The Crack of the Bat

As the wind chill makes it feel like the 20s and below, it’s the glow of sunshine that reminds me of a sign of spring: pitchers Clearwater3and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida. The 2013 season rises anew with hopes of good health and lots of ‘Ws’ to cheer about.

Baseball is a fickle game; success comes down to the health of your best pitcher or slugger. Every team balances that hope against the odds. During the Phillies best year in decades, 2008, I went to spring training on vacation; my son got to be bat boy for a day; I got to announce the pre-game show and line up on Mother’s Day and then the amazing season that followed happened mainly because – nearly every key player was healthy. It was a dream come true. Boys and girls, including my Clearwater_20080325_47son,  grew up knowing the Phillies only as winners. It seems the struggles began after the last of the confetti was cleaned up from the World Series parade in 2008.

This year, the roster includes the key – but aging- players we’ve come to depend on: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Already, we know Chooch is out for 25 games for the Adderall suspension. That leaves the team depending on Eric Kratz.

We know there are questions surrounding the health of Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay’s shoulder – not to mention Michael Stutes and his shoulder. While the warmth of Clearwater can be therapeutic, all that can be a waste when it comes to playing baseball in  Philadelphia in April.

Almost like a marriage, I am a Phillies fan in good times and bad. Just like a marriage, you enjoy the game more when things are going your way – but it’s a joy to see the boys of summer back in action. Spring is coming here in the cold north – but summer begins today in Clearwater. Go Phils!

Why is summer so short?

Just before July 4th and a few weeks after Labor Day, we bask in a time that should be filled with moments we remember for a lifetime. There are vacations we plan for months and day trips and weekends to spend with friends and family. It all goes so very fast.

It seems that July 4th to Labor Day passes by in a flash. The Haddonfield July 4th parade is like many small-town parades: the little ones decorate their bicycles with red, white and blue streamers, the string band plays, the classic cars bring up the rear of this parade and many neighbors get together to present themed displays. The best this year was the Roberts Avenue group. About 20 people were dressed as zombies and did a well-choreographed dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The float behind the dancers was a makeshift graveyard with a large tombstone announcing’ 2012 Phillies – RIP.” Sad, but true.

Now is the time when I wish time would just slow down. There are a lot of boating days on the Chesapeake, sailing days off Brigantine and a mini-vacation to enjoy. In a blink, Adam will be packing up for Widener and summers may never be the same. But there are many more summers to enjoy in different ways; there are still so many places to discover and enjoy! Bring it on.

So Little Time

Do you wonder every day where the time goes? You look forward to days off, vacations, family & friend events. You celebrate every occasion and holiday. You hug friends and family. But is it ever really enough? Do we ever really have enough time to appreciate our lives and what we have?

While I have not worked at KYW Newsradio since the end of 2000, I have remained friends with many of my former colleagues. We talk, have a lunch, share an email and from a distance, I have appreciated the people who I spent 15 years of my life with. In the past year, sadness has struck that newsroom in a profound way. I cannot imagine what it has been like to cover news on a day-to-day basis and experience behind the scenes what has been going on in that news family. Two former colleagues lost their spouses. One of those colleagues also lost her mother within a day of losing her husband; the other had recently lost his brother before his wife died. Another former colleague died of cancer. Then this week, two former Newsradio colleagues died in the same week. Karin Phillips at the age of 53 and last night, Jack O’Rourke at the age of 80.

The death of Jack has sealed in me a sadness that is one of those defining moments: I am getting older. Yes, Jack was 80, but he had no intention of retiring. He loved the Phillies. He covered them with a reporter’s enthusiasm. Jack did the stories straight, but you can’t cover a sport for as long as Jack has without loving the game. I was at a game in late June. Our seats in the Hall of Fame Club led us to walk just under the press box that night. I looked up at the box and saw Jack. I yelled to him. He popped right over to the open area and leaned down to grab my hand. We held hands for a bit while we talked about how we were doing. He was glad to see me with my husband. When Jack would ask, “How are you doing?” – he really wanted to know. Jack cared about people. There have always been stories from Jack about his children and grandchildren. He has great-grandchildren now. How they will miss their pop-pop.

Jack was a consummate professional. He hated it when people used foul language. Frankly, a news room can be a room filled with toilet mouths. Jack would toss a disapproving look toward people who used foul language. He was always a class act.

Last night in my section 134 seats at the ball park, a foul ball floated up toward the press box. My eye left the ball because I spotted Jack at his post. He was standing at that particular moment. I thought at the time how I admired him for loving his job – and the game – so much to be sticking with his job for so long.

I remember asking him that June night if he’d be working down at spring training one more season. He shrugged. I know he’ll be in that Field of Dreams – reporting on the balls and strikes; the wins and losses. We have lost a great soul – If that Field of Dreams in Iowa is heaven – I know Jack is there.

Field of Dreams

Adam enjoys opening day vs. Astros

There are little baseball lovers out there who know nothing of the pain and suffering of long-time Phillies fans. These 10 and under children see our boys of summer as champions. They have scratched and clawed; won a World Series and NL East titles. They’ve been going to the ballgames with their parents and grandparents only since Citizens Bank Park has been around. They never had the joy of climbing into  the 63,000-seat Veterans Stadium with maybe 20,000 fans echoing off the concrete that molded the stadium.

No, these young ones are so incredibly lucky. They sit in an outstanding ballpark with their families and friends. They cheer every player – the starting rotation; the “big guy;” Raaauuulll; Chooch; and now even the fill ins for Utley – Valdez and Martinez. The ballpark food is terrific (if

Opening day F-15 flyover using biodiesel fuel

still too expensive). There are healthy choices so you don’t leave the ballpark feeling as though you need to de-tox. (I enjoyed a tasty turkey burger on whole-grain bun with salsa & guacamole.)

Here’s the thing: While the Phils pulled out a 9th inning win in game one over Houston, then two decisive wins to sweep the opening series, we are going to have some tough days; NO doubt about it. Will we see the sports writers and sports-talk loudmouths go into their see- I-told-you-they’d-screw-up mode or will cooler heads prevail realizing that 162 games ebbs and flows; injuries happen, then heal; players are traded and managers sometimes mess up?

Stretching before the first pitch

For me, going to the ballpark is a vacation. This is my field of dreams – the place where  the day’s work and frustrations, the trials and tribulations of life, are set aside. I cheer the great plays; watch the scores from the other games underway; marvel in that new jumbotron; wonder HOW the umpire couldn’t call that slider a strike – then cheer a great call on a Jimmy Rollins steal to second.

It would be great to see more loyal fans than those fair-weather fans who seem to enjoy pouncing on the Phils when they’re down. It would be wonderful to get through a season without more injuries that are already sidelining Chase Utley, Brad Lidge and Domonic Brown. But oh, what we have to look forward to: 159 more games – yes, some losses, yes, some nail-biters, yes, some winning and losing streaks. But, stick with them; revel in the sport that starts on a snowy, cold day and ends in the cool of autumn. Whether you are watching from the comfort of your favorite chair, listening to the radio while you wash the car or are lucky enough to be sitting with 45,000 other fans, this is our game, our team our pride.

Go Phils!

The Best Sound Bites

Summer is traditionally a slow news period. Sure, there are the typical flash thunderstorms that wreak havoc in neighborhoods causing unfortunate damage and injuries, but there have been so many times when producers and editors end up scratching their heads as they ponder the old adage: when in doubt, lead with the weather.

This summer has been dominated by the BP spill cleanup and the fall out for the gulf region as well as the corporate world and the government. Locally in Philadelphia, corruption and sports always top people’s minds and two sound bites have occurred in the past 24 hours that warrant some notice.

Three police officers found themselves at a routine tripped alarm call near Pat’s Cafe in lower northeast Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood. Locals recall that the taproom was the site of  the killing of Officer Gary Skerski during a robbery in 2006. This week, officers were called to Pat’s when an alarm at a neighboring business went off in the middle of the night. Pat’s was closed at the time, but apparently a door at Pat’s and the safe were open. While two uniformed officers were doing the right thing at Pat’s and trying to track down the owner (all caught on surveillance tape), the third officer helped himself to $825 in the safe (also caught on videotape).

At a news conference four days after the corrupt act, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey help a news conference where he announced the cop with sticky fingers would be suspended with intent to dismiss in 30 days. It was during this news conference, Ramsey had one of the greatest sound bites I have ever heard:

“The police badge is a symbol of public trust and authority; it’s meant to cover your chest – not your butt.”

Outstanding! You will see and hear that bite all over the local news. Whether Ramsey came up with that nugget on his own or his crack PR staff word-smithed it, doesn’t matter. It’s short, sweet and is outrageously effective in getting the point across: Ramsey and the department won’t tolerate corrupt  cops.

The other great sound bite came from the just-traded Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ. He was the lead player traded by the Phillies in the deal with the Astros to get pitching ace Roy Oswalt. Happ had an emotional afternoon Thursday, saying goodbye to the teammates he won a World Series with and the 2009 National League East Championship (quite a resume for this young pitcher who still has much growing to do). In his post-trade news conference, he showed superb class and smarts as he said, “Baseball doesn’t wait for anybody. I have to turn the page.”

These are the type of sound bites that you can’t make up. But either through keen reporter questions and having a conversation with the newsmaker rather than worrying about getting good sound bites, these sound bites happen naturally.

The Crack of the Bat

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The sound of the bat connecting with a home run ball is like no other. The POP is clear and definitive; the ball is saying, “You did the work, now I’m flying OUTTA HERE!” Ryan Howard connected for a two run blast to the opposite field during the exhibition game opening the 2010 season at Citizens Bank Park. The ball sailed high and long landing well into the crowd in section 144.

Up until that home run, we saw Placido Polanco (welcome back!) slam a double to center. Jimmy Rollins started the game with a double. Later, Kyle Kendrick (getting his chance to start during the season) slammed a double to left shocking Pittsburgh.  Oh my, it’s time for Phillies baseball. Our section buddies in 134, Janet, Roger, John, Betsy and a few others were all like kids at their very first game. Being back at the ballpark after such a rough winter with snow up to our ears, is so rejuvenating. My son and I cheered every hit, reveled in strikeouts, got mildly annoyed when Cole Hamels lost his mojo for a moment and gave up three runs on five hits. No matter – it’s a 162 game season – 81 games at home; I’ll be there for about 15 of them and watching or listening to most of the other games.

After the last two seasons, Phillies baseball has brought out the best in the sport when it comes to family and friends. Seeing dads and young sons sitting together with their gloves ready to catch that wayward foul and moms dressing their new babies in teeny-tiny Phillies outfits and watching the seniors who’ve been coming to games since before Veterans Stadium, 43,000 + people will gather for 81 games at the ballpark; we’ll win – we’ll lose. But just like that unmistakable sound that home run ball makes coming off the bat, people will revel in another Phillies season.

“Field of Dreams” –

Ray, people will come, Ray… They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces..The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

Finding the Lead

We were buried in snow. That’s my excuse for disappearing from the blogosphere for a while. Really, my mind has been a jumble of topics, some of which I’ll recap. First, we’re much closer to opening day. Baseball, I mean. I snagged two tickets to the Phillies home opener April 12 which my son has been longing for, so I obliged. I just hope we don’t have a resurgence of winter and we’re sitting in our ballpark seats with blankets, hats, scarves, gloves and the like and end up forking out big bucks for a couple of cups of hot chocolate.

As I watched the first two televised Grapefruit League games from Clearwater and Kissimmee, FL, I couldn’t help but wonder how the final lineup will be cemented in the next few weeks. One of the Atlanta Braves commentators during last night’s game commented that the Phillies lineup right now is so solid, that if a player has a shirt number in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s, they could be stuck in the Phillies minor league system for a long time. One of those guys batting last night looked younger than the ball boy – or is that just me seeing time march on?

With spring fast approaching, it’s been terrific to be outside with just a light jacket. I gave the interior of my car a fabulous cleaning the other day, but had to go to the neighborhood car wash to clean the exterior. My husband is sure (and I agree) that turning on the hose faucets would ensure a deep freeze followed by the chance of a bursting pipe. I do love washing my car in the driveway with the portable radio tuned to Phillies baseball. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s sort of like when I’m at the gym. I absolutely have to have something on the TV when I’m doing cardio. These days I’ll watch the Today Show for a while, then flip to Bravo where episodes of The West Wing run from 8-9 a.m. Before I know it, 50 minutes have ticked by as I sweated on the elliptical.

Finally, my son and his room have been bothering me. You can tell me until the cows come home that it’s normal for a 15-year-old to shove things under his bed (including his one and only dress shirt) and continually put all the stuff he should put away on the other side of his bed (not easily seen from the hallway). But I’ll never understand why at some point, the mood doesn’t strike him to straighten things up. We have tried NOT saying anything; we’ve nagged him; we’ve fallen somewhere in the middle and still, he lives in what becomes a pig pen over time. Yuck. Sometimes I think we should remove all furniture and let him live on the carpet. I think he’d be OK with that.

We See the Light

We’re getting close to turning the corner in this ferocious winter. I feel it in my bones. Daylight is still hanging on after 5:45 p.m. Woo-hoo!  Pitchers and catchers reported last week (there was definitely some extra pep in my step) and full squad practices are getting underway in Clearwater.

The more than 30 inches of snow from the past few weeks is melting away. Isn’t that huge, gray glob of mess at every corner and in every parking lot disgusting? My son said he wants to start a pool – choose a mound of snow and choose a date when you think the last of that stuff will be gone. I suggested if he does start a pool, any proceeds should go to charity (never say I promoted gambling). Now, the highways are opening up with those craters we un-affectionately call potholes. The contracting and expanding of the roadway, plus the plowing, the salt and sand and pooling of water all leads to these craters that shake our vehicles down to the frame. Why is it that we have a hard time spotting those things before our tire mercilessly goes “splat” into oblivion? Part of the problem is staying out of the way of every other driver who is trying to avoid hitting the pothole that you will hit while you stay out of their way.

Meantime, a brilliant site is blooming on our kitchen window sill. An Amaryllis given to us a couple of years ago sprouted from a seemingly barren pot of soil into this gorgeous, off-pink bloom. Today, we have three blooms on the plant. I know the blooms won’t last a week, but it sure is lovely to see. What actually worked with getting this plant to bloom started last fall. I read somewhere to lay the plant on its side outside and don’t water it. I brought the plant in a few weeks later. It clearly didn’t bloom in time for Christmas, but at this point in winter, I’m appreciating the effort this plant needs!

The cardinals around our house have been foraging for food. I was on the phone in my home office this afternoon and saw another gorgeous sight. A bright, red cardinal landed at the top of the pear tree outside my window and was pecking away at the buds that sprouted in the past few days. The contrast between the grayness of the area and this scarlet bird was stunning.

For now, we cope with whatever winter has left for us. We can dream of spring and vegetable gardens, the far off summer vacation being planned and, yes, ladies and gentleman, for me, baseball.

Connections

You have to believe in networking. A long-planned meeting with the executive director of Sustainable Cherry Hill took place today at a local eatery. We got tons done in under 90 minutes. As we sat there at the table by the window, a woman who I’ve admired professionally for years walked by. She was coming in with her husband for some lunch. I approached the two of them and let her know I’d love to do work with her and her organization. She seemed enthusiastic about being in touch on that.

Just when you think no one is listening, I get a LinkedIn message from someone who I hoped to do business with. Film at 11.

I still have these ideas I need to formulate about connecting my business communications class and/or creating a new class.. to sustainable programs between Rutgers-Camden students and non-profits trying to make inroads in the city of Camden. More ideas forumlate each day. I’m starting to write them down.

Meantime, our Phillies ballpark seat buddies are connecting with us for dinner in Philly in February. It’ll be totally strange to see them in something other than a Phillies shirt, not to mention seeing them in winter.

OK, so this was a stream of conscience kind of writing day, but there’s lots to be done. Sleep is needed.

Good night.

Deja vu all over again

When you become a grown up you always say, ” I’ll never be like my mom.” Guess what, we’re all just like our parents, but perhaps a little improved. My son got his first job today. It seems as though no time has passed since my dad came home one day telling me I could go down to Burger Chef; he’d paved the way for my first job after talking with the owner he knew at the time.

The other night, I attended Sustainable Cherry Hill’s (SCH)”Green Drinks” night at P.J. Whelihan’s. SCH (www.sustainablecherryhill.org) is a wonderful group of people working on many different fronts to make our community less dependent and abusive to the land, air and water. Among the board members is Chef Joe Palumbo, who owns Mirabella Cafe and also founded SJ Green Restaurants. In conversation with Joe, I mentioned my son looking for work, and Joe told me to have my son call. Two days later, Adam was hired by Joe to be a bus boy. So, just as my father did, I recycled the same support for my child. Adam now has to do the work and try not to spill water on anyone. Joe’s a great guy, and I have confidence he’ll train my son well and Adam will grow into himself through this first work experience.

Despite the Phillies coming in second to the Yankees this week, it’s been a good start to November. Business is good; the clients are happy (so far) and paying (very nice) and I feel very healthy having kicked my own butt at the gym this week and gotten my H1N1 shot at Rutgers. Now if only the Septa strike would settle. I keep thinking about all the moms, dads, students, and other Philadelphia-area citizens who are having to extend their already exhausting days to walk, bike, carpool (which they should anyway) and spend lots more money packing themselves into Septa trains. Has anyone heard anyone support the union right now? I’ve heard many people say, “They’re lucky they HAVE a job.” So true.

For now, the remaining leaves will pile up in the yard, Thanksgiving will be knocking and the cold will settle in. Since we bought the power boat, Doug is really looking toward the first warm weather we get in 2010 to launch “Mid Life Cri-seas” (still an unofficial name). We’ll see how Adam’s first job goes as he learns to juggle school, work and activities. Wasn’t he just spitting up on my shoulder a few days ago??