Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Five Great Places To Catch A Ballgame In The South

Spring is in the air and with it comes the renewal of my favorite pastime - baseball. Obviously, with the Giants winning three World Series in five years heightens my excitement of the game going into the new seas. onSince I no longer live near my favorite team, and live in an area that doesn't have major league baseball, I've become a much bigger fan of minor league baseball. The crowds are smaller and the feeling is much more relaxed. No matter what, it's baseball so I really have grown to enjoy it. Wherever I travel the first thing I look for is local sporting events. I've seen lots of minor league hockey, basketball and football at all levels and even have seen baseball in Japan!

"Football is played on a GRIDIRON, baseball is played in a park."
George Carlin

Locally, minor league baseball thrives well with the Southern League, South Atlantic League, the PCL and even short season rookie ball (Appalachian League) within a reasonable driving distance of me. To encourage all of you to come visit and catch a ballgame with me, here are my top baseball stadiums in my neck of the woods:

AT&T Park (Chattanooga, TN home of the Chattanooga Lookouts) and Smokies Stadium (Kodak, TN home of the Tennessee Smokies)
Both of these stadiums are great modern stadiums with comfortable seating and nice settings. Neither have any really outstanding features, but they both are great places to catch ballgames. AT&T Park is in downtown Chattanooga which provides a nice place to catch a good meal and see the river all within walking distance of the park. Smokies Stadium is my defacto home ballpark. Nestled in the foothills near the Great Smoky Mountains, it's a great launching point to many other tourist attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Historic McCormick Field (Asheville North Carolina home of the Asheville Tourist)
This stadium is an older one - hence the monikor "historic", but is in one of the most beautiful cities around. There are lots of mountain views, a lively downtown with great food options and art galleries, and the Biltmore Estates. The stadium doesn't have many modern amenities, but is quite charming and the outfield view is of a forest of trees. Of note is that this is the stadium that the fictional character from the film Bull Durham, Crash Davis, finished his minor league career. This is a charming, small, older park that is in one of the jewel cities of the south. Definitely worth a visit for those baseball movie buffs. The only complaint I have is that the stadium is on a hill and parking is a bit of a chore.

AutoZone Park (Memphis, TN home of the Memphis Redbirds)
This stadium can be lumped in with the "retro" classic stadiums that have become popular lately. Modern amenities with the charm of stadiums of old. The downtown location makes this stadium a great one to enjoy all of sights, tastes and sounds of Memphis - most of which are within walking distance. Graceland is within driving distance, by the way. This views of the city buildings are wonderful with lots of brick and it seems as if the stadium has always been part of the city landscape. I found myself caught up between innings just taking in the city site lines. This is a stadium that rivals major league parks.

Rickwood Field (Birmingham, AL - prior home of the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons)
First they only play one professional game per year (The Rickwood Classic) featuring two Southern League teams in period uniforms so catching a ballgame will take effort. It does host several tournaments and local high school games but this is
"America's Oldest Baseball Stadium" pre-dating Fenway and Wrigley Field. The names of the players who have played here is like reading the rolls of the Hall Of Fame. Of note is that a teenaged Willie Mays played here. This is a historic gem that few know about and even fewer visit. I have to admit feeling a bit in awe standing in centerfield thinking that I'm where Mays once roamed. Catch a Barons game in Hoover where Micheal Jordan played but also be sure to visit this gem of a stadium. It does feel like you're stepping back in time.

Flour Field (Greenville, SC - home of the Greenville Drive)
This one is located in the West End of Greenville with great places to eat and shop. It's walking distance to the park and also to downtown. There's also a beautiful waterfall in the West End to check out. Being Greenville, this is the hometown of Shoeless Joe Jackson (there's a statue of him a few blocks from the stadium). His home has been moved directly across from Flour Field and definitely worth a look. As for the park, it is another retro classic stadium but with a huge design influence: the Greenville Drive is the Single A team for the Boston Red Sox and they designed the field to the exact dimensions of Fenway Park! So they have their own Pesky Pole and their own version of the Green Monster (with a mechanical scoreboard). I personally think that Fenway by the slightest margins over Wrigley Field is my favorite ballpark so visiting this stadium was a treat. I even caught both a home run over the Monster and Fenway Single where the hitter ended up caught between first and second on a line drive that could likely have been a home run in other parks. That was fun to watch and made the experience even better than I'd hoped. This is a must see place to catch a baseball game.

So there you have my list. Now if you're in the area, stop by and let's catch a ballgame!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Party On, Dudes!

"Be excellent to each other and PARTY ON DUDES!"
Abraham Lincoln

Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan

No matter how many times (three to be exact) that this happens, the joy doesn't grow stale. Yes, I am now a grandfather for the third time! A very special welcome to Theodore Lewis Brow. You are now part of a growing and loving family. Just by being you, you have given me great happiness.

It seems that life at this point is like an avalanche with so much going on and so many problems to face. The gift of a grandson really gives me time to pause and celebrate. Somehow God has been so generous to me and he has given me the most amazing a beautiful daughter. Through her, I have been blessed twice with grandchildren. When I take stock of my life I tend to dwell on the negatives and despite them, God continually blesses me. His love truly knows no bounds. Since grandchildren have entered into my life I realize just how content I am - what I long for is connection with them and others that mean so much to me. Within these tiny precious lives God has taught me great and deep lessons.

A few important events that happened on April 14th (clearly it was not a good day in history):
1828 – Noah Webster copyrights the first edition of his dictionary.
1846 – The Donner Party of pioneers departs Springfield, Illinois, for California (that didn't end well).
1860 – The first Pony Express rider reaches San Francisco.
1865 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is shot in Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth (died April 15th).
1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 23:40 (sinks morning of April 15th).
2015 - Percy Sledge American Singer passes away.

List of those who share Theodore's birthday:
1866 – Anne Sullivan, American educator (d. 1936)
1904 – John Gielgud, English actor, director, and producer (d. 2000)
1929 – Gerry Anderson, English director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2012)
1941 – Pete Rose, American baseball player and manager
1960 – Brad Garrett, American comedian and actor
1966 – David Justice, American baseball player and sportscaster
1966 – Greg Maddux, American baseball player, coach, and manager
1968 – Anthony Michael Hall, American actor, director, and producer
1973 – Adrien Brody, American actor and producer
1996 – Abigail Breslin, American actress

So now, what should I call him? Reserving the right as Ojiichan to call my grand kids whatever I feel, here's my options:

Theodore - Beaver Cleaver, Theodoric Of York (Steve Martin sketch from the early days of SNL). A lot of sylables to get out and a pretty formal name. There's a high nostalgia factor in Leave It To Beaver and I loved the SNL sketches.

Theo - Theo Huxtable. Kind of cool, but for some reason doesn't feel right.

Thor - Norse God Of Thunder (may apply to an active boy), Marvel Comic Book Hero. Ariel's choice. Seriously cool sounding and heroic.

Ted - Ted Theodore Logan (Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure), Ted Buckland (Scrubs, Sad Sack lawyer). Lot's of positives here. Ted from Scrubs is a pretty funny but the real positive is the Bill And Ted reference. It's one of my favorite comedies, I can teach Ted the air guitar celebration while yelling "Excellent!" and when things don't work out, we can yell "Bogus!" It also has a great guiding motto for life: "Be excellent to each other and party on dudes!" I think we have a winner here. So, Ted it is. I can also call him Teddy when he's really little.

Reflecting on this time in my life, I see Ted's life and all of the possibilities. I pray that God will touch his life in a deep way. I hope that he will dream big and live it out. To that, I will leave the final word to Ted Buckland and the Worthless Peons and hopes that Teddy will find the Paradise that is somewhere, over the rainbow...

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true ooh oh

Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can't I?

Someday I'll wish upon a star,
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top
That's where you'll find me

Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high
And the dream that you dare to, why, oh why can't I? I? 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Come To This - My First Blog List: 9 Things I Travel With

At this point in my blogging life, I have finally succumbed to the need to make an actual enumerated list. I've been doing a lot of travelling seeing family and have put a lot of thought into my travel gear. I'm still trying to nail down a good personal backpack that can easily store my stuff that I like to have easily accessible to me on flights, but for now, I have a small sling pack that I got from a trade show. I'd like to find one that isn't as large as the usual backpack as I've found those a little too big for my needs. I notice myself seeing what others are carrying in hopes that I can find some good ideas for this need.
Anyway, without further adieu here's my 9 travel accessories that fit my needs. I present them to help you find some ideas that work for you. Of note, I'm very much a "travel light" type person. I think there's something adventurous being able to make due with a small number of versatile items.

1. Dell 3147

Right now I'm on a connecting flight heading home and am composing this entry on my Dell. It has a ten inch screen and is used as my home desktop (with dual monitors), travel laptop and tablet (folding completely over and with Window 8, it has a touch screen capability). I had it upgraded to 8 GBs of memory and a solid state hard drive (quiet, and very low battery consumption). This has been by far the best computer I've ever had. Thin, light and versatile it fits my needs very, very well.

2. Rolling backpack

This backpack has literally been around the world with me. It is a relatively small carry on that is good for about 3 days worth of clothes. I find that even if I'm travelling for longer than that time frame, I wash my clothes during my travels. I admit that I'm a t-shirt, jeans/short and high tops type of person so the small size works well for me. I usually roll this bag but at times it's been nice to be able to throw it on my back. I've used it so much that I'm looking into replacing it because it is beginning to show some well earned wear.

3. Bluetooth headphones

I settled on the Power Beats 2 but I would consider any bluetooth headphones to work just fine. Wires are a pain and I do like listening to music so this is a great pick up. I use it at home on walks and runs as well. It has a microphone so it also is useful for hands free calls. There's also a few controls to activate some of the features on my iPhone (most notably, Siri). The sound quality for my taste in music is great!

4. Glasses case

I admit that I found this travel hack on another bloggers website: use old glasses cases as places to store your charging cables. I carry two cables (iPhone and micro USB), an SD card, a standard US wall plug and a car plug adapter in it. It's amazing how this can keep those cumbersome wires untangled and organized.

5. Bluetooth folding keyboard

I don't always carry this when I travel but when I want to go super light and forego my laptop, this keyboard is great. I'm pretty old school when it comes to data entry so a real honest to goodness keyboard is a must for any entry greater than a text. I got this on Ebay for less than $20.

6. Ear plugs

On flights the reduction in noise helps with travel fatigue. It's also nice when you want to sleep. I pack a pair in the glasses case I mentioned above.

7. iPhone 5c

This is almost a given. Versatile and portable, a smartphone serves so many purposes I probably couldn't list them all. A few handy apps are Flight Stats (for travel information), Uber in case you need a ride (and it's usually cheaper than a cab), and Google Maps (for directions).

8. Battery powered charger

This can be had for anywhere from $200 to $10 but is one of those things that gives a lot of peace of mind while travelling. With so many devices, besides WiFi one spends a lot of time looking for wall outlets. This little guy can be a lifesaver when you're smartphone is running out of juice. I have a $20 charger that I picked up at WalMart. It has a built in flashlight and does great in a pinch. I recommend something no bigger than your wallet so it doesn't take up as much space.

9. GPS

Even though I have Google Maps on my smartphone I like having a dedicated navigator to save on battery life and data usage on my smartphone. I got a Garmin for about $40 on Ebay. It's slightly out of date but again I use Google Maps as a backup.

OK, there you have it. My list of things I take when I travel. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy travels!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Planes Trains And Automobiles 2015 Edition

This is my random ongoing thoughts as Winter Storm Octavia wreaks havoc on the Southeast. Right now I'm on a plane to Atlanta with a delayed flight awaiting me there. I'll have to find a way to hole up for the night - oh boy!
It started as a family visit to Folsom. I was happily leaving behind what was looking like an extreme cold snap. That cold snap will likely be referenced by my fellow East Tennesseeans as the Blizzard of '15. In California, I enjoyed near record highs in the 70s wishing I had packed more shorts. Via Facebook I was reading on just how bad things were in the South.

"Wow, I had great timing. While the East is getting blizzard conditions, I'm here in Sacramento experiencing a possible record high for President's Day weekend (72 for the high). Nice to be hanging out in shorts and a t-shirt."
Once I saw the forecast for the night I was to return (-3!!!) After some debate, I knew it would be wise to reschedule my flight. The first open flight was to be Friday! I took it thinking that the storm would have passed and it would be just a cold flight home.
"OK there's a distinct possibility my flight to Knoxville will get cancelled tomorrow. My connecting flight is in Atlanta which looks like it will work. Not ever having this happen before, what are my options? Should I take the flight to Atlanta from Sacramento and then change my flight to Knoxville for when all this ice goes away? I would guess that Delta would then have to put me up for a day.
Should I reschedule the whole trip instead? It's pretty hard to leave this amazing weather right now."In the mean time, I enjoyed time with the kids and even got to see my Alma Mater, UC Davis. That was great that even though it has changed and grown, it still had that peaceful feeling I loved. I actually got emotional thinking of all the good times and especially the great lifelong friends I had from there.

Chem 194

Toomey Field - aka The Toom. Great times and memories there.

The Quad. 

Rumors of Hart Hall's demise are greatly exaggerated.

My old apartment. The home to our world famous dance parties!

Friday arrived and the weather, although better is still very rough in Knoxville. I got an email telling me that my connecting flight from Atlanta to Knoxville has been delayed until Saturday morning. My Facebook reactions:
"Agrh!!!! My flight to Knoxville from Atlanta is delayed until tomorrow morning. But my flight to Atlanta from Sacramento is still good for today. Thoughts? Do they put you up for the night if this happens? Provide food? What's the best option and what should I ask for from them? I;'m going to get a call back within 30-60 minutes. I do need to get home and this is getting crazy! Give me your thoughts..."
Sadly, the story I'm getting right now is that my carrier (Delta) doesn't not provide for lodging when a flight is delayed by weather. So currently it looks like I'll be sleeping in the Atlanta terminal.
Some personal reflection halfway through this. First is how emotional all of this is. Seeing family, reminiscing about my college years, and having my schedule change constantly has reminded me of how far God has taken me in this journey of being more like Christ and how far I have to go. Emotions for things that I would just stuff down are now coming to the surface. It's good, but deep in both pain and joy. Anxiety is still a battle for me. My coping is far better in that I can feel it recognize it and get back to the rational but it's still a struggle. Finally, I'm starting to embrace the adventure. Life is full of it when we choose to live the uncharted life. I think there's a need for me to let go and be comfortable being uncomfortable. So I may end up sleeping on the floor at the airport  - I'm learning to be OK with it. I'm warm and relatively safe. God is with and I will find a new way to trust in Him here. More to come...
Made it to Atlanta and tried in vain to get on an early flight to Knoxville. It was booked solid. So I decided to rough it meaning I'm going to sleep at the airport and just "rough it" for the night. Overall, Delta has been helpful considering the circumstances and this is probably a once in a lifetime occurrence where weather was on the extreme side. I do wish they would have offered a hotel - oh well. I did eat a very tasty Chicken Pesto Panini from Atlanta Bread. I also got a cool overnight kit for my trouble. My good friend John was going to talk to me while I wait for the next morning to come. Great guy!
My overnight digs.

This long trek deserved a cold one and catching the tail end of the East Coast NBA games.
It's now morning and my flight may once again be delayed. The crowd here is cooperative but clearly sleepy. My night was periods of sleep with interruptions. Sleeping on the ground was very difficult (hard floor) and the seats were cramped to sleep on. It also got quite cold overnight. Not a great night and I'm sure I have more sleep to catch up on.
After circling Knoxville for 20 minutes we ended up returning to Atlanta! Yes, they needed to refuel and the flight was cancelled. The state has blocked 75 at the border so renting a car is out. Luckily they added another flight so I'm now waiting for that flight and will hopefully arrive at 12:07 PM. God is really teaching me patience.
Last update: the flight did work out, but it took over an hour to take off because they lost the check luggage! The flight attendant was nice enough to start handing out food and drinks (including alcoholic ones - a lot of people appreciated that). Getting to Knoxville went smoothly and a gentleman who lived near me gave me a ride home.
I thought that would be a relief except for one thing: my water line broke during the sub-zero cold!