The Rites of Spring
I love baseball. During my working years I lost touch with the game a bit. Devoting too much time to work and caring about what other people think comes with a cost. Often that cost is putting many things one loves on a back-burner and thinking, "one day I'll spend more time with that". Well, "one day" has arrived. I have finally returned to immersing myself in my favorite sport.
I had always told myself that, after retirement, I would go spend a week at Dodgers Spring Training Camp. When they left Florida to train in Arizona it made the idea even sweeter (I like Florida but it ain't Arizona). I figured I'd take my little trailer and find a place, close to Phoenix, and go watch my team prepare for the season.
Sometimes reality is better than our dreams.
Lake Pleasant, a short drive from Phoenix proper, was a terrific place to camp and sight-see and lounge. In addition to making it my "baseball home base" I found a sweet little gem of outdoors fun.
What a gorgeous place and, not only that, but a fellow I've known and admired on social media for quite some time was able to come and meet me and hang out around a campfire for an evening. Mr. R. Scott Jones drove up and, bringing firewood and beverages, sat down and we talked, and talked, and talked. In fact, I didn't crawl into the sack until well after midnight which hasn't happened to me while camping in, say, 35 years.
Scott is a remarkable guy. He champions. "travel quests" and walks his talk. He has visited more places than I will be ever be able to get around to and has motivated me to do my own "quest" (more on that later).
As I sat there listening to his exploits and plans I grew to admire him even more. In my lifetime I've only known perhaps a handful of people who live the life they damn well want to live. It seems most of us, especially in our youth, are caught up in making money and moving up the ladder and all that other crap we're "supposed" to be doing. I count myself as one of those people. The biggest regrets in my life all surround not taking better care of my personal hopes and dreams and not spending more time with my precious family, all in the name of "success" (i.e. ego).
My hunch is that Scott will not have similar regrets. He lives with energy and vigor and outdoors loving zeal. He understands and appreciates the importance of our few remaining wild places and environmental issues. He's on the right side of history and he lives precisely the way he believes his life ought to be lived.
One of the coolest things about Scott is that he encourages all of us to get out and "Hike our own hike". In other words, we don't have to be a "quest' person or anything else - we should just be true to ourselves but get out there! Love it. What a guy. I look forward to spending more time with him down the road. The man inspires me to go for it.
In fact, after originally dismissing the notion of "quests" I thought I'd try one myself. This baseball season (it always comes back to that, doesn't it?) I'm going to visit each of the California League's venues and go to at least one game in each minor league park. Man, I think that's going to be fun.
Speaking of baseball the next component of this post will be solely devoted to the Dodgers and Spring Training. So, if you hate baseball or the Dodgers I wouldn't be hurt if you stop reading right here. However, I think I got some cool shots of the Boys in Blue and I'd love it if you took a look.
Baseball is known as the "thinking man's game". There are many cultural and historical aspects of the game as well as a deeply complex and technical strategical component. I love history and so it's natural that I would be a bit of a baseball historian. I'm happy and proud to be a Dodger fan because of the franchise's storied history. Of course, the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson broke the "color barrier" and the Dodgers were the undisputed champions of civil rights in sports. Maury Wills and Lou Johnson and other African-American players have spoken about how they loved playing for the Dodgers for that very reason.
I'm tempted to wrote a treatise here but I'll stop and simply point out, since we're talking history, the Dodgers currently employ one of the greatest left handed pitchers in the long history of baseball - Clayton Kershaw. I went to three games at Camelback Ranch but didn't want to drag my camera around the park so I only brought it to the game that Clayton was rumored to be starting. Turned out it was a good choice. Here is the superstar and his windup.
As soon as Spring Training tickets went on sale I got mine and so my seats were fabulous for each game and hence my photos are pretty up close and personal.
The Dodger's MVP last year, in my opinion, was Justin Turner. No one works harder or has a better attitude. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch toward the end of Spring Training and will be out for 6-8 weeks. Here are some photos of JT.
Enrique Hernandez is a passionate ball of energy and will need to step up this year in JT's absence. A native Puerto Rican he recently asked the Dodger's ownership to assist with the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Fund and they stepped up to the tune of 2 million dollars. That's my team!
Great things have been predicted for Dodger Joc Pederson. Unfortunately, at this point, he hasn't lived up to the hopes of the Dodger faithful. He's still young though. Here's Jocko.
Former Dodger All Star, Matt Kemp seen below, has returned to the team for this season.
The old man of the team, 39 year old Chase Utley, also known as the "Silver Fox" just signed a 2 year deal and is a stabilizing influence in the clubhouse.
The Dodgers skipper, Dave Roberts, was a fine player and is well liked by the players. His pitching changes make me nuts but I can't argue his success.
Even more than a "Dodger fan" I'm a baseball fan. I love the sport and enjoy watching all the teams (ok - maybe not the Giants or Yankees- no, actually even them). Since I love baseball so much I've become a fan of our local college team - the University of California, Irvine which is a little weird considering I attended four universities and UCI wasn't one of them. Of course when USC and UCSB play them I pull for my old schools but I am sincerely enjoying going to the "Anteater's" games. Last year they had a player, Keston Hiura, who hit a remarkable .442 and he was drafted by the Brewers. Sure enough I got to see him in that Brewer uniform and he hit a bomb off the batter's eye in dead center.
Can you tell I had some fun? It was a wonderful trip for many reasons. I took lots of photos and had so much dang fun I'm going back next year.
Here's to a great 2018 season and I'll see you at the ballgame!
Baseball, the Beach and Butterflies
The Los Angeles Dodgers interrupted my travel plans.
I had planned on heading east but my team decided to make a run at the World Championship.
I grew up just south of LA in a small suburb and in the 1960's few things occupied my thoughts and affection like my beloved Dodgers. I've been a Dodger fan literally since I can remember. I was born in 1957 and the Dodgers came west in 1958. I don't remember the Dodgers winning the Series in 1959 against the "Go Go Sox" in the Coliseum but I have vague memories of our glorious sweep of the Yankees in 1963 and I remember every out of the 1965 Series when the Dodgers beat the Twins. The first time the Dodgers broke my heart was 1966 and not simply because they were swept in the World Series by the Baltimore Orioles. Sandy Koufax retired at the end of that season.
My sports hero of the 1960's is still my hero at age 60. My words will fail, tremendously, at trying to describe my adoration, appreciation, and respect for the great Sandy Koufax. In my childhood, Sandy was the most dominant force in major league baseball. He was the classiest, most humble, courageous, kindest, smartest, player in the game. He remains simply coolest athlete in my lifetime. In fact, no one else comes close.
Sandy was forced to retire in 1966 due to an arthritic elbow. I still remember hearing the news on the radio and I was in a state of disbelief for a long time. I grieved his loss to the Dodgers and to the game...still do.
Anyway enough about baseball...perhaps I'll save my discussion of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson, Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, Ron Cey, John Roseboro, Davey Lopes, Orel Hershiser, Roy Campanella and Corey Seager for another post strictly devoted to my favorite sport in the coming months or so... Just know...I love the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers.
Suffice it to say, the Dodgers did make it to the Series this year and lost in the seventh game. I stayed home and watched and don't regret that decision. It was a marvelous post season (wait 'til next year!).
I was, however, itchy to get back on the road. I had reserved last May a few days at North Beach campground in Pismo Beach (planning months ahead is required these days). Although rather "urban" by my standards, it's still a long time favorite. I used to take my boys there when they were young and Lupe said she could join me thanks to the Veterans Day holiday. I arrived a day early to set up camp and realized that the Monarch Butterflies were just arriving for their yearly migration to Pismo. I spoke to a docent who shared that the numbers of butterflies has decreased dramatically in the last few years due to climate change.
Nevertheless, those butterflies are a sight to behold. If you get a chance...
The weather in Pismo was spectacular. I awoke the first morning to the sound of rain on the roof of the little trailer. I turned on the tiny furnace, warmed the trailer to about 70 degrees and made a pot of coffee. I spent the next few hours reading, drinking coffee and staring out the window at the steady rain. It was, in other words, a perfect morning. At about 11:00 AM the sun burst through the clouds and it became warm and clear and utterly delightful. Lupe arrived and I did make a few photos of the campground and nearby dunes. The sea water meanders through, behind, and around the dunes which are typically fairly crowded. I did manage to get few photos without people.
The central coast of California draws me back, again and again. Less crowded and commercialized than Southern California it captures some nostalgic, old California charm for me. In reviewing these pages you may find my deep affection for the place...in the meantime I'll keep returning. I've already scheduled a trip for the Rincon, Gaviota, Point Mugu and Morro Bay for the spring. Thanks for coming along...maybe we'll run into each other on some lonely dune near Cayucos one of these days...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.