The Yard That Aaron Left

Our backyard  stadium was built by love and mystery.  The love was not a mystery, but the mystery was built by my brother who existed only on paper; not in pictures.  As a ghostly like character, our brother, Aaron, happily haunted his six brothers and six sisters from time to time.

The mystery of my brother, Aaron, goes on and on, much like the furthest ball I’ve ever witnessed hit in our backyard, winding up in our front yard. Perhaps, like the house in New York that Ruth built, this was the house that Aaron left, and he did it with great style.  There were no apologies necessary, no diseases to deem him as the luckiest man on the face of the earth like Lou Gehrig; this character just ran his own way.

At that time, he was the most mysterious man on my earth, and remains to this very day.  There will be no picture of a man named, Aaron.  He only existed in the eyes of those admiring him……..and for only a brief moment, those eyes belonged to a boy tossing a ball to him before he left us.

Looking at this picture, I remember a child throwing a ball to Aaron knowing where the ball would reside.  It was with bitter sweetness, because the time you spent with this ghostly and sometimes mythical character was cherished.  There is a reason you don’t see the batter in this picture, just like you can’t find one picture of a leprechaun or a unicorn.  They don’t wish to be captured.  And, they never will.

I’ll never know him as much as I always wished, but I always admired him for being, much like a novel, that chapter you can’t wait to finish reading.  Throwing to him in this brace depicted in the picture, I was tossing a baseball to my brother, knowing that when he hit it, he and the baseball would never return.

The brother I still don’t properly know, but indeed love, was the only man to hit a ball out of Gannon Stadium. To hit it out of our stadium,  it must cross over the Red Monster, (our center field fence) travel further over the house on a red ball flight, and land in our front yard located across from the house many of us occupied from time to time.  Depending on the wind, proper attitude, altitude, matched with skill, cunning, and shear talent, this was quite a feat.  But, with our brother, Aaron, his exit was far more impressive than his God given skills.  It’s difficult to decipher which one I respected more.

Not even rounding the bases, or grass and tree roots, he found the ball in the front yard,  left with the ball and we were all wondering when the ball would come back.  It never did.

Remembering the ball and the man, when that ball left our park, we knew the ball and the man would never return, but that was the magic of my brother, Aaron.

Aaron was one of the two brothers out of seven to hit right handed.  I think he just did it to agitate my father. That was typical Aaron, but ever so intriguing.  Because of the great Mickey Mantle, my father taught five of his seven sons to hit left handed, even though we were born righties.  Our mom was the only lefty in the group, but she wasn’t destined for the big leagues.  Our brother Aaron, with magnificent talent, was on a mission not to make it to the big leagues.  He just wanted to have a good time and happily mess with life.

When Aaron played baseball, he was an enigma.  As a very talented player, he just showed up in time to play, or piss my dad off.  At the age of five, it was the first time I heard my father teach me the term, “lollygagger”.  He was a bored centerfielder only willing to run to a fly ball at the precise instant it was about to touch the ground.  I never witnessed him missing one of those balls, but I did witness my father going into cardiac arrest. It was then, when in high school, Aaron would laugh, ending the inning, knowing he was coming  to the plate and smash a home run.  It was also when dad would shake his head in disbelief, wondering why he deserved such torture.  Aaron would then leave the park after hitting a home run, and nobody knew where the hell he went after hitting it out of the stadium.  He never touched home plate.  Aaron just hit the ball and without properly running the bases, much to his younger brothers’ dismay, simply ran off to Montana, Utah, Idaho, or Missouri with the ball.  He was that fast.

Running into my brother, or as I’d like to characterize him as a “true character”, from time to time over so many years, it is always a gift. In my dreams, he has the same smile, and a glimmer in his eye, making you want to know what he is thinking, but, you will never know.  That is why I think of him often.

Still, to this wonderful sunny day, there are times I don’t want him to exist.  I wish for him to remain that fictional superman I remembered flying out of our yard one day.  Rather than feeling I was cheated by his lack of presence in our lives, I choose to focus on all the tremendous memories.



The Sweet Spot


There is an end, there is a beginning and then, there is a sweet spot.

It’s not even in the middle.  If you take a wooden bat, stare at it and wonder why it is so strong and weak at the same time, you must analyze it as though it were a patient.  Where  do we start?  What portion of this bat is the strongest?  What part of this is the weakest?  If you really look at the bat, the heart of the bat is the strongest.  It sets comfortably in the ever so soft middle where no one except the ball can find it.

The brain rests on top of the bat as though it is a skyscraper, but it can crumble just as easily as a sand castle on any North Continental beach.  Shards of bat shrapnel will fly out to fielders when you wish no harm to any of them, but sadly, it comes with the territory.

The bottom of the bat is cruel. Your hands, knees and feet ache because they are confused since it should be such an easy science.  It’s not.  It breaks your knuckles when swinging too fast or too slow, especially in cold weather.  Nothing works except the heart of the bat….  that’s the sweet spot.

The sweet spot is when a ball comes off the bat and you can’t feel a thing but success, happiness and pure love, because you only feel it in your heart.  Run your fingers through whipped cream and see if it hurts.  It doesn’t.   I don’t know of a man who can say it does, but that’s the only way I can describe the feeling of when you hit a ball on the sweet spot.

When all other organs aren’t performing properly, you rely on the heart of the bat and find comfort in its rhythm.  You recognize why you don’t always have to swing like a wild man.  Sit down.  Think.  Relax.  Breathe.  But most importantly, rely on your heart for guidance.  The brain is overrated.  So are the legs.  The best part of a bat and an artichoke is the heart.





Unfair Weather Fan (Waiting to Inhale a World Serious)

Waiting is not a virtue.  Punctuality is.  I’ve been waiting 35 years for the Seattle Mariners to deliver a World Series.  The lack of punctuality existing is clear, and even the lack of a World Series they haven’t bestowed has become irrelevant.  I’ve waved the white and blue flag, surrendering my allegiance to this group of players.

Returning from a four day vacation to Los Angeles, the city of Angels and baseball, leaves me with a dull impression on my mind.  There were indeed Angels in Los Angeles, and they were sitting right next to me at Dodger Stadium, also known as “The Chavez Ravine”.   The Angels may be a team in LA, but the Angels on this night were my wife sitting with me and my two friends, Trevor and Marshall.

Trevor, and his father, Marshall, were hosting this baseball party lasting from the first inning rib Trevor grilled at his home, until the ninth inning at that glorious ravine.   It was a fabulous night amplified with cheering at the proper moments, sighing at improper moments, and happily devouring peanuts without even recognizing your belly was already full of the magnificent ribs provided prior to the game.  We ate those peanuts like we were mad at them.  Watching the Dodgers and rooting for them from the tender age of I don’t remember, this was significant and winning nostalgia.  (Their triple A club….”The Spokane Indians” was located five minutes away from our home in the mid seventies.  This is why I followed and worshiped a team that would eventually deliver a boy a World Series.)

Fast forward to the year 2012 where I recently sat with my friends at The Chavez Ravine.  The Dodgers won, and now, I, once again, love the Dodgers and the city.

So, thanks to those friends and true men who love and respect the sport (Trevor and Marshall) for reminding us of how much fun the game can be.  Some people, owners, and Generally Stupid Managers forget.  I never do forget.

P.S. Go back and read this as though it was the voice is Steven A. Smith from ESPN.  He’s terrifical, magical, and glorious.  See . . . Frank Caliendo Impersonates Stephen A. Smith


A Diamond in the Rough (The Painfully Slow Evolution of a Baseball Team)

There are four measurements on a diamond: cut, clarity, color, and carrot.  There are four measurements on a baseball field: hitting, throwing, running and catching.  Both are measured in terms of perfection when it comes to a ring or the baseball field.

Talking to a scientist the other day, he informed me that a piece of crap, or a piece of coal, can turn into a diamond with enough pressure and time after several thousand years.  This was sad news.  Immortality is not my business.  He also informed me that diamonds are extremely costly.  I already knew that, but I questioned him further by asking why diamonds are just as expensive as going to a Seattle Mariner’s Baseball game.  He laughed at me and replied, “That’s why they call the field a diamond…’s really expensive, because it’s a place to witness perfection.”  Still shaking my head in disbelief, just like a child asks questions to an adult they can’t possibly answer, I asked “Don’t the Mariners play on a field then?”  My business is asking rhetorical questions.  My scientist friend knew he could not answer this question.  Therefore, I answered it for him.

Here we go.  “You see, scientist friend, when I grew up, I played on baseball fields.  These fields were plagued with weeds and gigantic rocks almost resembling erratics from the Great Missoula Floods.  The stands were filled with angry fathers not volunteering their time but volunteering their mouths during a game littered with nice kids, but crappy ballplayers.  There were these unusual ladies also showing up giving little advice, other than, “who is in charge of the treats at the next game?” Later on, I found out they were mothers.  I found it strange they didn’t even watch the game.  They did their nails, gossiped, and spoke evilly of their estranged husbands.  But, what baffled me the most was when their son struck out in four consecutive at bats on twelve consecutive pitches, the mother would hand him a soda, or a drumstick or a fruit roll up and say, “Wow, you were terrific today!”  Now if you say that to a real ballplayer after striking out, it adds kindling to the campfire.  It might smell good, but it still burns like hell.  So, the only proper thing to do as a real ballplayer is to toss the soda over a fence, beat one of your other crappy teammates with the drumstick and refrain from strangling your mother with the fruit roll up.  Then you head home and sneak a beer out of your father’s hidden stash in the basement.

Mr Scientist seemed to be getting bored with my explanation, so he wanted me to reach my point.  So, I told him that diamonds are supposed to be beautiful.  Since a field represents a little league ballpark, a baseball diamond should be saved for when you make it to the big leagues…….you know, like the guys I used to watch on T.V. and admired since I left the womb.  Those guys deserved to play on a Baseball Diamond.  The Seattle Mariners have a dynamite field, but let’s not go too far as to refer to it as a diamond.

I’ve been watching these guys play for 35 years.  If it takes another one thousand years to see them in the World Series, I’m clean out of luck.  This chunk of coal doesn’t have that much time to see a diamond, unless it’s on my wife’s finger.  I see that every day.

With all this being written atop my soap baseball box, I’m on my way to go see a chunk of coal on a baseball field at Keep me Safeco Field.  I’ll purchase a ticket, buy some Cracker Jacks, a dog and a beer, financing the diamond earrings the players will wear after the game and, hopefully, not become too embarrassed by the mothers and fathers misunderstanding the process of how long it takes a coal turn into a diamond.

That’s how much I love the game.



Mariner Jet Lag (it’s raining in seattle?)

Once again, I am on the same jet lag wave length as my wife because of my love for baseball and pure hatred for (I’m not going to provide them the decency of using proper nouns or capital letters) the seattle mariners.  This organization has made me feel as though I was on a twenty two hour flight back to India.  I’m exhausted watching the AM games in Japan, and my wife is currently filing divorce papers regarding the alarm clock issues.  Nothing makes any sense.  My wife and I were just fine before the mariners chose to play in a country (a country who once upon a time, bombed us in the island of Hawaii).  Now, we are at athletic odds because she can’t understand my desire for the great game of baseball, and our new time zone, even in the US of A.

Don’t call me unless it’s at two AM.  If I don’t answer, it’s because I’m either napping, or talking to my Japanese Lawyer.  He’s awake at two PM, where it is apparently the land of the rising sun.  Perhaps that’s why seattle decided to fly twelve hours and play twenty four hours of baseball…… find that rising sun.  I haven’t seen it for a week.


Opening Dismay

Other than Pearl Harbor and poor driving skills, I have nothing against the Japanese.  I have everything against a team in Seattle, Washington, located in America for having baseball’s opening day in anywhere but America. The Seattle Mariners are playing the first game of the season in Japan.  This is America’s official pastime, but it seems to me, for the team I root for, since I reside in the city, it is America’s official posthumous time.  The first game of the season is usually the first and last for our fairly ridiculous sport crazed city.

I don’t give a crap what people say about the NFL, NBA, soccer and any other sport, baseball is America’s favorite pastime. (Disclaimer: I love each one with the exception of the NBA and soccer.) Opening day is special, and it belongs to baseball.   It doesn’t belong in Japan where I have to set my alarm clock for three AM, instead of the usual three PM schedule.  This is truly unholy on one of the most holiest of days.  My wife will have to hit the seventh inning snooze button when the Mariners, with severe jet lag, are losing in that inning, just around seven AM.

The official owner of the Mariners lives in and is from Japan.  Qualified sources have informed me he won’t be attending the game.  I think he is an elderly owner, but I don’t give a shit if someone has to bring him into his luxury box seat by way of a forklift while he’s collecting money on a pallet selling Ichiro jerseys.  He should be in attendance.

This may sound a bit moronic and immature, but I celebrate this day much like people celebrate Christmas and Easter.  I celebrate the Lord’s birth and His resurrection, but I really don’t look forward to the presents or the eggs……unless they are deviled.  Baseball’s opening day?  That’s what I look forward to, but not in Japan at three in the morning.

I hope you all have a great opening day.  I won’t.  Hot dogs and beer don’t fare well with my stomach that early.


Legitimate Baseball Emergency

Trying to maintain some aspect of originality, I usually don’t quote many authors or stories that aren’t mine, my family’s, my friends and or enemies.  However, after reading the following story in The Seattle Times this morning, I thought it was worth sharing.  You don’t have to be a baseball enthusiast to appreciate it.  I hope it’s true.

“A 97-year-old- Wisconsin man called 911 because he couldn’t find his TV remote and wanted to watch the Brewers’ playoff game,” noted Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World Herald, “Considering that he is 97 and how often the Brewers make the playoffs, I say the call is justified.”

It reminded me of some wise old Seniors I know well.  Baseball can also be funny.

Baseball and Moms

Soap Operas are not the only item “stay at home mothers” enjoy.  I know of three who can provide evidence of this statement:  Margaret Gannon, Rose Parcher, and one of my best friend’s mothers.  She wished to remain anonymous, but I am only going to say she resides in Walla Walla.  I believe that is the reason she requested to remain anonymous.  All three of them love the game of baseball.

Let’s just refer to the latter of this simple list as “The Walla Walla Sweetheart”.  She holds season tickets to a baseball team in Walla Walla, known as the Walla Walla Sweets.  She never misses a Sweet game and additionally doesn’t miss a Seattle Mariner game.  (that’s when I question her sanity, even though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her)  This is a woman who doesn’t swear even after watching the Mariners make fools of themselves, or observing the Walla Walla Sweets get demolished by the Crab Creek Minors.  She simply says, “oh fishy doo hooks”.  Apparently, according to my friend, that is her nicest and most lovable form of cursing.  She has used this phrase so long, it is now being considered to be placed in the infamous Webster’s Swearing Dictionary.

On to Rose Parcher: This is a completely different form of human.  Rose is teetering on the age of, and this is just a guess, one hundred and seventy seven.  Just like her children, Vic and Tim, she is tough as nails.  She is also as fun as a feather.  I watched baseball with Rose because we both enjoyed the games, and her spaghetti is absolutely worthy of a prize.  She also was fun because she used colorful words I wasn’t used to hearing from a woman, or man, or sailor of that age.   I was confused at the time because I always want to rate things in order of importance.  Her use of the English Language was colorfully fascinating, (she didn’t use words or phrases such as, “fishy doo hooks” when she was pissed. Let’s just leave it at that.  Rose’s knowledge of baseball was baffling, but her spaghetti was a very close first second or third to my enthusiasm for baseball.  We always had a good time betting on pennant winners, eating great food, and tossing some really nice F bombs.

Margaret Gannon:  Because this is my dear mother, I do have to save the best for last.  As the last of thirteen children, and at an age too young for school, I was all alone with my mom at home.  Most of my siblings were in school, fishing in Alaska or working at a lumber mill.  Yet still, it was necessary for me to play catch with someone.  Mom was my only option.

Asking her to play a game of catch with her was extremely cute. Reluctantly, mom always complied.  She is an amazingly talented woman.  Witnessing her artwork, I knew she was very impressive with her left hand, but when we went to the backyard to play catch, she honestly didn’t know if she was right or left handed.  By the way, she is ambidextrous.  I was young enough to not know what that word meant, but when she asked me what hand she should use for throwing, I replied, “I don’t know, how about the one you write with”. She was fabulous.  I then knew I didn’t require playing catch with a father or a brother or sister who just wasn’t and couldn’t be around.

My sister, Teresa, and I spoke the other day.  She remembers convincing our mother to stay home from school in 1973, the year I was born, to watch the baseball playoffs.  Mom understood the importance of witnessing us watching something making all of us so happy.  Dad probably would have said “no”, but since he would leave for work before the other children would have to go to school, mom wanted to watch the game with people who loved the game.

When the team she was rooting for would lose, she would whip out profanity.  “Darn it”.  Then, she’d make lunch and dinner for the whole gang.  The gang would then go out and play baseball.