Monthly Archives: July 2010

Jousting at Windmills: The Quixotesque Life of Padre Steve

I believe that I have reached a rather Quixotesque stage in my life.  I have in my passion for moderation decided to be fair and balanced and with a rather unexpected result. I now joust with windmills. Some of my fellow Christians have gotten upset at me for doing so as they rather seem to like those windmills. It seems that in the current political climate for a Christian to offer criticism of other Christians or for that matter the conservative political movement is something akin to denying the Deity of Christ or worse.

I have been taken to task for a number of things such as defending the rights of Moslems, women’s ordination, the rights of homosexuals, criticizing conservative talk show hosts (I criticize liberals too but seldom get attacked for that), criticizing the almost incestuous relationship between the “Christian right” with the Republican Party and even more conservative political groups and ideologies and the equation of nearly all things American with the Christian faith by some.

This attitude starts at the top of the Church; Pope Benedict gives a great example to follow when he censured Cardinal Chrisoph Schoenborn of Vienna for criticizing the retired Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Soldano for his handling of and interference in the discipline of clergy in the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church. The Pope censured Schoenborn, not Soldano and made the pronouncement that only he could criticize a Cardinal.  Not long afterward the Vatican released a document that supposedly makes it easier for the Church to go after the sexual predators in the Church while at the same time declaring women’s ordination to be a “major crime against the church” which I think is what pedophilia is.  Others have determined that since the world seems to be attacking Jesus, the Christian faith and the Church that criticism of Christian leaders by other Christians is off limits.

I commented recently on the case of Shirley Sherrod an official in the Agriculture Department that was smeared by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart and made to look like the very face of racism in America.  A number of hosts on the Fox News Channel ran with the story before checking it out only having to recant a day later, a day after Sherrod had been forced to resign by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilseck and the White House.  It turned out that she was the victim and a story from her life of redemption and reconciliation presented as her being a racist by crafty editing of the video of a 45 minute long speech.  My comment that no matter whether it was Dan Rather using faked documents to try to damage then President George W Bush or Brietbart and his action against Mrs. Sherrod that these actions were both dishonorable.  A now former Facebook friend (she dropped me) and lay member of my denomination took issue with me and in what turned into a rather personal and harsh exchange I was called a number of names and accused of comparing me to her mother and stepfather like them having a “distortion of reality.” This individual chose not to deal with what my comments were but to take my posting as an attack on her conservative views, which they were most certainly not.  I tried to keep on point but this woman would have none of it.  I found the exchange as fascinating as one would a car wreck.  Now to be fair this woman was the only person that acted this way but her passion was to defend the actions of Breitbart and Fox News because “the country was hell bent on socialism” and that she was going to “do whatever she could to make people aware of it.” It was clear to me that she was so tied to her ideology that she could not be objective and I finally left the conversation. Now I know some liberals that are the same way to be sure, but for Christians to somehow almost equate a political and economic philosophy with the faith is somehow rather un-Jesus like.

Obviously in the interest of the truth I was looking for this confrontation, if not with her with someone else because I know that with some people and it does not matter whether they are conservatives or liberals there is no reasoning, no room for differing opinions.  In the religion and politics of 2010 there are no longer opponents but enemies, yea verily mortal enemies who with their repugnant ideologies must be crushed and in fact those close to them that deviate are even worse for they have betrayed the respective orthodoxy of the zealots of the left or the right.  In my rather brief public life writing on this site I have found the nastiest to be the religious conservatives that take issue with what I write.  The attitude reminds me of the Moslem extremists, militant Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Hindu Fundamentalists, all of whom have no tolerance for those different than them and often bent on enforcing their beliefs on those that do not follow their religion often violently.   Please know that I am only comparing attitudes not results as with the exception of a few people American Christians have not resorted to violence to achieve their ends though I would posit that the more radical and politically committed conservative or Fundamentalist Christians that have become with more extreme right wing groups have this potential.

Now as far as matter of criticizing big name Christian leaders which I did last week with the knowledge that some would be upset with me and I confess that I am guilty as charged.  I decided to joust with this windmill by posting a link to an article in that bastion of truth and moral turpitude the National Enquirer which showed the incredibly popular televangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn cavorting in Rome under an assumed name with the rather sultry female televangelist and pastor Paula White. Now White is divorced and Hinn’s wife has filed for divorce but it is not final. In old fashioned fundament talk this is called adultery.  Add to the mix that both are under investigation by a Senate Committee for financial dealings in their ministries.

Now I have a rather unique take on this as I worked for a television ministry the last couple of years of seminary and while waiting to enter into a Clinical Pastoral Education.  While the ministry that I worked with was definitely above board we occasionally had other televangelists including the previously mentioned Benny Hinn visit our studios and basically act like they were better than the people that worked there.  At conferences that our ministry hosted which included many of the top preachers of the day there were some speakers that acted the same way but thankfully some that exuded grace and kindness.  One of the things that I noticed was the vast amount of money involved in Christian Television and some of the rather cutthroat programming and financial practices of the largest network, the Terrible Blond Network.

Since the late 1980s and early 1990s scandals, financial, sexual and sometimes criminal have engulfed many of the largest names in the television ministry and mega-church world.  Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Larry Lee, Bob Tilton, Peter Popoff, Ted Haggard, Earl Paulk, Todd Bentley and others now including Reverend Hinn and Reverend White.  Others have become involved in politics up to their ears or have made incredibly thoughtless and asinine statements on events like the 9-11 attack and Hurricane Katrina. Still others organize book burnings of various types or other thoughtless and even un-Christian displays of hatred and ignorance.  Now this is a pretty impressive list by anyone’s standards and it does not include the host of lesser known others that have had affairs, financial and even violent encounters.  No wonder the name of Jesus is reviled by so many and that the church is held in such low esteem. We bring it on ourselves because we have forgotten the “Big 2,” you know the commandments that if you do them fulfill all the rest, love God and love your neighbor. I think that it was Jesus that suggested that this was important.

I was criticized for posting a link about the Hinn and White story by three ministers and I do not entirely disagree with then nor think that they were out of line to criticize me.  The biggest concern of all three was that with the Church under attack from many quarters as well as attacks on Jesus and Christian beliefs and values that I should not do it especially because of the source of the story, the National Enquirer. Now mind you that that Enquirer is actually, despite its rater sleazy reputation actually breaking stories that the big media initially missed such as the John Edwards affair and the current investigation into possible sexual assaults by former Vice President Al Gore one of which as of yesterday was closed by the State of Oregon but there are other investigations.  However that was not the point of posting the story. You see I figure that if the Church and its leaders did a better job of conducting itself in a Christian manner then there would be a little more love for it and also Jesus. I believe that much of what we call persecution is in large part due to how badly we as Christians have behaved and treated those in our care before the watching world.  I believe that it is better for Christians to police themselves so that their conduct may be seen as something to emulate, in fact I think that is what the early church did. They had no power, no money and no social status but in spite of real persecution that usually ended in death by crucifixion, being crushed to death by heavy stones, being burned at the stake, shot through with arrows, having their heads whacked off, getting flogged to death, drowned until dead and even tickled to death.   While this was taking place they were commended by Roman leaders as model citizens because of their behavior.  They were known by their love, not just for one another but for their non-Christian neighbors, the very ones that persecuted them.

That is not an isolated example, when I was in Iraq I had Moslem Iraqi Army Officers tell me of their respect for Christians because Christians were seen to be more trustworthy and caring than their Moslem brethren, and by the way Iraqi Christians often face persecution and death.  I was told by one officer that the Iraqi Army needed Christian Priests to take care of their soldiers and families, like the Americans have because they did not get this from their Imams.  In spite of persecution which includes the real possibility of being killed by Moslem extremists most Moslems see Christians as good citizens that they can trust their lives, families and property to.  This is not the case in our country despite the fact that there are a lot of really good Christians who still follow the “Big 2.”

But now in this country we seem to be more concerned with our power and social status and despite all the scandals willing to give these folks a pass on their actions and pony up more money to feed their ministries, usually money that comes from some of the poorest people in the country while many live in luxury.  I think that this is something that the Reformers had against the Catholic Church during the Reformation. May be we need a new Reformation to make things right again, after all only 56% of Americans rank the ethics and trust of clergy as very high. Honestly, we should do better than that and if the world exposes our leaders for compromising themselves and the Gospel then more power to them, we should take care of it ourselves ending our support for such “ministers” and “ministries.”

My church was torn apart a few years back by the actions of bishops who had made unwanted sexual advances another that bilked the church nearly bankrupting it through his financial wheeling and dealing and by others that exploited the chaos in a most un-Christian manner.  The Church is slowly recovering and those that were the primary culprits are no longer in the church.  Many were haughty and arrogant and it came back to bite them and it nearly destroyed the church.

So I will continue to joust at windmills knowing that like the legendary Don Quixote that nothing will really change.  The windmills of religious and political machines will continue to turn and more than likely result in people sending me hate mail for saying what I say and unfortunately the vast majority will be my fellow Christians thinking that they are defending the faith.

There have been others like me that have done some good. I do think that Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans Kung rank up there so what can I say? Wait I know…Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Yankees down Tides 7-1 Thursday and 2-1 Friday

Chris George pitched an excellent game but lost on Friday

After winning on Wednesday to even their series with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees the Norfolk Tides looked to more success sending Chris Tillman to the mound in Thursday night’s game.  Instead the Tides and Tillman went down to defeat 7-1 at the hands of a very good Yankee team. Tillman allowed a run in each of the first three innings and pitched into the 5th inning when after retiring Kevin Russo on a strikeout he gave up a double to Eric Bruntlett and a single to Eduardo Nunez was taken out of the game after having thrown 92 pitches allowing 5 runs, 4 of which were earned on 7 hits, allowing 2 walks while striking out 3 Yankees. Mike Hinckley then entered the game for the Tides and did not get the job done. Hinckley gave up a single to Chad Tracy that scored Bruntlett. The next batter was leading Yankees prospect catcher Jesus Montero and Montero belted a home run over the right field wall to clear the bases and give the Yankees a 7-0 lead.

The Tides bats remained silent until the top of the 9th inning.  They had a chance in the top of the 4th when Robert Andino and Nolan Reimold occupied 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs before Rhyne Hughes popped out to end the inning.  They also got 2 base runners in the top of the 8th but left both aboard.  The Tides final got a run across in the top of the 9th inning.  Nolan Reimold doubled with one out and both Brandon Snyder and Craig Tatum drew walks with two outs. This loaded the bases for Paco Figueroa to single and drive in Reimold and keep the bases loaded. This was Figueroa’s third hit of the evening.  With the bases loaded Matt Angle grounded out to end the inning and the game.

Tillman (8-6 3.40 ERA) got the loss and Jason Hirsch (6-7 4.22 ERA) picked up the win. The Tides had 1 run on 6 hits with no errors and left 9 men on base. The Yankees 7 runs on 12 hits with no errors leaving 6 men stranded.

On Friday it was a pitcher’s duel as Chris George battled Ivan Nova.  George allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits striking out 7 in 7.2 innings work.  The runs came in the 2nd inning when George struck out Jesus Montero but the pitch was wild and Montero took first.  This brought Jorge Vazquez to the plate and Vazquez homered scoring both of the Yankees runs. The Tides got 9 hits of Nova and left the bases loaded twice scoring only once when Michael Aubrey singled in the 5th inning to score Matt Angle.  Jonathan Albaladejo came in for the 9th inning and picked up his 34th save of the year. Chris George (5-5 3.88 ERA) got the loss while Nova (10-2 0.89 ERA) got the win.  The Tides had 1 run on 10 hits with no errors leaving 7 aboard and the Yankees 2 runs on 6 hits with 1 error leaving 3 men on base.  The Tides return to Norfolk on Saturday for a 4 game home stand against Indianapolis.

It was a pity that George had to lose, he pitched an excellent game apart from two pitches allowing few hits that hte Yankees starter and striking out more.

In Baltimore the news was that Buck Showalter has been hired by the O’s and will take the helm Tuesday at Camden Yards. Juan Samuel will resume his 3rd base coach job should he desire and Gary Allenson will return to the Tides. In trade news the O’s traded Miguel Tejada to the Padres for minor league pitcher Wynn Pelzer.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Goodbyes and Prayers: Sending Friends off to War

My little war within the war, Christmas with the Bedouin

Yesterday I was honored to be at a pre-deployment ceremony for a number of my shipmates from Portsmouth Naval Medical Center about half of I know fairly well.  There were physicians, nurses and hospital corpsmen in the group, some going to Afghanistan with the Marines, NATO or the Army while others were going to Guantanamo Bay or Djibouti, the country rejected by both Eritrea and Ethiopia. I already have seen a good number of friends and colleagues from our Medical Center deploy and in some cases return and I know of one corpsman that came back wounded while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan.

COP South

I have done many of these send offs since coming to Portsmouth but I think that today I knew a higher percentage of the personnel deploying than normally is the case.  At these ceremonies it is customary for the chaplain to pray for our shipmates as well as their family members.  This deployment comes in the midst of monthly casualties reaching their highest point in the war and shortly after two US Navy sailors being killed when for whatever reason they left their base in Kabul in an up armored Toyota Land Cruiser and proceeded to drive alone to one of the most dangerous areas of the country.  With that in mind the safety of our shipmates is something that I and those that serve are ever mindful of when we send our people to deploy.  Yesterday I spent more time with the deploying sailors before and following the ceremony because so many were friends or close colleagues. The goodbyes from me this time were different as I will not be at Portsmouth when my friends return. My assignment as the Command Chaplain at Naval Hospital Camp LeJuene means that I won’t be there but I will continue to keep them in my prayers and stay in contact with as many as I can through e-mail or Facebook.  At LeJuene I will meet old friends from Portsmouth as well as from my Marine tours.  I will also get to deal with a lot more Marines and Sailors dealing with physical as well as psychological injuries resulting from their time in harm’s way in either Iraq or Afghanistan or in many cases both countries.

Pause for possible IED

It has been three years since I deployed to Iraq, in fact three years to the day yesterday that I arrived in Kuwait to complete final training before going into country.  When I was over in Iraq I was blessed my many expressions of support of many people, churches, schools and veterans groups.  At the same time I did not sense the overwhelming support of the people for our troops and that included many members of the political establishment that seemed more interested in using the war to advance their political objectives and unfortunately that was truly a bi-partisan endeavor.  Since we are an all volunteer force it seems to me that the only people really paying attention are people with sons, daughters, mothers or fathers or other family members or friends in harm’s way.  For others supporting the troops is little more than a bumper sticker affirmation, which I appreciate as at least most people aren’t damning us as so many did in Vietnam, a war that my dad served in and which as a Navy dependant experienced in the way that military families were treated by the protest set.

On Syrian Border with Iraqi Border Troops

Today I saw an article about an Army Lieutenant one Christopher Babcock http://gen-reading.blogspot.com/ at a tiny base in Afghanistan.  I often felt this way when in Iraq, especially those times that I came back into the large base that I operated from and saw various news channels on AFN including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.  Much of what I saw coming out of the mouths of reporters or politicians, showed me just how out of touch and how little our leaders on both sides of the political divide, the media and the American public understood this war.

Convoy in Ramadi shortly before we took fire

My war experience was different. The places I went were the places most people never heard of or will ever hear about.  My assistant and I travelled thousands of miles in fixed and rotor wing aircraft as well as in many tiny poorly armed convoys in the badlands of Al Anbar Province to the small Iraqi bases where our advisors to the Iraqi Army and security forces worked.  In the assignment I got to know a decent number of Iraqi officers and even spoke to the first class of female Iraqi Police officers in training at Ramadi.  I believed then and now that Iraq will do well in the long run.  Back in 2007 very few people believed that, but having gotten to know many fine Iraqis I know that they will repair their country and move on with life. They have been at war in some way shape or form since 1980 and are war weary and most want to move on to live in peace and raise their children.

Guests of Major General Sabah of 7th Iraqi Division

I do not believe this to be the case in Afghanistan. History tells me that we will have no better outcome than the Soviets.  We lost our opportunity when we let up on the pressure in Afghanistan to concentrate on Iraq. The Taliban were able to rebuild and regain control of much of the country between the Iraq invasion and 2010.  I honestly don’t know if we as a nation have the wherewithal to win this war or the resources to do so.  Many outstanding Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen as well as personnel from the CIA perform heroic work on a daily basis but they do not have the numbers or resources to fight a successful counter-insurgency campaign when the Afghan people by and large hate the Karzai regime and cast their lot with the Taliban despite their miserable life under that brutal, medieval fundamentalist Islamic regime.

But we go on with each service sacrificing needed equipment and personnel to fund the war. Even now the Navy is going to be cut maybe up to 25,000 sailors without any mission decrease. Likewise there will be no let up of the use of Navy personnel as Individual Augments to Marine, Army or NATO forces in the Middle East and in other locations.  As it is the force seems to be stretched beyond belief with many sailors not only deploying in traditional at seas, Fleet Marine Force, Seabee or Special Operations billets but when they are supposedly on the downhill side in a shore billet are pulled to serve as an Individual Augment.   The Army and the Marines are worn down by constant deployments with no end in sight.  There are no new drafts of personnel, end strength is limited and the same people go back time and time again.  If I was told I needed to head to Afghanistan I would because that is where many of my friends are and as a Priest and Chaplain I could do no other, but I would go with no illusions about the mission, the risk or the likely outcome of the war. It would be the place to care for God’s people serving in harm’s way.

Brotherhood of War

While this is going on there is the ever present threat of war on the Korean Peninsula or with Iran. A war in either location would open yet another front in a worldwide conflict, when we are already stretched to the breaking point elsewhere.  Any conflict in those areas could generate more casualties in a short period of time than all the personnel that we have lost in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Goodbyes and prayers… I am sure that there will be more of both in my future.  I just ask my readers to keep their head in the game when it comes to the wars that we are in.  Don’t leave the troops on a bumper sticker but keep them in your hearts and prayers and serve them through your actions.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Take Down Yankees 8-6, Bell and Reimold Homer

Nolan Reimold homered and had a double on Wednesday

There was no pitcher’s duel in Scranton on Wednesday as the Norfolk Tides slugged it out with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees 8-6 in a game that each team had 14 hits.  Starting pitcher Troy Patton pitched well enough to get the win and unlike many of his early season appearances had good hitting support. Patton gave up 4 runs on 8 hits in 5.2 innings work before being relieved with 2 outs in the 6th inning by Pat Egan. One of the charged runs to Patton scored on a single hit by Kevin Russo off of Egan.  The Yankees’ starter David Phelps last only 3 innings giving up 5 runs on 7 hits.  Kei Igawa came in the 4th inning for the Yankees and lasted 3 innings giving up 2 runs on 4 hits.  Mark Melancon gave up the 8th run allowed by the Yankees in two innings work.  Tides relievers Frank Mata and Denis Sarfate each gave up a run in the final innings with Sarfate facing 7 batters and throwing 34 pitches to get through the inning.

The Tides took an early 2-0 lead on walks given up to Robert Andino and Jeff Salazar with Andino scoring on a Josh Bell single and Salazar scoring on a double by Nolan Reimold.  The Yankees got back one of those runs in the bottom of the inning when Kevin Russo singled to lead off the inning and scored on a double by Eric Bruntlett.  The Tides then struck hard in the 3rd inning when Jeff Salazar doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a 2 run home run by Josh Bell. Bell was followed by Nolan Reimold who also homered to give the Tides a 5-1 lead.  The Tides scored two more in the top of the 5th inning when Reimold walked, Rhyne Hughes singled and Brandon Snyder doubled to drive in both runners.  Scranton picked up a run in the bottom half of the inning when Reid Gorecki doubled and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Eric Bruntlett.  In the bottom of the 6th the Yankees finally got to Patton. Chad Tracy doubled and with two outs was driven in on a Chad Huffman single. Reegie Corona singled and Patton walked Gorecki to load the bases. Patton was pulled for Pat Egan who gave up a single to Kevin Russo which scored Huffman before getting Eric Bruntlett to ground into a force play. The Tides scored their final run when Josh Bell singled, Nolan Reimold walked and Rhyne Hughes singled to score Bell.

Denis Sarfate got his 13th save

Frank Mata came into the game in the 8th inning and once again struggled lasting only two thirds of an inning giving up a run on three singles and a walk and loading the bases before the Tides brought in Denis Sarfate. Sarfate got Eduardo Nunez to pop-out to Robert Andino to end the inning.  In the bottom half of the 9th Sarfate seemed to struggle giving up 2 singles and a walk before getting the final two batters to end the game.

Patton (7-9 4.80 ERA) got the win and Phelps (1-2 3.86 ERA) took the loss. Denis Sarfate notched his 13th save.  The Tides had 8 runs on 14 hits with no errors leaving 9 men on base. The Yankees 6 runs on 14 hits with no errors leaving 12 men on. The teams meet tonight with Chris Tillman back on the hill for the Tides facing Jason Hirsch.

In personnel moves before the game Jeff Salazar was activated from the DL and catcher Adam Donachie was sent to the single A Frederick Keys.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Drop Opener to Yankees 4-2

Robert Andino hit his 12th home run in the loss

After an exceptionally long game in Allentown, where they once we closing all the factories down the Norfolk Tides loaded up on their bus and traveled to Scranton to play the Yankees.  The game was a low scoring affair with the Tides scoring first in the top of the 2nd inning.  Josh Bell hit a leadoff homer and Nolan Reimold and Brandon Snyder singled but were stranded on base when Paco Figueroa grounded out to end the inning.  The Yankees score 2 runs in the bottom frame of the inning. Starter Zach Britton walked the leadoff batter and then set down the next two men that he faced. Chad Huffman singled and with Reegie Corona batting Britton made a wild pitch which advanced both runners.  Corona then singled scoring both runners giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead.  The Tides tied the score in the top of the 3rd inning when Robert Andino hit his 12th home run of the year.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the 7th and both starters left the game. Britton pitched 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits walking 3 while Scranton starter Zach McAllister pitched 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks giving up the home runs to Bell and Andino. With the starters gone the game became the responsibility of the bullpens. The Tides bullpen depleted by the effort against Lehigh Valley on Monday had little left in the bullpen and brought in Cla Meredith who is to put it mildly struggling this year.  On Tuesday he escaped in the 6th after coming in with 2 outs to relief Britton. He walked the first batter that he faced to load the bases before getting ground out to him to end the inning.  In the 7th things went downhill for the former Padres and Orioles reliever.  He retired the first two batters that he faced before giving up a bunt single to Eduardo Nunez.  With Nunez on Meredith faced Chad Tracy who belted Meredith’s first pitch over the right field wall to make the score 4-2.  Following that there were no more runs scored.

Meredith (1-1 8.82 ERA) took the loss and Eric Wordekemper (1-0 3.31 ERA) got the win. Yankees closer Jonathan Albaladejo got his 33rd save of the year striking out 3 of the five Tides batters that he faced. The Tides had 2 runs on 9 hits with no errors leaving 11 men on base and the Yankees 4 runs on 8 hits with no errors leaving 7 runners stranded.  The Tides and Yankees meet again tonight with Troy Patton (6-9 4.72 ERA) on the hill for the Tides facing David Phelps (1-1 2.38 ERA).

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Relief Pitcher’s Duel in Allentown: Tides Defeat Iron Pigs in 15 Innings 6-3

Brandon Snyder doubled twice in the win

It was a long night in Allentown where at one time they closed all the factories down as the Norfolk Tides played the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs deep into the night.  The game went 15 innings and lasted 4 hours and 18 minutes.  It was a battle of endurance as relief pitcher after relief pitcher shut the opposing team down.  In fact for 9 innings, the 6th through the 15th the Tides were no-hit getting only a walk in the 7th inning to Matt Angle.  Likewise the Iron Pigs only managed a hit in the bottom of the 12th inning and 2 walks in the same time period.  In 10 innings work the Tides relievers gave up only 2 hits and 2 walks without surrendering a run.

The Tides struck first for 2 runs in the top of the 3rd inning. Blake Davis led off the inning with a double and took third when Matt Angle singled to left.  Angle then scored on a ground out by Robert Andino.  With Michael Aubrey at the plate Angle stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Aubrey.  The Tides extended that lead to 3-0 when in the top of the 4th inning Brandon Snyder got a one out double and scored on a single by Blake Davis.  In the bottom of the 5th the Iron Pigs struck back.   With two outs Brian Bocock struck out swinging but the pitch was a wild pitch by Tim Bascom and Bocock was safe at first. Chris Duffy singled and then Ozzie Chavez took a 1-1 pitch and put it over the right field wall. Bascom then walked a batter before getting Andy Tracy to fly out to end the inning.

These would be the last runs allowed until the top of the 15th inning, nine full innings of scoreless baseball by the bullpens of both teams.  In the game within the game, the duel of relief pitchers 5 Norfolk relievers, Armando Gabino, Pat Egan, Alberto Castillo, Denis Sarfate and Jim Hoey held the Iron Pigs scoreless while striking out 13 and walking only 2.  The Iron Pigs staff was also impressive. Brian Gordon, Oscar Villareal, Scott Mathieson, Mike Zagurski and Michael Schwimer gave up just 1 hit, that in the 15th inning and 2 walks, also one in the 15th and struck out 9 Tides batters.

The end of this long battle came in the 15th.  Brandon Snyder broke the scoreless drought with a leadoff double.  Adam Donachie sacrificed Snyder to third on a ground ball out. Paco Figueroa came in to pinch hit for Blake Davis and drew a walk from Schwimer. With runners now on first and third Matt Angle laid down what looked to be a sacrifice bunt. Snyder scored and Angle went to second and Figueroa to third on a throwing error by Schwimer breaking the tie which had existed since the end of the 5th inning.  Robert Andino came to the plate and reached on a fielding error by 2nd Baseman Ozzie Chavez and both Angle and Figueroa scored before Schwimer could retire the side.  The Iron Pigs went down in order in the bottom of the 15th with Jim Hoey striking out the side.

The winner was Hoey (2-0 2.70 ERA) and the loser Schwimer (2-1 0.87 ERA).  The Tides had 6 runs on 8 hits with one error, the costly wild pitch by Bascom in the 5th inning and the Iron Pigs had 3 runs on 7 hits with 2 errors both in the 15th inning which the Tides capitalized on to win the game.  The series ended with a split and the Tides travelled to Scranton to play a four game series against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Thoughts on my Dad’s 75th Birthday

The past few days have been weird I have been very busy and due to getting paged in the middle of the night on Saturday and Sunday to go into work have been pretty tired too.  As a result I have known that my dad’s 75th birthday would have been today. Now for the past couple of years dad didn’t know much of anything going on around him as he was in the end stages of Alzheimer’ disease.  However today I have hardly had time to stop to remember him.  I have been thinking about him a lot since he passed away and since my return from California following his funeral.

He would have been 75 years old today and in his life he did a lot.  His dad died really before he knew him when he was two years old and his mother raised him and my uncle as a single mother assisted by the Aunties, my grandfather’s sisters Elizabeth, Viva and Goldie until she had the means to purchase her own home not far from them.  My grandmother, Granny as she was known eventually remarried to a man that would treat my dad and brother as his own.  They moved to Arizona from Huntington West Virginia and dad would graduate from high school in Tuscan.  About the time that he graduated, his stepfather Van was killed in a auto accident on the way home from work.  Granny moved the family back to Huntington where she went back to work, my uncle Charlie attended Marshall University and dad would enlist in the Navy.  When dad left he sent half of his paycheck home to help my grandmother and to assist with his brother’s college and seminary expenses.  In 1958 he married my mom who he had grown up with attending the same schools in Huntington and in 1960 he sired me and in 1966 my brother.

Dad was a good father; he did care for his sons and he cared enough to teach us about responsibility and to do the right thing.  He always ensured that we were connected with church and faith but never beat us to death with religion.  As such as I grew up I had freedom to choose my faith.  He had a hard time with my constant desire to serve in the military and when I left active duty thought I was foolish to go to seminary. I’m sure that part of this was rooted in the religion that he had been exposed to in West Virginia as well as his distant relationship with his brother a minister.  However after I had graduated from seminary and become a Priest and Chaplain he became more accepting and he took great pride in me entering the Navy and in my promotion to Lieutenant Commander in 2006.

I miss my dad and have missed him for some time, even before his death. Our last visit he didn’t know me and I think that coupled with my PTSD and depression that I was experiencing at the time made that experience more upsetting and unsettling. When he passed away it was not more than 16 hours after I had learned of my selection for promotion to the rank of Commander.

His memorial service was beautiful and all of us were touched by the words of Chaplain Gerry Seeley and the great professionalism of the honors team from the Navy and the Air Force.

Since coming back I have had my ups and downs and think that I am able to appreciate all that he meant to me, the things that he let me do, the things that he taught me and the pride that he took in me, even when we had grown apart following his return from Vietnam.  Having gone to Iraq and having dealt with the pain, isolation and all that comes with PTSD I think I now understand how he changed following his Vietnam service.  He was not the same after it but then I don’t think that anyone that has been exposed to danger in isolated posts in unpopular wars comes home the same.

My dad taught me a lot.  I wish that he was still alive and not afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Part is my own selfishness in wanting to have him back and whole but the other part is that I wish that he had another 10-15 years to see his grandchildren; my brother’s kids grow up. He loved them more than anything. I wish too that he and my mom would have had more time to travel and see the world together as both were fond of the adventure that came with travel to Europe and Asia.

75 years. I wish it could have been 80 or 90 but it is not so, not in this life. But I know that one day I will see him again and maybe get a chance to have a catch on the lush green baseball diamond that I’m am sure has a prominent place in the layout of heaven.

Well tomorrow is another day and I hope that I can live up to what my dad would expect of me.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Drop Pair over Weekend to Iron Pigs

Chris George struck out 11 but left with no decision on Sunday

The Norfolk Tides win streak and hitting barrage stopped on Saturday as the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs defeated the Tides 6-4 on Saturday and 3-2 on Sunday.  On Saturday Chris Tillman made his first start since returning from Baltimore and was hit hard giving up 6 run on 8 hits.  Chris was stung by the long ball giving up a solo shot to John Mayberry in the 2nd inning and a two run homer to Ozzie Smith Chavez in the 3rd inning.  In the 4th inning Tillman gave up a double and three singles before being pulled in favor of Mike Hinckley.  Tillman left the game and relievers Mike Hinckley and Cla Meredith held the Iron Pigs scoreless for the remainder of the game.

Matt Angle has made a lot of money for the Tides as the lead off hitter and leading base stealer

The Tides scored four runs the first coming in the 1st inning when Matt Angle helped manufacture a run by walking, stealing second base and eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly by Michael Aubrey. The Tides came up with nothing more until the 6th inning when Robert Andino singled and stole second and then advanced to third on a wild pitch by Lehigh Valley starter Nate Bump.  He scored on a single by Josh Bell.  Nolan Reimold singled and Michael Schwimer replaced Nate Bump. Schwimer threw a wild pitch and which allowed Bell and Reimold to advance.  Brandon Snyder singled to score both men before Schwimer struck out Adam Donachie swinging to end the inning.  The Tides went quietly in the last three innings and the Tides went down to a 6-4 defeat. Chris Tillman (8-5 3.14 ERA) got the loss and Nate Bump (8-4 3.33 ERA) the win.  The Tides had 4 runs on 9 hits with 1 error leaving 4 men on base. The Iron Pigs 6 runs on 11 hits and no errors leaving 6 runners stranded.

Sunday evenings game Chris George faced off against Drew Carpenter. The Tides struck first with 2 runs in the top of the 2nd inning when Michel Hernandez singled and stole second base and came home on a Matt Angle single with Angle advancing to second on the throw.  Robert Andino singled to drive in Angle and the Tides had a 2-0 lead.

Chris George pitched five scoreless innings before giving up 2 runs in the 6th inning.  He allowed 9 hits but struck out 11 Iron Pigs and walked none.  Chris gave up the runs on a single by John Mayberry a double by Chris Aguila which scored Mayberry and an RBI single to Neil Sellers.  Chris would yield in the 7th to Alberto Castillo who put the Iron Pigs down in order striking out 2 batters.

The game would remain tied until the bottom of the 8th inning. Frank Mata who has not been effective since his return from Baltimore walked Mayberry who stole second base and took third on a wild pitch by Mata. Neil Sellers singled to bring Mayberry home before Mata retired the side on a double play. The Tides went down in order in the 9th and to their second defeat in as many days.  Mata (2-2 3.52 ERA) took the loss while reliever Michael Stutes (2-0 3.63 ERA) got the win for the Chiefs with Antonio Bastardo got his 3rd save.  The Tides had 2 runs on 9 hits with 1 error and left 10 men on base.  The Iron Pigs 3 runs on 10 hits and 1 error with 8 men left on base.

These losses have hurt as the Iron Pigs are one of the weaker teams in the league and the Tides had a chance to gain ground or keep even with their Southern Division rivals.  They lead Gwinnett by 1.5 games and trail 2nd place Charlotte by 4.  The formidable and seemingly unstoppable Durham Bulls are up by 10 over the Knights and 14 over the Tides.  The teams will meet Monday with Tim Bascom (2-5 7.39 ERA) on the hill for the Tides while Joe Savery (1-8 5.01 ERA) starts for Lehigh Valley.

In Baltimore Matt Wieters returned to the lineup from the DL and the Orioles optioned catcher Craig Tatum to the Tides. The move is unpopular with many Orioles fans as Tatum is hitting .271 and has played well behind the plate. Kam Mickolio, Brandon Erbe and Jeff Salazar remain on the Tides Disabled List.

Until tomorrow my friends, peace,

Padre Steve+

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North Korea Tensions: One Misstep could mean War what the US can deploy to the Theater

The USS George Washington

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the North Korean sinking of the South Korean Corvette Cheonan on March 26th and the North’s continued bellicose actions are now the highest in years.  Since the United States and South Korea announced naval exercises in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan the North has gone on a propaganda offensive condemn the exercises as a threat to peace and “nothing but outright provocations aimed to stifle the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea] by force of arms.” North Korean spokesman Ri Tong Il claimed that the exercise “is a grave threat to the Korean peninsula and also to the region of Asia as a whole,” and “another example of a hostile policy” toward North Korea.

One of a number of Naval Clashes between South and North Korean Navy vessels

The North Koreans announced also that “The army and people of the DPRK will start a retaliatory sacred war of their own style based on nuclear deterrent any time necessary in order to counter the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces deliberately pushing the situation to the brink of a war,” and while threats of war are common from the DPRK the situation is now so tense that any miscue from either side could spark a war.

The US State Department dismissed the North Korean threats spokesman P J Crowley stated “North Korea has a habit of trying to deflect, you know, responsibility onto others.”  He noted that some U.S. officials were concerned that North Korea might use the heightened tensions and exercises to make further provocations against the South and US Forces.  Some speculate that such measures might include missile tests or nuclear tests or other military measures.  In response to questions that North Korea might take aggressive steps Crowley noted:  “Are they capable of these kinds of steps? Tragically, the answer is yes….And the very kind of actions that we’ve announced in recent days, including military exercises that will be conducted in the near future, are expressly to demonstrate that we will be prepared to act in response to future North Korea provocations. We hope it won’t come to that.”

South Korean Navy LHD Dokdo

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked at a conference regarding the South China Sea in Vietnam that “an isolated and belligerent North Korea has embarked on a campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior…”

The US Forces Korea Commander General Walter Sharp stated:  “These defensive, combined training exercises are designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop, and that the ROK and U.S. are committed to enhancing our combined defensive capabilities.”

The Exercise “Invincible Spirit” will include the USS George Washington carrier battle group including the Guided Missile Destroyers USS McCampbell, USS John S. McCain and USS Lassen, as well as South Korean Navy assets including the largest ship in the South Korean Navy the Landing Ship Dokdo. A total of 20 ships 200 aircraft and 8,000 sailors will take part in the exercise which according to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo “will consist of an electronic warfare simulation with members of the US Cyber Command, an aerial refueling and bombing exercise by the Air Force, command control training by the Marines, and a navy anti-submarine exercise.”  It is also likely that the converted former Trident Missile submarines USS Ohio, USS Michigan and possibly the USS Florida are in the area each armed with up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles.  The 4th of these submarines USS Georgia is also deployed and its whereabouts are not known. It is the first time that all 4 subs have been deployed at the same time.   The US Air Force has deployed the F-22 Raptor for the first time to Korea and elements of the 7th Air Force will take part in the exercise.  Invincible Spirit is the first in a series of scheduled summer exercises between the US and South Korea. Admiral Robert F Willard commander of the 7th Fleet said that at the end of the exercise, there will be a counter special-forces exercise. He added “These occur with some frequency in both the East and West Seas, conducted by the [South Korea] and U.S. Navy.” North Korea has a large special-forces establishment and capability.

North Korean YJ-62 Anti-Ship Missile on mobile launcher

The US Navy has additional assets that could be deployed in the event of a major crisis on the peninsula as the USS Ronald Reagan is involved with the RIMPAC 2010 exercises in the Pacific and the carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln are underway off the west coast involved in exercises or deployment work ups.  At this time 123 (43%) of the navy’s 289 ships are deployed and a total of 184 (64%) are underway away from their homeport. Of the submarine force 23 (43%) are deployed and 30 (55%) are underway.  This is a sizable amount of the fleet and represents a significant surge potential should a conflict break out.  In the midst of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan many forget that a significant amount of our national military power can be deployed quickly from the sea to danger spots like Korea where their assets based on history can have a decisive affect.

The USS Ohio and her sisters USS Michigan and USS Florida could play a deterrent role

Ground forces are more spares, the major component of land based forces are those of South Korea, the US now has just a Brigade Combat Team stationed in South Korea although other assets not engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom could be deployed from the 25th Division in Hawaii and Alaska and the 2nd Division based at Ft Lewis Washington.  As of now 1 brigade the 4th BCT of 25th Infantry Division is deployed to Afghanistan as well as the 5th BCT of 2nd Division which also has its 4th BCT deployed to Iraq. The 2nd BCT of 25th Division is schedule for deployment and may already be deployed this summer. The 3rd BCT of the 25th Division is now in a post-deployment cycle after having just returned from Iraq. The deployment of uncommitted assets would take time and the only immediate reinforcements could be a limited number of Marine units from the 3rd Marine Division and III MEF in Okinawa and Kaneohe Bay Hawaii that are not currently engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The North Korean threat of a “retaliatory sacred war” may be the usual propaganda hyperbole used by the North or it may be their “line in the sand.”  It also could be more bellicose than usual because of internal tensions in the North regarding potential successors to the ailing Kim Jong Il. US and South Korea operational planning has contingencies should there be unrest in the North following Kim’s death but a conflict brought on by one of the rival factions the North could plunge Northeast Asia into a regional war. We don’t know what it is but the week ahead could become rather sporty.   China has warned that the exercise could make matters worse on the peninsula and the US apparently in response to China will keep the George Washington in the Sea of Japan.  There are also good tactical measures for doing so to protect the carrier by keeping it out of constricted waters in the vicinity of a good number of North Korean assets should fighting actually break out and the fact that the USS John S. McCain already is equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The Japanese Naval Self Defense Force (Navy) is sending 4 observers to the exercise a tacit measure of support for them and the Japanese have several ships fitted for the Aegis Ballistic Defense System.

With all of this said we now have to wait and see what happens. Will the North do something to instigate a conflict or will it back down?  We don’t know as it is a very unpredictable country with a penchant for raising the ante in the high stakes world of geopolitical dominance in Northeast Asia. The Obama administration seems to be walking a narrow line between war and appeasement, not that we would consider what we do appeasement but what the North would certainly take it to be. The stakes are high and only God knows what will happen in the next several days. An actual conflict could kill hundreds of thousands or even millions of people; especially should the North successfully deploy and use a nuclear weapon. Thousands of American lives are at stake should a conflict break out and besides our Soldiers, Sailors Marines and Airmen standing in harm’s way many of them are non-military citizens that live and work in South Korea and Japan.

That is all for now, pray for peas.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Tides Scrap Iron Pigs 8-3 Aubrey Hits 14th Home Run in Twice Rain Delayed Game

Michael Aubrey hit his 14th home run and 8th in the last 8 games on Friday night in Allentown

The Norfolk Tides rolled into Allentown where they once closed the factories down and defeated the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs by a score of 8-3 on hot and humid Friday night.  The game was delayed twice by rain for a total of delay of an hour and six minutes.  Troy Patton started for the Tides and pitched 4 innings allowing only 2 hits and no runs striking out 4 Iron Pigs.  He left following the first delay after having faced only 14 batters and throwing only 56 pitches.  Leaving in after 4 meant that though the Tides were ahead by a 3-0 score Patton did not figure in the decision.

Troy Patton started pitching 4 innings and allowing no runs on 2 hits

The Tides struck first scoring 3 runs in the top of the 2nd inning.  Josh Bell led off the inning by taking Brian Mazone’s 3 and 2 offering and putting it over the left field wall. Rhyne Hughes was then hit by a pitch and with Brandon Snyder at the plate stole 2nd base.  Snyder in the order for the first time since he went on the DL in June took a 2 and 1 offering from Mazone and planted it over the left center field wall.  The game would remain 3-0 until the 7th inning. Troy Patton was followed by relievers Pat Egan, Mike Hinckley and Jim Hoey who held the Iron Pigs scoreless allowing only 3 hits.

Brandon Snyder had a 2 run home run and a double in his return from the DL

In the top of the 7th the Tides struck for 3 more runs.  Michel Hernandez singled to lead off the inning and Robert Andino walked with 2 out. This brought Michael Aubrey to the plate and Aubrey hit a laser like blast over the right field wall on a 1 ball 1 strike count off Iron Pigs reliever Oscar Villareal over the right field wall.  The blast was his 8th home run in the last 8 games, his 14th of the season.  In the last 10 games Aubrey is hitting .353 with 8 homers and 21 RBIs and has a slugging percentage of 1.118 which is basically off the chart.

Josh Bell hit his 11th home run of the season

The Tides scored two more runs in the top of the 8th inning.  With one out Brandon Snyder doubled off of Mike Zagurski and Michel Hernandez drew a walk.  Paco Figueroa singled to right to score Snyder and send Hernandez to 3rd base.  This brought Matt “the Right” Angle to the plate and he singled to drive in Hernandez making the score 8-0.

In the bottom of the 8th the Tides brought in Frank Mata in relief. Mata struggled in his first appearance after being optioned back to the Tides from the Orioles and struggled again Friday night.  In the 8th he gave up back to back doubles to Domonic Brown and Andy Tracy then hit John Mayberry and walked Chris Aguila to load the bases before getting Neil Sellers and Paul Hoover both to pop and then strike out Brian Bocock to end the inning.  Mata returned in the 9th inning and gave up a leadoff double to Chris Duffy and then a one out home run to Domonic Brown.  Mata then struck out Andy Tracy and got John Mayberry to fly out to left fielder Nolan Reimold.

Pat Egan (1-0 7.30 ERA) got the win for the Tides and Brian Mazone (5-11 3.97 ERA) got the loss. The Tides scored 8 runs on 12 hits with one error and left 6 men on base.  The Iron Pigs had 3 runs on 9 hits with no errors and left 11 runners stranded.  The teams meet again tonight with Chris Tillman (8-4 2.72 ERA) on the hill for the Tides and Nate Bump (7-4 3.15 ERA) pitching for the Iron Pigs.

In Tides and Orioles personnel moves Brandon Snyder was activated from the DL and Jonathan Tucker sent to AA Bowie to make room for Snyder.  Brian Roberts was activated in Baltimore and made his first appearance since being injured in April with the Orioles designating Scott Moore for assignment. Moore was quoted that if he clears waivers he would likely sign to remain in the Orioles organization and come back to the Tides.

In an interesting statistical note the Tides now have 88 home runs compared to a season total of 78 in 2009 and 66 in 2008.

Until the next time,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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