Category Archives: norfolk tides

Joy in Birdland: Orioles Win AL East

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It has been seventeen years since the Baltimore Orioles won the American League East, a period in which they and their fans endured 14 strait losing seasons between 1997 and 2012.

I have always liked the Orioles. When I was a kid they were on television a lot as under Earl Weaver and a Hall of Fame roster they always seemed to be in the playoffs or the World Series. I remember when they had the California League Stockton Ports as a farm team and going to games at Stockton’s Billy Herbert Field when my dad was deployed in Vietnam.

Now my dad couldn’t stand the American League. But he did know baseball and despite his dislike for the the American League, and since they were an American League team, the Orioles, he admired baseball players who were exemplary, as such he loved Frank and Brooks Robinson as well as some of the Orioles pitching greats. I wear my Orioles hats, t-shirts and clothing almost everywhere, I have an Orioles doormat at the entrance of my office and lots of signed memorabilia around my house and office. People ask me all the time if I am from Baltimore or Maryland, I always surprise them and tell them that I was a West Coast Navy brat who fell in love with the Orioles in the 1960s and early 1970s. I guess some folks don’t get that you can be as devoted as fan as me without being from Baltimore, a city that I really enjoy which has one of the nicest and friendliest ballparks in the majors, Camden Yards.

My real passion for the Orioles was reignited in 2004 when we took a trip to Camden Yards to see the Orioles play the Yankees, and when I met the late former Orioles great Paul Blair when he visited different bases that I served. But that passion for the Orioles really took off when the Orioles became the major league affiliate of our local Triple-A minor league club the Norfolk Tides in 2006. Now mind you, al lot of those have been very lean years, but I have gotten to know a decent number of Orioles players, some who are with the team that clinched the AL East tonight including Chris Tillman, Zack Britton and Manny Machado, some who have left baseball and some who are doing well with other organizations including the Cubs Jake Arrieta and the Diamondbacks David Hernandez. Likewise I have gotten to know scouts and front office personnel who have spent time in Norfolk evaluating the Tides over the years.

In 2011 things began to turn around for the Orioles, after a miserable two thirds of a season the O’s hired Buck Showalter as manager, and then Dan Duquette, who had laid the foundations of the Boston Red Sox World Series title as their general manager. In 2012 they made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. In 2013 they didn’t get in the playoffs but had a winning season. This year very few people picked them to go far in a division that had the 201 World Series champion Red Sox, the free spending New York Yankees, the amazingly talented and gritty Tampa Bay Rays and the well stocked Toronto Blue Jays.

However, I believed from the beginning of the season that this team would go far. I think that the organization is smart, Buck Showalter is an amazing manager who gets the best out of his players and develops an amazing work ethic, selfless team spirit combined with a climate that the players are relaxed but determined. Led by Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy the team has a gritty and under rated pitching staff led by Chris Tillman and a host of players that all do their job on a daily basis, often without the fanfare of the big market teams that have tons of money to spend. The team has made smart trades and between August 6th and September 16th went had a record of 27 wins and 11 losses.

Now that they have won the division the Orioles will try to best the Los Angeles Angels for the best record in the American League and for that matter, baseball. The currently own the second best record in the majors at 91-60. My belief is that the Orioles will at the minimum advance to the American League Championship series, and quite possibly on to the World Series. I am really happy about this because I will be in Munich next week and won’t have to be continually checking my iPhone or iPad to see if the won the division.

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So anyway, I am happy. Now if my other Orange and Black team, the San Francisco Giants can get a spot in the playoffs or somehow overcome the Dodgers to take the National League West I will be truly happy. But until then I will still be truly happy because there is joy in Birdland.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Home Opener: Images of Opening Night at Harbor Park

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“A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.” — Yogi Berra

It is the day that I have waited for since the last September, baseball returned in the form of Opening Day at Norfolk’s Harbor Park. Major League Opening Day is always great, especially if you live near enough to a Major League club to attend. For many of us we have to wait for Opening Day at one of the Minor League ballparks. In Norfolk our Norfolk Tides are the AAA level affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

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This evening the Tides hosted the Charlotte Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The Tides fell to the Knights by a score of 3-0. Of course wanted the Tides to win but more important for me was the fact that I was back in my refuge with the people that I have gotten to know each season for the last ten years.

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For me there is something amazing about a ball game. In a way Norfolk’s Harbor Park for me is like Hemingway’s A Clean Well-Lighted Place. I fully understand the feelings of the older waiter in that short but poignant story of life, meaning and a place of refuge. As Sharon Olds wrote: “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

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So today with contractors still banging around the house I give you these images from my place of refuge.

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Peace

Padre Steve+

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The True Harbinger of Spring: Baseball Returns to Hampton Roads

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“That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.”  Bill Veeck, 1976

After a long and hard winter here in Hampton Roads I can day that spring officially arrived on March 29th. Yes I know that spring actually according to the calendar began on the 20th but it really didn’t feel that way until today.

No I can’t say that the weather was that great, it was in the high 60s with rain showers which were heavy at times. However, like the swallows return to Capistrano baseball returned today to Hampton Roads.

Yes it was only an exhibition game between our home town Norfolk Tides and their Major League affiliate the Baltimore Orioles, but it was baseball. It was actually pretty good baseball because the Orioles and the Tides are stacked with some pretty good talent. After years of suffering it appears that we will do well in both the Major League and AAA Minor League levels.

The game was eventually rain shortened because the rain had made the field conditions too hazardous to risk injuries to players so close to Opening Day. The Orioles won 4-3, Matt Wieters hit a 3 run home run in the second inning that helped seal the win.

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For me it was also special because the ballpark is a refuge for me. After Iraq a baseball game remains one of the few places that I feel absolutely safe. The past few years I was in North Carolina and did not get to see nearly as much baseball in person as I would have liked. Before I went there in 2010 on a geographic bachelor tour at the Camp LeJeune Naval Hospital I was a season ticket holder and this year I am again. I know a lot of people in the Tides organization and have seen some of the young Orioles work their way up through the minors at Harbor Park.

So today it really didn’t matter what the score was, or who won or even that the rain shortened the game. What mattered to me was that baseball was back and that with its arrival spring is really here.

Mark Kramer said that “Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.” That is something that I have to agree with, it is a safe harbor.

In a couple of days the regular season will begin for the Orioles and the Tides. The 162 game major league regular season and the 142 game minor league season, the latter which begins for us in Norfolk on Thursday April 3rd. Of course I will be catching the first Major League games on television and be there for our home opener on Thursday.

This is a good thing for me, as baseball is a calming influence in my life. I totally agree with Walt Whitman who wrote:

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

And with that I wish you blessings on this night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Home Behind Home Plate

I am finally home. Yesterday I went back to North Carolina in order to officially sign out of Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune. It was a nice visit. I spent yesterday evening with my friends at Rucker John’s and the Emerald Club and my friend Eddie was gracious enough to let me crash at his place.

This morning I headed over to the Naval Hospital officially signed out, picked up my FITREP and was able to visit a couple of friends who I will dearly miss, Duke Quarles who serves as a Pastoral Counselor and for the first two years of my tour was a great right hand man and sanity checker. I also was able to spend time with Command Master Chief Ed Moreno. There are a lot of Chaplains who are not as fortunate as I have been with some of the Senior Enlisted Leaders who I have had the honor of serving alongside.

Ed is a colleague and friend and we relied on each other. He and I turned out to be peas in a pod and he and our last Director of Mental Health Services Captain Suzy Ghurrani and Public Affairs Officer Raymond Applewhite helped make the last year of my time at the hospital a time of personal healing as well as service to others. Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Joe Burds was another leader who I will miss. he was not available this morning but I do stay in contact with him. As a Chaplain one needs people like them, especially if one has suffered trauma. Too many Chaplains isolate themselves and while they may deal with command issues with members of the command triad seldom develop the close personal relationships with other leaders that I was able to do and at this point in my life and career am comfortable enough to do.

After doing what I needed I got underway and drove back home to Judy and our dogs Molly and Minnie. This evening I was able to go to Harbor Park in Norfolk to sit in my old section, 102 and hang out watching the game and taking pictures while visiting with my old friends at the ballpark. This is a place of peace and refuge to me. It was hard this year not having a local team in the LeJeune area. I missed my time with my friends in Kinston at Grainger Stadium since the Indians moved away.

Tonight I was able to visit with my friends Elliot, Chip, Art and Tom while watching the game. The Tides won the game 3-2 on a walk off single by Zealous Wheeler, Zach Britton pitched 7 strong innings in the win. It was the final part of knowing that I was really home. Next year I plan on having my season tickets again. Tomorrow begins more of the heavy lifting in the house. I’ll visit California to go to my 35th high school reunion and see my mom, brother and his family before checking in to the Joint Forces Staff College where I will be the Ethics faculty and chaplain.

So anyway, enough about me for the night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Beautiful Day for a Ball Game

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Yamaico Navarro singles in the Winning Run in the Tides 5-4 Win

Let’s go, batter up!

We’re taking the afternoon off. It’s a beautiful day for a ball game, a ball game today.

The fans are all our to get a ticket or two, from Walla Walla Washington to Kalamazoo

It’s a beautiful day for a home run, but even a triple’s ok!

We’re gonna cheer, and boo and raise a hullabaloo

At the ball game today…

“It’s a beautiful day for a Ball Game” 1960 Harry Simone Songsters

Well sport’s fans it’s Padre Steve blogging to you live from beautiful Harbor Park in Norfolk Virginia. Actually I am writing this live but since there is no wi-fi connection at the ballpark this year it will be posted a little bit after the game is over. Tonight I am getting to see my first game of the year in person and I am excited. Tonight the Norfolk Tides host the Charlotte Knights in the second game of a thee game set. On Monday night the Tides were hammered by the Knights who scored 21 runs against a seemingly hapless Norfolk pitching staff.

Tonight Josh Stinson is on the hill for the Tides and he is facing former Tides and Orioles prospect Jason Berken.

Tonight was a better for the Tides who were just 1-4 to open the season. Regardless I was happy to be here with the Harbor Park regulars that I call my friends. It was good to see my buddies Elliot the Usher and Chip the Usher as well as Marty the Card Dealer and sitting down behind the plate in section 102, my old season ticket section before I was transferred to Camp LeJeune in the fall of 2010.

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Baseball as anyone who reads this site regularly or knows me knows, is something akin to a religion for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that “nothing bad accrues from baseball” a lot more than can be said for most religions and their most fervent, devout and often intolerant followers. The only thing a devout baseball fan might be intolerant of is artificial turf, the designated hitter rule and any bat made out of something other than wood. Of course any of us also have a visceral reaction to our favorite teams blood rivals, one needs to understand that the Dodger’s are evil. At least from this San Francisco Giant’s fan’s perspective.

Going to the ball park for me is one of the most relaxing places to go and a place of peace. Harbor Park, which I refer to as the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish has been that place of solace for me especially after my return from Iraq in 2008. It is a place that I feel safe at and since I still have a certain terror or crowds of people that is no small thing.

It is interesting to watch the game. A couple of years ago when I was a season ticket holder I knew most of the team but then I moved away and only got to a few games each of the last two seasons. The guys that I knew are either in Baltimore or with other organizations and some are out of baseball. The life of minor leaguers is hard, not much job security and most never spent much time in the majors. This year’s team has a number of veterans and journeymen who have been around the majors and minors with a sprinkling of young prospects. Some of the veterans include Russ Canzler, Danny Valencia and Travis Ishikawa. Prospects include Jonathan Schoop, Trayvon Robinson and L J Hoes. I expect that some of the young players at AA Bowie or High Single A Frederick will make their way to Norfolk before the end of the season.

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The game began under perfectly clear skies with the wind blowing in from the southwest and a temperature of about 80 degrees. It was dominated more by defense than hitting and at the end of the 5th inning the Knights had a 3-0 lead. Both teams removed their starting pitchers in their half of the 6th inning. The offense for the Knights was produced by 2 solo home runs by Jordan Danks and Seth Loman.

The Tides were down 4-0 in the bottom of the 8th when Trayvon Robinson doubled down the left field line. Russ Canzler belted his second home run of the season off Daniel Moskos to deep left to make it a 4-2 Knights lead. The Tides loaded the bases with 2 outs and scored another run when reliever Jeff Gray pinch hitter Conor Jackson. L J Hoes grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.

In the 9th inning Tides reliever Adam Russell loaded the bases but worked out of trouble to keep the score at 4-3. In the bottom half of the inning Gray walked Trayvon Robinson and Canzler hammered a deep drive to left center which died at the wall. Gray then walked Danny Valencia. Travis Ishikawa singled to right scoring Robinson and advancing Valencia to 3rd. With one out and runners on 1st and 3rd Yamaico Navarro singled to center giving the Tides a walk off win.

Peace, Love and Baseball

Padre Steve+

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A Few Day after the Non-Rapture Thoughts

There will be some coming after me again

Well after a very good conference on trauma and spirituality I am back in North Carolina with a chance to collaborate with my staff to see how we can take what we learned and apply it at our hospital. Of course had Harold Camping had his way it would have been a wasted week, or maybe not because there would have been a lot of trauma going on for the vast majority of the world’s population who Camping did not see as being Rapture-worthy, including the bulk of the world’s Christian population.  But Camping muffed his prediction yet again and his website and radio have been silent on getting shut out by God after God pitched a perfect game no-hitter against Camping and his followers.  But Camping’s ministry has earned over 80 million dollars in the past few years so I guess if you are Camping you still have to count that as something.

I personally think that Camping was unpatriotic and insulted the military by getting everybody spun up about his end of the world claims when it was Armed Forces Day.  By the way if anyone hasn’t noticed we are still involved like in three wars and most of Washington is trying to figure out how to emasculate the military while sparing the big corporations the pain of any new taxes, despite the fact that those corporations make oodles of money off the military and love to have us bail out their overseas operations so long as it benefits their bottom line.  But as Napoleon Bonaparte said of such people “The hand that gives is among the hand that takes. Money has no fatherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, their sole object is gain.”  Usually the politicians wait until the war is over or operations are significantly reduced before carving up the military.  I guess that we live in different times.

I also found out that some of the late David Wilkerson’s followers still despise me for suggesting that his fatal “accident” may have been suicide because of the circumstances and the despair of life reflected in his last 3 months of blog posts.  Christians can be so nice to each other, but then my critics have called me everything but a Christian.  Such is life. I think I’m going to prod local reporters in Texas to see if they can find anything out regarding the accident investigation or file a Freedom of Information request to see what the results of the investigation showed.  For those that want to attack me I also suggested that it was possible that he could have had a sudden medical condition that caused him to lose control of his car or that he might have been distracted by something, regardless the suicide option has to be considered.   However those that have criticized me have practically turned Wilkerson and his rich ministry into an idol which practically turns him into a mythological figure incapable of being human.

Well as if to ensure that Camping was wrong the Chicago Cubs lost 2 of 3 to the Boston Red Sox in their first appearance at Fenway since the 1918 World Series.  They did win Saturday, I think simply to rub salt in Camping’s wounds but things really haven’t changed for the Cubbies.  I know it is still early in the season but what Harry Carey said will probably be true this year as well. “What does a mama bear on the pill have in common with the World Series?  No cubs.” Obviously the momma bear is not a practicing Roman Catholic but I digress.

Judy and I saw the movie Bridesmaids which I can highly recommend as a role on the floor and laugh your ass off kind of movie. It was good to be with her and our little dog Molly.

It was a inter-league weekend and although there are a lot of critics of inter-league play I find it fascinating and it gives me an opportunity to size up how potential World Series contenders look against one another.  I do agree with the critics that it gives some teams an unfair advantage in playing weaker non-divisional teams but it gives fans in small markets the chance to see some of the really heavy hitters from the opposing leagues in their own parks in person.

Saturday I spent the evening at Harbor Park and saw the Norfolk Tides defeat the Louisville Bats by a score of 8-6.  It was a relaxing evening and I spent much of it talking with Tides General Manager Dave Rosenfield.  Dave had me come up and sit with him on the concourse behind home plate and it was nice to catch up with him talking about life and baseball.  He actually played minor league ball in my home town of Stockton California. He has been in baseball over well over 50 years and is a treasure trove of baseball knowledge.  At the age of 80 he is still totally engaged in the game.  I hope that will be the same for me when I get to that age. I was also able to see some of my friends from the ballpark including my buddies Elliott and Chip the Ushers.

Oh well, time to wrap things up so I can throw my body into my waiting bed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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It’s all about Leadership: The Orioles Sweep the Rays to Open the Season

Orioles starting Pitcher Chris Tillman (shown in Norfolk 2010) pitched 6 no-hit inning against the Rays before being lifted when his pitch count went over 100

“Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.”  Earl Weaver

Note: This is my first baseball post of the 2011 season which actually deals with what is happening on the field. Last year I wrote almost exclusively about the Baltimore Orioles AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides. I was a season ticket holder and decided to write on every game.  This year since I am stationed in Camp LeJeune and cannot go to Harbor Park every home game I will focus on the Baltimore Orioles and to a lesser degree the Tides. I do this because I know a lot of the players from their time in Norfolk and have met various scouts and team officials to include Orioles General Manager Andy McPhail. I would like to do this for the team that I grew up with the San Francisco Giants but since they are a West Coast team it is harder to keep up with them the way I can the Orioles.  I will also do some commentary on other teams, especially in the AL East but also try to tell the stories of players that I know from Norfolk who are now in the Major Leagues.

Can you say the word “winner in the same sentence as Orioles?” I knew you couldn’t. Well the Orioles started the season off right sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa with dominant pitching, solid defense and more than enough hitting to get the job done. Orioles starting pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton allowed just 1 run on 6 hits in 20 innings work. Tillman who pitched a no-hitter as a starter for the AAA Norfolk Tides last year had a no-hitter going after 6 innings but was lifted by Manager Buck Showalter as his pitch count had gone over 100.  Orioles’ relievers were solid and some players picked up in the off-season, particularly J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds.

Are the Orioles for real? I say most definitely yes.

In 2010 the Baltimore Orioles began the season under the direction of Manager Dave Trembley lost 9 of their first 10 and 16 of their first 20 games.  Under Trembley the O’s went 15-39 before he was fired and replaced by Third Base Coach Juan Samuel who went 17-34.  The season was in the tank and it looked like the Orioles were on track to lose well over 100 games.  Then proven winner and leader Buck Showalter was as hired as Manager on August 2nd.  After that the Orioles were a different team, the players were the same but the attitude and performance was as if the team itself had risen like the legendary Phoenix. From the time that Showalter took over the Orioles went 34-23 having the second best record in Major League Baseball between August and the end of the season.  It was an amazing turnaround and it was due to leadership. At the beginning of 2010 I thought that the Orioles had the talent to finally break .500 and turn a winning season for the first time since 1997 when they went 98-64 under Davey Johnson and reach the ALCS.  They didn’t finish anything close to .500 but the turnaround at the end of the season showed that it wasn’t the level of talent it was the on-field leadership that was the difference.

Young veteran Jeremy Guthrie pitched 8 scoreless innings against the Rays on opening day

This season as always the Orioles are getting little respect from the so called experts, most predicting a slightly better year than 2010 but almost all saying that the Orioles will finish at the bottom of the AL East once again. I don’t think that this will be the case at all. I think that the O’s are going to surprise everyone this year and break .500 and finish at least 3rd in the division. They are going to give everyone trouble including the vaunted Red Sox and Yankees.  This is a tough division and though the Red Sox and Yankees have a lot of money to spend a decent number of their stars are beginning to show their age and over the course of the 162 game season injuries will be a factor.

Rookie Zach Britton called up from Norfolk to replace the injured Brian Matusz got his first Major League win on Sunday

As for the Orioles they have excellent pitching that goes deep into their minor league system and they picked up a solid closer in Kevin Gregg.  Pitching is a big deal and the Yankees will struggle in this department. The Red Sox have good pitching but some of their best including ace closer Jonathan Papelbon are showing their age and do not have the same stuff that they had before. In fact the Red Sox were shelled by Texas Rangers hitting this weekend and swept in Arlington by the Rangers who do not seem to have missed a beat coming off of their American League Championship in 2010. The Yankees took 2 of 3 from the Tigers but gave up 18 runs to the Tigers in those three games.

I know that it is very early in the season but the Orioles made all the right moves in the off season and have improved in every aspect of the game. The young pitchers after having been blooded in 2010 are about to show what they are made of against the AL East and the rest of the American League and the difference will be the pitching.  I think that Orioles will win between 85-and 90 games and make a lot of teams miserable. Of course I could be wrong but I think that I will be more right than the experts when it comes to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles squad under the direction of Buck Showalter.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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