Jack City

My name is Scott Miles. I'm a Cleveland native and a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. I am in my second year at Capital University where I write for the school paper, work in the Sports Information Department, and used to play baseball and golf. This blog focuses on Cleveland and Ohio State sports, along with Capital. Feel free to give me feedback!

Monday, July 31, 2006

In my haste, I forgot to mention several more things about the city of Cincinnati that drives me nuts and led to its inclusion on my list of "Cities I Hate the Most".

First of all, they're nicknamed the "Queen City". I mean, what's with that? How many queens have come from the city of Cincinnati? That's one of the weaker nicknames I've ever heard in my life. Can't we get Chris Berman or someone to come up with something more appropriate?

Secondly, all people in Cincinnati eat is Skyline Chili. It's an obsession, and it needs to stop. That's probably a reason why the city smells so terribly.

Finally, I was working with the Captains the other day, and a youth baseball team from out of town came to the game. All the kids had heavy Southern accents, so thick I could barely understand them. Many had stains of some sorts on their jersey. We had them signed up for some of our promotions, and they were pretty unruly and asking me a bunch of stupid questions. Trying to be nice, I asked their coach where they were from, and he said Cincinnati. Cincinnati! How could people from the fine state of Ohio act so unrefined? What a joke. There's a reason why so many "Give Cincinnati to Kentucky" Facebook groups exist (and one post responded, "I live in Kentucky, and we don't want them!" If Kentucky doesn't want anything to do with you, well...)

Some other random thoughts...

- Ronnie Belliard out, Hecotr Luna in. I'm real thrilled about this trade, getting rid of a proven second baseman for someone who couldn't overtake my cousin Aaron Miles for the second base job in St. Louis, batting a robust .280 with no power and shoddy defense. Even better, I read a quote from Luna saying he was excited to be "an everyday player". Hector, Hector, Hector - haven't you heard of Hall-of-Famer Joe Inglett? Shoot, you won't even be the most popular Hector in Cleveland sports - Hector Marinnaro still holds that honor.

- Fausto Carmona looks ready to take over the closer's role, huh? Seven runs in the last two games? I was at work with the Captains tonight, and when I left the Tribe led 8-6 in the 7th or 8th. I didn't listen to it on the way home because my friend Kelly was driving the carpool. Plus I was expecting them to score a come-from-ahead loss anyway. Sure enough, I come home, go to espn.com and boom! 'Papi's walk off lifts Sox' read the headline. Last year I woulda been pissed. Two months ago I woulda been pissed. Now, it's like hey, whatever, ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on.

- I was talking to my boy Sam McCarthy last week(by the way Sam, congrats once again on the new job - we'll miss you in the Capital Athletic Department) after LeCharles Bentley LeRuined his LeKnee. Sam, a Shittsburgh native and Steelers fan) agreed about the misfortune that Cleveland fans face. Personally, I'm totally numb to it by now. As I said to Sam, you could tell me right now that LeBron James was the wheelman in a drive-by shooting in the Flats, and I wouldn't be surprised. My buddy Stu and I were trying to explain this feeling to Stu's girlfriend, who's not a sports fan, the other night. Not totally understanding, she was throwing expressions out there such as "immune" or "expecting the worst", etc. I guess that's kind of it. It's weird. This all would have been easier if my grandparents had just settled in New York or something and I wouldn't have to worry about it. But it's a lot of fun soaking in all the misery of ineptitude that seems to surround this city.

And finally...

I've wanted to talk more about world issues and current events on this blog but haven't had the time. The big issue right now is the war in the Middle East, and I can't figure out the world's backlash against Israel. I may be biased because I have many Jewish friends, but here's how I understand it: Hezbollah terrorists cross the border, kill some Israeli soldiers and capture two others. This comes on the heels of a similar incident by the Palestinians. Obviously Israel is fully justified in doing what it has to do to protect its sovereignty. Imagine if Mexican terrorists crossed into Texas and killed some American soldiers or civilians - we'd be sending the Marines and F-16's into Mexico City within an hour. Furthermore, there have been a lot of civilian casualties in Lebanon, which I sympathize for, but Hezbollah has put those civilians right in the middle of the war zone. U.N. reports indicate the terrorists use vehicles marked with Red Cross signs or similar peaceful markings to transport troops to the front line. Essentially, this leaves the Israelis with no choice but to continue to fight as they have. Hopefully the international community will put more pressure on Hezbollah, and not Israel, to stop the fighting.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Yes, back by popular demand, here is a list of places I absoultely, positively hate with a passion. The list is in alphabetical order because frankly, I can no longer rank them - they're all miserable. If given the choice, I would probably bomb them back to the Stone Age, because that's where they belong. Now, without further ado...

- Ada, Ohio (and Lima as well): Imagine, if you will, what the world would look like after a nuclear holocaust. There would be absolutely nothing around, no trees, no wildlife, no houses or buildings, no signs of life. Just nothing.

That pretty much describes Ada and Lima.

Ada is home to Ohio Northern University, an OAC foe of Capital's. Unfortunately, this has required me to take several treks to the Land Before Time, once for a volleyball match and also a two-day golf tournament. I can't even describe how boring the drive up there (from Columbus) is. I've seen more life in a funeral home.

The only places to eat in Ada are a Subway and, rumor has it, a Hardy's (or some other second-rate fast food joint, I didn't actually see one but people say it exists). Former Capital Assistant SID Sam McCarthy said that the Subway once ran out of bread. Come on now. Did "Jared" show up unexpectedaly and eat all their subs?

When Sam, fellow "Chimes" scribe John Carlisle, and I went up to Ada for the volleyball match, we had to stop and wait for a train around Kenton, which is fairly close to Ada. Inexplicably, the train stops in the middle of the tracks, then begins moving in reverse. Still completely blocking the road, the train stops once again before finally moving forward. This fiasco cost us 20 minutes of our lives.

I played a round of golf with an ONU kid from Ada. He seemed nice enough, until he tried helping out our group by giving us pointers about the golf course. For example, he told me to watch out for a "crick" on one hole. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about so I stepped up to my ball and took a good whack, sending it about 200 yards down the fairway before it disappeared into a valley before the green. "Nice hit," he said, "but you're probably in the crick." Confused, we walked up towards the green, where I found my ball had landed in a "creek", or a "stream".

Basically, the next time I have to go to Ada is too soon.

Ann Arbor, Michigan: Is a whore. Need I say more?

Thought not.

Cincinnati, Ohio: During spring break of my junior year in high school, my mom and I visited some colleges, including the University of Evansville in Indiana. We came home on I-71, which required a drive through northern Kentucky and Cincy.

It took us three hours to go 50 miles, traffic was that backed up.

As annoying as that was, I thought nothing more of the place until this past fall. See, Cincinnati has this NFL team, the Bengals (or the Bungles) which has, well, struggled recently. Like, for 15 years. Like, the the Browns had a better record from 1996-1998 then them, and we didn't even have a team. They were notoriously one of the poorest-run franchises in pro sports.

Now, this past year they got off to a pretty good start, won some games, blah blah blah. And all these Bengals fans just start climbing out of the woodworks! Where were all these fans the past 10 years? I doubt half of them even know who Sam Wyche or Anthony Munoz are, nonetheless Ken Anderson or Ken Riley. To listen to them talk, you'd have thought they were the best team in NFL history. And this was in Week 4, after beating powerhouses such as Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago and Houston. Impressive.

Pretty soon, all you could hear on Sunday's were chants of "Who Dey!" I got news for you - "dey" is not a word in the English language. Sorry. "Who Dey! Who Dey!". And this was in Columbus! You could forget about watching a Browns game on TV - CBS almost exclusively carried the Bungles the whole season, much to the chagrin of civilized football fans.

After the Bungles lost on ESPN Sunday Night Football against Jacksonville (a game watched in my dorm room, with the door closed to block out the "Who Dey!" chants of ignorant fans down the hall), I opened the door and screamed "Who Dey! Dey Suck!!!" before slamming the door. That effort was rewarded by a glass bottle being broken outside our window.

The situation became so dire that I even started an anti-Bengals group on Facebook ("Who Dey? Dey Suck!"). I cheered when Carson Palmer went down. I cut out the full-size photo that ran in the next day's Columbus Dispatch with him lying on the ground in agony and hung it on my bulletin board, much to the delight of non-Bengals fans throughout the dorm.

And don't get me started on the Reds this year. It's the second coming of the Big Red Machine. Brandon Phillips is a combo of Barry Larkin and Joe Morgan. Is that David Ross or Johnny Bench behind the plate? Which Ken Griffey is out there on the field? Ryan Freel is the epitome of Mr. Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose. And Jerry Narron does have an uncanny resemblance to Sparky Anderson.

One last note: when the Reds came to Cleveland, a large group of "Nasty Nati" fans came too (oh, and they're pretty nasty, let me tell you). I attended a game the Tribe actually won (see my first post here), and with the Indians winning 4-0 in the ninth, the Reds fans started a "Scoreboard!" chant ("Scoooore-booooard! Scoooore-booooard!") What, exactly, were they pointing out on the scoreboard? That they were losing to a crappy Indians team? Stupid, ill-timed chant. Any respect I might have carried over for Reds fans disappeared in that blaze of glory.

Mentor, Ohio: I really want to extend this to all of Lake County, but since I work for a team called the Lake County Captains, I won't. I like my job.

Mentor is mainly on this list because of baseball. They played in the same summer league as us, and I cannot, for the life of me, ever remember beating them. Maybe once or twice in 5 years, if that. To make matters worse, it always takes over an hour to drive out there because of rush-hour traffic on 271 and 90, and those were some miserable rides, especially the several times we went out there only to have the game rained out.

Then, senior year, varsity baseball, sectional finals. Mentor is the top seed and we're playing them on their home field. We drive out there, only to have - go figure - the game rained out. Which was fine with me, because I was battling food poisioning from the cafeteria macaroni and cheese and spent most of the evening with my head in the toilet. But I digress.

The game is rescheduled for the next day. Game starts at 4:30; bus is supposed to pick us up at about 3:00. It doesn't show up until after 3:30. We don't get there until about 4:30. We're the home team (due to Ohio high school rules) and the umps don't give our starting pitcher, Jordan "The Moose" Schoenfeld any time to warm up. He gives up two runs in the first inning and we lose 2-0. Mentor goes on to reach the state finals. I go on wanting that city destroyed.

Pittsburgh (aka "Shittsburgh"), Pennsylvania: Man, do I hate the Steelers and their pompous fans. Enough already. We get it. The Steel Curtain. The Immaculate Reception. Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann. The Bus. And now Big Ben.

When news broke of Big Ben's motorcycle crash, my fellow Captains employees laughed. I hoped it was career-ending. Why? Just look at what's happened to the Browns for the past, I don't know, 40 years or so. The best player in franchise history - hell, NFL history - leaves to make movies in Hollywood ("The Dirty Dozen" is real good, but I'd rather have had a few more championships.) We had some good teams in the '70s but couldn't get by Shittsburgh. I'll sum up the '80s as follows: Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble. Art Modell took away our team in the '90s. Since the rebirth, it's just been one thing after the other, recently with Kellen Winslow's own motorcycle problems and what I'll now call The LeCharles Bentley Situation.

That's what it comes down to - our top player blows out his ACL popping wheelies in an empty parking lot; their star player gets a little banged up after being hit by a car! Ridiculous.

So there's my list, the five places I hate the most right now. It may be subject to change/addition as events unfold over the course of my life. If you have any more rants about these cesspools or suggestions for other unfavorable locales, be sure to let me know.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I had no intentions of writing about the Browns yet. I had nothing to say about them this early. I know training camp started yesterday, but it's still July, for Pete's sake.

But now circumstances have changed. And I'm changing right along with them.

In case you hadn't heard, Browns center LeCharles Bentley injured his knee this morning. According to www.espn.com , it's a potentially season-ending injury. WTAM didn't go so far as to say that, saying its anywhere from a twisted knee to a torn knee ligament.

My dad broke the news to me in a voicemail while I was at work. His voice was hushed and sounded grave. Now, that could have been because he didn't want his boss to hear him, but I'm sure part of it owed to the fact that our biggest free-agent signing and probably best offensive lineman might miss the season after two practices.

I thought he was joking at first. Had to be joking, right? Right?

It took me about 2.7 seconds to realize that he was serious. My dad likes to make jokes, but even this would be tasteless for him.

Two practices. Season over?

I called him back as soon as I could. We laughed. Not a "hardy-har-har, 'Wedding Crashers', Dane Cook comedy skit" type of laugh. No, more like a "we're tied up and held at gunpoint and the bad guy just made a horrible joke" type of laugh.

I just can't figure this all out. Is Art Modell out there somewhere with a Cleveland Voodoo Doll, poking and prodding at our sports franchises? Has Rocky Colavito cast a shadow over the north coast? Heck, is Ted Stepien even still alive?

I try to be optimistic, believe me, I really do. But I think the rest of the country can understand why Clevelanders are pessimists. Pittsburgh and Detroit are extremely similar cities to C-Town, economically, politically, dirty, etc. But they've got the Steelers (ugh), the Pistons (sheesh) and even the Tigers (gasp!). And what does Cleveland have?

Two practices. Season over?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Though I'm only 19, I consider myself fairly well schooled in baseball history. But the Indians, well, the Indians have stumped me.

Then again, what else should we expect from this failure of a season?

Today, Cleveland traded starting first baseman Ben Broussard to the Mariners for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Cash and a player to be named later were also part of the deal. So now Cleveland has dealt the Mariners not one but two first baseman (Eduardo Perez being the other) in less than a month. Though I'm sure it's happened before, two major league players from the same team and position traded to the same team, I have no clue when.

Basically, the first base platoon that Mark Shapiro envisioned pushing the Tribe to the postseason now does its business in the heart of Starbucks country, giving a jolt to the M's own postseason surge (3.5 games out of the AL West).

Did I say in the heart of Starbucks country? Actually, all Broussard needed to do today was clean out his locker and move a few hundred feet across Jacobs Field, as Seattle starts a series against the Indians tomorrow.

Shin-Soo Choo now joins the major league roster. Seems like he was tearing it up in AAA. I just read Mark Shapiro's comments about Choo:(http://cleveland.indians.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060726&content_id=1576695&vkey=news_cle&fext=.jsp&c_id=cle)

Once Shapiro calls Choo "this player". Another time, "this guy". Never refers to Mr. Choo by his name. Now, how are we supposed to get excited about a player who the GM doesn't even call by his name?

More good news from downtown Cleveland; I had the honor and pleasure of attending today's Indians game, a masterful 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Tigers. The Tribe: 1) Failed to get hits with runners in scoring position; 2) Failed to advance even more runners into scoring position when given the chance; 3) Failed to finish off Tiger hitters after getting ahead 0-2 or 1-2 in the count (ahem, C.C., sixth and seventh innings).

Failed, failed, failed. If you had to calculate the Indians season on a GPA scale, they would have been held back a year. Sent to summer school. Lucky to earn a GED.

But hey, at least I got to see Joe Inglett's first career home run today! I'll always remember this date, because with the write-ups Joe's been getting recently in the Plain Dealer, he's basically a combination of Ted Williams with the bat, Robbie Alomar with the glove and Gandhi off the field. If only we'd called him up sooner, we'd be right in the thick of things!

Terrible, terrible, terrible. Another lost season. I can't wait for next year, when we can watch Superman Joe Inglett at second base and "that player" playing right field for a full season.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Starting our sophomore year in high school, my friends Stu, Amol and I volunteered as youth coaches for the Solon Recreation Department. The primary intent, at least for me, was to earn some community service hours to bolster the ol' college resume.

Never did I imagine, three years later, how big a part coaching would play in my life.

We originally just wanted to coach flag football. Then it expanded to basketball and baseball. Pretty soon we were coaching indoor and outdoor soccer, albeit reluctantly.

(Though we felt fairly comfortable in our knowledge about football, basketball and baseball, us coaching a youth soccer team was like Brittney Spears trying to teach a kid how to sing. In other words, it wasn't pretty and probably more detrimental to the kids than anything else.)

I still remember our first flag football team, a group of first and second graders. Most had never played football before. They didn't know any of the positions and couldn't really run any plays (it took us about halfway through the season that most of the kids didn't know their right from their left yet.)

The one area the kids excelled at, though, was keeping score. Six points for a touchdown, one more for the conversion - they were on top of it. Of course, since the kids were so young, the Rec didn't keep score or track wins and losses - but our kids sure did.

We coached another memorable team, basketball, fifth and sixth graders that Stu's brother Daniel played on. They were a great bunch of kids - Daniel, Tim, the Kearney twins - plus they were pretty good. After the season, which ended with a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, we took the kids to Mitchell's Ice Cream and ended up hanging out there for over an hour. I even walked over to EB Games with the Kearney's where they persuaded me to but them a $5 video game. It didn't take much persuading.

Without a doubt though, and I'll speak for Stu and Amol here, our favorite group was a baseball team of fith and sixth graders ("Majors"). We coached Daniel and Tim again, as well as Aaron, who singlehandedly beat our basketball team in that playoff game. We also had a player by the name of Luke Bando. You may have heard of his dad Chris, who played for the Indians, or his uncle Sal, an All-Star on those great Oakland A's teams in the 70's. Needless to say, Luke was the best hitter, pitcher and fielder in the league. He even switch hit, and was more successful from the left side than his natural right side. And boy, did he have a cannon for an arm.

That team only lost one game (when we played with a bunch of third graders called up from the younger league). We won games in all types of fashion; thrilling come-from-behind victories, 10-run rules, everything. We cruised through the playoffs and easily won the league championship. To this day, I don't remember who was happier - the kids or me.

But now it's all come to an end. We coached our last baseball team this summer, a Pony league team of seventh and eighth graders. Stu, Amol and I all work, and it's tough to make it to the games sometimes - I missed over half due to work. Plus, we went through a very rocky season. Most of the kids wouldn't show up until right before the game started, leaving us to wonder if we could even field a team. We would always have to call up two or three kids from the younger league just to have enough players. And it was pretty easy to tell that a lot of them really didn't want to be there.

Considering how much fun the past few years were, it was disappointing to go out this way - almost like the star athlete who's trying to hang on for a few more seasons, even though he's way past his prime.

I was still able to meet the team, or what was left of it, at Dairy Queen tonight after our final game. We lost in the playoff semifinals, a game that, like so many others this year, we should have won. I came straight from work and by the time I got there, it was just Amol and three of the kids. Pretty fitting, I thought, as all I could think of were the happier moments of years past.
Those memories, though fading as time goes on, are how I'll choose to remember our Solon Rec coaching experiences. In the end, I'm glad we could give all of those kids the same opportunities that we had, to play Rec sports and have a good time.

And those memories? I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some quick thoughts on the trade of Bob Wickman:

- The numbers don't lie, Wicky's the best closer in Indians history. He'll forever be remembered as being, umm, a tad heavyset, as well as the thrilling ninth innings he provided. Love him or hate him (I loved him), he always got the job done, even if it did raise your blood pressure to, well, somewhere near what his probably is.

- We don't need a closer for this year. We're like 87 games behind Detroit and Chicago in the Central. Plus, Wickman is probably going to retire at the end of the year, so he wouldn't benefit us at all down the road. He's been close to retiring for two years now (there's a reason why Shapiro went after Trevor Hoffman and B.J. Ryan in the offseason, he didn't know if Wickman would still be around). Might as well give Fausto Carmona a shot now and see what he can do.

- Since Wicky is only around for maybe 2 more months, I don't think his trade value was very high. Which explains why we got a single-A catcher in return for a closer who saved 45 games last year and would be near the top of the league again this season if the team didn't stink.

- When I saw that we got a catcher, I initially figured he'd be in AA or AAA and ready to compete for a job in spring training next year. Victor Martinez would move to first (bye bye Benny Brou), Kelly Shoppach would catch full-time, and the new guy would possibly backup. But since he's so low in the system and likely at least three years away from the bigs, status quo might reign at catcher and first base.

I'm going to miss Bob Wickman. I hope that he pitches well for the Braves this season, maybe leads them back to the postseason. Now let's cross our fingers and hope that Carmona has the same type of success, only without developing the beer gut and the knack for dramatic endings.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm often asked, if one of the Cleveland teams could win a championship first, who would you want it to be?

Obviously, a flaw exists in the question; right now, I doubt anyone in Cleveland cares who does it first - they just hope they're alive to see it done.

Still, my favorite sport is baseball, and my favorite team is the Indians. I was too young to really remember them being terrible in the late 80's-early 90's (and, of course, not even alive for the 30 or so years before then), and then the Browns left, and the Cavs stunk...well, it was easy to fall in love with the Tribe. Especially those teams in the mid-90's, with Omar, Sandy, Charlie, Thome, Kenny, Manny; those were fun and magical times, and we expected them to last forever.

That's why the disappointment of this season has affected me so much. I have never, ever, ever, given up on an Indians team before. Not even the rebuilding a few years ago killed my passion. I had faith that we would be back. Now, the most painful words I've written...

I've officially given up on the 2006 Cleveland Indians.

As I'm writing this, we (they) are losing 5-1 to the California-Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels. We (they) have lost four of five since the All-Star break and could very well (gasp!) find themselves battling KC to stay out of the cellar (only nine and a half games and shrinking with every Aaron Boone error!)

Here is a statistical analysis of the 2006 Cleveland Indians through 92 games this season. We'll start with the positives (aka "mostly offensive") then go onto the negatives (aka "everything else"):

The Tribe has the third highest batting average in the majors (.283), third highest slugging percentage (.465) and sixth best on-base percentage (.350). We (damnit, they!) have scored the fourth most runs (565), hit the second most doubles (192) and the clubbed the fifth most homers (123). And our pitching staff is tied for second with the most shutouts (8) and complete games (5), while allowing the fourth-fewest walks (253).

Ahh, but that pitching staff...

It ranks 22nd in ERA (4.75). It's allowed the tenth most runs (471). It has the second fewest saves (14, and not Bob Wickman's fault at all - the Indians have made it possible for the 280-pound closer to be invisible). Opponents are batting .280 against Tribe pitchers, the fifth worst mark in the bigs. And when those runners get on base, boy oh boy... 78 stolen bases allowed, with only the Padres (with Mike Piazza and former Indians standout Josh Bard behind the plate) worse.

Another major problem has been the defense, which sometimes reminds me of the Solon Rec baseball team I coach. Sadly (for both the Indians and my team) that's not a compliment. A .979 fielding percentage ties for second-worst, and the team has committed the sixth most errors (71). With a team that plays defense so poorly, it would help if the pitching staff could strike out more batters so that less balls were put into play. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as Tribe pitchers have struck out just 532 batters, the second fewest in the league.

But hey, at least the Indians have that offense! It keeps them close in those tight games by doing the little things such as bunting runners over and stealing bases. Whoops, no it doesn't! Cleveland has the fewest sacrifice hits (bunts and flies) and the second fewest stolen bases.

Whew. After re-reading the last few paragraphs, I realize why the Indians stink this year. One list of positives, three of negatives. And as I'm writing, the Tribe now trails the Angels 6-2 in the seventh after being gifted a run. Jhonny Peralta just blew an inning-ending double play.

But why would that surprise me? This Indians team has made me expect the worse, because frankly, that's where they belong this year.

Monday, July 17, 2006

After a weekend that was busy, crazy, terrible, fun, hectic and hot, I've finally found a few minutes to sit down and relax this morning. I woke up at 6:30 today - not entriely by choice - and went to the golf course to play nine holes and hopefully clear my head a little.

I think it worked.

See, I like getting to the golf course early, when it's calm, still and empty. Golf is a lot better at that time, when you don't have to wait for the 15 minutes on every hole for the four duffers in front of you to finish. Nothing is more peaceful than a golf course on a beautiful morning.

Alone with my clubs and my thoughts, I can play a round pretty quickly. These early morning rounds are the best mental therapy for me. It may sound corny and trite, but I've found that life is really all about the little things. Since this is primarily a sports blog, I will relate some wonderful experiences with sports I've had the past few years that I've come to appreciate more and more:

- Joe Charboneau gives baseball lessons at Unlimited Sports, the facility at which I work. For those of you who don't know, "Super Joe" played for the Indians and was the 1980 A.L. Rookie of the Year, before injuries derailed his career. Before I left for college last August, I was astonished at how nice and friendly he was. I came back to work in May, and the first person I saw was Joe. "Scotty, how's it going man?" he asked with a big smile and an even bigger handshake. Joe Charboneau remembered me? It may not seem like much, but he made my day. (Later he asked me if I had any dip. For the first, and only, time in my life, I wished I had some to give to him).

- Jim Thome received a mixture of boos and cheers (mostly boos) when he returned to Cleveland this summer. I will always have fond memories of Thome, who used to work out at Unlimited Sports. One wintry day we were deluged with snow and I was outside shoveling, struggling to clear our front walk, when none other than Mr. Thome himself appeared, shovel in hand, and helped me finish. Another time my friend and I brought some baseballs and asked him to sign, which he did uncomplainingly, and also chatted with us for a few minutes. Say what you will about him leaving Cleveland, but I will always remain a Jim Thome fan.

- As an intern with the Lake County Captains, single-A affiliate of the Indians, I have many different tasks during the course of the game. Occassionly I will be with our mascot Skipper, making sure he gets to the on-field promotions on time and keeping the kids from swarming him. We also visit the stadium's suites, and one day Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage had our diamond suite reserved. We walked in and Savage was watching the U.S. Open on TV, and while Skipper entertained the little kids, Savage walked up to me and asked, "So you've got to follow the big guy around today, huh?" Dumbfounded, I could only nod. Then he stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Phil Savage." I shook his hand and replied, "Yeah, I know." He asked about the Captains, my future, and seemed genuinely pleased when I told him I wanted to work for the Browns, Indians or Cavs someday. That 5-minute conversation with him is one of my fondest memories of all-time.

In addition to meeting some great people, my fledgling amateur athletic career led to some memorable moments. Our varsity baseball team played a game at Jacobs Field, and after warming up in the Indians bullpen, I pitched the sixth inning. Absoultely unbelievable. Every time I go to a game I am reminded of that feeling.

It's amazing how much a little round of golf can bring out. I feel it is the most humbling of any sport I've played (and trust me, it humbles me pretty often), and despite the frustrations it offers me the greatest chance to just take a deep breath and relax.

To put it briefly, golf is like a mulligan for real life.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sorry that I haven't had time to post more this week, but that's the drawback of having two jobs. I wanted to write about Tuesday's All-Star Game but I only saw the last 2-3 innings. Oh well. The following is a column I wrote in the "Chimes" in the beginning of April. Enjoy:

I quit the baseball team in the fall. It was the best and worst decision I’ve made in my life.

I told myself that by quitting, I could focus more on academics, on work, on writing for the “Chimes”. I could enjoy spending more time with my friends and perhaps even find that ever-elusive girlfriend. Most of all, I could finally relax.

And yet, not a day goes by where I don’t long to be back on the mound, squinting in for the catcher’s sign and firing in my 76-mph heater. I miss the camaraderie of being around the team and going through the ups-and-downs of the season. Most of all, I missed the competition.

Any truly successful athlete (or in my case, moderately successful) can tell you that competing and defeating another team or individual provides a great thrill, a great rush. And for me, 3-on-3 pickup games with friends just didn’t cut it anymore. I needed to get back out onto the playing fields and prove myself again.

So I joined the golf team. Never mind that I never played on my high school team, that my scores were more reflective of Wilt Chamberlain’s greatest output (100 points) than Tiger Woods (61), and my lone rounds of competitive golf were dollar-a-hole with my friends.

I practiced with Coach Kline twice before my first tournament. With a changed swing and a positive attitude, I felt nervous but eager to make my intercollegiate debut.

Unfortunately, there were no fairy-tale endings for this sports writer, only lost balls and triple bogeys. I won’t reprint my score here, but let’s say that it shattered Chamberlain’s NBA scoring record. Much like The Fray, I was in “Over My Head” in that first tournament.

Still, the beauty of sports gives me another chance to repeat after a failure. I played much better in my second tournament; a 36-hole excursion at the Columbus Country Club that left me sunburned, fatigued and yet smiling from ear-to-ear. I had been knocked down but got up to answer the bell, as I will continue to do for the rest of the season.

At the end of his baseball memoir “Ball Four”, former pitcher Jim Bouton said "You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out it was the other way around all the time." And to me, his statement rings true.

Even though I will always remain a baseball player at heart (I wear my Capital baseball hat when golfing), I am embracing the competitiveness and challenges of golf at the collegiate level. Judging by my current caliber of play, I follow a quote from another famous baseball player, Hank Aaron.

“It took me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits in baseball,” Aaron said. “I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”

Monday, July 10, 2006

The World Cup has come and gone. Yaaaawwwwwnnnn.

For some reason unbeknownst to me and millions of other Americans, soccer (or football or whatever the hell you want to call it, I don't really care) has easily become the world's favorite sport.

It got to the point where I couldn't even enjoy my morning SportsCenter on ESPN, because all they had on was soccer. I would flip on ESPN2, desperate to catch some Cold Pizza (yes, that is definitely a sign of desperation), only to see some guy from Trinidad & Tobago flopping around the "pitch" as if he had been shot with a 12-gauge.

I watched the replay: When the guy hit the ground, there was no one within 5 yards of him. This led to some guy on the other team receiving a yellow card (apparently the Trinidad & Tobagan player was actually Dwayne Wade).

Throughout the last month, we have been preached to about the glamour of this "sport", the beauty, the history, the passion, the culture. If you don't like soccer, well, you're just ignorant. The rest of the world is into it, we should be too!

I've got news for you: Some of those countries eat dogs and cats as delicacies. I'll take my culture just fine, thank you.

Plus, we always hear about how wonderful the fans are. You think the Cameron Crazies at Duke are nuts? In Europe, they'll riot after a loss, kill people, and threaten players. Yes, this is really what we need to incorporate into our country, don't you think? "Aaron Boone, you struck out in the ninth and cost us the game. Now you're going to die."

(Well... OK, OK, just kidding. But maybe it would be acceptable in some cases.)

And believe me, I've given soccer a fair shake, I really have. Coached a couple of Solon Rec soccer teams, indoor and outdoor. Worked at a bunch of Capital's home soccer games, men's and women's. And it's all the same to me. They're running...they're kicking...they're trying vainly to get the ball within 20 yards of the goal...and then it's cleared out to the other side. And that's that. For 90 minutes.

And who knows, maybe we'd all care more if America actually had a decent team. I watched the second half of the match against Ghana, hoping we would score a couple goals. It didn't happen. After the loss, I went back to watching infomercials on the Golf Channel like I'd been doing before.

I don't know what it will take to get America interested in soccer. It seems that for every person who loved the World Cup, you'll find three or four who simply don't care. It might take something like the 1980 "Miracle of Ice", when a young group of American hockey players did the impossible and won the Gold Medal, captivating the country and making hockey relevant...

Wait, who won the Stanley Cup this year?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Outside at 9 a.m. today coaching Rec baseball, I noticed the early morning sunshine quickly fade to overcast skies. It remained cloudy until about 2:00, when my friend Brian called me.

LeBron agreed to a contract extension with the Cavs.

Wait, that doesn't look quite right. I think it should read more like: LEBRON AGREED TO A CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH THE CAVS!!!


Either way, the clouds quickly parted over Cleveland (well, Solon at least), revealing a bright and beautiful day. I don't think it was a coincidence. If it was, who the heck cares? Need I remind you that LEBRON AGREED TO A CONTRACT EXTENSION WITH THE CAVS!!!

Screw the Indians for right now (they lost 7-4, again failing to capitalize on any momentum from last night's big win). After torturing Cleveland fans for a full week, LeBron verbally committed to remain in the Wine and Gold jersey through 2013.

(I'll pause here to let that sink in. LeBron James. Cleveland Cavaliers. 2013. Take a few deep breaths and exhale. Try to avoid hyperventilating, or gagging on drool.)

His young career has been peppered with question marks about how long he would stay in Cleveland. Many felt it a matter of time before LeBron abandoned C-town for the spoils of New York or LA. Those questions only loomed larger starting last week, when Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne "NBA Finals MVP" Wade all agreed to extensions with their own clubs, while LeBron remained mum. The city of Cleveland held its breath, and if you felt a little extra breeze this afternoon, it was a result of 500,000 northeast Ohioans exhaling simultaneously.

So we can start fitting the team for championship rings now, right? Prepping Euclid Avenue for the big parade? I mean, we've got LeBron.

Brian and I joked about how many titles we'd win with LeBron: five, six, seven. Then reality set in. "I'd be happy with one," I said, my mind drifting towards the euphoric feeling of celebrating a Cleveland championship.

This team still has some issues. Re-signing Drew Gooden, who some nights plays like Charles Barkley, other nights like Gnarls Barkley, is one of them. I think he needs to stay, though, because he's an athletic big man, and those don't come easy. Also, the drafting of Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson has made the futures of Eric Snow and/or Damon Jones doubtful. And big Z, so steady and consistent during the regular season, looked lost and slow during the postseason - almost a liability. He may be gone shortly as well. And no one knows if Larry Hughes can be the Scottie Pippen to LeBron's Michael Jordan.

Throughout the day, though, when those feelings were nagging me, I turned my focus to the fact that bears repeating once again.


Friday, July 07, 2006

C.C. Sabathia threw a three-hit shutout tonight against the Orioles. Travis Hafner hit another grand slam, giving him five - FIVE - grand slams before the All-Star break, a major league record.

And the 9-0 win "improved" the Indians' record to 40-45, bringing them to within 18 games of Central Division leader Detroit.

At least they're a more, umm, respectable, 16 games out of the Wild Card, behind the White Sox.

Where, oh where, did this all go wrong? Remember, this is an Indians team that finished 2005 with a record of 93-69, the sixth-best mark in baseball, and missed the playoffs by just one game. Granted, we knew the departures of Coco Crisp, Kevin Millwood and Bob Howry would hurt, but with a limited payroll (ahem, Mr. Dolan), the team could make do with cheaper alternatives. And a great nucleus - Sabathia, Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, etc. - was returning. Certainly this year's squad would, at the very least, remain competitive and perhaps even push over the top and into the postseason.

After the Cavs thrilling postseason run ended, the talk around town switched to the Indians (that, and LeBron not signing his contract yet, which is another column all in its own). I can't remember the Plain Dealer having so many letters from irate fans. It's the miserly, penny-pinching owner Dolan's fault. My grandmother evaluates talent better than GM Mark Shapiro. Eric Wedge is the worst X's-and-O's manager in baseball history. And on and on and on.

Somewhere along the line, though, aren't the players held responsible? Larry Dolan is not booting ground balls at third base (that would be Aaron Boone). Mark Shapiro is not among the league-leaders in strikeouts (that would be Peralta). Eric Wedge is not serving up fastballs down the middle to be jacked out of the ballpark (that would be Guillermo Mota).

I interviewed Wedge when the Indians winter press tour visited Columbus at the end of January. The confidence level was higher than Ricky Williams during the offseason. Everyone - coaches, players, fans - had great expectations for 2006.

“I think the experience [the team] gained last year, and the improvements they’ve made over the last three years, is going to play out well for us this season,” Wedge said at the time. “We need to continue to get better, be more consistent, and do a better job in situations late in ballgames. If we can keep everybody healthy and do those things, I think we’ll be in great shape.”

Experienced? Yes. Injury-free? Relatively so. Consistent? Ummm...

This is an Indians team that beat the Yankees 19-1 one night, then lost the next two games by a combined score of 21-7. This is an Indians team that lost a game against St. Louis by making two errors in the ninth, then followed that by blowing a seven-run eighth inning lead the next game against the Reds. An offense that scores 12 runs one game is silenced the next. A pitching staff works wonders one night gets worked over like a slow-pitch softball pitcher the next. Not a whole lot of consistency there, but that falls on the players who, simply put, are not getting the job done.

Last season, a major concern was the 22-36 record in one-run games. No big deal, according to Wedge. “I look at losing 36 one-run games as a positive. It’s sure better than losing 36 five-run games.”

Through July 7, the 2006 Indians have managed a 7-11 record in one-run games and have lost their last seven one-run ballgames. While that's a little disturbing, so too is the fact that few games are even coming down to the wire. The Indians are blowing teams out or getting blown out.

I think that also falls on the players. They're professional athletes, and they have a job; win ballgames. It's been feast or famine for the Tribe all year, and right now you'd think they be a little more hungry.

How to resolve this lack of hunger for next year (because let's face it, this team is deader than a funeral home)? Maybe the guys should follow C.C. through the buffet line.