Freedom of choice

The time has come, and Thursday marked the final day of fan voting for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. As a fan, I have been following the voting closely and the Royals’ fans attempt to get their entire roster into the game. However, I had not yet myself voted on the proceedings.

Now I have, and here are my choices:

National League

  • First baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona (.350, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 15 SB): He leads the NL in all four categories at the position. This is about as no-brainer as it gets.
  • Second baseman, Kolten Wong, St. Louis (.289, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 6 SB): This was a fairly tough call, with Miami’s Dee Gordon (.350, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 26 SB) and San Fran’s Joe Panik (.314, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB) having very nice years. But Wong’s been pretty clutch for the Cardinals, who have the best record in the NL.
  • Shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis (.301, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB): I waffled back and forth between Peralta and Panik’s double-play mate Brandon Crawford (.270, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 4 SB). I finally settled on Peralta because it’d probably be good for the team defensively to have that kind of familiarity up the middle, and with both providing similar pop Peralta’s average stands out.
  • Third baseman, Todd Frazier, Cincinnati (.283, 25 HR, 54 RBI, 8 SB): The New Jersey native is battling with Matt Carpenter of St. Louis (.275, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 1 SB) for the starting nod, and Frazier’s far more deserving to take the spot in his home ballpark with a career year. Nolan Arenado (.288, 24 HR, 68 RBI) gets a strong mention for an impressive first half, but Colorado’s third sacker will have to settle for coming in for the final innings.
  • Catcher, Buster Posey, San Francisco (.304, 12 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB): Like first base, not really much competition in this category either, though it is worth acknowledging the first halves of Pittsburgh’s Francisco Cervelli (.300, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB) and LA’s Yasmani Grandal (.269, 12 HR, 31 RBI).
  • Outfielders, Bryce Harper, Washington (.340, 24 HR, 58 RBI, 3 SB); Starling Marte, Pittsburgh (.285, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 15 SB); Giancarlo Stanton, Miami (.265, 27 HR, 67 RBI, 4 SB): Harper and Stanton are locks, and it’s a real shame that Stanton will have to sit this one out after his recent injury. The third spot was trickier, and Arizona’s AJ Pollock (.300, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 16 SB) was nearly my pick. But I like to spread things around, and it’s hard to argue against Marte’s performance … and feels weird that it’s not Andrew McCutchen.

American League

  • First baseman, Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (.344, 15 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB): Credit to Texas’ Prince Fielder for a first half I’m pretty sure no one ever thought he’d have again (.342, 12 HR, 49 RBI), but no way I don’t want the game’s best long-tenured hitter up there taking hacks to give us an early lead if I’m AL manager Ned Yost.
  • Second baseman, Jose Altuve, Houston (.298, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 23 SB): Altuve gets my vote to hopefully propel him past Kansas City’s Omar Infante (.230, 0 HR, 23 RBI, 1 SB) and put a respectable player at the position. While I think Altuve deserves to be there in Cincinnati, the person who should start but won’t is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis (.346, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 10 SB). At least I have faith he’ll be chosen a backup.
  • Shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, Boston (.289, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 4 SB): I couldn’t believe what a sorry crop of starters were listed on the ballot at this position, and the Red Sox youngster gets credit here for putting together a solid sophomore season on a terrible team and providing something to cheer about.
  • Third baseman, Josh Donaldson, Toronto (.302, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 3 SB): Baltimore’s Manny Machado (.303, 16 HR, 44 RBI, 11 SB) has made a great run to get to this point, but Donaldson’s been consistent all season for the Blue Jays and gets my vote.
  • Catcher, Stephen Vogt, Oakland (.295, 13 HR, 53 RBI): KC’s Salvador Perez (.267, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB) won this vote in a landslide, but I’m going to give the 30-year-old A’s backstop some love for a fine first half in again a somewhat weak field. I will note that former Braves perennial all-star Brian McCann (.265, 12 HR, 49 RBI) could get a spot on this team as a backup.
  • Designated hitter, Nelson Cruz, Seattle (.307, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB): The Mariners’ occasional outfielder was red-hot from the start and is my choice over Texas’ Mitch Moreland (.300, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB) and the Yankees’ A-Rod (.280, 15 HR, 45 RBI, 1 SB) in an impressive bounceback campaign.
  • Outfielders, Brett Gardner, New York (.304, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 15 SB); JD Martinez, Detroit (.281, 20 HR, 48 RBI, 2 SB); Mike Trout, Los Angeles (.303, 21 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB): Here as in the NL, Martinez and Trout were pretty simple picks. For the third slot, I could have gone with the people’s choice of Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain (.299, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 15 SB) or Baltimore’s Adam Jones (.295, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 3 SB) or credited a surprising resurgence from Minnesota’s Torii Hunter (.277, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1 SB). Josh Reddick (.287, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB) has also had a nice year, but I was shocked when I saw Gardner’s stats and opted to go with some more speed with a little pop thrown in, like Cain but more so and lefty.

Feel free to let me know if I’m crazy, where I went wrong or even how great my picks are. I feel like the most questionable choices are ones where there was no clear choice so I’m comfortable with them. We’ll find out who actually gets in Sunday.

Voice of Harold

mlb_allstar_12Holy crap. I actually agreed with something Harold Reynolds said on “MLB Tonight.”

Harold used to be one of the people that made ESPN watchable, both on “Baseball Tonight” and elsewhere on baseball broadcasts. Then he was the face of Little League Baseball coverage, blowing up the kids’ performances to gargantuan size, then he got fired for sexual harrassment.

Reynolds resurfaced on MLB Network after ESPN settled his lawsuit, but seemed to have the opinion that any information that didn’t directly relate to having played the game meant nothing. He was paired with polar opposite and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny on a new afternoon show, MLB Now, with Kenny very much a fan of stats and analytics and Reynolds basically saying those things don’t help much at all.

Analytics has become something of a divisive issue, with some sharing Reynolds’ disdain for them and saying that they cause people to ignore what’s right in front of them in on-the-field actions and evaluation and off-the-field work. This is often argued by those who simply don’t understand what analytics can provide, and so instead of trying to learn more about them they simply make fun of them because that’s what people do with things they don’t understand.

Needless to say, I believe analytics can be a very useful tool and most of baseball seems to be agreeing as teams create departments dedicated to trying to utilize this additional tool for player evaluation that will hopefully help bring home titles and help create dynasties.

Analytics isn’t really what this post is supposed to be about, but it is part of the larger point. I don’t listen to a lot of what Reynolds says, in part because he refuses to listen when analytics arise in discussions of the sport. But he said something Monday night in studio that I agreed with, though I’ll rephrase it slightly: MLB is trying to have the All-Star Game both ways, and it’s hurting the game and the sport.

Baseball’s midseason classic is an exhibition game, meant to be a reward for top performances of the first half of the season voted on by fans with selections made by players and coaches as well. Every team gets a representative, and managers try to play as many players as they can to give them a chance to experience the potentially once-in-a-lifetime event.

But ratings were dropping and interest seemed to be waning, so in an effort to bring gravitas and interest back to the game they made it count for home field advantage in the World Series for whichever league wins. In theory every player deserves to be there and should be a solid choice to come up in a key situation late in the game if need be, but by the same token Kansas City fans are trying to vote Royals second baseman Omar Infante into the game despite him being possibly the worst player at the position in the American League this year.

In addition, MLB is promoting the game and online voting for it with the Twitter hashtag #ASGWorthy, which is being used after players have particularly good individual games. Monday’s MLB Network mention with the hashtag went to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton after he went 2-for-4 and stole four bases. But Hamilton has no other numbers that make him worthy of an All-Star Game slot except for his universe-topping 40 steals, so again a contradiction arises.

If it’s an exhibition, then let the vote and first-half performances determine the roster and it shouldn’t count for anything. Guys have bonus clauses for making the game, and that’s logically tied to them doing big things on the field to earn such a selection. The top stars in the game should be able to draw fans, and if not then you need to figure out how to better market these players. But if it is going to count for something, let managers have more say in the rosters, let them manage it like a playoff game and give them the opportunity to put a guy like Hamilton on the bench to use as a pinch-runner late in a close game, or a Nelson Cruz to pinch-hit in a key spot.

While I still probably won’t agree with a large amount of what Reynolds has to say, the voice of Harold won’t be quite so grating for awhile and I’ll be listening to him a little more closely for awhile.

The Incredibles

incredibles-pixarI was an adult in my mid-20s when Pixar Studios released its first animated feature film, Toy Story, yet both have made an indelible impact on me.

Walt Disney fired a young John Lasseter when he suggested that the studio make an all-digital feature film, but after an Oscar win for the short Tin Toy in 1988 the new Disney regime of Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg talked to Lasseter and his Pixar company about doing exactly that.

What they created changed the animated film business. Plenty of more traditional animated fare followed with the likes of Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan, but not only did Pixar movies become must-watch entertainment it also spawned the creation of other computer animation studios like Dreamworks.

One thing to note is that if not for the success of films like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast starting in 1989, Disney might never have been able to convince Robin Williams to do Aladdin. That film suddenly seemed to make it OK for big-named stars to “stoop” to the level of voice acting for animated films, which obviously led to the incredible voice cast for Toy Story and most every Pixar movie since.

For a bit more perspective on just how long it’s been since Andy, Woody and Buzz first graced movie screens, the screenplay was co-written by Joss Whedon. He would get his TV adaptation of his film Buffy The Vampire Slayer to the air a year and a half later for the beginning of its seven-season run.

Inside Out was released in theaters this weekend, the 15th Pixar feature and from pretty much all accounts one of the best of the bunch. That’s saying something, considering the roster of movies that the studio has put out over the past two decades. It sounds in part that it’s because this movie does what Pixar does when it’s at its best: provides something for kids and adults alike to appreciate and enjoy.

My wife and I went to see Cars 2 at the drive-in a few years ago, and while she enjoyed it well enough I wasn’t very impressed. Follow-ups Brave and Monsters University became the first two Pixar features I didn’t see in the theater, and I didn’t watch the latter for the first time until earlier this year.

Inside Out has me excited to go back to the theater again for Pixar, and it has inspired several reviewers and others to rank all the Pixar movies from top to bottom. But I’ve noticed more than one of those lists remarked that movies fell down the rankings because they hadn’t been seen in awhile either through indifference or not being run constantly on cable.

So instead I plan on going back to watch all the Pixar movies again and write up my thoughts on each. The exercise will likely result in my own best-to-worst list, but it will be having seen all of them in the recent past. I’m actually excited about revisiting some movies I used to see a lot but haven’t in awhile (A Bug’s Life is a perfect example) as well as movies that I probably only watched once to see how I feel about them now (Ratatouille and Brave would be two falling into this camp).

It’s pretty incredible to look at the track record the studio’s had over the course of 15 movies. Not everyone likes every movie, but except for Cars 2 they’re all generally well loved overall by critics and average viewers alike. So hopefully you’ll join me on this ride, which admittedly could take awhile. Considering how much some of the Pixar films have meant to me, I’m expecting a rewarding journey that I can share with you the reader.

Royals

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won't be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

Kansas City closer Greg Holland likely won’t be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game this summer, but a lot of his teammates are poised to represent the Royals next month if the voting holds. (Associated Press)

As I’m typing this sentence, the American League voting for the All-Star Game makes it look like ballots were only handed out in Kansas City — even though ballots aren’t handed out anywhere any more.

Eight of the nine starting spots in the AL lineup are populated by Kansas City Royals, with only Los Angels Angels center fielder Mike Trout — the pride of Millville, New Jersey — breaking up a vast sea of blue.

The top overall vote-getter when the most recent numbers were released Monday was Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had just over 7.2 million votes. Trout, the defending AL MVP having another stellar season (.297, 13 2B, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 47 R, 8 SB), is second in voting among outfielders and nearly 700,000 votes behind KC’s Lorenzo Cain (.287, 11 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 38 R, 11 SB). Royals outfielders sit third and fourth in voting, meaning Trout’s the only thing preventing a sweep of the defending AL champs in the starting lineup.

Over 300 million votes have been cast at mlb.com, the only place voting now occurs for the Midsummer Classic. Kansas City fans have obviously hit the internet in droves to figuratively stuff the ballot box with their players, even someone like second baseman Omar Infante who’s barely hitting above .200 and is by more than a few measures the worst everyday second baseman in the league. Diminutive Houston Astros second sacker Jose Altuve (.290, 11 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 27 R, 17 SB) is running a close second, and is a much better candidate.

Altuve is one of the only players seemingly to have any shot of catching one of the runaway Royals before the voting deadline at 11:59 pm July 2. Detroit Tigers perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera (.344, 13 2B, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 37 R, 40 BB, 1 SB) is within half a million votes of KC’s Eric Hosmer (.296, 13 2B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 34 R, 25 BB, 3 SB), and Nelson Cruz (.317, 7 2B, 18 HR, 41 RBI, 34 R) trails the Royals’ Kendrys Morales (.275, 18 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 33 R) at designated hitter. No one else is within a million votes of second, and Perez stands nearly four million votes ahead of Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (.281, 7 2B, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 31 R, 35 BB).

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over this situation, with only a cursory nod to the Kansas City fans and what they’ve accomplished. Most stories point out the 1957 All-Star Game, when Cincinnati fans went to the park in droves and voted seven Reds into the starting lineup. The reaction from baseball was swift, as commissioner Ford Frick replaced two of those players and then took the vote away from fans the following year. They didn’t get it back for a dozen years.

This is the first season that voting has been exclusively online, a sign of the changing times and also likely at least part of the explanation for the skewed vote totals. MLB has stated that it’s investigated the anomaly and found no signs of wrongdoing on the part of Royals fans, but it’s really ticking a lot of people off. If I were a fan of an AL team that was being slighted due to this, I probably would be too.

But I’m not, and I’m really not. By the end of the All-Star Game, most if not all position players will have played and I love that of all teams achieving this utter imbalance that it’s the Royals. There were a lot of people wondering how on Earth Kansas City got the Midsummer Classic in 2012, and then the city put on one of the best shows in recent memory with huge fan turnout and support that almost made you forget how MLB has done everything it could to make the game “count” and yet devalue it at the same time.

I would certainly like to see Altuve overtake Infante at second base so the worst player at the position isn’t recognized purely due to where he plays. But a) there will be growing pains as the league transitions to online voting only, b) after seeing the love for the Royals when they faced the Giants in the World Series last October this can’t be all that surprising and c) if you want to see a different player voted in, GO VOTE. It’s easier than ever, which Kansas City fans have taken advantage of better than anyone else.

There’s still two-plus weeks of voting left, and Cabrera and Vogt already seem to be making up ground while the Astros have started a campaign to get Altuve voted in at second. Maybe this Royals takeover at the (online) ballot box will spur a renewed interest from fans that perhaps should have been more involved but weren’t until the desire to dethrone Infante, Hosmer or Mike Moustakas hit them.

And while Kansas City isn’t New York, LA or Chicago and is part of flyover territory, how many players might see this outpouring of support from the re-energized fan base in the middle of the country and perhaps hope that some day they can be Royals?

The Evil Forces of Entropy

“No structure, even an artificial one, enjoys the process of entropy. It is the ultimate fate of everything, and everything resists it.” – Philip K. Dick

“The Evil Forces of Entropy” was the phrase we used in college to describe the ever-increasing mess we found in our dorm rooms when things got hectic or some of us just didn’t feel like keeping things clean. It even made it into the comic one of my roommates drew for the school paper.

It’s not the most utterly precise use of entropy, but it’s also far more accurate to what we were trying to express than anything else with such an economy of words.

Since I worked my last day at the South Jersey Times after more than 14 years of service, I’ve had some part-time freelance work with a couple of different publications/websites. I’ve worked usually 2-3 days a week and produced 2-4 stories a week.

It’s been nice and I hope to continue, but at the same time it’s just not the same. I find the atmosphere of an office to be supremely beneficial to working, particularly since I don’t currently have a home office to use. And while it’s great seeing coaches and being involved, covering a full-time beat part-time is far from easy unless you like to work a lot for free.

Of course I can’t keep doing just this forever, so another job must be found. That can be easier said than done when The Evil Forces of Entropy sink their claws into you. They like things just the way they are, and aren’t really interested in doing what’s best for you.

My wife and I had a frank discussion recently about the situation, and I felt like I’d let her and myself down in some way by not doing more sooner to remedy the job situation. But she immediately told me that she wasn’t surprised, and that by the time I left the paper she knew I was burned out and needed a break … and not just a couple of weeks.

*****

I began writing this post over three months ago, when I was still doing a decent job of keeping this updated. Obviously things changed, and I let it slide. It wasn’t the most important thing on my to-do list, and even though it was still on the to-do list it kept getting pushed aside.

But I think I’ve realized that it’s a much more crucial part of that list than I gave it credit for, not for the content or the message it sends to anyone else but what it does for me. You see, that to-do list hasn’t been getting done the same way lately. Things get done in fits and starts, and some important things have been accomplished during the time since I last worked on this post.

But The Evil Forces of Entropy have also been tugging away, doing their best to prevent me from getting back on the road I need to be on, the road to a more normal life. I’m doing less writing now for the part-time job, because I got a promotion to be an editor. I think I realize now that means this blog is even more important to keep me writing on a regular basis.

My original goal was to write something every day — that’s what good bloggers do, continue to drive traffic by providing new material — and I will strive to do that as much as possible. But it won’t always be possible, and I know that. Besides, this blog was as much for me as anyone. But it will be a goal to keep it closer to the front burner, something that is part of a routine that includes getting more done and getting back to the things I really need to be doing.

While spontaneity is a wonderful thing, and I hope will be a part of this blog as well, structure is critical to a serial procrastinator like myself. I’ve decided this should be a part of that structure going forward, and that’s the plan for now.

Some of the things that had been part of my daily routine will have to become less so as I work to achieve what I want, and other, more constructive ones will have to find their way back into greater prominence. Striking balance will be key, but hopefully the ever-increasing threat of destitution will help my discipline. Posting things like this here in a public forum is a way to hold myself accountable. If you’d like to help, feel free. I’m sure I can use all the help I can get. Thanks in advance.

Trivial pursuits

trivialpursuitcardsThe release of the board game Trivial Pursuit was a sort of touchstone for my life, good or bad.

When it came out in the early 1980s, I was enthralled because I was a bit of a know-it-all. Then Jeopardy! arrived on the scene not long after (I was too young to remember the original show, and I don’t recall its brief syndicated revival in the late 1970s), and it just reinforced my love of question-and-answer game shows that had been previously fed by more facile versions like Tic-Tac-Dough and The Joker’s Wild where the questions were only part of the game and luck was still a factor.

Between the two, I became a true trivia junkie and loved the idea of learning things, then answering questions in a competitive setting. I watched Jeopardy! religiously (I also watched its companion show in syndication, Wheel of Fortune, until my parents made me stop because I would solve the puzzles after just a letter or two, but by that point was bored with it anyway and thought the contestants were just getting dumber), and loved playing Trivial Pursuit at every turn.

There really wasn’t an outlet in high school to feed the beast, though I did do a humorous presentation in speech class (at least it was intended to be humorous) on how to win at Trivial Pursuit. When I got to college, I found College Bowl and quickly became part of a team that would win the campus tournament and go to regionals three times in four years.

When I returned home to finish college, I briefly found my first bar trivia night but it was so far from home that it became impractical to do on a regular basis. Then came NTN Trivia, which became an interactive bar phenomenon in the mid 1990s and made me spend more time (and money) in bars than I ever had before. It’s still around under the name Buzztime, but in far fewer locations.

I hadn’t played in years and don’t think I realized just how much I missed it until my friend Carly introduced me to Quizzo at a local bar near where she lived. I joined her team last year, and we’ve made it a regular Thursday habit for several months now.

We’ve been the most constant two members of the team, but have begun to find more like-minded people to commit on a more regular basis and compete with a couple of the powerhouse teams at our location. The competition is strong, and the categories and questions are varied and require a wide range of knowledge (there’s even a musical round each week), and that plus the competition makes it as fun as anything about it.

We’ve only won one week, with one of our bigger teams, and we finished second in that five-week contest (the weekly contests make up the larger contest, which thus include rotating rounds like Survey Says, Common Bonds, and so forth). I feel like some of the description might be getting a little dry for some, but by the same token it’s those little details that help make it so enjoyable for me.

I’ve enjoyed it so much I’ve started trying to play as much as I can a second day a week with other friends at another bar. It’s probably a good thing it’s not easier to play every night. It’s probably silly to a lot of people, but to have a group of people who have a common goal, enjoy a fun competition and an evening together doesn’t seem to be a trivial pursuit to me.

Perfect world

bowling_genericI was nervous, I was sweating and I could barely stand — and I was not just trying to stand, but then walk while holding and then throwing a 15-pound bowling ball. But that’s not really unusual.

I think about things, a lot, sometimes long beyond any useful purpose and even to my detriment.

It can be especially good at showing up at inopportune times, like athletic competition. Having been in a bowling league for 15 years, it has reared its ugly head more than once while I stood on the approach at the end of a key match with ball in hand.

A 300 is a perfect game in bowling, something I’ve never really approached before Sunday. I’d thrown a pair of 279s, meaning I had all strikes except for one frame prior to the 10th in which I had a 9-spare. But I’d never come closer, because the games in which I’d done that the spares came very early on, second or third frame, and I then struck out from there.

The most strikes I’d ever strung together to start a game I think was seven, but it was a long time ago and I was most definitely not in the right frame of mind to close out that kind of a start. These days I’d put together five or six in a row to open games a couple of times, but that was it.

Sunday I was struggling during warmups to find my line, the ideal trajectory for my ball to strike, and I was leaving pins all over the place. My first ball of the game, I pulled it badly but luckily crossed over and threw a strike after burying the ball in the left-hand pocket between the 1 and 2 pins.

I threw two such strikes, plus a couple of other less lucky but somewhat fortunate strikes — my shot in the seventh frame seemed to leave the 6 pin until a messenger pin from the other side shot across and took it out. I struck again in the eighth, and had done a pretty good job of keeping conversations going between frames.

I learned years ago that the best way to take my mind off what I was doing — when I seem to bowl best, I’m not really paying a lot of attention to the game itself — was to talk to people about non-bowling topics. I’m usually at my best when I have to be reminded that it’s my turn.

Sunday I was chatting with my teammates about various things until the eighth, when the talk suddenly died down. I have a feeling that people were noticing what I was doing, and it was getting to be like a Major League dugout during a no-hitter. I didn’t want anything like that, so I started talking to a teammate again about his struggles in the game, trying to help him find a solution and stop it from being so damn quiet.

I struck again in the ninth, and went to the 10th frame with my chance at a perfect game still intact and needing three strikes to close it out. I was ready to get it over with one way or the other, though my body was telling me something different. But I managed to stay upright, threw a good ball and buried it in the pocket. The 7 pin stood staring at me for a second or two after the rest had disappeared, until it fell backward into the pit.

The second ball was good as well, and the pins went flying for the second strike. By this time I knew a crowd had gathered around behind me, and was waiting to see if by some miracle I could pull this off.

There are a lot of good bowlers in our league. It competes on Sunday mornings, the perfect time for a sportswriter whose schedule changes constantly but has one day a week where he’s almost always off and free to throw a few games. Though especially in recent years there’s always been at least one bowler averaging a 230 or better, my highest average in the league has been just over 200. Mine stood at 199 entering play Sunday, which was a nice improvement over earlier in the year thanks to a new ball I bought after hitting a low point near the end of the first third of the season.

I’d been throwing better, with a 279 in the first couple of weeks after getting the ball. I’d been getting more consistent as well, which is what I’d been searching for and came as I learned to control a ball that had a lot more power and hook than the one I’d used for more than a decade.

But there I was, trying not to shake as I stood on the approach and staring down the pins and my mark on the lane that I was trying to throw at. I could feel the sweat under my arms and my shirt sticking to my pits. I took my four steps, swung my arm and released what looked like a great ball when it started down the lane.

300bAnd it stayed that way. There were many congratulations from people throughout the league that I’ve bowled against for months or many years. And for a brief moment, it was a perfect world.