Here is a link to my first blog for the Shepherd Express, I will be writing a weekly baseball column for them. Just click on the link and it will take you to it. http://expressmilwaukee.com/blog-11333-baseball-is-happiness.html.
The last day or of 2014 is upon us! This year went by way to fast, it feels like yesterday that I was packing up my apartment and getting ready for a trip of a lifetime. The gratitude I feel right now is immense, there is a hint of sadness also. Sadness since it will be a year that will be hard to “top”, I don’t know why I would even think like that but the thought is there.
I have so much to be grateful for and so many people that are in my life to thank for the love and support, it is hard to comprehend. Over the past year I revealed to the world who I am as a person, how I think and act. Over the last seven years (after my divorce) I have been doing things that have gotten me out of my comfort zone. I started questioning a lot of things, my emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and educational well being.
I have been contemplating a lot of the things that got me to the place I am at today. I still feel that I have a long way to go with the changes and things I want to make and do. I received a text from my sister on Christmas that made me well up with tears, I am going to share it, I hope she doesn’t mind, I was kinda shocked at how she viewed me, since it is not how I view myself:
“Merry Christmas to an amazing older brother who when around makes me complete. There is always a sense of security I have when you’re present (must be a twin thing!) Your ability to believe and trust in yourself is an inspiration for others. Love you XOXO” We aren’t twins but a lot of people thought we were since we graduated the same year, I was held back in first grade, first grade is tough…
Her text made me think of the moments that helped me change. I am going to share some of the big “resolutions” I made over the past years, the ones that have really shaped me, there are many more but I think you will see where I am coming from.
The first thing I felt I had some control over was the way I ate, I say control because when going through my divorce it felt like my world was ending and there was nothing I could do. I didn’t like the way I felt and was on high blood pressure medication so I started researching food and nutrition, I started changing the way I ate and eventually got off the medicine. I couldn’t believe how good I felt when I started eating vegetables regularly, most of the “greens” were terrible so I started making “green smoothies” and drank my nutrition, my daughter loves it when I talk about eating healthy, ask her.
I started dating which was another interesting and at the time a very frightening experience, being with the same person for 14 years you definitely fall into very comfortable and complacent routines. Laugh at that statement, my manhood will probably be questioned, I laugh now but I was literally shaking the first time I “kissed” another woman, no worries I got over that fear. I dated some very wonderful and beautiful women during this time, however for whatever reason it didn’t work. I called the three years after my divorce my “dark period”, I was learning about myself and trying to figure out who I was as a person.
During this time I met a woman that challenged me physically, check Day 63, she used to watch The Biggest Loser, I remember talking to her on the phone during the season final, it was season nine, the contestants were running a marathon. I arrogantly said to her, if they all finish I will run a marathon, they all finished, Darius was the winner. My goal was to beat his time, her and I were going to run the marathon together in October the following year, I started training. By training I mean jogging every three days for about a mile, I realized my mistake, besides realizing how much running “sucked” there was no way I was going to run a “fricken” marathon.
I didn’t want to look weak to this woman, so I continued my “training”, in early April we ran a 5K, I finished but felt like I was having a heart attack the entire time, which made sense since I think it was to raise money for the Heart Association… A couple weeks later we ran the “Crazy Legs Classic” 8K for Wisconsin Badger Athletics, again I felt like my body was shutting down! Two weeks later she dumped me, I was heart broken! I made the decision to continue training, I ran the marathon in October, my brother-in-law said I looked like death when I was at the finish line. I was shocked that I finished, I didn’t beat Darius’s time, so I trained for another year and ran the marathon again the following year, I was faster but still didn’t beat Darius, I didn’t care, I proved a few things to myself.
I worked with a woman that traveled the world, I admired her fearless attitude, she was a “doer”, I wanted to see the world. Through her I learned of a place in India and a course called “Introduction to Buddhism”. It was in the Himalayas near the Dali Lama, I wanted to stretch my view of the world, I had gone to China for work a few years before, I loved that experience, but it was work. This new adventure was for me, I was fearful, I was going by myself to a place that was way out of my comfort zone, to learn about a religion, I didn’t understand. I had a support group of five people that I met with regularly, we discussed our ambitions and goals in life. They helped push me to change and with their encouragement I went on this adventure, it was a great experience, I met so many people that just go out and do. It opened my eyes to the world.
I continued running but gave up running races, I enjoy how I feel after two or three miles of sweating but I needed to get the rest of my body in shape, I joined a small gym and worked with a couple of trainers doing P90X for a year, I was shocked how fit I was becoming, I was enjoying things more. When the small gym closed I joined a CrossFit box. Another level of fitness!
When my Dad had his triple by pass, I was already in the mist of questioning my goals and objectives in life, his question was the tipping point I needed to act. I always have wanted to get my life in order and then present myself to the world, but it was in that moment that I realized that I was always striving to be perfect, at which I was failing miserably. I was never going to be and that outlook was getting me no where. The past five or six years had proved to me that I was capable of doing things that I thought were too hard or impossible, I just needed to start.
The stars aligned for me, there is no doubt about it, I lived a charmed life in 2014. I could not have done it with out all the support I received through out the year and being pushed the previous years, which helped me not to give up on myself, especially during my “dark years”. I will continue with my passions, I am not locked into just one thing that defines me, I love baseball and I will keep writing a weekly blog when the season starts, it is a great escape for me. I will be starting a new job on January 5th, it has been almost an entire year that I haven’t had a regular paycheck coming in, I am running on fumes financially. Not complaining at all, it was well worth the adventure.
I have a few things I want to do this year, I believe it will turn out, just believing is half the battle… I have learned the current moment is the most important moment, embrace it, life goes by way to fast. That bucket list everyone has doesn’t get filled by talking about doing, you need to go out and do. I need to thank so many people for the past year and years, I hope you all know who you are, I appreciate each and everyone of you.
It is December 1st and I have finally moved into my own place. I am living in Milwaukee, I found a small apartment that is central to the area’s I love in this great city. I have been running around the State of Wisconsin, staying at family members homes until my place was ready, I also spent a week in Germany working a trade show for my old company. I am very lucky to have such great family and friends.
As I have been organizing and unpacking my belongings I am starting to realize the scope of the baseball journey I completed. All the mementos that I have collected, the contacts I have made, the pictures I have taken, the mileage I documented it is making my brain explode with thoughts of games I watched, rest areas I have slept in, and fears I have overcome. I have not written in awhile, I needed to take a break and get all these thoughts and experiences compartmentalized (if that makes sense). I also needed to figure out what I wanted to do with the information and contacts I have acquired. I obtained a wealth of baseball knowledge, I don’t want to waste it but I don’t know what to do with it at the moment. I want to continue writing, I enjoy it, I have contacted some alternative newspapers in Wisconsin about an idea I have for next baseball season and some are very interested. I have spoke to a large sports news entity about syndicating a column, I like independence. We will see…
I watched the Arizona Fall League and the All Star games between Japan and the MLB, but now the season is over and the countdown for Spring Training is here. I am currently reading a few baseball books. Men at Work by George Will, where I came across this nugget, “Baseball-its beauty, its craftsmanship, its exactingness- is an activity to be loved, as much as ballet or fishing or politics, and loving it is a form of participation.” I agree with this romantic assessment, it is an intelligent game that I am finding out I know very little about! I was fortunate enough to attend a baseball game at Mississippi State University and I met some of the most knowledgeable fans about the strategy and intricacies of the game. I have kept in contact with one MSU fan, Shane, who sent me Ron Polk’s Baseball Playbook. Ron Polk was the long-time head baseball coach at Mississippi State and is considered the “Father of SEC Baseball”. Polk’s book I continue to pick up and learn the nuances of the game.
I have committed to writing a book about the experience, I am excited about this and also very fearful for some reason. I spent some time with my daughter this past week and we had great talks about life and how to embrace it, to go out and do, to work through fears, to not worry about how you will be perceived or what the critics will say. It is an attitude and a confidence that I have acquired, I learn more from being uncomfortable, I find more happiness, I need to continue and the fear I have about writing the book will disappear. (We also drove down to Chicago on Thanksgiving night and walked around Wrigley Field to see the progress, I was shocked at what has been done so far!) Well that is all for now, some have wanted me to do a summary of the season, I figure the summary will be the book. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!
I will be heading to Kansas City on Monday, planning on going to one of the World Series games either Tuesday or Wednesday, maybe both. My buddy from Orlando/Missoula (we are both Dodgers fans) has been in constant contact with me during the playoffs, we both have jumped on the Royals bandwagon for the postseason (shut up Rob Dwyer) and is also going. I reached out to some friends in KC, we are planning a tailgate party which might turn into viewing the game party, if tickets are scarce or too expensive.
I have to thank my mother, she asked me how much it would cost me if I were to go to Kansas City, I told her and she said she wanted to give me the money, I was floored. The money came with a couple of stipulations however, I was not to expect a Christmas present and I needed to paint something for her. I don’t think my mom realizes I am a middle aged man, who has a daughter in college, and my belief in Santa Claus was lost when I was 8 years old. As a grown man with a daughter in college, it is hard to accept this money, my mother said she was grateful she is able to do it, I understand that but… “Thanks Mom!”
The Royals have captured the hearts of America, they haven’t been beat in the playoffs yet, which is a great feat in itself. As a fan I am excited for the city, the generation of fans that have suffered a long time, for my buddy Chris “The KC Super Fan” who has attended every Royals home game for the last ten years. Baseball has brought the community together, it is special when it happens, ticket prices are going through the roof, everyone wants to be a part of it. The Royals will either play postseason stalwarts St Louis or San Francisco, the state of Missouri wants a rematch of the 1985 I-70 series, but that doesn’t look like it is going to happen Giants are up three games to one on the Cardinals, I am not so secretly enjoying that fact, I despise the Cardinals almost but not quite as much as the Yankees…
I can’t wait to get on the road! I miss it, it has only been a few weeks but the adjustment has been a little more difficult than I thought. I will check in when I get to Kansas City!
It has been over 10 days since the MLB regular season ended, the playoffs have been exciting, I did like the Wild Card games (even though the Pittsburgh Pirates shit the bed), the divisional series were fun. We have four teams left, in the National League we have familiar names with recent champions in the Giants (2010, 2012) and Cardinals (2006, 2011). In the American League we have the Orioles and Royals both teams haven’t won since the early to mid 80s.
I admire what the Giants and Cardinals organizations have done, they are consistent winners. With that said, I have been rooting hard against each, it is tiring as a fan to see the same teams year in and year out go deep into the post season. I despise the Cardinals since they seem to out maneuver and out play my hometown Milwaukee Brewers every year, not to mention what they have done to another favorite team of mine the LA Dodgers the past couple years in the playoffs. Major League Baseball is an organizational championship, more so than any other sport, the season is a marathon, one player can’t catapult you to a championship. It is an out and out war of attrition, getting to the post season is wonderful but weaknesses are exposed and glaring immediately! (Dodgers bullpen comes to mind)
I will be rooting for the American League, I want to see another city and generation of that city share in the excitement of what a championship feels like. I haven’t felt that exhilaration since 1988 when the Dodgers beat the heavily favored Oakland A’s four games to one. The most memorable moment of the 1988 World Series occurred when injured Dodgers MVP Kirk Gibson, who could barely walk due to injuries suffered during the NLCS, hit a pinch-hit, walk-off home run against Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1, that still gives me chills. I was at my girlfriends apartment watching the game, I was trying to tell her I needed to talk to her about something, I wanted to break up, I started discussing things with her through out the game and finally was about to tell her when Tommy Lasorda sent in Gibson to pinch hit, needless to say but I am going to say it, delirium ensued! My girlfriend sensing I was weak with excitement started kissing me, I temporarily forgot about what I was trying to do and ended up doing something much more pleasurable, it took another week and a Dodger win to finally break up with her, it wasn’t as much fun as watching baseball…
So as the League Championship Series start I will be excited to see either the Orioles or Royals get to the World Series, it will be interesting to watch the Cardinals and Giants but I wont be as enthusiastic. I am adjusting to life not on the road, I have a lead on a job, hopefully that turns out for me. I have been staying at my sister’s in Ashland for the last few days and will be here through the weekend. The Northwoods are beautiful this time of year, slowing down and walking in the woods helps center me, I love the smell, the colors and the wildlife. I am trying to figure out what angle I am going to take on the book, it will come to me. I will check in when the two teams are determined for the World Series.
I am sitting in a Starbucks in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I didn’t go to a baseball game yesterday, I felt out of sorts, I am at my parents home. I am tired and feeling a bit lost. I have a lot of people to thank who have helped me with this journey. I have mentioned my brother Chad numerous times, he said he appreciates the thanks but it is time to get past it, thanks Chad, without you I would never have gotten this far.
I need to thank Beth Chapman and Roger Wilson, they were with me from the beginning working behind the scenes. Roger did all the trivia and managed most of the Twitter feed, besides also compiling a list of 20,000 baseball games throughout the country. Beth painstakingly edited most of my posts, here is something I think most people will be surprised to learn, I have never met Beth, a friend connected us at the beginning of this trip, I plan to get meet up with her sometime to thank her in person, right now she is writing her own blog, she is a diehard St Louis Cardinal fan. As annoying as that may be, she is a wonderful and giving person.
Mike Bruno of Bruno Independent Living Aids contributed quite a bit of money, he downplayed this to me but I was truly humbled and I thank him and his Bruno family from the bottom of my heart. I got many donations from so many people, I was shocked and again humbled by the generosity. Friends invited me into their homes through out the country, some I hadn’t seen in years, some I barely knew, my gratitude is immense. I loved reminiscing of by gone years, talking about life circumstances and laughing abut missed opportunities. I need to thank my family for supporting me, my dad for inspiring me.
I have lived my life on social media for the past nine months, I think I am addicted, I need to get away from it for awhile. I have committed to writing a book about this experience, I need to continue with my passion and pursue other ideas I have. I have realized if it is meant to be the stars will align, obstacles will be easily overcome and happiness achieved. I am nervous of the life unknown at the moment, securing a job and a place to live is on my mind, I want to continue staying uncomfortable trying new things. I have been as honest and forthright as I could possible be, insecurities and worries I have revealed, I am no longer as worried how I will be perceived but I am human and things will pop up from time to time.
I will leave it at that for now, I hear that lady singing, the song is about chapters closing, new ones beginning…
When I started this project, I said I would be honest and forthright. At times I worried about what I had written, I exposed myself, showed my insecurities, frustrations and shared my opinions. I, at times, felt vulnerable, people encouraged me, texted me to see if I was okay. I have to say that when I did talk about my insecurities and vulnerabilities, I didn’t think people would perceive them as weakness or that I was depressed. I am neither, I was just showing what I was feeling and how I was feeling from one day to the next.
I am going to write about something that has me a bit down and frustrated. I am not looking for a sympathetic ear, because this frustration just is… I have more gratitude and perspective than I have ever had in my life, I currently have only “first world” problems as kids are fond of saying. My frustration is that I will not accomplish finishing this journey, the goal has always been to go to the end of the World Series, there is still a month left in the baseball season if you count the post season. People will say nice things, tell me what I did was awesome and even inspirational. I will be comforted by this, I will even find some acceptance.
BUT… I, recently, read about a guy that is traveling to all 195 countries in the world, do you think he will be satisfied with just 189? What about those people who sail around the world, I don’t think they will feel the entire journey is complete if they leave a nautical mile on the table… It is what it is, something I say all the time, life has a way of teaching you hard lessons, I might not know what it is at the moment but it currently feels like “shit”. Lou Presutti who owns and runs Cooperstown Dreams Park talks to the losing team in the championship game every week, the kids are usually upset and have tears running down their face, what he says is a version of the following:
“I hear everybody always say, ‘Hey, it’s OK, it’s all right.’ Well, it’s not OK, and it’s not all right when you don’t achieve your goal. And right now, all that pain you have in your heart, all those tears that are coming down your faces — you’re supposed to feel that way. Because winners hurt and champions feel pain when they don’t attain their goal.”
“Anything in your life you do, if you have a goal and you don’t get to that finish line, you better feel exactly the way you feel right now. If you don’t, then change and do something else.”
These are Lou’s words, I really appreciate them right now, my goal has not been attained and it does hurt. I can comfort myself all I want, I did put all I had into this journey, I learned a lot about the country, baseball and myself. I have been a part of MLB Spring Training, Four Opening Days, The All Star Game, Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium, College World Series, Little League World Series, American Legion World Series, Baseball Hall of Fame, interviewed numerous times on TV, featured in a bunch of newspapers, been on the radio, went to all MLB Stadiums, saw a game in all of the lower 48 states, and on Sunday have gone to a baseball game through the entire regular baseball season.
The last month hasn’t been as easy, major media outlets expressed interest in my story but didn’t pursue them, initially I just rolled with it, but it did hurt the ego a little bit, the interviews with local stations fell off, I was okay with that since that kind of the attention was never the goal but I would be lying if I didn’t enjoy all that attention when I was getting it daily. I always assumed my novelty would get old… I am probably feeling how the Milwaukee Brewers are feeling, the stars were aligned for them most of the season but the last month has not been kind. Like I said I am just expressing my frustration, not looking for encouragement, just being honest and forthright, I will finish up Sunday in Milwaukee with the Brewers, we will probably be feeling the same way.
I am currently in Detroit, going to go to see the Minnesota Twins play the Tigers. I am rooting for the Twins in this one, I want the Kansas City Royals to win the division. Thank you for reading my blog, I appreciate you all.
I was eyeing the cab driver suspiciously, I inched my car closer to the one in front of me. I wasn’t going to let him cut in front of me, we were staring at each other. A couple from the Reds game just got into his car and wanted to go to the Casino. The car in front of me also inched closer to the car in front of him, we were on the same page. I was annoyed by these cab drivers, seven of them are in the left turn lane and waiting for fares, the stop light is controlled by a cop and he is holding all the cars for five minutes at a time while he fans stream out of the stadium.
I positioned myself at the end of the game near the left field to make a quick exit, my car was in the parking structure across the street, it was going to be smooth for me to beat the traffic. When Ryan Braun struck out to end the game, I darted out the gate, across the street into the structure, GPSed Cleveland as I started my car and was off, when I hit the exit, I was surprised to see a cop waving me out, I hadn’t paid for parking, what good fortune I thought, a guy gave me a free ticket to the game, I only spent a few dollars on snacks, Cincinnati was going to be cheap!
GPS told me to drive away from the stadium, I was having a great night, no crowds to deal with either, I was feeling guilty that I didn’t pay for parking, at that moment the GPS wanted me to turn right, then right again, “shit” I was headed back towards the front of the stadium! “Karma”, I thought for not paying for parking! Brake lights were everywhere in front of me, I was in the left hand lane which was just creeping along as the cars in the right hand lane would have bursts of movement. I was getting frustrated by the minute. As I reached the front of the ballpark I saw the problem, the cab drivers! I was incensed, I only had 900 feet, a left turn and I would be on I-71 heading to Cleveland, but these “assholes” were holding everyone up. I made a quick movement and got into the right lane, I pulled up along side one, I glared at him, he looked at his phone, the cop held up traffic for what seemed like forever, the fans seemed to walk slowly across the streets, “idiots and assholes” I was thinking. The couple got into the cab to go to the casino…
The cabbie looked at me and knew I wasn’t going to let him in, his fare rolled down his window and asked if I would, “No” I said defiantly, “Are you kidding me!” I added. The guy looked surprised, his girlfriend looked up from her phone also shocked by my frustration to his question. The cabbie smirked, “Oh did you just come from the game” the guy asked, I said yes, “I have been sitting in this traffic for a half hour” I lied, the game had only been over for 15 minutes. At that moment, I remembered all my good fortune, the free ticket and parking, “you can cut in” I told him, “wow was I a dick” I also said, his girlfriend started laughing, “I don’t know why I reacted so poorly, that was very rude of me”. The guy said it was okay, I stated again how “dickish” I was, the light finally turned green, the cabbie darted in front of me and made it through the light as it turned yellow, I went through as it turned red, I am sure the guy behind me was cursing me for letting the cab in.
For all the enlightenment I have gained on this trip, I realize that I need to work on some little things… Why those five minutes I lost sitting in traffic were so important to me, I will never know, I didn’t need to be to Cleveland until 7 tonight!
I don’t know why I have lost so many days, I think I have written everyday and kept track but it seems I haven’t kept up, today is Day 222, so this post is written about yesterday.
I talked about commitment and perseverance a little bit yesterday. These two things have played heavy on my mind the last few weeks. I personally have struggled all my life at being committed to one thing, be it a job, a relationship, or philosophy. I admire people that can dedicate themselves to these things. I feel satisfaction that I committed myself to the upbringing of my daughter, she has turned out to be a well adjusted young lady. I had lots of help, wasn’t perfect, but I persevered when things seemed overwhelming. She was the one thing I couldn’t easily let go of, when she came into the world all other things didn’t seem as important, I still had the desires but they weren’t as intense, with that said when she went off to college, my desire to do what I had a passion for came back intensely.
I struggled with thoughts and commitment of one career over another, I wanted to make money, have a comfortable life, but what was really hard for me to “square” in my mind was that I had to compromise myself as a person. With this comfort, I had to give up some of the hopes and dreams I had , I wanted to go out and explore and report what I have seen. That is why I think I felt so discontented for such a long time, I focused on my daughters well being, making sure she didn’t miss out on things I missed out on. I dreamed of being a leader of people, of having a well respected job in a well respected industry. I wanted a beautiful home and family, I think most people want these things. The problem I faced was I never knew what I wanted to commit my life too, or what I felt my purpose was. When my father asked me last summer, “What would you do right now if you could do anything?” I knew and I answered honestly and forthrightly. I didn’t think about what it all meant or how I would be perceived.
After I answered, I immediately thought how child like my answer was, baseball, traveling and writing. People would think I was crazy, immature or trying to run away from my responsibilities. It also occurred to me that maybe, I was the one that was saying these things about me, fearful that I would actually do such a foolish thing. It was a huge commitment, but exciting, I craved excitement, do something not many have done. I pondered and thought about this idea for a few months, bringing it up to friends and co workers. I got the idea on paper, got help from a friend to write it up, showed it to my family. I was surprised by their responses and encouragement, the stars were aligning, I was going to do this, I never doubted that I couldn’t do it, I would persevere when it got tough.
I never had something happen so easily in my life, I learned by doing, the more I wrote and traveled the easier it has become, the people around the game easy to spot. It is now coming to the end, worry has crept in, money is running low, I have committed to writing a book. I can’t go back to who I was, I am no longer that person. I am a writer, a person passionate about the people around the game of baseball but also a person of this world, if this wasn’t just an escape then I will have to commit myself to writing and the people around the game. Is this a silly thing to commit too? I have friends committed to much bigger things, the planet, the poor, how do I combine my passion to all of that?
Commitment and perseverance, things I have lacked, I want the comfort of what money can buy, a nice apartment, bed, etc… But I have been given much happiness through this game and what I have gotten to do, it would be foolish not to continue. I have ideas, if it is meant to be, the money will come, the stars will continue to align. I am in Cincinnati, I will be attending my 240th baseball game tonight, the Reds are playing the Brewers. The game doesn’t mean much, both are out of the playoff race for the most part, but I will sit and watch, maybe walk around and just enjoy the energy, I will contemplate ideas for how to write the book! This has been a journey of enlightenment…