Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rockford Purple Sox

In addition to my many duties for the Rockford RiverHawks baseball team, I'm currently leading a campaign to change the franchises name to the Purple Sox. The season is almost half-way over and up until about a week ago, our team was the worst in the Frontier League. The players wore purple socks one game for the "Give Cancer a Curveball" Night. The team has not lost a game since. The team has not stopped wearing their purple socks either. The manager J.D. Arndt goes as far as pulling up his pants legs with his purple stockings in full view for all to see. All athletes have their superstitions and rituals, but baseball players are a whole different breed. If somehow, this Rockford baseball team is dubbed Frontier League champions this year, then I feel it is only appropiate to change the team's name to the Purple Sox.

P.S. I want to give my former superviser Tyra Robertson a big shout-out for bringing some Texas attitude to the IU School of Journalism Multi-media lab.

Perks of the Job

People have many misconceptions about working in minor league baseball. People ask me what I do and they say "it must be great seeing all those games!" I chuckle and tell them I hardly get to watch the games, and when I do, I don't really get to enjoy it. As an intern, I work long hours and don't get paid jack. However, there are some pretty awesome perks to the job. After the the last fan left the stadium after a six game homestand, the general manager rolled out a keg. Play some music, add beer, get some 20-something year olds together, and just like that it's a college party all over again. We played cornhole and beer pong in the beer garden until 1 in the morning having just a good old time. Fun is good. Sure the days are long and you have to deal with some of the most obnoxious people, but if you're not having fun working in sports, then you ought to get out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coach Hep: The Rock of Indiana

My alma mater Indiana University lost a dear friend. Indiana head football coach Terry Hoeppner passed away from brain tumor complications yesterday morning in the Bloomington hospital. Coach 'Hep' was a players' coach. He was a students' coach.

From the moment he arrived on campus, Coach Hep did everything within his power to turn around the Indiana football program. More importantly than the win/loss record, Hep made us all proud to be Hoosiers again. He led his players through the tailgate fields and stadium parking lots encouraging everyone he passed to come inside to cheer "their" team to victory. Inside Memorial Stadium sat a giant limestone rock and it was every fans' obligation on Saturday afternoon to "Defend the Rock!" After every win, the players led the fans in "Indiana, Our Indiana"- the fight song. The Indiana native himself understood the history and tradition that did exist with Indiana football. He used his state connections to emphasize the importance of in-state recruiting when establishing a winning program.

Hep's fight against his illness paralleled his never say die coaching style. He was a warrior. He was a fighter. During the 2006 season, he endured two surgeries and miraculously missed only two games. He very much wanted to be healthy again and return to coaching the Hoosiers. In his short tenure as coach, the Indiana football program made incredible progress.

Rest in peace Coach Hep. You were the rock of Indiana. You will be missed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Field Trip

I had not been on a field trip since I was in high school, and I could not think of any other way to describe my day trip to Chicago anything other than a field trip. The RiverHawks production crew and I went to a Chicago White Sox game to get a "behind-the-scenes" look at how a major league team produces its game and runs its scoreboard. So even though I got a day off work to go to a baseball game, it was a learning experience.

The day started out as a great adventure in public transportation. Where I come from, public transportation is piling fifteen guys into the bed of a pick-up truck. We rode the Metro train into the city, hopped on a water taxi to the Billy Goat Tavern, walked down Michigan Ave. and then rode the subway train to U.S. Cellular Field. I learned more about Chicago history in one afternoon than in the 22 years of my life. The Billy Goat Tavern is where the Chicago Cubs "Curse of the Billy Goat" legend originated, as well as the SNL "Cheezeborger cheezeborger cheezeborger!" sketch. We received VIP honors at the ballpark and went to a lot of places most people do not have access to. Maybe it is just because they are Chicagoans but going to a Sox game with my colleagues was like living the movie "Fever Pitch." I'm a big sports fan and all. I love my Hoosiers, Bears, and Cardinals more than any other, but these guys who are way too obsessed with their baseball team.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Best Man

My good friend Cory Bivona asked me to be his best man for his wedding last night. I accepted the honor without hesitation telling my friend that I would be there anyway. I might be stricken to a wheel chair with tubes coming out of every orifice of my body, but I would be there.

In the back of my mind, as Cory gave me the details of the wedding so far, I wondered: "What exactly does it mean to be someone's 'best man'?" The tradition of the best man has been around for years, but does anyone really stop to comtemplate its meaning or significance? I doubt it.

Cory continued, telling me all the reasons why I was the only worthy canidate. He said I was the only constant source of friendship that he has had in his life when it mattered most. I was present at all the most important events of his life. I was the only friend from Indiana that ever visited him or called him after he moved away. I don't think I have ever received a better compliment.

Cory and I go way back. On his very first day of 5th grade class in Indiana, this kid talked about a boy scout camping trip he went on. Cory was a scouter where he used to live. Turns out, that kid was me and I got him involved with Troop 12. We went on our first backpacking trip together and went on a 12 day trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.

As Cory talked on, I started to get a better idea of the best man's role, but I wasn't satisfied. I did some research first thing this morning. The role of best man was introduced by the Germanic goths at approximately 200 AD. Due to a shortage of women. Goth men frequently resorted to bride kidnapping to procure wives. When the groom went to the bride's house with the intent of carrying her off, the best man was dispatched to help fight off the relatives of the bride.

Backpacking may not be of the same intensity as Germanic Goth-style wive-stealing, but I was starting to get the concept. The groom and the best man overcome some sort of obstacle together. Being the groom's best man meant to be his best friend, and no greater title or honor exists than to be a man's best friend.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The crack of the bat . . .

"The heart of the game is the crack of the bat." James Earl Jones spoke these words narrating a documentary on baseball as you begin your tour of the Louisville Slugger bat factory and museum. I heard these words several years ago, but their meaning did not hit me until last night.

Last night we had a double-header against Windy City. The first game went along just fine and the RiverHawks actually won, but the second game was one of those games that drug out forever and the home team was getting slaughtered. Everyone just wanted the torture to end. The air was cold and the wind made matters worse. At one point there were maybe 20 people left watching the game. The game did not end until well after midnight. All I could think about was going home.

Right when I was about to leave, another intern said: "Let's go play on the field." Everyone grabbed their gloves and I reluctantly followed. For the next thirty minutes or so we hit, catched, and threw just like we were kids again. I had not had such innocent fun in quite a long time. Playing ball on that minor league field in Rockford, Illinois took me back to a time when all was good about sports. A time when people did not play for fame or fortune, but for love of the game.

Whether we want to admit it, baseball is in each and everyone of us. Baseball is an allegory to the American dream. Baseball, like the American dream, has changed over time, but has stood the test of time.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Meeting Danica Patrick

Working in minor league baseball has its perks besides free brats at the ball park. You get to meet some cool people. So just as any home grown Indiana boy, I love the Indianapolis 500. It's without question the greatest spectacle in racing and the best team is the Andretti-Green Racing team. When Danica Patrick left the Dave Letterman team it was a big deal because the Letterman team gave D.P. her big break. Danica happens to be a Roscoe, IL native which is very close to Road Ranger Stadium where the Riverhawks play. She's come back the past few years in between races to make a community appearance and help raise some cash for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. As a front office employee of the Rockford Riverhawks I had the opportunity to meet the best-looking spectacle in racing.

River Hawks Professional Baseball

Hey everyone. This came up sudden, but I’m currently working as a video production intern with the Rockford (IL) Riverhawks baseball team. I read about the job on a Tuesday, drove up for an interview on Wednesday, hired on the spot, and started that afternoon. Opening day is Friday May 25th, and we’ve been running around like maniacs trying to get things ready to go. I’m having a great time though and learning a lot about minor league baseball. Hopefully this will get my foot in the door and launch me to the next level.

Congratulations to my boy Cory Bivona on his recent engagement.