Tag Archives: for love of the game

To me, it’s still THE Game

The other night Albert Pujols hit career home run number 536 to tie Mickey Mantle for 16th on MLB’s All-Time Home Run List. This is quite the accomplishment as Pujols continues his Hall-Of-Fame level career. I am not sure how many baseball fans noticed this feat. I am certain that regardless of how many home runs Albert Pujols hits, he won’t be remembered like Mantle still is, and that’s not his fault.

Albert Pujols ties The Mick on the All-Time HR List

Continue reading

NH Avalanche 00 – Fear Factor

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “There’s nothing to see here”. This may be one of those places, nothing to see here. I will let you decide though.

The great thing about rumors is that anyone can start one. So, that’s what I am doing, in good fun, I am starting a rumor. Rumor has it that opponents are fearful of coming to the Ice Den Arena to play this NH Avalanche 00 team. The team has continued to practice. They are playing hockey in any shape or form that they can find. They are working to improve their games and to get ready for the next levels of their hockey careers. And based on recent history, with no games since January 25th, they are waiting for an opponent to play.

Back at the start of the season, when this Avs team was losing games by some pretty big margins, it seemed that teams were lining up to play the NH Avalanche 2000 team. Things have changed. Better play, a few ties, some more wins, the change of seasons, continued practice (mostly consistent) and now nobody is lining up.

Lets take a quick look at some numbers here. Games played by month (based on the game sheets collected)

September: 5 games played. Outscored 39-6 in those games.

October: 4 games played. Earned two ties and scored 13 goals.

November: 10 games played. First two wins of the season. Turkey Tourney.

December: 2 games played. High school seasons start.

January: 4 games played. Another win and a tie.

February: 0 games played so far. Patriots win the Super Bowl.

Including the first weekend in September when games started, there have been 24 full weekends this season, right through this past weekend. The NH Avalanche team has played 25 games.

I know that high school seasons started tryouts back in early December and subsequently there have been fewer and fewer games and/or teams to play against, or so it has appeared as such. Yet, I have seen other 2000 teams still playing 2,3, and 4 games a weekend throughout this time frame, up to, and including this past weekend. I know that some have said things like…”This has been a trying year for many on the team. The Avalanche Organization has done everything we can to make the best of this season, going above and beyond, however some things that were out of our control led to some issues…” NH Avalanche Hockey

I am not behind the scenes. I have no inside knowledge of efforts made, efforts not made, agendas (personal or otherwise), or how strong the organization is, or isn’t. I do know that any organization is only as strong as its weakest link, or its limiting step. The reality played out over the last 24 weekends would tell me that there is and has been a very limiting step in this organization, or at least how it relates to this team. Again, I am just a parent on the outside looking in. It seems to me that the coaching staff and kids on this team have been undermined. Every time the ice is offered, kids and coaches show up, even though some kids can’t make it because they’re already on the ice somewhere else. I will have to look back at the information provided to us coming into this season, but honestly I don’t like looking back except to learn from history or to remember those things worth remembering, and this would not be one of those things.

I realize the kids are not Mites, Squirts, or PeeWees anymore. When the games and practices felt more like a family affair and were as much about the kids as they were the parents (in our minds anyways) especially during tournaments. (Speaking of which, how is the Avs 2000 tournament forecast looking?) Even so, this is still a game; a great game; a wonderful game. It’s hockey. It’s the most family oriented sport of them all in my opinion. Yes, I keep referring to family because in my opinion families spend time together, they do things together, they are ‘all in’ more then they are all out. This has been disjointed at best. Over the first 48 days of 2015, the Avs have played just four times, with no games in the last 23 days. I know there are other teams. I know there are schedules. I know there is weather. I also know that where there is a will, there is a way. Where’s the passion? When did it stop being about the kids? “Above and beyond” to me is far more proactive than reactive. It’s far more open minded than close minded. It’s more about ‘what can we do?’ versus ‘this is what we can’t do’. I suppose I have to trust that everyone has been “making the best of this season”, but I do know that best is defined as follows: of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality.

On a positive note, there is a game scheduled this Sunday out in Exeter. Hopefully that holds up, although the last time the Avs played there, it certainly was memorable. Oh, and, I hear there’s free money being offered up to Avalanche families who have not yet spent money going forward. In my calculations, that is equal to exactly zero cents on the dollar.

Enjoy the rest of the week. I look forward to more hockey. I love the game. I love the season. And more than that, I love the kids that play the game. It’s a game, a kids game, and didn’t we all grow up making our ‘best’ efforts just to be playing a kids game one more time; every time?

 

Baseball – I

Close your eyes. I mean, really close them. Let yourself drift off to another place. Clear your mind. As Billy Chapel says in For Love of the Game, ” clear the mechanism.” You’re sitting outside, leaning back in a rigid but somehow, tolerable seat. As you let your eyes close for a moment, your other senses heighten. You feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Somewhere a switch has been flipped and your sub conscience seeks out all that is right with the world. Now smiling, you notice that your seat is more comfortable than it was a minute before, and you slouch a little easier into the seat you are glad, now, that you chose. You smell the renewed fragrances of spring. Your senses come alive as if recovering from a long winters nap. Birds nearby sing their spring song and only now you notice. You hear the enthusiasm in voices from a distance, but those are merely background for the unmistakable sounds of wood meeting rawhide in a full-speed collision. If the trained ear listens close enough you can tell which direction the rawhide sphere is headed without even opening your eyes or disturbing your sun-seeking perch. For a split second you want to open your eyes but you decide better of it as if opening your eyes would end this pleasant dream state. So, you clench your eyes tighter still and put your favorite ball players faces from yesteryear into this dream. The sounds are the same in so many ways. And the crash of the round bat into the round ball echoing around the old yard could be the sound of Ted Williams ripping a long home run, or its Henry Aaron sending a line drive through the box, or maybe its Mickey Mantle launching a towering blast, from either side of the plate, that requires patience and a good ear to hear if it ever comes down.

You are at a ball field, it is spring, and every player, every team, shares in the renewed hopes of spring. It’s a new season. It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s spring. And then it all hits you, there is no place you’d rather be. Your eyes close a little more tightly, and the sounds fade a little further into the distance. Images appear in your mind as your body shifts and gently jolts almost voluntarily when the memories behind your eyelids appear larger than life. You feel like you can reach out and touch the vivid scene you see, but then you remember for a millisecond where you are, and you think better of raising your arm to swipe at the warm empty air. And you drift back into the scene that hides behind your sun-warmed eyelids. Now you’re smiling from ear to ear, eyes still closed. It’s baseball, in some elementary ways, the same as it’s ever been. A stranger makes his way to a seat nearby, he notices your smile with eyes closed, and he understands. He hurries along to his seat so he too can dip himself in the warmth of the magical transformation that only ball fields bring and clasp tightly the memories of boyhood dreams.

There you are back in your yard, at your school field, or sandlot, wherever you first dreamed of the game and played in the spaces you could find, to win all those World Series titles. When you played everyday because you loved the game, you couldn’t get enough of the game. You knew all the stats, who batted 1 through 9, who would hit for whom in the 7th, and every member of the bullpen. You knew who would pinch-run, whether it was to steal second base or score from second on a base hit. You remember the uniform you wore, right down to the trim, and the wayward stitch or two. You lift your leg for second and shake your foot remembering how fleet afoot you felt every time your old spikes were securely fastened to your stirrup laced feet. Somehow it seems like just yesterday when you would wipe the sweat from your brow and tug the bill of your cap a little lower to shield that bright game day sun. Your hands and fingers fidget slightly as you recall your ability to grab a baseball time after time and have your index and middle fingers perfectly aligned across the seams. Now your palms practically ache just to hold that old wood bat you took thousands of swings with. You can still feel the grain and the way the barrel tapered back to a handle that was much thicker than today’s bat handles. Listening closely to the sounds you fabricate in your mind, you swear you can still hear the ‘swoosh’ your mighty swing once created as it carved through the warm air.

Then, sitting a little more upright now, you roll your shoulders a few times, still clenching your eyes shut as not to disturb the calm and comfort found inside this daydream. Today there are no aches and pains, tightness won’t be thought of here, or at least not until you have to rise from your seat the next time. You recollect the days when you felt so strong, felt so right, you felt like you could throw all day, even throw hard all day. And you did. You think for a moment, trying to figure out how difficult it would be were you to try to calculate how many pitches you threw on any given summer day. Then you just smile, knowing it was in the hundreds, and it was nearly every day. A rest day back then was eating dinner, going to sleep, and going to school for several hours the next morning. Then it was a sprint to the ball, glove, and bat as soon as time would allow.

For me, it was my yard. After school it was the place I couldn’t wait to be. I recall thinking about scenarios that were soon to unfold in my yard while I was still on the bus riding home. Actually it started when I was a young boy and it continued throughout my school years. Often times, my desk in some classroom was just the place I dreamed from. My teacher could have just as easily been any Major League public address announcer. My reality was more often a slice of my imagination playing out the details of me playing, competing, and winning, than not. It’s almost all I ever thought about, and it would have been 100% of my thoughts were it not for school, church, and the occasional conversation. In my mind, in my yard, I was the greatest there’s ever been, yet I revered and respected the greats who came before me. I shook hands with Babe Ruth on the field at the old Yankee Stadium. Hank Aaron was there to acknowledge my gracious demolition of his home run record, and maybe we chatted on the field at the old Tiger Stadium where my record homer was still climbing as it crashed into the overhanging upper deck in right field. Ted Williams marveled at my swing while we talked baseball in South Florida in between his fishing days. At the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore I sat in the seemingly vertical upper deck behind home plate and talked with Brooks Robinson who couldn’t believe my range, and I was a lefty, to boot!

On rainy days, when I could throw the ball from just inside the dry cover of our garage roof overhang, I was being congratulated by Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton as a pitcher that was among the all-time winners and clearly the most accurate of all time. Walter Johnson and Bob Feller asked me just how hard did I throw. Ron Guidry asked me my nickname, because even though he was a Yankee, he had a pretty cool nickname in, Louisiana Lightning. After I had twirled yet another complete game, especially on those rainy days, I would grab my wood bat and start to swing. I remember vividly looking down at the broken cement of our garage floor and checking out the shadow of my swing. My swing had to be perfect, both left-handed and right-handed. I would swing at top speed. I would swing in slow motion. I would swing that bat hundreds of times over. I imagined the ball jumping off of my bat and clearing fences all over the major leagues.

After church on Sundays it was a battle for me. I had to decide whether to take the extra few minutes to change my clothes or just go for it in whatever I was wearing. I knew full well that within minutes a ball would carom off of the garage door, too far to my right, and I would have to dive headfirst on the green grass to make the spectacular play. Then I would immediately regret the choice I made, not to change my clothes first, at least for a second or two. Of course, had I not hustled right out to make the play, then someone else would have been in the lineup, so, I was right, get out there and play. Worry about the clothes later. I mean, that was just a double that I robbed down the line. Shouldn’t that cover a for a few grass stains? Some how my mom never put as much stock in my defensive genius in the yard as I did, and as my thousands of fans in the imaginary stands around my yard, did. Neither were wrong, I was, but what’s a boy to do? Somebody’s gotta go out and win the World Series, and I felt that somebody had to be me.