Writing Archive – Lifelong Lessons Learned from a Summer Job

Here’s a wonderful high school essay assignment – write about how you spent the summer and if you actually learned anything from it!  While I wrote that I gained some great life experience, I don’t think I took any of these lessons to heart until I was an adult.

Lifelong Lessons Learned From a Summer Job

Last Summer I learned values of discipline, responsibility, and a trade while on a cement construction job. The job was with my father’s company, so I had to prove capable of the work. I didn’t want favoritism from my father either. I really had to earn my keep.

The responsibilities came early in the morning, sometimes before 5 a.m. Sometimes I had to get up early because we had incredible amounts of work on particular days. I scoffed at rising early one night in my first week of work. At 1 a.m. I was still awake, fully aware that at 4:30 a.m. we had to leave to complete a large driveway. I was dead on my feet, but I still worked as hard as I could. This taught me the quality of work goes down when employees burn the candle at both ends. When I started to go to bed earlier, I felt more relaxed and the work seemed easier. That was just one way I became more disciplined.

Hot days were a good test of my will because I had to resist the temptation to complain, or whine to my father. On one such occasion, he left me alone on a job. I was left with a wallish mass of cement blocks, a wheelbarrow, and 90 degree heat. My task was to load the wheelbarrow with the blocks and wheel it about fifty yards to the street curb. I worked hard and completed most of the job before my father returned. He gave me a compliment which gave me a good feeling of responsibility.

A large aspect of the job was getting along with my co-workers. We had to know each other’s actions before they happened. That may sound strange, but it was a tremendous factor in doing a quality job. I felt that by the end of the summer we worked together extremely well. We had our differences early on, mostly because I thought I was privileged. I quickly learned to handle myself, and act more mature.

Maturity showed the customers that I wouldn’t just fool around and ruin their job. The customer also found that our company took the time to care about the job and not just personal monetary goals. My father passed some words of wisdom on to me. He said, “The customer is the most important part of our business. Without the customer, we would not own this company.” It made me realize what every type of work is about.

Finally, I learned a trade and some very important values that will have an effect on me for life. The experience was well worth it!

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One of Dad's construction trucks

One of Dad’s construction trucks

Awww, youth is wasted on the wrong people!

Awww, youth is wasted on the wrong people!

Milwaukee Brewers Week in Review: August 15-21

The week in review:  The Milwaukee Brewers ended their week on a high note with a dramatic comeback victory over Seattle on Sunday, as they put up four runs in the ninth inning. The rest of the week was one the players and fans would like to forget. The Crew lost six straight, dropping four games to the Chicago Cubs and then the first two in Seattle.  Most of the losses weren’t close other than a 7-6 score in the first game of the Mariners series. Going into Monday’s action, the Brewers are 53-70, tied for fourth/last place in the NL Central with the Cincinnati Reds.  The teams are 25 games behind the front running Cubs.

Offensively speaking: How about outfielder Keon Broxton slugging a couple homers on Sunday to lead the team? It was a perfect way for Manager Craig Counsell to celebrate his birthday. Broxton led the team in hits and batting average this past week – and also strikeouts. Chris Carter has upped his batting average of late, hitting .273 over 22 at bats with two homers. He leads the team with 29 homers for the year.

Pitching in: How long has it been since a left hander started a game for the Brewers? You’d have to go back to 2013 and (not Randy Wolf) Tom Gorzelanny.  Counsell says there isn’t any one reason for the long drought, but it is “kind of fluky.” Lefty Brent Suter made his debut this past Friday after being summoned from Colorado Springs and will now move to a bullpen role.  He is certainly someone to watch after tearing it up with the Sky Sox this season.  Bright spots on the pitching staff this past week came from Tyler Thornburg, Tyler Cravy, and Carlos Torres with scoreless relief. Thornburg earned a win on Sunday in the comeback game.

Injuries and roster moves:  There were a number of moves this past week. RHP Michael Blazek went on the DL first and Tyler Cravy was recalled to take his spot. Next RHP Damien Magnifico was recalled from the Sky Sox and 1B Andy Wilkens was sent back down. It was good to see right fielder Domingo Santana come off the DL, giving him time to salvage the season and look toward next year. Outfielder Ramon Flores was designated for assignment upon Santana’s return. Finally, in need of a starter, Brent Suter was called up and Magnifico sent down – so his stay in the bigs was pretty short – for now, at least. Starting pitcher Junior Guerra is working toward a return from elbow soreness. He threw a 30 pitch bullpen session in Seattle on Saturday and is scheduled for a couple innings of simulated action against batters back at Miller Park today. If all goes well he will be sent out on a minor league rehab assignment next.

Down on the farm: Pitching prospect Josh Hader threw six innings of shutout ball on Sunday and struck out 12 batters in the process – including Carlos Gomez – the guy he was traded for last year. It was Hader’s first win at the Triple A level. The Sky Sox are currently 6.5 games behind front running Oklahoma City. Brett Phillips leads Biloxi with 53 runs and RBI’s. Clint Coulter has a 13 game hitting streak going with the Shuckers. Off the field, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers welcomed former Brewers great Don Money for a meet and greet on Sunday.

The week ahead:  The team is back at home for a nine game home stand to wrap up August, starting off with three games against Colorado. On Thursday Pittsburgh comes to town for a three game weekend series. Probable pitchers are Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, and Zach Davies.

Random notes: The recent word from GM David Stearns is the Crew won’t be “filling the dugout” with a bunch of extra players come September. Right now they’re trying to figure out who they want to look at in the last month, but some of the guys such as Orlando Arcia are already on the team. The last six weeks figure to be development time for many players and with a lot of upcoming games against better teams, fans shouldn’t be expecting too many wins. After this home stand the team has just nine games at home in September and October.

Today is former Brewers Hall of Famer Paul Molitor’s 60th birthday.  Happy Birthday to the Ignitor!

Please feel free to share this article to your favorite social media sites with the buttons below the logo.  I also encourage you to visit the following sites where I am a contributor:

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Milwaukee Brewers Editorial – August 2016

Most of my Milwaukee Brewers content here has been either historical, such as the Hank Aaron’s final home run story.  Or you’ll catch me trying to do my best in posting Brewers Week in Review.  Once in a great while I’ll even do an old school player profile or have a story about meeting a player as a kid (Lary Sorenson) or an adult (Robin Yount).

What I haven’t really done is give you my thoughts and feelings about the team or its players, past or present.

Until now.  Enough ‘things’ have happened this year in Brewerville that it’s time I took a step back and editorialized.  With that, here’s the disclaimer that these opinions are my own and are not representative of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club.  So here goes.  Oh, I already did it?  Well then, here goes nothing…or something, depending on how you look at it.

Jonathan Lucroy (This ain’t the 90’s Brewers)

My immediate gut reaction when Luc got traded was “Whaaaa…nooooooooo!”  For about a second.  Literally.  Yes, he was a tremendous asset to the team and will be terribly missed.  Yet on the other side I’ve witnessed enough baseball and trades over the years to understand the business aspect of the game.  Baseball fans get preached to about the business end of things to the point that every player statement after a big trade sounds like it was read from the same script.

One thought, however, that did keep coming back to me after the Luc trade – “This ain’t the 90’s Brewers.”  Yes, as I said last paragraph – I have witnessed a lot of baseball.  It’s important to add that a lot of that baseball was crappy baseball, and not just on the field.  I’m referring to trades that were made “for trades sake.”  Whoever said that first was wise.  Man, I love that line.  All I know is a lot of trades in the 90’s were made with no direction, other than to shed someone who would potentially be earning a big contract.  Just look at the purge of players in the late 90’s/early 00’s.  Ouch.

I have nothing against Sal Bando.  My guess is he did what he needed to do – and probably was handcuffed in a lot of situations.  My Dad always said – “Loved Sal Bando as a player, but as a GM…”

Dad would often trail off in thought like that.  Sometimes he’d come back with an expletive.  A lot of Brewers fans were probably like Dad in that era, but they need not be now.  This ain’t the 90’s Brewers, and here’s what my take is on why we fans shouldn’t think that way:

It’s really easy during a flurry of player transactions to get caught up in the flurry itself, and not see the bigger picture.  Heck, I know I’ve gotten confused this past year in following all the player moves.  But I’m one guy – and General Manager David Stearns has a team – a think tank of people dedicated to emulating the successful path the Cubs, Royals, Astros, and others followed.  Trade away the guys who are gonna cost some bucks, rebuild the farm, and patiently wait for the young talent to either sink or swim.  Rinse and repeat.  Love it.  Haven’t seen it in Milwaukee in a long time, but the first real example I can remember is probably 1976-ish to 1978.  We need to see it again.  I find it fun to hear about players well before they get to the big leagues – like a Lucroy or Prince Fielder (and I’ll get to him shortly).  Of course not all of them can make it to the bigs, but man it’s fun when they do.  I’m looking at you, Orlando Arcia!

Prince Fielder

I know I wasn’t the only Brewers (or baseball or Prince) fan that had a broken heart this past week.  We all know athletes have to retire sooner or later due to the ravages of time, but I think sports fans would rather see them retire on their own terms.  Hank Aaron didn’t have much of a batting average and only hit 10 home runs in his final season with the Brewers.  In his 40’s and with some knee issues, Hank decided to hang it up.  Yes, he could have stuck around and played designated hitter for at least a couple more years, but made the decision on his own.  The Brewers would have probably kept him around too as a way to put a few more butts in the seats, especially since they pretty much sucked.  But Hammerin’ Hank retired on his own terms.

Prince did not.

I wish he had the opportunity to make the choice for himself.  Like Sal Bando, I harbor no ill will toward Prince.  I loved the way he played the game and yeah, I would have preferred he remain a Brewer forever, but baseball is a business too.  I may have made the same decision in leaving Milwaukee, but I was a sucky player so we may as not even speculate on what I would have done!

One thing that really irritated me during the whole will he/won’t he stay in Milwaukee saga was the “Maybe Prince will stick around and give us a hometown discount” comment I kept hearing.  Arrrggghhhhh!!!  First off, it isn’t his hometown!  I mean, I guess I see the logic because he was drafted by the Brewers and came through the system.  But players don’t generally give a home town discount.  What the hell is that anyway?  They’re on the road half the year and live in hotels and apartments.  Who sticks around after the season to live in Wisconsin?  Not Luc.  Not Fielder.  Ken Sanders, Jim Gantner, Gorman Thomas, and Craig Counsell are a few that come to mind.

Hometown discount my (thought trails off into expletives)….

In all seriousness, I am grateful for a lot of memories (that I won’t list here) of watching Prince have fun playing the game.  Business of baseball aside, the guy knew how to have fun while playing hard.  He clobbered home runs in key situations and struck out with the bases loaded too.  Just those aspects alone reminded me of some of my childhood heroes – and Gorman Thomas is a good example.  But his good natured fun-loving side also was a throwback to guys like Thomas, Robin Yount, Pete Vuckovich, Paul Molitor, and many others.  I will miss Prince.

Too Much CarGo?

By the time you read this the whole Carlos Gomez saga may be a moot point.  As I type every Brewers related blog and news source has covered Gomez being available for trade – at least twice!

My thought is if he (or any other former Brewer) is available and the price is right, then why not?  Jeff Cirillo came back twice.  Chris Capuano is on his second tour of duty, albeit on the disabled list.  How many times did we re-acquire K-Rod?  Don’t answer that.

The question is – does Gomez fit in or does my Too Much CarGo title reign true?  David Stearns can answer that.  Joe Schmoe blogger can play armchair GM.  Well, some other Joe Schmoe blogger.  Not me.

Carlos was another player I enjoyed seeing on the field, mainly due to his aggressive play and love of the game.  As Brewers fans know, he came with some baggage (CarGo – ha!  Oooh, that’s bad.), but played to most of his full potential with the Brewers.  I think it says something that he has been with four MLB teams and has stunk it up with three of the four.

2018…and beyond!

One thing I read after the Lucroy trade – and forgive me because like all of you I’m inundated with internet articles – is the Brewers are poised for 2018 and beyond.  I like that thought.  Luc may be gone, Prince may be really gone, and who knows where Gomez goes, but these ain’t your 90’s Brewers.  I have a lot of hope for a positive future in Milwaukee.

Cheers,

Chris

One of my favorite photos I took of Prince Fielder - just a quiet moment on deck

One of my favorite photos I took of Prince Fielder – just a quiet moment on deck (click to enlarge photos on this page)

Yours truly and Luc - not too long after he came up from the minors

Yours truly and Luc – not too long after he came up from the minors

Milwaukee Brewers Week in Review: August 8 – 14

The week in review:  The Milwaukee Brewers started off the week with back-to-back losses to Atlanta at home.  They went on to split the series with 4-3 and 11-3 wins.  Over the weekend the Crew lost to Cincinnati 7-4 and 11-5, then won 7-3 on Sunday.  Going into Monday’s action the Brewers have a 52-64 record and are in fourth place in the NL Central, 21.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Offensively speaking:  Brewers players and fans found out this week that scoring in every inning is even rarer than pitching a perfect game.  Thursday’s 11-3 win featured a run in each frame, and the Brewers became the 19th team in the last 116 years to accomplish the feat.  Over that same timeframe there have been 21 perfect games, which includes one in the postseason.  Manny Pina hit his first big league homer against the Reds and has been hitting around .500 since being called up from the minors after the Jonathan Lucroy trade.  Ryan Braun hit his 20th home run of the season on Saturday which extended the Brewers streak to a home run in each of their past 16 games.  Also, with that homer Braun became the only player in franchise history with eight 20 homer seasons.  On Sunday Braun bashed another two homers and made the team streak 17 games, plus added six RBI’s to his total.

Pitching in:  Matt Garza and Wily Peralta both had decent starts with each going six innings and giving up two runs early in the week.  Peralta had a second good outing on Sunday, again lasting six innings while giving up just four hits and a run.  Jimmy Nelson continued his downward trend with a rough outing against the Reds.  Michael Blazek also has been hit hard out of the bullpen since being recalled from Triple A.

Injuries and roster moves:  Junior Guerra played catch over the weekend for the first time since landing on the DL this past Monday.  Domingo Santana made it through his rehab stint with the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and will most likely move to a higher level for rehab in an attempt to get 20-30 at bats before returning to the team.  Infielder Will Middlebrooks (lower right leg strain) and reliever Jacob Barnes (right elbow soreness) are estimated as returning around September 1 when rosters expand.

Down on the farm:  Jacob Nottingham was 3-for-5 for the Biloxi Shuckers with a pair of doubles and game winning RBI in a victory over Jackson this week.  All eyes are on the young catcher as he potentially could move up to Triple A next year.  Taylor Jungmann had his fourth consecutive quality start for Biloxi in his quest to get back to the Brew Crew.  He has not allowed more than three earned runs in each of his last eight starts.  While not a top prospect, lefty Brent Suter has established himself as a premier pitcher in the Pacific Coast League.  He has a 0.87 ERA in his last ten games for Colorado Springs, with four wins and a save in that stretch, covering 41.1 innings.

The week ahead:  After an off day today, Tuesday brings a day/night doubleheader in Chicago against the Cubs.  Game 1 is a make-up of the postponed game on 4/27.  The series continues with games on Wednesday and Thursday.  Probable pitchers are Matt Garza, Chase Anderson, and Jimmy Nelson.  The Crew travels to Seattle after Chicago for a three game weekend series.

Random notes:  I’ve been slacking in my game attendance this year, but finally got down to Miller Park on Sunday for the final day of the Reds series and Craig Counsell player/manager bobblehead day.   Always a good time at the old ballpark!

In the coming weeks I’ll have posts here about original Brewers John Morris, Lew Krausse, and Bob Humphreys, plus some fun stuff from the 1980’s.  Stay tuned!

Please feel free to share this article to your favorite social media sites with the buttons below the photo.  I also encourage you to visit the following sites where I am a contributor:

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Reflections

MLB Trade Rumors

1980’s Baseball

And check out my Facebook author page!

Craig Counsell Manager Bobblehead

Craig Counsell Manager Bobblehead

That Time I Met Robin Yount

No new post for you here this week.  I did write a guest post for the 1980’s Baseball site as part of their “That Time I Met…” series of articles.  Various contributors have written about meeting everyone from Nolan Ryan, to Johnny Bench, and now my post about meeting Robin Yount!

I encourage you to check out the site beyond my guest article.  It’s a wonderful site dedicated to preserving the memories of the teams, players, and crazy characters of the 1980’s.  The corresponding Facebook page also has tons of great content geared more toward that audience.  Either way, if you’re a fan of 1980’s baseball, you can’t go wrong.

I glad to have a small part in what I feel to be a very worthwhile site.

You can find my guest post here:

http://www.80sbaseball.com/that-time-i-met-robin-yount/Robin Yount autograph

Milwaukee Brewers Week in Review: August 1 – August 7

The week in review:  After a flurry of trade deadline activity, the Milwaukee Brewers had a 2-4 week against San Diego and Arizona.  The Crew went bat bonkers last Saturday night, winning 15-6 behind Ryan Braun’s 7 RBI game to tie a franchise record.  Going into Monday night’s action the Brewers were still in fourth place in the NL Central with a 49-60 record, 19.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Offensively speaking:  Keon Broxton has been working hard since being recalled from the minors.  One hitting adjustment has made the difference, leading to him hitting over .400 in his last dozen at bats.  Besides his big RBI night, Braun has four homers in the past week.   

Pitching in:  Matt Garza had a good outing, throwing 6.1 innings with 3 hits and 2 earned runs.  Tyler Thornburg grabbed a save in his new closer role, plus tossed two scoreless innings.  David Goforth was roughed up in relief to the tune of 5 earned runs on 2 innings.

Injuries and roster moves:  The big move (in case you were asleep) was catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress being traded to the Texas Rangers for prospects – RHP Luis Ortiz, CF Lewis Brinson, and (supposedly a big name prospect) player to be named later.  The same day the Crew dealt LHP Will Smith to the San Francisco Giants for catcher prospect Andrew Susac and RHP Phil Bickford.  The team then brought up top shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia and immediately put him in the lineup, moving Jonathan Villar to third base.  Catcher Manny Pina also came up from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to take Lucroy’s place.  Reliever David Goforth was recalled from the Sky Sox briefly, but was returned after being lit up.  RHP Rob Scahill was recalled today to take his place.  Junior Guerra was placed on the 15 day DL retroactive to August 4, and being down a starter, Wily Peralta was recalled to take his spot in the rotation.

Down on the farm:  MLBPipeline.com says the Brewers have the No. 1 Minor League system in baseball since the trade deadline brought in even more talent.  GM David Stearns says, “The most important thing I’ve stressed to our group is that we stay on strategy, and that strategy is to continue to try to acquire as much young talent as we possibly can.”

The week ahead:  The Crew kicks off a homestand tonight which is the start of a four game set with the Atlanta Braves.  This weekend the Cincinnati Reds come to town for a three game series.  Next Monday is an off day.  Wily Perata makes his first start tomorrow night after returning from the minors.  Chase Anderson is on the mound Wednesday, followed by Matt Garza and Jimmy Nelson on Friday night.

Random notes:  Sunday is Craig Counsell bobblehead day and yours truly will be there!  As my Dad always said, even the worst day at the ballpark beats working.

Last fall I posted a bio on this site about Ted Kubiak, original Brewers player from 1970 – and the guy who first set the 7 RBI in a game record.  Since Braun did it Saturday night (and for the second time in his career), it has me thinking again about Kubiak.  If you missed the post, you can read about his 7 RBI game and time with Milwaukee in the early years here.

Please feel free to share this article to your favorite social media sites with the buttons below the logo.  I also encourage you to visit the following sites where I am a contributor:

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Reflections

MLB Trade Rumors

1980’s Baseball

And check out my Facebook author page!

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Long Lake Fishing Memories

There is a wonderful slice of fishing heaven just off the beaten path in Columbia County called Long Lake.  It’s just a few miles off Highway 33 outside Portage, Wisconsin, and connects with the Baraboo River.  In my adult life I have lived in the city of Portage twice – once just out of high school and the second time from 1999-2004.  At the end of the second go-round I thought I discovered a new lake for Dad and me to fish in, but it turned out he had already been there several years before.

We had been talking about renewing my childhood love of pan fishing for some time and I started to scout for lakes in the area for us to try out.  An obvious choice was Silver Lake in Portage, but I had tried there years before and only caught small bluegills.  A second attempt turned up the same results, so I looked for lakes outside the city.  Long Lake caught my eye as the online reports were good – at least the handful that I found, anyway.  I took that to mean it wasn’t fished to death like some other lakes.

I sold my Portage house in late 2004.  The realtor that originally helped me find it also listed and sold it too.  After the closing I told her I loved the area and if she came across any waterfront property (preferably with a cottage) to let me know.  I was thinking maybe I could find something cheap enough to have for weekend fishing and writing visits – just something simple where I could clear my head a bit.  The realtor said she’d let me know, but admitted properties on Long Lake were not desirable due to flooding in the spring and droves of mosquitos.

Real life quickly took over and I forgot all about the conversation.  Right before Memorial Day the following spring I got an unexpected call at work from the realtor.  She had a line on a property with a not quite finished cottage that just needed paint and flooring.  The seller was looking to get out fairly cheap, which still would be a profit on what he purchased it for 30 years prior.  The location was on the Wisconsin River just a few miles to the west of Portage.  Was I interested?  Heck yeah!

After a summer of wrangling the cottage was mine.  Dad and I spent the latter part of the summer and fall putting in floor tiles and painting the walls in the 24×24 getaway on stilts.  I should correct that.  I did the painting.  Dad couldn’t stand painting.  He did put in a nice deck off the front of the cottage that faced the river.  Until then we called it the door to nowhere.

In the spring of 2006 we started fishing the area, first with the aforementioned Silver Lake.  That was good for one outing as we quickly discovered the fish size was horrible.  We quickly moved on to Long Lake.  The guy who sold me the cottage left a 14 foot alumacraft boat, circa 1970.  Dad found a boat trailer and also offered up his old boat motor, the one we used in Canada back when I was a kid.  You don’t need anything special to fish on Long Lake, and I guess what we had fit the bill perfectly!

Dad told me that grandpa (his Dad) took him to Long Lake when he was a kid – he thought in the late 1940’s or early 50’s.  Dad’s brother Ronnie and their uncle Harlan also went along.  Dad really admired his Uncle Harlan – but grandpa, not so much.  He said grandpa tossed a conniption fit one time when I fish got the better of him and pulled one of his many cane poles into the water.  “We’re going,” he bellowed.  “Let’s go!”

Needless to say, Dad got into Harlan’s boat every time and left grandpa and Ronnie in the other boat.  Dad said he and Harlan caught fish like crazy there and he learned a lot from his uncle.  The learning part I believed, but the fishing – well, you never knew with Dad.  He was just as good as any old fisherman when it came to telling fish stories!

But he was right.  While the exterior of the lake had changed in the 50+ years since he had been there, the fishing hadn’t.  One side of the lake had cottages and trailers – and that was where the boat launch was located.  The opposite side of “civilization” was mostly wooded and turned out to be where we caught the most fish.  Dad said when he was young a lot of the wooded land was owned by a farmer that let them cross his property to access the lake.

As for the name of the lake, Dad said he figured some old settler stumbled upon it years ago and could find the beginning or end of the lake.  “He probably said, ‘Hey – now that’s one Long Lake’ and the name stuck,” Dad said.

The lake was a fisherman’s dream.  We caught mainly bluegills and crappies – and some of the biggest we’d ever seen.  That’s no fish tale my friends.   We saw an occasional fisherman going along the shores for bass, but we kept to what we were doing.  Some days we didn’t catch anything and then we’d try for northerns.  Dad caught one accidentally on a day we were crappie fishing, but not having any luck.  We figured the big guy scared all of our fish away and then attacked Dad’s worm!

Dad also accidentally caught a turtle.  Well, almost.  He had it up near the boat and got its head out of the water, then the giant snapped the line.  I tried but failed to get a photo.  One great photo I did get (below this story) was Dad just taking a fish off the hook.  Later after I got it developed I noticed an ad on Walgreens where you could take a photo and make a fake magazine cover out of it.  So used that photo and created Dad on the cover of Fisherman Monthly or something like that.  He put it up in his shed and would get an occasional guest asking how he got on the cover of such a prestigious magazine!

We had a lot of great times on Long Lake and back at the cottage.  Usually after cleaning fish the late afternoons were spent reading newspapers and grilling out.  We listened to baseball games on the radio every chance we got and talked a lot about the Brewers of course.  It turned out my plans to write a book or some other big project mainly turned into diary entries.  Some excerpts include:

After a long day of doing trim around the windows and floor, plus some other cottage work, Dad said put some words of wisdom in your diary:  “The old man says he’s tired!”

The cottage had both an indoor bathroom and an outhouse that Dad called the “trapper crapper” because it had an old trap hung on the inside wall.  My diary entry:  “Today I painted the trapper crapper inside and out in a very nice barn colored red!”

At one point I was full of myself regarding my mad grilling skills:  “We just had great burgers on the grill!”

“The places that seem to work the best are the ones along the bank with downed trees.  We found a tree those big ones with orange bellies.”

At one point I made an entry about lousy fishing at Yellowstone Lake back close to home, “but we caught a couple nice sized (10”) crappies there.”  The next day at Long Lake:  “I caught three nice crappies right in a row (all around 12 & ½” long)!”

Baseball commentary:  “Cubs won yesterday 6-5 on a walk-off homer, but today the Brewers killed them on national television (FOX).”

Caught about 25 keepers in the “sweet spot” between the two downed trees today on both minnows and worms.  The real odd thing was Dad caught only crappies and I caught only bluegills.

Mosquitos:  “Little bloody vultures are everywhere – even on the lake today!”

Other non-mosquito wildlife:  “I walked down by the river this morning and saw a buck and a doe on the edge of the island (in the Wisconsin River).  There was also a clam on the side of the river that I turned over and coon tracks.”

I sold the cottage after a few years when it got harder to get up there in the summer.  Dad and I discovered a campground with rental cabins a few miles down the road called Ski High.  Occasionally we’d rent a cabin for the weekend and go fishing at Long Lake.  It naturally wasn’t the same as my cottage, but we still could grill out and listen to a ballgame after fishing.

Eventually we stopped going altogether.  Dad started to have difficulty getting in and out of the boat.  Sitting for a long time on a metal seat was also a problem, even with a cushion.  Without a doubt I would give anything to have even an hour out on Long Lake with Dad again.  So in place of that, I figuratively raise a can of Dad’s favorite cheap beer (Hamms) in his memory, and in remembrance of great times on the water.

Dad often said we were in “the land of sky blue waters” when we fished Long Lake.  It was more than just the Hamms slogan –  he was right.  Thanks Dad for tons of great memories.

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Dad reading to the paper while listening to a ballgame. I’m sure the grill was fired up too!

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Dad always told me to zoom in when I took the photos so the fish looked even bigger!

Long Lake 1

Long Lake

dad building new deck

Dad building a deck. Where’s his Hamms?

Milwaukee Brewers Week in Review: July 25-July 31

The week in review:  It has been a wild week for the Milwaukee Brewers both on and off the field.  The team turned in a 6-1 week at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates amid constant Jonathan Lucroy trade rumors, (and if you were under a rock and missed it) a vetoed trade attempt with the Cleveland Indians.  The Crew is holding a modest four game winning streak after sweeping the Bucs over the weekend.  Going into Monday’s action, Milwaukee is 47-56, still in fourth place in the NL Central and 15 games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Offensively speaking:  The bats came out of hibernation against the Diamondbacks as the Crew scored 7, 9, and 6 runs in their victories.  Hernan Perez – a couple homers and 7 RBI’s this past week.  Scooter Gennett also had 7 RBI’s and hit .385 to boot. Jonathan Villar had 4 stolen bases and a .348 BA.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis chipped in 3 homers this past week.  Everywhere you look someone stepped up in a good offensive effort.

Pitching in:  Chase Anderson won his last two games with an ERA under 2:00 in 10 innings of work.  Junior Guerra – 15 innings with 1 earned run!  He has been a bright spot in a rebuilding year for the team.  Jeremy Jeffress picked up his 27th save on Sunday after going 3 for 3 in save opportunities this week.  The downward trend for Will Smith has continued of late, as he gave up 7 runs in his last 2.1 innings of work.

Injuries and roster moves:  Infielder Will Middlebrooks went on the 15 day DL last week and outfielder Keon Broxton was recalled from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (yet again).  Pitcher Jacob Barnes went on the DL with elbow soreness and Michael Blazek was recalled from the Sky Sox.  By the time you read this Luc, Jeffress, Guerra, or any number of other players could be traded!

Down on the farm: Midseason top prospect rankings were released this week and a few players made some jumps up the list.  Pitchers Miguel Diaz and Marcos Diplan both moved up 11 spots and are in the top 20 prospects.  They have been promoted up a level each as well.  Shortstop Orlando Arcia is still in the top spot with outfielder Corey Ray in second place.  With the potential for a Lucroy trade on the horizon, Brewers fans may well want to keep tabs on #12 prospect catcher Jacob Nottingham.  Three players that may see action in Milwaukee before the season ends are Arcia, pitcher Josh Hader (#3), and outfielder Michael Reed (#24).  All are on the team’s 40 man roster.

The week ahead:  Milwaukee heads west to kick off a three game series with the San Diego Padres on Monday night.  Probable pitchers are Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies, and Junior Guerra.  After an off day on Thursday the team plays in Arizona for three games over the weekend.

Random notes:  As many of you are aware, I am writing a historical book about the Brewers.  Last week I posted with specifics about the book (because “historical book” can mean a lot of things), plus a bit about my writing process.  If you missed it, you can read the post here.  More updates to come!

Please feel free to share this article to your favorite social media sites with the buttons below the logo.  I also encourage you to visit the following sites where I am a contributor:

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Reflections

MLB Trade Rumors

1980’s Baseball

And check out my Facebook author page for articles like this and much more!

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Milwaukee Brewers Historical Book Specifics and My Writing Process

In this post I’d like to share with you some background on how I came to write my Milwaukee Brewers historical book and narrow the scope of what it’s about. I’ll also give some details about my writing process and how doing what I do helped me finish the first draft in a little over a year.

I had a meniscus surgery on my right knee in February, 2015. It’s a pretty minor surgery with easy rehab, but I was still off work for a couple weeks and doped up with pain meds for the first couple days.  While I was on the couch with my leg up, I watched a lot of baseball movies and read a couple of baseball books.  One DVD I took in was The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight into History.  If you haven’t seen it, the documentary is a great assemblage of archival footage and recent interviews that tell the story of baseball’s “one year franchise.”  I’m not just saying that because I was loaded up on painkillers either.

The Pilots story ended in bankruptcy court when Bud Selig bought the team and moved it to Milwaukee where the franchise became the Brewers. After the film I found myself being bothered by the lack of detailed stories about how the Brewers came to be – mostly because there’s a lot more behind the notion that Selig just flew in and bought a franchise.  Over the years I have read bits and pieces about the Milwaukee Braves locating after the 1965 season in Atlanta, leaving the city without a team until the Brewers arrived in 1970.  What about those non-baseball years?  The question always bugged me so I did some digging while I rehabbed from the surgery.

Another thing that always bothered me was the one-liner that I’ve read in several articles about Selig being the Brewers owner – something along the lines of “Selig bought the Brewers out of bankruptcy court in 1970 and moved them to Milwaukee from Seattle just a week before season.” Occasionally these articles would add a few notes about the events surrounding the purchase and move, yet never enough to tell the full story.  The more I sat around with my leg in the air, the more investigating I did about Selig’s early years, the Braves blowing town, and the non-baseball time period.

I also started looking at the first Brewers team that took the field in 1970, as a lot of interesting things happened to those players. Many of the decisions and actions in 1970 set the stage for other events later down the road.  This was truly a new franchise finding its way through wacky promotions such as a player cow-milking contest and new mascot Bernie Brewer (Milt Mason) on top of the scoreboard in a trailer.

I quickly realized that I could write a story that answered the questions I mentioned earlier. But I felt I couldn’t just tell the tale of how the Brewers were bought in court and how 1970 played out.  It seemed like that was only half the story.  So much baseball history existed in both Milwaukee and Seattle before those cities even had major league teams.  I found myself drawing a lot of parallels between the two cities.  Both also had numerous court battles over the loss of their major league franchises – and that was a story within itself.

Four years of disappointment was Selig’s path as he made numerous attempts to acquire a franchise or talk the league into allowing expansion into Milwaukee. Those years alone are very interesting, but I decided to also talk about the rise and fall of the Braves and Selig’s childhood experiences with baseball in order to give his battles with the league proper context.  He went to great lengths to convince the league that Milwaukee was a viable city for baseball – even going so far as to have the Chicago White Sox play “home games” in County Stadium that drew more fans than the team’s real home games.  As a result he nearly bought the White Sox and moved them to Milwaukee.

When I put all of those elements together I realized there was enough fodder for a book. To quote novelist Toni Morrison: “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must be the one to write it.”  I agree.  This is something I wanted to read so I worked hard to write it.  I’d like to think at least one other person wants to read it too, and that will justify me writing it!

To summarize in nice bullet points, the book:

  • Weaves a backstory through Milwaukee’s rich baseball history and Selig’s childhood baseball experiences to put his quest into proper context
  • Presents a history of the minor league American Association Milwaukee Brewers and owner Bill Veeck’s over-the-top promotions at Borchert Field
  • Why and how Borchert Field was replaced by Milwaukee County Stadium, and the local government’s subsequent attempts to lure a major league franchise to play in the new ballpark
  • The rise and fall of the Milwaukee Braves which led to Selig’s new ownership group (Teams Inc. – later Milwaukee Brewers Inc.) fighting to first keep the Braves in town, then doing everything possible to acquire a new franchise
  • Tells how initial fervent community support for the Braves later turned into anger and apathy that carried over to the new Brewers team
  • Similarities between baseball history in Seattle and Milwaukee and the court battles fought on both fronts over baseball franchises – leading to the loss of one team and the birth of another
  • Covers the brief history of the Seattle Pilots, from their expansion into major league baseball through financial ruin and bankruptcy court
  • Details the mad scramble to relocate a team with just one week before season
  • Provides a breakdown of the 1970 baseball season, including everything from countless roster moves to wacky promotions such as witches casting a winning spell over the team, and 69 year old Milt Mason being christened “Bernie Brewer” while spending the summer on top the scoreboard
  • Summarizes the events that followed that first year and how quickly a roster can be “deconstructed”
  • Concludes with an extensive “where are they now” section covering the lives of team executives, players, and coaches involved in the early stages of Brewers baseball

As for my writing process, the first thing I thought to do was attempt to contact players and coaches from the first Brewers team to see if I could conduct interviews. I was lucky enough to communicate with about a dozen people and incorporated many of their quotes into the book.  At some point I thought it would also be a good idea to contact some behind the scenes folks that had knowledge of the team, and that led me to a ballboy and batboy still living in Wisconsin, plus the visiting clubhouse manager.  Each had great recall on the events leading up to the Brewers coming to Milwaukee and the first few seasons of Brewers baseball.  Those interviews were instrumental in me putting together a timeline of events.

Unfortunately I did not hear back from anyone in Bud Selig’s camp after multiple requests for an interview.  While his stories would have been a welcome addition to my book, they are not necessary as plenty of archival information exists that works just as well.  I understand he is writing his memoirs and will most certainly cover this time period in his baseball career.

After I conducted interviews I took the events timeline and all of the other pieces I wanted to cover and drew up a set of sample chapters in a notebook. This evolved quite a bit as I worked on the project.  An example is that I didn’t have the idea to wrap up the book with a summary chapter of what happened to the franchise and original players after 1970.  The story just kind of ended at the conclusion of 1970, but that didn’t feel right to me and needed an epilogue.

The plans for chapters led me to creating a folder structure and Word documents for each chapter. I immediately backed everything up on an external USB stick.  I didn’t want to become one of those computer crash horror stories where everything was lost!

As I compiled interviews last spring and early summer, I also worked to locate archival newspaper articles online. Once I discovered how to make effective Google searches I could find pretty much anything I needed in a matter of seconds.  I saved links to stories and put these into each chapter document in order of how the section was to be written.  I gave myself a goal to have all the research completed by fall so I could start actually writing, although I knew I would probably have more research to conduct while I wrote.

In the fall I started writing, and at first started from the beginning with the idea that I’d get everything down from beginning to end. Nice and clean, right?  I quickly discovered that with such a research project, one item might relate to another later in the story.  Or I’d get stuck in an area and rather than sit in writer’s block, would move into another chapter where I knew I could make progress.

Many writers say you should write every day to be effective and continually make progress. Some get up well before dawn just to crank out an hour of writing.  I found this method worked during the research phase, as I could look up information I needed or use a small window of time to type up my interviews.  It didn’t work when I tried to write.  Maybe if I was writing fiction an hour would be fine.  I had an easier time making progress with at least four hours of writing time.

So I continued writing through the winter, spring, and into mid-summer. Along the way I started using social media to share writing samples and inspirational thoughts.  I created a Facebook author page, Instagram account, and Twitter account – although I must confess I don’t Tweet much.  I also developed a blog as a place to share writing samples and current thoughts – where you are now.  Many of the interviews conducted for the book leant themselves to being adapted into profile stories.  Since last year I have shared profiles of Ken Sanders, Dave Baldwin, Bruce Brubaker, and Ted Kubiak from the 1970 team, just to name a few.

I was happy to type THE END in front of my wife late on the night of July 8 – but of course this only wraps up the writing process – and now editing begins. For the editing process I will involve a handful of “beta testers” to read the book and offer feedback.  I am putting together a mix of a couple baseball fans and a couple that aren’t into baseball, mostly because I think you don’t need to be a baseball fan to read and get something out of this story.  I also have a couple possible titles I’m kicking around that I need to figure out, possibly with test reader help.  My goal is to weed through the edits by the end of the year and get this to submitted to publishers – but that’s another blog post story for later!

I’d like to take this opportunity to again thank those of you following me. The support of family and friends (both in real life and cyberspace) helped drive me during some difficult times, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I promise to keep you updated with my progress in the coming months.

Check out my Facebook author page for articles like this and much more!

The baseball themed view above my desk

The baseball themed view above my desk

Hard at work with Domo standing guard

Hard at work with Domo standing guard

I lost count of how many archival newspaper articles I read for this project!

I lost count of how many archival newspaper articles I read for this project!

Milwaukee Brewers Week in Review: July 18 -24

The week in review:  Another rough week for the Milwaukee Brewers as they dropped two series – first losing to the Pirates in Pittsburgh and then the Cubs at home.  They were 2-4 this past week and probably got more attention for the Jonathan Lucroy trade rumors than anything else.  The Crew did break out the bats in their 9-5 win over the Pirates and scored 6 in their 6-1 Cubs victory.  Going into Monday’s action the Brewers are still in fourth place in the NL Central with a 41-55 record, 17.5 games behind the Cubs.

Offensively speaking:  Hernan Perez has been hot, going 9 for his last 22 and has 5 RBI’s.  Ryan Braun is right there with him, going 10 for 23 with a homer and 5 RBI’s.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 4 for 11, but 3 of those hits were homer.  Luc is consistent with a .278 average in his last 18 at bats.  Scooter Gennett and Chris Carter are both well below the Mendoza line in their last 20+ at bats.

Pitching in:  Good stuff from the bullpen in the last week – lots of scoreless inning with Will Smith qnd Corey Knebel being exceptions.  Zach Davies and Junior Guerra – what can you say about these guys?  Davies picked up a win with 6.1 innings – and just three hits and a run allowed.  Guerra has nothing to show but a 1.46 ERA over his last 12.1 innings, working around 8 hits and 7 walks.

Injuries and roster moves:  Outfielder Domingo Santana was sent on a rehab assignment to the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers over the weekend.  Unfortunately he was scratched from the lineup today do to elbow soreness, apparently from swinging a bat.  Reports aren’t good so far.

Down on the farm: Shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia continues to make adjustments at Colorado Springs and has brought his batting average back up to .270 recently.  He says, “Here, they throw breaking pitches in any count.  I need to make better adjustments.”  Arcia had two hits on Sunday including a double and two RBI’s in a Sky Sox win.  Damien Magnifico is still doing well out of the bullpen, posting a 3.80 ERA to go with five wins and 12 saves this season.  Eric Young Jr. became the Sky Sox All-Time stolen bases leader, recording three steals on Sunday.

The week ahead:  The long home stand continues tonight as the Arizona Diamondbacks come to town for a four game set.  Probable starters are Chase Anderson tonight, followed by Matt Garza, Jimmy Nelson, and Zach Davies on Thursday afternoon.  The Pirates will be in town over the weekend.

Random notes:  By the time you read this, Lucroy, Smith, and Jeffress may be traded.  Or not!

Miller Park welcomed its 40 millionth all-time fan on Sunday.  This is the ballpark’s 15th year of operation.  I hope to write a retrospective post after the season ends about Miller Park and all the changes over the years.

As many of you are aware, I am writing a historical book about the Brewers. This Thursday I’ll have a blog post that gives specifics about the book (because “historical book” can mean a lot of things), plus a bit about my writing process.  Stay tuned!

Please feel free to share this article to your favorite social media sites with the buttons below the logo.  I also encourage you to visit the following sites where I am a contributor:

Baseball Bloggers Alliance

Baseball Reflections

MLB Trade Rumors

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