Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hawks Down Huskers

Not often do major college baseball programs travel to Iowa City. The Hawkeyes always see perenial Big Ten powers of Michigan and Ohio State, but when a Big 12 comes to Duane Banks Field, it is a big deal. Tuesday, one-time national power Nebraska made the trip across Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes. And it will be a sad trip home for Husker fans as the Hawkeyes were victorious 5-2. It was the largest mid-week crowd of the year at the Bank, but much of that had to do with the Red Nation following and a perfect night for baseball. The win over the Huskers rates as one of the bigger wins on the season for Jack Dahm and his Hawkeye baseball team. This victory comes after a series win in Ann Arbor over the weekend, 2 games to 1.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

31st River Run

RiverRun's Start in the shadow of Old Cap
A cool and breezy Sunday morning faced runners as they began the 31st annual University of Iowa River Run. The race is part of the University's River Fest activities based around the Iowa Memorial Union. Proceeds of the run go to Uptown Bill's Small Mall, a collection of businesses owned and operated by individuals with disabilities and staffed by volunteers.

The race meanders around the Iowa River and through a portion of campus which was devasted by the historic flood of 2008. A mix of people participate including students and residents of the Iowa City area. There are also teams of people and costumes are encouraged.

Colin captures Dad at the Finish Line

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hawkeye Becomes Newest Green Bay Packer

With the 23rd pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers selected former Iowa lineman, Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga finished his college career a year early to enter the NFL.

Bulaga is truly one of the good guys of the 2009 Iowa Football team. We shared many likes and had good conversations on our differences. Being from Chicago he is a White Sox fan. Routinely we would discuss the positives and negatives of our teams--mine being the Cubs--and debate who had the better team in Chicago.

Bryan will make a fine addition to a Green Bay team who is in need of offensive line help. And the Packers have been known to draft former Hawkeye players. Bulaga replaces one former Hawkeye, Aaron Kampman, who departed after the 2009 season for Jacksonville.

Good Luck Bryan.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost April 20

I can't wait to see how Lost finishes, but I definitely don't want the series to end. I'm also content for the weekly episodes to last two hours since once you get pas the commerical breaks every ten minutes, you definitely want more. Tonight the characters were beginning to overlap in the sideways world. Jack's reaction to knowledge of a sister is no different in sideways world as it was in the flash forward. And this time it is Jack jumping into the water much like Sawyer did from the helicopter. Does Jack's son in sideways world resemble the little boy found occasionally on the island that we are led to believe to be young Jacob? The next episode can't come soon enough.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Change Things Up

Chicago's Best Prospect, SS Starlin Castro
This season, as young as it is, is giving Chicago Cub fans fears of Christmas Past. It has been over 100 years since the last Cubs World Championship (there wasn't much of a "world" in 1908) and with how the 2010 campaign is starting, there doesn't appear to be much of a chance of a pennant being hung at Wrigley Field following this October. So it is time to make a change before it is too late.

A popular way to shake up a team is to fire the manager. Of course it is easier to lose one person than replace up to twenty-five others. But the Cubs organization need to look at the twenty-five taking the field, not the one who puts them out there. Cub manager, Lou Pinella has proven he can win, but who on this team has also proven that? Those returning from 2009 with a World Series ring is first baseman Derrek Lee. Other than that, there are no proven winners on a team that has not proven it can win.

Quite simply it is time to add some youth to this team and find out if they have what it takes to play major league ball. Begin with the hottest prospect in the Cubs' organization, shortstop Starlin Castro. He is currently at double A West Tennessee awaiting a phone call from the Windy City. Castro batted over .400 in spring training with the parent club.

Along with bringing Castro up from double A, I would also bring up outfielder Sam Fuld from triple-A Iowa. He had many at bats with Chicago in 2009 and showed promise at the plate as well as hustle and determination in the field. Other former Chicago Cubs in the minor leagues include third baseman Bobby Scales, first baseman Micah Hoffpauier, and outfielder / first baseman Jason DuBois. Individually each of these prospects may not have a future in the major leagues, but collectively they may provide enthusiasm and a willingness to prove themselves, it may give Cubs fans a reason to believe.

To make way for these additions the Cubs must decide what they want to do with aging outfielder Alfonso Soriano. With a hefty contract through 2014, the Cubs will either have to tolerate a poor fielding and sporadic hitter in Soriano or cut their losses now, release him and pay him. Releasing him may be a costly option, but the Cubs may not be able to afford to keep his lackluster effort around.

As much as I like Ryan Theriot the player, it is possible to get quality players in return for his services. After beginning 2010 as one of the hottest players in the league, it will only be time for Kosuke Fukodome to cool off into his May swoon. And third baseman Aramis Ramirez is not All-Star caliber.

This is Lou Pinella's last season on his contract. He has dealt with the same roster since his first year. It is time to give him a second chance with players that are willing to play for something other than money. The pitching staff is solid, although not great, but consistent enough to get a few more wins with enough run production. After two weeks, there is nothing in this team that can give Cub fans any hope to success in 2010. If they are serious about winning, changes must occur now.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Iowa Softball Improves its Record

Iowa Softball defeats WIU, 6-0 in six.
A non-conference opponent within the Big Ten season didn't deter many people from attending the Iowa Softball game at Bob Pearl Field on Sunday. Western Illinois came to Coralville, the home to Iowa Softball, and it wasn't much of a contest. The Hawkeyes bolted to an early 5-0 lead after one and extended their lead to 6-0 in the third. That was all the scoring and the Hawkeyes were victorious. Over 700 fans were in attendance on a perfect day.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 Iowa Spring Game

The first time in two years Iowa Football hosted their last spring practice available to the public in Kinnick Stadium. A year ago the Hawkeyes weren't able to finish in front of their fan base as the Stadium was in the process of replacing its grass with new Field-turf. It was the first opportunity for the fans to see the 2010 edition and the first time many have seen the team in person since their Orange Bowl victory in January.

The parking lots were full around Kinnick Stadium. There were no other activities close to the football stadium allowing for all parking to be available for the football team. 

 On such a beautiful day, the fans were anxious to enjoy some outdoor activities. The Spring Game allowed fans to regain in-season form with their own tailgating activities.
 Not to be outdone by the nearby tailgaters, Ron Stewart is busy preparing hot dogs and brats for the many who don't have time for their own meal.
 All fans entering Kinnick Stadium were encouraged to donate one canned food item in exchange for entrance. These food options will be redistributed in May
 Not only were the fans in attendance, but Gary Dolphin painted the picture for those tuning in on the radio. Today he was joined by sideline reporter, Rob Books.
 Over 23,500 fans were estimated to be in attendance. They enjoyed one of the nicer days in Iowa City
 Colin found his way to the fourth floor. He enjoyed the view and being able to have free reign on the booth.
 The "Vidiots" of 2010. From L-R is: Alec Johnson ,Michael A. Witt, Natalie Dingmann, Erick Tjarks, and Kyle Yoder
 Following the practice members of the news media interviewed the Iowa Student - Athletes. Found in the middle of this group is starting QB, Ricky Stanzi. All media individulas had to witness the game from the sidelines, while Gary and I were one of the few on the 4th floor.
 At the conclusion of the day, players find their way into the stands to sign autographs. DJK and Stanzi were among the most popular.
Following the game, friends of the staff are allowed to enjoy a post-game buffett in the bubble. This marked the culmination to spring drills.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Hayden Fry Golf Outing

The timing of the announcement of this year's Fry Fest Activities coincided with anniversary of one of my favorite Hayden Fry stories.
Under any coach the Thursday staff meeting prior to the culmination of spring practice would result in the discussion of the upcoming Spring Game. There is much to discuss regarding that Saturday. Among them are recruiting and who is coming to town for a visit, the style of play and what will actually be on display for the fans to watch and possible what will life be once spring ball is over. At least that is what I thought would be the topic of discussion, but I was surprised when I walked into the staff room during one of Coach Fry's last years.
After every one of Coach Fry's staff meetings during spring and fall practices, I would enter asking either Offensive Coordinator Don Patterson or Coach Fry himself how practice would be located on the field--would the offense throw with the wind or have the receivers look into the sun. On this Thursday, I entered the Iowa Staff Room only to find something I had never seen before.
As I walked in I noticed the wall's white boards with five groups of four. At the top of each list was a name of either a coordinator or the head coach. I had an idea that these "foursomes" would be the groups of golfers for the Hayden Fry Football Outing. And there was tight end coach, Mark Hendrickson sitting by himself filling out the day's practice schedule. I proceeded to say, "Don't tell me you spent 25 minutes talking golf and the final five on the Spring Game. But I was close to being right.
When I posed the question to Mark, he lifted his face, looked at me and said, "Matt, it was something that I've never seen before." I said, "don't tell me you spent the entire staff meeting coming up with teams for the following Monday's golf outing." They had spent 90% on the golf outing and 10% on the spring game. He proceeded to explain to me the process.
Hayden, along with his coordinators and senior ranking coach would be selected team captains with the draft to follow. Along with the coaches, the secretaries, training staff and video department would be included. It was common knowledge you didn't want to be on Hayden's team as he did not want to lose. The competitors saw this as their way to hold some bragging rights over the head Hawk.
Monday came and everyone assembled at Finkbine Golf Course. This particular year was cloudy and damp with Hayden's group teeing off first. I was in that group along with a secretary and an assistant coach. We had a good team, but would it be enough to take home the championship?
Once everyone had a few holes under their belt, scores of the group began to circulate. Two under, three under, even par were among the scores, but lying was also a common practice. Mind games were common from groups that claim a competitive spirit in the daily workplace.
Then came hole #13. The water hole. In this best ball tournament, our group had one safely shy of the green with an up / down very possible. But the shot was not of Coach Fry. His was dry, but further away from the green.
We drove to the green and I noticed Coach Fry stopped close to the pond, where his ball was not. He proceeded to grab the ball retrieval tool from his bag and went fishing for golf balls. Word of this began to circulate as well and soon one assistant drove over to witness it first hand. "This guy makes the most money of anyone on campus, and he is fishing for golf ball?" said one coach as he chuckled while watching.
Finally the round of golf came to an end and after nearly five hours the final score was announced. However the winning coach didn't include Coach Fry. His group finished -3 and lost by two strokes.
Although he lost, the golf outing was important to Coach Fry, and it was as important to the secretaries, training staff, video staff and equipment staff. This team building event continued on as long as Coach Fry was there.

Lost April 13

Another great episode of Lost. So good to see Libby again. Of course I would expect more out of Iliana.  Getting blown up with the dynamite in a reckless manner  is a little disappointing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Top Three Texas Stadium Moments

Today we look back to my top three moments in Texas Stadium history.

#3--Embedded within the open of the CBS Series, Dallas.

#2--The Dalls Cowboys Cheerleaders

And my #1 moment in Texas Stadium History, is today's implosion! Since it seemed the Packers would always play at Dallas in the playoffs...and lose, I am happy to see it go.

Another Week of Home Openers

So Long Metrodome and Indoor Minnesota Baseball
The second full week of the season and more home openers on the way. In Minnesota they will experience their first outdoor home opener since the Twins moved inside for the 1982 season. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has provided the Minnesota Twins memorable moments including two different World Series Championships but fans in the Twin Cities are looking forward to creating new memories in Target Field.
Petco Park in San Diego
One of the "quirkiest" of the new ballparks is San Diego's Petco Park. Built in the heart of downtown, this stadium has a little for everyone. Some seats are built into an old warehouse while some are able to watch from a family area consisting of a play area outside center field. Definitely one of the treats of the stadium are the Fish Tacos as a trip to the ballpark wouldn't be complete without them.
Dodger Stadium
Amazingly one of the three oldest ballparks in the major leagues, Dodger Stadium has been home to Los Angeles' National League team since 1962. Fans arrive to this ballpark "fashionably late," but it is due to the large amount of traffic in the area. However my biggest complaint is that there is little to do at or around the ballpark prior to the game. Parking is plenty, but there is nothing to do until gates open...and tailgating is a foreign idea to the Southern Californians. It is easy to feel post-season baseball sitting in Dodger Stadium. So many playoff and World Series games have been played here that even in May it is easy to feel like it is October. Dodger Dogs are the must treat from the concession stands.
Beautiful Wrigley Field
There is absolutely nothing like a game at Wrigley Field. Although the Cubs have never won a World Series while playing in the "Friendly Confines," there is no venue in all of baseball, or perhaps in all of sport like Wrigley Field. Currently there is little advertising, no replay board and the scoreboard is hand operated. Located in a Chicago neighborhood, apartment complexes surround it as well as the many bars and restaurants that help give the area its charm.
Busch Stadium home of the Cardinals
In the heart of downtown St. Louis resides the newest version of Busch Stadium, home of the Cardinals. It's accessibility makes it easy for a family to attend, and recently has been home to one of the most talented teams in all of baseball. Hotels are located within blocks, with many interstates dropping you off at the door. The open outfield gives fans a great view of downtown as well as the Arch. While it has been tough for a Cubs fan to enjoy the greatest rivaly in baseball over the last few years in St. Louis, this is a great place to watch it.
Citizen Bank Park, home of the Phillies
Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia is one ballpark that was done right. There is always a good view of the field whether you are in your seats or walking to them. All concourses allow for a view while getting to the concession stands or restrooms. Escalators quickly move fans from one level to another and advanced ticket windows can also be found on the top level, something I haven't seen in any other ballpark. Along with ticket windows located throughout the park, there are also different children play areas giving parents the opportunity to go a short distance for the son or daughter to play. The only drawback is the limited number of seats in the shade, but those that are provide a nice breeze on a warm Summer day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Eutaw Street, just beyond center field
In the early 90s a trend began to create venues made for the sole purpose of baseball and a seperate facility for football.  In the twenty years prior to this, cities found it economical to build one multi-purpose stadium. Among those were Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Since these stadiums hosted more than 100 events a year, artificial turf was common to allow for a playable surface no matter what time of year.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards: PHL vs BLT
But the first baseball stadium to reverse the trend was in Baltimore. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a baseball only facility built adjacent to the downtown waterfront area that rejuvinated a dying area of the city.Camden Yards was more than a new stadium, but it started a new era in baseball facilities that incorporated the nuances historians reminisced about in describing the Polo Grounds, Sportsman Park and Ebbets Field.

Among the characteristics is the warehouse located beyond the right field wall. It now houses the Oriole administrative offices.Restaurants are also located in the warehouse which can be used more than the 81 home dates, rather it can be used year-round. Bullpens were designed for fans to watch you was warming up, and it allowed the true baseball fans to start up conversations with those waiting to enter the game. In front of the warehouse is Eutaw Street. On non-game days it is open to the public as a thru-way, but it closes to the many different food and clothing vendors.

Today Camden Yards opened up another year of baseball as the Orioles hosted the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays spoiled the home opener by defeating Baltimore.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lost April 6

In what I would consider a "turning point" episode, we find out about Desmond in the sideways world. Glad to see the folks behind "Lost" was toying with us in the previews. "Amazing Grace" by bagpipes would lead us to believe there would be a death, but it wasn't on this episode.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day!

Now that the Red Sox have beat the Yankees and ESPN has gotten the season underway, attention turns to Opening Day around Major League Baseball. Below are personal pictures of stadiums that get underway today.

Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Halladay) at Washington Nationals (John Leman)
Nationals Park in Washington D.C. is the scene for the defending National League Champions, Philadelphia Phillies to open up 2010. Nats Park is among the nicest, but it is definitely home to a team whose fans are just happy to have baseball in the Nation's Capitol.
Toronto Blue Jays (Shawn Marcum) at Texas Rangers (Scott Feldman)
One of the more spacious ballparks in the majors, the Ballpark at Arlington is now the older sister to Jerry's Cowboy Stadium. Every seat is a good seat, but lacks an ambience outside the stadium.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Vicente Padilla) at Pittsburgh Pirates (Zach Duke)
PNC Park in Pittsburgh is definitely the nicest stadium that doesn't have a team deserving of playing there. A beautiful view of downtown Pittsburgh beyond the outfied fence, the ballpark has many fine dining, restaurant and drinking options surrounding it.
Colorado Rockies (Ubaldo Jiminez) at Milwaukee Brewers (Yovanni Gillardo)
A look back to one of my favorite stadiums in the majors, this is County Stadium, the previous home to the Milwaukee Brewers. This was taken in the last year for the park, as you see the newer Miller Park awaiting to be opened just beyond center field. County Stadium will forever be remembered as the home for the movie, "Major Leagues." Each park has plenty of parking surrounding it allowing for the best tailgating in the majors.
Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) at Kansas City Royals (Zach Grenke)
Gone through some remodeling since this picture was taken in 2001, Royals Stadium is one of the nicest settings for baseball. Part of a two stadium complex, Royals Stadium shares the parking lot with Arrowhead Stadium, home of football's Kansas City Chiefs. The home to the Royals allows the best ticket prices to bring the home family of any park in the league. They, too just need a team worthy of its existence.

Of course the Chicago Cubs open on the road in Atlanta. Game time for that first pitch is 3:10 CT.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Opening Night!

Fenway Park 2000 prior to a game with Toronto.
The start of the 2010 Major League Baseball Season gives hope to every fan, young and old. Whether you cheer for the defending champions New York Yankees or the Chicago Cubs who haven't won a World Title since 1908, today all fans can say, "this will be the year." From Kansas City to Pittsburgh Spring brings hope.

Force fed to us by ESPN comes a long-time rivalry to open the season in Fenway Park, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. And as the curtain opens on the season here comes my prediction for the 2010 season:

Amercian League:                                 National League
  • East--New York Yankees              East--Philadelphia Phillies
  • Central--Chicago White Sox           Central--St. Louis Cardinals
  • West--L.A. Angels of Anaheim       West--San Francisco Giants
  • WCard--Detroit Tigers                    WCard--Chicago Cubs
ALCS: Yankees over Tigers                      NLCS: Cardinals over Cubs
World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

General thoughts: The Yankees will continue their championship ways. I don't feel the Red Sox have done enough to win the East, or win the Wild Card. Look for the Rays to finish second in the division. Since the Twins have lost their closer, Joe Nathan, for the year, they will lose close games down the stretch. The White Sox have the talent to win the division, it will come down to whether or not they have the winning mentality to take it. Jim Leyland will find a way for the Tigers to be successful. In the West, the Angels may have obstacles along the way, but will find themselves atop the division at the end of the year. As long as the Mariners have Milton Bradley, success will escape them.
In the National League East, the Phillies continue to be the dominant team. Bobby Cox's Atlanta Braves team will play hard for him in his last year, but they don't have the talent to match up with the Phillies. The Mets will struggle along with the Marlins and Nationals. The Cardinals will be tough to beat in the Central, but this Cubs team will be better than many expect. It will be a two team race down the stretch, with the Cardinals winning it in the last five days. The San Francisco Giants have a underrated manager and played strong down the stretch in 2009.
The Yankees are the best in the American League while the best playoff series will be in the National League. The Cubs finally find a way to win a post-season series, but will lose to the Cardinals in six. In what will be one of the better World Series in years, the Cardinals will win it at home in 7.
View of the Green Monster from RF.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

America's Best Basketball Team

When you speak of the great college programs, UConn women's basketball must be one of the first to be mentioned. Currently the Huskies are on a 76 game win streak as they enter the Final Four to play Baylor. They are led by Hall of Fame coach, Geno Auriemma.

The UConn women are one of those teams you need to see in person before it is too late. My second opportunity came in 2002 while travelling with the Iowa women's team to the NCAA Tournament. The first round game for the Hawkeyes was against Virginia, with the winner playing Connecticut. This Huskie squad established the original record for consecutive wins at 70. That team was made of Swin Cash, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi, each future WNBA players. The associated picture (courtesy Karen Daubs) is from the Huskeis First Round win against St. Francis. It was the second game of the day at Gampel Pavillion as the Iowa - Virginia was first.

Hosting early round NCAA games is nothing new to the people of Connecticut. Whether it is on-campus at Gampel Pavillion or in Hartford, the fans of the Husky women's team are accustomed to watching their team play for the first two rounds. But what makes this small arena in this rural college town is the support the fans have for their team. During a tv timeout in the Iowa - Virginia game, the Huskie basketball team walked from their seats inside the arena to their locker room as one. The home town crowd roared as each Husky basketball players walked by.

And with success comes a little bit of arrogance. In this case it is justified. Prior to the Monday night second round game with the Hawkeyes, local fans were already making reservations for the regionals to be held in Milwaukee. Iowa fans took it as disrespect, but it shouldn't, it was reality for the UConn fans. Not only was this one of the best Huskie women's team in school's history, but Huskie fans knew Auriemma would allow the Big Ten team, an eight seed, upsetting this perennial power on its home court.

On this stormy Monday night, the Hawkeyes played the role of the "little engine that could" for the first half, but UConn's athleticism took over. While the Huskies fought to put the lead at fourteen heading into the half, they outscored the Hawkeyes 40-16 in the second half. Truly a display of greatness. The game was over quickly, and the UConn team and fans had already set their sights on the regional with Penn State. So quick that the Gampel Pavillion facility staff began tearing down the second-round site before the media had put the story to rest, including the Iowa Radio Network who were stlil on the air as their broacasting location was being taken apart.

Most likely this year's edition of the Connecticut basketball team will take home another title. A program of this magnitude will not be replicated, and they play the game better than anyone else.

The Road Ends Here

If youd've been watching the National Basketball Semi-Finals you've seen the slogan which is associated with the Final Four, "The Road Ends Here." It will end for both teams Monday night. Duke or hometown favorite, Butler will leave Lucas Oil Stadium as a National Champion. There will be many comparisons for this match-up. "David vs Goliath" will be one as well as the local favorite of comparing Butler to Hickory in the 80's classic, "Hoosiers." Compare it however you want, but this will be a match-up of two teams who are playing some good basketball. One with a coach who has played on this stage numerous times in Mike Kaczyszewski. But Butler is the "little engine that could." Champion of the Horizon League, the Bulldogs enter the championship for the first time and will represent all "mid-majors" as they take ont he storied Duke program.

This isn't necessarily the two teams CBS was looking for. Duke is always a good sell for television ratings, but Butler brings little prominence to the table. Although there is a good back story to the Bulldogs, CBS risks losing an audience if the game is sluggish, or one-sided to the Blue Devils early on.