Over the past several weeks, I’ve been answering questions that you posed to me in response to an Ice Breaker question. Today’s question comes from TMZ (a Phillies fan who currently lives on the West Coast):
Who’s your favorite current Phillies player? Of all-time?
Okay, I’ll be honest. I haven’t been following the Phillies as closely as I used to especially as they have fallen back into the middle of the pack. I’m still a fan though. And to answer TMZ’s question, I’d have to say that Chase Utley is my favorite current Phillies player. His grit, determination, and pure hustle are a great example for other players to follow.
And my favorite Phillies player of all-time? That’s easy. Michael Jack Schmidt. Schmidt played 3rd base for the Phillies when I moved to the Philadelphia area in 1980, and he is arguably the best 3rd baseman of all-time. He certainly had his flaws as a sports personality in a tough town. But he has stayed with the Phillies since his retirement as a coach and promoter. I’d love to meet him at some point to talk about his faith, his family, and his career. (Tim Gradoville, you were a close second place!)
There you have it, TMZ. Who is your favorite Phillies player (past and present)? If you’re not a Phillies fan, who is one of your favorite players and teams?
Each week, I feature 3 things that deserve a thumbs up. Here are my 3 Thumbs Up! for this week.
Thumbs Up Number 1: Woodside Lodge at Spring Mountain. A couple of weeks ago, Leanne and I went out with some good friends to this “new” restaurant in our area. This renovated restaurant and lodge used to be known as Woodside Inn. Several years ago, Leanne and I went to the Inn for dinner, but we weren’t all that impressed. The newly opened Lodge was a completely different experience. The wait staff was helpful. The restaurant was laid out well and nicely decorated. And the food was delicious. If you enjoy trying local craft beers, there are several beers from around the region on tap. We left the restaurant satisfied and excited about the prospect of coming back for more. If you live in the Perkiomen Valley area, you should consider checking out the Woodside Lodge at Spring Mountain.
Thumbs Up Number 2: Reading Phillies. This week, our 4-H Seeing Eye Puppy Club ventured to the First Energy Stadium to take in a Reading Phillies game. The Reading Phils are the Double-A Minor League affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. We had a wonderful experience all around. Our seats were right along the 3rd base line (there’s not a bad seat in the whole stadium). The food is reasonably priced. The parking was free. Between each half inning, there is entertainment that included vegetable racing, hot dogs being thrown into the stands, dancing tooth fairies, and many other acts. We were also personally welcomed by a representative from the club who checked back with us a few times to make sure we were having a good experience. On top of that, the Phillies won the game! What more could you ask for. If you live in the area, you should check out a game. If you don’t live in the area, consider checking out your local minor league team.
Thumbs Up Number 3: Life As Experienced. This blog by Seth Caddell has become one of my new favorites. Life As Experienced provides spiritual insights on everyday life from this self-proclaimed pastor, husband, X-Box player, and Christ follower. Seth blog posts that appear 3 times each week or short and sweet and right to the point. Check out Life As Experienced to see what I’m talking about. Leave a comment, and tell Seth that I sent you.
What else deserves a thumbs up this week?
Saturday morning after witnessing the Phillies‘ dismal performance on Friday night, I had a chance to lift by spirits by spending time with my family and the Bowersox family at the Norristown Community House. Our church was sponsoring a huge day of serving in our area, and we hooked up with the Norristown Community House thanks to a Grove City College connection with the Peter and Becky Bowersox, who are in charge of the House.
So what is the Norristown Community House? Good question. You can go to their website to get more details, but I’ll give you my take. The House is located in the heart of Norristown, PA which is the county seat of Montgomery County. Norristown is one of the poorest communities in the county. The residents of the House are young adults – primarily college students – who attend local colleges. By choosing to live in the House, they are agreeing to become part of a community where discipleship, serving, and reaching out to the community are expected. Peter and Becky (shown above with their 3 kids) act as their resident directors and guides. They make sure the House is running smoothly, and they meet with the young adults on a regular basis to participate in the discipleship process.
It really turned out to be a great morning as we helped them clean out a garage attic that was filled with lots of trash, some relics, and a few treasures. By clearing out this space which obviously hadn’t been cleaned out in years, we helped to make storage space for the residents of the house. We discovered an old salon style hair dryer, Vietnam War veteran documents, old clothes and suitcases, a box full of vinyl records, license plates, and lots of dust! Our kids enjoyed sorting through everything as we removed it from the attic.
This clean-up project was a great way to introduce our family to the Norristown Community House. I think we’ll be back to help out on some other projects and to rub shoulders with the young adults and the Bowersox family. Thanks, Becky and Peter for the opportunity to help out – and for getting my mind off the commencement of the Phillies’ golfing season.
How have you served in your community? What things have you done with your family to serve others?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big baseball fan. I have followed the game for most of my life – first as a Chicago Cubs fan – and now as a Philadelphia Phillies fan (since 1980 when I moved to the Philly area). It’s been fun to support the Phillies especially over the past five years as they have been very competitive, but…
Professional baseball isn’t what it used to be. With steroids, free agency, lack of player/team loyalty, higher ticket prices, and a crazy pay structure, players and teams don’t relate to average fans – like myself. I have found my overall interest in the game slacking off. Much of this is due to the realities of adult life – I now have a family and a job that require my full attention. But I believe that some of my fading interest in the game is related to the fact that professional baseball has gotten away from its roots.
This is why I loved going to see a Cape Cod Baseball League game when Leanne and I vacationed in Cape Cod a few weeks ago. The teams in the league are made up of college baseball players who are looking for a way to work on their skills over the summer. Players come from all over the country to play in this league. They are not paid. They live with volunteer host families. And the games which are played at a high level are free to the public. Players actually walk around during the game to accept entries into the game’s 50-50 drawing which is used to help offset travel expenses for the team.
We went to a game between the Cotuit Kettleers and the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. We literally sat on top of the home team’s dugout. We could hear the players talking. We saw players who were not yet tarnished by the riches of the big leagues. We saw the game of baseball the way it was meant to be played.
Our evening in Hyannis was a reminder that it can be important to get back to the basics. We allow so many things to come along and distract us from why and how we started doing what we’re doing – whether it’s work, school, church, or even family. It’s easy to be distracted by the next big thing. It’s not steroids or free agency, but we are often distracted by other things like non-stop activities, efforts to accumulate the most toys and gadgets, or a drive to climb higher on the corporate ladder. These things by themselves may not be bad, but I think we often lose sight of why we started a family or why we started working. I think it’s important to get back to the basics, so we can rediscover our love for “the game”.
Has the push for more taken away your love of “the game”?
What can you do today to bring back the love?
I’m a big baseball fan! I started cheering for the Chicago Cubs while my family lived in the Chicago area when I was little. And I’m a big Philadelphia Phillies fan now! I moved to the Philly area in 1980, the year the Phillies won the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. (These past five or six years have been amazing!) I still have all my baseball cards, which I used to spend hours organizing, studying, and memorizing. I enjoy watching baseball, especially live! I’ve been to several major league stadiums and a few minor league stadiums, and I’ve even been to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. Like I said, I’m a big baseball fan!
When I was in college, I worked for ServiceMaster for the summer where I traveled to New England every week to inventory all the equipment in various schools. One week, I had an assignment outside of Boston, so it made sense for me to try to get into Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Yankees. (I don’t even like these teams!) I couldn’t resist an opportunity to see a game in this “old school” stadium. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the game was sold out. It was definitely a “stretch” to get into the game. I walked around the stadium a couple of times looking for someone who was selling a ticket. I just wanted to get into the stadium. Unfortunately, no one was selling any tickets. At this point, I was being to resign myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get into the game.
In Philly, we have cheese steak sandwiches and pretzels. In Boston, I learned that they have sausage sandwiches. I purchased a sausage sandwich from a street vendor. As I enjoyed the sandwich while standing against a telephone pole a few feet away, the sandwich vendor walked over and asked if I was looking for a ticket. I confirmed that I was indeed looking for a ticket. He told me that he had one that he would sell to me for next to nothing. I couldn’t believe it!
I made my way into the stadium and followed signs to my seat. Unbelievable! My seat was 12 rows directly behind home plate – at Fenway Park! I had a perfect view of the field and the dugouts. Around the third inning, the sandwich vendor and his family came and sat right next to me. We had a friendly conversation. During the fifth inning, my new friend bought me a beer. Can you imagine?
To be honest, I don’t even remember who won the baseball game. I do know that I will always remember my experience at Fenway Park.
Are you a baseball fan? Have you ever experienced something unbelievable? Have you ever had a “Fenway Park” experience? Please share.
I’m a big sports fan. My favorite teams are the Eagles, the Bears, the Cubs, the Phillies, and the Bulls (I guess I’d throw the Flyers in there as my hockey team). My favorite players of all time are probably Walter Payton (football), Julius Erving and Michael Jordan (basketball), and Mike Schmidt (baseball). So when Leanne gave me Clearing the Bases by Mike Schmidt as part of my birthday gift, I was clearly looking forward to hearing what Michael Jack Schmidt had to say about his playing career and about his thoughts about the current state of the game of baseball.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Schmidt talks about the ups and downs of his playing days from his insecurities to his 3 MVPs and World Series Championship. Schmidt also shares about his feelings about the Steroid area, free agency, and Pete Rose. (The book was written in 2006, so I would be curious to know if Schmidt’s views on the Steroid era have changed as more information has been disclosed since then.) It was interesting to get his perspectives and each of these, but this wasn’t my biggest takeaway.
I was first of all surprised by Schmidt’s expression of his faith. Growing up, I can’t remember hearing anything about his faith, so it was refreshing to hear this. I’d love to sit down over a cup of coffee or lunch with the legend and talk more about our common bond.
The other thing that had a big impact on me was Schmidt’s discussion about managing. Obviously, he was talking about managing baseball, but one paragraph in particular spoke to me as a manager and leader:
“The sixth and most important attribute of a good manager – and this one’s a straight fastball right down the middle – is the ability to communicate. To be a good manager, you must be a good communicator. That means being able to talk to your players, not at them. You need to work at relating to them, but at the same time, you need to keep a respectful distance. Show you care about them personally. You can’t just stroll out of your office into the clubhouse one day a week and fake it; you have to have a consistent presence.”
I’ll be hanging this one up in my office.
If you’re a baseball plan, I’d recommend this book.
This year I have had the privilege to attend my first two professional sports playoff games. And it’s been a blast!
The first game was Game 4 of the NLCS, when the Dodgers came to town to play our beloved Philadelphia Phillies. After the initial euphoria of an early lead, the fans at Citizens Bank Park were nearly lulled to sleep when the Dodgers took the lead and kept it for several innings. This all changed when the Phillies came from behind in dramatic fashion in the bottom half of the ninth inning thanks to a game winning double by Jimmy Rollins. Let me just say that I have never, never experienced anything like that before. In the stands, fans were hugging and high-fiving complete strangers. It was truly an unbelievable experience – one I won’t soon forget (thanks to a great friend). The only dark cloud of this game was an unruly Phillies fan who sat beside us in the last row of the upper deck behind home plate.
My second playoff game was Game 3 of the World Series, when the hated New York Yankees drove down the New Jersey Turnpike to take on the Fightin’ Phils. My buddy and I found a great place to stand right behind home plate – which gave us not only a great view but also an overhang to stay out of the on-and-off rain. Again, there was initial euphoria when the Phillies took an early lead after an 1 hour and 20 minute rain delay. Unfortunately, things fell apart after the Yankees hit a controversial home run off a TV camera, and the Phillies went on to lose the game with very little fight. Obviously, the outcome was disappointing, but the overall experience was pretty amazing – from the hoopla outside the stadium – to the national news coverage – to obnoxious Yankees fans – to the huge American flag during the National Anthem (sung by the cast of Glee) – to the brush with fame (Derek Jeter’s dad walked right by me) – to the hope that we’ll take the next one. It really was a cool experience.
Both of these playoff experiences were somewhat surreal for a guy like myself who has cheered for the same team for nearly 30 years – who still has all his baseball cards – who root-root-roots for the Phillies. I’m truly grateful to a great friend who invited me to join him in such amazing events. With the Phillies down 3 games to 2 games, I’m hoping the Phillies can take Game 6 tonight (back in NY) – and then we can talk about Game 7. Let’s go Phillies!!!
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending my second ever Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park. Not only was it a chance to cheer on my favorite baseball team and to watch Brett Myers through a complete game shutout, but it was a great chance to catch up with some of my friends from high school (B, Mazzuco (post high school friend), the Braunster, T, and Kosydar). Paul (the Braunster) got the ball rolling on the idea when he realized that he would be in town for some sort of Chemistry convention. It really worked out quite well as we all converged at the corner of Pattison Avenue and Citizens Bank Way. A bonus was that it was Chase Utley bobblehead night.
In the aftermath of Jimmy Rollin‘s comments about Philly fans on one of the late night talk shows, the stands were full of BOOs whenever Jimmy came to the plate or did something in the field. We had fun turning this into an opportunity to BOO WILLEM – an inside joke, but one that will last forever. These are the kinds of memories that we’ll be talking about for years. I’m looking forward to making this a tradition (hint, hint).
(One more thing, I took the subway from Fern Rock to Pattison Ave., and it is the way to go. I’ll certainly consider this mode of transportation again. You can’t beat $2.90 for a round trip fare along with free parking!)
Until the next post, LET’S GO PHILLIES!!!
Just so I don’t forget how great it was…[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ercPbGdMUDI]
Until the next post…
Just so I don’t forget how great it was…[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ercPbGdMUDI]
Until the next post…