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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!

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Day 156 “Big Sky”

Brian fixing the gas cap?
Brian fixing the gas cap?

I am sitting in Missoula, Montana at a Barnes and Noble.  I will be going to another Pioneer League game tonight with Brian Roberts, who is in Missoula for the summer.  If Brian’s name is familiar to my regular readers of this blog, it is because he lives in Orlando, Florida most of the year and I stayed with him for a night back three months ago.  Brian has a motorcycle shop here, and in Orlando. He also has a love for baseball and is the doting father for his nine year old, Hana. In addition, he is from my hometown of Ashland!

I was in Helena yesterday for a Brewers game and got to talk with Donnie Hissa who is a pitcher for Helena, is a recent graduate of Notre Dame and he was drafted by Milwaukee. Donnie grew up in Iron River, Wisconsin which is 30 miles west of Ashland. I have been paying attention to his career the last couple of years since Jerry, my brother-in-law, pointed him out.  Last year he played for the Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League and Eric, my nephew, and Johnny Seechon went to see him play.  Donnie stands 6’7″ and he told me that his fastball is where it was when he was a sophomore in college and he is feeling good.

Helena got beat 11-7 by Grand Junction.  Grand Junction, Colorado, which is also the home of the Colorado Mesa University and “The Pit”.  If you haven’t read that story please take the time, “Day 58”, it was one of my favorite experiences.  When I was trying to find out how I could talk with Donnie, from the General Manager of the team, an intern came over to me and said that a couple of people would like to meet me. I had been featured in the local newspaper a few days before and they wanted to donate some money to me since I was sleeping in my car.

Donnie Hissa from Iron River!
Donnie Hissa from Iron River!

The intern introduced me to Kevin Horner, an usher, who told me that a couple other baseball travelers were in Helena within the last week.  Kevin told me that a guy from Evansville, Indiana was doing the same thing I was doing and had over 20,000 miles on his car!  I will be honest, I initially was skeptical and didn’t want it to be true. All of the sudden I felt threatened because I wanted this to be my thing; besides, I had over 30,000 on my car.  After I processed what he was telling me, I had to laugh at my own thought process. It was my ego getting the best of me.  Kevin gave me the guy’s name and email. Also, he told me of another guy that was recently in Helena and had been to baseball games all over the world, I got his information, too. I am now excited to talk to these guys.

I was introduced to Monique and Kevin Damuth who were at the game with Helen. I assumed that she was the mother of one of them, I should have asked. Anyway, they said they enjoyed the story written about me in the paper. I explained more of what I was doing, they didn’t realize I wrote a blog post about the experience everyday.  I was humbled, yet again, when they gave some money. Why it surprises me, I will never know. The goodness of strangers is such a wonderful thing and it happens everyday. However, when it happens to me I am blown away each and every time.  The TV reporter came back and she got some shots of me talking to the Damuth’s.

helenastadium

I loved Helena’s stadium, it was old but well maintained. The ushers and interns were cordial and there was a lot going on for all the kids. The site lines were incredible with the mountains in the background. Foul balls were plentiful and I had a desire to chase a few down since I wanted one for my collection. I did talk to a few kids and said I would give them a couple of bucks if they got me one. A few tried passing some batting practice balls off on me but I wasn’t going along with their idea. I chuckled when young boy came up with a ball that was signed by all the players. He said, “It’s a Pioneer Ball and the ink will probably wash off.”  An usher got me a game ball and I was very thankful. I was offered to give him a few dollars but he refused. Right after I was given the ball, a young girl walked over with a perfect game ball and she smiled. I almost bought it since she was so cute when she approached me. I showed her that I had already had one. She looked at me a bit perturbed and said, “Well, mine is cleaner.” And, she walked away, kinda of mad at me.

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Day 73 “The Drive”

Yesterday, I went to the Greenville Drive versus the Lexington Legends game.  I decided to “keep book” since I was extremely tired.  I was up late with the Clemson fans, I slept in my car on the campus, my car alarm went off at 3:33 in the morning. I sprang up and hit my head on the ceiling, then struggled to fall back asleep which finally came at about 5 a.m.  When I final came to, it was about 9:30, I got up and said good bye to all the wonderful people I met the night before. They were up making breakfast (bacon and pancakes). I was still full from the 12:30 a.m. tacos. I was given a couple of “Cheap Sheets” t-shirts (I will wear them proudly, wearing one currently).  I drove around the campus and took some pictures of the football field. I wanted to see where they run down the hill, “called the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” Running down “The Hill” began out of practicality: “The football team dressed at Fike Field House, ran from there to the gate and down the grassy hill onto the field at the start of each game.”  This is also where Howards’ Rock is located. The players rub it before heading down the hill.

fluorI went to a Starbucks in Greenville and spent 4 hours writing up the story on the “Cheap Seats”. The time I spent at Clemson was such a fun story I wanted to make sure I did a decent job with it.  I am not making excuses but it is tough to do semi-decent writing every day. I usually publish my first draft, edited daily by Beth Chapman with a touch here and there making it flow a little better. She does this everyday, you don’t know how much I appreciate this. She makes me look like a good writer! So when I finally finished, I didn’t have much time before the game started. I rushed over to Fluor Field and was quite surprised at how awesome the stadium was. This is the home of Boston’s Single-A team. I don’t expect a lot from Single-A stadiums (Bakersfield is what I think of). But, this was one of the best at this level (so much better than the Triple-A Huntsville site). The Stadium had an old look but, in fact, was relatively new.  It was constructed of brick that looked like it was recycled, with condos and restaurants located behind the outfield that matched the exterior of the stadium. There was a mini green monster, the playing surface was in the same category as the Clemson turf (Clemson’s was still better).  There was a lot of kids and teenagers at this game.  I chose to sit in the left field grassy area in front of the kids play area (which was entirely fenced in, top also, good move since the little ones wouldn’t be paying attention to foul balls).

I tried tuning in the radio station that broadcast the games but to no avail. I decided to listen to music and “keep book”, it was actually quite enjoyable until a football game broke out!  Greenville won the game 21-6, three times they batted around and almost a 4th time. It was hard to keep up!  I was wishing I had Eggo with me to ask him some questions. My scorecard had all kinds of notes and scribbles by the end of the game. Sitting in the outfield watching all the kids dressed in their baseball attire, trying to persuade the players to throw a ball their way – was a lot of fun, also. I was wishing Larry, another friend and a photographer was there. He would have gotten some great shots of the kids reaching for the balls that were thrown their way. I loved seeing the hundreds of arms going into the air. How all of them would swarm after a foul ball. To me that is one of the best things about these games, the interaction with the fans and players.

My blog has been gaining in popularity lately and fun for me to see the “following”. I am grateful to everyone that have been reading and to everyone that has just begun to read my blogs. I am having a great time on the road.  I need to say that college baseball have had some of the most interesting fans. Colorado Mesa’s “The Pit” has been big supporters of mine they really have spread the word! Clemson fans really jumped on “the bus” the last couple of days, Texas the college and Texas the state were huge supporters before my interview there. “The Roost” at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg has jumped on and have been vocal.  Of course all my friends in the Milwaukee area, but a huge “shout out” needs to go to my hometown of Ashland, Wisconsin!  They have been unbelievable with their support, I love that place. I am so happy to be an Oredocker!  I am heading to a high school game tonight in Columbia, South Carolina, then heading over to Charleston tomorrow.  I try to plan out the trip 7-10 days in advance. My “map”, click here. to see the games. I will continue to search out great stories while I’m learning a lot about baseball, people that follow baseball, and how much people are more alike than they are different.

NOTE:  I updated by biography since I hadn’t really touched it in three months. Click here if you would like to check it out: “biography“. That will get you where you want to “look”.  If you have read it before, just scroll down and look for the update from this past week.

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!

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Day 198, 199 and 200 “What I remember…”

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I am happy to report that I accomplished one of the goals I had when I began this journey.  I wanted to get to a game in each of the continental 48 States. I complied a list of the first game I saw in each state and what I remember about the experience.

Alabama-AL Game 73, played April 21 in Birmingham. A Double-A MiLB game between the Tennessee Lookouts and Birmingham Barons. The Lookouts beat the Barons, 10-5. It was a day game and I got a home run ball!

Arizona-AZ Game 45, played March 25 in Phoenix.  A Cactus League Spring Training game between the San Francisco Giants and the Milwaukee Brewers.  I met my buddy Jared and his family at the game.  The Giants beat the Brewers, 4-3.  The Brewers are my hometown team and of course my favorite.

Arkansas-AR Game 94, played May 12 in Little Rock. A Double-A MiLB game between the NW Arkansas Naturals and the Arkansas Travelers. The Naturals beat the Travelers in extra innings, 6-5.  The game finished about midnight and I had to drive about three hours and it started storming as I was running to my car.

California-CA Game 50, played March 30 in San Diego.  This was Opening Night of the MLB season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately the Padres beat the Dodgers, 3-1.  (I am a Dodgers fan…)  This was also my very first opening day anywhere.

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Colorado-CO Game 63, played April 12 in Grand Junction. A NCAA D2 college game between Metro State (Denver) and Colorado Mesa. Colorado Mesa won, 10-3. This was the first game of a doubleheader and I met “The Pit”, one of my top experiences.

Connecticut-CT Game 210, played August 25 in Norwich. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Lowell Spinners and the Connecticut Tigers.  The Spinners beat the Tigers, 7-3.

Delaware-DE Game 211, played August 26 in Wilmington. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Potomac Nationals and the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  The Nationals beat the Blue Rocks, 3-1.

Florida-FL Game 1, played February 14 in Port Charlotte. A NCAA D1 college game between the University of Auburn and Indiana State. Auburn prevailed 4-0.  This game was the official start of the Baseball in America Tour 2014. It was also Valentines Day!

Georgia-GA Game 75, played April 23 in Suwanee. A high school game between Johns Creek HS and Lambert HS. Lambert prevailed, 9-3, and at the time they were the top ranked high school team in the nation. I was walking around acting like a scout and I remember being impressed with Johns Creek catcher.

Idaho-ID Game 185, played August 3 in Boise. A Short Season Single-A MiLB game between the Vancouver Canadians and the Boise Hawks.  The Hawks beat the Canadians, 3-2. This was a Sunday afternoon game where I got two foul balls.

Illinois-IL Game 132, played June 15 in Chicago. This was a MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago White Sox. The Royals beat the White Sox, 6-3.  It was a Sunday afternoon game, I was tired from the day and night before in Milwaukee.

Indiana-IN Game 101, played May 19 in Evansville. A high school game between North HS and Mater Dei HS both of Evansville, a rivalry game.  Mater Dei beat North, 7-3.  This game was played at Bosse Field, one of my top stadium choices.

Iowa-IA Game 141, played June 23 in Des Moines. A MiLB game between the Albuquerque Isotopes and the Iowa Cubs.  The Cubs beat the Isotopes, 4-3.  I was tired and it was a day game. There was lots of kids in the stands from the local day care facilities.

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Kansas-KS Game 98, played May 16 in Manhattan. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Texas and Kansas State. Texas destroyed K-State, 12-0.  It was a no hitter, raining and I found a practice ball under the bleachers.

Kentucky-KY Game 102, played May 20 in Lexington. A MiLB Single-A game between the Hagerstown Suns and the Lexington Legends. The Suns soundly defeated the Legends, 11-3.  I was reading a book before the game near the bullpen and almost got hit by a warm up pitch that was overflown. The pitcher allowed me to keep the ball.

Louisiana-LA Game 42, played March 23 in Baton Rouge.  It was a college game between the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University.  LSU won, 2-1. I slept in Tiger Stadium parking lot and was amazed at the turn out for a college baseball game.

Maine-ME Game 154, played July 5 in Portland. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Portland Sea Dogs.  The Sea Dogs shutout the Rock Cats, 4-0.  I changed my schedule for this one on the spur of the moment so I could I could get Maine checked off the list. It was the first game of a doubleheader.

Maryland-MD Game 219, played September 3 in Baltimore. A MLB game between Cincinnati Reds and the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles won, 6-0.  This completed the goal of getting to a game in all of the continental 48 states during the Baseball in America Tour 2014.

peter gammons
Peter Gammons

Massachusetts-MA Game 152, played July 3 in Hyannis.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. The Red Sox beat the Harbor Hawks, 8-2.  I was very excited to be at this game; however, traffic was a nightmare! Loved the atmosphere of the game and it is one of my top experiences.

Michigan-MI Game 133, played June 16 in Detroit. A MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers. The Royals beat the Tigers, 11-8. I remember sitting in the last row behind home plate on a beautiful night for baseball. I had a great view of the city.

Minnesota-MN Game 117, played June 2 in Mankato.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Wilmar Stingers and the Mankato Moon Dogs.  The Moon Dogs won handily over the Stingers, 10-2. The night was cloudy and I enjoyed a fish fry at local bar even though it was Monday. And, a plus of the day, the waitress was very attractive.

Mississippi-MS Game 72, played April 20 in Hattiesburg. A NCAA D1 game between Louisiana Tech and the Southern Miss University. I was treated like a “Rock Star”, I was interviewed on the local TV station and I got to meet Hall of fame punter Ray Guy. I had a great time in “The Roost” on Easter Sunday.

Missouri-MO Game 99, played May 17 in Kansas City. A MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. The Royals won in a great pitchers dual, 1-0.  The pitcher for KC was perfect through 6 2/3 innings and I also got to meet the KC Super Fan.

Montana-MT Game 170, played July 20 in Billings. This was an American Legion game between Medicine Hat (Canada) and the Billings Scarlets.  Billings hung on to win the game, 9-7.  It was the first game of a double header and I was interviewed by the local newspaper.

Nebraska-NE Game 136, played June 19 in Omaha. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Texas Christian University (TCU).  Ole Miss won over TCU, 6-4.  This was at the College World Series. I changed my schedule to come early to the CWS and I had a Press Pass for the next day.

Nevada-NV Game 56, played April 5 in Las Vegas. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Las Vegas 51’s.  The Grizzlies scored 7 runs, with two outs on the board, in the top of the ninth to win, 8-6. This was Opening Night for MiLB. The Wisconsin Badgers got beat by the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

press box row
Press Box at CWS

New Hampshire-NH Game 212, played August 27 in Manchester. A MiLB Single-A game between Harrisburg Senators and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The Senators beat the Fisher Cats, 9-6.  I was interviewed during the fifth inning by the Fisher Cats play by play announcer.

New Jersey-NJ Game 205, played August 22 in Lakewood. A MiLB Single-A game between the Delmarva Shorebirds and the Lakewood Blue Claws. The Blue Claws had a shutout over the Shorebirds, 4-0. This day got switched around. I was suppose to go to Montclair, but changed it to Trenton since it was closer. When I arrived, I realized they were out of town, luckily Lakewood was close by and playing at home.

New Mexico-NM Game 66, played April 14 in Albuquerque. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Rainiers were triumphant, 8-6, over the Isotopes.  I remember having my first funnel cake made by the great ladies on the third base side, along with being impressed with the guy making Banana Foster behind home plate.

New York-NY Game 151, played July 2 in Utica. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Elmira Pioneers and the Utica Brewers. The Pioneers defeated the Brewers, 4-0, in a rain shortened affair. I was interviewed by the local news.

North Carolina-NC Game 106, played May 23 in Charlotte. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Charlotte Knights. The Indians hammered the Knights, 15-6.  The stadium was new and beautiful. I was also interviewed by the local news.

North Dakota-ND Game 122, played June 7 in Fargo. This was an Independent Professional league game in the American Association between the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Fargo Morehead RedHawks. The RedHawks outlasted the Goldeyes, 4-2.  I was surprised at the size of the crowd for the game and there were lines of fans because it was “Jersey” night.

Adam and Anthony
Adam and Anthony

Ohio-OH Game 108, played May 25 in Cincinnati. A MLB game between the St Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.  The Cardinals defeated the Reds, 4-0, behind a great pitching performance by Adam Wainwright. Charlie Sheen was at the game and I was interviewed by ESPN in front of the stadium.

Oklahoma-OK Game 95, played May 23 in Oklahoma City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Colorado Sky Sox and the Oklahoma City RedHawks. The RedHawks beat the Sky Sox, 1-0. It was a day game and I was interviewed by the play by play announcer for his pregame show. The stadium was packed with school children.

Oregon-OR Game 179, played July 28 in Salem. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Eugene Gems and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. The Volcanoes defeated the Gems, 5-3.  I sat on a picnic table near the bullpen on the third base side. I was impressed with the amount of merchandise in the team store.

Pennsylvania-PA Game 149, played June 30 in Erie. A MiLB Double-A game between the Akron Rubber Ducks and the Erie Sea Wolves. The Rubber Ducks destroyed the Sea Wolves, 9-1. I sat in the Press Box, “Geeked the Game” and parked directly across the street.

Rhode Island-RI Game 214, played August 29 in Pawtucket. A MiLB Triple A game between the Syracuse Chiefs and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Red Sox beat the Chiefs in a close game, 2-1.  I gave blood before the game.

South Carolina-SC Game 78, played April 26 in Clemson. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Miami and Clemson University. Miami beat Clemson, 3-2.  I sat in the Cheap Seats and camped out on campus with a great group of people.  We had late night tacos. One of my top experiences.

South Dakota-SD Game 167, played July 17 in Sioux Falls. This was a Independent Professional league in the American Association between the Laredo Lemurs and the Sioux Falls Explorers. The Lemurs squeaked out the win over the Explorers, 1-0. I was interviewed by a local tv station and by the play by play announcer.

Tennessee-TN Game 76, played April 24 in Chattanooga. A MiLB Double-A league game between the Birmingham Barons and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Lookouts outlasted the Barons, 5-4. The stadium was on top of a hill, with an outside escalator and there was pollen on everything!

Texas-TX Game 43, played March 23 in College Station. A NCAA D1 game between the University of Florida and Texas A&M. Texas A&M wins over Florida, 4-3. It was a chilly windy Sunday afternoon game and the students kept yelling something when the Florida catcher patted the pitchers ass. (“You need a cigarette?”)

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Utah-UT Game 61, played April 10 in Salt Lake City. A MiLB Triple-A game between the Fresno Grizzlies and the Salt Lake Bees. The Grizzlies hammered the Bees, 11-4.  I remember that an outfielder slide head first into the wall and the ambulance had to come on the field.  Also, the walk back to the motel was a bit unnerving with meth heads and house everywhere.

Vermont-VT Game 217, played September 1 in Burlington. A MiLB Short Season Single-A game between the Tri City Valley Cats and the Vermont Lake Monsters. The Valley Cats beat the Lake Monsters, 3-2. I loved the old stadium and the downtown area.

Virginia-VA Game 203, played August 20 in Richmond. A MiLB Double-A game between the New Britain Rock Cats and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. It wasn’t much of a game the Rock Cats won, 7-0.  The stadium was built in the early 80’s. I sat in the Press Box and was treated exceptional well by Richmond.

Washington-WA   Game 174, played July 23rd in Yakima.  This was a college summer wooden bat league game between the Bellingham Bells and Yakima Valley Pippins.  The Bells held on to defeat the Pippins 5-4.   I was interviewed by the play by play announcer.

West Virginia-WV Game 204, played August 21 in Princeton. A MiLB Rookie league game between the Greenville Astros and the Princeton Jays. The Jays held to get the shutout over the Astros, 1-0. This game started late because of rain and I was worried that it won’t be played. This was the only day I was scheduled in West Virginia. I helped take the tarp off the field.

Greg Brock
Meeting Greg Brock

Wisconsin-WI Game 110, played May 27 in Milwaukee. This was a MLB game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers beat the Orioles, 7-6.  It was the first time I was home during the trip, I went to the game by myself.

Wyoming-WY Game 169, played July 19 in Casper. This was a college summer wooden bat league game between Sterling and the Casper Cutthroats. The Cutthroats pulled out the win in extra innings, 6-5.  I was interviewed by the local TV station and watched a lot of the game with the owner of the Cutthroats.

That is my ‘collection synopsis’ of memories at each game I attended, what I saw or did, in each of our 48 States. It took me ten hours to compile this; so, if you read all the way down to here – I “thank you!”

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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!

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Day 84 “Asked & Answered!”

April28th 1075I was in New Orleans last night and watched the Zephyrs crush the Iowa Cubs, 9-1.  There are times I am finding that I have become very obsessed with the game that I want to concentrate on certain things.  I purchased a stop watch yesterday and I was timing the pitchers from the moment they step on the pitching rubber to the moment they released the ball, about 9 seconds for both when they didn’t have a base runner. Timing was all over the board when there was someone on base. I did this ‘timed set-up with release’ for two innings. I know it is weird and it serves no purpose but I was enjoying it. I also was referring back to the book “Watching Baseball Smarter” on different things.  Needless to say, I was self absorbed and didn’t really talk to anyone, so I thought I would put together a list of frequently asked questions.

I get asked a lot of questions, since I am picking up a lot more followers lately. I am going to create a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page on my website, but I figure I will utilize the blog to let everyone know about it!

  1. Are you independently wealthy, how can you afford to do this?  I am not independently wealthy. If that was the case I won’t be sleeping in my car as often as I do.  I am able to afford to do this trip since I don’t have a home or a rent payment, I packed all my stuff up and it is being stored at my sister Meg’s house and my ex-wife Jane’s storage locker.  In addition, I received large donations from Bruno Independent Living Aids, my brother Chad’s family and many small donations on my website.
  2. If you don’t have a house, where is your mail sent?  My ex-wife has been gracious enough to let me have my mail forwarded to her home.
  3. You AREN’T married are you?  I am not married nor am I dating at the moment. I like how it is assumed that I am not, that one always makes me laugh.
  4. Why are you doing this? This is a complex question and I don’t always know where to begin with my answer.  I suppose the main reason is that “life is short” and I am not getting any younger. I am blown away at how fast life has flown by since I graduated from high school. I think I’m like most wanting to make a mark in life, but I never really knew in what ‘occupation’, or how to accomplish my mark.  A lot of people just know and they go about living their plan. I was lost for a very long time. I am very much a “daydreamer”, but I let my fears and other peoples societal constraints dictate to me.  I wanted to fit in for a very long time, but I was always attracted to people that lived on the fringe.  When my Dad had his triple by pass it affected me. I didn’t like seeing my Dad that vulnerable. The thought of losing him never occurred to me because he always seemed young to me. I knew that one day, possibly I would possibly be ‘in his shoes’. Spending time together and our conversations about life, I knew it was time to start doing things that I “needed” to do.  That is the short answer. However, there is more depth to my reason(s).
  5. Are you a writer or journalist?  I am neither, but I do like to write. I thought it was painfully obvious, since my grammar is bad and I use to many commas. I have been told I have a very unique writing style, I know my sister Debbie really likes how I write.  My Mom said I was very good writer years ago.  I have always wanted to write a book (I think a lot of people do).  However, when I read what I write, I don’t like it most of the time or I don’t think it makes sense. I have learned that I will always be my own worst critic and I will never be perfect.  Writing is a process, I am trying to enjoy it as I go along. Some of my stuff will work and some won’t, it is what it is.  I have to say that I am blown away that people are actually reading what I have written.  I have to thank Beth Chapman for editing my posts, I usually post my first draft and she will go in later and clean them up a bit!
  6. What has been your favorite experience so far?  I have had so many great experiences, I can’t lump them together however.  My favorite story so far has been Day 43 “Who replaced Steve Garvey?”.  The most fascinating person I have met has been Day 76 “Mr. Willie”.  The most entertaining experiences have all been at college games with my boys at Colorado Mesa Day 58 “The Pit”, at Southern Miss Day 66 “The Roost” and Clemson Day 72 “The Cheap Seats”.  I have enjoyed speaking to everyone that I have met along the way.  I think in the beginning I was learning and getting comfortable.  I will probably classify the stories when this is over. (check back these may change, I am only a third of the way through)
  7. What kind of car do you drive?  2004 Lexus ES330.  How many miles are on it?  Currently 185,000. How many miles have you put on the car this trip?  17,000 (as of May 9th).
  8. Do you have any kids?  I have one beautiful daughter Sami.  She is finishing up her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I couldn’t be more proud of her. She wrote a very touching paper about me and this trip. I shared it before the trip started, click “My Daughters Speech”, for a fantastic write-up.
  9. What do you plan on doing when you get done? I have not given it much thought. Obviously I would love to continue with something in baseball, but will be just fine if that is not in the cards. I truly have no expectations about this trip or how it will affect my life after.
  10. Can I come with you?  I don’t have very much space in my car and besides I don’t think your husband will be to happy about it.
  11. Do you get sick of baseball?  No, I am getting more obsessed with it.  Currently reading: “The Knucklebook” by Dave Clark, “Watching Baseball Smarter” by Zack Hample, “The Physics of Pitching”, and Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook.  I have been reading some historical stuff also, learning to keep the scorebook properly, and tuning into to the radio broadcasts.
  12. Do you get scared sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots? In the beginning it was a little nerve racking but like anything you get comfortable.  I have met some very interesting people, so I am grateful for those experiences.
  13. Do you get lonely?  Yes, it can get lonely, especially when I am driving late at night and I wish I had someone to talk too!  I do get texts from a fair number of friends and family so that helps.  But during the day I am actually quite busy.
  14. Are you a Buddhist?  No, however I did go to India where I attended a 10 day Introduction to Buddhism retreat.  Even though I like a lot of things about it, I use what I feel benefits me and leave the rest. I believe we can learn great things from all cultures.

A question that has never been asked…

  1. What is your favorite music to listen to on this trip?  70’s music! There are some songs that get to me and I will sing along. Think Tommy Boy when they are singing “Superstar” by the Carpenters, that is totally me when  “Everything I Own” by Bread comes on.  I love the soft pop songs of the 70’s the most, I am no longer ashamed of it!  Oh!! If Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive” comes on you can bet I am all over it!  (I no longer like Tiffany, Rob Dwyer.)

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!

 

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Day 183 “Things that interest me…”

My view from the Press Box!
My view from the Press Box!

I am sitting in the Press Box at “The Diamond” in Richmond, Virginia.  I am watching the Richmond Flying Squirrels play the New Britain Rock Cats.  This is a Minor League Double-A game of the Eastern League.  Richmond is affiliated with the San Francisco Giants, New Britain is affiliated with the Minnesota Twins.

There are currently three leagues at the Double-A level of baseball.  The Eastern League, Southern League and the Texas League. The majority of teams put their top talent here. If you were like me, you would think that the Triple-A level would get the top talent but the thought process is the top prospects are assigned here to play against each other, rather than veterans of the minor and major league that are usually at Triple-A.  Triple-A is a tough league because there are many guys with Big League experience and others who have just been in the game for a long time. Triple-A usually has more up and down moves to the Major Leagues, meaning it has a lot of “filler” type players for the MLB rosters rather than pure everyday talent.

Double-A baseball players are the most talented, which equates to, also, being the most consistently compared to the players at the lower levels. This is a big deal because you can be a great baseball player; but, if you can never find a groove and be consistent, then you will never make it out of Rookie, or A-ball. Double-A is also a step below the Major Leagues in the sense that most up and coming players will get called up from Double-A. These tend to be more impact players. A lot of foreign professionals start at Double-A since it is expected that they will be at the MLB level before the end of the season. Their salaries are higher than most of the other prospects.  So, if you want to know who are going to be the everyday players for your favorite MLB team in about three years, take a look at their current starting lineup of their Double-A team. Chances are you will see two or three that are good bets!

The above information gave you an overview of some of the thought process that goes into what players get assigned to the Double-A level. I find this stuff interesting and have often wondered what minor league players get paid.  The only time in my life that I really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up was when I was a kid. I dreamed of one day being a professional baseball player.  That dream died in high school when my extreme lack of baseball talent was exposed.  I was probably lucky that the dreamed died then since when you examine the below information you realize that most receive poverty level, or below, pay.

Here is a chart on what players make per level:

Level 1st Year 2nd Year 3rd Year
Rookie $1150 $1200 $1250
Short Season A $1150 $1200 $1250
Low A $1300 $1350 $1400
High A $1500 $1550 $1600
Double A $1700 $1800 $1900
Triple A $2150 $2400 $2700

The incentives include:  $500 bonus after 60 days in Double-A time, $1000 bonus after 60 days Triple-A time, $5000 bonus after 60 days Big League time.  All minor league players receive $20 meal money per day that the team is away from home. Not including the off season.

Minor League Baseball Players do not get paid during Spring Training. They only receive $20 for every meal the team doesn’t provide. Some teams provide all meals which means the players get paid nothing, while some teams don’t provide dinner.

Therefore those players would get $140 a week for meal money. There aren’t many other things to consider when determining how much money Minor League Baseball Players make / get paid besides the signing bonus. But that is just a one time payment and varies very much depending on where a player was drafted.

“Most earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season. As a point of comparison, fast food workers typically earn between $15,000 and $18,000 a year, or about two or three times what minor league players make. Some minor leaguers, particularly those with families, hold other jobs during the offseason and occasionally during the season. While the minimum salary in Major League Baseball is $500,000, many minor league players earn less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four….” (http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/03/minor-leaguers-working-poor-lawsuit-mlb-bud-selig)

If you wanted to know what teams were in the different Double A leagues:

The following are the teams in the Eastern League, the MLB team they are affiliated with  are in brackets: Akron RubberDucks (CLE), Altoona Curve (PIT), Binghampton Mets (NYM), Bowie BaySox (BAL), Erie Seawolves (DET), Harrisburg Senators (WAS), New Britain Rock Cats (MIN), New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR), Portland Sea Dogs (BOS), Reading Fightin Phils (PHI), Trenton Thunder (NYY), Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF).

The following are the teams in the Southern League, the MLB team they are affiliated with  are in brackets: Tennessee Smokies (CHC), Birmingham Barons (CWS), Chattanooga Lookouts (LAD), Huntsville Stars (MIL), Jackson Generals (SEA), Mobile BayBears (ARI), Jacksonville Suns (MIA), Mississippi Braves (ATL), Montgomery Biscuits (TB), Pensacola Blue Wahoos (CIN).

The following are the teams in the Texas League, the MLB team they are affiliated with  are in brackets: Arkansas Travelers (LAA), NW Arkansas Naturals (KC), Springfield Cardinals (STL), Tulsa Drillers (COL), Frisco Rough Riders (TEX), Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU), San Antonio Missions (SD), Midland Rock Hounds (OAK).

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!

 

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Day 2 “Jim Laurent”

Jim Laurent
Jim Laurent

I met Jim Laurent on the 3rd base side of the Charlotte Sports Complex, he immediately told me that it was Woody Hayes 101st birthday, I immediately thought Woody Hayes is still alive?  I, of course,  didn’t ask Jim if Woody was still alive since I wanted to come across as being knowledgeable to Ohio State sports history besides I would have thought Woody would have died of a heart attack since he was such an intense coach.  Another reason I probably didn’t question Jim was because he was talking to me in this goofy dog outfit that he had borrowed from the Country Hound Café in Englewood, Florida.  Jim and the large group of Ohio State fans were at the game to cheer on their beloved Buckeyes, I was impressed with the turnout for the first baseball game of the season at the Snowbird Baseball Classic put on and organized by Steve Partington and his wife Shannon, who I hope to talk with at a later time and who are also Ohio State fans.

To the people reading and don’t know who Woody Hayes is he coached the Ohio State football program for 28 seasons and won 5 national championships, but despite these great achievements he was fired after the 1978 Gator Bowl for punching an opposing player during the game!  To read more about Woody just click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woody_Hayes.  I had to actually look up to see if Woody had died, he did on March 12, 1987.

Jim is the ideal type of “character” that I thought would be a fun to profile, he is 78 years old has been retired from the Air Force for the last 24 years.  Jim grew up in Mt Vernon, Ohio where his dad would drag him to all the Ohio State sporting events so he says it just automatically gets in your blood.  He has been a friend of the Ohio State Alumni Association for years, he quickly points out he never attended Ohio State, he enlisted in the Air Force instead, where he worked during the Cold War in Germany, on a “Top Secret” project involving electromagnetic monitoring, he really didn’t have any idea what it was that he was doing since it was a “secret” until 20 years later; they were monitoring the Soviet Union, Jim likes to joke, “In God we trust; all others we monitor”.  He met his wife Gisela while stationed in Germany and they have been married for the past 53 years.

The Dog Outfit
The Dog Outfit

Jim eventually took off the goofy dog outfit and put on his Ohio State hard hat, necklace of Buckeyes, and Ohio State pit crew jacket which is autographed by 2 time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.  Archie saw that Jim was wearing this very stylish pit crew jacket, like the ones worn in NASCAR, at a sporting event and wanted one but Jim told him that only 80 were made and he had the last one which he got at a discount because it was too small for him at the time, he had to lose about 12 pounds before it fit comfortably.  Archie autographed it instead and Jim displays the jacket and autograph proudly. More information on Archie Griffin, click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archie_Griffin.

As Jim and I were speaking he  would shout from time to time, “O.H.” and the rest of the Ohio State fans would yell, “I.O” this obviously spells Ohio, it took me a few times to understand what they were yelling and I could tell that the players seemed to enjoy hearing this battle cry.  At one point an Ohio State player hit a grand slam and Jim jumped up and had this toilet bowl brush that was in Ohio State colors and decked out in Buckeyes he started pointing this toilet bowl brush and shouting “Grand Slam”  and the rest of the crowd started yelling it with him.  I was laughing pretty hard at this and I have to say that I felt like I hit a gold mine with Jim as far as putting the fanatic in the “fan”.  He explained to me that he uses his toilet bowl brush in football for first downs, basketball for 3 pointers, and in baseball for base hits.  It goes something like this for a football first down, “that is another Ohio State first down” and he points the brush in the direction of the first down.  I scan to see what his wife Gisela is doing as I am talking with Jim and when he riles up the crowd, she seems like the perfect wife and to me she enjoys her husbands antics.

Jim is a huge soccer fan and is his favorite sport he has been to 4 World Cups, he said that he is friends with a couple of the “kids” on the team, I highlight “kids” because Jim said it and what I like about Jim is that he has a lot of “kid” in him even though he is 78, I truly believe that age is relative to how you feel and your outlook on life.  As President of the Rotonda West Association Buckeye Club or RWA, which has over 200 members, Jim gets people involved with Ohio State sports when a team is in South Florida, he says you can be a member or friend of the club if you have ever driven through Ohio, so I actually qualify, but will refrain since I am a Wisconsin Badger through and through.  RWA organized lunch for the Buckeye baseball team in between games the day after I met Jim, he and his friends also made sure that I ate which was very much appreciated since I am on a limited budget, he even got some of the baseball players to pose with him in the OHIO pose, similar to the YMCA pose, I posted pictures.

Ohio State beat UConn in their first game of the season, the Ohio State fans were very gracious to me.  Jim please don’t ever fully grow up, you make sporting events fun!  I will check to see if you have a Buckeye in your pocket next time I see you since you said that you always have one with you, unless you are naked.  I have to admit that I really didn’t know what a “Buckeye”  was for years and just recently looked it up, it is a tree, I always thought it was the nickname for a Wolverine…  Just kidding Ohio State fans, it was a pleasure meeting all of you.

If you enjoy this story and you want 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 http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html.  Please also share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

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Day 52 “Walmart Story!”

Well I am up and at a coffee shop in Santa Cruz (love this place, must be my liberal leanings). Seems that this chest and head cold has gotten worse, my throat is getting sore!  Anyway, I thought I slept pretty good. I got a call from my mom to check in on me, that is always comforting, even at my age!  Thanks Mom!  I have been busy the last couple of days. I went to my first minor league AAA game between the Las Vegas 51s against the Fresno Grizzlies on Saturday night. The game was very exciting, but I have to admit that I was distracted for most of it since the Wisconsin Badgers were playing and I kept checking my phone. I wasn’t the only one, there were quite of few of us giving each other thumbs up as the game was going on. My heart sank when I heard a “you got to be kidding”, I turned and a guy three rows behind gave me a thumbs down and said, “Kentucky nailed a 3-pointer”. Well, once that distraction was out of the way, I focused on the game at hand. Las Vegas was up 6-1 going into the top of the 9th inning.  Fresno scored 7 times with two outs and went on to win the game 8-6. Click here for the complete story.

I drove all over Vegas to find a place to stay for the night. I just didn’t feel comfortable in that town, there is something that made me hurt. A friend told me that they under report how hot it is by 10 degrees and rarely report the suicide rate. Maybe it is that, or my morality is challenged. I saw so many homeless and what seemed like a lot of spiritually bankrupt individuals. This was my second trip to Vegas and I felt this way both times. I am a very open minded person.  I talked to some ladies in line before the game about other places close by and they suggested I check out Henderson which was right down the road.  I figured it was getting late and that I would just pull into a Walmart parking lot. The first one I stopped at had no campers in it, so I didn’t feel comfortable. I went to a second one that was close by and found a camper and a van that was parked by each other. I went by those vehicles people were sitting outside the camper and van having beers.  So, I walked up and started talking to them. I still feel very uncomfortable sleeping in the parking lots. I have a great set up to do this in my car but it just feels odd!

Brandon or Brendan showing me his van...

Brendan or Brandon, I wasn’t sure exactly what he said his name was so I will dub him “Brendan”. He was in the van. It was a 1981 extended job, and for the past couple of months he said he had been living in it. He smiled broadly when I walked up. A German couple was in the rented RV, they are in the States for the next four weeks to tour around the US. They started in San Francisco and have only made it to Vegas so far. I was surprised that they were sitting around drinking, I didn’t think you could do that.  Brendan gave me the low down on sleeping in Walmart parking lots. He kept yelling into his van to have his girlfriend of four years to come out. There was no response after doing this five times. He had perfect teeth, so white I thought they were fake. After I began feeling comfortable with these people I parked next to them and set my car up. I have things that fit in all on my windows to block out the light and I have pillows that work like a bed when I ease the passenger seat all the way back. Actually, it is quite comfortable when you are exhausted!  As I was setting Brendan came over to see my set up and to inquire if I had any “pot”, I didn’t. He said, “I had to give it a shot”.

The German couple were very nice but I could barely understand them and they could barely understand me. They offered me a beer, I declined. Brendan didn’t, along with asking for another German cigarette from the lady, she obliged.  The German lady came out with chocolate, I declined this also (I don’t know these people and they could poison me, my exact thought). Of course Brendan didn’t. A dog whimpered in the van and he let it out.  It was a pit bull, I admit it scared me a lot!  Brendan said it is a scary dog and to be careful around it. I told him he was freaking me out!  Brendan said he was in prison for grand larceny a few years ago. I told him he was really putting me at ease, the German couple – they were oblivious to this conversation.  Brendan, had a great laugh, but the dog was scary, the German lady was feeding it chocolate…

German Lady that could have been trying to poison me...
German Lady that could have been trying to poison me…

Brendan said he sold a $300,000 house he owned that had mold issues for $10,000 to buy the van. I think Brendan was high, he explained he wasn’t when I stated this. He said that the cops were watching him and if he gets caught, he was facing a two year stint at High Desert. I reminded him he asked if I had pot earlier. He told me he had been clean for over two weeks. I said, “what about the beer”. Brendan said, “the judge didn’t say anything about beer.”  He put the dog back in the van and yelled for his girlfriend to come out again, she didn’t.  Brendan told me he was in tight with the Mexican Mafia, I found that interesting. He showed me his tattoo that one of them did for him, it was on his entire back. He went on to say stuff about the Asian mob, also.  According to Brendan, he also had a Ferrari and a beach home in Malibu. His dad was a dentist. His girlfriend, that was sleeping in the van, was a stone cold knock out. She doesn’t know if she will stick around since they really have never been clean around each other. Besides, her mother was following them and she was in another parking lot spying on us.  The German couple would just laugh when Brendan would yell into the van. I told Brendan that I don’t feel very safe, he said not to worry. He was a music producer and was waiting for a few of his rap artists to get out of jail to get back at it.  Well, I was getting tired and I was a little nervous at how unstable Brandon/Brendan seemed. The German lady was making tea and offered, I declined (she can quit trying to poison me) but Brendan wanted some. He grabbed some cotton candy out of his van and offered it to everyone. I declined saying it was time for bed.  Walmart security came around a few times and waved.

I woke up early the next day, a Walmart security guard was parked in front of my car. I asked if I wasn’t supposed to be here. The officer said it was fine, but people shouldn’t party in the lot. I thanked him for the information. Brendan and the German couple were still sleeping.  I wasn’t going to wait around for Brendan to make eggs like he promised. I needed to get to Bakersfield to watch the Blaze and the Modesto Nuts play.  I was glad to get away from Vegas. I hope Brendan gets his life together once the rap artists get out of jail. He was actually a joy to talk with and he laughed easily.  I got to Bakersfield in time to watch the Blaze destroy the Nuts 10-2. I got my first foul ball after 57 games, I was happy. I actually had to go under the bleachers to get it and got two during the game. I gave one to a kid, he thanked me but wanted more from the players. I was upset with the kid wanting to ask for my ball back and tell him to be grateful. What do I know, he was only 12.  I left Bakersfield and made it to Santa Cruz last night. About an hour ago I got a $38 parking ticket while writing this blog post!  So if anyone has an extra $38 laying around please hit the donate button on the “How to Help” page of the website…  (I was literally 5 minutes late! Damn you parking person!)

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!