autographs.
The East Division signing autographs.
Home Run Derby champ Russell Moldenhauer of the Lake Eerie Crushers mashes one during the first round.
First pitch from the West Division.
First pitch from the East Division.
Rich Mascheri of the Normal CornBelters on the mound.
Frontier All-Star Game MVP Joash Brodin of the London Rippers takes a few swings on deck.
The Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game were sparkly good times.








Frontier League All-Star Game

While everyone else sat at home and watched the MLB All-Star game one night and then no baseball at all the next night, I joined some friends to watch the Frontier League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.

The Home Run Derby was fun. For the first round, Haley and I sat behind the plate and watched guys hit dingers mostly to right as the wind was really blowing out. For the final round, we moved to the berm where Haley’s husband Matt and son Walker were trying to catch some of the homers. Walker managed to get one. We were very proud of him.

I’m not going to lie, it was scary out on the berm. First of all, these balls were crushed. There’s a dent in the side of the clubhouse to prove it. And I was having a hell of a time seeing the ball. Until twilight, as soon as it came off the bat, I lost it. Then there was the herds of people tracking the balls. I’ve never been in a stampede, but I bet it feels a lot like that.

Russel Moldenhauer of the Lake Erie Crushers won. And with good reason. He murdered many baseballs that night.

The next night we took in the East vs. West division All-Star Game. We were rooting hard for the West (the CornBelters division) and it wasn’t looking for them early as the East very quickly put up five runs. Apparently, they didn’t use up all of their home runs at the derby.

CornBelter Alvaro Ramirez at bat for the West.

The West rallied a few times, but couldn’t outscore their pitching. They ended up going down 9-6. I’m proud to say that one of those West runs was knocked in by a Belter (Pat Trettel).

Despite the loss, the game was a good one and we had a lot of fun. Reggie the Purple Party Dude, Corny, and the Fun Crew kept the fans entertained. Haley and I and our mad dancing skills made the jumbotron a few times.

It was a great two nights in the Corn Crib.  Happy for our players that made the team: Pat Trettel, Pat McKenna, Alvaro Ramirez, and Rich Mascheri. Normal did a great job as All-Star hosts. Made me proud to be a Belters fan.

Goodbye, Kerry

After a few days of thinking about it, I feel like I can put my feelings and thoughts into a coherent form without it sounding like nothing but sappy, saccharine drivel. Nothing screws up my Friday like finding out one of my boys is retiring.

A few weeks after Kerry Wood threw his twenty strikeout game against the Astros, I graduated high school. That was 14 years ago and in that time, the two of us have changed quite a bit. He went from starter to closer to setup man. He went from young phenom to a guy that fans called broken down and useless. He went from a chubby teenager to a grown man, a husband and daddy at that. I went from college student to dropout to student to dropout to student to dropout. I worked in retail, banking, and professional wrestling. I went from only seeing one game ever at Wrigley Field to making a point of going to the opening and closing homestands. I went from fat, single girl to…well, still fat and single, but a little more of a woman.

Really, the only thing Kerry Wood and I have in common is the number of times we’ve ended up on the DL.

But it still feels like we’ve grown up together in a sense, which is a stupid thought, but the only way I can explain it without mucking up the works. So his retirement strikes a chord with me. Just a couple of weeks before, at Casino Night, I told Harry that Kerry Wood was my guy. That so long as he played, then I wasn’t old. That night, just a couple of day or two after he chucked his glove into the stands after a frustrating outing, he was one of the last players to leave Casino Night, talking and taking pictures, a smile on his face. It was encouraging to me that despite the struggles he was having this season, he was still smiling.

Now maybe I know why.

As much as it saddens me to see Kerry Wood retire, his final appearance on the mound couldn’t have been happened any better. Ending his career as it began, with a strikeout, was beautiful. His son Justin running from the dugout to hug him as he left the mound brought tears to my eyes. His press conference the next day, all of his thank you’s, was another example of class (I got the tears again when he thanked Lester Strode because Lester is so often overlooked). I’d always hoped that when Kerry Wood left (and therefore left me to be officially old in baseball years) that it would be on a high note.

Really, I don’t think this note could have been any higher.

I wrote last week that Kerry Wood was veteran and a pro and that he would find a way to help his team. When I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking about retirement. But I guess he was. I guess this was the way he felt he could help them best.

I’ll miss you in pinstripes, Kerry. But I’m glad you’re a Cubs lifer.

I guess that’s one more thing we’ve got in common.

Some Kind of Luck

A horseshoe on a door is regarded as a protect...

So, I had a week of what some might consider bizarre luck. On Sunday, I found a dead body. That Friday, I won two tickets to The Dempster Family Foundation Casino Night, an event I’ve been wanting to go to since it started in 2010. Now, I’ll tell you this. I felt like the time between that Sunday and that Friday was weeks, possibly because these two things are like polar opposites of what you want from your day (unless, of course, you’re looking for a dead body and you can’t stand the Cubs and/or casinos, but let’s not go splitting the hairs of a bald man here and focus).

When I won the tickets I couldn’t believe my luck. I don’t have that kind of luck. No one would call me a lucky person (unless it comes to avoiding dying in fiery auto crashes and in that case, I’m really quite lucky). If there’s a group of people and something good could happen to one of them, I’m not that one. So my natural reaction is disbelief followed by thinking it’s either a dream, a delusion, a joke, or I’m misinterpreting something. After I won the tickets, I told Carrie that I hoped my luck would hold through Casino Night.

But that got me thinking…what does that even mean?

Someone once told me that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I’ll buy that in terms of good luck. Too often I’m ready, but the opportunity doesn’t present itself. And then when it does present itself, I’m not ready. At least for me, these two points converge only rarely.

But if we go by this definition, then bad luck is either not being prepared or not having an opportunity. So me finding a dead body wasn’t bad luck, like some people said. It was just unfortunate. And therefore, winning the tickets wasn’t a turn around of luck that week. It was just a spot of good luck after an unfortunate incident.

I was presented with the opportunity and I was prepared to say yes (having a little black dress at the ready didn’t hurt).

So this leads me to think about the rest of my life. Preparation is important and I know that. I do try to be prepared. I fail at that a lot, but it’s not for lack of trying. I have very little control over opportunities presenting themselves. I try to make my own opportunities, but like being prepared, I tend to fail. It kills me when I get a shot at something I’m not ready for, particularly because I know it’s not going to come around again.

And so, I am unlucky. I tend to have bad luck.

But those spots of good luck, however rare they might be, keep me working to be prepared for opportunities. Some day, I will turn my luck around.