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The Lessons Learned

The first batter hit a screaming,diving fly to right center, which the right fielder went all out for and had it skip off of his glove for a… three base error????

Not a great start when it was followed by the shortstop leaving the ball on the ground for what might have been (you cannot assume) a double play. Before we were comfortably in our seats at Banner Island, it was 1-0. Over the first five innings the deficit grew to 4-0 and to make matters worse, my beloved Stockton Ports were being no-hit.

My wife and I were spending one of our precious “Date Nights” at Banner Island Ballpark (on the banks of the Stockton Deep Water Channel) for the finale of the 2012 season, a year that wasn’t really the greatest – at least in wins and losses – for the Ports. One year after going to the California League Championship Series, we suffered though an early season seventeen game losing streak, a bunch of close game losses and just a general frustration that the team seemed so much better “on paper” but nothing was seeming to come together.

And Game 140 started out for the first half of it to be just like most of the season.

Then, a weird hop led to a two base error and suddenly we had a man on 2nd Base. Our shortstop, Cabrera crushed a pitch to left field and just like that, the no-no was gone and we were only down 4-2 in the 6th.

In the seventh, we added another home run, when after a small kerfuffle, Dusty Robinson homered to Center and flipped his bat as if to say, “Take that!” Now it’s 4-3

The bottom of the 8th saw Stockton add another home run that tied the game. Visalia goes in order in the top of the 9th. The score 4-4 into the bottom of the inning.

The whole season has really been a lesson. A lesson that tough times are just that, an opportunity to show what you’re made of, win or lose. For me as a fan, there were times when I wanted to just quit. After all, the Ports weren’t going back to the playoffs, it’s just a developmental league, right? Winning isn’t as important as other things, right? We’d seen a sit-in manager shit-caned by the league in July for seeming to have that attitude, (see game of June 24, 2012) but really, is that what he had done?

Of is it possible that he was trying to teach the same lesson?  That winning and losing does matter, but it’s a bigger picture? That the breaks eventually even out, and it’s taking the opportunity when you see it that is the biggest difference between winning and losing?

With one out in the bottom of the 9th, our catcher hit a towering pop foul towards first base. The only question was who would get it, their first baseman or right fielder? Or even 2nd basemen as oddly, the three began to twist and turn as if the ball, clearly a foul pop seemed to be drifting fair. In that moment of opportunity, it was suddenly clear that the ball was fair and that all three of the Rawhide players were unprepared to catch it. One made a valiant attempt, another ran him over. The ball popped to the ground and rolled away.

When the play ended, our catcher, Ryan Ortiz was standing on 3rd Base with what was described as the ugliest triple of all time.

An intentional walk set up the double play, and our second baseman, Michael Gilmartin stepped up.

When everything is said and done, 2012 may go down for me as one of the best seasons ever. Sure, we lost more than we won, but it was clear that the young men on this Ports team learned about how to be men, how to always try you hardest even when things seem to go against you.

What the really learned, was how to be winners.

Gilmartin singles to center. Ryan Pineda, pinch running for Ortiz scores.

Ports 5 Rawhide 4.

Season over. Lessons learned.

Looking forward to next season…


The Cubs Win the World Series!

I really like MLB 11 The Show, but I bought it in August of 2011 used at the local Game Stop for $30. I am too cheap to fork out $65 for the ’12 version, at least not until my RTTS Character (a starting Pitcher) is solidly established in the Majors. I started with the Mets in Binghamton, got traded to Boston, assigned to Portland, invited to Spring Training, made the roster as a middle reliever, fell apart and got sent down to Pawtucket as a Starter.

At any rate, the Cubs commercial for MLB 12 keeps making me think that I should go ahead and fork out the $60…

The Top 5 Reasons the Dodgers Are My Favorite Team

#5 – The 1978 World Series

The very first time I ever watched a World Series game I saw Bob Welch blow away Reggie Jackson (who everybody knew) to save the game and take a 2-0 dodgers lead. My best friend, Charlie Kuntz was a HUGE Yankees fan, so I was able to rub it in for about two days before the Dodgers collapse left me with the same blues that Dodgers fans have known for many, many years… “wait ’til next year” found a whole new generation

#4 – 1980

The season was winding down and the Dodgers HAD to win three straight against the Astros just to tie and force a one game playoff. It was the first time a sports team about which I cared really went on a “do or die” run, winning three straight nail biting one run wins to send the two teams to the playoffs.

Monday October 6, 1980, the day of the playoff found me missing school for oral surgery – an 90degree impacted cusped had to be removed. The oral surgeon asked if I wanted the headphones with some music, I asked if they could get “the game.” They could and I suffered through the 7-1 loss AND the surgery and forever afterwards, the Dodgers and I were bound together in pain.

#3 – 1981

In October of 1981 the Dodgers capped the improbable and bizarre season with miracle after miracle. I never saw a single pitch. In San Diego for boot camp, I had not yet actually begun training and was assigned to a general cleanup crew when the Expos and Dodgers met in Montreal. We were working in an office near the gun range at the old RTC San Diego (which, like the Expos, is long gone) when I came across a fellow Dodgers fan in the form of a sympathic Chief Petty Officer who let me “work” in his space and listen to the game on the radio. The emotional lift that I personally received when Rick Monday belted that home run carried me for days.

I got an even bigger lift some days later when I asked a Navy Dentist how the World Series was going.

“Those damn Dodgers won again,” he groused. I clearly applauded and cheered in the chair, to which he replied, “So, you’re a Dodger fan, eh? No Novocain for you.”

Thus was born my permanent terror of going to the dentist.

#2 – 1988

Yes, Kirk Gibson’s home run caused such a ruckus in my apartment that the neighbors called the police. But for me, the whole season was a wonderful ride, with my all-time favorite player, Mike Scioscia, leading the way. Mickey Hatcher was amazing and the whole “Kill Bob Costas” chant still makes me laugh.

It was one of the most enjoyable seasons ever, not just because the Dodgers won, but I also was able to go to Baltimore and see the Mariners play, my first solo trip to a major league city other than where I was living.

#1 – 1947

I know that I wasn’t born yet. But in 1947 the Dodgers became the first team to integrate Major League Baseball. They did it on purpose and because the BEST player was Jackie Robinson, not because they needed a gimmick or Bill Veeckian publicity stunt. Jackie Robinson was simply the best and he proved it time and again.

Jackie’s success in the face of intense pressure and opposition not just on the field led to my favorite all-time Dodger, Roy Campenella, becoming a part of the team*, and winning for the first time ever the Dodgers World Series Championship in 1955.

In so many ways today we take things for granted, but the courage that the entire team showed that year stands as one of the greatest moments in not just sports, but in societal change. I didn’t know any of that when I watched Bob Welch blow away Reggie Jackson. I didn’t really know it when my impacted cusped was removed, and I really didn’t understand it when Pedro Guererro blasted his Game 5 home run. By 1988, I knew it and had begun to understand it.

Today I am ever so proud of what the team I chose to support did in 1947.

*and by the by, the reason that I played Catcher. According to Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer,” Campy’s high school baseball coach drew nine circles on the floor of the gym and told all of the boys there for tryouts to go to the circle with the position they wanted to play on it. Campy waited until he was the last boy, then chose the circle that had nobody else in it, “I was the only-est one there” he once said about being a catcher. It seemed like the best job to me and it’s also why I later became an MDF Heavy aboard USS Michigan. Somebody has to take on the challenge.

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