Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Frid's Wedding and Fort Wayne

Matt Bueter's words at the conclusion of Dave Fridley's wedding summed up just about everyone's thoughts: "Can you believe that just happened?" As I stood next to my longtime friend Rachel Esther, I was in total agreement. I had just witnessed my first close friend to get married. A strange situation. Dave's wedding brought me back to my "hometown" for the first time in nearly three years. Which made for an interesting 24 hours.

The journey to my hometown was an interesting one. I left Thursday night after a RiverHawks game. My plan was to avoid the Chicago traffic by driving through it at night. I would drive until I was too tired to drive anymore. I went to my apartment, grabbed my stuff, and hit the road around 11pm. I got through Chicago, and called it a night at a sketchy truck stop just outside Valparaiso. I slept in the back seat of my Jeep. The air was muggy, but I kept my windows up for security purposes. I finished the drive to "The Fort" Friday morning.

I had many people to see and very little time to do it in. This would be a quick visit. I had to be back in Rockford for a game Saturday night. I saw a few people, but then I realized I really wanted to see Dave before the main event. I showed up at his house right as his dad finished breakfast. His mother welcomed me in with open arms. Every one was very calm, relaxed, and in good spirits. I hope it's like that on my wedding day. After a couple hours of playing Guitar Hero on xBox, Dave and his groomsmen had work to do. So did I. I had lunch with long-time friend Austin Hill. Two hours at Buffalo Wild Wings was not enough. I expected to feel awkward as I drove through my old stompin grounds, but it surprisingly did not feel that way. Rachel Esther was my date to the wedding. I had finally gotten Rachel to go on a date with me after nine years of trying and after she gotten engaged. Oh well.

The wedding was at the beautiful St. Vincents church. Dave and Lindsey looked amazing. During the whole ceremony I laughed to myself because the whole time I thought "This is Dave, and he's getting married!" I don't think the guy took anything seriously his entire life and here he was getting married- one of the biggest decisions of your life. I knew most of the groomsmen and bridesmaids, which made for a fun reception. After a nice meal and several beers, it was time to dance. In typical Dave Fridley fashion, it was all country music. My kind of music. I taught a few people to line dance. As the night went on, I still had more people to see. Another friend, Leslie Scott-Slayback was in town for our friend Aimee Kien's birthday. They both knew I was in town and both begged me to see them. We met at a bar in downtown Fort Wayne that we grew up hearing about, but I had never been to. Both Leslie and Aimee looked incredible. Even though I hoped not to run into Carroll HS people, I ran into several. Everyone thought I had disappeared. I informed them of my family's relocation to St. Louis. They asked me what I was up to and I told them of my summer in minor league baseball and my upcoming trip to visit the Houston Dynamo of MLS. I enjoyed seeing their eyes get real big when I told them of all the amazing things I had been a part of the past few years at IU. Not bad for the shy, quiet kid in high school that no one took seriously. I told them all I enjoyed seeing them and wished them all the best. The night was not nearly long enough, and over before I knew it. I knew I had a long drive Saturday morning and did not want to push my limits.

I had a hero's welcoming when I returned to Fort Wayne after a three year absense. But I had to realize that that was a rare occasion. Leslie, Aimee, Rachel and Austin were my high school friends. We had some great times together and I miss them dearly. Dave, Matt, and Lindsey were my close friends in college, and we also had some great times together and I will miss them dearly as well. Dave's wedding made me realize one important fact of life: you don't know you've got until its gone.

Best wishes Dave and Lindsey. Best wishes everyone.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rocky Mountain High Colorado!

That John Dever is definitely not full of sh*t. Any one who has ever felt the thrill of climbing a mountain knows it is a high unlike any other. So when when I received my invitation for the MLS ticket-sales job fair in Denver, Colorado, of course I was going to hit the backcountry. Luckily, I have a few friends in the area. After my interviews Thursday, Erica Jenewein picked me up at the hotel. Erica and I did some mission work together Summer 2002 on the Black Pines Lakota-Sioux Reservation just south of Badlands National Park. We had not seen each other in five years, but it felt like five days. Erica and I explored downtown until we met up with my Philmont Ranger buddy Lee Tolbert. The truly awesome thing about working at Philmont is that you have friends all over the country. We met at the Rock Bottom Brewery and began making our adventure plans. We decided we were going to knock out not just one 14er, but three. Mt. Lincoln, Cameron, and Bross were our backcountry destinations. Friday was all preparation for our hike. We left for the trailhead at 12,000 feet that evening. Camp was a packed house. We had to pitch our tents in a meadow. In the parking lot, I met a former IU girl who lived in the Kappa Delta house next door to Sigma Nu and happened to be a Little 500 rider. Small world. We arose early Saturday around 5am. The air was cold, but the 2000 ft elevation gain in 1.5 miles warmed us right up. The trails were steep and the wind vicious. We met some really cool people, and dogs, along the way. The elevation crippled me a little, but nothing major. All in all, we bagged four peaks in four hours. Not bad for a guy who lives in the Midwest and had only two days to acclimate. Our trip to the 14ers of Colorado was exactly what the doctor ordered. My summer in minor league baseball has been fun, but a little lacking on the adventure side. Once again, I conqured the moutain. My only wish is that I could do it more often.

Risk and Money

As my summer-long quest for sports industry knowledge continues, I came upon one incredible revelation as I sat on a bus headed toward Denver, Colorado from the airport: He who takes the least risks, makes the least money. This statement is 100% Jon Spolestra- the man who wrote the book on sports marketing. A man I have become a true disciple of. That statement is why I found myself at the Radisson Hotel outside the Mile High City the morning of the MLS All-Stars vs. Celtic FC match. I applied for an invitation to the one-time-a-year league-wide job fair and I actually got invited. My dad put it bluntly: "You have to go." So that's all there was to it, plain and simple. Despite my reluctance at first due to my yearning to hold onto IU life as long as possible by going to grad-school, deep down I knew dad was right. Never let an opportunity pass you by. I may not get the chance to meet with people from every single professional soccer club in the USA ever again.

The job fair went very well. I got to see which clubs I would actually fit in with. I felt I had strong connection with the Houston and Dallas teams, but that is just my perspective. The decision is ultimately there's, not mine. The 10-15 minutes I had with team officials flew by like the wind. It seemed that everyone else was talking much longer than I. Denver is still my #1 choice, but that may not happen. We'll see how things work out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Minor league ball, major league dreams

The original goal of the Frontier League was to bring professional baseball to locations that could never possibly attract a major league affiliated ball club. Independent league baseball has recently been the target of frustration and ridicule among my colleagues and I, but there was something about being at GCS Park, home to the Gateway Grizzlies, that brought it all together. As I gazed upon the St. Louis skyline beyond the first baseline bleachers, my eyes drifted down to a family of five sitting a few rows behind me. I could see the excitement in the young boy's eyes. I also could see the burden in his father's eyes from a long, hard 40 hour week of labor in the hot, humid Mississippi River valley air. I could tell this family simply did not have the means to cross the river and attend a Cardinals games. But why should this young boy and his family be denied the opportunity to watch a live baseball game in person? The green grass. The roar of the crowd. The smell of the hotdogs and popcorn. All add to the package that can only be experienced in person. That young boy probably will not get to attend many games in his lifetime, but he will remember the games he did attend. So I guess it's best for him to attend a Frontier League game than no game at all.

The very next night, my dad took my family of five to a Cardinals game. Our seats were in the Redbird Club section directly below the broadcasters booths behind homeplate. The Redbird Club was exclusive with its own air-conditioned bar, catering, and food much nicer than your average ballpark food. Dad bought us all the food and drink we wanted. I never asked him how much the tickets cost and I cant comprehend how much money he spent. Sometime during the seventh inning stretch I thought of the family I saw at Gateway and I was thankful to be where I was in Busch Stadium. I was also thankful for what the Frontier League provided for those less fortunate than me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

To good times and good friends . . .

I went to visit some fraternity brothers of mine in Chicago last weekend. We had a great time and somehow managed not to get arrested, but it made me realize I spend way too much time living in the past. This summer has been rather surreal. The fact that I have a college diploma with my name on it has not quite sunk in yet. Maybe that is why I find myself looking at old pictures or thinking a million "what-if" situations where if I had done one thing versus another my life would be better. Thinking about the past is a waste of time. You can only move forward.

The two weeks I spent at home after school were some of the hardest of my life emotionally. I went from being Big Man on Campus as a senior and bike team captain of Sigma Nu Fraternity to just another guy. I had no job. No plan. Nothing. I didn't think a life after IU was possible, so I held onto what was safe for as long as possible. This internship with the Rockford RiverHawks has at least calmed my fears about post-college life. No matter where I go or what I do, there will be good people you can relate to.

My college buddies will always be just that- my college buddies. We had our time and it was great. I wouldn't change it for anything. The games, the parties, the tailgates- all great times. I know I can rely on them for advice, but I also know I can rely on new friends for just as good advice.