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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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