Friday, June 30, 2006

Final Score: 2-0

Alpenrose West must be Jack's lucky diamond. On Wednesday night, he pitched a three-hitter against Lake Oswego LL Navy and the SunCreek LL Honors team lost 2-0. We played six innings! After the game, the umpires told Coach John that SunCreek was the classiest team in the tournament and it was a joy to do the game as they played hard and never got down.

What a way to finish the 2006 District 4 11-12 Honors tournament...

Now Jack goes back to being Alternate for the All-Star team; two more weeks of 3-hour practices and more baseball. He is our "Rudy," practicing hard to help the team get better and advance in the District 4 tournament, but unable to suit up and play in the games.

I remember that Saturday morning in March when he awoke two hours prior to the first Diamondback practice, his first (and only) majors team, coming downstairs fully dressed for baseball (including his cup!) and anxious to get started. Now the summer heat is upon us and the outfit has changed, but not the enthusiasm.

Go SunCreek!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Honors Tourney, Games 2 & 3

Monday was the hottest day of the year, topping out at 105 degrees in Hillsboro, the closest town to our home. And, as you know, the air conditioner went out (the repairman is here right now). It was 86 degrees in the coolest part of the house when Jack and I got in the car to just drive around and cool down with the Honda's AC instead of the house AC. And we talked baseball...

Jack started on the mound in our second Honors tournament game at Alpenrose. We were on the West field, on the visitor's side, facing directly into the sun. The temp at 5:30 game time was over 100, but there was a warm breeze blowing.

SunCreek LL faced the 11-12 Honors team from Beaverton Area Little League (BALL) and were held hitless and scoreless. BALL was victorious, 13-0 in four innings. Jack held them to one hit in the first, zero hits and one unearned run in the second, but in the third inning, the BALL bats exploded for 12 runs, including a homerun by their clean-up hitter.

The bright spot of the evening was the radio broadcast of the Oregon State/North Carolina finale in the College World Series. Between innings, the volume would be turned up with fans of both teams keeping track of the game and screaming for the Beavers. Also in the stands was the SunCreek LL 9-10 All-Star team -- they had cut their evening practice short and piled into cars headed to Alpenrose to cheer for their 11-12 Honors "brothers."

Jack's Grammie treated the team to snowcones, and they were out of the heat by 7:15. We raced over to Westlake Park to cheer on the SunCreek 9-10 Honors team in a game versus Raleigh Hills LL. In spite of losing, the 9-10's advanced past Pool Play and into the championship bracket! Yeah, 9-10 Honors Team (coached by Matt Brant and Joe Chitwood)!!!!!

Tuesday evening was cooler (90 degrees!) and our opponent for the 7:45pm contest on Alpenrose main was Evergreen LL, our friends from our regular season "interlocking" schedule. Under the lights, the SunCreek LL team got on the board first with three runs in the first inning! Woo hoo! On hand to cheer for SunCreek were members of the 11 Year Old All-Stars and 9-10 Honors teams. Jack knocked in the first run with an RBI single up the middle and scored when Chris S. singled. It was a tight ballgame until the 5th and 6th innings, when Evergreen LL pulled away with six runs in each of those innings. Final score, SCLL 4, EvLL 16. But hey, we played all six innings -- a moral victory!

Tonight, we close out the tournament with a 5:30 game versus Lake Oswego LL White team. We are on the West field again, but it is much cooler now.

And this just in: if you are following the saga, the AC unit is bad, and we will need a brand new Trane compressor. Wow, fun! Good thing I purchased that extended warranty...

Monday, June 26, 2006


The temperature outside or the score of Saturday's game?

The Portland area is meandering through another Heat Wave. Yesterday, the temperature topped out at a record-breaking 100 degrees. And our AC is on the fritz -- I hear the fan and feel air moving, but it isn't cool air. I put a call into Specialty Heating & Cooling, and she assured me that today was booked up, maybe tomorrow... But Jack is pitching tonight!

On Saturday, we headed to Alpenrose for game number 1 of the 2006 District 4 Oregon, 11-12 Honors Tournament. Our opponent: Murrayhill Teal (they have two teams in the tourney, Red and Teal). We were home team, so we provided an announcer in the booth, and that was moi. I was also responsible for the scoreboard. So, I had to watch my husband and son play baseball in complete silence, respectfully announcing each batter, pitching changes, and "Please return all foul balls to the announcer's booth," while pushing buttons for balls/strikes/innings and of course, the score.

Joining me in the booth were the official scorekeepers from each league. We were slightly underground behind chain link fence, so some foul tips would pop back straight at us, making us jump, and crash against the fence making dirt fly all over our table and scorebooks. It was great fun. After announcing the teams, managers, umpire, playing the national anthem, then asking kids to come forward to recite the LL pledge, we started the baseball game!

Murrayhill LL is a very strong program. They have fielded seven teams in the District 4 tournaments (two at each Honors level, and one in each of the three All-Star levels -- 9-10, 10-11, and 11-12). Our team is made up of eleven kids, three from nearby Raleigh Hills LL, with only five kids having majors-level experience. But the SunCreek LL Honors team played hard in the morning sun. The MHLL team had three homers over the fence at Alpenrose main, and two more inside-the-park homers: they bounced so hard off the wooden outfield fence, they rolled into no-man's land between the infield and outfield while the runners raced home.

The final score was 16-1 in four innings. Jack scored the only run. It was a short morning, ending with snow cones, and John asking the kids, "Even though that was a tough loss, would you rather be anyplace else?" The response: "NO" You can't beat a sunny morning at Alpenrose stadium, with announcers, fanfare and baseball.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Allergy Alert

In Oregon, Sudafed/decongestant is only available from a pharmacist, only after showing your ID and signing a clipboard, and only if you can find it. There is no Claritin-D to be found in my part of Washington County -- I have tried Safeway, RiteAid, and Fred Meyer. Thanks to some decent weather and late spring clouds of pollen, we are all suffering. Jack is especially prone to red and swollen eyes, and especially after spending time at West Union field...

Yesterday, he had his first full day of summer, post-season baseball. At 10am he met his new team, the SunCreek LL 11-12 Honors, at the league storage facility to pick up his uniform. Then off to West Union for pictures, a practice, then pizza and parent meeting at Pizza Caboose. He downed Claritin and Benedryl in the morning, so I expected him to be dragging by the time he was having pizza.

But no, Jack is chomping at the bit to head back out to West Union field for practice with the All-Star Team, for which he is an Alternate. So, he and John (who has run his first, real baseball practice in oh, about 20 years) head back there for the three-hour practice! Except for puffiness around the eyes, he is energized and happy and has the Chitwood boys over afterward to hang out! Needless to say, he is still asleep (9:42am on Father's Day).

His father, on the other hand, is less in baseball-shape, and was moving slowly last night, sneezing and blowing, and generally ready to enjoy his Holiday. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to go to our Albertson's meat counter and get his favorite bacon to make him a big breakfast, but I will do that right now.

Happy Father's Day to all you dads! Enjoy the day, a little relaxation, your favorite bacon and maybe some baseball, if you want.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Not a phone call, but...

Jack loves baseball. He didn't start playing until he was 10 years old, which as I have said, put him a little behind his peers in the LL structure. His first team was A baseball where the coaches pitch. Jack was the only 3rd grader, and his teammates were in 1st (mostly) and 2nd grades. Jack also happens to be big for his age, so this made for some awkward moments at uniform hand-out and watching someone so big struggle with running and throwing.

His first coach was Matt Brant, and he is a great guy, great coach (in fact, Matt is this year's 9-10 Honors Manager for SunCreek). I think this experience prompted him to sign up for summer ball, then fall ball, and he kept going, getting stronger as a player, growing into his body, and finally, attending camps and hitting clinics to really work on his skills. Plus, he made baseball friends and we began to meet some great families to spend time with over the summer.

So many people have commented to us that Jack is "the great success story: working hard and getting better, enjoying the game, a great teammate, coachable, etc." Last summer when he didn't make any post-season teams, he nonetheless worked out with the 9-10 Honors team and caught pitchers, helped with practice, in the summer heat, having a good time, then going home and checking their game schedule on the internet. He attended at least one game of every SunCreek LL Honors/All-Stars teams, cheered for SCLL, and talked baseball. Over the winter, he attended batting practice every Sunday, worked with Ben Petrick at Glencoe HS on hitting and catching, and dreamed of being on an Honors team.

Last night, Jack attended the SCLL Majors championship game (Pirates vs. Red Sox) and was, of course, early, helping out and shagging balls, hanging with his baseball buds. The Pirates coach, Lee Selby, who was also the Bend team coach, asked Jack to talk with him a minute. Coach Selby is also the SunCreek LL All-Stars Manager. He told Jack that he was #14 of 13 players to be named to the team. But he wanted Jack to be an alternate, and he would get to practice with them, get a hat, etc. Jack was thrilled.

Our league is not as populated as others in District 4, so after filling out our (1) 11-12 All-Star team -- this is the division you see on ESPN in August, (2) 11-10 Year Old All-Star team, (3) 9-10 All-Stars, and (4) 9-10 Honors -- Matt's team, there were only a few players left over for an 11-12 Honors team. So, John, who is the Manager of this team, started calling kids and alas, with a little help from some players from Raleigh Hills LL, there will be an 11-12 Honors team and Jack will be playing on that team, too.

(Are you still tracking with me? :) So Jack, is a starter for the 11-12 Honors team (with first game Saturday, June 24, 10am, Alpenrose, vs. Murrayhill) with John managing, and is an Alternate for the All-Star team, and will attend as many practices of theirs as possible, and full-time when the Honors Tournament is over.

He could hardly sleep last night -- he didn't want to go to bed. He just laid there looking at brackets and team names and wanted to play baseball TODAY! Luckily, he has a day off, the Diamondbacks Team Party is tonight, and tomorrow is two practices, uniforms, and pictures.

Little League can be a positive experience. Winning isn't everything -- getting better and having fun is all you can ask. And sometimes, you can work hard enough and be a good kid, and good things can happen. How do you thank all those coaches and parents who helped him along the way? I guess you can't really, so you just make sure you pass it on...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Elephant in the Room

No one really wants to talk about it, but everyone is thinking about it! With the regular season over, the post-season begins. That means "All-Stars" and the selection of the strongest players to keep going and represent SunCreek LL at the District 4 Tourney, and perhaps to State, Regionals, and then, the Big Show: the Little League World Series, televised live on ESPN! Lots of pressure on kids and their parents, coaches and umpires, and league officials to do what is "right."

This week has been agonizing as these issues settle out for those involved. Summer plans are awaiting will be waiting for that phone call Thursday night. Will the phone ring at our house?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Majors Tournament Game #3

With a warm rain beginning to fall just as school let out, I wondered if we would be able to play our next tournament game. The good news is that the shower stopped right at gametime, the field was playable, the D-Backs and the Braves were there, and we even had two umps arrive on time!

The sprinkles of rain helped keep the dust down on Bethany School field #3 and the final battle between us and the Braves began. As all of the nice families settled into their comfortable spots, the game unwound and the Braves showed why they were the regular season champion. In the end, we lost 9-3, and our season was over. Jack was 0-2 and caught five of the six innings.

The Braves advance to play the Red Sox, with the winner taking on the undefeated Pirates. It was very cool for Jack to have one the Giants come and root on his team. Though I am sad the season is over, that was a nice team to lose to, and seeing Jack hang with new buds is what it is all about.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Majors Tournament Game #2

The loss to the Red Sox on Thursday night sent the Diamondbacks into the losers bracket for the annual End-of-the-Year tournament. The next opponent: those Damn Yankees!

As you know, the Yankees have beaten us pretty good over the season. But they had lost to the Pirates earlier in the day, so we were fresher when the game started at 3pm. And it showed. Nick pitched a complete game and held them to only a few hits, with their runs only coming on errors. Jack went 2-2 with clean singles to move runners around, and the D-Backs won! We continue to play in the tourney against the Braves on Monday night at Bethany.

If we win, we are in the championship game against either the Red Sox or the Pirates.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Majors Tournament Game #1

The SunCreek LL Diamondbacks finished up the season in fifth place out of seven teams. We never played our final game due to the fact that the Padres could not field enough players Tuesday night.

So, the playoffs started last night and we lost to the Red Sox 3-2 in a tight ballgame. As one person said, "it was a great Little League Baseball game." Overall very good pitching, scattered hits (Jack went 2-3), some great defensive plays (our pitcher tagging out a Red Sox attempted stealer in a pickle), but just too many runners left on base. Three times we had the bases loaded and couldn't get a runner in to score.

So, we play Saturday at 3pm at West Union Field. The end-of-season tournament is double elimination, so we must win to keep playing.

Saturday is also the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade. We will miss it for the first time since we moved back to Portland... Alas, we will be at West Union, our own Field of Dreams, with its allergy-inducing crops right next to the ballfield. I have packed my allergy kit -- a big plastic bag with Claritin, Claritin D, Benedryl, and eye drops. It has come in handy in the last few weeks, and not just for Jack!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Catching Up on Catching

The Bend trip was the highlight of Little League Baseball for Jack. He has really come into his own as a catcher, and has the soreness to prove it. At nearly 5'7" (and taller than me), he often stands face-to-face with the umpire. The other night, a local veteran ump was behind the plate in our game versus the Pirates at Bethany School. Walt has been around for many years, and Jack was just a hair taller. In fact, he whispered into Jack's ear before the first pitch, "I umped your mom's softball games, you know." I am 41 years of age. You do the math. Anyway, he also says, "Your grandpa taught me all I know about umping. He would be coaching and come at me with that LL Rulebook and challenge my calls, and dammit if he wasn't always right." Jack, a young man of few words, just looked at him. He was probably in shock hearing "dammit."

So we hung out at the West Union fields all day yesterday, soaking up baseball and cheering on kids in the majors and AAA games. "Hi Miss Matsuo, Hi Miss Matsuo" I heard as I passed the Muckdogs' dugout during their final game of the AAA season. Jack's first LL coach, Matt, was on one side of the field directing the Bats, and four of my favorite Rock Creek kids were on the other. Was Jack ever this small? It seems like forever ago.

When we walked back to the majors game, Braves vs. Giants, I thought, man, these boys are so much bigger. Then Dan Knauer says he just raced in from his son's American Legion game, looks at the major players and says, was his oldest ever this small? The high school kids are so much bigger! And so goes the circle of life...

Getting back to the Bend trip... Thanks to making new friends, Jack had to be literally pried out of that ballpark last night. He had played (and caught) five innings versus the Yankees at the 9:30am game. We headed to Helvetia Tavern for Jumbo Cheeseburgers, then went back to the field to watch games until after 5pm. He was a sweathog from running around with kids, younger and older, shooting hoops right next to the playground, then hanging out on the bleachers with his new buds. He would have gladly hung out for the 5:30pm game, Giants vs. Padres, if one eye wasn't practically closed from grass allergies, a running nose, and sneezing every two minutes. Still, it was another perfect day at our Field of Dreams.