Playoffs Day 1

Today starts the MLB playoffs with the AL Wild Card Game. Before I get into what is to come, let us take a look back to what I predicted back in August. In the AL I had the Orioles, Blue Jays, NY Yankees, Houston, and KC in. I only missed one team: Texas, and they seemingly came out of nowhere. As for the Orioles, their pitching and hitting both seemed to go away at the same time and they went on a long losing streak, only winning 2 games in a 15 game stretch. They did somewhat redeem themselves by ending the season at the .500 mark.


Tonight Houston will take on the NY Yankees in a win and advance game. The winner of the game will take on KC in the ALDS. Let us take a look at tonight’s game. Houston will put Keuchel on the mound against New York’s Tanaka. Keuchel is pitching on 3 days rest so it will be interesting to see how he deals with it. Although, “I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Keuchel said Monday at Yankee Stadium. “I think a lot of the guys do in there as well. And we’ll always carry that.”   We will see just how far that attitude will take him. Then again, it is a smart play since Keuchel has shut out the Yankees twice this year already and is the AL’s only 20 game winner.


Now the Yankees have hit an interesting bump in the road. C.C. Sabathia, a leader in the club house, has entered himself into rehab for alcoholism. So what does this mean for the Yankees? Well, they lose a playoff-tested pitcher. It could also serve as a rallying point. We have seen that happen in 2013 when the Red Sox played way above their potential by rallying behind the Boston bombings. On the other hand, it could be a hindrance; since the news just broke, it will be lingering on the Yankees’ minds all day.


Off to my prediction. I think that Houston will take the game tonight. I believe that Houston will have just enough to beat the Yankees. I don’t even think that it will be the Yankees lingering on what happened earlier today. Keuchel will yet again dominate the Yanks. Houston will win 4-1 and will go on to play KC in the ALDS.

Scheduling Conflicts

MLB WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  That is the biggest question I have right now for MLB leadership. As most of you know by now I love baseball. I would rather be playing it than writing about it, but alas I am not that talented. So then what prompted my question? Playoffs!? Playoffs?!  We’re talking about playoffs? Yes, we are going to talk about the playoffs.

On August 17, 2015, Major League Baseball released the playoff schedule for this year. Now this is something I look forward to every year so I can mark it down on my calendar and see how many games are left in the season to see if my team is still in it.

This year, though, like some years in the past, the schedule has disappointed me. Why, you may ask? Well you see, games five through seven of the World Series will be in November. I can hear you all now: but games five through seven are the if-games, so there could be a sweep. Yes, this is true, there could be a sweep. Stats, on the other hand, say something completely different. There have been only 21 sweeps in 110 World Series. That is only 19%. So odds are they will be playing in November this year. Baseball in November just sucks. It is just way too cold. In my honest opinion the playoffs should start no later than the 1st of October and end no later than 29th of October.  

So what does this all stem from? Well, a bad schedule. I have no problem with a 162-game season. What I do have a problem with is how the schedule is played out. A single game almost every day, some days are travel days, and then rain outs. Rain outs can and most likely will cause a doubleheader. I think baseball should bring back the doubleheader into its regular season. I think this would bring excitement back into a sport that is now trying to compete with football and the NFL.  This would also give more rest days to the players so they wouldn’t have to go on the disabled list. Also when people go watch games they want to see the All-Star players not the guy they just called up to fill a roster spot.

And then there is interleague play. Interleague play is when teams from the American League play teams from the National League. Doing this a few years ago was a great fun idea. But it has become dull and takes away from the World Series. The World Series used to be where the best of one rule set was playing the best of the other rule set. It is not that way anymore. Well, it is, but it isn’t.   

Now, we could get into the whole debate about lost revenue and whatnot, but I really don’t know enough to get into that side of the house. What I do know is professional athletes do get paid way too much, but who am I to say that? I know I would want as much money as I can get. But let’s back to my point.

Is the baseball season too long? Again, yes and no. It is long in the sense of how much of the year it takes up. It is not long in the number of games. I believe that 162 is a good number of games. So let’s get rid of Interleague play and put back in season doubleheaders. By doing this I believe we can make baseball great again.

Now on to my playoff predictions:

AL wild card: Orioles vs Blue Jays. Winner, Blue Jays. (Orioles can’t seem to get their hitting and pitching lined up so if they make it this far one will fail in the must-win game.)

NL wild card: Cubs vs St. Louis. Winner, Cubs.  (St. Louis’s meltdown at the end of the season will continue into the playoffs and they won’t be able to stop the sinking ship.)

ALDS A: Blue Jays vs Kansas City. Winner, Kansas City in 4. (Kansas City will build on last year looking for back-to-back World Series appearances.)

ALDS B: NY Yankees vs Houston. Winner, Houston in 4. (Going with youth here, I just think NY is too old.)

NLDS A: Cubs vs LA Dodgers. Winner, Cubs in 3. (LA’s struggles in the playoffs will continue.)

NLDS B: NY Mets vs Pittsburgh. Winner, Pittsburgh in 4. (I just feel it is going to be Pittsburgh’s year.)

ALCS:  Houston vs Kansas City. Winner, KC in 5. (KC has the pitching to take them back to the World Series.)

NLCS: Cubs vs Pittsburgh. Winner, Pittsburgh in 4 (Sorry, Cubs fans, you will have to wait yet another year to see your team break the curse.)

World Series: Pittsburgh vs Kansas City. Winner, Pittsburgh in 7. (Yet again, I just feel this is Pittsburgh’s year, and they have been flying under the radar and no one is talking about them at all.)


So there you have it. Playoffs, playoffs, and more playoffs. Oh, and a little bit on the schedule. So until next time, Ballgame fans, I’ll see you in the stands.  

The Lance Dance: Part 1

Ten years later and what should have been an awesome, fun 10-year anniversary turns out to be one of sadness and disappointment. A guy who fought and beat cancer and raised so much money to help others affected by that horrible disease, a person who should be celebrated, is now looked down upon as a lie and a cheat. If you haven’t figured it out already, I am talking about Lance Armstrong.

July 24, 2015, would have been the 10-year anniversary of Lance Armstrong’s record-setting 7th straight Tour de France win. I remember it like it was yesterday, him and the Discovery Channel team sipping champagne as they finished the last lap of the last day with the Eiffel Tower in the forefront. Just a few minutes later he was being praised and putting on the final yellow jacket, putting the final stamp on his amazing comeback and takeover of the biking world.

Armstrong was born Lance Edward Gunderson in 1971, in Texas, to Linda Gayle and Eddie Charles Gunderson. He was named after Lance Rentzel, a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver. I guess if you want to be in sports, name your kid after someone who is already there. His parents divorced when Lance was two. His mother later married Terry Keith Armstrong, who adopted Lance in 1974.

At the age of 12, Armstrong started his sporting career as a swimmer and finished fourth in the Texas state 1,500-meter freestyle. He stopped swimming-only races after seeing a poster for a junior triathlon, called the Iron Kids Triathlon, which he won at age 13. In the 1987–1988 Tri-Fed, Armstrong was ranked the number one triathlete in the 19-and-under group. Armstrong’s total points in 1987 as an amateur were better than those of five professionals ranked higher than he was that year. At 16, Lance Armstrong became a professional triathlete and became a national sprint-course triathlon champion in 1989 and 1990 at 18 and 19, respectively.

As we can see, Lance was an amazing athlete as a young man, way before (at least from what I can tell) he got involved with PEDs and EPO. In 1992, Armstrong turned professional with the Motorola Cycling Team. (This is where I believe he started doping and cheating.) He was accused by another cyclist competing against him in the CoreStates Road Race–the last of three big road races, win all three and take home $1M–of having bribed (an amount hinted at to be around $200K) that cyclist so that he would not compete with Armstrong for the win. His breakthrough victory was the UCI Road World Championship held in Norway.

Before his World Championships win, he took his first win at the Tour de France, in the stage from Châlons-sur-Marne to Verdun. He then retired after stage 12. Then the next year he took the stage to Limoges in the Tour de France, three days after the death of his teammate Fabio Casartelli, who crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d’Aspet on the 15th stage. In 1996, however, he was able to compete for only five days in the Tour de France. In the 1996 Olympic Games, he finished 6th in the time trial and 12th in the road race. In August 1996, following the Leeds Classic, Armstrong signed a 2-year, $2 million deal with the French Cofidis Cycling Team. Joining him in signing contracts with the French team were current teammates Frankie Andreu and Laurent Madouas.

On October 2, 1996, at the age of 25, Armstrong was diagnosed with stage three or advanced testicular cancer. The cancer had metastasized or spread to his brain, lungs, and abdomen. On his first visit in Austin, Texas, for his cancer symptoms, he was coughing up blood and had a swollen testicle. On October 3, Armstrong had an orchiectomy to remove his diseased testicle. Asked in a later interview what he thought Armstrong’s chances really were, Dr. Reeves said, “Almost none. We told Lance initially 20 to 50% chance, mainly to give him hope. But with the kind of cancer he had, with the x-rays, the blood tests, almost no hope.”

Armstrong decided to finish the rest of his treatment at the Indiana University medical center in Indianapolis. The standard treatment for Armstrong’s cancer was a cocktail of drugs, called BEP. (I would type them out but I really have no idea what they are.) The first chemo cycle that Armstrong underwent was BEP; however, for the three remaining chemo cycles, he was given VIP, an alternative, less harsh version of BEP, to avoid the lung toxicity associated with BEP. This decision most likely saved his cycling career. On October 25, his brain lesions were surgically removed and were found to contain extensive necrosis. Necrosis is a form of cell injury that results in premature death of cells in living tissue.

It is here after his brain surgery that some former teammates of Lance’s have stated that he freely told the doctors and nurses that he was doping. Lance knew he would be okay telling the doctors and nurses due to doctor-patient confidentiality. The teammates would later come out and confess after years of being threatened. We will get into more of that later on.

Armstrong’s last chemotherapy treatment was received on December 13, 1996. In February 1997, he was declared cancer-free, but shortly afterward came the news that his contract with the Cofidis team had been cancelled. A former boss at Subaru Montgomery offered him a contract with the US Postal team on a salary of $200,000 a year. By January 1998, Armstrong was already engaged in serious training for racing, moving to Europe with the team, and on his way to the top of the biking world.

Well that is all for this week. We will continue on next time with Lance’s rise to the top, the building of the Lance Armstrong foundation, and his “retirement.” And with my Little League Baseball season done, look for a post on what happened throughout the tournaments. I’ll see you next time on “Ballgame.”


This week I was going to talk about tournaments and how the heat of competition can change how people react to certain things. How, even if you are right, losing your cool is never ever a good thing.  Since I am still in tournament season and trying to recover from catching, more balls than both catchers combined I will talk about a game. A game, what game? you ask.  The game I speak of is called Geocaching.

Geocaching (pronounced Geo-cashing) is a real world, outdoor (yes, I said outdoor. That means if you want to play, Pretzel Motion, you have to get off your video games and see the sunlight.) treasure hunt using a GPS enabled device.  I can hear you now: “A real live treasure hunt, you say? This sounds interesting. How do I play, what do I need to get started? It’s a game, right? So there must be rules.” Slow down, slow down. I will tell you all of that with the help of the official Geocaching website,

I would have liked to start off with some history, but the best way for you to get this history lesson is to go to That will give you the big history of how and when this fun adventure game started. It is a really good read and I don’t think that I could do it justice.

Let us start with rules. Hey, don’t give me a dirty look. If it wasn’t for rules then all sports and games would be a free for all. Fights (heck even fights have rules) would break out and there would be no fun or winners. And I am all for winners and having good clean fun. Okay, so the rules are real easy. First, find a cache. Second, sign the log book. Third, re-hide the cache better than when you found it. Don’t want any non-geocachers to find it and take it. Last but not least, log your visit on the website.

Sounds easy, right? So what do you need to do to get started? That’s even easier. Step one, create a free account.  Step two, type in your location. Step three, select a cache. (Being your first time out, I would go with something easy. No matter how hardcore of a hunter you may think you are, some caches even stump a vet like myself.) Step four, put the coordinates into your GPS. Step five, go and hunt.

“Okay, I have done all of that now, WHAT should I be LOOKING FOR?”  Good question, devoted reader. I wish there was a simple direct answer for this question. There is a range of things that you could be looking for. The cache can be something as small as your fingernail. Or it could be something as big as an ammo can.  Some, you have to find a web cam and take your picture using the camera. Some, you have to solve a puzzle to find the cache. So many different variations of cahces to find.

Now here is what I recommend. I recommend that you go out with someone who is experienced. They will be able to help you out and it is more fun to go with someone who knows what they are looking for. I went out for the first time in about 6 years. Yes, it was that long. I had to kick my eyes and gut instinct back into gear. I went out with a first timer and I think all in all she enjoyed it. But I will let her tell you her story and her experience the first time out.


Hey y’all, Jack from Green Screen and Tidbits here. I don’t really know what Andrew wants me to say here. He and I decided to track down a whole slew of caches all in the same semi-local park together. I used to hike fairly extensively so I agreed without really thinking about it. I had no idea what to expect, and honestly, I’m still not sure. I’ve looked at a few maps of caches since then and some seem to be hidden in the middle of cities, not along hiking trails like the ones we found.

That being said, I had an absolute blast and I highly recommend Geocaching to anyone and everyone. It was a perfectly pleasant day spent just hanging out and chatting in between finding caches. It brought me back to my childhood in the best possible way… reminiscent of birthday party scavenger hunts or Easter egg hunts. We got lost a couple of times, but it’s hard to get truly lost when you can just whip out your GPS to help find your way back. We were slightly disappointed that we couldn’t find two caches on our list of eleven, but we were tired by that point and not sure if we were missing them or if they were genuinely gone. All in all, it really was a great time. It’s hard not to have fun bonding over buried treasure, after all.

So there you have it. If you are looking for something new to do or just love the outdoors I would highly encourage you to go out and give it a shot. Who knows you may just find a new hobby when you are all said and done.  That is all for now next time on ball game we will talk about all the fun we had at the District and State Little League Baseball Tournaments.

For the Love of the Game

“Hey, Blue, Time Out!” My first thought is, “Come on, you know you can ask for time. I am the only one who can grant time or give time.” This is just one of the fun things I have to deal with as an umpire. I was told by a coach once, “Don’t ever leave the sport you love. If you love a sport, coach it. If you are in love with a sport, officiate it.”

I really didn’t understand what he meant by that. That was until I became a coach and an official. Coaching is the fun part of the sport you love: you get to play, strategize, and teach your team to become better and better. I coached tennis in Mississippi and in Germany, where I got the chance to lead a lot of great kids to new heights. In Mississippi, I helped the team get over the hump and win state. In Germany, I took the team to three consecutive 2nd place finishes.

This is an amazing testament to how awesome the kids were. You see, being on a military installation, it was rare to carry the same team over to the next year. Most coaches have to deal with graduation. I not only had to deal with that but also with Permanent Change in Station (PCS) movers. Every year I had a great group of kids that were willing to learn and play. Those kids helped me win Coach of the Year in my first year.

But with all of this fun there is also the stress. Who to play in what order, who plays well together on a doubles team, who does not. Who is better by themselves, when to talk to a kid or when to let them be. And then there is a whole another level of stress called… you know what, I will get back to that later.

First let me get back to officiating. If you are in love–and I mean IN LOVE–with a sport, you should officiate that sport. Let me tell you why. It gives you a new appreciation for that sport. My sport of choice is baseball. Now I could go into why I love–and do I mean LOVE–baseball. I will get into that more in a few weeks.

Anyway, back on track: officiating. Officiating lets you see the sport you love in a new light. It takes your bias away from one team or another. You see the game through the eyes of the judge. At first, when you start looking at all the rules, you become overwhelmed. Looking at the rule book, you start looking at everything you did when you were playing. All the arguments you had, all the times you thought you were right. All of your views start to change, your understanding grows deeper, and your knowledge expands.

You take your test, buy your equipment, and get ready for your first game. You do your pregame, you do everything to get started. Now normally your first games will be on the bases. Mine were not, since I started off doing 50+ slow pitch softball. So there is only the umpire. So there I was, behind the plate, waiting for that first pitch to come in, my heart racing. It hits. I make my call and I start to hear moans and groans from people. Next pitch hits, more moans and groans. I think to myself, “I’m just making the calls, sorry if you don’t like them.” A few years later another umpire told me that on your first call, you will make half the crowd dislike you; your second call, the other half will dislike you. Now everyone dislikes you and there is nothing you can do about it.

Now, I have to say most of the leagues I umpire in are volunteer leagues. That means I don’t get paid for any of the work I do. That means all the work and effort on and off the field that I put in is all for the kids. I want to do the best I can for the kids and for the game itself. When you go on to officiate a sport, you see it at its purest form. You see it in the most unbiased form. You fall more and more in love with the sport, and now you become as much a part of it as it to you.

Oh, and side note: I am a human. I have made mistakes and I will make mistakes. That is part of being a human. This is something that people need to remember, because people expect us umpires to be perfect at the start of the game and get better as the game goes on. Most of the complaints that I hear are from–can anyone guess? Yeah, that’s right, PARENTS.

I told you I would get back to parents. Parents, you are the worst. Okay, that’s not 100% true. Umpires who don’t want to study the rules and use made up rules are. “Tie goes to runner.” Listen to me, now: there are no such things as ties. Either the ball beats the runner or the runner beats the ball. Again, THERE ARE NO TIES! Okay, back to parents. You are there to encourage your kids. You are not there to belittle the coaches or the officials. I personally have had some nasty things said to me, both as a coach and as an umpire. On the flip side, there have also been some funny things said to me. Remember, parents, what your kids see you do is what they are going to do. Don’t like who your kids are becoming on the field? Look at yourself first.

But, parents, let your coaches do their jobs. If you think you can do a better job then why don’t you coach? Are you too busy, don’t have enough time? I have heard every excuse in the book. Guess what? We all run a busy life, but the coaches are the ones who are putting their time and money out there.

Last but not least, coaches. Oh, coaches. You are the ones who should know the rules and are the ones in charge of keeping your parents informed and settled through the game. Don’t come after officials for your lack of knowledge.

So back on point, if you love a sport, try coaching. It will give you a different perspective. If you are in love with a sport, I encourage you to go out and officiate a game or two. Heck, why not go all out and do a full season. But at least, if you even watch a sport, go to a class or a clinic. Even then you will start to see a new side of the game.

With all that being said, I think I need some time to relax and read my rule book to make sure I am ready for the tournament season coming up. I will see you all next time at the “Ballgame.” I’ll be the one behind the mask.

Hoiberg and Hoiball Out, Prohm and Prohoops In

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for the Iowa State fan. I personally saw this move coming. I always wished that Fred Hoiberg would stay at Iowa State until he retired, but you knew just by watching what he was doing he was becoming the big fish in the little pond. His speed-’em-up offense was fun and exciting to watch, but on the other hand his defense was multiple heart attacks in the making. Fred was the kid from Ames. He was everything the Cyclones needed and wanted. He was “The Mayor.”

Fred grew up in Ames. He was a ball boy at Hilton and he was a three-sport athlete at Ames High. Despite being recruited by multiple colleges for football and basketball, he decided he wanted to play for his home town team. Fred was annoted with the nickname “The Mayor” when he was a freshman in college. He was given that nickname by his teammate Doug Collins. It became solidified when he had write-in votes for the 1993 Ames mayoral race. He would later be known by many other names during his coaching tenure at Iowa State.

He went on to be one of the best players to ever play for Hilton. He was a second round draft pick in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, where he played for 4 years. Then he moved on to the Bulls for 4 more years and played for the Timber Wolves.

That is when Fred’s world came crashing down: he failed a physical. The team doctors wouldn’t tell him why he failed. So he went on to get a check up for his life insurance and found out that he had a heart condition that needed open heart surgery. He received his surgery at the Mayo Clinic and while under the knife he ended up with a heart block. He was only the second person out of 151 to have this happen to him. Now living with a pacemaker, he tried and decided against making another run at the NBA. Instead, he went to work for the T-Wolves front office.

During this time, Iowa State was on a roller coaster ride with a lot more downs than ups. The Cyclones had only a few good seasons between Hoiberg’s playing era and his coaching era. They only went to the NCAA tournament 5 times and the NIT twice in a 15-year span. I know that sounds good, but for what we in Cyclone Nation have come to expect, that wasn’t good enough: we have come to expect to be in the NCAA almost every year. Average or just above even 500 is just plain boring. You want to have a shot at the national championship. Another thing that plagued Cyclone Nation was a number of personnel issues. Larry Eustachy was the first real hope to bring Iowa State back to the national spotlight. Things really started looking up until the ’02-’03 season. On a trip to Columbia, Missouri, Eustachy attended a college party, after which he struggled with alcoholism. He would resign on May 5, 2003. The Cyclones went 114-107 over the next 7 years with 2 coaches.

Enter FRED HOIBERG and his coaching ERA. This was an interesting hire to say the least, for he had never had any type of coaching experience. He was a front office exec at Minnesota before taking the job at his alma mater. I personally was excited to see him come back and coach. That hire really might have been just to get the fan base excited again. Well, it worked: the fan base was excited. Fred went right to work trying to restock a depleted team, so he did what he did best and went looking for talent. He restocked with transfers and players that had a troubled past. Players like Royce White, who was let go from Michigan State because of a robbery charge. Fred took him and molded him into his type of player. Royce would go on to be a first round draft pick.

Fred did what he promised to do and that was bring Iowa State back. He did so, so well and so quick that rumors started to spread just as quick as his high flying offense. But Fred stayed true to Iowa State, staying for 5 wonderful years where he compiled a 115-55 record with 4 consecutive NCAA appearances. He did so by keeping the focus on the players – well, for the most part.

There was that time down in San Antonio where you got one of your new nicknames, SWAGBERG. That of course took off on to a life of its own. You were there when your town and your college needed you the most and for that I want to say thank you, Fred.

I never expected Fred to leave this year, not with a top 10 team ready to my a charge but sometimes bigger and better things call. I knew the Chicago Bulls job was just too hard to turn down. I for one don’t blame him for wanting to move on. I wish him continued success in his coaching endeavors. The only question is who can replace the one the only Fred Hoiberg? I’m happy that it wasn’t me who had to make that choice.

Enter Steve Prohm, the former Murray State coach. Prohm led the Murray State Racers to a 104-29 overall record in his 4 years as head coach and went to the NCAA once. (I know what you are all thinking. I just said that Fred had 4 in 5 and Steve only has 1 in 4. Well, it’s a Divison 1 vs a Mid Major, and it’s harder to get in as a Mid Major.) Prohm has the same style as Fred, fast paced and always ready to score. I believe that Prohm’s defense will be a bit better but that remains to be seen. I believe that Prohm will do well at Iowa State and I am excited to see what he brings to the table.

That is all for now. I am out of here. “Ballgame”