Category Archives: Basebal

We join this game in progress…

I almost forgot until a few minutes ago, but maybe the strangest high school football game I’ve ever covered occurred on September 1.

It was 2000, and I was winding down a season-long internship with the New Orleans Zephyrs Triple-A baseball club. The Zephyrs were then an affiliate of the Houston Astros, but have changed affiliations three times since then, going to the Nationals, the Mets, and the Marlins, who have been the parent club since 2010.

I was ready to get away from baseball. As much as I love our national pastime, doing it for five months straight, sometimes eight to 12 nights in a row, can be downright draining. There was a Sunday night game which lasted 15 innings, a Thursday doubleheader which didn’t end until 3 a.m., and numerous storms which forced the tarp to be pulled. And in minor league baseball, all male employees are expected to pull it, except during the game, when the grounds crew takes over.

I hated tarp duty. I revolted. I was a terrible intern. Asperger’s had something to do with it. I was 23 going on 24 that season, but my emotional development was more akin to an 8-year old. I still feel terrible for being a total jerk, because everyone there, including general manager Dan Hanrahan and media relations director Les East bent over backwards to help, and I spit in their faces.

As the Zephyrs began their last home series of the 2000 season, Robin Fambrough of The Advocate called me about prep football’s season starting. My assignment for the first Friday of the regular season was East Ascension of Gonzales at Hammond. This was a logical decsion, since I was living with my parents in Arabi, and Hammond was easier for me to drive to, since all I had to do was travel 12 miles past New Orleans International Airport, and then 33 miles north on Interstate 55. The drive would total 52 miles one way.

When I was driving home from the Zephyrs’ final home game on Thursday, August 31, I heard on the radio where the game between Baton Rouge Catholic and Jesuit at New Orleans’ Tad Gormley Stadium had been suspended less than five minutes in due to lightning. Robin assigned the game to Ron Brocato, the longtime sportswriter for the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, because I was not available.

I had not been home for 10 minutes when the phone rang at 224 Jaguar Drive. The caller ID said The Advocate. I immediately picked up and Jason Russell, one of the sports copy editors, was on the other end. He told me Robin wanted me to instead go to the resumption of the Catholic-Jesuit game the next night.

The good news: I only had a 20-minute drive. The bad news: I had never covered a football game which was being joined in progress.

The next day, with the mercury at 100 degrees and the heat index hovering at 115, I drove to Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans’ City Park, only a stone’s throw from my future employer, Delgado Community College. I made my way to the press box on the east side of the stadium and set up my computer, ready to input statistics into The Automated Scorebook.

The great news about covering a Catholic game is all of their games are on radio. Even better, the statistician for the radio broadcasts,, David Butler, keeps meticulous notes, charting every play.

What a relief. I was able to input the plays I missed and when 7:30 came and the game resumed, it was business as normal, even if nearly five minutes had elapsed and Jesuit was holding a 3-0 lead.

Catholic couldn’t move the ball very well. Jesuit’s offense was handcuffed for the most part, but when the Bluejays needed a key play, quarterback Perrin Rittiner and running back Dominic Webber came through. The Bluejays scored the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter, and in the fourth, an interception by Quinton Jason at the 1-yard line stopped Catholic’s best drive.

Final score: Jesuit 10, Catholic 0. After the game, the coaches, Dale Weiner of Catholic and Jay Pittman of Jesuit, were both glad I was covering the game. Nice to see them, too.

There wasn’t a phone line in the Tad Gormley press box, and I didn’t have a modem for my cell phone, but that was fine. My story was done before 10, and I would just drive home to file it, since deadline wasn’t until 11:15.

I almost didn’t make it. The Claiborne Avenue bridge across the Industrial Canal was in the up position. I didn’t have time to wait, so I ventured south on Poland Avenue to the St. Claude Avenue bridge. There is no left turn onto St. Claude from Poland, so I had to go down a block and U-turn, something I had done hundreds of times.

This time, however, it almost turned disastrous. The streets were slick from earlier rain, and I stopped because there was a red light. I couldn’t turn right immediately, and I heard the car behind me come to a sudden stop. Oh boy.

Fortunately, he skidded into the other lane and missed me. I turned right, crossed the canal,, and was home 12 minutes later. The story followed shortly thereafter. Another night in the world of a high school sportswriter.

Sloth-paced Saturday

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer most of the day–albeit sometimes I’ve dozed off–and yet I have not posted today. I am on the verge of getting back into my old lazy habits, where I would just neglect a blog after starting off fast. Then again, since I’m back in Russell, there really wasn’t anything doing. I did get out of the house for a couple of hours, because there was an open house at the Russell County News office to welcome the new publisher, Frank Mercer, and to say thank you to his predecessor, Jack Krier, since he and Kathy retired May 31 and have now moved to Missouri. It was the first time my Impala has left the garage since I got home Tuesday evening from my serpetine drive from Kansas City to Omaha to Lincoln and back to Russell through Belleville, Concordia and Salina.

The Brewers lost yet again today, ,and now they are tied with the Cardinals atop the NL Central. Tomorrow, the Cardinals will complete the sweep and knock the Brewers off the perch. Man, Milwaukee has looked beyond putrid the last two weeks. They are looking WORSE than the team I thought would win 74 games prior to the season, and that’s saying a lot. The Brewers were 51-32 on June 28, and now they’re 52-43. They have lost a 6.5-game lead over St. Louis in 14 days. REPEATING: THE BREWERS HAVE LOST A 6.5-GAME LEAD IN 14 DAYS. It was fun while it lasted, but now Wisconsin sports fans will be turning to the Packers en masse.

At least today wasn’t so painful for the Brewers. They were hammered 10-2. Last night, they led St. Louis 6-0 early, only to lose 7-6 when Matt Holliday hit a game-winning home run in the top of the ninth. The day before, Matt Garza no-hit Philadelphia through six innings, only to have the Phillies score seven in the eighth and go on to win 9-1.

I had a sinking feeling the Brewers were going to hit a bad patch. I just didn’t know it would be this prolonged and this painful. Then again, they probably had no business being in the NL Central race. The Cardinals still have one of the best rosters in all of baseball, even if All-Star catcher Yadier Molina will miss at least two months. The Pirates and Reds were in the playoffs a year ago, and bot of those teams have started to play much better. I’m expecting Milwaukee to continue its freefall past the All-Star Break. It’s one thing if they would have started the season slowly and continued to be bad. This makes it all the more painful to witness.

The MLB team closest to Russell is faring no better in an important series at home. The Royals’ hopes to win the AL Central are now ZILCH, barring a collapse by Detroit. Kansas City lost again to the Tigers at home, tonight by a 5-1 count, and now are 0-5 this year vs. Detroit at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit has owned the Royals in Kansas City since 2006, but most Royals teams from1996 through 2012 have been downright pitiful or worse. To continue to have those problems when you’re supposed to be a contending team is a sign of real trouble. The Royals are now nine games behind Detroit in the loss column. No way they’re making that up, unless there’s a 1978 Red Sox-Yankees plot twist in the wind.

By the way, the third place match of the FIFA World Cup was today. If you were watching it, you are addicted to association football and need to go into detox after the conclusion of tomorrow’s championship match.

Third place contests are the worst. Who cares? I cannot stand the fact the Kansas State High School Activities Association insists on them in every team sport except football. They are useless. Do two teams who lost their chance to play for a championship really want to come back for something totally meaningless? What’s worse about the World Cup is the Dutch players had to spend two more days away from home after they’ve been in Brazil for a month in that miserable climate. At least in Brazil’s case, they didn’t have to leave home. But why bother? Cut out the third place match, play the championship on Saturday and end the damn thing.

Speaking of the World Cup championship match, kickoff is now just over 14 hours away. Here’s hoping Germany takes it.

Rightfully chastened

I am very fortunate I am still allowed at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa today. The display I put on yesterday was beyond embarrassing, and I really embarrassed a heck of a lot of people who like me.

Liz upbraided me for what happened yesterday, even though she wasn’t there. She had to. It had to be done, or (a) I would have continued my self-destructive ways, (b) I would have been banned, and (c) she would not want to be my friend anymore. If I got banned, a lot of other people would be sad,because they would not see me anymore, and I don’t want that to happen.

Yesterday brings me back to a chilling episode from a 2003 LSU baseball game. LSU was playing Auburn on Mother’s Day in the home finale, and LSU needed to win that day to claim the Southeastern Conference championships. LSU had already won big in the first two games of the series, and I was hoping the Bayou Bengals would clinch it right there, because I was deathly afraid LSU would find a way to blow on the final weekend of the regular season when it went to Arkansas.

Well, Auburn took a big lead early, and I lost my marbles.I got belligerent, and my tantrum was heard by everyone listening to Auburn’s radio broadcast .If Rod Bramblett, Auburn’s play-by-play man, wanted to turn around and strangle me, I would not have blamed him. After the game, Bill Franques, LSU’s longtime baseball publicist, was angrier at me than he’s ever been, and he had good right to be. If he wanted to strangle me, I would have let him.

LSU ended up winning two of three the next weekend at Arkansas and the SEC title. Unfortunately, I had another meltdown at the College World Series the next month because of a harassing phone call from Baton Rouge during LSU’s game vs. South Carolina.

I have to take a good, long look at myself when I go back to Russell. I have to make changes to ensure this doesn’t happen again, either at Buffalo Wild Wings or anywhere else.

When I saw RONDO show up just before 3, I made the decision to let him play Buzztime trivia by himself. So far, he’s beaten nobody in four games. If I would have been smart enough not to play him yesterday, none of this happens. He’s still playing, and I am still letting him fly solo. Once he leaves, I’ll jump back in. But not until then.

I will drive back to Russell tonight. It’s not like driving at night is a big deal. Then again, Interstate 70 is a lot easier than US 281 after dusk.

Mother Freaking Nature

Exactly 12 hours after I left the Overland Park Marriott, I am back. Not after an adventurous Saturday.

The first sign that today was going to be off the wall was when I totally forgot I was supposed to meet Jack Krier outside Gate C of Kauffman Stadium at 10:45 to get the tickets. I was talking to my dad on the phone, and I didn’t leave my car until almost 11. Too late.

Turns out Jack left his cell phone back at his new house in Warsaw, Missouri, which is almost two hours south-southeast of Kansas City. So I couldn’t reach him. And I didn’t get in touch with his wife, Kathy, until 12:30.

I finally got into the stadium just as the first inning ended. Jack and I watched the second, third and fourth innings, and then the heavens opened up.

Oh man. The end of the fourth inning was the worst possible time for it to begin raining. The game was not official, so if it kept raining and the field became unplayable, the game would have to start over. Nobody in their right mind wants that, unless you’re the team that’s losing, which the Royals were, as the Angels were up 2-0.

The game was delayed for 45 minutes, and then it appeared the tarp might be pulled, but instead, all the grounds crew did was re-line the batter’s boxes and catcher’s box at home plate.

Keeping the tarp on was the right move, for a heavier band of rain came in at 4:15. Had the tarp been pulled at 3:15, they may have been able to play the fifth and maybe the sixth, but the field would have been drenched. Then again, once the game got to the fifth, it would have been official and they may have just said heck with it and declared the Angels the winner.

During the wait, I had to break down and buy the overpriced concessions, simply because I had not eaten all day. Cost $10 for a bratwurst, but boy, it was good. If it were $7, I might have bought another. I can buy a five-pack of the same brats at a Hy-Vee in Kansas City for $4.99. Pay another $2,49 for buns, $2.49 for mustard and $2 for a can of sauerkraut, and I’m set.

Jack and I waited an hour and half, but with the heavy rain bearing down, we opted to exit. Sure enough, just as I pulled out of the parking lot and turned onto Blue Ridge Cutoff, it began to pour. It took me a good 40 minutes to get to Buffalo Wild Wings, raining all the way. I was sure not to go over 55 to 60 and keep good traction on the slick highways. Too many people, however, were still speeding as if it were dry.

Buffalo Wild Wings was good tonight, even though my dear friend Liz had already gotten off work. I did get to see some of the ladies who I had not in a while, including Brittany and Kinisha. By 8:30, I felt myself drifting, so I figured I’d call it a night and recharge for Sunday.

The Royals game resumed at 6:30 while I was at B-Dubs. The Angels went up 6-0 in the sixth and coasted home 6-2. Rubber match between the teams tomorrow at 1:10. I’ll be watching from table 162 at B-Dubs Zona Rosa.

PS–Sorry I did not post at the game or at B-Dubs. Just not practical on my iPhone, and it was almost drained at the Royals game. I have a power pack which doesn’t need to be plugged in, but I didn’t want to take it into the stadium due to security.

Iffy proposition

I’m going to try to make this short. I have to leave the Marriott in less than 20 minutes and get on my way to Kauffman Stadium for today’s game between the Royals and Angels. As I was getting in the shower, I realized the crowds will be huge for when the gates open at 11, since they are giving away James Shields bobblehead dolls to the first 10,000.

If you don’t understand just how much fans love those bobblehead dolls, I’ll have to explain it later. All the bobbleheads I had were lost to Hurricane Katrina.

Baseball, however, may not be played today. There is a line of very heavy rain located between Russell and Salina, and it is steadily marching to the east. According to the National Weather Service, there is an 80 percent chance of rain through the day, and there could be an inch and a half or more by midnight. Ouch.

If this were a high school or college game, it might be called off before it even starts. However, Major League Baseball has instructed teams and umpires to do all they can to get a scheduled game in, except if the field floods or there is lightning.

The problem is, this is the Angels’ only visit to Kansas City this season, and the Royals have already made their trip to Anaheim. The only option would be a doubleheader tomorrow, but either doubleheader option would be frowned upon. The first, to play one game at 1:10 and the second at 6:10, would not sit well with the Angels because they’re trying to get out of town, but at least they’re only flying to Chicago to play Monday at 7:10 and not flying back to southern California. The second, to play a traditional doubleheader, would cost the Royals ticket revenue.

The worst would be to start the game and have it delayed for a long time and/or have it called before it becomes an official game, which is five innings (4 1/2 if the home team is ahead). Having a game called before it becomes official is a disaster, because under the rules, it must be replayed in its entirety. The only provision for a suspended game comes into effect (a) if the game reaches five innings, and (b) it is tied. Not to mention a team wastes its pitching in a game which is delayed and/or aborted.

Okay, time to run. Hopefully we’ll see nine innings. Not looking good.