It Still Is Opening Day

6 Apr

Well, it may not be the most anticipated Opening Day in recent memory.  Ok, so it might even be the least.  But when I woke up this morning and heard the words:  “It’s Opening Day for the Phillies,” I’ll admit it:  

My heart fluttered.  And I had a moment of pure joy in anticipation of the brand new baseball season spreading out before me.

first sound of spring

And then I remembered our starting outfield.  

But I digress.  

 For me, there is still something magical about Opening Day and I hope there always will be.wonderful

So when I reached into my closet this morning, I pulled out the only attire appropriate for today.  

shirt

And I will wear it proudly!  Because, win or lose, after all, they’ll always be “my Phillies.”  

Have a great Opening Day and may this be the year that your team will play on a “Field of Dreams.”

No place like home

This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Shirley Resnick, a loyal follower of Girls Best Phriend.   But much more importantly, Shirley was a wonderful woman, a loving mother and grandmother and a devoted friend.  She will be dearly missed. 

Yes, There Was A Football Game

2 Feb

Before the final minutes of last night’s Super Bowl no one knew the name Malcolm Butler. Even the staunchest of New England Patriots’ fans couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up.

But in a game filled with stars the likes of Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler is the name that will be remembered.

After weeks of speculation on whether Brady and Coach Bill Belichick deflated footballs and a week of talk about why Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t, there actually was a football game to be be played.

And when the smoke from Katy Perry’s halftime fireworks had cleared, those of us who have been struggling throughout this disaster-plagued football season to find a reason to even support this sport; those of us sick of rich spoiled athletes who hit their girlfriends or take performance enhancing drugs and lie about it; those who are sick of hearing physicists explain psi’s and the air molecules in a football and how many balls could be deflated by a “person of interest” in 90 seconds in a bathroom; for all of us, the closing minutes of last night’s Super Bowl, was a much-needed reminder of what we love about sports.

It’s stories like that of Malcolm Butler, a 5’11’’ undrafted rookie out of West Alabama. He’s the only player from that school to play in a Super Bowl. But even getting to West Alabama was not easy. Butler started his college career at Hinds Community College where he was kicked out early in his Freshman year.

He spent 2010 working at a Popeye’s. He returned to Hinds for one more year, then moved on to West Alabama where despite a good career there, he was undrafted. In fact, only the Patriots even offered him a tryout well after most other 90-man rosters were already filled.

And though he made the roster, he didn’t get a lot of playing time. He had only made 15 tackles total before the big game. In fact, he wasn’t even part of the team’s original Super Bowl game plan. He was inserted as the Patriots fifth defensive back to help defend against Chris Matthews, a a Seahawks receiver having unexpected success in the game.

Adding to the drama was that several plays earlier, Butler was the defender on the unlikely Jermaine Kearse catch, where Butler deflected the ball only to have Kearse juggle it and catch it on his back. It was this catch that put the Seahawks in position to possibly win the game.

“I went to the sideline, wasn’t feeling too well, my teammates were trying to cheer me up and said I made a great play,” Butler said while noting he felt he would be viewed as the reason the Patriots lost. Just devastating.”

But that was not to be Butler’s lasting memory on this night. With the game on the line, the ball on the New England 1 yard line, Seattle questionably decided to throw for the go-ahead score. But Butler had other ideas.
He jumped the route, making a game-saving, season-saving interception.

It was the first interception of his NFL career.

“I had a vision that I was going to make a big play, and it came true,” Butler.

His quarterback, Tom Brady, agreed:

“Malcolm made the play of the year to save our season.”

After the game Butler said that he felt “blessed and thankful” and that winning a Super Bowl was “a dream come true.”

What could be next for this 24-year old improbable Superbowl hero?

“I’m going to Disney World.”

And the fairy tale is complete.

Caps Off to J-Roll

11 Dec

This was originally written when Jimmy Rollins got his 2000th hit in 2012.  It seems appropriate to repost it tonight in tribute to the little guy who will leave a big shadow behind.  Make sure to check out the new material at the end of the post!

 

As a kid he excelled in both baseball and football.  In fact, if asked to choose between the two, the young athlete would have

 probably chosen the gridiron.  He loved the San Francisco 49ers and he dominated in Pop Warner football.

But when his height plateaued at 5’7”, Jimmy Rollins gave up dreams of a pro football career and opted for baseball instead.

And 2000 hits later, it seems the young Rollins made the right choice.

Many pro athletes will attribute their success to the many hours spent with their Dads in the batting cages and fielding ground balls in the back yard.

As for Jimmy?

His baseball inspiration was his Mom, Gigi, a top infielder in the fast-pitch softball leagues of Northern California.  Jimmy spent many an afternoon tagging along to his Mom’s practices, collecting balls in the outfield in exchange for a chance to take a couple of swings at the plate or field some grounders.  In fact, Gigi still claims that she was a better ballplayer than he is.

Hey, now we know where that Jimmy Rollins swagger comes from.

In high school Rollins stole 99 bases and hit .484, both school records.  Those numbers attracted the attention of some pro scouts who would normally have dismissed a 5’7” kid as just too small to make it in the majors.  He was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 1996 draft and Jimmy had found a home.

Jimmy’s parents had one rule for their children growing up:  You never quit.  And that rule would serve the 17-year old Rollins well as he worked his way up from the bottom.  He started his career playing for the Appalachian League’s Martinsville Phillies where he hit just .238.

A couple of years later he finally made the leap to Triple-A.   It was the first time he had played on artificial turf and the young Rollins, unused to the speed of the turf, struggled with his footing. On the first ball hit his way, a grounder up the middle, his feet got tangled up and Jimmy fell flat on his face.

But he took his parents ‘never quit’ rule to heart.  Just ten years later Jimmy Rollins would famously declare his Philadelphia Phillies “the team to beat in the NL East” then back it up,  leading his team to their first division title in 14 years.

As for Jimmy

He had some firsts of his own.  He became the first player in Major League history to collect 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 home runs, and 25 stolen bases in the same season. He also became the 4th player to have at least 20 home runs, 20 triples, 20 doubles, and 20 stolen bases with an RBI triple on the last day of the season winning him the 2007 NL MVP.

Not bad for a 5’7” kid who once had dreams of playing football.

But Jimmy wanted more than individual records.

“Records are meant to be broken and it’s good to have an opportunity to chase them. But I’m more focused on how we do as a team.”

And focused he was.   In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies gave a championship-starved city what they had long been waiting for.  The Phillies won the World Series, their first title in 28 years.

As for Jimmy

The little shortstop with the big words backed them up again.  He became the first player to lead off two clinching games with homers in the same postseason and joined his teammates in a ride down Broad Street this city will never forget.

Now with his 2000th hit Jimmy Rollins joins some rarefied Phillies company.  Only Mike Schmidt, Richie Ashburn and Ed Delahanty had that many. And only 30 switch-hitters in history have at least 2,000 hits.

Not bad for the little guy who fell flat on his face fielding his first ground ball in Triple-A.

Yes, there are those who will point to some of Rollins’ controversial statements or his occasional failures to run hard to first on a ground ball.  Yes, there are those who will say that he doesn’t get on base enough to be an effective leadoff hitter or that he’s not worth the money the Phillies are paying him.

But this is not the time to debate any of that.  This is the time to celebrate the little guy with the big arm.  The shortstop with the swagger.  The guy who talked the talk, telling the world that his team was the “team to beat,” and then walked the walk taking us all along with him for the glorious ride.  This is the time to congratulate the Phillies diminutive shortstop on his big achievement.

As for Jimmy?

He’s not done yet.

‘It was great, but 3,000 is better,’‘ said Rollins “[It’s] pretty cool, but I still have work to do.”

And that’s not bad for those of us who will get to watch him do it.

◊          ◊          ◊          ◊          ◊

We knew this day would come. We even knew that it should

But that doesn’t mean that it has to feel good.

After 15 seasons of sporting Phillies red

J-Roll’s trading coasts; he’ll wear Dodgers blue instead

jimmy-rollins-celebrates-nlcs-game-4jpg-bd30e834ae616065

He loved to play the game;  he lived loved living life with style

JimmyJohariRollins

120608_athletes_phillies_ap_400_605

And no night was complete without that Jimmy Rollins’ smile.

Jimmy Rollins

  Yes, he gave our team his swagger, some might call it attitude

jimmy_rollins_200805_ap
charlie-manuel-jimmy-rollins-8e9723be24ab1f67


But he leaves with something, too, our undying gratitude.

jimmy bday_10154930982050492_1392640730690298204_n

So our caps are off to J-Roll as he heads to La-La land

And when he’s at the Bank we’ll even give him a hand

But there’s one thing that we’re keeping, actually 5 to be complete

Words that live in Phillies history: “We’re the team to beat.”

Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies

 

Phorgiveness

5 Oct

Hi my old blog-reading friends.  Yes, it has been a while since I’ve written but I thought I’d share something pretty powerful that I did yesterday, something that really helped me, something that I hope might be helpful to some of my fellow Phillies fans.

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.  It is the day we spend fasting, praying and reflecting over the past year; the day we spend asking for forgiveness for ourselves for things we have done wrong, and here’s the important part; it’s the day that we also grant forgiveness to others who may have wronged us.

I think you see were I’m going here.  Yes, after I got some of my more important Atoning out of the way, I decided it was time to forgive the Phillies for the 2014 season.  Yep, after a season when I didn’t rush to my computer as soon as I woke up to check the score of a West Coast game; a season where I turned off many a game before the final out because I just couldn’t take it; a season where I anticipated the last game much more than I had the first, it was time to forgive and try to forget.

Phillies-stink-cartoon

So here we go:

  • I forgive the Phillies for their 73-89 record and for finishing in last place for the first time sine 2000.
  • I forgive Ryan Howard for his .223 batting average and 190 strikeouts.
  • I forgive them for signing Bobby Abreu in Spring Training (not that I hold a grudge or anything.)
  • I forgive them (though I still don’t understand it) for never really gave Darin Ruf a “fighting'” chance to prove himself.
  • I forgive AJ Burnett and Kyle Kendrick for…..well, being AJ Burnett and Kyle Kendrick.
  • I forgive Ryne Sandberg for not resting Chase Utley enough so that after an All-Star first half of the season, his numbers and contribution to the team plummeted.
  • I forgive (and this is a hard one) Ruben Amaro, Jr. for never shaking this team up even when it was abundantly clear they were out of contention.
  • I forgive Dominic Brown for never putting it all together and will wish him well when he is traded this off-season.  (Did you hear that Ruben???)
  • And yes, I even forgive Jonathon Pabelbon for his, shall we say, controversial, salute to the fans.  After all, it may be his last.

Sadly, I could go on but don’t worry, I won’t.  Because the real point here is, that it is time to forgive.  Yes the Phillies need to clean house.  But only through forgiveness can we, the fans, start with a clean slate.  Only through forgiveness can we begin to remember the sport and the team we used to love.

So, after spending part of my Day of Atonement forgiving the Phillies, I can yet again, say with conviction those words that fans have been saying for time immemorial:

“Wait till next year.”

(And I don’t mean next Yom Kippur.)

My Super Bowl Pool

2 Feb

Hi everyone.  Long time, no talk, I mean write.  And don’t worry, I’m not making any comment on the Phillies.  You know my motto:  If you don’t have anything nice to say…

So I thought instead, I’d share with you my Super Bowl Pool.  It’s the perfect football pool for a baseball fan or for even a non-fan.  It’s a bunch of the entertaining prop bets that require absolutely NO knowledge of football whatsoever.

So enjoy the game!  (And my pool.)

DENVER BRONCOS vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Super Bowl Pool

 1)  Will the National Anthem sung by Renee Fleming be longer than 2 minutes and 19 seconds? (from start till end of music)

2)  Barack Obama will pick the Seattle Seahawks to win the Superbowl.

3) The pre-game coin toss will land on tails.

4Will any of the players or coaches, on either team, cry or have tears in their eyes during the singing of the National Anthem?

5)  The first commercial AFTER kick-off  will be for a drink of any kind.

 6)  The first coach’s name to be mentioned after kick-off will be Pete Carroll.

 7)  The first play of the game will be a passing play.

8) Denver will get the game’s first first down.

 9)  Russell Wilson will throw the first completed pass of the game.

10)  Pam Oliver will be the first sideline reporter seen on television after the kick-off.

11)  Eli or Archie Manning will be shown more than twice in the first half of the Superbowl.

12)  The broadcasters will mention marijuana at least once in the first half of the game.

13)  The fact that Russell Wilson attended Peyton’s Manning’s Quarterback’s Camp will be mentioned during the first half.

 14)  Marshawn Lynch will score the first touchdown in the game.

 15)  Peyton Manning will throw the first interception of the game.

 16)  The first team penalized in the game will be the Seattle Seahawks.

 17)  There will be at least two turnovers combined in the first half.

18)  There will be at least three sacks in the first Half.

 19)  Russell Wilson will have more total passing yards than Peyton Manning at Halftime.

20)  The Denver Broncos will be leading the game at Halftime.

 21)  Bruno Mars first song during his Halftime performance will be “Just the Way You Are.”

 22)  Will any member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers go shirtless during the Halftime Show?

My Roy Halladay: Thanks, Doc!

10 Dec

Roy Halladay announced his retirement from baseball on Monday.  After playing 12 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and four seasons with the Phillies,  this fan won’t blame him for retiring a Blue Jay.

This fan also won’t forget the many thrills he gave us in his years wearing Phillies red.  So as a tribute to the Doc, this is the entry I posted the day after what turned out to be his last appearance on the mound.

♦          ♦          ♦

Sometimes, baseball can be a cruel game.

There are also times when baseball, like life, can seem unfair.

But worst of all, baseball can be a sad game.

And I can think of nothing sadder than Roy Halladay leaving the game the other night and ending his season after only 16 pitches (his shortest outing ever.)  He faced just three batters and walked two.  Only five of his 16 pitches were for strikes.  And for me, that’s as heartbreaking as it gets.

But the man who left the mound that night, head down, shoulders slumped, is not the man who I will choose to remember, if that indeed is to be the last time we see Roy Halladay pitch as a Phillie, or perhaps pitch at all.

I will choose to remember a different Roy Halladay.  The man who earned the nickname the “Doc” because of his surgical precision on the mound, the man who dominated the game he played for most of his long and brilliant career.

I’ll remember the Roy Halladay who pitched his first game for the Phillies on Opening Day 2010.  He pitched seven innings on that day, had nine strikeouts and gave up only one run earning his first win as a Phillie.

As fans, we knew we were watching something special but we had no idea how special it would be.

My Roy Halladay is the man who went on to win 21 games that year and become the Phillies first 20-game winner since Steve Carlton in 1982. And the first right-handed Phillies pitcher to win 20 since Robin Roberts did it in 1955.

But that wasn’t all the “Doc” had in store for us that year.

All baseball fans will remember May 29th when Roy Halladay, who we already thought was perfect, made it official.  He pitched a perfect game against the then Florida Marlins retiring all 27 batters he faced, 11 with strikeouts.

And I’ll also remember Roy Halladay, the man, who gave Swiss-made watches to everyone in the clubhouse after that game with the inscription:  “We did it together. Thanks, Roy Halladay.” 

Roy Halladay would go on to finish that 2010 season with a record of 21-10 and a 2.44 ERA.  He had a career high 219 strikeouts and only 30 walks.  He led the National League in wins, innings pitched and complete games with nine, including four shutouts.  And he would win the Cy Young Award that year becoming only the fifth pitcher to win that prestigious award in both leagues.

But what will make Roy Halladay truly impossible to forget, is what he did on October 6th, in his first ever start in the postseason, the start he had waited for his entire career. On that night Roy made up for all those years of frustration by doing something only one other pitcher in the history of baseball had done before him.

Ray Halladay pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the National League Division Series.

Halladay would continue his dominance in his second year with the Phillies.  He finished the 2011 season at 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and was named the starting pitcher for the All-Star Game that year.  He finished second in the Cy Young balloting and was named the Sportsperson of the Year by the Philadelphia Daily News for the second year in a row.

I could go on and on listing Roy Halladay’s countless accomplishments and awards.  And for fans of the game, like me, those feats will always way overshadow the disappointments of the past several years.

I will always remember the Roy Halladay we called “the Doc,” his intense, commanding presence on the mound, his team first attitude, his respect for the game he loves and his appreciation of his teammates and the fans.

But as I sit here writing and reflecting on this beautiful Fall morning, my greatest hope is that Roy Halladay himself will come to appreciate and remember that great man as well.

chooch on his wayroy, chooch, ryanRoy-Halladay-Game_and carlos397x224053010_Halladay-Smile_400

Happy Halloween

31 Oct

pumpkin photo

Couldn’t resist sharing this picture from the wonderful Trumbower family!

Oh yeah, Halloween also marks the 5-year anniversary of the Phillies 2008 World Series Parade.  And I am proud to say that we were in the stadium that day to hear Chase Utley utter that adjective Phillies fans will remember forever.

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