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IMG_4348There is a love affair that many have for the game of baseball.  The diamond, the pitch, the hit, the bunt, the double-play and the stats fuel the imagination.  It is a gathering time for family and friends as well.

This game was special for many.  The Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers were meeting for the second of a three game match-up. It is called the Texas Showdown.

Minute Maid Park was filling up with not just baseball fans but a large gathering of saints from Houston’s First Baptist Church.  Our pastor, Gregg Matte, was scheduled to throw in one of the ceremonial pitches to start the game.  When he was introduced, there was a roar from the crowd.  All of us wearing our blue Houston’s First T-shirts were enjoying our reason for coming to the ball game.

We set aside our popcorn and Cracker Jacks, stood to our feet and applauded our shepherd.  He strolled on to the field holding hands with his daughter, Valerie.  She nearly stole the show with her perfect grade school blond curls and delightful smile.

The national anthem was sung right after that ceremonial pitch.  Houston’s First Baptist Singers took the field and filled the stadium with perfect harmony and stirring words.   Our nation with its countless problems, despondent citizens, world crises needs a large dose of hope and these talented singers gave us a taste of a very good elixir.

Our Astros took to the field with all of the traditions of our national sport.  The Rangers were up to bat first as the visiting team.  They were smarting from the loss they were handed by the Astros the night before.

This night they would have their revenge. They trounced the Astros by a painful margin.  But, that is baseball.

No one wins them all.  When professionals who hit only 250 out of every 1000 pitches are doing well, then disappointments are not uncommon.  Pitchers who can throw a ball over 90 miles an hour and hit within a 12 inch diameter target every time stun the crowd with their talent.

God made everyone of us.  Some sing, some are athletes and other cheer on both while spilling soda and chomping down peanuts.  It is an amazing game for the widest possible audience.

In between innings we visit, laugh at the big screen and let cotton candy melt in our mouths.  Our great country is still pumping out goodness.  The good Lord Almighty is still blessing our Land.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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October is a great month every year, as long as there is some baseball to celebrate.  For years I cheered on our Detroit Tigers.  Others had warned me not to do it.

There was no inquiry on why that warning was repeated by so many locals when I journeyed to the mitten state.  Instead, people just told me consistently, “They will break your heart.”  That explanation proved to be prophetic.

At the beginning of each season the anticipation of an improved team was all over the news.  Conversations picked up on our hopes and dreams for a pennant.  Spring training was promising and the young talent picked up during the off-season seemed to fill the holes in our roster.

But, reality set in when the umpire cried, “Play ball!”  There were stumbles and groans.  Mishaps followed other errors.  Trades were made and the new names became no-names.  Another season ended with dashed hopes.

Then, there was a change in the air.  A manager with a craggy face, stoic eyes but a remarkable knowledge of the game signed on with the team.  A fresh face took over the talent hunt for this historic team.  Wins began to mount up and surpassed the losses.

The play-offs were now on the horizon.  We went.  We played.  We won!

For years our Tiger team keeps changing faces but the head guys are still the same.  They are playing chess with pieces to find the combination to win it all.  We have been close but still have not been able to clinch the championship ring in a long time.

But, frankly, I still love my Tigers.  Twice in recent years we have been to the Big Dance but each time have not won.  Instead, we made it a wonderful memory for another team.

We will lick our wounds.  Then we will nurse our aches.  It will be time to rest. 

Then, the braintrusts will get to work.  How can the team adjust to make the chemistry work even better.  We want to get back to the dance again.  But, we want to win it the next we are there.

Until those decisions are done, we will watch the TV like everyone else.  The Giants are celebrating and we are happy for them.  Some day, though, rejoicing with those who rejoice will come to an end.  That’s when Detroit fans will celebrate with their Tigers for a series win one more time.

There are three draws to the movie Trouble with the Curve: a strained father-daughter relationship, baseball and Clint Eastwood .  Admittedly, there are additional attractions to this film, but at the very least it can be said that these  three bring people into the theater.  Once they are in the seats, other features keep them entertained.

Gus is a long time scout for the Atlanta Braves major league baseball team.  His age is catching up to him and eroding the confidence that younger personnel members of the Braves organization.  Our hero suspected that time was catching up with him, but he was in denial.

Behind the scenes the influencers of the organization were pressuring the decision-makers to let him go.  A young computer savvy up-and-comer was vying for the GM spot and envisioned himself taking the organization to new heights through software analysis of players.  He had no more time or patience with the old way of scouting for talent.

Gus was given one more chance to prove his value to the Braves.  He was to travel to North Carolina and assigned to assess the young prospect that was garnering so much attention in the sports world.  To insure his success, Pete, part of the influencers in the management level, asked Gus’ daughter Mickey to go with him and make sure that everything worked out.

Mickey is a young corporate attorney.  She is a hard driver and talented.  Her ambition puts her on the fast track to become her legal firm’s first female partner.  One more successful case and the partnership was all but assured. 

Now, the crossroads appeared.  She could not both join her father on a scouting trip and work the important case for her firm.  Drawn to her dysfunctional relationship with her widowed father, she went on the scouting trip, hoping to manage the legal case via internet remote options.

Gus’ instincts for the game led him to a conclusion about the baseball prospect.  Atlanta was not happy and chose to discount Gus’ advice and draft according to their preconceived plan.  It proved to be a mistake; Gus was right.

The story line was very predictable.  But, while some may consider that a negative, I like happy endings.  The surprises along the way is what makes a story worth watching.

What made this slice of life fascinating was the revealing circumstances that made Gus send his daughter away after his wife, her mother, passed away.  It was riveting, surprising and satisfying.  People jump to the negative conclusions about others so quickly.  This was a good movie to see.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

The Tigers lost game six.  The Rangers have won.  I cheered loudly but they must not have heard me.

This past weekend was tough.  Several of the teams that I cheer on in the arena of sports met with defeat.  One is defeat is tough; but several on the same weekend is a big downer.

My Detroit Tigers losing the ALCS was tough enough.  But, the weekend did not stop there.  On Sunday my Detroit Lions lost as well.

That loss was deeply felt since it was the first loss of the season.  Not was it the first loss of the season, it was a loss at home.  To make it feel even worse it was a loss against the San Francisco 49ers; that’s the city where I currently live.

The 49er fans are rabid.  They are fierce, loyal and rampant about their team.  I was frequently reminded of the SF victory by teasing fans.

It made their victory so much sweeter with a defeated foe to razz.  I understand that.  My being here helps them celebrate even more enthusiastically.  It is a pleasure to help others rejoice. 

Nevertheless, I am a fan too.  My team did very well this season.  Entering into the post season championship run to the World Series is always exciting.  It is a tribute to the excellence of the team.

I have been away from Detroit for two years.  When we lived there, a Tiger’s game was always on the calendar.  Our trek to the ballpark with good friends was a memory-making venture.

We lived in the Motorcity for years yet the Tigers kept losing.  Each season our hopes would soar but we saw more losses than wins.  But, we kept cheering on our men wearing the English D.

This past season our Tigers did very well again.  With the ups and downs of professional sports the mean growth up the charts was exhilarating. We had a lot to cheer and celebrate this year.

Pitches were laser-sharp.  Bats cracked at just the right times.  Defense in the infield was acrobatic.  Outfield heroics snagged fly balls like a bat snatching bugs with radar precision.

Losses come with the game.  None are planned.  Each one leaves the heart a bit sad.

But, the wins were just at the right time.  They were just the right amount.  We went a long ways this year.  Thank you Tigers for another great year!

photo credit: google image

Living in Michigan made the choice of embracing the Detroit Tigers natural.  Yes, I was warned that they would break my heart if I gave them my loyalty.  But, few things in life promise a bond like one born out of adversity.

For years I was a happy fan.  Each baseball season I would make a trip to watch the team play.  The atmosphere of a professional sports park filled with optimistic fans is electrifying.

The Tigers started getting good.  From there they kept getting better.  They entered the month of October consistently.

This year they beat the Yankees in New York and advanced to the ALCS.  That win in the Big Apple was huge.  Coming out on top against the perpetual powerhouse pinstripe machine was worth celebrating.

But, the party was short-lived.  Texas brought reality into the picture.  They hosted the first two games of the ALCS and beat the Tigers.

Then, the series moved to Detroit.  Another loss in this series would have been discouraging.  All of the writers published every angle on the outcome of this game.

It’s amazing how being a fan makes pessimism the attitude of choice.  But, when you’re good you’re good.  And the Tigers are good.

There is a percentage option on my PDA.  It was tracking each inning and pumping out the probability of who was favored to win game three.  Through the first several innings, the Rangers were hands down favorites.

Things changed when the baseball bat cracked loudly in the hands of a Tiger hitter.  The hardened hickory found the sweet spot and the ball was launched out of the park – three times!  Suddenly, the odds tracker changed and favored the host team.

With the passing of each inning, the odds of the Tigers winning grew and grew.  Agony, doubt and fear melted away.  Now, it was time to cheer again.

We fans are so fickle.  Worry is our first and most used emotion.  Hope is our dream but we dare not become too cocky.

Victory for the moment is as far as we want to allow our hearts to taste.  Every run is vital.  Each defensive play is a celebration.  Counting pitches solidifies our reservoir of gladness.

Once the scoreboard lights up we scream.  After the last out is earned our moods is as much relief as it is joy.  That rollercoaster is called baseball.

photo credit: google image

The old Chevrolet ad had a jingle that touched the soul of America. In a brief lyric is successfully summarized the heart beat of the USA. Belting out a ballad, the singer put gusto in the chorus, “baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

With scenes of Americana that either made people remember or desire this beautiful country and its people loved that commercial. There was something familiar and nearly patriotic about that refrain. The great American pastime, our treasured family around a feast with a great dessert or powering down the road in smooth running Chevy, we attached ourselves to the love of this country and what it means to be a citizen of this great land.

Baseball captured this nation more than any other sport. Young and old alike could name the heroes, legends and new sensations. Teams stuck together and won a following that displayed the kind of loyalty that would spark rivalries, separate cities and unleash the fury of rabid fans.

When the umpire shots, “Play ball!” the crowds never needed an invitation to stand and shout. Instead, they reacted on their feet and the diaphragms belted out cheers. Add to that the crack of the bat on a 90 mph fastball and the frenzy for competition was on.

I was warned when I moved to Detroit not to get attached to the Tigers. Suspiciously I looked at my informant with an impatience that demanded a follow through. “They will break your heart,” he said from long years of experience.

Year after year I cheered the Tigers through each season. Each year they lost. The best hope was for the next season.

Then, after years of frustration they started to win. At first it was just a trickle. Then, they were actually in the pennant race. It was exciting.

One year they made it past perpetual champions and powerhouses. They won the pennant and headed to the World Series. The city, the state and all ex-patriot fans around the nation rallied behind the team. They lost the big one that year but it was a thrilling ride.

This year the Detroit Tiger baseball team is doing well again.

They walked into the New York Yankees’ stadium and beat them. Daniel went into the den ferocious felines and came out the victor. I interrupted the meeting that I was in and announced the great news, “The Tigers beat the Yankees!”

photo credit: google image

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