Category Archives: baseball

The Mister Hits a Homer

Jake holds his new prized possession.

Jake holds his new prized possession.

During spring break the Mister asked Jake a supposedly innocuous question: If you could have an autograph from any major league baseball player, who would it be?

Our older son, who boasts an encyclopedic amount of useless baseball information in his gray matter, didn’t hesitate one bit.

“Billy Martin,” he said. He’s always liked the fiery former player and manager.

After the boys returned to their respective college campuses, the Mister asked me what we were going to give Jake for his upcoming UTSA graduation. Naturally, I thought being debt-free should be enough. However, the doting dad had other ideas.

And that’s why the day after we returned from watching our pride and joy walk across the Alamodome stage, Jake opened one unique present from us.

So cool!

So cool!

Yep, it was a baseball autographed by the one and only Billy Martin, scored by the Mister on eBay.

Jake was thrilled! “Most people wouldn’t understand how meaningful this is to me,” he said, as he inspected the signature. “It will always be special to me.”

You’re special to us, sweet boy!

Batter Up!

Logan is ready to pull the trigger.

Logan is ready to pull the trigger in one of my few decent shots from a week ago. (Believe it or not, this is ISO 4000 with no noise reduction applied.)

You know how people say that something is just like riding a bicycle, meaning that you never forget how to do it? Photography doesn’t always fit nicely and neatly in that category.

Last Friday night I got the chance to shoot our high school’s varsity baseball team in what quickly seemed to be an exercise in futility. It had been three long years since I looked through my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens at running, hitting, and catching, and I felt about as rusty as the Tin Man before Dorothy and the Scarecrow rescued him.

I’m not sure what the photographic equivalent of an oil can is (I still chuckle at the Scarecrow saying, “Oil can what?”), but it’s probably experience.

As well as a second chance.

Trevor connects for a hit.

Trevor connects for a hit.

Fortunately for me, the guys played again the next day at our rival high school, which is close by. More importantly? It was a day game. Give it up for ISO 200!

I took what I learned not to do the previous evening and improved in my quest to document the action. Thank goodness!

I mostly concentrated on taking good batting pics. When it comes to shooting baseball, photographers want to capture the batter and the ball. It’s easier than trying to snap fielding photos, because you always know where the ball is going—to home plate. Then it’s a matter of luck, timing, and perseverance to nail the perfect shot.

Ryan is ready.

Ryan is ready.

Fortunately, I managed to snap the shutter perfectly twice with Ryan, both times during the same at bat.

This was my favorite shot!

This was my favorite shot. And he did hit the ball!

It made me think that there may be hope for me yet . . . as long as I don’t wait several years again to take baseball photos!

The Astros’ Good Luck Charm

It’s been a long time since the Astros have been successful.

It’s been a long time since the Astros have been successful.

When I was a kid growing up on the north side of Chicago, I was a huge Cubs fan. My kid brother and I loved watching our beloved Cubbies play on WGN-TV and, occasionally, in person (my mom actually would take the four of us kids on the train to Wrigley Field on Ladies’ Days).

Back then one of my fondest dreams was to see a Cubs spring training game. I could just imagine traveling to Mesa, Arizona, to watch Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and the rest of my blue-clad heroes. Maybe I’d even be able to work up the courage to score an autograph or two!

The starting lineups

The starting lineups

Fast forward to a week ago Sunday. My spring training game dream finally came true! However, this time it was in the Grapefruit League instead of its Cactus counterpart, as our family watched our Houston Astros play the Toronto Blue Jays at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, which is near Orlando.

When we were making plans for Jake’s last spring break, I pitched the idea of going to Universal Studios Orlando for a couple days. Then I threw in what I knew would be a home run: Watching our first spring training game. All four of us love baseball, so all of us were excited.

Too close for comfort?

Too close for comfort?

At the Mister’s suggestion, I bought a fresh baseball in case the guys wanted to get autographs. What a great idea! Our seats were one row from the field next to the Astros’ dugout, which gave us a great, albeit potentially scary view.

The pen confuses Jonathan Singleton.

The pen confuses Jonathan Singleton.

All of the players walked past us, with some of them stopping to sign. At first, C.J., who had the ball and the pen, seemed a little shy. But with prodding from his mom who didn’t want him to have any regrets, he stood up and handed the tricky SHSU pen and ball to Jon Singleton, our hopefully great first base prospect.

C.J. holds the ball with his first autograph.

C.J. holds the ball with his first autograph.

After that, it was easier for him to ask. Plus our hometown heroes seemed glad that we cared.

Carlos Corporan, our catcher, gives the ball back.

Carlos Corporan, our catcher, gives the ball and pen back.

Up until that point, C.J. had told me he was sick of me snapping photos of him. But, suddenly, having his own personal photographer (I was wielding my small but mighty Nikon V1) was advantageous.

Thank you, Jarred Cosart!

Thank you, Jarred Cosart!

What a great memory for my boys! I must admit I felt a pang of jealousy wishing that had been me back in the 1960s.

Rudy Owens, who was the starting pitcher, will start the season in the minors.

Rudy Owens, who was the starting pitcher, will begin the season in the minors.

When the game finally started, we couldn’t help but notice that even though this was the Astros’ home park, we were surrounded by Blue Jays fans. We had seen cars in the parking lot with Ontario license plates, so it looks like Canadians also like to travel to Florida to watch baseball. They cheered loud and long for their favorite team.

The Astros’ mascot Orbit was large and in charge.

The Astros’ mascot Orbit was large and in charge.

Some aspects of the game reminded us of the Sugar Land Skeeters, our town’s Atlantic League team. There were condiment and tricycle races, as well as Orbit the mascot mixing things up with the fans. You can’t beat fun at the ballpark, spring or summer!

One thing that was odd, though, was what happened during the game. After watching the Blue Jays plate two runs, the four of us visited the team shop. When we got back to our seats, we were surprised to see the score was 2-2. At no time did we hear the crowd yelling about a two-run Astros’ homer. Weird.

After the Jays went up 3-2, we made our usual early exit in the bottom of the eighth to beat the traffic and head to Orlando and the Hard Rock Hotel. So imagine how shocked we were when we found out that the good guys actually won 4-3! We spent all that time at the game without seeing the Astros score a run. Talk about your reverse good luck charms!

Our family selfie

Our family selfie (the sun was so bright!)

Don’t be surprised if the Astros pay us to stay away from the games this season!

One-Word Wednesday

This unique bench made out of bats and bases was at Lou Malnati’s pizza place (yum!).

This unique bench made out of bats and bases is at Lou Malnati’s pizza place (yum!).

Batty!

xxx

Bats with the names of former Cubs players (the restaurant is a Chicago favorite)Ernie Banks: Let’s eat two pizzas!Ernie Banks: Let’s eat two pizzas!

Living the Suite Life

Notice the circled ticket price! Yowzers!!

Notice the circled ticket price. Yowzers!!

Here’s a dose of very unwelcome reality: Our hometown Houston L’Astros have lost at least 100 games for three straight seasons, including this one. We’re a whopping 38 games behind the first-place Oakland Athletics in the American League West Division (and, yes, I’m still protesting that stupid, forced move from the beloved National League). We easily have the worst record in major league baseball, winning a paltry 34 percent of our contests.

But they’re still our team, and I support them! Of course, being a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, it’s easy for me to root, root, root for the wretched, pathetic, and pitiful. That just comes with the territory.

Mind you, supporting them doesn’t mean that I attend many games. After all, Minute Maid Park is well out of my 10-mile comfort radius. So when the Mister told me that we had tickets for last Saturday night’s game against the Angels, I hesitated to agree to go. Until he added the kicker . . . our company’s bank provided our seats. In a suite!

Sweet!

Quite a view from the not-so-cheap seats

Quite a view from the not-so-cheap seats

Having suite tickets means great parking, sharing nicer bathrooms with fewer people (it’s on its own private level), and all the food and drinks you can consume. The menu included pulled pork, chicken tenders, hot dogs (of course), salad, and amazingly good cookies (which is why I ran nine miles that morning).

Buy me some peanuts and . . . .

Buy me some peanuts and . . . .

Plus there were snacks like popcorn and one of my all-time faves, Cracker Jack. What’s not to like?

Well, of course, the Astros lost once again. I guess sometimes you just have to take the sour with the sweet suite.

iPhone Photos Friday, Skeeters Style

Our view (behind the net) of the field

Our view (behind the net) of the field

Last year I wrote several blog posts about watching our community’s then-new minor league baseball team, the Sugar Land Skeeters. I’ll never forget seeing history being made when seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens pitched to his son Koby. All in all, it was a terrific experience.

The Mister and I have been back enjoying Skeeters’ games this sophomore season. It’s been great rooting for a team that wins many more games than they lose (unlike our poor, pitiful Houston Astros). They even made the playoffs as the Atlantic League Freedom Division’s first-half champions!

Know what’s even better than all of that?

Ahhhhh!

Ahhhhh!

We’re sitting in the comfy seats! We’ve moved from last year’s right-field seats to the more-exclusive (and pricier) Diamond Deck. That’s where our motley crew of six (which includes our pal Eric, who spearheaded the season-ticket idea) sits around a table above the field boxes behind home plate. We’re always in the shade, and the chairs are cushy.

Are mosquitos green?

Are mosquitos green?

Even Swatson, who is one of the team’s mascots, comes over to visit with us (or squeak at us, which is the noise he makes). It’s a delightful way to watch a baseball game.

Well, except for one minor detail.

It’s obvious who sponsors our area.

Pretty creepy

Distinctive Life Funeral Homes sponsors the Diamond Deck. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not the fun, family-oriented, youthful kind of sign I want near me. Especially since I turn 60 in a couple weeks and the Mister 63 in late September.

Should we be reminded of our mortality at a baseball game? Absolutely not!

The Old Man and the (Younger) C

Roger’s pitch is on its way to the batter.

As the mom of two precious boys and married to a man who also adores them, I’m a sucker for father-son bonds.

Sidebar: Which is why the scene between Kurt Hummel and his father on last night’s “Glee” premiere left me crying.

Koby was steady behind the plate.

So when our friend Eric asked if we wanted his two extra tickets to see Roger Clemens pitch to his oldest son Koby for our Sugar Land Skeeters, there was only one response: Absolutely! Especially since it was Bollywood night complete with amazing post-game fireworks. Minor-league baseball doesn’t get any better than this!

Father and son chat while walking back to the dugout.

Our younger son already was going to the game with his friend Ricky, sitting in the outfield lawn section (which is not for old folks like the Mister and I, who have a tough time getting up without a forklift). When we saw that there were empty (albeit season-ticket) seats in our row, I told the boys to join us and get closer to the action.

The kid looks good behind the Nikon!

Wanting to be just like mom (or maybe he wanted a better look), my son took my Nikon D700 complete with Nikon 70-200mm lens and started snapping away at Clemens the elder on the mound.

This was our view of Roger from our seats on the first-base side.

He did a great job capturing Roger rearing back with the ball! I might need to turn over the big equipment to the kid more often.

As manager Gary Gaetti walks out to yank Roger, father and son hug on the mound.

Fortunately, I was behind the lens when Roger exited the game in the fourth inning. Before leaving, he and Koby shared a wonderful hug that got me reaching for a tissue. This was the first time the son had caught his seven-time Cy Young Award-winning father in a professional baseball game. It truly was a special moment for all of us lucky enough to witness it.

Toby Keith sat in the Skeeters’ dugout for most of the game.

The Clemens duo might have been the attraction that night, but our little city drew a celebrity to the game: Toby Keith. The country-music star is a pal of Roger Clemens, and he attended to support his buddy. I thought he looked great in his own Skeeters’ jersey!

Let’s have a party!

The Skeeters’ management took advantage of the appearance by passing out red Solo cups to the fans to hoist when Keith was introduced. I just wish they had made them useful by filling them with Diet Coke.

The fireworks look good to my iPhone 4S.

The hoopla continued with Bollywood-style dancing, the usual condiment races, the spirited singing of “Yellow Rose of Texas,” and those great fireworks. And the best part of all?

A 4-0 Skeeters’ win, with Roger Clemens getting credit for the victory, as well as sharing the experience with his own precious son.

Cue the happy-ending music!