Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not Exactly How It Was Drawn Up

This past weekend was a fun time down in Maryland with my parents and sister. But, like most things in life and sports, didn't necessarily go quite as planned. You hear it all the time in sports where the football team has a plan drawn up on how to win the game and then they have to throw it out when they get down 17-0 in the first quarter. Well, for us mother nature decided to throw a wrench into our plans.

Here was the original plan: Friday game in Frederick, Saturday game in Bowie, Sunday game in Harrisburg. Here's how it went:

My parents and I get down to Frederick and meet up with my sister and husband for dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries (great place!). At this point, the sun's still shining. We check on the radar and there's one teeny-tiny green blob that looks like it'll pass through. We get our tickets and get in to the stadium and notice the tarp's still on the field even though it's just a sprinkle. Then, the rain starts.......and doesn't end for another two hours!!! That little blob turned in to a long line of showers. Who knew? I guess this is why I'm not a meteorologist.

Now we move to Saturday. Just two days earlier the forecast for Saturday was 10% chance of precip in the evening. However, after consulting the radar, we made the decision that we didn't want to go the whole way down to Bowie (about an hour or so away) just to turn around and come back because of a rainout. Plus, we had already bought the tickets from Friday night and needed to exchange them (no refunds on baseball tickets). So, Saturday night we were able to catch most of the two seven-inning games with a stop back at sister's house for blueberry pancakes during a one hour delay during the first game (the advantage of living 5 minutes away unlike my 90 minute drives to Altoona). Also, Saturday night I had a chance to catch up with an old buddy named B. He's a fellow PSU IE although he stuck around the whole way through his PhD and is now doing some crazy consulting and data analysis in DC.

So, Sunday morning we were debating if it was worth it to make the attempt up to Harrisburg with more green on the radar. We were torn because we were going to meet great friend J and his family for the game. But, we looked at the radar and the forecast and made the decision to not risk adding on two more hours of driving for another rainout. We ended up going to her church, grabbing lunch at a great place, and then getting home around dinner time.

The other thing that didn't quite go as planned was my first marathon Saturday long run. 16 miles was on the menu and I mapped out this nice 8-mile out and back through downtown to Frederick Community College. Since I have been running with the XC team and also with Beth I somehow already accumulated 47 miles for the week before Saturday (and the plan called for only 44 miles) Oops. I ended up paying for it with about two miles to go. It was humid and nasty (at least a lot more than what we've been used to) and I bonked. I guess I should have taken a second gel. Oh well. Lesson learned and hopefully this weekend's run up in Michigan will go better.

Okay, on to the Pirates. In Frederick, we saw them play Lynchburg (the Pirates' Hi-A affiliate) so I was able to do some "scouting" if you want to call it that. In the first game, the starting pitcher was Jeff Locke (acquired in the McLouth trade). Locke's been having a tough year, but he's a lefty and he's 21 so no need to give up on him yet. Friday night was not much different for him. He reached his organization-imposed 30-pitch limit with two outs (and three runs) in the first inning and was lifted. So, not much to write home about for him.

In the second game, Bryan Morris (from the Bay trade last year and pictured below warming up), is finally healthy this year and pitched six innings and gave up a tough three runs in the 5th inning--his first 'quality start' of the year. He looked solid and was hitting the low 90's and keeping the other team off-balanced.

Offensively, Lynchburg's best players have either been promoted to Altoona (Alvarez, Durham)or are injured (D'Arnaud). So, that left 2008 3rd round pick SS Jordy Mercer (pictured below). He had a rough couple of games, but is still pretty high on the organization's prospect list. Other than that, Jose de Los Santos is only hitting .245 but has 42 steals in 48 attempts. Matt Hague (6' 3" 225) and Eric Huber (6' 6" 230) are hitting pretty well and Alex Presley's only hitting .240 but he seems like he's a solid player.

Finally, no attempts at funnel cake for the weekend. I figured I'd hold off on that.

That's about all I had for the blog and then the big Jack Wilson trade happened this afternoon. I think I'll reserve the opinions and analysis of the trades later this weekend because methinks there's more trades that may be coming over the next few days.

Up next, DiGiorno pizza night and then taking the dog down to Greensburg and getting ready for the big trip to Michigan. We've got the food stops laid out, so we're good to go!

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Have Met My Match

So my dad and I went up to Altoona to see a game last night and had a blast. Beautiful night and they Curve won 7-1. More details on that to follow, but I need to confess I have found a food that may be my Kryptonite:
That's right, funnel cake. Who would have thought that a food simply made famous at at ballparks, carnivals, fairs and festivals could defeat me? First, some background. I've been getting in some good training this week, so a small appetite was clearly not an issue. I met my dad up in Ebensburg to then go to Altoona and we stopped at Subway for dinner. I had a 6-inch meatball, baked lays, and a drink with a refill (all of which I devoured at a normal rate). When we were at the stadium, I had a small diet coke and a small-ish soft pretzel in the 4th inning.

A couple of innings later, I decided that I needed something sweet and the funnel cake smelled pretty good. I go up and order it and sit back down and start to eat it. About two or three handfuls in I knew I was in trouble. How was I getting full? I rarely get full--even after five or six trips to the Hoss's soup & salad bar or an entire medium Little Caesar's pizza. I figured if I gave it a rest, maybe I would get it back. A half inning later, one bite was all I could muster. I was full. One more try an inning later....nothing. I don't eat funnel cake often, but don't ever recall this reaction to it.

By the end of the game I had only eaten half of the funnel cake (originally about the same size as the above pic I found on the Internet) and threw the rest away. I'm still trying to process how this happened--so disappointing. I hate wasting food that looks and tastes so good. Last night, I kept thinking that this is what normal people must feel after one or two trips to the Hoss's bar or a couple of slices of pizza. :)

In other news, our good friends Ben & Laura got married over the weekend. The wedding was at Heinz Chapel on Pitt's campus and the reception was at the Oakmont Country Club. While Pitt isn't too high on my list in many categories, they did get the architecture thing right with the chapel and the Cathedral of Learning. And, Oakmont CC (hosted the 2007 US Open and next year's Women's US Open) speaks for itself. Here's some pics:

It's crazy to think that Chad & Jen H and Matt run up the Cathedral multiple times for training in the winter!!!

The Heinz Chapel is impressive. I took a picture of the stained glass on the inside, but wasn't too steady on the shot (a little blurry) plus a dude's balding head from the row ahead is in the shot, too.

Oakmont CC looking out from the Clubhouse. Those smoke stacks are in Springdale and I thought it was so cool on the TV coverage a few years ago when they were in the shot since we ride past them.

And, finally, on to the game last night. Yoslan Herrera (aka the Pinata) actually had a good game. Seven shutout innings. He's still sitting in the high 80's on his fastball, but his curve and changeup were on last night and got a lot of swings and misses (5 strikeouts). The exciting part was seeing the top of the Curve lineup in person and the hope that this will arrive to Pittsburgh in two years or less. This was even without Brian Friday who didn't start since he was in the Eastern League All-Star game the night before (and was probably travelling back all day from Trenton, NJ). However, here was last night's top of the order:

2B Jim Negrych: 3 for 4 with a walk and two runs scored. Negrych is a borderline prospect, but the guy can hit. His downside is his defense, but he turned a couple of double plays last night and made a fine running over-the-shoulder catch in shallow right field. We shall see....

CF Gorkys Hernandez: 3 for 5 with a double and RBI. No real web gems, but he is so smooth and quick in the OF and on the bases)

RF Jose Tabata: 2 for 5 and just ripped the ball on both of his singles. He actually also hit in to a triple play in the first inning. Negrych and Hernandez were on and he hit a low line drive to the 2nd baseman. It was just off the dirt and you just couldn't tell if it was going to be a catch or a trap, so the runners had to go. Before you know it, the 2B throws to the SS and then to 1B and we just kind of looked at each other and said, "Hey--that was a triple play."

3B Pedro Alvarez: 3 for 5 with a tape-measure HR to right center field. I thought it was maybe going to hit the roller coaster out there. Maybe he's starting to find his AA groove. He's got a 7 game hit streak and is hitting .351 with an Albert Pujols-like OPS of 1.051 so far in July.

Like I said the other day, if these guys (along with Millege, Lincoln, Gorzelanny, and others at AAA) can continue their progress, 2011 may be the start of having a strong and productive organization that just re-loads like the Minnesota Twins or Oakland A's. On top of this, the Pirates' management *clearly* must have read that blog entry with my hope and suggestions because today the Post-Gazette reported the Pirates are going to talk about *potentially* seeking contract extensions with Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez. It all may be coming together.....

Finally, a few photos from last night from our usual General Admission front row seats just behind first base:
Gorkys Hernandez (3) and Jose Tabata (31)

Pedro Alvarez

Finally, you never know who you're going to see in minor league baseball games. Sometimes there's veterans on injury rehab. For the Harrisburg Senators, we saw Dmitri Young (no kidding, his nickname is 'The Meat Hook') who, according to the Washington Nationals site, had a strained hip and back since April and just started rehabbing on June 27.

I remember him at a game about 10-15 years ago (it may have even been longer--back at Three Rivers Stadium) because I still remember a specific play. He was playing left field in his (sort of) slimmer younger days I think for the Cincinnati Reds. There was some sort of play (a bunt?) where the third baseman, short stop, and pitcher where nowhere near third base and a Pirate was going to second base. What I remember is that he came flying in from left field to cover third base and not allow the Pirate to advance to third. After the play, he then chided the young player about remembering to cover his base. For some reason I always remember that hustle on his part and then his 'mentoring' of the younger player. Isn't it funny what your brain remembers?

Have a great weekend of training or whatever else is on your schedule and WATCH OUT FOR THE FUNNEL CAKE!!!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Heat, Running, Baseball, ...

Another week goes by! Where does the time go? It's going to be the start of school before I know it.

*Tomorrow's the last day of the summer program I've been doing for the last four weeks. It's been fun, but I am reminded why I DON'T work with elementary kids. They are way too squirrelly for me. Working with them for a week on fun stuff like "Math in Sports" isn't bad. I couldn't imagine going 5 days/week for a whole school year with them.

*Beth and I have been having some rear-mounted water bottle cage issues over the last few weeks. Hers is really loose and wobbly after I stripped the one bolt and mine tend to pop out on our rides (causing the faster of us to get a tiny bit impatient while I go and retrieve it). However, after some research, trial and error, and online purchases, I think we've got the issue resolved. For Beth she got a beaker concepts mount with 'gorilla grip' cages. We're hoping this new design is more stable and holds bottles better. From my amateur engineering perspective (my background before becoming a math teacher), I feel this new design and how it's mounted to the seat rails will make it much less prone to wiggling. For me, I found a good one at Big Bang Bike Shop. They always have exactly what we need! Below is a picture of Beth's setup:

*The All-Star game was pretty fun. I made it to the 8th inning before I fell asleep. This was actually one of the shorter ones, only 2 hours and 31 minutes (the shortest since 1988). The problem was that it didn't start until almost 9pm here in the east.

Part of the pre-game festivities was the first pitch by President Obama. Politically, I'm not a big fan of some of his policies and ideas but I don't mind his fresh approach to the administration. However, this is not a political blog. What I want to critique was his appearance on the mound for the pitch. I thought it was neat that he stayed true to his favorite team, the Chicago White Sox (much to Jen Harrison's and Cubs fans' chagrin) by wearing a Sox jacket on the mound. However, his pitch left a lot to be desired. He lolli-popped it in there and didn't even make it to the place. Albert Pujols had to scooch up a few feet to catch it before it hit the ground.

If you want to see a President throw a REAL first pitch, how about President Bush in Yankee Stadium the weekend after the September 11th attacks. He went out there and fired a strike. I vaguely remembered the actual pitch, so I looked it up on YouTube and he sure did fire a strike nice and fast. THAT's how you show you're the leader of the free world!

In President Obama's defense, there have been MUCH worse. Here's a video from ESPN on worst first pitches:

*Speaking of the All-Star game, neither Freddy Sanchez or Zach Duke made it in to the game. I can't really criticize that, though. It was a one-run game and you need to keep some people back. Sanchez makes sense because he could play 2nd or 3rd base. Duke was an injury replacement, so he should have been one of the last people in. Regardless, the current Pirates may be in for a long 2nd half.

*So, I continue to look to the future. My dad and I are going up to Altoona Thursday to see another Curve game. I'm excited to see Pedro Alvarez in person. I want to see if he's as terrible as advertised defensively and if the ball really does jump off his bat. We shall see...

Next weekend, my dad and I are going down to Frederick, MD to meet up with my sister and catch a couple of baseball games. Here's the schedule for the weekend:
Friday night: Frederick (Baltimore A) vs Lynchburg (Pirates A)
Saturday night: Bowie (Baltimore AA) vs Reading (Phillies AA)
Sunday afternoon: Harrisburg (Washington AA) vs Trenton (Yankees AA)

I can't wait and I'm hoping for the weather to cooperate.

*Speaking of weather, it finally got hot for a day! Beth and I did a road tempo workout. It sure was rough with the humidity! I'm getting in the swing of things with my official marathon training. The big day for the Philly Marathon is not until November 21, but it's good to start the 'official' training. I got in 12 miles Friday, 40 mile brick Saturday, 13 miles Sunday, off Monday, swim Tuesday, and crazy humid run today. I think I should be okay for week one of the plan. Most of my plan will be catered around the boys' xc team at school because that seemed to be pretty successful for me the last two falls. We shall see!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Upswing in Training.....Buccos at halfway point

The training's back on the rise this past week. My 'official' training for the Philly marathon in November begins in another week or two, but I should be ready for it to start.

Saturday, I 'only' did 50 miles on the bike while Beth did some crazy bike workout during her 70 or 80 mile ride. Yikes! I'm such a slacker....As a side note, last week I flatted when Beth and I were out on a ride. She was (of course) a little ahead of me. I yelled 'BEEEEEEETH!!' but she didn't hear me and kept riding. I texted her to let her know and she figured it out. Of course, at this point it starts POURING. However, after 20 or 30 minutes, I managed to change my flat and pump it back up with a CO2 cartridge. I had never used a CO2 cartridge (or changed a flat) before and all I could keep thinking about was Chrissy Wellington's cartridge discharging at Kona before she had it in the tire and she was stranded until a good Samaritan gave her another one. Fortunately, it worked out for me.

Sunday, we ran 14 miles on the Butler-Freeport trail. Monday, I did an easy 4 miles before my summer program. I took Tuesday off. Today Beth and I did this crazy interval run with a 12 minute 'hard' part. Ouch. Later this week, I'm going to do a run with a former student who now runs in college and was looking for someone to run 10 miles with. We'll see how that goes.

This weekend's a big wedding. Ben (who sometimes trains with Beth and I) is getting married. It's another chance for us to go back to the Oakmont Country Club (home of several US Opens) and hopefully Beth won't be asked to take her jean jacket out to the car again!

This past weekend brought about the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. I'm impressed with what they eat! But, I think my favorite part of the telecast is the introductions and hearing what their various 'resumes' entail for these competitors in the International Federation of Competitive Eating. Things like beef brisket, rice, asparagus, pulled pork, and ramen noodles. Where do they get these? I would like to some day enter either a pizza eating contest or a Hoss's eating contest.

Believe it or not, the Pirates are now past the halfway point of their season. Where did that go? After losing this afternoon, they are now 9 games under .500. Not great but they are building a solid foundation for the future. I'm still not all that hopeful for 2010, but I think 2011 could be the start of something special where the minor league system is ready to supply a constant stream of major-league talent. Here's my hopeful lineup for April 2011

1. McCutchen CF
2. Sanchez 2B (please sign him to an extension--nobody's ready for a few years)
3. Jose Tabata LF
4. Pedro Alvarez 1B (too many errors at 3B plus they have Andy LaRoche)
5. Ryan Doumit RF
6. Andy LaRoche 3B
7. Jason Jaramillo C (what a pickup he was!!!)
8. Jack Wilson SS (see Freddy Sanchez)

Bench: Moss, Millege, Pearce, G Jones (what an impression he's making!), Friday, Bixler, Diaz, T Sanchez, G Hernandez, Walker, .... some of these guys have to work out

Pitchers: Maholm, Morton, Duke, Lincoln, Snell (maybe), Ohlendorf, Gorzelanny,....

I'm hopefull........

Thursday, July 2, 2009

11 Days Later.....

Since I last blogged...
*I finished up the first two one-week sessions of the summer elementary enrichment program (SEEP). My session is entitled Math in Sports where we try to intertwine math and sports for kids in grades 4-7. We do things like keep track of fantasy baseball scores, calculate stats (BA, OBP, SLUG, OPS, ERA, WHIP), look at patterns and formations (like in football), and several other things depending on the weather and the available facilities. I definitely think that working with elementary kids is not my strongest suit, but it's not too bad for four days at a time.

*I went to a Pirate game with one of the other track coaches last Thursday and had a heck of a time. We had great seats and were entertained to a walk-off single by rookie phenom Andrew McCutchen. We also narrowly avoided some crazy thunderstorms that didn't show up downtown until I was just about back to the car. Here's a few photos of the game:

This second photo was neat because Andrew McCutchen was up with a 3-2 count and two outs and the bases were loaded--meaning everybody is in motion as the pitch was coming to the plate. McCutchen ended up walking to tie the game.

*Upon returning home Thursday night around 11pm, it turns out that Beth's computer wouldn't turn on and her front race wheel wouldn't hold air. Not good when we were leaving for Philly in 10 hours. We get up Friday morning and devise a plan where I took the laptop to a licensed warranty repair place on the Parkway west (weird experience in itself based on the person who helped out), then swing down to West Mifflin to Big Bang Bikes for the tire and then meet Beth and Roxy in Greensburg to then go to Philly. The result: Laptop's battery just had a hiccup and it only took 10 minutes to fix, the great folks at Big Bang were able to replace the valve stem seal on the tire and it worked out fine. So, we left for Philly only about 1 or 2 hours later than we planned. Not bad considering the potential catastrophe of Beth losing all of her business data on her computer and not having a race wheel for Philly!!

*We get to Philly and eat dinner and go over to the packet pickup where we found Roxy's long lost parent/sibling/cousin??? You decide:

I didn't realize until we left that the dog moved its head while I was taking the picture, so it ended up a little fuzzy--just adds to the mystery. I didn't want to bother the owner for a second picture--they probably thought I was weird enough already. But, it was an exact replica of Roxy down to the white on the legs and tail. Maybe the only difference was that this dog was a little heavier. Other than that, it could have been exactly Roxy!

*Oh yeah, there were races in Philly, too. Maija competed in and won her age group in the Philly sprint on Saturday. On Sunday, Beth ended up 2nd overall after a tough duel with Bri (3rd) down the stretch in the run. Some person from Maryland won overall, so Beth earned her Best of the US spot for the 2nd year in a row. That will be out in California at the end of September.

Beth & Maija after Maija's race Saturday

The start of Beth's swim wave heading down the Schuylkill. I had a neat angle from atop a bridge that I crossed to get back to the transition area from the swim start.

About 200m from the finish, Bri is just ahead of Beth. Beth snuck past Bri near the finish line.

Now we're getting ready for a big 4th of July weekend of....relaxing and spending time with family. Also, happy Canada Day to our friends north of the border yesterday. I always remember back to our one year about 10-15 years ago when my family took a vacation to Canada and we saw a Toronto Blue Jays game on Canada Day. It was neat to see the team wear red. Here's their uniforms from this year: