Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sacramento, Hockeyville USA!

This past Friday I was excited to be a part of a one of a kind outdoor hockey game in Sacramento. The game was to be played at Raley Field that night.
Well, thanks to El Nino, the game was cancelled and rescheduled for the next afternoon. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it. I had to work.
So after a few tweets to the Stockton Heat, I  can use my ticket for a future Heat game at Stockton Arena.
I was gonna write about the history of hockey in Sacramento, but I lost interest in writing about it.
I shouldn't complain because we really need the rain in California, but why did it have to rain on a day I was excited about?
After the game was cancelled. It stopped raining. Really?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Where Did You Hear That From?

False facts, inaccurate rumors that lead to nothing and misguided information. We all here little bits and pieces of information of things that may or may not happen. That's why they're called rumors.
I have a friend who always asked if I've heard of any moves in baseball. I tell him what I hear. He then said, "I can't believe what you tell me because the things you say will happen, never happen." I told him to stop asking me then.
I get my information from the major sports sites or Twitter. I'm not making this stuff up!
Sometimes the insiders are wrong. I've been known to be wrong too. That won't stop me from relaying information, I'll just be selective who I give it to.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Meet Channel 28's New Sports Director

I'm proud to say I accepted the position of sports director at Channel 28 in Napa!
My first show was tonight. I spoke of the Warriors historic run, the 85 Bears and Hot Stove news.
Before tonight I had 15 episodes as a part time reporter. I committed to one year with an option for a second year. There's lots of zeroes in my check.....with a big zero in front. I do it for the love of television. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to something.
Stay tuned!

Monday Night Footballs Best Game

Thirty years ago today, the greatest Monday Night Football game was played between the Miami Dolphins and the greatest football team ever assembled, the 1985 Chicago Bears.
The Bears were a indestructible machine. Their backups could have made the playoffs. Coached by Mike Ditka, he lead a team who's names include Dent, Singletary, Payton, McMahon and my favorite player on the team, The Fridge.
The Bears were undefeated coming into that game in Miami. I wish I could tell you more about, but I cant. I didn't watch it.
I was at my mom's work Christmas party.
I begged and pleaded not to go. But I had to since it was the foster kids Christmas party and there would be other co-workers kids there so I had to go to.
It was a night filled with cheap toys, bad food and break dancing. It was the most miserable experience ever.
The next day at school, all the guys were talking about the upset of the year. The mighty Bears lost 38-24.
The Bears would go one to win the Super Bowl, but in my mind, I missed the greatest game in 1985.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hey Buddy, I Need A Job!

The buddy system. We've all benefitted from it at some point in our life. Or perhaps hampered by it. It happens in all aspects of business from Wall Street to Main street. From retail to professional sports.
Baseball management is built on the buddy system. It's been this way for many years. You play ball, then you retire. If you're fortunate, you can coach, scout, manage or become a front office executive after your playing days are over. How are these jobs filled? The buddy system.
It goes like this. One either makes the phone calls and hires his buddies or one picks up the phone and calls a buddy and says, "Hey buddy! I need a job."
As I've said, this happens all the time in baseball, or any other sport for that matter.
But the times are a changing. It's not the lifelong baseball man hiring his friends to help run a team. It's a new breed of individual hiring his buddies. An outsider.
Now we have people who've never played the sport running teams. They're Ivy Leaguers who can crunch numbers. These Ivy Leaguers used to work on Wall Street. Since the Great Recession, the money doesn't flow freely on Wall Street anymore. Corporate America is tightening the wallet, watching the bottom line. So where are these guys going. They're lining up to work in professional baseball. 
Thanks to Billy Beane, who embraced sabermetrics, stat nerds are working the numbers to reveal a hidden game in baseball. These guys created new stats such as WHIP, VORP, WAR, OBPS, etc.
I like base statistics, but not to this extreme. (Math was always my worst subject.) It's information overload. It's overkill. It's too much!!!
Let's take the poster child for Mr. Ivy Leaguer working his way up the baseball ladder.....Theo Epstein.
A very young Theo Epstein was hired by the San Diego Padres as a intern in the scouting department in the early 90's. He caught the eye of Larry Lucchino, who then made him an assistant in the scouting department. Mr. Lucchino moved on to the Baltimore Orioles and took young Mr. Epstein with him.
Mr. Epstein made a name for himself. He eventually moved on to the Boston Red Sox and helped create the environment of winning and built a champion.
Now, back in the day, a baseball outsider would have been just that. An outsider looking in. It would have been the baseball lifer building and running a team.
I tried to get into professional baseball as a scout in the early 90's and I was rejected. I was told no professional experience, no job waiting for me. I was willing to work for free as a bird dog scout. "Thanks, but no thanks" is what I heard.
I didn't have professional playing experience, no Ivy League degree. No golden ticket into baseball.
I eventually got into professional baseball as a clubhouse manager for the Solano Steelheads of the old Western Baseball League. It wasn't glamorous, but without trying I got in. (I'll write more about that in a future post.)
Now professional is infested with outsiders running teams. Hiring their buddies to help out. I read something that baseball is the new Wall Street. One gets paid a handsome salary, brings in his buddies who also get paid handsomely. There was a joke about Theo Epstein bringing in Jed Hoyer as GM of the Cubs so Mr. Hoyer can decide which steakhouse they'll be eating at for dinner.
Why was it a joke? Because the buck starts and stops with Mr. Epstein. Why does he need a GM for? He makes all the decisions. Kinda reminds me of what hockey legend Gordie Howe referred to himself when he was named a vice president of the Detroit Red Wings.....he said he was the vice president of paperclips.
Similar situation in Los Angeles. Team president Andrew Friedman is THE decision maker. He had a great track record as the GM in Tampa Bay.
So what does he do? He names a GM who basically sits around and does nothing and makes millions doing it. His name is Farhan Zaidi. This is one interesting man. He admitted to knowing nothing about baseball about ten years ago. He was hired as an assistant in the Oakland Athletics front office. Being linked to Billy Beane made him a sought after commodity. This is a numbers cruncher. He learned how to scout as an outsider. He learned how to run a Major League organization as an outsider.
Now he's GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I tweeted a Dodgers beat writer and asked what does Farhan Zaidi do all day since Andrew Friedman makes all the decisions. His answer? He sits around and yawns all day. He tweeted the answer in jest, but I'm sure he was half serious too.
Again, I'm stumping for the baseball lifer to run a team. There's a poster child for the baseball outsider who has destroyed teams everywhere he goes. His name is Josh Byrnes. He's been GM of two teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres. He simply doesn't know how to run a team. He left the Padres farm system in ruins and made bad decisions in Arizona. The thing is, his name keeps coming up for GM jobs. He's currently in the Dodgers front office as an assistant.
The baseball winter meetings are coming up. A lot of people will be looking for work. If I was running an organization I would throw away the sign that says,"No experience necessary, apply within."
I would be on the lookout for the baseball lifer. Someone who played the game. Knows situations. Knows how to coach and scout. Someone who can talk baseball. Real baseball talk. Someone who's been there done that and willing to do it again.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Remembering The World Football League

I've written before I was obsessed with football as a teenager. NFL, CFL, USFL, college football. I couldn't get enough football.
My cousin Richard and I would exchange newspaper clippings about football in our respective areas. He lived in southern California, home of my LA Rams.
Richard news clippings were a treasure trove for me. I live in 49ers country. I hate the 49ers. Enough said. I always enjoyed Richard's mail.
One year we came to visit, Richard had something to share with me. He was very excited to show me. He went to a stack of football magazines he had and pulled out something I'd never seen before.
It was a magazine of the World Football League. There were helmet logos I didn't recognize, teams I've never heard of. This particular issue was of the Southern California Sun, who played at Anaheim Stadium in 1974 and part of 1975.
I was hooked. I went through that magazine cover to cover. Read and re-read the articles. I remember an article about Virgil Carter called "The Computerized Quarterback". Virgil Carter was from the Sacramento area who once played for the Cincinnati Bengals.
I also remember an article about head coach Tom Fears. He was a part of the famous LA Rams receiving corps in the 1950's with Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch.
I would discover very recently that Tom Fears was Mexican, making him the first prominent Mexican to play in the NFL and coach. He was the first head coach of the New Orleans Saints. (Why Mexicans aren't recognized for our contribution to the NFL is beside me. A future post very soon.)
Anyways, I wanted the issue. Of course cousin Richard being a football freak like I was, wasn't going to part with it. Every year we came the first thing I would do after hugging everyone hello was go to Richard's room and look at that WFL magazine. Until one day we went and I went looking for it. I couldn't find it. I asked Richard where it was. He had this look of disappointment on his face and he told me that my aunt Connie, his mother, threw it away along with other magazines that were piling up around the house. My heart still aches over that.....
So I declared myself a World Football League historian. But there wasn't much recorded history of the league by the 90's.
I did come across a book at the Sacramento Library called, "While The Gettin's Good". It was about the first year of the WFL. From what I remember it was basically stories of teams going broke. One team was so broke they had to borrow athletic tape to tape up ankles before a game. One story discussed how players on the Honolulu Hawaiians were living off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and living in tents on the beach. And the owner of the Hawaiians owned the Sambo's restaurant chain. (I miss Sambo's. In this overly politically correct world we live in, the restaurant chain would generate controversy due to the decor of the restaurant. A little Indian boy named Sambo and a tiger. Long story, Google it.)
It was a great book. It's impossible to find now. (Hmmmm? Road trip to the downtown Sacramento library!)
This was nearly twenty years ago. All I had to go off of was memories of cousin Richard's magazine. I was probably the only person who heard of the Philadelphia Bell, Jacksonville Sharks, Portland Storm, Houston Texans ( yes people, the NFL had to buy the current Texans name off the WFL owner), New York Stars, Chicago Fire (later Wind), Detroit Wheels, Florida Blazers and the Birmingham Americans were.
I would eventually discover the Birmingham Americans were the Green Bay Packers of the WFL.
As time would pass, in the current world I live in, we have an all football network, the NFL Network. I LOVE the old NFL Films movies. One show was called The Lost Treasures, and the WFL was featured! Jackpot!! Video proof of the league. (God bless your everlasting soul Steve Sabol.) This show was over an hour of interviews of former players, coaches, broadcasters, and fans with stories of there memories of the WFL.
Great stories about how the league was built on little cash flow, bad credit and bouncing checks. The powerhouse franchise was the Birmingham Americans. They still have fans who meet frequently and talk about old times along with former players. The Americans would win the first World Bowl in 1974.
I kept the show on my tivo until it was accidentally erased! (I'm currently researching Amazon about which Lost Treasures show it was on.)
I however cannot talk about the WFL without mentioning the greatest football player (in his own mind) Jim "The King" Cochran, aka The Poor Man's Joe Namath. He was mentioned in the show and he lived large.....on very small paychecks. When times got tough, he'd move the family to his mom's house.
(He was in another NFL Films feature called Pottstown, Footballtown USA. He was interviewed in present day along with footage of him as a young football player. He easily had the BIGGEST EGO of any athlete I've ever heard talk of themselves. Not in an offensive way, but The King loved The King! I'd pay top dollar for that episode.)
This past Thursday, October 22nd, marked the 40th anniversary of the last day of the league. The league folded halfway through the 1975 season due to financial reasons. It wasn't drowning in red ink, more like red paint.
Men who were supposed to be paid were playing football for nothing. Literally nothing. Some teams never paid their players. Tough game to play for free.
Forty years later, the NFL is king and taking over the world. Too bad the World Football League couldn't do it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fear And Frying In Napa

Last week was a busy week. I was property of the PGA Tour. No, I didn't play in a tournament, but I was inside the ropes.
This was my second year volunteering for the Frys.com Open in Napa. It's the first event of the 2015/16 season. I meant to write a post about it last year, but I was so exhausted from the week, I didn't get around to it. I posted most of my thoughts on Twitter. (@skipcastaneda on Twitter)
This year was much easier since I knew what I was doing. Last year I was a fish out of water.
Last year my role was being a marshall on the 16th hole. This year I was moved to the 17th hole. It's was a par 4, 375 yards.
The role of the marshall is quite easy, but you must focus. We had various assingments. We would rotate to the tee box, the gallery gates, the landing area and the green. There was always something going on around us. There were times when not much of anything was happening at our hole. The biggest lag in time was the time in between the morning group and afternoon group.
The biggest name to appear this year was Rory McIllroy. He drew the largest galleries. After he went through, the golf course was empty.
There were groups with names such David Toms, Rory Sabatini and Angel Cabrera who had no one following them. There were also no names with no one following them.
This year was different. Last year the golfers interacted with us volunteers more. This year, not at all. As a matter of fact, this year was work.
I'm not complaining, I'll volunteer again, but this year had a different vibe to it. I'm guessing the contestants took it as a serious tournament this year.
The final day saw a two hole playoff with Emilliano Grillo taking home the trophy and the winners check. I got a chance to offer my congratulations to him. It was nice to connect with a first time PGA Tour winner. It was also nice to shake hands with a newly minted millionaire.
After the awards ceremony, it was time to go home. I wanted to stay longer. Just soak up the energy left behind after a busy week. But it was time to go. Speaking of moving on, Fry's announced they are moving on. In 2016, the tournament will be known as the Safeway Open. I work for a competing grocery chain. I'll go back to volunteer, but I won't wear the gear.
I eventually made it to the front gate and waited for a shuttle to take me to my car. There was a long delay. I decided to walk. It was hard to walk away. I didn't want the week to end.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Football In The Great Wide Open

Tucked away in the northwest part of extreme Northern California is Humboldt State University. It's a beautiful campus in Arcata, California. I've heard of the school, but didn't think anything of it until my cousin Billy, who plays for Azuza Pacific University (never heard of APU until Billy went there), played Humboldt State over the weekend.
So my cousins and I set a about a long road trip........a very long road trip. 
They picked me up in Suisun, California, which was on the way on Hwy 12. They had already been in the car for six hours. We would be in the car for another six hours. 
When we left after picking me up, along the way you can see the state changing. I live in what's called the North Bay, which sits along the northern end of the California Delta region. Lots of channels and waterways that takes boats out to the Pacific.
We passed wine country, the coastal ranges, and eventually in to the Redwood Empire. 
Now my family is from Southern California. The north state was a different world to them. 
The air was clean and fresh with a crispness to it. They live in smog. To them, the weather was a treat, and it made me happy that they were enjoying the scenery. 
We finally made it to Eureka. (Eureka we finally found it! It's the state motto to those of you outside California.)
My family was hungry and by accident, we ate at the same restaurant as the APU football players were having their team meal. So we got to chat with Billy for a few moments before he had to go back to his team meal. They ate in a separate hall and we could hear them laugh, tell stories and applaud one another when their names were called. It was fried chicken night at The Samoa Cookhouse. It was a wonderful meal and we ate a "family style" dinner. We passed plates of food to one another and ate everything off our plates. (We went back for breakfast the next day. Thank you Samoa Cookhouse for making me gain five pounds!)
On to the game. Humboldt football is a big deal. The whole town looks forward to the season, and the Redwood Bowl is filled to capacity for every home game.
The Redwood Bowl is a great place to watch a football game. Redwood trees tower over the field, and the other athletic facilities are top notch. I was expecting a beat up old stadium that was falling apart. It makes Hornet Field in Sacramento look bad. 
As for the team itself, Humboldt was ranked number six in the country in Division 1 AA. Their offense is explosive as they score 55 to 62 points a game. 
My cousin Richard said it was the weirdest offense he ever saw and he couldn't really describe why. He said I would have to see it for myself. I agree with cousin Richard, it was a very unusual offense. They run the ball, and run the ball all night long. Their running back, Ja'Quan Gardner, had 100 yards rushing.......in the first quarter! He eventually finished with 305 yards rushing. That young man is gonna play professionally somewhere. I would say he'll be playing on Sundays, but he has CFL written all over him, and the CFL plays a weird weekly schedule.
Cousin Billy had four tackles. (Side note- NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater told Billy's parents and I that Billy is a very good football player and APU is lucky to have him. What a compliment! And what an unexpected treat to meet Mr. Slater.)
Humboldt and their offense had a tough fight against APU's defense. I imagine other coaches who'll soon be playing Humboldt will be watching APU's defensive game film to figure out how APU held Humboldt to 34 points.
After the game, we went down to the field and spoke to Billy. He had to rush off to the bus. Not to go back to the hotel, but back to Glendora. (Azuza and Glendora are right next to each other. The school straddles the border of both towns.) That was a very long over night bus ride. (Funny thing is the team flew into Sacramento, then bussed it up to Eureka. I guess a small school couldn't afford to fly them back.)
On the way home this morning, very early this morning, we were talking about next years trip back to Eureka. I loved it. I rediscovered a part of California I haven't been to since 1985. Also went in 1983 and I thought Eureka was another planet. But that's another story. 
I have another reason to go back to Eureka next summer. The Humboldt Crabs of the collegiate summer league baseball fame play ball just next to the Humboldt State campus. A future blog post!

The First Of The Last

I attended the Sacramento Kings pre-season game against the San Antonio Spurs. No big deal right? It just a preseason game.
Well, it's the beginning of the end for Arco/Power Balance/Sleep Train Arena.
This is the last year for NBA basketball in Natomas. As I write this, the Golden 1 Center is a year away from completion.
I attended the very first game at Arco Arena, a charity basketball game organized by Kevin Johnson. The interior of the arena wasn't finished yet.
We were in awe of the new place. Twenty seven years later it's long since obsolete.
It was built on the cheap by Gregg Lukenbill's construction company.
I even attended the first ever NBA game at Arco Arena. It was the night George Bush won the presidency. I wanted Dukakis to win. (What did I know about politics? I was just a junior in high school.)
I've attended many games over the years. The time went by fast. This season will probably go fast. The final game in April will be here before you know it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fairgrounds Golf Is No More

For many years I can remember driving past Joe Mortara Golf Course in Vallejo and thinking what a cool place it was. It was a nine hole golf course set in the infield of an old horse racing track. However I never stopped. Just kept driving past it. I guess I thought I was too good to play a course situated at an abondoned race track.
Well, last year on a whim, I stopped to play it. I remember the day, July 2nd. I remember the day for a very personal reason. It was the day a TV commercial I appeared in was released. I tried to play my round of golf and was besieged with well wishes from family and friends.
Anyways, back to the round. I went to the "pro shop" and paid my green fees. When I got to the first tee. I was joined by five other people who didn't want to pair up. (I hate playing golf with people I don't know. I'm uncomfortable with the awkward conversation. One time many years ago I played golf with a guy who felt he needed to tell me about his wife, kids, job, boss, etc. I came to the course to get away from my troubles, not listen to someone else's.)
So we waited.......and waited. Finally it was my turn. I hit my first tee shot about twenty yards from where I was and lost the ball. The ground was that bad. Weeds were everywhere. The grass hadn't been taken care of for God knows how long. So I hit my next shot.......on to the racetrack. Not a good start to say the least.
This course had been around for years before I was born and it seemed like when the original greens keeper died, the course management didn't bother to hire another one.
I wouldn't even say this course had grass. Patches of dirt, mud, puddles of water was more like it. 
Needless to say, this wasn't an enjoyable round of golf. I must have lost about a dozen balls. I remember on the ninth hole, I drilled one next to this bridge. I saw where it landed, or so I thought. It disappeared. Worst golf course ever!
Over a year later, I noticed something about the place when I drove past it several times in the last few weeks. The course itself looked abandoned. It was a brown golf course. I thought because of the drought we are experiencing here in California, they were not watering it anymore. After some research I discovered the county decided to shut it down. It was operating at a loss for many years. There are many golfing options to choose from in the area and no one cares to play golf at what could be described as a pitch and putt, and I'm being nice calling it that.
So without even trying, my first time was my last time playing there. 
I'm sure it was a great little course back in its heyday. I played it as it was slowly dying, literally. It was too expensive to maintain. 
Now I wish I would have stopped and played it when I was younger. Now it's gone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

27 Years Later

Last night I witnessed something I have been waiting to see most of my baseball life. I finally saw an on field celebration after a team won a division title. It happened to have been my favorite team, the LA Dodgers. But I should have seen this happen 27 years ago, but it didn't happen. Allow me to explain.
September 1988. I was 16 years old without a car. (I was a bike riding, walking to school loser. One other reason I didn't have a girlfriend in high school. Thanks mom! Ha!) I had tickets to a Giants/Dodgers game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. It was a Sunday afternoon game. I had four tickets that cost $11 each. I arranged a ride with a friend. His uncle was supposed to take us along with his younger brother.
So I show up to my friends house to get ready to leave. Then I was told of a slight problem. Turns out my friends uncle wouldn't take us unless I got a 5th ticket for his friend to go. This was blackmail! This was Giants/Dodgers with playoff implications on the line. This is one of the most storied rivalries in sports. We call Ticketron (Before there was Stubhub, there was Ticketron to all you young readers out there. You called for tickets. This was before cell phones mind you.)
The game is sold out. So it looks like my friends uncles friend was bleep out of luck.
It turns out we were bleep out of luck.
No extra ticket, no ride was his rebuttal. He bailed on us.
So now we're three teenagers without a ride. My friends parents had plans. I called every relative I knew and they all said no chance. I was calling everyone I knew who had a car to take me. No luck. (On a side note, my friends mom said she'd pay me back the $33 for the tickets we couldn't use. I'm still waiting for it. What's $33 with 27 years interest?)
So I had to watch the Dodgers possibly clinch on TV at home. Imagine watching the game with tickets to the game in your hands and there's nothing you can do about it. I was torturing myself by watching the game. But I had to see the Dodgers win the NL West pennant.
They didn't. They lost that day. I felt they would have won if I was there. Wishful teenage thinking.
The Dodgers went on to clinch the title in San Diego.
Who knew that day I would have to wait 27 years for that situation to happen again.
It happened last night.
Clayton Kershaw threw a masterpiece. 13 strikeouts and allowed one hit in a complete game shutout. One of the best pitching performances I ever saw.
Funny thing is, Clayton Kershaw was born in 1988. He was 6 months old that fateful day. Who would have known a new born baby would one day control my destiny. (I know, I'm being dramatic for literary purposes).
So I can finally cross something off my bucket list. Life is good!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Baseball At It's Purest

Today it was announced the city of Sacramento was awarded a baseball team in the Great West League.
What's the Great West League you ask? Why does Sacramento need another baseball team when there's already the AAA River Cats? Where will they play?
Well, all that's still being figured out.
This new team won't pose a threat to the River Cats as this new team in the new Great West League is a summer college league for college players looking to get some at bats with a wood bat.
For the most part, summer college leagues like the Cape Cod League, enable players to get used to swinging a wood bat, and play everyday as they will if they're fortunate enough to get drafted by a major league organization.
This league is going to be quite the same.
I had the pleasure of watching one of the teams in the new Great West League, the Marysville Gold Sox, play ball this past summer.
It's great baseball. The kids a little raw, as they're getting used to the grind of playing everyday. In college, most teams play on weekends with an occasional game played during the week.
Marysville was part of the Horizon Air Series. Most people would call this type of baseball semi-pro. I'd take out the word pro.
These kids don't get paid. Some work jobs during the day at a retail store to make some pocket money. Mostly all of them stay with a host family that provides them room and board.
As I said, it prepares them for life in the daily grind of minor league baseball.
It was my first time watching a summer college league game. Marysville drew a very big crowd and I got the impression the locals look forward to the Gold Sox coming back every summer.
One franchise I'm looking forward to seeing is the Chico Heat.
In my days a clubbie for the Solano Steelheads in the old Western Baseball League, Chico was like the major leagues.
Great facilities, great fans and an all around great roadtrip. (Why Chico isn't in the California League is beyond me).
Now back to Sacramento. Today is day number one. I'm sure as I write this, the search for a general manager is being done. Then a manager will be named. The team needs a name.
So it looks like I have another team to watch next summer.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Deconstructing A Playbook

The good old playbook. The book of secrets. It's been the subject of books movies and TV shows. Marcia Brady git duped by a rival high schools quaterback over a playbook in The Brady Bunch. An assistant coach left behind his playbook in a diner a night before the national championship game on Coach. How many times have you seen a movie with football players studying their playbooks?
So the question is, why are these books so secretive? (Kinda like my uncles Playboy's as a kid, but I'm getting off the subject).
Well, I got my hands on a playbook. One of my cousins played for UNLV. He was a medical red-shirt, but he still had to study a playbook.
I got to look into a playbook preparing for a game against Arizona in 2013. No playbook scandals here, the coaching staff from UNLV's 2013 season have been dismissed and a new staff is put into place. Thats why the book wasn't returned. (I hope they lose every game until coach Sanchez is fired!) I was hoping to see a secret, hidden world of football.
I just saw things I didn't understand.
To someone such as myself who didn't get to play football (thanks Mom!), the diagrams and schemes made no sense. Lots of diagrams.  In George Plimpton's book, Paper Lion, he said to the outsider, a football playbook would disappoint someone looking for inside information of the game. He went on to say a professional playbook was no different than a college or high school playbook. Just the terminology will be different. The terminology is different from team to team.
A college playbook is far more advanced than a high school book, not that I'd know, I never saw one in high school (thanks Mom!), but that's what I'd assume. You have to be at every team practice and every meeting to understand the terminology, your assignment and your teammates assignment.
So to interpret the playbook, I took a few pictures and sent them to a friend of mine, Cameron, who played Jr high, high school and college ball at Mesa College.
Right away he deciphered the plays. He told me which play the play should be run, if it was a run or pass play. This was a defense book, so the play were to defend against Arizona's offense.
What I found interesting of the playbook was the section on some of Arizona offensive players tendencies. It went on to describe what a player might do in a given situation. How he's reacted in the past. Is he easy to upset? Does he keep a cool head? Does he tip off what the offense might do? It's all there in the tendencies. (Reminds me of the movie North Dallas Forty, when the North Dallas Bulls lost a big game, an assistant coach yells at his defensive players for not studying the other teams tendencies).
A playbook has a lot of information to absorb. As I just said, not only does a player have to know his own assignment, he also must learn the assignments of his teammates.
So much for the dumb jock stigma  football players are supposed to have.
Lots of meetings take place so a team can learn as one how a play works.
After the play is learned, it's practiced on the field over and over again until it's executed just right.
Then game day comes. The result on the scoreboard dictates who executed their playbook as flawlessly as possible.
Then mistakes are shown on film during film meetings.
Then it's back to the old drawing board and make up new plays, or slightly change existing ones.
It's creativity, imagination and innovation in those playbooks.
It takes intelligence to understand it. I'm  smart, but not football smart.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I Got Me Some Ink!

I'm in year four of this project. I've changed the name multiple times. I almost pulled the plug on this blog a few times. I've lost my patience with this blog before. I have two suscribers and they're the same person.
I knew I was going to be a very teeny tiny fish in a very large pond when I started this. If anyone wants sports news, one can go to their local paper, the Four Letter Network or one of the many blogs out there.
I tried to promote this blog. I had Vista Print make me cards and pens. I would then give them out and people would pocket the pen and card and I wouldn't hear anything more about it. (Talk about fishing for a compliment!)
I had 250 of those cards and gave out probably 25 and threw away the other 225.
But I kept writing despite no one reading. This was initially a top secret invitation only project. I'm very sensitive to criticism and I just didn't want to hear it. Criticism as a high school student changed my mind about becoming a sportswriter. Well, that and a stubborn football player who didn't have anything to say to me during an interview, and that fateful day I met one of my journalistic heroes and she told me to consider doing something else as the money isn't very good.
I lost my way. I stopped writing. Thanks to modern technology, I started to write again. First it was on Sports Illustrated's blog section. I wish I could find those blog posts. This was probably in 2007/8. Not sure. My writing was terrible. I wasn't the best writer to begin with, but as I told someone, if you stop throwing your fastball, you'll lose your zip on the ball.
I lost my fastball completely.
I remember writing about Mexicans in the NFL. I knew what I  wanted to say, but it came out wrong. Maybe it'd good I can't find those first posts.
Then in late 2011, I discovered Blogger. I had heard blogging was taking over the internet. So I tried again and stayed with it. Here we are almost four years later.
I was still keeping my blog a secret from friends and family. Then one day I offered to help the local sports editor of The Napa Valley Register to help out with the US Open qualifier in Napa. I mentioned my blog to show my writing experience.
Well, much to my surprise, the sports editor wanted to interview me. Not for a job, but for an article.
Initially I was hesitant. I told Mr. James I kept my blog a secret. He told me it was time to let the world know about it.
It was so nice to hear from a sports editor  at a newspaper that my writing was really good. He liked my writing style.
We eventually met for an interview. Then a few weeks later as I was at the airport in Sacramento having an early morning gin and tonic, (hey it was 12 noon somewhere!), I got a text from a friend saying she saw my article. Then I took off to southern California. By the time I landed, I got so many texts, phone calls and Facebook posts about the article.
It was kinda like being famous!
Now the world knew about it. It wasn't a secret anymore. Anyone is welcome to read it.
Now the mini publicity tour begins. I'm going to be on the Napa Show in Napa and talk about it on Wednesday night,  then on Thursday I will be appearing on the Marty James sports show. Marty James is the Mr. James I spoke of.
Thanks Marty for the praise. It means a lot!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Not The US Open But It's Still Tennis

Today I attended the Silverado College Invitational at the Silverado Resort in Napa. It featured schools from across the country. Pacific, U of San Francisco, Hawaii, Tulsa, Oklahoma State and SMU.
There were two sessions, 10am and 12 noon. I got a late start and attended the noon session. Hawaii and USF were playing. For a college match, there was a nice crowd. Most of the patrons were rooting for USF. I was watching a player named Nils from USF. Not because I wanted to, because the seats were next to his match. There was another match on the middle and outer courts, but for seating comfort, we all watched the court closest to us.
I tweeted the action. It was very good tennis. The matches weren't as organized as I thought they'd be. There was no chair umpire per se. I think coaches acted as ballboys, or else they were very bored Silverado members with nothing better to do on a cool Saturday afternoon.
The players themselves called balls in or out, much to the point both players agreed to disagree.
Sometimes things would get hot under the collar, but the players would settle their differences quickly.
Both players I watched must have been from an eastern block country, probably from mother Russia. Each player played flawlessly.....compared to my game! As I said in my title, this isn't the US Open, but at least it was tennis on a very entertaining level. Being up close and personal, I could hear when they would get very upset with themselves, at each other or pumping themselves up with tennis tactic.
As for the crowd, let's say they thought they were in Flushing, New York. Everyone around me was enjoying wine and conversation amongst themselves. If it wasn't for a black guy being there, I would have been the darkest person there. One young lady looked at me like she was smelling poop. Oh well, you can't charm them all.
I was only there for about an hour and a half. Hawaii won the match.
Tomorrow I'm going back, bringing a small picnic, and watch future club pros play for the Silverado College Invitational championship!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rooting For A School You Didn't Go To

For those of you who don't know, I have a men's clothes blog. It's on life support since I don't focus on it much anymore, but it's still up and running nonetheless. 
I wrote about a conundrum I faced more than twenty years ago. As a young man, I collected college sweatshirts and I would wear them all the time. I never gave it much thought. I would wear a Cal sweatshirt, head out the door and go on with my day. But I was mistaken for a Cal student and I would eventually be asked "The Question". 
"Oh wow! Do you go to Cal?" When I would sheepishly answer that I didn't and attended one of California's junior colleges, I would be met with the same response, "Oh."
One time at the gym as a young man wearing a Cal T shirt (I had a cousin graduate from Cal, I got the hookup on Cal gear) an older gentleman stuck out his hand, introduced himself as So and so class of '70. He asked me my graduating year, I told him I didn't go to Cal. He immediately turned around and walked away. (This was Natomas Racquet Club, you would have thought it was the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.) It was then and there I decided to stop wearing all college gear. I was so embarrassed answering the question of where I went to school and feeling like I was less than acceptable person for not going to a big school. 
Fast forward to 1999. A friend and I rented a house. A bachelor pad. (It was for him, not for me. Women still treated me like I had the plague!) I was watching some college football. I believe it was A couple of SEC schools. I was rooting for one of them. My friend asked, "What do you care about that team? You didn't go there." I sat there for a moment and pondered the question. Why did I care? I don't think I even set foot in the southern state the game took place. I couldn't answer the question, I didnt know the answer.
Let's jump a bit to 2004. I've always loved UCLA. I made the trek to see them at the Rose Bowl and I would go see them at Cal or Stanford. I has so much Bruins gear, you would have thought I was an alumnus or on the UCLA coaching staff. I saw them at Cal. I was sitting in the Cal section of the stadium. (What was I thinking, the whole stadium was the Cal section). I had on a UCLA sweatshirt and hat. With all the looks I was getting, you would have thought I was naked. I could just feel the looks. I was by myself. I was there to watch UCLA. No big deal. The UCLA band was playing the 8 clap cheer and I was clapping along........all by myself.........awkward. All around me everyone had reason to be there because they were students, alumni or parents of students. I was just a fan of a school I didn't go to. 
What was my attachment to UCLA? When we would go on family vacations we would go to Corona in Southern California and visit family. My uncle Joe was a UCLA fan. I was about ten and I can remember him asking me who my favorite college football team was. I told him I didn't know. I probably didn't know what college football was. He said to me that if I wanted to be welcome in his house, I had to root for UCLA. He said it with a smile and a wink. But at that moment I became a UCLA fan. 
I also remember a few years later as teens, my cousin Richard and I would sit in his room and talk about going to UCLA to play football. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I never tried out for football, but Richard did. I think he played for his junior high school 9th grade team, played in 10th grade. He experienced heartache as he didn't play his Jr year, the year Corona High won the CIF. 
Anyways he played. We had dreams of playing football together for UCLA. Little did we know the academic requirements, others in the western US who wanted to play there and the biggest obstacle, the expense of tuition, room and board. (Richard as a parent is experiencing this. College is expensive and he has another boy in high school who's athletically gifted. Richard should just sign over his pay checks to that future school!)
Now I'm in my early forties. I'm not mistaken for a student anymore. I can wear any college gear I want now. But recently I got to thinking, why did I care so much about what people thought if I went to a specific college or not? I was just a fan. Does a redneck from Alabama who wears Alabama gear from head to toe care if people thought he went to Alabama? Probably not. 
We root for pride. Pride for living in a certain state and we just start rooting for a certain college team. Sometimes you're born into rooting for a school or you marry into it. 
I root for Notre Dame because I'm Catholic. I didn't embrace my Catholicism until my early 30's. Before hand I never gave cared about Notre Dame or the history behinds it football program. I actually hated the Fighting Irish. Cousin Richard loved them in the 80's. It gave us something to talk about. 
Week one of college football just passed. I lost my favorite Notre Dame shirt a few years ago. I think I need to visit Fanatics.com.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cal's Streak

On this day twenty years ago, Cal Ripken broke Lou Gerhig's consecutive games streak at 2,131 games. That's quite an accomplishment. Everyone in the country who was a baseball fan was focused on it. But I wasnt. Life was different for me twenty years ago. Baseball brought so much joy to me growing up.
I think my mom got me into baseball as a way to keep my mind off the divorce my parents were going through. I feel in love with baseball instantly. I watched every game I could. (Oh how I miss the simplicity of two nationally televised games a week ABC's Monday Night Baseball and NBC's Saturday Game of the Week.) I also read the paper everyday to look at the box scores and stats. I clipped out every baseball picture in Sports Illustrated and put it on my wall. I was obsessed.
By the mid 1990's I didn't care anymore.
I suffered from depression. At the time I didn't realize it, but that's what it was.
The things that used to make me happy didn't anymore. I have no idea how it happened. Well, I do, but this isn't the place to talk about it. I do know I put unrealistic dreams in my head, I set unrealistic goals too. I was a dreamer living in Fantasyland. It's good to have goals and dreams, but I forgot to have a realistic backup plan. I didn't have a plan. I lived life as a lackadaisical young man when it was time to finally grow up.
Everyone was passing me by graduating college, getting engaged and married, starting a career, starting families. As for myself, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I guess I was in denial it was time to grow up and be a responsible adult.
But I didn't care. What does this have to do with Cal Ripken Jr you ask?
I guess it was watching my mom's dreams fall apart, baseball distracted me from how things were at home, and eventually when my dreams fell apart, I ran away from baseball because in a weird way baseball was part of my dreams.
I don't remember anything about baseball between 1994 and 1998. I watched, I read, I listened, but it was all background noise. I wasn't paying attention. I didn't care.
Now it's twenty years later. My depression faded away. I'm as happy and productive as I've ever been. Now that I have a clear mind, I can relive Cal's historic day. But I'll leave my miserable days in the past.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Future Is Now

In Back to the Future 2, it was predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015 over a then fictional Miami team.
The fictional Miami team became a reality in 1993 and went on to win the World Series in 1997 and 2003, as everyone in Chicagoland waits for the Cubs to win a World Series in 107 years.
Back to the movie for a moment. That prediction took place in 1989. The Cubs played the Giants in the NLCS that year, but were beaten by Will Clark's bat.
Let's move on 26 years. The Cubs have been to the playoffs a few times. They were THISCLOSE to the World Series in 2003, four outs away. But as you know a certain fan reached out for a foul ball and the Cubs jinx continued, and Mr. Steve Bartman has been in hiding ever since.
Over the last few years, things have slowly fell into place for the Cubs. Their scouting and player development department have turned out a lot of prospects to get excited about. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber. They stole Addison Russell from the A's. The Ricketts family is finally spending money and brought in Jon Lester from free agency.
But the main thing the Cubs did to turn the team around was hiring Joe Maddon to manage.
At first I didn't like how team president Theo Epstein handled the situation. He fired Rick Renteria just so he could hire Maddon before any other team could.
I tweeted that Renteria should have had a chance to work with this group of kids.
But in this win right now culture, Epstein had to make the move right now. It was business.
Maddon has a track record of working with young players, grooming and developing them to be not only major leaguers, but how to win in the big leagues.
As of now things are looking good in Chicago. They presently sit at 73-52, third place in the very tough NL Central, and they are 2nd place for the Wild Card.
Kris Bryant is making a case for Rookie of the Year.
I saw the Cubs on Tuesday. They are one hard hitting ballclub. I feel they're one prized free agent pitcher from winning the whole thing.
I saw the future of Chicago baseball on Wednesday. I don't think they'll beat the Miami baseball team(It was a alligator logo in the movie) to win the World Series, but in due time, the curse will be broken.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A World Without Mickey Mantle

Twenty years ago Mickey Mantle passed away. At the time I was 23, just a young kid who had no idea about life.
I remember it being big news that day. A lot of Baby Boomers expressed sadness that day. It really effected a lot men who were middle aged, guys as old as I am now.
At the time, I didn't understand as to why it was such a big deal. Yes he was an iconic baseball player, but he was just a baseball player. Twenty years later, I understand.
Life is sweet. Life is short. I'm in middle age now. I've had loved ones I took for granted pass away. Life is moving so fast. Sometimes I think of my childhood and wish for simpler times. I was a child one day collecting baseball cards, watching as much baseball as I could. I read about baseball as much as possible. My biggest worries back them were finishing my homework, what was on TV and what was for dinner.
Now I'm 43 with a lot of responsibilities. I'm not married and I have no kids, but I feel like I have a lot on my plate.
But I think back to being a kid. But I can't go back.
Let's go back twenty years ago when I was questioning the significance of Mantle's death. Those 40-50 year old men were effected because a part of their childhood died that day. They experienced mortality too. Now those men are in their 70's or 80's. I can't imagine what will happen to me when I'm that age. I hope life will be kind to me.
But someday when my favorite baseball player ever passes away, Steve Garvey, I will know how those men felt when Mantle passed away.
Sometimes I think if Mantle had taken better care of himself, he could have played longer, and possibly lived longer.
I wonder what he would think of baseball nowadays. I'm sure he would be one of those guys who say, "Back in my day we were better, the game was better."
Things were always better when you're younger.
With each passing day, I appreciate what I had when I was younger. I wish I could go back to twenty years ago today and appreciate how much a generation appreciated The Mick.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Had A Sip Of Coffee In The Bigs

Sorry for the delay. Very busy at headquarters.
Well, two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take part in a batting practice and fielding drills at AT&T Park in San Francisco. I made the big leagues....for a couple of hours.
Having a cup of coffee means you were only in the bigs long enough to have a cup of coffee, not stay for very long.
(I love baseball lingo!)
A group of us were given the four star treatment.
There were three groups divided into outfielders, infielders and hitters.
My group shagged flies in the outfield hit by former San Francisco Giants pitcher Bill Laskey. At his age he can still hit! I've always had a depth perception problem in the outfield......still do. I didn't catch one fly ball. I think it was because I was in awe of being on a Major League field. (In 1992 I was on the outfield of the now demolished Kingdome in Seattle for a singles concert. My only memories is the feeling of Astroturf. Very spongy.)
After about half an hour running after fly balls I couldn't catch, we then went on to our next station....the batting cage.
I originally thought we were going to face a live pitcher for batting practice. I was disappointed to see it was a pitching machine. (I knew I should have taken hacks at Scandia) We were allowed about twenty pitches. Of the twenty, I hit about six. The machine was throwing pitches on the outside part of the plate. I adjusted and got a few hits. I was jammed once and it stung my hands. I hit a Texas Leaguer just barely past second base. The others went back to the pitcher. I used a Louisville Slugger bat left over from my days as a clubbie for the Solano Steelheads back in 2000. (Long live the Western Baseball League!)
After batting, we took grounders at third, the hot corner.
Rich Murray, brother of Hall of Famer Eddie Murray hit grounders to us.
This is when I truly respected the speed of the game. I was playing back behind the bag, in anticipation of bad hops of the ground. The infield is mowed so short, a true roll comes off the ball. Rich yelled out to me, "I can tell you played on some bad fields. You were playing as if you were expecting the ball to take a wicked hop to you." I got to thinking, your local baseball park isn't Major League quality.
I was quite proud of myself at third. I cleanly fielded most of the balls hit to me. Some did go past me and I had to run to the outfield to get them.
I say I respect the speed of the game because they probably hit the grounders at half speed to us. I got to thinking of how ground balls come off the bat at game speed.
After about almost two hours of baseball workouts, we had a mini question and answer session with Laskey and Murray. Bill Laskey and I spoke of our dislike for Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers. (He mentioned Puig is a pain in the ass!)
Murray gave me a hard time about my fielding at third base. All in jest of course.
We then went up to the Club Level for lunch. Every Major League clubhouse provides "spread" for the players after a game. Spread for us was Polish dogs, salads, hamburgers, chili and dessert.
We were then given some gifts, a Giants hat and sunglasses. We were also given tickets to that nights game!
As we were leaving the stadium we got lost in the bowels of the stadium. As we were walking around, I stopped to take a picture of a plaque of one of my favorite sportswriters, Nick Peters. I heard someone walking behind me...it was Giants manager Bruce Bochy! He gave us directions on how to exit the park. We continued on to our exit. We then came upon another familiar face. It was long time Giants Clubhouse Manager Mike Murphy! He waved hello to me like he knew me!
It was a day I didn't want to end, but all good things must come to an end. I had a few hours to kill before the night game.
I walked to Lefty O'Douls for a beer. A friend of mine who lives in The City was right about her  description of the place..... dark, loud and hole in the wall dump. I loved it.
Later that evening I saw Madison Bumgarner throw a masterpiece. (I hate to admit it, but he's amazing!)
Brandon Crawford hit two homeruns out of the field I stood on earlier that day.
That day made me wish I would have tried harder as a kid to excell at baseball.
Being in the big leagues is like a drug. You crave it and you want more of it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Booster Club Nightmares

Football season is upon us and that means it's football fund raising time.
I was enjoying an evening out in the back patio with my family in southern California when the conversation turned to my cousins fundraising efforts.
I noticed some discount cards that most high school football teams sell. It was $10 and it gets you discounts all over town. I was gonna buy one but the fund raiser was over.
There's a certain limit my cousin had to raise and he raised it, actually he exceeded the amount.
I asked what does his team do with the money. He says it goes to equipment, gas  for the bus when they make roadtrips.
I then asked what happens if a kid doesn't raise the money. He said they get the hand me down equipment.
I then made the comment that football is an expensive sport to play. (In my last post, I mentioned my mom wouldn't sign the permission slip. She was a single mother too, and she told me years later that football was just too expensive to take part in. And she mentioned I would have been torn to shreds. Thanks mom!)
So I then spoke to my cousins about high school football fundraising. It all starts with the booster club. They tell you how much money is needed to be raised per kid. In this case it's about $500.
Now for some families, $500 is easy to raise. They mentioned some kids aren't fortunate to raise that kind of money.
Some of these kids live in the same neighborhoods, and they're asking the same people to donate. Most walk away empty handed. They still get to play, but with the hand me down equipment. The hand me down equipment is a tell tale that they didn't raise the money. So they're made fun of.
The woman who runs this booster club seems like an evil tyrant with her hand out. It doesn't end with the equipment fund raising. There's also the volunteer list of duties to do on game day. The worst of which is running the snack bar. There's also selling programs, raffle tickets, parking lot duty.
If there aren't any volunteers, you're assigned a duty.
Now, most people work. Some parents just can't drop everything and volunteer. Most parents can't even write a check to help with the fundraising.
I asked what this booster club president does for a living. She does nothing. Her husband owns his own business and they're very comfortable.
I asked what does she do on game days to help out. Nothing. She's in the stands watching her son play.
She also gossips about the other parents and kids.
My cousins put one kid through high school football. They knew what to expect. They do what they have to do and then some. But it's not enough.
Ms. Booster Club president is always asking for more.
We spoke at length about the egos and attitudes in kids sports. I have other friends who help out with Little League, Babe Ruth and high school baseball. It seems as if the adults overlook the fact that it's all about the kids.
Whenever I'm invited to watch a friends kid play, I can't sit in the stands for very long. There's always that one parent who speaks their mind and makes things miserable for everyone.
My cousins sit by themselves away from the drama. I commended them for dealing with Ms. Booster Club. I don't think I could do it. I'm sure if I had kids I'd be singing a different tune. I'm glad I don't have to deal with it. I'm happy buying a discount card I'll never use.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Missed First Practice 29 Years Ago

Ninth grade football! Every boy at Douglass Jr. High was talking about trying out for football the summer we were about to become ninth graders.
I was one of them.
I could pass the football unlike anyone at Campbell Park. I was always the quarterback. I INSISTED I be the quarterback.
I boasted to anyone who was around I was going to try out for the Douglass Lions football team.
I was gonna pass the Douglass Lions to victory every week. I was gonna be The Man!
I remember the morning before tryouts going to bed early to get my rest. First meeting was at 8 am sharp. I was gonna be the first one there......
I overslept.
Woke up at 7:45am. My friend Sergio and I were gonna go to the meeting together.
We went together, we were just late.
I remember we both were too embarrassed to walk in. I thought Coach Smith was gonna rip us a new one.
We stood around deciding what to do.
Sergio decided to go home. I did too.
I'm sure if we had walked in, we would have took some razzing from the guys and that would have been the end of it.
I always wondered what would have happened if I went to that first meeting. In my then teenage mind, I would have been the starting quarterback, the big man on campus, being every girls dream at school.
But looking back, reality tells me I would have been knocked around like a tackling dummy.
I was 5 foot nothing, a scrawny 120 pounds. I would have been too short to see over the line. Passing with a real football other than a Nerf football like I did at Campbell Park would have been a challenge. I could throw like Joe Montana with a Nerf ball.
There was one other obstacle that would have prevented me from football glory, and it wasn't on the gridiron. She lived with me, she was my mom.
My mom would not have signed the permission slip allowing me to play. She thought I would have gotten paralyzed by a freak hit or just plain torn to shreds. (Gee, thanks mom!)
I told her that I would have lifted weights to get stonger. She said I was too weak to lift weights. (Gee, thanks mom!)
She insist it would have been a miserable experience.
Well, the Douglass Lions went on to win the championship without me. The guys were celebrities around school wearing their football jerseys around school on game day. I was just another schmuck in street clothes.
I could never bring myself to watch the games. I felt like I should have been out there. I had a afternoon paper route that conflicted me from watching the games anyway.
Hard to believe it's almost thirty years later. Where does the time go?
Now I'm on vacation getting ready to watch a cousin participate in his first practice with pads.
I'm sure in thirty years he'll have better memories of football than I do.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Telling Your Bosses What They Want To Hear

The 2015 trade deadline passed yesterday and now the dust has settled. One team that was expected to conduct a fire sale stood pat and did nothing.
Last winter San Diego Padres GM AJ Preller constructed to what many thought would be a contending team and give the Dodgers a run for their money.
Preller signed James Shields, traded for Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres looked great on paper. Everyone in San Diego was excited. Preller promised a winner.
The excitement didn't last long. The pitching staff is struggling and the hitters can't hit. It's been a long miserable season in San Diego.
Preller was ordered to dump salary. They weren't calling it a fire sale, just moving contracts. (Detroit is calling it a reboot).
This past week, myself and the other 29 teams were looking to San Diego to move Kemp, Shields, Upton, Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Seth Smith, everyone!
Yesterday the baseball world was awaiting news from the Padres. At 1:01pm Pacific Time, nothing happened.
Last year deals weren't officially announced until well after the deadline.
When I sat down to dinner, it was obvious the Padres did nothing. They stood pat.
AJ Preller told his bosses what they wanted to hear, "I believe we can make the postseason with this roster "
Talk about saying anything to keep your job!
Everyone knows AJ Preller's plan didn't work. It blew up in his face. He should have saved face and made deals to build for the future.
Now he's gambling his future with the Padres and hoping this team makes the playoffs.
Something tells me he'll be known as former Padres GM the first week in October.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Live From The Broadcast Booth

I've always been curious on how things work. My mom remembers me tearing my bike apart so I could put it back together again. There were always extra pieces afterwards that I couldn't figure out where they went on the bike. It just reinforced I was curious about things and not mechanically inclined.
My curiosity took me to the broadcast booth at Colusa Casino Stadium in Marysville, California to oversee how a baseball broadcast works.
We at home just listen to the game in progress. The highlights we hear on soundbites is the finished product.
We don't see the hours of preparation a broadcaster does to deliver a quality broadcast. It involves preparing game notes, getting info about every player on the roster and going to the clubhouse to gather a story or two that a broadcaster may tell during the game.
As I said, we hear the finished product. I wanted to see a work in progress. How does one with so much information to deliver make it happen? I was bound to find out.
It's not as easy as it seems. I can't just write my friendly local Major League Baseball team and ask to sit in the booth and watch. (The Oakland Raiders didn't even respond to my request for a press pass. Yup, not so friendly)
I was thinking about writing the local AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats, to sit in and listen and gather notes. AAA is a notch below the big leagues, so I figured I would get a minor league rejection letter.
Hmmmm, what to do?
Then it hit me. There's a collegiate summer baseball team in Marysville called the Marysville Gold Sox. I listen to the strong radio signal of KUBA 1600 AM and remembered they broadcast the games over the summer.
So I wrote their play by play man Geoff Flynn and asked for press box access. The worst they could say is no.
I wrote a month in advance. No answer. I figured I was just getting a summer league rejection letter. Two days before the game, I got a response!
I was told I was more than welcome to sit in and watch. Just come on up to Marysville.
So I brought my notepad and scorebook to the pressbox.
"Hi! Are you Felix? I'm Geoff, nice to have you here!" Geoff quickly showed me around the pressbox and introduced me to everyone. Everyone being two other people. An older gentleman who was the scoreboard operator and a young man who was the PA announcer.
Geoff had to gather a few notes and quickly left for the clubhouse. A young lady came in with food and cold soda for Geoff and she asked if I wanted anything. I had a big lunch and I told her I was fine. I would later regret not getting a soda as it got very hot up there in the cozy confines of the broadcast booth.
Geoff came back and hurriedly recorded his opening. During all this time, he was constantly talking to a producer back at the studio. The producer always told him how much time it was until commercial break was over and after Geoff would conclude a half inning of play, the producer would tell him he was "clear", meaning he was off the air. It was roughly 90 seconds or so of commercials, and Geoff would sign on again to describe more action.
During the course of the game he would obviously describe the play by play. Between pitches he would tell a story of that particular batter. The Verizon Air Series is a college wood bat league. It's basically kids getting some extended playing time and getting experience hitting with a wood bat. The kids (I feel old saying that, but they're kids) come from all over the country. Some from big schools and others from schools I never heard of. (Heartland College, New Mexico Highlands....where are these places?)
I asked Geoff if he gets to know the players so he can pass on a story about some of them during a game. He said he doesn't get to know them as much as he'd like, as the season goes by so fast and the lack of roadtrips doesn't help getting to know the guys. (That's for another post, the team itself)
Geoff asked if I'd like to talk for an inning or two. I think I said yes before he finished his question!
So we quickly got ready for me to make my radio debut.
"You're on in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1", the producer from the studio told us.
Geoff told the audience at home what inning we were headed to and then he introduced me for everyone to hear in the north valley.
He asked me what brought me to Marysville, why was I interested in the Gold Sox and he asked me about my blog. I was nervous at first, but I got comfortable quickly. I was mostly trying to avoid talking over him, so I spoke between pitches or after a play was made. Geoff had a job to do and I didn't want to interrupt him. It was his booth and I was a guest. The two innings I was on the air, it went very quick. No on air catastrophes to speak of, although I did describe the Gold Sox as being sloppy.
I went back to keeping score of the game and taking notes for this post. I wanted to tweet some of what was happening, but doing three things all at once was impossible. I could barely keep score.
Geoff was great at handling everything happening in the game, keeping score, and preparing for the later innings. He was constantly talking to the producer back at the studio.
His setup for the broadcast was simple. It was a laptop hooked up with Skype, a Wi-Fi card, a mini mixing board and a digital recorder. And of course microphone headsets. It was that simple.
Over the course of the game he would tell a funny story and look over at me with a smile while telling it. I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice he loves his job.
Radio seems very fast paced and sitting in the booth I could see that it is.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit and watch.
I asked Geoff about "The Grind". I worked in professional baseball for one summer. I was warned about the Grind. By the end of the season, I was exhausted. It's a grind to show up at the ballpark everyday and go to work. A regular job is a grind, so is life in general. But in baseball being at the ballpark 12 hours a day, it's an exhausting grind.
He says he was very tired and the grind is getting to him. I totally knew how he felt.
I stuck around for the post game show. I spoke with Geoff, the PA announcer and the scoreboard operator long after the fans left. It was a very long day and I had a long drive home. I thanked Geoff for letting me drop in. I told him I was coming for the final homestand. I told him I would email him letting him know when I was coming. He said not to email, just show up.
This is Skip signing off until next time!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Sat Next To Pedro In Stockton

This has been an interesting Hall of Fame class this year. This group of guys are making me feel old. I can remember when Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez were coming up when I was in high school. Allow me to explain......
I collected baseball cards (since I wasn't collecting girls phone numbers) well into when I was in high school. (Probably couldn't get phone numbers since I was a baseball dweeb)
But I can vividly remember coming across baseball cards of Randy Johnson as an Indianapolis Indian when he was a farm hand of the Montreal Expos. I remember thinking how old he looked and as well as how odd he looked. He was very tall and lanky when he was younger. This was probably 1988. I filed the card away. He would eventually go on to bigger and better things as a Seattle Mariner.
I remember getting John Smoltz's rookie card, but since I wasn't a fan of the Tigers, I didn't care. He would eventually get traded to the Atlanta Braves and become part of a historic pitching rotation.
I saw Craig Biggio's Major League debut....on television. It was sometime in late June of 1988. The Giants were playing the Astros in Houston. I can remember Hank Greenwald talking about this young catcher who was playing his first game in the bigs. I think he had a great day. Who would have known almost twenty years later he would be collecting his 3,000th and be on his way to Cooperstown.
Which leads me to the final inductee. I remember the fuss about Ramon Martinez's kid brother Pedro who was supposed to be a great pitcher. (I remember Ramon's big league debut)
Didn't know much more about Pedro because he was a minor leaguer.
Well one night in 1991I'm at a Stockton Ports game watching the Ports play the Bakersfield Dodgers. I'm sitting a couple of rows behind homeplate. To the right side of me at the end of the row is Pedro Martinez and a trainer for Bakersfield. They were talking in Spanish, laughing and enjoying the evening. Pedro signed autographs as he was watching the game. Again, I had no idea this guy was gonna be a big leaguer. He was just Ramon's brother. There was a third Martinez brother who was supposed to be better than Ramon and Pedro. Jesus Martinez never made it to the big leagues.
In 1991 I had a car that allowed me to explore. So I took a roadtrip to Bakersfield and Las Vegas to see some future LA Dodgers. I saw Mike Piazza in Bakersfield.
So I eventually get to Las Vegas to see the then Las Vegas Stars play the Albuquerque Dukes. This was AAA ball at Cashman Field. So I'm by the dugouts just watching batting practice. Someone familiar is standing in front of me in a Dukes uniform. It was Pedro Martinez. He was kind of standoff-ish to everyone trying to get his attention. Since I was the closest, he signed my program. I still have it somewhere in a box.
Once again, who knew that one day he would make a few starts for the Dodgers, get traded to Montreal, and set upon the road to the Hall of Fame?
The baseball cards of Smoltz and Johnson are long gone. All I have are the memories of watching TV, opening a pack of cards and making a roadtrip to come across these newly enshrined Hall of Famers.
I don't think I'll have this kind of connection with another Hall of Fame class. I eventually stopped collecting baseball cards, I watch so many games on TV, it's hard to keep up with who's who. Kids are getting called up quite frequently this year. My big roadtrip is to Arizona in March, and there are so many players coming in and out of games, it's hard to spot that one special player.
But for a brief moment in time, I saw four very special careers take off.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Worst Two Days Of The Year

Being a sports fan usually means if you like all four major team sports, there's always something to watch. Heck, even if you throw in golf, tennis or soccer, there should be something to watch on TV.
Most sports programming is during prime time. Today is truly the worst day of the year to be a sports fan.
Wimbledon ended Sunday. The British Open started today, but coverage began very early this morning. Major League Baseball extended the All Star break an additional day, so no baseball tonight.
The NFL doesn't start training camp for another two weeks. Want to watch hockey? Forget about it.
The only thing on tonight is the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
I actually watched a bit of it last night. I've always heard of it, just never watched. It's interesting. Just a high paced practice or scrimmage. Bunch of NBA newbies trying to make a name for themselves if they weren't first round picks, or they were first rounders who weren't lottery picks.
Last night I also watched the AAA All Star Game from Omaha, Nebraska. If you're a baseball junkie like I am, it was a treat looking at future prospects or watching former big leaguers hanging on playing for another year. I interacted with a player on Twitter, Cody Decker from the San Diego Padres organization.
On the telecast on MLB Network, the commentators were showing how he makes mini movies basically poking fun at a teammate. So I tweeted him saying he has a bright future in show business.
Mr. Decker then tweeted me saying, "The future is now!", with a link from the NBC drama, State of Affairs. I click on the link and it's a scene showing a man with a bomb on him at a shopping mall. A security guard enters the scene telling the man to exit the area, while he's calling for backup. The man with the bomb blows up the mall. The security guard in question was an actor named.....Cody Decker! I learned from the telecast that Mr. Decker was a theater major at UCLA and was teammates with San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford.
So that provided some entertainment for me.
Also the ESPY'S were on. Usually it's on the flagship station, but in order to grab as many ratings as possible, the show was switched to ABC so the circus could show off and give the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to Caitlin Jenner, in her first public appearance since she stopped being Bruce Jenner.
I didn't watch, I stopped watching that smarmy, smug, self indulgent, self love fest years ago. The ratings have been down for years and there was hope ESPN would pull the plug on this awards show, but not to worry folks, it's here to stay. Last night's show breathed new life into it. Also making an appearance was the US Womens soccer team, Mo'ne Davis and probably many mentions of Stuart Scott.
Which leads me to tonight. What to watch? Looks like NBA Summer League reruns.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pitch Patch Potch

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.....
Ken Stabler passed away on Thursday. First time I heard of him was from my 4th grade teacher Ms. Cargo. Spoke of him like he was the greatest football player ever. She referenced him as The Snake. First time I heard of a player's nickname.

The ESPY'S are Wednesday.......who cares. Just a ESPN self love fest. Caitlin Jenner will be getting the Courage Award. May as well call it the "We're Using You For Ratings" Award.....I'll pass on watching that circus

A book about the Dodgers is coming out on Tuesday called "The Best Team Money Can Buy". It's supposed to be chock full of clubhouse stories. Mainly stories of how much a pain in the neck Yasiel Puig is. Can't wait to read it.

Speaking of Puig, it's time to trade him at his highest value and get some quality pitching for him. Let him be a pain in the neck for another team. The Dodgers are ready to win it all now. I think he's the one holding them back from that goal.

NFL training camp starts in a few weeks. I'm planning on visiting the Oakland Raiders training camp this year. I tried to go last year but the day I showed up, they were in Oxnard training with the Cowboys.

It's almost mid July and I haven't seen the World Series Champion Giants yet. They're tickets are a bit pricey this year. Their schedule doesn't interest me either.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roll That Video Tape!

In the early 1960's a visionary television producer named Roone Arledge wanted to change how we watched sports television.
He had nine to ten cameras, some with zoom lenses to get up close to the action as possible. He brought in shotgun microphones to hear the game as we've never heard it before.
He assigned opinionated sportscasters to his telecasts to describe the game in great detail.
He wanted drama and action and he delivered. Perhaps one of his greatest innovations is what was supposed to have been a novelty, now generates controversy everyday during any sports cast, replay.
Replay was originally supposed to show a great play in slow motion to show the viewer at home the marvel of athletics.
Nowadays it's putting umpires, referees and other on field officials under a microscope for all the world to see. Now every coach and player can second guess an officials decision whenever they feel it's necessary.
It makes games longer. Longer than they need to be. But the TV networks don't care because while we at home are waiting for a decision from New York (funny how all replay decisions are made in NY) the networks can squeeze in a commercial or two. Or we can watch a boring shot of the officials huddled up as the suspense builds if a call is going to get over turned or not.
If the call stands, great for the officials, they made the right call. If the play turns out wrong, it makes the officials look bad. They don't like it I'm sure.
It ads up to controversy, which translates into ratings. Ratings translates into dollars.
I liked Mr. Arledge's original concept of replay. I don't like the present day use of it. Mr. Arledge's legacy will be replayed for all to see forever.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Getting Blocked On Twitter

I tweet a lot. Not as much as some people I know, but I'm pretty consistent.
I use Twitter mainly for information. I follow a lot of sportswriters, broadcasters, and other bloggers.
A first happened to me the other day. A prominent sports columnist I follow didn't take to kindly to a joke.
I was just scrolling through Tinder the other night when I came across a tweet from Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton. He's a great writer and a he gives out a wealth of sports knowledge.
He's also Latino, and I enjoy getting a perspective of sports from the Latino point of view.
I came across a tweet that said something to the effect of Mr. Breton felt that at times he's gone to many Sacramento Kings games where he felt he was the most hated person in the building. This is when I decided to be clever and tweet something I thought was funny.
I tweeted, "Why all the hatred towards you? Who do those people think you are, RE Graswich?"
Seconds later Mr. Breton tweeted back to me, "And with that you're blocked. Bye"
At first I thought he was joking. So I went to respond and I got a notification from Twitter that I was unable to see Breton's his tweets and unable to communicate with him.
Let me explain my tweet.
RE Graswich was the Sacramento Kings beat writer in the late 80's to the mid 90's. He eventually became a sports columnist and then a news columnist.
I found him a fascinating writer. He told it like it was. A lot of readers didn't like him because he wasn't a homer. It was hard to describe the late 80's, early 90's Kings as the Boston Celtics. The Kings were terrible and Graswich wrote the truth.
I believe he was once the hated person in Arco Arena.
So that's when I decided to link my two favorite writers in a tweet.
Then I got blocked. For whatever reason I don't know. Perhaps there was a rift between them?
Some other person tweeted to me he didn't think I was funny. I just explained it was a joke.
Perhaps I shouldn't have compared one writer to another. (An old friend of mine Jason once told me to never compare a woman to another woman. I once told a cute barrista at Starbucks in Woodland she looked just like my favorite actress Janeane Garofalo. When I told Jason of my pick up line, that's when he said I should have kept my mouth shut as women probably don't think Ms. Garofalo is atrractive. I find her gorgeous).
Anyway, I pushed a button of Breton's that probably didn't need to be pushed.
So I posted about it on Facebook. Shortly thereafter, a high school friend of mine Sam told me he could possibly set up a meeting with Breton and a music writer for the Bee. Sam even said he'd go with me for moral support. I thanked Sam and said I'd write a letter. A few other friends told me to quit thinking about it. At first I got mad and defensive and quoted George Lopez when he says, "FTP, F@&k that puto!" Kinda childish on my part.
I was just angry that a writer I enjoy blocked me. But as any good writer knows, there's probably more to the story.
I went on to say on Facebook that, "Us Mexicans need to stick together".

I later messaged Sam and thanked him for thinking of setting up something. Then Sam said something that's been floating around in my mind the last few days. He said and I'm paraphrasing here that Breton was always polite when they met when Sam was being interviewed by the Bee's music writer. He said the Bee's music writer, Mr. Macias and Breton were "just like us, proud Latinos".
I'm sure I hurt Mr. Breton's pride. Now I need to swallow my pride and put pen to paper and apologize to Mr. Breton.
I feel I need to reach out and contact him. Us Mexicans need to stick together you know.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Back To The Future On A Skateboard

I'm going back in time on a skateboard because there's no money in the budget to do so in a De Lorean.
It was 30 years ago today that the cinematic classic Back to the Future was released in theaters.
I can remember how excited I was to see it that summer in 1985. Going to the movies in general was a big deal. I eventually ended up working at the movie theater, the State Theater in high school. After working there, the thrill of going to the movies was gone. It was work.
It was the perfect movie for me as I was a big Michael J. Fox fan. To this day I'm still referred to as Alex P. Keaton by some people. I take it as a compliment. and Huey Lewis and the News had a few songs in the soundtrack for the movie. As big a fan I am of theirs, I have never seen them in concert. Although Huey Lewis almost hit me with a wedge on his backswing at Pebble Beach once.
The movie was great, but one thing I wanted more than anything after watching the movie was a skateboard.
So I did what any teenage boy with no spending money would do to get a skateboard. I asked my mom. And mom gave me the answer I heard many times from women in my teenage life, "No!" I would ask girls to sit with them at lunch or ask for their number in school and I heard no a lot.
So I went without the skateboard that summer. The seasons would change and I thought I'd take a chance and ask for a skateboard for Christmas. Mom was always a softie at Christmas, she was certain to deliver this time. I thought wrong. I got everything but the skateboard, although she did tell me the damaging results of owning a skateboard. She made it seem as if I'd be spending a lot of time at the ER at Woodland Memorial Hospital.
I would continue to walk or ride my bike to get around.
But a very important day was coming in the spring of 1986, my birthday! So once again I asked my mom for a skateboard for my 14th birthday.
And once again, I was told no. Hmmmm, what to do?
Ever see those T shirts kids wear that say, "If mom says no, ask (insert cool relative)"?
Well in my case, if mom says no, ask aunt Marcy.
She beat me to the punch. She asked me what I wanted for my present.
I told her K-Mart had the official Back to the Future skateboard for only $14.99.
Before I could describe it in more detail, she said she'd take me to K-Mart and buy it for me.
And she did! I was the proud owner of a Valterra Back to the Future skateboard.
I envisioned myself skating in style all over Woodland with my new board. I was cool....or so I thought.
My friends Sergio and Alvaro came over and I excitedly told them of my birthday present. I then went into the house to show them. "Look at this!", I proudly said.
They laughed at it.
They went on to explain the many skateboards one could choose from, Cabellero, Gonzalez, Powell and Peralta. They were speaking a foreign language. I didn't know there were other boards. I just thought mine was the coolest. It was featured in a Hollywood movie by the way.
After they stopped laughing, Sergio helped himself to my board. He then started grinding on the curb of the sidewalk with it.
"Stop! Your ruining it! Your scratching the paint off it!", I said.
Sergio said, "Your supposed to do this with the board. Your supposed to actually use it you know." I didn't know. I thought I supposed to use it Marty McFly style. The only trick I knew was to kick the tail of the board after you stopped riding it, if you could call that a trick.
After Sergio and Alvaro left, I looked at my scratched up board.....it was ruined. The Back to the Future logo was gone. I had to somehow salvage my board.
I then spent my own money at K-Mart and bought a orange can of spray paint. I actually did a good job painting my board orange. Only a little bit of grip tape was orange.
So once again, I proudly showed my friends my new alterated board.
They laughed again. But this time they "borrowed" it.
I'm still waiting to get my board back.
I also would like to think I helped create "The Fro Bros", the famous Woodland skate group. I'm kidding as I say this. They formed themselves into The Fro Bros.
Sergio and Alvaro would eventually go on to bigger and better things in the Woodland skate scene. For a small town, Woodland was a big skate town.
So, you're probably asking, why am I talking about skating and a movie on a sports blog?
I have been asked the question,  is skateboarding a sport? I would answer yes, and so would ESPN. As long ESPN can squeeze a nickel out of a sport, it's a sport.
So if skating is a sport, skaters are jocks. So I guess now I can say I hung out with the jocks in school!
Seriously, I hung out with the skaters, even though I didn't skate. I kept busy after school with yearbook and newspaper. They kept busy skating around town.
Anywhere there was concrete, they'd use it for as the police wouldn't hassel them.
I have heard of the Woodland Ditch, witch was on Beamer Rd. I heard to get there, you had to go in the irrigation ditches by the freeway. I always wanted to go and watch, but I was afraid of the rats they talked about.
They spoke of going to the Chicken Ramp in Grimes. Their roadtrip stories sounded like so much fun. I think they went to the new at the time Davis Skate Park.
They developed a bond on those after school skate sessions and roadtrips.
Kinda like  my friends who played baseball or football, the bond keeps them together despite the passing of time.
I sometimes listen to their stories and laugh along with them, but their laughs are longer and harder because they lived it and experienced it. I always envied them for that. It's kinda hard to get my old high school newspaper and yearbook friends to laugh and tell funny stories. But that's for another post idea I have in mind. (Watching from the Sidelines, coming to a blog post near you!)
Yes, skateboarders are athletes. My friends were always in great shape and I'm sure they all had the best cardiovascular health of anyone around.
Most skaters have the reputation of being rebellious or non confirmists. I'll honestly say they were truly there own people. They marched to a beat of a different drummer. Or shall I say they were drummers who marched to a different beat. They were all great guys and I can proudly say all of them have gone on to be quite successful in their different endeavors in life.
I don't have much use for a skateboard anymore. At a family reunion last year one of my younger cousins had a board and he was showing me tricks. He let me ride on it for a bit. I was very careful as I didn't want to fall off and break something. After all these years I still can't ollie. Now I'm to heavy to do it as when I was younger I was to clumsy and awkward to ollie.
Sometimes at work the kids are out skateboarding in our parking lot or in front of the store. My old boss would tell me to run them off. I know a good skate spot is hard to find. I just tell them to be careful and don't break any merchandise out front.
And this story began 30 years ago today.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna listen to Huey Lewis and the News, go back in time and get my skateboard back!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nothing Beats Baseball On The Radio

Today I enjoyed a very relaxing day off. My time hasn't been my own lately. 
So it was nice to do much of nothing today. After my nap I checked the MLB at Bat app to see if there was a game going on. There was just one, the Angels and Astros in Anaheim. It was tied 1-1 in the 8th. So instead of turning on the TV to watch, I listened on the radio through my MLB app.
It was much too late to keep score, so I charted the game. 
Keeping score during the game takes concentration and focus. You have to keep watching to keep ahead. The visual aspect certainly helps. If I were scoring sitting on the couch and I missed something, I can rewind and catch what I missed. Charting from the radio, you only get one chance. I was about to discover charting/keeping score listening to the game takes immense focus.
So I grabbed my legal pad and went to work. 
What I do is I just listen to the announcer, in this case it was Terry Smith of the Angels on KLAA 830 AM in Los Angeles.
I follow along and listen to how he described the pitch location and if it was a ball or strike. Sometimes he said the location, sometimes he didn't. There were times he was telling a long story and he didn't say anything about the pitch. I would listen to the crowd reaction to tell if it was a ball or strike. Mr. Smith would eventually catch up on the count and I was on track again. I used my multi colored pen just as I do on my score book.
So for example if on the first pitch was a ball away I would notate "Away B-1". If the second pitch was a strike swinging, I would notate, "Swing S-1", and so on and so on. Then just as in a scorebook, I would notate the final play.
I noticed that during TV, the announcers use the visual aid to describe the action. If there's a lull during the game, they plug away on commercials. I'll admit that's when I get up and get a drink, or get distracted myself. On the radio, the announcers are more descriptive of what a going on at the ballpark. I didn't dare go get a drink or distract myself as radio commercial breaks are much shorter and I didn't want to miss anything. I found myself more involved in the game. I felt like I was at The Big A. I even noticed the pace of the pitchers. Houston Street of the Angels works very slow. Josh Fields of the Astros worked very quickly. 
I don't always chart listening to a game on the radio. Sometimes I use a radio game as background noise. Today was the first time I did it actually. 
The game went into extra innings and the Angels won 2-1. I charted five innings. Sometime on a day where I have nothing planned, I'm gonna chart a complete game.