Opening Day Is Here at Last

Hello everyone, sorry for my long absence, although to a certain extent I plead innocence.  I usually post something about once a week, which I have slightly behind pace on so far but in my defense I did write out and hit the “post” button for two entries during that time and they never showed on the website.  I’m not sure exactly what the deal is there, but hopefully this post actually makes it out to readers.    The past 3+ weeks have been pretty eventful.  I threw very well throughout minor league camp but am frustrated to once again be back in AA, taking up residence in Midland, TX.  Obviously it is not a situation that I am pleased with, but it cannot be changed and I have resolved to be unflinchingly positive about the experience and not let it ruin my enjoyment of the game.  As if to test my resolve on this point right out of the gates, the shortage of housing caused by a large influx of oilfield workers has left me without a long-term housing solution as opening day dawns.  The process has been agonizing so far, not aided by the fact that a couple times I thought I had resolved the issue only to have plans fall through.  Hopefully something snaps into place soon so I don’t have to go to super-secret option #456: commuting back and forth to my apartment in Phoenix.

 

The baseball activities of recent days have been fairly minimal, consisting of some light workouts and some inter-squad work.  We do have opening day to look forward to tonight, however, and whatever my situation it is a day I always look forward to.  If you don’t like your assignment it is the first opportunity to start making inroads into doing something about it and it represents the beginning of what we all work so hard for all offseason.  As players we can finally start getting into our normal game routines and the fact that there is usually a packed house never hurts either.  I have had a couple unique opening day experiences in my five previous years.  Included are games that got suspended due to snow in 2007 in Charleston, WV and a power outage after the third inning in Kinston, NC in 2008.  Away from the field much of my time has been devoted to the aforementioned fruitless housing search and to doing homework as the courses I am taking approach the home stretch.  I have managed to squeeze in some planning ahead for our next off day (May 11th, not that I’m looking forward to it already or anything) and to make significant progress on the book March by Geraldine Brooks, which has been great but not necessarily what I had expected of a Pulitzer Prize winning novel to this point.  I will end there for now and check back in about a week (the whims of the internet permitting) and leave you with a couple poems to compensate you for not having posted one in a while.

 

A Man may make a Remark

by Emily Dickinson

 

A Man may make a Remark –

In itself – a quiet thing

That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark

In dormant nature – lain –

 

Let us divide – with skill –

Let us discourse – with care –

Powder exists in Charcoal –

Before it exists in Fire –

 

Before

by Carl Adamshick

 

I always thought death would be like traveling

in a car, moving through the desert,

the earth a little darker than sky at the horizon,

that your life would settle like the end of a day

and you would think of everyone you ever met,

that you would be the invisible passenger,

quiet in the car, moving through the night,

forever, with the beautiful thought of home.

Beware the Ides of March

It is that time of year once again…spring training.  I usually loathe spring training, with its endless repetitive schedule, long days, and hectic atmosphere but this spring promises to be at least marginally different.  This is my first spring training with the Oakland A’s after going through five with the Indians and it is already proving to be a significantly different experience.  The main difference so far is that while minor league camp officially opened Wednesday, a number of us have spent the better part of the last two weeks participating in activities across the road at the major league facility, filling the role of available-for-an-emergency warm body.  It has been an interesting time and a good opportunity to put in some face time with the staff (including my manager from Akron last season, Joel Skinner), even if our primary activity of note thus far has been sitting around the bullpen marinating in the heat.  I did manage to sneak into a game on Monday and with the paucity of scheduled games this spring (only about a dozen for us minor leaguers) it will be one of the few outings I have this spring before camp ends and rosters get set so I was happy for the opportunity to get some work in.  The position players officially report to camp this week and things will start getting a bit more chaotic around the complex, but so far so good.

 

In the past this would be the area where I would write about what I have been doing to occupy myself away from the field, but I have precious little to report on that front at the moment.  By the time I wrap things up at the complex, battle rush hour traffic all the way home, and attend to whatever other miscellaneous items need doing I consider myself lucky to sneak in a few pages of reading.  Anyhow, I will call that good for now with the promise to keep you updated throughout the spring, and leave you with the customary poem.

 

The Uniform

By Marvin Bell

 

Of the sleeves, I remember their weight, like wet wool,

on my arms, and the empty ends which hung past my hands.  

Of the body of the shirt, I remember the large buttons  

and larger buttonholes, which made a rack of wheels  

down my chest and could not be quickly unbuttoned.  

Of the collar, I remember its thickness without starch,

by which it lay against my clavicle without moving.  

Of my trousers, the same–heavy, bulky, slow to give  

for a leg, a crowded feeling, a molasses to walk in.  

Of my boots, I remember the brittle soles, of a material  

that had not been made love to by any natural substance,  

and the laces: ropes to make prisoners of my feet.  

Of the helmet, I remember the webbed, inner liner,  

a brittle plastic underwear on which wobbled

the crushing steel pot then strapped at the chin.  

Of the mortar, I remember the mortar plate,

heavy enough to kill by weight, which I carried by rope.  

Of the machine gun, I remember the way it fit

behind my head and across my shoulder blades  

as I carried it, or, to be precise, as it rode me.

Of tactics, I remember the likelihood of shooting

the wrong man, the weight of the rifle bolt, the difficulty  

of loading while prone, the shock of noise.

For earplugs, some used cigarette filters or toilet paper.  

I don’t hear well now, for a man of my age,

and the doctor says my ears were damaged and asks  

if I was in the Army, and of course I was but then  

a wounded eardrum wasn’t much in the scheme.

I’m on my way, don’t know where I’m going

Hello again.  Since I last signed on my teammates and I with the Midland RockHounds have managed to win our first round playoff series against the Frisco Roughriders and are on to the Texas League finals.  We split the first two games of the series at Frisco and then came home to record two consecutive wins and punch our ticket to the next and final round.  I threw well personally and our team seemed to continually come up with the timely hit or pitch necessary to pick up the win, so it is very satisfying to not only win in a team effort but also to have contributed to it.  The unfortunate thing about having won in four games is that we now have two days off before our next game, which would normally be a great thing but at this point of the season we all want to play and push the season to its final conclusion.  Also, we still don’t know who we are playing, despite the fact that we are leaving to drive to Springfield, MO in 20 minutes.  Just driving to Springfield and we’ll make the adjustment if necessary tomorrow based on who wins the series between Springfield and Northwest Arkansas.  I hate to be extremely brief, but in light of having to catch the aforementioned bus I will call that good for now and leave you with a poem.

 

America

by Walt Whitman

 

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,

All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,

Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,

Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,

A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,

Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

On the road to Frisco

Hello and thanks for stopping by for my first entry of the playoffs.  Since I last checked in we at the Midland RockHounds have wrapped up the regular season and find ourselves in Frisco, Texas for the first two games of our Texas League Southern Division series.  The week didn’t go as smoothly as we all would have liked, losing the first two games of our four game series against San Antonio but coming back to take the final two games to punch our ticket to the playoffs.  Then in our final series of the regular season against Frisco, who we also play in the first round of the playoffs, we needed only one win to clinch the second half title and ensure that a potential game five would be at home but waited until the final game to secure a win.  So despite having a slightly uneven week, our performance also epitomized what playoff races and the postseason are all about: winning games when you aren’t playing your best, winning the games you have to win, and just flat out finding ways to scratch out wins.  I personally threw pretty well over the last week and hopefully I can carry that into the playoffs.

 

Away from the field much of my time has been spent studying for my two classes, doing some light reading and planning for an offseason trip to Costa Rica with my fiancÚ.  It really wasn’t a very eventful seven days, but there was one event of note from the past week: I managed to sell another of my paintings.  I am still amazed that anyone has any interest in purchasing anything I produce, but it is kind of cool and provides me the incentive to continue painting from time to time.  Well, that is about all I have for you so I’ll call that good for now and post a playoff update sometime in the near future.

 

Days

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,

Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,

And marching single in an endless file,

Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.

To each they offer gifts after his will,

Bread, kingdom, stars, and sky that holds them all.

I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,

Forgot my morning wishes, hastily

Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day

Turned and departed silent. I, too late,

Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.

 

The One Week Mark

Hello and thanks for stopping by as August becomes September and, as was said in Ken Burns’ Baseball, spring’s new hope gives way to the hard realities of autumn.  Of late we at the RockHounds have basically been holding serve, maintaining our prior four game lead over San Antonio throughout the ebb and flow of wins and losses.  After a so-so series against Corpus Christi, we just completed a series win against second place Frisco, which puts our “magic number” to clinch a playoff spot at four heading into a big series against the aforementioned San Antonio Missions, which means two wins will put us in.  However, just for a little perspective, last place Corpus Christi is still mathematically alive so work remains to be done.  I have only had two appearances over the past week or so, a byproduct of both happenstance and our starters giving us a lot of quality innings of late, but I have thrown the ball fairly well of late and that is the main thing that matters with the playoffs looming.

 

I really wish that I had more to report in the way of exciting off-field adventures, but unfortunately I have had a fairly nondescript week.  The most notable event of the past week was packing up and moving out of my apartment and into the team hotel for the duration of my time in Midland, which was exactly as exciting as it sounds.  In the process I did manage to find a number of things I misplaced in the course of my previous cross-country move and sloppy unpacking job, but really there is no part of the experience that I can imagine anyone wanting to read about so I’ll spare you any further details.  Otherwise, I have spent most of my time on buses, studying for one or the other of the two classes I am enrolled in this semester, hop scotching through a library copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (the book that made poetry a relevant part of my daily life), and sketching out what promises to be a painting utterly beyond my technical capabilities and which will have to wait until I get home and unpack my painting stuff.  After stretching myself a little bit for my last painting and having it turn out much better than I had expected (a comment on my expectations rather than my artistic proficiency) I decided to try something even a little more ambitious, but given my overall shortcomings in most areas artistic it promises to be an adventure.  I guess I’ll see once I have the opportunity to try it, but until then I’ll fight the impulse to bore you with more details and sign off until next week.  Until then I will leave you with a few selections from old Walt and hope you enjoy them as I do.

 

A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman

 

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

 

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

 

 

Among the Multitude

by Walt Whitman

 

Among the men and women, the multitude,  

I perceive one picking me out by secret and divine signs,  

Acknowledging none else–not parent, wife, husband, brother, child,

     any nearer than I am;  

Some are baffled–But that one is not–that one knows me.  

  

Ah, lover and perfect equal!

I meant that you should discover me so, by my faint indirections;  

And I, when I meet you, mean to discover you by the like in you.

 

 

Clear Midnight

by Walt Whitman

 

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson

            done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the

            themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death and the stars.

Highway 61 Revisited

Hello once again.  Since I last checked in there has been a lot of change, but ultimately more of the same.  We have basically split our games over the last ten days, but as we have won and lost so has everybody else in the Texas League South so at present we still maintain the three game lead we had a week and a half ago.  We have one more game against Northwest Arkansas tonight (followed by an awful 12 hour bus trip), but then we have fourteen games against the other teams in our division so we definitely need to put the pedal down and put some distance between ourselves and second place to ensure we make the playoffs.  Personally, I have had a few good outings and one horrendous outing since I last logged on.  Obviously having poor outings is not great and I would prefer not to have them, but there isn’t much to be done except keep plugging along and finish the season strong.  The prospect of making the playoffs is definitely a motivating factor for me and hopefully that can help drive me to a strong end of the regular season and a good performance in the playoffs.

 

Away from the field I have been dedicating a lot of time to searching for a job to occupy my time during the offseason.  I have also started working on the two classes I will be taking during the fall semester, but which unfortunately will overlap the end of the season and eat up most of my free time until then.  I have had the opportunity to do quite a bit of reading in Norton’s Anthology of Modern Poetry and a couple of Stephen Dunn books that I picked up recently.  In the interest of being prepared, I have been spending some time planning out my trip home at the end of the season so I can have it done and out of the way and just focus on baseball for now.  I’m trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to work a return trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park into my drive home so I can hike the Devil’s Hall trail, which I missed out on last time and really want to see.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work it in, but I am not hopeful.  Anyhow, I’ll call that good for now since I don’t have a whole lot to write about and leave you with a couple poems for your trouble.  Enjoy.

 

Temper

by Beth Bachmann

 

Some things are damned to erupt like wildfire,

 

windblown, like wild lupine, like wings, one after

 

another leaving the stone-hole in the greenhouse glass.

 

Peak bloom, a brood of blue before firebrand.

 

And though it is late in the season, the bathers, also,

 

obey. One after another, they breathe in and butterfly

 

the surface: mimic white, harvester, spot-celled sister,

 

fed by the spring, the water beneath is cold.

 

 

Graves We Filled Before the Fire

by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

 

Some lose children in lonelier ways:

tetanus, hard falls, stubborn fevers

 

that soak the bedclothes five nights running.

Our two boys went out to skate, broke

 

through the ice like battleships, came back

to us in canvas bags: curled

 

fossils held fast in ancient stone,

four hands reaching. Then two

 

sad beds wide enough for planting

wheat or summer-squash but filled

 

with boys, a barren crop. Our lives

stripped clean as oxen bones.