Don’t Trust Children With Anything

A few years ago, when I was quite small, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

(And, by “a few years ago”, I mean, “some years ago” … maybe “a few of a few years past” … and, well … you know, math is stupid.)

Anyway, not quite 100 years ago, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

For those of you who are older than magnets (you know who you are), Wooly Willy’s bare head was surrounded by metal shavings. So, with the “magic” magnetic pencil you could move the shavings around and give Willy hair and a beard and a mustache.

(So, really, you were just creating your own version of the Red Sox.)

As a very precocious youngster, who didn’t quite understand the connection between metal and magnets, I decided it would be interesting if, before fixing Willy’s hair, I could first examine the metal shavings up close. So I broke into my Wooly Willy and poured the shavings on the ground.

(And, by “on the ground”, I mean, on the asphalt, because we were still in the parking lot of Long’s Drug, where we had gotten the thing just five minutes earlier.)

This didn’t improve my understanding of metallurgy. But, it did massively annoy my mother. And, having broken the plastic lid, I never did get to give Willy a metal beard or mohawk, because no way, no how, was my mom getting me another one.

The moral of this story is simple.

Don’t trust children with things.

Really, anything.

Most important, don’t trust children with things that are meaningful to you. Like the foul ball you just caught.

As in St. Louis yesterday …

kid

Watch here.

OK, you can’t really trust ’em, but that kid was awesome.

Ducks On The Pond

duck play

Ducks On The Pond ~ A baseball phrase referring to runners on base; used primarily when the bases are loaded.

Gypsy Hill is an old Victorian park in Staunton, Virginia. It’s been a park, in some form or another, since the 1890s.

Inside its 200-odd acres today are picnic areas, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and a football field. But, the most popular spot in the park is the duck pond. The pond attracts both people and ducks.

But, mainly ducks. A whole lot of them. So many that the pond becomes covered with a blanket of ducks, like a real-life down comforter.

duck pond

Photo: City of Staunton Parks & Recreation

And, when all those ducks get to quacking and elbowing to get the best spots in the water, some unlucky ducks are going to get run over, bullied, or pecked on.

I know, you thought ducks were sweet feathery things that just paddle around all day enjoying the scenery, didn’t you?  Yeh, me, too.

But, the pond is like high school, and there are always a few bad seeds and bullies making things miserable for everybody else.

A few nasty ducks are bad enough. But, add in overcrowding and too many people feeding too much bready junk food that sickens ducks, and now you’ve gone from high school to something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Somebody’s going to get hurt.

Not all ducks are bullies.

Although this one definitely was …

ducky medwick

Ducky Medwick ~ A member of the famed 1930s-era Gashouse Gang on the St. Louis Cardinals. He waddled when he walked, hence “Ducky.” A powerful .362 career hitter, he also was powerfully mean and would brawl with other players and his own teammates – during and after games. He won the Triple Crown in 1937 (leading the league in hits, RBIs, and home runs), the last National Leaguer to do so.

This duck might be a bully, too …

mad duck

Each year, a dozen or so Gypsy Hill ducks end up at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, in nearby Waynesboro.

These are often smaller ducks who fell in with the bad crowd and paid the price. The Center’s vets and rehabbers clean up their wounds, stitch them back up, and give them a little bit of healing time.

Editor/Husband works at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. And, that’s how two Wildlife Center Mallard Ducks, Patient #14-1373, a male, and Patient #14-1378, a female, ended up at our house on Thursday.

All healed up, they certainly couldn’t go back to Gypsy Hill Park. Our job? Find a comfortable and safe duck-friendly pond for them.

Hey, ducks, welcome to Paradise …

release site

Our friends Michelle and Chris have a lovely pair of ponds at their home. They’ve helped Wildlife Center patients before, allowing a “soft” release for ducks who need a bit of a watchful eye as they ease back into life in the wild, or who might not be able to fly too well anymore due to injuries.

duckline

Their ponds are home to 10 assorted ducks and a gaggle of Canada geese. (I just wanted to say gaggle.)

darling duck

We headed down to one of the ponds and slipped the Gypsy Hill ducks out of their crates.

duck release 1

Hey! No traffic jams!

Yoga stretch …

duck yoga

Just a  couple ducks on the pond and plenty of room.

ducks on the pond

And, no bread, which is terrible for ducks and leads to severe malnourishment. I’m serious. Enough with the bread, people.

UPDATE:

Michelle reports that the ducks are still hanging around on the pond. Although the ducks can fly off whenever they like, really, why would they leave?

ducks on the pond2

Paddle your feet and take a spin around the pond. It’s Paradise, baby.

________________________

Previously in our wildlife releasing adventures:

There You Go, Turtle! ~ May 2014

Duck Photos: Madison County, Virginia. July 3, 2014

ducks tee

Octoberitis

jjhardy

Amazing Orioles’ Shortstop J.J. Hardy.

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles lost and were eliminated from the playoffs. Their season ends Sunday. Time for huntin’, fishin’, or whatever it is that these fellas do when they’re not swinging at bad pitches. (See, Orioles’ Pitchers … it’s not always your fault.)

After last season, I discovered that baseball in October is more fun than I ever could have imagined.

october baseball

October in Baltimore (2012 edition).

It’s amazing.

Sigh.

But, instead, the Orioles are done. (Although Manny Machado is going to be ok. Hakuna Machado!)

So, here’s how I spent my first day out of the playoffs.

1) One of my cats pooped. On the kitchen counter. I came home and there it was. Poop. On the kitchen counter. I spent my first day of meaningless baseball super-bleach-sanitizing the kitchen. I may just have to burn it down. (I can forgive certain cat things. She’s old and sort of frail. But, the boxes were clean. This is a felony.)

smokeyjo

Smokey Jo. Felon.

2) At my Yoga studio, I have beautiful windows overlooking a courtyard that is used by the nearby restaurant. It lets in lovely light. As I was teaching yesterday, my students were practicing and I look up to see a guy – all tattoos, beers, and facial hair – coming up to my window, making eye contact with me, and then vomiting. Profusely. All over. It seemed to last forever. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I worried he might try to come into the class and vomit some more. He heaved up about a gallon of his insides, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and staggered away. I’m still traumatized.

3) I broke the space bar on my laptop. Doyouknowhowimportantspacesbetweenwordsare? Veryveryimportant.

And, here’s what I learned.

1) Cats really don’t care about you.

2) You can become hypnotized watching someone vomit.

3) Ineedaspacebar!!!!!!

I love my Orioles. I’m proud of all they did this season. I’m proud of the homeruns. The amazing defense. The pitchers. I’m proud of each and every Oriole. (I may tease ’em, sure, but I love ’em.)

And, I’m soaking in these last few games. They may be playoff meaningless, but they’re never meaningless to me. They won last night! They had a winning season!

But, this October is going to be awful – just endless poop and vomit – if I don’t find a backup team soon.

So, there you go.

In a comment on one of my earlier posts, Don Of All Trades put in his pitch for me to root for the St. Louis Cardinals.

don

So, just by virtue of his promptness (and flattery), the Cardinals are off to a quick start.

The Oakland A’s could be ok … after all, to go from O’s to A’s is just gentle vowel shifting. It could be quite easy for me.

But, the door is wide open.

Is your team still in it? Add a comment. Give me your best pitch.

Since only you and three other people actually read this thing, chances are good I’ll go with your team if you take the time to ask me. Think of it as a baseball date. Sure, we’ll break up in November, but we could have some fun in October, right?

Andthisspacebarismakingmecrazy.

#2: Look It’s Me! The Orioles in St. Petersburg

When I started this Spring Training series, I had my Top 5 list ready to go.

But, my editor/husband insisted that the Spring Training I attended should be included.

So, apologies Limestone League – the World War II-era years when teams held Spring Training north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi. French Lick and Terre Haute. Bloomington and Muncie.

You’re off the list. (Maybe next year.)

Number 2 on my list of amazing Spring Trainings is the one I attended in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Many people believe that attending Spring Training is the mark of a true baseball fan.

They’re wrong.

To be a true baseball fan is to watch a 17-inning game, start to finish … and then watch it again when the local sports network replays it on Thanksgiving Day. (It will take six hours and seven minutes, in case you’re wondering. And, yes, we won.)

To be a true baseball fan is to sit – or, more correctly, stand – through a freezing two-and-a-half hour rain delay during the playoffs only to have your team go down in bitter defeat in the 9th.

To be a true baseball fan is to watch your beloved team lose more often than it wins and still love them. To watch them lose 100 games in a single season. To watch them lose 21 in a row. And, still love them.

To be a true baseball fan is to say, “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow,” no matter the odds. And, mean it.

Spring Training, on the other hand, is just a lovely way to spend a vacation in Florida (or Arizona) during the chilly, waning days of winter. Sandwiching ballgames with a little beach time or tee time or margarita time.

For a few years in the 1990s, the St. Louis Cardinals shared St. Petersburg, Florida and Al Lang Stadium with the Baltimore Orioles.

There's a lot of milling about at Spring Training.

There’s a lot of milling about at Spring Training.

So, in 1992, I went to Spring Training by myself. I was much younger of course (12 would be a good guess, but since I was driving a rental car and drinking beer, though not at the same time, perhaps I was a bit older).

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Swing Like You Mean It

Hitting a ball just once is not enough for Hunter Pence. How about hitting a single pitch three times?

San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence comes from a world I don’t understand.

No, not the National League.

When he was traded to the Giants this summer, I quickly realized that Hunter Pence is from another planet … where the energy is so plentiful and so intense that its inhabitants need no Starbucks or Monster drinks to thrive. In fact, a double espresso or a Red Bull would likely cause spontaneous combustion.

Hunter Pence is like a pinball in a machine gone crazy.

When Hunter Pence swings at a baseball he doesn’t really swing. He slashes, chops, sweeps, hacks, oh hell, just make up a word … ok, he scaswables at the baseball. Over and over and over.

He swings like he’s been covered in cobwebs. He swings and swings and swings. He drops to one knee as he swings. He spins himself around. He swings at the air as though the air has done something to irritate him. He is crazy mad at the air.

Just go over to YouTube and search “Hunter Pence warm up swing” and you’ll see things like this.

So was it any surprise that Hunter Pence hit a single pitch not once, not twice, but three times with a single swing of the bat last night?  No, not crazy by Hunter Pence standards.

But, what was crazy is that the bat broke as it hit-hit-hit the ball, and the ball still went fair. It was a hit. A hit that drove in three runs.

If the St. Louis Cardinals had a sinking feeling about last night’s Game 7 last chance, it had to come with that single improbable, impossible, insane swing of the bat.

It’s pretty cool to watch. Here it is in super slo-mo. Click here

But, you probably ought to see the entire thing unfold in real time. And, you can do that here.

But, was it fair?

Well, thanks to my Husband/Editor who — as a joke, I think — got me a baseball rule book, I can tell you that there is, in fact, a rule for just this sort of Hunter Pence insanity.

I turn your attention to Rule 6.05 (h) in the “comment” section.

(The comment section isn’t even really part of the official rules. It’s where the rulemakers explain what they meant in the official rules. See, Hunter Pence has his own world going on here that the rulemakers have to explain separately from the rules that apply to everyone else.)

Anyway, back to explanation: “If a bat breaks and part of it is in fair territory and is hit by a batted ball … play shall continue and no interference called.”

So, yeh, hit the ball as many times as you like, Hunter. In fact, the rulemakers also allow you to hit the ball with your bat and then with your batting helmet and still be fair. So you see, the rulemakers were trying to come up with every potential Hunter Pence at bat that they could in formulating this comment section.

With an at-bat like that, which resulted in 3 runs, well, you know the Giants were going to win.

And so, 9-0 later, they did.  And, the Giants go to the World Series.

By the way, I bleed Orange & Black … and that is for the Baltimore Orioles … the team that taught me what baseball is all about. The Orioles are MY team.

But, there’s a little orange and black that I save on the side for the Giants. My dad was really more into basketball and football.  But, he enjoyed some good times in L.A. and so, if baseball was his only option, then a Dodgers fan he was. It seemed only fair, to us anyway, that I cheer for the Dodgers’ rival.  A little Giants fan was born.

And, so I guess I have some World Series games to watch.

From Here On In, This Blog’s For You …

What is it about blogs that so many of us feel that we have something new, unique, magical, and quippy to offer the world?

I’ve discovered in writing this that I’m just one of hundreds — probably thousands — of people with the same love of baseball and the urge to share it on blogs, on message boards, in tweets.  And, sadly, most of them have far more interesting insights than I do.

This annoys me.   Even though no one is reading this … except for my husband, who serves as Editor and Yankees Fan for this blog (Hi, Honey!).  Still, I was hoping to channel some amazing Dorothy Parker moments here.  (She’s buried in Baltimore, you know.)

Then, in talking to a friend about her important role in my baseball education — she taught me to score games — she sent me a story about HER love of baseball.

And, dammit … HER story, and how her love of the St. Louis Cardinals was kindled, was way more interesting than my baseball background …

“As a teen, I would grab my brother Jim, who cared nothing for baseball, we’d head out to Northland shopping center and catch the Tri-State Bus down to the old Busch Stadium — pay $2.00 each for a bleacher seat and I, at least, would buy a program and score card. I was a geek — sitting with my pencil behind my ear and scoring each at-bat.”

Then she proceeded to tell me about the amazing bond that baseball was between her and her father.

And, so now I think … I’m not very interesting … and I probably don’t have anything much interesting to add to the baseball mix.  (Well, aside from an unshakable loyalty to the Baltimore Orioles and the fact that I became a true baseball fan in 1988 not in spite of the fact that the Orioles started the season 0-21, but BECAUSE of it.)

But, while I’m not very interesting,  I have some VERY interesting people in my life.   And, some of them love baseball, too.

And, maybe this blog might be better used, if I share some of their stories, too.

Oh, don’t worry … I’m not that humble.  I’ll still give my story.  But, I think I’ll be overshadowed by my friends.  There’s Amy, who loves the Cardinals, and Jim Johnson (not the pitcher) who is either a Twins fan or a Red Sox fan, or both.  And, lots of other folk who have that same kind of passion.

So, this blog might be a treat for me — a chance to write about baseball.  But, from here on in, I rag nobody.  Whooops, wrong baseball line.  From here on in, this blog’s for all the baseball fans in my life.  (And, who knows, I might even give them the link to the page … some day.)