On Tuesday, I Hit Some Tennis Balls

The last time I played tennis, Mark was three. That was 30 years ago. We were living in Chesterton, Indiana. One Saturday morning, Mary and I drove down to the public courts and hit the ball around for an hour or so.

Our brand of tennis back then was less about developing our games and more about finding a family activity that offered the adults some entertainment, while affording Mark the chance to romp around. The fenced-in nature of our venue wasn’t lost on us.

Like so many activities that drop away, life, parenthood, and moving back to Maine pushed tennis out of our lives. I’d eventually dust off my baseball glove and find out I could still pitch competitively. We sold our racquets. Continue reading

I Fell Off My Paddleboard

According to this website, Stand up paddle boards (SUP) offer a fun, relaxing way to play on the water. With a minimum of gear, you can paddle ocean surf or placid lakes and rivers.

Paddle boarding delivers a full-body workout and thus has become a popular cross-training activity. And since you stand at your full height, you can enjoy unique views of everything from sea creatures to what’s on the horizon.

That might be the case. However, five minutes into the on-the-water portion of my Sunday foray into the sport, I was in the water, I’d lost my Solar Shield sunglasses, and thinking, “what the hell had I allowed Mrs. B. to talk me into?”

Stand Up Paddleboarding looks easy–it’s not!

We’d both discussed trying to get out and “do some new things” this summer. Like summers past, umpiring and once Mary returned to work—Saturday’s and Sundays often were “catch up around the house days.” Not too much new happening with the Baumers.

I’m not complaining about umpiring. Save for some reservations during my first week back on the field, baseball has been an adequate tonic for dealing with the loss of Mark. I say “adequate” because nothing—not even learning to walk on water if that was possible—will take away the deep emotional pain that we’re both feeling and will continue dealing with for a long, long time. Continue reading

New Kid in Town

Living in the football-mad region of New England, Monday morning quarterbacking is legion. Of course, those Monday morning discussions soon turn into Tuesday and Wednesday discussions extending throughout the day on Boston radio stations, all revolving around the QB position. That’s because in New England, football talk centers on one of the best in the history of the game.

To top it all off, starting last season, with all the hoopla about ball inflation and the National Football League’s “gotcha’” approach towards that quarterback—and this year’s continuation—as Tom Brady begins the 2016 season serving a four-game suspension, there’s no backing off discussions about the quarterback. The wrinkle this year is that in addition to Brady, we’re now talking Garoppolo, too.

Run, Jimmy, run.

Run, Jimmy, run.

Across the NFL, you won’t get much of an argument from the 31 other places outside of New England that the Patriots are not well-liked—and articles like this one, and this one (and a host of others) intimate that the team is hated by just about everyone else save those of us who love the red, white, and blue. So be it. Continue reading

What’s the Call?

I am a baseball umpire. I enjoy telling people that and I’m proud of my development over the past four years.

Baseball is a sport that I’d say is “in my blood,” one I’m intimately familiar with—I played it, then served as a coach and later—ran a summer college league (one of the oldest in the country) for five years. I can say with authority that I know the game of baseball. I think that’s played a role in helping me advance as an umpire. This spring and summer, I’ve done 65 games and save for a couple of miserable games in the rain, enjoyed every experience of being on the field and calling games.

Several weeks ago, I learned from one of my umpiring partners that volleyball is growing rapidly in Maine and that there is a need for new officials. He had begun attending rules classes, and he encouraged me to check it out.

I asked Joe if he had played the game and his answer was, “no.” That piqued my interest because like him, I have never played volleyball, save for the backyard-variety version of the sport that many of us have dabbled in at a party or family gathering. I’ve also been interested in picking up a “second sport” to officiate. Perhaps volleyball could be added to my repertoire? A secondary question could be added;  “Do I need to add yet another task to my already loaded list?”

I'll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

I’ll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

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Dream Sequences and Baseball Fields

Dreams get referenced often, yet I contend that they’re one of the least understood elements of our brains and subconscious.

All of us dream. Researchers tell us that people can spend two hours of their sleep in some stage of dreaming.

Sometimes reality impersonates the dream fugue. Visiting former haunts and places that once occupied significance in our lives can unleash memories that we’d stored away.

The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach was built in 1983, principally fueled by the vision and dream of a successful Bangor lawyer, Jordan Kobritz, who didn’t want to practice law anymore. Kobritz believed that OOB’s summer influx of tourists and vacationers would provide the population necessary to support a minor league baseball team, one played at the AAA-level.

Baseball meets the beach at OOB.

Baseball meets the beach at OOB.

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Pitching Like Wade Miley

The Boston Red Sox just completed a three-game sweep of the hated New York Yankees, so all’s well in Red Sox Nation—at least for the moment. The team stands at 15-10 heading into a Midwest showdown with the Central Division-leading Chicago White Sox, the Sox’ pale hose brothers.

I’ve written about the team’s foibles in signing pitchers for extravagant sums of money, in the past. When Boston’s ownership does these kind of things, the results are usually less-than-stellar. Last year, it was Rick Porcello. This year’s big free agent acquisition, David Price, has looked a lot like Wade Miley, a left-handed retread that couldn’t get anyone out last April. Interestingly, if you compare Miley and Price in side-by-side statistical comparisons after six starts, Miley’s numbers are slightly better at this point in the season. Here’s a look at how they compare using ERA. Miley is actually at 84 and Price at 97. I’m guessing that when the Sox forked out the kind of money that most people won’t earn over a lifetime of working, they didn’t expect he’d be near the bottom of MLB’s pitchers in performance.

David Price leaving another less-than-stellar outing. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

David Price leaving another subpar outing. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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April Baseball

Like most members of Red Sox Nation, I was disappointed that Monday’s season opener in Cleveland was postponed due to cold weather. Baseball and 30 degree weather don’t make for optimum conditions. Having grown up playing baseball in the cold and pitching in some brutal weather in Aprils past during high school and college, I concur with the decision, and hopefully, the boys can get at it this afternoon, in Cleveland.

Listening to afternoon sports talk, on-air personalities on WEEI, yesterday. Dale Arnold, Michael Holley, and Jerry Thornton, questioned the postponement of the game, indicating that Tuesday’s weather won’t be much better. Having Cleveland host a home opener in April is always fraught with cold weather possibilities, but their fans are entitled to see their baseball team host an occasional home opener. The Tuesday forecast at Progressive Field is calling for sun and 34 degree temperatures, sans yesterday’s wind along with rain and snow showers.

I don’t envy Cleveland’s hitters getting jammed by a David Price fastball. The Sox batters are also facing a tough pitcher in former AL Cy Young winner (in 2014), Corey Kluber. On paper, it appears that it might be a low-scoring affair. Hopefully the Sox packed their thermal undergarments and balaclavas.

Wearing the mask. (Getty images)

Wearing the mask. (Getty images)

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Panda Problem

We have a Panda sighting! I guess all is well in Red Sox Nation-—or maybe not.

Oh, and I guess that paying someone $95 million to play third base isn’t enough motivation for some players to show up for camp in shape. Because we all know that $95 million doesn’t go as far as it used to.

Sandoval, not quite svelte. (Matt Stone photo/Boston Herald)

Sandoval, not quite svelte. (Matt Stone photo/Boston Herald)

Just like last spring, when everyone had high expectations with the signing of Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, and then, he showed up grossly overweight, Sandoval again rolled into the Red Sox complex at least 50 pounds over what he ought to be playing at. So, instead of talking about free agent pitcher David Price, Sox fans are being treated by local media to pictures of a fat, out-of-shape player who doesn’t give a damn. Continue reading

Fluff it Up

It’s Friday and time for another post. It seems that a pile of jeremiads are stacking up, on a variety of topics germane to the news cycle at the moment. First and foremost in my ever-growing slush pile of things to blog about is the lying mainstream media. I also jotted down a bunch of stuff the other day about the mayoral run-off that happened Tuesday, one town over.

Again, the media’s misinformation was central to some of my concerns—not the least being national reporters meddling around where they have no business treading, and even less understanding of local matters. Hacks like this one—elitists really—love to belittle places like Lewiston (aka, Trumpland, Maine) and the people that live there. Voters voting for a candidate she can’t understand from her urban zip code? Call them stupid, ignorant, or wracked with fear. But anyone keeping score knows journalism now equals propaganda, at least coming from the driveby set.

But since we are in the midst of the holiday season—even though it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me—I’m going to defer writing about topics that divide and keep it light. Maybe I’ll start a tradition of easier-on-the-eyes and lower stress blogging on Friday—call it something like Fluffernutter Friday. Apparently the sandwich of the same name has a New England backstory.

Fridays are for Fluffernutters.

Fridays are for Fluffernutters.

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A Winning Attitude

Some writers prefer grinding axes when it comes to Tom Brady. These writers all command considerably more per word than a freelancer like me. For some odd reason, they can also focus their features on elements that are, IMHO, totally irrelevant when it comes to TB12.

Writers like Chuck Klosterman don’t care to deal in honest representations of other people—especially NFL quarterbacks. Instead, they fill their pieces with throwaway lines, in discussing arguably, the greatest player to ever play the position. What is he talking about when he writes, “It’s [the quarterback position] the only position in sports that racists still worry about.”?

To be fair, Klosterman leads with the admission that he considers Brady as “the greatest quarterback in NFL history,” but then he immediately backpedals, makes a number of insinuations, and then generally tries to carry out the same kind of “hit” on Brady that much of the rest of NFL Nation fans has been carrying out most of the summer and can’t let go of—basically, that he’s a “cheater.”

WEEI regular Kirk Minihane and Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com were speculating last week that Klosterman was paid $7,500 to $10,000 for the GQ feature that was more about him than it was about breaking new ground on Brady. There are other Boston media types that took issue with the Klosterman piece, also.

But I don’t really give two shits about what Klosterman got paid by GQ or even that he didn’t get his agreed upon time with Brady. That’s never been where my interest lies when considering the 16-year veteran of the New England Patriots, and why I decided to jump back into following the Patriots and their all-world QB.

As I’ve detailed, I’m late to the party on Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots. That doesn’t mean I’ve been living in a remote cave outside Kandahar, either—what it means is that I haven’t followed all the minutia that fans of any sport know intuitively and often take for granted. Now that I’m paying attention, I’m awestruck by TB12 and what he’s been able to accomplish, year-after-year, and this year, he seems to have turned back the clock. We’re talking about a 38-year-old quarterback playing like a 25-year-old, physically, but with all the acquired wisdom that comes from thousands of snaps back of center during the heat of battle, not to mention his cerebral qualities.

Sunday night’s game against Denver was a grind for Brady. With his receiver corps depleted by injuries, his patchwork quilt of an offensive line requiring him to unload the football quickly, and TPTB of the NFL conspiring against him and his mates, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever strap them on nearly pulled off another late game miracle. I truly believe that if Gronkowski doesn’t leave the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, Brady would have been victorious. But, we’ll never know for sure.

Tom Brady goes downfield in the snow vs. Denver. (Justin Edmonds photo)

Tom Brady goes downfield in the snow vs. Denver. (Justin Edmonds photo)

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