Saturday, February 26, 2011


A true story.

Music is one of the best songs ever written, Centerfield by John Fogerty, and Look, it's baseball by Dayton's own Guided by Voices.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ping! Part 2

A few years ago I attended a University of Maryland baseball game on a day that tried to disguise itself as spring. The grass was green and he sky was blue and the hot chocolate was a light, watery brown. Oh, we all tried to keep up the charade, but by the third inning we had put on our winter costumes and shifted our seats periodically to escape late afternoon shadows.

Today was much warmer than that day, but I still fought a winter breeze while surrounded by snowcapped mountains, determined to keep my sleeves rolled up and remain outside in the sun. Suddenly, I was struck by memories of playing softball in high school, of January gyms, February frosts, March mud, trying to get outside for practice, waiting, waiting, waiting for the good weather, sometimes pretending, the bulk of sweatshirts, the swish of windbreakers, the thud of a pitch in the mud, playing on brown grass.


Not quite the crack of the bat, but a batted ball all the same. Sometimes those days don't seem like they really happened, the uniforms, the big yellow school buses with mud caked floors and angry drivers, thrown bats and helmets (yes, that was me), strapping on the shinguards, throwing out baserunners, oh, so much dirt and dust and mud. I've lived double my life since then, skipped much of the last two winters, and haven't played an organized sport since rec league soccer in DC in 2004. But spring, well, spring is always the same wonderful feeling, and every year the sight of Spring Training photos is warmth for the soul.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Um...Spring Training...and the Reds come in as...defending NL Central Champs?

Anyone else still feel like it was all a dream?

I had a brief experience with winter a few days ago, that bitter, biting, bonechilling feeling that all who have lived in the Midwest and other wintry places know too well. The temperatures in Beirut are like those in Florida and Arizona at this time of year, but in the Bekaa Valley, sandwiched between snowcapped mountains, a version of winter wraps itself around the towns and villages and fields that sit eagerly waiting to be sown. Yesterday back in Beirut I sat by the sea and read a book trying to recall what bronze skin looked like, but despite having spent winter among palm trees and mild temperatures, I always felt it was winter in that extra-corporal sense. Winter, I think, if you're in a snow-free place, is a state of mind, and that state of mind lacks something: baseball.

I love this tidbit from Hal:
Baker was expansive about a number of subjects on Day One and looked at an Ohio writer with a tan and said, “What’s that, freezer burn?”
One of the many things that makes baseball so awesome is its start at the rebirth of the northern hemisphere when we stop shivering and start wearing fewer layers of clothing. Color starts to sneak back into the world, replacing the browns and grays with a crayola of life. The world is returned to us - no longer are we confined to our cabins waiting for winter to leave. It is going, forced out by the orbit of the Earth, and baseball is holding the door wide open for it.

Boy, this season is going to be fun, isn't it?

Today I wore shorts and a t-shirt for a couple of hours while sitting on the balcony, and there was one magical word to describe the spring air and the brilliant sunshine: baseball. Next up: tan.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

It's time, we exclaim!

I turn my head to look West towards the red sky that lingers over the Mediterranean. We've almost made it to 6pm with some semblance of daylight. Almost. I've just closed the window and thrown on my Nationals sweatshirt over my Reds t-shirt, as Beirut winters, mild as they are, still provide a chill at night.

I've pored through many Reds sites over the last hour, but every time I read "2010 National League Central Division Champions," it doesn't really feel like that happened. The scars of the aughts are still fresh on my baseball soul, reminders of the Jimmy Hayneses and Griffey surgeries and Carl Linders and all that which tried to destroy the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club (est. 1869.) But the articles, well, they just keep on picking the Reds to win in 2011.

Everyone talks about the "business of baseball" these days, especially during the winter when there is no baseball to talk about. Hal is sick of it. Me too. I'm sick of contracts and discussions of arbitration rules and talk about trading Brandon Phillips and other players in the coming years as if there were never a season to play. I'm tired of arguments about the Hall of Fame and who doesn't deserve to be there. I'm exhausted by the baseball media circus where egos float in the air with the greatest of ease and love of the game is purloined away. And where to put the stathead vs. old school debate? In a dumpster behind some Buddhist monastery.

The game, the game! For love of the game! That little white sphere and that green, green grass! The sights that push winter away! We countdown and countdown and countdown again until we reach our Holy Day! Pitchers and catchers, report! White skin turned red turned brown. Go West, young men and come back strong and beat those Deadbirds into the ground!

The game, the game! Where the past is just as important as the present and the future! We thrive on legends, we live for the trophies, and we dream of a future when our present players are in museums!

We're so starved for the game at this time of year that our hearts jump when we hear the equipment trucks have left Cincinnati for Arizona. Equipment trucks!

Monday, February 07, 2011


Havoc is the nickname some gave to Willy Taveras in 2009 mocking what Dusty said about him wreaking havoc on the basepaths, considering he never got on base. It also was the anagram for the starting letters of our pitching staff at one point - Harang, Arroyo, Volquez, Owens, and Cueto.

This year, we have an abundance of pitching - quality pitching - and no one knows who will be the starting five at this point. I wanted to propose we choose based on the best anagram of their starting letters, but there are no five letter real words you can make from AVCWLB (Arroyo, Volquez, Cueto, Wood, Leake, Bailey), and the only four letter words are bawl, blaw, and claw. Claw is good. I like V-CLAW.

By the way, blaw means blow in North England and Scotland. Everywhere else it isn't a word. And a BLAW pitching staff is Cuetoless, which ain't gonna happen. I suppose it could be BLAWC. BLAWC and roll. BLAWC and white. BLAWC and I'll shut up now.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Church of Baseball, starring Kevin Costner as the Priest

Those of us Reds fans who grew up in the Dayton area no doubt have a fondness for Hal McCoy. How great was it to pick up the Dayton Daily News and see that smiley face on the front and then turn to the sports section to read McCoy’s article about the previous night’s game? I hate to wax nostalgia, because I do adore the interwebs and the ability to watch every Reds game online. However, in exchange for these amazing things, we did have to give something up. We gave up the relevance of a game recap in a black and white newspaper, and there is something romantic about those words in print that cannot be replaced by the glowing machine in front of us and the anonymity of internet forums.

But Hal has adapted, though the change has cost him his fulltime job. He’s become quite a blogger, and that’s no surprise, because he was blessed with the gift of writing, something that just seems to be rarer these days. Sure, there are still great baseball writers out there. Joe Posnanski comes to mind, of course. (That guy should write a baseball novel that is turned into the next great baseball movie staring Kevin Costner as the aged front office executive who is being replaced by the latest young sabermetric hotshot. You must admit, Kevin Costner may not be the greatest actor in the world, but when it comes to baseball movies, he is awesome.) But so many baseball writers these days seem to be applying a j-school formula to their writing instead of going with their guts. A good writer not only needs words, but the power to observe in ways the average Joe does not. It’s not something you can teach in j-school or anywhere. You have to be born with it.

Hal McCoy was born with it. I may have not blackened my hands with the ink of the Dayton Daily News for years, but I still read Hal. (I wish HE would write a book that is turned into a movie starring Kevin Costner as the aged baseball writer who is struggling with the decline of the newspaper industry and the rise of internet journalism.) And though it probably took him less than an hour to write this tidbit about a ballplayer who refused to have his leg amputated when he was injured in World War II, it is one of the better reads you’ll find.

I am always amazed by stories about ballplayers who fought in the wars. Back then, foreign wars were fought reluctantly and out of necessity. Vietnam seemed to suck the soul from America, and now we fight wars for any reason or no reason. It has made us the villain of the world, the “Evil Empire” that we accused the USSR of being, and everyday I am faced with the task of defending America, which I can’t always do. If we had a draft, which I am in favor of for the sole reason that it would make Americans far less willing to send soldiers to war, we would be safer – the world would be safer. But can you imagine a 24 million a year ballplayer getting drafted? HA! Ballplayers are fortunate sons these days. That’s why I so admired Pat Tillman. If we truly wanted to defeat this colossus we call variously by the terms “Islamic terrorism,” “Jihadism,” “War on Terror,” “Islamic extremism,” we could have done it long ago. Instead, we invaded Iraq under knowingly false pretenses, upset the balance of power in the region (despite still supporting dictators here), created a whole generation of people who hate America…oh, wait, I was talking about baseball writing, wasn’t I? Well, you want baseball writing? Go read McCoy’s article. I’m too busy trying desperately to put the Brasso on America these days.

Two weeks until pitchers and catchers report

But my, oh, my, something far more exciting is happening in the world. Turn off your reality television and tune into reality.

The people of the Middle East are finally rising up and saying enough of dictatorships.

Oh, the world is changing before our very eyes. This is this generation's Berlin Wall. Live it. Right now, instead of saying Go team! say Go Egypt! Go Tunisia! Go, go go!