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165-75th-anniversary-lou-gehrig-speechToday is the 75th anniversary of the greatest sports related speech ever made and one of the greatest speeches of all time by a truly great man. After one of the indisputably greatest baseball players of all time had his career cut short by ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) he stood before his fans and declared himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" who had merely "been given a bad break."

There is not a professional sports player, Hollywood celebrity or everyday man or woman who could not learn something from the humble grace displayed by Lou Gehrig.

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"Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans."

"Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I'm lucky. Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I'm lucky."

"When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift--that's something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies--that's something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter--that's something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body--it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed--that's the finest I know."

"So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

--Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939

Read more about Lou Gehrig's farewell speech at Yankee Stadium at ESPN. Click on the MLB logo above for the league's video tribute. Or, consider making a donation to the ALS Association.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Drew played his fourth soccer game of the season today. The game was special because Aunt Donelda got to see it as she was in town for Landon's birthday.

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Drew had a great header back at the goal after a defender tried to clear the ball. It all happened so quick my camera didn't have a chance to focus.

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My knees hurt watching Drew plant his foot and twist for a kick.

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Drew controls the ball for another quick change of directions.

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Looking down field, the sprint is on!

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This looks like it's going to be a powerful kick.

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I was just commenting earlier this week, about how rare it was to catch one of the boys making a play, with the ball in frame, while looking exactly in the direction of the camera and, what happens, I get a picture of Drew doing just that!

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Landon and Aunt Donelda with their favorite soccer star. Mama and Will had to miss the game because Will had baseball practice at the same time. The other team today was packed with huge 13 year-olds in this 10-13 league (I thought they were the 14 and up team when I first saw them) and, as a result, we wound up losing 0-4 despite our kids playing their hearts out.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Will played well this evening in his seventh game of the season. In his first at bat, Will whacked the ball hard but it was right to a fielder who thew him out at first.

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This almost looks like a time-lapse photo as the left fielder, Will playing shortstop and the pitcher all go after the ball at the same time.

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A closer up shot of Will from the previous photo watching the fly ball.

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Will is serious now, he's in is low ready position.

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Will walloped another one on his second at bat.

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This time Will wound up safe at first.

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The next batter advanced Will to second but he was left stranded on base at the end of the inning. Notice his two clouds of dust as he sprints away.

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Ready at second base.

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Checking out a pop-up that went to another player.

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Still at second base, a line drive was hit that went to a little too far to Will's left to be caught but he made a great effort anyway.

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Now that is keeping your eye on the ball! I don't know of another picture I've taken of the boys that is so well lined up like this one where they were making the play while looking in the direction of the camera.

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Finally, Will and one of his teammates made a great play at second to get a runner out. Despite Will doing great in the field and batting .500 for the game, his team lost to one of the better teams in the league.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

Drew had his third soccer game of the season today and made some incredible moves.

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Just a bit into the game, Drew made an incredible move. He was dribbling down the field at full speed with one defender right on his left shoulder and another sprinting toward him from the right. Then Drew made his move, stopping on a dime and shuffling to his right. Both defenders blew past him as he nearly faked them out of their shorts. With an open lane, Drew made an easy pass up field to his teammate.

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Ahead of the defenders, Drew is making the turn just before passing off.

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Drew is in a field of blue defenders as he receives a pass and is about to make another incredible move shown in the series below.

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As a pass came to Drew he controlled the ball with his left foot, passed it over to his right foot (much to the surprise of the closest defender), and then used his long legs to pass the ball right to his teammate.

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Drew took a hard hit to the head but toughed it out and kept playing like nothing happened.

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Drew and two teammates were attacking the goal when Drew made a key play to keep the attack going followed shortly by his teammate (the girl he passed to in both plays above) scoring the only goal of the game.

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Later in the game the opposing team passed one to their goalie. While all his teammates started running down field, Drew stayed behind to harass the goalie for which he was almost rewarded with a goal. The game ended with a 1-0 victory.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

Will's team played their sixth baseball game of the season tonight. Will had to miss the game because it is Holy Thursday and we all attended mass in the evening together. His team lost 4-14 without him.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Will started out his fifth game of the season playing second base.

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The next inning, Will played pitcher which is just a defensive position since the opposing team's coach pitches to the batter. Will is going after a ball that was hit to the third baseman.

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Will's team did a good job defensively keeping the game close the first half of the game. Here Will is playing left field and going after a ball hit between him and the center fielder.

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Will raced to the ball beating the center fielder and, as this series shows, he made a lightning quick throw spot on to the cut-off man. The cut-off man in deep short then raced the runner rounding third base to home plate tagging him out on his last step a fraction of a second before he tagged home plate. If not for our shortstop's speed and Will's quick turnaround we would not have gotten the out. My camera takes 6 frames a second, so Will turned this one around in an amazing 5/6th's of a second!

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Will had one of our longest hits of the night walloping one to left field.

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Taking a well deserved breather at first base.

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Will made it safe to second base but wasn't so lucky getting to third as his teammate grounded to the third baseman. Our boys didn't have their bats tonight as they were shut out in a frustrating loss.

(Something else occurred tonight that I may right about later and just wanted to note for future reference.)

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Will played his fourth baseball game of the year tonight.

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Will started out on defense as catcher. He likes playing the position but only when it's not too hot out. Fortunately, the coach rotates players through the position so that Will only has to play the position for one inning.

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Will taking one to the face mask on a foul-tip.

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Will about to smack a long one, with his eye on the ball and a great grimace on his face.

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Getting some pointers from the first base coach.

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Will was so excited to get to third that he did a little happy-hop, a very uncharacteristic move for Mr.-Serious-When-I-Play-Baseball. Unfortunately, he wound up being stranded there.

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In addition to catcher, Will played second base, left and right field.

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Will covering second base. He does a great job always being in the right position.

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Will about to smack the ball for a second time to go 2 for 3 for the day.

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Getting five from the first base coach after belting a long base hit.

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Finally, the best part, crossing home plate as Will's team won 11-3.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

I was out of town attending another hearing in Boise City today when Will had his third baseball game of the season. He did a great job fielding and hitting the ball twice making it safely on base one of those times. The boys went on to win the game 7-3.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Drew had his second game of soccer today as part of a double header against two different teams. It is the only time he'll have two games on one day. I have no sense of how many "good" pictures I'll get each game so there might be more here than necessary, but I thought these were all deserving of being posted.

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This is a series of Drew doing a great job of advancing the ball up field. He was dribbling along at full speed and then, as a defender approached, he booted the up field to a teammate. Notice the defender reacting to Drew's powerful kick.

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Drew making a turn while dribbling the ball.

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Now in full stride while still keeping the ball under control.

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I love this photo, Drew is moving fast with both feet off the ground while he has the ball under close control and, at the same time, looking down field.

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This is an awesome series showing Drew dribbling fast down the field and being approached by an older and much bigger defender. Drew is not the least bit intimidated and stretches out his long leg to get the ball past the defender and keep on dribbling, literally, leaving the defender in the dust.

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I nice shot of Drew almost facing the camera about to kick the ball. (It's also a nice Nike/Under Armour commercial.) Despite what was a very even game, the other team scored a quick goal on a breakaway resulting in a 0-1 loss.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

060-soccer-team

Drew had his first ever outdoor soccer game today. All three boys have played indoor soccer at Soccer City but none of them have ever played outdoors. The team is co-ed recreational 10-13 year-olds in the Mid-Land Soccer Club league.

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Drew played defender and midfielder and did an incredible job.

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The teams' colors were different shades of green and official jerseys had not yet come in for either team leaving a confusing hodgepodge of jersey colors which was remedied shortly after the game started by our players donning pinnies (or as Coach called them "targets").

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Despite being on the younger end of the age spectrum, Drew held his own successfully stopping several attacks on our goal.

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The only score of the game came after one of the other team's players used his hands to stop a shot on goal. We were given a penalty kick and scored a goal resulting in a 1-0 final score.

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Drew had a great time and we all enjoyed watching him play his new sport!

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Will had his second baseball game of the year which finished up the boys' two game stint in Coweta.

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Will played shortstop, here, along with second base and left-center field.

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Will had a good solid hit but it was to the right side of the field.

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The other team was just able to throw Will out at first in a close one that briefly pulled the first baseman off the bag.

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Fielding a ground ball at second base.

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A long one was hit right between two of our outfielders and Will was the first to chase it down. My camera takes 6 frames a second and Will had the ball in his hand for 8 frames which equates to just 1 1/3 seconds. It was the fastest I'd ever seen a seven year-old pick up, turn around, and throw in a ball from the outfield. Great job Will!

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A throw into the dirt didn't get the runner out in this play at second. Our boys just didn't bring their bats tonight while the other team lit up the scoreboard. The final score was what's called, "not close."

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Will had his first baseball game of the season this evening. He started out in center field with the low evening sun shining in his face. He's still using his daddy's little league glove from the mid-1970s.

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It is all coach-pitch this season. Will got a hit on his first at bat. He's about to wallop this ball.

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Casually standing on first base after a good solid hit. We really like the team's uniforms this year.

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The next batter up hit a long one allowing Will to go from first to third.

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Crossing home plate!

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The next inning Will got to take a turn behind the plate.

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On Will's next at bat, he hit the first pitch so quick I wasn't yet in position and was only able to get him after he smacked the ball.

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Safe on first again with another base hit!

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With some help from his teammates' bats, Will was able to cross home plate again.

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Will was in the middle of the action at second base when his team was up by just one point, with the bases loaded and only one out. The other team hit the ball and our boys made an amazing double-play to end the inning and win the game!

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |
Mar 8 2014

Soccer Equipment

040-soccer-equipment

Drew has chosen to play soccer this spring instead of baseball. His decision required a purchase of some new soccer equipment. I must admit, it was a lot cheaper than new baseball equipment.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

024-scouting-brothers

Tonight we all took in a Tulsa Revolution Professional Arena Soccer League game at the Cox Business Center. It started out as a Cub Scout event (hence the sweatshirts) but there wasn't enough participation. It wound up a photographing event as we all received arena-wide passes to take pictures from anywhere we wanted. Needless to say the owners were very nice to us!

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Usually, I research the players and attempt to make intelligent comments about each photo. But, honestly, I just don't have time right now. So, this is the Revolution's goalie making a stop. Despite a great effort, the Revolution lost to the undefeated Chicago Mustangs 9 to 16.

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In stride to hit a hard one.

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This was actually a successful shot on goal!

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An over-the-head bicycle kick.

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I think this was one of the best photos of the evening, a nice header pass to an open player in front of the net.

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Another long stride before a kick. We all had a great time. The action was fast-paced but, unlike hockey, easy to follow. We look forward to taking in another game next season.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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All the boys had soccer practice at Soccer City today. Our three Lil' Kickers have really improved in the past year. The coaches at Soccer City are all great and have done a wonderful job with the boys. Landon, here, doesn't even have to touch the ground when he's playing.

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Landon is more advanced that his older brothers were at his age, most likely due to his having to keep up with them. This photo is from a series in which Landon approached and kicked the ball without ever looking down.

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Kicking one into the goal.

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Keeping control of the ball.

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Making a turn with the ball under control.

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Coming to a quick stop.

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Will reaching out to stop the ball.

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Following through on a pass to a teammate.

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On the move.

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Getting ready to kick a long one.

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Great follow through.

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Drew in between toe-touches during warm-ups.

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Drew keeping control of the ball.

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Stretching out his long legs while keeping the ball close.

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Drew trying to keep control of the ball while Will advances fast.

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Will protects his ball from Drew's attack.

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Will again defending against Drew's attack.

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Looks like Drew was finally able to kick one away from Will.

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Landon, Drew and Will, all sweaty, at the end of their soccer practice.

Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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With the school year starting up in just over a week, we all went swimming today at the Broken Arrow Family Aquatic Center. (Actually, the title is a little misleading as we went back to the Aquatic Center over Labor Day weekend since we had so much fun today.) Give Landon a noodle and he is a happy camper.

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Will looking a little different with his hair all wet.

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Drew flashing a toothy grin.

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Three-quarters of a future Olympic relay swim team.

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The older two boys love this pool because of its two water slides. The blue one is twisty.

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Will dumped out at the end of the water slide.

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Will just hitting the water at the end of the fast yellow slide.

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Drew enjoying his ride on the twisty slide.

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Drew practicing his speed technique on the twisty slide.

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Drew flying into the water on the fast slide.

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Landon on his noodle can go anywhere, in any direction, and is content to watch the rest of the action.

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Landon taking a noodle-nap break.

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Will enjoying some noodle time in the shallows.

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Drew showing off his perfect cannon ball form.

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Drew high in the sky grinning for the camera before he makes a big splash.

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Three tired boys ready to get some Chipotle on the way home.

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For an end of season party for Will's baseball team, we all went to see the Tulsa Drillers play the Springfield Cardinals today at ONEOK Field. We got out butts kicked 5-0 but, as you will see below, the boys had an absolutely amazing day.

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The first activity before the game started was a baseball clinic on the ONEOK field. Our boys all went together with Tulsa Drillers outfielder #24 Delta Cleary Jr. and pitcher #34 Christian Bergman to practice catching and throwing. This is Landon catching a ball thrown by Cleary.

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Landon stretching for the ball.

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Landon throwing a rocket back to Bergman.

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Will's turn to shag an outfield fly.

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Will catching another fly ball.

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Throwing the ball back.

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Drew easily catching one of his fly balls.

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A great shot of Drew having just made a catch with the ONEOK Field sign in the background. There is a number 5 on the Drillers roster but Drew's shirt was a give-away from another game a few years ago honoring Matt Holiday who once played for the Drillers and who signed a major league deal in 2010 for $120 million over seven years.

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Drew throwing the ball back.

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The boys really enjoyed their time on the field with the Drillers players.

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The Tulsa skyline showing what a beautiful day it was for a ball game.

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The next activity up was some time in Hornsby's Hangout. The boys first spent some time on the inflatable slide. Landon climbed and slide like an old pro.

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Will enjoying himself on the slide.

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Drew in arms up roller coaster mode.

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Next, the boys had the inflatable bouncer all to themselves.

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After burning off some excess energy, the boys went down to the filed where Will got a team picture taken.

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The boys then got to be on the giant scoreboard jumbotron.

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Drew, Landon and Will on the jumbotron screen.

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Next, the boys got to high-five the Tulsa Drillers starting lineup as they took the field. This is second baseman #3 Angelys Nina.

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High-fiving first baseman #18 Kiel Roling.

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Finally, giving high-fives to the catcher #13 Dustin Garneau.

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The boys even got line up with the players during the singing of the National Anthem.

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Once the game started, I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the game. Tulsa Drillers center fielder #5 Rafael Ortega was called out sliding into second on a very close and questionable call.

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Tulsa Driller shortstop #2 Cristhian Adames getting safely back to first on a pick off attempt.

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Our bats were all too quiet today as demonstrated by Tulsa Drillers first baseman #18 Kiel Roling's swing and a miss. The team only had 3 hits all day.

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First baseman Roling getting a throw from the pitcher after short ground ball for an easy out.

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Between innings, the boys got Cane's Chicken t-shirts and got to run across the field. Will went with a friend on his team who he also goes to school with.

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Drew was a good big brother and ran with Landon who was swimming in his t-shirt.

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A quick picture with Hornsby as he passed our section of the bleachers.

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Finally, after the end of the game, all the children in attendance got to run the bases.

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Will high-fiving Hornsby as he crosses home plate.

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Drew slipping Hornsby some skin as he crosses home plate.

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Landon finishing out the day's activities, crosses home plate as he gives Hornsby five. Not shown in pictures was Drew catching a Drillers shirt thrown to him from the field and Landon who got a foul ball from a worker Daddy knows who always seems to have one handy for good little boys. Obviously, living in a bigger city has its advantages, but only in a city the size of Tulsa can children to do all the things the boys got to do today. It was an amazing day, the boys will hopefully remember for a long time.

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Will played his thirteenth baseball game of the season tonight against the toughest team in the league. The boys played their hearts out but just couldn't match their skills. Will started out with a solid hit off the tee.

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Will was easily safe at first.

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After another couple of hits, Will was able to cross home plate and score a run.

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Will fielded the ball in left field and threw it in with great form.

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I think will is holding his head up higher and walking with a little more confidence lately due to his terrific performance this year including his grand slam home run and the catch.

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Will got to play catcher again and did another terrific job behind the plate.

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Will walloped a coach-pitched ball his second time up to bat.

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It was a long base hit which...

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...turned into a double after being briefly held up at first.

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After another hit, Will crossed home pate again. Unfortunately, Will scored half his team's runs in a 4-22 loss to the team which would go on to win the post season tournament.

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Will had his twelfth baseball game today. He started out in left field where, as any good player known, the lower your ready position the better. Also, the coach has totally switched to handing out gum pre rather than post-game.

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Will showing off his great batting stance. I worked with Will to really open up his stance so that he would hit the ball to the third base side of the field which, at this level, would guaranty a base hit. Will got up there and took the perfect open batting stance ready to hit between the third baseman and the shortstop. The third base coach immediately stopped the action, walked down to home plate and reoriented Will's feet so they were perfectly lined up with the pitcher...

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...Will smacked the ball off the tee...right to the first baseman who, even after bobbling it, had plenty of time to step on first for an easy out. Will did exactly as he should have, he listened to his coach. Still...so frustrating.

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Next inning, Will played shortstop and got to see a lot of action. Getting a grounder coming his way.

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Throwing the ball to the pitcher.

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In the middle of the action, picking up a ground ball.

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Throwing the ball home to halt the advancing runners.

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Another grounder to the shortstop.

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Will first looks the runner back to second and...

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...then throws the ball home to get the runner trying to score.

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This picture really show Will's amazing personality. He has always been our sweet smiling child, he has the most loving and kind spirit. I hope he never grows out of it.

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Will loves to play baseball and, when not being serious on the field, there are plenty of smiles in the dugout.

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Next at bat, Will hit a coach-pitched pop fly which the other team did a nice job catching.

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A rare look at the cameraman who is usually ignored. The boys wound up losing 10 to 18 but that wasn't the whole story. Click on "continue reading" to hear me vent.

The other team only had 8 players (a foreshadowing of things to come in a future meet up) and would have had to have taken an out every time the missing ninth player came up in the batting order. Our coach, a classy guy and good sport, said he'd wouldn't enforce the rule on the other team. The first sign of what was to come was that the umpire even let this arrangement take place. Oh well, at least we could expect some good sportsmanship from the other team in return for our favor. Ha!

Where do I begin. USSSA Rule 11.17 states: "Umpires shall call 'Time' after every play and declare the ball dead. 'Time' shall be called as soon as the lead runner is not attempting to advance." We've had trouble with this rule all year. At this age, you can almost send a kid around the bases, all the way home, on every hit with only a small chance of ever being thrown out. In this context the rule is necessary and makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, this umpire appeared completely ignorant of the rule and the opposing coaches took full advantage of this fact. The other team sent their players running on more dead balls than I've ever seen before, only a few of which were called back by the umpire. A typical scenario was a runner hits the ball to the right fielder who fields the ball and the runner stops at first. He "is not attempting to advance" and, therefore, time should be called. The fielder attempts to throw the ball into the pitcher but it's not the best throw and gets past him. The first base coach improperly sends the runner to second. The pitcher gets the ball and throws it to second where the runner slides. The ball gets away and skips into center field. The runner stands up and, again he "is not attempting to advance." The third base coach is screaming and yelling for the runner to go to third. The runner finally hears the coach and takes off for third. You can guess where this is going...runner reaches third, makes no attempt to advance, ball gets away, coach yells, umpire is ignorant, runner scores. This literally happened in full or in part a dozen times. Some were so egregious as sending the first base runner who had just hit the ball and was just standing there to second after the ball was in our coaches mitt who was doing the coach pitch. One or two of these were so ridiculous, the umpire called the kid back. But, one time, they got away with it. It was so bizarre, our fielder throws the ball to the coach who was pitching and the first base coach sends his kid running. What was our coach supposed to due, throw to second base? Go tag him? It was insane!

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Other violations were just as flagrant. The other team illegally put a coach behind their catcher when their team was on defense. He would point out to the catcher where the ball was during a play if he had difficulty find it. The umpire was, again, either ignorant or complicit in violation of USSSA Rule 9.08: "Defensive coaches shall not be allowed on the field of play and shall coach from the dugout." The picture above shows from left to right, the other team's defensive coach, the umpire, the catcher and our batter swinging at a ball.

There were still other violations. Our fielder threw a ball that hit the first base coach and deflected away from our first baseman. Instead of fessing up that he had interfered with the play, he pretended that nothing happened. The umpire either didn't see it (don't know how he missed it, it wasn't like it was a play away from the ball) or didn't care. Another time the other teams runner was going from second to third and kicked the batted ball. Again, no call. Granted each of these have technical scenarios where a no call may have been proper but I can assure you, the umpire was not operating at that level whereby he saw and analyzed the play and made the judgment call in accordance with all the applicable rules. I'll eat my camera strap if that was the case.

There was also a play where there was some confusion by the other team's coaches whether the batter had hit the ball past the 20 foot fair ball arc. Our boys in the field were not the least bit confused. Our pitcher picked up the ball after it passed the arc and threw it to first. Simply enough, batter out. Oh no, since the other team was confused and the batter didn't know what to do with his coaches yelling at him to do all sorts of contradictory things, the umpire called...wait for it...wait for it...a do over!

Finally, our games are supposed to go 1:15 minutes. Spring 2013 BYB Rule 4 states: "No dead stop time limit...2 ½ innings will constitute a complete game if the home team is ahead, or 3 complete innings if the visiting team is ahead." Now with over an hour on the clock but shy of 1:15, the umpire with whooping it up with great enthusiasm, "Let's play ball!" Another inning would be played. Oddly, after the first half inning, with the visitors up by 8 and our boys about to come up to bat for the bottom of the inning, the umpire called the game citing an completely imaginary, make up, fake, bogus, "rule" that because the home team was down by more than 7 (the most allowed to be scored in an inning) and, therefore, mathematically couldn't win the game, that they would not be allowed to bat and the game would be over. One problem. That fine little bit of reasoning doesn't appear anywhere in the rules. These are six and seven year old children playing in a "recreational" league. Finishing the inning, and letting the kids play, is more important than mathematical elimination. There is no, you suck so you can't play rule. The interesting thing was that the umpire who, just a few minutes earlier, was yelling and jumping up and down excited about letting the boys play more ball, all of a sudden made a manic-depressive swing and was telling everyone the game was over...with the enthusiastic agreement of the opposing coaches who were telling their kids to "line up" just seconds after the last out. I literally couldn't make sense of the situation until I realized later that standings in post season might turn on runs scored/allowed if two teams had the same win/loss record during the regular season. But, that would be such an absurd reason for such behavior especially given the quality umpiring and outstanding sportsmanship exhibited by the other team during...oh wait...never mind.

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May 22 2013

Will - The Catch

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Will had his eleventh baseball game of the season this evening. The game will be forever remembered for "the catch." It all started out ordinarily enough with Will playing catcher.

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Throwing one back to the pitcher.

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In his first at bat, Will hit a coach-pitched ball for an easy base hit.

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I love the image of the just dropped bat as Will is checking out where he hit the ball while transitioning to running to first base; so much going on.

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A batter or two later Will was safe at third but there was some kind of miscommunication between the runner behind him and the third base coach so the runner kept going when he should have stayed at second. In an attempt to remedy the situation, the coach sent Will home which resulted in Will being tagged out at the plate.

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Will went to left field perhaps a little frustrated at being sent home only be easily tagged out.

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Always the professional, Will shrugged it off and focused on his job. He settled into his ready position and concentrated on the game.

Now at this point you must understand the other team wasn't hitting the ball very well. Actually, that's an understatement. I don't think they had even hit a grounder into the outfield, let alone anything resembling a fly ball. I had taken a very relaxed position with my arms folded and resting on the chest high fence. My camera mounted on its monopod rested in the crook of my elbow as I casually enjoyed the game. I had taken the above two pics of Will taking the field and, given the other team's hitting struggles, it wasn't like I was going to miss anything. Certainly not anything spectacular.

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And then I heard a crack of the bat. The ball was traveling to left field...where Will was playing. I quickly grabbed the camera and pointed it at Will and clicked away. I missed getting the ball coming down but did manage to get the ball just as it went into Will's mitt. He caught it!!! During the entire season there were maybe three or four catches on his team but all of those were in the infield. This was the first caught ball in the outfield for his team this year and Will's first catch ever in a game!

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Will's great catch. I asked Will after the game what's the secret to catching the ball and he responded, "Well, first you have to move to it." And, that he did.

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Throwing his catch back to the infield.

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Now here is something you don't see Mr. Serious ever doing much...smiling during a game. Not only was Will smiling, but he couldn't wipe the smile off his face. He kept smiling most of the inning. Oh, and Will's daddy may have been yelling just a wee bit too.

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There was another hit to left field but, this time, just a grounder. Will picked the ball up while watching the runners and figuring out where he needed to throw it.

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Great form on the throw.

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Putting some serous shoulder torque on his throw.

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Next time up, Will got a base hit off the tee.

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Getting five from the first base coach.

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Crossing home plate for another run. Will's team went on to win 16 to 8 in the game forever marked by "the catch."

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Today was the second day of Drew's Claremore tournament. The other team was hitting really well with a couple going to right field. This one was hit over Drew's head.

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Drew picking up the ball all the way at the fence.

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Drew popped up quick looking for the cutoff man.

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Giving it his all from the fence in right field.

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Drew had never been hit by a ball while batting...until today.

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The previous photo with the blurry ball was right before Drew was hit. This is Drew right after he was hit as the ball bounced off of his back.

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Ouch! Everyone in the stands winced. Drew took a few seconds then toughed it out and took his base.

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Drew taking a nice lead off of first base.

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And, an even bigger lead off of second base.

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Finally, safe at home.

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Drew throwing the cutoff man, with the ball in midair, in a play almost exactly like the previous one. Drew also had a couple of good backups (but not good photos) behind first base where in kept the runner from going to second.

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The next time up at bat, Drew smacked one as hard as he'd ever hit one before. I think he was taking revenge on the ball for hitting him the last time up. It was a line drive to the outfield that went hard into the outfield fence. Unfortunately, Drew swung so fast that he was ahead of the ball and hit it barely 3 or 4 inches foul of third base.

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Now that is the look of intensity!

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Drew's second at bat ended on this terrific swing. I swear looking at the pictures, there must have been a hole in his bat as Drew was dead on with great form, good eye on the ball, perfect timing, everything right, but somehow the ball went right though his bat. Nothing wrong with getting out on a strong swing. Despite being close, Drew's team wound up losing the game.

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Drew had a war wound the next day.

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Game two today started with a strike out. Nonetheless, I liked this photo since you can see the ball in the catcher's mitt which I don't think I'd ever captured before.

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Drew had a really hard ground ball hit to him in right field which he just missed getting in front of.

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Throwing to his cut off man from the fence.

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Drew hit a long one to the outfield in his next at bat. An RBI is in the background over Drew's right shoulder. It was such a good hit that the coach sent the runner on second home...

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...but the opposing team had a couple of good throws. In the background you can see our runner just about to be tagged. It was a close play but the umpire said he was tagged in the chest before his foot hit the plate.

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Our right fielder colliding with our shortstop who had called for the fly ball with unfortunate but predictable results. Fortunately, though, our team wound up winning its second game of the day.

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Drew had another tournament in Claremore this weekend.

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In his first at bat, Drew struck out but check out those triceps and forearm muscles!

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There wasn't a lot of action in right field during the game. And, by that, I mean there was no action in right field...nadda...nothing. Some days, that's the way it is.

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Drew got a walk his second time at bat and is happy to be on first base.

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Drew is taking a serous major league lead off of first base.

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The other team had some pitching problems and everyone took a rest while a new pitcher warmed up.

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Jumping over the bat and safe at home.

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The third time up to bat, Drew got a base hit.

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Running to first base with an RBI in the background.

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Safe at first base.

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Getting five from the first base coach.

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If you compare the two, you can see that Drew is even happier to be on first after getting a hit than after getting a walk.

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After a stop a second, Drew is rounding third as he is hit home.

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Safe at home plate again as Drew's team won their first game of the tournament.

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Will was in a happy mood after taking the field right before the game and made a goofy face when he spotted me focused in on him.

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Starting at second base, Will was in his ready position.

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The ball was hit to the shortstop and Will made a beeline to second base to receive the throw but the shortstop, instead, tried to run the ball to second base for the force out but it only resulted in a traffic jam and the runner being safe.

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Baseball has been getting too easy for Will so he has, apparently, decided to make it more difficult by playing with his eyes closed. Despite not being able to see the ball, Will still managed to get a coach-pitched base hit.

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Will, eyes open, heading for first base.

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Ready to take off from second base.

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High-fives with the coach at third base.

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Now in right field, Will is ready for a busy inning with what appears to be a mouth full of gum.

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Backing up first base, Will shows his form as he throws the ball to second base.

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Will throws the ball in from right field with all his might.

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Throwing to the cut-off man.

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Will smacking another base hit.

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Will was safe at first but wound up stranded on base as his team lost a close one 14-17.

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Will getting his first hit of the night. Also, notice his new bling around his neck. There was a booth at Drew's tournament over the weekend that had literally hundreds of color combinations. At only $5 a piece and with the profits supposedly going to some charity, we told the boys they could each get one. Will was very excited to pick out a necklace matching his uniform. Drew, mister practical, didn't see how it would make him play better, so why get one. Landon, just wanted to do what Drew did. So, only Will got one.

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Easily safe at first base.

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Will getting a good sized step off first base.

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Crossing home plate.

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Will's team has second base well covered.

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Will throwing one in from right field. Will played right field and second base. The coach has been working really hard with the kids and it has paid off. Will was backing up first and covering second like a pro!

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I love this and the next photo. It looks like Will is arguing with the umpire and then, below, is dejected when he didn't get his way.

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In reality, Will and the umpire were simply discussing the height of the tee as Will wanted, and got, it lowered a bit. This photo is just Will chomping on his gum which the coach gave the boys at the start of the game instead of his usual practice of handing it out at the end of the game.

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Will smacked a high one after he got the tee set at the height he wanted.

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Will easily safe at first base again.

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Will hit in the seventh run to end inning. The boys won the game 21 to 7 which normally isn't important as long as the boys try their best, have fun and learn a little. But, this was a little sweet as some of the parents on the opposing team were complete @$$#$!

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We're back at it for day two of Drew's Bixby tournament. It's still cold but, at least, it's not raining. Drew and I talked about keeping his hand warm. I suggested pulling his hand up into his sleeve and after he worked on quickly popping it out a few times, he went with it.

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Drew had some great swings and a couple of foul balls but wound up striking out swinging. Nothing wrong with that. The only thing his coach doesn't like is striking out looking.

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Drew chasing down a ball hit down the line.

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Throwing the ball in from deep right field.

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The second, and last, time Drew was up to bat, the umpire called this first pitch a strike. It was clearly low and inside...well below Drew's knees. Now behind and with a strike zone the size of, I don't know, something huge, Drew was a bit rattled and wound up striking out again. Actually, there were a lot of strike outs as the team just didn't have their bats today resulting in a disappointing loss and end of the tournament.

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I thought this was cute. Chick-fil-A's motto is Eat More Chicken or actually "Eat Mor Chikin" since it's cows with poor spelling skills who make the signs. Chick-fil-A sponsors the foul ball poles which say, "Eat Mor Fowl."

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Drew had a tournament in Bixby today and it was freezing! And, raining! Regardless, we were ready to play at 9:00 a.m. And, with the second game starting at 10:45 a.m., we'd have plenty of time to make it to the boys' 2:00 p.m. recital. Or, so we thought.

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Even in the cold, Drew was on the ball backing up first.

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Thanks to Drew's efforts, the runner was held up on first base despite the wild throw.

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The game wound up being delayed during the bottom of the first inning due to...wait for it...sleet and hail...in May! Ya gotta love Oklahoma weather.

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Drew was freezing. He had no feeling in his right hand. Drew and I immediately took the opportunity of the delay to grab some hot chocolate and hot dogs and head for the car to warm up. The hot chocolate turned out to be undrinkable since it was boiling but the dogs helped warm our tummies a little. Mama, Will and Landon were under a tarp so they waited about 30 minutes before joining us in the car. After a two hour delay and indication that any game wasn't going to start for at least another hour, we had to tell the coach Drew was going to have to miss the games. And, off to get ready for the recital we went. Drew's team wound up winning one game and losing one game without Drew.

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Apr 29 2013

Grand Slam Home Run!

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In his first at bat of the game, Will hit a grand slam home run!!! I was looking through my viewfinder and heard the loudest smack of the bat that I've heard all season. The ball went all the way to the right field fence.

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Right before Will laid some serous hurt on the ball.

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Will maintained perfect eye contact with the ball as he sent it flying.

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On his way to first base, you can see the runner that was on third going home in the background.

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Rounding first base, with the coach sending Will on, and the runner that was on second base just now touching third in the background.

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Will rounding first base with the runner that was on first now making his way to third.

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Rounding second base.

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Rounding third base, already starting to smile, the coach sends Will home!

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Will stepping on home plate completing his grand slam home run!

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High five from the coach after Will's grand slam home run.

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Will, playing right field, backing up a play by the second baseman.

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Will hit a coach pitched ball on his next at bat for a long base hit.

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Safe at first base where Will wound up stranded.

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All the rest of the photos are from the same play. A grounder was hit to Will, now playing left center. The runner that was on first base was heading to second but there was no one for Will to throw the ball to, so the race was on.

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Will and the runner both racing to second base.

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Will just about to put his foot on the base while the runner is still half a step away.

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Everyone is celebrating Will's force out at second base. And, look at the interaction between Will and the runner...

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...Will is not not making a face or, otherwise, doing anything inappropriate, but he sure is letting the runner know that this is his base! Our happy-go-lucky goofy kid is a different person of the field. It was an amazing game that Will will remember for a long time. His grand slam home run didn't win the game but it did prevent a loss as the boys tied 14 to 14.

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Drew had a baseball tournament in Pryor today. Drew's team is all 9 year-olds while the tournament was for teams with 9 and 10 year-olds. The two teams we played today had some really big boys. Our three biggest kids won't be anywhere near their size next year. I'd bet almost anything we saw at least one 11 year old today. Needless to say, the pitchers we faced threw faster/harder than our boys were used to. Despite great form and keeping his eye perfectly on the ball, Drew just missed this one.

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Several of our boys got hit by pitches today. This one just missed Drew's head. Drew was able to hang in for a full count but then went after a low one at his knees and missed it. Despite striking out, he really held his own against a fast throwing slightly wild pitcher.

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One ball made it through to right field. Drew snatched it up and held the runner to a single.

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We lost the first game by quite a margin. While the fields were in playable condition, they were still pretty wet from last night's rain as can be seen by third base here.

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The second game started out great with our boys getting two quick outs but it was an eternity until we got the third out. The runner was called out on this play which may have not been the correct call. However, the play did provide an opportunity for the other team's parents to reveal their utter lack of class let alone anything resembling sportsmanship. One parent even had to be told to leave the park because he had come to his kid's baseball game drunk. Nice.

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Drew ready in right field.

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Drew only got to bat once in each game. This time up he hit the ball as hard as any of his teammates had today. Unfortunately, he hit it to the first baseman. A few feet to either side and he might have had extra bases.

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I was proud of Drew, despite being easily out, he gave it all his effort racing to first and never letting up.

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Drew did a great job getting his glove on the ground and scooping up this ground ball.

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Drew immediately sprang up to throw the ball in. The team lost this one by another large margin. Afterward, all the boys and their parents went to JL's Barbeque to drown our sorrows with some terrific food.

The next morning, while Drew was at his last religious education class, the team played exceptionally well getting ahead by 7 points only to barely lose 8 to 9 to end the tournament. Despite the loss, the boys proved they could compete with the older boys and are still getting better with every game.

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Will's team has had two rain outs so I'm sure the league was anxious to try and get tonight's game in so as not to extend the season past the school year. Unfortunately, it was really cold and rainy and the game never should have even started. I took this with my iPhone right before the game began. Mama and Landon turned to smile but their jackets didn't turn with them. If you don't see a lot of spectators in the pictures its because there were not a lot of spectators.

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Will played shortstop but the ball never came his was during the inning. Clearly the weather dulled his enthusiasm but despite the cold and rain, Will never once complained.

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Right there...standing in the rain, ready to step up to home plate...is the moment a child realized adults aren't necessarily all that bright.

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Did I say home plate? I meant, home mud pit.

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A coach stepped right in front of me when Will got his base hit. So this is the foul ball swing right before.

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A very muddy first base.

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Will at third base. Notice the lack of other baseball games and people in the background.

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Crossing home plate in the rain. The game was finally called at the end of one inning arguably following up the poor decision to start playing with the poor decision to not let the them finish.

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Finally, an iPhone self-pic I shot during the game. The small image simply does not do justice to the wonderful conditions, so click the pic for the full size. Note, the camera and lens were unaffected by the weather. Canon builds a great product!

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Will getting his first hit of the evening.

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Easily safe at first.

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Five from the first base coach for a getting a great hit.

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Will is just a blur as he is about to step on home plate.

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Ready in left field.

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Will just about to hit a coach-pitched ball for his second hit of the night making him 2 for 2 for the game.

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Running though first base. Will later wound up being forced out at home plate when a batter hit a dribbler to the pitcher.

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Will got to play catcher again.

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Danz knees don't like to squat. Will did a great job standing up behind the plate.

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Being catcher means lots of throws back to the pitcher.

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Pure fielder form behind the plate.

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Daddy had to get lots of pictures from different angles.

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Will did a great job of not letting the ball get by him.

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Great throwing form.

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Will ended the game playing second base. Aunt Donelda was in town for Landon's birthday celebration and got to see a great game where Will played in the outfield, infield and catcher as well as going 2 for 2 in an exciting 15 to11 victory.

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The weather was so amazing today that I took off work a little early to play with the boys in the backyard before Will's game. Landon has been learning from his brothers and has developed quite a swing. He can easily send a wiffle ball across the yard.

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Will played a great game tonight going 3 for 3 from the plate.

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You can see the ball on the way to first as Will easily beats the throw.

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With the ball hit to the shortstop, Will was able to use his speed to beat out the tag. Will eventually scored but I was completely blocked from getting any pictures by coaches moving about.

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Will ready at second base.

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Will getting down low for a hard hit grounder.

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The ball took a bad hop but Will was ready for it!

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Will holding a runner on second base.

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Will getting ready to smack his second hit of the evening.

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Will whacked a long one into the outfield allowing him to make a casual run to first base as the coach signaled to hold up.

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The coach said something funny to Will, maybe asking him if he wanted a drink. It made Will crack an uncharacteristic in-game smile.

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Thanks to the coach's joke to Will, I got this rare smile to the camera.

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Will safe at home for the second time tonight. Of course, the catcher was literally standing directly on home plate.

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I think Will stepped on the corner of the plate but, just to be sure, he went back and gave it another tap just in case.

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Will showing his ready position.

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Will getting his third hit of the evening.

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A fist pound from his coach at third base before being stranded there to end the game. Despite a great effort the boys wound up losing 14-21.

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Will started the game off playing catcher. It was the most amazing thing. Despite playing a full inning as catcher he never had the opportunity to touch the ball. The first four boys of the opposing team all hit the very first pitch thrown to them. One of the first batters was thrown out at first and the last batter hit into a double play. No ball ever crossed the plate!

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On his first at bat, Will hit the ball right down the first base line. The first baseman practically grabbed it while touching first. We keep working on Will's stance to aid in hitting to the left side of the field, but theory is hard to put into practice when you're in first grade.

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Will is watching the ball sail into the outfield on his second at bat.

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Getting five from the first base coach for a great coach-pitched hit.

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Will got caught off base after a fly ball that no one thought would be caught. All the runners took off and, I think, even the coaches were initially telling the runners to run. But, after an amazing catch, Will was practically at second before he had to run back to first. The shortstop was one step behind Will the whole way and never would have caught him except for Will slowing down at the end so as to not overrun the base.

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Will is serious on the field but, in the dugout, his smile lets everyone know how much enjoys playing baseball. The boys wound up losing a close one 12-14.

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A little bit of silly for the camera.

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Will is ready to play ball in his third game of the season.

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Will started out at second base. Although he was always ready, no ball ever came near him.

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Will's first at bat resulted in a sharp hit ball...right to the first baseman with predictable results.

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Next up for Will was his brother's position, right field.

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Will demonstrated perfect form his next time up at bat and hit a long single.

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Taking it easy at first base.

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Will, again, demonstrating his remarkable ability to avoid touching home plate. Fortunately, there's never been any adverse consequence as he's always been able to quickly turn back and touch the plate.

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Now in left field, Will always maintained a sharp focus on the game.

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Will's team won this one fairly easy19-13.

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Will had his second game of the season tonight but, unfortunately, it conflicted with Drew's practice so I only got to see about half the game. This is will getting his first hit of the night.

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Safe at first despite slowing down to avoid colliding with the first baseman. We'll save plowing through the defensive player in your way until we're much older.

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Getting five from the coach for making a good hit.

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A rare glimpse at the camera, probably just done so the cameraman would stop yelling, "Great hit Will!"

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Do you think Will is happy to get to third base? Unfortunately, he wound up being stranded there.

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A little left field ready position before I had to leave to pick up Drew. Later, Will got to play catcher.

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The boys wound up playing to a tie 17-17 in this fun offensive battle.

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After winning two games yesterday, Drew's team won a game this morning which Drew had to miss due to Religious Education. Their fourth game of the tournament this afternoon was a tough one. Drew did his usual terrific job of backing up first and second base. Here his hard work stopped the runner from advancing to second.

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one tells the outcome of the game more than I can. Drew didn't even get a chance to bat before the hard time limit ended the game. The other team went on to win the tournament. Our boys played terrific winning three games before losing to the ultimate champions. Great job boys!

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Drew's team played two baseball games today in a tournament in Claremore.

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I've been watching right fielders on other teams and not one works as hard as Drew does in right field. Drew backs up every possible play without reward, making certain he's there that one time a ball gets past another fielder.

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The boys played two games today. Each game Drew struck out once and got to first base once. This time, Drew used his speed and quick thinking to beat out a dropped third strike. In the background you can see the coach giving five to the runner that scored on the play.

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Drew running home where he wound up scoring.

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Landon has and will continue to see more baseball games than...I don't know what. He's a great little brother cheering on his two best friends.

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Now that Will is playing himself, he enjoys watching Drew even more.

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The Stixx won their first game. Drew resting up between games.

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After striking out, Drew got to first on a walk.

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Drew wound up scoring again.

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With a runner on second, the other team hit one to short right field. Drew quickly picked it up but there was no one ready for him to throw it to.

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Knowing he should never just stand with the ball, Drew ran the ball in and took control keeping the runners on first and third.

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Another hit to right field scooped up by Drew.

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Drew tried to get the runner out at first (like he did once last year) but just missed. The ball just wasn't hit hard enough to him to be able to get the runner out. Drew's team won their second game of the day and should be well placed when the sudden death tournament starts tomorrow.

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Will had his first baseball game of the season this evening. Here he is warming up before the game.

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Catching a ball during warmups.

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Will demonstrating his perfect throwing form.

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Will's team, the Patriots, getting one last talk from their coach before the game.

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Will in the dugout waiting for his turn at bat.

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This year is coach pitch/tee ball for Will. First the kids a chance to hit the ball pitched by their coach and if they get three strikes, they get to hit off the tee. In his first at bat, Will smacked one thrown by his coach.

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Will was easily safe at first with his first hit of the year.

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Will getting a high-five from his coach at first base.

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Ready to run to second, Will watches the batter.

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Will at second base.

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On the next hit, Will used his great speed to blow past third and go straight for home.

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Unfortunately, Will was running so fast that he stepped right over home plate without touching it.

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No problem, Will knew he missed it and was able to go back and make his run official.

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This is what baseball is all about...look at that grin!

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It was cold and I don't think either team hit one into the outfield. Certainly, nothing came anywhere near Will in center field the whole game. While other players were literally doing handstands during the game, Will maintained his concentration on every batter. He never once kicked at the dirt or, otherwise, goofed off. Will's ready position deteriorated slightly as the game progressed but given the absolute lack of activity he did amazing for a first grader.

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The second time up to bat the coach pitches were less than optimal and Will wound up having to hit off the tee. I'm still learning where the various coaches like to stand...and move...so I got a little blocked capturing Will get his second hit off the tee.

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Watching his second hit, Will takes off from home plate. He finished the game 2 for 2.

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Will at first base.

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Will at second base...with a grin on his face.

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This time around, Will made a stop at third base.

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Will was more careful this time and was able to just nick the edge of home plate as he scored another run for his team. As the result of some great hitting and some fine fielding, Will's team won their first game of the year 14-2.

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Drew's team continued their Hilti tournament last night...and today. Their Monday game was cancelled. They played Tuesday. No game Wednesday. The team played Thursday but Drew, and the coaches son, had to miss the game to perform in the third grade Sing Me a Song musical. The team won so they played again Friday night but the game was interrupted when a lightening storm started up. So, we finished the game today. Since Drew's team is so good, they decided to give the other team 7 runs last night and start the day down 0-7.

Drew chased down this ball hit between him and the center fielder. The second base cut-off is doing exactly what he's supposed to do, waiving his hands giving Drew a highly visible target to throw to. Shortly after this, the game was called due to lightening.

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We started up today exactly where we left off last night. High pitches to the boys are like government programs to liberals; they are irresistible no matter how bad they are. Drew wound up hitting this one foul.

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Same picture as above but worth another look at Drew's grimace. Great game face!

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Drew hit this low one for an infield grounder. The team played great and today, scoring 7 runs and holding the other team to just one run. Unfortunately with the lead they gave their opponents last night, we wound up losing 7-8 in a heart breaker.

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Drew had his first baseball game of the season this year. It was cold, somewhere in the upper 40s! But, Drew dressed warm and played a great game. Here he is going after a line drive hit down the first base line.

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Throwing the ball in. Drew kept the runner from going to second!

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Drew is the hardest working right fielder ever. He backs up every play and is always there when a ball gets past.

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Drew struck out the first time up at bat but hit a long single his second time up. You might think the ball in the upper right corner of the picture is too high to try to hit. But, remember, this is the first game of the first year of kid pitch and good pitchers are few and far between. Not to mention, there is a little bit of arc on the pitch.

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The above pitch is the one Drew hit into the outfield. And, just to make things a little more difficult, he did it with his eyes closed. Drew's hit led off a come from behind rally in the bottom of the third inning resulting in him scoring the winning run in an exciting 11 to 10 victory!

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Tonight, we all attended Boy Scout Night at the University of Tulsa's Donald W. Reynolds Center to see the Tulsa Hurricane men's basketball team play the University of Houston Cougars.

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Mama and her boys enjoying a terrific basketball game.

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The Hurricane won the game in a thrilling triple overtime victory.

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Besides a great game, the boys all received a patch commemorating the evening.

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Tonight we went to see the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. This is the Globetrotters' mascot Globie with Drew, Landon and Will.

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Before the game the boys got to go on the court and participate in various activities with some of the players. This is Landon spinning a ball on his fingers with just a little help from the Globetrotters' Spider Wilks.

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Spider Wilks helping Will spin a basketball on his finger.

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Finally, Drew spinning a basketball on his finger with Spider Wilks' help. Keep in mind, Spider is 6'7" tall.

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The Harlem Globetrotters include Tiny (Paul) Sturgess who is recognized by Guinness World Records as the World's Tallest Professional Basketball Player at 7'7.26".

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I had always wanted to see the Harlem Globetrotters with Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal as a child but never got to. So, I splurged a little and got us all courtside seats for the game/performance.

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The Harlem Globetrotters famous magic circle warmup.

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There's not much of a point having a jump ball with Tiny Sturgess.

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Spider Wilks hides behind a young boy sitting next to us.

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Landon enjoying the show put on by the Globetrotters.

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Hawk slam dunking one for the Harlem Globetrotters.

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Well, this just doesn't seem fair. Globetrotters Jet Williams climbed on top of the backboard to block a shot.

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Fulfilling Meadowlark Lemon's role of master of ceremonies, Special K Daley delighted the crowd with his showmanship.

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Hammer Harrison double-slam dunks two basketballs.

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Globie sat down next to me during the game, so I whipped out the cellphone and snapped a picture of us.

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In true Globetrotter form, Special K was constantly giving the referees a hard time.

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Women's basketballer T-Time Brawner (No. 6) and 5'2" Too Tall Hall (No. 7) run the Global Select players in circles. Brawner fulfilled Curly Neal's roll of giving a dribbling exhibition while sliding all over the court. The opposing team, long known as the Washington Generals was recently split into the "International Elite" and the "Global Select."

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Special K going after someone with a bucket of water.

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The fans got lucky...it was only a bucket of confetti this time.

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The Harlem Globetrotters Firefly Fisher inbounding the ball next to us.

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Firefly Fisher and Special K Daley, along with some Global Selects, performed an amazing replay, backwards and slow motion of a disputed play.

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Firefly Fisher with a beach ball which, when combined with some terrific showmanship, made it look like they were playing basketball in slow motion.

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Firefly Fisher with a 4-point jumpshot. This was the Harlem Globetrotters You Write the Rules World Tour. Fans online and the audience at the game voted on what rules to follow for each quarter among: two basketballs, double points, 4-point shot, 6 on 5 and penalty box. I only recall the first three being used but, perhaps, I missed one or they did one twice.

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Globetrotters Jet Williams slamming one home.

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The boys really enjoyed watching the Harlem Globetrotters.

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Tonight was Scout Night at the Tulsa 66ers professional basketball team. The 66ers play in the NBA's D-League and are the Oklahoma City Thunder's developmental team. The Boy Scouts Color Guard carried in the American flag for the National Anthem.

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All the scouts got to high-five the players when they were announced at the beginning of the game. Drew and Will are in the center getting ready to greet the starting lineup.

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The Tulsa 66ers' Rodney Bartholomew in home team white jumping against the visiting Austin Toros' Tyler Wilkerson in black in the opening tip-off.

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Tulsa 66ers Andy Rautins lays one in.

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Tulsa 66ers Chris Quinn with a jumper from outside.

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Tulsa 66ers Dominique Sutton at the free throw line.

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An enlargement of the above photo shows Dominique Sutton wearing an In Jesus Name I Play bracelet...very cool. Several of the players appeared to be wearing them and most of the players were wearing bracelets of one kind or another.

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Chris Quinn with a terrific no look pass.

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Chris Quinn with another jumper.

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Tulsa 66ers Travis Hyman laying one in close to the rim.

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Andy Rautins gets off a three-pointer.

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Tulsa 66ers Hollis Thompson getting hacked as he takes it strong to the hoop.

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Tulsa 66ers Tony Taylor makes a sweet move to the basket.

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Austin Toros Jamarr Sanders slams one home. The 66ers had a great slam dunk too...but I missed getting a shot of it.

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Tulsa 66ers Travis Hyman, up in the air, going under the basket for a shot.

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Dominique Sutton lays one in.

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Drew, Will and Landon after enjoying the Tulsa 66ers 96-87 victory over the Austin Toros.

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Oct 27 2012

Tulsa Run 2012

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This morning we all ran in the Tulsa Run 2k Fun Run. Will, Landon and Drew all bundled up and ready to run. The morning started out below freezing and only warmed up to about 35 by the end of the race. One saving grace, there was almost no wind.

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Uncle David ran with his nephews again. He was Will's partner as the Danz Family broke up into three groups: Drew and Daddy, Will and Uncle David, and Mama and Landon

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The Danz Family ready for the 2012 Tulsa Run.

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This was a special year for Landon as it was his first year to run without the stroller.

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Landon even got to see Elmo during the race!

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Drew and Daddy's race results from the Nike+ Running app. It is amazing all the information it gathers. The only oddity is that the start is all green which does not show Drew's jackrabbit start. Otherwise, it reflects quite well Drew's run-walk race strategy.

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We all drove up to Kansas City for cousins Caroline and Charlotte's baptism. We took the opportunity to take in a Kansas City Royal's game against the Los Angeles Angels with the Madisons. The four boys just outside Kauffman Stadium before the game.

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Before we got to our seats, I took a few overlapping photos which I have combined here into a gigantic panorama of Kauffman Stadium. Click on the photo to launch a 11,373 x 3048 pixel, 4 MB, view from the right field corner. Once loaded, right click "View Image" for an automatic re-size (at least in Windows 7).

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The Royals' high-definition scoreboard is 84 ft. wide and 105 ft. tall and was the largest high-def LED display in the world when it started service in 2008. On game days, the scoreboard requires a staff of 17 people to operate.

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The American flag unfurled on the field for the National Anthem.

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A pair of A-10 Thunderbolts (Warthogs) make a flyover at the end of the National Anthem.

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The boys pose next to a living baseball statue. You can tell they weren't comfortable getting too close to the "statue."

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Drew and Will were much braver the second time around posing with this Army man. Landon, however, would have nothing to do with him.

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Free camouflage baseball hats (in Royals colors of course), giant flag, fly over, Army men, all could mean just one thing...Armed Forces Day.

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The boys and Mama in the right field bleachers enjoying a Royals game.

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One of our twin cousins enjoying the game strapped to her Daddy.

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Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar hitting a single to left field in the bottom of the first inning.

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Alcides Escobar diving back to first base after drawing the pitcher's attention with a huge lead off.

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Angels Torii Hunter gives it everything he's got in a throw in from right field.

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After a walk, Royals Eric Hosmer steals second base in the bottom of the second inning.

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Hosmer was safe, but it couldn't have been any closer. I would not want to be an umpire...of any sport. Our modern day instant replays and super zoom HD cameras have warped our opinions of play callers whose skills are often as great as those on the playing field.

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Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie making covering first look easy. There were several times during the game that the pitchers had to cover first and every time they pulled off this underrated play flawlessly.

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Royals second baseman Johnny Giavotella catching a fly ball.

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Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie pitched a good game and left after eight innings allowing two runs on five hits. Guthrie was replaced by Kelvin Herrera who threw a scoreless ninth inning.

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After the last bathroom break of the evening, I took a picture of the boys with the park behind them. Down 2-0 at the start of the bottom of the ninth, there's nothing left to do but pack up and get ready to go home...

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...with a man on first, Royals Billy Butler smacked a two run homer to tie up the game. I had packed away my zoom lens and was only partially paying attention to the game, but I did get lucky and was able to capture the ball (blur against the green wall) going over the center field fence. (Just peeking above the head of the fan with his left hand raised is the red hat of the Angels center fielder.)

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The very next batter up was Salvador Perez who hit a walk off home run to end the game in grand style. Notice the little blur hitting the left field foul pole, that's Perez's home run right as it hit the pole.

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A close up view of the ball hitting the left field foul pole for a game winning home run.

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The crowd went wild when Perez hit his game winner. You can see the smoke in front of the fountains where the canon just fired to celebrate the home run.

In glorious hindsight, the Angels' managers' decision to pull their pitcher, Zack Greinke, who held the Royals scoreless for 8 1/3 innings was an incredibly dumb move. His replacement, Ernesto Frieri, needed just four pitches to give up two home runs and lose the game.

Greinke said afterward: "It was pretty amazing. I don't think I've ever seen back-to-back homers to walk off like that. I don't know if it's ever happened. You don't see that I think ever."

It was probably the most amazing game I've seen in person in my life. Thanks Madisons for suggesting we go!

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Jul 30 2012

Swim Lessons

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Landon at the start of his swim lesson.

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All relaxed floating on his back with a little help from his instructor.

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Head in the water and practicing some kicking.

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Will is all ready for his swim lesson too.

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It was safety day and each of the boys got to practice with a lifejacket.

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No one smiles as much as Will.

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Drew starting a standing dive.

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Gliding and kicking under the water.

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Finally, Drew practicing his backstroke.

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Drew had his final tournament and baseball game this weekend in Claremore with two games yesterday and two more today. The team played the best they had all year and well deserved their first place finish! As seen here, Drew hit the ball every time he was at bat.

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With the boys playing well, there were lots of smiles to go around.

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One of the many times Drew crossed home plate over the weekend.

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Eye on the ball and another hit for Drew.

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A hand pound with the first base coach after another great hit.

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All smiles at first base.

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It's all about the teamwork. This pop fly was hit right between the shortstop and the third baseman. It wound up in the third baseman's glove. A great catch.

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Drew whacking another one...somehow with his eyes closed.

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Safe at first.

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This ball is about to get smacked.

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More smiles at first.

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Drew on third base watching a fly ball to see when he can go home.

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Drew's last hit of the season, or close thereto since I didn't get pictures of all of them. Drew finished as one of the most consistent hitters on his team.

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One last smile at first base.

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Drew's tournament team, the Stixx, showing off their first place trophies. Drew finished the year with three trophies, this one and two others for second place finishes in Sapulpa and Broken Arrow. Thanks to all the coaches for their hard work. It was a great season.

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Drew had a baseball tournament this weekend in Sapulpa with two games yesterday and three games today. Needless to say, we are all very tired. Drew did great hitting the ball every time he was at bat and getting on base most of those times. In this photo, I finally captured the elusive ball on bat.

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Either Drew is calling himself safe or he overshot the base a little bit. Either way, it all worked out as he was safe at second.

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Drew getting the signal from the third base coach to go home!

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With five games, there were lots of scoring at home plate.

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Drew hitting low one.

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The shortstop on the left who made a great catch (you can just see the ball in the glove next to the Nike swoosh) got some assistance from the third baseman.

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A great leaping catch of a line drive by our second baseman.

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This is just a sampling of all the hits Drew got some of which I captured on video.

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There was a pileup at second base which resulted in Drew being thrown out.

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I love the lighting on this photo of Drew taking off from second base while he watches a pop fly to make certain it's not going to be caught.

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Throwing one in from deep in the outfield.

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Will taking it easy as he watches one of Drew's five games.

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Drew and the boys played their hearts out all weekend winning the first four games of the tournament but just barely lost the championship game in extra innings to finish second place. Congratulations Stixx!

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May 26 2012

Oklahoma Rodeo

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Our three little cowboys and a horse friend they met at our second rodeo tonight in Sand Springs. This time we all went together to enjoy an evening at the rodeo and to see Will mutton bust.

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I love the start of the rodeo, nothing like the American Flag being ridden in on horseback.

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American and Oklahoma Flags lined up for the National Anthem which was belted out awesomely by the young girl on the third horse from the left.

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Will, top left, in the chutes checking things out as he gets ready to do some mutton busting.

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And he's off! Will doing an awesome job riding his sheep!!!

A video of Will getting in the chute, getting on his sheep and mutton busting. Special thanks to John, a good friend of ours, who helped Will both last time and tonight get on his sheep so that Daddy could take pictures/video. John is also a great calf roper or, at least, so we've heard since we haven't been able to see him rope because he keeps drawing slots that are around midnight.

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This young man did a terrific job of saddle bronc riding and he was kind enough to ride right by the stands in front of us so that I could get some amazing pictures.

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I'm not too sure that horse wants him on his back.

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The bronc added a twist to this kick.

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Catching some air off the saddle.

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Look at all the gear fly out, that is some serous hanging on he is doing.

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That bronc could not shake this rider. It was a terrific ride!

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A calf roper at the start of his ride.

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This calf ain't waiting around for nobody.

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He just got the rope around the calf and is slamming the brakes on his horse.

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Before the rope even gets taught, the cowboy is flying off his horse. The horse knows to keep the rope taught and will pull back on the rope. Notice that it stays taught in the following pictures even though he's no longer being told what to do by his rider.

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Time to pick up the calf...

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...and get him on his side.

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Now to tie up the feet...

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...Done!

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Drew had an awesome game tonight with perfect fielding and going three for three at the plate including a long triple his first at bat that should have been a home run.

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Drew was easily safe at third with a triple, meanwhile the other team was still working on getting the ball in from the outfield. Drew could have gone home and almost certainly not been thrown out. The third base coach is the head coach's son...really great kid, but perhaps a little too cautious. Drew wound up stranded at third. The head coach and I both razzed his son about not sending Drew home.

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Drew at third, just a little proud of his triple.

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The team was just a little bit off their game tonight, but Drew was always on the ball backing up first, second, and center field. There was never a play at first that Drew wasn't there behind it.

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Drew's second hit of the night.

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Safe at first.

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One of the many balls Drew snagged backing up first base. Most of the time, being right there stopped the runner from ever going to second. His hard work stopped a bunch of extra base hits and prevented a couple of runs.

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Drew's third hit of the night.

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Drew's gotten faster at running this past year...he doesn't even bother touching the ground anymore.

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Will had his twelfth and last baseball game of the season tonight. The team really played great. Will put on a hitting clinic going 4 for 4 for the night.

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It was Will's turn to play left center tonight. Here he is throwing one in from the out field.

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Another solid hit for Will.

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Perhaps because it was the end of the season and the kids' attention spans were at their limits, but there were some serious sillies going on. In response, the coach pulled the third baseman (who I must say was making some nice spin moves) and replaced him with Will.

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Will's third hit of the night.

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Will watching his fourth hit of the game and the final hit of his first year of baseball.

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Will was on first and the next batter up hit it right to the second baseman.

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The second baseman fields the ball. Will he try and tag the runner? Will he throw Will out at second? Will just turns on the speed.

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Will's quick speed left the second baseman with only one choice, try and throw the runner out at first.

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Will scoring the last run of the season. The boys really improved a lot this year going from not knowing how to get a runner out to winning their last four games of the year. Great job boys!

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May 22 2012

Baseball Brothers

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Both Will and Drew had games tonight so we got the boys together for a baseball brothers picture. Not shown is the fact that both boys wore the same number 3 this year.

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After Drew's two baseball games, Landon's soccer practice and Will and Drew's piano recital, Will, Drew and Daddy went to the Loose Rowel Rodeo in Skiatook.

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They started the rodeo in true all American fashion with uplifting words, the National Anthem and a prayer.

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Will was the star of the night, taking part in the Mutton Bustin'. He is the very first Danz ever to take part in this particular sport. In fact, it was Daddy's first ever rodeo.

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Will is on his sheep in the chute.

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The chute opens and Will's sheep takes off.

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Will had such a spirited sheep who accelerated so fast, that his mutton bustin' came to a quick end.

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Will headed for a landing on his padded parts.

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With an official time of 1.2 seconds, Will set an all time Danz family record in Mutton Bustin'! Given that we're just a bunch of city-slickers, Will did a terrific job and was incredibly brave taking on such a new and unfamiliar activity. Way to go Will!

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The first adult event was saddle bronc riding and the very first horse was the wildest, craziest, son-of-a-gun of the whole rodeo. He was leaping for the sky before his gate was barely open.

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This bronc got more air than any other horse I've ever seen. I've got one picture with his legs fully extended and he's still a foot in the air.

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How you stay on when your horse is near vertical, I don't know. The very next thing the bronc did was put his head all the way down to the dirt...the rider didn't have a chance. After the riders are off, all the other animals during the night soon calmed down. Not this horse, he continued to buck crazily...all the way down the arena. The announcer who was nothing but business with no extra commentary the whole night announced the understatement: "That horse just ain't right."

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Another saddle bronc rider with a more normal but still tough horse.

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This saddle bronc rider was just thrown but is going down in style.

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This bareback bronc rider is showing his horse who's the boss.

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I didn't take any pictures of the barrel racing. But, here is calf roper getting after his calf.

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The calf roper with his lasso just about to go over the calf's head.

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Another calf roper with his eyes on his target.

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Finally, the last event of the night, bull riding. It was dark so the picture quality is somewhat deteriorated as I had to max out both the ISO and aperture while slowing the shutter speed. While the bulls were no doubt tough, none of them seemed as crazy as that first horse. And, if you ask Will, that first horse was nothing compared to his sheep...and with that I'd have to agree.

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Today was a ridiculously busy day for the Danz family. Drew had two baseball games, Landon had soccer class, Will and Drew had piano recital and some of us went to a rodeo tonight (spoiler alert...one of us was in the rodeo!).

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Drew just about to smack a hard one into the outfield.

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The next batter up hit one right to the shortstop who threw Drew out at second.

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I love this photo. Drew hit one down the first base line...and the race was on!

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Drew is racing as fast as he can while the first baseman is about the field the ball. It's going to be close.

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Out at first by literally inches.

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The other team hit a long one between Drew and another outfielder. Drew is throwing the ball in with all his might.

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Drew about to get another hit.

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It's another close one at first, but this time thanks to a throw that drew the first baseman off the bag, Drew was safe.

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Drew had to hold up at first on a fly ball, but it was dropped and he sprinted to second where he was safe and eventually wound up scoring. The boys lost this one but won their next against a really good team. No pics from the second game since I was with Landon at soccer.

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Both Will and Drew had games tonight and since I'll be photographing Drew in his tournament tomorrow, I got to watch Will tonight. The game promised to have a lot of action since Will was playing shortstop. Here he is getting his first grounder of the night.

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Sometimes the best play is no play. Will wisely decided the best thing to do was stare down the runner and keep everyone from advancing rather than trying for the runner at first. It was a good thinking no-play.

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Despite playing shortstop, this was the only other ball that made it to Will the whole game. Just as happened before a few games ago, the team's Ossie Smith/Omar Vizquel was playing pitcher tonight and kept almost everything from reaching either Will at shortstop or the second baseman.

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Will was 4 for 4 tonight hitting off the tee. (I made movies of the three others.)

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Will used his super speed to beat out this grounder that was scooped up by the pitcher.

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Will is too serious during games to turn and give me a smile, but tonight he made my day when he acknowledged my cheers with a thumbs up!

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Will had his ninth baseball game of the season tonight and it was his turn to play second base. As the picture shows, Will really enjoys playing baseball.

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Will had another great night hitting including this one about to be walloped off the tee.

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Stepping on home plate for the first of many runs for the team.

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Will and his team had a great night fielding with two innings where they got 3 outs before the other team scored the maximum allowed 7 runs.

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Slugging another hit.

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Getting down low to field a grounder. Thanks to the boys' terrific defense efforts, they won the game 28-24.

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Will's wind up before he hits a long one.

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Stepping on home plate for another run.

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Will getting in front of another grounder at second base.

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Will's last at bat resulting in another hit.

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Finally, a rare glimpse from Will towards the camera. Drew, the serious boy, will flash me and the camera a smile once in a while but Will, the smiley boy, is always too serous to give me a smile during a game.

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Will had his eighth baseball game tonight. It was his turn to play left field.

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Despite the game being an offensive battle, Will never got the ball in left field. Instead, a 5 year-old phenom at shortstop vacuumed up everything. Ossie Smith and Omar Vizquel couldn't have put on the performance that this little guy did at shortstop.

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As the result of no baseballs making it to left field, all the action photos from this game were of Will hitting and running the bases like Will, here, smacking one hard.

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A missed play at first and the coach sends Will off to second base.

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Another hit for Will.

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Easily safe at first.

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It's important to always take a big lead off from the base.

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Getting the green light to go home.

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Will about to step on home plate for another run.

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Will hitting a long one off the tee.

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If you can't get the runner out, you can always slow him up.

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Finally, Will on third base just before he scored the tying run in this 21-21 battle.

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In the first inning, a line drive was hit down the first base line past the first baseman so quick that this was my first picture of the play. Drew perfectly played the grounder which allowed him the opportunity to try again what he had tried in a prior game (last picture).

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Drew sprang up and in one motion made a rocket throw to first base.

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My camera takes 8 frames/second. This was the ninth frame I captured of this play. That means Drew only had the ball in his possession for just 1.0 second. His speed, skill and quick thinking allowed Drew to accomplish what he just missed doing last game...he threw out a runner at first base from right field. Way to go Drew!

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Drew's batting stance...looks pretty good to me.

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In a rare occurrence, maybe the first of the year, Drew struck out. Looking at his eyes it is clear why. It's hard to hit a ball you're not looking at.

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Drew did a terrific job in right field. Every time there was a play at first, he was there to back up the throw. A thankless job when everything goes right.

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This time Drew clearly kept his eye on the ball and the result was a powerful hit up the middle.

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Drew on the way to first with an RBI in the background.

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Drew on first base.

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Drew getting a lead off of second base.

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Drew once again backing up first base but this time the throw to first base gets past the first baseman.

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Not to worry, Drew was there to stop the runners from getting extra bases.

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Drew's last at bat ended in the most incredible play by the other team's first baseman. He made a true major league stretch to catch the ball and get Drew out. If the first baseman looks like he might only come up to Drew's stomach, you are right. But, when you can stretch like a Soviet gymnast you don't need height to play first. The incredible defense by both teams resulted in the game being one of the lowest scoring games of the, so far, eighty-six game season. In the end, Drew's team squeaked out a 6-5 victory.

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Tonight it was Will's turn to play first base. Here he is at the start of the game in his ready position.

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It was a busy night for Will. Kindergartners don't hit the ball out of the infield much and almost every play is at first one way or another.

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In this series of photos, a grounder was hit to Will's right, he immediately went after it, somehow while keeping an eye on the runner he bare-handed the ball (not one of the photos in the series shows him looking at the ball when picking it up), raced to first and just got the runner out--an unassisted out!

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Fielding another grounder at first.

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What looks like a grounder is actually a throw to first that got this runner out.

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Will missed this grounder but that happens in baseball. What is awesome is that he has his glove on the ground and stopped the ball with his body. You can't ask for much more than that. Will did everything perfectly right!

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Will fielding another grounder.

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Will got three hits tonight. Check out his rippling forearm muscles as he powers through his swing!

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Will smacking his second hit.

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Will about to whack his third hit of the evening.

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Will making a long Danz-style stride before stepping on home plate.

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Apr 28 2012

Landon Plays Soccer

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Last week Landon had his first ever soccer lesson at Soccer City. Since the lessons require parent participation and last week was Landon's first lesson, I didn't take any pictures. This week, however, was a different story.

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Probably because he's the youngest, Landon is significantly more proficient at soccer than his brothers were when they first started. Landon instinctively dribbles the ball, looks ahead at where he's gong and is under much greater control at all times. It really was surprising how well he took to it.

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Landon controlling the ball and looking ahead at his target.

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Leaping to get ahead of the ball.

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All smiles during a game of alien tag.

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Landon is excited about making a goal.

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Drew, Landon and Will on the field together.

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After a great practice, Landon joins his brothers who are now taking their turn for the first time watching the action. After the break, a soccer stadium full of pictures.

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The coach has been rotating each player through every position and today was Will's turn to play catcher for the whole game. Here he is hustling into position.

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Will started out in the classic catcher's stance. His free hand wasn't being protected behind his back but in t-ball there aren't many foul balls that hit the catcher.

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After a while, it's just easier to sit down.

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In the action, watching the hitter do his stuff.

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Will using his mind to levitate a ball or a ball just hit off the tee.

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Will keeping his eye on a just hit ball.

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Finally, Will's turn at bat which resulted in some good hard grounders.

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Will hit a fast one right to the player playing between the first and second basemen. The boy was able to pick it up and just beat out Will to first. If Will hadn't hit it so hard, he would have been safe.

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With the sun going down, Will continued to stand his ground at home plate.

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Will maintained his focus even with the sun in his eyes. He was pretty tired afterward and even though he likes the position, a whole game of catching is quite lot to ask of a five year-old. Finally, I missed the last few minutes of the game as I had to go pick up Drew from his baseball practice.

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Will played pitcher tonight which meant he was at the center of most of the action. This is his self-created ready position.

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Kindergarten t-ball means a lot of work for the pitcher. Will worked hard to get in front of the balls hit his way.

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But, some went to the right.

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Some to the left.

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And, others back to the right.

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Still, others went left again.

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Finally, a hopper up the middle.

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Will taking a knee for fielding this one.

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Once fielded, it was time to make the throw to first.

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Another great throw to first. I think Will got the runner out on this one!

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Will shows off perfect form keeping his eye on the ball.

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Putting some weight behind this one.

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About to make his third hit of the night.

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Will racing to first, with another RBI in the background.

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Finally, Will giving his coach five on first base.

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Will had his fourth game tonight and continued his streak of powerful hitting.

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Here's Will racing to first with another RBI heading home in the background.

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Will's serous face has been supplanted by a Michael Jordan-esque tongue sticking out...no idea how that happened.

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Chasing down a ground ball...tongue sticking out.

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Racing for another grounder...tongue out again.

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Grabbing a grounder at second base.

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Here the boys are demonstrating a common technique of kindergarten fielding, the group effort.

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Both boys had games at the exact same time tonight again and this time it was Drew's turn for Daddy to take pictures while Mama and Landon watched Will play.

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On Drew's first at bat he hit a dribbler to the pitcher. Despite the poor hit, Drew raced to first base as fast as he could. The pitcher fielded the ball and made a nice throw to first which the first baseman caught (all of which doesn't happen every time at this level). Drew, however, never slowed down and sped through the bag at full speed. The play was close but Drew was...SAFE! I really think it was the fastest I've ever seen him run and it got him a hit.

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There was a big hit when Drew was on second and here he is getting the green light rounding third.

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The outfield was busy tonight with Drew fielding balls and backing other players up.

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This is Drew smacking a long one that landed deep in the outfield. I don't think I've ever seen him hit one farther.

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Drew about two or three steps from the plate still in the process of dropping his bat and watching his ball go DEEP!

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Drew fielded a quick ground ball in right field and made the snap decision to skip the cut-off man and throw it to first base. He just missed getting the runner out. It was a great "thinking" play that the boys had never practiced.

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Both Drew and Will had baseball games at the same time tonight. Fortunately, the games were at the same complex. I watched Will while Mama and Landon watched Drew.

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These are all shots of Will warming up before the game. None of them were posed, as in "smile for the camera." They were all natural spontaneous expressions of how happy Will is to be with his friends playing ball. Note, however, in the 600+ photos* I took during the game...not a single smile. Will is serious when it's game time.

(* While this sounds like a lot, at 8 frames/second, it is only a minute and 15 seconds of shooting.)

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Will about to get his first hit of the night.

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Scoring at home plate.

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Another hard hit ball as Will went 3 for 3 for the night.

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Will's last hit of the evening before the game was called because of lightning. Apparently, though, playing in the rain during a tornado watch is OK as long as there is no lightning.

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The highlight of the night was Will playing catcher. Drew was the first Danz ever to play catcher last year. Will did a terrific job especially considering he's never played catcher before, this is only his second baseball game ever, he had no advance notice that he'd play catcher and no one has ever told him what a catcher does.

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Admittedly, there's not a lot to do as catcher in kindergarten t-ball. But, Will looked like a champ that had played the position for years.

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The exact opposite of Drew, Will said he liked playing catcher and wanted to do it again sometime.

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Apr 9 2012

Drew the Slugger

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Drew's second game of the season tonight. Fielding was great but that wasn't the highlight of this game.

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The highlight was hitting! This was Drew's first hit as he went 3 for 3 in coach pitch tonight.

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Another hit for Drew.

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Drew's third hit of the night all of which resulted in him scoring twice.

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It's getting crowded at second base.

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This time, Drew is rounding second at full speed.

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Sadly, the team lost 16 to 17 after an amazing comeback and keeping the other team scoreless for two outs in the bottom of the last inning before letting 2 runs score to end the game.

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Will had his very first baseball game tonight. He started out in the field playing first base. He was so excited!

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At this level, the "throws" to first pretty much just roll in. This one was just a little too late to get the runner.

Will's first ever at bat. He got a base hit and wound up going 4 for 4 for the day!

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Will showing great concentration on his second hit of the evening.

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Happy to be on first base.

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Running for second base.

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A long Danz family stride on the way to third base.

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Will making certain to step on home plate.

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Will chasing after a grounder hit to left field.

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Throwing the ball in from left field.

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Will's third hit, a nice bat drop and focused on the base ahead.

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Will was so excited, I swear his feet never touched the ground.

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He just floated around the bases.

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Finally, Will just about to get his fourth hit.

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If smiles were runs...the boys would never lose a game.

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Just as Will has been a loyal fan for Drew the past two years, it's now Drew's turn to be the cheering brother. Landon, as always, is a great sport routing on his brothers, "Go Will!"

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After the game, it was starting to get dark as Will posed for some photos with a smile that couldn't be wiped away.

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Great game Will. We're all looking forward to a really fun season.

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Drew's first baseball game of the season was tonight. This is the first year for pure coach pitch and it was tough for both teams, not much action and few runs. This is Drew tearing after a fly ball.

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The best photo of the night was this play at second. While it might look like the runner was safe sliding under the tag, he was actually out on a force.

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Drew after the game in a lousy unnatural pose thanks to the photographer.

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Drew had a baseball scrimmage this morning. Nothing too exciting, still early in the year and everyone is a little rusty. The teams don't even have their uniforms yet. But, Mary and Drew were able to put together Drew's outfit with last year's pants and a USA t-shirt which turned out pretty awesome I think. I mostly like the pics because of the pink blooming redbuds in the background. Drew is playing third base here and getting ready to catch the ball to stop an advancing runner.

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Throwing the ball in from the outfield.

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Running after a grounder...or possibly backing up another player.

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Getting a fix on a fly ball.

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Rounding third base at full speed.

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Finally, one last long stride and safe at home.

Well, I did it. I made it through the whole post without mentioning the opposing team's coaching methodology...if you can call belittling sarcasm directed at eight year-olds a method. We are very thankful for the coaches we have this year and the past two years. There are some things we simply would not put up with.

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While I was at work today, Ma and Pa corrupted my boys by taking them to see the touring St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series champions trophy.

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The 2011 World Series champions trophy.

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We should have sent the boys in their Cubs hats.

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The St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series champions trophy tour van.

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Will had his first ever baseball practice today. The coach started the boys out with a baseball running relay game. In reviewing the pictures during a lull in the action, I noticed something that we'd only gotten a glimpse of before.

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Will has a serious game face! Our always smiling, happy-go-lucky, silly boy, can put on the serious. I think he's seen enough of his big brother's baseball games and is ready to show us what HE can do!

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Will fielding the ball...one handed...and leaning instead of getting in front of it.

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Better positioning and almost two handed.

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That's it! In front of the ball and with two hands.

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Will throwing the ball. Nice form as the ball just rolls off the tips of his fingers.

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An animation of Will throwing the ball. Heck of a lot better than I threw it in kindergarten.

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Don't worry, there were still plenty of patented Will smiles. In fact, I've never seen a kid more excited about practice in my life.

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I told Will to show me his batting stance and this is what he came up with all by himself. Pretty darn cute!

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The coach was wonderful and spent a lot of time with each child working on their hitting. It should be a fun season!

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We should have bought stock in sports equipment manufacturers and retail stores before we signed the two oldest up for baseball this year. Drew and Will's league had a deal with a local Dick's Sporting Goods store to get 25% all baseball equipment. We took full advantage of the savings. Although, Will's bat is from Academy and Drew's bat is from locally owned Midwest Sporting Goods.

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Drew had his first practice of the year today with his coach pitch baseball team. Baseball in February is a concept I need some getting used to. That's not how we did it growing up in Illinois. Of course, there you'd likely have to shovel the field in February while in Oklahoma summer baseball is for the truly masochistic, so spring ball it is with February practices.

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Drew in mid side-step getting in front of a ground ball.

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Drew catching a fly ball. The blue glove has seen its last days for Drew. He got stung a little playing catch due the 1970's era mitt not having the padding it used to, so we'll be shopping for a new glove next weekend when the league has coordinated a sale with a local sporting goods store.

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Not to take anything away from Drew's two prior coaches who were excellent with the kids, but this year's coach is really great, probably because he actually coaches for a living. He's a big guy who doesn't yell. He simply has a command and tone to his voice and demeanor that lets the kids know he's serious but, at the same time, he's not anything like some of the insane-nazi coaches we've come across in the league. He's starting from the most fundamental aspects of the game including, here, simply how to get into the batter's box and position yourself for hitting.

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Finally, the team finished with some finer points of base running. We're looking forward to have a fun season.

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After church and lunch, it was a beautiful day for some bike ridin'! Landon spun around the driveway on his tricycle.

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Will divided his time between his much loved scooter...

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...and the Spider-man bike.

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Drew tore up and down the street on the boys' new Trek FX Boys bicycle. Seven speeds up front on a twist-handle shifter. Way cooler than the one-speed, banana seat, bolt-on boy's bar bicycle that I rode as a kid (although I really liked it at the time). One of the advantages of being the oldest is getting to use more new stuff first and having to suffer fewer hand-me-downs. I imagine though that it all works out in the end as the youngest has more cool stuff available to him and at an earlier age. For example, Landon will always have had certain electronic devices around, whereas Drew had to wait to get them.

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Will and Drew got free tickets at school to the Tulsa Oilers hockey game tonight which was additionally free kid's jersey night...so how could we pass that up! Mama and Landon stayed home while Daddy and the big boys took in the game along with 10,032 other fans.

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There was plenty of great hockey to watch. The boys really enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately, Tulsa lost 5 to 2 despite the Tulsa oilers beating the Allen Americans the first three times they had met this year.

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Unfortunately, there were too many plays like this. Notice the hockey puck just above the tip of the hockey stick...it was on its way into the net. (#33 Ian Keserich)

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And, not enough plays like this. Tulsa goalie #33, Ian Keserich, making a save.

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Later in the game, newcomer #35, Steve Christie, was put in as Tulsa's goalie.

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The Allen Americans goalie #32, Rejean Beauchemin.

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It was nice of everyone to line up like they did so that I could get a good photo. Notice the puck just dropped between the referee's legs.

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If my memory serves me correct, the Tulsa Driller had just been needlessly checked hard into the wall and had simply had enough of the opposing players crap. How do you fight with gloved-hands, with an elbow to the head of course. I explained quite well a few years back my opinions on fighting in hockey.

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During the game I noticed the opposing team appearing to take a number of cheap shots at the Oilers and attempting to goad them on to escalate into something more. For the most part, our boys refused to take the bait. My photos (700+) really showed this to have been the case. Time and time again a series of high speed shots would show an American going after an Oiler and not once do my photos show the reverse to be true. I could have posted any one of several photos/series but take the above as an example.

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Notice how every player is looking down at the puck. Well, all except one guy. One guy who no longer cares about the puck right in front of his own goal.

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You see, Mr. D'Apostrophe has stopped playing hockey. Despite no one doing him any physical harm whatsoever, he's gotten it in his mind that he has the right to put the hurt on someone because...ummm...[I've got no words to put here since there is no logical reasoning behind this guy's actions].

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My very next photo shows D'Apostrophe making a cheap head shot against a player who wasn't even looking at him let alone doing anything warranting a return of physical aggression. In short, this gentleman is what is known as an ass. It is really sad that this type of behavior and the fighting that often follows is tolerated, if not promoted.

I hadn't looked back at the post I linked to above until I started to write this after the game tonight. In the post I pondered the fact that I had no answer to the question: "Dad, why are they letting them fight?" It was rather prophetic given this exchange that occurred tonight:

Drew: What are they doing?
Daddy: They're fighting.
Drew: Why are they fighting?
Daddy: Well in other sports they don't let the players fight at all, but in hockey they let them fight a little bit.
Drew: Why?
Daddy: I don't know.
Drew: That's just stupid.
Daddy: Yes, it is.

Professional hockey...meah.

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Oct 29 2011

Tulsa Run 2011

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This morning we all ran in the Tulsa Run Fun Run.

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Drew and I ran together, Uncle David ran with Will and Mama and Landon ran/rolled together. Afterwards, we made it just in time to McDonald's for a family breakfast.

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Sep 30 2011

Drew Takes Up Golf

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Drew has taken up golf. Now, you don't just throw a second grader out on the course, so Drew has been taking lessons. Here is Drew's backswing.

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This was Drew's fifth lesson and it was a beautiful day for me to get away from the office a little early to take some pictures of Drew's newest endeavor. Drew blasting away at the poor defenseless little golf ball. This must be a new grip and wrist position they teach now days.

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Drew really likes golf. He said he likes it a much as baseball and couldn't pick which on he likes better.

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The lessons driving range at Battle Creek Golf Club in Broken Arrow.

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The Battle Creek Golf Club buildings.

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Drew's golf swing using his favorite driver. He's working on a modified-Happy Gilmore technique.

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Sep 5 2011

Labor Day Baseball

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The weather was absolutely perfect today and we took advantage of it by playing some baseball in the backyard. I caught Will just as he released the ball.

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Drew had his game face on

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The pictures I was taking were nice and all but nothing too exciting. So...I sat down right in front of Will and told him to, "Hit the camera!" Those of you thinking he might be hesitant to hit a line drive into his father looking through the lens of a camera would be completely wrong. Instead, Will had a smile he couldn't wipe from his face as he applied a new found level of concentration and enthusiasm to the task of beaning his father.

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Will's best shot of the afternoon was a bouncer just over my left shoulder.

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Not being the brightest father on the block, I let Drew take his shot at getting Daddy a new camera and/or trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, Drew was a little off his game. While he easily hit the fence on the opposite side of the yard, Drew was unable to get a good line drive and had to settle for a right down the center one-hopper that went well above my head.

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Tonight the firm I work for sponsored an evening at the Tulsa Drillers baseball game on the Tiki Deck on the third base end of Oneok Field. This is the view of downtown Tulsa from Oneok Field.

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Our view of the field. The park is just one year old and very well thought out, seating 7,833 (the Drillers are AA).

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Pitching for the Drillers tonight was Christian Friedrich. Unfortunately, the Tulsa Drillers' nine-game win streak came to an end tonight with a 7-3 loss to the Springfield Cardinals.

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This photo shows why first basemen are usually pretty tall.

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I was lucky enough to catch the Drillers' Ben Paulsen exactly when he hit a home run (the full size is tack sharp). I wound up trading the photo for a ball. We happened to meet one of the owners, Jeff Hubbard, and he tracked down a ball for us. After the game, I emailed off this photo along with a link where all my photos of Paulsen hitting and rounding the bases could be downloaded.

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The kids in our group were selected to go on the field between innings to play a bean bag toss game.

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Will getting some camera time and getting ready to toss his bean bag.

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Drew doing a one-hand over the shoulder toss.

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Later in the evening, the son of a co-worker was chosen to be the victim of the Drillers' mascot Hornsby.

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Mama and her boys enjoying an evening at the ball park.

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Landon enjoying the game. I didn't get a good picture of it, but Landon spent a lot of time with his glove on, "ball catch." Fortunately, he was the one with me when we got a ball and was grinning from ear to ear with his prize.

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Will at the ball park.

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Drew at the ball park. We all had a great time at the ball game.

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For Father's Day, Mary and the boys got me a new baseball glove, a Rawlings REVO 950 with a 12.75 inch thumb to ring/little finger solid core deep pocket. The perfect glove! And, they even had it personalized at the factory: "DANZ."

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With the ability to customize every aspect of a baseball glove today, there are a near infinite number of options. But, as a traditionalist, I like the classic leather color all around with the Pro H web and a minimum of floppy lacing for a clean professional look.

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I have an old Spalding baseball glove that I've had with me over the years but I don't remember if it was originally mine, my sister's, a family glove or just something I picked up somewhere. I never played organized baseball after grade school and I don't remember ever buying a glove after that either. I was always all about basketball.

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The boys and I played some baseball in the backyard tonight. The glove felt and worked awesome. Two or three years ago when Drew could only hit wiffle ball dribblers off the tee, I told him if he ever hit a home run over our fence that I'd take him out for ice cream. Tonight, Drew's improvement over the spring season really showed as he hit line drive after line drive into our fence from across the yard. I knew it was only a matter of time. Finally, he pounded a high one through the tree and well into our neighbor's yard. After dinner, we all went out for some well-deserved ice cream. It was a wonderful Father's Day.

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Jun 11 2011

Miniature Golfing

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Drew's baseball team had a miniature golf outing and pizza party today that Mary, as team parent (f/k/a team mother), organized and I attended with Drew and Will. This is Drew teeing off.

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Will was very proud to wear his big brother's baseball jersey excitedly stating, "They'll think I'm on the team!" This is Will teeing off.

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Drew tapping in a short putt.

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Will putting from the edge of the green (and showing his ambidexterity).

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The boys had a great time and then chowed down on some pizza.

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Drew had his last baseball game of the season tonight. The team had its share of unfortunate breaks and wound up around .500 with no championships or place finishes. But, one definite bright side was the coaches. We were very fortunate to have a great coach and assistant coaches who really cared about the kids and kept the focus on having fun while still learning the game and trying out new positions. Clearly not every coach in the league has the right balance and we really appreciate the coaches we've had the last two years. The coaches even got together themselves and surprised the boys with trophies for all their hard work and great efforts throughout the season. Drew wants to keep playing next year or, maybe, again this fall.

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May 26 2011

Little Brothers

What do little brothers do at their big brothers' baseball game?

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Sit like little angles and watch their big brothers...of course.

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May 18 2011

Drew Plays Catcher

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Today Drew did something no other Danz had ever done...he played catcher. It turns out his coach had previously ask each player if there was any position they wanted to play that they had not yet had a chance to play. Unbeknownst to Mama and Daddy, Drew told his coach he wanted to play catcher. Today Drew got his chance.

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Without any training, practice or guidance whatsoever, Drew donned the the catcher's gear and bravely placed himself behind home plate. At this level of three ball coach pitch then off the tee, some catchers squat down all the way while some do like Drew chose to do and just half squat.

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Drew kept close track of where the runners were and was ready at the plate in case a throw could challenge a runner going home. Unfortunately, the opportunity never came.

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Drew also showed off some great form at the plate on his way to another hit.

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May 16 2011

Soccer Action

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I took the morning off from work and went to Will's soccer practice today. The blog had been lacking in Will activity photos lately, so time to make up for the omission.

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The lighting at Soccer City is horrible to begin with and they only had half their lights on but I was still able to get some good action shots.

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Note the concentration in the face and the mouth/tongue action.

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Will was smiling the whole time today. He really enjoys playing soccer but, overall, there aren't many happier kids than Will. The hula hoop is part of Alien Tag where you try to kick the soccer ball at the alien, the person with the hula hoop. It's a favorite of the kids and always pulled out when the parents are asked to participate.

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Just as Will sat through all of Drew's soccer practices, and now baseball games, Landon cheers on Will at each one of his soccer practices. After the jump eight more action shots of Will playing soccer.

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Apr 29 2011

Rounding the Bases

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Drew hit the ball today and both Drew and the catcher took off racing for first. Now why would the catcher get into a footrace with the batter?

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Because the catcher was chasing down a dribbler hit down the first base line. Despite a phenomenal effort by the catcher who got after the short grounder as fast as any big leaguer, Drew was able to beat our the throw and wind up safe at first.

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Drew racing to second. Now if the length of one's stride corresponded to speed, Drew (and his father) would be world class sprinters.

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Drew rounding third.

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Finally, Drew catching air as he is about to stamp down on home plate. Aunt Donelda really enjoyed getting a chance to see her nephew play ball while she was in town.

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Apr 19 2011

Baseball Fielding

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Tonight's baseball game was against one of the better teams which meant lots of fielding opportunities for everyone. Here's Drew fielding a hard hit grounder at third. Note the perfect use of his baseball cap pushed down low to keep out the bright setting sun.

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Drew in center field running to meet a deeply hit grounder.

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Just as the ball leaves Drew's hand as he throws in from center field to cut off the advancing runner.

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There simply aren't too many awesome plays in 1st grade coach pitch baseball, but this one rocked. Drew and an infielder hustled after a grounder hit into the gap in the outfield. Drew got there first, slid to a stop, and stopped the ball while the infielder jumped over Drew. If Drew hadn't slid, they would have knocked right into each other. It was a major league play by a pair of seven year-olds playing their hearts out.

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Thanks to the the bright low sun, my Canon 7D with 200mm zoom, a camera position along the third-base line and a grounder hit to the fence in deep left center, I was able to get these great close-ups of Drew.

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Just after Drew threw the ball to the infield.

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Taken from the third-base line for a change, Drew hitting a coach pitch ball.

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After three coach pitches that Babe Ruth couldn't have touched, Drew walloped one off the tee.

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Drew running from first base.

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Drew running from third base.

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Finally, Drew's favorite part, scoring at home plate.

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Drew played his second game of the season tonight. Here he is on the way to first with an RBI in the background on the way home.

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I love this photo. Drew was playing third and there was a popup just over his head. It wound up dropping before he could get it (it wasn't hit very high) but Drew made a great effort for the ball.

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Drew displaying perfect form getting his body in front of a ground ball, taking a knee and watching the ball into his glove.

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Drew throwing the ball in that he just fielded in center field.

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This series of three photos shows why it is so important to get in front of ground balls. This was a really hard hit grounder that went right up the middle to Drew in center field.

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Unfortunately, the ball took a wicked hop right before it got to Drew.

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Drew, having perfectly gotten in front of the ball, sacrifices his body to stop the ball and prevent the runner from getting extra bases. Ouch!

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Drew in the dugout.

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Baseball fan Will taking in the game.

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Landon sitting in Mama's lap learning all about baseball and cheering on his oldest brother.

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Tonight was a chilly and dreary start to Drew's baseball season. But, it all ended well with Drew playing center field and pitcher, hitting 2 for 3, and winning the game 18 to 15 in 3 1/2 innings. Go Bearcats! This is Drew just about to get one of his hits.

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Drew running to first. There was a mix-up and the uniform shop sent us t-shirts instead of jerseys. So, we got free t-shirts out of the deal and should have jerseys by the next game. It was so cold Drew was wearing sweats under his uniform pants and two long sleeve shirts and a sweatshirt under his team t-shirt. After the game, Drew said just his right hand was cold.

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Drew scoring a run...

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...just ahead of the throw home.

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This is a series of photos of Drew fielding a grounder hit to him when he was playing pitcher. Notice the rocking awesome glove. It was my glove about 38 years ago!

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Oct 30 2010

Tulsa Run 2010

553-tulsa-run-logo.pngToday, Drew, Will, Uncle David and I ran in the 33rd annual Tulsa Run. Mama has been sick and so she sat out this year and stayed home with Landon. Drew and I ran the 2K Fun Run while Will and Uncle David took a more leisurely pace. The weather was perfect and everyone had a great time!

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The firm I work for had a suite at the new ONEOK Field tonight for the last regular season home game of the Tulsa Drillers. The Drillers lost but it was a good game that came down to the last batter.

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I played a half-dozen years of little league, watched my sister play high school softball, played in various intramural and recreational leagues, been a Cubs fan for nearly 40 years, watch the occasional World Series game and enjoy catching a few minutes of Sports Center late at night. In all that time I never before heard (or don't recall) the term "walk-off hit" or "walk-off home run." How did I miss this? Everyone around me tonight knew the term when the announcer mentioned it over the intercom. Funny how you can duck and dodge a single piece of knowledge for half a lifetime. Cool though that I learned something new today.

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The Tulsa skyline from ONEOK field.

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Jun 11 2010

End of T-Ball Season

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Drew finished up his first T-Ball season tonight with his team taking first place in the Tulsa Kids Baseball City Wide Kindergarten Tournament. (Add, this championship to his team's first place finish in the Union Kids Baseball Kindergarten regular season and third place in the UKB Kindergarten post-season tournament.)

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Landon and Will were real troopers going to every game and cheering on their brother.

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Drew's t-ball team, the Cobras, finished the regular season in first place. This earned Drew his very first trophy. In a post-season tournament, Drew's team got third place for which Drew got a medal. There's still one more tournament we will probably play in and a chance for another trophy/medal. Tonight, the team had a special presentation where each child was called up one at a time to collect their hardware. (I took pictures and made them available to everyone).

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Drew with Coach Lack and Head Coach Rogers. All of the coaches really did a terrific job with all of the kids. They took a rag tag group of kindergartners who many literally didn't know how to get someone out or how to score a run and made a team of ball players. The coaches did it all with patience and class while keeping it a positive and fun experience for the kids. Thanks coaches!

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All of the Cobras players and coaches. Coach Rogers waited until everyone could be present before handing out the trophies and medals. All of the players on the team were great kids with unique personalities and skills. It was really fun getting to know them and watching them evolve into a team.

[Update:]

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On the last day of school, Drew, a few of his teammates and Coach Rogers presented Principal Wilson with the two trophies the team won.

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The Cobras' team trophies now proudly reside in the school's trophy case.

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Drew's t-ball tournament concluded today with a double-header. Fortunately, we had a couple of hours of break time after the morning game to go home, have a leisurely lunch and rest up for the evening game.

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Drew showing his powerful hitting stance as he lifts his front leg before swinging. He came up with this all by himself and, admittedly, it's not necessarily the best technique for a kindergartner just learning to hit...but it is pretty cute.

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Drew running to first after another hit. He wound up going 4 for 5 during the three game tournament against the first graders.

[When I get some time, I'll insert a movie here of a couple of Drew's at bats.]

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Drew scoring a run for his team!

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Drew fielding a ground ball.

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Drew, looking good in his Cobras uniform.

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This evening, Drew had his very first baseball game. Here he is stretching before the game. The boys didn't even have their jerseys yet (they were handed out just before the game started).

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Drew is very excited about his first game.

A video of Drew's first ever official at bat. The game was part of a preseason tournament which was supposed to be t-ball against other kindergartners but because there were not enough teams his age they had to play against first-graders coach-pitch for the first three pitches. Despite not having practiced coach-pitch (except a little with Daddy) Drew hit a coach-pitched double his first time up and went 2 for 2 for the day! (The video is a little shaky as Daddy needs to work on his technique.)

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Drew running home to score his first run.

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A happy baseball player in the dugout.

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Drew's second at-bat, resulting in a base hit.

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A proud young boy on first base talking to his coach.

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Drew ready to run from second as soon as the ball is hit. Thanks to his teammates, Drew was able to score both times he came up to bat.

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Drew had his first ever official t-ball practice today and it was really cold. Just a quick 20 minutes where each boy got a chance to bat twice. I hadn't planned on taking pictures, so just some quick and dirty iPhone pics below.

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The team waiting in line for their chance at bat.

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A strange batting stance but guaranteed to get the ball down the third base line which in t-ball means a certain base hit.

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Drew sliding home!

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Oct 31 2009

Tulsa Run 2009

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Drew (right) has been training for the Tulsa Run at school every Wednesday with the Jefferson Milers. Today, Mama, Daddy, Will (left), Landon and Uncle David joined him for the 2k Fun Run!

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Daddy with Landon, Drew, Uncle David and Will before the race.

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The start of the 2009 Tulsa Run - Fun Run.

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Landon was exhausted after his 2k run and decided to take a nap on the walk back to the car.

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Action Sports International sent me this terrific proof pic of Drew, Landon and me. [Is it a violation of ASI's copyright to post this proof photo with their copyright intact and unaltered, on a non-commercial website, when I am ordering copies of the photo? Or, might it come under some "fair use" exception?]

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Drew and Will after soccer practice yesterday at Soccer City.

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Earlier this summer the boys got a new bike which, of course, Drew gets to ride first.

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We agonized a lot over whether to get a cheapo Walmart bike or a higher quality Trek. I was originally pulling for a one size larger Trek but Drew really liked the Spiderman bike and he seemed more confident on its smaller size. Given the fact that Drew's growing like crazy and the Walmart Spiderman bike being less than a third of the price of the Trek, the purchase made since for a first bike that might not be ridden too long. It will also also allow Will to start riding earlier too.

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Will on his tricycle. Both boys know they always have to wear their helmets when they ride their bikes. Knee and elbow pads are optional...Will insisted on wearing them (they came with Drew's helmet).

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Drew and Daddy on Drew's first ever bike ride.

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Four and a half year old Drew is practicing his free throws. The position of his feet looks pretty good, good concentration, but his fingertips need to be centered on the seam...we'll work on that. We take free throws very serious. There is simply no reason not to shoot over 80% from the free throw line. The shot is always from the exact same place, you have plenty of time and no one is guarding you or trying to block or alter your shot. None of that can be said about any other shot. Professional basketball players who earn tens of millions of dollars a year and hundreds of millions over a career and can't shoot free throws better than some average high school player (me!) are bums. There is no excuse.

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Thanks to a coworker who won free tickets for a pre-game picnic and Tulsa Drillers baseball game, we all took in an evening of America's past time. The Tulsa Drillers are the Texas League double-A farm team of the Colorado Rockies. They played the Springfield (Missouri) Cardinals and, although tied when we had to leave to make bedtime, the Drillers wound up losing 3-2.

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A right-handed batter making contact.

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And, a left-handed batter making contact.

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Will and Drew enjoying some cotton candy, followed later by some ice cream in a miniature baseball helmet.

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On the way out of the stadium, we were lucky enough to see the start of a horse race at the Tulsa Fair Meadows race track. As you may gather from the blurry photograph, the horses were fast!

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Jun 4 2008

Inflatable Pool Fun

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Our next door neighbor filled up their inflatable pool today much to the delight of Drew, Will and a bunch of neighborhood Michael Phelps and Amanda Beards.

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Drew started out a little timid, but by the end, he had thrown all caution to the wind, so much so that Momma had to restrain herself to keep from being too protective.

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Will mostly just hung out, looked cool and watched the big kids. Later, he enjoyed being lifted and dropped into the pool mimicking the big kids. And, yes, we Danzes are naturally that pale, bring your sunglasses, if not to protect you from the sun then from the glare off of our bodies. Two more pictures after the jump.

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Cannonball !!!

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Belly flop !!!

[Non-sequential photos, your mileage may vary, past performance does not predict future results, I'm from the government and I'm hear to help you.]

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Mary took the boys out to the park to play some basketball this week and got some great photos of the boys working on their hoops skilz!

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Will only grunted but we're pretty sure he was saying, "Holy four-fingered hand that rim is high!"...even if it is only an 8-foot rim.

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Drew getting ready for his two and one-handed jump shots.

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Check out Drew's jump shot and the air he's getting! He's already got the same vertical leaping ability of his father. And, look at that follow through...the kid's got potential. (Great camera work by Mama.)

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Today we all went to see the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes play the University of Houston Cougars at TU's Skelly Field/Chapman Stadium, the last game before a $20 million renovation begins. Coming into the game Tulsa was 6-3 (4-2 in league) while Houston was 6-3 (5-1 in league). Houston would have clinched the West Division of the Conference USA with a win today. But it was not to be.

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It was Senior Day and Tulsa's senor quarterback, Paul Smith #12, had the game of his life in a 56-7 blowout of Houston. Smith threw for 313 passing yards with 5 touchdown throws and, on a 37 yard pass in the third quarter to Dion Toliver #15, Smith broke the single-season passing record with 3,496 yards, broke the career-passing record with 9,367 yards and tied the record for most touchdown passes in a single season with 34. Paul Smith left the field, his last home game for TU, with a standing ovation.

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Tulsa held Houston scoreless 56-0 until late in the fourth quarter when Houston scored their only touchdown against Tulsa's 2nd sting.

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Here you can see wide receiver Jesse Meyer #84 about to make a catch; running back Tarrion Adams #25 on the run; quarterback Paul Smith #12 making a handoff to running/defensive back Dillon Brumbugh #23; and punter Paul Jurado #48 holding for place kicker Jarod Tracy #29 who was a perfect 8 for 8 for the day (49 out of 50 for the season).

795-tulsa-football-engagemen.jpgWe even got to see a handsome young man propose to his cheerleading future bride...she said yes. One of the reasons we attended today was that Aunt Catherine is on the University of Tulsa Dance Team, but she is out with an injury and unable to perform.

Click "Continue reading" to see a multi-photo stop-motion breakdown of a successful play by TU.

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Finally, at some point I put the camera on continuous shooting and caught a nice sequence of photos showing the anatomy of a football play. Click the photo for a larger popup showing the ball in the air on the snap, quarterback Paul Smith #12 fake handoff to running back Tarrion Adams #25, the handoff to running back Dillon Brumbugh#23 and his progress up the line behind some textbook blocking. It's interesting to focus on different players throughout the sequence to see how everyone carries out their own individual task and how it all comes together to accomplish a desired collective goal. Teamwork in action!

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It was an absolutely perfect day today; 70 degrees, no wind, not a cloud in the sky. After lunch, we all headed out to the backyard for some t-ball.

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Drew is just a week shy of 4 years and has mastered keeping his eye on the ball.

Will is just 15 months old and while Drew, mom and dad were distracted doing something else, Will picked up a bat, put a ball on the tee and whacked it right off. We grabbed the camera and got some video of him doing it again but, of course, it's never as good as the one you miss.

YouTube version after the jump.


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I know what you were thinking, I wish Don would post some more videos of his kids playing soccer. I aim to please, and so here is Will who also got some kicks in yesterday while at his big brother's soccer practice. Oh, and if you don' t like the football club music from the two prior videos, don't worry, this is more mainstream...but still not exactly on the American airwaves, at least not yet.

Will had a little bit tougher time than at home since he had to deal with shoes, turf and distractions all around. But, considering he's only been walking about a week and half, I think he's doing incredibly well. I'm amazed at his desire to kick the ball. You can't hear it, but he laughs or cackles many of the times he kicks the ball.

The music is Heart Full of Pride by the Swedish band Perkele. [Update: I checked out some more music by Perkele and let's just say that Heart Full of Pride is the only song of their's that interests me.]

(YouTube version after the jump.)


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After soccer practice today, I filmed Drew dribbling and scoring some wicked goals.

Drew has improved quite a lot from just a year ago.

The music, There's Only One United, is a song of the Manchester United Red Devils.

(YouTube version after the jump.)


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ME: Hello, my name is Don.
YOU: Hello, Don.
ME: I'm addicted to European soccer...sorry, European football club music.

So, I went looking for some background music for Will's debut soccer video and did a Google search for "soccer music" not realizing what I would find. Wow! A click here, a click there, and the next thing you know, I'm hooked. Sure, it's not high brow, but it is high energy. I'm definitely going to make a workout playlist (I was going to say mix tape, I'm so old) from my downloads.

Anyway, this is Will at 13 months. He's only been taking serious unassisted steps for about two weeks and truly walking for one but he wants to kick the purple ball (play soccer) just like his big brother. We've been trying to get as much video of Will's drunken sailor stage as possible...it's already starting to fade. They grow up so fast.

The music, Stand Up for the Champions, is a song of the Arsenal Gunners.

(Inferior YouTube version after the jump.)


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Aug 7 2007

755 > 756*

The title says it all, 755 is greater than 756*.

Oh, and if you want to see the all time Major League Baseball home run king, click "Continue reading."

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Henry Louis "Hammerin' Hank" Aaron
Major League Baseball Career Home Run Record Holder

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My sister Donelda Danz was inducted today into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Hall of Fame as a player.

Three thousand were in attendance at the annual ceremonies which recognizes outstanding achievement in news media, friends of basketball, coaches, teams, officials and players.

Donelda was a four year starter and star of the 1977 Fremd High School girls basketball team that took 3rd place in the first ever Illinois girls state basketball tournament where she was selected for the All-Tournament Team having scored the second highest number of points of all the players in the tournament.

Congratulations Big-D!

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Nov 5 2006

Chicago Bears Fans

Drew and Aunt Donelda all dressed up and ready for the Bears game. Daddy, Will and Drew watching football...555-boys-watching-bears.jpgperhaps it was a good thing that the Bears weren't on TV here in Tulsa since they lost, bringing an end to their undefeated season.554-ready-for-bears-game.jpg













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Aug 19 2006

Soccer Video Montage

Here is my first attempt at making a music video montage. The clips are all from today's soccer practice. The song is the 1971 hit Hocus Pocus by the Dutch rock group Focus which reached #9 on the charts in the US in 1973. Don't even think of criticising the musical selection if you're under 40.

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Aug 7 2006

Lawn Basketball

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Drew loves to play basketball on the lawn. Like a true big man, he has no need for dribbling. Nothing good ever comes from bringing the ball below your shoulders. And Drew knows, it's never too early to start practicing your free throws. Drew has the form down but it looks like he's thumbing the ball a little with his left hand. Fortunately, we have time to work on that.

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Enough shooting from the outside, time to take it to the hoop. This layup turned into a slam dunk!

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Drew had the greatest time this weekend playing baseball with Pa. Here he is hitting a line drive right into Pa's hands.

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After a good hit, Drew will run the bases (tree-retaining wall-other tree) in order to get a home run. Pa tried his best, but just couldn't tag Drew out.

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Every home run is capped off by Drew's his own patented "slide" into the t-ball home plate which he developed all by himself. Probably because he's watched major league players barrel through home plate no matter what was in the way, he does the same thing.

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Writing this post was difficult until I realized it was about two different overlapping stories: one unimportant all about me and one, the opposite, very important about people thinking only of others. The meaningful story follows immediately, while the me-me-me part, can be seen by clicking on "continue reading" at the end.

448-patriot-guard-riders.jpgThere are some sick twisted people in this world, but you wouldn't think there would be people so sick and twisted that they would protest at the funerals of fallen soldiers, yelling slogans and holding signs like "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." While families are simply trying to say a final goodbye to their child, spouse or daddy, these protesters are in their face laughing, cheering and spewing their hatred. At least they were...until the Patriot Guard Riders stepped in.

The Patriot Guard Riders are a nation wide group of motorcycle riders with the mission of attending the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family where they show their respect for our fallen heroes and their families while shielding the mourning family and friends from interruptions created by protesters using strictly legal and non-violent means.

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In conjunction with the 30th Anniversary of Rick Monday Saving the American Flag in center-field, Rick Monday's wife, Barbaralee Monday "Flag Babe," and her brother, James Casciari "Helmet Killer," are taking the actual flag that Rick Monday saved on a cross-country motorcycle tour while stopping to meet families which have been assisted by the Patriot Guard Riders. This is all being done to raise awareness and support for legislation to ban protesting near funerals. Some states have already passed laws, other states have pending legislation and there is also legislation pending in the U.S. Congress.

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I met up with some Patriot Guard Riders early this afternoon in Claremore, Oklahoma. The riders there subsequently received word that the already delayed procession, then still in Missouri, was further behind schedule and would not be stopping in Claremore, but would still be stopping in Chelsea, Oklahoma, although much later in the evening. The Chelsea stop couldn't be bypassed because they were scheduled to meet with the family of a fallen soldier for whom the Patriot Guard Riders had previously attend the funeral. We all regrouped after two hours and headed for Chelsea.

451-barbaralee-hug.jpgAfter a little wait, the Patriot Guard Arrived. The first order of business was getting out the flag that Rick Monday had saved from being burned as a protest in center field of Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. It was a little faded and a little tattered but still beautiful. Barbaralee and James posed with the flag and the family of the fallen soldier. Next everyone was given the opportunity to sign a banner which will be displayed on July 4th at Dodger Stadium before being presented to Rick Monday. Barbaralee and James then signed posters commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Rick Monday's save. Barbaralee even called her husband Rick on her cell phone and he spoke to the family of the fallen solder.

It was readily apparent why the tour kept falling behind schedule. Everyone who wanted a picture either with the flag or with Barbaralee was given the opportunity. The same for autographs with personalized messages, hugs and thank-yous. Despite being woefully behind schedule, no one went away disappointed.

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It should be noted that neither Mrs. Monday nor her brother, Mr. Casciari, are "riders" and that the tour has been incredibly exhausting on them both physically and emotionally. Despite this, they were very friendly and genuinely cared about all the people they met. They are passionate about getting legislation passed to protect families from protesters at funerals. They both proved themselves to be terrific people. Likewise, every one of the Patriot Guard Riders I met was friendly and helpful. It's people like these that make America great.

I've uploaded all of the photos I took to Flickr. Everyone is free to download and make copies as they wish.

453-monday-poster.jpgI can't help but wonder how much an impressionable ten year-old Chicago Cubs fan who grew up to love the American flag was influenced by a certain center fielder who thirty years ago saved the American flag from being burned? From that boyhood moment to just two months ago seeing the heroic event for the first time to now holding in my hands the actual flag that Rick Monday saved. It was an amazing thing...then and now.

Barbaralee Monday signed a copy of the commemorative poster: "To the Danz Family - Thanks for being such terrific fans! Go Cubbies! God Bless." James Casciari signed: "To the Danz Family, True Fans! Cubs Rule!!" And, Barbaralee signed for Rick Monday: "Glad to see we have such wonderful fans."

454-monday-phone-call.jpgAfter Rick Monday spoke to the family of the fallen soldier, they handed the phone back to Barbaralee who turned to me and asked if I wanted to talk to Rick Monday. The look on my face must have been something as some of the bikers around her cracked some pretty big grins. Yes, this ten year-old in a forty-year old's body would very much like to talk to Rick Monday. I told him about being a Cub fan and how much it meant to have one's childhood hero turn out to be such a great person and to be working for such a worthy cause. Monday said that it was simply wrong what they wanted to do the flag thirty years ago and it's wrong what the protesters want to do at funerals today. He also said that the true thanks go to the families of all the fallen soldiers.

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So, if not for hate filled protesters and jihadist madmen, I would not have gotten to meet a great group of Americans, talk to my boyhood hero and touch a piece of history. What an odd cross-road of people and events.

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May 26 2006

Friday Night Baseball

433-drew-batting.gifIt's t-ball time! We picked up a tee, bat and ball this week and now, everyday, Drew wants to: "Go outside, play t-ball?" Sure, he hits the tee once in a while but, just as often, he whacks one farther than you'd ever think a two-year-old could. You can just see in the last frame of the animation that he starts to take off running. On good hits he drops the bat, runs to a tree (first base), runs to the garden wall (second base), runs to something else (or skips third all together), then heads back to the tee where he flops down (slides) before declaring: "Home run!" Sometimes we run the bases together. Either way it's a great way to use up some two-year-old energy.

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Almost a funniest home videos moment, as this one was coming right for the cameraman. We're already starting to hear, "Drew needs glove, this hand," as he holds up his left hand to emphasize the fact that it's missing a most needed accessory.

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May 19 2006

Non-Steroid Baseball

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Friday night Uncle David came by to pitch some balls to Drew. With his Cubs hat turned backwards, this one was a swing and a miss. He clearly took his eye off the ball. But, click "continue reading" to see four hits caught on digital film.

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Drew shows off his consistent swing and belts two home runs out of the park.

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He definately kept his eye on the ball this time resulting in a blazing line drive down the middle.

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The last contact of the day was only a base hit since Drew was batting for average and not power in his race for the backyard batting title.

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My interest in Major League Baseball peaked when I was around 9 years old. While I probably couldn't name a dozen major leaguers today, I can still tell you the entire lineup for the 1974 and 1975 Chicago Cubs. One player in particular, centerfielder Rick Monday, will forever be in my memory. It was on this day, thirty years ago, during our nation's bicentennial, during an untelevised day game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers that two pieces of human debris took the field and attempted to burn the American flag...but they hadn't counted on Rick Monday.

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In his own words:

In between the top and bottom of the fourth inning, I was just getting loose in the outfield, throwing the ball back and forth. Jose Cardenal was in left field and I was in center. I don't know if I heard the crowd first or saw the guys first, but two people ran on the field. After a number of years of playing, when someone comes on the field, you don't know what's going to happen. Is it because they had too much to drink? Is it because they're trying to win a bet? Is it because they don't like you or do they have a message that they're trying to present?

413-rick-monday-1.jpgWhen these two guys ran on the field, something wasn't right. And it wasn't right from the standpoint that one of them had something cradled under his arm. It turned out to be an American flag. They came from the left-field corner, went past Cardenal to shallow left-center field.

That's when I saw the flag. They unfurled it as if it was a picnic blanket. They knelt beside it, not to pay homage but to harm it as one of the guys was pulling out of his pocket somewhere a big can of lighter fluid. He began to douse it.

414-rick-monday-2.jpgWhat they were doing was wrong then, in 1976. In my mind, it's wrong now, in 2006. It's the way I was raised. My thoughts were reinforced with my six years in the Marine Corp Reserves. It was also reinforced by a lot of friends who lost their lives protecting the rights and freedoms that flag represented.

So I started to run after them. To this day, I couldn't tell you what was running through my mind except I was mad, I was angry and it was wrong for a lot of reasons.

Then the wind blew the first match out. There was hardly ever any wind at Dodger Stadium. The second match was lit, just as I got there. I did think that if I could bowl them over, they can't do what they're trying to do.

415-rick-monday-3.jpgI saw them go and put the match down to the flag. It's soaked in lighter fluid at this time. Well, they can't light it if they don't have it. So I just scooped it up.

After the guys left, there was a buzz in the stands, people being aghast with what had taken place. Without being prompted, and I don't know where it started, but people began to sing 'God Bless America.' When I reflect back upon it now, I still get goose bumps.

He's not the only one who still gets goose bumps. As if being the centerfielder for Chicago Cubs didn't make someone a big enough hero to a ten year old suburban Chicago kid...saving the American flag from two asshats forever put Monday in a whole new category and is one of the 100 Classic Moments in the History of the Game as determined by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

416-rick-monday-4.jpgThat same season, Monday hit a career-high 32 non-steroid home runs before the Cubs traded him and reliever Mike Garman to the Dodgers for outfielder Bill Buckner and shortstop Ivan DeJesus. Monday went on to win three pennants with the Dodgers, one as the result of Monday's ninth-inning home run in the deciding game of the 1981 NL Championship Series at Montreal before beating the Yankees in the World Series. Monday is also famous for being the first player chosen in the very first draft in 1965 after leading Arizona State to a College World Series title. He was a two-time All-Star with impressive numbers during his 19 major league seasons. But, Rick Monday will always be most remembered for what he did one Sunday afternoon thirty years ago today.

417-rick-monday-5.jpgThe famous photograph, taken by James Rourke, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize but, of course didn't win because it wasn't at all anti-American...maybe if they had succeeded in burning the flag. A Super8 16mm video of the incident taken by a fan surfaced in 1984, but hasn't made it to the internet yet [see update below]. The whole article along with more photographs by Rourke and the play-by-play call made by Vin Scully on the radio that day is available at MLB.com.

417-rick-monday-video.jpg[Update I:] In honor of the 30th anniversary of Rick Monday saving the American flag, the Los Angeles Dodgers recognized Rick Monday on Sunday, April 23 with a video tribute. If this link ever stops working, please let me know. I have a downloadable version but didn't want to post it for bandwidth purposes. However, if you click on the picture you can see just the portion of the video where Rick Monday saves the American Flag.

[Update II:] See Patriot Guard Riders Bring Rick Monday Flag Through Oklahoma for more information and pictures of the actual flag that Rick Monday saved!

[Update III:]

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To all those who have been looking for a print of the photo of Rick Monday saving the American flag in center field, you can now order one from AP through Pictopia.

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It's only a matter of time before a movie is made about Jason McElwain a Greece Athena High School senior in Rochester, New York. On February 15, Jason, the team manager, was given the privilege of suiting up for the varsity game as payback for his years of service taking care of sweaty uniforms, getting water for the players and cheering on the team. There's nothing unusual in this sort of gesture...until the magic happened!

Oh, by the way, Jason was born with autism.

If you are anything like me, you'll enjoy watching more videos about Jason McElwain.

Thanks Dave.

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In one of the most unforgettable moments of the 2006 Winter Games, Lindsey Jacobellis, while way out in front, thought she had her race won, got cocky and hotdogged (snowboated/showboarded) a jump and kissed the gold medal goodbye. Notice I said, "the" gold medal and not "her" gold medal. This is because she was not competing just for herself in the X-Games or the Nationals, this is the Olympic Games where you also compete on behalf of your nation. She lost "our" gold medal.

There are different ways to grab a snowboard in the air to help stabilize yourself...some are safe and appropriate for racing and some are fancy and more risky and appropriate for competitions which judge on style or when you're just horsing around with your friends.

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Here is Lindsey Jacobellis: (1) using the "Indy," in which she gets in a tuck and grabs the front-side edge between her feet; (2) using the "Truck Driver," which entails grabbing both edges near the front foot; and (3) performing the "Backside Method Grab," in which she grabs the backside edge and swings the board out sideways.

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Now, I'm well aware I'm taking this way harder than I should but that's because I so abhor showing off. If a game is about points, then that's all its about. You don't get extra credit for style. The world's most amazing miss can't compare to the most dull and routine make. If it's a race, then time and/or place is all that matters. [And, no, I don't understand ski jumping which measures distance and awards style points. I say chuck the judges, get out the lasers and give the gold to the flopping spaz who can jump the farthest.]

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The Times of Trenton columnist Steve Politi said it well:

The real sad part? She doesn't get it. Even hours after her race, as she faced an uncomfortable grilling on a teleconference about her ill-timed showboating, she didn't see a problem with what she had done.

"I was having fun," the 20-year-old from Stratton, Vt., said. "Snowboarding is fun. I was feeling great that I was ahead. I wanted to share with the crowd my enthusiasm. I messed up, and oh well, it happens."

Oh well?

It happens?

This is what happened: Jacobellis embarrassed herself on the biggest stage in sports, and in doing so, confirmed for many the perception that American teenagers who belong to our X Games culture care more about highlight DVDs and video-game moves than winning and losing.
***
Later in the teleconference, she admitted she was going for flash, but didn't understand why it was a big deal. "It's just a race," she said. For some, the Olympics are a dream that burns as bright as that massive torch.

If this is just a race, it shouldn't be in the Games. If Jacobellis feels that way, neither should she.

Attacking the snowboarder culture, Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey spoke for the 40-and-over crowd:

It probably would be a good thing if somebody explained to the snowboarders that once they decided to sit at the adults' table, they made the tacit agreement to play to win. They made the decision to act like Olympians, which now means to act professional.

I wonder how much of this is the result of our schools and children's leagues no longer keeping score or having winners and losers? Competitors in the most important competition in the world not really caring about winning would have previously been unimaginable to me. I'm also curious to see if Jacobellis' sponsors, Visa, Dunkin' Donuts and Kelloggs, want to associate their products with putting style before substance?

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I wish two things for Lindsey Jacobellis, a change in attitude and great success in the future including gold in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 2010.

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330nbalogo.pngI've previously noted that, "I didn't watch a single game of the [NBA] playoffs," last season. After what happened this week, I now have no intention of watching any games this whole season.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers' accused rapist Kobe Bryant was suspended for two games without pay for throwing an intentional elbow to the throat of Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Miller. Bryant explained the reason for his actions in an ESPN Sports Center interview:

"If somebody comes down the lane, you have to hit them...that's just basic NBA basketball."

331kobebryant.jpgWell Kobe, that may be basic NBA basketball, but it has no place in the game of basketball that I know and love. Here's an idea, how about playing a little defense and moving your feet or, heaven forbid, taking a charge instead of committing assault and battery on a player who's gotten the best of you. The NBA with the acquiescence of its owners and commissioner, David Stern, have allowed the game to become such a perversion that I can't stand to watch it anymore.

And, in case there was any doubt about whether Kobe had any remorse, he stated in an interview:

"I wish I could go back in time and take that foul back knowing what I know now, getting two games for it," he said. "No way in my mind did I think it was going to be a suspension or something like that. No way."

Take it back how?

"I'd just hit him a little softer," Bryant said.

332davidstern.jpgJust like a small child, he has no concept that what he did was wrong and he'd only consider altering his behavior slightly to avoid the punishment. If I were the Commissioner, I'd have every player sign a statement that hitting someone is never a part of NBA basketball. Anyone who doesn't sign, doesn't play. Anyone violating the agreement or saying to any person, any media or anyone anywhere, anything to the contrary doesn't play.

David Stern, it's time to take the thugs out of the NBA. Until you do, it's college ball only for me.

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I hope you've been following the career of Lance Armstrong, because in your lifetime there will never be another athlete...another person...like him. When you are old and passing down stories to your grandchildren, other than telling them embarrassing things about their parents, or what you were doing on 9/11, there won't be a better or more powerful story to share with them than that of Lance Armstrong.

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In 1993 and 1995, Armstrong won stages in the Tour de France with Team Motorola. He won the Tour DuPont, the premier U.S. Cycling event, in 1995 and 1996. Armstrong's early career peaked in 1996 when he was ranked the number one cyclist in the world. But, later in 1996 Armstrong abandoned the Tour de France and had a disappointing Olympic Games. While Armstrong was physically talented in his early career, he didn't yet possess the mental discipline and dedication necessary to consistently compete at the highest levels of cycling.

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Then on October 2, 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized (not a good thing), spreading to his lungs and brain. He was told he had a 50 percent chance of survival. After his recovery, one of his doctors said Armstrong's chances were maybe as low as three percent but that he was told 50 percent in order to give him hope. Treatment included sawing two silver dollar size holes in his scull to remove brain lesions as well as removal of a testical. Standard chemotherapy would have ended Armstrong's career as one side effect is reduced lung function. So Armstrong opted to undertake a more severe radiation regiment which was less likely to damage his lungs but which resulted in burns on the inside of his skin.

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Despite the odds, Armstrong survived his battle with cancer and, with a new found dedication, he won three races in 1998 and the Tour de France in 1999. If the story ended here it would be the greatest comeback story of all time.

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But, Armstrong went on to win seven Tour de France races an impossible feat even for someone healthy their whole life. In the 102 year history of the Tour de France (only 92 races due to war), four other riders have won five times: Belgian Eddy "the Cannibal" Merckx, Spaniard Miguel Indurain and Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil. No one has won six, let alone seven, other than Lance Armstrong. (The list of five time winners might have included a German by the name of Jan Ullrich if not for the American from Texas.)

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Cycling is very much a team sport and thanks and accolades unquestionably go to Armstrong's teammates: José Azevedo, Manuel Beltran, George Hincapie, Gonzalez Benjamin Noval, Pavel Padrnos, Yaroslav Popovych, José Luis Rubiera, and Paolo Savoldelli.

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Thank you Lance for seven amazing years and for one heck of a story to someday share with the grandkids.

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160illini100years.jpgThe University of Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball team just won a close one in overtime over Arizona. Here is the graphic I was going to post (which may still appear in the near future given how they played tonight) when the Illini were down 15 with four minutes to play. Illinois now plays Louiville next Saturday in the Final Four tournament, and then hopefully one more game Monday, April 4th.

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155drewilliniwek.jpgDrew, shown here with Chief Illiniwek, and daddy are bummed right now as the Illini lost to Ohio State today on their last regular season game of the year which put an end to their perfect undefeated season.

Oh well, better now than during the big dance.

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148nhllogo.pngApparently there's been no major league hockey this year...who knew? I mean after all we're talking about an activity where its own commissioner admitted that it was not a legitimate sport. OK, so he didn't say it in so many words, but follow my logic for a moment. The NHL commissioner once said that fighting could not be removed from the game. More specifically, he said that hockey fans wouldn't support the sport without the fighting.

This is either an admission that the sport is insufficiently entertaining by itself or that its fans are just too low-brow to appreciate it--take your pick. Assuming the commissioner wasn't insulting his customers, the only remaining option is that professional hockey is a joke. If you're like me, though, and think hockey (without fighting) is a fine sport, then the commissioner was pointing out the imbecilic nature of pugilism-loving professional hockey fans.

149boxinggloves.pngThere is no fighting in college or Olympic hockey therefore, it follows, there is no need for it in the professional leagues. Fighting detracts from the sport and provides a venue for less skilled players who are simply there to fulfill the role of a thug--never a good thing for any sport. While I'm no pantywaist liberal, I'd rather someday take my son to an actual boxing match and a college level hockey game than anything the NHL provides as a combination of the two. I like to think I have all the answers but, "Dad, why are they letting them fight?" during a major league sport is one question to which I have no answer.

Can you name another sport in which fighting is not allowed at the college or Olympic level but is allowed at the professional level? Click on "Continue reading" for the answer.

Answer: Wrestling. And, as long as fighting is allowed in professional hockey, it'll be just as big a joke as professional wrestling.

Just to be clear, I like hockey. Fighting, however, serves no purpose other than to detract from the sport and the skill and athleticism of the competitors. How silly would it be if fighting were allowed in baseball, basketball, football or soccer? That's how ridiculous it seems to me to allow it in hockey.

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125illinimoving.gifThis year celebrates 100 years of Fighting Illini basketball and the University of Illinois' (Champaign-Urbana) current 17-0 men's basketball record ties both the best start to a season and the longest single-season winning streak in school history. The other 17 game winning streak, also at the start of a season, was in 1988-89, my last year at U of I. Only the 25-game winning streak that included parts of three seasons from Feb. 21, 1914, through Feb. 9, 1916, bests the Illini's current string of victories.

126illini.gifThe 1988-89 team, coached by the all class act Lou Henson, stared: Kendall Gill, Steven Bardo, Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton, and Marcus Liberty. During the regular season Illinois beat Michigan twice but in the semi-finals of the big dance lost to Michigan when Lowell Hamilton failed to box his man out on the final shot of the game and Michigan got an easy put-back to keep the game from going into overtime. Michigan went on to have an easy win despite a close score over Seton Hall for the national championship. But, at least I'm not still bitter.../said with teeth clinched.

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Drew is a little uncertain what to think about my new hat but he seems content to wear his Illini cap sent to him by an alumni friend of mine.

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I and an estimated 7,500 other people participated in the Chicago Triathlon this past weekend. It's billed as the world's largest triathlon, although the London Triathlon might have been a little bigger this year. The sponsor of the triathlon this year was Accenture. Previous sponsors have been Mrs. T's and originally Bud Light.

My training this year consisted of...well...nothing. Due to a knee injury, work and Mini-Me, my training consisted almost entirely of getting a new bike frame. But, I wasn't about to let that stop me from my annual reminder that I am, in fact, getting older and slower each year. The night before the race event, I went to see a friend's band, Conundrum, play and feasted on well-known pre-race foods including spinach-artichoke dip, potato skins, quesadillas, wings, fried cheese, and onion rings followed by a cheeseburger and fries.

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After the pre-race festivities, I went home and assembled my bike which I had had shipped to my parent's house. Shipping the bike is a thousand times easier than flying with it post 9/11. It's just a little more expensive since the airlines charge an additional fee to transport bikes but it's much more convenient not to have to repack it in the airport and wait for it to be specially processed by the baggage handlers.

Anyway, I finally got to bed around 1:30 a.m. which gave me a good two hours of sleep before I had to get up since my ride from the suburbs to downtown Chicago was to arrive at 4:00 a.m. All this is necessary because the transition area where you have to store everything you need for the bike and run portions closes at 6:00 a.m. and the first wave of swimmers goes out at 6:15 a.m. I was in wave 39 which didn't leave until 9:08 a.m. which left me with over three hours to kill before I would start the swim.

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And what a swim it was with overcast skies, air temperatures which never climbed out of the 60s, water temperature of 64 degrees and 15 mph winds creating little choppy waves...oh joy, oh joy! Thank God, I finally bought a wetsuit before last year's race. Best triathlon related purchase ever. When I first competed in 1987 only a few people had wetsuits. Now only a few people don't have them. I'll never swim in Lake Michigan again without one! Next to air temperature, it's my understanding that the water temperature near the shore is primarily affected by direction of the wind. If it's blowing toward the shore, warm surface water is pulled in raising the temperature. But, if it's blowing out away from the shore, cold bottom water is pulled up lowering the temperature.

This year wasn't the coldest swim ever though. One year the authorities (non-race organizers) stepped in and cancelled the swim due to the water temperature. There was a lot of complaining and a compromise was reached between the race organizers and the authorities which allowed the professional racers to swim the regular distance while everyone else swam about a hundred yards so as to at least maintain the facade of a triathlon rather than a duathlon. The water was so cold, I remember hyperventilating the whole way and never being able to put my head down to actually swim a single stroke.

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The swim is 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) long and starts in groups or waves consisting of approximately 150 people which allows for plenty of body contact in the water as everyone sorts themselves out. Each wave has a different color swim cap and start anywhere from three to five minutes apart. As the result of there being such a broad spectrum of abilities, by the end of the swim the water is a rainbow of different color caps.

The absolute worst thing about the Chicago Triathlon in the past few years has been the layout of the swim transition. There is almost a quarter to half mile run from the end of the swim to the transition area. The distance is so long that the race organizers have created a little-publicized mini-transition area right at the swim exit where quite a few people take the time to stop and put on running shoes rather than transverse the slippery pebble covered route barefoot, although, this year they must have swept the route because the pebbles weren't too bad. Still, running on cement with water softened bare feet is not comfortable. The joke is that the race is really a quadathlon (swim-run-bike-run) because of this.

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This year's 40 kilometer (24.8 mile) bike leg was a little windy and a little cool but not too bad in either respect. There was one bad accident that I know of which I came upon when a rider was being loaded into an ambulance and two other riders were being attended to who I think caught a second ambulance. When there is a dark spot on a road, an automobile driver knows (or should know) that there is likely a bump there. The dark spot having been caused by the increase in oil drops from underneath vehicles that fall due to the force of the bump. The more severe the bump, the larger and darker the oil stain on the road. When there are enough riders, cycling has a corollary, in which water bottles replace oil drops. A bad enough bump in the road will tend to dislodge poorly secured water bottles. With enough riders a really bad bump is easily marked. This accident took place at a spot (the only spot along the bike route) where there was a large number of water bottles scattered around. Right where the accident occurred, there was a two foot wide, near bottomless, 6-8 inch gap in the road seam. I imagine a rider attempted to avoid it at the last second and swerved into the other riders (just my guess).

Finally, the last leg of the triathlon was the 10 kilometer (6.2 miles) run jog slow jog. It was especially fun given my utter lack of training. The weather did clear up a little and the sun even peaked out briefly during the run. It culminated in my worst finish ever, but it was still a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Thank you Harry for driving (I always fall asleep on the ride home) and helping with logistics. I couldn't do it without you. I promise to be there for you when you finally get around to doing the Sprint Triathlon.

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To be continued Monday...

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Lance Armstrong today became not only cycling's greatest rider ever but one of the greatest athletes of all time. He is the first to win six grueling Tour de France races, cycling's equivalent of the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Indy 500 all wrapped up into one. And, this after having been given less than a 50% chance of living in 1996 when he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer which had spread to his lungs and brain.

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In the 101 year history of the Tour de France (but only 91 races due to war), four other riders have won five times: Belgian Eddy "the Cannibal" Merckx, Spaniard Miguel Indurain and Frenchmen Bernard Hinault and Jacques Anquetil.

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The 2004 Tour de France covered more than 2100 miles comprised of 20 stages including 11 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 2 individual time-trial stages, and 1 team time-trial stage. The layout of the race this year was admittedly designed to make it as difficult as possible for Lance to win. However, the race officials couldn't overcome the fact that Lance has no weaknesses as he can hold his own against anyone in the flats, he can out climb everyone in the mountains and he can blow everyone away in the time trials.

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Lance's victories are in no small part due to his tremendous teammates who ride for the U.S. Postal team known as the Blue Train which this year included: Portuguese Jos頁zevedo, Spaniard Manuel Beltran, Russian Viatceslav Ekimov, American George Hincapie, American Floyd Landis, Spaniard Gonzalez Noval Benjamin, Czechoslovakian Pavel Padrnos and Spaniard Jos頌uis Rubiera.

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Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University basketball coach in Durham, North Carolina, today turned down a contract to coach the Los Angeles Lakers for $40 million over five years in order to stay with the school he loves and which loves him.

In twenty-four years of coaching at Duke, Krzyzewski has a 621-181 record, leading the Blue Devils to championships in 1991, 1992 and 2001, with 10 Final Four appearances, eight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championships, 10 conference regular-season titles and No. 1 ranking in 12 seasons, including each of the last seven. Perhaps more importantly, during Krzyzewskis time with the Blue Devils, all but two Duke players that played four seasons have graduated.

Coach K is a classy guy who has consistently produced quality players with character. Just a dozen miles down the road in Chapel Hill, there is another school and coach with equal class.

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels are now coached Roy Williams formerly coach of the Kansas Jayhawks. (Dean Smith was coach of North Carolina for 36 years from 1961-97.) Earlier this year, former Tar Heel coach, Matt Doherty, had signed the all-time leading points scorer in North Carolina high school history, JamesOn Curry, to join the team in the fall of 2004.

But, in April of 2004, Curry pleaded guilty to six felony drug charges for possession, intent to sell, and distribution of marijuana to an undercover officer at his high school resulting in 36 months of probation, 200 hours of community service and various fines. In other words, Curry was dealing drugs to children. North Carolina coach Roy Williams immediately rescinded Curry's scholarship.

Curry's attorney, Dawn Allen, said "He never had problems before at school." Which to be true, you would have to believe a perfectly normal well-behaved law-abiding high school student suddenly, out of nowhere, starts selling marijuana one day to other children. No, the truth of the matter is obviously that this was merely the first time that Curry was caught.

The story should continue on with Curry going in shame to some unknown junior college desperate for a talented player regardless of his background where, if he kept his nose clean, might be allowed a chance to play in Division I again in two years. The message would be sent to hopeful players everywhere, stay away from drugs or else there will be consequences and Curry would still have the opportunity to play ball and show that his felony drug convictions were an anomaly.

Unfortunately, life doesn't always make that much sense. Instead, after North Carolina yanked Curry's scholarship, the ever opportunistic Oklahoma State coached by Eddie Sutton jumped on Curry's availability and signed him up to play for the OSU Cowboys. While Sutton, of course, spun the signing of Curry as an opportunity to provide Curry with a more nurturing environment far away from his troubles in North Carolina, blah, blah, blah. In reality, it was a clear grab of a talented player without regard to the impact on that player or the message it sends to kids in similar situations around the country. It was also consistent with Sutton's own checkered past in which he previously coached at Kentucky, but was forced to resign after being placed on probation for recruiting violations, and was then offered the coaching position at OSU.

All the victories in the world will never put Oklahoma State and Eddie Sutton in the same ranks as Duke and North Carolina. I hope Curry turns his life around, but I also hope OSU and Sutton are not rewarded for their classless actions.

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Lance Armstrong started his record setting attempt at a sixth straight Tour de France victory on Saturday. Accordingly, I'll be a little less productive over the next two weeks. Go Lance!

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