Talking Baseball

I just applied to become a full-time baseball nut.  MLB.com is going to send someone to NYC for a full baseball season, where they will watch baseball all year (every game to some degree, every day), blog about it, vlog about it, tweet about it, yell about it, talk about it, be interviewed about it, and…well, you get the drift.  I’m stoked.  A full, non-stop, ridiculously busy year of baseball.  To which of the baseball Gods do I need to beg and plead?  Anyway, there was a two-part essay, and I thought I would share it here.

The first half, in 500 words or less, was a bit about myself and why I dearly love baseball so.  This is what I wrote:

The day that I die, I will bequeath to this world a heart with one seam and two hundred and sixteen stitches.  As it is, I’m quite certain that when I was born—I arrived one week early in late June of ‘72—I did so in a desperate need to avoid closing out the first half of the season in utero.  No self-respecting baseball fan wants to be born during the All-Star break.  I grew up on a diet of Reggie, complemented that as I aged with sides of Garvey and Cey, spent the glorious span of summer reliving the celebrated games of years past with a whiffle bat and tennis ball, and ultimately found there was no greater joy, no greater love than settling into an uncomfortable seat with a hot dog in one hand and a program in the other.  I came alive as spring rolled in, overcoming what most people now refer to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I always just called the Offseason Blues.  I lived in Florida.  It wasn’t cold.  There just wasn’t any baseball, and the internet wasn’t even through Rookie League yet.

I wrote my first short story when I was twelve.  It was a heroic tale about a young boy who twisted his ankle while walking to the championship game.  It was a horrendous injury, one that left him certain there was no way he would make it to the game, much less play when he arrived.  It was heart-wrenching.  I poured my soul into that story, and cheered the boy on when he mustered the courage to fight through the pain, make his way to the field, and bring home the deciding run when all seemed lost.  I was convinced this was the greatest tale ever told, and no moment in life would ever best it.  Four years later, Kirk Gibson hit his limp-legged shot into the seats in the ’88 World Series off Dennis Eckersley, and I wasn’t entirely sold that he hadn’t intentionally stole my thunder.  Of course, it was historic, and I became less interested in vengeance with every fist-pump, every painful step he made around the bases.  I let it slide, and decided I should at least make do with the chops I’d been given.  I might not have to limp (though I could if I needed to impress the girls), but I could string the words together to someday write the best baseball story ever written.

There are no words to adequately express my love for the game.  Now two books into a career as an impoverished author, I’ve decided the only reason I want to make Trump-town cash as a writer is in order to own a franchise.  I never evolved as a player—though I’ve had quite the career in my mind—but I live and breathe this sport.  I have to be involved in it every day, every year, and relish every moment of every game I see.  I’m Gonzo.  Baseball is my chicken.

Right.  Part two asked what I believed this year’s big story would be.  And so sayeth I:

Albert Pujols and his forthcoming pile of Genie’s gold is going to be in everyone’s ear this year, whether he wants it that way or not.  The Yankees are going to sob loudly in their room after being jilted at the Prom by the two-headed stud-monster of Cliff Lee and Andy PettitteAdam Wainwright is the latest in what now totals over 150 Major League pitchers who have had, or are scheduled to have, Tommy John surgery.  Young phenom Bryce Harper is on the trail to projected glory, soon to join a promising future in the nation’s capitol.

All of which will create a generous buzz between now and October.   And yet, we’re going to spend this year talking about four pitchers and what they mean to the history books, what they mean to the game, and what they mean to a franchise racing against time for one more run to glory.  In Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies have a quartet striving to equal, or perhaps best, the pitching staffs of the ’93 and ’95 Braves, and the ’71 Orioles.

In Halladay, Oswalt, and Lee alone, the Phillies have 3 of the top 5 pitchers in highest career winning percentage, with a minimum of 100 starts, in baseball history.  They have two (Halladay 2.67, Lee 2.98) of the four pitchers over the last 3 seasons with sub 3.00 ERA’s and 600+ innings.  And Cliff Lee, well, all he’s done over the past three years is rank 6th in wins (48), 7th in ERA (2.98), and 5th in IP (667.1).  Toss in his stellar record in the postseason (7-2, 2.13), and his run in the second half of 2009 with Philly (7-4, 3.39, 4-0 in the playoffs), and you have reason to believe the Phillies have the making of something historically special.  If that doesn’t sparkle your fireworks, and if the idea of pitching in a notably hitter-friendly park makes you squeamish, it’s important to note that of the top 6 ERA’s in Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies now own 3 of them (Oswalt 2.10, Halladay 2.21, Lee 2.52).

The Phillies head into 2011 with the reigning NL Cy Young winner in Roy Halladay (ahem, no-hitter in the playoffs, ahem), a pitcher in Lee who only walked 18 men last year while striking out 185, Roy Oswalt, who only went 7-1 with a microscopic 1.74 ERA after being traded mid-season, and Cole Hamels, who may be a bit sporadic and reminds one a touch of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, but had an ERA last season of 3.06 with 211 strikeouts in 208.2 innings.

There may be questions about the Phillies age, whether or not their bullpen can save a frog from jumping, and whether or not they can stay healthy enough, and score enough runs, to win a championship, but one thing is rock solid certain.  Everyone is going to be talking about how this rotation stacks up against history.

——–

I WANT THIS JOB!

Leaving NYC

I couldn’t help but notice, as I was looking over the dashboard to the blog to approve some comments (& blast some junk into oblivion, with some Schwartzenegger like “You’ll be trashed” line in my head), that the corner of the page that details the most often used search results to locate my blog had the following 3 as the top choices:

  1. “Zachary Steele”, “Author Tour”
  2. “zachary steele”, “NYC”
  3. “zachary steele”, “giraffe sex”

Now, please, whichever one of you did the third one, please, please, please, oh for the love of everything holy, please, let me know.  BRILLIANT!  I don’t know if I’m more amused that it exists, or that it worked.  Either way, I’m totally honored to be found under the search heading of “giraffe sex” despite the fact that I have neither written about it, or to my knowledge, had it.

Giraffe sex.  Tee hee.

So, my NYC escapades are at an end.  No pictures today, nor any from last night.  The camera is packed, and the room looks less of a disaster now that everything is placed quasi-neatly in the suitcase.  The coffee has finally woken me from my morning stupor, bringing ME to from a late night, and short sleep.  Last night at The Tank, I had the 2nd of 2 events, and rounded out a birthday celebration without song or fanfare for the first time since I drove alone to Montana.  Harry Terjanian was a hoot and seemed well at ease railing on religion.  We were a small group, but one prepared to laugh, and he didn’t disappoint.  Though I could cite a number of well delivered punchlines, his run on the disappointment of Easter candy was my favorite.  The idea that the large Chocolate Easter Bunnies, are “chocolate covered air” is still cracking ME up.

I plopped MYSELF up on the edge of the stage for what amounted to a cozy little story time with a handful of rapt listeners.  I gave the first chapter of Angelic Malcontentsanother go, and am now convinced that it’s going in the right direction.  The unicorn-head maid lady (did I hear Andora? or was that Andromeda?) was there again, at MY side as I read.  I’m less creeped out by her now, and find MYSELF chatting her up, just in case.  You never know.  She could be real somewhere, and though I’m not soliciting MYSELF to her, it’s always good to keep an open friendship with any potential unicorn-head maid ladies in the universe.  Seems like having one for an enemy could be rather unpleasant.  Just sayin’.

So, all in all it was a great trip.  Saw plenty.  Heard plenty.  Talked plenty.  Read a lot.  And stowed away, for future use, much more story content than even I could have planned for.  Thanks to everyone who has kept up, and I look forward to getting home, where MY wife is likely to squeeze ME into an alternate universe, and my dog is likely to have a coronary, after spending nearly 4 days convinced I was never coming home.  Time to give up this awesome view of Manhattan, take MY weary butt downstairs, and begin the trek to Laguardia by way of train and bus.  Cost savings aside, I’m good for one cab  ride per trip here.  Already did that, and I think I lost a few years in the process.  No need to lose more.  I might lose more hair.  Not ready for that yet.

Giraffe sex.

If Doesn’t Kill You, It’s Worth a Buck

Well, last night’s event at The Tank was a load of fun.  Aside from the fact that the venue is a quaint little, absolutely inviting theater space, it’s also a perfect space for readings.  “Just Working on My Novel” was designed by the ever amazing, always entertaining Russ Marshalek, as an outlet for those who have been working on, talking about, or professing a desire to write, a novel.  Each of these events will feature a published author, and I am honored to have been the writer to have had the priviledge to wear the innagural pair of JWOMN shoes.  I started the affair by reading from Anointed and closed it out by reading the first chapter from MY follow-up, Angelic Malcontents.  It was the first public reading of that particular material, and I was elated to have received such a positive response.

The stage at the Tank

The stage at the Tank

As you can see, the set-up on stage was simplistic, and included a weird little Maid/Unicorn Head…thing that was holding a copy of Anointed.  This too, was a Russ Marshalek special inclusion, and I really don’t know what to say, other than it will find a place in a story of mine very soon.  A bizzare, bizzare piece of, well, whatever you refer to it as.Tonight, once more at The Tank, is the religious roast, Fishsticks for Jesus.  It will be a night of comedy at religion’s expense, and I fully expect that there will be much to write about tomorrow morning, when I sit down, groggy, and struggling through words with a cup of coffee firmly in hand.  Then, sadly, it will be time to depart from the Big Apple.  There’s never enough time to see everything you want to see here.  Even with 3 full days, you just pick what you want to see & leave it at that.Today was a lazy day, to be honest.  As a birthday present to MYSELF, I slept in until 9, staggered downstairs to grab as much coffee, yogurt, danishes, and additional creamer/sugar for coffee later, that I could carry and returned to  MY room to relax, and attend to the weighty amount of birthday wishes and photo comments on Facebook.  I stayed there, spent some time catching up with Alice and telling the dog hello, and finally wandered out after noon or so to meet Russ at The Tank.

???

???

12:35 p.m: I arrive at The Tank and proceed to be a complete ass to Russ in front of his Tank cohorts.  He rightfully reads me the riot act, tells Alice on the phone that I am being a stupid dick, and informs ME that he doesn’t work for ME anymore and “doesn’t have to take that shit.”  I realize that he is absolutely correct, and that I apparently don’t have enough caffeine in ME after all.  To Starbucks!

1:33 p.m: The frap helped.  I’m feeling loose and free again, and after a bit of a ride on the trains, we’re in Brooklyn, heading for food and then, Word, Brooklyn’s best little Indie bookstore.  One problem though, which Russ points out with a question that I cannot answer.

Russ: Where are we?

ME: Hell if I know.

Yeah.  Lost in Brooklyn.  And not that, “well, this is the ok part of Brooklyn that you shouldn’t be afraid of,” but rather that, “Oh, dear God, we’re going to die,” area that you would rather avoid.  Yay Russ!  I ask him if it’s ok to hand him back the, “Stupid dick,” moniker.  He grudgingly agrees.  We head back to the train and the Greenpoint stop we should have gotten off at to begin with.

2:00 p.m: We arrive at Brooklyn Label, and I eat the absolute best burger I have ever had in my life.  It’s a neat place, full of character, and Russ pointed out some guy in the corner that is supposedly a famous musician.  Yeah.  Like I would know him.

Brooklyn Label

Brooklyn Label

 
2:40 p.m: We arrive at Word, where we spend an hour shooting the breeze, bashing stupid books, and discussing why James Patterson is sadly the best thing that Hachette Book Group USA can promote.  Well, except for that Twilight thing, anyway.  I buy a copy of The Book Thief, a Young Adult title I’ve been wanting to read since it came out in 2006, and we head out for the G Train. 

There has been an absence of notable excitement today.  Yesterday, after I blogged, I left the hotel in search of caffeine and dinner.  I got down to 8th street, a block away, when I was halted by 3 fire trucks, 4 cop cars, and 2 rescue vehicle, and a throng of people congregated and staring skyward.  I would find out, very quickly, that a crane had malfunctioned (or something like that), and that a netting that was holding broken concrete was threatening to spill its contents onto the road below.  I would find out later that this is not a rare occurance in the City.  I made it past that, only a block further before I saw 2 more ambulances, 2 more cop cars, another large throng, and a considerable amount of blood on the street.  Just past that, a bicycle split in half.  Yeah, man on bike vs. car, car wins.  From what I understand, the guy was beaten, broken, but would survive.  Crazy.  There’s no shortage of entertainment around here.  I look forward to leaving the hotel, just to see what I see.

Alright, all done now.  Need to make dinner plans and get ready for tonight.  More tomorrow morning before I make my way home!

More ME in NYC, Day 2

I didn’t want to go to sleep last night.  For a long time (once I had fully comitted myself to leaving Facebook and the plethora–what is a plethora?–of comments and such from yesterday’s activity) I just stared out the window at the city.  I think I was still in that, “Am I really here” phase that most of us go through when we’ve come to visit an exciting place, or a place we’re excited about because it isn’t exciting at all but quiet because everyone else isn’t  there.  Anyway, I left the shades open, and woke up the minute the light touched the sky.  Times like this, and times like this only, that I don’t mind short sleep.  Thus began the day.  I have no idea where I’m going now, only that I’m about to walk out the door.

8:32 am: I meander downstairs, showered & happy to MY free Marriott breakfast.  Before you get too excited, free, in this instance, is bagels and toast and cereal and coffee.  Honestly, I was happiest about the free coffee.  More so that they had little packages of Coffe-Mate French Vanilla creamer available.  MY caffeinated dessert, what you mortals call coffee, in hand, I was ready to face the day.

10:15 am: While on MY way to the Library, I stop for the 1st of 2 visits to Bryant Park, situated right next door (door? somehow, that seems wrong).  It’s a peaceful place in the morning.  Probably an excellent place to drink some coffee and wake up while people watching.  Hey!  That’s what I was doing!

I can haz nap?

I can haz nap?

 

Hello funny hat man!

Hello funny hat man!

10:10 a.m: New York Public Library.  I didn’t go in, as I’ve been there before & I’m running short on time before I meet Russ at (or around, on Russ time) 11.  Snapped a couple pictures of the lions, and some various shots of the local landscape, but nothing you wouldn’t have seen a bajillion times before on tourist brochures.  I’m beginning to get a little worried about the calm lack of adventure the day is displaying thus far.  What, Monday comes and we all act normal again?  What’s up with that?

10:21 a.m: Walking up 5th Ave, on MY way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral when it suddenly occurs to ME that I’ve been singing the coffee toffee twisted frosty song in MY head for the last hour.  Damn!  In order to purge the madness, I grant the repetitive lyrics to you

Coffee toffee, twisted frosty!

Do you wanna get frosty with me?

10:32 a.m: I arrive at St. Patty’s to discover that MY favorite NYC landmark is still there.  You can never be too sure when religion is involved.  Could have been swept away in a moment of vengeance.  Glad to see that they are renovating some of the exterior.  Most people are aware that I do not believe you can find God in a church, despite the fact that they exist, seemingly, for the that sheer purpose alone.  You can find religion in a church though, and St. Patty’s never disappoints.

Stained Glass in St. Patty's

Stained Glass in St. Patty'sCeiling at St. Patty's

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

 

11:11 a.m: Lunch with Russ at Chipolte’s.  I need about 3 more cups of coffee to keep up with the speed at which he is talking.  Russ, I’m still a Southerner!  Slow down!

12:25 p.m: Russ & I have broken up, though I believe it to be short term.  Once he slows down his speech, we’ll be all right.  I decide to head back to 42nd street, and over to Grand Central Station, since I didn’t have time before, then head back to St. Patrick’s because, well, because it’s so freakin’ awesome.  Aside from the fact that I think of The Day After Tomorrow everytime I go into Grand Central, I rather enjoy it.  It is the pinnacle of activity.  Busy, busy, busy little people scoot around from one to the other, or from one floor to the other, to the fooditorium downstairs, or simply dodging pesky tourists with cameras.  OH!  Actually, the main floor of Grand Central is home to a scene from one of my favorite movies, K-Pax, so maybe all isn’t bad.  The travesty has been undone.  Sorry Mr. Gyllenhal and Mr. Quaid, but that movie just sucked.  Wolves?  Really?  Wolves in NYC? 

1:35 p.m: Back at St. Patrick’s for about 30 minutes.  It’s fantastic to absorb to just sit and absorb the history of the place.  Unfortunately, and by design I do believe, the pews are dreadfully uncomfortable to sit on for an extended period of time.  How can you feel the presence of God if you’re massaging your butt every five minutes!

2:25 p.m: Back at the hotel where I attempted a nap.  No go.  Nap fail.  Too easily distracted am I.  Answer the phone?  Sure!  Text messages, absolutely!  Facebook chats?  Well, I can’t be rude!  Anyway, it’s 5:30 now and I’m about to get ready for night one at The Tank.  I may, and or may not, post pictures and update the blog later this evening.  MY guess is on the no side.  You may just have to wait until tomorrow.  And, hey, whoa!  I totally buzzed a fly today!

I seez you mister flyz!

I seez you mister flyz!

Ok, so maybe it isn’t that cool.  But still, I had to wait a long time for that shot.

Trolling about in NYC

Taking the author’s tour of NYC for the next 4 days.  I’ve been here before, so it’s not your “country boy in the big city” kinda deal that is trademarked with open mouths and schedules chock full of touristy sites.  It’s still an amazing place, and it still leaves ME waddling in awe and inspiration.  I’ve never come to New York on MY own, with no guide (read in: friend) to show ME the sites or take me to great little shops in Little Italy where stories linger through time (I’ll share that one later).  But, I’m here, I have book events at The Tank on both Monday and Tuesday (where I will silently sing birthday wishes to ME, and will disallow others to do the same out loud), and I have brought the camera to let you see what I am seeing.  In order to do this proper, I’ll just have to check in as I pass through the hotel and update posts daily.  So, what you read now will have more later.  I’ll make sure to let MY Facebook friends know when the updates are in, and I’ll be dumping all of my photos there as well.

And so begins Day 1.

6:30 am:  I wake up, even though I don’t need to get up for another 45 minutes.  I’m a travel geek, and have, on many occasions, departed from quality sleep to get things going, jumping up and down like a kid on Christmas (albeit at 4 am, 3 hours before mom & dad are comitted to waking).  Coffee!  Quick!  I manage half a cup before I realize I didn’t need the caffeine to begin with.

8:00 am: Alice drops me off at MARTA.  I make it to Five Points, and switch to the Southbound train, where the automated voice informs us all that the train is going Northbound.  I quickly send the all important message to Twitter (& Facebook): “Oh MARTA, you do live to entertain.  Telling ppl on southbound train that its going north.  Very cheeky.”  I realize at this point that I needed more caffeine.

9:00 am: I arrive at the airport, where I realize at check in that airlines have changed their luggage check in policies.  No longer is it free for the 1st bag.  Now you pay $15…IF, IF that is you meet the size and weight requirements.  Ugh.  Are you kidding me?  I should have figured out a way to just carry on.  I would have threatened the lady that I would send me pet dragon out of hiding to destroy the minions of Air Tran, but she was really nice.  No worries Sandra, here’s my card.  Abuse ME.

10:20 am: I board the plane, sitting across the aisle from a young woman, who felt it necessary to bring her floatation devices with her.  Both of them.  They seemed to fit pretty snug in her shirt, and I don’t know what her plan was to deploy them.  Anyway, she slept the whole trip with her mouth wide open.  And I mean, she slept.  Hard.  Comatose like.  Through the take off, through the landing, and through most every other inconvenience in between.  I thought of grabbing her once we got off the plan and suggesting that she steer clear of any opportunity to fall asleep in the presence of her fellow college students.  But then I thought she probably already had, and if I looked hard enough, I could probably find the eveidence online.

1:13 pm: I grab a yellow machine of death for MY march into oblivion–or Manhattan, whichever came first. 

The View

The View

“Hello Mr. Cab driver.  Please don’t make me sick today.  Kthanx,” I said in a Tweet.  He didn’t listen.  Instead, he drove at breakneck speed through the barriers of time & space.  Somehow I managed to coerce him into dropping me off a block shy of the hotel, rather than sit in traffic and sneak up on the hotel a foot at the time (note: cabs DO NOT charge by the foot). 

1:47 pm: I am at the hotel!  YAY!  Here’s a few images from the 24th floor.  The ironic placement of McGraw Hill does not escape ME (though that is not entirely due to the publishing aspect, but because of sister Ali, who was convinced that Faith Hill & Tim McGraw had formed a business).

McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill Back for more later...So, an eventful end to the day. Here goes:2:24 pm: I wrote the words, "Back for more later..." and proceeded to flop on the bed & watch some of the Braves/Sox game. Completely useless info, but it made ME happy, so pfffbbbbbtttt!4:00 pm (or thereabouts): I make my way out onto 40th street, head over to 9th and walk the 5 blocks to 45th street to find The Tank, where I will be, as I've mentioned, the next two nights. I took this picture:The Tank

While I took this picture, I heard a tumble and groan to the left.  I turned and discovered that an elderly man–whose name I would discover was Billy–had lost his balance and fallen on the sidewalk.  I ran over to help him up, and with the assistance of another gentleman and one of Billy’s neighbors, helped escort him up the street to the entrance to his apartment.  He seemed to want to fall backward with every step, so it was quite the chore to get him there without him falling again.  So, there you go.  Welcome to The Tank.
 
 
 
 
 
 
4:50 pm: After wandering through Times Square, where I witnessed the most butts in the air ever at a Yoga gathering celebrating the Summer Solstice, I headed on a pizza hunt.  I wound up at Monetti’s Pizza, and partook.  While sitting there, enjoying MY pizza, a young couple (youngish?) passed by in order to pay for their grub.  This is the part of the conversation I heard.
Young Lady: “Am I overbearing?”
Young Man: (after a careful pause) “Well, yeah, sometimes.”
Young Lady: (takes this in with a nod) “Well, you know, I really think we need to get moving with things.”
Young Man: “What?”
Young Lady: “I mean, marriage.  You really need to propose to me.  We need to get married already.”
At this point, the guy looked over MY way, lowered his head (and his voice) and said something to the effect of: “We really don’t need to be talking about this here.”
Conversation WIN!  Pizza & Entertainment!  Well done Monetti’s!
 
5:00 pm:  I had the world’s biggest Caramel Mocha Frappuccio. 
It kills!

It kills!

It’s as big as the city!  And delicious!!! WOOOOOO!
5:30 to 6:45 pm: I wander through Central Park, where I see a whole many bunches of weird people, some bubble blowers, a photo shoot of a young girl that was beyond awkwardly dangerous and was just ultimately bizzarre, and accidentally ate an Oreo Ice Cream Bar. 
I have discovered, also, that though the majority of the pizzaria’s are five or more blocks from here, I will not be short of porn, should the need arise.  Apparently, there is an urgent need for porn and adult novelties on 40th street.  Should you ever be in NYC, and succumb to lonliness.  Or something.
Ok.  8:09 pm: I’m done with MY blog for the day.  Either Union Square and Battery Park tomorrow before the event, or Grand Central Station and the Public Library (I WANT TO SEE A GHOST DAMMIT!).  Either way, I’ll have more for you.