Baseball Photos with a Bit of Context

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I’m missing baseball. Part of the renewal of Spring, for me anyway, is the thought that hope springs eternal, that I no longer have to wait until next year because it is next year, and that the ivy in Wrigley Field will soon be green.

I’ve found many socially distant’d folks are feeling similarly to me as I see on social media the request to post a baseball photo with no explanation. But as happened with the list of bands you’ve seen from A-Z post, this is leading me to another writing prompt. So how about some pictures of some personal baseball artifacts with some explanation.

I think I’ll stick to “first gloves” here, though I could provide you the lineage of my fielding and catcher’s gloves, as well as my bats, from my first to my last if needed. Unfortunately with the bats, there were some wooden ones that did not make it, and some old aluminum ones that I would bet are still in my parent’s garage (or may have been sold in garage sales some time ago).

As I’ve been casting my thoughts back, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many happy memories I have related to baseball in general and these things in particular. I was blessed to have a Dad who played uncountable, endless games of catch with me, as well as threw uncountable, endless batting practice to me – just as often out of baseball season as in baseball season. That said, I’ll do my best to keep this from getting sappy. Onward, then.

MY FIRST FIELDER’S GLOVE

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My real first glove was most likely one of my Dad’s or my older brother’s hand-me-downs. I remember it being a light tan Rawlings, and I’m pretty sure it was not an autographed model. I didn’t like how it was broken in, and it was stiff. I’m guessing we weren’t yet familiar with glove oil and/or the use of shaving cream to soften up and condition a glove at that point in time.

I remember my Dad had this great Mizuno glove he used when he played in a softball league that was soft, flexible and broken in perfectly at the hinge. It was almost evenly balanced from one side to the other, right down the middle of the palm, which made it great for softball (or the outfield). I wanted something like that. I guess I had no intention of playing middle infield from the start.

Did I mention I was 7 when I got my first glove? Yes, I was 7, which means the above emanates from pre-7 year old memories. Baseball is a powerful thing, and one’s preferences for how a glove should be broken in were set in place very early on.

The first glove that was specifically mine was a Wilson Ron Guidry model. I’m right handed, so why Wilson made this model with the left handed Louisiana Lightning’s name in it, I’m not sure. I got this glove for Christmas when I was 7 years old. It was the Christmas before my first season of organized baseball, what was called Pee Wee League in my hometown of Robinson, IL. I did my best to break it in like Dad’s glove.

I used it until I was 12 I think, my last year of Little League. By the time I got a new glove, my Ron Guidry Wilson had one thin strip of leather covering my palm. I had literally worn a hole on the inside of the glove.

As I said, I won’t go into details on the full lineage of my glove’s, but you should know the next fielder’s glove I got was a bust, don’t even want to discuss it. But then I found a black Franklin glove at McMillan’s Sporting Goods in Terre Haute, IN. I think I was 14. You will be happy to know I was able to break that one in almost exactly like my Dad’s Mizuno.

MY FIRST CATCHER’S GLOVE

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In Robinson, IL where I grew up, “back in my day” organized baseball started at the age of 7. Right from the start, I knew I wanted to be a catcher. This was 1982, a year before Johnny Bench retired. I thought Johnny Bench was THE best catcher ever (I would still start him on my all-time team, and most likely hit him in the 4 or 5 hole – a topic for another day), so I wanted to wear #5 and be Johnny Bench (In later years and due to liking Mike Singletary in football, I preferred #50 as it nodded to Johnny Bench as well).

A short aside to ensure it is clear that my Cubs’ roots run deep. That is meant as no disrespect to Jody Davis. While I do firmly believe Harry Caray was right, that Jody Davis was, indeed, “Catcher without a fear”, he was no Johnny Bench. And I never came across a signed Jody Davis model catcher’s glove. At least not in Tresslers department store in Robinson, IL in the early ’80s. Back to the nub of it.

I got this beauty – a Rawlings Johnny Bench model – for Christmas. It traveled with me through two years of pre-Little League, Little League, Babe Ruth, JV and varsity high school baseball. All told, I think it was a good 10 years. The two piece pocket proved a challenge as I got older and guys I caught could bring some good heat. I can’t count the times it was broken or stretched to the point of a ball coming through and hitting me in the mask. I bought another catcher’s glove when I was 15 or 16 because of this (it was a Mizuno as I always wanted one since my Dad had that one I mentioned before), but the Johnny Bench model stayed in my bag and would often make appearances in game play until my last game as a high school senior.

 

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My Favorite Live Shows Seen with My Son

I’ve completed the social media challenge to name bands from A-Z whose concerts I’ve attended. I was a bit weak toward the end of the alphabet and didn’t double (or triple or quadruple) up on any particular letter. I enjoyed it, as I have a few of the other shelter-in-place/quarantine social media challenges. But it got me thinking.

Since my now 19 year old son was 10 years old, when I think of going to see a show, I always think of going with him first. At the age of 9, my son became very interested in music. It was an assignment in 3rd grade that started it all – write an essay about a famous American. He chose Elvis. So starting with that essay, he began working his way backwards and forwards through blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, rock and roll, classical, true country and western and pretty much every genre in between. (At the end of his 3rd grade school year, we moved back to Austin, TX. He asked, “Since we’re moving back to Austin, can I learn to play the guitar?”) It has been a joy to see him grow in his passion, and he is now majoring in Classical Guitar and Music Composition in college.

We have talked of music and experienced music a lot over the past 10 years. He has, probably unbeknownst to him, taught me a great deal about artists and genres I had a passing preference for that he has made me appreciate much more deeply.

So when I think of going to see a show or hear about a new record or someone touring, he is the first person I text or call about it. We’ve been able to see some great shows together, and, thus, the A-Z bands you’ve seen live challenge has led to this. Here we go – some of the best shows I’ve seen with my son.

ACL 2010

His first real “show”, and as we lived in Austin, what better way to start. I think it was while watching The Black Keys or maybe Spoon when I got the question from my then 10 year old son, “What’s that smell?” And he never had to ask at any subsequent show…

BUDDY GUY / JOHNNY LANG – THE MOODY THEATER / ACL LIVE

This was either for his 11th or 12th birthday. He got interested in the blues very early on. I think Buddy was 75 years old at the time, but still was walking through the crowd and had a ton of energy.

BB KING – THE PARAMOUNT – AUSTIN, TX

I think he was 12 or 13. What a band BB had supporting him. This was definitely an Austin performance as Jimmy Vaughn came out and played a couple songs with him. Also the first show where he saw a fight (at a BB King show!) – people began pushing and shoving at the end of the show because BB stayed on stage throwing out guitar picks.

PIXIES – THE AUSTIN MUSIC HALL (may it rest in peace)

I think he was 12 or 13. Right before this show, he had played a show at Darwin’s Pub on 6th Street through a program called Garage Band. This may be one that I forced on him. We missed the original lineup. As I recall, Kim had just left (again?) to re-start up the Breeders. Was still a good show…

HERBIE HANCOCK & WAYNE SHORTER – BASS CONCERT HALL – AUSTIN, TX

I think he was 15 or 16. While he has many, many favorites, I think if he could have seen all of the iterations of Miles Davis’ bands, he would have. So this show he was very excited about. And they did not disappoint.

WILLIE NELSON’S 4TH OF JULY PICNIC – CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS – AUSTIN, TX

This was our most recent show together this past 4th of July. We got there early, and we stayed for the whole thing – from David Allan Coe at 1130a until Willie shut it down a bit after midnight. For a dad about to have his son go away to school, it was an amazing time. And to make it a true, late night Texas experience, we hit Whataburger at around 130a.

 

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(Maybe the) Best Live Show I Ever Saw

I think the social distancing/shelter at home phenomenon has me thinking a lot about things you can do in large groups of people…

A couple of days ago, my son (he’s a freshman Music Composition major at the University of North Texas – proud father moment and has some relevance to the following) mentioned that one of his favorite podcasts, Your Favorite Band Sucks, had just posted a new episode featuring Arcade Fire. I think the title of the podcast says it all in terms of the treatment that can be assumed for any band falling into their cross hairs.

My son truly enjoys and listens to a very wide swath of music. To do what he intends to do with his life, he must. However, there are a few things for which he does not care, or within which he has very specific tastes. Commercially popular country music of the last two to three decades (really, who can blame him on that – he may have had some help from an early age on forming that opinion). Most of the music of the ’90’s (having not lived through it, I think he may allow nu metal, pop punk and the overly whiny shoegaze bands to influence his opinion on that too much). And this third thing is my interpretation, but pertinent to this post – bands that have too much pretense or take themselves too seriously without a relevant reason to do so or to the detriment of the actual music made. To wit, The Red Headed Stranger is a great concept album and worthy of a Broadway adaptation. American Idiot is not.

That last reason is why I think he was happy to hear Arcade Fire would be skewered on Your Favorite Band Sucks.

By no means am I an Arcade Fire fan. Last I saw or listened to them they were on SNL promoting their Reflektor album in 2013. As can be the case, where a band starts and where they progress to tends to be divisive. Of their work, there are two albums I enjoy. Reflektor was not one of them, and I lost interest.

But I was lucky enough to see them live at the Stubb’s BBQ Waller Creek Amphitheater in Austin, TX in 2005 as they toured on their first album, Funeral. That album is in my top 10 favorites of all time. The pure energy and joy of their performance was everything you would want from a show. Back then, there was no pretense, no concept to thrust ahead of the music, no slick production. It was an intimate outdoor venue on a lovely Central Texas evening. The music and their performance was enough. Just a group of people come together enjoying themselves which translated to an audience that was joyous.

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Career Pivot

Kentucky - Barrels & Amps, Georgetown, TXPhoto: Barrels & Amps in Georgetown, TX

Back in September of last year, I began as Plant Manager at Framebridge in Richmond, KY. I run the day-to-day production operations as well as planning and implementation for the production operations’ organizational development. For me, this was an opportunity I could not pass up. It allows me to work directly for and with someone in which I have utmost respect and trust, and at a company with aggressive goals that is grounded in a strong vision and core values.

So why the pivot?

Before my role as VP of Marketing at Ranch Hand, I spent four years doing what amounted to business consulting through the lens of Customer Journey work. This showed me the importance in the alignment between Go-to-Market strategy and Operational Excellence. Practically every project demonstrated a qualitative and quantitative need to change the way the business operated based on what Customers want and need.

My time at Ranch Hand allowed me to get directly and deeply engaged in being a part of connecting those two things. In the process, I was able to learn the philosophy, concepts and tools of Lean. Lean has given me a common sense-based tool set to connect previously disparate concepts into workable ideas and actions.

And, thus, a career pivot into Operations occurred.

I’ve always enjoyed creating ways that allow people to work better together. It doesn’t matter if the thing being made is content by a team of creative types, code that empowers bits and bytes of information to flow from and to where it needs to go, components or finished goods that comprise a business-to-business or consumer product, or a custom frame to encase an autographed jersey or some other treasured memory.

While I will grant it can help to have a bit more technical knowledge in some industries and verticals, my years of experience show that a large amount of general curiosity, an interest in helping people succeed, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get in the midst of the work while continually looking for a better way to connect dots can get you where you need to be in most industries pretty quickly.

My background in Marketing, Communications and Media certainly helps in understanding and articulating the value proposition from the perspective of the Customer. Perhaps most importantly, my background taught me the value in the perspective of what I think is the most powerful component of any brand:  the people making the product or creating the experience on behalf of your Customer.

 

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Confirm (don’t just check for) Understanding

stupidest question

I have no fear of asking “stupid questions.” In fact, I’m that guy who leads with, “This may be a stupid question, but…”

If I do not understand something or if I look around a room after something is said and see this…

so confused…and no one else, especially the speaker, feels compelled to confirm understanding, I just do it.

Or if I just don’t get what was said and the rest of the room is like this…

einstein bobbleheads…I have to assume I’m in a room full of geniuses and need to be enlightened. Learner is one of my strengths in life, so I embrace it whenever I can.

Or if neither of those things occur, yet nothing is said to indicate understanding, I am more than happy to go ahead and ask the stupid, obvious questions just to make sure everyone’s singing from the same song book.

(I’m, also, that guy who will frequently ask, “Does that make sense?” as I answer questions, present or just run a meeting. I feel like I do this so often it’s a tic, and I sometimes worry people might think I’m being patronizing. I promise I’m not.)

Why do I do this? Is it the left over vestiges of the youngest of four siblings being a pain in the butt and asking “Why?” over and over just to be annoying? Could it be I am never anywhere near the smartest person in the room and just need that much help (to be sure, I never assume I’m the smartest person in any room – we can all learn from what’s happening around us at any point in time, even if we are the teacher or facilitator in the room)?

What I have learned, often painfully, over the years is the chance of a direct, linear, immediate connection between…

1. What Person A says

2. What Person A means

3. What Persons B-X hear

4. What Persons B-X understand

5. What Persons B-X do

6. What Person A expected to be done

…is not as common as we hope.

It tends to play out like this…

not confirmed

While CONFIRMING understanding goes something like this…

confirmed

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Here’s What I Think

pathsI don’t see this as being about my “political” views, but, simply, my world view. It seems to be a challenge these days not to allow how one sees and interacts with and in the world to become politicized. I can assure that is not my intent. Let’s keep it clean, adhere to the Golden Rule and be respectful, folks. 

I want to be clear about where I stand regarding Politics – defined by Merriam-Webster (let’s just assume anymore definitions of words are coming from a valid dictionary of some sort in the instance I don’t provide a link) as (a) the art or science of government (b) the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy (c) the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.

So as to what “side” I’m on, since that tends to be what people want to know when it comes to our very American two party system, the answer has to be…neither. I used to always say the lesser of two evils at the time. There really are so many layers these days which makes “neither” and my formerly pat response seem less than adequate. Frankly, I think it makes a two party system inadequate. Of course, the layers have always existed. So what I mean is the layers these days are much more visible and explicit. That isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s just different than it has been for quite awhile. I think that’s due to the Nature of Media.

By Nature of Media, I mean (If I lead with “I mean” or “I think”, I’m explaining myself, what I think or believe or a construct I’ve developed – which makes it my opinion or something I’ve created to explain something I’ve seen or encountered in my life that I felt the need to interpret. It’s not fact, it’s opinion.) it has never been easier to publish or broadcast a point of view in terms of frequency (there’s no cap to the amount of times a person can say what they want to say or no cap to the amount of times a person can see or read what they want). Reach is a bit of another story based on the platform used to generate the frequency, but I will grant that if a person wants to find a point of view, they can find it. And in most cases, if they want to be “reached” by certain points of view, they know how to or can, by their behavior, allow it to happen. 

Further, as most media is digital (composed of data in the form of especially binary digits) and most information about what we do or like is, also, digital, it is easier for the Media-Industrial Complex (what I mean is all the companies, organizations, entities, and other groups that have created and/or use technology to match behaviors and/or stated or implied interests with media of some sort; in most cases, those creating content are either explicitly or implicitly involved. H/T to Dwight Eisenhower’s Farewell Address) to show us more of what we like and less, or none, of what we don’t.

I believe side effects of the Media-Industrial Complex are (1) believing there are “a lot” of people who believe what you believe or “most” people believe what you do, (2) deepening belief that what you believe is correct since that’s mostly what you see or hear, (3) deepening belief that what others believe is wrong, (4A) less interest or willingness in seeking to understand what others believe and/or (4B) less interest in granting that it is OK for others to believe in other things and then (5) “calling people out” who are viewed as “wrong” because they do not believe the same things.

My background is in media, so you can expect I have expounded upon and will come back to themes related to nature of media, digital and Media-Industrial Complex. I only insert it here as I believe it’s relevant to explain what I believe. I assume most people in providing a view to their views don’t incorporate the “Media-Industrial Complex”.

Anyway, back to the question of Politics and our wonderfully American two party system. I’m not a republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, evangelical, snowflake, communist, socialist, anarchist, totalitarian, autocrat, monarchist or member of the green party. I tend to lean to Libertarianism due to its purity and simplicity (well, I guess that means I lean a bit to the right), and sometimes I think I lean that way because of my admiration for the fictitious Ron Swanson. (See Parks & Recreation, Season 3, Episode 2: “Libertarianism is all about individual liberty, and it should never be defined by the terms liberal or conservative.”) My main issue with Libertarians – at least what is seen as Libertarianism in the 21st century United States – is they can be a bit too rigid, incapable of what tends to make our system of government (and life in general) work – compromise and tolerance. (Some would say this means I lean to the left.) I guess a Libertarian, whether focused more on individual rights or on markets working better than government, would say compromise is fine as long as you don’t tread on me, and once a market can’t tolerate it, it’ll fix itself. Or maybe that’s a Gen-X’ers interpretation…a proverbial, “Whatever. We’ll see how that works.” Or maybe Adam Smith’s and Ayn Rand’s love child is Generation X…hmmm, topic for another day.

Anyway, the important ideas from the prior paragraph are compromise and tolerance, which I firmly believe DO NOT MEAN acceptance. (This piece provides a nice overview of definitions and interrelations between tolerance, acceptance and understanding.) However, there is, in my view, a definite need of more tolerance and understanding, regardless of people’s ability to accept others people’s beliefs, lifestyles, etc. (And now I seem to be leaning to the left, again, with my why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along notions – though I’d say it’s really just the Golden Rule, which some would say is a Judeo-Christian concept and now I must be some purveyor of the right.)

I would like to see a viable 3rd party, maybe even a 4th. But, if you will entertain an analogy, I will say I did like Major League Baseball better when there were 26 teams total, 2 divisions in each league and one round of playoffs before the World Series. So let’s not get too crazy. We just need some other teams to choose from is all I’m saying.

I like to try to keep informed of “the issues” and where those running for office stand on “the issues.” I also like to see what I can learn about how someone has behaved, in general and in executing their duties. I like folks who seem to align to the Golden Rule, but I have enough understanding of the flaws many seemingly great people in history had to understand its very difficult to find a leader in the political system without some skeletons in the closet of some sort. That doesn’t forgive the flaws. It just means I feel the need to balance the apparent flaws in character with a person’s ability to provide solutions for the greater good. Some flaws (not going to list them all…) I do believe are not acceptable, I don’t accept them and choose not to tolerate them. Regardless, If we didn’t balance flaws with the ability to deliver for the greater good, I’m pretty sure no one would be worth electing ever.

I’ll then make a choice on who I think would do the job best. I think that’s how Democracy within a Republic is supposed to be. I have found as someone who has hired many people that are driven by Capitalism, this is a pretty good way to select people to do a job, which is what representing my interests in local, state and federal government is – a job. Funded by my tax dollars. Thus, I am the hiring manager. We all are.

I do believe in Democracy – a system of government where the people directly participate through elected representation.

I like a good Republic – a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.

I believe in Capitalism – an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.

However, I don’t completely buy into Adam Smith’s take on the purity of how markets work and fix themselves as needed – which is why it’s hard for me to be a Libertarian and why I do think there are some times where government does need to be a bit more involved in economic policy (Notice I did say “some times” and a “bit more involved”…ours – Americans – is, after all, a government that sets budgets against what seems to be an ever-rising debt ceiling and can’t figure out if a wall has more value than healthcare, education, global warming or investment in infrastructure that isn’t a wall).

I do believe in God, grew up going to Christian church, have been way too sporadic in attendance in my adult life, and need to be more consistent in my spiritual life. From what I can tell, Evangelicals and Atheists, not to mention those of religious beliefs other than the broad swath that is “Christianity”, would have issue with that sentence for very different reasons.

As I’ve already mentioned it a few times, I believe in the Golden Rule in the New Testament sense – treat others how you want to be treated – regardless of the views or beliefs held by that person. And even though I just mentioned the New Testament of the Bible, that doesn’t mean I have any issue with those who practice religions not based on the New Testament of the Bible. (See “treat others how you want to be treated”.)

I value respectful and passionate debate, even if it gets heated, and do not expect everything you say to be proven as verified fact. We all have things we believe or have faith in, even if we don’t have verifiable facts on their truthfulness. I’ll do my best to specify when I’m sharing what I believe or what is my opinion vs. what is actual fact (I’ve done that a few times already). Most likely I’ll do what I can to lay out my logic of why I believe something. I’d love to hear your thoughts in return to help sharpen my thinking, or just to have a conversation on the matter. Just recall this is my site and that I value RESPECTFUL debate and, again, The Golden Rule.

Since “facts” and “truthfulness” have made an appearance, I do not believe in “alternative” facts or “truthiness”. What do those things even mean? (That’s a rhetorical question – please no links to enlighten me.)

My Belief (an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists; trust, faith or confidence in someone or something) is that Fact (a thing that is indisputably the case), Belief and Opinion (a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge) are getting intertwined, but not explained or clarified, by the Media-Industrial Complex (but I don’t believe in the “deep state”), that some folks are better at manipulating belief and opinion than others, and that some folks are better at sniffing out what is BS and what isn’t better than others. This is not new. We just have much more efficient ways to allow a statement or event to travel around the world a number of times before anyone bothers to validate it is true or actually happened.

So now you know. My opus to anyone who might come across what I have written or will write here or elsewhere. It seems to be required in the zeitgeist. You’ll have to let me know if that’s enough for you to effectively pass judgement on me and my views, or to determine if anything I might say is worth your time to read or respond. I’d be more than happy to further clarify as needed.

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QOTD: Geniuses, Creativity and Work Ethic

I’m in the midst of Jeff Tweedy’s autobiography, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). I like the voyeurism of a good autobiography or biography as much as the next person, but what I really like are books, articles, documentaries, interviews, what-have-you that get into how creative people do their work or their thoughts on what is required to do good work.

Thus far, my favorite quote from the book is:

“The people who seem the most like geniuses are not geniuses. They’re just more comfortable with failing. They try more and they try harder than other people and so they stumble onto more songs. It’s pretty simple. People who don’t pick up a guitar and try every day don’t write a whole lot of great songs. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”

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