Socializing versus baseball

Every now and then, I’ll go out and do things with other people, whether it be for a work function or just hanging out with friends or colleagues in general.  Certainly this partaking in social rituals is a normal part of being a member of society and the human race, although, introvert that I am, I often do so begrudgingly and with a sense of discomfort and dread.

I went out for dinner on Friday evening with some folks from work, though I was actually looking forward to this particular outing.  It had been a high stress week on the job, so the thought of some good food and a cocktail out with some company struck me as appealing.

The catch to this, I realize in retrospect, is that I am not the kind of person who can go out with just anybody solely for the sake of going out with somebody.  Granted, this is not a brand new epiphany that has only occurred to me in the last couple days — when it comes to dating, for example, I won’t just go out with anyone who happens to be available.  There has to be some level of interest already established, and my date certainly won’t be reaching any metaphorical bases until I deem an appropriate level of worthiness.  In non-dating scenarios, ironically, it becomes a bit more complicated.  Agreeing to go out for a casual not-date drink with a colleague or acquaintance does not generally come with the implication that someone might be looking for more.  It’s just about “hanging out” or “blowing off steam” or whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

The reason I find this more difficult is because it makes it harder to say no.  Saying no to a proposed date is socially acceptable.  If you don’t meet my standards, then I won’t date you, period.  Most people respect that equation.  Simply hanging out, however, comes with a more lax set of expectations.  It is a societal norm to hang out with folks even when we aren’t all that close to them.  We meet old acquaintances for lunch or we go out with co-workers during happy hour, even though we may not even like them.  If you say no to these invitations, you are dubbed “antisocial” or “unfriendly” or, most confusing of all, “stuck up.”

All that said, I agreed to this outing on Friday evening primarily due to the appeal of potentially letting go of the tensions brought about by the workweek.  I should have known better than to go out with a couple of co-workers in the attempt to accomplish this.  I wish I could say there was a high point to the conversation that commenced, but there really wasn’t.  I’ll own up to the fact that I didn’t do much to help matters: I made no effort to try to redirect the conversation, merely eating my food and sipping on my whiskey and Coke in relative silence.  As a quiet individual, I find that trying to steer a conversation being dominated by two or more other, louder people often feels like more effort than it’s worth.

Fortunately for me, we had decided on meeting at a local sports bar, which meant that Game Two of the NLDS was playing soundlessly on all the televisions in the establishment.  So while the conversation devolved from the exasperations of online dating to an all-out gossip/bitchfest about work (that topic I was hoping so much to avoid), I frequently glanced over to see how the Rockies and the Brewers were doing.  I confess that I had largely stopped watching the Royals as their 58-104 season dragged on — even as things started to pick up for them in September, I couldn’t bring myself to watch.  But no matter how distant my relationship with the game might seem at times, baseball always holds a greater appeal for me than listening to negativity from other humans.

I have family members living in Wisconsin.  Combine that with the opportunity to watch former Royals Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, I defaulted to rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers.  I was pleased to see that they were up 1-0, and the score remained that way until our dinner outing (thankfully) ended.  It made me smile a little to see that they did go on to win the game, and it was good to see both Cain and Moustakas at the plate again.  I miss having them in Kansas City, but I can’t help but be happy for them and their opportunity to play some more October baseball.  I hope the Brewers continue to do well.

All this, I guess, is just a long way of me saying that I like baseball infinitely better than I like most people, even though baseball obviously wouldn’t exist without people.  I meant to write a lot more about baseball itself here, which clearly did not happen, but at least I can still say that the “moral” of this post is that baseball continues to provide a nice escape whenever our lives throw us into these somewhat uncomfortable situations, no matter how distant we might feel from the game.


The end of the regular season

This past weekend saw the conclusion of the 2017 MLB regular season.  Today, there is no baseball.  Tomorrow, October 3rd, the Twins will be in New York to take on the Yankees for the American League Wild Card.  Then on Wednesday, October 4th, the Rockies are headed to Arizona to compete with the Diamondbacks for the National League Wild Card.

The postseason has begun.

For my team, the Kansas City Royals, there is no postseason this year.  And with the futures of players such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer now up in the air, things are definitely changing.

 

Hosmer Moose

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas (Instagram: kcroyals)

Ned Yost has agreed to return for one more year, and mainstay Alex Gordon is signed for a few more years, but Royals fans are in agreement: we are at the end of an era.

I just hope we aren’t staring down the barrel of another 30-year stretch of “rebuilding.”

 

 


2015 World Series thoughts

For the World Series this year, I decided to do something I’ve never done, and I scribbled down some thoughts/notes about the games as they were being played.  Granted, I didn’t jot down every single thought that popped into my head as the Series went on — I’d have a small novel on my hands if I did — but rather, I focused on moments that seemed (relatively) big or interesting to me at the time.

I will mention a couple things about this note compilation, however: First, for anyone who isn’t already aware, I have been a Royals fan since I was ten years old, and that bias is all over these comments.  Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve been objective about this World Series if I tried.  You’ve been warned.

Second, one note that I nearly made over and over again, though I managed to restrain myself, was a thought about the broadcasters of the game.  More specifically, my wish that we could just cut out all commentary and keep it strictly to the play-by-play and statistics.  For example, how many times did we really need to question the decision to allow Harvey to return for the ninth inning in Game 5?  Mention it once, maybe twice, then move the hell on already.

*

GAME ONE
~ Escobar with the inside-the-park home run!  Awesome start to the Series.  Wish I knew what happened to those guys out in that outfield.
~ FOX with the technical difficulties.  WTF?
~ Granderson homer… ouch.  Mets up 2-1.
~ Some impressive defense in this game.  From both sides.
~ Zobrist doing a fun little tarantella out on the base paths against Harvey.
~ RBI Moooooose!  3-3 tie after six innings.
~ Volquez’s father passed away prior to the game?  Oh man, that’s tough.
~ Misplay by Hosmer.  Nooooooooooooo……. 4-3.
~ Gotta figure out that Clippard change up.
~ Glad we got replay back for that caught stealing.
~ Bottom of the 9th.  Time for a rally!
~ GORDO!!!!
~ Aaaand… into extra innings.  Wouldn’t be a Royals game if it didn’t get interesting late.
~ I have a feeling I won’t be getting much sleep throughout this Series.
~ Hos redeems himself!  What a game.  14 innings, 5-4 Royals!

GAME TWO
~ Sure hope the effective Cueto shows up tonight.
~ I think deGrom has more hair than I do.  Cueto definitely does.
~ Low strike zone tonight.  Will make things interesting.
~ What’s up with all the throwback photos in this WS?
~ Bats finally come alive in the 4th.
~ Rally!  Royals up 4-1 after five.
~ Cueto still looking good.  Thank goodness.
~ Another rally in the 8th!  7-1 Royals.
~ Complete game two-hitter!  Sure wish this version of Cueto would show up more consistently.

GAME THREE
~ Can’t say I’m surprised that Syndergaard would throw at Escobar’s head, but it’s still dirty as hell.
~ Blown coverage at first.  Early Royals lead!
~ And a homer by David Wright.  2-1, Mets on top.
~ Wow, Salvy broke two bats in that AB.
~ Holy smokes, Ventura has some wheels.
~ Royals back up 3-2 after two innings.
~ Homer by Granderson puts Mets up 4-3.  This game is crazy.
~ Raul Mondesi becomes the first player in history to make his Major League debut in the World Series.
~ Morales doesn’t know where to throw the ball — should’ve just gone to first if he didn’t know.
~ Ouch.  Mets up after 6 innings, 9-3.
~ And that’s the final score.  Mets dominate.

GAME FOUR
~ Mets score first in the bottom of the 3rd on a Conforto homer.
~ Rios forgetting how many outs there are.  No room for mental errors in the World Series…
~ Gordon RBI to put the Royals on the board.  2-1 in the middle of the fifth.
~ Score stands at 3-2 after seven innings.  Royals need a rally.
~ Error by Murphy!  Tie game!
~ RBI Mooooose!!
~ And Salvy follows up with an RBI of his own!  Royals up 5-3.
~ After a much-too-exciting ninth, Royals hang on!  Now leading the Series 3 games to 1.

GAME FIVE
~ Mets strike first with a Granderson homer.
~ Volquez gets a hit!  Nice.
~ Save for the homer, both pitchers are rockin’ it tonight.  Harvey looks especially sharp.
~ Still 1-0 after five.  What a game.
~ Volquez escapes a jam giving up only one run.  2-0, Mets, after six.
~ Royals tie it in the top of the ninth!!
~ And now into extra innings…
~ Dyson scores in the twelfth!  Royals up 3-2.
~ Royals now up 7-2 in the middle of the 12th inning…!!!
~ And that’s the game!!  ROYALS!!!!!!!  Fireworks already going off here in town.  There is no way I’m going to sleep tonight.

*

As a follow-up I managed to get about 3-4 hours of sleep before I had to get back up for work on Monday morning, but the lack of sleep didn’t really affect me.  Even now, I’m still running on the adrenal high of it all.  In my baseball literature class yesterday, we didn’t discuss literature at all — the conversation revolved completely around the Series and the playoffs as a whole.

The decision to name Salvador Pérez the Series MVP, I think, was a good one.  To be honest, had I been asked to make the decision, I don’t know whom I would have chosen.  The thing about the Royals is that they really don’t have a superstar, no single, go-to player in their lineup.  Several players made significant contributions to their success.  I do believe Salvy was an appropriate choice in the end due to his work with the pitchers especially.  Watching him work with the Kansas City pitchers is impressive to behold.  He clearly has a rapport with all of them, and serves as a calming influence when things start getting out of hand.  The fact that he’s bilingual allows him to do this with the entire staff.  Furthermore, I’m impressed by his ability to take a beating and yet continue to play well.  Multiple times throughout the month of October, I found myself worrying that the latest foul ball off his body would take him out of the lineup, and yet he persisted.

All in all, this note jotting exercise proved an interesting experience.  And reading back over my random scribbles, it feels like fast-forwarding through the games all over again.  I had considered keeping score throughout the Series, but decided I would become too excited to stick with it, and I think that was probably a good call.  The notes, however, were perfect.


2015 Royals Charities 5K

The sea of royal blue reflected what one would expect to observe in the crowd at a typical Kansas City Royals game.  The warmth of the progressing day had already begun penetrating the cool morning air as my stepmom, Dawn, and I stood in the parking lot of the Truman Sports Complex.  Carefully, I pinned the blue and white paper bib to the front of my tank top as Dawn surveyed the crowds filing towards Kauffman Stadium.  Already, I could feel the inserts in my running shoes digging into my heels, but according to the podiatrist, they would help ease the strain put on my Achilles and knee.  After sustaining an Achilles injury (which subsequently also became a knee injury) in a four-mile race I ran in early-July — and finding myself unable to run at all for a solid month — I wanted to take every precaution.  Still, it made me nervous that I had only resumed running less than two weeks ago, and here I now stood, preparing to take on another race.

I learned about the Royals Charities 5K a few months ago, sitting in Kauffman Stadium and watching pre-game entertainment as the Royals went through their warm-ups.  Even though I’ve been running on and off since I was thirteen, I only made my debut into the world of racing last summer, and I discovered that I loved it: the competition, pushing oneself in spite of the elements and the obstacles, the training and the culmination of that training in a race-worthy performance.  The ad for the Royals 5K particularly caught my attention when it mentioned the opportunity to run on the field.  I typed the address to the website into my phone and pulled it up as soon as I arrived back home that evening.

The first thing I looked up was the course map, and as soon as I saw it, I knew I would sign up:

Course map

The fact that all the money raised would go towards a good cause (most races are also well-intentioned fundraisers) provided icing on the cake.  I submitted my registration and continued my training.  Given the timing of the race, and knowing that the course would be a relatively-flat one, I anticipated that this would be the race where I would set a new personal best.

The injury threw up a huge roadblock towards this goal.  The course for the four-mile race I participated in on July 4th did not have quite-so-flat a course — in fact, much of the time, we ran at a slight incline.  A month later, the podiatrist confirmed that this likely caused the strain and inflammation on my Achilles, and possibly my knee as well.  He recommended that I invest in the shoe inserts and prescribed an anti-inflammatory, but otherwise said that I was okay to resume running.  My Achilles, while still not 100%, no longer ached and had regained enough strength from all the rest I’d given it.  While my knee continues to remain touch-and-go with regards to the pain, upon resuming my street running, I discovered that so long as I keep my steps short, the pain in my knee diminishes greatly and I can otherwise continue running like normal.

Unfortunately, I also discovered that in my time off, I had also lost a lot of cardiovascular endurance, and this was my biggest concern going into Saturday’s race.  The farthest distance I ran since my return was the 2.5-mile run I completed last Wednesday, and that last half-mile left me huffing and puffing like a heavy smoker on a treadmill.  Still, I had finished the run without stopping, my knee and ankle were feeling great, and I felt ready to take on 3.1 miles.

We arrived at the stadium about 7:30 a.m., and I warmed up in the time remaining before the 8:00 start.  With about ten minutes until race time, I made my way to the starting line with the other runners.  I found the sign that indicated “8 minutes” (meaning an 8-minute-per-mile pace) and lined up a little behind it.  I realized that this was an optimistic estimate, given my time off, but I also knew that in a crowd of 2,500 runners, the pace was likely to start slow regardless.  Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports Radio served as emcee for the race proceedings.  We were treated to a phenomenal performance of the national anthem, which was capped by a flyover treat.

Photo by Dawn Sanders

Photo by Dawn Sanders

Then finally, the gun was fired and the race began.  As I anticipated, the starting line was so crowded that I walked a good part of the way towards the actual starting line.  But much to my delight, I was able to start jogging in the last few feet leading up to the chip timing sensor and settled into a comfortable pace shortly thereafter.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals

After the race, Dawn commented on the wide diversity of runners that she observed participating, and there’s a lot of truth to that observation.  You find people who live and breathe running, casual competitors like myself, people who are trying to lose weight and get in shape, and plenty of people who participate simply for the experience of walking the course.  And when you observe a race with a particular overriding theme, you even find some interesting racing get-ups, such as this Mike Moustakas fan:

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Facebook

Much of the course turned out as expected: a relatively flat, giant loop around the parking lot of the Truman Sports Complex.  It proved itself a good course for my joints and for my recovering cardio, and I managed to maintain a respectable pace throughout.  However, going into the race, I had wondered how we were to enter the field for the final leg of the course, but I didn’t find out for certain until that moment came.  That part of the race proved a blessing at first, but ended as a curse.  We entered the stadium through a gate in the right field corner, which then took the runners down a ramp.  Going down the ramp provided a momentary respite, allowing me the opportunity to glide at the same pace on less effort.  Returning to charge back up the ramp later, however, I cursed my luck as my legs burned and my lungs cried.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals (from the 2013 Royals Charities 5K)

Once we had descended the ramp and ran through the stifling hot tunnel that followed, however, we finally entered the field for the lap around the warning track.  And what an experience!  The warning track felt solid beneath my feet, in spite of the dirt.  The Royals mascot, Sluggerrr, stood in the middle of the track, high-fiving runners as they passed.  Looking down to my left, I could see the meticulous upkeep of the grass, each rich-green blade perfectly trimmed to the specified height.  Looking up, I found myself wishing I had a camera on me to take pictures — some people stopped their run to do just that — but I knew that no photo I could ever take would capture the magnitude of what I found myself experiencing right then.

I’ve heard that the experience of standing at ground level in a baseball stadium is like standing in a cathedral, but the truth and depth of that description never sank in like it did as I jogged around that warning track.  Sure, I’ve been to Kauffman Stadium and various other baseball venues numerous times, and one of my favorite experiences is sitting the stands at the K while they are still fairly empty, soaking in the atmosphere as I study the field, the stands, and the players.  But being on the field itself is a different experience altogether.

I have had the opportunity in my life to see some pretty fantastic cathedrals, to experience the grandeur and the beauty of those spaces and what they stand for.  This experience reflected that feeling in a myriad of ways.  The size of the field and the size of the stadium around me as a whole made me feel like an insignificant being on its own.  Then, when I considered what it all stood for — the Royals, the history, the game of baseball itself — I felt absolutely dwarfed by comparison.  A part of me wanted to yell something to see if my voice would echo through the empty stands, but one does not call out so audaciously in a temple such as this.  I tried to imagine the experience of standing on that field with the stands full of roaring fans, but failed to fully form the image in my mind.  The experience of the stands sitting empty around me overwhelmed my senses enough on its own.

Kansas City Royals Facebook

Kansas City Royals Facebook

All good things must come to an end, however, and I came to the end of my lap around the warning track.  In my reverie, I nearly missed the one last treat provided to runners before I exited the field.  A camera set up near the dugouts projected the images of runners as they passed onto Crown Vision, and I turned just in time to see my giant form run by on the screen overlooking the stadium.  I passed through the steaming tunnel once again and then turned up the ramp for the laborious trip back up to street level.

Upon reaching the summit of the ramp, I still had a few hundred feet to go to reach the finish line.  In most races, this is the point where I break into an all-out sprint, but my final kick was delayed momentarily as I struggled through the residual pain of that up-ramp battle.  I worked through it, however, and — reminding myself to keep my steps short — picked up the pace until I was running as fast as I could across the finish line, the struggle apparently showing all over my face.

Photo by Dawn Sanders

Photo by Dawn Sanders

The festivities did not end there, however.  This guy stood at the finish line, congratulating runners on their victorious finishes:

Photo by Dawn Sanders

Photo by Dawn Sanders

Runners were treated to a remarkable spread of food, provided by Hy-Vee, in the post-race proceedings.  I finally removed the inserts from my shoes, which made my shoes feel strangely loose around my feet.  I also acquired a stress ball from the University of Kansas Sports Medicine & Performance Center, another race sponsor, which looks like a baseball.

Dawn and I stuck around long enough to find the results being posted along the gates.  Given the injuries and the time off from running, I had kept my expectations for this race relatively low.  I made it my goal to finish in thirty minutes or less, and my official time turned out to be 26:48.  It is still a good minute slower than my personal best, but all things considered, I felt very pleased with this result.

It probably goes without saying, but this event proved well-worth the time and the registration fee that I put towards it.  Besides, I also received this awesome T-shirt out of the deal, and who am I to complain about that?

IMG_0359