Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Missed First Practice 29 Years Ago

Ninth grade football! Every boy at Douglass Jr. High was talking about trying out for football the summer we were about to become ninth graders.
I was one of them.
I could pass the football unlike anyone at Campbell Park. I was always the quarterback. I INSISTED I be the quarterback.
I boasted to anyone who was around I was going to try out for the Douglass Lions football team.
I was gonna pass the Douglass Lions to victory every week. I was gonna be The Man!
I remember the morning before tryouts going to bed early to get my rest. First meeting was at 8 am sharp. I was gonna be the first one there......
I overslept.
Woke up at 7:45am. My friend Sergio and I were gonna go to the meeting together.
We went together, we were just late.
I remember we both were too embarrassed to walk in. I thought Coach Smith was gonna rip us a new one.
We stood around deciding what to do.
Sergio decided to go home. I did too.
I'm sure if we had walked in, we would have took some razzing from the guys and that would have been the end of it.
I always wondered what would have happened if I went to that first meeting. In my then teenage mind, I would have been the starting quarterback, the big man on campus, being every girls dream at school.
But looking back, reality tells me I would have been knocked around like a tackling dummy.
I was 5 foot nothing, a scrawny 120 pounds. I would have been too short to see over the line. Passing with a real football other than a Nerf football like I did at Campbell Park would have been a challenge. I could throw like Joe Montana with a Nerf ball.
There was one other obstacle that would have prevented me from football glory, and it wasn't on the gridiron. She lived with me, she was my mom.
My mom would not have signed the permission slip allowing me to play. She thought I would have gotten paralyzed by a freak hit or just plain torn to shreds. (Gee, thanks mom!)
I told her that I would have lifted weights to get stonger. She said I was too weak to lift weights. (Gee, thanks mom!)
She insist it would have been a miserable experience.
Well, the Douglass Lions went on to win the championship without me. The guys were celebrities around school wearing their football jerseys around school on game day. I was just another schmuck in street clothes.
I could never bring myself to watch the games. I felt like I should have been out there. I had a afternoon paper route that conflicted me from watching the games anyway.
Hard to believe it's almost thirty years later. Where does the time go?
Now I'm on vacation getting ready to watch a cousin participate in his first practice with pads.
I'm sure in thirty years he'll have better memories of football than I do.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Telling Your Bosses What They Want To Hear

The 2015 trade deadline passed yesterday and now the dust has settled. One team that was expected to conduct a fire sale stood pat and did nothing.
Last winter San Diego Padres GM AJ Preller constructed to what many thought would be a contending team and give the Dodgers a run for their money.
Preller signed James Shields, traded for Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres looked great on paper. Everyone in San Diego was excited. Preller promised a winner.
The excitement didn't last long. The pitching staff is struggling and the hitters can't hit. It's been a long miserable season in San Diego.
Preller was ordered to dump salary. They weren't calling it a fire sale, just moving contracts. (Detroit is calling it a reboot).
This past week, myself and the other 29 teams were looking to San Diego to move Kemp, Shields, Upton, Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Seth Smith, everyone!
Yesterday the baseball world was awaiting news from the Padres. At 1:01pm Pacific Time, nothing happened.
Last year deals weren't officially announced until well after the deadline.
When I sat down to dinner, it was obvious the Padres did nothing. They stood pat.
AJ Preller told his bosses what they wanted to hear, "I believe we can make the postseason with this roster "
Talk about saying anything to keep your job!
Everyone knows AJ Preller's plan didn't work. It blew up in his face. He should have saved face and made deals to build for the future.
Now he's gambling his future with the Padres and hoping this team makes the playoffs.
Something tells me he'll be known as former Padres GM the first week in October.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live From The Broadcast Booth

I've always been curious on how things work. My mom remembers me tearing my bike apart so I could put it back together again. There were always extra pieces afterwards that I couldn't figure out where they went on the bike. It just reinforced I was curious about things and not mechanically inclined.
My curiosity took me to the broadcast booth at Colusa Casino Stadium in Marysville, California to oversee how a baseball broadcast works.
We at home just listen to the game in progress. The highlights we hear on soundbites is the finished product.
We don't see the hours of preparation a broadcaster does to deliver a quality broadcast. It involves preparing game notes, getting info about every player on the roster and going to the clubhouse to gather a story or two that a broadcaster may tell during the game.
As I said, we hear the finished product. I wanted to see a work in progress. How does one with so much information to deliver make it happen? I was bound to find out.
It's not as easy as it seems. I can't just write my friendly local Major League Baseball team and ask to sit in the booth and watch. (The Oakland Raiders didn't even respond to my request for a press pass. Yup, not so friendly)
I was thinking about writing the local AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats, to sit in and listen and gather notes. AAA is a notch below the big leagues, so I figured I would get a minor league rejection letter.
Hmmmm, what to do?
Then it hit me. There's a collegiate summer baseball team in Marysville called the Marysville Gold Sox. I listen to the strong radio signal of KUBA 1600 AM and remembered they broadcast the games over the summer.
So I wrote their play by play man Geoff Flynn and asked for press box access. The worst they could say is no.
I wrote a month in advance. No answer. I figured I was just getting a summer league rejection letter. Two days before the game, I got a response!
I was told I was more than welcome to sit in and watch. Just come on up to Marysville.
So I brought my notepad and scorebook to the pressbox.
"Hi! Are you Felix? I'm Geoff, nice to have you here!" Geoff quickly showed me around the pressbox and introduced me to everyone. Everyone being two other people. An older gentleman who was the scoreboard operator and a young man who was the PA announcer.
Geoff had to gather a few notes and quickly left for the clubhouse. A young lady came in with food and cold soda for Geoff and she asked if I wanted anything. I had a big lunch and I told her I was fine. I would later regret not getting a soda as it got very hot up there in the cozy confines of the broadcast booth.
Geoff came back and hurriedly recorded his opening. During all this time, he was constantly talking to a producer back at the studio. The producer always told him how much time it was until commercial break was over and after Geoff would conclude a half inning of play, the producer would tell him he was "clear", meaning he was off the air. It was roughly 90 seconds or so of commercials, and Geoff would sign on again to describe more action.
During the course of the game he would obviously describe the play by play. Between pitches he would tell a story of that particular batter. The Verizon Air Series is a college wood bat league. It's basically kids getting some extended playing time and getting experience hitting with a wood bat. The kids (I feel old saying that, but they're kids) come from all over the country. Some from big schools and others from schools I never heard of. (Heartland College, New Mexico Highlands....where are these places?)
I asked Geoff if he gets to know the players so he can pass on a story about some of them during a game. He said he doesn't get to know them as much as he'd like, as the season goes by so fast and the lack of roadtrips doesn't help getting to know the guys. (That's for another post, the team itself)
Geoff asked if I'd like to talk for an inning or two. I think I said yes before he finished his question!
So we quickly got ready for me to make my radio debut.
"You're on in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1", the producer from the studio told us.
Geoff told the audience at home what inning we were headed to and then he introduced me for everyone to hear in the north valley.
He asked me what brought me to Marysville, why was I interested in the Gold Sox and he asked me about my blog. I was nervous at first, but I got comfortable quickly. I was mostly trying to avoid talking over him, so I spoke between pitches or after a play was made. Geoff had a job to do and I didn't want to interrupt him. It was his booth and I was a guest. The two innings I was on the air, it went very quick. No on air catastrophes to speak of, although I did describe the Gold Sox as being sloppy.
I went back to keeping score of the game and taking notes for this post. I wanted to tweet some of what was happening, but doing three things all at once was impossible. I could barely keep score.
Geoff was great at handling everything happening in the game, keeping score, and preparing for the later innings. He was constantly talking to the producer back at the studio.
His setup for the broadcast was simple. It was a laptop hooked up with Skype, a Wi-Fi card, a mini mixing board and a digital recorder. And of course microphone headsets. It was that simple.
Over the course of the game he would tell a funny story and look over at me with a smile while telling it. I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice he loves his job.
Radio seems very fast paced and sitting in the booth I could see that it is.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit and watch.
I asked Geoff about "The Grind". I worked in professional baseball for one summer. I was warned about the Grind. By the end of the season, I was exhausted. It's a grind to show up at the ballpark everyday and go to work. A regular job is a grind, so is life in general. But in baseball being at the ballpark 12 hours a day, it's an exhausting grind.
He says he was very tired and the grind is getting to him. I totally knew how he felt.
I stuck around for the post game show. I spoke with Geoff, the PA announcer and the scoreboard operator long after the fans left. It was a very long day and I had a long drive home. I thanked Geoff for letting me drop in. I told him I was coming for the final homestand. I told him I would email him letting him know when I was coming. He said not to email, just show up.
This is Skip signing off until next time!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Sat Next To Pedro In Stockton

This has been an interesting Hall of Fame class this year. This group of guys are making me feel old. I can remember when Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez were coming up when I was in high school. Allow me to explain......
I collected baseball cards (since I wasn't collecting girls phone numbers) well into when I was in high school. (Probably couldn't get phone numbers since I was a baseball dweeb)
But I can vividly remember coming across baseball cards of Randy Johnson as an Indianapolis Indian when he was a farm hand of the Montreal Expos. I remember thinking how old he looked and as well as how odd he looked. He was very tall and lanky when he was younger. This was probably 1988. I filed the card away. He would eventually go on to bigger and better things as a Seattle Mariner.
I remember getting John Smoltz's rookie card, but since I wasn't a fan of the Tigers, I didn't care. He would eventually get traded to the Atlanta Braves and become part of a historic pitching rotation.
I saw Craig Biggio's Major League debut....on television. It was sometime in late June of 1988. The Giants were playing the Astros in Houston. I can remember Hank Greenwald talking about this young catcher who was playing his first game in the bigs. I think he had a great day. Who would have known almost twenty years later he would be collecting his 3,000th and be on his way to Cooperstown.
Which leads me to the final inductee. I remember the fuss about Ramon Martinez's kid brother Pedro who was supposed to be a great pitcher. (I remember Ramon's big league debut)
Didn't know much more about Pedro because he was a minor leaguer.
Well one night in 1991I'm at a Stockton Ports game watching the Ports play the Bakersfield Dodgers. I'm sitting a couple of rows behind homeplate. To the right side of me at the end of the row is Pedro Martinez and a trainer for Bakersfield. They were talking in Spanish, laughing and enjoying the evening. Pedro signed autographs as he was watching the game. Again, I had no idea this guy was gonna be a big leaguer. He was just Ramon's brother. There was a third Martinez brother who was supposed to be better than Ramon and Pedro. Jesus Martinez never made it to the big leagues.
In 1991 I had a car that allowed me to explore. So I took a roadtrip to Bakersfield and Las Vegas to see some future LA Dodgers. I saw Mike Piazza in Bakersfield.
So I eventually get to Las Vegas to see the then Las Vegas Stars play the Albuquerque Dukes. This was AAA ball at Cashman Field. So I'm by the dugouts just watching batting practice. Someone familiar is standing in front of me in a Dukes uniform. It was Pedro Martinez. He was kind of standoff-ish to everyone trying to get his attention. Since I was the closest, he signed my program. I still have it somewhere in a box.
Once again, who knew that one day he would make a few starts for the Dodgers, get traded to Montreal, and set upon the road to the Hall of Fame?
The baseball cards of Smoltz and Johnson are long gone. All I have are the memories of watching TV, opening a pack of cards and making a roadtrip to come across these newly enshrined Hall of Famers.
I don't think I'll have this kind of connection with another Hall of Fame class. I eventually stopped collecting baseball cards, I watch so many games on TV, it's hard to keep up with who's who. Kids are getting called up quite frequently this year. My big roadtrip is to Arizona in March, and there are so many players coming in and out of games, it's hard to spot that one special player.
But for a brief moment in time, I saw four very special careers take off.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Worst Two Days Of The Year

Being a sports fan usually means if you like all four major team sports, there's always something to watch. Heck, even if you throw in golf, tennis or soccer, there should be something to watch on TV.
Most sports programming is during prime time. Today is truly the worst day of the year to be a sports fan.
Wimbledon ended Sunday. The British Open started today, but coverage began very early this morning. Major League Baseball extended the All Star break an additional day, so no baseball tonight.
The NFL doesn't start training camp for another two weeks. Want to watch hockey? Forget about it.
The only thing on tonight is the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
I actually watched a bit of it last night. I've always heard of it, just never watched. It's interesting. Just a high paced practice or scrimmage. Bunch of NBA newbies trying to make a name for themselves if they weren't first round picks, or they were first rounders who weren't lottery picks.
Last night I also watched the AAA All Star Game from Omaha, Nebraska. If you're a baseball junkie like I am, it was a treat looking at future prospects or watching former big leaguers hanging on playing for another year. I interacted with a player on Twitter, Cody Decker from the San Diego Padres organization.
On the telecast on MLB Network, the commentators were showing how he makes mini movies basically poking fun at a teammate. So I tweeted him saying he has a bright future in show business.
Mr. Decker then tweeted me saying, "The future is now!", with a link from the NBC drama, State of Affairs. I click on the link and it's a scene showing a man with a bomb on him at a shopping mall. A security guard enters the scene telling the man to exit the area, while he's calling for backup. The man with the bomb blows up the mall. The security guard in question was an actor named.....Cody Decker! I learned from the telecast that Mr. Decker was a theater major at UCLA and was teammates with San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.
So that provided some entertainment for me.
Also the ESPY'S were on. Usually it's on the flagship station, but in order to grab as many ratings as possible, the show was switched to ABC so the circus could show off and give the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlin Jenner, in her first public appearance since she stopped being Bruce Jenner.
I didn't watch, I stopped watching that smarmy, smug, self indulgent, self love fest years ago. The ratings have been down for years and there was hope ESPN would pull the plug on this awards show, but not to worry folks, it's here to stay. Last night's show breathed new life into it. Also making an appearance was the US Womens soccer team, Mo'ne Davis and probably many mentions of Stuart Scott.
Which leads me to tonight. What to watch? Looks like NBA Summer League reruns.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pitch Patch Potch

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.....
Ken Stabler passed away on Thursday. First time I heard of him was from my 4th grade teacher Ms. Cargo. Spoke of him like he was the greatest football player ever. She referenced him as The Snake. First time I heard of a player's nickname.

The ESPY'S are Wednesday.......who cares. Just a ESPN self love fest. Caitlin Jenner will be getting the Courage Award. May as well call it the "We're Using You For Ratings" Award.....I'll pass on watching that circus

A book about the Dodgers is coming out on Tuesday called "The Best Team Money Can Buy". It's supposed to be chock full of clubhouse stories. Mainly stories of how much a pain in the neck Yasiel Puig is. Can't wait to read it.

Speaking of Puig, it's time to trade him at his highest value and get some quality pitching for him. Let him be a pain in the neck for another team. The Dodgers are ready to win it all now. I think he's the one holding them back from that goal.

NFL training camp starts in a few weeks. I'm planning on visiting the Oakland Raiders training camp this year. I tried to go last year but the day I showed up, they were in Oxnard training with the Cowboys.

It's almost mid July and I haven't seen the World Series Champion Giants yet. They're tickets are a bit pricey this year. Their schedule doesn't interest me either.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roll That Video Tape!

In the early 1960's a visionary television producer named Roone Arledge wanted to change how we watched sports television.
He had nine to ten cameras, some with zoom lenses to get up close to the action as possible. He brought in shotgun microphones to hear the game as we've never heard it before.
He assigned opinionated sportscasters to his telecasts to describe the game in great detail.
He wanted drama and action and he delivered. Perhaps one of his greatest innovations is what was supposed to have been a novelty, now generates controversy everyday during any sports cast, replay.
Replay was originally supposed to show a great play in slow motion to show the viewer at home the marvel of athletics.
Nowadays it's putting umpires, referees and other on field officials under a microscope for all the world to see. Now every coach and player can second guess an officials decision whenever they feel it's necessary.
It makes games longer. Longer than they need to be. But the TV networks don't care because while we at home are waiting for a decision from New York (funny how all replay decisions are made in NY) the networks can squeeze in a commercial or two. Or we can watch a boring shot of the officials huddled up as the suspense builds if a call is going to get over turned or not.
If the call stands, great for the officials, they made the right call. If the play turns out wrong, it makes the officials look bad. They don't like it I'm sure.
It ads up to controversy, which translates into ratings. Ratings translates into dollars.
I liked Mr. Arledge's original concept of replay. I don't like the present day use of it. Mr. Arledge's legacy will be replayed for all to see forever.