Archive | June 2015

My Home Ball Field: Stony Brook Field Review

My jobs on Cape Cod are underway now. Work at camp is treating me nicely, if only the kids would not be so messy… Well hopefully they learn how to be cleaner as summer goes along! I have absolutely loved my work with the Brewster Whitecaps. We’ve had our first two games and we won both of them. I get to watch the games, write stories about them, interview the players, and sing the national anthem when needed. I absolutely love my work here, and I’m sure that I’ll be writing more about my baseball adventures on this blog over the summer.

This post is one of those baseball adventures, but not about my work specifically. When I published this post back in May, I said that I would be offering reviews of the golf courses and baseball parks I play at and visit over the summer. I’ve done a few golf course reviews and I have one more to write in my cue now. With the start of the Cape Cod Baseball League Season, I can begin the Baseball Park reviews. I’ll be judging the parks, for now the ones of the Cape League, based on a few different metrics: Comfort of Seats, Food, Sightlines, General Amenities, Total Baseball Atmosphere. Each metric will be on a 10 point scale, for a maximum of 50 points for a ballpark. Let’s begin with the park I’ll be spending the most time at this season, the home of the Brewster Whitecaps: Stony Brook Field.

Comfort of Seats: 7/10

With this ballpark, there are metal bleachers, like any high school field. There are also open places that you can set up chairs that you bring yourself. There are grassy hills above each of the baselines, and a hill in centerfield overlooking the field. The grass is comfortable to set up a blanket on, and the field is pretty nice to look at from these hills. But the metal bleachers cost points for how unforgiving they are on your back if you sit for long enough.

Food: 9/10

The food is provided by the Brewster Skippers, an intrepid group of girls from Brewster who competitively jump rope across the country and internationally. They sell candy, popcorn, and various ballpark staple foods like hot dogs and burgers for a pretty good price. Plus the profits are split 50/50 between the Whitecaps and the Skippers. It helps the team, the skippers, and keeps us fed with pretty good food. And I’m a pretty big fan of all that. The one point off? Not a great selection of hot foods. But the smaller selection is all pretty good food, so I can look past that.

Sightlines: 7/10

If you’re sitting above the field on one of the hills, you have an excellent view, for the most part. Center field allows you to see everything, and the 3rd base hill has a good view of the field too. Most of the hill above 1st base allows a good view, except the part furthest down the line right above the dugout, which can block your view of 1st base. The real problem with the sight lines is the poles and chain link fence right around the plate. It keeps people from being able to see parts of the field depending on where you’re sitting. That costs some real points.

General Amenities: 8/10

Everything that is needed for a ballpark is accounted for. Bathrooms, food, seats, and parking. Everything is here. Only points off are for the bathrooms being school bathrooms, as the field is attached to Stony Brook School. But that’s not really too bad.

Total Baseball Atmosphere: 9/10

The Whitecaps are a smaller organization in the Cape Cod Baseball League. It makes sense, seeing as how Brewster is one of the smallest towns on the cape. But the atmosphere for baseball is absolutely fantastic. The park is intimate enough for a ball game, comfortable on a sunny day, and the sound of kids playing on the playground and then going to enjoy a ballgame with their parents is fantastic. Plus the PA announcer, for the Whitecaps, the incomparable Jim Nowak, is the best PA man in the league, and among the best PA people I’ve ever seen. Only bad point? Seats are a bit uncomfortable, but not so terrible that it hurts the atmosphere.

Total score: 40/50

An excellent ballpark, with good fans, good food, enjoyable atmosphere, fun place to be for kids and parents alike. My complaints are relatively minor ones. You should go here if you can! Take a look at the schedule to see when our games are!  http://www.brewsterwhitecaps.com/2015-schedule.html

NBA Finals Recap

Well the NBA Season is finally over and it was quite an ending series. I know this wrap-up is a few days late, but I’ve been working! Plus the few days between the end of the season and now have helped me process a few things and I now have a few thoughts to get across here. 

Before the series got underway, I gave a prediction that the Warriors would win in 6. I ended up being 100% correct. How they would win did surprise me a little bit, though. No one expected that Kyrie Irving would go down with a bad injury. No one expected that the Cavs would be that competitive after Kyrie went down. So why did they stay competitive? Because LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world and he showed that masterfully. He averaged 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 13.2 rebounds a game. He was the best player on the floor for every game, except game 4. The Cavaliers had the best player in the world and no one else. Matthew Dellavadova played good defense, but his play was overhyped by people like Skip Bayless and he was beat by Curry in games 5 and 6, which cost his team the series. Tristan Thompson played well, but wasn’t quick enough to give enough offense. Timofey Mozgov had one spectacular game in game 4, but no one else played well enough to give Cleveland a win, as they were blown out at home. And the rest of the bench was weak, with Shawn Marion and Kendrick Perkins there in cameo roles at the end of championship careers. 

Golden State was the better team the whole way. ESPN frequently set up the series as a duel between Steph Curry and LeBron James. It’s an easy dichotomy to try and work with, and the NBA has done this sort of thing to market its series with varying levels of success in the past. 

Russell vs Chamberlain was a fabulous success because they were the best players at the most important position of the day: Center. They won many championships and combined for some of the best match ups of NBA history.  

 Magic vs Bird was also a fabulous success because the Celtics and the Lakers were involved, they had similar roles on their teams, and were two of the greatest players of all time.  

 Hakeem vs Ewing worked because of the similar position and role in the team, and because of the college connection. But it didn’t last beyond 1994.  

 Clyde Drexler vs Michael Jordan was interesting. Same position, same roles, great teams. But it only lasted a year, 1992, and Jordan was so clearly the better player and it wasn’t that terribly interesting a matchup, to be honest.  

 

Steph Curry vs LeBron doesn’t really work because while the two are the best players on their respective teams, they play completely different styles of ball. Curry thrives on his ball handling, passing, and shooting. He is the epitome of a finesse player. But he isn’t big or strong and hasn’t shown that he can take a beating like Allen Iverson could, for example. LeBron James is a physical freak. He can play physical basketball better than most who’ve ever played. His dunks are monster jams like no one else, and he can make interior passes like no ones business. But he can’t shoot the outside shot at effectively. These two are not comparable players and they are not rivals! They are too different to be comparable players. 

The series wasn’t a duel won by Curry over LeBron, it was a battle between Cleveland and Golden State, and Golden State was a better total team. Curry had a cold start, but special games in the 5th and 6th games. Thompson was consistently good. Draymond Green played well, and Andre Iguodala was special when he was out in the starting lineup. While LeBron was the best total player in the series, Iguodala could to defend LeBron and limit him enough to give Golden State a chance to win. And his offense was enough to put the Warriors over the top.  

 The team was better than Cleveland’s injury riddled mess of a basketball team. The series was that simple. 

  Now to take a few months off from hoops before the next NBA season! 

Stanley Cup Finals Wrap Up

This will be a short wrap up simply because my prediction on TRL Hockey, which you can see by clicking on the link, was completely correct. I predicted that the Blackhawks would win the series in 6 games. I gave veteran guile, Stanley Cup know how, and more steady goaltending would be the determining factors. 

Veteran Guile and Stanley Cup know how are basically one thing. The Blackhawks have won 2 Stanley Cups before and have 19 guys on their roster who have won the cup before on their roster. The Lightning are a young, and tremendously talented team that will be competitive for years to come. They may yet win a cup as they years go along. But they didn’t have the experience or veteran guile needed to outwit and beat the Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Hockey, which is more intense and draining than regular hockey. The Hawks had more on the tank late in the hardest times simply because they have been here before. 

The other important distinction was in the nets. Corey Crawford played a better 6th game, shutting out the Lightning, than Ben Bishop did. We will learn what injuries Bishop had, as he did not finish game 2, and his back up goalie won the 2nd game to tie the series. But Crawford knew how to play championship hockey late in the games, and Bishop did not come through with the saves needed. 

Congratulations to the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, a championship team to be remembered and a dynasty in hockey.

Pedro Martinez: Competitive Anger on Display

I love Pedro Martinez. He is among my favorite baseball players ever, and is one of the athletes who got me interested in sports as a kid. When he was voted into the Hall of Fame in January, I was excited that one of my heroes was elected to th greatest honor possible to reach in baseball. When it was announced that Pedro was releasing an autobiography, I was thrilled! 

  While I don’t read a ton of fiction books, I do read a good number of histories and biographies. I find these sorts of stories a bit more compelling than fiction books because they actually happened and can be hard to believe. 

Such is the case with Pedro’s story. His rise from poverty in the Dominican Republic to stardom and wealth in the best baseball league in the world is pretty remarkable, especially when you consider that he is small for a major league pitcher: 5’11″(but probably a little smaller than his official height). He was slighted at every turn and was not expected to do anything in the hotbed of Dominican baseball. 

How did he make it out? Simple: He was mad as hell!  

 No, I mean that quite literally. Pedro Martinez pitched mad his entire career. He was unafraid of hitting his opponents, and with a few exceptions, fearless on the hill. And he held a vendetta against the coaches who slighted him in the Dodger’s baseball academy in the Dominican, the coaches with the Dodgers who knew him as merely Ramon Martinez’s younger and smaller brother. He held a grudge against the Boston media for being intrusive and asking hilariously dumb questions. He attacked every batter as if they were a mortal enemy of his. 

I picked up the book knowing that Pedro had a competitive fire that defined him, but I had no idea the extent to which he was fueled by rage. I knew that he was a talker. I knew he could be zany and had some moments that gave reason to legitimately question his sanity, and I knew that he was a fun guy for teammates most of the time.  

  

 I didn’t realize that he was so completely fueled by insecurity and just being pissed off. I now have a whole new level of appreciation for relentless competitive drive and animosity towards the media, opponents, management, etc.. He channeled it so effectively and turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball. He deserves to have his number retired by the Red Sox, and he is rightfully honored as one of the greats of the age. 

Pedro’s story is a remarkable one that people with an interest in sports should read. Even non sports people would appreciate the anger with which he pitched and the passion with which he continues to live. It’s an approach I want to implement, to a certain extent, into my own life. 

I’m Tired

Its been exactly a year since I ended my first run of the 100 Happy Days Challenge. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the challenge.

https://cclcorner.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/lessons-learned-from-this-challenge/

Since that time, well let’s just say it’s been eventful and call it a day. I don’t have the time or space here to go through all that’s happened in the year since then. So I’ll sum it up with a simple two word phrase: I’m tired.

I’ve been through a long summer job and fantastic show last summer, two tumultuous semesters, a hard breakup, a whirlwind adventure in the broadcasting world at BU, and an interesting (if hard) spiritual development. And all I feel at the end of it is tired; absolutely drained.

I should say this before anything else, I’m not in a bad position. I have my health, I have many good things in my life, and I have a spectacular summer ahead of me. I’m not doing badly, I’m just worn down. It’s as if I’ve gained 5 years in just 1. As if I became a 40 year old soul in a 20 year old’s body. And I’m not sure how good that is.

I still have enough energy to work and function as per usual, and I’m still in many respects the same guy. I’m still up for an adventure into a city I’ve not been to. I still love doing sports stuff. In fact I might love it more now than at any other point in my life. I still love God and the Catholic Church. I still love having political discussions and trying to reach a good and truthful conclusion on hard issues. I still have so much fun with many of the same things that I’ve enjoyed for years now. I just don’t have the energy level I once did. At least it feels that way.

When I was a kid, I was the energizer bunny. I could go for hours and hours and hours, playing baseball, running through my yard, biking, talking, doing whatever. I always had a reserve tank of energy. I could always power through a day, regardless of how long, and still have energy to spare at the end of it. I could still do that going back to the early days of college. I can still kinda pull it off now. But I can’t do it on demand. I’m also not as full of energy on a normal basis as I was even last year. My most frequent response to people asking me “How are you?” has been “I’m tired” or some variation of that. It’s a little alarming, but I’ve accepted it as where I am right now.

I hope that a summer on the cape will reenergize me and get me nice and recharged. This place has done that so many times before. I know that baseball can do that for me too. Again, it’s done it so many times for me before. But I’ll need a huge reset from this summer. It’ll be a long process, but I think I’m up for it and It’ll be a fruitful summer. In many respects it already has been. TRL Hockey took me on as a staff writer and the Brewster Whitecaps have given me some excellent work on the young season. It’s been a pleasure being around them and they’ve started the recharge. I just need the rest of the summer for it to run its course. For now at least, I’m still tired!!

Red Sox Woes

Red Sox…. I love you. I love the city you represent, I love the park you play in, and I love many players on this team! David Ortiz has a strong case for the Hall of Fame and will have a statue outside Fenway.  


I wore number 15 for my little league team in 2007, when Dustin Pedroia wore number 15 for the first time and earned his rookie of the year, and helped the team win the World Series. I love those two above all else on the team.  

 But there are other like able guys on the team too. Xander Bogearts should be an all star, 

 Mike Napoli deserves a standing ovation for his righteous beard, 

 Mookie Betts is the wonder boy with the chance to be a long time all star, 

 and the lovable Panda, Pablo Sandoval, is exactly that: talented and lovable. 

 I will follow this team the rest of my life the way I have for the first 20 years of my life. But at this point of the 2015 season, I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch this team for the rest of this season.

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! THIS TEAM IS SO BAD!!!!!!!! They made some terrible trades last season that they should not have made. I counted them down last season at the deadline, and they have come back to bite the team in the posterior, especially on the pitcher’s mound. The starting rotation is as follows: 

Clay Bucholz: NO! NO! GET HIM OFF THIS TEAM! HE GETS INJURED TOO FREQUENTLY AND HAS TOO MANY GAMES WHERE HE GETS BLOWN UP!!! Couldn’t we have traded him in place of Lester or Lackey? 

 Joe Kelly: I want John Lackey back. Will St. Louis undo the trade we made to get you please? 

 Wade Miley: “I’m not performing and I’m gonna whine and moan about it.” 

 Rick Porcello: Eh. I don’t hate having him but he’s not living up to his potential.  

 Eduardo Rodriguez: SOLID GOLD OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU!!!! PLEASE PITCH EVERY GAME!! Ok, I know you can’t but that would be a better option than whatever else we have on the roster right now! even after having one bad game today vs Toronto. 

 

Oh wait, wrong Eduardo Rodriguez.  

 There we go. 

3 disasters, one mild disappointment and one high flying performer. No wonder the Sox can’t win games this season. My dad always argues that the key to all baseball teams is how good your starting pitcheing is. You can’t win without it. Right now, the Sox don’t have it. Granted, it’s not all the pitching’s fault. The offense hasn’t been at its best either. Whiffing with men in scoring position, failing to score when needed, and choking away late game situations. Aye…

But the real problem with the team is the pitching staff. The worst ERA in the AL, the worst starters record in the league, they’ve allowed the most hits and runs in the league, and are only 10th in the league in strikeouts. They seem incapable of doing anything right, except for Eduardo Rodriguez (barring today’s destruction against Toronto) and Koji Uehara. If they’re in the game, something good can happen. If not, set your timer to see how quickly the team implodes. Watching this team is like watching a Shakesperean tragedy, you know something bad is going to happen, it’s just not clear how, where, or when the disaster will arrive. They’ve lose 6 straight games, are 10 games under .500, and they’re 8 games out of the division, which by the way is being held by the Yankees!!!! Aye… This is worse than when Bobby Valentine was managing the team. 

I was at Opening Day this season, which was a picture perfect day both visually and on the field. There was so much optimism and hope that the team could be pretty good! And now, there is nothing but despair, wailing and gnashing of teeth in Red Sox Nation. I have given up on the Red Sox for this season. I hope they win some more games, and I will support them, but I do not think anything above a losing record will come from the team this season unless they blow up the starting rotation. The only reason I would watch them? Well I’ll need some sports to watch after the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals end, and before the Pats begin defense of the Super Bowl

Well, I guess I have to embrace sloshing team for the end of this season… Great… Brewster Whitecaps, please win some games! I need at least one baseball team to be respectable! 

Why I’m Watching the Stanley Cup Finals

Ive said before on this blog, hockey hasn’t been the top sport on my list before and it’s still not my top sport. I know the least about it and my interest in the sport is, at least for now, a parochial attachment to my school, BU, and my pro team, the Bruins. While I do hold a nostalgic attachment to the Hartford Whalers and I wish the NHL would return to Hartford.  

 Hey, I can dream, right? We have the Wolf Pack here and as fun as they are, it’s not NHL hockey. 

Anyway, while I don’t put hockey at the top of my sports list and while neither of my teams are in the finals, I still have some good reasons to watch these finals. 

1. High Quality Hockey. 

Yes, I know I just said hockey isn’t my favorite sport, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. It’s fast paced, intense, and a unique sports experience. Hockey is the most physically demanding of the four major team sports in North America. It calls for more of its players, coaches, and fans than any other sport emotionally. There’s a good reason why hockey players are known to be tougher than any other athletes in the world: their sport demands it. They have to skate, take huge hits, give big hits, speed up, stop on a dime, shoot a puck, stick handle, and do remarkable athletic things on ice. It’s such a fun sport to watch at any level. It’s at another level in the NHL. It gets better in the playoffs and is at its best in the Stanley Cup Finals. As much as I love baseball’s opening day, the NBA postseason and finals, and the Super Bowl, very few things top the Stanley Cup Finals. I wrote up a piece for TRL Hockey, where I discuss the best 10 Stanley Cup Finals Series, and these moments show how wonderful the Finals can be. I’ll let them make my case for me. 

The first series I ever watched was the 2006 Finals between the Hurricanes and Oilers. I enjoyed it so much and I’ve watched almost every finals since then. I got into it big time in 2010, when the Flyers played the Blackhawks. I rooted so hard for the Blackhawks because the Flyers had beat the Bruins after being down 3 games to 0 in the earlier playoff round. I wanted Phili to lose so badly, and I was sweetly rewarded. Thank you Patrick Kane. When the Bruins made it in 2011, I watched every second of every game and loved the result, with my team winning a championship. Washington knocked out the Bruins the next year, but I still watched the Finals between the Kings and Devils. It was entertaining hockey, and I enjoyed it. I knew then that I was a hockey fan. I’ll happily watch today.

2. Potential Dynasty?

No team has won successfully defended the Stanley Cup since the Detroit Red Wings won in 1997 and 1998. There have been some consistently good teams in recent years, and one of them is trying to win their 3rd championship in the last 6 seasons. The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in hockey, rivaled only by the LA Kings, 2 cups in the last 3 years, and the Bruins, 1 title and 2 trips to the finals. The Hawks have a chance to seal their reputation as a dynasty in the NHL with a victory in the Finals this year. Patrick Kane seals a spot in the hall of fame if he helps his team to a title, and will be considered among the greatest players of the age.  

 They will have a hard matchup against the Lightning, but the more compelling story in the long term is with the Blackhawks. 

3. Boo Chicago!

  While the Hawks have a great story on their side, I still don’t like them much. They gave me one of the most painful moments in my total fandom when they knocked the Bruins out of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013. Yes, I’m pulling the parochial fan card here. I do it all the time in choosing a team I pull for. I did in the NBA finals! I don’t really like the Blackhawks after the 2013 finals and I don’t hate Tampa. In fact, the first NHL game I ever went to was in the 2006 season in Tampa when the defending Stanley Cup Champion Lightning played the Florida Panthers. The game went into a shootout, and Tampa Bay won. I’ve had a small spot in my heart for Tampa and I will root for them to win. I think Chicago is a better team, and I think they will win the series in 6 games(checkout the predictions of the TRL Hockey people, including me, here). But I want Tampa to beat the Blackhawks!  

 I’ll be sure to enjoy this finals series. I hope you will be too!