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!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside- Think Warm-Think Earth Festival

It hasn’t been this cold in the Philadelphia region for about four years – and I don’t like it. Thinking about baseball might be where I normally wander off to – but this time, I’m thinking about April 27, 2013. The Cherry Hill Art Blooms Earth Festival Art Blooms Earth Day - Color - TEXT - Copytakes place at historic Croft Farm ( 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. – rain or shine). This is the fourth year Sustainable Cherry Hill is collaborating with Cherry Hill Township to put on this free event. We are also collaborating with the Cherry Hill School District to encourage as many of the district’s 17 schools – and any other schools throughout the South Jersey area – to participate. We’re welcoming creative art, science, math or any school project related to the earth and sustainability to be on display at the festival. The event is taking place rain or shine. We have an extremely creative media specialist – Ramona Bregatta – helping coordinate activities from within the schools. We’re talking about a fashion show with students wearing gently used clothing purchased on a budget at Goodwill or a store such as Plato’s EF2012_20120428_23 - CopyCloset (Maple Shade). Or perhaps a fashion show with clothing made from found items  – ‘Trashin’ Fashin’ was the title tossed around at our planning meeting.

We are welcoming ‘green crafters’ – artists who are making items that are from materials sourced locally – or at least in the USA; we welcome businesses that focus on sustainable or resource-saving practices. We’ll have a recycling area – still under discussion; our Gardening Task Force is working on its second EF2012_20120428_03 - Copyplant exchange that will be bigger this year; the township will bring in compost so people can pick up plants along with a few shovels of compost for the  garden. Springdale Farms is a return participant; Chimp Ade (benefits the Jane Goodall Foundation) and J-Dogs are scheduled to provide delicious – and healthy – food selections. It looks as though we will have a great moon bounce for the kids – always popular along with other activities that are family friendly which will go along with Mayor Chuck Cahn’s focus on the township’s wellness program.

EF2012_20120428_59 - CopyWe’ll have two entertainment stages with student groups performing throughout the day. Also, the local DG Band (easy listening) is scheduled to sing original tunes. All this happens as the township’s week-long Art Blooms event gets underway in the Croft Farm Art Center. Local and regional artists will have beautiful workEF2012_20120428_19 - Copys on display in competition and art-for-purchase.

To really warm everyone up and promote healthy and safe biking, the second Family Fun Bike Ride pedals off from Challenge Grove just across from Croft Farm at about 9 a.m. that morning. Sustainable Cherry Hill’s Way to Go Task Force is working with the township and police department on finalizing the route. It will be an easy ride to encourage all ages to participate.

If you are in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area and want to keep up with the plans for the Art Blooms Earth Festival, April 27th, go to www.sustainablecherryhill.org and click on ‘Earth Festival.’ You can also send in the information form below and I will send you information if you are interested in being a vendor, green crafter, food vendor, student entertainment group or you have a display appropriate for the family-friendly earth festival.

EF2012_20120428_99 - CopyAnd…since Sustainable Cherry Hill is a 501C3 non-profit organization and any funds we raise goes back into education and outreach, we are welcoming sponsors for our event. I can also send you the information about that when you fill out the contact form.

As I write this, I can feel the warm, power of the sun that (hopefully) will be shining on that Saturday. We have a lot of planning to do – and it’s so exciting to be part of this engaging – and free event that brings several thousand people out to historic Croft Farm.

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!

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.

It’s Really January

I’ve  always loved the smell of laundry dried outside in the fresh air. Here in the Delaware Valley, we have enjoyed a January warm up. Except for the holiday lights, the outdoor decorations are down. This morning I hung out the laundry to dry and not burn up the gas and electric bill by running the clothes dryer. We got another $400-plus electric/gas bill today, so drying the laundry outside is yet another way to save.

It’s great to see how the neighborhood comes out of hibernation when the days warm up, even if it’s only temporary. Moms and dads push their little ones in strollers. The neighbors across the street (who have three young kids) come outside and rake up the winter debris while the kids get out their bikes. Our neighborhood guy I affectionately call “golf club guy” does his evening walk in the warmer weather. (He walks with a golf club in his hand – always.)

Since my husband is out of the country on business, he has missed this respite from winter. Good thing, since I truly believe he would want to fire up the boat or at least start cleaning it. For now, we have enjoyed sunshine and 50 degree weather. Sunday – rain and January gloom is back.