Catch!

Here’s the pitch ….

Bad news – you can get it anywhere. Open up your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and you’ll find it in abundance. Surf to any local or national news website and it is there. Turn on the TV or radio and they are focusing on the negative things going on, or offering opinions on “hot button” topics which just continue to fuel the negative vibes that are so abundantly available.

I don’t recall what radio station I was working at, but I recall that the News Director always started his newscast with a “feel good” story. I think we used to say something like “WXXX – where the good news comes first” or something like that. People were grateful to hear happy stories instead of stories about war, murder, and whatever else was going on in the world.

With that in mind, I sat down today not knowing what to write about. I wanted to blog, but didn’t have anything in mind. As I scrolled Facebook (through the various heated opinions about the presidential debates), I came across a story that a friend of mine posted. It immediately reminded me of a “feel good” story, so I had to share it (and a few thoughts of my own) here.

Grandpa’s Bucket of Baseballs

In Alabama, a 72 year old grandfather cleaned out his garage and found a bucket of old baseballs. He took the bucket up to the batting cages that he and his son used to go to and left them there with a note.

The bucket of baseballs left at a batting cage

The note says the following:

FREE

Hope someone can use some of these baseballs in the batting cages. I found them cleaning my garage. I pitched them to my son and grandson for countless rounds. My son is now 46 y/o and my grandson is 23 y/o. I am 72 and what I won’t give to pitch a couple of buckets to them. They have both moved away. If you are a father cherish these times. You won’t believe how quickly they will be gone.

God bless

P.S. Give them a hug and tell them you love them every chance you get.

His son tweeted the picture of the bucket and note and the story spread. The grandpa is amazed at how many people are reacting. ESPN even wanted to talk to him.

Here is a link to the full story. It is worth the read.

https://www.today.com/parents/grandpa-s-note-bucket-baseballs-will-touch-your-heart-t193019

My thoughts

I can tell you that one of my favorite childhood memories is playing catch with my dad. I know that there had to be days where he wasn’t in the mood to play, but he did it anyway. We’d stand out in front of the house and play catch on the sidewalk. Eventually, he got sick and tired of me over throwing and we began playing on the side of the house. That way, if I threw a bad ball, the backyard fence caught it!

Growing up, we played a lot of baseball. Like any 13-14 year old kid, I dreamed of becoming a major league pitcher. When my dad and I played catch, we’d spend hours calling balls and strikes. I smile as I think back to my dad winding up real fast and then lobbing a change up to me. I smile when I think about him saying, “Watch this pitch!” and then tossing an amazing curveball or sinker to me. I love to remember the day he showed me how to throw a knuckleball. What tremendous memories these are!!

My boys tossing the ball around in the backyard

When I had my first son, I couldn’t wait for him to be old enough to play catch with. I felt the same way when I had my second son. I coached both boys at Tee ball and baseball. Neither one were as excited about playing as I was. I’m glad that my youngest son still wants to play catch with me. He has a bit more accuracy than my oldest son, and could still easily play ball if he wanted to. I always love being able to play catch with both of them. We have a big backyard and it’s great for catch!

I’m not gonna lie, I still chuckle as I throw the same pitches to my sons as my dad did to me. I remember the first time my oldest watched a knuckleball coming at him. He couldn’t believe that the ball didn’t really spin. I love those moments with my boys as much as I loved playing catch with my pop. I hope that they look back one day and remember those moments as fondly as I do.

The way my daughter throws her pacifier out of the crib and toys around the room, who knows, maybe she’ll be playing softball on a team. I’d be ok with that! She’s got a good arm!!

So what is the point of this blog? To share a wonderful story and to give you a little push. Maybe it’s been a while since you played catch with your child. Maybe you’re missing your parents or grandparents who don’t live nearby. The tweet, and this story are a great reminder to cherish those things or, better yet, go do them. Time is precious. We don’t get much of it. Don’t waste it – take advantage of it. Grab your mitt and a ball and play some catch with those you love – who cares how old you are?

Friday Fodder

Hello readers. I hope this finds you safe and healthy. This is, yet again, another blog that is full of random thoughts in no particular order.

Baseball

My home team, The Detroit Tigers, have not been much to watch in the past. I guess I was spoiled in that I got to watch the magical year of 1984 and a World Series Crown. Since then, they have struggled. “We are rebuilding” has been what us fans have been told for years! In 2006 we went to the World Series and lost. So, in 30+ years, we really haven’t had much to cheer about.

Despite that fact, I really miss baseball. Today in my Facebook memories, a picture popped up that I posted two years ago. The picture is the view of the baseball diamond that is literally behind our house. “One of the things I love about our house is that I can walk out on the porch and catch a good ball game all spring and summer long,” is the caption. Sigh. Not this year. Even the neighbor kids aren’t out playing ball.

I have mentioned in the past that my favorite Tiger from the 1984 team was Aurelio Lopez. Senor Smoke, they called him. There was something about his pitching style that I liked. As a 14 year old kid, I used to pretend I was him. When I was with my dad, or my buddies from school. We’d pitch to each other calling balls and strikes. When I was alone, I had a square I drew on the side of my house that represented the “strike zone,” I used to throw the ball at. There used to be a square spray painted on the wall of our elementary school, and you could stand in the parking lot and throw tennis balls at it – calling your own strikes.

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I miss hearing baseball on the radio. I miss watching it on TV. There is some talk about teams being allowed to play without people in the stands. While it would certainly be weird to just hear the sound of a ball coming off the bat, I would miss the sound of the crowd cheering for a home run. At this point, however, I would welcome baseball in any form.

The Boys

After my self quarantine of over two weeks, I was able to pick up my sons. They will be staying with me for a little over a week. Despite having seeing them briefly when I took my oldest’s birthday gift to him, and their short visit in my driveway, I felt like I hadn’t seen them at all! Sure, video chats helped, but to actually be with them and give them a hug means so much.

My youngest still has school work that he is doing online and will continue to do through the end of the school year. Because he is a senior, my oldest had the choice of continuing with the final marking period or taking the grades he had when all this Covid stuff came down. He had excellent grades, so he chose the latter and is officially done with school. We’re still waiting to see about graduation and stuff. We haven’t booked a place for his graduation party yet, because we just don’t know when we’ll be able to hold it!

We were able to celebrate my son’s 18th birthday here. We made a cake and sang Happy Birthday. Choices were limited, but we told him he could chose what he wanted for his birthday dinner. He chose pizza (no surprise). It was nice to be able to do that.

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They are always on their devices. They have an Xbox, a Wii U, a Nintendo Switch, and countless games on their cell phones. I am trying to get them away from that stuff, but with the cold weather, it hasn’t been easy. At least today it is supposed to be in the 50’s and we can get outside to play catch or take a walk.

Recently, I taught my youngest how to play chess. It is not my favorite game to play, mainly because I suck at it. I decided that I was going to teach him cribbage. My grandpa taught me how to play when I was about 9 years old. We played the game open handed (where you could see each other’s cards) and I walked him through things. He beat me, and I am hoping to play a few more games while he is here. I am also hoping to get my oldest to play, too. It is ALWAYS nice to have something to do when there is a power outage, or when you are bored.

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In preparation for the boys, I made sure to put clean sheets on their beds, and straightened up their room. While I was in there, I raised the blind on the window to let the natural light in. We have a huge tree that is outside their window. The birds were driving Maizey crazy flying back and forth. She sat like this meowing and jumping at the window for about 5 hours!

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I remember a time when parents put their kids to bed and then stayed up and watched TV before going to bed themselves. However, it’s been the opposite here. Sam and I are ready for bed by 10 and last night they were still up at 3:30am!!! What is up with that?!?

Layoffs

As stated in previous blogs, I am off work on doctor’s orders. While I am here recovering, I have been lucky enough to spend it with family. I have been praying for my co-workers and others who are still working at the hospital. The labor pools at hospital continued to grow because of ambulatory sites being closed, and those workers being put in the pool. This meant less hours for those working. To make matters worse, this week hospitals in the state announced massive layoffs and cuts. Some positions were completely eliminated!

Many of the layoffs are temporary and employees can take advantage of unemployment benefits (while keeping their health care benefits). If I am being honest, I wish that this had been an option from the beginning for many of us. It would have been much less stressful (and safer) for people. I know I would have opted to just be home with family, instead of having to go through a the mental breakdown I had to be home.

I continue to pray for my friends who are still right there in the thick of things. I continue to pray for the many healthcare workers across the state, and throughout the country, who are doing what they can to save lives – while trying to stay safe themselves. I just want life to be back to normal. I want to go and do the job I was trained to do. I’m just not sure when that will happen and if I can even do that!

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Skinny Me

I was out in the garage this week looking through a few boxes. I was looking for some notes from some classes I took years ago (more on that in an upcoming blog). I stumbled on something that I had totally forgotten about – an old magazine I was in.

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Mobile Beat Magazine is still around and it is mainly for mobile DJs. I used to get it when I was DJing more. It had great ideas regarding set ups, equipment, contracts, etc… It also put out a top 200 list every year of the most requested songs from that past year. I still look at it when I do get out to DJ (which is rarely ever now). This particular issue did a story about mobile DJ’s who were also radio DJ’s. I was interviewed and I was one of those featured in the article. My ugly mug even made it in the magazine!

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It is funny to see this picture.

  • I am about 100 pounds heavier now.
  • The glasses are gone thanks to Lasik surgery.
  • The hair is gone because of …. natural causes.
  • The station is gone, because of typical radio politics.

The shirt I am wearing was given to me by my buddy Tim, who is now working in major market radio on a morning show. He and some buddies (Doug and Phil) used to have this set up in their basement where they “played radio.” In all honesty, the stuff they did was better than the stuff you hear on many radio stations today. They would make tapes and I loved them. They called it “Fake Radio” and had me voice some liners for it. Making those up were a blast. I loved that shirt and was sad when it finally was so tattered that I couldn’t wear it anymore!

Ella

My baby girl continues to be a source of happiness. It is amazing how much she has grown in just 10 weeks. She is “talking” so much! I could listen to “baby babble” all day! I love how she smiles at me when I talk to her. There is NO better feeling. While putting clothes away this week, my wife slipped on the tutu and bow my friend Margaret had sent. She slipped it on over her PJs and it looked great. Looking at her, I can totally see her wearing something like this for dance classes.

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I am so guilty of taking a million pictures of her. I will totally be “THAT” dad who will drive her crazy with my camera! “Dad! Enough with the pictures!” I will sit and go through the pictures and claim a “favorite,” only to go through them another day and claim another as “my favorite!” My latest “favorite” is this one:

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I love this little girl SO much.

I love my children SO much. Blessings – each and every one of them!

Until Next Time …

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Father’s Day Reflections -2019

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As Father’s Day approached, I found a few minutes to reflect.  In a world where you hear constantly about “deadbeat dads”, I am lucky enough to have a dad who played a HUGE part in my life in SO many ways.  I have blogged about his musical influences on me (Which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/03/30/my-biggest-musical-influence-dad/) and wrote a blog for him on his birthday (which you can read here: https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/11/01/birthday-tribute-to-fred/).  I was truly blessed with a great dad.

One of the hardest jobs in the world is being a parent, I’ll be the first to admit that.  I will also say, though, that while it is a difficult job, it is also one of the most amazing things a man can do! As I look at my two sons, I consider myself blessed.  Being a father is one of the most satisfying, frustrating, fulfilling, and life-affirming things I have ever done!  I have been a dad for almost 18 years, and as I thought about my boys, I began to make a list of the things I love about being a dad.  I thought I would share that list with you.  Perhaps you can add to it or relate to mine.

Things I Love About Being a Dad

  • Your kids think you know it all.
    • If I had a dollar for every time my kids have asked me a question about something…LOL.  Many times, you know the answer, but sometimes, they ask you something that throws you for a loop!  They truly believe you are the smartest person alive!
  • Playing catch.
    • One of my favorite memories of my dad and I was playing catch in front of our house. I remember the first time he threw his “submarine” pitch to me and how much my hand stung when it hit the mitt!  Throwing the ball around with my sons is something I will never get tired of doing!
  • Coaching – Sports.
    • I was lucky enough to coach both of my sons in T-ball and baseball.  I truly wish they had both continued to play ball, but as they grew older, they lost interest.  I also helped the coaches out when my oldest son was on the bowling team in middle school.  I loved watching them play soccer and taking them to the driving range to hit golf balls, too. I only got to really go fishing with them a couple times, but I hope that it happens more in the years ahead.
  • Throwing them around in the pool.
    • We lived at one place that had a huge pool.  One of the thing I never got tired of was picking the boys up and tossing them back into the water in the summer.  I also loved letting them push me in the pool, thinking they had surprised me, when all along I was waiting for them to do it.  My oldest is as big as me now, and he still wants me to throw him around!  Pool fun is always great as a dad!
  • Your kids think you are the strongest person!
    • I remember arm wrestling with my dad and being amazed at how strong he was.  I remember “helping” my dad move things and struggling with my end of it because it was so heavy.  Dad wasn’t phased at all, though.  As kids, we are always amazed at how strong dad is!
  • Rocking and singing them to sleep.
    • Whether it is at the beginning of the night or in the middle of the night, I never grew tired of rocking my kids to sleep.  Holding them with their head on my shoulder and singing Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs is forever etched in my memory!  The songs changed from son to son, but some remained the same.  I used to sing “Bouna Sera,” “On An Evening in Roma,” “Watching the World Go By,” “Vieni Su,” “Cruising Down the River,” and other songs.  I used to love when they would sing them to me, too!
  • You become aware of your bad habits.
    • My dad used to smoke.  He used to say, “Don’t ever let me catch you doing this!”  He eventually quit cold turkey, whether or not it was because of my brother and I, I don’t know.  I do know that you are extra cautious about doing things or saying things you don’t want your kids repeating.  My dad always tells the story of driving while I was in the car seat behind him  Someone cut him off and he yelled, “You stupid prick!” and I said, “What did those pricks do, daddy?!”  “Sticks – there were sticks in the road!” was his response.  HA!
  • Play time and using your imagination.
    • I remember my dad coming into the bedroom and pretending to be a bear while my brother and I were under the covers.  I remember him pretending to be a wrestler and bouncing us on the mattress.  I remember pretending that way with my sons, too.  I remember playing superheroes with towels tied around our necks for capes!  So much fun!!!
  • Embarrassing them.
    • This gets more fun as they get older.  My dad did it to me.  I do it with my kids.  Just recently, we were walking down the street to go to the city fair.  On the walk I started skipping and both kids were like, “Dad!  Stop it!”  This one car was playing some song with a really loud bass, so I started dancing.  Again, “Stop it!” When the petting zoo came into view I screamed, “Oooo!  Look at the baby goats” and started running toward them.  They were so embarrassed!  It’s what dads do!!
  • Introducing them to things from your childhood.
    • For me, dad introduced me to a lot of music and such.  For my sons, I shared movies and music, but thanks to technology, I was able to share with them the Atari 2600!  They had some retro Atari that was loaded with 200 games or something one Christmas.  My oldest loved it.  He was always playing Maze Craze!  We used to hit the thrift shops and I would love when there was some old toy from my childhood there!  Of course, I passed down the Three Stooges to them!  I also introduced them to the Classic Scooby Doo cartoons, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Muppets.
  • True and unconditional love.
    • It’s a mutual thing.  I have never felt such an unconditional love for someone or from someone, until I became a dad.  Holding each of my boys for the first time, you melt!  The love just gushes out from you.  It is an amazing thing.
  • Hearing “I love you” from them.
    • This kind of goes with the above item.  As if you can’t love them any more, the minute they tell you “I love you” is just an amazing, emotional, and wonderful thing that you will never forget.  I still have voicemails from both boys as toddlers on my phone.  I need to find a way to get them into an MP3 or something.  I never want to lose those!
  • Halloween
    • There were a few years I worked nights and missed out on taking them out trick or treating.  I was able to be at all of their Halloween parades at school.  I loved being able to help pick out costumes with them.  Pulling them around the neighborhood as babies was something very fun.
  • Gibberish talk.
    • As parents, we all do this. Especially when they are babies.  I wish I could remember all the things I said to my kids, I don’t.  I know there were gibberish phrases that I used for each boy, though.  I used to love saying them to make them smile.
  • Making them laugh.
    • My kids were always my best audience.  “Do it again, Daddy!”  There is nothing like making your child laugh.  Their laughter is like music!  Even as they grow up, I still love listening to them laugh.  They may not laugh at it everything like they used to, but that’s ok.  It’s still fun to make them laugh.
  • Roughhousing.
    • It’s a bit different now that they are older, and have the potential of kicking my butt!  I love when they want to rough house!  I remember my mom yelling at my dad, “Stop that rough housing!”  Why?!  It was fun for all of us!
  • Being silly.
    • Adulting sucks.  Sometimes, you just have to be silly!  Being a dad allows you to be silly.  Silly is good.  Sometimes, you have to break away from the serious and embrace the silly!
  • Letting them win.
    • Oh how many games of cribbage did my dad let me win?!  With Uno, he wasn’t so nice.  I think he used to love putting down that Draw 4 card – much like I do with my kids today!  Sure, I have let them win occasionally, and there is some satisfaction in watching him and his brother brag about how they beat dad at the game.  Every once in awhile, though, you gotta show them you can beat them at it too!
  • “Caving” at the store.
    • I don’t do this as much now, but I used to.  You know how it is – you go to the store and there is that “can we get this?” or “I need this!”  All too often, I would cave and buy whatever it was.  Now that they are older, they understand a bit more when you tell them you don’t have the money to buy that right now.  they younger they are, the easier it is for dads to cave!
  • Getting beat at video games.
    • I love spending time with my boys.  They love their video games.  They have this one called Super Smash Brothers.  I really don’t understand it, but the gist is that you are a character (there are many) and you beat each other up until someone wins.  They kept asking me to play, so I did.  They wiped the floor with me.  Both of them were laughing as they beat the snot out of my character.  I was just pushing buttons trying to make it hit or whatever.  All of a sudden, my character started to light up and did this crazy punch/kick thing!  My youngest said, “Dad, you figured out how to use the special!”  There was some special move – every character has one!  They just neglected to tell me about it and let me lose!  LOL!  Smart boys!!  I don’t care whether I win or not, I just enjoy the time with them.
  • Carrying them on my shoulders
    • I remember as a kid, loving when my dad carried me on his shoulders.  I used to hold on to his hair!  My boys did the same thing!  I would give anything to be able to carry my sons again on my shoulders.  I used to love walking through the store with them up there.  I loved taking walks in the park with them up there.  I wish I had more pictures of them up there.
  • Snuggling/Hugs
    • I have always been a hugger.  I love hugging my kids.  I miss the days of snuggling up next to them for a nap.  I miss holding them while we watch TV.  I remember many times trying to get up from the couch, trying not to wake them because they fell asleep.  Those moments are so special for a dad.  I love when they come up and hug me for no reason.  It is still an amazing thing.
  • “Pull my finger”
    • This is probably the one thing that is exclusive to dads.  Not many moms do this!  Farts, dads, and kids mean laughs.  It’s probably such a huge annoyance for moms.  Dads fart.  Kids laugh at farts.  I remember one time my friend and I were outside in the front yard playing with Matchbox cars.  Dad came home from work and as he was walking in the house he made the “finger gun” with his hand and “shot” it as he farted.  We still laugh about that!  The fart will always be a funny thing that dads and kids both laugh at together.
  • Looking at your relationship with your kids and being able to connect it to memories you shared with your dad.
    • Go back and read how many times I mention something I love about doing with my sons, and how many times I can connect them with something my dad and I shared!
  • The “bond” that is eternal.
    • There will never be anything that can come between me and my kids.  I love my sons with all that I am.  They are my flesh and blood and will forever be my little boys.
  • The firsts and lasts
    • Those firsts stay with you forever.  The first steps.  The first words.  The first day of school.  The first concert.  Both of my sons are still in school, but if social media is an indicator, the last day of school is just as emotional as the first!  Watching each of my sons get on the bus for the first time was very emotional for me.  Big days – big emotions.
  • Artwork
    • Back when I had an office at work, I used to have countless drawings that they did in school.  I used to have a macaroni bee that my oldest son made.  The noodles eventually broke on it.  I still have some paintings they did and the coffee mug coasters that each boy made me for Father’s Day in kindergarten or first grade.  Those little things hold special meaning for me.
  • Bedtime Stories
    • It starts as you reading to them.  I don’t know how many times I read “Goodnight Moon” or “I’m Thankful Each Day” to my sons, but I enjoyed it every time.  I am sure there were other books, too.  “Snowmen at Night” was a favorite, too.  I used to love when they would read to me!  I wish the video games weren’t so accessible, because I really wish they would find more time to read.  I loved when they would tell me about a story of book they read in school.
  • The emotions that they make me feel.
    • They make me proud.  They make me happy.  They make me cry (both happy and sad tears).  They make me worry.  They make me thankful.  They make me feel a never ending love for each of them.  I am not ashamed to admit how emotional I have gotten watching them in a play, a band concert, a baseball game, or during an awards ceremony.  God help me, when they graduate, get married, and have children – I can barely hold it together now!!

I am sure if I had a few more minutes, I could add many more items to this list.  Being a dad is the greatest thing I have ever had to do.  My sons have been tremendous blessings to me and fill my heart with joy and laughter.  I love them so much.  If and when I am blessed with another child, I will look forward to reliving some of the things mentioned and creating new memories with that child, because being a dad is one of the coolest, most special, and fulfilling things I have ever done, or will ever do in my lifetime.

Happy Father’s Day!

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The “Carlson” Boys of Summer

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I took the above picture while standing in my backyard before I left for work.  Baseball practice has begun for our school district.  I always enjoy watching the kids and coaches work on plays.  Today they spent some time working on fielding a bunt and throwing to first base. As I stood there and watched, I was reminded of a post that my friend Andy had posted on Facebook recently.  He said “I wanna go back to when my only problem was if we didn’t have enough guys to play all fields open for baseball.” Those were some of the BEST summer days! Pardon me, while I step back to when I was in elementary school…..

My love for the game.

I don’t really recall when I became interested in baseball, but I remember it always being a part of our summers.  If my dad was out washing the cars or doing yard work, the Detroit Tigers were always on the radio.  The voices of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey made all the calls.  When we would visit my grandparents, we would often watch them on TV as George Kell and Al Kaline announced the game.  I have been a Tiger fan for as long as I can remember.

I don’t remember when I got my first baseball mitt.  I do remember buying my first baseball bat.  It was a wooden Louisville Slugger with George Brett’s signature on it.  I remember it because George and I were both born on May 15.  I remember using money from my paper route to buy it.  I eventually bought a second bat with Dave Whitfield’s signature on it.

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I remember struggling to throw the baseball.  That’s where dad came in.  If I have never thanked him, let me do so now.  Thanks, Pop, for always making time to go out and thrown the ball around.  He’d call balls and strikes as we played catch.  He would occasionally throw me his “submarine” pitch (which was kind of a side arm pitch like Dan Quisenberry).  We went to the library and I checked out a book that showed how to throw a fastball, slider, curveball, and more.  Dad showed me how to throw a knuckleball, which I STILL love to throw.

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“Carlson Field”

There were two ball diamonds at our elementary school.  One had a backstop and faced the school.  The other was kind of a makeshift diamond that had dirt patches from where kids had made bases.  There was no backstop, and it had ruts in the grass from where kids ran from base to base.  There was also a spot for home plate and the pitcher’s mound was hardly a mound.  This field faced the other diamond and the road.  This was usually the diamond we played at.

One of the downsides of playing at this diamond was that it was that the school was about 10-12 feet behind us.  If you popped a foul ball behind you, it ended up on the roof.  Whether the game continued depended on 1) whether you had someone who could climb up to the roof to fetch it or 2) if you had extra baseballs. A benefit of playing here was there was a little valve on the school that if you had a wrench, you could turn it and get water – perfect for hot days.

Teams of Many Players

I remember during the summer I would wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, grab my mitt, put it on the end of my bat, grab the baseballs, get on my bike and head to the school.  Along the way, I might knock on a few doors and pick up other players, but it was rarely necessary.  It was a standing appointment every day.  We’d all meet up at the school and pick teams.  We’d do the hands on the bat thing to see who was up to bat first.

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Depending on how many kids showed up, we’d have to alter the rules a bit.  Sometimes we had to have a designated pitcher. If we didn’t have enough fielders, right field was out (unless you had a left-handed batter).  Sometimes we had to go catcher-less.  Many times when there was no first baseman, the pitcher’s mound was “out”! Then there were times where we were so short, we’d have someone hit and run to his base while the person on third base came back in to bat again with the “ghost runner” on the base.  It didn’t matter – we’d find a way to play!  Even if there were only three guys – one would pitch, one would bat, and one would field.  We spent SO many hours playing ball!

Off the top of my head, I remember Jeff, Tom, Bill, Frank, Mike, Steve, Leo, John, Danny, Dave, Carl, Tomlin, Ed, Mike Smith, and so many others playing ball.  If Andy and his brothers Ray and Tommy, were home, they were always there too.  There was a wide range of ages, and we often let some of the younger kids play.  I am sure that my dad came up once or twice to pitch to us and “ump”.

Just like in professional ball, there were amazing catches, close plays at first, strike outs, arguments with umpires, and long drives to left field for home runs.  We often “called” the games like Ernie Harwell.  If we all had a dollar for every time we said or heard “Hey, batter, batter!  SWING”, we’d be debt free!  There were no uniforms, but you could bet that almost every one of us had a Tiger baseball cap on!

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Day after day, all summer long we played ball.  I wish I could remember more detailed stories of our baseball heroics, but most of them have been lost with time.  Perhaps some of the guys I mentioned (and tagged on Facebook) can recall a story or two I can add to this blog.  I do have one memory that I can recall as clear as day….

Big Mike

Mike lived across the street from us and was always up for baseball.  Mike was a big kid.  He had some power when he made contact with the ball, no doubt about it.  I do remember taking away a home run from him once.  At any rate, because of his size, he didn’t really run fast.  The distinct memory I have of him is this – if you were the catcher and Mike was running home, you had better hope to avoid him and get the tag on him. There were many catchers who caught a ball from the outfielder who stood in front of Mike as he charged home, only to get plowed and knocked on their ass!  Mike knew his body was like a Mack truck and was not afraid to use it!  If he could plow into you and make you drop the ball, he was all about that.  I learned that the hard way once!  I can’t remember how long it took me to catch my breath after he had knocked the wind out of me, but it seemed like eternity!!

Looking Back …

I am glad that I grew up at a time where kids actually wanted to play outside.  Today, trying to get my boys to go outside and play is a chore!  There is the Xbox and Wii U and games on their phones that make them want to stay inside.  It is sad.  Both of my son’s played T-ball and Baseball and I was lucky enough to coach each of them.  They never really chose to continue playing, but every once in a while, they’ll be happy to throw the ball around with their old man and that makes me feel young again.

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Questions and Answers #1

questions-and-answers

I have a blog that is totally ready to post, except that I was unable to figure out how to add audio (some friends have offered suggestions as to how to do that, and I will attempt that in the following day or two).  Since that blog was not ready, I went to my Facebook friends and asked for questions they would like me to answer.  I am pleased with their response, and with the questions they posed, and I have a feeling this is just the first of  many blogs like this.   Today’s blog contains the answers to those some of those questions.

Melody

Melody asked one of the easiest questions:  “What do you miss most about high school?”

I would say without a doubt – Band class.  It is no secret that I was what many refer to as a “band geek”.  When I look back at the people I have stayed in touch with, most of them are from band class.  Some of us spent hours after school practicing our instruments.  I was one of the band librarians, so I had access to the library of songs.  We would often go through the files and pull out music just to play it.  We spent hours after school playing (gee, you would have thought that would have made us better players… )!

As I have said before, I learned more about life from band class than any other class (see blog about thanking teachers). Performing a piece of music with others brings an amazing sense of accomplishment.  It also brings about the opportunity to learn about relationships.  Sure, as with most big groups, there were little “cliques”, but when it was time to play together as one, we did.  It truly was like a big family.

I remains one of those things I miss most.

Jeff

Jeff asked a particularly difficult , yet easy question.  “What sport do you absolutely love to watch, but you believe are terrible at participating?”

My first response was “define terrible” – LOL.  Seriously, though, I am someone who wishes I had been more active in sports growing up.  As much as we played baseball during our summer vacation, you would think I would have tried out for something like that.  Growing up, I thought I might be a good pitcher.  The fact that I always struggled with weight, and didn’t necessarily like the thought of rejection probably led me to not try out for things I may have been good at.

To answer the question, I would probably have to say football.  I love watching football.  Playing, however, I was never that good.  To this day, if a football leaves my hand it wobbles through the air.  I cannot through a spiral to save my life!  Catching a football is always a joke for me too.  I suppose I just never really learned how to reach up and pull it in.

Every Thanksgiving, we used to get family together and play a touch football game.  There is a lot of running involved in football, so you can only imagine what I had to look like trying to run down the field. The following day, after using muscles that I hadn’t used in years, you know exactly how bad the pain felt – and this was when I was much younger than I am today!

Great question!

James

James knows I currently work in the sleep field.  I deal with people who have sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.  His question is “Does MyPillow help with sleep problems?”

The question that comes to mind with your question, James:  What are your sleep problems?

Let me tell you what I have heard from patients regarding this and then give a few quick thoughts.  With the patients who I have seen who spent the money on this, the only real “review” they can give is that they are more comfortable.  The claims that this pillow can help give you more REM sleep, is something that no one can really say, unless a sleep lab is using them with their patients.

We check for REM sleep with all of the electrodes on a patient’s head and face.  Some of the home tests and sleep watches and such can ‘assume’ or “estimate” what REM sleep is based on heart rate, but without being able to see brainwaves, eye movements, and muscle tone, it is hard to determine.

REM sleep IS the important sleep – that is what the body needs to feel refreshed and what we need to function.  A typical human gets about three “REM cycles” cycles a night and this is based on the circadian rhythm.  Sleep apnea is always worse in REM sleep, and people who have apnea usually have this very important sleep stage cut short because of the apnea events.  In all honesty, I personally believe that a person’s pillow has nothing to do with “helping” a person’s sleep – but only helps – possibly – with comfort.

My advice – take the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (you can find it online).  Answer it honestly and if your score is 9 or more, see a sleep specialist.

Jodi

My wonderful Aunt Jodi’s question is “Do you use wooden spoons?”  My aunt was often our babysitter.  The threat was that if misbehaved, she would spank us with the wooden spoon.  This is funny, because there are many T-shirts and posters out there about how Italian mothers used to use the wooden spoon to discipline their kids – Jodi isn’t Italian!

Yes.  I use them.  To stir things on the stove.  LOL

Kristine

Kristine and I were in anatomy class together in college.  We dissected a sheep brain together. She’s a CNA now.  Her question truly made me laugh.  “Why did we never meet under the stairs?”

If memory serves me, I believe there was some couple who were kissing each other goodbye before class or something and we both kinda rolled our eyes at this.  This led to us chatting about how in high school, couples always seemed to be making out under the stairs.  At any rate, this became a running gag throughout school “Meet me under the stairs”.

The answer – there was always some other couple there!  ROFL.  Seriously, Kristine is a good friend and she has some pretty talented kids!  I always enjoyed seeing how proud she was of her boys when she talked about their football games or wrestling matches.

Kathy

Kathy’s question was short and to the point, “Do you still TP houses on the side?”

Back in high school, toilet papering houses was the thing to do for some reason. Our band class alone probably helped Charmin stock rise!  I do not claim to be the one who started this trend, but I guess I was involved in more TP jobs than others.  At one point we printed signs (on a dot matrix printer – WOW) that said, “You have been TP’d by The TP Bandits” and left it at houses we hit.  Fair is fair – if we hit them, they could hit us back.  That was how they knew who to come after.   The real question was “who was with you?”  I was usually driving, but the accomplices often changed.  Sometimes, there would be 8-12 people out doing the jobs with me.  My house was a favorite target.

To answer your question, Kathy, no.  I have been retired from “the Bandits” for some time. 🙂

Dave

Dave writes “Why is Bernie Miller so awesome?”

Bernie and I also went to high school together.  Dave, this questions answer will take me many, many paragraphs to write.  I make you a promise now – Bernie Miller’s awesomeness warrants its own blog.  Watch for it in the days or weeks ahead.

At that time, I will also attempt to answer Bernie’s question about swimming in dry ice.  No promises on a correct answer on that.

Diana

Diana asks, “What is your biggest regret from high school; do you wish you had done anything differently?”

I think that as we get older, it becomes easier to look back on things from the past and find things we regret doing or not doing.  I also think that it is easy to look back and see how you could have handled things differently.  That being said, let me say this:  I am who I am today because of the decisions and choices that I have made and the people who were a part of my life.  There is nothing that I can do today, that can change that.  With all that being said, I do have some regrets, and there are things I wish I had done differently.

I really regret not being a better student.  I regret that I did not take school a bit more seriously.  I can think of two HUGE assignments that I waited until the last minute to throw together, that had I just followed directions and spent the time I should have on them, I would have gotten better grades.  I sucked at studying.  If I had spent as much time studying as I did TPing, well, lets just say I would have been a whole lot better off come report card time.

It’s easy to sit back and look at my sons and think “You gotta spend more time on this” or “You didn’t study enough on this” because that was me in high school.  It is different today because they spend their time on video games and electronics, where as I was out TPing and goofing around, but it really is the same thing.  I wish for my sons that they would spend more time focusing on school.  I don’t want them to wait until after 40 years old to go to college.  I want them to experience success and financial stability sooner than I did.

Not sure that  answers the question, and if not, there are plenty of other regrets I can dive into ….

Angie, Joe, Eric. and John

This “asking to answer your questions” blog has shown me that I have some really funny friends.  Their questions are asked in jest – and I love it.  Life needs more laughter, and here are three examples of friends I surround myself with because they are funny – or smart asses – one way or the other.

Angie asks, “Is that your real hair/hair color?”  Yes, what little there is.  Shaving it and polishing it up to a perfect shine is much easier than coloring the grey on the few hairs that are up there!

Joe asks, “When you throw your bowling ball do you inhale or exhale?” and Eric follows with “Do you cup your ball with delicate fingers or hold on tight before release?”  My answer to both of you will be as silly as your questions – It depends on whether or not I am at Pastime Lanes!

John asks, “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Kudos for a Monty Python reference!  I do believe the answer is 24 miles per hour or 11 meters a second.  Now take your coconuts and beat it!

Jason

Jason is a fellow band geek who poses the question “Do and/or can you still play your trumpet?”

If Tom Shaner were still teaching band, and if we were currently challenging for chairs … I would be guaranteed last chair!  The sounds that come out of it are no longer … quality sounds!  LOL

Now that Dante’ is no longer playing in band, my trumpet is back with me.  I still have a folder with copies of some of the music we played in band.  I still have my big ole Arban’s book for trumpet, and yes, occasionally, I pull out the horn and attempt to play.  I have been debating going back for lessons and perhaps joining a small group like the Salvation Army Band or something like that, just so I can still play.  It really is one of those things I miss a lot.

Vince

Vince asks a political question:  “How come Hilary Clinton blames everyone but herself and the Dems for losing the election?”

Well, Vince, I think that  (The following has been deleted by the US Government because it goes against policies or procedures that even we don’t understand.) …and that would be my best guess.

Chris

Chris wants to know “What was the best vacation you took with your parents and Christopher?”

I have blogged in the past about Caseville.  We went there often on weekends in the summer, but I don’t think that I would put those visits in the category of a vacation.  The only one that really stands out for me is a summer trip to Mackinaw.  I was probably about Dimitri’s age when we went, and I have some great photos to remind me of that trip.

I remember staying at this hotel in a second floor room, and there was a white, metal guard rail along the edge.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room to walk and there were chairs outside the rooms.  I have a picture of my mom and dad sitting outside the room that is one of my favorites.

I remember going to the Grand Hotel, and were were only allowed to stay for a minute or two because we were all dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and maybe there was a dress code or something, I don’t know.  I remember taking the boat to the Island and visiting the Fort.  That was one of my favorite things about the trip!  I remember the cannons and I remember mom taking a picture next to us in the stocks.

We went there when the Dukes of Hazzard was a huge TV hit.  How do I remember this?  Well, we used to ride bikes around the neighborhood and I would always pretend to be Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane.  I had a blue cowboy had that I loved and while at a gift shop I found a sheriff’s badge.  That was one of the only things I remember bringing home from that trip.

I am in the process of scanning some pictures – I am sure some Mackinaw pictures will end up here or on Facebook.

Deb

My cousin, Deb, asks a simple, yet difficult question.  “What is your dream job?”

You know, I think I have been lucky enough to have done a couple of them, but at the same time, there are others that are appealing as well.  I love my current job as a sleep tech.  I get to help people.  That’s a very satisfying thing.  In some cases, what I do leads to life saving treatments for people who are on the verge of a heart attack or stroke.

Radio was a dream I had in high school  I was lucky enough to do almost immediately after graduation.  I had never done it before and I got to learn the ropes from some of the best!  I admit my first 5 years in radio were less than stellar, in that I was so new to the business that I really hadn’t learned how to use my creativity.

Radio is addictive.  The more I listened and learned, the better I got.  I got to meet so many great people, celebrities, and non-celebrities.  I got to shake hands with legendary radio people and producers.  I got to be creative and do things that I envisioned and put those things on the air.  I got to raise money for children with cancer, raise money for local neighbors who lost homes to fires, raise awareness for autism, breast cancer, heart disease and more.  Radio was a dream job come true! (more on this in a future blog).

I think if there were a dream job that I have yet to do – there would be two of them:  teaching and acting.  In a couple previous blogs, I mentioned the want to teach.  I wish I had gone to school for that.  There are so many things about teaching that would validate this as a dream job.

Acting.  I don’t know that anyone would ever want to see my ugly mug on a screen, but I would love to do it.  I worked with a guy, Jeff Kelly, who does it.  I’ve seen trailers for his films and am always amazed at his abilities.  He’s such a jovial and nice guy, yet I saw him in a trailer where he was a mean killer – he was totally convincing!  I think I could do it, but who knows.  I think it would be fun.  I already do some “acting” in regards to voice work, and I would love to try it once, just to say I did it.  I always laughed when people told me I remind them of Dom Deluise…I always liked him as an actor.  I think it would be pretty damn cool to act in a film or on TV.

Phyllis and Shelley

As I read the questions from these two friends, I felt that the answers to their questions would be enough to write separate blogs responses.  Phyllis wanted to know about famous people I have met and more specifically my “OMG moment”.  There are a few of them – and I will tell you all about them.

Shelley wanted to know about radio listeners who have become friends and how that evolves.  I have been lucky enough to have made life long friends through the radio.  Some of them have been friends with me since my first radio job 30 years ago.  Great stories to share…and I will.

Thanks for your questions!  We’ll do this again soon!