Category Archives: IMHO

Reflections on Receiving the Bob Parker Memorial Award

Chad Gramling Accepting the 2012 Bob Parker Memorial Award
Chad Gramling Accepting the 2012 Bob Parker Memorial Award

Several years ago now, I attended my first Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Banquet. If memory serves, the News Sentinel’s Blake Sebring received the Bob Parker Memorial Award.

At the time, I didn’t really have much of a clue who Bob Parker was and the significance he had on the sport in Northeast Indiana.

As my knowledge and understanding of the man increased, I attended more banquets and saw many other greats earn the high honor that is given in Parker’s name. In 2007, it was awarded to long-time sportscaster Kent Horman. The next year, to former Fort Wayne Daisies’ Isabel Alvarez. Then to Dona Schaefer, and the News-Sentinel’s Don Converset in the two years that followed up until this one.

To say that I am in good company is an understatement. I’m just a goofball with a book and a blog!

But that book and blog has created opportunities for me to talk with people who knew Bob Parker. I’ve talked with good friends, counterparts and people who considered him a father figure of sorts. I can’t explain the look in their eyes that they get when the reflect upon Bob, other than to say I have no doubt they are reflecting fondly as they wax nostalgic for those moments. Clearly, Bob had an impact in their lives. And that’s why I considered it such a great honor to have been recognized in the same breath as Bob Parker.

I have had a few people ask me to share the words that I said in accepting the Bob Parker award this year. Since I am that goofball with the blog, it’s pretty easy. 🙂 There were several spots that I went off script, but it’s what I meant to say. So, without further ado, here goes…

Before I get started, I want to first acknowledge two things: One, God’s timing is perfect and two, I have a wonderful wife who is here tonight on – of all nights – her birthday.

I’ll never forget what my father said to me when I was twelve years old and told him I was done playing organized baseball. He said to me “once you get out, it’s really tough to get back in.” As the years went on, I found that wisdom to be true in pretty much any aspect of life.

In my senior year of in high school, I set a new life goal – to one day see my name printed as the author on the front cover of book. You see, I had realized I was a better story teller than ball player. And that’s how I have come to view Bob Parker. I never had the honor of knowing him personally, but through his writing, his art and talks with those who knew him best, I’ve grown to know him as master storyteller focusing in on one of the greatest human passions imaginable.

Bob shared widely acknowledged and lesser known stories, feats and facts about the game, and specifically as they related to our little corner of the world. Without his commitment to his craft, we would have lost much of our accomplishments, bragging rights and sports glory. The stories would have been lost with those who lived them.

In 2006, I realized my dream when I opened a FedEx box and saw the advance copy of Baseball in Fort Wayne. I might as well have been a rookie stepping in for my first big league at bat. I looked at the book and thanked God the cover looked better than imagined and – my name had been spelled correctly.

It was also at that time, perhaps just like Bob Parker once had, I realized I am no author. I am a teller of stories. And those stories belong to coaches, players, teams, umpires, front offices. Even mascots. They’re stories of triumph, heartache, accomplishment and resilience of human spirit. They’re about ambitions and dreams.

And my dream, the dream of being a part of a big league club had also been realized. Because these are your stories and you all – everyone in this room whether physically or in spirit – are that big league squad. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be just a small part of it.

And if he were here today, it be with enormous pride that I’d tell my father “dad, I found a way back in”.

Help Me Help MJ’s Bookmark Celebrate

MJ’s Bookmark at 414 S. Main St. in Auburn is celebrating 25 years of nurturing the literary minds of our area. I’m honored to help them celebrate this week . . . kicking it off on Sunday at 1PM. But it’s not about me, other locals will be on hand throughout the week of July 25 to speak about their work and sign books.

Those planning to attend include Bushnell, Peg Barnes, Chad Gramling, Louise Hamm, Jane Kempf, Stan Kowalski, Bill Lock, Vicki Meier, Rachel Roberts, Sally Garrett, Barb Morrow, John Martin Smith, Sharon Zonker, Hubert Stackhouse and Judy Pollack. Annelise Cole will read her own poetry on July 28 from 6-7 p.m. John and Judy Waanders also will be at the store July 28 from noon to 7 p.m.

An Open Letter to Matt Bush – I’m Rooting For You

Every year, it never fails. Draft time appraoches and bloggers, columnists, and self-reightous sports pundits are quick to point to the San Deigeo Padres when they selected you number one overall.

They don’t remember that Matt Bush is a person.

They only mention Matt Bush the prospect. They like to use you as the example for draft day busts. They like to remind us that just because it’s a number one pick, success is no promise. They like to tell us how your lack of success all but ruined the Padres. They like to tell us that your personal indiscretions ruined the potential of a great career.

They forget you are human just because someone took a chance.

They don’t like to talk about how you’ve struggled personally. They don’t mention that maybe – just maybe – you’ve faced undying regret.

Padres fans, get over it.

Last I looked, you were in first place with some promising young talent coming up. Truth be told, the years that Matt Bush played in Fort Wayne as a position player were not exactly great squads. Maybe there’s more than one poor decision to blame.

Matt Bush with the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2005
Matt Bush with the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2005. Photo by Chad Gramling.

Matt, I truly and sincerely hope you succeed. But not just on the field. In life.

You were thrown a lot of cash with massive expectations at a young and impressionable age. I hope you’ve discovered peace and overcome the grips of addiction.

Now, I’m not making any attempt to get religious and make it my life mission to make sure you are saved. But Mr. Bush, I hope you’ve found God. That way, whether you throw another pitch or not, you’ve at least got faith on your side and have the rest of your life to make good on His purpose for you.

Finally, Matt, I hope you are aiming to make the comparisons to Ryan Leaf end – and ready to make comparisons to Josh Hamilton begin. I’m rooting for you Matt.



My 2010 MLB Predictions IMHO

Okay, I’m a bit slow. But here goes:

AL East – Red Sox

AL West – Mariners

AL Central – Twins

AL Wild – Yankees

NL East -Phillies

NL West – Giants

NL Central – Brewers

NL Wild – Cardinals

World Series – Red Sox over Phillies in 6

Cy Young – AL: Felix Hernandez   NL: Roy Halliday

MVP – AL: Joe Mauer  NL: Prince Fielder

ROY – AL: Wade Davis  NL: Jason Heyward

Surprises – The Pirates. Kyle Blanks will Shock the World. Halliday will win 20 games. Somebody will lug 50 HR’s.

Prediction: Kyle Blanks Coming Out Party

Kyle Blanks as a Fort Wayne Wizard in 2006One Fort Wayne Wizard player that I loved to watch when he was here was Kyle Blanks. I’ve also enjoyed watching him progress through the system since that time. And now, the rest of the baseball world is finally getting to see this guy in action. Methinks that next year, we’ll be seeign the Kyle Blanks coming out party at the 2010 All-Star Game and Home Run Derby much like we did with Josh Hamilton last year.

Here’s a brief look at some recent Kyle Blanks headlines:

Here’s a brief look at some previous Kyle Blanks BBIFW posts:

Note: You can read more about Kyle Blanks and other former/current Fort Wayne (and Northeast Indiana) stars in my book, Baseball in Fort Wayne (pages 75 & 76). Order now at a discounted price and I’ll sign it for you! A portion of the proceeds will go to the Northeast Indiana Baseball Assocation.

And Why Did it Take Ten Years for Bobby Scales?

Earlier this month, former Fort Wayne Wizard, Bobby Scales made his Major League Debut after more than a decade in the minor leagues without as much as one at-bat in the MLB level. At the time, the call-up was expected to last mere days as he filled in as a utility infielder during some injuries. When Aramis Ramirez dislocated his shoulder, Scales got the assurance of a longer look.

And apparently, the stars remain in alignment. He got called up when staff ace, Carlos Zambrano went down to injury. Then he got an extended stay when Ramirez got hurt. That same day, Cubs GM Jim Hendry traded Joey Gathright to the Orioles in return for Ryan Freel – which could have meant Scales was on his way back to Triple-A Iowa. However, Freel was damaged goods, bowing out to a hamstring injury the night he was to make his Cubs debut.

Scales first career hit came off of reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum. Since then, he’s proven he belongs in the Majors. And others are starting to take notice.

Coming into today’s game, Scales led National League rookies in batting average and on base percentage with a .429 mark in both categories. After today’s game in which he went 2-4 with a walk and two runs scored, he’s hitting .444 with a .474 OBP . He’s also slugging .833.

Oh, and by the way, he now has a six-game hitting streak; just one short the longest for a Cubs player to start a career since Jerome Walton did it back in 1989. As you might remember, Walton was named the National League Rookie of the Year that year.

On May 12th, Scales hit his first Major League home run against the visiting San Diego Padres, the team who drafted him in the 14th round back in 1999. Scales was as surprised as anyone, and appeared humbled while keeping things in perspective as he was interviewed following the game:

That home run was a pinch hit. His first career pinch hit was a triple.

Scales persistence has almost become this season’s equivelant of last season’s Josh Hamilton Story. Bloggers who don’t even typically blog about baseball are lauding Scale’s character. It’s become an inspiring story of hope and redemption. And through it all, Scales remains grounded yet confident in his abilities:

“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, so go ahead and get one mark on the board,” said Scales . . . I knew for a fact that I could play here. That never wavered. Whether you get opportunities or not, that’s not up to me. There are guys I know — good players that had better numbers than me — who never got a chance for whatever reason.”

I am glad that Bobby Scales stuck it out. From people I have spoken with and even some of the commenters of this blog have told me that he is genuinely one of the nicest guys anyone will ever meet and is certainly deserving of what he is achieving right now.

But I remain fixated on that statement, “who never got a chance for whatever reason.” Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but when I hear this story, tremendous as it is, I wonder if Scales (and those others of whom he speaks) would have been up four or five years earlier had baseball not been in the midst of the now infamous “steroid era”.

Scales probably was not inferring the injustice of that era, and I am not trying to put words into his motuh, but I think specifically to another former Fort Wayne Wizard, Dan Naulty, who was man enough to come clean about his experiences with HGH and the like:

I had cheated my way right onto the team that year by using steroids, human growth hormone and amphetamines. I was watching my so-called friends leave big-league camp, beginning another grueling year in the minors, while I kept sticking needles in my butt and patting them on the back as they were dismissed. . . I took a roster spot of another athlete who was competing naturally. This causes a domino effect on all the levels below – someone loses their job and the financial security of that job. Then they’re on to another small minor-league town where their children have to move schools again. Their wives are being put through another disappointing year of loneliness while their husband keeps trying to make it to the major leagues.

Naulty was a member of the 1999 New York Yankees World Series team. As fate would have it, that was pretty much the end of his big league career. If you want to read more about Nautly’s experiences, click here. It’s a fascinating story that is simply overlooked or swept under the rug by pretty much all the sports talking heads in mainstream media.

So forgive if I think of all the “Bobby Scales” of the baseball world when I read about all the “Dan Naulty” like players that also inhabited it. I think about how many had given up their dreams of hitting the Major Leagues because they weren’t quite good enough to crack the roster of a team that probably had players who took shortcuts. Not to mention the veterans who got pushed out the door in favor of up and coming sluggers with less experience but much inflated exuberance.

We’ll never know how many players were juicing and we’ll never know how many other players missed out becuase of the shortcuts those other players too, but watching Bobby Scales makes me smile. I suspect we’ll see more like him in the coming years. Last year saw the White Sox bring up 30-year-old DeWayne Wise and there may be others of which I have no knowledge. Could it be that the youth movements might now require a little more seasoning?

Maybe – as far as baseball and the new “steroid free” era are concerned – 30 is the new 27!

More Bobby Scales:

 Related BBIFW Posts on Bobby Scales:

Kyle Day Comes Home to Christen Parkview Field

The final game at Memorial Stadium saw local standout, Jarrod Parker take the mound. It was one of the few times that a local product played on the field (Rob Bowen being the only other I know of, but I think there was one or two others). As Parkview Field is christened, it will be done with a local standout on the roster of the visiting Dayton Dragons.

Kyle Day grew up in Fort Wayne. A Snider High School product, he was a three-year letter winner. In his senior season, he hit .510 with eight home runs, seven triples and 12 doubles and 49 runs batted in. When he graduated, he was the school’s career and single-season record holder in all four of those categories.

He took his college game to Michigan State, where he took on catching duties and quickly provided massive offense with the bat. As a freshman, he started all 56 games, splitting time between catcher, outfield and DH. He ranked sixth on the team and 30th in the Big Ten with a .315 batting average while pacing the team (fifth in the Big Ten) with 52 runs. As a sophomore, he started 50 games, where he batted .295 with 16 extra-base hits and a team-leading 33 walks. He also led team with a .438 on-base percentage and was second in stolen bases with 14.

He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 19th round (577th overall) following the 2007 season, but returned to Michigan State for his Junior year. That year, he appeared in 53 games, where he hit .320 with 56 hits, 41 runs, eight doubles, nine home runs, 48 runs batted in and 39 walks.

In the 2008 player draft, Day was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 12th round with the 359th pick. He signed and joined the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer (rookie) League. In 31 games, he hit .268 with 30 hits, a home run and 11 RBI’s.

He started 2009 with the Red’s Midwest League affiliate, the Dayton Dragons. Through Wednesday, he had appeared in four games. He’s hitting .333 with a double and two triples.

Dayton, here’s my plea: KYLE DAY TO LEAD OFF!

Nick Adenhart Makes Me Reflect…

Way back in the day – before the era of television, the Internet, blogs, Twitter and our overly connected culture – kids collected baseball cards to find out about players. Baseball fans would read these obscure and smelly things we called newspapers or listen to fuzzy radio broadcasts to learn about baseball players and follow their careers. In some ways, it was easier back then. Players stayed with teams longer and  baseball – though it was a business – was not yet BIG business.

Boys and men alike would dream that they could do the things that their more talented counterparts could. They lived vicariously through their favorite players by taking a liking to those in which they saw parts of themselves. Together, the players and fans bonded to share mutual dreams as one lived it and the others lived it through those players.

Fast forward to our current culture where fans are constantly connected and sometimes know more about players than the players do. One of the great joys I get is in following the careers of players I “root” for and cheer onto success. I take a bit a pride in their accomplishments because I feel like I get to share in their achievements.

In most instances, the players I follow have Fort Wayne or Northeast Indiana ties. That’s a connection that is real – to me at least. It’s one of the reasons I have such a passion for chronicling the history of our local arena. While the players are living the dream (or have lived it), I’m living through them by recreating the events – the games, the plays, the stories – and hopefully I’m preserving it for others to live and learn from. Whether it’s true or not, I hope I am able to provide others with an opportunity to connect with those individuals when they might not have otherwise been able to do so.

This sort of connection also explains the magnificent appeal of fantasy baseball. It’s an opportunity for fans to prove they can be “better general managers” or owners.

But, when it comes to fantasy baseball, I probably lose because I don’t do it right most of the time. I always have some players that I like to follow for similar reasons I mention above. They don’t always have local ties. But they almost always have a great story and give me a reason to root for them.

Nick Adenhart was one of the lucky few who lived his dream first-hand. He was diligent in his work ethic to prove others wrong and fulfill a promise that several onlookers doubted was still in existence.

This year, I nabbed Adenhart in the 27th round of my keeper fantasy league draft! Because it’s relevant, I have to tell you that the league is an American League only league. By the 27th round, there are very few quality players available. As you can imagine, I was pretty sure I got the steal of the draft. With Nick Adenhart’s first start of the 2009 season, he had proven that he was more than on the cusp of reaching the potential that many observers had considered gone.

As he experienced the joy of his outstanding 2009 season debut, a part of me took pride. I had been following his career for a few years and had rooted for him because he was a character individual who was overcoming some great challenges. I guess I have always rooted for the person who doesn’t have an easy path – did the same thing with Josh Hamilton.

At the same time, I relished the thought of having him on my fantasy roster for a decade or more since I got him so late. I was going to get a lot of wins, a lot of strikeouts and plenty of fantasy points.

But my fantasy points don’t mean dittily squat!

As anyone now knows, in the wake of the greatest professional performance of his career, a man (Andrew Thomas Gallo) of much lesser character chose to get behind the wheel of a minivan despite being far too inebriated to drive and despite not even having the legal right to be in that position because his license had been suspended.

I think again to Josh Hamilton, where in his autobiography, he details how people told him that he was depriving people of watching him play because of his addictions. Unfortunately, in this case, Gallo has deprived all of us the privilege of watching Nick Adenhart achieve his fullest potential.

The accident has reverberated in my mind since I first heard the news. There are many reasons. The most obvious is the fact that life is fragile and could end at any moment – whether by our own doing or by someone else’s. Second is the fact that Gallo was driving a mini-van. I wonder if he has kids and how many times he had gotten behind that wheel in the same state of cognitive dysfunction with them in the van. What if they had been inside when he disregarded the red light? As a parent, this thought makes you shiver and perhaps even evokes some form of rage.

The third, and perhaps the hardest to explain reason, is a fact that I’ve touched upon. A player I have been following and rooting for a few years can be followed no more. I’ll follow other players, but will never forget Nick Adenhart even though his full history is pretty much already written. There’s little for us to research and study. His body of work is so brief that he leaves a life that was largely unfinished. Rather, that life was taken from him.

I can’t imagine what is like to be his parents, his family, his friends, his teammates. Nick Adenhart will always be in their hearts. They will never forget the way he touched their lives and I have to imagine there is a little piece of each of their souls that will never be able to move on either.

In light of this tragedy, I think of Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Both were members of the Cleveland Indians organization back in 1993 when the boat they were in crashed into a pier. Both lost their lives that day. It was the first death of an active Major League player in decades.

I also think of Gerik Baxter, a former Fort Wayne Wizard. Baxter put together a solid season in Fort Wayne in 2000. At one point, he had pitched 30 consecutive scoreless innings. In 2001, he was on his way to Lake Elsinore as the #5 top rated prospect in the Padres’ organization to continue his rise through their system. Unfortunately, he never got there. He died after a tire in the truck he had been driving blew out and then veered into a car in the slow lane before rolling several times.

I wonder how their friends, family and teammates responded or reacted when they heard about the Nick Adenhart tragedy. The fact that I remember Olin and Crews as well as Baxter reminds me that there were people who knew and love those men, just as there were those who knew and love did Nick Adenhart. I was just one of the lucky folks who got to watch them and live through them as their careers blossomed.

So I write this as a personal letter of gratitude to those four men I mention – those four who unfortunately will never get to read it. I also write it to the men and women who have played the game – those who can read it – and allowed people like me to chase a small part of our own dreams with you.

No matter what anyone says, you’re still heroes in the eyes of many.

Twittering to a New Level

You may have noticed a new page here at Baseball in Fort Wayne. It’s my “Twitter Feed” page that contains a flash widget that provides the last several “tweets” I’ve done. I decided to do this becuase I think it provides a really nice extension to the BBIFW community. Also, I often will post tidbits of Fort Wayne related news that doesn’t make its way into a full post becuase there simply isn’t enough content or time for me to do so.

Also on that page, I’m going to maintain a listing related entities or persons I find on Twitter. So far, I have found the Dayton Dragons (@DaytonDragons), Kane County Cougars (@KCCougars) and the West Michigan WhiteCaps (@Whitecaps). I’ve also found the Portland Beavers (@portlandbeavers), the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. 

Would love to see the reast of the Midwest League teams (and he MWL for that matter) make their way onto Twitter.