Saturday, July 27, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Andy’s select baseball team played four games over the weekend at a little league complex on the east side of Madison, in the shadow of the hulking Oscar Meyer plant. The four diamonds, each intended for use by a different age group, have not been well-maintained. The field Middleton played on was uneven, especially in the infield. There is a bit of a dip in the grass between the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box. Home plate appears to be sinking into the dusty ground. Many ground balls took weird hops, so fielding was a challenge throughout the weekend for all the players involved. 

Middleton’s first game, scheduled for 8 a.m. Saturday -- no sleeping in this weekend – was against Madison West. It turned into a rather tense contest, primarily due to the nastiness that boiled just under the surface of the West coach. At one point, he made a big deal about a bat that one of the Middleton players used. As it turned out, it was larger than was permitted for use in the tournament, 2¾ inches in diameter, 2¼ being the maximum allowed. The Middleton coaches and players were unaware of this rule. A couple innings later, one of the West players slid so hard into home that he broke the catcher’s leg. (We didn’t know this at the time, but it was obvious that Billy was in a lot of pain. He was writhing on the ground, calling out, “Get it off me! Get it off me!”, referring to the shin guards as one of the coaches attending to him quickly discovered. He had to be carried off the field.)

At this point, the mood turned sour. One of the more outspoken Moms made a suggestion from the bleachers, directed at the West coach, that his team play a clean game. “We don’t need this kind of stuff,” she said to sum up her impromptu remarks, which were delivered without the use of profanities or a sense of anger. Both her husband and high-school-age son play in organized leagues, and she was just flat-out disgusted with what was happening on the field. One of Middleton’s assistant coaches tried to talk to the West coach, but the first thing out of his mouth was, “ Oh, you’re still mad about the bat being thrown out of the game.” Which was already forgotten about on our side of the field. To make matters worse, the umpire was this meek, barely competent teenager, who had trouble keeping track of balls and strikes. When questioned about a particular pitch late in the game, he responded, “It was a strike. I think it was a strike.” 

“If you’re going to be wrong, you might as well be wrong with authority,” was a comment one of the parents shared with the rest of us in the bleachers. 

The rules of the tournament had been changed at the last minute. Stealing, though not leading off, was allowed. Runners could advance on a passed ball or wild pitch. Middleton had never played this type of ball before and became rattled in the early going of their first game. As a result, West scored none of their first 4 runs on rbis. Nevertheless, Middleton hung tough, losing the game 7-5 against a team that went on to win the tournament.

By game 2, which started at 4 in the afternoon, Middleton had learned to run the bases with a little more abandon. They sprinted to the next base whenever it was open and the ball got by the catcher. Andy pitched the second half of the game. I wondered how he would adapt to the pressure, but his control was excellent. Even during the regular season, if he missed a pitch, it wasn’t by much. He pitched 2 innings of shutout ball and looked ready to do the same in his third inning, but the rightfielder dropped an easy flyball and that seemed to bug Andy a little bit. After Andy loaded the bases with a walk, the coach brought in a reliever who recorded the final two outs. Andy’s clutch basehit in the 5th, with two outs and runners on second and third, provided Middleton with the margin of victory, 8-6. JoAnna and I were very proud of him. We both considered it his best all-around game of the summer.

As the ball field was only 20 minutes from Middleton, we went home between games. I ran some errands and did some yard work, which included planting more perennials along the south sides of the house in an effort to add some red and purple to the preponderance of yellow and orange. JoAnna went shopping, a couple light-weight suits for her trip to Washington, D.C. at the top of her list. The boys stayed indoors and watched TV, and for once I didn’t begrudge them their lazy time in front of the tube.

In order to get my 20 minutes of Walkfit in, I got up at 5:30 Saturday morning. I looked in on the boys and was surprised to find Eddie missing. He was asleep on the couch in the family room, the TV tuned to the Cartoon Network, his favorite cable channel. Later, I tried to determine how long he’d been there, but he wasn’t giving me very good answers to my questions. He probably didn’t look at any of the digital clocks on his walk from the bedroom and the family room and has never been a very good judge of time anyway. 

Sunday started out just like Saturday, except that Eddie stayed in one place throughout the night. Andy’s third game of the tournament started at 8 a.m. Middleton played a team from South Milwaukee and pounded out a 20-1 victory. The other team only had one player who could throw the ball with any zip, and even he wasn’t that effective. Game 4 started at 2 p.m. so we had some time to return home, get something to eat and do whatever. Middleton played Windsor in the slat game, taking a 8-3 lead into the top of the 6th. Windsor rallied for two runs and had the bases loaded by the time the final out was made.

JoAnna is in Washington, D.C. for the next few days. Until Thursday. She is part of a continent representing various political groups meeting with the President’s advisors to talk about the fall campaign in Wisconsin. It sounds like the White House considers Wisconsin a key state in the upcoming elections. Feingold is running for re-election to the Senate and, according to the polls, has maintained a lead over Mark Neumann, a conservative Republican from Janesville who is giving up his seat in the 1st Congressional district. Judy Robson, a Democrat from Beloit who currently represents that area in the State Assembly, is the front runner for Neumann’s seat. 

Eddie is becoming more insistent about wanting to play hockey, even though his ice-skating skills are minimal. He has skates but with the warmer than usual weather we had wasn’t able to use them this past winter. JoAnna suggested he trying playing on a rollerblade hockey team – a friend of Andy’s does that – so now he’s been spending a lot of time on his rollerblades. In fact, on Sunday evening, he went to a friend’s house about six blocks away – without letting us know where he was going.

 Here’s a picture of the boys at 7 o’clock on a weekday morning. Our second effort to provide the boys their own bedrooms has produced mixed results. Usually it’s Andy who sleeps in his own bed throughout the night. Eddie will either try to join his brother in bed or sack out on the futon, which is now in Andy’s room. Their mattress: the blue rug. Two pillows and a comforter are their only dreamland accessories. This arrangement went on for about a week in July. Since we separated the boys, Eddie has slept in his bed maybe 25% of the time. We haven’t figured out his problem yet. I thought he’d grow out of it by now, but that hasn’t happened. Another question for our pediatrician.

Andy’s sleeping pattern is changing. As the summer progresses, it has become harder to wake him up. He’s learning to sleep in. I never get to work before 9:00 as a result. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule. Otherwise, I’d be out of a job.

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