Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 BCS Playoff Proposal

Now that the arrangements are set for this year's national championship game, here is my view on how a playoff system could be implemented to include the conference championship games.

Here are my goals:

1. To give EVERY team in August a legitimate chance to win a national championship (like UCF, Northern Illinois, Fresno State, etc.), especially if you win your conference championship.

2. To make as many teams as possible have their last game be one of significance toward a national championship drive.

You can go to previous years proposals below:



So on to this year. There were more changes in the college landscape from 2012 as the Big East and the Western Athletic Conference became no more. But, the American Athletic Conference came into being. The AAC received the automatic BCS berth from the Big East. Also, there is more on the horizon with the Big Ten adding Rutgers and Maryland next year, as well as other moves. But, we'll save that for next year.

This is the final product:



Some general notes:
*All seeds determined by the BCS for at-large teams, by computer rankings for conference champions not in the top 25 BCS rankings)
*The regular season needs to be completed for BCS conferences by the weekend before Thanksgiving (11/23) and the week prior to that for the non-BCS conferences (11/16) OR the non-BCS conference can decide to not host a championship game the weekend of the 23rd.
*Don't get completely tied up in the teams, but more the process and the seeds. Since this bracket is trying to seed based off of three different weeks all at the same time, there are going to be inconsistencies in team rankings. Trust the process!
*This is NOT an NCAA basketball bracket where you could have a tourney pick'em. Rather each round gets re-seeded much like the NFL and other leagues do.

Here's how I ended up with that bracket:

Original Draft (Building on the 2012 model)
Last year's model had seven at-large teams in addition to the eleven conference champions. Since there is one less conference this year, the structure needed to be revised. On the surface, one less non-BCS qualifier conference yielded the simple math of one more at-large team.




The four conference champions would host at-large teams on Thanksgiving weekend with an additional two at-large games to be played either at a neutral site (what I would prefer) or the site of the higher-seeded team. There were some different ways to work out the matchups, but I thought that the highest-seeded non-BCS conference champion (Northern Illinois) deserved a favorable matchup. Beyond that, the highest seeded at-large team should have the easiest opponent. Thus, the games ended up like so:

UCLA (AL8) at Northern Illinois (MAC)- A
Baylor (AL3) at Fresno State (MWC) - B
South Carolina (AL2) at Rice (CUSA)- C
Alabama (AL1) at Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) - D
Oregon (AL4) vs. Oklahoma (AL7)
Clemson (AL5) vs LSU (AL6)

The winners would move on to the weekend of the four BCS Conference Championship games. Additionally, Oklahoma State (as of the time of this draft) from the Big 12 and Central Florida (from the AAC) get byes to the conference championship weekend due to their BCS tie-in. If seeds held from Thanksgiving weekend, the games would make for a fun Saturday of 8 games (note that conference champions still get home games):

ACC Championship - Florida State vs Duke
Pac-12 Championship - Stanford vs Arizona State
SEC Championship - Auburn vs Missouri
Big Ten Championship - Ohio State vs Michigan State
Alabama (AL1) at UCF (AAC Champion) (Highest seed vs lowest seed remaining)
South Carolina (AL2) at Northern Illinois (MAC Champion)
Clemson (AL5) at Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champion)
Baylor (AL3) vs Oregon (AL4)

Winners from this round would match up in a final 8 the weekend of December 14. Games to be played at the higher-ranked conference champion (again rewarding a conference champion over an at-large team). If seeds held:

Baylor (AL3) at Florida State (ACC Champion)
Alabama (AL1) at Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champion)
Stanford (Pac-12 Champion) at Auburn (SEC Champion)
South Carolina (AL2) at Ohio State (Big Ten Champion)

Then, like is proposed for starting in 2014, a semi-final would occur around New Year's Day with the Championship the next week.

Version 2.0 (Only conference champions, quicker path to the championship)
I was pretty happy with the first bracket, but then Auburn beat Alabama, Ohio State lost, Oklahoma State lost, Northern Illinois lost and my bracket looked pretty inaccurate (although it's the process that counts!). It also wasn't sitting well with me that a #3 (Auburn) vs #5 (Missouri) was occurring in the round of 16. Could the winner of that game be given a bye to the semi-finals? Also, could the number 1 seed be advanced to the semi-finals? These thoughts gave birth to version 2 of the 2013 bracket.

Here's what it looked like BEFORE the results of conference championship weekend


And then AFTER the results of the weekend (Ohio State, Northern Illinois, and Oklahoma State losing)


In this model, the four non-BCS conference champs square off the weekend of Thanksgiving. The winner of these games would be inserted into the BCS conference championship weekend to play the champion of the Big 12 and the AAC. Once the results from conference championship weekend were completed and the new polls came out, the top two teams would get byes to the semi-finals. One thought in my head for this year was, if Ohio State won, who would get the second bye? That's a HUGE difference between having off and playing a very difficult game. Maybe some language to the effect of "if two top-8 BCS ranked teams are playing in a conference championship, that winner gets and automatic bid to the semi-finals. The remaining four teams would match up the weekend of December 14 to determine the other two teams to advance to the New Year's semi-final.

Version 3 (A hybrid of versions 1 and 2)
The idea of Alabama not being in the top 4 (or at the very least top 8) just didn't seem fair. So, this version bumped back the Big 12 and AAC  conference champions to have to play in the Thanksgiving weekend round. The matchups for that round's four games would be set up to be the highest conference champion vs the second highest versus the second lowest. Then the first at-large team would get the third lowest conference champion and AL2 vs the 3rd conference champion.

BEFORE Conference Championship Saturday results, it looked like this:


AFTER the results, it looked like this.


Analysis:
*The Tide - Alabama lost one regular season game on an amazing and strange play to end a game that would have otherwise gone to overtime. It seems like they needed a shot. Having a second at-large team gives some incentive to teams to keep playing hard even if they do lose a game. How about an Alabama-Auburn rematch in the semi-finals?
*On the road - A few years ago, Fresno State had the motto "Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere." It would be fitting for them to earn a home game against a big school like Alabama or South Carolina. Also, having warm weather teams leave that comfort and play a meaningful December game in the snow intrigues me.
*Bowling? - Bowls could still happen. Bowl announcements were made this year on December 8. In the final bracket, only six teams are left after December 8...and four of those are ticketed into the semi-finals. Perhaps the two losers of the December 14 games could be matched up on a New Year's Day Bowl. Would that be enough time?
*Meaningfulness - I mentioned this last year also, but a team like Bowling Green would much rather have a chance to host South Carolina in a playoff than lowly 6-6 Pitt in the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit. Fresno State - vs USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on December 21 or a chance to take on the team that most people still think is the best in the country on their turf. Michigan State's national championship hopes ended  September 21st with a loss to Notre Dame (with four pass interference penalties). Winning the Big Ten Championship gets them a Rose Bowl date, but no shot at a national championship. Baylor and UCF play each other in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl for bragging rights, but no ability claim stake to the #1 trophy.

Will it happen? Maybe some day. Next year brings the four-team playoff, but that's just going to cause a bunch of debate over who's #4 and who's #5 or #6. A bracket based on conference championships for ALL conferences is the best way to eliminate opinion and debate as much as possible.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wrapping Up Summer: Part 4

This summer, I moved to a new room in the school with our renovated high school.

I started playing the acoustic guitar. I've got a long way to go.

Cross Country season is underway. The girls are the defending district champs and hope to be among the top teams in the state again. The boys graduated five contributing seniors, but have a solid group that should be able to fill in those gaps and have us contending for a district title.

More details to come!

Wrapping Up Summer Part 3: The Pirates

It is August 25th and the Pirates are tied for first place. Sign me up for that!

It's been an amazing summer and lots of dissecting to do over the next five weeks!

Wrapping Up Summer Part 2: The Book Reports

Usually the only place I can sit myself down to read is when I'm on an airplane. I love to read, but I can never force myself to sit down and do it when there's other things to do like go running, watch a Pirate game, or pretty much anything else.

However, I was introduced to using mobile devices for audio books (and for reading books too!), specifically through the program Overdrive that is connected to our county library system. Because of this, I was able to get through SIX books this summer:



The Beauty of Short Hops by Sheldon Hirsch


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Dream Team by Jack McCallum

Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile

Reviews to come hopefully in the next day or two...




Wrapping Up Summer

So much goings on since the Muncie trip. I figured I'd break it down into four segments:

*Racing
*Summer Book Report
*Pirates
*Other stuff

Part 1 - Racing (subtitle: There must have been something in the water in Muncie)

So, Beth had an awesome race in Muncie, establishing some PR's along the way. Since then, both of us have had some solid success. Beth set some more PR's at Steelhead. Along the way, I had some pretty awesome races.

On 7/20, I did the Plum Stampede in the Park at Boyce Park. While I hadn't really done much speed training, I was excited to end up with a 17:27 on a rolling course and scored 7th overall and 1st in my age group. One of the highlights of this race was being able to hang out with good friend and mentor when I was student teaching at Plum Jay Marston. Back then, I was a volunteer assistant coach to him on the girls softball team. Now, we are both involved with coaching running and he has run several marathons with the hope of qualifying for Boston.

That was a good warm up and then the next weekend (7/28) I did the hometown Junkyard Jaunt (only 1.2 miles from my front door!). Two years ago I did this race with the hope of going sub-17 (pancake flat course) but I went out too hard and it was hot and I ended up at 17:21 and 4th place with some speedy guys. This year, there was only one other speedy guy and he and I went out at the beginning. I got a little bit of a lead on him and was able to extend it and hold on for the win and a new PR of 16:48.

The next weekend (8/4) we were in Michigan for Beth's 5th place finish. The following Friday 8/9, I stepped to the line in downtown Pittsburgh for the Liberty Mile. I went into it thinking I could be around 5:00. The previous four weeks I was working on repeats (400's in the 70-75 range and 800's in the 2:27-2:30 range), so I went to the line confident in my training. 

Beth was out there cheering at the 1/4 mile mark and the 3/4 mile mark. I'm glad there was a crowd around me and I didn't see the 1/4 mile split clock because the 67 might have put some doubts in my head about being able to finish the race. I went through the half and did see the 2:21 on the clock and was excited to think that if I could hang on for a 2:35-2:40 for the second half I would have my sub-5. As we turned on to Liberty Avenue and headed for home, the guy in front of me slowed down a lot (hit the wall?) so I had to swing around him. I don't know if this other guy didn't like that or if I was just in his "line" and he brushed beside me hitting my arm. I thought, "We've got this whole street on a straightaway to the finish and you have to be this close to me?" Regardless, I focused on the task and hand. I missed the 3/4 clock but Beth said it was a 3:42. I then sighted the finish line and tried to do my best kick in. I couldn't feel my legs, but I ended up around a 71 for the finial 1/4 for a total time of 4:53.9. Awesome!
Look - I'm floating 3/4 mile into the race! Excited to say I outkicked all of these guys in the end (but couldn't feel my legs)

Then, last weekend, I subjected myself to the trail running course known as the Hempfield Alumni Meet. I didn't do it last year because we were out of town. The year before I got third place to an alumni who was a D2 Steeplechaser at CalU and a varsity kid who qualified for the state meet. This year, that high schooler graduated (and no one else on the high school team had a strong year last year) and the Steeplechaser had gotten married and bought a house over the summer (perhaps not as much time for training?). We got out and had a rabbit as a Norwin alum had come with a friend and, while he was not eligible for our alumni results, he won the race by a good minute or so. That left me and Eric leading the rest. At one switchback, I noticed that we had the top 3 (and actually top 4) so if things stayed as they were, the alumni would score their first dual meet victory over the varsity in 9 years.

That left the individual race the only thing left to worry about. Eric and I were running together, but I sensed he didn't want to push the pace up a hill as we were returning through the practice football field (about halfway) and I decided to go for it. I ran the rest of the race scared for this younger alum (by 10 years!) was going to catch me and blow by. But, I ended up winning by 50 seconds. The neat thing is that the winner of this alumni-varsity meet gets their name etched onto a plate that goes with the Stanley Cup-like trophy (you keep it for the year and bring it back the next year). So, while I am nowhere near the caliber of any other name on the plate of district and state champs that went on to successful division 1 careers, this year just happened to be the year where everything fell into place for me. It was mentioned that I was the "oldest first-time winner" of this race. I don't know if that is a compliment or a shot at my age. Either way, it was exciting to be the champ!
Ah, the coveted #1 stick!


Me and the trophies. Beth couldn't wait to find a spot for this to collect dust for the next 12 months!!!

Me and dad after the race

The trophies

So, back to my original theory, all of this occurred since Beth and I were in Muncie. Beth's PRs. My 2 wins, and 5k & mile PR.

My theory is that there must have been something in the water in Muncie (I did see Beth bottling some, I think!). In other words, look out Ironman Wisconsin for Beth to come flying through!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Trip To See Altoona

No, not Al Tuna....
That loveable mascot of the Curve!

But rather the Altoona Curve, the Pittsburgh Pirates' AA minor league baseball team.

My first attempt got rained out in the third inning a few weeks back. But, it actually worked out for the better as Gregory Polanco was not in the lineup due to a sore shoulder from a play in the outfield and Casey Sadler was on the mound. On Thursday, top Pirates' position player prospect Gregory Polanco was in the lineup and top Pirates' pitching prospect Jameson Taillon was on the bump.

Jameson Taillon warming up before the first inning

Jameson Taillon beginning his night
I tried something new at the game and attempted to post to twitter my observations for every half inning of Taillon's outing, as well as any positives from Altoona's offense in the bottom half of each inning.

It looked something like this:

(First Inning) In Altoona seeing J Taillon for 1st time. After if single &SB, retired the next 3, striking out 1 & 2 GO 3-u. Hitting 94-95

It seemed like he was getting warmed up to full speed still in the first. The first batter hit a weak grounder up the middle that got past Taillon and second baseman Jarek Cunningham flagged down, but didn't have time to get the speedy runner, Jamie Johnson. Johnson then stole second on a close play, but he's a good base stealer (15 SB, 2 CS). The strikeout was an 8-pitch at-bat, the most pitches of any of his strikeouts again showing he was still getting ramped up. The next two batters helped out Taillon's pitch count by grounding weak rollers to first base.

Taillon 2nd: PopupSS, line 1B to RF, seeing eye 1B to RF, sawed off 96mph popup, sb, bloop1B scores2, BB, 4-3. tied 2-2

This was a frustrating inning that goes back to the box score doesn't tell the whole story. He didn't get hit hard, but ended up giving up two runs. Taillon's fastball was much more consistently 96 mph in the second inning.

J Taillon 3rd: 3-pitch K- 96fb, 85 change (swing), 81 curve (frozen looking); go 6-3; go 3-u;43 pitches totthru 3. tied 2-2

A good recovery inning after the second. He made the first batter look like a high schooler with the pitch sequence. Overall, a 7-pitch inning.

Taillon 4th: weak go 4-3,  K (95 fb, 95 fb, 96 fb ball, 81 curve looking), lazy inf popup. 3-2 Curve after 4. 

More weak contact, another statue of a batter on a curveball, and a weak pop up. 9 pitch inning.

Taillon 5th: ripped 3B to RC on 95fb, rbi 4-3 go, K (fb,fb,96fb,change,fb looking), K (fb,change,foul fb, 81curve swinging)

The triple was pretty much the only hard-hit ball on Taillon the whole night. I'm assuming the 1-2 fastball wasn't where Taillon wanted it. But, he managed the rest of the inning even though you would've like to have seen him strand the leadoff triple.The first strikeout off the inning you had to think the batter was looking off-speed and got locked up on the fastball. The second was probably the opposite and went flailing at what he thought was going to be a fastball.

Taillon 6th: 3-pitch easy f8, dicey 2-pitch go 4-1 (1st pretty 82 curve), K (fb,change, curve, ch, 96fb, 83curve swinging)

A lazy fly ball to lead off the inning. I described the second out as "dicey" because 1B Justin Howard came off the line to try to get it, but wasn't able to reach it. 2B Cunningham did get to it, and Taillon beat the runner to the bag and received the throw. It wasn't pretty but another out on weak contact. And the whiff on the curve again set up by premium fastball velocity.

Taillon 7th: 1 pitch 92fb sliding f8 (polanco), k (95 fb, fb, 81curve swinging), 3-2 BB, go 4-3 (96fb on pitch 95)

Gregory Polanco made a nice grab and covered a lot of ground to make it look like a "routine" sliding catch. The strikeout was again an overwhelmed batter with the speed and then curve. Only his second walk of the game (and first since the second inning). Then, a routine grounder finished his night with Taillon still putting 96 on Peoples Natural Gas Field's radar gun.

Taillon's final line: 7IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7K

My impressions of Taillon didn't change much since I saw him look like he belonged in the World Baseball Classic against Team USA back in March. That curve is devastating and his fastball is major-league caliber. He needs to work on his control more, especially of his 87-88 mph changeup/slider. It seemed like he was searching a little on that pitch and it was up and in the right hand hitter's batter's box.

As far as the offense, the leading role is played by Gregory Polanco. No other hitters are ranked in Pirates Prospects mid-season top 20. Players like Adalberto Santos, Alex Dickerson, and Jarek Cunninham have shown flashes but nothing to make you think they will be a standout player in the majors. The additional factor that made it difficult to look at the hitters was that Erie's pitcher, Patrick Cooper was only throwing in the 80's so was this night's 6-run outburst good hitting or poor pitching on Erie's part?

Gregory Polanco coming to bat in the first inning
Gregory Polanco just before hitting a sacrifice fly into foul territory in right field
Regardless, a few observations on Polanco. His first at-bat he struck out after working the count full. In the third inning, he put a bunt down the third base line. I didn't notice where the third baseman was playing before the pitch, but there was no chance of getting Polanco as he glided down the line. In the fourth inning, he lofted a 2-1 pitch into foul ground out in right field by the Altoona bullpen, deep enough to score Andy Vasquez. In the seventh inning, Polanco led off the inning by grounding a 2-2 pitch to the shortstop but made the play close with his hustle down the line.

Defensively, he didn't get many chances with Taillon's strikeouts and many weakly-hit ground balls. He had one ball hit to him, charged in three quick steps, but then glided back two lazy steps to catch the ball. Also, there was the previously mentioned sliding catch in left center.

All-in-all, a worthwhile trip to Altoona and I hope to make it out again before school starts. I'd like to see Nick Kingman and perhaps Alen Hanson will be up then.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Home of the Hoosiers

Beth and I didn't really know what to expect with our trip to Muncie. What was the area like? What was the race like? What were the people like? How would the homestay work out?

Well, things certainly couldn't have been better! Although, it started off with a rocky beginning on Wednesday trying to get out of the 'burgh.

video

I learned the definition of "flash flooding" on my way down to cross country practice in the morning. The roads I travelled on were becoming rivers. There were some areas that were impassible due to 2-3 feet of water. It was crazy! I finally made it to the 8:00 practice around 8:45 with all the detours and road closures. And, sure enough, there were our guys doing some "ball-toss" laps (similar to an indian run) on the non-flooded track with Coach A. #commitment

The return home wasn't as harrowing and I made it back in time to join Beth for a run. Then we packed up and got on the road around 3pm, dropped off the dog at my parents', and started heading west on I-70. We stopped for dinner near Wheeling and then round two of the major thunderstorm lines came through as we were crossing into Ohio. It slowed us down a little more and we were doing the calculations realizing we wouldn't make it to Muncie and our host's house until 11pm or so. 

This prompted us to search for a hotel along the way and finish the trip on Thursday. Thank goodness for the internet, and we settled on a spot outside of Dayton. It worked out well as there was a YMCA about a mile away to get our Thursday morning scheduled swim taken care of. It also didn't hurt that there was a Tim Hortons next door to the hotel (Hooray for Timbits!).

We finished our drive Thursday morning, stopping at the race site at the Prairie Creek Reservoir, about 20 minutes outside of Muncie. Beth did her usual ride and run and I did a run and run (without then with Beth). After driving the courses, we then got to our host James' place and got settled in. James was an amazing host! As we entered our room, we have souvenir shirts, local travel guide info, and the wifi password waiting. Very prepared!

We're now Ball State Fans! Go Cardinals! #ChirpChirp

We drove around Ball State's campus after dinner Thursday and it was really nice. Everything looked so new!

The Football Stadium

A large bell tower in the middle of campus

David Letterman's Communication Building. We found out he had the quote of
calling the cardinal the "fiercest of the robin-sized birds."

They are proud of their Cardinals!

Friday morning I ran as Beth had the day off from training. Then our day involved IHOP, the expo to check in, lunch at the Pita Pit (with great triathlon supporters Luke and Lisa), pro meeting, a movie (Despicable Me 2.....love those minions!), dinner at Noodles, and then final preparations for the race.

Going into the race, I knew I had an opportunity to see Beth on both the bike and the run, but it was going to take some work. Beth has outlined her day here, so here was my race day.

Getting things ready in transition before the race

Another 75-degree wetsuit day. #Boiling

And they're off! Beth was on the right

Once, she left on the swim, I went back to the car to drop off her swim stuff and get prepared for the day ahead. Beth came out of the water 9th and left on the bike.
Coming up out of the water with wetsuit in hand thanks to the wetsuit strippers

Leaving for the 56-mile journey on the bike

I proceeded to do a 2.2 mile tempo run south to a spot about 13 miles into the bike course to see her go out and back.
My tempo to get to the bike course

Beth flying by on the bike

I snapped a picture of her going out and then had some time to kill so I cheered on the other racers, helped unload a truck with 22 lb bags of ice, and helped keep fumbled bottles from the exchange off the road.

Then, Beth came back by in 7th and it was another tempo back to the car and then transition for her to start the run. I decided to leave the phone/camera at the car because it was getting really sweaty and I didn't want to have to carry it for part two of my tempo workout - a 4.2 mile jaunt before Beth covers 5.5 miles.
The even longer trek to get to see Beth on the run course!

Beth left transition in 6th place and I hustled to meet her out near the turnaround. I was starting to get that bonking feeling, but thank goodness I had packed a gel and felt a lot better. Beth was 6th still but closing in on 5th.

She ended up closing the deal and finished the race 5th, so a good day all around!
Climbing up the final hill to a 5th place finish!

After cleaning up and getting some Little Caesar's Hot-n-Ready pizza for lunch, we made our way back over for the awards ceremony. We then met James for dinner at Amazing Joe's (and it WAS amazing!) and some frozen yogurt at BerryWinkle's.

Saturday night, I fell asleep listening to the Pirate game (though they did end up winning). Sunday, we went to the Cardinal Greenway trail and Beth did an easy spin and I did an out & back run. Great paved trail with markers every half mile.

We made our trip back towards home, but of course we got delayed by an accident that closed I-70 east of Columbus. Eventually we picked up the dog and made it to the Heights. Back at it for me this week with training and morning cross country fun runs.

All in all, a great weekend and I hope we go back to Muncie for Beth to race next year. James was such a great host and I dubbed him the "Ambassador of Muncie and Ball State" with all of his knowledge and helpfulness to us.

Oh yeah - congrats to great friends Ben and Laura on the birth of little Matthew!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June's Recap

Things sure have been busy since school wrapped up. Here's a snapshot (get the pun!!!) of the goings on.

I started off running back-to-back 5k's the weekend Beth was in Raleigh. 

A couple of plaques for 5k's
The first one in Freeport was kind of sluggish (18:29 vs 17:56 last year), but it was hot and humid. And I still got 2nd. The Sunday race was the Greenfield Glide in Schenley Park. I've been wanting to run it for a couple of years now because it is essentially the same course as our high school runs for the Red, White, & Blue invitational. Now, I know what the kid go through during the race. The leader ended up cutting off a little chunk early in the race (and the rest of us followed), so my 17:02 comes with the disclaimer that it was more like 2.95-3.0 on mapmyrun.com. But, coming off a so-so race Saturday, it was a nice recovery. And, top 5 got overall plaques.

Beth went from Raleigh to Baltimore and hung out with my parents for a day in Frederick. I met her down there Thursday night and we made our way down to Eagleman. We met up with Ben and his dad the day before the race. 

Good stories from Mr. E over lunch!

Beth had a great race and then we came home the same day because the last day of school for teachers was that Monday. I had to pack up and say goodbye to my room because I'm moving to a newly renovated room with the construction project at the school.I'll miss my fellow Penn State alum English teaching neighbor!
The rule for packing: If you haven't used it in the last two years, throw it out!
Beth and I then did something we don't usually do, get away for a weekend that isn't related to some sort of race. We looked at the calendar earlier in the spring and saw that mid-June had an opportunity to take a trip. Of course, I suggested that it should involve baseball. What we ended up doing was taking a weekend to the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater-Dunedin area.

Friday night was a Tampa Bay Rays game. I have probably mentioned in the past how I admire the way the Rays are run. The book "The Extra 2 Percent" was a great read. I had heard and read a lot of mediocre things about Tropicana Field, but still thought it would be neat to see the Rays and to see a baseball game inside a dome.
Is it me, or does the roof look crooked?


Indoor baseball!

In the bottom of the first inning, we had our first excitement and Matt Joyce led off the frame with a shot to right center field, just a row up and a few seats over from where we were sitting. So close!
Notice me reaching for the ball and Beth moving the other direction!

Oh so close!

There was also a live stingray tank in center field and you can go and tour it. Beth wanted to take one home, but I didn't know how well it would get along with Roxy.
Netting to protect them from home run balls to center field!

Can we keep one!

Then, we move around to check out a different angle and sat by the right field foul pole, near the Rays bullpen. In the 9th inning, a fly ball came our way. Since I was sitting on the aisle, I was able to go down a few steps and make an attempt to catch it. I had it in my hand, but then E-Shutt. I couldn't hold on. It bounced out (not soft enough bare hands I guess) rolled down a step, two kids checked me to the side and some lady ended up getting the ball. I wanted to say to her, "Hey, I did the hard work. Can I have the ball?" But, I left disappointed at not having a ball and, more importantly, not catching the ball.
Location of my "error." I should've brought the glove...

Saturday involved running along the St. Petersburg bayfront where the St. Anthony's triathlon is located. Beth did that race many years ago.

Then the afternoon involved a stop at a mini golf and more locale.
Keep the head down!

So close to being under par. Those crazy water trap holes!
A little driving range action!

Seeing if I could still put a sting on a fastball (notice the batting gloves - I wasn't messing around!)
After tiring ourselves out, we swung by Clearwater (another spot of Beth's triathlon lore) and went north up to Dunedin. We found out Dunedin didn't have any commercial restaurants (we like those because they're safe and you know what you'll get). So, we adventured and went to a little brick-oven pizza restaurant and it was great!

The main reason we ended up in Dunedin was part 2 of the baseball experience: The Florida State League (High A) All-Star game. Ideally, I would've like to have driven down to Bradenton and seen the Pirates' Spring Training facilities and McKechnie field, but they were on break with the ASG. Still, Gregory Polanco, Nick Kingham, and Alen Hanson were scheduled to play in the game. However, Polanco and Kingham were too good of All-Stars and got promoted to AA Altoona days before the game.
FSL All-Star game MVP Alen Hanson warming up in between innings

But, Hanson didn't disappoint as he hit a home run and looked smooth at short stop, earning him the All-Star game MVP.

We came back on Sunday, and Roxy proceeded to get sprayed by a skunk in our backyard when I let her out in the middle of the night Sunday night-Monday morning. That was an adventure to corral her back in and then to de-stink-ify her over the next couple of days.
Stinky dog!
I did my summer program "Math in Sports" with the elementary kids these past two weeks and it flew by.

The Pittsburgh Marathon sent me a gift the day after my birthday.
Thanks again to Jeremy Cornman for only being 34!

Tuesday, I went up to Altoona to try to catch the elusive Gregory Polanco, but he was out with a sore shoulder from a diving catch over the weekend. I did get to see top minor league prospect Miguel Sano and some of the Altoona gang.....for two innings when the skies opened up.

Imagine if the Pirates could have closed the deal and signed Miguel Sano as an IFA a few years ago!
First it was very windy and the field crew had a whale of a time trying to get the tarp in place. They were being blown all around!
Dark skies!

Hold on to that tarp!

So, the game got cancelled meaning I'll just have to go back up later this summer.
I'll have to hang out with my buddy Oscar again some time in July

Oh by the way, the Pirates are tied for the BEST RECORD IN BASEBALL! But, like I said last summer, the season is a marathon and we're only at mile 12. A lot of crazy things can happen between now and October.