Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yankees - Reds

A good night of T Ball action for the Coralville Yankees. A week after the "Evil Empire" suffered from a loss of 6 players due to vacation, the entire team was back with the exception of one to take on the Reds.

On this night the Yankees were considered the road team and came to the plate first in each inning. Setting the tone was Abram (above) in a line up that had everyone hitting off the Tee. This made for a quick top half of each inning.
Colin (above) and Ben had the best night at the plate. Each had hits that left the infield and drove in one each time they were up.
However the real struggle came when the Yankees took the field. The manager of the Reds decided this was a "Coach - Pitch " league which slowed the game down. A pitcher who cannot pitch, throwing to kids with little hitting experience, makes for a long half an inning. Above Coach Matt instructs his players on which position to take.
Following the three-inning game, the Yankees were treated to snacks and a talk from two of Iowa Soccer's leading players from 2009. Mandy Heimann and Jackie Kaeding spent time talking about their experience in youth sports and how important it was in shaping them for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


When I left my seat at Sec Taylor Park in Des Moines for a soda, I had no idea the change it would make in my life. It was something I had done on many occasions, but this trip was different, as it was at this time I met my wife.

Without a thought I walked up to the stand to place my order and a young lady from the back of the stand said she remembered me. And after some thought she referred to me by name. Of course I had the advantage and noticed her name tag and replied "confidently," Dana?! We had worked together at the University of Iowa as part of the 1991 Homecoming Council. She was director of PR while I was the Parade Coordinator. Being the only two on the council who were not part of the University Greek system was our connection.

We talked for a little while at the concession stand and we had decided that we should meet for a drink or something while I was in town later that year for the Iowa - Iowa State football game. She looked at it as an opportunity to recruit people associated with Iowa Football to volunteer for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the company she worked for, and the reason she was volunteering in the concession stand--to raise money for the non-profit.

Over time we would either meet in Des Moines or Iowa City for either dinner or a football game. Then after dating for two years, this chance meeting led to our wedding...on this day in 1998.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ryne Sandberg Day

(Thanks Blogger for bringing in the picture correctly.)
The date June 23, 1984 is memorable to many Chicago Cub fans who are of my age or older. It is on that day the nation was introduced to first-year Cub and future Hall of Famer, Ryne Sandberg.

The day before the Cardinals entered Wrigley Field for an important mid-season series. McGee, Coleman, Smith were among the notable names who were led by manager Whitey Herzog. The Cubs were proving they would be a contender for the NL East title and winning the series over their rival from the south would go a long way for the Cubs to be playing meaningful October baseball in close to forty years.

On this Friday the Cubs had a battle on their hands in game 1 of the series. And it was won on late heroics by Leon Durham with a home run that sent the Cubs to victory. But Cub fans had to temper their enthusiasm as they still had to win at least one more game to make that statement.

It was on the 23rd of June that my dad and I planned to take a bus trip into Chicago for our one game a year at Wrigley Field. It was an early departure from Cedar Rapids as game time had been changed to accomodate a national tv audience. While waiting to board the bus we were asking who the starting pitchers would be for that day's game. We found out from the local paper the Cubs would send Steve Trout to the mound, while the Cardinals would counter with unknown Ralph Citarella.

The game started out as nothing like the day before. Trout was getting knocked around early and getting the Cubs into an early deficit. Some of those who travelled with us were Cardinal fans and my dad was getting tired of hearing them "chirp," so he took a walk around the Friendly Confines. After two innings the Cubs trailed 7-1, and it seemed to be a long day.

Looking up at the manual scoreboard in center field I could tell that NBC had two blowouts as the Dodgers were beating the Braves 10-2. As the backup game, the fans at home were being treated to Bob Costas and Tony Kubek describe what appeared to be a Cardinal victory. The only excitement so far that day for Cub fans was the fight that broke out in the bleachers among fans of both teams. But as the game neared the ninth, things started to turn.

With the Cubs down by one and two outs in the ninth, Costas and Kubek has already given the player of the game to St. Louis centerfielder, Willie McGee. In the game McGee had hit for the cycle, and NBC was running into other programming. They knew the game would end soon as the Redbird closer Bruce Sutter was in to close it out, and with two outs and an unknown Ryne Sandberg coming to the plate, it would be a matter of a couple of pitches to end the game. But Sandberg faced the former Cub and sent one into the left field stands sending the game to extra innings.

In the tenth, the Cardinals fought back with two runs and the end seemed to be near again as the Cubs still had to face Sutter in the tenth and the second baseman couldn't hit two off the future Hall of Famer. But with a man on, Sandberg did the unthinkable and belted another one into the stands sending the game to the 11th.

The 11th inning would be the last one as recent recall from triple A Iowa, Dave Owen drove in the winning run and the Wrigley crowd was alive. The roar didn't seem to end, and a tv interview with Sandberg was barely audible over the Wrigley Field PA. Fans didn't want to leave as we knew we saw something special, something that would make this season memorable.

That ticket stub is something I have kept and I had the opportunity for it to be signed by Sandberg who is now the manager for triple A Iowa. It was a priviledge to be at Wrigley Field on such an historic day, with my father who had seen his amount of heartbreak from the men in blue.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yankees - Padres

Although a hot and humid night for T Ball, it was a one of the better T ball games of the short 2010 season. Taking on a Padres team who outnumbered a Yankees team, which found many of its members on Summer vacation, the grey shirts hit the ball well, and executed in the field to remain unbeaten on the year.

With a roster consisting of eight players, the Yankees faced an army of Padres. Although it was a mighty opponent, the Yankees hit the ball well. Led by lead-off hitter Ann, each one of the Yankee hitters was reminiscent of the Bronx Bombers on this afternoon at Kirkwood Elementary Diamond. After Ann players such as Jake, Colin and Sydney sent screaming liners into the outfield, as Ben cleaned the bases in the Yankees' at bat of each inning.

Execution in the field as well as hustle on the basepaths was the theme on Tuesday night. The Yankees did a nice job of stopping the ball before it escaped into the outfield, as well as many unassisted outs at second base. Above Jake scoots around the bases to score one of the many Yankee runs on the night.

Monday, June 14, 2010

2nd Annual Jace Race

Rain, wind and flash flooding met the hearty souls who turned out Saturday in this rural farm town of South Central Iowa to support a nine-year old boy who passed away from a brain tumor. New Sharon's Jace Race wound its way through the streets of New Sharon starting and stopping at the front of North Mahaska High School.

This was the second year of the race started to raise money for the children of New Sharon to be used in the community and classroom.. Although the weather wasn't ideal for a 5k on this June day, that didn't deter the participants to run for a good cause.

With Nebraska Comes Division

With the addition of Nebraska to the "Big Ten," now comes the decision of how the Conference will split up into two divisions for football. The obviousway to do it is to follow the lead of many of the other conferences and do to it geographically. The SEC has a east and west while the former Big XII splits theirs into north and south. However splitting the Big Ten into an east and west would not be in its best interest, and it should also follow the lead of the census, and change it up every ten years.

In determining how it should be divided, a few factors need to considered:
  • Nebraska's natural rival is Iowa. It only makes sense to keep these two teams together.
  • Michigan and Ohio State need to stay together, as does Michigan and Michigan State.
  • Minnesota needs to stay with Wisconsin. Indiana stays with Purdue. Northwestern stays with Illinois.
From there let's branch out a bit. Obviously it would be natural that Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska would be in one division. Facing difficult economic times this makes sense financially for the Universities and its fans. Then let's also keep Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State together.

From there let's stretch the conference a little and add Penn State to the group including Iowa. The Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions have created a nice rivalry and there is a history to Penn State and Nebraska from PSU's days as an independent. That gives us five in that division.

Keeping Indiana and Purdue together sends these long-time rivals to join the Wolverines, Spartans, and Buckeyes. The Spartans continue to battle in-state nemesis Michigan and battle Indiana for the Old Brass Spittoon.

That leaves us with Northwestern and Illinois. Not every in-state battle is saved, and this is that one. Based on trophy games, Illinois gets sent to join Ohio State and Purdue. With the Buckeyes, the Illini battle for the "Illibuck," the "Purdue Cannon" with the Boilermakers. Northwestern is then sent to Iowa's division as they have created a good rivalry with the Hawkeyes and Badgers.

Penn State gets stretched in this configuration, but as I mentioned before, it would be healthy for the conference to re-align after ten years. What has made the Big Ten special are the locations and the stadiums. Growing up in Big Ten country every fan wants to go the "Big House" in Ann Arbor, the "Horseshoe" in Columbus, or to Camp Randall to see Wisconsin's 5th Quarter.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

University of Iowa Children's Hospital Open

In addition to the popular Nate Kaeding Golf Scramble came the University of Iowa Children's Hospital Open held the following day at Brown Deer Golf Course in Coralville. Along with Nate and his wife Sam, Iowa Football coach Kirk Ferentz and his wife Mary as well as Iowa Radio Play by Play announcer Gary Dolphin hosted the two-day event wtih proceeds going to the Children's Hospital.

The Children's Hospital Open took on a more competitive nature with the foursomes being joined by a local pro vying for a collective purse of $13,000. Ryan Smith of Muscatine joined us for the tournament and took home the championship with a six under 65.

Smith was a late addition to the tournament, and played very steady throughout the day. Eight birdies and two bogeys led to the one shot win over course pro Sean McCarty of Coralville. This was Smith's first tournament of the year as he looks to prepare for the PGA Tour stop at John Deere in the Quad Cities, or the lesser known Waterloo and Cedar Rapids Open.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Expansion Talk - Kansas

When Turner Gill took over the reigns of the Kansas Football program in December of 2009 he listed his priorities: Recruit, beat Missouri, win the Big 12 North, win the Big 12 and by doing so, the Jayhawks would be playing for the National Champsionship. Now before Gill has the opportunity to be on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, the timeline to acheive those priorities has been accelerated.

National reports have Nebraska joining the Big Ten as early as Friday resulting in an impolosion of the Big 12 Conference. Most of the schools in the Big 12 South will be engulfed by the Pac 10 along with Colorado. That leaves some of the universities in the Big 12 North to fend for themselves. Kansas will be among them.

Gill became a Jayhawk after a successful playing career at Nebraska. He took the job at Kansas after building a bad Buffalo team and turning them into a conference champion. He had earned the right to do the same thing at a BCS conference school. Kansas gave him that chance, now those priorities he set forth seven months ago may not occur.

Kansas isn't the only school in jeopardy of becomming a nomad on the college landscape. Kansas State, Iowa State are also looking for a new home, and the possibilities available aren't enticing. The Big East is one rumored home, but how will Olympic Sports at the midwest schools be able to travel to such remote locations as Storrs, CT. In football once these teams are done playing one another, their closest opponent will be Cincinnati.

Another home could be the Mountain West. Perhaps a bit more geographically-friendly to these schools, but now these one-time BCS conference schools become a mid-major. And the basketball programs of these institutions lose credibility as they would be only a few years removed from playing for the title of the nation's best league.

Now these "left-overs" fromt he Big 12 will be searching for a conference that best suits them. They will be looking for a chance to prove themselves, much like Turner Gill has been doing for the last few years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Yankees - Twins

The 2010 T Ball season got underway Tuesday night as the Coralville Yankees faced the Twins. Not only was their the excitement associated with the first game - seeing their jerseys for the first time, participating in a game and not practice - but on this night they were facing some familiar 2009 teammates. Connor and John, Rockies a year ago, and classmates at Wickham were moved in the off-season. And there was an extra special feel to the season opener as it was the lone game scheduled on this prime time slot.

Being listed as the home team, the Yankees took to the field and had to rely on the fielding of Maddy, who made some outstanding plays stopping the ball before it escaped the left side of the infield.  However much of the hitting didn't get going for the Yankees until the bottom of the second as the tee was put away for many and good contact was made. Colin had two solid hits without the use of the tee.
Prior to the start of the game, the Yankees were treated by a pep talk of two local Hawkeye basketball players. Norwalk native Kelsey Cermak and prep star at local City High, Kelley Krei took time out of their busy schedule to stress the imprortance of playing organized sports at such a young age.
In the first inning, Ann covers second base for the Yankees. She took great pride in her glove matching her shorts.
After spending time behind the plate in the first, Abram moves to the shortstop position. For both Ann and Abram, this marked the first time either have played a game requiring a jersey. Pretty big news for the both of them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Big Ten Expansion

Rumors run wild after the Big Ten first openly discussed the possibility of expanding their 11 team conference. The last team to join was Penn State in 1993 and since that time there has been some changes to the major BCS conferences. But when Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney first mentioned the idea of adding to its exclusive club, dominoes are preparing to fall all around the country. But what do we actually know?

Of course it would make sense to the world of college athletics for Notre Dame to become the 12th team. They would be centrally located allowing their Olympic sports to economize their travel budget. The Irish already face many of these teams in many sports creating natural rivalries. But Notre Dame likes to stick to its independence and they have turned down the Big Ten once within the last ten years. But is Notre Dame enough for Delaney? I say no as he wants to make a big splash that will be the final defining moment in his legacy.

Nebraska and Missouri are two other rumored schools to join the Big Ten. That would of course have a ripple effect with the Big 12. However there are plans for the newest league to disband leaving half for the Pac 10. This would leave schools such as Kansas and Iowa State out in the cold. Each team having a great deal to lose. Kansas, known for its basketball tradition, would lose much of its credibility leaving the Big 12. Also Turner Gill, KU's new football coach recently left one mid-major for the BCS school, may find himself make to mid-major status once this shakes out. Iowa State has a great deal to lose. An athletic department that currently sufferes financially will lose any status it has gained by being disregarded by the other Big 12 schools. It will be difficult for the Cyclones to ever be a major player nationally  if it drops out of the BCS conference fame.

Iowa fans should definitely be happy the Hawkeyes are already in the Big Ten. If the landscape of college athletics were to start from scratch, where would the Hawkeyes end up? Who would be in the Big Ten? Michigan and Ohio State would be in. Penn State would also be included. Michigan State? Illinois?Indiana? There are possibly six. How about a few schools currently outside? Syracuse? Rutgers? Kentucky? Would private schools be included? How 'bout Northwestern? Vanderbilt? Although the Hawkeyes have much going for them today, where would they end up in a shake out of a new conference? Wisconsin and Minnesota  may also be on the outside looking in.

Twenty years ago a veteran assistant coach joined the staff of Hayden Fry at Iowa. In 1990 three coaches left Fry's football program and one of the replacements was Milan Vooletich, known for the years he spent on Bo Schembechler's staff at Michigan. Milan had his share of wild ideas--bringing in the National Enquirer noting that is where the real news is among the many--but one that he was ahead of his time on is the concept of "Superconference." Milan said for college football to continue to grow, super conferences would be created. Today we are on the verge of a possible major shake up nation-wide, or we may be sitting by the side watching the fall out from a distance. But one idea I'm confident in is that Jim Delaney will continue to look to expand the conference by more than one additional Notre Dame team. This is definitely something people will have people remembering Delaney for.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

RIP John Wooden

There are conflicting reports to the condition of legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. Wooden, 99, perhaps the most successful basketball coach of all time, may only have days left. In April of 2009 this blog posted a popular Gatorade ad which premiered during the NCAA basketball tournament.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New TCF Bank Stadium

Target Field isn't the only new stadium to the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Golden Gophers just completed their first football season back on campus in another open-air stadium. Minnesota played their last game in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome against Iowa to conclude the 2008 season. The Hawkeyes won that game 55-0.

The Gophers did a nice job of blending the nature of Minnesota with their history. Surrounding the stadium are all the counties of the state etched into the side and a small stream and waterfall is located outside the north end zone plaza area.
The Gophers haven't been on-campus since the 1981 season and TCF Bank is very much part of the Minnesota campus. Located only a few blocks from the heart of campus, it is also across the street from many local restaurants and bars.
The north end zone plaza is very open to those walking by. The stadium's capacity is just over 50,000.

Not only is TCF Bank Stadium close to campus, but it is also across the street from two of the Gophers other athletic facilities. Home to the hoops team, Williams Arena sits just to the north while...

...Hockey's Mariucci's Arena is also on the north side, across the street from Williams Arena.

New Target Field

 Over the weekend we had the opportunity to see Minnesota's new Target Field first-hand. It is self-proclaimed as the nicest ballpark in all of the major leagues. It is hard to argue that statement as it has done well what some other ballparks missed on. It reminds me much of Citizen Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia with a touch of northwoods. It is definitely a field that Minnesotan's can be proud of.
As with many newer ballparks, Target Field is built downtown in an area that locals are either trying to clean up or revitalize. The people of Minneapolis built this park near the warehouse district and is right next to the Target Center. A new light rail system has many lines running to the ballpark and the downtown area. And the park takes advantage of many bars and restaurants that were built to as an entertainment district.
 As we walked in at the gate behind home plate we were greeted by one of the ballpark's bars. This is Hrbek's, named after the first baseman of the '87 and '91 World Champion Teams.
Batting practice was just ending, but a criticism of the new park is that of the home run dimensions. To deep center the dimensions are 411 and 403, but the walls are high making it more difficult for Twins all-stars Mauer or Morneau to hit one out. Deep center are Minnesota Spruce Trees and right field features an overhang onto the field of bleachers.
 An early shower cleared the way for a beautiful sunset on the downtown skyline of Minneapolis. Rain and sunsets are something new to baseball fans in Minnesota. The Twins have played indoors since 1982 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The dome still stands today as the home to the Minnesota Golden Gopher Baseball team and Minnesota Vikings of the NFL. Prior to the move inside, fans in the Twin Cities would go to the present site of Mall of America and Metropolitan Stadium for both the Twins and Vikings.
The left field bleachers were built in the style of bleachers from old Metropolitan Stadium. Flags atop these sections signify both division and world championship years.
Local favorites are found all around Target Field. Locally brewed beers, root beers touting one of the Twins most known sluggers, Harmon Killebrew as well as hot dogs and sausages. Kramarczurs is the provider of Target Field's bratwursts and polish sausages. The $6.50 meats were grilled alongside onions as you waited, the my brat was one of the best I've had at any major league game.
The Twins honor their history with retired numbers hanging just beyond the left field foul pole. Alongside Jackie Robinson's 42 that is retired by all MLB teams are Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew.
One of the best retro-logo in major league baseball is that of the Minnesota Twins. Here "Minnie" and "Paulie" shake hands across the Mississippi River representing the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Upon a home run this sign lights up frantically.

Lights are built within the roof that runs from right field behind home plate to left field one set atop the replay board in left field. The lighting does a nice job of showcasing a beautiful ballpark.
And we enjoyed our trip to major league baseball's newest field.