Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Main Bang

Thought I'd mention a blog that I've added to the Blogs I Frequent section in the right-hand column. "The Main Bang" is written by friend, retired air traffic controller and former President of the Nation Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), John Carr. It has wide readership within the aviation field as John is a well respected and informed source of information.

Although I've been reading his page for some time, I never linked to it from my page. If you are travelling by air this summer and encounter the inevitible delays, you may be more interested in what is taking place at the FAA.

Aside from keeping you safe in the skies, NATCA would like for your flight to arrive on time. We've created a site to help you plan your trip and give you tips on how to avoid delays. While the FAA continues to say that there is no staffing crisis, we at little old Springfield MO (SGF) have scheduled overtime now and staffing requirements have dropped although traffic patterns haven't changed. The only thing that has changed from a year ago is that we are required to use an additional controller for the midnight watch and we've lost some controllers due to retirement and transfer. I guess that means that we don't need as many controllers watching the skies as we used to need.

SGF does have new controllers coming onboard, but with check-out times and future retirements, we're just maintain the status quo. Most larger facilities are not so fortunate.

In the grand scheme of air traffic control, SGF is pretty insignificant. To keep you posted on the BIG Picture, read The Main Bang.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Baseball (part 3)

We woke up a week ago at the campgrounds, showered, dressed and headed back to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Aaron bought breakfast as a Father's Day present and then we drove to Cincinnati. We were hoping to see Sammy hit number 600. Unfortunately, he didn't play except to pinch hit late in the game and hit into an inning ending force out. It was the middle game of the trip and honestly it was my least favorite experience.

I'm not sure what it was--it didn't smell like a ballpark. The fans that sat around us were the most rude and obnoxious of the week. It was an okay ballpark. It seemed odd that the outfield bleachers were in the upper deck. We sat in the left field bleachers once again and watched the Reds play like a last place team. They had several errors, the first we'd seen on our trip. The Texas Rangers won giving the American League a 2-1 advantage in the interleague games on our trip.

We spent the night at my sister's home in Indianapolis. It was great to visit with her family and beat spending another night in the van! Aaron and I both enjoyed playing with the kids and we look forward to seeing them again in a couple of weeks when we all head home to wish Mom and Dad a Happy 50th Anniversary. Once again, we started our Monday with a stop at Starbucks and headed back to the Windy City to watch the Southsiders take on the Florida Marlins.

We arrived in Chicago in time to take in lunch. When we couldn't find Vito's, a recommended pizzeria, we headed up to Greek Town for some great gyros and baklava. We were still early to the "Cell" and one of the first cars in the parking lot. We ran into a couple of guys with a great summer job. They travel from sporting event to event tailgating and handing out free stuff for their sponsors. Their current sponsor was Eckrich smoked sausage. They had a van equipped with a grill for cooking and T-shirts, seat cushions and other handouts. Apparently not all the arrangements had been made for them to cook at this event, so they were just handing out their free stuff.

We were a bit concerned about a possible rain out as there were some pretty heavy showers from time to time. The rain let up about the same time as they opened the gates and held off until just before gametime. Play started after a 20 minute delay and then the rain started again and continued for about two innings. The fans sitting next to us in the leftfield bleachers were real Sox fans with a full 81 game season ticket package. They had their scorebook pads and kept score at each game they attended. They enjoyed hearing about our trip but weren't impressed at all that we went to Wrigley! US Cellular Field had the best video board of all the parks we visited. They also had a great music/video history of the Sox and their baseball greats that led up to the player introductions. It was by far the best production and team presentation that we saw. The Cardinals should put together that kind of intro. It really builds the fan excitement and participation. The Sox beat the Marlins and we headed north to Milwaulkee.

Our plan was to find a hotel on the south part of the city and check in for two nights. We could sleep-in in the morning and then spend the night after the Brewers/Giants game before driving all day to St. Louis for the final game of the week. In the morning, we found a coffee house downtown and spent several hours at the Milwaulkee Public Museum. The city was very neat and pleasant and seemed to offer quite a bit of things to do.

We headed to Miller Park early, having been warned by our Sox friends that the parking was some distance from the field. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Of course we were at the front of the lot. It would've been a very long walk from the back of the lot. It was also the cheapest parking of trip at just $8. We had plenty of time to walk around the park while waiting for the gates to open. St. Louis must be one of only a few parks that opens two hours before game time. One and a half hours prior to the game seems to be more popular. While we were looking forward to seeing Barry Bonds, it was quite obvious that the city where Hank Aaron spent much of his career wasn't going to welcome the guy that was about to break the record. Even though Bonds was 0 for the game, batting practice was impressive. He hit a screaming line drive that hit a bleacher back just 10' to my left. It was in the seats in no time at all and I could hear it whizzing through the air. He later hit one out of the stadium. It went over the rightfield wall at the 374 mark, over the second level and out of the stadium. During the game, he was booed loudly at each plate appearance.

As much as I wanted the Giants to win (the Brewers lead the NL Central) it was Milwaulkee that won making it 3-3 for the home team. We headed back to the hotel for a good night's rest before making the long drive to St. Louis for the final game of the journey.

Leaving Milwaulkee, we took the first exit with a Starbucks and were on our way. The drive around Chicago was uneventful other than the construction congestion at the I55 exchange. We passed through Pontiac which brought back memories of track meets and buzzing Quik's in the school bus. Somewhere we stopped for lunch at a Steak'n'Shake and were downtown St. Louis with an hour to spare. We decided to park in the Stadium garage, but they weren't taking money for the game yet. We took our parking ticket from the machine and got a good spot not far from the exit ramp.

Aaron has found his spot for bp down the right field line. He has gotten a total of five bp balls in three games, two of them on this day. One was sent his way by Molina who later autographed it for him. Our seats were given to us by my controller friend Chad Wilson. They were awesome seats--outfield boxes, five rows from the wall in leftfield! The game was the game to end our week. Albert tied the game in the bottom of the ninth to send it into extra innings. Ryan Ludwig hit a 14th inning walk-off HR to win the game a mere 5 hours and 20 minutes after the opening pitch and Kip Wells (the same guy that did so badly in KC) pitched very well in relief and got the W.

Although we had invitations to spend the night in St. Louis, we were anxious to be home and had already decided to make the drive. Since the hour was late, there wasn't anyone manning the parking lot booth and so parking was free for the night! We made a stop at Jack in the Box and at White Castle (Ted Drewe's was closed) before getting on the road. I stopped part way for a short nap and pulled into the driveway in Ozark before 6 am.

It had been a very good week and we had been blessed with good weather, safe travels and great baseball! I'll write again to report on the stadiums, the dogs and other fun moments of our trip. Somebody asked me if I was tired of going to games yet. I think that I could do it every day of the summer! Too bad that life calls on us and demands our attention as well.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Baseball (part 2)

Fortunately, Aaron has recently joined the world of coffee drinkers with his discovery of cafe breva. A breva is a cappuccino made with half and half instead of milk. Consequently, we started our Saturday with a stop at Starbuck's and were soon on our way to the Jake in Cleveland.

I like the city of Cleveland. I was there a few of years ago for our NATCA Convention. We parked in a downtown parking lot similar to what one might find in St. Louis and only had to walk a couple of blocks to the field. The ballpark is easy to get to and our leftfield bleacher seats were great. It was a beautiful day for a late afternoon game. John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves outplayed the Indians to give the National League another interleague win.

Just as the Cardinals have their bronze statue of "Stan the Man," Cleveland has their Hall of Famer Bob Feller immortalized outside of the stadium. As a kid, I remember hearing about Feller and wondering about could anyone hit a 100mph fastball! Today I wonder more about how they timed his pitch.

Feller owns some of baseball's great stats. He is the only pitcher to have ever throw an opening day no-hitter. He had three no-hitters in his career along with twelve one-hitters. At the age of 17, he struck out 15 St. Louis Browns in his first Major League outing. That same season, he set an American League record of 17 strikeouts in a game and two years later broke it by setting a Major League record of 18 strikeouts in a nine inning game. Two days after the attack on Pearl harbor (at the peak of his career), he enlisted in the Navy. The three and a half years of service to his country during WW II probably kept him from holding many of baseballs records. The year after returning to baseball, 1946, he set a Major League record of 348 strikeouts for the season.

We headed for the opposite corner of Ohio to Cincinnatti's Great American Ballpark. Actually our plan was to find a campground near Columbus to spend the night. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for dinner and then managed to get the very last available site at a state park north of Columbus. The lady at the campgrounds was incredibly helpful and went out of her way to help us. Our site was near the bathroom/shower area and made for an quick and easy out in the morning. Aaron bought my Father's Day breakfast at the same Cracker Barrel and we were on the road again, hoping to see Sammy Sosa hit number 600--but that's a story for another day.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Baseball Trip

Well we are back at home in Ozark. Aaron and I had a great week and it feels as if I should be at a baseball game tonight! I don't think that I would ever get tired of going to the ballpark to watch a game.

We managed seven games in seven different ballparks in six different cities in seven days. I haven't totalled the number of miles or the money spent on hotdogs, brats, and sodas. We spent two nights in the van, one at my sister's house, three nights in a hotel room and the last night on the road home.

The week began with the Cardinals taking a beating in Kansas City. As is normal, they charge a little bit more for the tickets for the Cardinal series and there are as many (if not more) red shirted Cardinal fans as there are blue shirted Royal fans. Card's pitcher Kip Wells had a terrible outing and the Royals took advantage and routed the Cardinals. We had seats in the upper level, down the leftfield line. The guys sitting next to me had a 21 game season ticket package and thought that our trip was really cool. He said that his boss was a big baseball fan and that when he got to work the next day to tell his boss about our trip that his boss would want to do something like that someday. As we left the game and were walking out to the car, I realized that me phone was missing. We turned to try to get back into the stadium to look for it and Aaron called my phone. A guy answered and he and his girlfriend had been sitting right in front of us. Fortunately, he saw my phone and had called our house to tell them that he was going to turn it in at the office. Since Aaron called, we met in the parking lot and I got my phone back. I should note that they are Cardinal fans. That's only important if you have seen my phone.

I'm not sure if a Royals fan would have returned it!

We knew that the trip to Wrigley was going to be about nine hours and we only had about thirteen hours from the time we got out of the parking lot to game time in Chicago. We drove until we got to Des Moines and then parked at a truckstop and slept in the van for about three hours. Then Aaron drove and I napped a little bit more until we got closer to Chicago. We took the scenic drive along Lake Shore Drive and got to Wrigley about noon for the 1:15 game time. Wrigley Field is classic baseball. It's as if you've stepped into a time machine. One can easily see where the phrase "the friendly confines of Wrigley Field" comes from. It lacks a video board for replays, an electronic scoreboard and many other ammenities found in newer parks. Never the less, it's a great place to watch a ball game.

Our seats were upper level down the right field line. Afterwards, we went down to the first row of seats and you are really at field level. It is an incredibly intimate kind of park. The Cubbies came away with a win over the Padres.
It took about two and a half hours to make our way into northwest Indiana as we made our way toward Cleveland for the game on Saturday afternoon. We made it an easy night on ourselves by stopping fairly early and spending the night in a hotel in Southbend. We had plenty of time to make the 3:55 game time at Jacob's Field.
Rather than making this an extremely long post and taking forever to write it, I'm goin to post this as it is and post more later.
"Take me out to the ballgame!"

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Kid's Camp

I have just finished a very fun week as Camp Pastor for the Tri-County Association's Children's Camp. The facilities and the staff at Baptist Hill were awesome. Click here and scroll down to Missouri.

I really appreciate the Tri County office and Ms. Janet giving me the opportunity to do more than come in for a night of magic. We did have a night of magic as well as a couple of other great guests!

The kids (150+) were great. With that number of kids from varied backgrounds, you would expect to have some conflicts and disciplinary problems, but they were few and not too severe. The cabin leaders and all of the volunteers were a joy to work with. There were classes, crafts, activities and of course, swimming! God blessed us with great weather and wonderful temps. The music and worship time was incredible. Cindy Fry and her daughters really got the kids pumped up! They were all having a great time with songs that taught lessons as well as praising our God.

Pastor Mike (Camp Pop) and Ms. Mary (Camp Mom) had their hands full and yet served us with smiles on their faces and with words of encouragement to all of the kids and cabin leaders.

Several kids made first time professions of faith and there were also some rededications. I'll have to wait to find out the exact numbers. In the end, it is my hope that we all managed to get a little closer to God and that He alone receives the glory and honor for the work that was done.