Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Last night I witnessed something I have been waiting to see most of my baseball life. I finally saw an on field celebration after a team won a division title. It happened to have been my favorite team, the LA Dodgers. But I should have seen this happen 27 years ago, but it didn't happen. Allow me to explain.
September 1988. I was 16 years old without a car. (I was a bike riding, walking to school loser. One other reason I didn't have a girlfriend in high school. Thanks mom! Ha!) I had tickets to a Giants/Dodgers game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. It was a Sunday afternoon game. I had four tickets that cost $11 each. I arranged a ride with a friend. His uncle was supposed to take us along with his younger brother.
So I show up to my friends house to get ready to leave. Then I was told of a slight problem. Turns out my friends uncle wouldn't take us unless I got a 5th ticket for his friend to go. This was blackmail! This was Giants/Dodgers with playoff implications on the line. This is one of the most storied rivalries in sports. We call Ticketron (Before there was Stubhub, there was Ticketron to all you young readers out there. You called for tickets. This was before cell phones mind you.)
The game is sold out. So it looks like my friends uncles friend was bleep out of luck.
It turns out we were bleep out of luck.
No extra ticket, no ride was his rebuttal. He bailed on us.
So now we're three teenagers without a ride. My friends parents had plans. I called every relative I knew and they all said no chance. I was calling everyone I knew who had a car to take me. No luck. (On a side note, my friends mom said she'd pay me back the $33 for the tickets we couldn't use. I'm still waiting for it. What's $33 with 27 years interest?)
So I had to watch the Dodgers possibly clinch on TV at home. Imagine watching the game with tickets to the game in your hands and there's nothing you can do about it. I was torturing myself by watching the game. But I had to see the Dodgers win the NL West pennant.
They didn't. They lost that day. I felt they would have won if I was there. Wishful teenage thinking.
The Dodgers went on to clinch the title in San Diego.
Who knew that day I would have to wait 27 years for that situation to happen again.
It happened last night.
Clayton Kershaw threw a masterpiece. 13 strikeouts and allowed one hit in a complete game shutout. One of the best pitching performances I ever saw.
Funny thing is, Clayton Kershaw was born in 1988. He was 6 months old that fateful day. Who would have known a new born baby would one day control my destiny. (I know, I'm being dramatic for literary purposes).
So I can finally cross something off my bucket list. Life is good!
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Today it was announced the city of Sacramento was awarded a baseball team in the Great West League.
What's the Great West League you ask? Why does Sacramento need another baseball team when there's already the AAA River Cats? Where will they play?
Well, all that's still being figured out.
This new team won't pose a threat to the River Cats as this new team in the new Great West League is a summer college league for college players looking to get some at bats with a wood bat.
For the most part, summer college leagues like the Cape Cod League, enable players to get used to swinging a wood bat, and play everyday as they will if they're fortunate enough to get drafted by a major league organization.
This league is going to be quite the same.
I had the pleasure of watching one of the teams in the new Great West League, the Marysville Gold Sox, play ball this past summer.
It's great baseball. The kids a little raw, as they're getting used to the grind of playing everyday. In college, most teams play on weekends with an occasional game played during the week.
Marysville was part of the Horizon Air Series. Most people would call this type of baseball semi-pro. I'd take out the word pro.
These kids don't get paid. Some work jobs during the day at a retail store to make some pocket money. Mostly all of them stay with a host family that provides them room and board.
As I said, it prepares them for life in the daily grind of minor league baseball.
It was my first time watching a summer college league game. Marysville drew a very big crowd and I got the impression the locals look forward to the Gold Sox coming back every summer.
One franchise I'm looking forward to seeing is the Chico Heat.
In my days a clubbie for the Solano Steelheads in the old Western Baseball League, Chico was like the major leagues.
Great facilities, great fans and an all around great roadtrip. (Why Chico isn't in the California League is beyond me).
Now back to Sacramento. Today is day number one. I'm sure as I write this, the search for a general manager is being done. Then a manager will be named. The team needs a name.
So it looks like I have another team to watch next summer.
Friday, September 18, 2015
The good old playbook. The book of secrets. It's been the subject of books movies and TV shows. Marcia Brady git duped by a rival high schools quaterback over a playbook in The Brady Bunch. An assistant coach left behind his playbook in a diner a night before the national championship game on Coach. How many times have you seen a movie with football players studying their playbooks?
So the question is, why are these books so secretive? (Kinda like my uncles Playboy's as a kid, but I'm getting off the subject).
Well, I got my hands on a playbook. One of my cousins played for UNLV. He was a medical red-shirt, but he still had to study a playbook.
I got to look into a playbook preparing for a game against Arizona in 2013. No playbook scandals here, the coaching staff from UNLV's 2013 season have been dismissed and a new staff is put into place. Thats why the book wasn't returned. (I hope they lose every game until coach Sanchez is fired!) I was hoping to see a secret, hidden world of football.
I just saw things I didn't understand.
To someone such as myself who didn't get to play football (thanks Mom!), the diagrams and schemes made no sense. Lots of diagrams. In George Plimpton's book, Paper Lion, he said to the outsider, a football playbook would disappoint someone looking for inside information of the game. He went on to say a professional playbook was no different than a college or high school playbook. Just the terminology will be different. The terminology is different from team to team.
A college playbook is far more advanced than a high school book, not that I'd know, I never saw one in high school (thanks Mom!), but that's what I'd assume. You have to be at every team practice and every meeting to understand the terminology, your assignment and your teammates assignment.
So to interpret the playbook, I took a few pictures and sent them to a friend of mine, Cameron, who played Jr high, high school and college ball at Mesa College.
Right away he deciphered the plays. He told me which play the play should be run, if it was a run or pass play. This was a defense book, so the play were to defend against Arizona's offense.
What I found interesting of the playbook was the section on some of Arizona offensive players tendencies. It went on to describe what a player might do in a given situation. How he's reacted in the past. Is he easy to upset? Does he keep a cool head? Does he tip off what the offense might do? It's all there in the tendencies. (Reminds me of the movie North Dallas Forty, when the North Dallas Bulls lost a big game, an assistant coach yells at his defensive players for not studying the other teams tendencies).
A playbook has a lot of information to absorb. As I just said, not only does a player have to know his own assignment, he also must learn the assignments of his teammates.
So much for the dumb jock stigma football players are supposed to have.
Lots of meetings take place so a team can learn as one how a play works.
After the play is learned, it's practiced on the field over and over again until it's executed just right.
Then game day comes. The result on the scoreboard dictates who executed their playbook as flawlessly as possible.
Then mistakes are shown on film during film meetings.
Then it's back to the old drawing board and make up new plays, or slightly change existing ones.
It's creativity, imagination and innovation in those playbooks.
It takes intelligence to understand it. I'm smart, but not football smart.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
I'm in year four of this project. I've changed the name multiple times. I almost pulled the plug on this blog a few times. I've lost my patience with this blog before. I have two suscribers and they're the same person.
I knew I was going to be a very teeny tiny fish in a very large pond when I started this. If anyone wants sports news, one can go to their local paper, the Four Letter Network or one of the many blogs out there.
I tried to promote this blog. I had Vista Print make me cards and pens. I would then give them out and people would pocket the pen and card and I wouldn't hear anything more about it. (Talk about fishing for a compliment!)
I had 250 of those cards and gave out probably 25 and threw away the other 225.
But I kept writing despite no one reading. This was initially a top secret invitation only project. I'm very sensitive to criticism and I just didn't want to hear it. Criticism as a high school student changed my mind about becoming a sportswriter. Well, that and a stubborn football player who didn't have anything to say to me during an interview, and that fateful day I met one of my journalistic heroes and she told me to consider doing something else as the money isn't very good.
I lost my way. I stopped writing. Thanks to modern technology, I started to write again. First it was on Sports Illustrated's blog section. I wish I could find those blog posts. This was probably in 2007/8. Not sure. My writing was terrible. I wasn't the best writer to begin with, but as I told someone, if you stop throwing your fastball, you'll lose your zip on the ball.
I lost my fastball completely.
I remember writing about Mexicans in the NFL. I knew what I wanted to say, but it came out wrong. Maybe it'd good I can't find those first posts.
Then in late 2011, I discovered Blogger. I had heard blogging was taking over the internet. So I tried again and stayed with it. Here we are almost four years later.
I was still keeping my blog a secret from friends and family. Then one day I offered to help the local sports editor of The Napa Valley Register to help out with the US Open qualifier in Napa. I mentioned my blog to show my writing experience.
Well, much to my surprise, the sports editor wanted to interview me. Not for a job, but for an article.
Initially I was hesitant. I told Mr. James I kept my blog a secret. He told me it was time to let the world know about it.
It was so nice to hear from a sports editor at a newspaper that my writing was really good. He liked my writing style.
We eventually met for an interview. Then a few weeks later as I was at the airport in Sacramento having an early morning gin and tonic, (hey it was 12 noon somewhere!), I got a text from a friend saying she saw my article. Then I took off to southern California. By the time I landed, I got so many texts, phone calls and Facebook posts about the article.
It was kinda like being famous!
Now the world knew about it. It wasn't a secret anymore. Anyone is welcome to read it.
Now the mini publicity tour begins. I'm going to be on the Napa Show in Napa and talk about it on Wednesday night, then on Thursday I will be appearing on the Marty James sports show. Marty James is the Mr. James I spoke of.
Thanks Marty for the praise. It means a lot!
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Today I attended the Silverado College Invitational at the Silverado Resort in Napa. It featured schools from across the country. Pacific, U of San Francisco, Hawaii, Tulsa, Oklahoma State and SMU.
There were two sessions, 10am and 12 noon. I got a late start and attended the noon session. Hawaii and USF were playing. For a college match, there was a nice crowd. Most of the patrons were rooting for USF. I was watching a player named Nils from USF. Not because I wanted to, because the seats were next to his match. There was another match on the middle and outer courts, but for seating comfort, we all watched the court closest to us.
I tweeted the action. It was very good tennis. The matches weren't as organized as I thought they'd be. There was no chair umpire per se. I think coaches acted as ballboys, or else they were very bored Silverado members with nothing better to do on a cool Saturday afternoon.
The players themselves called balls in or out, much to the point both players agreed to disagree.
Sometimes things would get hot under the collar, but the players would settle their differences quickly.
Both players I watched must have been from an eastern block country, probably from mother Russia. Each player played flawlessly.....compared to my game! As I said in my title, this isn't the US Open, but at least it was tennis on a very entertaining level. Being up close and personal, I could hear when they would get very upset with themselves, at each other or pumping themselves up with tennis tactic.
As for the crowd, let's say they thought they were in Flushing, New York. Everyone around me was enjoying wine and conversation amongst themselves. If it wasn't for a black guy being there, I would have been the darkest person there. One young lady looked at me like she was smelling poop. Oh well, you can't charm them all.
I was only there for about an hour and a half. Hawaii won the match.
Tomorrow I'm going back, bringing a small picnic, and watch future club pros play for the Silverado College Invitational championship!