Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cavs WIN!

Baron Davis lets us know we won. Photo AP.
I think I have been going about this in the wrong way. The last time LeBron was in town, I wanted him to lose. Don't get me wrong, I really, really wanted the Cavs to win, but I more wanted LeBron to lose (you can read why here).

I know that you should root for your team to win and not the other team to lose, but LeBron made it so difficult to do that. The way he left Cleveland, the way he behaved, I just wanted his due. I wanted him to be put in his place for all the hurt he caused.

The last time LeBron was in town, the Cavs were afraid of him. I'm not sure what they were afraid of...maybe of ruining an opportunity for later, who knows. The team lost their cool bully friend to another team and he came back and kicked the crap out of us. Let's be honest, LeBron owned that team during the December game. He laughed at us. He mocked us (my eye still twitches when I think of him bopping his head to the "Akron Hates You" chant). And the worst part was...we let him.

But then there was a rematch scheduled at home. We had two choices. Let the bully kick the crap out of us again while we wet ourselves in the corner...or...or...we hit the gym and bulk up, learn how to fight back.

The game last night wasn't filled with hatred for LeBron (I'm not saying we like him, come on), but it was filled with pride for our city, pride for ourselves. Not in our house. Not this time. If I could, I would personally like to thank the Q garage guys that started it yesterday. LeBron showed up with his posse and they were turned away. A year ago, they had the run of the place. Now, Mr. James, you need to follow the rules. You are a member of the opposing team and these  are the rules. Have a nice day sir.

Then the team. The Cavs played the best game I have seen out of them in years. They played with more heart and more determination than anyone could have imagined.

The fans just wanted the team to win. Yes, we wanted to beat LeBron, but it wasn't about him was about us winning.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Entrance to Tribe HQ in Goodyear, AZ.
Given the chance, people want to do nice things for other people. My trip to Spring Training last month certainly proved that.

Since the Indians moved to Goodyear, AZ for their Spring Training, I have been there. One thing that was different this year was that my dad wanted to go. He had been dropping hints for a year about it being his dream vacation, how he always wanted to go, etc. So, dusting off my halo, I went to work to see if I could make this trip happen for my dad and see if I could make it something special.

As a kid, it was always a great Dad/Daughter adventure going to Indians games, with hot dogs slathered in Stadium Mustard, peanuts in the shell - all the things that make a game great. As I got older, and moved states away, taking in a Tribe game with the old man became more and more difficult. I had to make this Spring Training trip work. The pieces started to come together and then someone asked me if I would like for him to contact Indians GM Chris Antonetti on my behalf. Maybe he could get us into a suite my benefactor said.

I was appreciative of the effort, but by no means did I actually think I would get in contact with the Indians front office. Until I did. Chris Antonetti sent me an email telling me that  he was happy to try and do something to make this trip special for my dad.

Walking into the Indians offices, we both got a little goose bumpy. Chris told us that he was going to try and hang out for a little bit and he was going to get us into batting practice. I truly thought it would be his assistant coming down and that was that. And that my friends would have been enough. But, Chris not only came down and hung out for a little bit with us (in between conference calls) but he also gave us tickets.

He gave us several options as to where we wanted to hang out, either the press area or the dug out, and we went with the dug out. Let's face it, that is a once and a lifetime opportunity. We were so close to the players I even tripped over someone's shoes.


After making sure we knew that we couldn't hound players for autographs in the dug out, he went back to work.

I have to admit, at this point, Chris became my dad's hero. Here we have a MLB General Manager, taking time to hang out with some fans from Cleveland. Impressive. And rare.

One of the greatest things about watching a game during Spring Training is the atmosphere. Everything is casual. The fans are excited to be there. The players are excited to be there. The weather is beautiful. The vibe is fantastic. At the beginning of the camp, cuts aren't made yet, so everyone is friendly and the options are limitless.

We got to see a little bit of Grady during practice. He didn't play when we were there, but he did get some hits in, which was great to see again.

The players were great in signing autographs for me and the old man. It was cute to watch my dad talk to the players. When we got to the game, we both bought those plastic cubes for our signed baseballs. by far the one Indian that *everyone* wanted their picture with was Mike Hargrove. He hugged a lot of little kids in Arizona. Lots of adults were chasing him down for photos as well. Mike was incredibly gracious with them all. 

One of the many things about Chris Antonetti that surprised me was he provided us with tickets as well. Another super bonus, that I didn't expect. The interesting thing was that we had tickets, so I figured the best thing to do would be to give ours away.

Have you ever tried to give a complete stranger something? It isn't easy. We were still in the Indians dugout when the idea hit, and since I didn't think it was a wise idea to try and sell our tickets, I just wanted to give them away. The first lady I asked thanked me and said they already had tickets. Ok. Strike one. Then a ridiculous conversation ensued. 

Guy: Hey, I heard you were selling tickets.
Me: No, I'm not selling them, I'm trying to give them away. They're pretty good seats.
Guy: Huh, these are upper deck. I don't want them.
Me: There is no upper deck. These are great tickets that I bought a month ago.
Guy: Yeah, not interested. 
Me: Grrr.
Strike two. 

Then a girl in her mid 20s came bopping over.

Girl: Hey! I heard you were giving away tickets!
Me: I am. I'm trying to give them to someone that doesn't have any.
Girl: We have tickets but I'll bet yours are better so let me see them and we can trade.
Me: No. That isn't the point. I'm trying to give them away to someone that doesn't have any. You have some. 
Girl: But...but...I'll bet yours are better. 
Me: The tickets are for someone that does *not* have them.
Girl: *Pouts*
Me: *Shrugs*

Strike Three.

But I was saved by a lady that came over and asked if she could buy my tickets to take her husband. When I told her I was giving them away, she looked at me like I had grown a third ear on my forehead. She took the tickets, but she certainly questioned my sanity. 

Exasperated, I took dad to the game. The seats were *amazing*. For the first game, we were directly behind the dug out. Very cool. The second game we were directly behind home plate. And when I say directly, I mean when a ball came back and hit the net, it knocked dirt in my soda. Awesome.

The best part of the whole trip was being able to spend quality time with my dad, something I feel incredibly fortunate for. 

Now, if I can only get him to stop talking about how awesome Chris Antonetti is.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Wild, Wild West

The Original Wild, Wild West.

As a little girl, I loved watching westerns on TV. Wild, Wild West was by far my favorite, with my Fonzie-sized crush on Robert Conrad. The program was part sci-fi, part James Bond and part good ol’ Western –all parts always entertaining.  I also fell prey to the Big Valley (with Steve Austin – the 6 Million Dollar Man one, not the wimpy wrestler) and of course Bonanza.

The common theme of the shows was that there was a clear-cut line on who was the bad guy and who was the good guy. Come on, sometimes the bad guys even wore a black hat to help you pick him out. There was always an ending in which the good guys won and the bad guys lost and or saw the error of their ways.

Right now, I feel like I am in the middle of an old fashioned Western, guns blazing and all, but the line is so blurred between sides, I can’t tell who is good and who is bad. I work in what I affectionately refer to as a bad neighborhood. I think I have no idea how bad things actually are, and its better that way. What I see up close and in person daily is what I had previously only seen on NYPD Blue. Since I have been back to Cleveland, I have witnessed drug deals, and have been within a couple blocks of robberies and shootings.

There has been a disturbing trend as of late that almost, *almost* makes me want to stay home or at the very least not venture out for lunch.  A month or so ago, in broad daylight on a weekday afternoon, a couple of kids were chasing another kid. No big deal right? The exception here is that the kids were chasing the other young man on bikes and running through a busy McDonald’s parking lot. Shooting. Guns. Shooting guns.  A coworker was in the drive thru when the kid being chased was running in between the cars waiting for their happy meals. With the other kids *shooting* at him. Later in the week, the other kids caught up with him and shot him in a store parking lot a few blocks away. Well, I think it was the same young man and the same kids chasing him. Could be another group.

At the end of last week, within less than 30 minutes of me leaving work, less time than it takes to get a pizza, it happened again. There was another kid being chased by another group of kids in the early evening, running down the street, guns blazing. This time, the kid was shot and killed, in a parking lot directly across the street from me. Had I stayed a little longer, I very easily could have been caught in the crossfire. Some days, it is like the Wild West around here.

It leaves me with a few options though. Do I quit my job? No. My work is too important to me and it is a necessary part of making Cleveland a better community. Do I hide in my office and eat lunch at my desk? No. I can’t eat stupid salads all the time. I need to venture out to the Red Chimney for pierogies sometimes.

I have to wonder how things got like this. How did Cleveland become the Wild, Wild West…

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Ear Hurts

I have an earache. A terrible one in fact.  I was going to use a picture from one of the Star Trek movies to illustrate it. It was the scene where Khan dropped that big bug thing in the guy’s ear. But in the spirit of Easter, I’m going with the bunnies instead. I believe a picture of a chocolate bunny with his ears chomped off gets the point across rather well.

I now completely understand why kids screech and cry when they have an ear infection. It hurts.
Saturday I started to have a weird pain in my ear, going from the middle of my ear lobe shooting down to my jaw. A sharp pain, like I was being stabbed with a knife in my ear and then out my jaw kind of sharp pain.  When it hits, I wince and curl up in a ball.

At first, I thought I slept on my ear funny. I know that makes me sound like I have some Dumbo ears, but I don’t. They are rather cute if you must know.  But, the pain got worse. By Sunday, I knew something was seriously wrong with this weird pain of mine. Then I started to think it was my wisdom teeth. The dentist told me if I started to get weird pains in my head, it was time for them to get yanked out (ok, I said yanked, I believe he used to the word “extracted”). This certainly qualified as a weird pain.

So, I took my dad Costoing, and the pain got worse. I got the worried dad look shot at me all morning as we filled up on samples while walking down the aisles. Then it was off to my aunt’s birthday dinner. By this point, I wanted to go to bed and wake up sometime on Wednesday. But, I was a trooper and I went to dinner and got to see the whole famdamily. By the time I got home I looked at my mom and said I was going to go up to the immediate care center and get it checked out. This of course sends Mom into freak out mom mode and she started calling everyone in the family. By the time I found my insurance card and was ready to go, she had the family mobilized and they all ready to go with me and sit in the waiting room. Sometimes my life is like a bad sitcom.

I convinced mom that it was not necessary for everyone to be there for my earache. It wasn’t like I had my leg chomped off by a shark. Luckily, when I arrived, there was no one in the waiting room and I got in and out rather quickly. Unlucky for me I have some sort of sinus infection that manifested as some weird ear tube infection. Whatever it is it hurts and I received an antibiotic. Awesome. Of course trying to get a prescription filled on a Sunday was not so awesome. Mom drove us to the next town (that sounds like I live on the prairie) and after waiting and waiting I finally got my medicine and off we went. That is of course until I read the bottle. TAKE WITH FOOD. On the other side of the bottle -  DO NOT TAKE WITH FOOD.  The way my mom carried on you would have thought that the pharmacist was Boston Rob (follow me on twitter to read my mom’s rantings of her hatred of Boston Rob).  Turns out I take it with food, but not dairy type food.  Glad that was clear.

Now, I’m tired, cranky and my ear still hurts.

Two more days until St. Patrick’s Day. Two more days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photo: AFP

There are lots of things to blog about. I’m dying to share with everyone my Spring Training stories. Or how I couldn’t agree more with the Chef judge from Chopped and his hatred of red onions. Or how I complete understand why kids screech with they have an ear infection (holy cow that hurts).


My dad’s best friend – the guy that was his best man and is my godfather – has a daughter in Japan right now. Her husband is in the U.S. military and she does some contract work for them. They live  near one of the reactors.

No one could get many details because she was only able to grab a satellite phone for a few minutes. Long enough to say that they are ok. That there is no power, no water and food is running short. People can’t get in and she can’t get out. Horrifying unthinkable widespread devastation.

She is going to try to call back if she can.

Really makes my earache and flat tire something to be thankful for considering the alternatives.

Now we sit and wait.

Wait for a call, an email, a text. 

Just waiting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Training 101

One of the best vacation trips is to flee the Cleve in March for the warm Spring Training sun in Arizona. This was my third trip to Phoenix to watch the Tribe, raising my hopes for a winning year.

My next few blog posts will be about my trip, but before I do that, I have had a few requests for a “How to” of sorts for Spring Training for Indians fans.

Location, Location, Location. Did I say location?
When you go out to Arizona, for Spring Training, you will need to make a decision right off. Are you only going to go to “home” games for Cleveland or are you going to follow the team around? If you only are interested in home games, the team plays in Goodyear. The thing is though, there isn’t a whole lot in Goodyear (although, each year they are adding more and more restaurants, hotels, etc.). I suggest following the team around and staying in Tempe or the Phoenix Airport area. Tempe is a vibrant city with oodles upon oodles of bars and restaurants. The Phoenix Airport area is a short drive (or cab ride) from the Tempe Mill Ave area. The hotels are nice and less expensive (I have been able to snag 3.5 star hotels for $50 or less a night) and incredibly convenient to the airport and major highways.

I found the Tempe Visitors Bureau to be helpful in restaurant suggestions. Use them.

Getting Around
Plan on renting a car, there is not any other way around it. If you check on a site like Priceline, you can get a car for $20 or so a day. From the Tempe area, you can hit most if not all the Spring Training facilities in an hour or less. Goodyear is about 45 minutes away. The interstates are easy to navigate, but I will warn you…don’t travel in the left lane unless you are ready to exit. It is weird, but the left lane tends to end at an exit only to have another lane added at the next exit (instead of merging), so be careful.

Most hotels have little Spring Training booklets that will map out where all the teams play as well as the team schedules. In addition, there are newspaper zines all over town that include the schedules.

Most teams practice at their home parks and it is open to the public. At Goodyear, if you pass the main park and turn down Lower Buckeye (heh), you will see Goodyear Ballpark on the left and the training fields for the Indians and Reds on the right. I *think* each team has 9 fields. For the Tribe, the first few are for the major players. If you go down further, there is the main office and then fields for the minor leaguers. Further down is the Reds complex.

There is ample free parking on the road, so pull up and walk over to the fields. The Indians have stands for the fans (and a few picnic type tables) on *both* sides of one of the fields. You can find a secret spot to watch if you walk around the field to additional bleachers (and there is the only restroom over there…but beware. I think the ground crew only uses it). If you are lucky, there are balls that are hit over the fence and players will occasionally chuck one over to you.

For the Indians, the actual batting practice starts around 10 am, but they are on the field as early as 8 am warming up.  

For the most part the players are friendly and happy to sign autographs. However, not every player every day. Keep in mind, these guys are at work. Imagine how you would feel people hounding you at your desk (ok, that would be kinda awesome). I have found if you are polite, players will sign if they can.

As you walk up to the practice field, you will pass some bleachers and then if you walk a little further, there are a few tables (around home plate) and a fence. The fence is where people of all ages hang out hoping to get a signature. Please don’t be piggy. Let me repeat that. Don’t be piggy. Don’t try to get players to sign 10 different things. That irritates them and others in line. I assure you, if I don’t get an autograph because you are getting Grady to sign a bat, a jersey, 2 balls, a photo, a card and a program, I will thump you. Also, don’t be whiney and rude. Sometimes the guys simply can’t sign because they have to get to another field or work with a coach.  Sometimes they sign before, sometimes after, sometimes at the game.

What to sign? At the Team Shop, you can get a ball with the Spring Training logo on it for around 8 bucks (I did that) or you can hope someone tosses one to you, or whatever. I was told (after I got autographs, grrr) that if you are getting a ball signed, use a blue ballpoint pen. Yes, blue ballpoint pen, not a sharpie. I guess after 10 years or so the sharpie will fade and bleed. Who knew? Sharpies are good for bats and photos. And no, the guys don’t carry pens with them (one woman was barking because the guys didn’t have a pen for her).

You can buy home Indians tickets from the Indians box office here in Cleveland or you can wait and buy them on site. In all the different parks, most are not sold out and tickets are easy to come by. Except…Cubs tickets. If you want to go to a Cubs game, anywhere, *especially* on a weekend, get them in advance. Cubs games are the only ones that I had seen scalpers at and the only ones that I have seen sold out.

I found the staff at all of the parks to be incredibly friendly and helpful. Most will let you wander around to take pictures (even during the game) without any trouble.

If you have a chance to go, I strongly suggest you do. Not only is the weather beautiful, but it is such a relaxing feeling, able to watch baseball in the warm sunshine in March.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away

Living back at home with my folks has been interesting so far to say the least. Some things have changed since I last lived there. As an example, I'm the one now running through the house flicking off the lights in unused rooms and chastising the family for their careless use of electricity. Some things are the same, like my dad not turning on the heat until at least one icicle forms off the tip of your nose.

The other thing that has not changed is the same argument that my parents have been slugging out for over 30 years. The basement and its tendency to flood. I must have been 4 or 5 when the basement was filled with water up to the second or third stair after a major storm. I personally thought it was great. Finally, we had a pool...and one in the house? Aweeesssooommee.

We have probably been through at least a dozen sump pumps over the years, all with varying degrees of success.  Some were professionally installed but most were put in by my dad, with each failing pump a direct assault on his manhood. Or so says mom.

Mom was always yelling at dad about the pump and dad always vowing to beat it into submission.

The other night brought all that up again. It was about 1 am, when I heard thunder and my room was lit up with the lightening flashing across the sky. A short time later mom started squawking at dad, who went downstairs to make sure everything was off of the floor of the basement...just in case. Around 4 am, there was considerably more squawking. Some cursing and the sound of one lone generator in the neighborhood. 

Then as I crept downstairs...the trickle of water sneaking into the basement. The loud roar of a shop vac made my ears ache. More grumbling. Lots of groaning. Once again the basement was flooded.

Then mom really freaked out. The cat above, the one in a dog bed, was trapped in the basement. He is afraid of storms, so the lightening hit and he booked it for the basement. All we could hear was a pathetic meowing. Seems mr. tough cat was in the closet in the basement afraid to move and get his paws wet. After we finally found him, following his whimpery meows, dad went in to rescue him. As you can tell, the cat is rather, umm, large, so what followed was something that would have won America's Funniest Home Videos. Another failed dream of video stardom.

I've tried to have a good attitude about it. Getting fans and blowers to dry the scary basement out. I personally hope that the spiders down there have all drown. I suggested to the family that we just have an indoor pool and set up a tiki bar. That came somewhere after the guy at Home Depot laughed at me because I wanted to rent some dryers or fans.

For the record, fans don't arrive there for another few weeks.

Until then, I'll be at the bar.