Hello again baseball fans out there in cyberspace. It’s been a while, but the combination of my girlfriend being in town for a few days and having been on the road immediately preceding said visit has occupied most of my time away from the park recently. In the meantime I have thrown twice. The first of my two appearances started off inauspiciously with a couple of walks, but the end result of two innings with no runs allowed was satisfying nonetheless. My other outing was frustrating to the extreme because I threw the ball very well and used all my pitches effectively, but gave up a run on a groundball base hit and a flare hit to right that was played into a double. To keep things in perspective I keep reminding myself that I didn’t have a great statistical start to last season either, but that I had an ERA twice as high twice as deep into the season and still managed to have a productive year. In other news, the Akron Aeros just keep winning. We’re 8-2 in our last 10 games and 14-4 overall to this point, and we seem to win in just about every conceivable fashion. We out pitched teams, blown teams out, come from behind, won sloppy, out hit teams, taken advantage of errors… Thus far we have basically done exactly what it takes to win the game we’re playing and not left ourselves much margin for error, but wins are wins are wins. I’ll be back with more soon, probably in a couple days when we head back out on the road, but for now I’ll leave you with a poem in what appears to be my final installment promoting National Poetry Month.
Signs by Stephen Dunn
Earlier, a slow child in the vicinity
of a Slow Children Sign, a boy
just taking his time, his book bag
weighing him down, and now–
driving past Caution: Falling
Rock Zone–an actual fallen rock
right in the middle of the Interstate!
I call 911, report it–the danger–
one loose rock suggesting many,
some hilltop family of them
finally about to become unglued.
I say the signs have started to come true,
and laugh, but the operator is serious,
only wants to know where, and who.
I give her the hard facts, the everything
she wants. I’m a good citizen today.
Soon I’ll even stop at Stop,
Then at red stop again, always careful
about my braveries. Only late at night,
nobody around, have I gunned it,
gone right on through, felt the outlaw
in me stir, smiled that inward smile.
Truth is, I’d be happy in this world
to be quietly significant
like a good editor.
I’d like to improve Slow Children,
for example, by putting in
that comma where it belongs.
I’m almost home. The increase in Jesus
bumper stickers has been telling me so.
At Finzel near Little Savage in big letters
at the end of a driveway: Beware Dog.,
and there he is, the Beware Dog
halfway between the house and the road,
sleeping or waiting, I’ll never know.
Hello again baseball fans. This installment finds me in the state capitol of the Keystone State and home of the National Civil War museum–Harrisburg, Pa. (The Three Mile Island nuclear reactors are about 15 minutes up the road as well, but I’m guessing that isn’t a major selling point for most people). All of which is entirely beside the point because I won’t actually get to see any of it, but nice to know it’s there I guess. Since I last checked in I’ve thrown twice, spanning three innings and allowing two runs in somewhat contrasting fashions. The first run scored after the hitter took a mighty hack and hit the ball all of six feet for a single and the other on a mega-blast solo home run that marred an otherwise excellent outing. Pretty much a metaphor for my season to this point–very close but just not quite dialed all the way in. I’m pretty satisfied with the way I threw, so the results will follow shortly I’m sure. The good news though is that as a team we are off to an outstanding start (8-2) and everyone has managed to stay healthy to this point. My main complaint is that with a day game Sunday, a rainout yesterday and a night game today it feels like I have been sitting in my hotel room since time untold. Anyway, have a good Earth Day tomorrow and I’ll send you out with a poem as part of my continuing effort to promote National Poetry Month.
Scenic Route by Lisel Mueller
Someone was always leaving
and never coming back.
The wooden houses wait like old wives
along this road; they are everywhere,
abandoned, leaning, turning gray.
Someone always traded
the lonely beauty
of hemlock and stony lakeshore
for survival, packed up his life
and drove off to the city.
In the yards the apple trees
keep hanging on, but the fruit
grows smaller year by year.
When we come this way again
the trees will have gone wild,
the houses collapsed, not even worth
the human act of breaking in.
Fields will have taken over.
What we will recognize
is the wind, the same fierce wind,
which has no history.
After a recent paucity of postings I’m taking the bold step of posting two entries in two days, so consider this a makeup assignment of sorts. I was pleasantly surprised by the response to my recent article on National Poetry Month and even had the distinct privilege to hear from one of the authors on my list of poetry favorites, Anne Pierson Wiese. As the type of person who never really needed much encouragement to write about things like poetry in the first place, I am going to take advantage of the momentum from the first poetry post to go ahead and incorporate some more poetry into my entries for at least the duration of the month and maybe beyond. So continuing in that vein I’d like to share a couple poems by W.H. Auden before returning (mostly) to more baseball related stuff in my upcoming posts. Enjoy.
Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
This first poem requires a bit of a footnote. The title refers to the name of a Belgian museum that houses a painting called Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, ostensibly by the elder Pieter Brueghel. I have presented the painting for you viewing pleasure, but the specific history of the painting and its subject matter both make for interesting additional reading if you care to do some additional reading.
As I Walked Out One Evening
As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.
‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,
‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.
‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.
‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.
‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.
‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.
‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.
‘O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.
‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’
It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.
Hello again and apologies for a somewhat prolonged absence. It has been a fairly busy week between getting settled back into the in-season routine, setting up my housing situation, having my parents in town and the like so most of my “free” time has been spent sleeping or relaxing. I got everything squared away though and now being on our first road trip of the season there is a lot less non-baseball stuff going on so hopefully I’ll manage to get posts up a bit more regularly.
The season got off to what could only be called a good start for my team for me personally… not so much. The team got off to a 5-1 start in our first week with wins powered alternately by offense and pitching, which is an encouraging way to start the year. On the other hand I started my season off by throwing nine of my first ten pitches for balls and walking two guys, but after a rough first inning I threw a very good second inning. My other outing to this point was a ridiculous mélange of hits, walks and general poor pitching that somehow did not result in any earned runs being scored but still couldn’t be considered anything but disappointing. On the bright side it is still very early and I am feeling great physically, so the solution really is as simple as just going out and playing better.
I think I’ll call that good for now considering that we had a 10:30 am game today followed by a 6+ hour bus trip to Bowie, MD, but given the general lack of things to do on the road I’ll probably be getting something up either tomorrow or shortly thereafter so be on the lookout for that.
Well baseball fans today is opening day for the vast majority of teams across minor league baseball, although my teammates with the Akron Aeros opened our season yesterday with a 9-5 victory over the Bowie Baysox in the first of out nearly 30 meetings this year. It was a pretty blustery affair, with temperatures down around freezing by the end of the game, but I guess that is to be expected of Ohio in April. Each opening day is a unique experience and in the spirit of the moment, I’d like to share some of my opening day memories with you.
My first opening day experience in professional baseball, despite being at awful Russell Dietrick Park in Jamestown, NY might be my favorite. Of course, the fondness with which I remember this particular opening day had very little to do with the actual experience of the day, which was actually pretty dismal, and everything to do with the experience that led up to it. Having signed with the Indians in August 2005 I spent a month in Winter Haven, FL for the instructional league, reported to Winter Haven for spring training and finally got stuck in extended spring training for the full two months. So for those of you keeping track at home that is the first 4+ months of my professional career in Winter Haven, one of the crappiest places on earth. Combine that with the excitement of making my professional debut and it was a memorable time, despite the unmemorable place and circumstances.
Opening day with the Lake County Captains in 2007 was a very unique and memorable experience. It was on the road in Charleston, WV in one of my favorite minor league ballparks. The stadium is built right into an old refurbished warehouse that houses the locker rooms, batting cages, a restaurant and the team offices. Throw in its location in downtown Charleston (a pretty cool old town) and the setting is pretty sweet, but I digress. What makes this game so memorable was the fact that in about the 3rd or 4th inning it started snowing pretty heavily and only got postponed once a handful of balls were put in play and absolutely nobody had any idea where they went.
Last year with the Kinston Indians I encountered probably the most ridiculous set of circumstances for an opening day. It was a fairly nondescript opening day until the third inning when a city wide power outage turned off the lights and suspended the game. The problem was compounded by weather wiping out our next two games, so it was a rather inauspicious start to the year.
And that brings me to last night, which was a nice opening day experience if also not extremely out of the ordinary. About two seconds after one of my bullpen mates finished saying that it was going to be hard for Carlos Santana to live up to all the hype he has received early on this year, Carlos launched one off the batter’s eye in centerfield. That about does it for this installment, but check back soon for more.
Hello again and for the last time from sunny Arizona. Today was the last day of spring training before breaking camp early on Sunday (as in 4 am early, the Indians don’t mess around) for Akron, Ohio. So my next installment will probably be coming to you live from the Canal Park clubhouse while I wait around to see if they can clear the two feet of snow off the field and get the game in (just kidding… hopefully), so look forward to that. As for actual baseball, I had my last outing of the spring Thursday and went out on a high note with two good innings, capping off a spring completely devoid of any road games–a “perfect spring” if you will.
With the obligatory baseball coverage out of the way, I’m going to devote some time to a completely unrelated topic. As I’m sure literally dozens of people across America are aware, April is National Poetry Month. Now I realize that reading poetry is not exactly at the top of the list of things that most people tend to spend inordinate amounts of free time doing, but it is a rewarding and engaging way to invest some spare time now and then in place of watching television or playing video games. As the great American poet Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat,” and amongst the many books I read over the course of the year the poetry tends to be some of the most impactful and memorable. Not being a poet myself (sad to say), I won’t make an extensive attempt to describe the virtues of poetry, but for those of you who are interested in learning more I’ll give you a list of some of my poetic favorites that would provide a great starting point. I would also direct you to the website for the Academy of American Poets at poets.org, where you can find information about poets and poetry, get information on events in your area, and sign up for the poem-a-day feature to get a poem from an American poet delivered to your email inbox everyday (one of the few emails I look forward to reading on a daily basis). Enjoy.
I first stumbled across Stephen Dunn about two years ago and he his books have quickly become some of my favorite reading material. His best known book is Different Hours which won the Pulitzer prize for poetry, and he has a number of other excellent books including Everything Else in the World, Between Angels, and what is probably my favorite collection of poems–The Insistence of Beauty.
Time and Materials, by Robert Hass
Repair, by C.K. Williams
Alive Together, by Lisel Mueller
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
Radio, Radio, by Ben Doyle
The Wasteland, by T.S. Eliot
Simple Language, by Jennifer Barone
Failure, by Philip Schultz
Floating City, Anne Pierson Wiese