Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gazing at the Stars

Today’s post is a bit of a fluff piece, but I hope it is something you enjoy thinking about.

Aside from a Bradley Cooper (Hangover, He’s Just Not That in to You) sighting, there are few movie stars or musical artists that would cause me to hyperventilate. I met Gavin Rossdale at a Bush concert in Norman once, and I immediately was dragging him over to meet my friends…leaving him astonished at my boldness. However, if you put me within 50 feet of one of my favorite athletes I can barely speak.

This week the Twins, my favorite baseball team, were in Arlington for a four game series with the Rangers. I had really great seats each night. Thursday I ran down to the dugout right after the last pitch of the 6-4 Twins win. Being that close to Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel sent me into a frenzy! Why are we so fascinated by athletes? Is it that their autograph holds a certain dollar value? Is it that we can brag about meeting them, if we are so lucky? Or is it that they are living the dream of playing a sport we love, and are so successful at it? I’m guessing it is a combination of reasons. I am so passionate about the Twins. Their victories are my victories. Joe Mauer is integral to that success, therefore, I am in awe of him. I would love to visit with him about baseball, but just to see him is exciting. In May I was able to attend the Crowne Plaza Invitational at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. While waiting on a friend I was blessed to find Ian Poulter standing right in front of me after finishing the 18th green. My hand shook and my voice quivered as I held up a paper fan for him to sign. I didn’t come down from that high for days! He is my favorite golfer. Thankfully I poised myself well enough to talk hockey with Stewart Cink when he came through. You better believe I told everyone I knew about our small chat and about the tweet he sent out for me that evening.

So what athletes would leave you star struck? Who would you chose to have over for dinner? What experiences do you have to share? By all means, open up the discussions…an encounter isn’t much if you don’t tell your friends and an autograph is worth far more displayed in your home or office than what it would bring on eBay.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

For Love Of The Diamond

This is the inagural season for Target Field, home to my favorite baseball team the Minnesota Twins. I have been jealous of each friend who has sat in attendence, though I know someday my time will come. Listen up, the Twins aren’t the only baseball team in the Twin Cities to have earned a little piece of my baseball heart. A mere 14 miles from Target Field is Midway Stadium. Built in 1982 and holding 6,000 seats, Midway has averaged 98% capacity for all regular season games played. Welcome to St. Paul Saints Baseball. I would say it is a lil slice of Heaven, but that would be pretty lame. The Saints are members of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Listen to a radio broadcast and you will know their most loyal sponsor is the local Catholic church, and the Saints’ spot-on, hard-working an loyal “clubbie’, Luka, is sometimes paid in drinks and burgers. Sceptical? Asking who wants to watch independent ball? I hear ya. However, this former home to MLB stars such as Darryl Strawberry and J.D. Drew, has locally televised every home game in the team’s history…and NO OTHER professional baseball team can claim that. Once you get a feel for this charming team, you can’t help but root for them. Guys that are playing purely for the passion and dreams of baseball, just hoping for a shot. Some are leaving behind wives and children states away, and some are barely old enough to drink on the bus! Then a few are…well…pretty dang amazing. First baseman/designated hitter Ole Sheldon, number 23, serves as the Ortiz, Howard, Pujols of the group. Batting a modest .273 for the season, he leads the Saints with 17 home runs, nine being the next best. Sheldon has a team high 311 at-bats resulting in 65 R.B.I. (runs-batted- in) and 85 hits. Now this may not catch your eye, but with a batting stance that will raise an eyebrow and a record number of um…adjustments per game, Sheldon deserves a shout out.
I have never known someone to be more screwed over at work and complain so little as Sheldon. For years, work ethic, determination, talent, personality and patience were not enough to overcome the politics of an Astros organization ridden with blind eyes. Told he could never hit home runs, Sheldon now sticks his bat up to the Astros and continues to pull long balls. Sometimes guys are in the right club at the right time and move up quick, sometimes guys are just more talented and sometimes you just have to pick up and keep swinging…whever you end up. Go Saints! (Thanks to Luka for my really sweet hat!)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sports Sprinkles

Tiger Woods: The Ultimate Disappointment
Tiger may still be the #1 golfer in the world, but that is not the litmus test here…and that ranking may not last long anyway. I don’t usually look at someone not even ranked in the top 100 in FedEx Cup points (points system for PGA-Woods 111th) and one who has lost his automatic qualification for the Ryder Cup , (Championship held between USA and European PGA Tour Pros every two years) as the world’s top golfer. Tiger fans are at the end of their rope, and Tiger “haters”, such as myself, are just about fed up with his slump as well. I mean…what’s to hate these days? This week Woods is playing in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. He has won this tournament seven times, three times since 2006. Thursday Woods scored his all-time worst at Bridgestone and is currently tied for 75th place at six over par. On May, 2, 2010 Tiger missed the cut at Quail Hollow. The phrase “missed the cut” and the name Tiger Woods in the same utterance? Wood’s best showings in 2010 have only landed him tied for fourth at the Masters and the U. S. Open Championship. Will the real Tiger Woods please step up?
Apathetic to A-Rod
Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees, became the youngest slugger in history to reach the 600 home run mark on Wednesday. The hit came against Toronto Jays’ Shaun Marcum in the 1st inning in New York. Have you noticed anyone getting really excited, or talking about this historic feat? Know anyone who was on the edge of their seat for the 13 games and 47 at bats in between 599 and 600? Doubtful. The only media coverage you will see is about how most passionate baseball fans are unimpressed with A-Rod’s membership into the 600 club due to his link with steroids. Rodriguez joins Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. in this elite club. As you can see, this list of names wasn’t clean prior to A-Rod (Bonds, Sosa.) A-Rod’s comment? “I’m at peace with my game and I’m at peace with myself.” Good thing someone is!
Lance Armstrong is being investigated by a Federal Grand Jury on his possible use of performance enhancing drugs. The seven-time Tour de France winner has never failed a drug test, however, fellow teammates from the U.S Postal Cycling Team have said Armstrong encouraged the illegal use. No shock there…he has been accused for years now. After years of false claims of innocence by numerous professional athletes, I just assume anyone linked to steroid use is guilty. I think most people do. Two things stand out about the Lance Armstrong case, though. Armstrong has teamed with Nike to produce the enormously popular and successful LIVESTRONG brand to raise money for cancer. A revelation of guilt would make Armstrong, a cancer survivor and inspiration to many, the biggest liar and scumbag in sport…ever. Second, that would not stop the majority from still admiring and supporting him. Obviously…this is not baseball. In baseball, tradition and statistics are sacred. In cycling…well how many actual cycling fans do you know? Chances are even they don’t care about this outcome.