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.

Kiki’s Guide To Being a Bad Fan

Photo of a Bad Fan.

During Opening Day, I tweeted that my new Cubs fan followers made a poor choice because I would piss them off, to which one of my old Cubs fan followers added, “Kiki enjoys losing baseball. Beware.”

There’s a point in this statement that I have to argue. I don’t enjoy watching my team lose. I enjoy watching them win. I’d like them to win. I root for them to win. I do, however, enjoy my team despite a loss. It drives people mad (which I enjoy).

And it makes me a bad fan.

There are a lot of perks to being a bad fan. First of all, my day isn’t wrecked by a Cubs loss. I get bummed out, sure, but the boys losing 2-1 isn’t a disaster of epic proportions that results in me needing to drink. Hell, the guys losing 13-1 isn’t enough to make me require alcohol. They lost. Bummer. I guess I’d better get dinner started. Put on The Monkees.

Man, that pisses people off.

It drives them insane that I can enjoy a team that’s not very good. I’m from the school of “dance with the one what you brought”. This isn’t fantasy baseball. I have no input in who ends up on the Cubs this year, last year, or next year. These are the players I’ve got. I’m going to get to know them, cheer for them, praise them when they do well, and enjoy whatever they can bring to the table, even if it’s just a cute face.

Lunacy!

Now, sports fans, don’t think that this sort of attitude means I can’t have an intelligent discussion about baseball and about the Cubs, that I don’t like such things. I do. I’m as realistic as the next fan when it comes to assessing my teams talent in the form of statistics. I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know just how well I interpret the implication of David DeJesus’s OBP and James Russell’s flyball/grounder ratio. I can dig discussions about what the Cubs need, what trades they should make, the best use of a player, etc.

What I can’t stand is the gloom and doom whining about a team YOU predicted to be a 100-game loser back in January. What is the sense in that? Why bother punishing yourself by watching the games of a team that you don’t even like? It’s akin to watching a TV show you despise and then complaining about how terrible it is. There’s just no logic in it. No one will think any less of you for checking out fewer games in a crappy season. Consider it. It might improve your health.

Or you could be a bad fan like me.

The trick is to not attach so much of your ego to your team and to change your point of view. If all that matters is winning, that your team isn’t worth shit unless they win it all, then I’m afraid you’re going to have make due with a lot of disappointment. However, if you enjoy the game, and the winning that comes with and is hopefully the end result of it, then your season dramatically improves even when the team is garbage. Call me a Pollyana, but even in a blow-out loss, I can find something to be glad about (and usually in blow-out losses, that’s Len and Bob and their ramblings).

In addition to detaching the ego, it also serves you to get over yourself. I don’t think this team owes me anything. They don’t owe me a World Series championship. I would love for them to win one. But they’re not winning it for me, I don’t care what they say. They’re winning it for themselves and they should. When I pay my money to see a game, they don’t owe me a win. They owe me a good game. And so far, at least for me, they’ve come through on that.

Of course, if they happen to shirk on their end of the deal, I can still find a way to have a good time in spite.

Pisses you off doesn’t?

It pays to be a bad fan.

Cubs vs. Nationals 4/8/12 Recap

My family has been in and out on Easter celebrations since my grandmother died. Last year, sitting at home, watching the Cubs play the Dodgers, I thought what would be a better way to spend Easter than at a ballgame? So this year, I made that happen. Well, actually Dad made that happen since he’s the one who bought me the tickets for my birthday, but still, dreams come true and all that.

I am one of those people that likes to get to a game in time for batting practice because that’s when the most interesting things happen.

For example, Sunday I watched Tom Gorzelanny and another Nationals player finally give into a woman’s demand for a batting practice ball, but on one condition: she had to catch it in her beer. She did. Then Gorzelanny and the other Nats player encouraged her to chug what was left of the beer (not a whole lot; she was now wearing most of it). She did. Never did I realize Gorzelanny had such a wicked streak in him when he was with the Cubs.

The Nationals pitchers were working out during most of Cubs batting practice. Gorzelanny chatted with Ryan Dempster, James Russell, and Shawn Camp before getting into his long toss. His former teammate Paul Maholm spent quite a bit of time chatting with him. That was kind of nice to see.

For those hoping that Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol were feeling like shit over their two blown performances, they surely didn’t show it during BP. Marmol was having a good time messing with Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, and Rafael Dolis. Kerry Wood showed off some agility shagging balls, making a couple of nice running catches, and using James Russell as a way to stop by chest bumping his shoulder and nearly knocking him over.

The boys were definitely in high spirits during BP.

The game started with Jeff Samardzija giving up a double and I figured that was just how the game was going to go. My hope was that he could go at least six innings and keep things close. I did not anticipate him getting within one out of a complete game and throwing 97 MPH in the 9th. Those thoughts weren’t even remotely near my brain.

But it all happened.

I’m not fond of Samardzija. I think he comes across as an arrogant, egotistical jackass with poor hairstyle choices, but I can’t deny that I was cheering for him on Sunday. Impressive performance to be sure.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of Marmol coming in to get the last out, either. I wasn’t one of the fans booing him, but I admit to groaning. I’m glad he got the out and the save. Despite the boos, the crowd was actually pretty behind Marmol. The bleachers did not like some of the ball calls on the Jayson Werth at bat that resulted in a walk. I have no idea what Bob said about them, but the bleachers definitely thought the ump was wrong.

I’m hoping that this successful outing will do what it did for him back in spring training after a couple of bad outings and get the Marmol Coaster back on the tracks.

I saw three fantastic diving catches, however the one made by Soriano was the most impressive because it was Soriano. A couple of years ago, he wouldn’t have even attempted it. He’s feeling good this year. I think that makes a big difference in how he plays.

The aggressive baserunning is a lot of fun to watch in person. It’s something Cubs fans are used to seeing. So when you see Starlin Castro steal second and then take third on a wild pitch, particularly in a tight game, it gets the adrenaline going. It feels like you’re watching a real live team that could win.

A few other random points from the game:

-People in the left field bleachers did the wave when the game was 2-1. Apparently, they thought that since we got Theo from Boston, they should behave like Red Sox fans.

-I sat behind the most well-behaved group of teenage boys I’ve ever seen. Not once did they get out of line or cause any trouble.

-I didn’t have to yell at anyone during the National Anthem. In fact, I watched one guy start to go get beer and when he heard “God Bless America” start, he came back out and waited until both songs were done.

-I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to spill beer while wearing a Mark Grace jersey. That said, Gracie was up and down the stairs forty times with at least two beers and I’m pretty sure he never made it to the front row with both of them full.

-Several of the people sitting around me in the bleachers were eating fruit. I thought I missed the memo on something. It’s weird to be sitting there and suddenly you smell orange along with beer.

-It was a gorgeous day for a game.

-Pictures coming Friday.

Thank you Easter Bunny for such a great day.

Cubs Convention 2012

As a birthday present from my friend Becca (spending money a Christmas/birthday present from my mom), the two of us went to Cubs Con this past weekend. Now, I’ve been to conventions before (I did Wizard World in 2005 and 2006 and DragonCon in 2007 and 2008), but I’ve never been to a Cubs Con.

We ended up doing just autographs and pictures. No panels (not that there weren’t some that I didn’t think about going to).  And we missed the opening ceremony (but did hear the huge ovation for Kerry Wood) because Becca’s plane was late and by the time we got on the Kennedy, everyone else was on it, too. On one hand, I feel like we managed to do quite a bit. On the other hand, I feel like we missed out on a lot.

But here’s a quick rundown of things we did do.

-Friday night, after checking in, registering, eating, and wandering around the vendors, we hit up Kitty O’Sheas for the Tweetup. There we found our Cubs Con sherpa, Harry, almost immediately. Birthday wishes were exchanged (his birthday was Friday) and he presented me with a gift that only a true Cubs fan could appreciate: a Carlos Silva autographed ball. I feel bad that I didn’t get him anything. I’ll be sure to get him something next year. Oh yes. I will.

-Also great meeting Daniel, Jen, and Vince, and giving a quick hello to a couple of others. Sorry we didn’t get to hang out longer and meet more people.

-On the way back to our hotel room we were brushed aside by security so David DeJesus and his wife could hurry by.

-Saturday morning we got in the cluster known as Reed Johnson’s line. It was a bit of a mess and there was possibly a mutiny being staged behind us, but we made it out alive with Reed’s autograph. Nice guy. I felt his shirt matched his goatee.

-Next, Becca got her picture taken with Geovany Soto. He was late to the photo op. I said it was because he was doing his hair; gel can be a difficult medium to work with. Considering how perfect it looked in Becca’s picture, I’d say I was right.

-We deviated from the Saturday plan by creating a line for the James Russell photo op (I also defended his honor at one point). His signing was on our Sunday agenda, but we saw an opportunity and we took it and I’ve got the K-Mart Photo Studio picture to prove it. We also got bonus time with him since the flash wasn’t working. He was very sweet, even if his plaid did clash with my shirt (he made up for it with really kickin’ cowboy boots).

-We hooked up with Harry and lined up for the Blake DeWitt signing. Sticking to the less popular players was actually a decent strategy as the lines were short. Harry left and came back and didn’t miss much. DeWitt needs to stop letting his mom cut his hair, but other than that, he was quite nice. I’m bummed that they made him change his number (so DeJesus could have #9). Doesn’t seem fair. Also, he had cold hands.

-On the roll that we were, we jumped in the line for Tony Campana and it was a good thing we did because a lot of people showed up for that signing. When I got up there, I asked how his hand was holding up. He said it was okay, then looked behind me and said that he thought it might be sore by the end. So cute and wee. He really is quite pocket-sized.

-While waiting on Campana, we saw both Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson walk by. Castro had an entourage and Brett Jackson apparently just came down from Appalachia where he was hanging out with Grizzly Adams.

-It was then that we parted ways with Harry for a bit as he wanted to get Soto’s autograph and Becca wanted Jeff Samardzija’s. He was nice enough, though I question his hair choices. It wasn’t quite as scary up close, but still I think he should look into a new style.

-Sunday morning, we lined up for James Russell’s signing as was originally planned. Everyone else signed my calendar, but I’d gone to the trouble of bringing Russell’s baseball card and I wanted it signed. So after watching an ADORABLE little boy (he must have been about two) with a Toy Story backpack get HIS baseball card signed and put away in his backpack (OMGSOCUTE), I got my card signed.

-Our last event of the con was a photo op with Blake DeWitt. Again, he was very nice and Becca has the Awkward Family Photo for posterity. I told her that she needs to frame it and put it on her desk at work to see how long it takes for anyone to ask her about it. And if they do, tell them that we’re family from Missouri. Trust me. That would be hilarious.

And so ended our Cubs-filled, fun-filled weekend.

Con pictures on Friday! Stay tuned!

The Last Trip to Wrigley (For the Season)

Tuesday I took my last trip to Wrigley for the season. I went by myself and did everything I could to soak it all up.

Unfortunately, it was 3 dollar beer night in the bleachers, so there was definitely some stuff I didn’t want to soak up.

I got a freebie floppy hat, took pictures of my favorite players, nearly got run over multiple times by herds of grown men chasing batting practice home runs, ate a helmet of ice cream for dinner, sung the 7th inning stretch with Gale Sayer, met what could be the only cool Brewers fans alive, and endured a wicked bus ride while strap hanging.

This experience has to hold me until next season.

Yeah, I’ll be jonesing for another trip before the season ends next week.

Save my place, Billy Williams.

The Normal Cornbelters

Yeah, I went to a couple of more baseball games. This time I went to watch the Normal Cornbelters, part of the Frontier League  (it’s like indy baseball; they’re not affiliated with any MLB team, but MLB teams scout their players) at their field, the fantastic Corn Crib, which is only a thirty minute ride from my house.

This is their mascot, Corny. He's a cornasaurus, or so I'm told.

This is their second season in existence and I really wanted to go to a game last year, but really couldn’t justify spending the money (even though the tickets are cheap) as I had no regular income and I’m tight like that.

This year, Haley came to my rescue by inviting me to join her for a couple of games. It was a blast. We sat in the front row, we critiqued the walk-up music, we got to watch the between inning games by the fabulous Fun Crew, danced during the designated inning, and most importantly got to watch some good baseball.

This is going to become a regular thing for us. Having baseball in our backyard is ideal for us. We’ve already given a couple of the players nicknames. We can’t stop going now.

We’re in it to win it. Go Cornbelters!

We're also in it for The World's Greatest Bathroom. This sign is truth.