Monthly Archives: June 2011

No No-No’s

I’ve been broadcasting sports over the air for almost eight years now, and there are really only two things that I’ve never seen that I would really like to. The first, and I suppose more important, of the two is a championship. I don’t think I’m the first broadcaster on earth to desire announcing a championship, although it does make me feel a little greedy. The other is a no-hitter. That one only counts in baseball, I guess.

I have been incredibly lucky over the last eight years. I have covered high school basketball for both boys and girls for three years, college basketball for four years, college football for four years, major league soccer for one year and minor league baseball for two years and I have never witnessed a losing season. But I have never seen a championship.

Sure, I’ve seen conference or division titles, but I want to see the big thing. There have been a lot of close calls:

  • In 2005 the Fenwick High School girls’ basketball team made it to the Elite Eight.  They were heavy favorites to win that game, but they didn’t. Very disappointing.
  • In 2006, the Fenwick girls’ basketball team was ranked third in the country. They didn’t lose a game in the state of Illinois all season…until the playoffs. Scratch that one off.
  • Again in 2006, the Saint Xavier football team made the national semifinals, where they lost by 30 points.
  • In 2007, the Chicago Fire reached the MLS semifinals, but lost a devastating 1-0 final.
  • Again in 2007, the Saint Xavier football team made the national quarterfinals, where they lost by 40 points.
  • In 2009, the Saint Xavier women’s basketball team made the final 16 and looked to be cruising to the national quarterfinals. Then they didn’t score a point in the final four minutes. I went home.
  • Later in 2009, the ThunderBolts went to the Frontier League playoffs, but got swept out of the first round.
  • Later still in 2009, the Saint Xavier football team made the national semifinals again, where they lost by 40 points.
  • In 2010, The Saint Xavier women’s basketball team was ranked second in the country and made the national quarterfinals. They lost a nail-biter.
  • Finally, in 2010, the ThunderBolts won their division and went into the playoffs as the hottest team in the league. They won the first game in the playoffs but lost three in a row.

If you think me very whiny right now, that’s because I am. No one who has experienced as much in a relatively brief broadcasting career as I have should be complaining about his aints. And in full disclosure, my dream is to be on the play-by-play for a championship. In several of the above examples, I covered the team in a different capacity.

As for my other complaint, I want to see a no-hitter. That is the only individual athletic accomplishment that I really want to see that I never have. It’s been on my mind recently because of two close calls. Two ThunderBolt pitchers took a no-hitter into the seventh inning within the last eight days. They both lost them on infield hits.

Again, I feel like it wouldn’t really be proper to moan about my misfortune. I’ve seen a lot and I’m insistent on seeing a lot more, but sometimes I just can’s help but quote Hank Hill: “I hate infield singles.”

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I had a flat tire

Last week, on my trip to Florence, I sustained a flat tire. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know exactly when it happened. What I know is that  I was on my way from Cincinnati to the ballpark in Florence on Saturday afternoon (day 2 of the series) and not a block into my journey I realized that my car was not right. i pulled over and found, as I suspected, that my back left tire was out of shape.

This was an inconvenience for a number of reasons. The first and most immediate problem was how I was going to get to and from the stadium. Fortunately I found a ride. OK, one problem solved. My second problem was how I was going to get it to a tire place to get it repaired. I didn’t have a spare, you see. This was a concern best left for a later time.

And so I waited until the next day. it was a beautiful Sunday, and I’m sure someone somewhere was having the best day of their life. Maybe there was a wedding. Congratulations to that bride and groom. Maybe there was a picnic in the park. But I was unhappy. I spent the day sitting around as others did my dirty work. My tire was changed – It took me a day to realize that I had a spare because I am an idiot. I did not buy my car new so I didn’t even think about it, but of course there was a spare. There’s always a spare – and I had people researching facilities where I might get my tire patched. As it turns out, no such place existed. At least not on a Sunday.

The discovery was finally made that there is a Wal-Mart on the outskirts of towns that does tire work. I drove the half hour to get there only to encounter…well, Wal-Mart.

People don’t like Wal-Mart. I understand this. Their practices are shady and unethical. Fine. But I am not going to stop shopping at Wal-Mart. I’m not a noble person; I’m not a particularly good person at all. I am, however, a cheap person. Wal-Mart has low prices, therefore, I shop at Wal-Mart.

Here’s the problem, as my very anti-Wal-Mart companion was quick to point out: they really don’t care about people over there. I walked in with my tire problem and the woman standing at the counter asked me what I could be helped with.

“My tire has been punctured,” I said. “I need it fixed.”

Now, as I said this, she turned around to make a slow walk over to a garbage can, with her back to me. I was kind of hesitant as I spoke because I wasn’t sure she could hear me as I walked away. But she’s the one who asked me before she turned around, so I thought I had the green light to speak.

I was done talking when she returned to the counter and stared at me. It was a little unsettling. “Yeah?” she asked.

I looked around as though I didn’t know who she was talking to. Hadn’t I just told her what my problem was? I opened my mouth, but before anything actually came out, the man next to me said, “He needs a flat tire fixed.”

She appeared to understand this and told me that it would be a two to three-hour wait. That seemed unreasonable to me because there was only one other car in the place, but I accepted it and resigned to never having my car fixed because I had to be at the ballpark in two hours. Why was it so difficult to get a ten-minute job done!?

My encounter with the rude woman at Wal-Mart is over, but I want to expose her rudeness. As Tommy B says every Friday night, “Rudeness will not be tolerated.” OK, just another Wal-Mart employee, I was told. But don’t Wal-Mart employees exist before they work at Wal-Mart? Was she always this rude? I get myself worked up over things that I shouldn’t, but she really bugged me.

A little research determined that Monro Muffler Brake and Service, which was right down the street from my accommodations opened at 7:00 Monday morning. I figured that I would be alright as long as I left by 8:00 on Monday, so I stayed an extra night. Of course, if Monro was open on Sunday, i wouldn’t have had any problem.

My initial plan was to head home Sunday night, get a good sleep in my bed and head into the office Monday morning. Instead, I left Cincinnati at 8:35 Monday morning – it took way too long to patch that tire; I was there at 6:55, even before it opened – and drove straight through to the home park. I had slept a whole three and a half hours that night. It was not my favorite ballgame. But I survived.

The only reason I tell this whole story is because of something I saw last night. We’re staying in Westlake, Ohio as the team takes on the Lake Erie Crushers, and last night, as I took a walk around the neighborhood, I walked past a Monro Muffler Brake and Service.

It was open. On a Sunday.

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I’m wearing the right colors

One of the cool things about working for a minor league baseball team is all the apparel I have with the team’s name and/or logo on it. I am a walking advertisement for the Windy City ThunderBolts.

This is not cool in itself (I hate advertisements, after all), but it is always fun when you get recognition for your services because of your clothes.

In Chicago, I like to walk around, telling everyone I know about how cool I am because I am a professional baseball announcer. Somehow, no one really seems to think that’s so cool. They’re wrong, not me. I encounter some people who hear that I work with a baseball team and are very impressed. This is because they think I am a player. The second that I reveal I actually work in the press box, not on the field, they lose interest.

One problem with Chicago is that they have two big league ballclubs (OK, one big league team plus the Cubs). They don’t care about a small independent team from Crestwood. In fact, even most of the people who are keen on minor league ball instantly think of the Kane County Cougars. Never mind that we are located in Cook County (home of Chicago). When I explain that the ThunderBolts are actually from the Frontier League, independent of any major league organizations, people have a difficult time comprehending.

Sometimes I get, “You mean like the Flyers?”

“Yes, just like the Flyers with the major difference that the ThunderBolts exist.”

My point is, the team doesn’t get a lot of notoriety at home. When we’re on the road, that is sometimes much different. I sat at a food court a few weeks ago in Washington wearing a ThunderBolts t-shirt when someone walked up to me and asked if I was on the team.

I was initially surprised by the question considering I was 500 miles from Crestwood. Then I remembered that I was only about 500 feet from the Wild Things stadium. This was a Washington fan who knew the league. It felt good to be recognized as a ThunderBolt. Of course, then I had to come down to earth and remember that he asked if I was on the team, not if I worked for the team.

That is a problem wherever I am. It doesn’t happen often because I avoid talking to people as much as I can – I’m a curmudgeon, you see – but I have had the following exchange a time or two in my day:

Random Stranger: Are you with the team?

Me: Yes

RS: (Smiles) What position do you play?

Me: I’m actually not a player; I’m the radio guy.

RS: (Smile disappears) Oh, well, that’s interesting too.

No it isn’t. I’ve come to realize that I’m a nobody unless I can hit the ball, which, if you refer to my last post, you know I can’t.

On this particular day in Washington, though, the gentleman who asked me about being on the team was still pretty impressed by my radio status. That’s one. I’ll take it.

Today, at McDonald’s, my server, reading my shirt asked who the ThunderBolts are. I told her we’re a baseball team from Chicago in to play the Lake Erie Crushers. She had never heard of the Crushers.

Yes, this logo wields a lot of power.

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Terry’s adventures in Baseball Land

Yesterday, I encountered a career defining situation. We’re back in Washington playing the Wild Things, and during their batting practice yesterday, I walked down the concourse on my way to the ThunderBolts clubhouse to interview the manager.

As I descended the stairs toward the concourse, I noticed one of the Washington hitters knock a ball back and to the left, the same general vicinity that I was approaching. Instantly I knew that this ball was going to land near me. Now, I wasn’t at all afraid of getting hit with this ball, but you can’t just walk past a ball that dies at your feet.

I hoped that no one would notice, that I could just casually flip this ball back on to the field without the Wild Things even realizing that they were short one baseball.

It didn’t work out that way. As soon as I reached the ball, which was harmlessly rolling to a stop right in front of me, I looked out to the field and noticed an expectant Washington player holding his glove up, waiting for me to toss him the ball.

As a baseball broadcaster, I spend a great deal of my life surrounded by athletes. This makes my 6’1″, 47 pound frame and my 12 second 40-yard dash time all the more embarrassing. I never look coordinated – and for good reason, I’m not – but when you compare me to a bunch of pro ball players, I look even worse than I do in a normal crowd. Even though to glance at me is to know that I can not hit a baseball more than about 32 feet, I feel like I can get around this perception somewhat by not drawing any attention to it. Though I might have some fun taking a few swings in batting practice with the team or throwing the ball around on the field, I feel it is more important to keep the feeling of mystery that surrounds my athletic performance. If anyone saw me doing these things, all credibility as a guy who talks about baseball is lost. Admittedly, I have never been invited to take batting practice or throw the ball around on the field, and OK, I guess there really isn’t much mystery behind my athletic ability, but I like to pretend there is. If no one sees me play, than appearances aside, I may not be the worst athlete these United States have seen in the last 200 years.

But when a ball rolls to my feet and I have to throw it out to a Washington player on the field, I don’t have a choice but to throw it back. Although in the back of my mind, I realized that there was nothing to gain from this moment, I talked myself into thinking that if I threw a strike to this fielder, I would look like a star, that people would marvel at my ability to throw the apple and wonder aloud why no team had seen my talent and signed me to a contract.

Realistically, the only two scenarios were (a) I would hit the player’s glove from 65 feet away and everyone would go back to their business because pretty much everyone can hit a target from 65 feet or (b) I would miss his glove and look like a fool.

I kind of knew this as I picked up the ball, squared my shoulders and heaved toward the field. As the ball spiraled toward the ballplayer’s glove, for a fleeting second, I thought I had made a perfect throw. I hadn’t. It skipped in about a foot short of the mitt and, my face red with embarrassment, I was on my way.

I don’t think any of the ThunderBolts saw me, so for now, my reputation as the gawky kid who announces the games on the radio remains intact. But I know that at any moment, if the wrong opportunity presents itself, I could become the gawky kid who announces games on the radio and is an abomination on the field. Then I become a laughingstock. I’ll keep my eyes open for such situations and hope they never come, because yesterday’s situation makes one thing clear: any exhibition of my non-talents will be the death of me.

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A Senseless Post!

I’m sitting in the rain wondering if there will be any baseball today. The end to my road trip was not as exciting as I would have liked it to be. I got a flat tire and had to wait an extra day before leaving Cincinnati. That wasn’t so fun.

I have recently come to realize that immediacy is not my friend. I much prefer writing accounts of things that happened long ago. After some time has passed, i think that I learn to weed out the things that are unimportant from the things that are. This has come to mind as I have discovered difficulty in keeping up with my daily activities. I am going to try to do a better job of writing about more recent events, specifically on this blog. But right now, I’ve got work to do, meaning that this has just become another…Senseless Post!!

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Faster than a speeding bus…

Tuesday, I drove from Crestwood to Evansville.

One road trip every year, I take my car and ditch the team bus for a few days. The trip always takes us to Evansville and Florence, not necessarily in that order. Last year, we went to Florence first and when I was faced with the task of making the six-hour drive home from Evansville, I was a little dismayed. It had been a long seven days and I would much rather sit back on the bus with a book than have to drive myself.

I then discovered that the drive home was one of the great experiences of my season. There isn’t much highway in between Chicago and Southern Illinois, so there is a lot of driving down country roads. That makes for a more scenic and peaceful ride, with virtually no other cars around. I spent my six hours last August getting reacquainted with Sherlock Holmes and listening to NBC’s First Fabulous Fifty years on the radio. It turned into quite a delightful trip.

This year we started in Evansville. This arrangement has its positive aspects, but there are several things I don’t like about it. One such thing is the fact that my Evansville journey is already over. The ride home from Florence/Cincinnati will not be nearly as fun I am sure. But, I did get to make the drive to Southern Indiana.

It wasn’t nearly as fun.

Maybe I’ve just grown more grumpy over the last ten months. In fact, that’s a sure thing, but perhaps the biggest difference was my foolish inability to obtain the location of the hotel. I got directions to Evansville thanks to the wonderful Google Maps, but they only told me how to get to the center of the town. Wonderful, except we weren’t staying in the center of the town.

None of this would have been a problem had I just stayed behind the bus the whole way, but I had to stop to get some Gatorade. It’s OK, I thought to myself. It was a 90-second stop; I’ll catch right up. I didn’t.

I never really worried because I had the directions to Evansville and I thought I could find the hotel from there because I spent three days in Evansville last year, which makes me a supreme expert on the layout of the town.

I drove around for a half hour before finding something that looked familiar. For a small town, Evansville’s actually pretty big, but I’m a genius, so I was able to eventually find my way around. The only problem I figured I had at that point was that I didn’t know how I was going to get into my hotel room considering I didn’t know what room I was staying in or who my roommate was. Furthermore, I wasn’t even sure I was at the right hotel. I just knew I was at last year’s hotel. With my luck, I became positive that I was going to be at the wrong hotel.

OK, time to come down a little. I knew how to get to Bosse Field, so in a worst case scenario, I would just show up to the game and follow the team back to the hotel from there. My point being that there really wasn’t anything at stake here. I did find the hotel, though, and there was no bus there.

My fears had been confirmed. There was a different hotel this year. Or was there? I went inside to discover that I was at the right hotel, the team just hadn’t arrived yet.

I went outside and got back in to my car thinking I would find…I don’t know, something I guess. But as I pulled out of the hotel parking lot I caught a glimpse of a bus. our bus? Yes, yes it was our bus. I followed it back into our parking lot as though I had been behind it the whole way. Only I knew the truth. I was faster than the bus. I beat it to Evansville by half an hour and still got to the hotel ahead of the team. On Tuesday, I was a hero.

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I love Lebron James!

I am reminded today why I love having no time to watch TV when the team is at home. I have spent several hours with ESPN on in my hotel room the last few days. I know, ’nuff said, but I’ll explain.

I was actually moderately interested in this year’s NBA Finals despite the Bulls getting knocked out. Now, I have heard approximately 6 million people talking about Lebron James’ latest flop and his assuredly upcoming flop. I can’t take it anymore. I just wish this series would end. (Not enough to hope the Heat win the next two games, of course)

I hate Lebron James as much as the next guy, but he doesn’t matter. The talk is annoying; let’s move on to other things. Hey, the Pirates are .500, huh?

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A very annoying blogger makes a very annoying point

It seems weird because I don’t think I’d ever had such a discussion until yesterday, but in the last 24 hours, I have had two separate instances in which I have had to correct someone else’s usage of “Central Standard Time.”

Yes, the truth is coming out. I am neurotic and annoying and I waste way too much time talking – and now writing – about things that couldn’t matter less. But here is my problem: not once, but twice, someone has referred to a start time for a ballgame as 7:05 Central Standard Time.

The issue, of course, is that it’s not Central Standard Time. We are smack dab in the middle of Daylight Saving Time, making tonight’s start time 7:05 Central Daylight Time. Yes, it is a small issues; no, I should not be concerned about it, but the reason I am is because almost no one ever refers to standard or daylight time when they give a time. Saying simply, central time, would suffice in almost any situation. If you are going to insist on going all the way with the time zone, then I am going to insist on your getting it right. So until November 6, let’s all remember that we are in daylight time. Thank you.

This has been my public service announcement for the day.

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I don’t believe what I just saw!

We are now 11 games into the ThunderBolts 2011 season and the team still has not hit a single home run. That’s almost astounding, but I like it just fine. As a big proponent of “small ball,” I enjoy a team that scores runs without hitting the ball out of the park. And anyway, the pitching staff has only given up one homer.

Over the last few days, though, several people have told me I have reason to complain because I don’t get the chance to work on my home run call, to which my only response is, “Who cares?” Home runs are not intrinsically more exciting than any other plays, and in fact, I think, though they are very beneficial to a team’s offense, homers are perhaps the most boring play in baseball. Nothing really happens other than a ball travelling through the air. I would much rather work on my triple call (the Bolts don’t have a triple this season either).

I imagine that if I ever did get to call a home run, it would sound exactly like this:

Home Run Call

Actually, that might be a little too specific for most homers. In reality, my home run calls are usually pretty weak. In fact they almost all sound the same boring way (That ball hit deep, back toward the wall…it is…GONE!). Perhaps my porous calls come from my porous attitude toward round-trippers.

I’m just kind of hoping I don’t have to break out the ole home run yell this year. One more game and we’ll be an eighth of the way there!

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