1. Last week I called the commissioner of the local city baseball league and asked him if there was still time to sign up my son to play baseball this summer (sign ups were in early January - oops). He said there was, and I should meet him at the local community center to get signed up. The commissioner of the league also happens to be my coach from my 1993 team, when I played for the White Sox. I enjoyed getting together with him again - and he even remembered me! It was fun to see him, and I'm excited that Jamie will get to play in a league that he's running, since he's a great guy and was a great coach for me. He really helped me grow as a player. I especially remember one time when I was in a slump (which was odd for me, as I was - in my own humble opinion - the best hitter on the team), he made me practice bunting. He wouldn't allow me to swing the bat, but just hold it out there to make contact with the ball. It was incredibly humbling and I felt like such a loser just having to practice bunting instead of swinging away. But he knew what he was doing, and it got me out of my slump. If I could go back and relive a year of my life, it would be that year, and it would be for the purpose of playing on that team again.
2. I read an article just today that Challies linked to that gave 10 reasons why parents should have their kids play city ball rather than traveling ball. Based on my experience as a player when I was a kid, and a bit in high school, and now as a parent, I think he's absolutely right. City ball is where kids can grow for their love of the game and actually have fun instead of having to perform or to work to the extent that the game isn't fun anymore. Before my fabled 1993 season I tried out for the West St. Paul traveling team. I didn't make the cut, and I was told after that there was some discrepancy that was due to the fact that I wanted to play baseball in West St. Paul but actually lived in St. Paul. Anyway, I was cut from the traveling team and relegated to a city team. This was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me, for several reasons, some of which I've described in point 1 above. But also, the city team I played for that year was absolutely phenomenal. It was coached by John Pelano (the aforementioned current commissioner of the West St. Paul league) and was made up of (presumably) all of the kids that didn't make the traveling team. For whatever reason, we were an unstoppable force. We annihilated every other city team. Coach Pelano even entered our city team into traveling league tournaments around the Twin Cities (this was not part of the city league program, but we were so good that he shopped us around to traveling tournaments), and we won every single game. We were undefeated in city league play and even in the traveling tournaments. In hindsight, I'm grateful that I didn't make the traveling team. If I had, I almost certainly wouldn't have had as good a year as I had with the White Sox. I hope my son will have a similar experience some time in his childhood.
4. Finally, related to the item above, is this interesting article I read a few weeks ago. It talks about the decline of the use of pitch-outs, sacrifice bunts, and intentional walks in major league baseball, arguing that, statistically speaking, none of these things is worth doing in the long run - that is, they serve no advantageous purpose to a baseball team. I read the article, and I understand the statistics, but it seems to me that the statistics fail to take into account (in the case of pitch-outs) the psychological affect it has on the runner: perhaps he's less inclined to run if he knows a pitch-out is possible. There's only so much statistics can do and predict. Baseball is a very psychological game (consider, for example, the incredible "mind game" played by the pitcher and the batter over each pitch.) Also, if teams begin to not us the pitch-out, sacrifice bunt, and intentional walk, soon nobody will sue them, and then using them would become sort of a "trick play," catching the offense/defense off guard, thereby creating an advantage (such as the famous "Eephus Pitch" - it's ridiculous, but nobody expects it, so it works!) My prediction: pitch-outs, sacrifice bunts, and intentional walks will always be a part of the game even if they aren't statistically advantageous. They're still part of the incredible mind game that is baseball.
Bring on opening day!