Lighten Up

Now that the Arizona Diamondbacks have graciously bailed out of the race for the National League West title, I find that I have a lot more free time and a lot less stress in my life. I think it is admirable that they stepped aside to allow other teams in the division to get a chance to compete and win a play-off spot. Surely that is the reason why they dropped six in a row and have lost nearly 26 games to the Giants since May 28. You have to admire a team willing to roll over and let the competition walk all over them. Okay, now that I have vented that last little bit out of my system, I feel much better or at least I did until I got home from work. It had been a tough night of watching the Arizona Diamondbacks lose, having to sit through yet another evening filled with tape delayed women’s gymnastics, and then not getting a lot of sleep. Add to that a long day at work where just as I was ready to leave, management decided it would be a great time to have a meeting. After this past 24 hours, it surely couldn’t get any worse. But to paraphrase the classic movie Airplane, “It can get worse, and don’t call me Shirley.” As I approached the house and pressed my remote for the garage door, nothing happened. I did what every other American man would do, I pressed it incessantly for several seconds. When that didn’t work, I smacked it on the steering wheel of my Camaro. To my amazement, the door still didn’t open. Now I am no different than anyone else, I have a garage door opener so I don’t have to get out of the car. There I sat in the driveway without the ability to electronically open the door and honked my horn until one of the kids came out to see what was going on and opened the door. Well, at least now I am home and I can relax. I reached over to turn on the light switch in the kitchen and nothing happened. Again, American ingenuity won out and I smacked the light switch several times without any success in the lights going on. I was told that the light bulbs had burned out and needed to be replaced. When I asked the kids why they didn’t change the bulb, I was met with confused stares and the comment, “Well it was light outside so we didn’t need a new light bulb.” I wondered if there were other places in the house where we were without light. The kids assured me that there were light bulbs out in nearly every room, some have been that way since the All-star break. I was told it was on mom’s list of things for dad to do after baseball season ended. Ah, I may not be a rocket scientist but I knew where this was going so I headed back out to the garage and headed off to Home Depot where I bought one light bulb of every size and wattage. That should last us at least until spring training and I can scratch one thing off Trina’s list. The darkness of the off-season already seems to be enveloping me and the season hasn’t even ended yet.


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Tonight was a game I had been looking forward to all season. Like many of the other fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I had anticipated that this series would be when the Diamondbacks would be able to clinch the National League West title for the second straight year. It seemed only appropriate that we should win it again as we were in San Francisco. But over the last couple of weeks, I have become more of a realist knowing that it would take a miracle for us to overcome the deficit that we now had against the Giants. I had somehow hoped though that the Giants would either win the pennant before the Diamondbacks came to town or at least have the decency to wait until after Arizona had left town. But here I sat, watching as the game progressed. With each passing out, it was apparent that everything this season was going the Giants way while the Diamondbacks found adversity at each corner. Before the game, the television announcers explained that the San Francisco Giants magic number was 1. Any combination of Giants win or an Arizona loss would give San Francisco the title. Great, the Diamondbacks would have to go 12-0 over the remainder of the season while the Giants would have to go 0-12 for us to have a chance. Those odds rank right up there with Rosanne winning Survivor II. Even though it seemed hopeless, I still found myself drawn to the game as I watched the Diamondbacks go ahead only to see the Giants tie the game. Back and forth these two teams battled. When the final out was recorded, the Giants had won and the Diamondbacks quest repeat as NL West champions ended. It’s going to be a long night, I can tell already.


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I rushed home from work today so that I had time to grab a bite to eat and get in front of the television to watch the final game of the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers series. Randy Johnson was on the mound and I was sure that this was the night that the Diamondbacks would get out of their funk. The game began with Randy pitching well and striking out eight batters in the first five innings. It was a classic pitching match up where two warriors hung it all out as they tried to win a game for their team. By the third inning, Whitney had to get up and leave. This game was to boring she said. How she could say that I will never know. Each pitch was the difference between a win or a loss. This type of game hearkened back to the glory days of pitching dominance. Rarely in the game today do you see the pitchers actually get an upper hand over the hitters. The trouble was, as great as Randy was pitching, Darren Dreifort was pitching just as well. Each inning, these two warriors did their jobs and retired hitters with precision. On one hand, I was excited to see this type of game. It is a welcome change to the 16-15 games we have come to expect in today’s baseball environment. As the ninth inning came, the score was still 0-0 until Eric Karros hit a home run sending the Diamondbacks to their fifth straight loss. Looking over the box scores for the past week made me pale. During this 5 game losing streak the Diamondbacks had scored 12 runs which at first seems fairly close until you see that one game they lost 12-10. If we remove that score from the equation, the Diamondbacks have scored only 2 runs in 4 games. To say these guys are struggling at the plate would be an incredible understatement. I’m wondering if maybe some of these guys should be standing outside of Dodger Stadium with a sign that states, “Will work for runs.” It couldn’t hurt.


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It has been a troubling several days around our house, especially for Trina. Late last week, there was an eight-year-old boy who was hit by a school bus while he was riding his bike to school. Whenever there is a tragedy that involves a child, it tears at the heart strings of a parent. In this case though, it hit closer to home. You see, we knew this little boy. Trina had watched him grow up. They were members of our church and Trina had served in several church callings with the boy’s mother. It was a troubling story. Tanner Allen had been riding his bike and was ready to enter the parking lot at the school. He turned in just as a bus arrived and was swept under the wheels which ran over his upper torso and his head. Tanner suffered massive trauma and went into a coma. His mother happened to be in the neighborhood and came to the scene only to find her oldest son lying there motionless. Having lost a child myself, I know how the parents feel. On one hand, the pain is nearly unbearable as this little spirit returns to heaven leaving a large hole in your heart that never heals. It is as though a part of you dies along with the child. Trina was of course like a rock and visited with the parents on two different occasions talking with them and sharing experiences to help them through the grief. I on the other hand was not nearly as strong. This experience brought those feelings of dread, fear and pain from when we lost Lindsay. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my daughter and wonder what might have been had she not been called back to heaven. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Allen family during this time of sorrow. I hope that Tanner’s memory will live on eternally within their hearts.


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As incredible as it seems, the Diamondbacks are on their last road trip for the 2000 season. It seems like yesterday that I was eagerly awaiting pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. I am really not ready for baseball season to be over and I am especially not ready for the Diamondbacks to be on the road. There are way to many things that need to be done around the house for me not to have a game to go to. Trina has been eagerly awaiting this road trip. I thought that meant that she had somehow been able to get us tickets to go see the Diamondbacks play the Dodgers or the Giants. Instead, it meant that I would be working around the house getting things put back into place. I tried to explain that even though there was no game at Bank One Ballpark there was still a Diamondbacks game. She had obviously thought of this beforehand since she handed me a ladder, a handful of tools, a list of things to do, and a radio. I tried to explain that listening to the game was not the same as watching it on television but she would have no part of it. To give her credit, she did make an interesting observation that I foolishly bought. “Think of yourself back in 1919 listening to the Black Sox play Cincinnati in the World Series. They didn’t have television back then but it didn’t stop Joe Jackson from playing did it?” Hmmm, I have to give her credit. She did use a baseball analogy and drew on the nostalgia of baseball. There was really no arguing with her. I grudgingly collected all of my things and began once again to try and dig through the list of things to do. Man, why do the Diamondbacks have to be gone for 12 games? I am not sure I can make it that long from the looks of this list.


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Bullpen Bubba

Sometimes, even the best laid plans go awry. Sunday games are always a time where Dakota and I go down early so that he can participate in Bullpen Buddies. We have not missed one yet this season. Dakota has been able to go down into the bullpen and meet one or two of the Diamondbacks players and get their autographs. He has quite a collection of signatures on his ball. Today, I had a hard time getting the boy out of bed. He had forgotten that he was going to the game today and didn’t want to get up. I tried to explain that it was time to go to the ballpark. Once he heard ballpark, he was out of bed in a flash and getting dressed. I went downstairs and began to make breakfast before we had to leave. Dakota came down and wanted an egg and sausages. I gladly made his breakfast and then began to pack the bags with treats and snacks for Coda. As I was finishing packing the last package of fruit roll-ups I noticed that the clock had stopped. I glanced at my watch to find that we were 30 minutes late! I ran and grabbed Dakota and the seat cushions and headed out the door. We flew down the freeway as we made our way to the ballpark. When we arrived, Dakota just missed the bullpen buddies. He was crushed that his streak would be broken. Okay, he could care less about the streak, he just wanted to play in the dirt in the bullpen. Dakota has become a regular at the ballpark and several of the Diamondbacks employees know him by name. When he wasn’t there for bullpen buddies, they held out a spot for him. What has been a traumatic experience for the two of us turned out to be one of the greater times we had at the ballpark. He was able to meet Alex Cabrera and get his autograph on his baseball and more importantly, he was able to get another two pockets full of dirt from the bullpen. I am not sure what he is doing with the dirt. Maybe he is building his own Bank One Ballpark infield. Then again, he may just be leaving the dirt in his pocket for his mother to find when she does the laundry.


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For an entire season, I have been pursuing my own White Whale. Alas, the similarities between myself and Captain Ahab have been uncanny. We have each been relentless in our quest to best our adversaries. In his case, Captain Ahab was after Moby Dick, the great white whale. For me, it has been a picture of Matt Williams without his hat. My chronicles with Matt Williams have been well documented from the time when I followed him around the golf course at the Phoenix Open with a camera, to the Spring Training games where I was in the stands. At each meeting, I would be there with camera in hand, poised as Captain Ahab must have been with his harpoon. But in each case, I was unsuccessful as Matt dissed me time and again. The mood was discouraging as I began to believe I would never be successful in my quest. With only eight games remaining in this season, time was running out. It would seem the beast would get the best of me and at the end, I would tip my hat to him and bid farewell until next season. But this is why there is a hunt. When you least expect it, the beast shall appear and if you are prepared, the quest shall be fulfilled. Such a chance happened to me this evening. I sat with my daughter during batting practice, watching intently as the Diamondbacks players took their turns in the batting cage. I had my camera out to take a few pictures of Tiffany and the players. As I raised my camera to my eye, I noticed movement near the third base dugout. There, emerging in a sea of white was the great white head! I could not believe my luck. With my camera up, I eased forward quietly so as not to disturb the beast. When I was well within range, I yelled “Thar she blows!” The effect was just as I had planned, Matt turned to see where the commotion had come from and in that moment, my finger pressed the shutter release thereby capturing what had been my year long quest. I now had a picture of Matt Williams without his hat! Ah, ’twas a fine day indeed.


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