Addison at the Bat

The scene was slightly sullen for the Cheesetown Six that day.
Just half the roster found the time to lace ’em up and play.
For May was full of rainout dates, and June was soggy, too,
But after this rescheduled game, their season would be through.

The score? It was ignored in this, the littlest of the leagues.
Wins and runs meant nothing to the boys in blue fatigues.
Just three outs separated these delinquents from their summers.
They’d find new noncommittal games, march to beats of different drummers.

But one young man in royal blue had outcomes on his mind.
This last at-bat would bring rewards of the most glorious kind.
He competed not for trophies gold, he played not for a ring.
He swung not for the fences, no; he yearned for Burger King.

The deal he’d struck that morning with the Devil . . . well, his dad,
Required he get a hit that day, and the boy already had.
That knock was on the infield, though, and the contract specified
His hit must reach the outfield to warrant burgers broiled (not fried).

But after two trips to the plate, young Addison was miffed.
Against one kid and then a coach, the fledgling slugger whiffed.
So if he failed in his last chance to torch the outfield grass,
His royal BK dining opportunity would pass.

“You can do it!” yelled the baseball moms to Addison, “You can!”
And to acknowledge he’d heard their cries, he gestured with his hand.
He strolled with nonchalance to his place beside the dish.
His carefree stance belying the stark fierceness of his wish.

He gripped the bat with fingers strong as tree roots just the same,
But he tapped the plate politely (when pounding is his claim to fame).
He barely glanced as toward the catcher’s mitt the baseball soared.
And when the umpire yelled, “Strike one!” mighty Addison looked bored.

“That was low!” his father may have shouted with shock both loud and vehement.
And Addison, mighty Addison, may have nodded in agreement.
But the protest didn’t faze him. He just turned with cool resolve.
He knew that after four balls sailed, pitching duties would revolve.

There are no walks in this league, see. Wildness has no reproach.
The eight year olds, after hurling four strays, give way to the coach.
So despite his father’s urging, “Swing if it looks good to you!”
Addison just struck a patient pose as the umpire called, “Strike two!”

Reality took over. Burger King hung in the balance.
Addison assumed a piercing glare worthy of the late Jack Palance.
No tapping this time: POUND, POUND, POUND, his bat attacked the plate.
He’d seize the moment now and ditch his customary wait.

“You can hit this kid, I know it!” yelled the deal-making dad.
The pitch zipped down the middle. Our hero swung with all he had.
His bat ripped through the atmosphere; it could have leveled trees.
The fielders’ hats flew off their heads from the manufactured breeze.

A roar, a gasp, a popping glove, then dust and hopes did fall.
The crowd sat shocked that his ferocious swing had missed the ball.
But just a fraction of a second after sullen silence fell,
The quiet shock was shattered by a most triumphant yell.

“THAT,” his father shouted, “WAS A SWING WORTH BURGER KING!”
And his son’s soul went soaring like an eagle on the wing.
Though that dad wished his son had hit the ball, he’d never tell.
For Addison didn’t just strike out . . . he struck out really well.

Mighty Addison, King of Burgers
Mighty Addison struck out. And was rewarded with Burger King.

Who’s On First?

It’s pretty sad that the only things motivating me to blog here are TV (Lost and Idol) and contests, so here’s a real piece of family stuff. A week or two ago, Addison and I performed in his elementary school’s talent show. It was a lot of fun, even the endless rehearsals of “Who’s on First” to which we subjected ourselves.
The night of the performance I had been drumming into Addison’s head that only I would have a microphone and that he’d need to project just like before—I would take care of the mic. Right before we went on, he was begging me to let him hold a mic, and I repeatedly told him no. Sure enough, right before we went on, he was handed a mic, and the rest was hilarity.

Since we’ve finished, Addison hasn’t wanted to reproduce the whole routine, but anytime anyone says “I don’t know,” we’ll both say, “Third base!” We’ll do intentionally, too, with one or the other asking what the capital of some state or far-off country is. Colin’s gotten into the act, too. Yesterday, he said, “What’s the capital of . . . third base?”

What indeed, Colin. What indeed.

May 28, 2009 question – It’s Okay. Let Out the Anger.

Mt. Zambrano
And the Cubs’ Mt. Rushmore of Volcanic Personality
(also appears here)

All of you who had “Jake Fox’s Bat Cooling Off” in yesterday’s pool lost miserably. No, Lou didn’t have one of his sweet explosions, but big Z picked up the slack. Pretty much the whole world has now overreacted to Carlos Zambrano’s overreaction to the disputed out call in Wednesday’s victory over the Pirates (it’s just a big globe full of hypocrites, no?).

And now it’s time to reflect on the simmering stew of tempers now residing in Wrigleyville and just how tasty it really is. If you filter through the extreme snobbery of moderation sermons being preached all across the Chicago and sporting airwaves this morning, you might actually notice that everything about yesterday’s Mt. Zambrano eruption is hilarious.

There was Lou, unable to suppress the giggles during his post-game press conference.

There was Milton, also chuckling, and approving of the impressive nature of the explosion, adding, “It was on a Bradley level.”

And of course, there was Carlos himself, pointing, gesticulating, ump tossing, incidental bumping, ball hurling, Gatorade bashing, and pitching-coach endangering. Yes, he’ll be suspended. So what? The fresher he’ll be in September and October. His tirade didn’t hurt the Cubs. It helped humanity.

Maybe I should be sorry for enjoying a fit of childish rage, but I’m not at all. I love the fact that the Cubs now have three of the most volatile characters in baseball on their squad, ready to combust at any moment.

Cub baseball just became fun to watch again.

Today’s Question
Greek/Roman Mythology
Who is Zeus’s counterpart in Roman mythology?

Tuesday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Technically, the easternmost province in Canada is Newfoundland and Labrador, but we had no Lab lovers. So I’ll give credit to the Newfoundland-only crowd:

Steve J (the J stands for Just A Newfy)
Karen H (the H stands for Halifactually Correct)

Good job, eh?

May 26, 2009 question – Forgetial Day

Memorial Day to Forget
For the Cubs anyway
Maybe the true meaning of Memorial Day has nothing to do with baseball, but they’re both very American institutions, so it’s hard to separate my feelings, especially when the two intersect. So regardless of how enjoyable most of the day was, I just can’t set aside my disdain for the way the day ended: with miserable Cubs baseball.

The big problems had nothing to do with the play on the field and the eight-game losing streak the Cubbies plopped upon the Wrigley grass. The real shocks were A) the fact that on Memorial Day, the Cubs played at night, presumably to keep their national broadcast from interfering with the evil MLB network’s 2 day-game telecasts; B) the Cubs wearing . . . prepare to gasp . . . red hats.

I know, right? The Reds wear red hats. The Cardinals wear red hats. Sophia Loren has been known to wear a giant red hat, but that doesn’ t excuse everybody in baseball being forced to don the crimson caps of doom.

The forces of good must unite to ensure this never happens again.

Today’s Question
What is the easternmost province in Canada?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Chowder comes from the French chaudière, a kettle or pot . . . B. Even though they knew, these people are far from being chowder heads: Steve J (the J stands for Jambalaya), Steve T (the T stands for Tomato Basil), Micaela, and Elena. Y’all are souper duper geniuses.

Teed Off

Addison has officially begun playing tee ball. His first practice was Friday, and I’m not sure who was more excited, Addison or his dad. But we took care of that competition by doing the one thing that will escalate any kid’s interest (and most parent’s exhaustion): we went shopping for new stuff.

We stopped at Blythe’s Sporting Goods to pick up some new baseball cleats and a bat. Shoe shopping was easy (minus the constant Colin chasing around the store). The bat shopping, not so much (they actually sell teeny tiny little kid DeMarini baseball bats for $200+ . . . we did not get one of those). Maybe the most difficult thing about the shopping excursion was convincing Addison he didn’t need a full arsenal of catcher’s gear. 
If you’ve ever taken a pre-schooler to a practice of any kind of sport or activity, you know that the interest level varies from kid to kid and from second to second. I’ve experienced the wavering attention, sweeping disinterest, and tapering enthusiasm induced by soccer practice before, and I was pretty much expecting the same thing if not worse with tee ball. The simple fact is, baseball is harder than soccer. 
Any kid can kick a ball or throw it two-handed over their heads. But throwing a baseball at a specific target on command is difficult for some professionals. (Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax and many others developed serious psychological blocks that prevented them from getting the ball to first base. Rick Ankiel and Mark Wohlers were two pitchers whose psyches completely unraveled to the point where they became allergic to the strike zone.) Hitting the ball, even on a tee, isn’t the easiest thing to do (for some kids, the tee makes it even harder, because they’re even more afraid of hitting the tee than they are of missing everything altogether). And catching . . . shoot, catching is just plain hard for most kids.
Long story short, failure to execute difficult skills can cause kids to lose interest really quick.
Addison loved every minute of it, beginning to end.
The team’s coach ran a good practice, which was key. He started them off, as every baseball practice should begin, with everyone pairing off and playing catch (in this case they were really playing chase after and pick up). Then they stretched. Then they took turns hitting five balls off the tee (which Addison was anxiously ready to begin from the moment he stepped out of the van, making his desires known to anyone who would listen). Batting practice also gives the kids who aren’t hitting a chance to practice their fielding . . . which was pretty hilarious.
But here’s what I noticed: when Addison was in the field, he wanted to field every ground ball. He beckoned the batter to run on every hit, not just their fifth and final one. When it was his turn to hit, he bellowed out commands to all the kids and the coach to take their positions fast because he was ready to hit. As soon as his previous shot stopped rolling, he asked for the next ball and gripped his bat impatiently until the team was ready for the next screaming liner. 
The only real time he got distracted was when he was playing first base and wanted to give me a high five after every play (and, at the end of practice, when he discovered some dog poo by the fence and ordered the entire team over for a look). He even caught a throw at first base, got momentarily ecstatic, and then returned to the flow of the game as if he realized this feat should be viewed as absolutely normal now that he had arrived as a real live baseball player.
You can set aside thoughts of me being an overbearing baseball dad who demands his kid to excel to MLB All-Star status at the risk of colossal disappointment. What I’ve always wanted has been for Addison to enjoy baseball. I was never all that good, really. I don’t have tons of natural ability, and I would expect Addison to inherit my limitations. But the fact that he shows every sign of absolutely being absorbed and infatuated with the game . . . it’s like an adrenaline overdose.

April 14, 2009 question – Trivia in the Making

Two Sox go Spartan
Hitting 300 home runs in a career is usually pretty special for any baseball player. It doesn’t put you into the Hall of Fame by any means, but it does show you’re a legitimate slugger with staying power. And when that 300th long ball clears the fence, the day is usually (or, until yesterday, always) yours to savor.

But that all changed after Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox circled the square base path for his 300th time. Before he could finish his congratulatory round of “you’re so special” high fives and back slaps, Paul Konerko, the very next batter, repeated the feat, belting his 300th dinger over the generous fences of U.S. Cellular Field.

When two guys in a row do it, hitting 300 doesn’t seem all that special for either one. But for the pair, it’s as special as special gets. No two teammates have ever both hit their 300th, 400th, or 500th homers in the same game, let alone in precise succession.

I’m not one to spend a lot of time praising White Sox, but congratulations to Dye and Konerko, for forging trivia before our very eyes.

Today’s Question
How many countries (ignoring any Antarctic territories . . . those aren’t countries) are intersected on land by the Antimeridian, the Prime Meridian’s neglected opposite?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Mercutio uttered those famous words that I’ve already forgotten, but these trivia winners have vowed never to forget (or they just can’t help being that smart):

Heather M (the M stands for Mercutio’s Last Words)
Karen M (the M stands for My How Dramatically They Die In Romeo And Juliet?)

Congratulations to you all for your
Great knowledge of the Bard and all his works.

Trivia glory is great on its own. Trivia glory in iambic pentameter is as good as it’s gonna get. Congrats.

April 7, 2009 question – Go Cubs Go

We’re Singing
Go, Cubs, Go
Okay, so I didn’t jinx Opening Day. Cubs win 4-2. All is right with the world. But I can’t go a whole season without mentioning the Cubs. Or could I? Have I been jinxing every season by talking about the Cubs? I guess we’ll never know. Oh, no! Now I’ve jinxed them by insinuating that the Cubs will never win and thus be able to disprove my jinxing theory!

Superstition is such an unbecoming ubiquity.

Today’s Question
Baseball . . . yes, BASEBALL!
To what did the Cleveland Bluebirds change their team name in 1902 after Nap Lajoie became the team’s biggest star?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Hippos have 36 teeth, but the handful of really big ones catch your attention. And I want to thank you all for guessing so generally wide of the mark in both directions, which made crowning a winner a mathematical achievement. But, if my tallies are to be believed (and Jessie would be inclined to say they are not, since I overlooked her, yesterday) Diannalee is today’s winner. Congratulotamus.

March 3, 2009 question

The answer to Friday’s question is baseball. The only reason I know that is because Steve J (the J stands for Just Trust Me) got it right . . . according to my notes. If you know what the question was, or if you have any information about my whereabouts over the past several days, please let me know. The last week or so is an absolute blur. So let’s just trudge ahead into trivia, shall we? Here’s the question:

What is the only Major League Baseball team whose name begins with the same four letters as its city?