#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay Since March, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Opening Day, Looking Back, Looking Ahead

And so this makes two consecutive Opening Days where I have absolutely nothing to do with Major League Baseball. Before last year, I’d worked in and around the game from 1989-2012, with my only interruption being ‘96 and ‘97 when I took a couple of years off. In some ways I miss the game, but in other ways I don’t. I always loved being around the players, on the field during batting practice, observing their rituals and regimens. And I liked writing about the game’s nuances. What I don’t miss is critiquing players on a daily basis, I guess, because I know all too well how difficult the game is, and I know asking them to talk about what has just happened goes against the grain of what players must truly practice, which is always looking ahead to the next pitch, the next play, the next game, the next series.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Sports Matter

Is something wrong with me? I cannot watch the Dick’s Sporting Goods “Sports Matter” ads without getting tears in my eyes. It’s not a new phenomenon. I get misty during sports movies all the time. The Rookie. Remember the Titans. Of course, Field of Dreams. “Wanna have a catch?” But these Dick’s ads, wow. They touch a chord because I’ve spent so much of my life trying to explain to people why sports matter. When people stand up at board of education meetings and say things like, “Shouldn’t we improve the science labs before we worry about the baseball field?” I think, well, sure, but sports matter. When I try to explain to people that I don’t want a job that will keep me away from my sons’ games, I try to explain, sports matter. Most people don’t seen to get it. So I ask, “Is something wrong with me?”

Monday, March 24, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Big-Time College Sports On a Different Level

Took a few days off from these buck-fifty blogs as I spent the weekend watching Princeton and Navy play baseball in Annapolis. It’s an annual four-game series I try to attend every year, in part because my brother Scott coaches Princeton but also because I simply love watching these two schools compete. Yes, right in the middle of March Madness, I dial it back and watch an Ivy League team and a United States military service academy play back to back doubleheaders. The obvious cliché is that there are future leaders all over the diamond. But if anyone out there does not think this is serious baseball, you are so very wrong. The level of play is high, with pitchers who can throw in the 90s, hitters who are not afraid of 90-plus, in addition to a bunch of players who scrap like its their final days on the diamond.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: March Madness and Overall Stupidity

I like March Madness as much as the next guy, but I also know it’s part of a culture in American sports that’s led to a lunatic’s approach to sports viewing. Let’s forget about everything that’s happened all year and focus on a single-elimination tourney. Let’s judge success and failure on 40 minutes or a even a short series. Let’s say absurd things like, “He’s got to make that shot” and “There’s no way you should lose to that team” and “Another year down the toilet.” It’s rampant in an American sports culture that has started to buy into the dumbest of expressions. Things like, “They simply refused to lose” and “One team just wanted it more” and “Only one team showed up.” Come on, these are kids playing hoops. If it were possible to want it more or to refuse to lose, every kid would sign up for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Freelancing, Free-Wheeling

It’s been the strangest 14 months of my life. The life of a freelancer, I reckon. I wake up every morning, looking for work. I perform a handful of odd jobs. I troll the “job-finder” websites, but find mostly frustration. But, it’s all right. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, but it suits me fine, and it’s made me stronger. I’ve managed to earn a living, thanks to the people, the companies, who have given me contracts. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve been able to do it mostly from home, which is a blessing. Today, I had a second interview for a part-time baseball coaching job at a junior college. Certainly not what I had planned a few years back, but definitely what I saw myself doing when I was a freshman and sophomore in college back in the early 80s. We’ll see what happens.

Monday, March 17, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Social Media for Geezers

So it’s occurred to me, and sorry if I’m late to the party, that Facebook is now the place where parents and grandparents hang out. Gone are our children, who deduced we were spying on them. It was like Facebook suddenly turned into the party where Mom comes downstairs into the basement and asks a bunch of teenagers, “Want warm brownies?” The world of social media moves fast and it’s hard to tell what comes of it. I’ve been trying to build a following on Twitter and Instagram for Leather Head baseball gloves lately, and it’s been fun. But my 17-year old has told me I’m overdoing it. “One Instagram a day, Dad. You’re starting to become obnoxious.” I guess we have to rely on the youth to keep us informed on what’s cool and what’s uncool, even if we’re not gonna hang out together. Whatever. More brownies for me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Win the Next Pitch

As a writer covering Major League Baseball for 25 years, I had no choice but to incorporate statistics into my work. Fans crave statistics. Players earn big paychecks based on statistics. But now, as I’m around high school players who are trying to improve, I am preaching for them to ignore their stats. Why? Because, statistical goals are stupid and out of a player’s control The only goal every high school player should have is to win the next pitch. As a hitter, see the next pitch. As a pitcher, execute the next pitch to the best of your ability. As a fielder, make sure on the next pitch, you’re ready to snag a bullet. They say baseball is a "game of failure.” Not really. By setting out to win the next pitch - treating each pitch as a brand new game - players will succeed more than they fail.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Pedroia vs. Cano (aka Fire vs. Ice)

Ask 1,000 youth baseball coaches, "Who is a better example of how to play the game, Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano?" and more than 95 percent will answer, "Pedroia." I'm not so sure. I see a lot of kids trying to play the game like Pedroia, believing that trying harder, getting all fired up, will make them play better. The results are often the opposite. Most youth players – at least the ones I'm around – try too hard. They could learn a lot from watching the seemingly carefree style of Cano. I’m not advocating that kids not run hard for 90 feet when they've grounded the ball to second base, like Cano. And I'm not telling kids they shouldn't dive for groundballs with a runner on second base, like Cano. But I see a lot of Pedroia clones out there who'd play the game better if they dialed it down.

Friday, March 14, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: On Michael, Clint and Ambition

Michael Bradley is my nephew. Clint Dempsey is not. So Saturday at 4:30, I will be rooting for my nephew and Toronto FC when they take on the Seattle Sounders, but also hoping Clint puts on a helluva show. I’ve heard the stick they’ve taken from fans (fans are allowed to be fans) for coming to MLS. Those who say they’ve lost ambition. Bull. Wanting the ball at your feet, in Michael’s case. Wanting to be counted on to score goals, in Clint’s case. Wanting the weight of your team and its supporters on your shoulders, is ambitious. Clint went to England at the age of 23, stayed there for six seasons. Set a new standard for American attacking players abroad. Michael went to Europe at 18, played in five countries, for 10 coaches, over eight seasons, and never stopped trying to prove himself. Saturday begins a new chapter.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Not Betting on Pete Rose

There's a new book out called "Pete Rose: An American Dilemma," written by former Sports Illustrated writer and editor Kostya Kennedy. All I've seen to this point is the excerpt, from which I gather Kennedy and I are on the same page regarding Rose. A lot of Rose supporters use the defense that he never bet on the Reds to lose. Kennedy thankfully realizes that managing a MLB team is about more than trying to win one game at a time.  Today's moves influence tomorrow's game. So unless someone can prove Rose bet exactly the same amount of money every day on the Reds to win, color me as one who remains un-swayed by the argument that he never bet on his team to lose. I do not believe Rose should be reinstated. As with all matters related to Cooperstown, I trust that in the hands of the Baseball Writers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Starting a New Life

I had another job interview yesterday. This time, it was for an assistant baseball coaching job at a junior college. It was an enjoyable interview, and even though I have no college baseball coaching experience on my resume, I felt I made a strong case for myself. It’s a part-time job and the pay is minuscule, so don’t waste any prayers on me. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t it doesn’t. Whatever will be will be. I’m a regular cliché machine lately. The one I utter the most is the old, “If it doesn’t kill you it can only make you stronger.” I’ve lost count of how many interviews I’ve done this past month. Car dealerships. Craig’s List ads. I’ve gotten a ton of calls from insurance companies, telling me they can help me change directions and start a new life for myself. I appreciate their concern.

Monday, March 10, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Tiger Woods was Bigger When he was Smaller

The players on the PGA Tour need Tiger Woods. Need TW to be relevant if they want to make the stupid money they’ve gotten used to making. I’m a golf fan who will watch anything, from the Frys.com to the Big Break, but players won’t get silly rich on me. And the sport will fade to niche again. They need sports fans. They need the crowd that Tiger brought them, for reasons good and bad. But you have to wonder if the Tour will ever reap the Tiger Effect again. And am I the only person who wonders why players who look skinny, and players who look fat, don’t seem to suffer anywhere near the number of injuries that Tiger has had to deal with, basically, since he transformed his physique form sinewy to muscle-bound? Sinewy Tiger hit it farther. Sinewy Tiger won more. And Sinewy Tiger wasn’t always injured.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Can You Feel the Love?

Today, I'm going to write about the baseball glove business. It is a love story. A year ago, Paul Cunningham and I saw our first Leather Head glove prototypes. We liked, did not love them. We tweaked them. We secured Jon Contino to handle our branding. We launched. Every day we learn. All the time we know that gloves are personal. We answer a lot of questions from people who want information, but have no interest in purchasing a glove. We get a lot of requests from players (and a lot of kids) who tell us, "If you give me a glove, I'll promote it for you." We'd love to find a major league player willing to try our glove, but we don't really want to pay him to wear the glove. We want him to put our glove on his hand and, well, become part of the love story.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: They Call Me the 50-Year Old Virgin

A couple of my best friends were among the men who created Rotisserie League Baseball back in the early 80s. Long story short, they never cashed in on their invention and what’s now known as “fantasy” sports is said to be a $4 billion business in the U.S. To be honest, I don’t know anything about fantasy sports. It would be fair to call me a “hater.” While I know not every fantasy player claims to be an expert when it comes to sports reality, enough of them have rubbed me the wrong way to help me form a strong opinion. That said, today I have officially entered the fray, having entered a Major League Soccer fantasy league that kicks off at 3 p.m. I’m sure I don’t have the passion necessary to excel at a game based on number-crunching, but I’m in. I’m calling myself the 50-year old virgin.

Friday, March 7, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Hold On Tight

I went to bed last night wondering if Beau had packed his bag with everything he’d need for today. I laid my head on the pillow and wondered how Tyler must be feeling, knowing he’s been named a captain as a junior, and that today the sun would rise on a day he’d long ago circled on his calendar. The first day of high school baseball. In all reality, I was probably feeling more anxious than they were, probably because I know how fast it will all go by. And how much they’ll miss it when it’s gone. Some day they’ll realize you don’t only miss the feeling of hitting a ball on the screws, but you also miss the feeling of early morning practices on cold days and long bus rides home after tough losses. Some say it’s just a game. I guess they’re right. Then again, maybe not.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: It's a Reinvention Convention

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1,000 times. “You’ve got to re-invent yourself.” And so I’m trying, though I’m convinced it’s just a sales pitch. It’s not that I don’t realize times have changed, and many of us who once earned a living as journalists, are now being forced into different roles. It’s just that I don’t think enough people realize that we journalists spend most days re-inventing ourselves. It’s part of the job. Here’s a subject and here’s a deadline. Acquaint yourself with it and write confidently about it in the next hour. Every day is a new class complete with research, analysis, fact-finding, and then communicating. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone lately, trying to explain to people why I’m equipped to do a job that’s not on my resume. They say, “So you’re trying to re-invent yourself.” And I say, “Always.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Out, But Hardly Proud

I wonder how many others there are, out there like me? How many others ashamed to admit they've kept a secret? Afraid to admit that, for a long time, they were homophobic? I don't even know if "homophobic" is the right word, honestly. "Dumbass" is more like it. Good news is I believe I'm a changed man. At least, less ignorant. Because, as more gay people have stepped out and told me who they are, I've learned that I've had gay friends even when I didn't know it. That I've gotten incredible advice from gay co-workers. That, while I've had bad experiences with gay people, I've had far more bad experiences with straight people, which means their sexuality had nothing to do with it. So, I’m ashamed of my past – and embarrassed –  but want to thank those who've come out and slapped a little sense into this dumbass.

Monday, March 3, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Brotherly Love

On my brother Bob's 56th birthday I will write 150 words about what it's like to be his little brother. No one believes me, but I was just as nervous when his Princeton teams played as when his Fire, MetroStars, Chivas, U.S.  and Egypt teams played. I can remember, in the early 90s, stopping in the middle of games I was covering to call the Princeton hotline for scores. The feeling of relief when they'd slipped past Cornell or Hartwick. The feeling of despair when they lost. Sometimes I hate being his brother. Like when nut jobs assaulted me on Twitter after the U.S. lost to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup. But on the rare occasions in the last 32 years when he hasn't had a team to coach, I've always felt a void. He loves to coach. I love to be the brother of a coach. Happy Birthday.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: The Fatherhood Puzzle

There are infinite sayings on the subject. "Don't be their friend, be their father" is one. "If you have never been hated by your child you have never been a parent" is another. These things confuse me. I want my sons to trust me like a friend. But I don't want them to hate me when I don’t' react like a friend. I have become too feared. The fear my children have for me – the fear they have in disappointing me – has become too great. Too great, because they believe there are things they cannot talk to me about. Too great, probably, because I haven't done a good enough job of explaining to them that, even when I'm disappointed in things they've done, or decisions they've made, they never truly disappoint me. My love for them only has one level. My love for them never fluctuates from maximum.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

#BuckFiftyADay: Happy Birthday, Dean Smith

Happy Birthday, a day late. It was an honor to stand and cheer for the teams you coached. An honor to be a student at the school you represented so proudly. Even though I was never allowed inside a huddle or a team meeting, you were my coach. As you taught your players to respect each other and to respect the opponents, you coached those same ideals into everyone at Carolina. Sure, it may have been frustrating to not wave our arms and jump up and down when opponents shot free throws at Carmichael, because everyone else was doing it. But you didn't care what everyone else was doing. You coached us exactly the way you coached your players. And looking back now, and seeing how things have changed in sports and society in general, I want to tell you how grateful I am to have been coached by you.