September 2010

9/27/10 – Good Evening, Recliner and Beer

Thanks to yet another complete game gem from Roy Halladay, I can now say I’m attending the fantasy camp of the 2010 National League East Champion Phillies. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get to experience such a run by this team. Four division championships in a row and the distinction of being one of THE elite teams in the Majors? My inner 10-year old is not getting tired of this.

To make it even better, I listened to the WPHT broadcast with Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen through my favorite iPhone app, MLB.com At Bat. Other than actually being at the field, there is nothing better than listening to a baseball game on the radio. I have such wonderful memories listening to Phillies games in our ’77 Plymouth Volare or our little Panasonic transistor radio on the beach on our annual Summer vacation to Stone Harbor, NJ. The sound of Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, Andy Musser, and Chris Wheeler coming through a tinny radio was pure AM gold.

“Swing and a long drive!”

Tonight my thoughts turned to my dad as each inning passed. When the game finally ended, a small wave of sadness hit me. I couldn’t call him tonight. After every big game, it would take about thirty seconds before one of our phones would be ringing.  Instead, all I could hear was a hypothetical conversation in my head. I could hear him gushing about Halladay…finally pronouncing his name correctly after almost 10 months of Roy being on the team. My father had a very funny quirk of never getting people’s name right. I’m quite sure I would have heard the name “Holiday” mentioned several hundred times, even after several hundred corrections.

In 2008, my wife and I went down to visit my dad for the weekend, and as luck would have it, got to watch the Phillies win the NL East crown for that season together. A pizza and the familiar sight of my dad in his recliner with a Coors Light in his hand capped off a wonderful night. It was the only time since 2007 that I got to experience one of these big games with my dad. With me being 125 miles away and he usually heading to Florida for the good part of September and October, it was a rarity for the two of us to get to watch a late-season game in these last couple years. It makes it so special that this game was the first big step leading to their 2008 World Series trophy.

My recliner was unoccupied last night. I’d like to think he was there with us last night, relaxing, having several cans (even though I didn’t have the specific beer my dad liked), maybe snoozing off for a bit (or “resting his eyes”) and celebrating another big Phillies victory. Hopefully, like 2008, this will just be the beginning. As Halladay said last night, “it’s only gonna get funner”.

I sure would like to say I’m going to the fantasy camp of the 2010 World Champion Phillies…

9/27/10 – Good Morning, Happy Birthday M.J.S.

Happy Birthday to Michael Jack Schmidt, my first baseball idol.

The card that started it all.

Hopefully you’ll have another reason to celebrate tonight. Let’s get ‘em boys…

9/19/10 – Closer

It is now officially four months until camp. This has gone by quicker than I imagined. I’m sure as it gets closer and closer, it’ll get excruciating. 

As of this morning, the Phillies are leading the NL East by three games over the Atlanta Braves. They have the best record in the National League and only two wins behind the Yankees for best in the Majors. They have a very good shot at posting a better record than their 2008 and 2009 counterparts. And as has been the case since 2007, they have saved their best baseball of the regular season for September. I think I can speak for all Phillies fans when I say that I truly cannot believe what this team has done, and is continuing to do. Back in June, I had come to terms with the fact that a postseason appearance quite possibly wasn’t in the cards for this team. Oh, how things have changed.

The weather is getting cooler, the nights are getting shorter… 

I am very excited.

9/11/10 – Nine Years

Since it’s inception, the MLB Network airs “Nine Innings From Ground Zero” every year at this time. Apart from my memories of that specific day, I feel so grateful that I got to experience the emotions surrounding the return of baseball in New York City and the end to a very memorable season that was featured in the documentary. Watching Mike Piazza of the Mets blast that 8th inning home run in their first game back to New York was storybook perfection. I was able to drop my team-specific allegiance, and just root for the game of baseball. Later, I was lucky enough to attend Game 5 of the World Series at Yankees Stadium.

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of either of the local New York nines, but you could have not asked for a better experience at a baseball game… the overwhelming national pride, Ronan Tynan’s 7th inning rendition of “God Bless America”, the incredible Fall weather, and an amazing end to spectacular World Series game, no matter who won.

Today, my wife and I took the 7 train out to Queens to see the Phillies take on the Mets at Citifield. As it was nine years ago, the weather was stunningly perfect. A late afternoon baseball game made it even better. In addition to all the wonderful and emotional tributes given by the Mets organization before and during the game, the one that gave me the biggest of chills was the replay of Piazza’s home run, complete with Gary Cohen’s beautiful call of that shot. I was immediately transported back to that time and, once again, realized why I love this city and why I love baseball.

The Phillies unfortunately lost the game and are now tied with the Atlanta Braves for the NL East Division lead.

I was with the love of my life, experiencing a simple joy together. Nine years later, that’s all that matters.

9/8/10 – It’s a Game

I have played organized softball for almost as long as I have been living in New York City. I have been a part of two teams for the last part of several years. This season, I was tabbed to coach one of them. Rocket science it ain’t. The level of baseball knowledge needed to run a slow-pitch, co-ed, “maybe we have beer, maybe we don’t” softball team ranks somewhere around “Level 3: Backyard BBQ”. My goal with this team was to be very organized and get everyone as fair amount of playing time as I could, while also still trying to get to the playoffs. This team has never made it past the first round in the postseason. This year? We made it all the way to the Championship Game. Tonight was that game.

——————–

A couple weeks ago, I was watching Canada take on Chinese Taipei in the Little League World Series. When I played Little League, my dream, other than manning centerfield for the Phillies, was to play in Williamsport for the Little League Championship. Watching these kids every year definitely brings a smile to my face, but also breaks my heart. Every time one of them strikes out or makes a costly error, the tears start flowing. I know exactly what they are feeling. For a 12-year old, nothing else matters.

This very good Canadian team had met it’s match against the kids from Chinese Taipei. They were GOOD. By the end of the third inning, the score was already 20-0. As the kids ran back to the dugout to get ready for their at-bats, Canada manager Pat Chaba rounded up the troops before they could retreat to the bench. As they do with all coaches for television broadcasts, Mr. Chaba was wearing a microphone. ESPN aired his quick speech to the team. It took only 20 seconds, but what he said could have been something you hear as part of the emotional script for Ken Burns’ “Baseball” to drive home that the game is simple and pure. With the biggest smile on his face, he looked at every one of the kids and said, “guys, we are in Williamsport, it’s a beautiful day, and we are playing baseball. Let’s have fun”. There was not one long face on that team after that. They went right back out there, beaming from ear to ear, just thrilled to be out there. They gave up three more runs and the game was ultimately stopped due to the mercy rule. Chaba was later quoted in this recap saying, “The entire fate of mankind doesn’t hinge on the outcome of a Little League game”. Later, when asked if he entertained the thought of a comeback, he quipped, “In men’s slow pitch [softball], yeah!”

——————–

So, did my team win our softball championship?

Does it matter?

We were in Central Park, it was a beautiful day, and we were playing softball. We had fun. That’s all that counts.

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