UPDATED 21 FEBRUARY 2009 in the cold morning light: grammar in the introduction and #s 1, 5, 10, 12, 15, 18, and 20; new links in #1; and new information in #18.

UPDATED 21 FEBRUARY 2009 later in the day because I just remembered I've been to Texas (#9, #11).

It’s the third Friday in February, which means pitchers and catchers have been in camp for a week.  I want to write a Friday night blog post..  do I dive into my folder of technical posts awaiting my attention, which is deeper than it’s ever been?  Or do I follow my heart, and dive into a meme I discovered this morning on Rob Neyer’s ESPN blog (subscription required; scroll to February 18th entry)?

This meme is a take-off on the Facebook phenomenon which has lately garnered wide attention in the national media.  The idea of the Facebook exercise is to share twenty-five random things about yourself.  The baseball bloggers linked above are offering lists specific to that interest.

I think the title of this post shows you where I fell..  after all, it’s been almost a year since I’ve mentioned baseball here.  I’ll get to the technical stuff soon, I promise, but this is just going to be too much fun to put off (my dear spouse notes that I reserve my best procrastination for the things I don’t want to do; this is, I suppose, the antithesis of that.  Isn’t human nature grand?)..

Obviously, if you’re here looking for a technical post, feel free to move on to the next one, which will be here within the hour..  I promise.

Now that that’s out of the way..

  1. I am no athlete, but I’ve always loved to play baseball.  From the vacant lot across the street from the house I grew up in (“Locke’s Field”) to my most recent (and hopefully not final) effort at the Baseball Challenge in 2006, baseball is one of the few things that I’m not very good at that I’ve taken joy in doing.
  2. As a kid, I collected baseball cards.  My mother hated them, and they were always one step ahead of the trash man, especially during my college years, when my sister rescued them several times.  When I needed money to move West and start my career, I sold them to a collector.  The chain of events which currently has me working for Microsoft might not have started if my mother had succeeded in throwing away my baseball cards.
  3. One of the most rewarding experiences of my life was managing my sons’ Babe Ruth team for the final six games of their season, and two playoff games, in 2007.  After years as a board member and assistant coach, the boys made me look like a competent manager as the team went 5-1 to close the season.  We also discovered one of the boys, who had been adrift without a position for the whole season, was a natural pitcher.  The feeling I had when we looked into each other’s eyes and he and I both knew he could do it was indescribable.
  4. This is not the first lengthy baseball post I’ve written on what is ostensibly a technical blog.  This is.  It’s a pretty good story.
  5. As an unabashed fan of the underdog, I was a Yankee fan growing up.  What?  Bear in mind that as a child of 1960 who started paying attention in about 1966, the Yankees were in the midst of the longest period of sustained futility in their history (they won the Series when I was three, and again when I was 17), while the Amazin’ Mets won two World Series during that time.
  6. My parents took me to my first baseball game in 1968 at Shea Stadium.  At the time, they weren’t fans; furthermore, they couldn’t understand why I was far more interested in my surroundings than I was in the game.  I love them for going outside their comfort zone and taking me to the game, but it was a pretty frustrating experience.  Much of the memory is expunged.
  7. The next year, my father imposed on his colleague and friend John Burness to take me Yankee Stadium.  I accompanied a group of about eight adults.  We parked about a quarter mile from the Stadium and walked through a pretty dicey neighborhood.  As we bustled by the blue trash cans with the stylized Department of Sanitation logo, our friend Dorothy Siegel said, “it looks like they were expecting me.”  “Don’t get too excited,” John immediately quipped. “It probably means dog sh*t.”
    We got into the ballpark and took our seats.  Boog Powell up for the Orioles with a man on in the top of the first.  I craned my neck, hoping to find a hotdog vendor.  As I looked up the aisle with my back to the field, I heard a loud crack, and turned around just in time to see the ball drop over the short porch in right field.  2-0 Orioles, top of the first, and I missed it.  Final score?  2-0.  Yup.  In my futile quest for a tube steak, I missed the entire offensive output of the game.
  8. My first game at Safeco Field (August 1, 1999; Mariners against (yikes!) Orioles); also Zach’s first game.  He was a Mariners fan by the end of the summer, and thanks to him, I was too.  I’m still following them from Florida, despite the fact that they lost 101 games last year and the local team is the reigning league champion.
  9. I’ve been to the following stadia:
    • Shea Stadium, NYC (defunct)
    • Yankee Stadium, NYC (defunct)
    • Fenway Park, Boston
    • County Stadium, Milwaukee (defunct)
    • Busch Stadium, St. Louis (defunct)
    • Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
    • Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim, CA (not exactly defunct, but this was back even before it was remodeled for the L.A. Rams, and way before the “big A” fell over in the earthquake)
    • The Ballpark, Arlington, TX (I've frankly lost track of the name changes this place has gone through)
    • Enron Field, Houston (now Minute Maid Park; yes, I have a few Enron Field souvenirs)
    • Kingdome, Seattle (imploded)
    • Safeco Field, Seattle
      Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL will fall this year.
  10. How can Tropicana Field be a “field” if it has plastic turf and a fixed roof?  Questions like this bother me.
  11. It also bothers me that I’ve been to eleven major league ballparks in almost forty-nine years of life, and only five and a half of them are still standing.
  12. It bothers me even more that, in its crankiness and backwards-looking orientation, the previous item sounds frighteningly reminiscent of my maternal grandfather.
  13. I’ve attended one World Series game: Game 3, 1982, County Stadium, Brewers/Cardinals (so long ago, the Brewers were in the American League).  I had tickets to a Dan Fogelberg concert that night, but my boss’s uncle was the Cardinals’ team doctor(!), and he scored us tickets.  Fogelberg has sadly passed, and I never again held tickets for one of his concerts.  For what it’s worth, it was a great game, even though St. Louis won.
  14. I was born in St. Louis, so the Cardinals winning that game really wasn’t so bad.
  15. When I was in college, the city got a class A affiliate for the Oakland A’s, and the park two blocks from my apartment became home to the Madison Muskies.  I haven’t been able to find much history of the team and didn’t keep any myself, but I’d frequently walk down to the park and crash the gate by cutting through the woods.  Good times..
  16. I have a profound dislike for the work of Kevin Costner, yet he’s the lead in my two favorite baseball movies: Field of Dreams and Bull Durham.
  17. Baseball is a great teacher of irony.
  18. I’ve never caught a ball at a game.  The closest I came was a foul behind the plate that went from Kelvim Escobar’s hand to Ichiro’s bat to the meaty part of my left hand under the thumb, about an inch to the right of where it needed to be for me to catch it.  The guy sitting behind us picked it up.  My boys were not impressed.  They felt I should’ve had my glove on.  They might have had a point, especially since it was in my lap at the time.  The spin on the ball was otherworldly.  Regrets..  I’ve had a few..
  19. I love reading about baseball.  I learned to read through paperback baseball books and the sports pages.  This happy habit continues unabated to this day.  Latest joy:  Larry Stone’s new blog.
  20. After my father retired, my parents became baseball fans.. they were Yankee fans during the great Torre years.  In 2002, Gale and I gave them customized 100-year anniversary Yankees jerseys -- “Grand Dad” and “Granny B”.  When I walked into their cabin for the first time after my mom’s passing, her jersey was hanging over the back of her favorite chair.  Despite the recent changes in my fandom, I can’t bring myself to hate the Yankees.
  21. Mom and Dad lived in New Jersey and then split time between New Jersey and Vermont, so their adoption of the Yankees was somewhat natural.  Since Mom’s passing, Dad has moved to Vermont full-time (which makes a lot of sense to me) and adopted the Red Sox (which I am still struggling to understand).
  22. I am the once and future king of Red Sox jokes (the same way Dad was with New Jersey jokes before he went to work at Rutgers).  I lost a bet on the historic Yankees playoff collapse of 2003 and had to wear a Red Sox jersey during a night of billiards league.  I survived the humiliation, but barely.
  23. Another sign of my advancing age is that it is no longer accurate to state that the Red Sox will win a big game only so they can lose a bigger one.
  24. Peter Gammons may be a Red Sox fan, but I think he and Bill James (who’s currently not writing as much as he’s working for a living with..  wait for it..  the Red Sox) are the two greatest baseball writers of my lifetime.
  25. Baseball has bridged generations all through my family, as it has through so many others.  That’s why it’s the great American game.

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