Ballyard Talk

Each year before Spring Training begins, the Arizona Diamondbacks hold a Ballyard Chat with several of the players and coaches. This year, it was held today at Linkrugel’s Ballyard Brewery at Bank One Ballpark. There was Randy Johnson along with Bob Brenly and Joe Garagiola Junior. They talked for nearly an hour about the state of the game, what they were looking forward to, what holes they felt were still in the roster and how they thought they would close the gap on the other teams in the National League Western Division. Each season, I try to attend the Ballyard Talk. It is not so much to see or hear the speakers as it is to just be at the ballpark. February is the hardest on me. It is at this point that spring training is right around the corner and yet opening day seems so far away. Granted, it would have been nicer if they would hold the Ballyard talk down on the field so that I could have checked out the status of the turf but I guess I can’t have everything.


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For the most part, Trina is a stay at home mother taking care of the children. It has worked out quite nicely as the kids have gotten to know their mother quite well and formed a special bond. Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to women in the work place, I merely feel that if possible, a mother is needed at home to help with the fostering of young minds and preparing them for what lies ahead in their lives. There are times, like every Wednesday when Trina has things planned outside the home and I am left to care for the kids. I don’t mind, it gives me a chance to be with them more closely and I relish that time. But on certain occasions, I too get busy and the kids are given more latitude and freedom than they are normally accustomed to. For the older kids, that is perfectly fine, but with Dakota, that can be dangerous. Tonight happened to be one of the dangerous moments. I was busy working downstairs and time seemed to slip away from me. Before long, I began to notice something strange in the house, silence. That is a rarity around our house and can mean only one thing, Dakota is up to something. I began to call his name to see what he was up to. When he would not answer, I knew he was up to no good. After a thorough search of the house, I found him in the closet. There he sat with a series of colored markers making tattoos on his arms and legs. Obviously he knew he was had and I began the lecture of why markers belonged on paper and not on skin. About that time, Trina returned home to see her multi-colored son. She glared at me and immediately took Dakota to the bathroom for clean-up. “You know those are permanent markers” she said. I knew better, Dakota was in for the scrubbing of his life. By the time his bath was over, he was pink all over as the upper layer of skin was scrubbed off along with the tattoo.


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Well, after the long dark winter off-season, it is time for the long dark pre-spring training ritual of arbitration hearings. As nearly everyone knows, I am not much of an arbitration fan. It seems counter-productive for a player to sit down with an owner and air their grievances towards each other in hopes of gouging the other party with regards to salary. The team representative will come into the meeting wanting everyone to know how poorly the player has done and try to justify why they should have to pay the player anything near fair market value. The player on the other hand will come into the meeting trying to tout every statistic that has been accumulated about their performance to show how valuable they are and why they should be paid double what a player deserves. This typically ends up causing the relationship between a player and the team to become strained. The first case of the season belonged to non other former Arizona Diamondback Travis Lee. Travis again struggled last season spending part of the time in Tucson trying to work through yet another batting slump before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. Once there, he continued to struggle ending the year with a .235 batting average which is well below the league average for a first baseman. To further alienate management, Travis also declined to play winter ball saying he would rather spend time with his friends and family than further develop his baseball skills. Now, here he is, claiming he should be making $1.6 million per season, a $1.1 million raise from his $500,000 salary of last year. The Phillies, not known for their financial prowess anyway, offered Travis $800,000. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why you would reward a player an additional $300,000 for playing well below their potential. But this is the same team who felt that Jose Mesa and Ricky Bottalico were the best available relief pitchers and is shelling out somewhere around $6 this season for them. As luck would have it, the arbitration panel seems to have some shred of decency and turned down Lee’s request. He will have to scrimp and get by on $800,000 this season, poor kid.


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It is funny how a song will strike a nerve in society and suddenly become almost a national anthem. Each year, literally thousands of new songs are introduced to the general public but only a few ever make it to the charts and even fewer of them become number one hits. But it is an even rarer phenomenon is when a song crosses over the boundaries from music to sports. For example, when Queen brought out We Will Rock You, no one could have predicted that this would become a sports anthem. Nor could they have predicted that they would follow this up with the smash stadium hit, We Are The Champions. I think it would be safe to say that Queen is the reigning king (queen?) of sports anthems but may soon see their dominance usurped by the Baha Men. After their monster hit last summer of Who Let the Dogs Out, stadiums around the country began using this song. First it was just when the home team won a game, then it branched out to when a major play occurred soon, the song was being played at what seemed to be every time-out. By the season’s end, I was beginning to wonder myself who had let these dogs out? Rather than being excited about this though, I was looking for the idiot who released the hounds and required us to listen to this song endlessly. It has become obvious that we need to begin enforcing a leash law and try to corral these pups and keep them under lock and key. I have not been this annoyed at a song since they began to play the Macarana. There are nights that I still wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming of myself standing on top of a dugout somewhere doing that infernal dance. I shudder just thinking about it. Getting back to this dog song though, it has reached an all-time low in our household. Dakota has decided this is his new favorite song and he goes around the house singing it constantly. Not only that, but he now has Dog Dot Com singing a duet. Whenever he yells, “Who let the dogs out!”, Dottie begins to bark. It is enough to drive a man to drink. My only hope is that we find a new song before opening day. I have about had enough of these wild dogs roaming the streets.


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“MOM!” Dakota screamed from the doorway of his bedroom. With that, Trina and I came straight out of the bed. It didn’t matter that it was 2:15 in the morning or that I had only been in bed for an hour. I was wide awake with Dakota’s yell. As we hit the floor as a result of his scream we were able to see his outline as he threw up all over the floor. There is something strange about a small child when they are sick. He obviously had no idea what was going on other than the fact that he was experiencing something completely foreign and rather frightening. Now I learned early on in our marriage that when the kids are sick and throwing up that the best thing for me to do is to pretend I am asleep and let Trina deal with it. Now before I start getting e-mail about how mean and uncaring I am and that I should share in this responsibility, let me explain why my behavior is best for all concerned. If I catch a glimpse of one of the kids throwing up or if I have to clean it up afterwards, I will quickly begin to be sick myself. Once that happens, I will be little or no use to Trina and will in fact be even more of a burden since she will now have to clean up after me as well. So while I recognize that I should help, I feel it is best for the family unit as a whole if I just roll over and stick my head under the pillow. Before long, Trina has Dakota laying on the floor of the bathroom so that she can at least contain the mess in a small tile floored room. Once things are cleaned up and order is restored, she crawls back into bed and just to make sure I am still there, she sticks her ice cold feet in the small of my back and shoves me to the floor. As I climb back into bed, she merely asks sweetly, “Are you just coming to bed?” I guess I deserve that. I will trade getting pushed out of bed for holding a kid’s head above the toilet any day of the week.


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Well, tonight was opening night for the new XFL season. For those of you unaware, the XFL is a partnership between NBC and the WWF. I was not quite sure what to expect but since I am playing in an XFL Fantasy League, I felt it was my duty as an owner to at least support my players and watch a game. Granted, I am not much of a football fan and that is a good thing since what I was watching did not seem to resemble anything like football. Instead, I was greeted by the color commentary of Jesse “The Body” Ventura who happens to also be the governor or Minnesota. Now as near as I can tell, running Minnesota must be just a part time job if you can take off each week to hang out at a football game. I have to admit, the various camera angles was interesting and kept me watching for at least a couple of minutes. I grabbed my roster to check and see which of these players were on my team. As a tackle was made or a running back went for a big gain, I would look at the names on the back of their jerseys and compare it against my list. About the third play though, I couldn’t find any of these guys. Then I realized that the players were not required to put their own names on the back of their shirts. This became evident when a defensive player crawled out from under the pile and the back of his jersey had the words “She Hates” written on it. I am not sure what that means but I for one would get out of the way if I saw “She Hates” coming towards me. He was able to put a bone shattering hit on “The Truth” which “The Body” replayed over and over so that we got the full effect of the collision. Between these psychotic players and the scantly clad cheerleaders who go into the stands during the game to dance with the fans I wondered whether I was watching football or Cinemax After Dark. Yeah, I can see where this sport is going to rank right up there with Monday Night Nitro and NASCAR. I am beginning to think I do not fit into the demographic that this league is catering to. Perhaps they should move these games to The Nashville Channel right after the Dukes of Hazzard re-runs.


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There are times when the simple things in life mean the most to us. Take today for example. Instead of rushing around in the rat race worrying about stock prices and how the economy is doing, I am content watching the proceedings in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania. Only in America would thousands of people travel to a quaint little town in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the dead of winter to see if a large furry rodent can predict the weather. I have always had a soft spot for this holiday and have for years attempted to make it more mainstream. I think Groundhog Day is long overdue it’s place in the sun. We celebrate holidays with fat guys dressed in red velvet and large rabbits who believe dairy products should be colorful and well hidden. Isn’t there a place somewhere in between these two for a weather-predicting rodent? Of course the importance of this holiday is directly dependant upon the latitude at which you live. For example, if I were living at the forty-fifth parallel, I would be much more interested in Groundhog Day since it would mean the difference of freezing to death in the snow and basking in the sunshine. Living in Phoenix at thirty-three degrees north, the difference between winter and spring is probably the difference between 65 degrees and 75 degrees. So whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not really doesn’t matter here.


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