Good to be Back Rollin’ Them Bones

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! I just had a great weekend up here in west-central Minnesota, albeit very hectic, but it culminated today with spending quality time with my wife Tonia and boys (Jonny 6, Carter 3, Luke 6 months). I camped out in a tent in the yard with Jonny, and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast made by my better half.  Morning mass at Church, a fish and chips lunch in Detroit Lakes (a summer hot spot community 20 minutes from Hawley, where I live) with family, a nap with Luke on the couch while watching golf, and an ice cream treat in town at the park, it was a simplistic yet satisfying holiday spent.  My wife and I will also officially celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary on Monday. We are high school sweethearts still living in our hometown, and we have everything we need right here. With some rare down time to reflect I have to say I’m blessed to the gills!  

With the conclusion of my high school baseball coaching (a phenomenal group of boys who had an incredible year) my summer has officially been in full force the past two weeks.  My job this summer is full time dad, a position I don’t take lightly.  My wife works, so me being a teacher, I am fortunate to be home to take care of the boys for the better part of three months.  My oldest son is in a variety of activities, so I run him to these, and tend to the other boys and we watch Jonny at the same time.  We also will just spend time together….playing in the yard, bike rides, trips to state parks, making art with sidewalk chalk, visits to grandma’s house, a swim at the lake, campfires, movies, reading books, and whatever else pops up.  They’re only young once…..I don’t want to pass these times by.

I have, also, had some time to finally get back into my riveting form of entertainment – playing APBA baseball.  To get the full story, you’ll have to read earlier blog entries, but basically, it’s become my biggest hobby, and it’s been huge in rekindling my interest in board games.  We all are so immersed in everything digital, so it’s the perfect release to just unwind and roll the dice and take a trip back in time.  I’ve been replaying the 1989 Oakland A’s season using the master game, cards and dice, and using similar lineups and all transactions with goals of finishing with a better record than the actual 89 A’s did, and to win the World Series.  

 I replayed the 87 and 88 seasons, only to narrowly lose in the Series, so my main mission is to win at least one title from the 87-92 A’s era, my childhood team that I followed religiously.  I went more than two months without rolling a game, as I’ve had plenty to occupy my time.  During that hiatus of sorts, I’d still stay connected with the game on the fantastic APBA Baseball Facebook page, as several new members, as well as regular mainstays of the page post their progress on projects, pose questions about strategy/organization, or to show photos of players’ creative side, from making ballparks to hosting tournaments.  It’s been a helpful lifeline of sorts, and I always look forward to the jovial banter the page creates daily.  One thing is for sure with APBA however you enjoy it —  I always know that when time allows, and when everything has settled down for the night, it will be waiting for me so I can squeeze in a game or two.

These A’s have been particularly streaky over the course of the last 32 games.  Oakland has had losing streaks of four and five games, but also the A’s have  enjoyed 5 and 10 game winning streaks, and currently are riding a nine-game winning streak!  

The key to Oakland’s success continues to be starting pitching consistency.  Dave Stewart and  Mike Moore are legit #1 starters with their numbers, and are primed to toss 7-8 innings almost every game.  Bob Welch has been  a solid #3 starter, and has thrived in the background.  But the big surprise has been the dominance of Storm Davis.   

 The former Oriole hurler is 10-1 in his last 11 decisions, and in his last three starts, he’s 3-0 allowing just 2 earned runs in his last 30 innings pitched.  Dennis Eckersley, the dominant Oakland closer, missed six weeks due to injury, but he returned this week to save three of the last five Oakland wins.   

Having Eckersley, lefty Rick Honeycutt, and righties Gene Nelson, Todd Burns, and Jim Corsi, the A’s have a pitching arsenal that is a challenge to disarm.  There are, however, those times when the offense doesn’t do their part, or the lack of “Z” ratings for Moore, Welch, and Davis get them into trouble with untimely walks.  The A’s rarely win via blowout, and even though they’ve found success often as of late, it has come though some rigorous battles with the bottom feeders of the AL in the White Sox and Mariners. Oakland will have a very important series upcoming with the California Angels, who are just two games behind the A’s.  This series will take place at Anaheim Stadium, AKA “The Big A.”  Looking at the box scores of these games back in 89, there were 60,000 people at the opener!!  

 How awesome would that be to see now! With the basic extinction of the cookie cutter stadiums nowadays, we’ll never see crowds like that.  New Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Coors Field, Turner Field, and SkyDome are the only venues currently that have capacities over 50,000.  It was a different time…..but the beauty of APBA allows a glimpse back to that time.  The 89 Angels are a solid team, with a steady pitching staff and a lineup with very few holes.  If the A’s want to get some separation, winning this three game series would help give them breathing room. Oakland will then return home to face Cleveland and Minnesota at the Coliseum. 

Offensively, Dave Parker is still the team’s MVP as he’s been the leader at the plate.  Mark McGwire has cooled off a bit, but is always capable of a big homerun.  Jose Canseco, who missed the first 90 games because of injury, has returned  to the DL after a stint off of it.  He should be back in a few days.  

 Dave Henderson has been healthy all year, but overall his numbers are dismal.  However, over the past 15 games, he’s batted .310 with 4 homers, 4 doubles, and 13 RBI.  Carney Lansford’s average has climbed slowly to right around .300, and  

 Mike Gallego surprisingly is hitting well above .300. His playing time is in limbo, however, as another injured regular,  

 Walt Weiss,  has returned to the fold to take  his place at short.  His higher defensive rating will likely mean less opportunities for Gallego, or for Tony Phillips.  

It’s fun to see that I’m 2/3 of the way through this replay that I started back last July.  My goal was to complete this in December of 2014 before the arrival of my son Luke.  That didn’t happen, and who knows when this will get done. I was disappointed back in the late fall with my poor progress, but now realize that enjoying the games I roll are more important than going through the motions just to complete them. I live for the late game decisions and possibilities, while pondering the future, and it’s the next best thing there is to coaching baseball, which I thoroughly enjoy.    

 As my boys get older, I’ll return to coach multiple teams in the summer like I did before I had kids, but for now, I’ll continue to take things slow, take life a moment at a time, watch my boys grow, coach when I’m able to, play APBA some to get a quick baseball fix when it’s appropriate, and realize that one person can do anything, but no one should be expected to do everything.  Enjoy life, and take a little time out for yourself once in awhile.  For me, that little slice of heaven, when everyone is in bed and it’s just me awake in the house,  is rolling a game of APBA, reliving the memories of my idols of my baseball youth while doing laundry on a Sunday night at 11:30 PM.  Enjoy the official start to summer, and 66’s to all APBAers out there.  



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