Tag: Umping

Head games

black-hole.jpg

It's not been a good week for me in terms of The Black Hole. Nor has it been a terrible one. It was—and continues to be?—another of those stretches wherein I feel basically OK but I'm scatterbrained.

If I didn't have a long history of this as a manifestation of my clinical depression, I'd be worried about long COVID or something. But I do have that history, and, frankly, given the choice between a stretch of foggy brain and a severe Black Hole episode of despair, I'll take this in a heartbeat.

A friend of mine—whose birthday I forgot this week, apologies—has mentioned a couple of times over the years that she's observed my Black Hole symptoms are worse in the summertime. I don't know if that's true or not, but this has been a rather quick return for a foggy-head stretch, seems like I just got over one of those. Is it just brain chemistry? Added stress? Ennui? Too damn much sunlight? Who knows.

But here's a rundown of my last week or so:

  • Forgot I had Mariner tickets for June 1st, which turned out to be a great game and it would have been fun to be there. I did realize my error in time to sell the tickets pregame on StubHub, so at least I got my money back.
  • Forgot Nikki's birthday and have yet to rectify that. (Sorry, Nikki.) But she's on a road trip right now, so maybe it'll keep.
  • Screwed up during an umpire shift in a circumstance that required more from me. There was a collision at home plate, completely unwarranted, but also I believe not premeditated, more one of those things that happens fast and reaction time was slow. And then my reaction time was slow. Way too slow. I handled everything in a manner that kept the peace and let us proceed reasonably well, but had I been sharper that night I would have been far more assertive and timely in laying down the law and offering better/more obvious defense of the injured party, who happened to be one of my favorite players in the league. Nobody's holding a grudge (that I know of) or giving me any sort of hard time about it, but I know I fucked up and that it was a disservice to one of my faves makes it all the worse, at least in my head.
  • Was late to my own softball game this week because I had transposed the start times of games (6:30 and 7:45 became 6:45 and 7:30, which makes absolutely zero sense) and I missed the first inning.
  • Screwed up yesterday's umpire shift by not remembering that different parks mean different start times because of things like lights and permits. I know this, it's basic information. Yet, knowing I was going not to Capitol Hill but to Wedgwood, I still timed things to arrive at 7pm. On my way down, at about 6:20, I got a call asking if anything was wrong since I wasn't where I was supposed to be at 6:00. Shit. Then to compound matters when I did arrive I went to the wrong field first (#3, not #2), got confused by the lack of people around when I expected two teams of annoyed softballers, and took an extra five or ten minutes to get things straight. Then I became aware that another group had the permit for that field as soon as we were scheduled to be done, so there was no wiggle room for going over time and I just had to rush things and basically those two teams got screwed out of half their time. I'm lucky that they were all understanding and not actually that annoyed. Again, had I been sharper, there was an easy solution involving moving to one of the unoccupied fields instead which would have allowed us to play later, but that didn't occur to me in time to do any good (we did play the second game on another field despite the fact that the bases there weren't pegged in and basically sucked).
  • Today is my sister's birthday, and as my mind is functioning at the speed of someone trying to run a 100-yard dash under eight feet of water, I didn't realize that until I heard someone on a podcast say the date out loud. So I made a call as I was out on errands and added "buy belated b-day card" to my errand list.

Is this stretch of fogginess over? No, I can tell it's not. I still feel like it takes three times as long to think a thought than it should. But with any luck it'll pass soon. It's a problem.

I did watch the Mariners this afternoon, as they blew a big lead and decided to go to the ninth with reliever Ryne "Panic with" Stanek in for the save. Why did they do that? No one knows. It didn't go well. It felt like ol' Panic was similarly having trouble concentrating on what was in front of him as he walked the leadoff man, served up a base hit and a one-out game-tying triple, and then his doofus manager intentionally walked not just the next guy to set up a potential double-play, but the guy after that as well—a slumping (and slow) Salvador Pérez, who's seen his batting average drop 38 points the last couple of weeks—to load the bases, which even the announcers were a bit dumbfounded by. Result? A hot shot off the bat that only a superhuman effort by J.P. Crawford kept from being a hit but was still enough to score a run and end the game. But hey, those fans in Kansas City got their money's worth tonight, that would have been a heck of a game to be at to see your team give up seven runs before even coming to bat then claw their way back to a close score only to win it in exciting walk-off fashion. Enjoy our slow-witted, unthinking Seattle ways, Kansas City!

 

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Jazz it up a little

BMF
Sure, it's empty here, but just wait until late afternoon, when it will be filled with people lying around, spikeballers, dogs chasing frisbees, bikes, and lots of asshats playing soccer

Whenever I have an umpire shift, I file a report to the league afterward. Usually this is just a pro forma task, e.g. "No problems today, all is well," like one of Constable Odo's log entries. Sometimes it's more involved, like if someone got hurt or I had to eject somebody or there was a forfeit or something, but usually it's just "all good here," and I try to add in a little bit of color to keep it from being too dull.

Last night I was feeling a bit more creative, I guess, and put the earworm in my head of the Beatle song that had been playing in my car when I drove to the park to use in writing the report. Jazz it up some. Give the people in the office a laugh, or at least a smirk. Or maybe they're all Beatle-haters, I really don't know. Anyway, I think it came out pretty well, given that I "wrote" it in my head during the shift and on the way home while replaying the original a few times to get the cadence right. I reproduce it here for the edification of anyone who wonders what it's like to umpire at the Capitol Hill field which is usually filled with people when I show up, some of whom simply don't care about permits and reserved areas.

I give you The Ballad of Cap Hill Softball (apologies to John and Yoko).

 

THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO CAP HILL SOFTBALL

Arriving at the park at 6:40
Gear bin fully stocked thanks to Mitch
The weather is fine, people are strewn line to line
Clearing the field is going to be a bitch

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I try to keep my tone light
But the rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

The soccer guys are hostile as always
Occupying our center field
I tell ’em, “move back to play, your goal’s obstructing our way”
One throws our cones as if they’re weapons to wield

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
They always put up a fight
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

We finally get our games underway
Twenty minutes behind our sched
A batter crushes a ball, as we are watching it fall
It nearly hits a lazing guy in the head

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
People just aren’t very bright
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

Times like this I wish it was a rainy day
Fewer people causing havoc here
But when the catcher says “No jest,
Of all umps you’re the best”
It makes the troubles somehow less important, SWEET!

Had a call when there were two runners
Throw came in where I hadn’t planned
The infielder said, “hey she was out by a thread!”
I said, “the replay center says the call stands.”

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
Sometimes I don’t get it right
There’s just one of me out there
I don’t have Superman’s sight.

By the time the third game was ending
The good points well outweighed all the bad
Most of the players were great
They didn’t mind we ran late
All in all I think a fun time was had

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I hope I don’t sound uptight
’Cause despite how it started
It was a pretty good night.

Despite how it started
It was a pretty good night!

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First-world problems

bus

My car is in the shop. Nothing horrible, really, at least I don't think so. I'll know more when the mechanic gives me an update tomorrow. Exhaust system issues. It's an old car, things happen.

Being without it for a few days isn't a big deal, but I did have an umpiring shift to cover this evening at Capitol Hill. Fortunately, Cap Hill is the only one of our parks to which I don't have to haul equipment to and from, it all stays on site, which makes getting there without the car less cumbersome. Ye olde metro buses can get me there and back in about an hour's time each way.

Theoretically.

I know from plenty of experience that relying on the bus can be a tenuous thing, so I made sure to leave early enough to accommodate delays. Particularly since no matter what, on a Sunday I have no practical alternative to what we refer to around here as "the crazy bus," i.e. the KC Metro E Line. Up in my neck of the woods it's generally not a big deal, but from the city limits on into downtown the route is often populated by a demographic cohort that is underprivileged and in various manners unhealthy. Thus, riding the E Line is unpredictable.

Still, things went smoothly on the way down and I got to the park with 20 minutes to spare. I used the time to chat up some of my favorite players that were in the game currently being played under the early-game umpire's watch and remark on the start of Major League spring training and generally shoot the breeze while defending my fellow umpire from some criticism. (I mean, yes, he did miss that call at first, but given the bases-loaded situation you got to cut him a little slack; he's only got one pair of eyes and they can't watch all three bases at the same time.) It's playoffs, people get testy.

That game ended and I relieved my fellow ump and took over, grateful that the lights at Cal Anderson park were working again and there were no obnoxious soccer players getting in our way on this cold evening. New teams took the field and I let my ego soak up the comments from both departing and arriving players—"dude, what the hell, why didn't we get you for our game?"; "hey good, Tim's here"; "you're so much better than the other umps"—and I was enjoying things. I made two bad calls, one on a ball/strike decision that was irrelevant as the next pitch was put in play, one more important on a hard grounder over the bag at third base that I called fair and that led to several runs. In the moment I didn't know if it was fair or foul, the angle from home plate on that kind of thing is pretty bad and there was no time to shift position, but it has to be called immediately anyway, so I pointed fair. No complaints, but I still wasn't sure, so after the inning I went to the third baseman, a guy I've seen a lot of doing these games, and asked him. He said it was foul. I believe him, he's not a troublemaker. Oh well. There were a few other bang-bang plays I know I did get right despite some pushback (playoffs, people get testy), so there.

The winner of that game was to play again immediately following in a semifinal match, but as we were nearing the start time for that one I wasn't seeing anyone new show up. Usually by the 5th or 6th inning the teams for the next game are at least partly there, warming up on the sidelines. We were running a bit late, but with no next team waiting I didn't rush things and let the game go the full 7 regulation frames as the Chop Zone Outlaws emerged victorious with a nice double-play turned in the home 7th to secure the win.

Still no opposing team and we were well past the permissible grace period to avoid a forfeit, so I called off the second game and packed up the gear, thinking I'd get home early and get to warm up. The Metro Transit app on my phone told me I could catch a bus in a short few minutes and be home in under an hour. Good, I needed dinner.

But this again involved a transfer to the crazy bus. So it was not to be.

In addition to the typical E Line happenings—a guy sat next to me and started rapping a tune about Jesus; two stops for wheelchair riders that required some delay; the expected onslaught of fragrance from unwashed bodies that gives me empathy for fictional Vulcans on fictional human starships—something happened just as we entered the on-ramp to the portion of Aurora Avenue that becomes limited-access. What happened I still don't know, I haven't been able to suss it out, but we stopped in the middle of the long ramp, stuck behind a disabled bus immediately ahead. Why we couldn't go around I'm not sure, but we were stuck and given where the bus was, the driver didn't want to just let us all out; there was a small shoulder, but next to that a big concrete divider with another lane of traffic and an elevation drop on the other side and opposite another divider beyond which was traffic going the other way. Pedestrians were not accommodated there.

So we waited for help. Some Metro mechanic or tow vehicle or something to clear the way.

But nothing happened. I got through the latest episode of the Fast Politics podcast in its entirety before the first passenger rebelled and broke the cover over the emergency release on the back door and let himself out. The driver resealed the door best he could, then went to talk to the driver of a third bus which was now stuck behind us. Before long other passengers pulled the same maneuver and reopened the door and just walked out into the street. Fortunately, this is on a Sunday night when traffic was relatively light.

Eventually Metro officials had blocked off a makeshift pedestrian route for us to exit the bus and walk back along the on ramp to what my California relatives would call the surface street, and we got to wait for the next E bus to arrive with two other complements of passengers. That took a while (during which time it started to snow), then we all crowded into the next bus, which made a bit of a detour to rejoin the highway later on, and I managed to get to my stop and exit the bus before the headache that had started building as soon as I got on the overcrowded coach had gotten truly unbearable. The few-blocks walk back to my place in the snowy sleet wasn't quite enough to clear my head but it helped.

The thing is, had I stayed to work that second game, because of Sunday schedules and such, I would have had an alternative to the crazy bus. There is a night-owl route out of Northgate that gets relatively close to my place, I could have taken the train to Northgate and caught that instead; barring other complications, I actually would have been home well before I actually made it here.

Alas. 

I've got another game to ump tomorrow night. This one I have to haul gear to, so my car better be ready by then. Otherwise I have to brave the crazy bus again, but with a 10-pound bag of softball gear. [Cue sad trombone noise.]

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Dazed and relatively alert

earl tedlasso

There's a scene in the TV show Ted Lasso (season 2, episode 1) in which star footballer Dani Rojas accidentally kills Earl, the team's greyhound mascot, when Earl is struck by Rojas' kicked soccer ball. It's a little bit counter-intuitive, as a soccer ball is relatively soft and full of air, but physics. You know, potential energy, velocity, mass × acceleration, that sort of thing.

Last night as I was preparing for an umpiring shift, I found myself empathizing a lot more fully with Earl. Some guys playing soccer on our field, dilly-dallying about getting out of our way so we could start our softball game, kicked a soccer ball—hard—and clocked me right in the temple. I went down, sort of blacked out (in the sense that my vision went dark but I was still conscious) for about, I don't know, 15 seconds, maybe, and then got up and made my displeasure known to the soccer jerks. One of my softball players was out to assist me straight away and he moved to go after the soccer guys, but I just shouted at them and they left without further incident. 

I didn't see it coming, of course, so I can't say if it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to hit me without understanding how hard the impact would be, but I am fairly sure there wasn't an intention to injure me. I've had enough conflict with soccer players who won't leave our fields that it makes things murky and I can't be sure of their hostility or lack thereof; could go either way.

Either way, it rattled my cage pretty good and it took a while for things to normalize. Don't ask me what happened in the first couple innings of our game, I couldn't tell you. I do know I didn't think to do some of the normal pregame stuff like clearing foul ground of obstructions (soccer goal) and checking the bases (one had a broken post the other day) until midway though our game. Things seemed fine by mid-game, but I woke up today with a splitting headache and basically lost my whole Wednesday to trying to sleep off the pain.

It's OK now. I still feel the sting of the impact on the side of my face, but the headache is gone and I don't feel at all dazed or impaired. But I'm glad I don't have another game to ump until next Tuesday.

Fucking soccer.

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Bright spots

LOcozyCan
Gifts from the field

Though my climb back to stable orbit continues, it's been slow going and I've not gotten a lot accomplished of late. But there have been a few highlights that perked me up a bit:

  • Mizuki went in to see the vet yesterday and was a champ. Scared out of her little kitten mind, but bravely got through being groped and stuck with needles and she's now had all her shots until next year. She was very popular with Dr. S and the whole staff at Cats Exclusive and I have to admit I liked it when she ran from the technician back to me when they were done with the shots. Don't worry, Tiny Moon, I've gotcha.
  • I umpired a playoff series the other night, three games, and when one of the guys playing in the second game showed up early he saw I was the ump for the night and texted his teammates: "We got Tim tonight!!" It did me good, I wasn't feeling too well before heading to the park. That team won their semifinal but lost the championship game to a squad that also knows me by name now. The softball season is coming to a close soon, but meanwhile it's nice to be appreciated there.
  • Relatedly, last week (or sometime? The days have all melded together lately) I umped another game with The Leftovers, who presented me with a team-branded beer cozy. I don't drink beer, but it functions as a Coke cozy just fine and I discovered they name-checked me on the thing:
    That's pretty great. Many thanks to Neal and the rest of the team.
  • Lower Decks is back! The new season got off to a pretty good start, not the best but still fun. I guess if you're a Voyager fan you'd appreciate it more, but that to me is the bad Trek. On the other hand, they made great fun of some of the goofiest/dumbest things about that series, so that's a plus. I see this LD ep as less of a "valentine" as a well-deserved mockery of some really terrible Star Trek.

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The Leftover Way

LOs

In my side gig as a rec-league softball umpire, I see many kinds of people out for some fun on the diamond. The basic traits can be measured on a pair of scales—on the X axis you have skills, with excellent players on one side and folks who have never picked up a bat before on the other; the Y axis has attitude, with breezy and easy-going ranging to overly competitive and obnoxiously macho. The spectrum is wide on both axes, and most teams are a jumbled mixture.

Over the years I've been doing this I've seen several teams repeatedly, and naturally have developed favorites. I always enjoy it when I draw a shift with, say, Bat Attitude or the Barking Gekkos or the Reinforcers. And there are, of course, individuals on other teams I always like to see. But the cream of the crop, at least from the standpoint of umpiring, are The Leftovers. I did a game with them last night after not seeing them for three or four weeks, it was a blast.

The Leftovers are a rare breed in rec-league softball in that while the players on the X axis remains varied, the Y axis has everyone on the breezy fun side at all times. (Even when, say, the pitcher complains about my strike zone, he does it in a joking way that's purely banter.) As it turns out, that was by design—Neal, the team captain, formed his team using what we might call The Leftover Way.

I grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, my formative baseball years being molded by Whitey Herzog and the hit-and-run, and for a time I was steeped in Cardinals lore. They have a thing they call "the Cardinal Way," which is mostly about player development in the minors and emphasizing things like defensive positioning and fundamentals, but also about being good community members and teammates. (It's also a term that occasionally gets used sarcastically as a pejorative during times of budget-cutting or when personnel are moved for off-the-field reasons, like when Herzog was ordered to trade Keith Hernandez because of all the cocaine. Keith cleaned up, but he was dealt to the Mets anyway for violating the Cardinal Way in the eyes of ownership.)

The Leftover Way has been articulated in an article published last month in the local weekly paper known as The Stranger. Writer Nathalie Graham joined the team for one game for the piece and you can read her account here. Neal runs an Instagram account for the team that has highlight reels, stats, and occasional good-natured questioning of my calls. You can see that stuff here.

I have to be an unbiased arbiter when I'm umpiring, but there is truly no better team to root for than The Leftovers.

As for my softball playing endeavors, I will be on the field late this afternoon/early evening in Ballard for the Smiling Potatoes of Death (or "SPuDs"). The Spuddies are objectively bad, but we try to make it fun anyway. It's our own attempt at the Leftover Way.

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Bits and pieces

car
Returned after paying impound ransom. Glass half full.

Howdy. It's been over a week since the last post, but not for lack of material. I'd actually intended to write about a few things since the Great Car Caper, including its own follow-up, but you know how it is. Work, inertia, splitting headaches, a general feeling of "I just don't want to be at my desk anymore tonight." Anyway, in lieu of the various individual posts I'd been pre-writing in my head since then, here's a catchall one with a few bits and pieces from what I'm sure would have been much more elaborate and articulate ramblings had they gotten their due in a timely manner.

  • Car update: The police recovered my car relatively soon after its theft and the only damage to it was superficial (exterior) and annoying (interior), which is to day a chunk missing from the plastic "rain guard" (I suppose it guards from rain getting into the door seal?), a small dent, and what appears to have been an aborted attempt to remove my Biden-Harris bumper sticker; and a truly impressive amount of garbage strewn through the inside. Mostly the trash was food wrappers, candy remnants, fast food bags, fast food detritus, that sort of thing, plus a few empty cans of spray paint. I presume the thieves were graffiti taggers.
    My working theory is that the thieves used the car to go from place to vandalize with spray paint to next place to vandalize with spray paint, with stops at various fast food and convenience store candy marts, until it ran out of gas, at which point they abandoned it to likely steal someone else's car rather than buy fuel. Score one for my inefficient internal combustion engine.
    I emptied all the trash, plus a little of my own trash that was still there, and aired the car out for a day or so to get the smell of fast food out of it. That done, and since I don't care to try and fix the superficial exterior damage, the only real harm done to me aside from the inconvenience of being without it for a few days was the ransom demanded by Lincoln Towing, the company that provided the impound lot the police use. They charged me the towing fee, a city regulatory fee, and hourly storage fees for the time they had the car. Quite the racket they've got going. Other cities have laws that protect auto theft victims from this kind of predation, but not this one. Apparently there was an attempt to pass a measure to address this in the state legislature some time back, but it didn't go anywhere. Alas. Still, way cheaper than replacing the car, so I'm choosing to look at it in a glass-half-full sort of way. And I ordered a wheel-lock thingy for future use when parking on the street.
  • Erik went to Korea. And Taiwan. Who knew? This strikes me as a little weird, not because Erik went to these places, but because not long ago I had a strange dream in which my dad and Marty were planning on moving to Pusan. It made zero sense.
  • The CNN thing with the "Town Hall" debacle featuring former President VonClownstick was something I was all worked up to write a whole screed about, but now that some time has passed I'm less outraged. Not because the event wasn't deserving of outrage, it was. The fact that CNN thought hosting such a forum would result in anything other than a fiasco is mind-boggling. On the other hand, CNN is under new management that wants it to be a place for disaffected Fox "News" viewers to go, so maybe this is just the first taste of their new business plan. Regardless, the thing did serve a positive purpose among all its rampant disservices, and that is that it provided a ton of material for campaign ads against VonClownstick. The program reminded those of us that were no longer paying attention to politics and the news as deeply as others of us do just who this guy is, that he has not changed, that he will not change, that he is among the vilest human beings to have ever lived. And of who his fans are. That he has followers that just eat his vileness for breakfast and regurgitate it onto society.
    Most of the news coverage after the fact has been criticism of CNN. Slate.com has a good analysis of it that includes:
    Absolutely every single moment of this debacle was predictable, and it is enraging to see CNN making the exact same mistakes it made when Trump first entered into the public sphere eight years ago. The network gave a seditious would-be despot carte blanche to openly lie on live television for an hour, in front of an adoring crowd, with ineffective pushback from a reporter who, if Wednesday night is any indication, is nowhere near ready for prime time. The pregame chatter among CNN’s vacuous panelists, meanwhile, used the same empty framing that has long made the term “talking heads” a pejorative.
    All the CNN-bashing is deserved, to be sure, but it misses the bigger issue of what the former president said during the televised hour of journalistic seppuku. He perpetuated his election lies. He once again defamed the woman he has been ordered by a court to pay $5 million to as damages for his sexual assault and defamation of her. He called the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade "a great victory." Instead of answering a question about why he stole government documents after leaving office, he insulted the questioner. Of the January 6, 2021 insurrectionist footsoldiers, he said "They were there with love in their heart. That was unbelievable and it was a beautiful day." He avoided taking any kind of position on the war in Ukraine, lest it upset his good friend Vladimir. That is all very, very important information that should show everyone in the world how this man should not be allowed anywhere near any position of any authority ever again, but because of how it was presented (and subsequently covered by many) I fear that point will not get across to anyone who needs to hear it.
    CNN CEO Chris Licht said, in response to the criticism of his network's production, "You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them." Except, yes, Chris, I can say you didn't get them. You got propaganda. You got deflections. You got bald-faced lies. When he was all but cornered on the stolen documents thing, you got "You're a nasty person" as his "answer."
    The American news media as a whole is terrible, TV news in particular, but outlets one might consider to be better, like National Public Radio, are guilty of the same kind of malfeasance, treating the sort of behavior DJT and his minions exhibit as basically normal politics when it is anything but.
  • Related to the CNN thing, there is The Gun Thing. I had some further ranting to do on that, on how the gun "debate" is evidentiary just on its own of the fact that the modern Republican party deserves to be labeled a domestic terrorist organization, but instead today I think I'll just let Wil speak for me.
  • I had another umpiring shift yesterday, four games in the sun on the first summery weekend we've seen this year up in these parts. By and large it was a good day, few points of conflict. But there were some, and they put me in mind of something my friend (and softball teammate) Mack posted over on the Book of Faces. I will reproduce it here:
    I'm sure my Laws of Sports Conduct apply to every recreational sport, but I don't play "every" recreational sport, I just play softball, and here goes:

    1. Never so much as grumble to an umpire.

    Teams, you're paying the ump like $20 to have them give an unbiased opinion on balls and strikes, safe and out, so STFU and take their word for it. Without an umpire, you'd have no walks and no strikeouts, and some batters would be there for like twenty pitches before they put the ball in play. Also, don't expect the umpire to be better at umpiring than you are at playing. ???? If you suspect that an umpire is mis-applying the rules, you'd better have your rulebook handy, or else don't go out there. Simply, don't. You have a fixed amount of time to play your game. Every minute you spend interacting with an official can cost your teammates an at-bat or even an entire inning of play. It's not worth it.

    2. Try to not hurt anybody.

    Your job on the field is to make sure nobody gets hurt. So when you're thinking about doing something "sportsmanlike" that can get somebody hurt, don't do it. Don't. Just don't do it. Never ever ever "take someone out" at second base. Don't do it. Your "job" isn't to prevent the double play, it's to keep the opposing player healthy enough to go out to the bar after the game. Don't throw your bat, don't make throws that your teammate can't handle, don't do the "fake tag" thing that makes somebody slide when there isn't even a play on them, and on fly balls—yell loud and clearly that either you're taking it or the other person's taking it. No crashes over a silly pop fly, OK?

    3. Respect the equipment.

    If you're the kind of player who slams a bat down after striking out, or throws a glove after making an error . . . you need to chill the fuck out. You look like a poster child for a domestic violence abuser, and if your teammate is caring enough, they will and should refer you to some counseling. I often joke that a good craftsperson always blames their tools, because it's obvious that it's not the tool, it's the craftsperson. It's really okay if you're a player who drops a ball or swings and misses. The greatest baseball players in history do that. The reason they "act out" is because of some stupid code that "shows they care." You don't have to show you care—because you shouldn't care. The game doesn't matter. We do this for recreation, not recognition, and certainly not for the adulation. Chill the fuck out.

    4. Be supportive of the other team's players.

    You're not being disloyal by showing appreciation when the other team makes a nice play or gets a nice hit. It's been proven that we feel better after a high-five than we do after grumbling about a missed opportunity. You don't have to applaud wildly when they turn a double play against you, but you might feel better telling the shortstop, "Nice play" rather than think, "you fucken bastid!"

    I've had my share of inappropriate interactions on the playing field. I remember each and every one of them, which is a shame, because I've had so much fun on the field, all of those games and all of those innings and all of those at-bats . . . but it seems that those memories of the pleasant and fun times don't linger. Those memories may not linger, the fun of turning a double play or driving in a run or taking an extra base or making a nice relay throw . . . but the effects of those activities DO linger. They help build friendships, they help build community, they help make the world a better place, one play at a time.
    Fun. Recreational sports should be fun. I'm going out there this season to have fun. I invite you, if you're partaking in a recreational sport, to go out and just have fun! And try hard to not hurt anybody!
    Obviously, Mack's first point is the one that resonates most with me because I'm often on the umpire's side of things. I'm paid a bit more than $20 a game, but not nearly enough to accept the sort of treatment that an occasional player will vent my way. To date I have ejected exactly two players from softball games in over four years, and one of those was for physical violence, but I have been tempted to toss many. Three or four I probably should have tossed but didn't. Yesterday my shift began in an unusual fashion in that, before the games started, I was approached by a guy who had been giving me shit last week. "Hey man," he said, "I just want to apologize for last week. I just started acting out of my head for no reason at all, I don't know what the fuck that was even about. Sorry." This was good, set the stage for a good day that was only marred by one further violation (from someone else on a different team) of Mack's Rule #1 and one inadvertent violation of Rule #2 that led to some potentially damaging violations of Rule #4 that I was able to defuse relatively quickly. The Rule #1 violator is a chronic offender, though, which makes me cringe a little when I see his team on my schedule.
  • I can't believe it's taken me this long to read another Neal Stephenson book. Years and years ago I read Snow Crash, which was terrific, and Zodiac, also quite good, but it's only in the last couple of weeks that I cracked open another Stephenson tome. This one is Cryptonomicon, which is, if I'm recalling Snow Crash properly, not as awesome as that but still pretty darn fine. Plenty more when I finish this one, I guess.
  • I am going to unload my tickets to the Mariners/Yankees game on May 31st. That's a softball (playing, not umping) night for me and I'm already missing the prior week's game for similar reasons. Anyone reading this that wants the pair of (quite good) upper deck seats may have them for cost or in trade, otherwise I'm putting them on StubHub for profit. Let me know.

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That's not what the song means

thief

So, Thursday night I had an umpiring shift over at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. Not unusual, I generally do a couple of those a week out there. On this evening I found myself running late because of a traffic snarl on the freeway—someone had lost a barbecue grill out of the back of a pickup truck, so everyone was wisely slowing down and changing lanes so as not to collide with this tipped-over piece of outdoor cooking tech in the center lane, causing a backup of many miles—and I was hurrying to get to the field on time. Usually on a Thursday I have to park several blocks away. The league doesn't reimburse me for parking as a rule, so I troll for free spots in a very densely populated part of town. On this day, though, I lucked out—someone had just vacated a spot less than one block from the park. The opposite end of the park I needed to be at, but still. Seemed like a break and I got there in plenty of time to set up the field and start the night's games on schedule.

The games were good, mostly with teams I'd not encountered before, though I knew one of the groups from the first game of the evening. Good guys and gals, although some of them kept on nagging me about the conditions; the lights at the park are broken, only about 1/3 of them come on and it's pretty dark when you need to track a fly ball, but what good nagging me about it does is a mystery. For the most part the newbies were good folks too, I was even complimented by one of the guys who was impressed with my "fun differential" (which is a literal inside-baseball joke referring to last year's Seattle Mariners) while another offered to help me collect the outfield cones and another one was effusive about my getting out to call plays on the bases and making sure everyone knew what was what (I figure his prior rec softball experience might be in the city league I sometimes play in, which has some of the gawd-awfulest umpiring I've been around with guys that just stand rooted in place and quietly go "hup" when calling a strike that might well be over a batter's head).

Anyway, when the games were completed at 11:00 and I had packed up the gear, I had some pep in my step and walked the length of the park back toward my car, already plotting out the rest of my night. I have to stop by the league office on the way home to get a gear bag for Sunday's shift, then I'm going to pick up a couple of quick groceries from the one 24-hour Safeway I can think of, then go home, feed the cats, put up my feet, and watch the Mariner game recorded from this afternoon while I eat leftovers from Karen's cooking the prior night. I was humming to the earworm in my head of a Billy Joel song from his 52nd Street album, even though I hadn't been listening to that earlier, and was feeling pretty good.

Then I arrived at my allegedly lucky parking spot to find some other car parked there.

WTF?!

Had I parked illegally? Did someone tow my car? No signs for towing companies anywhere. The posted parking restrictions all expired at 6:00pm and I didn't arrive until a bit before 7:00. But it is Cap Hill, people are zealous about parking. I was kind of freaking out, but also kind of methodical.

I called a friend who has more experience than I do with navigating the parking of Cap Hill, but he had no answers. I called the towing company used by the city police when they tow illegally parked cars. Do you have my car? Nope, sorry. So, the police it is. Called 911—which I was surprised you are supposed to do in a case like this, but you are—and reported my missing vehicle and they dispatched a police unit to talk to me. Took a while for them to get there, a missing car can't be high on the priority list, but they showed around midnight.

Officer Chu was fantastic. Good-humored guy, looked over the site and confirmed, yes, a legal spot, no reason you'd have been towed, 99% likely stolen as it's an older car with no anti-theft stuff. Plus the electronic locks don't work reliably anymore, I have to remember to manually lock the doors, and honestly can't remember if I checked them all since I was hurrying to the field. Chu let me know that the recovery rate for stolen cars is actually pretty high in these parts (around 70%), unlike in other cities and other parts of the country where it can be puny, so I may well get it back before too long. He and his partner, whose name I did not get, gave me a positive experience with the Seattle police, which was reassuring but also made me wonder if certain of my friends would have gotten the same treatment given their ethnic backgrounds. I'm choosing to believe Officer Chu would be just as cool with them because, hey, he seemed like a good dude. His mustachioed partner, who knows, he didn't say much.

After finishing with the cops I made my way to the Cap Hill train station and barely caught the last train of the night that would take me as far as the Northgate station, after which I begged a favor of my only friend in the north end with wheels that I knew wasn't a freakish morning person (looking at you, Failor) and that didn't have to punch a clock in the morning.

Ultimately I got home. Way later than planned. But I still watched the M's game (good one, too). And scrolled through autotrader.com to see what I'm looking at as a monetary hit if I need to buy a new-to-me used car; looks like maybe $5-8k. Really bad timing on that, given my giant HOA assessment hit this month.

Ironically, there was a particular CD in the car stereo. On my drive down I had been listening to The Beatles' Rubber Soul. Beatle fen will know what the first track on that album is. And, yes, I might be a star when it comes to the cast of rec league softball umps, but no, car thief, I will not, in fact, love you. Bastard.

 

 

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, the police phoned me to say they had recovered my car near Harborview Medical Center, not that far from where it was stolen. Apparently it had not had its plates removed and was "in driveable condition," though no word on whether or not it is damaged. It's being towed to an impound lot now and I can call the towing company tomorrow to arrange to reclaim it. Hopefully there's not a big fee attached to that.

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Bullpen Bulletins

Back in the day, Marvel Comics all had a page in them near the back that was for their little promo blurbs of various kinds that they called Marvel Bullpen Bulletins. In that vein, a few things to blurb about today...

  • ITEM: Trump indicted! (Or "indicated," as he wrote on his knockoff social media platform.) About frakking time, but also, not nearly enough. It's a good start, and with luck the media will remind everyone that, though this is a relatively trivial case amongst the many criminal acts of former president VonClownstick, it was the one that conceivably allowed every subsequent one to happen and is of a kind when it comes to motive: to hoodwink the public and rig an election. May it be the first of many indictments and may it serve to lead to eventual justice being done, or at least a significant measure of it.
  • ITEM: Yesterday was opening day of baseball season! I did not attend the opener for Your Seattle Mariners as I have been wont to do, but I will attend many games this season as per usual. I watched the game on the telly, though (after the fact), and thankfully the new rules Commissioner Manfred forced upon us didn't play much of a role. There was one pitch clock violation by a Cleveland reliever, who looked uncomfortable as all get out anyway, and one play at second base on a Ty France double that might have resulted in an out instead of a safe call if the old standard bases were in use. Otherwise, you wouldn't notice much change. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pitch clock itself is not placed in a spot that the TV cameras can see with the usual camera angles. Good—I don't want to see the damn thing, it's too distracting.
  • ITEM: Speaking of Opening Day, in years past I would have been spending a great deal of time writing up season preview articles and delving into all the player movement over the offseason and consulting my peeps for their season predictions. This all for the website I used to run based upon the magazine I used to do production for, which I finally got burned out on last summer. I gave it a go for several years, but it never made a dime and its audience never grew beyond a smattering. But I know some folks still want to know about my opinions regarding the Mariners in particular, so I'll run down some of that stuff over the weekend.
  • ITEM: As some of you know, I have a side gig umpiring rec-league softball. I was working a few games last night, one of which featured two of my favorite teams to ump for, a good crop of guy and gals that keep things fun and don't take it too seriously. One of those teams is The Leftovers, who mark their softball journeys on Instagram. I even got namechecked in one of their videos. Their captain suffered a freak injury in winter league, so he's not playing for a while, but he's always there with his camera to document all the good stuff and post it. I appreciate that when he posts a video of a close call with the question "safe or out?" that he doesn't overtly second-guess me. :)
  • ITEM: I bought my new bike finally, and gave it a bit of a shakedown ride the other day. It needs a little bit of adjustment, which I've not managed my time well enough to finish doing yet, but so far I'm pleased and not regretting the almost-$700 purchase.
  • ITEM: The Mariners are playing! I must go now to tune them in on the TV machine.

More later. Excelsior!

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