Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Training 2010: The Trip And The Music

“Don’t talk to me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseballs around the fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curveball”
– Pete Hamill

The Texas Rangers organization has elevated shooting itself in the foot into an art. But one of the few smart things they have done lately,which has made them more accessible to fans like me, was moving Spring Training to Surprise Arizona eight springs ago (funny how time slips away).

The Trip:

I am getting ready to leave for my eighth Spring Training trip to Surprise later this week. Here are a few things you need to know about my trip:

-- I won't write until after I return, so probably no blog next weekend - more likely later in the week.

-- I spend the majority of my time on the backfields watching the minor leaguers. I can turn on my TV or drive the down the street any night to see the big league guys. This is the one chance I get to see these young players, particularly the ones who will stay in Rookie Ball, High A and Low A.

-- There won’t be any kind of in depth analysis when I do finally write. You can visit Jamey Newberg , Scott Lucas  or the boys at BBTIA for that. I’m not big on the minors morning workouts – they’ve always reminded me of Pedro Cerrano taking batting practice in “Major League”- everybody looks great in the batting cage or taking fungos off a coach’s bat. I prefer the minor league games in the afternoon. I find out much more seeing these young guys face a pitcher they don’t know or going after a ball that takes a bad hop on the infield while they have to make quick decision.

-- I do take pictures, usually a fair number of them. Now that the players have their names on the backs of their jerseys, I even know who they are when I take their picture. Those pictures will be online as soon as I can get them there.

-- I’ve always been very fortunate to spend time with a lot of good people and dear friends in the evenings during my Spring Training trips – it has and always will be the best part of my trip to Spring Training.

The Music:

All the stories you’ve heard about the miserable traffic on Bell Road and Grand Avenue - I’m here to testify to the fact they are all true. That’s why it’s good idea to have some music to keep you company as you are sitting, and sitting, and inching along. One of the little rituals I have getting ready for Spring Training is putting together a couple of CDs to for my listening pleasure in the rental car while I am stuck in said traffic.

My first Arizona Spring Training music mix (from 2003) is a cassette. I didn’t have a CD burner or I-Tunes way back when (sheesh – it wasn’t that long ago). The first couple of CDs I started out just throwing songs together that I liked, but now it’s become more of a mission. I burn two CDs – one is the compilation of reliable songs– usually with a theme of some sort (this year’s is “Comfort Music” a take-off on “Comfort Food”) the other is the official Spring Training CD where I try to find some new music (well new to me).

It’s unfortunate that I wind up finding most of these songs as background music on television shows (“Chuck” and “House” are two prime sources) since commercial radio music stations are unlistenable. However, I have discovered the new public radio music station in DFW: KXT 91.7 It’s an eclectic mix for sure. I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated it keeping me company when I’ve worked late in a quiet office and they've expanded my musical horizons as well.

I know it is likely there is only one reader (Hi Lisa!) who might be interested in the song list on the “official 2010 CD” - which is reason enough to list them on the blog. As I said these most of these songs are new to me, with one classic and a couple of personal favorites from the past thrown in too. Here’s the set list in order, with a few comments. of the “Official Marla Hooch Spring Training 2010 For Wasting Time on Grand Avenue CD”:

1. Hallelujah – Justin Timberlake, Matt Morris and Charlie Sexton
This is from the Hope for Haiti CD – when you download songs (or the entire CD) the proceeds go to charities that assist victims of the earthquake.

I’m surprised to find myself liking Mr. Timberlake more and more. I’d assumed he was just one of those pretty Hollywood types whose claim to fame was showing up in tabloids with famous girlfriends and singing with overproduced boy bands. But the more I see him, read about him and listen to him– I think he’s got a chance to have pretty nice career – certainly more long lasting than his former girlfriend (the one not named Cameron Diaz).

2. Redemption Song – Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer
A reggae song done as a simple folk song. The earthy voices of both these musical icons give this song an anthem like quality that is downright stirring.

I’m ashamed to say I never realized the impact of Johnny Cash and his embrace of all kinds of music – not just country- until recently. I do remember that his television show was a must watch in our home. He featured mainstream popular acts (like the Monkees and Viki Carr – one of my Dad’s favorites) but also Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Ray Charles, the Staples Singers, Odetta, Derek & the Dominoes and (a very young)Charlie Pride. If you have the opportunity - please pick up one of the DVDs from his show that were released a couple of years ago, I highly recommend them.

3. Blue Umbrella – John Prine
“Just give me one more season so I can figure out the other four”

I knew it was time for a John Prine song. I couldn’t decide which one until I came upon this live version of “Blue Umbrella”. This is probably the first John Prine song I remember hearing. By the way, one of the best episodes of “Spectacle With Elvis Costello” featured John Prine singing “Lake Marie” – wish Elvis would’ve skipped the segment Ray LaMontange and spent more time with John.

4. Midlake – Head Home
This is courtesy of 91.7 KXT. I was driving home from work late one evening on an empty street when I heard it first time. I thought – yeah this is right.

5. Rain On Me – Blue Rodeo
Thank you to greg rogers (who is the spiritual leader of the Dicke Thon Fan Club or at the very least the musical director). He sent me this song about 11 years ago – took for ever for it to show up on I-Tunes. Has a groovy guitar solo at the end of the song that will have you pounding the backbeat on your steering wheel while you listen.

6. Can’t Hardly Wait – Justin Townes Earle
I had no idea Steve Earle’s son was also a singer/songwriter/musician. (Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” is a staple of several of my mix CDs). I liked this song, listened to a few others and wound up downloading a couple of the younger Earle’s CDs.

6. Whiskey Burnin’ – Larry Crane
From one my all time favorite movie soundtracks – “Falling From Grace” – the movie itself is only so-so.

7. I Need To Know Where I Stand – Rhett Miller
I’m not an Ol ‘97’s fan but I do like this song. The lyrics are clever with a contemptuous undertone disguised by a peppy melody

8. Put The Message In The Box – World Party
One of the best all time names for a band:  World Party. The song is pretty good too.

9. The Great Defector – Bell X1
Bell X1 is the type of  plane Chuck Yeager flew (he named it for his wife “Glamorous Glennis”), this band is from Ireland and one of the lyrics in this song is a line from a John Steinbeck novel. They are a Talking Heads clone – a really good one – what’s not to love?

10. How You Like Me Now? – The Heavy
Per the video clip I had on this website last month: when The Heavy performed this on Late Night With David Letterman he asked them to do an encore, it’s the first time I ever remember Dave doing that. That alone made this song a candidate for the ST 2010 CD.

11. Rock The Casbah – The Clash
Classics never go out of style

12. You Are All That I Have – Snow Patrol
“There is a darkness deep in you/A frightening magic I cling to”

This is simply an outstanding power pop ballad. I was told this group had something to do with “Grey’s Anatomy” (a show you could never pay me enough money to watch – I’ll happily continue avoiding it for free).

13. Devil Town – Tony Lucca
Driving down, or rather sitting in traffic on, Grand Avenue with the sun setting – this is the song I want to listen to.  (Yeah, I’ve talked about this song before: Friday Night Lights – Season 1 – Final Episode – see for yourself).

Finally: I’d like to close with some lyrics from that "pretty good song" by World Party:

“If you listen now
You might hear
A new sound comin’ in
As an old one disappears…
Put the message in the box
Put the box into the car
Drive the car around the world
Until you get heard.”

I’m fervently hoping and praying that in spite of everything that’s happened this spring the message in the box  is “Watch out – these are not the same old Rangers”

On my way to Surprise (soon) -- Marla Hooch

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If I Had A Twitter Account....

This is what'd I'd write concerning today's news about Ron Washington:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” – Mahatma Ghandi

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone  -- Marla Hooch

P.S. But it does make me wary of the decision making process from someone in a such pressure filled, highly visible management position.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Dead Arm Period: I Can’t Think Of Good Title For This Week’s Blog

(Right now many pitchers are going through a dead arm period while this week I am going through a dead blog entry period.)

The great thing about Spring Training is that means “real” baseball is just around the corner.

The bad thing about Spring Training is that other than injuries and the occasional shooting star (Matt Kata anyone?) there isn’t any real news that’s worth dissecting coming out of Arizona or Florida.

With that in mind we bring you a truly random blog entry (since there’s nothing “real” to write about this week).

"Don't forget to swing hard in case you hit the ball" - Woodie Held (lifetime .240 hitter)

One of my favorite sites, Baseball, has a neat tool called the Oracle of Baseball that can connect any two major league baseball players through a string a mutual teammates (think of it as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: The MLB Version) and yes I know I’ve used it before on this blog – and I’ll probably use it again at some time in the future as filler when there is nothing to write.

Ozzie to Elvis: SS Ozzie Smith played with P Mark Clark (1991 St. Louis Cardinals) who played with C Ivan Rodriguez (on the last Rangers playoff team in 1999) who played with SS Elvis Andrus on the 2009 Ranger team.

“I never had a bad night in my life, but I’ve had a few bad mornings” – Lefty Gomez

Birthdays for the week of March 14-March 19: Former Ranger Jim “The Great Emu” Kern is 61 this week. Brian Wilson –not the brilliant but troubled Beach Boy – this one is the RHP for the Giants is 28. The pride of West, Texas Scott Posednik turns 34 and that good Irish boy Rangers 1B Chris Davis turns 24 on St. Patrick’s Day. HOF Kirby Puckett would’ve been 50 years old this week.

“Although he is a bad fielder he is also a very poor hitter” – Ring Lardner

Did you know: a poll conducted by Real Simple magazine shows that 56% of their readers think social media (like Facebook and the dreaded Twitter) are a waste of time?

Hisle to Hamilton: OF Larry Hisle played with IF/DH Paul Molitor (1978 Milwaukee Brewers) who played with P “Everyday”Eddie Guardado (1996 Minnesota Twins) who played with OF Josh Hamilton on the 2009 Texas Rangers

Did you know: that Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski were each only pinch hit for one time during their HOF careers? Here’s the best part: the same player pinch hit for both of them: Carroll Hardy.

“You get smart only when you begin getting old” – Allie Reynolds

By the way:  according to Yahoo weather the average daytime temperature in Minneapolis in April is 57 degrees and the average night time temperature is 36, with an average snowfall of 2”.  I bet those Twins players are really looking forward to leaving sunny Ft. Myers for the nine games they’ll play at home (three of them scheduled at 7:10 pm) at the new open air Target Stadium.

The First Free Agent to the Rangers most current free agent: P Andy Messersmith played with IF Bill Buckner (1975 Los Angeles Dodgers) who played with IF Mark McLemore (1987 California Angels) who played with Rich Harden on the 2004 Oakland Athletics

Finally:  a couple of weeks ago for his President’s Day blog entry on Postcards From Elysian Fields T.R. Sullivan put together a baseball team of US Presidents. He asked for any additions to the Presidential Roster and I offered Thomas Jefferson as a relief pitcher (or spot starter, or stadium designer, or musician to play the national anthem– TJ could do it all)

I close to today with a quote from the tall lefty that applies to the psyche of the current Ranger fandom:

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past”

Dreaming of the future that begins on April 5th – Marla Hooch