Day 65 “Longhorn for Life!”

Time moves quickly and so do I trying to keep up with my schedule. I am in another hotel room in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Roll Tide).  I had a great day at the Southern Miss game in Hattiesburg. I met some wonderful people today and can hardly wait to write about that experience tomorrow.

However, I need to finish the profile I began yesterday before I fell asleep! I want to give the respect to the game I went to on Friday night at the University of Texas were I got the privilege of talking to a legendary Texas high school baseball coach. So, if you read “Dozing Off”, I’m going to reiterate some of what I already stated. If you will, pardon the repeated information.

Showing me his Championship rings!
Showing me his Championship rings!

John Langerhans was a coach for 29 years for three different schools. Through his career, he compiled a record of 615 wins 200 losses, winning one Texas State Championship in 1997. If you think that is the end of the story you are sadly mistaken. During John’s college years from 1969-1972, he played for the Texas Longhorns as a first baseman and pitcher (none of this specialization they have now-a-days).  John would pitch on Friday and then play first base Saturday and Sunday!   He was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the second round but decided to go to college. In 1971, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the third round, once again he elected to stay in college for his senior season at Texas. Finally he went on to play pro ball for the Cleveland Indian organization who drafted him in the third round in 1972.  If you are confused about all the drafting, so am I.  Things have changed since then!

One thing is for certain, John is and always has been a Texas Longhorn. “I have bled orange from probably three or four years old. My dad was responsible for that. We came to the UT football games,” Langerhans said. “I’ve been a Longhorn my whole life and getting a chance to go to Texas and play baseball, to me, was more important than when I got drafted out of high school to play in the pros. My feeling was that playing for the Longhorns was better than playing for the pros, because I’ve been a Longhorn through and through forever.”

John went on to tell me he made up his mind to dedicate his life to the game of baseball at the age of 6 or 7. His Dad was a coach. John told me, “I saw the thrill in his eyes of seeing his kids be successful, in baseball and in life”.  That look has stuck with him until this day. That dedication still drives him to coach, even though he retired from coaching in 2003 and as a high school history teacher.  Initially he gave some lessons and “pittled” around the first couple of years but he got back to coaching select youth baseball in 2005. His schedule has been full ever since.  John and his wife, Sharon, have been married for 41 years. He said, “She used to come to all the games but now just follows their son Ryan on the computer.”  Ryan Langerhans was drafted in in the third round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves, currently a free agent, he was in the “Big League” for 11 years from 2002 until 2013. In addition to the Braves he has played for the Mariners, Nationals, Angels, Blue Jays and Athletics. Ryan continued the family tradition and their love of baseball.

John told me that he modeled a lot of his coaching style after Hall of Fame Texas baseball coach Cliff Gustafson. “Cliff was real simple on pitchers, if you didn’t throw strikes he pulled you”, John then repeated that statement to me to make sure I understood.  John seemed very humble to me, he patiently answered all my questions.  I told him that I didn’t like the artificial turf that Texas had installed. He explained as a player he probably would prefer to play on artificial turf since it makes everything predictable, but agreed that it does take away something from the game.  We talked about the use of the BBCOR bats, he liked them but thinks they should just use wood. He prefers small ball to long ball most of the time. The fact that you have to really think through all the situations as a coach and can’t just rely on the kids to get up there to hit a home run.  “With Cliff we as players never doubted him, he was always playing the percentages. If a guy was a .220 hitter with two guys on 1st and 2nd, why wouldn’t you make him bunt, but he always let a .400 hitter swing away in the same situation”, John stated this very nonchalantly.  I was sitting there pinching myself thinking am I really talking baseball with this guy, am I really qualified. I loved that I was in that situation. I was in Texas watching a game at a baseball powerhouse. Talking with a man who played for Cliff Gustafson and who’s son has been playing professionally for 17 years!  I failed to mention some of the “kids”  that John has coached have played professionally. Eighteen to be exact!

Texas lost to TCU 2-0. John said that he has coached five or six of the kids on the two teams. I was impressed. You could tell that he enjoyed that he was a part of Texas baseball history and I know I would be.  I could talk about this guy for another 2000 words!  If you just Google his name you will see all the stories and accolades. My time to be humble was now. I was truly grateful that he took the time to talk with me.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 64 “Dozing Off”

I was interviewed yesterday by the local CBS affiliate in Austin, Texas and was caught off guard a little bit. I thought it would be a quick 5 minute type of thing. However, we actually sat down for about a half hour. After I answered all their questions they wanted to see my car and how I set it up to sleep in it. I had parked a couple blocks away from the stadium so I left my stuff with the camera guy and walked over to get it. When I got to the car I realized my keys were in my “man purse” so I had to run all the way back to get them.  I was really surprised how thorough they were along with the camera guy taking a lot of shots of me at the game.  I would be lying if I said it was no big deal, I wish I was that humble.  The recognition made me feel very good with the attention I was receiving.  Even though,  I will keep this experience in perspective so my head doesn’t swell too much.  I suppose you can call this ‘my 15 minutes of fame’!  The camera guy, I believe his name is Antony, introduced me to a well respected retired Texas high school baseball coach who agreed to talk to me.

John Langerhans was a coach for 29 years for three different schools. Through his career, he compiled a record of 615 wins 200 losses, winning one Texas State Championship in 1997.  If you think that is the end of the story you are sadly mistaken. During John’s college years from 1969-1972, he played for the Texas Longhorns as a first baseman and pitcher (none of this specialization they have now-a-days).  John would pitch on Friday and then play first base Saturday and Sunday!   He was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the second round but decided to go to college. In 1971, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in the third round, once again he elected to stay in college for his senior season at Texas. Finally he went on to play pro ball for the Cleveland Indian organization who drafted him in the third round in 1972.  If you are confused about all the drafting, so am I.

As I was writing the profile on John, I fell asleep! I think I have officially hit the wall.  I am going to post what I have written so  far and profile him later today or tonight, I apologize.

I was in Austin on Friday for the game between Texas and TCU which finished up around 9 p.m.  I left the game and got on the road, driving five hours to Lake Charles, Louisiana.  I pulled into a truck stop to get a few hours of sleep, met with another reporter, watched another great high school game between Barbe and Sam Houston.  That ended around 3 p.m. I was back on the road for another five hours to Hattiesburg, arriving here about 8 p.m.  I checked into a “nicer” hotel than I usually do, started writing and dozed off.  Currently it is 7:30 a.m. and I need to post yesterdays blog! But, the bed is extremely comfortable!

 

Day 63 “The Elliptical”

Getting interviewed!
Getting interviewed!

Today, I am going to be interviewed by  a local TV station in Austin, Texas, tomorrow a paper in Lake Charles, Louisiana and Sunday a TV station in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I know I will be asked why I am doing this, how did all this start, what was my first step.  I have said in the past that I needed to get out of my comfort zone, pursue happiness, do something many may think crazy. As I look back and pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I needed to make a change. For me to take total responsibility for my life. I can tell you, without a doubt, that moment was when I was at a friends house. While I was there, she said she needed to “knock out” 20 minutes on the treadmill. Next to her treadmill was an elliptical machine, so I decided I’d give it a go for a 20 minute workout.

I really hadn’t worked out since high school. I dabbled a little bit when I had a few roommates years ago, but nothing serious. The machine was set to the lowest level when I got on, no incline, it was very easy. I knew I could do 20 minutes while she ran next to me. Five minutes in, I started sweating, my heart rate increased, first signs of worry were hitting me. “How could this be so hard”, I thought. She is running quite fast next to me and talking away about something. I wasn’t paying attention since this was a little harder than I realized it was going to be. She looked over at me, “you alright dude?” I was like “yeah… of course”. She continued, “Just checking, your face is a little red”.  I was panicking at seven minutes, thinking, “How the hell am I going to do another thirteen minutes.” I got a “you sure you are alright?” I again replied, “I’m good”. I was not trying to panic but the feeling was beginning to overtake me. She looked concerned and a bit amused. Sweat was pouring off of me. I checked to make sure that the level of difficulty didn’t go up automatically and saw it was the same. How could a minute seem so long! I couldn’t think straight. By the eight minute mark I was spent. Thoughts of, “I might be having a heart attack”, went through my brain. I wanted to quit and pass out, but I couldn’t. What would she think of me. She continued to give me concerned glances. She was sweating but seemed like she found her rhythm. By the nine minute mark, I was wondering if my lungs were closing. What was wrong with me! Did I have lung cancer? My mind was racing faster than I was physically, I was having all kinds of thoughts. A ten second span felt like an hour! At ten minutes I was foaming at the mouth. My friend was saying something to me, I had no idea what. My lungs were surrendering, my legs and arms were pleading for me to stop because I was probably going to have a stroke. I gave in at the eleven minute mark. I couldn’t see straight. She ran to get me some water, still talking. I sat down, sweat everywhere, my lungs were panting, my legs were all cramped up, I wanted to die. She stared at me in disbelief. I looked at her and asked her how her run was. I laughed out loud but was dying of embarrassment on the inside. When I finally heard what she was saying to me, as her words began to register, “You are out of shape and I don’t want you dying here.”  She started laughing pretty hard but still very concerned. All I could say was, “Ya think!” That was the moment I knew then I needed to take responsibility for my physical well being.

That was the beginning of a five year journey that brought me to where I’m at today! Since that day of realization, I have run a couple of marathons, went on a two week trip to India, paid off most of my debts, gotten off all my medicines including high blood pressure medication. I have started eating right (green smoothies work) and I workout regularly. I have worked on the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of my life. My goal is to obtain my level of happiness. I don’t want life circumstances dictating how I live. I revamped by daily routines in an effort to take steps that have brought me to my current “plan of action”. I’m at a point in my life where I feel happy with most situations. I needed to find the the courage to begin anew without high expectations. I had to give up the portion of my life that depended on a material-momentary status of so-called happiness, and for me, that wasn’t easy. The old profound question was asked numerous times what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never knew. Except when I was a kid, of course, wanting to be a baseball player. I have always loved baseball. One of my dreams was to travel and see different parts of our country. I love meeting new people and listening to their life stories. I enjoy writing. I saw a potential vision with putting the two together. I knew it was now or never to make my dream come true. And for me, the situation was right. The doors of opportunity open and close all the time. This particular door opened for me and knew I had to go for it. I don’t know how all this will play out in the end. I don’t know if circumstances will allow me to finish the trip. However, I am living day to day and enjoying my journey. I suppose living out of my car may not be the most comfortable accommodations, and the constant traveling to a different city almost daily can be wearing. But, this sure beats getting on that elliptical machine for the first time.

People continue to let me know that I have inspired them. The thought of inspiration to others had never occurred to me in my planning of this trip, but their statements of encouragement makes me feel good about what I am doing. I used to worry a lot about how I was perceived. I don’t worry as much any more about perception. This could be because of age; or, the realization that I am not the center focus in other peoples lives. I have always admired people who lived their lives their own way, people who “buck” the societal norms. I have always had those thoughts in me and, now, I’m living mine. I feel more happiness and fulfillment than I have ever had. Therefore, I thank that elliptical machine for the final push I needed to begin a “life of living” the way I have always wanted!

Again, thanks for reading this. I will continue to give you all some of my thoughts and perspectives about life as I go along on this trip. As I drive alone on miles of highway, I have a lot of time to think and have come to the conclusion, this trip has opened a door beyond baseball. In part, it is to include “the why, how, and for what reasons” I chose to do this. People talked about “finding themselves”. I do believe I’m on my own path.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

Day 62 “This is for Eggo…”

Last night I went to the Texas Rangers game against the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers won in dramatic fashion scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth after two were out!  The Mariners had this “one in the bag” but committed a very costly error on a underhand toss to second by the shortstop that would have ended the game. Same thing happened at Texas Tech the prior day. Dallas Baptist had the game wrapped up but made a costly error on a routine ground ball to third. Just goes to show that you have to have it “between the ears” to be successful in this game!

My set up for last nights game!
My set up for last nights game!

People that have been reading regularly know that I am struggling a little bit with writing profiles. I haven’t done them consistently for awhile. Yesterday I took the pressure completely off myself and decided to go to the game, get a cheap ticket, listen to the game on the radio while I kept “book”.  I have never listened to a game on the radio while I was at a game. My friend Brian Roberts told me he always does it. In addition, I have never kept score of a game while there, I didn’t see the point, the scoreboard had all that information. I have seen guys doing this for as long as I can remember at games (I thought they were baseball dorks, nerds, cupcakes).  Well, I wanted to experience a game from their perspective. I have kept “book” when I was younger at softball games and recreational basketball leagues, but I got a small stipend to do it.  In all my “dorkiness”  I purchased a game program, was given a pencil, I found my seat (nose bleed central) and tuned my IPod to the correct FM station. My IPod doesn’t do AM (that or I don’t know how to tune it in) I was relieved that the Rangers broadcast over FM.

I listened to the pregame show and liked what I heard from Ron Washington manager of the Rangers on what he was looking to accomplish in the game. Now I was going to pay attention to that, he said it was going to be a pitching duel between Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez. I could have told you that but as a “simple” fan and not knowing the Rangers intimately, I didn’t know that Darvish has not gotten any run support in his last 2 starts. When I say no run support, I mean the Rangers haven’t scored any runs while he pitched, a big NOTHING BURGER!  I made a mental note to “will” some runs for Yu.  I had to get myself situated in my seat, make sure things were dialed in and writing utensil was sharpened (was worried about how small the box was that you kept score in for each player, I write big, had to adjust). I wasn’t prepared for the first pitch, I hadn’t filled out my scorecard with lineups, I was going to do it as I went along since I didn’t have a good view of the scoreboard, it was to my right so I only saw it at an angle.  I had moments of panic initially because I forgot how to keep book.  The program gave some directions but for the most part you were on your own.

As the game went on and I was hearing what the announcers were saying on the radio, I got more comfortable with my book keeping skills. I became engrossed in the game, figuring out what to look for and checking up-coming batters.  I felt like I was in the “zone”.  I didn’t pay attention to anything that was happening around me, except when the fans started doing the wave, “amateurs” I thought to myself. I was becoming a professional baseball fan, “sit down” I wanted to say. Plus, the rude interruptions when they went to get their $1 hotdogs.  The Rangers didn’t think about guys like me when they planned that promotion!  I saw the funny looks, the goofy smirks, but I didn’t care, this game was all about me. I could tell the dude with the” hot” girlfriend how many pitches Yu Darvish threw last inning, that rookie Nick Franklin of the Mariners stuck out twice, once looking!  Yeah, I can see why guys do this. The game was flying by, but I was frustrated by the lack of space I was given in my program. I daydreamed about purchasing my own score book, one that I could get really detailed with. I loved the fact that I knew what a backward K meant (if you don’t know,  it means that the batter struck out looking, now you know).  Yeah, I could be a “score keeping cupcake” this was useful data, teams need guys like me. Reality set in when I realized that my friend “Eggo” knew how to utilize all this back in high school. He can quote stats inside, outside, and backwards.  I finally understand his enjoyment of it all.

I will definitely keep “book” again at a baseball game. I enjoyed it a lot. Listening to the radio announcers at the game is highly recommended, I loved every minute of it!  “Eggo”, I sincerely understand your love of tracking stats and keeping book. You probably know how to utilize the information more than I ever will.  To all the baseball “dorks” I have made fun of as I have seen you scribbling away at a game, I apologize. We are now brothers of the score keeping universe. My final thought, make sure that you have a three or four sharp pencils if you are going to attempt to do this saving one as a potential weapon in case the wave gets out of control and you can’t see the game.

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

Day 61 “Driving Day”

Dugout and new sitting doesn't work together...
Dugout and new seating doesn’t work together…

I drove five hours from Albuquerque to Lubbock just in time to catch a great game between Dallas Baptist Patriots and Texas Tech Red Raiders. TTRR won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning scoring two runs with two out to win 5-4.  The campus was impressive along with the sports facilities. However, I was not impressed with the baseball stadium at all. “If” a remodel was done, evidently, they had a very slim budget. The structure doesn’t work with the existing architecture. “If” it was a remodel around the existing dugouts, which looked very cool, with the remainder of the stadium built around them, as a whole the finished look seemed goofy. The mix of the old with the new didn’t work very well!  Also, the field was covered with artificial turf which I despise!  I know it makes it easier to maintain but it looks odd and makes all the fielding plays routine.  If this stadium was built new and not remodeled on an existing site, I might be okay with it for a college summer league team in the Northwood’s League. However, on this campus with all the prominent Spanish Renaissance styling, it stands out like a sore thumb!

After the game, I wrote up yesterdays blog post at a local Starbucks (need to contact them about sponsoring me) and then drove the five hours to Dallas.  Texas is a very big state and not a lot of towns on the route I chose to take. But, the intrastate, as they are, was very busy all night long. I reached the Dallas area about 1 a.m. I was just going to pull into a rest stop and sleep but figured I would get a “cheap” hotel. The game I am going to tonight (Texas vs Seattle) didn’t start until 7 p.m., so figured decent “bed rest” would be better.  I found a Motel 6, parked, went into the lobby and I should have walked right out. The lobby was home for their vending machines, there was empty 12 pack soda cartons on the floor and some other garbage strewn around.  The clerk that waited on me seemingly was oblivious to the garbage on the lobby floor. I did ask if everything was alright when I pointed the stuff out, he just shrugged his shoulders saying the people who filled the machines must have left it. I was tired and wanted to get to my room. In most of the Motel 6 hotels I have stayed in have been clean with recent remodeling. This was not the case at this one. Besides the definite criminal activity that was going on, the room I was assigned to had ripped up carpeting, stains of I don’t know what on said carpet, of which it probably wasn’t vacuumed in a month.  I kid you not!  The place looked lived in. I tired taking pictures but since only one dull lamp worked it was hard to get.  I took the blanket off the bed to make sure I could sleep on the bed, it “seemed” clean. Even though, my precaution took over with laying my own linens out. I heard some noise outside and got nervous. I shut off the light and TV, peaked through a “rip” in the curtain and was able to see some kind of transaction was going on in a car. I decided to pack-up. I considered asking for my $45 back but I just wanted to get out of that ?*& hole. Lesson learned, when the lobby is a pigsty, the rooms probably are too! I went to a LaQuinta and slept very well, it was a $100 but the bed was well worth it!

Feeling important at Cowboy Stadium!
Feeling important at Cowboy Stadium!

Today, I went on a tour of Cowboy Stadium, what an impressive place it was. Jerry Jones went all out on this thing. I was lucky and got a private one-on-one VIP tour (I was the only one that signed up for the 1pm tour).  My tour guide took me all over the place.  Troy Aikman was there giving a speech for United Way so we didn’t do the regular tour route which allowed me to see a lot more than normally seen.  I was overwhelmed at the sheer size of the place. Everyone was very friendly and told me they won’t hold it against me for being a Packer fan.  They do have a trivia question they ask on the tour, “Who was the only other team to use the Cowboys locker room?”  The answer of course is the Packers during the 2011 Super Bowl. There are so many different features and great site lines it was hard to comprehend what I was looking at. The video screen is hard to describe in this massive stadium because it’s one of these places you just have to see to believe. Then your eyes play tricks on you!  That is the post for today!  I think I am going through a little funk with my profiles, or writers block. I hope that I can work through it and you will keep reading. I figured I would go through some of this, but it is frustrating not to have great stories everyday!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 60 “Funnel Cakes!”

“Why do they call them Funnel Cakes? “,  I asked. Donna playfully rolled her eyes, but Lucia was more than willing to give me an answer. Lucia explained, “it is because a funnel is used when pouring the batter into the hot oil.”  I felt so dumb, I watched her make my very first funnel cake – it never registered. I have seen funnel cakes advertised at the State Fair in Wisconsin but I never had one, or even questioned the name.  I quickly asked a few people in line if they knew why they are called funnel cakes. I was relieved when I got a few blank stares and one definite, “I don’t know”. The others with the blank stares nodded when I quickly explained it, some I don’t think still didn’t get it…

Lucia, Cynthia, Donna
Lucia, Cynthia, Donna

Lucia, Donna, and Cynthia were a good nature trio. I was walking by their booth at the Albuquerque Isotopes game last night and they were laughing about something. It was this laughter that drew me in. You could tell instantly that these ladies were great friends, they complimented each others personalities very well.  I loved the banter, Donna was most playful. She and I traded a few barbs, they made me laugh.  Lucia was the teacher of the group explaining where the original recipe was from and a few of the secrets that I can’t reveal for fear of Fred (the boss). Cynthia said, “You don’t want Fred making your cake”.  Donna quickly added, “he is a little frugal with the batter”.  Lucia laughed and said, “We make sure the customers are getting their monies worth”.  The customers were lining up for the cakes as theirs was the only booth in the stadium, it was located down the 3rd base line of the main concourse. I walked the stadium and everywhere people were eating them.

They have been working with “Boss Man” Fred for a combined total of 46 years!  “We love Fred” they all said. They know Fred from their other jobs with the city.  A lot of family members have worked a booth from time to time when they needed a job – daughters, daughters-boyfriends, nephews, etc…  Lucia was making most of the cakes when I was around. Donna was laughing, “It is better that way. I don’t make as good of a cake as she does. Besides, I am better at the register.”  I laughed with her. I think she just liked talking to the customers, Cynthia filled the orders.  Cynthia said, “It is a nice distraction working the booth and getting out of the house, instead of watching TV.”  They worked in perfect harmony!  If you are ever in Albuquerque and at an Isotopes game get yourself a funnel cake from these ladies!

Making Banana Foster!
Making Banana Foster!

The Isotopes had other interesting food options. I met Joe who was making Banana Foster’s. He was located behind home plate. To be honest, I had no idea what a Banana Foster was.  Joe explained it’s a dessert made with bananas, vanilla ice cream, and a “special” sauce. The sauce was made with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The butter, sugar and bananas are cooked, adding the rum and liqueur then ignited. The bananas and sauce are then served over the ice cream. Preparation of the dish is a performance such as a flambe, which was what it was like with Joe.  I was very impressed with how courteous and patient he was with me and my questions. His performance was outstanding and fun to watch!

sheboyganI enjoyed both of these booths. For me, this is a nice change of pace compared to the typical ballpark food consisting of the usual hotdogs, brats and nachos.  I’m not complaining about the typical ballpark food since a lot of that food comes from Wisconsin. For example, the San Francisco Giants advertise that they have “Sheboygan Brats”. I asked the vendor selling the brats about the name. He said, “Sheboygan stands for the best brats in the world” (Johnsonville makes them). Most of the stadiums I have been in have Gehl Nacho Sauce which is made in Germantown, Wisconsin. I am glad I finally had something to write about regarding my food on this journey! I will keep looking for different things that aren’t the ballpark norm!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

 

Day 59 “Snow!”

I went to a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon in Grand Junction, Colorado at Colorado Mesa University where I met “The Pit”. My next scheduled game was Sunday afternoon in Colorado Springs according to my GPS it was about a 5 hour drive so I wanted to get at least half way.  I had to go through the mountains and ski areas of Colorado.  Driving in the mountains makes me a little nervous and I was hoping that I wouldn’t run into any snow.  I didn’t realize how close I was going to be to Breckenridge. I have a friend that lives there and was planning to see him later this summer when I came back to Denver to go to a Rockies game. I decided to get off the Intrastate and see if he was around. If he wasn’t I could just keep on going.  I went by Vail and the mountain roads were wet and I was nervous. Breckenridge turn off was soon after, about 10 -15 miles from the Intrastate (Kevin, I am guessing so don’t hold me to the mileages). When I got there it was just getting dark. I texted my friend and it turns out he was in Vail for the night with some friends, so I drove the main street in Breckenridge.  The town was impressive with a Christmas feel, even though it is now April. I was bummed I couldn’t catch up with Kevin, but decided to keep going to Colorado Springs.  I chose the fastest route on the GPS and headed out of town.

About 5 miles into the trip I started getting worried, the road was zig zagging up a mountain. I was going about 10 MPH and the people behind me were probably getting frustrated that the idiot out-of-towner going so slow.  Higher on the mountain the more nervous I became but the view was spectacular in the moonlight. I had to keep going. I got to the summit and stopped at Hoosier Pass to take it all in.  Elevation was over 11,500 feet and now it dawned on me, I had to go down this mountain! As I drove down the winding road my sight was drawn to my right – the view, it was beautiful. I finally made it down and my brother was calling. I answered and was explaining what I just did. Well I wasn’t paying attention to my speed as I was coming into a small town. I ended up getting pulled over for speeding, thankfully the officer let me off with a warning. She told me, “The pass can be a little intimidating the first time.” She was very nice, thankfully understanding, and we continued to talk for about 5 minutes about what I was doing. She had a Yankees wristband on, I gave her my card, she gave me hers which is somewhere and I need to find her card so can email her and thank her again for letting me off.  I still had about 100 miles to travel before getting to  Colorado Springs. I took the “back way” which didn’t have many towns in between and I was the only one on the road most of the way. I don’t recommend you going this way after dark when you are doing this the first time. Any little “hiccup” with the car I would run scenarios thru my head of what could be wrong. I made it with no problems.

Snow?  What snow?
Snow? What snow?

I got up the next day to snow warnings. The game I had planned to see was between Colorado Springs and Round Rock, however, the game was postponed until Monday.  I texted my friend in Breckenridge and told him about Hoosier Pass. He text me the same thing the cop said about it being intimidating the first time. I had to laugh to myself. He has been out here for years and being used to the mountains, he probably thought “wimp”. My answer is, “Yes, I am.” Anyway, I went over to the stadium, took some pictures and got a two minute tour by one of the front office people of the Sky Sox (that was very nice). I figured I needed to show up to make it count as a game. I thought maybe I could catch a game on the way to Albuquerque.  As I was heading out of town I saw a Regis Hair Salon, I needed a haircut, it had been almost 6 weeks since my last one and I usually get one every 3-4 weeks.  The stylist that cut my hair was the sister of Oregon State’s pitcher Jace Fry who was a draft pick of the Oakland A’s. She did a nice job and I was back on the road.

Mike & Kate
Mike & Kate

I was driving through Pueblo, Colorado. I saw what looked like some little leaguers beginning to play, I found my game!  I pulled into the Runyon Sports Complex and sure enough, there was a couple of games going on. Windy and cold, I grabbed some blankets and headed to a game. The kids were warming up and I found a spot next to some bundled up parents.  Mike and Kate Spence were at the game to watch their son Danny play for the Pueblo West Cyclones who were taking on Evolution, Kate thought. This was a 10U game, a make up game from the day before when it was in the 80’s. As the kids were warming up, Mike told me about being a St. Louis Cardinal fan, he loved Stan Musial, that is why Danny had #6.  Mike was also a sports beat writer and covered the Denver Broncos for 6 years. His first year was the year they beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Kate was originally from Marshalltown, Iowa, she said she wasn’t much of a baseball fan growing up (no MLB team in Iowa). However, with Denver getting the Rockies a few years ago, she got into more. As we talked and right before the game was to start the snow came. They decided to play anyway. As we watched Mike told me about his 12th birthday when he got Stan Musial’s book. His dad surprised him and took him to a game between the Cardinals and their farm team in Denver. He said it is one of those memories that always stays with you. (It was very common “back in the day” that the major league team would play exhibitions against their farm teams.)  The snow started coming a lot harder and they decided to call the game.  I really enjoyed talking to Mike and Kate for the little time I did. I jumped on the road to Albuquerque, it was snowing pretty hard for the first  hour.

I have to say that Colorado is a very beautiful state with all the mountain ranges. The scenery between Las Vegas, New Mexico and Santa Fe was also gorgeous.  As I have travelled around the Southwest, I now understand what a “wide open space” is and when someone says that they can see for miles and miles. That is my post for today, was worried I wouldn’t come up with anything since I was snowed out yesterday…

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 58 “The Pit”

Well I need to get this post written!  I just got to my room at a Motel 6 in Santa Fe.  I was suppose to go to a game in Colorado Springs today but it was postponed because of snow. Anyway more about that tomorrow! Yesterday I went to a game in Grand Junction, Colorado, between Colorado Mesa University and Metro State (Denver). I was determined to get back to some good stories and people! When I found the stadium near the campus I thought it was going to be really nice, since the Colorado Rockies rookie team plays here. I parked my car, went to purchase my ticket and was a bit shocked at the price of admission, $10. This was NCAA Division 2 so I figured $5 tops, plus they charged $2 for a program.  I went into the stadium, the set-up was very odd. The press box and announcers booth is on the first base side, like in a football stadium, I didn’t like the feel or the layout.

I found a seat on the top row below the press box and chatted a little bit with an older gentleman as the game started. I wanted to get a feel for him, he was nice enough but I wasn’t “feeling it” to profile him. Before or after the national anthem (I don’t remember) the PA announcer talked about sportsmanship and rules of conduct, I found that odd. I don’t recall that being said at any games before; if so, it never stood out but for whatever reason this time it did.  During the first inning I heard some guys throwing out stats to the Metro State players and really getting on them when they came to bat. Sitting there listening, I thought to myself, security was going to have a talk with these guys. Sure enough, 5 minutes later a “rent a cop” was talking to them. When the cop was walking away, a Colorado Mesa player hit a line shot to the Metro State second baseman who missed played it. One of the guys that just received a warning, got up and started clapping and yelling to the Metro State player, “It’s alright, you tried your best, we are all winners”. He continued to yell, “You will get it next time, don’t get down on yourself”. I was laughing at this, the kid was toying with the “rent a cop”, I found my story!

"The Pit"
“The Pit”

I approached the guy that made me laugh, his name was Josh Adams and found out he was a senior from Hawaii. I asked if I could sit with him and his crew, he said, “sure”. I told him that he was very entertaining and relentless. He laughed and said that is what “The Pit” was all about. He explained that “The Pit” was a group or students (14-20) that came out to support the baseball team. Colorado Mesa has a very good baseball team, so it is easy to cheer for. Josh told me “The Pit” is the 10th guy on the field during home games. I laughed pretty hard quite a few times at some of their shenanigans (I am glad I could finally use that word). When a player on Metro State would strike out, all of them would stand up and chant “K” repeatedly while beating a drum until the player got into the dugout.  When a player would watch a called strike, someone would yell “can I help you” and the rest added, “no just looking”.

These guys always sit between home plate and the visitors dugout. The entire stadium can hear them and it has to be hard on the opposing team. One thing I noticed is that they rarely get on the umpires and they don’t swear. Josh said, “The umpires are just doing their jobs and you have to expect that they will make an occasional mistake.”  He also said, “If they did curse it won’t be good, like the day before there was a bunch of kids sitting with them.” What I liked about this group was that they all seemed to be very good nature college kids. If a Metro State player made a nice play, they made sure to acknowledge that. Josh said “We love baseball and if a player shows us up we respect that” and he loves the “gamesmanship”.  He told me, at one of the games a mother of a pitcher on the opposing team came over to “The Pit” and she told them “That’s my baby and you’re going to hurt his feelings”. Josh said, “We were on him relentlessly but the kid pitched a ‘gem’ of a game losing to Colorado Mesa 1-0.” He had “mad” respect for him – or as he said, “that guy was dirty”! The mom videotaped “The Pit”. She was actually having fun and heckling them right back. They loved it. At the end of the game “The Pit” had to tip their cap to her and her son.

It isn’t always so pleasant. Another “Pit” member, Kaleo Nakano, said that players have “flipped them off”. One game, against a Christian College, the coach wanted to fight him in the parking lot. “The Pit” has caused some controversy with opposing teams complaining about the drum as an artificial noise maker, wanting a ruling from the NCAA regarding its use. Also, the Athletic Director has asked them to “turn it down” once Colorado Mesa gets an eight run lead, they abide by that. On this particular day only seven guys were in attendance. I was told that one of their biggest personalities, Eli, wasn’t there because he had the worst hangover of his life. Josh said, “It goes without saying that we like to indulge on the weekends and things can get a little out of control, this is college, ya know”.  I loved their enthusiasm which reminded me of the Texas A&M student section. However, I am giving the nod to Colorado Mesa’s “The Pit”. They were better with some of the best one liners!

I talked with Mike Thrill, a pitcher for Metro State, about “The Pit”. He said, “It is hard to tune them out and they can get very annoying since they really do their research on the opposing players.” Mike explained that he tries to use it as motivation so he can show them up, or shut them up. I can appreciate that sentiment, Mike, but I think that is exactly what they want which is to affect the game some how.  As far as doing their research, the pitcher in the second game of the doubleheader for Metro State worked for a car lot. That bit of info was used against him. “The Pit” would yell, “I need my car parked or I need you to get my car”, something to that effect. The coach for Colorado Mesa loves “The Pit” and gave them all team ball caps. I can see why some fans of the opposing team would get upset with them, but I think the best thing to do is indulge them giving it right back to them. They really made the game very entertaining.

Well, it’s cutoff time, but want to say, “That doubleheader was a lot of fun.” If I ever write a book, I will work in more of the “shenanigans” of “The Pit”!  Keep at it boys, I had a good laugh. In observation, other fans enjoyed it too seeing how many came up to you guys after the game!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html. Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 57 “No Story”

Happy to report, I feel much better. The cold has peaked!  I went to a baseball game at Utah Valley University last night and the view at the stadium was fantastic!  I watched the entire game and only talked to one person. This gentleman I will dub as the ‘tattoo man’. One that, when you first look at him, you instantly want to look away for fear of him.  I didn’t, of course. I inquired about the neck tats that he had. He explained what they all meant to him, but he recommended not getting neck tattoos. Even though a bit scary looking, the guy was really nice. He was with his wife enjoying the game, but I didn’t ask him if he wanted to be profiled.  Since it was the first time, in what seems a long time that I have felt good, I figured I would come up with something. Today I got up, went to Starbucks to write, I drew a blank. So for now – I have nothing to write about!  I did go to two games and have a good story for tomorrow!

Please check back. I will be back in the groove – I promise!

Day 56 “Meth Heads”

Being on the road full time for the past couple of months, I have gotten to experience a lot of different things.  I figured I would run into people that weren’t quite like me; or, didn’t have the same attitudes towards things.  I stay at the Motel 6 Hotels, my preferred hotel chain, for financial reasons.  Motel 6 is by far the least expensive of all the chains. Also, I have gotten lucky that the one I’m at is going through a room remodeling that started a year ago. A lot of the rooms are very up-to-date and, in my opinion, look great! However, since it is the least expensive it attracts the budget conscious like myself and other “darker” personality types. Some of these are located in “sketchier” neighborhoods. I will admit that I do enjoy seeing some of the people that come to this chain. There are a lot of construction crews that stay weeks at a time and have their own barbecues for their own little parties after work daily. Even though, since they work early in the morning, they go to bed early, also. Then there seems to be the ones that are selling something out of the rooms. Be it drugs or other things, I get nervous when I see this when I go to the vending machine to get a water. Seeing someone standing in their doorway is odd. I have learned that if I give them a hard stare they normally look away.

Scary Moment!
Scary Moment!

It is not that I am afraid of the people, my worry level stems from how desperate they are. Last night, for example, I decided to walk from my hotel to the ballpark. About a mile away, I figured I would save the $7 – $10 for parking. Turns out parking was only $3 – but still saved some cash.  As I walked to the stadium, I observed my surroundings, who I saw, etc. I realized it was probably a mistake the way I went. It wasn’t the neighborhood as much as it was all the homeless and meth heads that were around.  The stadium was beautiful and it had a great view of the mountains!  I am realizing that the homeless love warmth and great views, just like everyone else! Anyway, I made a mental note to walk back a different way, or grab a bus.

The game was exciting, for one,  the home team got beat 11-4. But, there was a very scary moment in the bottom of the eighth. A Fresno outfielder hit his head on the wall while diving for a ball in foul territory.  As they took care of the player, some of the stadium gates were opened for people to leave, but also some of the homeless and drug addicts came in. One lady asked me what happened, I told her. I realized that she was quite young but drugs had her. As she walked away, I wondered where she was going to sleep. I thought about Reno. There was a river next to their stadium and I noticed people sleeping near there. Just past the railroad tracks of this outfield was an area where the homeless were camping.

Sleeping down by the river, where's the van?
Sleeping down by the river, where’s the van?

As I walked back to the hotel after the game, the homeless and meth heads were out and about. Some scouting out places to sleep, bushes next to buildings seemed like a popular choice.  I was prepared to be confronted for money, be it a hand out or something they were trying to sell.  I only got scared once when a drug dealer appeared out of no where and gave me a hard stare. I looked back at him and realized he was “not afflicted” (by drugs or mental issues). I nodded and kept on walking, looking back only after hearing nothing behind me. It was a long walk and my mind was racing more than normal, believe me. I have been in a lot worse neighborhoods, this one really wasn’t that bad.  A friend, I was texting, called and we talked as I walked and that helped.  Once I got back to the hotel, it was a flurry of activity! People walking and talking all over the place. I was worried about my car being broken into. I don’t keep anything valuable, but I certainly didn’t want to have to deal with a broken window, like this morning as someone else had to.

Before I eventually fell asleep, I thought about how lucky I was to be able to take this trip. Life could be so much worse.  I have a lot of time to think as I ponder life while driving and watching the games. Some people would never be able put themselves in the situations I have put myself in, I understand that. However, when I have talked to some of the homeless and meth heads, most are actually very nice people. They might be working an angle to get something but if you straight up ask them how they got in the situation they are in, they are honest.  Meth heads can pin point it to that first “hit” where they felt the euphoria and their regret ever since. Now, they say it is “chasing that feeling”, and most have become resigned to the fact that it will kill them. The homeless, seemingly for many, have some kind of mental problem. But there are those out there that lost a job coupled with a few bad breaks. I guess we are all could be a few mistakes, or bad breaks, away from some of this stuff.  This trip has given me a new perspective, along with renewing some perspectives.  Life is too short. If we don’t embrace it now – when will we.

I have a long way to go on this journey and in life. Baseball is showing me so much more than just a game. Being able to follow it all over the country continues to bring me a lot of happiness. I love showing up at a different ballpark every day, experiencing the local excitement, even the non-excitement. I love talking baseball with knowledgeable baseball people. Funny thing is a lot equate baseball to life. From the scouts I hear that it is what is “between the ears”.  The big question they want to know is how are these kids going to react to adversity. If they can handle it and have the talent; they will go far, just like in life. So, when I find the time, I go back and read why I started this trip in the first place,  “Baseball Buddha is my path to happiness, to enlightenment through Baseball and the love of Baseball”. I think I am learning more than I ever expected!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014”, which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help at http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html.  Please, also ,share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!