Archive for category Sports

Give the ball to Norton

It’s true what they say about the benefits of joining sports teams in general. You learn a lot of life lessons not necessarily having anything to do with the sport you’re involved with.

Just for the hell of it, my junior year in high school I decided to go out for football. I hadn’t played in a couple of years and sort of missed being on a team and the fun of Friday nights. I guess I didn’t want to let all of my high school years go by without joining in on something besides golf.

I was a 5’7″, 145# junior who practiced with the linemen, mostly at center because that’s the position I played in middle school. You can see the problem here already. If I’d had any wheels at all, I would have entertained receiver or tight end, but such was not the case. I was slow as hell, and still am.

In mid August we reported for “daily doubles” which was 2 a day workouts that definitely tested your mettle. Since I was practicing with the centers, I was privy to a life lesson that summer which has stayed with me and I think relates to the current political environment.

One hot sunny afternoon we were working out with centers, quarterbacks and receivers on some basic routes for the receivers. Varsity and JV practiced together early on as they don’t split up the teams until it gets closer to the start of the season. There were about 4 or 5 centers who rotated hiking the ball to a few guys vying for the starting quarterback job, and a line of receivers on both sides ready to run routes.

We had 2 seniors competing for the starting center job at the time. I won’t mention their names because it’s not important to the story, but if I recall correctly, they were pretty close in size and ability, so it was going to be a close call for the coaches on who gets the starting nod.

It was probably the coaching staff’s fault a little bit for not making it clear what the depth chart was at the center position, but I remember an incident where the coaches yelled out “line up by the depth chart” at each position for some receiving route reps. Both seniors thought they were the #1 center so a fairly ugly scene ensued where they fought over the ball for a couple of minutes while the rest of us looked on in disbelief. One guy grabbed the ball and inserted himself at the front of the line and the other guy snatched the ball from him and shoved him back. This repeated a couple of times while the coaches grew impatient with the situation because it broke the rules about being a team player and good sportsmanship.

In a rather stunning move, the coach blew the whistle and sent both seniors to the back of the line, and handed the 3rd string guy, Rob Norton, a junior in my class the ball. He never relinquished the ball for the rest of the season. He was the starter from that point on.

I’m reminded of this as I watch the toxic, hostile environment between Republicans and Democrats today. The unwillingness to compromise on anything.

I write frequently about my disdain for the Republican agenda and I feel strongly about it. At the same time, I see Democrats as the other senior in this fight. Participating in the toxic nature of partisan politics and too far out of touch with what has historically been the party of the working man. They lost the working man this time for not paying enough attention to jobs.

The current battle over classified leaks, obstruction of justice, pathological lying and programs to reward the wealthy makes me sick. But I’m tired of the fighting and I do not root for the Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic party to gain ground in this fight.

No, I’m on board with a youth movement. Let’s give the ball to Norton. You two clowns get to the back of the line.

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Willie Taggart

I was in a conversation recently about the Willie Taggart hire and what I thought about it.  I figured I’d put the thoughts down on a blog post and you can tell me where I’m going wrong here.

First, my list of bullet points that you can agree with or not, but this is my list.

  • The hurry-up offense isn’t a mystery anymore.  Chip Kelly gets credit for being one of the first innovators of the hurry-up offense and practically re-inventing the game.  When the Ducks first started using it, defenses were clueless how to stop it.  Their substitution patterns no longer worked.  The Ducks simply wore down defenses with their break-neck pace and it was fun to watch.  But that was then, and this is now.  For a few years now, defenses have been better at dealing with the hurry-up offense and many schools have adopted it themselves.  It seems like fewer teams use the huddle than do.  So Helfrich had the disadvantage of trying to carry forward Chips ‘let’s try to run a play every 18 seconds strategy, but for the most part, the mystery was gone.
  • Helfrich lead teams have been at the bottom of the barrel in self-inflicted wounds, namely, penalties.  That’s on the coaching staff.
  • Helfrich has an extremely high intellect, but it takes more than intellect to consistently win.  Ideally you want someone who is smart but can also inspire his players to play hard.  Dig deep.  Play with some emotion.  We just never got to see that side of Helfrich, not even at the Alamo Bowl / TCU disaster where I desperately wanted him to call time-out, huddle up his team and give a 30 second half-time speech that inspired his players to quit screwing up.  Instead he looked on from the sideline and reckoned they’d fix the problems when it came time to look at the film.  The problem is it’s too late then.
  • Helfrich was not at the top of his class in the recruiting game ..  a crucial piece of the puzzle.  The Ducks consistently lost top-tier athletes from in-State…  one of the first things Taggart pointed out as a priority to fix.  His recruiting efforts ended up being lop-sided because they had too many players backed up at the skill positions and never enough depth at the line.  Both are bad problems.  Several top recruits from skill positions left the program due to lack of playing time.  Meanwhile the line couldn’t afford to have one injury or the drop off was noticeable.   And even when they supposedly had depth at quarterback, twice they had to rely on 5th year senior transfers from smaller schools to fill the gap.  They next guy wasn’t ready to go.
    • When I coached little league and spent a few years on the local board as Vice President of Baseball, I noticed a pattern of coaches putting their strongest efforts of the season in putting their teams together.  The fact is, if your team is loaded, you don’t have to coach as hard.  This is in conflict with the board’s goal of trying to have some semblance of parity in the league.  When we’d tell a coach that no, you can’t use special rule (z) to put that player on your team, they’d get upset and we’d just say “Don’t be afraid to coach a little bit.”
    • How this relates to college football is, it’s the same thing.  The more 5 start athletes you put out there, the more likely your chances are of success.  The good programs are good because they take recruiting seriously and divvy up their scholarships across a variety of positions they need to fill, not just going 5 deep at quarterback.

 

Here’s what I like about the Willie Taggart hire, based on the few articles I’ve read.

  • Helfrich had an impeccable reputation as a class guy, and with Taggart, it looks like the Ducks lose nothing in this department.  He seems to have his priorities on playing inspired football, graduating, and representing the school well.
  • I think Taggart will bring that missing piece of inspiration to his players and we’ll see the Ducks playing more inspired football ( with fewer penalties.  Hard to imagine how it could get worse ).
  • Personality-wise, I think Taggart will be a better leader because he’s got more personality and will relate to his players better.  His credentials as a player won’t hurt either.
  • I think Taggart will be able to figure out which pieces of the Duck magic to keep, and which ones aren’t a mystery anymore and give us a more balanced team : Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  Kelly almost got away with doing it with offense alone for a few years until the league caught up with him.  The Ducks could literally give up 40 points a game and it didn’t matter because they were scoring 60.

At face value, it may not look like a huge upgrade from Helfrich to Taggart, but I think it was like one of situations we get into with a car that’s sputtering a bit and you have to decide whether to fish or cut bait.  At the end of the day, I think Helfrich’s lack of inspired leadership led to his downfall.  That was the common theme in the papers.  “Something’s missing in the locker room.”  We’re not privy to the inside talk of the players and coaching staff.  About the best we get is 2nd hand from the local sportswriters.  But I think Mullens had a tough call on his hand.  One 4-8 season isn’t the end of the world if a lot of other things are clicking.  There is such a thing as a rebuilding year, sure.  I just don’t think they had confidence that Helfrich would be able to bring about the necessary team atmosphere that existed under Bellotti and Kelly.  Something was missing.

Hopefully Taggart is the right guy.  I’m have a lot of faith in their interviewing process.  I think they knew what they were looking for and seemed to have found it.

 

 

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Adios 2016, don’t let the door…

Back in the mid 1980’s, an activist friend of mind Dave Aldrich sent out a memorable Christmas letter that was definitely one of a kind.  In this short missive he astutely pointed out about a dozen things that are just wrong in this world, covering the gamut from wasteful military spending, the oxymoron of compassionate conservatism, greedy politicians, abject poverty, the decline of unions and the middle class, and tax cuts for the wealthy.  It was a pithy list of gripes and then he simply signed it –“Merry Christmas.”

At the time I grinned and though to myself “must have had a bad day”, but the point of it all was and still is, complacency bothers him a great deal.  I still remember a quote from a letter a few years later where he pointed out that we worry about these issues after we’ve swept the garage, washed the SUV, and spent out days reading and writing e-mails. We rarely ponder our existence or question the status quo.  I remember thinking to myself ‘guilty as charged’.  I don’t, but I should.

With that in mind and in the spirit of Dave Aldrich, I offer this summary:  2016 blew.

Not to go completely negative on you, there were some good things that happened during the year which I’ll touch upon, but overall, Donna and I were just talking about the benefits of getting this year behind us.

First, the good stuff.  Our two grandkids Kaden and Karter are growing into fine young gentlemen.  We can’t say enough good things about them.  Both competitive game players, both silly, both good-natured, and fun to be around.  I was going to say that we’re lucky but the more I though about it, luck has nothing to do with it.  Good parents have everything to do with it.  Great job Kelli and Kyle.

Donna and I spent about a week in Chicago and did a deep dive of the city.  The entire trip was scheduled around a Cubs home stand so that we could make sure to take in trip to Wrigley, but we also took in some incredible Blues, Jazz, improv, museums, Navy Pier, and an evening boat tour.  The Cubs beat the Dodgers an a sunny Memorial Day weekend and we really enjoyed the atmosphere.  Having invested in a jersey for herself, Donna became an instant Cubs fan and was glued to the set during the very exciting World Series finish where the Cubs pulled of an extra inning nail biter vs. Cleveland.  She was on the edge of her seat.

This summer the house got painted.  It looks great but it’s a huge time sink to get it done even if you’re not the painter ( see low-lights below ).

In October we traveled to sunny Sacramento, California for the wedding of my cousin Mike Eady to his new bride Shelly. Lovely wedding and always good to catch up with extended family.  We spent some time checking out Sacramento as well and were impressed.

We’ve been doing a new monthly-ish dinner / social gathering with some great friends and neighbor’s and sharing a lot of laughs.  Included a relaxing weekend trip to Manzanita where we ate, drank, played games, and golfed ( yes Glenn, Donna golfed ).

I’ve battled through some challenging health issues and am starting to get my musical mojo back a little bit.  I have a few recordings out on soundcloud and youtube, none of which are that good, but all were a lot of fun to do.

Donna keeps a schedule that I can only marvel at.  When she gets free time at home, stuff’s a moving.  It’s a literal beehive of activity with art and gardening projects.  She’s the ideas person of the family.  I’m the implementor – at least when it comes to the heavy stuff.  In addition to all this she’s got an aging parent to take care of.  Middle age comes at you from all directions.  She’s not a complainer though, she’s a doer.  That’s what I love about her.  The calendar gets pretty full fast, but no matter what’s on there, she just rolls up her sleeves and gets it done.

And lastly, if you know her you’ll understand why this is news.  I beat my sister Patty twice during 2016 at Words with Friends.  That would fall under the category of ‘exceeding expectations’.

So there, I mixed i some positive things.  Now for the overall 2016 Summary:

                          Major Buzz-Kill

Think Planes, Trains and Automobiles where Steve Martin’s wife is anxiously waiting for him to get home to an impeccably prepared Thanksgiving feast at an upscale Chicago home, followed by what it took for him to get there.

Words cannot describe the disappointment of November 8th.  It’s a gut punch when you invest so much time following the news for a year and a half thinking “no way”, and then see your worst nightmare come true.  Trying to hold the family together during a time where close family members feel personally threatened by the incoming administration is a challenge.  It’s emotional.  I’ll leave it at that.

At times like these, I wonder if the Jehovah Witnesses aren’t right after all.  Maybe we are getting near the end of times.  I’m only half kidding.

On the plus side, I feel less of a need to chime in and criticize what the current Mob Boss-elect is under fire for.  He’s perfectly capable of making my point for me with his twitter machine.  I don’t have to say a word.  Just sit back and watch the entertainment, and entertaining it will be.

2016 brought on some medical challenges for me that I was determined to conquer.  The biggest one is anxiety.  I spent about a year and a half not being able to drive on freeways, which is limiting and an added stress on Donna.  But after seeing several specialists, I think I may be getting real close to a solution.  I’ve driven to Eugene a couple of times recently.  It’s not perfect but it’s on the upside.  I look forward to having a less full calendar year of doctor appointments minus the added expen$e and trying to sneak in all these appointments while maintaining a busy work schedule.

The Ducks were 4-8 and lost to the Beavers and both Washington schools.  It doesn’t get much worse than that.  And the Huskies put up 70 on the Ducks at home.  Now I have to be quiet for at least another year, maybe longer.

I’m in my 4th year at Cambia and speaking of rapid change, 4th manager.  No complaints about the new job — great people, love the work, but it’s a ball buster.  There are days when I envy Ward Cleaver grabbing his briefcase and heading off to a job where he doesn’t have to worry about being outsourced every quarter, does a bit of work from 9-5 and the comes home to his happy family.  Such is not the case ( except the happy family part ).

Our go-to friends, Wayne and Tricia Wischmann moved to Arizona in June.  We understand why, but it sucks when your social network gets disrupted.   We have such fond memories of time at Haydens listening to Tim and Jim with them, among other events.  We’re planning a trip to Tucson in the February time frame to catch up.  We miss them.

There was the passing of several icons from my generation in 2016.  Gene Wilder, Prince, Mohamed Ali, and George Kennedy to name a few.  Seems like every time we turned around another one bit the dust.

Pickles spent the night in the ER ( that was more expensive than my trip to the ER ) with a really bad infection but is better now.  We were really worried about her but she made it.

So in the spirit of Dave Aldrich, this years missive just tells it like it is.  And it is what it is.

Merry Christmas!

( And bring on 2017, please ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Colwood National

It seems fitting that the last day of play at Colwood National Golf Course would be on the anniversary of my father’s passing, six years ago to the day. Colwood was an easy course, nestled in the heart of Portland’s industrial area, catering mostly to casual players who wanted to get a round of golf in and not spend a fortune. It became the course of choice for Jim Toner and I, whenever I’d visit from Seattle. I always enjoyed my visits to Portland, especially the trip over to Colwood for a round with Dad. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t impressive. The holes were fairly short, but not to the point of being a joke. It had its challenging holes as well. Since Dad and I didn’t talk too often on a very deep level, Colwood always represented to me a chance to hang out with Dad. For that reason alone, I loved Colwood.

In the 1980’s I had joined a golf league through my employer in the Seattle area, Boeing. I probably played 6 or 7 years and improved steadily. In High School I played on the golf team at Centennial and played JV my freshman and sophomore years, Varsity Junior and Senior years. I wasn’t great by any stretch, but I could occasionally break 80 at Glendoveer, which I’m sure made Dad extremely proud. He broke 80 a few times there, but it wasn’t that often, so he had a lot of respect for guys who could do that.

In the midst of my golf league years at Boeing, I started to take it a little more seriously and tried hard to get my handicap down. If I recall correctly, I got down to a handicap of 9 at my lowest point. And I was competitive in the league for a few years. I ended up winning the men’s first flight 2 of the years, playing against some pretty decent golfers. To make sure that isn’t over-stated, everyone gets to use their handicap, so I may have been playing for the club championship with my 9 handicap against a guy with a scratch handicap, but he had to give me 9 strokes. Anyway, golf was my thing for while there and it was fun.

On a trip to Portland, in the midst of playing a lot of golf, Dad and I took our usual jaunt over to Colwood for a round of 9 holes. I always liked playing well with Dad and then not saying much about it because that seemed to work the best. If you don’t brag about it, then he does, and it just feels that much better. On this particular day I got the putter going. Colwood is fairly short which means I could reach the greens in regulation ( I struggle to reach on par 4’s in the 400 yd range ). So I was getting on in 2 and on 2 of the first 6 holes I drained a long putt and was sitting at 2 under. I walked up the 7th fairway like “I do this all the time” and tried to contain my excitement. But Dad couldn’t contain his. I know he was trying not to jinx me, but at the same time he knew, my son is 2 under par with 3 holes to go and he knew a pretty good story was unfolding.

Then I parred 7 and 8. Was I capable of shooting a 34? Oh man, that would be a family record of some sort. The 9th hole was a short 419 yd. par 5, slightly up hill at the end. I hit a decent drive up the right side and had about 220 yds to go. My second shot I didn’t quite hit on the screws as they say, but it was straight, and about 50 yards short of the green. Up and down for a 33? That was on my mind for sure. Dad would have done cart-wheels.

I pulled out the wedge and hit a high shot a little longer than I wanted and left myself a tough down-hill putt for my birdie. Crap. Not where I wanted to be. As I straddled over my putt, I kept thinking “I’m going for it. Never up, never in”, so I hit it a little harder than I should have to make sure it had a chance and it rolled about 10 feet by. Yikes! Not a 3 putt on the last hole! Damnit!

Sure enough, I missed left on may par putt and took a bogey on 9, but still ended up with 35 for the day. Rounds under par are pretty rare for me, but this one was special because it was with Dad and I can tell you many years later, he could practically play the whole round back to me because it was still fresh in his mind. He probably remembers it better than I do.

And today is the last day of Colwood National. Sad in a way, but fitting that it’s on the same day that Dad passed away 6 years ago.

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Finding your level

Each year as we turn the calendar into March and I see Dad’s with their sons taking a little batting practice out on the wet baseball fields, getting ready for Little League tryouts, I’m reminded of a childhood memory that stuck with me.

My father was a really enthusiastic sports fan and coach.  He loved sports of all kinds, but I think he liked baseball the most due to its strategic nature.  Unless you’ve ever tried to coach at the more senior levels ( kids above 10 or 11 ), you may not appreciate how much strategy there is in baseball.  A lot of people think it’s a really boring game that moves too slowly.  But Dad was really into strategy, so baseball floated his boat more than other sports and he loved a good 1-0 shutout as much as  anything.  Dad also played high school baseball for a small, private high school in Eugene, Oregon.  He did well enough that in his own mind, he thought he had an outside chance of playing baseball his freshman year at Oregon, so he tried out.  He didn’t quite make it, but I was always impressed that, realist that he was, he thought he had an outside chance.  He must not have been any slouch on the field.

I have 3 older sisters, so when I came along, the good news for Dad was, he had a son.  The bad news was, his son wasn’t much of an athlete!  I was “okay” at sports and thanks to some extra tutoring by Dad in baseball at a young age, I even excelled a little in the minor divisions of Little League.  I think he was secretly hoping he could groom me into a catcher that could play at the High School level or beyond, but that was just never in the cards.  I did catch through age 10, but by then I’d had enough of trying to live someone else’s dream.  I wanted to pitch!

For those familiar with how Little League works, every Spring they have a tryout for their “majors” division, which is kids age 10-12.  Majors is when Little League starts to get serious.  The first thing to know is that it’s a “keeper” league, which means you stay on the team you’re drafted through your 12 year old season.  Little League fields have 60′ bases (full size field has 90′ bases) and the pitcher’s mound is set at 46″ (full size is 60′ 6″).   The problem with majors is that some of the 12 year olds have had their growth spurt and are approaching 6 ft tall, so it’s a bit like facing Randy Johnson for batters.  The best 12 year olds can throw 60 mph+ easily, and are schooled enough to throw a little junk at you, just to keep you guessing.  Most 10 year olds aren’t quite ready for that.

I’d had a really fun season as a 9 year old.  My team lost one game the entire season and I got to play a whole bunch of positions and the coaches were great about rotating players in and giving all the kids playing time.  Fresh off of this experience I was eager for the Spring tryout to see if I could get drafted onto a majors team.  I don’t recall how well I did defensively at the tryout, but I remember my turn at the plate and the coaches throwing medium-fast fastballs at me, right down the middle, and making some pretty good contact.  Apparently I made an impression because a week later I was drafted onto a majors team.  Yahoo!  There weren’t very many 10 year olds that got drafted into the majors that year and I was one of them.  Yay for me.

Then came reality.  Practices started and the team already had a 12 year old catcher.  I was dubbed “The Catcher of the Future”, which is not uncommon in majors — to draft a 10 year old and sort of groom him for his 11 and 12 year old seasons.   So my lot for the year as far as playing time was concerned was to play 2 innings in the outfield at games, but to do a lot of catching in practice… for next year.   That part was sort of okay with me anyway because it’s not like I wanted to catch the games anyway.  The fundamental problem was that 90% of the kids were older, bigger, and better than I was and it felt that way every single day.  The 2 innings of playing time usually translated into one at bat per game.  Not a lot of action out there to hold my interest.

I’m convinced keeper leagues are a bad idea.  10 year olds do not possess the ability to think long-term and do not care about next year.  Catcher of the future wasn’t a carrot for me because frankly, I wasn’t even sure I was going to sign up next year if this is how much fun it is.  About half way through the season I wanted to quit.  Dad had a pretty strict “no quitting’ rule.  Once you start something, you finish it.  So I had to tough it out.

I was on the second best team in the majors that year, Mosee Brothers.  Our arch rival team, Wards, had amassed an amazing group of pitchers led by Mike Childs and Tim Pflaum.  Both 12 year olds.  Both threw heat like you wouldn’t believe.  To make matters more interesting, Tim Pflaum was my neighbor and a really good guy and I used to hang out with Tim and his brothers playing sports in the neighborhood, so I knew him pretty well.  Tim was one of the 12 year olds who had experienced his growth spurt early, so he was a towering figure to me on the mound.

We played Wards 3 times that season.  I knew it had to happen eventually, I had to go to bat against Tim Pflaum.  God help me.  I was shaking in the on-deck circle trying to think of a last-minute winning strategy as I watch him fan the guy in front of me with 60 mph fastballs.  “Batter-up!”, here we go.  I had decided that my strategy would be to not swing and hope that Tim would walk me.  Tim probably walked about 4 batters all season, but I didn’t know or care, I wanted a walk.  “Strike One” said the ump as the first fastball went by, right down the middle of the plate.  I don’t remember seeing it go by.  No time to change strategies now, I’m still hoping for a ball.  “Strike Two” said the ump on the next pitch.  Same location, same result.  Damnit, I better change my strategy.  Okay, I’m swinging on the next pitch.  That way I won’t get yelled at for not getting the bat off the shoulders.  So I got ready, looked old Tim in the eye and waited for the next fastball and even though I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to see it, I might get lucky and make contact.  Tim loaded up the pitch in his mitt, reached back and here it came.  I swung the bat with all my might and I’m sure I may have even grunted a bit.  A little later, the pitch, commonly referred to as a “hanging curveball”, looked as if it was coming straight for me, then cut downward across the plate and into the catcher’s mitt.  I was out in front of the pitch by a full 2 seconds.  “Steeeee-rike Three!”

Holding back the tears, I put on a happy face and jogged on back into the dugout.

Wards had remained undefeated during that season, but late in the second half, they lost to a team called United Homes which was a shocker.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  So Mosee Brothers and Wards ended up tied in the second half with one loss each, forcing a playoff.  Great, a second game!  That’s the last thing I wanted.

They playoff game was a packed house at Meadowland Little League.  The stands were completely full and there was tension in the air.  I was penciled in for 2 innings in left field.  By this time, my goal was to just get through the game without incident.  Please, no balls hit to me.  Please.   As my luck would have it, with a runner on third, there was a short kid at the plate and I just had this awful feeling he was going to hit one to me.  I don’t know how I knew it, I just did.  I thought that maybe if I moved in and played shallow left, he’d have a better chance of hitting it over my head and then I wouldn’t get blamed for not catching it.  I was nervous as hell that a ball would come to me and I’d drop it.  So I moved in.  The coaches noticed and waved me back to play deeper, so I did.  Sure enough, the batter lined one to left field, right at me.  I mis-played it by coming in for it instead of going back a little and it went over my head.  The coaches were mad and I was embarrassed in front of a huge crowd.  Wards took the lead and won the game.  My dad said the runner on third would have scored even if I had caught it, so I felt a little better about not being solely responsible for the loss.  But yeah, the coaching at that level was pretty good in the sense that these guys knew baseball.  Some had played at the college level and beyond.  They knew the game and you can sure tell coaches who know the game vs. not when watching little league just by watching the kids.

Fast forward a few years to the Spring of my 8th grade year when I turned 14.  I decided to go out for baseball again just to see what I could do.  The Sr. League was 13-15 year olds with 90′ bases, same as Major League Baseball.  I remember trying to throw runners out at second base from behind the plate and it seeming like it was all I could do just to get the ball down there let alone beat the runner.

The powers that be in Little League had decided to take a novel approach in structuring the league.  They decided to separate division out into two levels – Sr. Majors and Sr. Minors, sort of like they do today with other sports where they’ll have a “competitive” group and a “recreational” group.   I tried out and since I’d been out of the game for a while and hadn’t played — and I was no specimen as far as athletes go, still pretty short and slow, I was drafted onto a Sr. Minors team.  I was a little surprised and disappointed at first, but as the season went on, I couldn’t have been happier about it.

I remember being tapped on the shoulder to pitch and play shortstop quite a bit.  And I remember hitting well.  I was on base all the time (even stole a few bases which I’m sure shocked my old man). And I got to play shortstop and loved every minute of it.  I wasn’t that bad at it, actually.  I threw a lot of guys out and I was decent with the glove.  On the mound, I found my groove that year.  I had developed a little bit of junk to throw.  Just enough to keep the batters off-balance a bit and I had quite a few strikeouts that year.  Compared to the other pitchers in Sr. Minors, I was probably one of the harder throwers.  That was a FUN season and a great experience for me.  Once again I loved baseball and had enjoyed a lot of success “out there”.

My 15 year old season, I tried out again and this time was shocked that I was left down in Sr. Minors.  I thought this was an incredible injustice of some sort, but whatever.  They had a rule back then that 15 year olds could not pitch in Sr. Minors.  That just added insult to injury.  But just a couple of games into the season I got a “call up” to the bigs.  A Sr. Majors team lost a player and I got the call.  Yeah, I can pitch again!  Woo-hoo!  Obviously these guys wanted me for my pitching prowess, right?  They’d heard about all those strikeouts I had in Sr. Minors, I’m just sure of it!

So I suit up for my first game and I get to the field to find out I’m scheduled for 2 innings in right field.  What?  Is this going to be like my 10 year old season again?  What is this?  Oh man, send me back, send me back!

Like Yogi Berra once said, it’s like Deja Vu all over again because in the very first game, a batter hit a fly ball to me in right field and I when I say “right to me”, I mean “right to me”.  I dropped it.

That long jog back to the dugout was too much for me to handle, I think.  What else is there to do this summer?  Swim?  Ride my bike?  Get a paper route again?  Take guitar lessons?  Go golfing?  Anything?  Anything but play 2 innings in the outfield for these guys,

Finding your right level makes all the difference.  I personally believe it’s better to be star of the show in the minors vs. riding the pines in the bigs.  That’s just my view from personal experience.  I have a close friend who has a son who was a highly recruited high school football player at Tualatin.  Really nice kid and dad.  He could have gone to Linfield and started for 4 years.  Instead, he went for big time college football at Oregon St. and worked his way up through the scout team.  But at Division I college football, if you want to be a starting lineman, you have to be 260# or more and the competition is fierce.

To his credit, he got put in during a home game when the Beavers were far enough ahead for a series or two if I have the story right.  But that was it as far as glory.  It’s a lot better than I could have ever hoped to do, but I wonder now if he wouldn’t have had a better overall experience going to the smaller school and getting more playing time.

I think the same thing can be applied to life in other areas such as work as well.  I’ve worked at places where I felt like the dumbest engineer in the building and I’ve also worked at places where they treated me like some sort of rock star.  I have to say I like rock star better.

Footnote[1]:  The coaches from Wards drafted the All-Star team and about 1/2 the players came from their own team.  I think the entire infield was from Wards plus two of the pitchers.  They did well.  They won the district tournament and State, advanced to the regionals in San Bernardino California and eventually lost there.  But I think they were just one tournament away from going to the really big show, The Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.   In some ways this makes me feel a little better.  The league was pretty stacked with talent that year so I was playing against some top quality kids.

Footnote[2]: I’m also grateful for the “no quitting” rule from my father.  That’s a good rule for parents to have.  Finish what you start.  Life isn’t always about success.  Tough experiences can be our teacher too.

Footnote[3]: During Dad’s junior baseball season at St. Mary’s High School in Eugene… The team only played 3 games that year, and two of them were a part of a double-header.  Week after week of rainouts.  He recalled sitting in class, watching outside as the rain poured and then hearing the announcement about the cancelled game.  Such is the problem with trying to have a baseball season in the Pacific Northwest when the season starts in March.

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