Monday, July 28, 2008

PNC Park Rocks

Saw a great game between the Pirates and Padres yesterday. Jake Peavy throwing seven strong innings and like 115 pitches for the Pads, but striking out Pirate slugger Adam LaRoche on his final pitch. Earlier, LaRoche had the only RBI off Peavy, who struck out 10 and picked up the win, with some relief help from all-time MLB save leader Trevor Hoffman. Peavy is the NL's reigning CY Young winner and really a pleasure to watch. He gets the ball back from the catcher, winds up, and throws-without wasting any time.

Of course, Peavy was matched for seven innings by Pirates lefty Paul Maholm, who also only gave up one run and struck on nine. He's got a nasty sinker. We were sitting in center field, so I could see the action perfectly. Time and again, Padres hitters were swinging right over the top of the 81-mph pitch that looked like it was dropping off the table.

Of course, the Bucs bullpen came in and got rocked, giving up 2HRs in two innings and another shot off the top of the wall.

PNC is really a jewel. It was about 90 degrees, and we were sitting in the sun, but the center-field view (first time I've been there) was really neat. And there were plenty of food and drink vendors within a short walk. I will say that the in-the-stands vendor service was a bit lacking, at least in our section. However, we had stuff like Manny's barbeque and the Polish ethnic stand (it was their day) set up right behind us.

The park, with its proximity to the river, is just such a majestic setting, and our seats (which where like $20 each with service charge and tax) were right up on top of the outfield. Only real drawback was the $6.50 beer, which was not really that cold, but it was a Penn Pilsner, so that was palpable. And after the game, I was able to walk across the bridge and find a nice cold Yuengling at a air-conditioned bar for about $2.50, so all was not lost.

Anyhow, although the Pirates continue to stink -even though the new GM Huntington (who was hired from Cleveland) seems to have them on the right track - the park absolutely still rocks, and I recommend checking out a game there against anybody. From what I can tell, the worse the opponent, the cheaper and better the tix you can get, and it's still MLB action. The Seawolves are great, but these guys are really good!



Friday, July 25, 2008

Little League Showdown

We've been waiting a long time for tonight's game. No, I'm not talking about the big Joba-Beckett match-up at Fenway Park. I'm talking about the big 1B Erie Sports Store vs. Hagan's Business Machine match-up at 21st and Burst. Good luck Sports Store.

Sports Store is the team I coach. It's 8- and 9-year old baseball, so it's no big deal, really - except it's kind of fun. We've been battling back and forth with Hagan's for two years and now we're both tied for first with three games left. This was supposed to be the last game of the regular season, but some rainouts have extended us into next week.

At the beginning of the year, we knew Hagan's would be good, and we hoped our team would be good, so we kind of had this one circled as a potential big game. We've played three times so far, with Hagan's winning the first, us tying the second, and Sports Store pulling out the last game, a few weeks back.

Well, tonight's the rubber match if you will. As I said, it should be fun.



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smokestack Lightning-The Continuing Saga Of Erie's Tires-To-Energy Plant

This has been building for some time, I think there is a dichotomy developing in viewpoint of the environmentalists/Green Party people fighting this tires-to-energy plant being proposed for the lower East side of Erie. On one side, you have the environmentalists' goal of creating alternative energy sources to oil. On the other side, you have environmentalists fighting a plant that promises to create an alternative energy source.

Two pieces in today's Erie Times illustrate this dichotomy beautifully. On page 1, you've got this big brouhaha about the plant's zoning approval getting overturned on a technicality. Of course, the environmentalists are all in favor of this. Then on the letters page, you have this fascinating letter by a Millcreek resident who used to work for the Dept. of Energy. He blames Reagan for canceling a number of government-sponsored energy development initiatives and leaving us in our current oil-dependent state.

The letter writer states: "By the early '80s, we had developed viable research and development programs into renewable energy sources, such as solar heating and cooling, solar electrification, wind energy, hydrogen, fuel cell technology and even into harnessing the power inherent in tidal action. In the nonrenewable area, we focused on developing coal liquefaction and gasification technologies, clean coal technology, electric car technology, tar sands extraction, improved nuclear power and many others."

Hmmm... is gasification green or not green? It seems to me like there are a lot of people out there that want something for nothing. They clamor for alternative energy sources, but then complain when somebody tries to do something innovative in this area. Now, I'm not saying that this tires-to-energy plant is a good thing, but as I've said before, there is still a lot about it that we don't know. I still haven't seen any good examples of existing plants that use the gassification technology these RewewErie guys, or whatever their name is, are talking about. The bottom line is that I think we need more information on how this plant will affect the environment. The BOTTOM LINE FOR THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS SHOULD BE: IS THIS PLANT GOING TO BE AN IMPROVEMENT OVER CURRENT MEANS OF PRODUCING ENERGY? Can we get some info on that? Yes, it may cause some pollution, but in the overall picture, will it be causing less damage to the environment than the current means of producing the same amount of energy, as well disposing of the same amount of tires. To me, recycling tires into useful energy sounds like a good thing, if the emissions/pollution can be controlled. Can we give these guys a chance to prove that they can do this?



Monday, July 21, 2008

Beechwood Golf

Did I mention that as part of my therapy for preventing flare-ups of ulcerative colitis, my doctor advised me to golf more? He said this with my wife present, which was really nice. So, I've been out the past couple weeks and played 18 holes both Sundays with practice in between. Last week, we played at Downing, which was great. This week, we teed it up at Beechwood, which as far was I was concerned, sucked.

Which leads to the question, what makes a good, or even tolerable golf course? I'm really not sure what it is. But, here are my favorite playable courses in Erie, in this order, and I'll admit I haven't even played Whispering Woods yet, so I'm going on reputation.

Playable course (in order of my favorites):
1. Downing
2. Erie (it's not even open and it's still number two)
3. North Hills
4. Whispering Woods (haven't even played it).

That's it... Those are the only four public courses that I feel I could pay to play multiple times and be happy about it.

Semi-playable (I could play these a couple times a year at most, without going bonkers)
1. Gospel Hill
2. Overlake
3. Elk Valley
4. Green Meadows (the one in North East)

Beechwood reminded me of playing in a swamp or a bog. Granted, it had just rained the night before, but everything was very soft and spongy - greens and fairways. Just wasn't a fun golf experience. That said, I hate to throw these people under the bus that own it, because they seem like nice enough folk, but I just couldn't really enjoy their course.

The restaurant and service, however, I will say, was first rate.

Finally, I have felt really good after playing.... Good physical and mental workout. However, there is a dangerous side to the game, detailed in this interesting Scoop Jackson column that showed up on last week. It almost seems like he's writing this tongue-in-cheek, but I don't think he is. It leads to deeper thoughts about the whole sports addiction thing, which is probably an epidemic that isn't addressed often enough. (Probably because it helps drive consumerism.)

I love the line in the story when Scoop's friend is explaining how/why he chose golf over his family (wife and kids): "Golf balls don't talk back."



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All Star Game Wrap-Up

Great, entertaining All-Star game last night, for a number of reasons. How about the number of runners thrown out at the plate? I don't know if it was poor clutch hitting, good fielding, and/or good pitching-probably some combination of all three, but I've never seen such a series of plays at the plate in my life....Good to see Pirates' rep Nate McLouth make one of the throws from the outfield to extend the game and then almost jack one out to give the N.L. the lead. He also had a great hustle play, beating out a sacrifice bunt, by absolutely flying down the line. He's come from nowhere to have a great year in relative obscurity in Pittsburgh, so it was nice to see him excel on the Big Stage.

And the Big Stage it was, as the game was played in Yankee Stadium in its final year (Yes, there was plenty of hype surrounding this). Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, which was also the year the Yankees won the first of their unprecedented 26 World Championships. Coincidence? I don't know, but it will sure be interesting to see how the new ballpark affects the team. I've been to Yankee Stadium for a handful of games, and I could really feel something special there. I, at first, thought it was because maybe I'd seen the thing on TV so many times that being there in person was sort of surreal experience, but who knows? Other people also seem to feel some sort of reverence in the place...

Maybe it was some of the magic of the stadium last night that helped extend the game for some 14-15 innings, almost like it didn't want to give up the big stage, and as it appears that this year's edition of the Yanks are headed nowhere, it might have been the old ballyard's last chance to be involved in a great baseball moment.

We watched the game in the backyard, taking advantage of the Fox 66.1 over-the-air HD feed, which came in great though my souped up rabbit ears. Beautiful night, stars out, almost a full moon, and just warm enough to enjoy some cold ones out of the cooler and a couple dogs on the grill (with hot coals left over from dinner). It did turn into a pretty late one, but I think it was worth it.



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brett Favre Soap Opera

This is getting ridiculous. I've said all along that the Packers should just release/trade Favre and let him play where he wants/may. It's simple, the greatest quarterback of his generation wants to play some more 'ball. The Packers have moved on, because they really weren't sure how much longer Favre was going to play, and they had to make long-term plans. Let him go. There are plenty of teams out there that could use him, because they don't have a good QB plan in place, and I'm quite certain that the fans would like to see the guy play some more. It's good karma to let him play...

Now, on top of that, Favre comes out and insults the Packers GM Ted Thompson several times in this press conference. If I'm Thompson, and I've got any balls, I'm trading Favre to a division rival like the Vikings or Bears and then having at him twice a year with the team I've built. Like saying, "Bring it on, Brett, let's see what you got." It's come down to who's bigger, the Packers or Brett Favre. And if I'm Thompson, I better have enough confidence that it's the Pack.

That's about the way that I see it.



Monday, July 07, 2008

Great 4th weekend

Couldn't have asked for better weather for Waldameer, golf, and cookouts...

Nice how that works out once and awhile.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Good to be alive...

...on this day before Independence Day. Good day to remember all those who died in the revolutionary struggle to free this country from Imperialism all those 230 some years ago.

Kinda' nice watchin' the rain fall down and soften things up, knowing the blazing sun isn't far behind to dry it all out and make all the grass green and the roses red...

Of course, I am on a few meds and just really happy to be sitting here in my office communicating with people seeing how a week ago I had an IV shoved into my arm and was trapped in a hospital bed.



Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Ulcerative Colitis

Wow. What a title for a post, huh? I guess I could say, holey shit!, and that would give you more idea of what has been troubling me. Anyhow, I apologize for the lack of blog posts in the past six months, as I've been fairly busy, and apparently pretty sick at least for the past two months, and quite possibly much longer than that.

"You're intestine looks like somebody ran a cheese grader through it," was pretty much what the doctor told me following my colonoscopy last week. After that I was whisked off to the hospital for four days of IVs and meds. I'm home now and feeling much better, but still on some serious meds for a couple weeks.

So, what is colitis? It's an inflammation of the large intestine caused by the immune system reacting to something. The biggest problem seems that they haven't isolated what that "something is." Anyhow, good news is that the disease of fairly isolated to one area of the intestine and seems to be manageable - by keeping the swelling down through some sort of medication. And from what I understand, it's not too much medication... We'll see. As I said, I'm feeling better for now.

I really just wanted to thank everybody who has told me I was in their thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. It always makes me feel good when you hear from so many nice people when you go through a tough spell.