Thursday, April 8, 2010

A New Season Begins. . .

E. is proud of his 1.00 OBP this year with the Braves. . .

We've survived winter--that long, cold, horrible Texas winter of 2010--to be reborn once again with the coming of the new baseball season.

That means, to our family, anyway, both Major League as well as Little League. And a bit down the road, probably some Minor League as well.

E. cheers on his teammates. . .

The Boys are Back in Little League

Both E. and I. are once more playing in the Pioneer Youth Baseball Softball Association in Saginaw. E. is in his second-year of Kid Pitch, I. in his first year of t-ball. My move to an afternoon/daylight schedule in the fall means that I will only be able to make about 1/3 of the boys' practices and 1/2 of their games; many thanks for duties Above and Beyond Baseball Momdom to Mary for driving the kids around, encouraging them, and keeping the house on an even keel as well.

(By strange coincidence, both E. and I. were going to play for teams named "Cubs," much to E's delight (Cubbies are his all-time favorite team, bless his Wait-Til-Next-Year heart), but some sort of drafting snafu found E. the odd-man out and relegated to a makeup team with a new coach wearing the Braves name and uniform. And so far, that's cool with him. I. is amused to find himself on the Cubs, the arch rivals of his favorite Cardinals, while his brother isn't. But I digress.)

E. has played three games so far, and has yet to make hitting contact during a game, but he's adopted a "Moneyball" philosophy of making the pitchers throw strikes, rather than the batter swinging at shitty pitches. So far, he's reached base on strikes most of the time. And in Kid-Pitch, at least for his age-level, the pitching pretty much favors the patient hitter. It's rare to see consistent strike pitching. And with PYBSA rules allowing them to steal bases, you might as well put a walked batter directly on third base.

Wow! Look at that energized, Ion-charged baseball looming behind the boys in these somewhat-cheesy portraits. Mary and I can't believe how big they're getting.

MY opening game, Thursday. Section 22, row 13 at The Temple. Temperature upper 60s. Nice!

Rangers vs. Blue Jays, Game 3: at least the weather was nice. . .

With the boys in school and Mary working, I invited friend Lance along to the Temple to catch the third game of the Rangers-Toronto Blue Jay season opener. Ranger fans are once again sounding like Cubbies faithfuls: This'll be the year. And well it might? Though the California Angels are still expected to win the AL West, their dominance isn't as assured as in years past with quite a bit of off-season tinkering. Among those cast off the roster were DH slugger Vladimir Guerrero and speedy Chone Figgins, picked up by Texas and the Mariners respectively.

It could be the tightest AL West race in a decade. And with the lowly Blue Jays (how can they compete in the big-money realm of the AL East against the Red Sox and Yankees?) here to start the season, I'm guessing the faithful were anxious to get all that Tom Hick ownership and Ron Washington first-time-using-cocaine-and-I-was-caught-oh-what-a-sad-coincidence talk behind them with a good ass-whoopin' on the Canucks.

It wasn't going to be that easy, it soon became clear. The Rangers needed a thrilling walk-off win to save opening da. The Rangers pitching let down a good offensive performance in game two (sounds familiar?) featuring back-to-back solo homers from Vlad and Nelson Cruz. Thursday's game featured the debut of C.J. Wilson in a starting pitching role for the Rangers, against Toronto's Ricky Romero. Surely they'd win the rubber match, wouldn't they?

It isn't tough to get good seats for cheap to Jays games, as cheap Stub Hub deals no doubt follow them across the country. We got great seats 13 rows behind home plate for about half-face value. It was a beautiful day for a ballgame with a 1pm start.

For the first six innings, neither Romero nor Wilson allowed runs. Though Wilson struggled early on to keep his strike count ahead of balls thrown, he was particularly strong in his final three innings, leaving in the seventh after striking out nine while walking two and allowing five hits.

Former closer C.J. Wilson looked pretty good through six innings. . .

The Rangers broke the impasse in the seventh, scoring on a Romero wild pitch in the seventh. Then the bullpen took over. Neftali Feliz, atoning for two shaky relief appearances previously was lights out--three strikeouts, toying with 100mph in the eighth.

Enter closer Frank Francisco. And you can guess the rest.

. . and Frank Francisco, who took C.J.'s closing job last year? Well, not so good. . .

Wheee! There go the wheels off this train! Toronto's Vernon Wells homered in the ninth to tie the game, ultimately giving up three earned runs in 2/3rd of an inning before Darren O'Day and Darren Oliver came to his rescue. The anemic Ranger bats--hitless aside from Vlad going 3/4, and Cruz and Murphy each contributing doubles--didn't show up when it was time for a rally, either. Game over. Jays, 3-1.

But, it's a long season. And after the winter we had, it was just great to be outdoors for a game of baseball. Too bad only 14,000 others agreed with us!

We really love this portrait of I.. . .

A Photo To Share

Usually, I'm not too excited about class photos of the boys. Hell, I've got a box of my own up on a shelf in the closet, and they're interesting "slice of time" photographs, but not usually much more. The artistic expectations of the group shot and individual poses aren't too high, and parents usually feel compelled to purchase them as some sort of historical record.

So allow me to share this year's photo of I. from his Mom's Day Out class photo shoot. I'll give credit where it's due, as this portrait of our five-year-old was taken by mzkids. They did a fine job and I admire the non-traditional class photo pose. Actually, it's probably our most-favorite studio photo of our kids yet.

. . .and there's that "farmer smile" again.