Thursday, April 17, 2008

JV Middle School Baseball Opening Day

Okay, so we had our first Middle School Baseball game of the season yesterday, an up and down affair that we were able to pull out in extra innings, 10-8. We played a shocking 8 innings, which I have never played in 5 years of middle school coaching - games are usually 6 innings, or 7 if the score is close and we can get it in before the visiting team has to get on the bus home. Before the game, as we were waiting for the ump to show up (a common occurrence in middle school baseball), the tottering old man coach gave me his lineup card and let me know that a few of his kids had never played "organized" baseball before. This isn't a rare situation among teams that are comprised of 6th and 7th graders, and I let him know that we had a few of those players as well. Then he said that when one of those players came up, he would roll his fist over from the third base coaches' box. He proceeded to show me how exactly he would roll his fist over. I nodded and replied with a firm "Sounds good," holding back my obvious questions of "Why?", "Is that necessary in any way?", and "How old are you, old man?". I still can't conceive what I would gain from this, or what he expected me to do upon seeing the presumably inconspicuous Fist Roll. Do I signal to my tiny 6th grade pitcher to take it easy on him? Hold back on his 34 MPH heater? Do I intentionally walk these kids out of pity? Is it just to let me know, coach to coach, that if one of these kids does something completely and totally embarrassing on the field, like run to third base after making contact, or shitting his pants in the batter's box, that it is completely out of his hands? This kid's never played organized ball before! Strangely enough, I got so wrapped up in the game that I never even peered over to the coaches' box to see if he was indeed doing this.

What made this even more odd was that while The Old Man was clearly the de facto coach, wearing the official team windbreaker and cap, there was another younger middle-aged man, in an unusual business casual sweater, that seemed to be doing most of the coaching. The Old Man was silent, clearly preferring to communicate with everyone through subtle hand gestures, while the Sweater Man was very vocal, calling out encouragement and instruction to kids during and after every play. I wasn't introduced to this man, but I did notice him playing catch with one of my players during warm ups, which I thought was odd. Our best guess is that Vocal Sweater Man was a parent and assistant coach, but needless to say, I didn't like him.

Me: Any idea who that guy is?
My Other Coach: A parent? I saw him raking leaves with the Old Man when we got here.
Me: Yeah, that was weird. Not one of our guys' parents, right?
My Other Coach: I don't think so. Have you seen our batting helmets?
Me: Oh shit.

So somehow, after bringing all of the equipment up from the equipment room, our guys forgot everything in front of the school - nothing made it on to the bus. Both Varsity and JV were without batting helmets, but fortunately a couple of kids had their own catcher's gear. We ended up sharing helmets with the other team, which the Old Man took in stride. He'd clearly seen it all before. "What? Okay."

Anyway, we started out strong, taking an early 7-1 lead going into the bottom of the third. It looked like a blow-out in the making but some porous defense led to a huge rally by the home team on a boatload of unearned runs, and we found ourselves tied 8-8 going into the 7th, the final inning. Amazingly both teams went scoreless, so we decided to play the 8th, even though it was way past the time we were supposed to call the game and get back on the bus. It was our first game of only a 6-game season, and there was no way I was letting it go down as a tie to the Vocal Sweater and his Old Man.

It should be noted that earlier in the game I saw Vocal Sweater Guy make a move that I have never seen as a middle school coach. He intentionally walked my number 3 hitter, TWICE!, both times with no one on base! Can you believe this guy?!? This kid is a 7th grader who, thanks to the large number of guys on our team, will probably end up playing a total of only 3 games this season, and you are going to intentionally walk him in the third inning with no one on base??? That's just shitty. I can maybe see if it was late in the game, and first base was open, and it was clearly a strategic move going for a win. But this was just an asshole move. Granted, he hit a homerun in his first at-bat, but since their catcher couldn't throw anyone out anyway, within two more pitches he was on third base. So, basically, you're conceding a triple, just so the kid doesn't make your team play defense. I was pretty pissed.

So we manage to put up two runs in the top of the 8th and hold the other team scoreless in the bottom half, allowing us to escape with a 10-8 win. It was a big relief, and the guys were able to enjoy the long bus ride home on 90/94. I would have given the Vocal Sweater Guy an added squeeze in our post game handshake, but he disappeared among the leaves, allowing the Old Man to remain the public face of the franchise. Very strange. Just remember: We'll see you bastards again on May 7th.

BaeRating on Game 1: A-
BaeRating on Intentionally Walking in JV Middle School Baseball With Nobody on Base: F-

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ruins: Page to Screen!

Being as we are in the midst of a remarkably bleak movie cycle, of course this past weekend happened to be the first opportunity in awhile for my wife and I to leave the rats at home and take in a show. Having actually both read and enjoyed the book by Scott Smith, we decided to ignore the tepid reviews and check out "The Ruins". You might think that the "plant as monster" genre is limited for a reason, and you're probably right. It seems challenging at best for a director to imbue plants with dread, although trees can be particularly terrifying. I remember when we were buying our condo and our inspector noticed an especially large tree outside of one of the bedroom windows:

Inspector: This isn't going to be the kids' room, is it?
Me: No, I don't think so. Why?
Inspector: When winter comes that tree could turn into a whole lot of things, none of them good.
Me: Good point. Should we check the water pressure? My wife is antsy about the water pressure.

It actually was a pretty funny and insightful point, and I almost forgive him for not noticing the roof damage that plagues us to this day.

Anyway, the book was enjoyable because Scott Smith is pretty awesome at building sustained and growing dread, as he did in "A Simple Plan". He writes very matter-of-factly, so that you can follow the poor choices that the characters make, and at least understand why and how they were made - even when you know that they will only lead to someone eventually murdering his best friend. It all seemed so logical at the time! So even with what most people would consider a pretty ridiculous premise, Smith makes it work by revealing things slowly and with impressive control. By the way, I love in horror novels or films where people start to put together plans to avoid disaster, especially if they are methodical and detailed. (These plans are especially awesome if they have to be completed by nightfall.)

Not surprisingly, the film doesn't quite get it right. The director, Carter Smith, has trouble keeping the film about the growing dread, rather than the violence and blood that the dread gives way to pretty quickly. That violence and blood is in the book, and it's pretty graphic, but it comes out as inevitable and necessary to prevent any further danger - at least in the characters' minds. The book also centers on the group dynamic and how a bunch of sorta friends react to a horrifying and impossible situation. Since the characters aren't very drawn out in the film, it's hard to get much of that across and the suspense suffers because of it.

All that being said, it was certainly a better horror film than most being released with twenty-something leads these days. It has some intelligence to it, it features a very much grown up Jena Malone from "Stepmom", most of the gore isn't too gratuitous, and it has a likable German character named Mathias. I would see it over "Turistas" any day of the week. Did I mention it has a killer plant?

Novel BaeRating: B
Film BaeRating: C+

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dennis Miller as Game Show Host

With the recent game show renaissance, which really reached its zenith during the writers' strike, numerous down-on-their luck stand-up comedians and professional glad-handers have been given new life. Howie Mandel, Bob Saget, Wayne Brady, Dan Cortese (Dan Cortese!), Penn Gillette, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, etc, have all seen their careers rejuvenated by the weird and somewhat wonderful prime time gaming explosion.

Let me first say that I'm a fan of the game show trend. They're prime time shows that I can safely watch with my daughter, record and delete from my DVR without remorse, and they don't require so much attention that I can't iron my pants or check my fantasy baseball stats during them. Add that to the fact that I enjoy predicting the answers to my daughter and having her say "You're right, Dad! You're right, Dad! The green team is a disaster!" My daughter, for obvious reasons, is a huge fan of "My Dad is Better Than Your Dad!", Dan Cortese's baby, and she has all but convinced herself that we will be competing on it when she is 8. I have not dissuaded her from this dream, as I'm pretty sure I would rock the Tree Climb Crow Grab and I have yet to miss a question on the sad trivia portion of the show.

And while my favorite was Penn Gillette's "Identity", I've recently watched a couple of episodes of "Amnesia" featuring Dennis Miller. It's the one where they ask contestants detailed questions from their own lives (Which member of N'Sync did you impersonate in a high school talent show?) and make them identify momentos from their past (Which wedding dress of these five did your wife wear?). It's a fairly entertaining premise mostly because you get to find out all these weird little details from these people's lives, and Miller does a nice job of prodding them for more dirt.

Which brings me to Dennis. Admittedly I have always been a fan of Dennis Miller - I thought he did a great Weekend Update, his own talk show had its moments, and his laughing at his own material always struck me as more sincere than others with the same habit. While his time on Monday Night Football was pretty egregious in its inanity, I can remember going to see "Bordello of Blood" just for him (and a little Angie Everhart) and kind of enjoying it.

That being said, game show host is a pretty perfect role for him right now. He is a quality ad lib comedian, his references don't seem as forced as they did on MNF, and he seems to genuinely enjoy finding out the weird little facts about these strangers' lives. He also throws in an occasional challenging or edgy bit seemingly to test how his game show audience will react. (Mostly they laugh and applaud on cue or toss off a nervous twitter.) In one episode, he had a nice riff with the cue card guy that I really enjoyed. Most importantly, he comes off as pretty likable again, which seemed to be a rather large mountain for him to climb a couple of years ago. In the man's own words, maybe he just wanted to "get right up to the precipice, pivot and jeté back to Coolsville." I wouldn't say that "Amnesia" is exactly Coolsville, but it's better than a cameo in "Joe Dirt".

BaeRating: A-

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Corn Nuggets

Shocking discovery in the cafeteria today - a breaded ball injected with creamed corn. Unbelievably delicious. Crispy, juicy, flavorful, everything you could want in a nugget!

Corn Nuggets? Did anyone else know about this? Someone alert the Tamalehawk!

BaeRating: A-

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Baseball Terminology

Since I love baseball banter so much, I thought I would put together a quick BaeRating rundown of some of my favorite baseball expressions, the nerdier the better.

Two, Three, and Four-Bagger - Simple and gross. "Two-bagger off the vines for Chandreaux!"
BaeRating: B-

Granny - Sufficiently nerdy, but even better as...
Walk-off Granny "And it's a walk-off granny for Timbles!!! Can you believe it!!!"
BaeRating: B

Duck Snort a.k.a. Duck Fart - Classically nerdy. "Atta way, atta way, litte duck fart, McSorley!"
BaeRating: B

Base Knock - Efficiently nerdy. Fun to request when a batter comes to the plate. "How 'bout a little base knock, Montego?"
BaeRating: B

Golden Sombrero - It sounds wonderful, making the reality sting all the more. "Time to size up Buffler for his Golden Sombrero!"
BaeRating: B

Flashing the Leather - On the wrong side of nerdy for me. Always sounds gross. "Ozrino...flashin' the leather!"
BaeRating: C+

Lord Charles - Ambiguous and impressive name for a 12-6 curveball. "Koush, inviting Lord Charles to dinner tonight!"
BaeRating: B+

Eephus Pitch - One of my favorites since the pitch isn't really taken seriously anymore. "Mondief, pulling out a payoff Eephus!"
BaeRating: A-

Frozen Rope - Wonderful imagery, especially exciting to announce. "Rosenzweig with a frozen rope to left!"
BaeRating: A-

Excuse-Me Swing - Just an embarrassing thing to be called out on. "Schwindemann drops a dribbler on an excuse-me swing! Oh man!"
BaeRating: A-

Speed Merchant - What an awesome thing to be. "Murakami's a serious speed merchant and that puts a lot of pressure on the Rattler defense!"
BaeRating: A

Get Off the Schneid - Don't we all wish we could do this? "Man, Sheffler-Weis needs to get off the Schneid here, this is just embarrassing."
BaeRating: A

Worm Burner - This one I had never heard until recently, and I love it. Could be racist, could be homo-erotic, but it's ALL baseball. "Hoyle with a worm burner through the hole!"
BaeRating: A

Man, did you see that speed merchant get off the Schneid by making a worm burner out of Tekulve's Lord Charles? Avoided the Golden Sombrero with a little two-bag base knock on a frozen rope!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Underrated as a celebratory holiday, I've always enjoyed Easter. I'm not an aggressively religious person, but I do appreciate spending what feels like a significant day with family. Also, as a mystery buff, I've always enjoyed a good egg hunt. This was the first year my daughter could truly take part in one, and it was a vicarious thrill to watch her methodically hunt down the eggs in question. Since we had an egg hunt at our house in the morning, and then another one at my mother-in-law's house in the afternoon, it had a little bit of the multiple would-be climax feel of the film "Zodiac", but with less of the emotional let-down. No, she never did find the actual bunny responsible, but there still seemed to be some closure when we sat down to eat jelly beans at the end of the evening. It was a good Easter.

BaeRating: A-


One of my daughter's favorite insults is "Fish-Faker". Anytime she's aggravated with me or my wife, she will refer to us as Fish-Fakers. I have no idea what this means. I have no idea where she got it from, how she thought to combine the two words, nothing. I don't know if the idea is that I fake out fish, or if I fake being a fish.

I do know that it sounds especially nasty and deflating coming out of her mouth, even though she's not saying anything that could be considered offensive. I also know that I am always sufficiently cowed after being called one.

I'm really proud of her sometimes.

Fish-Faker as an Insult: A