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!

Happy 32!

Today is my birthday and I have successfully turned 32, which will hereby be referred to as 30-Deuce because it sounds cooler.

To celebrate, I’m going to spend the weekend in Chicago at the Cubs Convention with my good friend Becca and going to meet some of my Cubs fan Twitter friends for the first time. It’s going to be a lot of fun (I don’t give things like this any other choice).

This also means I’ll be taking the next four days off. No blog posts ’til Tuesday!

Happy birthday to me!

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.

Kansas City Road Trip

The last weekend in June, my best friend of 25+ years, Haley, and I road tripped it on out to Kansas City. It’s about a six hour drive from our neck of the Illinois cornfield. Here are a few pictures and highlights.

-We made a pitstop and then ate dinner ten miles down the road. Finding a Maverick’s Steakhouse will do that to you. (FYI: We used to have a Maverick’s in town but it closed about 10 or 12 years ago. We miss that salad bar terribly.)

-Haley did the driving and did well for this being her first out of state roadtrip. She only had once incident of driving crazy (u-turn, driving on the shoulder, nearly taking the wrong exit all one right after another after a gas break…hilarious).

-There are A LOT of billboards on I-70. You could get rich selling ad space. Our favorites? Ad for a gun show next to an ad for an emergency medical clinic and an ad for an adult shop followed by a billboard saying the Jesus saves from pornography.

-Live Nude Girls and Arcade. No kidding. There’s a place on I-70 that advertises both strippers and an arcade. We’re told  (because we know people that have been there, of course) that you can basically play Frogger while watching nekkid girls dance. We’re thinking of going back there.

-Our ghettofabulous hotel.  Condoms in the vending machine next to the Crunch Bar and a drawing on our hotel room wall.

A buck for one? You could go next door to the gas station and get a box for better value.


Someone wasn't minding the kid. At least I hope it was a kid.

 -Gates Barbecue. So, so good.

Did I mention it was good?

-The Cubs game. The Cubs lost, we baked in the sun for seven innings, and Haley never got a hot dog (she kept asking the people in our row whenever they’d go to get something), but it was a good time. Great seats right above the Cubs bullpen, cool people sitting next to us, and back to back home runs.

Hello, Royals!
Turn us over. We're done.


You have to know the secret handshake to get into the bullpen.


There were hot dog races. I don't know why.


After the sun went down. Our sunscreen was fantastic. We should have been burnt to a crisp.

 -Sitting in the front row over the Cubs bullpen had its perks. Bullpen catcher Edgar Tovar smiled and waved at me and a security guard tossed Haley a bullpen ball.

-Between Denny’s and Cracker Barrel, we ate so much breakfast not at breakfast time.

-Golden Corral. It was the first time for both of us and now we see why Haley’s grandparents have the place favorited in their GPS. The food is fantastic (the guy in the commercials is still a jerk, though).

This is how you do dessert...a little bit of everything.

 -It’s worth noting that, while Golden Corral was good, there were mashed potatoes on the floor of my bathroom stall.

Photographic evidence.

 We had a fantastic time and before we were even done with the trip, we started talking about the next one. I can’t wait.

To be continued...

The Reading of the Lips

Papa was hard of hearing. He had a good ear and a bad ear, and over the course of the years, the good ear got worse. We learned at a very young age to make sure we had Papa’s attention before we spoke and to speak loudly and slowly. Papa could hear some, but he also read lips to help fill in the blanks.

I grew up understanding the concept of reading lips, but as someone who could hear, didn’t really think much about it beyond knowing it helped Papa undstand us.

Then my mom turned me on to baseball and the Cubs.

The manager when I was a kid was Don Zimmer and he was a fiery, round man who liked to argue with the umpires. I remember him getting thrown out of several games. There’s nothing like a kid’s curiousity and I was dying to know what Don Zimmer said to get thrown out of the games. Since I couldn’t hear, I decided to do what Papa did and learn to read lips.

I taught myself by watching movies that I had memorized. I knew all the words, so I’d watch them without the sound on and watch how the actors spoke. From there it was just a matter of translating what I saw there to other people. It took some practice, but I got the hang of it.

The new skill served me well. I finally could figure out what Don Zimmer was saying when he argued with the umpires.

Turned out it was a long string of curse words, but the magic word seemed to be “mother fucker”. If you’re worried about my young girl’s mind being warped by being exposed to that word, please don’t. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it…er…read it.

Since then I’ve applied it to more than just baseball. I’ve developed my own troubles hearing in certain situations and lip reading has bailed me out of some awkward situations.

I’ve also developed the odd habit of watching TV with the sound off. I’ve watched a lot of TV shows that way and for the most part I can keep up with the show. Obviously, I’m at a disadvantage if the speaker has their back to me or if there’s a lot of movement. However, I have gotten pretty good at filling in the blanks.

Or in the case of SyFy movies, making the movie even more interesting.

Now that I’ve gone full circle in a sense and am back to watching baseball regularly, I find myself once again being thankful for my skill. Sure it’s great for arguing managers, but my skills have improved since I was a kid. Now I use it to see what guys are talking about in the dugout and on the mound. I get a heads up at what pitch is coming next and I get to see what the guys on the bench and in the bullpen are discussing (hint: it’s not always baseball).

I’m still stumped by Spanish, though.

That’ll be the next level.

Five Things I Love About Cubs Games

I’ve only been to Wrigley Field a few times in my life so far, but it’s not for lack of love. I love seeing the Cubs play and I love seeing them do it at Wrigley Field and I’m hoping one day that I’ll see them actually win a game so I can hear “Go Cubs Go”.

Since I just went to a game Wednesday, here are five things I love about Cubs games.

1. Batting Practice. Watching the pitchers shag balls in the outfield is always entertaining. I’ve seen more than one grown man throw their glove up in the air at a ball. I’ve also seen some really nice catches.

2. Watching The Bullpen Warm Up. Unless someone is pitching an absolute gem, the bullpen pitchers prepare to enter the game. You look over and there are two, three, four guys walking abound, flapping their arms, and looking absolutely ridiculous. Invisible Nordic Track, Helicopters, and Yay I Get To Pitch are some of the names I’ve given to their warm up moves.

3. Singing The 7th Inning Stretch. Sure, they do this in lots of ballparks, but none of them are quite like Wrigley. It’s not as good since Harry is gone, but some of the guest conductors can be fun.

4. The Stuff You Don’t See On TV. Things happen between innings and during pitching changes that are shown on TV in favor of commercials. That’s a shame because the crowd doing the YMCA, the pitchers goofing off in the bullpen, and the outfielders interacting with the crowd is definitely more entertaining.

5. Helmet Nachos. These things are epic.

I have the helmet to prove it.

Wrecking My Happy Place

I don’t like anyone right now. Everyone is getting on my nerves, everything is getting under my skin. It’s like having a sunburn on my patience; nothing is comfortable.

I’m sure the first thing people will think (especially if they are people in possession of a penis) is that it’s hormonal. If it is, then I’m going to become even more irritated because this has pretty much been a constant state for me for the past several months.

My first thought, knowing me as I do, is that it’s depression related. The last time I was depressed, I was pretty much in a constant state of irritability. I don’t think I’m depressed. I don’t WANT to think I’m depressed. There’s no reason for me to be depressed. If anything, I should be recovering from a depression now that things are turning around in a sense, what with the regular income and all.

However, it’d be good for me to follow the guidelines my therapist set for me all those years ago to help get me out of a funk. Just to be safe.

Back then my therapist prescribed exercise, appropriate stress release, journaling, creative endeavors, and wallowing in something I really love.

Journaling and exercise are two things I’ve never stopped doing. Writing and blogging count toward creative endeavors, though if I could find a little more time, I’d do a little art. Appropriate stress relief is something I’m always going to have to work on, but I really don’t feel like I’m that stressed. That regular income has done wonders for my stress level now that I know I don’t have to worry about my bills. Any other stress I might have is just little things, fleeting things.

Wallowing in something I really love. Camping out in my happy place. You’d think that’d be the easiest on the list.

You would think.

My happy place changes over time. I’ve gone hips deep into all kinds of things because they occupied a pleasure area of my brain and gave me warm fuzzies. M*A*S*H, General Hospital, The Monkees, wrestling, sharks, tornadoes, The Three Stooges, there’s no limit to my happy place interests. Right now my happy place is baseball.

This should shock no one following me on Twitter.

Unfortunately, my happy place really isn’t that happy. Part of enjoying my happy place comes from learning everything I can and indulging in the knowledge of what I’m currently in love with. The other part is interacting with other people feeling the love.

It’s the other people that are spoiling my good time.

They keep coming in my playground and kicking my woodchips. I want to watch the game with fans who are also interested in watching the game and having a good time. I want to discuss the game and the players and the stats while admiring good plays and groaning at bad at bats. It’s supposed to be fun. But people who have attached too much of their egos to their teams are bringing me down.

I’m used to the Cubs suck rhetoric. I’ve heard it all my life. It’s old and annoying. The material isn’t fresh and the jokes are as old as the Cubs’ last World Series win. I’m more offended by the lack of creativity than anything.

However, the Cubs suck rhetoric coming from Cubs fans is really harshing my buzz. I can understand being frustrated with your team, but the venom some of these people are spewing is really eating away at my mellow. The games aren’t enjoyable anymore because as soon as someone makes a mistake or does something they don’t think is appropriate for their salary level or gives up a run, it’s just a constant stream of hate on the Cubs hashtag on Twitter, where I do most of my interacting.

Last season the Cubs were terrible, but I enjoyed myself more. We’re only three games into the 2011 season and I’m already sick of most of the fans. They’ve just sucked the fun out of the game for me. And that aggravates me because I hate it when people piss on my barbecue, no matter what it is. My happy place has been trashed and I don’t have a new happy place to go to.

Which irritates me.

Maybe I’m not depressed after all. Maybe Hell really is other people.

A Love Affair with the Loveable Losers

I can remember being about nine or ten, sitting in the living room with my mom, summer sunshine pouring through the windows, fans going to beat the heat, and my mom just ranting at the TV because the Cubs put Paul Assenmacher in to pitch.

My mother absolutely despised Paul Assenmacher. You would have thought the man once kicked her grandmother the way she spewed venom.

“Oh, great! I guess we don’t want to win today! Damn, Assenmacher!”

Obviously, this is a clean version of my mother’s ranting.

 I grew up thinking that he was a terrible pitcher, but looking back on his stats now, he really wasn’t. I have no idea why she hated him. My guess is that he blew a game and my mom marked him for life.

I preferred to watch the games on TV. Mom listened to a lot of them on the radio because in the afternoon she’d be laying out in the backyard. I once asked Mom where Harry Caray went during the middle of the game. He’d leave for a couple of innings, but always be back by the 7th to sing the stretch. Mom said he was at the bar drinking beer. It turns out that he was working the radio. I wouldn’t have figured that out if Mom hadn’t listened to the games.

I can remember one of the few times I listened to a game as a kid, I took my little portable radio to the park so I could play and listen to the game at the same time. My radio died and I ran home like my pants were on fire so I wouldn’t miss any of the game.

My favorite players growing up were Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, and Shawon Dunston. When I played ball, those were the players I tried to be. I started off in the outfield and I was Andre Dawson. I was even number 8. I worked really hard to have as good of an arm as he had. When I played the left side of the infield, I was Shawon Dunston. He wore my favorite number and I did my best to do him proud.

My last year I played summer ball, I played second base. You know I was rocking like I was Ryne Sandberg. I was never number 23, but worked my butt off to play like him.

I never had a favorite pitcher despite being a pitcher, too. Maybe if I had, I would have liked it better.

My first Cubs game came in August of 1994. My aunt and uncle took me, my sister, and several of my cousins. It was a pretty big deal. It was Ryne Sandberg Day, but he wasn’t there. Shawon Dunston didn’t play either. But I did get to sit on the first baseline, right in line with Mark Grace and watch him play. Sammy Sosa before he was Sammy Sosa and Glenallen Hill were in the outfield. We lost to the Marlins 9-8. It was an exciting game, but the loss was disappointing.

People still go on about the Fish killing our dreams in 2003. I still hadn’t gotten over this upstart team beating my Cubs nine years earlier. I’m just now starting to not resent the Marlins.

Between graduating high school, Kid K, and the home run race, I’ll never forget the ’98 season.

I couldn’t watch the 2003, 2007, and 2008 playoffs too closely because it was just too stressful. My heart broke each time, but my blood pressure returning to normal sort of helped the healing.

The second game I was supposed to go to was rained out. I finally made it back last September and watched my Cubs lose to the Giants 1-0. But I got to watch the game from the famous bleachers, yell at some disrespectful children during the National Anthem, and watch batting practice. Watching the pitchers shag balls in the outfield, particularly Andrew Cashner working with the bat boy, put me in a good mood that the rain delay and loss couldn’t dampen.

I’m going to do my best to make it back to Chicago this year. I don’t want to wait another fifteen years for my next game at Wrigley.

When people ask me why I’m a Cubs fan, there’s this implication that what they really want to know is why I’d torture myself rooting for a perpetually losing team.

For me, it’s not really torture.

And I don’t think they’d get it anyway.

Voice of an Angel; Motives of a Big Girl

This past week the Chicago Cubs have been accepting applications for PA announcer. It was an open audition of sorts, as they invited fans to submit vidoes of themeselves reciting three scripts in an attempt to maybe, possibly, perhaps win a Cubs fan’s dream job.

I’m one of the many that applied.

If you’re anything like my roommate, then you’re first thought is probably, “But you already have a job!”

To you I say, you’ve got keen powers of observation. I do have a job. And I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

The reason why I’m doing this doesn’t have anything to do with getting a new job, though I wouldn’t turn it down if they offered it to me. It’s the idea behind the absolutely remote chance that I’d even make it on the finalist list, let alone get the gig, that made me do it.

Think about it.

If by some miracle of miracles I got the job, my life would be turned upside down. There’d be a mad scramble for me to quit my old job, find a place to live in Chicago, find a car that could actually make it to Chicago, move, get settled, get to know my new surroundings, and get set in my new gig. It would be crazy. It’s a big move. It’s a bold move.

It might be just be the move I need to make.

Most people do this sort of thing when they’re young, usually college. They move out and find out what it’s like to be on their own. They establish their own security and their own place in the world.

For too long I’ve relied on the security of someone else and for the past couple of years, it hasn’t been so secure. I’m long overdue to leave the nest and I know it. It worked out well enough when I was younger. I got to do things that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I had all of the typical grown-up bills to pay.

Now it’s time to take that last grown-up step. It’s a hard one considering I never wanted to grow up in the first place and paying for things like rent offends my penny-pinching sensibilities. Not to mention it’s a scarier prospect because now I’m actually old enough to know better. When you’re 18 or 20, you don’t think about failing. When you’re 30 bonus year like me, it’s called risk assessment. Failure is a real thing. At my age, you can’t go home again.

I’m using this as a tentative baby step to get used to the idea of turning my world upside down and shaking things up. This is the springboard to get me used to the idea, to make it exciting and challenging and thrilling like it should be, instead of overwhelming and scary and foreboding like I want to make it (and kind of have been making it for the past couple of years).

I’m better with change if I can ease myself into it. Now the scenario I described about getting the PA job wouldn’t be easing into it. But thinking about what I’d have to do to make that work is. It’s giving my brain the heads up. It’s telling myself that it’s time to switch gears. It’s time to get out of this complacent rut I’ve been in for far too long and start working towards something new. By the time I’m in the position financially to make that happen comfortably, I’ll be in the position mentally and emotionally to make it happen comfortably, too.

I’m all about my own comfort. That’s part of the reason why I’m still here and not…out there.

I know it makes me sound like a bit of wimp wanting to take this time to get used to the idea of doing something I should have done a long time ago, but I do believe we discussed that I’m cursed as a late bloomer. I also wasn’t exactly well prepared to make that transition to adulthood. So, yeah, I’m doing it on my own terms and at my own pace.

And if in the process of doing things my way I happen to score a gig with the Cubs and do end up turning my life upside down a lot sooner and faster than I planned, well, that’s okay, too.

Maybe I never wanted to grow up, but I did learn how to catch what life throws at me.