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The 2009 Season at Harbor Park…the View from 102 a Season in Pictures

Well, baseball season is now been over a couple of weeks,  but the AAA season ended here on September 4th.  What began in March with an exhibition games between the Orioles and Nationals and ended with a win over the Gwinnett Braves was a memorable season.  I have done other posts analyzing the the season which ended with the Tides having a 71-71 record.  This is a photo journal of the season from my seat at the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish, the view from 102.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

Opening Day, postponed one day the Tides home opener was played on a beautiful day


Tides 1st Baseman Michael Aubrey on Deck in the Dessert Camouflage Jersey

Tides vs. Rochester Red Wings

Harbor Park at Night

Michael Aubrey about to go Yard

Home Run Trot after the Hit

Manager Gary Allenson in the Dugout

Tides pitcher Jake Arrieta  delivering the pitch

Conference on the Mound

Barry the “Scorekeeper” my fellow Parishoner

Gwinnett Braves Player registering his displeasure on a called third strike

Swing and a Miss

Joey Gathright lays down a Bunt

Scouts for other teams doing their work

Harbor Park Entrance

Charlotte Knights Manager Chris Chambliss after a visit to the mound

Susan Komen Breast Cancer Night Catcher Robbie Hammock delivers a Grand Slam

Right Fielder Jeff Fiorentino the Tides Home Run and RBI Leader Blasts a s 3 Run Homer

Rain Delay

Lonely Vigil…if this was a football game he would fit right in

Tarp Covering the Field

Elliott the Usher

Victor Diaz at the Plate

Jeff Fiorentino Hits a Laser to Right

Marty the Card Dealer

Called Strike

Lead Off

Joey Gathright out at Home

Gary Allenson Arguing His Point

Bartolo Colon Delivers a Pitch for the Knights

Jeff Fiorentino Takes Bartolo Colon Yard

Andy Mitchell Sends on Across the Plate

Downtown Norfolk from Harbor Park

Tides President Ken Young and General Manager Dave Rosenfield

Ground Rules

Chip the Usher

Strike out

Moon Over Harbor Park

Kenny “Crabmeat” the Pretzel Guy

Run Scores

Jolbert Cabrera Down with a Season Ending Broken Ankle

Scout From Japanese Major League Yokohama Bay Stars

Ray and His Crew of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter who Man the Beer Stand Behind the Plate

Base Hit

Terri The Usher for Section 100

Rip Tide Helping the Grounds Crew between Games in a Double Header

Megan the Official Team Photgrapher

Braves Catcher Asking First Base Umpire to See if the Batter went Around

Mugging With Rip Tide

Post Game Fireworks

Japanese Film Crew Filming the “Samurai Umpires”

Gunning down a Runner


 

Last Home Game of 2009

 

Congratulations on a Final Home Win

Harbor Park Waiting for Next Season

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”A. Bartlett Giamatti

All Images Property of Padre Steve c.2009





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Blowouts…The Days (or years) you want to forget…But Need to Learn From

not a happy camperHow I feel after a blowout

It’s no fun to get blown out in any game or life.  Losing sucks no matter how you try to cushion it by saying, “well we almost won” or “gee if only we had…” or “they got lucky, we should have won.” Blowouts on the other hand leave you little to console yourself with.  You lose and you lose badly.  In baseball this usually means that the other team has shredded your pitching staff and that your defense stinks as fielders make fielding and throwing errors, your pitcher throws wild pitches with men on 3rd and your offense dries up like a West Texas lawn in July.   This happened to the Tides Thursday afternoon as they were ripped by Indianapolis 11-3 and it wasn’t that close.  Starter Andy Mitchell who entered the game at 9-2 gave up 8 runs in 4 innings work.  The Tides hitters didn’t come through after a series of comebacks the previous three games.  This happens in the Major Leagues as well. Back on July 22nd the Athletics beat the Twins 16-1; the 18th the Braves beat the Mets 11-0 and back on the 6th the Phillies beat the Reds 22-1.  Being on the receiving end of such a whacking is painful.  The key is what you do with it.  As teams, organizations and individuals everyone will get beaten up once in a while and it takes character and strength to get back out the next day and give it your best when the temptation is to give in to go through the motions and just hope to make it through.

Blowouts in life can come in many ways, health, finances, work situations and relationships.  Sometimes they are our own doing and the results of our choices.  The times I have had the most problems have often been self inflicted because I couldn’t keep my trap shut when I should have either shut up or found a safe place to vent.  In my years in the military and watching baseball I have seen a lot of this.  Likewise there are people who live on the edge and consistently do things that are known to be illegal or unethical within their organization or sport and eventually get caught.  Unfortunately these are not usually the untalented and unmotivated people whose contribution to their team or work environment is to suck up band width and perfectly good oxygen that others could be using to better effect.  The sad thing is that those who push the envelope are often the most talented who have natural ability as well as well as an almost pathological need to be the best.  One only has to take a look at Pete Rose who though his “sins” were not on the playing field, was things that no Manager should ever do.  His attitude about getting caught was an arrogant display of idiocy which disrespected the game that he contributed so much to and soiled his name and reputation.  I hope that he will find redemption in baseball, but the onus is on him to make things right.   Likewise with the myriad of players from the steroid era whose names and reputations are ruined by playing this kind of game.  I am fortunate in that my outbursts did not cost me my career.  There are some I am sure that think little of me because of some of the things I have blown up about over the years and if I could do them over I would do them differently.  But I can’t go back and change them now; they are a part of the tangled tapestry of my life just above the Mendoza Line.

Tuesday night I had the overnight duty and because we were short staffed due to injuries and people being out the duty pager went off incessantly throughout the day.  It was like a day at Parkland without every call being a code, death or trauma.  By noon I felt like a pitcher who was having every batter get a hit, every time I turned around I was rushing off somewhere else.  It is funny when you have a feeling about how a day is going to go.  By noon I knew that this day would be long and painful, just like a game where the opposition scores early and often.  By early evening I was tired, but the hits kept coming and by now almost all were cases out of my comfort zone.

I am by nature a Critical Care, Trauma and Emergency Medicine type of Chaplain.  I am just wired that way.  I will never be a shrink.  I have people all the time ask me or even suggest to me that I get a degree in Counseling or even a Doctorate in Psychology.  Now I do think that I would be a good diagnostician, but I couldn’t handle what my friends who are shrinks have to deal with on a daily basis, give me carnage and traumatic tragedy any day of the week, but not persistent pitter-patter of psychological problems.

Now by shrinks I mean Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Therapists, Clinical Social Workers and Psychiatric Nurses.  I use the term “Shrink” loosely but with great respect and I do not hesitate to consult with them or refer people to them.  I don’t know how they live in that world.  The maelstrom of mentally mangled humanity that my friends deal with on a daily basis would have me in a rubber room.  Thus when I see patients on medical floors I always read their chart and history because if I am going to go in and visit a patient I prefer to know that they are Borderline, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenic, Paranoid, Clinically Depressed, delusional, suicidal or spermicidal before they suck me into their hellish helix of hopelessness.   Knowing these things allows me to stay in my lane, offer appropriate support and actually care for them within my limitations because I do actually have a lot of compassion for the mentally ill or those suffering from even temporary emotional problems.  Heck I have PTSD and some amount of anxiety so Elmer the shrink has his work cut out.  How can I not feel some amount of compassion for those who have even worse situations?  Now there are those who may have some of these conditions who are also maniacally manipulative or pathologically putrid who are not only mentally ill but somewhat or even majorly malevolent.  These folks get to me, I have little compassion for people who even if they have issues are simply rotten people who get off on inflicting pain, emotional, spiritual or physical on those around them, to include their shrinks.

Tuesday night my blowout continued as person after person presented not only needing to see a shrink but wanting to deal with God and all they got was me.  I was beginning to have some words with the Deity Herself about this but was quickly reminded that she loved them too.  Thus my approach was pastoral, supportive and compassionate working within my limitations to ensure that they got the care that they needed without mucking it up for the ER staff or the shrinks.  So of course I was dealing with delusional Paranoid Schizophrenics and Borderline cases all night long.  By the time I trudged up to the on call room a little after 0400 I was exhausted.  My ICU pals were getting a good laugh at my expense and at least I could see the humor in it all.  The alarm rang far too early and when I made my duty turnover I felt like a starting pitcher who had been run over inning after inning for the entire start.  I hadn’t had a night quite like that since my residency at Parkland.  After the turnover I met with my Department Head for a few minutes and he simply said “Steven, go home.”  Even my normal “I can’t leave I have work to do” way of doing life had to agree.  I knew that I was a spent round.

Coming back after getting run over can be difficult and my next day at work I was rested and had a busy but not terribly stressful day and I was back in my element.  No runs, no hits and no errors and no Paranoid Schizophrenics left on base.

How teams come back is interesting. After the drubbing that the Tides took on Thursday they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead against Indianapolis.  Starter Troy Patton gave up two runs and in the 6th Dennis Safrate came on in relief. Sarfate is down on a rehab assignment for the Orioles and got hit hard by the Indians.  The Indians sent 12 men to the plate and scored 9 runs in the 6th off of Sarfate and Russ Wolfe.   Down 5 runs and looking at another beating the Tides found it within themselves to score 5 runs to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th.  Robby Hammock led off the bottom of the 8th with a double, moved to third on a Carlos Rojas sacrifice bunt and was driven in by a Joey Gathright single for the go ahead and ultimately the winning run.  Josh Perrualt got the win pitching 2.1 innings of scoreless relief retiring 7 of the 8 batters that he faced. Jeff Fiorentino had 2 hits an RBI and score 2 runs, Joey Gathright had three hits and the game winning RBI and Victor Diz had 2 doubles and 3 RBIs to help the Tides to victory.

Coming back takes work, no matter what you do. My life, especially the time in seminary until the time I entered the Navy was like a player or team who had a decade of tough seasons.  When I came in the Navy I was able to turn things around.  For the most part I avoid the things that got me in trouble in those years and I have become a lot more skilled at getting through the bumps that I still face.  Fighting back after my post Iraq PTSD collapse has been difficult but things are getting better and my life is coming back into balance.  Things that were impossible for me to deal with even a few months ago are starting to become manageable.  I am coming back and I think that is the key.  Blowouts are no fun and personally I don’t like them, but I am starting to find the takeaways that I need in order to come back.  Isn’t that the point?

Anyway, tonight the Tides start a 4 game series against the Syracuse Sky Chiefs the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals who have a 55-49 record and are in 2nd place in the International League North. The Tides are now 3 and ½ games out of 1st in the South Division and a game behind Gwinnett for the Wild Card.

Peace, Steve+

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Breaking Slumps and Losing Streaks

Fiorentino HR against ColonJeff Fiorentino, seen here Hitting a Home Run off Bartolo Colon has Come up Big for the Norfolk Tides in 2009

The Norfolk Tides came home Tuesday after their worst road trip of the season in which they fell behind both the Durham Bulls and Gwinett Braves.  When things are not going well for a team, organization or individual it seems that events almost conspire against them.  It was that way for the Tides, errors and bad decisions at the plate, on the base paths and the field plagued them over the road trip.  The problems continued on Tuesday where the Tides lost their 9th of the last 10 games.  Now it was not that the team was bad, they made some great comebacks but fell short each time sometimes in heartbreaking ways.

Tonight after getting out to an early lead the Tides were behind 5-2 in the bottom of the 7th.  Elliott the Usher and I as well as Barry the Scorekeeper wondered what was happening.  It seemed that there was no energy on the team.  Unfortunately when a team, organization, military unit or individual gets on a losing streak it is hard to get motivated, especially when you come close but come up short. I remember being told in my Pastoral Care Residency that I had to stop believing that things were going to be difficult or that I would always come up short.  My supervisor told me that I had the power to actually envision a positive future and make things happen to see it come into being.  Now I have always been a fighter and even a survivor, but being a survivor doesn’t necessarily make you a winner.

The Tides picked up 2 in the 7th as Robby Hammock led off with a hit and Tides hitters Blake Davis, Joey Gathright and Jeff Fiorentino brought the runs across with key hits.  Brandon Snyder singled to drive in Victor Diaz and tie the game the game in the 8th.  Tides reliever Alberto Castillo came in at the top of the 9th and shut down the Indians after getting into a jam after giving up a hit and an error by 3rd Baseman Brandon Snyder.

Sometimes the key to breaking a losing streak is in how one player can raise help lift the team.  Following the promotion of Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold and Oscar Salazar to the Orioles and the loss of Scott Moore, Jolbert Cabrerra to season ending injuries and temporary absences to injury of Justin Turner and Joey Gathright, it was Jeff Fiorentino that stepped up.  He now stands near the top of the International League in hitting with a .315 batting average and has been a clutch player offensively and defensively.  Tonight Jeff went four for four with a walk, drove in a run in the 7th.  Hecame to bat with one out in the 9th to single to drive Justin Turner in for the winning run.   It broke the losing streak and hopefully will begin a rebound for the Tides.  Since the Tides have played well the bulk of the season even allowing for significant numbers of call ups and injuries it is well possible that they will turn things around.  It was significant that other Tides were involved in the comeback and that instead of giving in to going through the motions they came together to win.  The team still has a lot of heart and character and still can only continue to get better.

May we all do the same, with a little help from the Deity Herself.

On a side note, Tides pitcher Chris Tillman had his first Major League start in Baltimore against Kansas City.  He had a no decision but the Orioles won the game 7-3.  Former Tides relievers Matt Albers came in in the 5th to hold the Royals and Jim Johnson got the save.  Baltimore continues to get great performance out of the pitchers called up from Norfolk this year.

Peace, Steve+

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Roster Moves: No Game, Series or Season in Baseball or Life Goes Without Them

046Norfolk Tides Manager Gary Allenson making a Slight Adjustment to the Outfield with 1 Out in the 9th Inning

Larry: Who’s this? Who are you?
Crash Davis: I’m the player to be named later.

From Bull Durham

Sometimes I feel like the player to be named later.  I am amazed at the changes on a baseball team’s roster during the course of a season.  At the same time being in the military for almost 28 years I have some understanding of them in daily life.  This season with the Norfolk Tides and my place of work at a Major Naval Medical Center has been a perfect example of how no roster survives intact.

Now this is nothing new, as long as there have been baseball teams and militaries there have been personnel changes.  In baseball as in the military there is constant moves of personnel as people are transferred, promoted, demoted, are injured or retire from either the service or the game.  Sometimes roster moves are part of a natural process as an organization decides how it wants to chart its future. Other times they are dictated by a need that occurs that has not been anticipated such as injuries, trades, transfers, retirements or personnel or budget constraints, either expected or unexpected.

In the Minor Leagues the Minor League affiliates exist to supply their Major League organization with young talent, player development, rehabilitation and depth to meet the demands of a long season.  It is similar in the military where support and training organizations exist to meet the needs of the operating forces.  This is true regardless of military branch of service.   When the Major League Team or the operating forces are stretched, experience losses or suffer setbacks it is common for them to draw upon the support and training organizations to fill the holes and meet the needs of the larger organization.

I have watched this close up in two worlds this year both where I work and where I watch the Tides play ball.  At work this has occurred where due to retirements and transfers our department has lost a lot of people who have not yet been replaced, creating a lot of pressure on those who remain, likewise we are tasked with more missions to support the operating forces.  The same is true of the rest of the Medical Center where many physicians, nurses, corpsmen and other sailors have been deployed to meet the demands of the expanding war in Afghanistan while still supporting other worldwide commitments and our own home town mission.  While this is going on other needs have come up in caring for returning warriors, wounded warriors and their families as well as the rest of the military community that depends on us for their primary and specialized medical care.  I have seen more colleagues and friends than I can count be deployed from what is supposedly a pretty safe “non-deploying” shore billet to support the operating forces, Navy, Marines and Joint or NATO.  I have watched the organization adapt to the call ups by moving people around as well as finding people to fill the void, even if they are only on contract.

Our Norfolk Tides began the season with a very solid roster and within two months the big club, the Baltimore Orioles had called up several pitchers as well as the heart of the batting order, Outfielder Nolan Reimold, Catcher Matt Wieters and Infielder Oscar Salazar.  Meanwhile the Tides lost several players to injuries which forced Manager Gary Allenson and the Orioles organization to fins personnel both within and outside of the organization to fill the gaps created by call ups to the big team and injuries.  To do this they brought up players from AA Bowie, moved players down from Baltimore and found and traded for players outside of the Orioles system.  At first the adjustment was difficult but now the new players and those who were left are coming together to keep the team, at least for now in first place in the International League South.   Yet with every move the organization has to decide how to best utilize the players that it has.  In the case of the Tides this comes down to Manager Gary Allenson and his coaches working together with the rest of the Orioles organization.

Even in the midst of a game there are roster changes, sometimes for pitchers, sometimes hitter and sometimes even for running or defense.  Some of the changes are for injuries, or situational based on statistics of what you have empirical evidence to show that one course of action is better than another.  Thus you have relief pitchers and pinch hitters or runners.  No at bat or even pitch is the same, which is like life, nothing remains the same so you must make the adjustments on every play.

At the personal level changes affects everyone in the organization even if their job in the organization does not change.  At the minimum the changes affect the dynamics of the work environment, the chemistry between teams and the concern for friends who have left the organization with whom we have invested significant amounts of time and emotional energy.  Thus when Oscar Salazar was called up by Baltimore it left a huge hole in the team because Salazar was not only a leading contributor on the field but his tremendously positive attitude off the field in energizing the team and working with younger players.  Individual losses while seemingly statistically insignificant can be magnified by the intangibles of what a person brings to the team.  Some who seem to have all the right stuff may not be missed, while others who maybe don’t have the same talent level as others might be more sorely missed.  Since a team depends on the efforts of everyone, especially in baseball where the game is both immensely individual and absolutely interdependent personnel changes must be weighed carefully in the overall mission of the team or organization.  The Tides are fortunate to be with Baltimore as the organization is not only scouting talent for the O’s but their Minor League affiliates.  I met a Baltimore Scout at a Tides game over the weekend who said they were out seeking hitters for Norfolk due to call ups to the O’s and injuries to members of the Tides.  The larger organization, though a work in progress recognizes that its future lies in its Minor League system.  Thus over the past couple of weeks they have picked up Michael Aubrey from the Cleveland organization and Victor Diaz, a former Tides Outfielder when they were in the Mets organization and who later played in New York, Texas and the Houston organization before playing with the Hanwha Eagles in South Korea before being signed by the Orioles and assisted to the Tides.  A good organization not only looks to the situation they are currently facing u to the future.  A bad organization does not plan for the future but only concentrates on the present.  In the case of the Tides we are prospering under Baltimore but suffered for almost 20 years under the Mets, who have continued to neglect and abuse their farm system, especially their AAA affiliates.  The fans in Buffalo despise the relationship.

On the personal level this also means that individuals can be moved around to meet the needs of the organization.  This does not always make players happy be they ball players or military personnel.  There have been times in my career that I did not like what was happening to me in the organization, not so in the Navy but definitely in hte first part of my Army career. Such unhappiness when left unchecked can lead to blow ups.  The movie Bull Durham has a great example where Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner complains about his reassignment from an AAA team back to a single A team.

Crash Davis: You don’t want a ballplayer; you want a stable pony.
Skip: Nah.
Crash Davis: Well, my triple-A contract gets bought out so I can hold some flavor-of-the-month’s dick in the bus leagues, is that it? Well, f— this f—ing game!
[pause]
Crash Davis: I quit, all right? I f—ing quit.
[Crash exits the office and stands in the clubhouse for a minute before sticking his head back through the door]
Crash Davis: Who we play tomorrow?
Skip: Winston-Salem. Batting practice at 11:30.

I cannot say that in my Navy career I have ever felt like Crash Davis,  in fact I have even when doing a lot of “relief” work and been moved around sometimes faster than I wanted to be because I was needed to put out a fire. At the same time I have  always been dealt with well.  I have not been sent back down in the organization, but have been moved up or laterally to do different jobs, like I said often on short notice like the time when two different chaplains were fired and I went from one job to the next and ended up nine or ten weeks at 29 Palms prior to a 7 month deployment in two different battalions. Those were stressful, but not bad and the organization treated me well.  Some people don’t have that experience however and roster moves on short notice can be a source of consternation, anger and discord if not handled well by the team manager or the command.

However I did come into the Navy at a lower rank than I left the Army in 1999 just to get back in the show that was the cost of getting back in the game full time, something I am amazed that I got the chance to do and every grateful to the Navy, my Bishop and the Deity Herself.   In my current billet I love what I do and who I do it with, but the organization will be making some changes as we graduate our current residents, gain new residents, gain and lose other personnel and adjust to meet an ever changing and increasing mission.  While we do this we seek to set the standard of professional competency not only in the Navy but the civilian world.  For me this will involve changes, changes that on one level I resist, but on another level completely understand and agree with as the way to help the organization move forward.  Come September those changes will be made.  I can say that I don’t feel like Crash because this involves things that I have always wanted to do but unless I am adaptable will not be able to do, unless the Deity Herself creates a couple extra days to the week and makes every day a 32 hour day.  Thus I will adjust as will the rest of the organization as we collectively work together to ensure that we are taking care of those that God has given us.

So far as the story goes tonight, the one constant in the season is change, teamwork and adjustment to change. As Sparky Anderson once said “If a team is in a positive frame of mind, it will have a good attitude. If it has a good attitude, it will make a commitment to playing the game right. If it plays the game right, it will win—unless, of course, it doesn’t have enough talent to win, and no manager can make goose-liver pate out of goose feathers, so why worry?”  Thankfully, our leadership seems to be rising to the task and and we have the talent, so why worry?

Peace, Steve+

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