Baseball: “After”

So now it can be told: Carole did a splendid job on the Star-Spangled Banner at the July 22 Vermont Lake Monsters game, and I suck at throwing out first pitches.

As I said, throwing out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game ain’t no thing. No one gives a damn how spectacularly well, or spectacularly awful, the first pitch is unless it’s a celebrity at a major league game… and this certainly wasn’t that. Heck, there was hardly anyone at Monday night’s game – 1,566 was the announced attendance, but at game start, honestly, I think it was probably half that. (That number may actually denote tickets sold, including season tickets, as opposed to butts-in-seats.) It was a gray day and it’d been raining off and on all afternoon and wasn’t really a great night for baseball.

A few minutes before the game, we (Carole and I and Carole’s dad Glenn, who was visiting from Ohio) were shown out onto the field along with some folks from the presenting sponsor for that night’s game (a pet supply company — the first 500 fans got a collapsible pet bowl) and briefed on our duties. Carole got to do a quick sound check, which eased her nerves, and for my part, I was reminded that I didn’t have to throw from the mound and that I could come as far forward as I wanted. Wish I’d paid attention to that.

I was a little surprised when it turned out that I wasn’t the only person throwing out the first pitch — they had five balls to throw out, one for me and one each for the two adults and two kids from the sponsor. The sponsors got to go first — and it quickly devolved to the younger of the two kids, basically toddler aged, wobbling cutely around holding a ball while the parents and a catcher from the Lake Monsters coaxed him to toss it. Eventually the kid did and the catcher snagged it from approximately two feet away. Then the Lake Monsters mascot Champ stepped up and played catch with the kid for a bit. It was adorable.

So, this whole time, I’d been standing a few feet off to one side, kinda awkwardly, and when it finally was my turn, I wound up being my own worst enemy. Even though I’m quite sure that no one would have minded if I’d taken a few seconds to get myself squared away, I found myself kind of in a “must-throw-ball-NOW” mindset; we’d been out there for quite a while and I imagined that people in the stands were thinking “get on with it”.

So… pretty much as soon as the catcher had stepped back to the vicinity of home plate (he’d come almost all the way out to the mound for the toddler), I stepped up and …

… basically lobbed the ball right into the ground a few feet to one side of the catcher.

Sigh.

The catcher alertly snagged it on the bounce. I got a handshake from the catcher, got the ball back for a keepsake, and then it was time for Carole to sing.

(As we were leaving the field after the anthem, one of the Lake Monsters players in the dugout cheerfully snarked “Nice pitch” — but he was smiling as he said it, and to my credit, I just smiled back and said “Thanks!”.)

 

Baseball: “Before”

Tonight will be a special night in the Furr household.

Carole will be singing the national anthem at tonight’s Vermont Lake Monsters minor league baseball game, which is cool, and … I’ll be throwing out the first pitch, which isn’t actually all that cool. Or exciting. Or noteworthy.

The Lake Monsters play in the short-season A (low-level, the rung just above the rookie leagues) New York-Penn League. They’ve been averaging 2,251 fans per game this season, but that includes both the weekend games where they have fireworks and 25 cent hot dogs and free t-shirts for the first thousand fans AND the games where the skies threaten rain all day, and the free giveaway is a collapsible dog bowl with the Lake Monsters logo, and it’s Monday.

Today is Monday, and the free giveaway is a collapsible dog bowl with the Lake Monsters logo, and rain is in the forecast. I’m going to be surprised if they get much more than a thousand fans in the stands.

And that’s exactly what Carole wanted when she was asked (after submitting a video of herself singing the anthem at a Burlington Concert Band concert, and having been accepted into the Lake Monsters’ anthem-singers pool) what night she wanted to sing. She figured it’d be easier to sing at a low-attendance, low-expectations game than it would be to sing at a packed house.

That said, I think she’s going to be great. She’s been practicing quite a bit and she’s been in very good voice. Other than nerves and technical issues with the microphone (which we hope will be nonexistent), there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do an amazing job.

As for me — the imbecile throwing out the first pitch — well, that’s likely to be another story entirely. No one really pays any attention to whoever throws out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game unless it’s a bona-fide celebrity (local or otherwise) or if whoever has the honor has brought a lot of friends and family along. Most people don’t even register that there is a first pitch being thrown out; it’s all done in a very low-key fashion. The fans are too busy finding their seats, eating hot dogs, peering confusedly at their souvenir dog bowls, and so forth. It’s not until they call for the fans to rise for the anthem that anything happening on the field really registers on their radar to any great extent.

Of course, you do see YouTube videos of great “first pitch” fails at major league games — like the poor woman who plunked a cameraman standing along the first base line. You screw up colorfully enough, you’re going to get some notoriety. But again, we’re talking major league there. There are a lot more eyeballs and television cameras, to say nothing of smartphone videos, involved. If I screw up horribly tonight, it will be little noted nor long remembered (™ A. Lincoln 1863).

But that said, in the mind of the person throwing the ball, it’s a low-reward high-risk experience. You’re so terrified of being one of the great all-time fails that you think too much and boom, you plunk a Little Leaguer who’s on the field for the national anthem festivities. It’s not really something I’ve ever really stayed up nights wanting to do.

So, with that said, you’re probably wondering how I came to be in this fix in the first place.

Well, so I am I.

I mean, I know technically how I got the honor — I won a charity auction a few months ago for the right to throw out the first pitch at a Lake Monsters game.

The auction was one of those grab-bag online auctions where everything from ski passes at the local ski resort to gift certificates for local restaurants are up for bid. There are always some hotly desired items (a golf outing for four at the local PGA-level course) and some clunkers (have your fortune told by local Tarot card expert So-and-so). I find charity auctions kind of interesting for a couple of reasons — one, it’s amusing to see what sort of things the charity was able to get donated (tarot card readings? really?) and once in a while there actually is something desirable and worth bidding on. And if nothing else, there’s the urge to get in a moderately low bid early for something peculiar or strange and see if against all logic and reason it holds on and winds up as the winning bid.

This year’s auction on behalf of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (our main local theater and performing arts space) had 220 items up for auction — some interesting, some not. I won the bidding for two items (but put in bids on four or five more, none of which I was especially heartbroken to lose out on):

I have absolutely no idea why I bid more than a few dollars on the whole first pitch thing. I can see bidding fifty bucks early on just for giggles with the expectation of being outbid in due course, and if I’d won at a bid of $50, well, why not? But $185? (Yes, $185. I’m embarrassed just typing it. That’s real money.) I do not remember bidding that much and can only say that either I made a typo (and then overlooked the typo when the site asked me to confirm my bid) or I was just out of my damn mind late one night and was up web-surfing when I should have been sleeping. You know those late-night (or drunk) Amazon purchases you hear about? You’re insomniac and cranky (or drunk) and five days later a Christmas-edition Big Mouth Billy Bass shows up at your door? Well, I think “bidding $185 to make a total fool out of yourself in front of a thousand strangers” certainly falls into the same general area.

Did I mention that the package also included a free baseball cap and Lake Monsters mascot bobblehead?

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The cap turned out to be a leftover giveaway cap from last year’s Northeast Delta Dental cap night (although it is a nice cap; I’ve been wearing it on all my walks this summer) and the bobblehead definitely fills the “souvenir mascot bobblehead” niche in my life list, the one I didn’t know needed filling.

Have I been practicing? I meant to, but travel for work and other things cut into my free time and I didn’t get around to it — and then suddenly here we were, with only a couple days to go. I took a dozen baseballs to a local high school field yesterday and set up on the mound and aimed in the general direction of home plate. A third of my throws would have been right on the money. Another third or so would have required the catcher to step a couple steps to the left or right to make the catch. The others? Well, they weren’t as good. No cameramen would have been killed in the process, but they wouldn’t have had major league scouts calling up to sign me.

From what I understand, the most common mistake by first-pitch-throwers is shorting it; the advice generally given is to aim for three or four feet behind home plate, and hope it comes out in the wash. (I’ve never had a really strong throwing arm, so it probably doesn’t matter what I try to do; it’ll work out or not and all the planning and preparation I can do will probably not affect things in the slightest.)

Anyway, I expect to have some footage to share here later or tomorrow, both of Carole doing a tremendous job on the national anthem and me … doing whatever it is I wind up doing. I can say for sure that right now the words going through my mind are right out of Shepard’s Prayer (q.v.).

 

WE JUST LIKE SIGNS

Vermont’s not doing much, election-wise, in 2019. We’ve got select board and school board voting and we’ve got to vote on town and school budgets, but this isn’t really a “wallpaper the area with campaign signs” year.

That said, there’re a few signs still up from last fall’s election cycle here and there around town, and Carole and I periodically comment to one another, speculating on how long it’ll be before the last one finally disappears. (Probably not until the new crop go up in late 2019 and early 2020 for the 2020 fall elections.)

I keep wanting to order up some signs of my own to put around town one of these years… just to mess with people’s heads. Something like this:

Double-sided yard signs with the wire frames for mounting on lawns and curbs and things are fairly expensive in small numbers. If you order more than 50 the price starts to really drop — $4.55 each for 50, $3.29 each for 200 or more, etcetera. That said, $250 for a random experiment in surrealism is kinda outside our budget, but I can still dream.

Greetings from Abilene

Behold, common, everyday hotel laundry room equipment.

 

On the left, the humble dryer. On the right, the serviceable but modest washer.

Guess which one I happily loaded clothes into, added detergent to, dumped coins in, and then sat and watched for a good fifteen minutes before finally thinking “… wait a minute”.

Bingo.

(In my defense, I was very tired. Honest to God, this is not the sort of thing I do every day.)

From the “Things I Will Never Understand” Department

Like most people, I’ve uploaded a few videos to YouTube over the years: mostly videos of the Burlington Concert Band performing at Battery Park, but a few other things as the occasion has arisen.

Most of my videos have gotten ten, twenty, sometimes as many as forty views. (Who knows how many of those were me, looking at my own videos and tweaking something?) Video of our local concrete ‘n’ cement company doing festive things for New Year’s and St Patrick’s Day have done a bit better.

Then there’s my all-time champion:

That little video of the ice cream truck was taken one sunny day in June of 2016 when our building arranged for an ice cream truck to pay a call. I stopped and recorded a short video as it pulled up. Totally pointless. So, of course, I uploaded it to YouTube for posterity to enjoy.

I grant you that just shy of 25,000 views is nothing in an era where Rebecca Black can get sixteen million views spitting phlegm into a Kleenex, but it is perplexing when such a video is head and shoulders above everything else I’ve uploaded in terms of viewership. Is there some unmet need out there on the Internet for ice cream truck videos? Am I missing my calling?