Archive for February, 2009

On being a Cub — The rest of the story.

February 25, 2009

     25 January 2009.  Up with the sun, sort of, & walked over for a light brekkie.  It was a little bit cool under mostly sunny skies.  It had warmed up by the end of breakfast so I no longer needed my pullover.  I need to pack up my things.  Mike is picking me up about noon to take me over to the camp hotel.    We got to the Dobson about 1300.  After getting my room we went in search of lunch.  In the bar we ran into a bunch of other campers.  An enjoyable conversation or two ensued.    That evening we had a reception, & were introduced to the coaches.  We were then told to which teams we were assigned.    After a short visit to the hospitality suite, I crashed early.  I also met up with my roommate, Jack Otto.  It appears we should get along well.  The alarm was set for 0615.  I’m going to try & get a complete list of the Cubbies who were there.

     26 -30 January 2009.  Okay, I didn’t keep this up.  Hey, as you’ll see I was either tired, hurting or sleeping. J  Baseball!  We played 5 doubleheaders in 5 days.  Whew!  Doing this one realizes just how far above the average “Joe or Jane” real athletes are.  I say “Jane” as there were 3 women attending the camp.  Two of them were “Veterans.”  One has been coming for at least 10 years.  The games were all 7 innings, tho we did play a couple of 8 extra inning games, & one 5 inning game.  Rick “Big Daddy” Reuschel [also “Rush” & Jose “Junior” Cardenal were our coaches. 

     We started poorly going 0 for 5.  However, From Wednesday afternoon, which we won, on, we played pretty good going 4 & 1.  On Wednesday morning we played against the SF Giants campers.  It was a change as we faced pitchers instead of a pitching machine.  On one pitch I was just about finished swinging & missing, before the pitcher released the ball.  This came up on Saturday. J

     Okay, I’m not a spring chicken, being just short of 70, but I had worked out pretty hard during the 10 weeks prior to the camp.  I was a hurting wombat.  Most of the campers, it seemed, were on eBay looking for new “quads” after 2 or 3 days.  I, & lots others, visited the Training Room.    The head trainer was the trainer for the Cubs.  Two other trainers were the trainers for farm teams.  We also had a couple interns.  As we all kept them busy, I didn’t feel so bad about going in.

     Should I be insane enough to go back, I think, I would like to, I’ll be using a couple exercises suggested by the coaches:  Fergie Jenkinis said, walk & run backwards to work you legs.  Rick said, draw a circle about 30 feet in diameter & practice moving as fast as you can to either side using a grapevine motion.  If the ball is more than 15’ from you, you probably wont’ be able to reach it.  To this he told us to do lots of sprints equivalent to running between 2 bases.    We also learned the proper way to field a ground ball from Don Kessinger & how to catch fly balls to the outfield by Willy Wilson.  It was hard to get much better than this.

     How did I do, well, being a slow learner it only took me two misses to realize you don’t put the mitt up in front of your face to try & catch a ball.  It sort of disappears.  However, I did get a few hits, drove in a couple runs, & while feeding the pitching machine, fielded 4 ground balls & throw out the runners, the last one turned into a double play.  I played 2nd base & right field.  You know, there is a LOT!!! of empty space out there to cover.  Like wow!  I ran a lot.    The parks were almost spot on to the dimensions of Wrigley Field. J

     It was really neat to walk thru the gate with signs saying “Cub Personnel Only!”  Oh yeah, we were wearing the exact same uniforms as the Cubs.  The folk who made ours, make them for the Cubs.  We had them cleaned by the chap who takes care of the Cubs when they are there.  We would com into the locker room & there would be our cleaned uniforms on hangers in our lockers.           

     Randy said, he wanted to give fans the “Pro Experience.”  Well, he really did.  We felt like real ballplayers.  The ex-Cubs had their lockers mixed in with ours.  We were all teammates.    I was amused by how the Cubs would rag on one another.  It reminded me of the F-4 fighter pilots I met when I first began working for the Air Force & lived with them in the BOQ.  However, it wasn’t limited to the ex-Cubs.  They ragged on us & expected us to rag back.  It was all done with a good-natured attitude.  One never felt he or she was being put down.  We were “Teammates!”  Chatting with Rush he said, the idea was to have the campers enjoy it so much, they would come back.  They would be family!

     We all had a treat when Ron Santo come by for a couple days.  He is very much liked by not only fans, but the players as well.  I got a photo with him, of course!

     What else happened.  We stayed at the Dobson Inn Ranch & Resort, the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.  Each afternoon there was the hospitality suite for drinks, munchies & the chance to just mix with other campers & Cubs.  I got to hold Jose’s 1999 World Series Ring.  It felt like solid gold, not to mention all the diamonds.  Awesome.  Nobody was stuck up.  It was an amazing environment.  How do you evaluate chatting with Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, getting ragged on by Joe Pepitone.  Yes, he is nutso.  He was also fun to meet & chat with.   

     On Wednesday evening our team got together for dinner.  This was so cool.  Thursday evening was a BBQ.  Good food, lots of conversation.  Mike Willmoth & Jean Goddin were able to join me there.  Friday evening we took our coaches & one of the trainers out for dinner.  Good food, good conversation & a grand time.

     31 January 2009!  This brings me to Saturday.  Saturday was something else.  We got over to Fitch Field, where we played our games during the week.  Dressed [We wore “home” whites for the game.], had our meeting & then got driven over to Hohokam Field.  This is the baseball park where the Cubs play their spring training games.  They do their training at Fitch, but play the other major league teams at Hohokam.  This was a “real” ballpark.  It seats about 10,000  with scoreboard, press box, the whole nine yards.  We  found some seats right behind the 3rd base dugout which was the one we used.  I walked down to the field, I was supposed to be there, to check out the dugout & just look “back” into the stands where the spectators were.  I was today a player not spectator. 

     We lined up by teams & were photographed & introduced near home plate.  Then when all was said & done, we lined up on the left field foul line, the Cubs were on the right field line, & they played the Star-Spangled Banner.  Standing there on the field with my hat over my heart, just as I had watched the pros doing, but from the stands, was quite emotional for me.  For a short time I would be my fantasy pro ball player, maybe not “Mr. Cub,” but a Cub.

     I returned to the stands to watch the other teams go against the Cubs.  I had a chance to meet up with my “Cheering” section: Lynn, Sandra Childress & Mike & Sharon Ward.  We each got one inning against the Cubs.  Each player on the team would get one at bat.  So what if we got more than 3 outs. J  The Cubs only got 3 outs.    We were playing the 6th inning.  So about an inning or so before I headed down to the dugout.  Our team then went down the left field line to loosen up.  It felt so neat to be out there throwing the ball back & forth.  It was so real.    Finally, it was my turn to stand in the batter’s box.  Our team was facing our coach Rick Reuschel.  After fouling off the first pitch Rick started his windup only to not release the ball.  Remember how I swung before the SF Giant camper had released the ball, well Rick was trying to sucker me.  I didn’t swing.  He gave me a nod & big smile.  Then I got one I liked.  I hit a ground ball between short & 3rd.  With the SS running about as fast as I do, the ball had eyes & made it into left field.  I was on first base with a single!  This was the icing on the cake of the week.  I can proudly claim to be batting 1.000 against major league pitching!  I’m going to use that for a while.  The next batter hit one right at the SS, & I was forced at 2nd.  Who cares!  I had gotten a hit.  For me it was as if I had driven in the winning run for the Cubs in the World Series!  It could hardly get much better than that.

     The Cubs did beat the campers, but who cared.  We had been major leaguers for the day.    After the game I went & got the tape cut off my ankles, showered, packed up my uniform & headed out for a bite with Lynn & Sandra.  [Sandra is the major share owner in a couple of race horses.  I own half a tail of one & the left hoof of the other.]  After lunch Sandra headed out, & Lynn & I got ready to attend the Awards Banquet.    The food was pretty good, the speeches relatively short & we were entertained by a comic who told jokes that could have come from the Catskills.  Clean, funny & silly.  All the campers got a ball signed by all the Cubs & a CD by Eddie Vetter written for Ernie Banks on the Cubs.  Oh yes, Eddie played on our team for one game.  He is a really nice guy & super Cub fan.  We were all checking out the photos for ones we were in.  I finally figured out which ones would go on my “Baseball Card.”  One of teammates wrote up a nice poem on & about our team.  No one wanted to call it a night.  I was  really tired so Lynn & I decided to call it a night.  I had to get up fairly early & finish packing.  Lynn was going to send it to me via UPS as I had sent it down.  I didn’t get much some sleep as my roommate had to get up at 0300 in order to catch his plane back to Atlanta.

     1 February 2009.  Lynn joined me for breakfast.  It was there we found out that many of the Cubs & campers had partied in the bar after the banquet & Eddie did a number of karaoke songs & some of his.  Bummer.  I should have foregone sleep!  Maybe next year. J  We finally got my stuff together, & we headed out.  After a quiet afternoon we headed back to the hotel to the bar where we joined a bunch of folk to watch the Super Bowl.  As the Bears weren’t in it, I had no real favorite.  I just hoped for a good game.  Rush was there cheering for the Steelers as he lives near Pittsburgh.  The game was good, had some dinner & generally had a very nice evening.  Mike & Jean along with Lee Whiteside, another local SF fan dropped by.  After the wild finish we called it a night.  I needed to get up fairly early to catch my 0905 flight out.  An absolutely fabulous week was drawing to a close.  Oh yes, my Louisville Slugger had my name wrong.  A replacement bat is being sent to me.  [It has since arrived!  Sooo neat!]

     2 February 2009.  The flights home went well.  The American flight was on time.  Flying 1st Class was comfortable.  I was one tired wombat.  Even if the United flight left out of Chicago left 2 hours late, I wasn’t too concerned.  The house was warm, thank you neighbor.  I turned on the hot water, puttered about & finally crashed out.  The fantasy was over, but the memory lingered on.

My stimulus package

February 12, 2009

1. A cheque for $5000 to everyone who has filed a tax return in 2008.

2. Raise the personal deduction to $7500, indexed. [Tax cut for the lower & middle class]

3. Remove the Capital Gains tax. [Tax cut for anyone with stocks.]

4. Accelerated depreciation [5 years on a plant designed to last 40.] on the Capital Costs of creating non-fossil fuel energy production assets, e.g., Wind turbines, Photovoltaic cells, Solar Updraft Towers, Hydrothermal plants, etc.

5. 100% deduction for installation of alternate energy producing units in the tax year of installation.

6. 10 cent a gallon or equivalent increase in the Federal tax on petroleum products with the money going to maintenance & repair of existing infrastructure. NO NEW CONSTRUCTION!

7. Federally Funded Student Loans paid off by a 1 or 2% tax on the GROSS income of the student until the loan is paid off.

If you care to do the numbers and tell me how much this would cost, fine. Arguing the merits is a no go as this is only my opinion. If you disagree, then post a note to your own blog.

I am curious as to what this might cost. Yes, I haven’t given banks anything. Since they have screwed up the system so badly, they can go it on their own. For all but some very small percentage, 1%? 2%, my & your savings are covered by the FDIC. You won’t lose your savings.

One way to look at it.

February 12, 2009

The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind. -Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

Sounds about right.

February 11, 2009

I believe I have no prejudices whatsoever. All I need to know is that a man is a member of the human race. That’s bad enough for me. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)


February 3, 2009

Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest”, but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is. -Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986)