2020: The Opener

Frank here. Today is the COVID-19 version of starting a season. But not in Cincinnati where Opening Day is more than a spot on the calendar – it’s an event. The circumstances make this year different here – no parade and the streets won’t be jammed with people dressed in red. Although my team must wait until tomorrow, the game is back today for a short season and an uncertain future.

To mark the return of the boys of summer, here’s a little bit about the grand ole game – the national pastime we call baseball.

 

The Place – A local cathedral dedicated to the game where people gather to worship with faith and allegiance for their team and yell praise to their cleated heroes. A place for relaxing, eating popcorn, getting excited, holding the breath, hoping, then moaning or screaming – back to relaxing, then something different will probably happen – and if you watch baseball long enough, something new. A place for popcorn, hotdogs, peanuts, Cracker Jacks, cold drinks, and standing to sing during the seventh-inning stretch. Let alone reunite with memories and make new ones.

The Field – A four-cornered diamond. Home at the bottom – and affectionately called the plate. Three bases counterclockwise from home: first, second, and third. All four corners are 90 feet apart. The field is defined by extending lines from home to first and home to third continuing to a wall.

The Game – Divided into nine segments called innings. Each with two halves, one for each team to bat. In the end, the team with the most runs wins the game.

The Ball – Nine inches in circumference, weighing five ounces. A piece of cork wound in yarn, covered with rawhide, then bound with 216 stitches.

The Pitcher – The one in charge of the ball. Standing on a mound of special dirt in the center of the diamond and known as the hill. Sixty feet, 6 inches from home, and ten inches higher than the rest. The pitcher is the one who can make the ball spin, curve, rise, fall, and even wobble to and fro. Sliders, sinkers, heat, and curves known as Uncle Charlie, but from Dwight Gooden, it’s Lord Charles.

The Defense – The other eight teammates of the pitcher. One catcher behind home to catch the ball from the pitcher is required. The other seven can be anywhere on the field – even at the hot corner. All nine players wear a  glove specialized by position, but chosen by players based on personal preferences. The objective is to prevent the batter from returning home by going from base to base.

The Opponents – a batter and eight others anxiously waiting to swing the bat at home against the pitcher. If they are lucky, they will be able to run the bases with hopes of returning home. Better yet, hit the ball over the wall for an opportunity to touch all the bases during a glorious trot without any threats.

The Batter – On the opposite team as the pitcher and holding a trimmed wooden stick made to specifications. The batter has fractions of a second to react to the ball thrown by the pitcher at varying speeds. Even the best batters fail 65-70% of the time.

Independent Arbiters – Dressed in black or dark blue, not members of either team to make decisions. The head cheese behind home, and three blind mice – one near each base.

The Game – Balls and strikes; fair and foul; single, double, triple, and home run; walk, hit by pitch, balk, and interference; sacrifice bunt, sacrifices fly, and suicide squeeze. Speed, stolen base, hit and run, clear the bases, grand slam. The batting team gets three chances for success before switching places to be the defense, which normally happens 16 or 17 times in a game – but it could be more.

Righties, southpaws, starters, relievers, and closers painting the black, delivering chin music, and throwing hooks, heat, backdoor sliders, brushbacks, changeups, nibbles, whiffs, out pitches, and striking out the side – all in hopes of a no-no.

Batters swinging lumber as leadoff hitters, cleanup hitters, power hitters, professional batsmen, and banjo hitters hoping for liners, ropes, grounders, gappers, seeing-eye singles, bloopers, Texas leaguers, frozen ropes, one-baggers, two-baggers, three-baggers, four-baggers, dingers, taters, and even accepting dying quails – especially with ducks on the pond or the bases loaded. Touch ‘em all! Curtain call … but don’t get caught in a pickle.

The defense with running, leaping, diving, circus, and shoestring catches. Turning tailor-made double plays are a pitcher’s best friend. Climbing the wall to make the catch allows the pitcher to breathe a sigh of relief after holding their breath.

The batter is up. The pitcher takes to the mound, and the windup to throw the ball. Swing at the ball, hit the ball, run, chase the ball, catch the ball, scoops and dives, touch the base, tag the runner, foot on the bag, bang-bang, out, and around the horn. Three up and three down, now let’s get some runs.

It’s the top of the ninth and the bases are jammed. No place to put the batter. Two down and the tying run is on first. The go-ahead run at the plate. The nervous crowd is standing and cheering for their heroes to hang on for a victory.

The pitcher is on the hill. Stares for the sign. From the stretch. A high hard one up and in. The crowd gasps. The batter goes down, then intensely stares at the pitcher. Back to his feet, then brushing off his pants, the batter digs in for the attack.

From the stretch, a pause, steps off, the stretch, and the pitch. A hanging breaking ball, a lined shot to the power alley that has a chance to leave the yard … off the wall. One run scores, two runs score, the tying run is rounding third and heading for home. A strong throw to the relay man, the throw, a play at the plate. Out! … and this one belongs to the Reds. The crowd goes wild, time to go home happy. Drive safely.

Yes – that’s baseball. The great American pastime. The game looks easy, but it is strategic and difficult.

Heroes: A Frank Reprise

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Yanno. I learned something. I must be careful sending Marc suggestions for Friday Heroes because he just may ask me to write about it. He’s one sneaky fella – but hey – because he doesn’t know what’s in his future, what the hell – so be it – here’s another edition of Friday Heroes.

First of all, you’ve got to sit back and watch this one (about a minute) because you will be smiling. Plus, it is proof that people in the UK also have too much time available.

Believe it or not, I found a story about a politician who doesn’t lie or intentionally misleading anyone. Click here to get the full story.

Imma keeping this post to a few stories because the video versions of the stories are a little longer – but they are worth your time.

This weekend is a 3-day holiday weekend in the USA – Memorial Day – the holiday commemorating soldiers who died while serving. I know other countries do something similar. For those needing a salute to fallen military fallen heroes, click here for a rousing rendition of one of my favorite military salutes.

Stephen Wall is an opera singer in Seattle. For those who solely get their news from Presidential Briefings – BREAKING NEWS – this virus thing affects opera because the people involved in the productions plus the audience is more than 10. For not being a plumber, the man has some serious pipes – and he puts them to good use for humanity during these crazy times. This report is worth 7 minutes of your time. Here’s a written story about Mr. Wall.

My peeps know I have a soft spot for genuine goodness – and this story was my top pick of the week. During the housing bubble recession 10+ years ago, 60 Minutes did a story about a man and his two kids that live in a van. I’m not a regular watcher of that show, but I saw and remembered the original story. Dad died and the 2 kids bounced around foster families – but damn – these two kids are making it. She graduated from college and on the Dean’s List – and she’s giving back! Autumn Hope Johnson – you are my Hero of the week. A special shout out to the President of Stetson University who got the ball rolling.

PS: Viewers: Don’t let the speedway beginning confuse you – but it is a cool extra. For those who want to read the story about Autumn, click here.

BREAKING NEWS: Yes kids. . . it’s me, Sundance (Marco). Interrupting this Frank approach to Heroes Friday in order to tuck in a couple stories that were gifted me by fellow bloggers.

First up is Renaissance Man Mark Paxson‘s soulful get. It involves the band Colt Clark and the Quarantines– comprised of a father and his three kids. Every morning, they go into their domestic “recording studio” and record a different song, which they later post to a social media site. As Mark noted in his email, “They aren’t saving the world, they’re just offering up wonderful, clean fun for people to enjoy during these strange, strange times,”

Thing is, when you teach your kids to face the worst of times with a constructive, positive approach, it changes the world. For the better.

And then there’s the lovely Dale who chimed in with a beauty of her own.

When a priest makes it into a meme, the results are usually regrettable . . . until now. Father Tim Pelc of Detroit Michigan figured out an ingenious way to bring Holy Week service to his flock. Pelc took a page from our drive-thru world when he decided to bless his parishioners as they drove up in their cars by using . . . a water gun. The images have become a global sensation, with hits coming from every corner of the world, including the Vatican. The Good Father says he’s happy to bring some much-needed fun to these trying times, and if he can get the job done in the process? All the better.

The man upstairs would be proud.

And now? Back to Butch Cassidy . . .

Thank you, Sundance. It’s been a pleasure working in your sarcasm-free space.

The pandemic has not only increased awareness of the goodness around us, but it has also increased opportunities for goodness. I end this post by saluting the countless many who have done the little things – like making masks to give away to those wanting one – checking on neighbors to see if they are OK or need something – contacting someone out of the blue to say hi and to check if all is well – going to the grocery for someone who isn’t as mobile – and the list can go on. A tip of the cap to those performing the little things that go a long way. May their light continue to shine and spread to others while delivering a sense of hope.

Keep smiling, have a good week, and thanks for reading. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Edition of Heroes

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Although I last posted in early February, I haven’t written a blog post since January – let alone put something together on the fly. Then again, the tales of The Painted Lady are the exception.

This past Wednesday evening, Marc invited me to write this Heroes edition. How in the hell is a guy who hasn’t written in so long supposed to write something in place of the host who can write better than most of us on his first draft while asleep?

For full disclosure, I submitted so many heroes for this week, I promoted an idea to Marc for an all-Frank edition of heroes. Unforeseen by me, he turned the tables on me by returning the pile to my lap – and Imma not a talkin’ hemorrhoid piles from sitting on my keister.

What do you get when a newspaper delivery guy, a mailman, and a lady in a Subaru meet a property manager for a meal outside a restaurant that isn’t open because of COVID-19? Yep – the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot edition of Heroes.

My peeps who remember me know that I firmly believe the majority of the world is good. Oh yes – plenty of assholes exist, including the regular ass hats that find their way into the daily news. But the good of the world’s majority is the light of humanity.

Bruno Serato of Anaheim CA is a celebrity chef, restaurant owner, and long-time giver. Since coming to America with $200 in his pocket, he is a self-made success story. He has achieved more acclaim for his long history of feeding unprivileged kids than his highly successful restaurant. Unfortunately, in 2017 a fire destroyed his restaurant – but he kept giving. COVID-19 has pushed him close to bankruptcy, but he keeps on giving meals to the needy because it is his true passion. Watch this short video for yourself.

 

Kyle West is my local connection – a 23-year-old mail carrier in Cincinnati, Ohio. On his daily route of 400 customers, he smiles and talks to them. With COVID-19 changing people’s lives, Kyle included a personal note in each stack of mail. “If you are at risk and need help getting essential items, let me know. I will do what I can to help. Sincerely, Mailman Kyle.” The number of requests surprised him and he surprised them all with action. Here’s a short report from a local television station.

 

Greg Dailey delivers newspapers to home subscribers in his central New Jersey town. A subscriber requested he toss the paper closer to the house. He obliged, then an idea came to him – so (like Mailman Kyle) he wrote a note and included it in the paper. “I would like to offer my service free of charge to anyone who needs groceries.” People called – then more people – customers and noncustomers – and he did what he offered. Watch this short video.

 

Larry Connor owns a company in nearby Dayton, Ohio. The Connor Group owns and manages luxury apartments around the country. Two of Connor Group’s core values are doing the right thing and the belief that people count. Larry’s success has made him a shit-pot full of money. COVID-19‘s economic impact on people has been profound, yet Larry has made more money on the stock market. He thought about the money and the economic situation. Then called a Zoom meeting of employees – and yes – gave it away. Check out the short video.

 

Mary’s story is not directly related to COVID-19, but it is about goodness. While distraught from the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mary Latham and a friend decided to collect stories about good deeds and post them on a website. Her mother’s illness suddenly turned for the worse. That day she also received a story about a person who lost both parents – then her mother died within two weeks – and that’s when she decided to drive around the country collecting stories about goodness that she would put together into a book to be placed in hospital waiting rooms. Three years later, she returned home from her journey with her stories about that goodness that she knew was out there. But she also returned with many surprises – the goodness that people did for her. Here’s the story I first learned about Mary, plus a short video made during her journey.

 

Keep smiling, have a good week, and thanks for reading. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.