Day 180 & 181 “Connecting…”

Sami and Me!
Sami and Me!

On Thursday I completed my last western swing of this journey.  I met my daughter in Chicago to go to a Cubs vs Brewers game.  Sami took the Amtrak train down from Milwaukee. I picked her up and we drove over near Wrigley Field to park and find a place to have breakfast.  I was happy to see her since it had been a month ago I started working my way West. Not being able to see her at least once a week has been hard. We normally get together for breakfast or dinner and watch a movie if there is time.  She is growing up and is going into her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin. The thought occurred to me that she might never live with me again. Of course, this makes me sad; but, it is part of the deal being a parent.

As we ate breakfast and discussed ‘all’ life situations and funny moments. Subject matter that I had already heard about, but being with her made it better.  I was happy she agreed to go to a game with me. I figured she would get bored since she really isn’t into sports.  She enjoys the Badgers basketball and football games, and will go to an occasional Brewers baseball game. The social aspects is what is attractive to her. Youth? Maybe, but lots of people, young and old, go for that reason. I didn’t teach her about the game of baseball because I assumed that she wouldn’t care. However, as we were watching the Cubs and Brewers, she started asking questions and I started explaining. Surprisingly enough, she started understanding.  Up to this point, she was bored, and she was tired. I thought of Anthony, from England, whom I watched a game with during Spring Training. He wanted to know what the base coaches did and why they were standing where they were on the field.

I realized, again, this game can be very confusing if you don’t understand some of the little nuances.  My daughter started picking up on the things I had explained. She started saying things made more sense.  I was disappointed in myself that I never took the time to explain when she was younger. I figured she was to much of a “girly girl” to want to learn. My daughter is this very bright, intelligent, fun loving and, to me, the most beautiful person that I know. And, I forgot to include her in my passion.  Hopefully, she will want to go to more than just an occasional game in future years.  I enjoyed my time with her as she is very open and honest with me. Or, should I say, as open and honest as sophomore in college can be with her “at times” overbearing father.  The Brewers beat the Cubs. We sat in the bleachers directly under the big scoreboard. It was a great day for a game.  The Blue Angels were flying overhead practicing for the Air Show this weekend.  I took the long way home and continued talking about “life” with Sami. Overall, one of the best days I have had.

"Ole" and Me!
“Ole” and Me!

On Friday, I went to a game in Rockford, Illinois. The game was between the Rockford Aviators and the Normal Cornbelters in the Frontier League. The game was an offensive routing as the Cornbelters destroyed the Aviators, 20-7.  The great part of this game, I got to go to the game with a boyhood friend who was one of my first friends when I moved to Ashland.  “Ole” and I met in fifth grade. I probably slept over at his house on Friday, or Saturday night, for years through middle school and into high school. We discussed what has happened in our lives since the last time we saw each other and laughed about old memories. It felt like we were back in eighth grade. His laugh was the same and he was quick to smile. He made fun of himself about things he did and how he used to be.

While watching the game, we discussed all things Ashland like I have with others I have gotten to see on this trip.  Ole said, “Rockford isn’t good” before we even went to the game. I think he realized the game didn’t matter once we got there. It was about being in the crowd talking about life.  What I love most about him is his introspective nature and that his emotional intelligence off the charts.  The game was a long one. I did two interviews, but it seemed to go by way to fast.  He and I talked as we walked to our cars, gave each other a hug and went our separate ways. Ole is the guy I think of when I watch Stand by Me. He is the River Phoenix character to me.  It had been ten years since I saw him last; and, twenty-five years since we really talked. I hope to stay in contact with him.  (BTW, he has three daughters.)

I love this game of baseball, it connects people for so many different reasons.  I was able to connect with my daughter in a way I never did before; and, I have gotten to reconnect with so many other people by just being open to it.

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

Day 179 “Bright Lights and Big Cities!”

donnie hissaWhen I saw Donnie he was sitting at the end of the bench with a Brewers jacket on his hands were in his pockets, he was the pitcher that was closest to home plate.  The bullpen was along the left field wall in foul territory. There was a grassy area right behind the players where spectators could sit.  I walked down to the area to say hi to him. I didn’t want to interrupt him during the game.  As I stood in the grassy area for a couple minutes, it started to rain a little bit. It was a nice night but the rain was going to make things difficult.  A couple of little league players ran up to the fence and asked Donnie for a ball. He cocked his head to the right and told them he couldn’t give them a ball unless it was a foul ball.  He didn’t look at the kids when he spoke to them as he kept his eye on the game and the batter.  The kids turned around and ran off. I could tell he has answered that question many times, since June, when he was assigned to Helena after he was drafted in the 21st round by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Johnny and Eric and Chinooks game.
Johnny and Eric at the Chinooks game.

I had met Donnie the previous summer when he was pitching for the Lakeshore Chinooks. I had my nephew, Eric, along with another kid from Ashland, Johnny Sechon, staying with me. They were playing on a select baseball team in Milwaukee. They were bored and I thought it would be fun to see the Chinooks. When we got to the game, Johnny told me that his brother, George, knows one of the players. That player happened to be Donnie.  I knew who Donnie was; Eric’s dad had been following him since he graduated from Northwestern High School in Maple, Wisconsin, which is 40 miles west of Ashland.  Jerry, my brother-in-law, would mention how he was doing at Notre Dame from time to time.  At the Chinooks game we were standing along the fence line when he walked by. Donnie wasn’t hard to miss as he stands 6′ 7″ tall. I called him over, Johnny introduced himself and mentioned George. He acknowledged that he knew George, thanked us for coming to the game, shook all of our hands and went on his way.  My first impression of him was very positive. My exact thought – “Wow, what a respectful kid…”

For some reason I felt goofy standing in the rain wanting to give Donnie my card. However, I wanted to interview him. He was from Northern Wisconsin, he was living my dream. Lots of people dream; but, since he was from my home territory, I felt more connected to him.  I was in Helena, Montana, two weeks prior and spoke to him for a moment after the game while there. He didn’t recall the Chinooks game. I asked him about his fastball that he had struggled with his junior and senior year in college, his velocity was off.  He said, “It is back to where it was my sophomore year, in the low 90’s.”  He took a “selfie” with me and went into the locker room.  So, as I was standing there in the rain I was nervous. I have met other players at all different levels, why at this game in Idaho Falls was I feeling this way?  After the kids ran off, I walked over to him at the end of the bench and interrupted him intently watching the game. He turned, looked at me and smiled with a slight recognition, acknowledged the week before and agreed to meet me for breakfast the next morning.

I walked away shaking my head. Why some people affect me, and others don’t, I will ever know.  I am a grown man, but I think it was because I wanted to hear what it was like to be a baseball player. I wanted to know what it was like to go to Notre Dame. And if, like my nephew said, “The Ashland Oredockers 10 run ruled him!”  I didn’t want him to say “no” because he had answers to questions that I have had for a long time.  He said he would text me when he got up. I didn’t get his number, but I trusted him as he seemed so sincere and respectful.

Having breakfast!
Having breakfast!

When I woke the next morning I quickly checked my phone. I slept in until 10 a.m. and was worried that he had sent a text.  I had a text from my daughter and as I was responding to her, Donnie’s text message came through. He apologized for it being so late. The team was out late after the game eating at Denny’s (it was only place open when they got done). Helena lost in extra innings to Idaho Falls, 8-7. I was right down the road from the hotel they were staying at. I picked him up and we went to a local restaurant to talk.  I peppered him with questions. He told me about Notre Dame and how you don’t understand the tradition until you step on the campus and see the “Golden Dome”. He marveled at how the alumni supports their teams. He laughed when I asked if the football team overshadowed the baseball team. He said, “It is hard to describe the feeling” he has about his school.  Donnie is ready for his next chapter, he knows the great opportunity he has but he has a little pang of regret that his college career is over. He loved it and does wish he was going back for another year.

He smiles thinking about draft day, he told me he didn’t think he was going to get drafted, seemingly with little interest. Or, so he thought.  When the Brewers called and told him they were going to be taking him with their 21st pick he was thrilled.  He knows he has a lot to learn. He had never been to Montana before and loves how beautiful it is. Besides that, he grew up following the Brewers.  He knows he is a far way from the bright lights of the “big time”, but he is going to give it his best effort.  Donnie does have a finance degree to fall back on. He is very intelligent and with a score of 32 on his ACT prompted Notre Dame to take a look.  He was not heavily recruited out of High School. Along with baseball, he played basketball and football all four years at Northwestern.  I ask about being 10 run ruled by Ashland. He doesn’t remember, but states, “It has happened” and laughs. He quickly followed with, “Ashland has always had a good baseball program”.

I really like Donnie. He is humble, respectful, intelligent, with determination. He fully understands what he needs to do and keeps it all in perspective. He realizes the time will be considerable, along with much practice and, most of all, patience.  He will work on his game in the off season in California. His girlfriend lives there whom he met at Notre Dame. They have talked about this dream and she fully supports him.  He is looking forward to spring training next year and wants more innings now; but understands the team needs to look at all their prospects. Winning feels different in the minors compared to the college level. Even though, the passion is there. “You keep it more contained”, he says. “And, you root on your teammates in a different way but the goal is to get to the next level whatever level that is.”

I will pay attention to Donnie and his career. He is living the life I dreamed of. Currently, it isn’t bright lights or big cities and it may never be; but, just having the chance is what makes it exciting.

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

 

Day 178 “Dancing Bobby”

Dancing Bobby!
Dancing Bobby!

Sometimes you just walk into something that is just too cool. I am sitting in the Press Box at the Burlington Bees game and I’m working on my story about Donnie Hissa, rookie pitcher from Northern Wisconsin. The game starts between the Bees and the Peoria Chiefs.  I notice a guy behind the first base dugout. He is dancing; and, dancing very well.  I ask Susan Denk, a sports reporter for The Hawk Eye newspaper, “Who is that?” She says “Oh, that is Dancing Bobby”.  I get up and go talk to this guy!

Bobby has been coming to Burlington minor league baseball games for over 30 years he tells me.  He is 55 years old and says he only misses one game a year and that is when he is at Camp Eastman in Illinois.  He is an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts and Camp Eastman is his vacation.  His favorite team is the Bees and, also, the St Louis Cardinals. “They aren’t doing very good this year, they’re three out now (of first place)” Bobby volunteers. I tell him I am a Milwaukee Brewers fan, his face immediately goes into his palm, he laughs again with a big toothy grin on his face.  Bobby is a fan favorite and people stop to say hello.

I walk to the concession stand and talk to a lady named Amy who is working. She tells me Bobby has a brother named Charlie, who also works around the stadium, but he doesn’t dance.  But Bobby -“He is a fixture around here, if he isn’t here something is wrong; but, Bobby is always here though” Amy says.

“First time I start here, I am a bat boy”, Bobby stated, he is proud of this fact. The music starts playing and Bobby starts dancing, some kids join him. He enjoys the interaction. The kids look on in wonderment and try to keep up; they can’t.  “I like it here. It is like my second home here”, Bobby continues when the music stops.  During the off season, Bobby goes to basketball and football games. He doesn’t work at them but fans ask him to dance; so, “I do”, he laughs and loves the attention.  He makes extra money mowing grass for the old people. “That one family I have been doin’ for 14 years” he motions to somewhere over the outfield wall and he laughs again.  He tells me he is still waiting on a girlfriend, he really wants one, “I will get one, I am really nice”, he says hopefully.  He bends over and retrieves two “Dancin’ Bob” cards from his Zip Lock baggie and walks over to two women. He gives each his card and walks back smiling – we fist bump.

bobby cardsI go down by Bobby a few times throughout the game. Kids come and go, he gives them his card, but most don’t know what to make of him.  I am told he was in the movie “Sugar” a couple of years ago. That explains the other side of his “Dancin’ Bob” card, which states “Movie Star Bob”.  I ask him about the movie. “Yep, I am a movie star” he says nonchalantly. He smiles that big toothy grin again, I laugh, and he laughs along with me.  At the end of the night, he is showing some young girls, who are under ten years old, some dance moves, they are keeping up. It’s hard not to smile when you are around Bobby. He invites you to be happy for the sake of being happy.   I love your laugh and smile Bobby. Keep doing what you are doing, my life is better by just meeting you!

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Susan Denk has passed away, I send my condolences to her family.

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

Days 176 & 177 “Litch!”

KC Super Fan!
KC Super Fan!

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Springfield, Missouri!  I went to a Kansas City Royals game last night, they beat the Oakland A’s, 3-2 (their 8th win in a row which put them in first place). And, I got to see my buddy, Chris Coats. I profiled him back in May, (“Day 99” if you want to check out his full story), the first time I attended Kauffman Stadium for a game. The architects who designed Kauffman Stadium, built in 1973, were way before their time. I absolutely love this stadium and is actually one of the oldest still in use today. There have been additions made to the outfield in the last few years and now is truly an excellent family entertainment venue.

I have been transcribing my interview with Donnie Hissa this morning. I am an hour into it and I still probably have two hours left!  Along with that piece, I have to transcribe my interview with Mike Hobbs, of the Colorado Sky Sox.  Getting sick didn’t help me at all!  I, also, need to talk about the great time I had in Denver with Kevin Polich, a friend from high school.

Kevin is one of those guys that brings a certain energy into every situation with his presence making wherever you are even better. He is very charismatic, has a quick wit and is one of those guys that embraces life making the most of each situation.  You could be getting arrested and if you were with “Litch”, you would be fist bumping and laughing all the way to the clink!

Kevin and Me!
Kevin and Me!

He lives in Breckenridge, Colorado, and is part of the group who owns the Breckenridge Distillery.  One of his friends from college told me that he is, also, the ‘unofficial’ mayor.  I had a friend from work go to Breckenridge a year ago. I let Kevin know that she and a friend were going to be out there and if he would, let them know the ‘ins and outs’ of the area.  When she came back, she told me that “Litch” was a rock star. Everyone knows him; and, besides that, he showed them a good time and the town.  This is the kind of guy he is. He connects people. I love it when he is in Ashland when I am. The energy and charisma he has comes out and it really seems that the town is happier. I am grateful that I have been able to reconnect with him.

Another thing he did was surprise me with a night at a very nice hotel in downtown Denver. He purchased the tickets for the baseball game and didn’t let me pay for anything. While there, we went to the Denver Burger Battle that was being held and Kevin had VIP passes for the event. So, we got in an hour earlier than everyone else, I ate an equivalent to 3.5 burgers, which I hadn’t ate that much in a very long time. Everywhere we went “Litch” knew people. They all smiled when they saw him. We connected over high school memories and caught up on the gossip of all things Ashland. We are Oredockers! Both of us have this affinity for the town we became of age in and speaking from the heart comes easy when talking with him. I had this same experience with Jason, my friend in Minneapolis, after the All Star game. These experiences have been the bonus of this trip and I am truly humbled and grateful.

I have a minor league AA game tonight, Springfield vs Frisco; and, I need to get my interviews transcribed. I love what I am doing, it is easy to get up in the morning after sleeping in a car and realize how lucky I am to do this with the happiness of each new day.  I might have to referee a fight between my ex-wife and daughter today, but it is worth it. They are on vacation in the Badlands. They are both very strong willed and independent women. One day they will sit back and laugh at their pettiness. Their pictures will tell a different story of the one they may remember. I am happy they are together, even though they are arguing. I feel this just may be a mother and daughter thing.  Thanks for reading!

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Days 174 & 175 “Not feeling so good!”

IMG_33241I had to drive from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Lincoln, Nebraska yesterday which was about an eight hour drive.  I left Colorado Springs right after the Sky Sox vs the Storm Chasers game which ended at midnight, Mountain Time.  I mention the time zone since it was 1 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in Lincoln, thus I was losing an hour. I drove about two and half hours to the Colorado/Nebraska border, slept at the rest area, got up about 9 a.m. CST and took my time getting to Lincoln. I stopped at a Truck Stop, about two hours from Lincoln, got a bag of popcorn, some fruit and two bottles of water.  I ate the popcorn, followed with the fruit and washing it all down with an entire bottle of water.  Why am I saying all this?  Well, about an hour later I started getting a headache. One of those headaches that you would rather just die than have to deal with it!  Ten minutes later my stomach started churning, I started sweating and could not focus.  I pulled into a rest area about 15 miles outside of the city.

I got out of the car and immediately felt like throwing up. I didn’t want to start “yaking” my guts out in front of all the people that happened to be at this particular rest area.  Rest areas are normally not this busy. I was sweating and I really couldn’t see straight. I walked to a picnic area where no one was and just as I was going to commence vomiting a young girl came into the area. I didn’t want to traumatize her, so I turned and headed towards the back of the restrooms. There was a nice wooded area. Well, that didn’t work. A lady with a dog came over and wanted to chat. I was literally bent over and my face was dripping. It felt like my entire body was going to implode.  I looked at her, put my hand up and headed back towards my car. There was a picnic area that was at the end of the lot that was now vacant. I was going to use it as a shield. I made it to the spot and threw up just a little and thought, “You are panicking just for that?” And, oh my head – was still throbbing. I went back to my car to try and take a nap since I had a couple of hours before I had to be to the game. People were everywhere in this rest area. Frustration overwhelmed me since some were chatting and walking their dogs by my car.

As I sat in my car, I had the urge to throw up again; so, I walked quickly to ‘my spot’. I repeated this about ten times over the next hour and half. I was shocked at the amount of “discharge”.  I needed to get to the game. I was still 15 miles away and the game was going to start.  My head was still throbbing, my stomach was queasy, I was dripping in sweat; but, I wasn’t going to let this break my streak!  I got to the game, walked uneasily to the ticket window. I left my “man bag” and glasses in my car.  I purchased a General Admission ticket and the ticket taker looked at me like I had the Ebola virus. I walked unsteadily to the outfield berm area and laid down, even though people looked and stared. I watched one inning, decided to go and check into a hotel. I broke my rule of not paying more than $70 for a room.  I went to a Holiday Inn Express. The lady who was getting me a room was great. She quickly checked me in and made sure that if I needed anything, I would be covered.  I got to the room and fell asleep for about an hour, got up and took a long shower. I felt a little better. I didn’t watch the entire game but I showed up, I have been very good about staying and watching the entirety of all the games; so, I am counting this one!

huskersI want to mention that I was going to write an article on Donnie Hissa, a rookie in the Brewers organization.  He is from Northern Wisconsin where I grew up. We had a great conversation over breakfast in Idaho Falls where Helena was playing. I hope to get to that tomorrow. Even though I’m not feeling up to par, I had a great time in Colorado Springs. Mike Hobson, Assistant General Manager and Director of Public Relations for the Sky Sox, treated me very well.  I have a great story to write up about how baseballs are stored in the higher altitudes. Mike gave me a tour of the stadium, showed me how they prepare baseballs for the games, etc. Hopefully Tuesday I can knock that out!  I slept most of today away, it felt great!  I am currently sitting in the press box on the campus of the University of Nebraska baseball stadium at a Lincoln Saltdogs game. Memorial Stadium, where the football team plays, has a big presence in the background.

Also, I need to say thank you to Jim Stingl, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, along with Steve Matthies, of the Klamath Falls Herald and News for the great articles they wrote about my adventure.  My website and blog are blowing up with all the hits those articles generated. I posted both articles on my Baseball Buddha Facebook Page and Tweeted the links out.

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 172 & 173 “What a Gem!”

fire

Last Saturday I drove to Klamath Falls, Oregon from Oakland, California.  It was beautiful driving through the mountainous regions; however, I ran into what I thought was  a “controlled” burn area near Klamath.  I don’t watch too much of the news and didn’t realize that the state of Oregon was in a state of emergency.  There were forest fires everywhere, I drove through a few areas that were heavy with smoke and burning. The aroma, and/or, oder in the air smelled like a campfire.

fry mascotI was to meet a local reporter, Steve Matties, at 4 p.m. at the Kiger Stadium for an interview.  When I arrived, the stadium was smoky and ash was falling.  We met behind home plate and we were joined by another reporter, Brett Sommers, a Wisconsin native who just returned from his honeymoon.  Go Badgers!  Brett grew up in Stevens Point and has been in Klamath Falls the last couple of years.  Steve is from Minnesota. Brett and I didn’t hold that against him, though, as we spoke.  The play by play announcer came by and said that they might not have the game because of the ash. I panicked a little since that would screw up my game streak. We quickly looked for an alternative and found one in Bend, Oregon.  The official score keeper walked by and Steve stopped him to discuss a play from the night before. He wanted his assistance in making sure that he got it correct.  I was impressed with Steve. He discussed the play like it just happened and told the guy how he would score it. The score keeper told Steve he would make sure that he would score it that way.

babeAs Steve, Brett and I discussed the trip, I was on and all things baseball.  The fog-like smoke started to clear and we were told that the game would be played. I was relieved. I didn’t want to drive to Bend since I was in love with Kiger Stadium. The structure was old and had personality, and well maintained. It has some history. In 1968, the Babe Ruth World Series was hosted there; and, in 1970, Kiger was host the American Legion World Series.  Besides that they had a mascot that was a bag of French Fries!  Let me explain, Klamath Falls’ nickname is the Gems – that should clear it up. I always associate French Fries and Gems!  Klamath Falls is named after a potato the grows well in the Oregon climate and is called a “gem”.  I was confused and thought they were named after a jewel.  Before the game started, Steve introduced me to Jerry Shea, who recited a limerick he wrote that he titled “Rememberings“:.

The 2014 season is coming to a close,

And this little ditty will finish my prose.

It’s been a season of fun,

Watching you play under the lights and under the sun.

And what next season brings-who knows?”

Jerry had an entire book of these limericks!

Jerry and Me!
Jerry and Me!

I was impressed with Jerry. Steve told me that Jerry drove 105 miles to attend the Gems games. And, Jerry confirmed that it was 105 miles from his driveway in California to the stadium parking lot.  I was shocked that he drove such a long way to go to a game. He said, “I was impressed with the caliber of ball and the atmosphere in the stands.”  To say that Jerry has a passion for baseball is an understatement. He played organized softball and baseball in competitive leagues and on tournament teams for over 55 years, playing his last game when he was 67 years old.  I repeated inquisitively that he quit playing at 67 and he laughed heartily when he thought about it.

Jerry’s love for the game was ingrained in him at a young age. His father used to take him to games growing up in Los Angeles during late 1940’s and early 1950’s where he used to attend games at Wrigley Field (Yes. There was another Wrigley Field) at 42nd and Avalon streets was the Angels home field, when the Pacific Coast League only had eight teams.  The league comprised of the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Sacramento Solons, Oakland Acorns, Seattle Rainiers, Portland Beavers, Hollywood Stars and San Francisco Seals.  I could see Jerry’s mind go to that time period. He told me he loves those memories and I could tell his memory was sharp since he was spot-on with the team names for that period of time (I Googled it to check).   He reeled off a bunch of names of players he saw play. Of course, I wasn’t familiar with any of them; but, to him they were special.   He told me it cost $.15 cents for him and $.35 for his father to get in to the games.

Jerry's Car advertising a Gem's game!
Jerry’s Car advertising a Gem’s game!

I inquired about the limericks. He said he has been writing them all his life.  He does one after almost all the games. He explained that he did the AABBA style that rhymes instead of the more commonly known style of 99669 which is syllables.  I let Jerry know, “That was lost on me.” He took the time to explain further.  I think I understand, but not really.  The Gems season was ending and I was wondering what Jerry would do now and he told me that he keeps very busy.  He was in the Philippines when he was 75. He climbed Mount Pinatubo which is 7.5 miles from the base to the peak. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done”, he stated and chuckled,” that was eight years ago.”

Gems Grandstand!
Gems Grandstand!

Jerry says that he has experienced many things that a lot of people will never get a chance to do. He has tried out for Survivor numerous times and is very active in the Survivor chat forums.  He says he has met so many wonderful people through that show and listed a bunch of names he considers friends who are associated with Survivor. He credits all of this to being a reborn-again Christian.  When he was 59, he and his wife had a son. Unfortunately, she passed away when their son was only 18 months old and raised his son as a single parent. Also, he has two daughters that are in their late 40’s.  He said he is very proud of his children.

I asked Jerry what he did for a living. He said, “I have done a whole lot of crap”, while pondering it all with a smile.  “I am a jack of all trades, master of none!”  He laughs that hearty laugh again.  Jerry is active in politics and it is very important to him. He has held many public offices, and he does currently. As we finish talking, he tells me about last summer when he had cataract surgery. He said he stayed with Bonnie Wallace, she hosts some of the players on the team. He stayed with her and the players took him to his appointments.  He is grateful he has found this baseball family and will continue to come as long as he is able. Jerry told me that he will probably live until 114, so he takes care of himself.

I could go on about Jerry. I only scratched the surface. He had so many great stories and he is a generous man with a that is very welcoming!  Thanks for watching the game with me, Jerry. I know you were itching to walk around and talk to everyone. Your patience with me was very much appreciated.  You are truly a “Gem” – but, not of the potato variety!

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

 

Day 168 & 169 “I have no game!”

I woke up quite late today!  Actually it feels really good, I could probably sleep for a week straight.  It feels like I have been driving all day for the last week.  I was in Boise, Idaho, yesterday and Klamath Falls, Oregon, the day before, I watched two great games!  Yesterday, I am happy to report I got two foul balls; however, I gave both of them away.  The first ball was in perfect condition and I really wanted to keep it but I was feeling a little goofy after I chased it down. I was the only one who went after it since it was near me.  I saw some people looking at me and one was a kid with a baseball glove, so I threw it to him which made him really happy.  The adults gave me a thumbs up. I admit I did it to make myself look good, just being honest. I wanted to keep that ball!

The second ball was scuffed up over the league name. I would have kept it, but there was a guy who was with two women, he had a baseball glove on, I always find adult males with gloves on at games kind of peculiar. I understand wanting to get a ball, but I  want to have a little couth  in the process. Wearing a glove, is not a cool look to me. I used a glove once in Houston,  I saw the stares and heard the snickers, the glove has been in the trunk ever since.  Anyway, after I chased the ball down the guy showed me his glove as if wanting me to throw it to him. He was about 20 feet away in the bleachers and he had a look of, “Dude please, I am 28 and have never gotten a ball at a game” look on his face. So, I threw it to him.  He was surprised, the two very attractive women he was with thanked me. One kept smiling at me. I looked behind me to make sure her smile was directed at me before I smiled back.

As the game progressed I kept thinking about her. She looked back at me a couple more times, I smiled.  She had to be 30 years old, tops. So, of course, I did what I always do when I think a younger woman is attracted to me, I figured out if she is closer to my daughters age, or to mine. I then proceed to think about every age related scenario I could imagine if I were to date or marry this woman. How old would I be when our kids graduated high school, so on and so forth.  I always end with how old I would be when she is at my current age.  Yeah, I don’t know what is wrong with me.  When the game ended, I was walking through the parking lot. I saw her getting into a nice SUV, she saw me and smiled again. I smiled back and had an urge to ask her if she wanted to get a cup of coffee; but, thought better of it since I had a four hour drive. Besides, I could never live long term in Boise.

Wow, I am exposing to the world  I have absolutely no “game” whatsoever!  I am sure I will be getting texts from my boys in Florida telling me I am a fool and  to turn in my “man” card. Of course, I will scoff at this notion.  My comeback to them will be I didn’t marry the first girl that looked at me cross eyed, like they did.  My buddy Rob will make a comment about the time he saw I had a Tiffany cassette with the cellophane removed and was played.  Others will finally realize I actually don’t have a secret web page chronicling all my “conquests” and, thus, will quit asking.

Even with the long drives, I am still loving being out on the road and I love meeting all the people I have. I have collected a ton of stories.  I can say I have gained a tremendous amount of confidence in many aspects of things I was unsure about before this trip began. And – I love the attention I have gotten. I am six months into this and I am starting to understand it is a very unique story, since I am the one doing it daily. Even though, I still don’t feel I understand how it is viewed.  The one thing I know for certain is  I will never have any “game”.  Smile at me and I always look behind to see who you are smiling at, that is just me. I have embraced it. What made me laugh the most was the thought I had as I was walking to my car, “I could never live long term in Boise” (I will never be mistaken for Don Draper).

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!

Day 166 & 167 “Nothing to read here!”

Currently, I’m sitting in a billiards hall in Klamath Falls, Oregon. I drove up from Oakland last night and today.  I have an interview at 4 p.m. with the local newspaper.  After the game, I will hit the highway for yet another eight hour drive. I am not looking forward to it, but I am used to it.  I went to an Oakland A’s game last night versus the Kansas City Royals and the Royals won, 1-0.  I was not impressed with the Oakland Coliseum as it felt cold and uninviting. I am sure that has been said many times; however, what I did like was the energy of the fans.  The place was packed with families and a ‘Friday Night Fireworks’ game. What seemed different at this game was even the kids knew what was happening on the field. In my observation, parents everywhere I looked were taking the time to explain things.  Oakland, like the San Jose Giants game the night before, felt the same. It was about the game. My statement may seem funny, but the reality is at most places it is just about the entertainment of everything as a whole.

It will be Game #184 tonight on Day #169. I am a couple days behind in writing my posts. I am not going to write a lot today, or probably even tomorrow, since it is the weekend and people normally don’t pay too much attention to the blog.  Like I said, I have a lot of windshield face time and am able to contemplate many things. Also, I am listening to a book on CD.  I have to admit that I am thinking a lot about the end of the trip. I have been on the road for six months, have seen the entire United States and most regions twice. I have a better understanding of the complexities and attitudes of the different regions.

Since I have been at this a long time, I have my story down and I am very comfortable at giving interviews. Unless, I am rushed and I felt a little rushed last night at the A’s game. So, I am interested at how that turned out.  Anyway enough, have a great day everyone!

 

Day 165 “I love tradition!”

San Jose Municipal Stadium!
San Jose Municipal Stadium!

I am feeling refreshed! I don’t know how long it will last but it felt great to sleep in a bed the last two nights along with taking three long hot showers. I slept in until almost noon both days. I went to a San Jose Giants game last night. They are the Advanced-A Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The game was fun to watch even though they got beat, 5-3, by the Stockton Ports.  What I loved about the experience was overall feel of the stadium.

San Jose Municipal Stadium was built between 1941–1942 as a WPA project at a cost of $80,000. It was one of the first stadiums to be built entirely of reinforced concrete and opened in 1942.  The stadium has remained largely unchanged from its original configuration. However, renovations to the bathroom facilities and clubhouse were done in 1994. Three extra rows of box seating were added in 1996.  In 1999, the dugouts were expanded toward the field.

Press Box!
Press Box!

If you have read my any of my past blogs, you know that I love these WPA stadiums. They are a throw back and I am a nostalgic guy through and through.  I have gone to many of these complexes on the trip, Carson Park in Eau Claire, Grayson Stadium in Savannah, and a few others. The key for places like this is to embrace the tradition and feel of the stadium. Trying to be something you are not turns fans off and just does not work.  I am happy to report that the people running the San Jose Giants have whole heartedly embraced who they are. They have improved the stadium without comprising the history of the place.

When I arrived, I was caught off guard by the amount of people that were attending the game! The reason being is that they have two successful MLB options in San Francisco and Oakland. I am guessing the attendance was about 3,000-plus at the game. The fans were into the game and understood the situational aspects of what was happening on the field. The concessions were very busy as well as the vendors running the stairs. And, the ushers managed the fans with a smile.  Everywhere I went I was acknowledged and encouraged to enjoy the game. I had to hunt down the customer service supervisor, who was manning a booth, to express this joy and she thanked me with a smile.  People seemed happy to be at the game, along with those working.

Yogi quotes...
Yogi quotes…

I wandered around the stadium and looked at the old murals that have been maintained. Someone was documenting them all. There was a great feel to the place as I sensed a lot of history and a connection for the people who attended.  This felt like Americana, same feeling I had in Rapid City, Alexandra, Starkville, Evansville and Lexington.

I pulled the following review from Yelp, by Vanessa D.  “The first thing visiting team fans will notice about Muni – for better or worse – is its age. This stadium is at best, an homage to old-time Minor League ball and at worst, a run-down, hot and crowded old ballpark in need of a facelift.

“I tend to side with the former, as I find SJ Muni to be filled with charm and appreciation for the game’s history. You’ll notice the pennants painted on the concourse walls featuring now-defunct Major and Minor League teams. Ladies: You won’t want to miss the women’s restroom, which is a tribute to the locker room from “A League of Their Own.”

Churros is a way of life here, so you’ll want to flag down the Churro Guy. The team store stocks some good merchandise, and the food selection is the best I’ve seen in the California League.”

7th Inning Stretch and God Bless America!
7th Inning Stretch and God Bless America!

To me, Vanessa is absolutely spot on with her assessment. It is a homage to old-time minor league baseball and I, too, had my very first Churro at the game and loved it!  I hope San Jose continues to expand on their traditional baseball image. This was a great overall experience with that “hokey hometown” feel!  I will definitely want to come back and explore this place again!

Tonight, I will be attending an Oakland A’s game against the Kansas City Royals. I’m supposed to have an interview before the game and when I’m given the link, I will post it. I am excited to see the A’s as they currently hold the best record in the MLB. However, the real reason I want to see them is because of their General Manager Billy Beane. I just completed reading the book Moneyball, which is based on the A’s and specifically Billy.  I admire people that do it their own way; and, Billy has definitely done it his own way.

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 www.baseballbuddha.com. Follow me on Twitter and like my Facebook page! Please share this on your Facebook page and Twitter. I appreciate all the help I can get!