Dioner Navarro hits 3 HRs against the White Sox

The Chicago Cubs had a big day yesterday.  Despite boasting a losing record and the second-worst record in the National League Central Division, the Cubs have won three in a row.  Yesterday, the backup catcher Dioner Navarro had the best hitting day of his career.  Navarro hit three home runs against the White Sox.  He finished the day 3-for-3, BB, 3 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI.  That’s a pretty good day for a guy that doesn’t play every day.  It brings even more joy that he did this against the hated White Sox.

In honor of this rivalry, I present Ron Swanson vs. Darryl Philbin:

Until later friends…

Johnson_Bogues_Mourning

In case you didn’t hear the news, the Charlotte Bobcats era is ending and the Charlotte Hornets are returning (Michael Jordan says Bobcats will change name to Charlotte Hornets).  While I don’t really have a favorite NBA team, I sure did love watching LJ, Mourning, and Muggsy back in the day.  In honor of Charlotte’s good decision, here are some great moments of Muggsy Bogues showing that a 5’3″ dude could hang with the big fellas in the NBA.

Plus, you gotta love Larry Johnson and Muggsy’s roles in Space Jam.

Space Jam - Players who lost their talent

Until later friends…

Teachers taking students away from the elementary school wreckage. (Photo Credit: AP from CNN.com)

Yesterday a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, OK killing dozens and injuring far more.  An elementary school was among the many structures that were massively damaged.  My heart breaks for the people of Moore, OK.  Especially since this is the second tornado in 15 years to devastate this city (1999 Tornado Outbreak).  I feel especially burdened for the people of Moore, OK, because the scenes of destruction seem all too familiar.  Below I have put a picture from yesterday’s tornado next to a picture from the tornado that hit Union University in 2008, which I have written about before (Why Tornado Alarms Make Me Freak Out a Little Inside) .

Moore, OK Tornado Damage (Photo Credit: AP from CNN.com)

Destruction from the Feb. 5, 2008 Tornado at Union University (Photo Credit: Matthew Diggs)

So, please join me in prayer for the people of Moore, OK.  They have suffered traumatic loss of life and property.  I can personally attest to what sort of damage this does to a community, but I can also attest to the strong sense of community that will always exist between the people that have lived through this.  Pray for the people of Moore. Pray that they will find more survivors today.

If you wish to donate to help the people of Moore, OK, click on the image below to be taken to the Red Cross website.

Until later friends…

This is how I feel today:

Dodgeball Knocked Me Out

We had a dodgeball tournament this weekend at church to raise money for the youth group’s summer trip.  It was really fun.  I had a great time getting to meet new people…and throwing things at them.  We had a pretty good team, and we performed better than I expected.  I learned that my former college roommate, now school teacher still has a heck of an arm.  Imagine this guy with glasses and a bowtie:

Big-armed Guy

Overall, I had a great time, and I am very thankful to have not been injured.  Today, less than 24 hours later, I am fully aware that I sit at a desk most of the week and just did physical activity for several hours. In other words, I am walking like an old man (complete with requisite grunts and groans). I do not regret it at all. I loved getting to play dodgeball again, it truly is an under appreciated sport.  Hopefully we can bring in some more outside talent for the next tournament, like ole Randy Johnson:

 

Until later friends…

From time to time I find it difficult to write about anything significant.  On days like this, I like to share with you funny/entertaining things I have come across on Youtube.

Goats Yelling Like Humans

I have had some experiences with goats on various farms and petting zoos, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard one like this.  I laughed for several minutes the first time I saw this.

2Cellos – “Hurt”

I am a big fan of classical music and Johnny Cash.  Put those two together and you have this.  (Granted, Johnny Cash was doing a cover of NIN, but I think Johnny did it best)

The Notebook as a horror film

Several parodies of The Notebook went all over social media around Valentines Day. This was my favorite.

Liam Neeson discussing the time he forged Ralph Fiennes‘s Autograph

Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are two of my favorite actors.  This interview just solidifies that.

Gotye “Somebody I Used to Know” Dutch Choir Cover

Sure, Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” has jumped the shark, but that doesn’t make this cover any less entertaining for me.

Until later friends…

Today is Fat Tuesday.  What is Fat Tuesday you may ask?  Well, I blogged about this very question a while back for PrimaMardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, and the Bunn Ultra-2.  I have quoted a bit from that post here, with some added thoughts on Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras Mask

Mardi Gras Mask

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday in French) is synonymous with excess and immorality.  You might wonder “How on earth does a ginormous party in which everyone eats cajun food, imbibes enough alcohol to kill a horse, dances around (half-)naked, and engages in other such debaucheries have any relation to a religious festival?” I’m glad you asked. In order to understand the origins of Mardi Gras, you must first have a general understanding of Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is the 46 days (40 days not including Sundays) that precede Easter. Christians have historically used Lent as a time to abstain from meat or other pleasures as a means of looking forward to Good Friday and Easter (the most significant days of the Christian calendar). Somewhere along the line in the history of Christendom, someone thought: “Well, since we are going to give up our favorite foods for the next 46 days, let’s enjoy them today.” Thus, was born Fat Tuesday. It initially started as a feast, but it soon devolved into the utter chaos that is Mardi Gras.

What we now know as Mardi Gras developed from a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel.  It turned a momentous day in the church calendar (Ash Wednesday) into a get out of jail free card day.  The idea is that you can get 40 days worth of gluttony and sinning done in one day, and get your pardon the next day at church by having ash spread on your forehead.  This is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches about grace and the Christian life.

Romans 6:1-4

That is not to say Ash Wednesday is bad.  Ash Wednesday, when properly understood, is a wonderful day in the church calendar.  It is a time for reflection on our own mortality.  It is a time to honestly reassess our lives and repent of sin.  Lent is great when done in a spirit of repentance and worship.  When it is seen as a “have-to” event, it loses its meaning (or when people use it as an excuse to diet).  Here are some helpful blogs my church put out concerning their practice of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday Blogs:

Until later friends…

 

Today is the birthday of two of the top baseball players of all time: Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.  I respect both of these men for the way they played the game, but more importantly for the way they handled themselves as they were faced with the harsh racism of the mid-1900s.

Jackie Robinson would be 94 years old today.

Jackie Robinson

As you know, Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” in Major League Baseball.  Without Jackie Robinson, there would have been no Hank Aaron, no Willie Mays, or no Ernie Banks.  He endured years of abuse, but he never fought back.  The best resistance he could offer to the widespread racism and ignorance was to play better than anyone else.  He won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP.  He also won the World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jackie Robinson Stats:

Career Batting AVG: .311

1947 Rookie of the Year

1949 NL MVP

1949 NL Batting Title

2x Stolen Base Champion (1947 & 1949)

Every February in elementary school we had to do a report on someone that contributed to Civil Rights and equality.  I always wrote about Jackie Robinson.  I’ve probably read 5 biographies of him.  He is the only player to have his number retired for the entire MLB.  Happy Birthday Jackie!

Jackie Robinson's Number 42 is retired by every MLB team

 

Ernie Banks is 82 years old today.  Happy birthday to you Mr. Banks.

Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks is a super classy man.  He played for 19 years with the Cubs.  He won the MVP twice, but he never made it to the World Series.  When asked if he would go to another team with the chance of making the World Series he said: “I didn’t say anything.  But the answer to that was, ‘No, I’m satisfied playing for the Cubs, playing day-baseball in Chicago, the middle of the United States.’ I was satisfied with that.” (source: Ernie Banks: A Beacon for Baseball).  He put up great numbers throughout his career, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot (a very rare achievement).  As I wrote last week, I recently got to meet Ernie Banks, and it was a joy.

Ernie Banks Stats:

512 Home Runs – #21 All-time (#15 if you don’t count the steroid users)

2x NL MVP (1958 & 1959)

14x All Star

A very hearty birthday to Mr. Jackie Robinson and Mr. Ernie Banks from For Aslan…and the Volunteer State.

Until later friends…

While on our trip to the Chicago Cubs Convention, we took an afternoon to hit the town.  We went to this great little restaurant Bella Bacino’s.  I had a good Chicago pizza, and Jen had some really fancy chicken with mushrooms and truffle sauce.  Afterwards, we went somewhere that I have been longing to visit for years: Intelligentsia Millennium Park.

Intelligentsia Sign

Intelligentsia is one of the top roasters in the country.  As someone who works in the specialty coffee industry, I have had the pleasure of drinking Intelligentsia coffee many times, but I had never been able to go to an actual Intelli location.  I was not disappointed.

Intelligentsia Millennium Park

We came in around 1pm, and it was packed.  There were 4-5 people working on bar, and they had the line flowing well.  As someone who sells coffee gear, this place made me giddy.  From the Mahlkonig grinders to the offerings of Eva Solos, Siphons, Chemexes, and V60 Pourovers, Intelli offers anything my coffee-snob heart could desire.

Intelligentsia Brew Methods

I ordered a Single-origin espresso. I also bought a bag of Zirikana, Rwanda coffee and an Intelli mug.  Because I was buying the mug and coffee, I got a discount on the nearly $5 espresso shot, which was cool.  I’m not one to talk about mouthfeel and tasting notes and all that stuff, but I will say that this was the best espresso I have ever drank in my life. No joke. It was legit.  Next time you are in Chicago, you need to check out Intelligentsia.  Whether you are a coffee snob or not, they will treat you well and give you a great cup of coffee.

Until later friends…

Last week my Cubs fanaticism went to an entirely new level.  Jen, baby girl, and I went to the 2013 Chicago Cubs Convention.  “What on earth is a Cubs convention?” you may ask.  Basically, imagine a whole bunch of Trekkies getting together, and then replace Vulcans, Klingons, and Picards with Banks, Williams, Santo, and Sandberg jerseys.  Thanks to the generosity of our family at Christmas, we were able to book a room and passes for the Cubs Convention this year in Chicago at the Sheraton Towers (very fancy).  Immediately upon our arrival to the hotel, I realized that getting there 2 hours early for check-in was still too late.  The entire lobby was teeming with Cubs fans, and the line encircled the entire lobby.

Sheraton Towers Chicago Lobby

This lobby was full of Cubs fans

Within half an hour of being in line, I had my first crazy-fan-paparazzi moment.  As I’m getting near the front doors in the line, in walks Mr. Cub in his suit and fedora.  I get super-excited, because Ernie Banks is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to the convention.  He seems to be in the midst of conversation, and no one is interrupting him for autographs.  So, I surreptitiously took a very-fuzzy cell phone picture.

Ernie Banks Phone Pic

He’s the one with the fedora/halo.  I decided that this might be my only shot at meeting him.  So, I dug out a baseball and a sharpie from my backpack, but when I looked up, he was gone.  I guess for an 81-year-old man, he still has some of that youthful speed.  Oh well, I still have a few days.

So, I get up to the front desk and meet a really nice associate who hooks us up with a King-size upgrade and a free refrigerator for my baby’s formula/meds.  Great day thus far.

This is the view from the hotel.

This is the view from the hotel.

Shortly thereafter I discover that I parked in a parking garage that the bellhops do not travel to.  So, I had the pleasure of making three trips to the parking garage.  On our first trip up, Jen and I each have about 3-5 bags and baby girl in her stroller (BTW…when you have a baby, your luggage needs do not increase 33%, more like 300%).  As we negotiated our way through a labyrinth of hallways, I bump into another Sheraton employee and ask for directions to the elevator.  We must have looked exhausted from our 5 hour drive and long hike with sundry luggage items, because he ushered us into the staff elevator.  So here we are, Jen, me, a ton of luggage, a bay in a stroller, and a whole heap of staff people on a staff elevator.  On the next floor, the doors open up and in walks Dioner Navarro and his wife.  He and I had a moment of me thinking “Dude, you play for the Cubs” and him thinking “Oh crap, I’m stuck on the elevator with a fan,” but then we just exchanged head nods and our wives talked about how cute Lily is.

After we got settled into our room, we rested/recovered from our long drive.  Then, we made our way down to the Opening Ceremonies of the convention.  It was a lot of fun.  There was an insane amount of people in Cubs jerseys and a little brass band entertaining the crowd.  The Opening Ceremonies began with a video (narrated by Cubs fan Gary Sinise) about the history of the Cubs and where the Cubs are headed under the ownership of the Ricketts family (classy folk).  Then, all of the former players, minor-league prospects, and current players present at the convention were announced.

Cubs Convention - Current and Former Players

Each player was cheered loudly, but the place practically exploded for Kerry Wood, Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo.  Each player was announced with a short list of their career highlights, which for some guys was a bit of a stretch.

Immediately after the Opening Ceremonies, there was an Autograph Hunt.  Each fan was given a map of the first four floors of the hotel, and there were little Cubs logos marked for where a player would be signing.  There was no indication as to what player would be where, so it was quite a gamble/adventure. We left a little early, picked a line, and waited.  Shortly thereafter we realized that we had picked the line of a bench player, and we decided to seek a line with one of the hall-of-famers.  Turns out the only Hall-of-Famer signing that night was Fergie Jenkins at his booth. (FYI – if you go to a convention in the future, Fergie Jenkins has a booth supporting his charitable organization, and he – and other former stars including Lee Smith, Gaylord Perry, and Rollie Fingers – sign stuff for a donation to the charity. So, don’t spend Autograph hunt time at his booth, because you can meet any of them all weekend).  We didn’t know how this all worked, but he was handing out free signed 8x10s for the autograph hunt.  I was very excited to meet Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith (and so was our baby girl).

Lee Smith - 7x All Star and 3rd All-time in Saves with 478Fergie Jenkins - Hall of Famer and Cy Young Award Recipient

Lee Smith – 7x All Star and 3rd All-time in Saves with 478
Fergie Jenkins – Hall of Famer and Cy Young Award Recipient

After meeting these two insanely good pitchers, we wandered around checking out the other lines.  Most all the other lines had prospects or former players that I didn’t know much about.  We happened to wander back past our original line only to discover that Kerry Wood was signing beside that bench player.  We had jumped out of line and missed an opportunity to meet Kerry Wood! ARGH! We got back in line and waited.  Kerry signed for an extra 30 minutes, but he had to leave for his charity event that night….when we were about 20 people away.  Sadly, Kerry didn’t sign any the rest of the weekend.  This is my one regret of the weekend.

Following the autograph hunt, we returned to our room to discover that 8:30pm felt like 11:30 pm.   We ordered an authentic Chicago pizza from Lou Minalti’s (excellent), and we relaxed in the room the rest of the night – as I schemed about how I could meet Ernie Banks on Saturday.

Saturday of the Chicago Cubs Convention consists largely of two things: Autograph lines and Q&A Sessions.  Up until this year, there was a lottery system in which you would have a scratch off thing on your pass with the opportunity to get a voucher for a line featuring the best players (e.g., Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Starlin Castro, etc.).  This year, the tried a new system that was supposed to be more efficient and give people a better chance to get autographs.  Each person would sign for 1 hour.  10 minutes before he began signing, 125 vouchers would be handed out with those people guaranteed an autograph, but the player would also sign for anyone else after that that would fit in the hour slot.  Supposedly, once the vouchers were handed out, the line for the next hour would form and so on and so forth.  Thankfully, for me, what this turned out meaning was that if you camped out early enough, you could could be first in line for a later signing.

Ernie Banks was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am.  Gary Matthews, Sr. was before him form 9:00-10:00.  I got in line at 6:45am, and I waited.  At about 9:15am I got my voucher to meet Ernie.  It was going to happen! I was so excited!

Ernie Banks Autograph Voucher

In case you don’t know why I was so excited about Ernie Banks, let me tell you a little bit about him.  If you take away the guys that did steroids, Ernie Banks is number 15 all-time in home runs (512).  He won the NL MVP twice.  He was an All-star 14 times, and he was a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Ernie Banks is the best player to have ever played for the Cubs.  He is also 81 years old, and I was not sure how much longer her would be coming to Cubs Conventions.  Here is a picture of the line I waited in to meet Ernie:

Cubs Convention Line for Ernie Banks

Ernie was supposed to sign from 10:00am-11:00am.  I did not get to his table, however, until 11:10am – and there were still several voucher holders behind me. He was very kind to everyone he met.  He talked with a boy in front of me for a few minutes about golf and showed genuine interest in the boy.  As someone who used to be a little boy, I’m sure this will be one of his coolest memories as a young Cubs fan.  When I got up to the table, Mr. Cub commented on my beautiful baby that had fallen asleep in her mother’s arms about 15 feet away.  He was a true gentleman, who showed kindness and grace to every fan.

Ernie Banks and Me

Needless to say, meeting Mr. Cub really made my weekend. Afterwards, we sat in on a Q&A session for a bit with some Cubs draft picks talking about making their way through the minors.  Then, we decided to hit the town for lunch/coffee. That night we checked out the various exhibitions in the hotel and spent some time playing with our baby.

After waiting 4.5 hours in line for Ernie Banks, I decided to get an earlier start on Sunday to meet Billy Williams.  Who is Billy Williams?  His nickname was “Sweet Swinging Billy Williams,” because he had one of the best swings the sport has ever seen. He was the NL rookie of the year. He won the NL batting title in 1972, and he was an All Star 6 times.  I went down to get in line at 5:45am for his 10:00am signing. Ernie Banks was also signing again at 10:00 in the same exhibition hall.  I was number 65 in line (apparently some people got there at 2:30am!).

People get a little crazy when they are in line for hours on end. At one point someone from the end of the line came over and told the people in the front (that had been there since 2:30am) that they were lined up at the wrong door, and that two sets of doors would be opened at once.  I feared a riot would start.  People got really agitated, and they hounded every Cubs Convention worker that came near them. Finally, a supervisor came down and gave us the common sense answer: “Of course we’re only going to open the doors where the line starts.”  Crisis averted. Thank you dude with the walkie-talkie.  The doors opened at 8:00am, and the vast majority of people headed for Ernie.  I hurriedly made my way to Billy Williams’s line, and found that I was now number 11 in line. Booyah.  By 10:05am, I was talking with Billy Williams.

Billy Williams and me

While I was waiting in line for Billy, Jen was able to sleep in a bit.  After the girls were rested up, they made their way down to the ballroom and got in the kids-only autograph line to meet Anthony Rizzo.  Jen got him to sign a ball for baby girl (and daddy), and we met up after I met Billy.  We got to spend some more time walking around the exhibits and talking with people.  Then, we got packed up and headed back to the Commonwealth.

We had a great time at the Cubs Convention, and I would love to go again.  If you are planning on going in the future, here are some pointers.

How to Attend the Chicago Cubs Convention

  • If there is someone you really want to meet (e.g., Ernie Banks, Starlin Castro, Billy Williams), camp out hours in advance.  You can bring a book or your iPod.  I brought both, but just ended up talking to people the whole time.  (This advice is assuming that they don’t reinstate the lottery system).
  • Friday Night Autograph HuntPick a line and stick with it, then jump from line to line (or else you might miss Kerry Wood like me). Also, don’t go for Fergie Jenkins during the autograph hunt.  You can get him at his booth almost anytime during the convention.
  • Don’t be that guy. Don’t stand outside the bathroom or the hotel restaurant just waiting on players.  Definitely DO NOT follow around any of the players’ wives. That is just weird and creepy, and I saw it a lot.  Don’t corner players (or their wives) in elevators and interrogate them.  Don’t try to get convention workers to cheat the system for you.
  • Research ahead of time. Know what people look like without their uniforms.  You just might run into them in the lobby, but remember – don’t be that guy
  • Be respectful. The players are people just like you. Show them respect and don’t be creepy.  Once again don’t be that guy.  Don’t be like the middle school girl that asked me loudly in front of a minor league player: “Who is this?” and then responded with a disgusted “Oohhhhh” when I said he wasn’t Brett Jackson.

 

Until later friends…

The Avett Brothers - Bob, Scott, and Seth

I’ve written before about how much I like the Avett Brothers.  Last month I picked up their newest album The Carpenter (Check out a great interview with Scott Avett about it) .  It is a really solid album, and I have greatly enjoyed it.  One song in particular has really stuck with me – “A Father’s First Spring.”  I’ve embedded a video of it below:

This song is about the birth of Scott Avett’s daughter Eleanor, and its lyrics are really powerful.:

The realest thing I ever felt

was the blood on the floor and the love in your yell

I was a child before

the day that I met Eleanor

I really identify with that (except substitute “Lily” for “Eleanor”).  15 years ago every father of a little girl was touched by “Butterfly Kisses,” this song helps me to understand that feeling (although I much prefer the Avett Brothers to Bob Carlisle).  I know that my life forever changed when I became a Dad to a little girl.  To quote further from the song:

When I’m in the sweet daughter’s eyes

My heart is now ruined for the rest of all time

I think another reason I have been so drawn to this song is the knowledge of what is going on with Bob Crawford.  Bob Crawford is the bassist of the Avett Brothers, and his daughter Hallie has battle brain cancer.  Here he is discussing their experience:

As a father of a little girl that has gone through surgery, I identify with this.  This is another reason I love this band. Their willingness to be open, their humility, and now, their efforts in aiding a place like St. Jude’s all make me like them all the more. I encourage you to go buy The Carpenter (for $6.99 on Amazon as of today). You won’t regret it.  Also, say a prayer for Bob’s daughter Hallie as she continues her treatments.

Until later friends…

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