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Did Somebody Say “Arizona?”

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Arizona.

To some, it means scorpions and deadly spiders. To some it means saguaro cacti and bobcats. To Cubs fans, Arizona is the gateway to happiness. Sort of (if it means losing 101 games in a season, a person’s happiness could be in jeopardy, but I digress).

To a select thirty people, Arizona means opportunity. The excitement of the season looms ahead, but so does the opportunity of a lifetime. Say hello the the MLB FanCave Top 30.

After two weeks of relentless campaigning via twitter, Facebook, and various other media outlets, the Top 30 Finalists were announced yesterday, here. Those of you who may be friends with me on Facebook or follow me on twitter were victims of the constant reminders to vote and spread the word.

To those of you who voted, thank you! Because of you, I’m going to Arizona next week for the next phase of the contest. I’m not quite sure exactly what we’ll be doing the whole time, but I am completely sure it is going to be legendary.

We will be arriving in Phoenix on Monday afternoon/evening and the festivities carry on until Thursday when we return home. Sometime after that they will announce the Cave Dwellers. The Cave Dwellers will then move to New York to participate in the final portion of the contest.

In non-FanCave related news, Brett Jackson debuted his new batting stance. The Cubs posted a picture of him on Instagram. You can see it here. It looks a lot different from his stance last year; his back elbow is considerably lower than it was last season. We will see if that carries over into hitting off live throws and then into game situations.

Non-Baseball News

And, there is sad, sad news in the realm of Olympic athletes. Oscar Pistorius has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend. Pistorius competed in the 2012 Olympics. He is a double-amputee.

You can read the story here.

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The Impact the 2012 Postseason Had on a Cubs Fan

Friday, February 8th, 2013

 

October 22, 2012 was an ordinary autumn day in the suburbs of Chicago, with all the smells and colors and strange weather patterns that are typical in the Midwest during the fall. It also happened to be Game 7 of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. Being the self-respecting Cubs fan that I am, deciding which team to root for was easy. The San Francisco Giants were up against the ultimate evil and had one last chance to destroy them for good.

 

Leading up to this game, the sting of the Cardinals victory in Atlanta and the unbelievable comeback in the Division Series against the Nationals was all too real. Memories of the infamous Game 6 of the 2011 World Series flooded my memory. It was up to Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and the former Cubs Theriot and Pagan to avenge me and quell the suffering of us Cubs fans, at least for a few moments.

 

During this game, the state of my mental health altered with each movement made on the field. A deep fly ball to right center? Panic. Fastball down the gut? Better be a strike. Hard grounder to short? YOU BETTER MAKE THAT PLAY, CRAWFORD!

 

My roommates threatened to send me to the mental health center that is located just down the street. Eventually, though, they left the living room and attempted to do their homework in between my shouts of glee and groans of dismay. Little did they know what was about to happen.

 

It was the top of the ninth, two outs, Matt Holliday at the plate. Sure, the Giants were winning 9-0 and the Cardinals had committed two errors in the game, but this moment was the end-all be-all. Then, it happened.

 

The pitch. Holliday swings; a sky-high pop up to second. Scutaro scrambled around for position on the soggy, puddle-filled infield. Then, he squeezed the leather and the game was over.

 

Giants win.

 

The average fan would smile a smile of relief and satisfaction, turn off the TV, and carry on with their evening. The average fan might have had a conversation with the significant other over an average Monday night dinner. The average non-Giants fan might even be a bit apathetic about the outcome of the game.

 

To the dismay of my roommates, I am not an average fan. They knew I loved baseball, of course, but it was a bit of a joke among the group. What they experienced that night might have been comparable to the joy of the liberation of the Americans from British rule.

 

“All hell broke loose” might be a bit of an understatement. The whole apartment complex heard my shouts of celebration. I may as well have been at AT&T Park, considering all the dancing and shouting and near-crying that was taking place.

 

My roommates looked at each other in disbelief as I crumpled onto the couch, gasping for air. One of them even attempted to record the mayhem on her phone. Unfortunately, the initial celebration had subsided. The Giants had won and the Cardinals were eliminated from a postseason that they arguably should not have even been a part of anyway. The dark forces had been defeated.

 

I cannot even imagine what it would be like if the Cubs actually advanced that far in the postseason. We will cross that bridge when we get there. But for now, for a fan who bleeds Cubbie Blue, a Cardinals postseason elimination is the next-best thing.

 

Fast forward to the next week, Tuesday night. A few friends want to get together to go get a bite to eat. Naturally, before leaving, I check my email. Lo and behold, an email from MLB.com was sitting there, beckoning me to apply for the MLB FanCave.

 

As quickly as I could, I read the requirements for application and began working on the writing segment of it. Out of excitement, I called my dad and told him about it. Thus began the journey of applying to the FanCave.

 

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor the gloom of the night can keep me away from the game, and I mean that most literally. Part two of the application process required filming a video. If you know anything about Wisconsin, it is cold, and it snows a lot. Naturally, it was incorporated into the video.

 

Once the writing submission and the video were both completed and turned in, the waiting game began. It took 30 days to hear anything about it. Those 30 days felt like a month to me, they took so long (Yes, 30 days does equal a month, I am aware.).

 

When I finally did hear something about the application, what I read was unbelievable: “Congratulations! You have been chosen as a Top 52 finalist for the MLB FanCave!” I was beside myself with excitement. I had to tell somebody. It was 9:30 on Thursday morning, right when Principles of Coaching was supposed to begin, but I ran outside the classroom and exclaimed to my professor, “I have really exciting news. I’m a Top 52 finalist for the FanCave!!!” and skipped around a little bit. Then who did I call? You guessed it. Dad.

 

I dialed with shaking hands. The phone rang and rang and rang. Finally he answered.

“Katie?” he said.

“Yeah.” I choked as tears welled up in my eyes.

“What’s up?”

“I made it.”

We both were cheering and crying and carrying on over the telephone. People walking by were giving me strange looks.

 

After the necessary phone calls were made to my mom and other close friends, the campaigning began. Receiving endorsements from current players and sports writers is a lot of fun. You know that feeling when your favorite player at the ballpark acknowledges you? That is kind of what it is like. Local newspapers posted stories and headlines and Cubs blogs posted stories about the only Cubs fan making it to the Top 52. Even the Iowa Cubs put up a post on Facebook about it.

 

Let me tell you, the amount of support from everyone has been incredible. For a small-town girl from Wisconsin to be recognized by Major League Baseball to represent the Chicago Cubs in this contest is something of which only a person could dream. I am eternally grateful to everyone for your votes and kind words.

 

The next phase of the contest is a segment at Spring Training. That’s right; if enough people can find it within themselves, somewhere in the cockles of their hearts to vote me into the top 30, I could be representing the Cubs for the Spring Training portion of this contest. How incredible would that be? (It would be very, very incredible.)

 

So, Cubs fans, I have a request for you. While you are voting for me, please tell your friends, your coworkers, and your family. Basically, tell anyone who has ears. There are only five and a half days left to vote, and every vote counts.

 

Plus, don’t cubs live in caves, anyway? So it would only make sense for a Cubs fan to be in the FanCave.

 

You guys are the best. I really mean that, too.

 

To vote, click here.

 

 

(Postseason logo borrowed from: http://www.eauclaireexpress.com/webfiles/fnitools/albums/news/large/mlb-postseason-2012.jpg)

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Morning News: MLB FanCave Edition

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Happy Friday morning, my good people!

I hope you all have exhilarating weekend plans with lots of computer time on the schedule because…

Yours truly has been selected as one of the top 52 finalist for the MLB FanCave!

Now, some of you may be wondering, “What is a FanCave? (I sure hope you are not wondering what an “MLB” is; if so, we need to talk. STAT.)

The MLB FanCave is an MLB Sponsored contest.The winners of the contest get to live in New York for the entire baseball season and watch every. single. game. (EVERY SINGLE GAME!!) of the 2013 season. They also get to interact with players from each team and celebrities, as well as tweet about and write blog posts about various topics regarding baseball and/or pop culture.

To enter the contest, one must write a 400-word essay and create a 1-2 minute video, both describing various baseball topics. A panel of judges selects approximately 50 entries to move on to the next round. This is where you come in: Once an applicant is selected to be in the Top 50 (in this case, 52), a fan vote determines if they get kicked out or if they move on to the next round.

So, essentially what would be just downright wonderful of all of you would be this: go here and click that little purple button as many times as humanly possible -you can vote as often as you’d like. The voting window is open until February 13th, and when that day comes, the folks in charge of voting will close the polls, get out their bifocals, and begin counting the votes. The 30 applicants with the most votes move on to the next round.

The “Next Round” is an invitation to Spring Training and more baseball-themed competitions. After this round, the Cave Dwellers are chosen and life in the FanCave begins.

Just click here to get to the voting page, vote some, and come back to it later during your work meeting, or the 2-hour lecture on plant respiration, etc. and vote some more!

This is an unbelievably exciting opportunity, and I would appreciate any and all help you could give!

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There’s No Place Like Home

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Imagine yourself behind the steering wheel of a 2010 Lexus ES 330 for a few moments – interstate 90, stretched out as far as the eye can see. Gas pedal to the mat, anxiously anticipating that first, glorious moment of seeing 9 of your favorite men skip over the white chalk line and trot out to their respective places on the field. Nothing can compare to that moment of sheer joy as the pitcher winds up and delivers a perfect strike to begin the game.

Baseball season is right around the corner and the countdown to seeing the Boys of Summer suit up this season is at 60 days. The anticipation is building daily.

While the old adage, “Everybody loves the Cubs,” is a relative statement, it rings true for a large group of people. It seems as though people love the Cubs as a team so much, they lose sight of the glorious structure that supports their love for this team and this sport.

That structure, of course, is Wrigley Field. To some, it is merely the place where the Cubs play half of their regular-season games, while to others it is the closest thing to heaven they will ever see. Heaven, with clear blue skies, perfectly manicured lawns, and deep brown dirt seems to be the perfect place for a ballpark.
Wrigley Field has a charm about it that hits you as soon as you see it from Addison Street. It is filled with rich history and great stories that would entertain a person for a lifetime. When the scoreboard lights up with “Go Cubs, go!” the excitement of going behind the walls of the stadium consumes you.

People say that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, but I would like to politely disagree with them. Why waste your money on fairytales? Why entertain the false hope of having perfectly combed tresses and consistently flawless makeup, when you could spend it on learning the invaluable life lessons of patience, sportsmanship, and the proper technique for calling somebody out? I can tell you that Disney World is not that place.

Disney is filled with empty promises and stomachaches from consuming too much cotton candy. At least at Wrigley the stomachaches are from hot dogs and nachos.
When Ernie Banks dubbed Wrigley as “The Friendly Confines,” he could not have found a more perfect nickname for it. (That is, as long as you love baseball and do not go around looking for trouble.)
Day games at Wrigley are like nothing else on the planet. The colors and sounds of the game are amplified. The beauty and precision of the crisp foul lines and the groomed dirt of the infield are mesmerizing; it’s like a whole different world inside the ballpark. Everything happening in the outside world is of little consequence for that 2 1/2-3 hour glimpse of heaven. Your joy hangs on every move that your favorite player makes – he better not let you down.
If you are a Cubs fan in need of resorting to the sought-after “happy place” that many folks talk about, you should not have to look far. Wrigley Field is that happy place.  (Unless, of course, your name is Steve Bartman or Milton Bradley.) Walking where legends have walked, sitting where they have hit foul balls and homeruns, and singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch are incomparable joys that can cure almost dreary day. Wrigley Field is a special place.
The one, most important thing that makes Wrigley Field so special is the special bond it creates with loved ones. Sharing a fifteen-dollar helmet bowl of nachos with a close friend, heckling the opposing left fielder with your younger brother, discussing the likelihood of a go-ahead home run from Reed Johnson with your father, and getting a wink from Anthony Rizzo as he ducks into the dugout cannot be replicated anywhere else.

Wrigley Field is a happy place. There’s no place like home.

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Morning News: Evening Edition

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

In case you missed it, the Pro Bowl rosters were released yesterday. Guess who is starting for the NFC? That’s right, Aaron Rodgers. And, much to the chagrin of Patriots fans, Tom Brady is not starting for the AFC. Peyton Manning gets the nod under center to begin the game.

The Bears had 5 selections, including Brandon Marshall and Charles Tillman. I will say that the Bears Pro Bowlers earned their spots on that roster. Tillman is playing phenomenally. To see the entire roster, click here. I think Russell Wilson got snubbed. What say you?

Staying on the topic of football, is anyone a fan of Duck Dynasty? The patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, was a top-tier athlete in his day, playing at starting quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech University. You can check the whole story here.

The baseball world is abuzz with the Red Sox and Yankees making the headlines. The Red Sox bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Joel Hanrahan, the former Pirate, in a 6-player deal that sends Hanrahan and Brock Holt to Boston for right-handers Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel, infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. and first baseman-outfielder Jerry Sands. Boston is also in talks with Mike Napoli, but no official deal has been agreed upon quite yet. The Red Sox might get Cubbed on this one!

And finally, 2012 is winding down and Christmas is over. Did Santa bring everyone what they wanted? Did anybody get tickets to the Cubs Convention? It’s only three and a half weeks away! Now, if only Theo & Co. could get a semi-high profile player to sign…

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Morning News: Sandy, Smith, and Coping Mechanisms

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Hurricane: Sandy made landfall yesterday. Just before reaching land, she was downgraded to a Superstorm, but still, much damage was done. At least 5.7 million people were left without power, and 13 people lost their lives.

This is reportedly going to be one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with the estimated damage being anywhere between 10 – 20 billion dollars. New York’s transit system has been shut down, and rain and snow are barraging the East Coast. Times like this make my heart ache for those caught in the disaster. Times like this also make me appreciate the Midwest and its generally-consistent weather patterns. My favorite weather patterns are the ones consistent with Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois: Almost Winter, Winter, Almost Summer, and Road Construction. No unexpected tsunamis for us (fingers crossed)!

But in all seriousness, thoughts and prayers to those caught in the storm’s path. Be safe.

NFL: Anyone who owns Alex Smith on a fantasy team has some kind of love/hate relationship with him. He is inconsistent. Anyone who owns Alex Smith and Vernon Davis on the same fantasy team have a hate relationship with Smith. I speak on terms of personal experience.

Alex Smith threw a nearly perfect game last night, going 18-for-19 with three TDs. Great for him. Too bad Vernon Davis wasn’t on the receiving end for any of them!

All bitterness aside, it was a good game for Smith. It is good to see him coming to his own as a QB. Thankfully, he beat Rodgers for the first overall pick in ’05. That’s probably the only category he’ll ever beat Rodgers.

MLB: Baseball season is over. Is anyone else’s spirit crushed? Thankfully, there is approximately only 153 days until Opening Day. Yes, I am counting. No, I cannot wait. Coping strategies that may work for you: 1) Wearing Cubs attire on a regular basis. 2) joining twitter under a pseudonym and incessantly tweeting about baseball. 3) Perhaps find a website that streams Dominican Winter League games.

Hopefully those tips are helpful! Happy Tuesday!

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Morning News: You Just Never Know

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Baseball:

If for some reason you were isolated from any form of social media, television, or radio broadcasts, allow me to inform you of yesterday’s events:

American League: Oakland was blanked by Detroit. Verlander pitched a 4-hit shutout, sending the young cast of Moneyball 2 back to the dugout via strikeout 11 times. The Tigers move on to face the Yankees in the ALCS, which should be a pretty good series.

The Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 behind CC Sabathia’s complete game effort. Hopefully the ALCS will be filled with great pitching and overall good baseball with these two teams. Maybe A-Rod will be able to muster up a hit, maybe even one for extra bases?

Nevermind. Verlander and Fister have already put that silly notion to rest.

National League:

The Giants are on their way to the NLCS after beating the Reds in stupendous fashion on Friday, winning 6-4 courtesy of a Buster Posey grand slam.  Thank goodness we won’t have to deal with Dusty’s toothpick-twirling face on television sets until next season.

With their win, the Giants will face the Cardinals in the NLCS. I stayed up to watch the end of the Cardinals and Nationals duke it out, thinking that the Nationals had the game in the bag with a 7-5 lead in the top of the ninth. Silly me. Everybody knows that the Cardinals rely on late, dramatic comebacks in the postseason. I watched in disbelief as Drew Storen was unable to control his pitches and keep the Cardinals lineup in check. St. Louis went on to score 4 runs in the ninth to win game 5 and clinch their spot in the NLCS.

Today would have been Strasburg’s start. If only, if only.

Other News:

Melky Cabrera was reinstated after his 50-game suspension, but will not play for the remainder of the year, however long that may be.

There is an MLB pitcher who has a new pet named Cat Latos. I bet you can’t guess who it is!

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Game 155: 100 “L”s Loom on the Horizon

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights

Cubs 0 @ Rockies 6

Usually when I write a recap, I like to divide it into good/bad/ugly sections, trying to find a glimmer of hope amongst the dingy, less than lovely baseball that the Cubs have been bringing to the table lately.

With 96 losses on the season, it’s hard to believe that people still watch games, read blogs, and tweet about this team with such enthusiasm! Some of it is sarcasm, but it is enthusiastic nonetheless.

Now, with the hope of a top first-round pick, losing 6-0 in a rain-delayed game at Coors Field seems like a decent strategy. Unfortunately for the commentators that have had to broadcast most of these redundant games, they have run out of material to discuss. Even the team’s reporters are having a hard time finding content for their writing!

The Cubs squeaked out 5 hits tonight. Zero runs. An error. Mather got thrown out at third to prevent Sappelt from scoring. Joe, the man who has become the object of many a fans’ ire, added more fuel to their fires with that boneheaded play.

Playing to lose is tough to swallow. Even if it means getting a high draft pick, it is such an unknown whether the pick will be successful or not. I think it is a bit foolish to play to lose, but when you’re 4 losses away from 100 losses, at least playing to lose is playing for something, right?

To close with a high note, Soriano did flash some leather out there in left field. He made a slightly awkward sliding catch to rob Colvin hit number 3 on the evening. Darwin Barney is also 2 games away from owning the errorless streak record.

On another high note, Ed Hochuli will be donning the zebras this weekend.

Closing Questions:

With Darwin and Brandon Phillips in the running for the Gold Glove, who do you think will win? Obviously, we want Barney to win, but does he make big enough plays to garner the votes he needs?

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Game 149: Corpas Can’t Handle Gregorious

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Boxscore / Highlights / Condensed

The Good:

Jason Berken pitched a pretty decent game, giving up only 2 hits in 6 innings pitched.  He held the Reds to zero runs. Pretty darn good if you ask me! Especially for it being so late in the season and the Reds contending for a playoff spot, Berken was phenomenal. Jaye Chapman also pitched extremely well: no hits, no runs, no walks, and a strikeout. These young pitchers are showing glimpses of good things to come! I’m looking forward to their development. And possible trades.

Our top 3 of the lineup each had two hits! David DeJesus is turning out to be a solid, average player. He puts together quality at-bats and plays some pretty great defense. Barney is almost batting .270. Rizzo is batting almost .300. Castro and Castillo also had two hits apiece. Nice show of individuals, but not a good team effort, as evidenced by the runners left in scoring position.

The Bad:

The Cubs lost, therefore the Reds clinched the very first playoff spot of this postseason. Boo.

The Cubs were 1-10 with runners in scoring position. We could not get a man home before the seventh inning, and even then we left a lot of men on.

Manny Corpas surrendered all five of the Reds runs in the seventh inning. All five. In one inning. Seems like Corpas was channeling his inner Chris Volstad.

Summary:

The Reds managed to win even without their trusty manager. He’s in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. Maybe he staying away from the team is good. Their pitchers might actually have arms 20 years from now if he did that.

Because the Reds won tonight, they clinched the first playoff spot of the year, and the Nationals followed up shortly thereafter, clinching the second playoff spot for the 2012 postseason. Because the Cubs are not contending, it is safe to say I will be pulling for any American League team that is not from Chicago, Boston, or New York. Who is your pick?

Side note: The entire time I was writing this recap, I kept wondering to myself: “Does Berken wear Birkenstock sandals?”

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