Friday, July 30, 2004

I don’t usually talk about politics here, but I thought I’d make a rare exception based on something John Kerry said at the Democratic National Convention last night.

While Kerry was attacking President Bush’s record on the war in Iraq, he put into words something that I’ve been thinking for months. He said, “The United States of America does not go to war because we want to. We go to war because we have to.”

When Bush said we needed to go to war with Iraq, I supported the war on the premise that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that were an imminent danger to this country and our allies. I thought that we had to get Saddam out of power, seize the weapons and dispose of them. As a byproduct of this, we would rid the world of an evil, brutal dictator.

Now, as everyone knows, there are no WMDs in Iraq. There was no link between Saddam and 9/11. The whole thing was based on faulty intelligence data.

When the President of the United States commits this country to fighting a war, he had better be damned sure of his facts. He had better know that an enemy poses a serious and fairly immediate threat to this country and its people. Otherwise, he’s in the wrong and he’s wasting our military resources.

Do I believe that the world is a better place without Saddam running Iraq? Of course. There’s no question about that. However, you have to consider the costs of getting rid of him: over 900 American soldiers dead, hundreds more wounded; over $100 billion spent on the prosecution of the war with billions more to come; thousands of Iraqis dead; and the damage to our reputation and our ability to lead the world.

In the business world (where both the President and Vice-President Cheney have plenty of experience), we’re taught to look at things from a cost/benefit analysis viewpoint. It’s simple: do the benefits of taking an action outweigh the costs? In my opinion, the costs of attacking Iraq outweigh the benefits we received. Saddam is gone. The lives of the Iraqi people may be better in the long run. The danger of a terrorist attack sponsored by Iraq is gone. Of course, this is offset by the fact that the U.S. has angered a lot of other people in the Middle East with our attack on Iraq.

All this is why I’m voting for John Kerry in November. I’m not a huge Kerry fan. But I think that George Bush has done such a horrendous job of running the War on Terror (I won’t even bother getting into all of his social positions that I disagree with), he’s proven to my satisfaction that he’s not up to the job of running this country.

Speaking of the DNC, it’s now over. The delegates are returning home, and the people of Boston can return from the Cape, the Berkshires, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont or wherever it is they’ve been hiding for the last week. Things went astoundingly well, as so many people stayed out of town that the predicted traffic nightmares never developed. As I sit on the train on the side of the Mass Pike this morning, cars are zooming along at a good clip. The only people who seem to have been negatively impacted by the convention are some downtown business owners who lost the business from their regulars who avoided the city, and never saw a compensating increase in business from the people who were in town for the DNC.

I took Thursday off from work, with the original intention of taking a day off from the expected hassle of going into Boston this week. Of course, the hassle never materialized, but it was nice to have a day to recharge my batteries and relax. The kids were in camp, so I was able to go for a long walk, have a good lunch, run a few errands and take a nap in the afternoon. I then picked up J. from camp and took him to his test for his yellow belt in Tae Kwan Do. He did very well and really seems to have learned a lot over the past year or so since he started taking classes.

Oh, and where the heck did the Braves come from? This was supposed to be a down year for Atlanta. They lost Gary Sheffield and Greg Maddux after the 2003 season, and hadn’t really done much to replace them. They are playing in the same division as the World Champion Marlins and an improved Phillies team. Yet here we are at the end of July, and the Braves are once again in first place. They’ve won the last 12 NL Eastern Division titles (excluding the 1994 strike). I give Bobby Cox a lot of credit for the Braves success this year. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up for the next two months.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Welcome to the DNC.

I arrived at the train station this morning a few minutes early, since I didn’t know what to expect. No random searches or anything today, but there were five Framingham cops standing at the station (a normal day is zero). Three of them were in riot gear, complete with bulletproof vests and big, intimidating looking rifles. The train doesn’t seem any more crowded than normal yet, so either people are sticking to their cars, or so many people took the week off that it’s not going to be a big deal.

They’re going to have F-16s flying over the city this week. I’m not sure exactly what they’re supposed to do, but they’ll be up there. All in all, it should be an interesting week.

After Friday night’s loss, the Sox sure picked things up over the remainder of the weekend. Saturday’s classic 11-10 win may have been the turning point in this season that the Red Sox need. The excitement started with a shoving match between Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez after Bronson Arroyo hit A-Rod with a pitch. Both benches emptied, and there was even some blood as Tanyon Sturtze got beat down by Gabe Kapler, David Ortiz and Trot Nixon after Sturtze put a choke hold on Kapler from behind. The Sox rallied from a 9-4 deficit and the game ended with Bill Mueller’s two run homer off the Empire’s super-closer, Mariano Riviera. The Sox took the Sunday night game 9-6, as Derek Lowe came up big after a shaky start. Things got a bit tight after Hideki Matsui hit a grand slam off Mike Timlin to make the game 9-6 in the 7th, but the bullpen shut them down the rest of the way, including 1 2/3 hitless innings by Keith Foulke.

The biggest development of the weekend may be the reawakening of Kevin Millar. Millar’s recent offensive revival continued, as he was 10 for 13 for the weekend, with four homers and 8 RBI in the three games. This could be a huge development for the Sox, as having a productive Millar in the lineup makes them a much more dangerous offensive team.

We’ll see now if this is truly the turning point for the Sox. They go on the road for the next two weeks for their longest trip of the season. It starts tonight in Baltimore, where the Orioles have given them fits all season, including taking 2 of 3 at Fenway last week. We’ll see if the two big wins against the Yankees were the start of something big, or if they go back to the win one, lose one trend we’ve seen since May.

Funny story: most nights after I read to J. for bedtime, we play a song or two on the iPod. Last night I asked him if he wanted to hear a Beach Boys song, since he had asked in the car earlier in the day to hear one when we didn’t have the iPod. He said yes, and I asked him which one. He said he wanted to hear the one that went “Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock ‘n roll...” Of course, it’s not “Beach Boys” but “beat, boys” in the song “Drift Away”. It was very cute.

We took a little road trip to Connecticut yesterday to meet my niece and sister-in-law at the Science Center of Connecticut in West Hartford. They live in Florida, so we only get together a couple of times a year. They were up here for a wedding and were staying with my sister-in-law’s parents while my brother was in Chicago on business. My nephew didn’t make it, as he was a pretty tired out after staying up late for some family events the previous two nights. It was great to see them, though, and the kids got along very nicely. R. and my niece walked around holding hands alot, which was very sweet. After the museum, we stopped for some ice cream before heading back home.

Back to writing this on my way home. Turns out that LOTS of people decided to stay home this week. According to folks at work, the drive in on the Pike was like driving in on a Sunday morning. People coming from the north and south reported some slowdowns, but nothing major. The city seemed pretty empty, aside from people wandering around wearing Kerry/Edwards buttons.

One upsetting thing happened on the way in. I got off at Yawkey station near Fenway Park as I often do when the weather permits and walked to work. While I was walking through the Fenway, a young woman fell off her bicycle and either broke or dislocated her elbow. She was in some serious pain. I was one of several people at the scene and got her bike off her while another guy comforted her. I was going for my cell phone to call an ambulance, but a woman beat me to it. The ambulance was on it’s way and there were plenty of people there, so I started to walk off. After I got about 50 yards away, about a dozen Boston cops on bicycles came around the corner and took charge of things. It was nice to see that there were some good samaritans around to help her out when she needed it.

A final note before I upload - it’s now evening at home. I’ve been flipping between the Red Sox-Orioles and the Reds-Cardinals on ESPN. The Great American Ballpark looks like a pretty nice place. I could see a trip to Ohio and hitting Jacobs Field and and Cincinnati sometime in the next couple of years. During the game, I saw Wily Mo Pena hit a home run for the Reds. That’s not particularly important. I just think that Wily Mo Pena is a great baseball name.

Sox win, 12-5. Three in a row. Yahoo!!!!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Another frustrating night at Fenway. The Sox took a 4-1 early lead, fell behind 7-4, tied it 7-7 in the 8th, and finally lost to the Yankees as the Empire scored a run in the top of the 9th against Keith Foulke. The only substantial good news was that Kevin Millar finally seems to be breaking out of his year-long slump, hitting three solo home runs tonight.

The inconsistency of this team is what kills me. One night they look like they can beat anyone, and the next they look like a bunch of Little Leaguers. They don't seem to play smart, aggressive baseball. They need to start doing it soon, or the season is going to run out on them.

Some good news from Pittsfield - there's going to be another Hillies game! September 4 - the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. The first one was such a great time I can't wait for this one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A sign of the times: for the first time ever, I saw an MBTA police officer patrolling the train on my way home last night. Nothing intrusive, just walking up and down the center aisle of the car. A few weeks back, after the Madrid bombing, the T put signs on all the trash receptacles saying that they could not be used due to security concerns. I expect we’ll continue to see tightened security over the next week as the Democratic National Convention approaches.

I didn’t get to see Spider-Man over the weekend. Saturday night came and I was, quite honestly, too beat to catch a late show. I stayed home, watched Tim Wakefield get beat up in the first couple of innings of the Sox-Angels game and went to bed. Hopefully, I’ll catch the movie this weekend.

Sunday was time for another baseball game, as I took the kids to see the North Shore Spirit at Fraser Field in Lynn. We had a great time. We finally managed to pick up the kids “Spirit Sprout” goodie bags, the stuff for the kids club that the team has. They got a T-shirt, a ball and some tickets to future Sunday games. Not a bad deal for $15.

The Spirit, in some ways, is a bit of a role model for our team in Pittsfield. Much like Wahconah, Fraser Field was a run down, neglected old ballpark - it was built in 1940 as a Works Progress Administration project. The city didn’t have the money to keep it up, and the last team that played there, the Massachusetts Mad Dogs, left after two seasons (coincidentally, the Mad Dogs were the same franchise that became the Berkshire Black Bears, the team that got Wahconah for 2002 instead of the Jim Bouton’s group.) Enter Nick Lopardo, former head of State Street Research. Lopardo has poured something like $3 million of his own money into the ballpark and really fixed it up. He’s repaired the structural problems, cleaned it, painted it, added new seats and other amenities.

So, we went to the game and after four innings, the kids, especially R., were starting to wilt a bit in the heat. It was 80 degrees and muggy. R. wanted to leave at that point. I suggested that we get some ice cream and see how we felt. We went down to the concession stand and discovered that the team was handing out free (!) popsicles and such, so we grabbed three and sat down at a table. In no time, the kids perked up and wanted to go play in the onsite playground. The Spirit do a nice job with this as well. When you go into the playground, the kids and parents get a paper bracelet with an identical number on each. The staff won’t let you out of the playground unless you all have the same bracelet. So, we played there for a bit, then J. tried the speed pitch. His offerings came up at 28 MPH - I think I’ve got a budding Roger Clemens here. By the time we went through all that, it was the 7th inning and we went back to our seats to watch the rest of the game.

The game itself, or at least what I saw of it, was entertaining as well. The Spirit won 4-1, behind a nice pitching performance by Bryan Morse He pitched a complete game 5 hitter. After the game, the kids got to run the bases. R. was a little worried and decided not to go out there by herself, but hopefully we’ll get her out there next time. J. was all over it, of course. and declared that evening that he wanted to be a North Shore Spirit. I’d rather he was a Boston Red Sox, since the average salary is about 300 times higher in the American League than in the Northeast League. He’s also taken to sleeping with his baseball mitt. What’s not to like about that?

On the more depressing side of baseball, we have our Red Sox. Last night’s loss to Seattle was very demoralizing. In case you don’t know the gory details, Keith Foulke, our multimillion dollar closer, blew a 4-2 lead in the 9th to the Mariners, one of the worst teams in baseball this season. The Sox proceeded to lose the game in the 11th, when Brett Boone hit a grand slam off the legendary Curtis Leskanic. Those Boones are just killing us. The worst part of the whole thing is that the Sox wasted a brilliant performance by Bronson Arroyo, who in terms of results has been the number 3 guy on the staff the last few weeks. Arroyo gave up one run in seven innings and struck out 12, including 11 outs in a row (the longest streak since Randy Johnson got 13 outs in a row by way of the K). He’s also only the third Red Sox pitcher to strike out as many as 12 in a game since Roger Clemens second 20 strike out game in 1996. Hideo Nomo did it twice, and Pedro’s done it 30 times.

More DNC news. As a security measure, the City of Boston has removed all the trash cans on the streets around town. The trash cans in Boston are essentially a plastic can placed inside a metal frame, which is bolted to the street. This was done, presumably, so that no terrorist could toss a bomb into a trash can. What they didn’t figure out is what people walking the street should do with their Starbucks cups and other trash. So, the people of Boston, being an adaptive lot, started throwing the trash in the empty metal frames! So now there’s trash all over the place, including near John Kerry’s house on Beacon Hill. Not exactly the result they were expecting, I’d guess. The latest is that they’re going to pull out the metal frames until after the convention. That’ll show ‘em.

Friday, July 16, 2004

I was at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket Wednesday night for the AAA All-Star Game, matching the International League against the Pacific Coast League. I drove down to Rhode Island after work and made it to the ballpark just in time for the first pitch.

I had a really great evening. I met up with my friend Dave, along with his older daughter and her boyfriend. The game itself was exciting and well played. My only problem with a minor league All-Star game is that you don’t really know many of the players all that well. Aside from the Pawsox players, a few guys from some of the other International League teams, and some guys who had had a cup of coffee in the Majors, I wasn’t familiar with at least half of the players.

Even so, I had a great time. I ran into a couple of friends from high school, brothers who have been working at McCoy for about 20 years each. I caught up with both of them, talked about our families, the Red Sox and their prospects of getting Randy Johnson and other stuff. I also spent a few innings sitting with my oldest friend, who I’ve known since first grade. His dad was there, too, along with his sister and her husband and son. It ws great to see them all and catch up.

The game ended in dramatic fashion. At the top of the 9th inning, the stadium announcer came on and said that according to the rules of the All-Star Game, if the game was tied after 10 innings it would be halted and called a tie. There were a few boos, but the IL was ahead 3-2 at that point and we were hoping it wouldn’t be an issue. So, of course, the PCL promptly tied up the score in the top of the 9th. The International League stars went down in the last of the 9th without scoring, and we went into the extra inning.

The PCL went down quickly in the top of the 10th, and then the IL came up in the bottom of the inning. The first two batters went quickly, and Andy Phillips of the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees AAA team came to the plate. He hit a 1-0 pitch over the left-center field wall for a home run to win the game! It was a great ending to a fun evening.

The Red Sox got off to a rough start for the second half as they lost in Anaheim to the Angels 8-1. Derek Lowe got knocked around again. He really has to straighten this out. He’s been by far the weak link in the starting rotation and he either needs to start pitching better or the Sox need to replace him, preferably with Randy Johnson.

We had twofold hysteria on WEEI this morning. First, why didn’t Pedro start the game instead of Lowe and second, how could Manny play left field in the All-Star Game and have to DH last night? I may have to listen to music today if things get too out of control.

The Democratic National Convention is just over a week away and the security preparations continue. The folks at work are making do as best they can. A couple of folks are taking the week off. Others are rearranging their work hours - one woman is going to work 6 AM to 2:30 PM, so she can be out of town before they shut down I-93 at 4:00. The guy I feel worst for lives up in Gloucester. He usually takes the commuter rail into North Station, then takes the Orange Line to Back Bay. Because of the closing of North Station during the convention, he now has to take the train to Lynn, take a bus to Wonderland on the Blue Line, then transfer to the Orange Line at State Street. It’s just astounding the amount of inconvenience this thing is generating for the everyday folks who have to live and work in Boston.

A. and I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last Saturday. It was a terrific movie, and I loved the look that new Potter Director Alfonso Cuaron gave it. He took over from Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter flicks and showed what can be done when you take a film franchise from the hands of a competent director to a truly gifted one. I think Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the five Potter books released so far, so he had a great story to work with. He really completely changed the look of the film, making Hogwarts a much more mysterious and magical place. If I had one complaint, it was that Maggie Smith, as Professor McGonagall and the wonderfully oily Alan Rickman, as Professor Snape, had little more than cameos in this film. The three kids are really growing into the roles. I thought they were all terrific, especially Emma Watson as Hermione.

I’m hoping to see Spider-Man 2 over the weekend. I’ve heard lots of good stuff about the movie and I’m hoping it lives up to the billing. I have one pet peeve concerning Spider-Man. That would be people who spell his name wrong. It’s not one word - Spiderman. It’s two hyphenated words - Spider-Man. Get it right, OK?!?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Trip to Wahconah, part 2...

I took a seat in the boxes on the third base side, just past the edge of the screen behind home plate. The small grandstand was filled, the bleachers on both outfield foul lines were filled and fans were standing or sitting in lawn chairs all around the foul lines and out onto the outfield warning track.

A parade started to bring the Hillies out on the field. A procession of local Little Leaguers lead the way, followed by a line of antique cars which took the players out onto the field. Many of the cars appeared to be from the era in which the original Pittsfield Hillies played, during the 1920’s.

The game was being televised on ESPN Classic and the color analyst was none other than the Spaceman himself, former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee. Lee is a big vintage baseball fan, and plays himself on a team at his home in Vermont. The Spaceman was all decked out in a vintage Boston uniform shirt and hat. I managed to get a great picture of him slugging down a beer between innings.

A barbershop quartet sang the Star Spangled Banner and the game was finally ready to get underway. The game was played under the rules generally used in 1886, which meant that the game, although certainly recognizable as baseball, had quite a few differences from today’s game. Some of the primary rules differences were: the batter can call for a “high” strike zone or a “low” strike zone; it take 7 balls to walk a batter instead of 4; there is only one umpire, who stands 10-15 feet off to the side of the batter. He must be addressed as “sir” at all times, and is allowed to smoke a cigar; a hit batter just causes a dead ball, he doesn’t get to take first base; a foul ball doesn’t count as a strike; a foul tip caught by the catcher was an out, regardless of the count. There are lots more, but those are a good sampling.

Likewise, the equipment was somewhat different from what we see today. Uniforms had no names or numbers on the back. The ball was quite a bit softer than today’s model, making it difficult to hit as hard. This was a good thing, because the players used the small gloves of the era. They were little more than large leather gardening gloves, which led to some interesting defense. The catcher had a bit more protection, including a padded glove, mask, chest protector and shin guards. The bats were the most similar to those in use today, although they tended not to have the big knob at the bottom.

The game itself was fun to watch. Both teams used accomplished amateur players, and it was obvious that the guys knew what they were doing. The only problem was that the small gloves led to some sloppy defense. There were about 12 errors between the two teams, and it made for a long game.

In the bottom of the first, with Hartford leading 2-0, the setting sun caused the first sun delay I’ve ever been witness to. They just stopped play until the sun fell behind the trees in the outfield, then picked up where they left off. The local crowd seemed to be having fun during the delay, which lasted about five minutes. They seemed to be reveling in this unique feature of their antique ballpark.

The game picked up again and proceeded at a fairly slow pace. It got to 10 PM and we were still in the sixth inning. As much as I hated to bail out, I did have a two hour drive home ahead of me, and it looked like the game still had at least an hour to go. So, I reluctantly started to make my way to the car. I spotted Chip on the way out and congratulated him on the wonderful success the evening had been. Then I spotted Jim Bouton in his Hillies uniform coming out of the clubhouse and heading for the dugout. I stopped him and introduced myself and he said hello. I later got an email from him apologizing for not being a better host, but I certainly understood how busy he was during the game.

I got back in the Element, hooked up the iPod and stopped at a convenience store to stock up on Diet Coke on my way back to the Mass Pike. I was exhilarated. The evening had been a huge success, with crowd estimates running between 4,500 and 6,000. The game had been fun to watch and pretty much everyone I saw seemed to be smiling and having a good time. The whole experience seemed to validate the idea that minor league baseball in a refurbished Wahconah Park could be a huge success. I can’t wait for the 2005 season to start and for Jim and Chip to put all the great ideas outlined in “Foul Ball” into action.

Reviews of the game were almost universally positive. Interviews in the local Berkshire Eagle and the Albany paper had fans talking enthusiastically about what a great night it was. Friends back home who had watched the game on ESPN Classic told me how much fun it was. The one bit of cold water poured on the proceedings came from Jim and Chip’s nemesis in “Foul Ball”, the Berkshire Eagle. They had no choice by to acknowledge the success of the event, but they went on to complain about all the old stuff that came up in the book. They still beat the drum for a new ballpark - they haven’t seemed to get over the fact that the people of Pittsfield DON’T WANT a new ballpark,. They’re very happy with the one they have, thank you very much. They also went off on the old, tired refrain that somehow independent baseball is inferior to the affiliated baseball played in the NY-Penn League. Of course, anyone who has watched the independent league product knows this is a crock. While the short season Class A players in the NY-Penn League are generally just drafted rookies out of high school or college, most of the independent league players have been just released from AA or AAA ball, and some have big league experience. The level of play is noticeably superior. Now, is there a better chance you’ll see the next Barry Bonds or Pedro Martinez on the affiliated team? Sure, but probably two or three of the kids on the roster will ever even get a sniff at the Major Leagues, and maybe one out of a hundred becomes a star player.

We’re already talking about plans to go out to the Berkshires for a weekend family trip to catch a game next year, and I have every intention of being there for Opening Day at Wahconah. I’m hoping this experience will continue to be as good as it has been so far.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Trip to Wahconah Park...Part 1:

I left the pool we go to in the summer for Pittsfield, MA. My destination: Wahconah Park, which was hosting a Vintage Baseball game between the newly formed Pittsfield Hillies and the Hartford Senators. My inspiration for making the two hour drive to Pittsfield on the evening before Independence Day was to see the first event of Wahconah Park, Inc., a group headed by Jim Bouton and Chip Elitzer to bring a minor league baseball team to Pittsfield in a refurbished Wahconah Park. The story of their first attempt to do this is detailed in Bouton's book "Foul Ball". As noted previously here in my blog, I'm investing in the company.

I loaded up the Element with a cooler full of bottled water and Diet Coke, cranked up the tunes on my iPod and headed west on the Mass Turnpike. The drive passed uneventfully until I got off the Pike in Lee and was greeted with some unexpected Tanglewood traffic. I made my way slowly though Lee and Lenox until I passed the turnoff for Tanglewood and continued on into Pittsfield.

I had contacted Chip a few days before the game and asked if he needed any volunteers. Chip graciously accepted my offer and I told him that I would get to the ballpark around 5:00, or two hours before game time. I arrived at about 5:20, delayed a bit by the unexpected traffic. When I found the ballpark, I was shocked to discover that the parking lot was already nearly full, over an hour and a half before game time! I drove my car through the lot, parked quite a distance away, and walked toward the ballpark.

Once I entered, I asked at the ticket desk where I could find Chip. Someone pointed me in his direction and I quickly tracked him down. I introduced myself and asked Chip what I could do to help out. He said that they were pretty well covered, but asked if I would like to join him on a tour of the "Taste of the Berkshires" food court and grab some dinner. I said sure, and we started out among the tents set up around the outside of the grandstand.

An aside here; the Taste of the Berkshires food court was one of the centerpieces of Jim and Chip's original plan of Wahconah Park. Basically, local restaurants would be signed up to sell food to ballpark patrons in addition to the typical ballpark fare.

Well, here we were seeing the reality of the idea, and it was brilliant. There were over 40 different vendors selling at the ballpark and the selection was fantastic. Chip and I finally settled on a pulled pork sandwich and a specially brewed Hillies ale from the Barrington Brewery (no Budweiser, Coors or Miller was anywhere to be seen). We then looked for someplace to sit and eat. The picnic tables that had been set up were filled, so Chip said, "Why don't we go in the clubhouse? No one's using it." Of course, at this point I'm thinking, "Eating in the clubhouse, that's why I'm doing this!"

Like everything else, the clubhouse at Wahconah is far from luxurious, but it had tables and served well for dinner. The pulled pork was good and the beer was terrific - I grabbed another one during the game. Chip and I sat there, ate and talked until he got called away. I thanked him for walking me around and then went out to tour the area a little more.

Wahconah Park has been host to organized baseball since 1892, and the current wooden grandstand was built in 1919. The ballpark certainly shows it's age, but it has an undeniable charm to it. The grandstand seats are very close to the field. Fans in the front rows are closer to be batter than the pitcher is. Plastic owls hang from the rafters to scare away pigeons. Most famously, Wahconah Park is one of two ballparks in the United States where the setting sun shines directly into a batters eyes. This causes occasional sun delays, as the game is held up until the sun falls below the trees beyond the outfield fence.

I finished my tour of the food court, and grabbed a cookie, a bottle of water and a Wahconah Park T-shirt. The T-shirt has a Wahconah Park logo on the front, and the back has a sign that hangs on the grandstand at the ballpark saying "NO Spitting Cursing Gambling allowed by ballplayers". I sat in my box seat in the grandstand and waited for the festivities to start.

To be continued...

Friday, July 09, 2004

Wow! I survived my busiest work week in years, as we got through the bulk of the first quarter-end reporting period after the merger. There was lots of new stuff to do for our new parent company, and as a result I worked late Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The worst part of working late was that I didn't get to see the kids for three days. I really thrive on being home to put them to bed most nights and when that routine gets disrupted for an extended period of time, it upsets me. My basic philosophy is that no one was ever on their deathbed looking back at their life and thinking, "Gee, I really should have spent more time at work." We should be done with the worst of the new reporting deadlines, though, so next week should be a little more normal.

One thing that the increased work schedule has prevented me from doing is finishing my report on the vintage baseball game out at Wahconah Park last weekend. I'll get it done over the weekend and post it here by Sunday night.

Shore Leave is this weekend. Shore Leave is a Star Trek convention held every summer in Hunt Valley, MD, a city north of Baltimore. It's a wonderful con, with great guests, great programming, great hotel facilities (including a wonderful indoor/outdoor pool with jacuzzi and the legendary Paddock Bar). It felt like going to a family reunion every year, with dozens of people I knew from Star Trek fandom. From 1986 to 1997, I attended the con every year except one. Then J. came home and my ability to go running off to go to conventions for a weekend disappeared.

Until last year, that is. Since the kids were older and more able to entertain themselves, A. agreed that I could make my triumphant return to Shore Leave. So, I did. And I had a great time...for a while. Then I started to get a bit homesick. I had worked all week and hadn't seen the kids, then I ran off to Baltimore for the weekend. I certainly had fun hanging out with my friends, but by Saturday evening I was missing my family. It just seemed wrong somehow not to be together on the weekend.

So, I didn't go this year. My work schedule made it impossible anyways - I knew that this quarter would be tough and I couldn't guarantee that I wouldn't have to work the weekend. But even so, I'm happy to be home with my family, hanging out at the pool and going bike riding. This is the first year since J. came home that I haven't felt some pangs of regret that I'm not at Shore Leave, which makes going last year a valuable experience.

To all of you who did go, I hope you are having/had a great time!

Finally, the Red Sox have started playing more like a team with a $130 million payroll, having won their 4th in a row tonight with a 7-0 pasting of the AL West leading Texas Rangers. Bronson Arroyo pitched an outstanding game for Boston, giving up just three hits in eight innings for the win against the American League's best hitting team this season. Johnny Damon continues his white hot hitting, getting four hits, including two home runs to add to a five hit game against Oakland earlier in the week. It's great to see the Sox playing this well going into the All-Star break and hopefully they can build up some momentum for the second half. Can it really only be Monday that the Red Sox were coming off a 1-5 road trip to the Bronx and Atlanta and Red Sox Nation was lining up on the Tobin and Zakim Bridges in despair?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy 4th of July! Hope you all had a great day. We had a good one, starting off with a a day at the pool, followed by a visit to our friends great new house and finally fireworks! R. was fascinated by the fireworks, and J. enjoyed them, too.

It's late, so I'm not going to get too much into last night's trip to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, other than to say it was the vintage ballgame between the Pittsfield Hillies and the Hartford Senators was a great success. I'll post a detailed blog on it tomorrow if I have time, or I'll work on it on the train Tuesday.

Oh, and the less said about the Sox the better...

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