Tag Archives: Sugar Land Skeeters

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!

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?



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!

Rallying the Troops With Fireworks

So lovely!

The best part of this week’s high school pep rally in anticipation of tonight’s big homecoming football game?

So sparkly!

Great fireworks! Almost as good as after Friday night Sugar Land Skeeters‘ games.

So colorful!

It definitely excited the crowd. We’re ready to root on our boys as they try to add their third district victory against an undefeated foe.

So intriguing (thanks to a sloooow shutter speed)!

Go, Bulldogs, go!

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!

Elvis Rocks the Fireworks

A lotta shaking going on . . . due to a slow shutter speed.

As I’ve mentioned before, our Sugar Land Skeeters put on a great fireworks show.

Red-dy or not!

Our minor-league baseball team decided to shake things up last Friday night by making that bright display Elvis-themed. It was the Skeeters’ first game with former major-league ace Roger Clemens in uniform.

These remind me of spiders . . . red spiders.

Kind of like the King meets the Rocket. With majestic rockets bursting in air!

More spiders

The colorful, post-game display almost made up for us not seeing Clemens pitch.

Green-gold lighted streamers silhouette the scoreboard.


More greenish fireworks hover around the scoreboard

What made these Elvis-related? The nostalgic music accompanying them.

Love the rockets’ red, gold, and white glare!

There were no King of Rock and Roll sightings at the game. Maybe he left the field early.

That hound dog!!

The Rocket Rocks the Ballpark

Roger Clemens shares time in the dugout.

We enjoyed a bit of excitement in our small burg last weekend.

ESPN paid us a visit! Along with plenty of other national media. Little Sugar Land, 26 miles southwest of Houston, hit the big-time.

All because of our new minor-league baseball team. Oh, and some dude named Roger Clemens. Now all our opponents in the Atlantic League (as in the East Coast) actually know where in the world Sugar Land is.

Former all-star Scott Kazmir is about to deliver a pitch for the Skeeters.

When it was announced that the Rocket was going to pitch a few innings for the Skeeters last Saturday night, our community went wild. After all, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and strikeout king posted a phenomenal major-league career.

Even though Clemens is 50 years old (a mere pup in my book), fans still believed he could deliver the goods and help our Skeeters win. Unfortunately, the game already was a sellout, thanks to the post-game performance of the Human Fireball (which actually used to be Clemens).

The Mister and I have an eight-game ticket plan. And, of course, with our luck, we had ducats for last Friday, the night before the Houston native’s appearance. But we knew we would at least see Clemens in the dugout, and that would have to suffice.

Sidebar: When I posted on Facebook that we had tried to get tickets for Saturday’s game for my younger son and a friend, one of my pals said she wasn’t going to use her pair. So the kid and Cody got to see an aging legend work three and a third innings, striking out two batters while allowing a mere hit. And the Skeeters won 1-0!

First baseman Aaron Bates starts to throw the ball around the horn after a putout.

Just as we expected, the Rocket was in the dugout during last Friday night’s game, watching what turned out to be an exciting contest with the Skeeters rallying for three runs in the eighth inning before dropping a 4-3 decision to the hated Bridgeport Bluefish. A cool breeze actually was blowing, and the Elvis-themed fireworks were much anticipated.

During the game I wondered what Clemens was thinking when he was faced with the reality that he was at a low-minors baseball game. Of course, there were lots of good plays made by both teams.

Those really are mighty big gloves!

But every half inning there’s some kind of fun and foolishness going on that’s never seen in the likes of Minute Maid Park or Yankee Stadium. Such as big-glove boxing.

Wonder who will win.

And the running lottery balls.

Play is about to start!

And, of course, my personal favorite, the race among the taco, pepper, and pitiful, always too-slow, never-winning cup.

Oh oh!

It’s enough to make a grown man who has pitched in the World Series and been an 11-time all-star ponder his place in the baseball universe.

Random Snippets and Apertures

My younger son warms up before a practice round at Tom Bass Park. (Nikon S6200)

Random photos . . . random thoughts.

I’m missing the kid this week. He’s in Charlotte, North Carolina, competing in the Amateur Disc Golf World Championships. The Mister, who I’m sure hasn’t dared to wear his embarrassing paint-stained Land’s End Super-T (with pocket) again, is in charge of driving our younger son to the courses, massaging his sore right shoulder, and boosting his ego.

It’s a dirty job . . . wish I was there helping out.

Perhaps preparing for the Olympics? (iPhone 4S)

I watched this kayaker smoothly navigating the lake in our neighboring master-planned community during a recent wog. Made my chronically sore shoulders hurt just snapping the pic.

Palms all in a row. (Nikon S6200)

I was intrigued by this line of palm trees in the median outside our local mall. Kind of looks like one tree with lots and lots of fronds.

Nature at its best. (Nikon S6200)

I think Texas corners the market on beautiful sunsets.

The cup runs alone. (Nikon S6200)

I felt sorry for this poor, pitiful, lonely, sloooooow cup. I took this photo at the Sugar Land Skeeters’ baseball game during a between-inning “race” pitting a pepper, a taco, and this sad-sack cup (gotta love minor league games with their corny activities). The cup took a loooooong time before finally reaching the third-base dugout (from the warning track).

Could Usain Bolt win dressed as the cup?

It made me wonder whether even Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s world-record sprinter, could run speedily enough in the cup costume to finally beat the dastardly pepper and taco.

Probably only Bolt could make the cup truly fast food!

One-Word Wednesday

Former Houston Astro outfielder Jason Lane is trying to remake himself into a pitcher.


Lane pitched a three-hit shutout last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters!

My Take(s) on iPhone Self-Portraits

Take one . . . nice hand

Some people are great at snapping self-portraits and group photos with their smart phones.

Sadly, my friends, I am not one of them. I’d like to offer up as an excuse that I’m used to the heft of my Nikon digital SLR, but that’s weak. I simply don’t have the necessary skill set . . . and it doesn’t look like I’m developing it any time soon, unfortunately.

The evidence? Last Saturday night’s Sugar Land Skeeters game.

Take 2 . . . nice hats, light pole, and sky

My older son and I attended the minor-league contest, mostly to see good baseball (we won 8-0!) but partly to score free Skeeters’ caps, which was the giveaway. Once we were in our seats, I figured I’d snap a pic or two on my iPhone 4S of our smiling, hatted heads so we always could remember the occasion.

Easy peasy, right?

Take 3 . . . lovely, just lovely (Photoshop wants no part of this)

Not at all! Even though the iPhone lets you see what you’re shooting, I kept goofing up. The shutter wouldn’t snap when I wanted it to. So frustrating . . . with such woeful results.

Take four . . . getting better!

I finally managed a halfway-decent shot before my #1 son lost his wonderful smile and patience. But as you can see, I have part of my hand in the pic, the backlighting makes us too dark, and the background is distracting.

Enter Photoshop! The first step is to crop. The second is to lighten. And the third is to select the background and blur the heck out of it.

The result?

Not perfect but much better!

While it’s not quite suitable for framing, it is a nice memento of mom and son together.

Too bad you can’t really see much of those darn caps!

Funky Fireworks

The rockets’ red glare!

In yesterday’s blog, I showed what happens when your settings are correct for shooting fireworks. It seemed like 1/60th of a second was the sweet spot for keeping everything in focus (f/2.8 and 640 ISO with a Nikon 24-70mm lens).

Looks like a meteor shower among a couple palm trees.

Of course, when it comes to photography—like life—the good often is accompanied by the bad and the ugly. Or in this case, the too-slow shutter speed.

The artistic side of fireworks

As I was merrily clicking away after last Friday night’s Sugar Land Skeeters baseball game, I noticed that at times my shutter wasn’t keeping up with my index finger. The reason? There wasn’t enough light in the sky at times, so the shutter was ever so slow. Like 1/5th of a second at times, as in most of these photos, which is tough without using a tripod.

Pretty but slow

Normally, when I blur photos, I delete them. No one thinks you’re a good photographer if you display your lousy pics . . . especially on Facebook, people!

Anyone green with envy? Probably not.

But these missed-it-by-THAT-much pix intrigued me. Just because they weren’t sharp and in focus didn’t make them uninteresting.

Fuzzy fireworks

The funky fireworks seem artsy to me. They also have value and beauty.

In a sloooooow kinda way.