What’s in a name: Stomper

At the pool where I take a water excercise class, there is a life guard who always wears an A’s hat.  Recently I found out that his name is Thomas Proell, and he named Stomper, the A’s Mascot.

In 1997, when Thomas was a second grader at Indian Valley School, in Walnut Creek, CA, his teacher asked the kids to come up with a name for the A’s elephant that was and still is the mascot of the team.  He went home and talked it over with his mother and said he wanted to submit the name “Stomper” as his choice.

Stomper was chosen as the best name submitted by the class, and his teacher sent it on to the A’s who were running a contest to come up with a name for the elephant mascot. 

“Stomper” was selected by the A’s, and Thomas and his family were invited to the opening day game on April 2nd where the name was unveiled.  He got to throw out the first pitch that day, and he and his family got to sit in a box for the game.  In addition, he was given season tickets for 4 years after that.  He has remained an A’s fan ever since, as evidenced by his hat.

Thomas is 22 years old,  has completed the required coursework and is certified as an EMT.  He is currently lifeguarding and taking classes at Los Medanos College in fire science and other classes related to becoming a paramedic.  He lives in Pittsburgh, CA.

Thank you Thomas for naming Stomper.  It’s a great name!

The Novel is Done!!!

I am pleased to report that the novel is done and is in the publication process.  As soon as it is out, I can have my life back.  Well, I’ll have to market it, but that sounds like fun to me.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you a teaser of sorts, in the form of a chapter that was removed “because it didn’t move the plot,” as my esteemed editor, Rick Hurd, told me many times as we were trying to whittle it down from 465 pages to 330+.

In this scene, my character and  starting pitcher, Larry Gordon, and his buddy, Rick Wycliffe, a relief pitcher, are in Seattle for the start of the baseball season.  They flew up a day early and have some time to kill.  After going up to the top of the Space Needle and eating lunch in the revolving restaurant, they walk towards the downtown area and come upon the Pike Place Market.  Here is what happened there:

Pitching Fish

Rick and I continue south along the Seattle waterfront until we come to the Pike Place Market, an old fashioned wharf-side fish market that sells more than just things from the sea, and we decide to wander in and have a look.

Pike Place Market

We pass stalls decked out in the vibrant colors of vegetables, berries, fruits, and flowers in a rainbow of hues, and booths that sell candy, aromatic coffees, teas, spices, and ice cream.  Our noses are greeted with a strong aroma of cinnamon as we approach a lighted case containing warm sticky buns that make our mouths water.  Even though we just ate dessert, they smell too good to pass up, and we buy one to split.

Next door is one of the fish mongers, and something flying catches my eye.  Rick and I move to the left to watch a guy tossing a large silvery salmon to another guy at the other end of the stall.  He lays it out on the crushed ice heaped on a slanted display shelf at the front of the stall.

Fish Monger's Stall

We watch several more flying fish, and I can see by the expression on Rick’s face that he’s hatching something.  He gives me an evil look.  “Hey, bro.  If you ever get injured and can’t pitch, I bet you could get a job here.”  He pauses for a second for effect.  “Nah, you’d never do it,” and gives me a jab in the ribs.

“Who says?”  I rub my side and wink at Rick.  After a few seconds, I vault quickly over the barrier between the stalls and land in front of the flabbergasted fish tosser,  “Can I try that?” I ask.

I’m sure this guy in a bloodstained apron and wool fisherman’s cap thinks I’m a raving loon, but he says, “Okay, if you want to.”  Then, eyeing me quizzically, he says:  “You look familiar.  Do I know you?”

I say in a low voice:  “That guy over there is Rick Wycliffe and I’m Larry Gordon.  We’re in town with the Renegades to play the Mariners.”  Recognition spreads across his face.

Before he can say anything, I say, indicating Rick, “He bet me I wouldn’t do this, and I want to make a liar out of him.  Can you help me out here?”  I put on my most appealing boyish smile and hold out my hands.

He looks at me dubiously but decides to go along with the program.  He hands me a somewhat cleaner apron than the one he is wearing, which I slip over my head.  He tells me to turn around and wraps the apron strings around me so I can tie them in the front.  Next he holds out a pair of long rubber gloves and I slip them on.  I don’t want to think about what kind of fish guts are inside them.

Then he retrieves a huge glistening salmon from a crate behind him and places it into my gloved hands.   He calls down to the guy at the other end of the stall, “Hey, Mike, incoming!”

Mike yells back, “Ready when you are, Chuck!”

“Go for it!” Chuck says, and stands back to give me some room.

I make sure I have a good grip on the slippery fish, take a few practice swings to get the feel for its weight, and launch it into the air in Mike’s direction.  He deftly catches the salmon, places it carefully next to the previous one and gives me a thumbs-up.  The few people who saw me vault into the stall start to clap.

Chuck hands me another silvery fish, and I fling it toward Mike who lays it out next to my first fish on the ice.  I look over the counter to find Rick.  I see him standing behind the burgeoning crowd, shaking his head, but smiling.

I turn back to Chuck who thrusts another fish into my hands, clearly amused by this whole scene.  I send it on its way, a perfect strike, right into Mike’s waiting hands.  This is a piece of cake, I think.   Much louder applause this time.  We’ve drawn quite an audience.

After a few more perfect pitches, I hear murmuring in the crowd.  Uh-oh.  I bet we’ve been found out

“Thanks for the fish-pitching lesson,” I say to Chuck.  “It was fun.  But we’ve got to get out of here.”

I peel off the gloves and the apron, thrusting them at Chuck,  and jump back over the barrier to more applause.  People are now pointing at me.  I sprint to Rick and we take off away from the crowd before Chuck can confirm who we are.

We emerge into the sunlight, put our sunglasses disguise back in place, and dissolve into hysterics.  It feels like the time when I was a  kid, and my best friend and I reduced a neighbor’s ancient grape arbor to kindling by pulling it apart with our bare hands.  When we heard a car pull in the driveway, we snuck off through the adjoining back yards, and no one but us ever knew who had done it.  We chuckled about that in secret for years afterwards.

Rick and I head back toward the hotel with a bounce in our steps, and he teases me about how fishy I smell now.  In all my current turmoil, it sure was nice just to goof around for a while.  Rick and I used to do this a lot when we first met in A-ball, before he got married and baseball got so serious.

We duck into a bar for a beer along the way and thank our lucky stars that no one we know was on hand in the Pike Place Market to witness our shenanigans.  Rick says, “You know we could never get away with anything like that in the Bay Area.”

“Yup.  It’s one of the few benefits of being on the road.  We can go out in public,” I say, and chug the rest of my beer.

Rick and I decide to grab an early dinner at a small restaurant near the hotel.  It’s a little hole in the wall place but the menu posted outside looks promising.  In honor of my fish-pitching exploits, I order salmon, which is delicious.  Rick has Alaskan King Crab legs which are huge and very messy.  His Dead Head tee shirt will never look or smell the same again.

We pay the check and walk back to the hotel completely contented.  He heads off to his room to call Cindy.  I crawl into my bed and bury my head in my Michael Crichton novel until the oblivion of sleep claims me.

* * *

Hope you enjoyed this little vignette.  BTW, the pictures are not in the novel.  I just wanted to break up the text for the blog.

I’ll keep you posted on the publication process.  The book should be avaliable sometime before the baseball season starts.

The End of an Era: Tony LaRussa Retires

Yesterday, Tony LaRussa announced his retirement from Baseball.  He managed the Chicago White Sox (8.3 years), the Oakland Athletics (10 years), and most recently the St. Louis Cardinals (16 years).  You can read about his retirement HERE.

Tony was signed as a amateur free agent by the Kansas City Athletics in 1962.  He played 2nd base and shortstop for most of his playing career, though he made appearances at 1st and 3rd, as well as in the outfield.  In 1976, he pitched in 3 games (.300 ERA) for the Iowa Oaks in the American Association (AAA).

He had “cups of coffee” with the Kansas City A’s (1963), and the Oakland A’s (1968+69),  and longer stints in Oakland in 1970 and 1971, when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves.  He bounced around the minor leagues with the Braves (cup of coffee in 1971),the Cubs (another cup of coffee in 1973), the Pirates, the White sox, and the Cardinals, who finally released  him in 1977(AA).

In 1978, he managed the Knoxville Sox of the Southern League (AA), and in 1979 was promoted to the Iowa Oaks (AAA), replacing Joe sparks.  During that year was called up to the Chicago White Sox to replace Don Kessinger, who was fired after losing 60 and winning 46 games.  Under Tony that year, the Chisox went 27-27.  In 1983, his White Sox won their division (99-63.)

As a manager, Tony certainly found his calling.  He won the American League Pennant 3 times, and the World Series once, in 1989 (“The Earthquake Series”) with the Oakland Athletics.  He won 3 National League Penants, and 3 World Series, all with the Cardinals, including the exciting 2011 series just over.  He also won Manager of the Year 4 times, with the Athletics in 1983 and 1988, and with the Cardinals in 1992 and 2002.

He says of his retirement, “It’s Time,” and we have to honor his decision.  We will miss him from the the baseball scene, but wish him the best in whatever he decides to do next.

Great Blog to Recommend: Dads at Bat

My friend Jeff Gillenkirk (author of the novel Home Away about a ballplayer/dad and his struggles trying to do both) has a new blog up entitled “Dads at Bat“, focusing on “the fertile interface of fatherhood and baseball.” Check it out HERE. I think you’ll really enjoy it, even if you’re not a dad.  You can also read a nice interview with him HERE.

And check out his novel, Home Away. You can also get it on Amazon.  It is available as an ebook in Kindle, Nook, and IPad formats.

 

Final 2011 BBA Award: The Stan Musial Award (MVP)

Before giving the Oakland A’s BBA Stan Musial award ballot, a comment or 2 are in order.  While the overwhelming number prior winners have been non-pitchers, hurlers have won this award.  For instance, Dennis Eckersley (RHP, Closer, Oakland Athletics) won both the Cy Young and the MVP in 1992, and Roger Clemmons (RHP, Starter, Boston Red Sox) won both awards in 1986.  So pitchers are elligible for the MVP.

That said, here is our ballot:

1st Place:  Jose Bautista, RF/3B, Toronto Blue Jays.  Led the AL in home runs (43), walks (132), slugging precentage (.608), OPS (1.056), OPS+ (181), and intentional walks (24).  He was an All Star.

2nd Place:  Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox.  He had a breakout season in 2011.  He led the league in total bases (364), and a batting average of .321, a .552 slugging precentage, and 212 total hits.  He also was an All Star.

3rd Place:  Curtis Granderson, CF, throws right, bats left, New York Yankees.  He led the AL in runs scored (136) and RBI’s (119).  He also hit 41 home runs, stole 25 bases, had a .552 slugging percentage, and 322 total bases.  He likewise was an All Star.

4th Place:  Miguel Cabrera, 1B, 3B, LF, Detroit Tigers.  He led the AL in games played (161), doubles (48), bating average (.344), and OBP (.448).  He hit 30 home runs, scored 111 runs, had 197 hits, and 105 RBI’s.  Another All Star (his 6th appearance).

5th Place:  Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers.  He led the AL in wins (24), win/loss percentage (.823), games started (34), innnings pitched (251), strikeouts (250), ERA+ (170 – ERA adjusted to his home park), WHIP (.920) and hits/9 innings (6.2).  Yet another All Star.  Yes, he’s a pitcher, but he and Cabrera are the reason the Tigers got to the postseason.

The rest of the field includes:

6th Place:  Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox.  Led Al in hits (213) and grounded into double plays (28).  BA (338).  All Star.

7th Place:  Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees. BA .302, 188 hits, All Star.

8th Place: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox.  Led AL in plate appearances (731).  .307 BA, 91 RBI’s.  Not an All Star.

9th Place:  CC Sabathia, LHP, New York Yankees.  Led AL in batters faced (985). 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 231.1 innings pitched, All Star.

10th Place:  Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers.  620 AB, 121 runs, 158 hits, 32 HR, 77 RBI’s, 30 stolen bases. Not an All Star.

That’s it for the BBA Awards for another year.  Let’s go watch the world Series!

BBA Award: Walter Johnson Award (Best Pitcher)

This is the next-to-last BBA award for this year, the Walter Johnson Award for the best pitcher, roughly analogous to the MLB Cy Young Award.  Our Chapter’s ballot:

1st Place:  Justin Verlander, RHP, of the Detroit Tigers.  He lead the Al in wins (24-5), ERA (2.40), innings pitched (251), strikeouts (250), WHIP (0.920), hits/9 innings (6.2), Strikeouts/9 innings (8.3), SO/BB ratio (2.96) .  What more do we need to say?

2nd: Place:  Jared Weaver, RHP, of the Los Angeles Angels.  He was awesome for the entire season.  18-8 record, 2.41 ERA (only 1/100th higher than Verlander), 198 strikeouts, WHIP of 1.010, 7.0 hits/9,

3rd Place:  CC Sabathia, LHP, of the New York Yankees.  Won 19, lost 8, 3.00 ERA, 230 strikouts, 1.226 WHIP, 8.7 Hits/9 and SO/9, 3.7 SO/BB ratio, and led the league in batters faced with 985.

4th Place:  James Shields, RHP, of the Tampa Bay Rays.  16-12, 2.82 ERA, 11 complete games (led AL), 4 shutouts (led AL), 1.043 WHIP, 8.1 SI/9, and 3.46 SO/BB ratio.

5th Place:  Dan Haren, RHP, of the Los Angeles Angels.  16-10, 3.17 ERA, 34 games started (led AL), 192 SO, 1.024 WHIP 8 H/9, 7.3 SO/9, and 5.82 SO/9 (led AL).  He is the only 1 of the 5 that was not an All Star in 2011.

Next up:  The Stan Musial Award for the top layer (MVP).

BBA Award: Goose Gossage Award (Best Relief Pitcher)

Below is the Oakland Athletics BBA Chapter’s ballot for the Goose Gossage Award for the best relief pitcher in the American League.  None of the places were unanimous.  Applying the BBA point system, here are the Chapter’s picks:

1st Place:  Jose Valverde, RHP, (closer) Detroit Tigers.  Valverde converted 49 saves in 2011, but finished with a record of 2-4.  He had 8.6 strikouts/9 innings (SO/9) and a 2.03 strikeout to walk ratio.  As were each of the others in this list, he was an All Star this season.  He posted a 2.24 ERA and struck out 69 in 72.1 innings.

2nd Place:  David Robertson, RHP, (set-up man) New York Yankees.  Robinson usurped the role of set-up man from Rafael Soriano early in 2011 and thrived in that role.  He allowed only 8 earned runs, and stuck out 100 batters in 66.2 innings, for a 1.08 ERA and compiled a 13.5 SO/9.  He only surrendered 1 home run all season.  He was my first place choice.

3rd Place:  Mariano Rivera, RHP, (closer) New York Yankees.  Rivera has long been considered the best reliever in baseball, certainly the best closer.  But he is 41 years old and had fewer saves and a lower SO/9 than our 1st place winner did.  He walked only 8 batters and posted a 1.91 ERA, while converting 44 of 49 save opportunities.

Up next:  The Walter Johnson Award for the top starting pitcher.