Opening Day 2018

It’s not quite forty degrees here in New Jersey.  It’s cold.  Hand stinging cold.  It’s the cold that makes your nose and ears hurt. 

Did I mention it’s April?  I think the fact that it’s actually spring makes the temperature outside that much colder.  

At least the sun is out, though the day will remain in the low-40’s.

Yet, even with the (close to) frigid temperatures, I am excited, very excited, unbearably excited, to get outside this afternoon.  Today is the Opening Day of our softball season.  

I just love to play ball.

Even if it’s cold.

I have been playing in various competitive men’s softball leagues for the better part of the last thirty years.  Growing up, I was convinced that I’d be a New York Yankee.  I wasn’t good enough.  Not even close.  I never even made it to high school varsity.

This then, is, and has been, my Major Leagues.  

I just love to play ball.

Today I’ll be playing for a brand new team.  They drafted me to be the young hot-shot rookie.  This is probably the last time I’ll ever come to a team as the young guy – my last rookie season.

This new team I am joining is in an “Over-50 Men’s Softball League.”  I’m not (quite) fifty yet (but I will be this season so I am eligible to play).  I was told by a teammate that the “young guys” like me will be expected to play all nine innings so the older guys can rest a bit.

I love the fact that they want me to play all nine innings!  I can’t wait!

This year I’ll actually be playing in two leagues.  In my hometown of Wyckoff, New Jersey, I play in an Over-30 league.  I’m actually still a shortstop, but I’m certainly not one of the younger players and as I get older (and slower) and the competition gets younger (and faster), I wonder how much longer I can play at a competitive level in that league.  Luckily for me, there are a host of players round my age still hanging on.  Like me, they don’t ever want to give this up.  

Maybe this is also their Major Leagues…

From what I understand, the two leagues have some differences.  In the Over-50 league, players can run through the bases.  I guess once you reach a half-century, you no longer need to slide.  I still might slide, though, unless it makes me seem obnoxious.  It’s not to show off, I don’t know if I’m good enough to show off, it’s just that when I play, I think that I’m a lot younger than I really am.  

When I play ball, I’m a kid again.  I don’t want to ever grow up and realize that I’m at middle-age and might not be able to do this for many more years.  I just want to play.  I want to be a kid again.  I don’t ever want to grow up.  

I also understand that the Over-50 league plays with metal bats.  This both excites and terrifies me.  The Over-30 league went to wood about seven years ago.  With a metal bat, I was (somewhat) of a power hitter.  I hit my fair share of extra base hits and would even club a few homers a year.  I haven’t hit a homer since they went to wood.  In some recent seasons I haven’t even hit a triple.  Or a double.  (Ouch.)

I’m hoping for a few round trippers with the older guys this year.  Hitting the ball and touching them all will feel good.  It’s been far too long.

But, since I play on the infield, I’m a little terrified about the hard line drives that rocket off of the metal bats.  I haven’t had to field missiles like that since the Wyckoff league went to wood.  If my hitting suffered because I lost my power, my fielding improved because the slower exit velocity from the hitter gave me more time to react to catch the balls and make the plays.  I hope these old guys don’t hit the ball too hard at me.  I haven’t tested my reflexes against a metal bat for many years.  (The perfect league would allow me to hit with a metal bat while my opponents would be limited to wood.)

Ah, what does it matter?  Whether I catch the ball or get any hits, in a few hours I’ll be playing softball.  The long and wonderful season is on the horizon in front of me.  

I can’t wait.

I want to play forever.

I just love… to play ball.

 

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Learning to Appreciate

Sometimes we think we know the answers.  Sometimes we are asked to tell the answers.  Sometimes we think that we probably know everything.

But, many times we don’t know the answers. 

And, often times the people we think we are telling the answers to actually have better knowledge than we do.

I’m just glad that sometimes (certainly not always), sometimes, I have the good sense to actually listen to those whom I am trying to teach. 

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Radio Star II

A few months ago, I shared how people who I will never know might be impacted by the words I read from my basement in the early hours before school each day.  I read a health report and share words of inspiration for a radio show in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area. 

As a high school kid, when I dreamed of being a radio announcer, I thought I’d be doing things a little differently than what I’m doing now.  I also thought that if I was on the radio, I’d be talking about baseball – especially the Yankees.   

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It Is!

“Is this Heaven?”

“It’s… Iowa”

from Field of Dreams

***

There is a Heaven.  I know it absolutely.  I have been there.  

Now, to be clear, I haven’t been to that Heaven, just one that, to me at least, might be awfully close.

There is a God.  I also know this absolutely.  God played a big role in making my trip to Heaven a reality.  

***

A few years ago I traveled to the legendary Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa to have a catch with my dad.  I have often shared the story of how that trip came to be.  I wrote about it and have put it on both of my blogs.  The story has been published as part the book Impossible is an Illusion.  Titled “Is This?” it might be my most widely read piece (to date).  Many people, including a number of prominent authors and, I’m pretty certain about this, the President of the Baseball Hall-of-Fame have read that story.

But, I have never told the story about what happened on those magical days in Iowa in 2016 with my dad and my mom.  I shared all about our decision to go there, but I’ve never told the tale of the wonderful memories we created on a little baseball field in the middle of nowhere.

This, then, is that story…

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Radio Star (The Impact of Our Words)

I was a sophomore in high school, I believe.  I had just alerted my parents that I needed to head back to the school that night to broadcast the school’s JV and Varsity basketball games on TV that night.  I remember my mother, shocked, almost to speechlessness, uttering, “You’re going to do what?

“I’m going to announce the basketball games on live TV,” I responded.

My mother had no doubt that I would be able to announce a game.  She had listened to me announcing baseball games, real and imaginary, since I first started following the game.  My voice was the voice of my childhood.

When I played my imaginary baseball games in the basement by throwing the ball against the wall, I also served as the play-by-play announcer.

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Marbles

The following passage come from my acclaimed book Impossible is an Illusion.

***

          Alex Semendinger is a great kid.  All the Semendinger boys are great kids.  (Of course, I may be little biased in my assessment.)

Although Alex has many great attributes – he is kind, understanding, funny, smart, hard working, focused – as he grew up, organization was not one of them.

“Alex, is your room clean?” was an often-heard question in the Semendinger house.  The follow-up answer, “Yes” also led to an interesting dynamic.  Alex’s definition of clean, and my definition of clean, were not the same thing.

Growing up, Alex loved marbles.  As marbles seemed to be a frequently gifted item, I believe there was a time when he possessed no fewer than 45,765 marbles.  Alex’s collection contained marbles of various shapes, designs, and colors.  Cats-eyes, agates, onionskins, alleys, solids, micas, and peppermint swirls, he had them all.  It was an impressive array of marbles. 

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Being a Baseball Detective

(This post was originally published on the Start Spreading the News Yankees blog.)

On Thursday night, SSTN writer Michael Saffer and I attended a live taping of Yankees Hot Stove at the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair, New Jersey.  It was a great event. 

The theater/studio at the Yogi Berra is a great venue.  It’s small and intimate.  A person in the audience gets the sense that the presenters (in this case the Yankees Hot Stove Team) are actually talking with you – and at times they were.

Located in that studio is a replica Yankee Stadium scoreboard.  (See the picture above.)  Each time I attend an event at the Yogi Berra Museum, I wonder what game that scoreboard is supposed to reflect.  As such, I decided that I would figure it out using the wonderful tools at BaseballReference.com, my Yankees knowledge, and some common sense.

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Favorite Books 2017

I love to read.  

Each year I keep track of all of the books that I read.  My minimum goal is to read 24 books each year – or two per month.  I was pleased that in 2017, I was able to exceed that goal by reading a grand total of 34 books.  For a guy as active and busy as I am, that’s pretty good.  I also don’t count my own books in that total.  Any writer can share that they read their own drafts countless times as they write, revise, edit, again and again.

Now that 2017 is coming to a close, I’ll share the books I enjoyed the most this year with a quick note about each.  This isn’t the complete list of the books I read, but the ones that struck me, for varied reasons, as the ones I enjoyed the most.

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Schulz and Success

I just finished reading,  Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (by David Michaelis) an excellent book that provided an in-depth look at Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and franchise.  Schulz’s life was fascinating.  He was successful beyond his wildest dreams.  His characters became household names.  His sayings have been quotes by millions.  In many ways, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally, and Snoopy defined America in the second half of the 20th Century.

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