Tag Archives: baseball

Project 365 : For Love of the Game

I love baseball. I always have.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t watch the game. When I was too young to play ball, I watched the game of the week. I started playing organized ball in elementary school, and loved putting on the uniform and getting out on the field. The tragedy of it was that I sucked. Couldn’t hit, couldn’t field. But I loved playing.

I remember my folks taking me to the field to play and practice. I remember walking three or four miles back from a game with my mother when her car wouldn’t start. I remember the feeling of wonder opening the innumerable packages of baseball cards I bought at ten cents a pack. I remember feeling like I was on top of the world in ’74 when I collected the entire set of Topps cards for that year.

Growing up in the South, we only had the Braves to watch. And in the 70s, they were bad. Really bad. But I got to see Aaron play. I saw Aaron! And my dad was there with me. Just as it should be, watching side by side. That’s the way baseball should be experienced. I wish he and I could share just one more game.

When I got to high school, I began trying out for the freshman team, chose girls over playing ball, and shut the door on my baseball career. It was probably for the best. I really wasn’t that good, and my passion started to drift elsewhere, to other hobbies, other pastimes.

But baseball was always there.

I suffered through watching the horrible Braves teams of the 80s. They were horrid, and no matter how I wished they were better, I continued watching. Watching and waiting. And then the 90s came, and the Braves started winning. And winning. And winning. I moved to what is probably America’s best baseball city in the mid 90s — St. Louis — and was at the old Busch Stadium in ’96, watching the Braves and Cardinals duke it out in the playoffs.

And over the years of living here, my allegiance turned to the Cards, and I’ve never looked back. I’ve watched McGwire and Lankford and Pujols and a host of other great players come through our stadium, and have enjoyed every season, finally living in a baseball town.

I’ve only been to one World Series game. It was the night the curse was reversed, and Boston took the fourth game of the ’04 World Series. I hated that we lost, but it was glorious to see history being made. That’s what this game is to me — a string of memories. Gibson’s homerun, watching the Cards win the Series in ’06, following McGwire and Sosa’s assault on history in ’98 while working in England, the strike, the earthquake during the ’89 Series, that crazy Braves’ game in ’84 that ended at 4am. It’s such a part of my history and my life, and some of the best memories I have are centered around sharing those experiences with my parents, wife and daughter.

And now, it’s time again.

The 2010 campaign begins this weekend, and I’ll be there. Cheering, watching, yelling at the TV. I’ll question the calls, revel in the successes, and cry over the losses. I’ll take the down times hard, and have to strive to keep my feet on the ground when times are good. It’s time again.

Play ball.

Project 365 : Sign of Spring

With spring training underway, and having watched my first Cardinals game of the season today, I thought turning my attention to one of my bats was appropriate. This bat was one of the two I had customized during our visit to the Louisville Slugger factory and museum last year.

I made this image with my Canon 7D and Canon 24-105/4L, finishing it in Photoshop CS4E and Nik Viveza.

FST : Extra Innings – Home to Louisville KY (287 mi)

With a couple of days of rest behind us, and a bit of wanderlust still in our veins, we decided to extend our roadtrip a bit, and add another unplanned stop on the trip: Louisville KY.

Why Louisville? Bats.

For years, I’ve wanted to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. I’m a baseball junkie, and have been since I was a kid. As I told Beck, there are three baseball meccas for me: Cooperstown, Field of Dreams and the Louisville Slugger site. This was the attainment of one of my baseball dreams.

Louisville is a quick drive from The Lou, and seemed like a easy place to add to our roadtrip. We left early, and hit the road — this time, eastward.

The drive across Illinois and Indiana was really uneventful. There’s not much to see, and few places to stop with much civilization. We decided to stop for lunch just west of Louisville, and that was the most entertaining stop of any we’d had on any part of the trip. Just across the parking lot from our lunch spot was an incredibly decked out van towing an old VW bug.

We parked the Jeep, and took a look at this weird combination of vehicles. They were touring from Art Car Agency in promotion of a film called Automorphosis. The California Fantasy Van had almost any kind of brass object you could imagine, along with about $15,000 of change riveted to the body. It was definitely eye-catching! The VW that was in tow, named Pico de Gallo, was musically themed and had all kinds of musical instruments and contraptions attached to it. There was even a stage atop the bug.

We watched a dozen or more people stopping to look at this strange configuration of vehicles while we were there. A few people were photographing them too, but most people just swung by for a look, shook their heads, and drove on. For me though, there was so much to photograph. I think you could spend weeks photographing the widgets on the California Fantasy Van alone.

Eventually, we hit the road again, and continued on to the Louisville Slugger site. The building is an old-style looking brick building in Louisville’s museum row, and has a gigantic Louisville Slugger bat leaning against the building. There’s no missing that. In fact, if you look on Google Maps and zoom in close, you can see the bat:

View Larger Map

We went inside the building, and bought our tickets for the factory tour. While we were waiting for our tour to start, we looked around the museum a bit. I looked at a bat from Babe Ruth, which was amazing to see. But the biggest thrill was getting to hold a Mickey Mantle bat. There’s a special section where you can don some white cloth gloves, and hold a game-used bat from one of a few major leaguers. I had to go with Mantle’s bat, and it was awesome to hold a piece of history like that in my hands.

Our tour was pretty cool. They wouldn’t let us photograph inside the factory, but we got to see the whole process, including the carving of bats, both retail/minor league bats (about 30 seconds each) and major league bats (about 40 seconds each). We watched the application of signatures to some major league bats, and learned about the different wood and finishes authorized by Major League Baseball. It was a great tour, and taught you just about everything you’d need to know about baseball bats.

We ended our day with a stroll through the gift shop, where I arranged for my own bats! If you look through the photos from the trip, you can see one of them as it is processed and engraved. The other bat will come in a couple of weeks. That one’s a signature bat, and apparently it takes them a little while to get my signature on it. Can’t wait for it to show up!

The visit to the museum and factory was wonderful — I learned a bunch, and was in awe of the sense of history in the place. Definitely worth the drive!

This Post-Season, I’m a Rockies Fan

On my way in to work daily, I usually listen to KOA out of Denver. For some reason, that station beckons to me, much the same way that that part of the world does. When I was a kid growing up in SE Tennessee, I tried to listen to far away AM radio stations, and KOA was always on my list. High powered, I’d always thought it’d be an easy mark, but I don’t remember ever being able to grab it.

Now that I’m in the midwest, it’s an easy catch once the local religious station on 850 drops off the air at sunset.

Anyway, I’ve been listened to the folks in Denver rave about their Rockies, and the fantastic ending to the season they experienced. Really storybook kinda stuff. However, I believe the media isn’t exactly treating them well. When they went to a one-game playoff with San Diego Monday night, none of the national sports networks showed the game, despite it being the only baseball game being played. Admittedly, both of those markets are considered “small” by network TV standards, but the reports of the game lead me to believe it’s one of the better games this season, regardless of who was playing.

So, with the Cardinals out of the mix for the postseason, I’ve become a Rockies fan for the duration of their run. Maybe all that listening to radio waves from the mountains has me rooting for the underdogs. Or perhaps I have a “Rocky Mountain High” mind trapped in a “Devil Went to Georgia” body. No matter the reason, I’ll be cheering for those guys in purple….