Monday, April 23, 2007


(MAP: Tampa Bay. Just because I like maps.)

Tampa Bay beat the Yankees 10-8 today. They will play a lot games like that, losing most of them. But the starting eight players in the field are nearly as good as any in the game. If you consider cost (salaries), they are by far the best in the game. I wouldn’t trade them for any eight. Their pitching will keep games close but that’s the fun of it.

It’s early in the season but, what the hell. Here are some developments. Ben Zobrist, their shortstop, was hitting .167 in 56 plate appearances including two sacrifices. He had drawn NO walks. That gave him an OBP (on base percentage) of .161. Have you ever seen an OBP lower than a batting average? That is quite a feat. He was batting second in their lineup. Can you say, “Automatic out?”

He has been replaced by Brendan Harris. After going 2 for 4 today, Harris is hitting .364 in 33 at bats. Right, it’s early in the season and can he play shortstop? If he can hit like that he can play SS for me. That will part of the fun watching them.

Assuming Harris is the real thing, that gives the Devil Rays the most solid lineup in majors. The rookie center fielder, Elijah Dukes is struggling somewhat and Ty Wigginton I doubt will ever hit enough to be more than adequate at first base, and the catcher is not yet hitting up to par, but any manager would be more than happy to have those be his most serious problems. Several of the others are potential super-stars.

It will be a fun team to watch.



When I was a kid we had a “team leader” on our football team. He was the guy who out-hustled and out-yelled everyone else. He was always encouraging everyone. He was pretty much an assistant coach. They made him team captain.

But on the other side of the coin, he was one of the dumbest football players I’d ever seen. He just didn’t have a feeling for the game. He’d knock aside our tacklers to get at the runner, allowing the runner to get away. I once saw him, when a runner was held up on our goal line, hit him from behind and push him over the goal. He once lined up alongside me as a wide receiver. Our instructions were just to go down the field and catch a desperation pass. We started down the field. I cut and he cut with me. I cut the other way and he went right with me. He was on me like a defensive back. It only took one defender to cover two receivers instead of the other way around. At the end of the unsuccessful play, the defensive backs laughed at us.

The point is, the guy who yells the loudest and hustles the most might be a few beans short of a full burrito.

Which brings me to Darren Erstad. He was acknowledged as the Angel team leader for years. But after an incredible, historic 2000 season, he became pretty much a minus for them. The reason was he never mastered the strike zone. That is something that smart players, team players, do.

The best example is Brett Butler. He was a player with similar skills to Erstad. When Butler broke in I didn’t think he had a chance with his low ‘on base percentage.’ But Butler worked at it and learned the strike zone and made himself valuable to every team he was on. Another great example is Ozzie Smith, now in the Hall of Fame.

Erstad defenders say his performance fell off because he hurt himself after the 2000 season with his all-out, hustling style of play.

OK. Take that to a doctor. 99 out of a hundred doctors will advise, “Don’t do that.” A guy with all the beans in his burrito wouldn’t do that.

And while I’m on the subject, I wonder how Erstad’s philosophy of hacking away at anything near the plate influenced the Angel teams over the years. They have been notorious as a hacker’s team, eschewing the walk. Can we lay any of that at Erstad’s, the team leader’s, door?

If so, his dynasty continues.


Friday, April 20, 2007


There are computer games that are far better than chess. I’m not talking about live action games which, at my advanced age and diminishing motor skills, I consider to be childish. No, there are many ‘turn’ games that are far more complex and interesting than chess. All of them that I know of are based on that ultimate real life game: War! These ‘turn’ games do not sell nearly as well as live action games because they take a lot of thought, so many will only work on older computers.

The game I mentioned in my previous essay, About Depression 2, is called The Lost Admiral. I play against the AI (artificial intelligence, we always used to say “playing against the computer”) every day. I did poorly against it for a short time and worried that my mental faculties might be failing. Not to worry; I have made a comeback.

This game has 11 levels of difficulty. Because I ply it to relax, I only play at the lower levels unless I feel like a serious challenge. Even so, I occasionally resign when I’ve gotten into a bad spot.

It is a naval game. The object is to capture ports, each of which is worth various numbers of points every turn it is held. Each port also gives the holder raw materials with which he can build new ships. But the player must capture a port with a shipyard in order to build new ships.

You are given 2 or 3 ports at the start of the game and a budget to build ships. Transports are very important. You cannot take a port unless you can occupy it with a transport. Beginners will always be short of transports.

Carriers are important but very expensive. You never know where the enemy is. A carrier is the only ship that can “see” beyond the space it is in. PT boats are very fast and can scout beyond where a carrier can see but they are easily destroyed.

The meat of your fleet should be subs and destroyers. My tactics are simple. I use a flock of destroyers to go in and reduce the enemy’s anti-sub defense, sometimes at great sacrifice, and then send in the subs to attack his capital ships, meaning carriers, battleships and cruisers. If his formation is too strong, I retreat and look for the formation to change. Sometimes I have to retreat until reinforced.

The AI puts too much money into battleships and cruisers and not enough into destroyers. A battleship is mostly useful in reducing a fortified port. Other that that, it is too expensive. However, the AI varies its tactics enough to make the game always interesting. It doesn’t get any smarter at the higher levels of difficulty, but it gets stronger and you get weaker. It is always aggressive, so when it comes at you in level 11 with twice your strength or more, it can be worrisome.

This game is better than chess.

(This game only works on my older computer. A newer version is out, The Lost Admiral Returns. I downloaded a tryout version on my newer computer but I could never get it to work properly and I didn’t like the looks of it.)


(PICTURE: The author with happy juice at a Bangkok river.)
I didn’t want to make that piece on Richard Jeni (About Depression 1, below) about me. He was a great comic and deserved to stand alone. So I’m putting in this second article about my recent depression. Depression is something that seldom hits me. I seem to have been born with the good humor gene. Or perhaps, since clinical depression has been blamed on a chemical imbalance, perhaps constant good humor is also a chemical imbalance. Having a constantly high blood pressure (around 150) all my life might contribute to my good humor; it has certainly helped my sex life.

Then about a month ago I got hit with a period of depression. Three things happened at once. First I was having trouble with a computer game I joust with daily. I worried, at my advanced age, if my mental faculties were beginning to fail. (I will write more on this.)

Second, unbeknownst to me, I was coming down with a cold. Colds used to be something I experienced once in a decade. Here in Thailand I seem to be getting them once a year. Usually I can tell in advance when one is coming on but this one snuck up on me. It was a bad one.

Third, I discovered that this blog was ranked below 4 millionth in popularity. The estimated readership was one per day. That after more than two years work. Can you say “failure?”

Believe it or not, that is not what depressed me, although even I thought so. What depressed was the thought of ending this blog. It seems totally pointless to continue when there is practically no readership so ending it seemed logical. I considered the pros and cons for a couple of weeks.

So this is what I came up with; this is the bottom line: Writing this blog makes me happy! And just like that, my depression was gone. It’s somewhat like Anna Wang in that piece Interesting People below. She tried to live on $400 a month although she was a multi-billionaire because it made her happy. I will continue writing this blog that no one reads because it makes me happy. Neither decision makes sense, but so what?

So now compare me to Richard Jeni. There is some area of similarity there in that we both strive to be creative. He, if not the greatest comic in America, was certainly in the top ten. He recently won the comic of the year award. But, plagued by chronic depression, he kills himself because his calendar wasn’t full.

Depression is a terrible thing.

I, on the other hand, continue with this failed blog because, even if no one reads it, writing makes me happy.

Good humor is a marvelous thing.


Richard Jeni was one of the best comics in America. After rewatching one of his HBO specials, he may have been THE best. He killed himself at the age of 45. He suffered, it is said, from depression.

I don’t understand that. How can someone so creative suffer from depression? Creativity thrives of inspiration which sometimes means exaltation. It does not compute.

A friend of Jeni’s said he was making good money but he was disappointed his career was not doing better. His calendar was not filled up. So he put a pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Here is part of a statement that his family put out:

"Rumors have been circulating as to the cause of his death and have included speculation of Richard being depressed over the state of his career or a physical ailment. His career was not even addressed by his specialists when they were trying to diagnose Richard's illness. In fact, he had just enjoyed one of his most financially rewarding years to date. He was consistently creating new material for his busy touring schedule, and during the last week of his life, he had meetings scheduled with CHRIS ALBRECHT, Chairman and CEO of HBO, to discuss future projects following his last HBO special. In actuality, the past few years had been more prolific than ever. As his agents can attest, prior to his illness, Richard only missed one engagement in over twenty years, and that was due to weather.”

I must be wrong. Depression does not inhibit creativity.

My bad.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I wrote long ago how Don Imus got around the law to virtually steal money from children with cancer. He was the most mean spirited person I’ve ever heard on a national medium. Some others faked being mean spirited but Imus faked civility. Even the laughs on his show sounded forced.

I did listen to him and watch him on MSNBC because some of the bits his writers came up with were genuinely funny. Plus he was a good interviewer, much better than Larry King. Imus knew how to ask a follow-up question and sometimes challenged a liberal guest. Those things are beyond the range of Larry King.

Some of his interviews were completely worthless. Paul Begala was a regular guest. Who, in their right mind, would interview Paul Begala about current politics? He is a paid propagandist for the DNC. Anyone could predict his answers.

Imus kept some credibility by interviewing prominent conservative politicians and he did a good job at that. But the only analysts he allowed on the show were left wingers. Almost never would he allow a non-politician commentator from the right on the show.

I once challenged him to be a man and stand up and say what his politics were. So he did it. He stood up on his program and lied in order not to lose listeners. He said he was a Republican (although, he added, all his friends were liberal). Then he pushed for Kerry’s election as if his life depended on it. (Which is the main reason Kerry is supporting him now.)

I wonder who advised him to go on the Al Sharpton radio show to ask forgiveness. That is priceless. It brings great, mean-spirited happiness to me just thinking about it. He goes to one of the most opportunistic racist demagogues in the world as if he were the Pope. Of course Sharpton rejects his pleas. What in the hell did Imus expect from that clown?

Now Sharpton, in a much coveted and unexpected spotlight, steps forward to be America’s arbiter on moral and racial issues.

It keeps getting better.

Saturday, April 14, 2007



I was going to take another day off but happenings got my ire up. In the catalogue of good things to get up, ire is not one of them.

I can monitor, pitch by pitch, as many eight games at once. The Phillies were behind by two runs in the eighth and got their first two on base with their big guy coming up. Ryan Howard, their big guy, singles to right. Shane Victorino tries to score from second but gets thrown out at the plate. That is amazingly dumb. No outs, runners on first and second, a single to right, and the guy tries to score an almost meaningless run. Thank goodness it happened in Philadelphia. The fans there are probably still booing. The Phillies, the preseason favorites, fell to 2 and 8.

Here’s one even dumber. The Giants have this pitcher, Russ Ortiz, who is a prodigious rebuilding project. This poor guy hadn’t won a game in almost a year. His last team, on releasing him, advised him to retire. He had been that bad. But the Giants gave him a shot in spring training and he made the team. Ortiz got kind of clobbered in his first start, but it wasn’t devastating. Today, in his second start, he pitched well after giving up two runs in the first inning. It comes to the ninth inning and he’s leading 8-2. In the top of the ninth, the Giants get the bases loaded with two out and Russ Ortiz scheduled to hit. I’m thinking (not an afterthought) perfect, get a pinch hitter in there. He’s thrown a great game. Let him leave with unquestioned success and all is right with the world.

But the manager isn’t satisfied. He hasn’t given Ortiz his full chance at failure. He lets Ortiz bat in the ninth (he strikes out, big surprise) and puts him back out there in the bottom of the ninth. Of course he gets clobbered, giving up three runs and has to be relieved. There you go, when failure is an option why go for success? The Giants will probably finish last in their division and deservedly so.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Yeah, I hate chess. It’s not because I’m a bad player. I can kill the average player. I was a big fish in my little pond. I could go months without losing a game. My best friend called me a butcher. There was no finesse in my game. Cut off their arms and legs and taunt them before killing them off. That was my style.

But then I moved up in class and met players I could never beat once in a lifetime. That knocking on the door is reality. Don’t answer it.

But that’s not why I hate chess.

What happened was these Russians “modernized” the game. They reduced all the openings to rote. They analyzed the best response to every move in every opening and memorized the whole thing. *HERE* is a partial list of chess openings from Wikipedia. There are hundreds of openings and variations there. It would take years for me to memorize all that crap.

Well excuse me. Is that what I have to do just to get an even break? Is it just me or does that take a lot of the fun out of the game? Doesn’t that seem like a lot of work just to play a stupid game?

I wonder why they bother playing out the openings at all if everything is memorized. One guy can just say, “I’m playing the Center Game with such and such variation on move 7.”

The other guy says, “I will play so and so response in answer to that.”

So instead of setting the board up at the opening, they can set it up at move 14, since both players have agreed on their moves, and play the game from there.

That’s why I hate chess.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


(PICTURE: al-Sadr)
This fat guy in Iraq has put out a “hit” on Americans. He has gone to the mattresses. Here is part of the article from Forbes:

The powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his militiamen on Sunday to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq's army and police should join him in defeating "your archenemy." The U.S. military announced the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers, including six killed on Sunday.
You can read the full article *HERE*.

Vito Corleone would know what to do. Even John Kennedy, an alleged head of an Irish mafia, would know what to do. He once put out a “hit” on a president of an allied country for a lot less (Ngo Dinh Diem). What are the odds the Americans running things in Iraq will know what to do? Pretty slim I would guess.

Let me try to explain things to them. You see, this guy has declared war on you. You must now take him out (for those of you who might be parsing the definition of “take him out” that means kill him, end his life). If you want to remain regarded as a serious presence in Iraq, you have no choice in this. No, you don’t want to arrest him, that would be worse than doing nothing. You must kill him.

Would Iraqis object to this? There will be some demonstrations when he is gone. But Iraqis understand better than Americans that he must be killed. Al-Sadr, in effect has challenged the Americans to kill him. There really is no choice in this if the Americans want to be regarded as a serious people.

The alternative is to be regarded lightly and even mocked. The Americans cannot afford that. The choice really is to kill this guy or leave. There you have it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


(PICTURE: Nina Wang in her trademark miniskirt and pigtails. She put out a comic book with herself as the lead character.)

The richest woman in Asia died recently. Nina Wang. You can read one of her obituaries *HERE* but to get the full flavor of an interesting person, Google her name. She had 4 billion dollars but it couldn’t keep her alive. She was “only” 69.

I put “only” in quotes because today it’s less than the average lifespan. When I was a kid, the life expectancy was about 65. I believed statistics so I planned my life pretty much to live for 65 years.

“Let’s see, should I brush my teeth tonight? Aw hell, they’re not in bad shape; they should last to 65 if I skip one night.”

But they (they being the guys who figured the odds) were wrong. I’ve gone way past where I should have died. I’m now at death plus eleven and still going strong. I shouldn’t have skipped brushing my teeth those times. I should have taken better care of myself. But they misinformed me when I was a kid.

I guess that tycooness, Nina Wang (remember? The opening paragraph?) was kinda quirky. Her favorite meal was American fast food. Do you think Dr. House might raise his eyebrows at that?

Once, when returning from a long period overseas, I decided to try one of those McDonalds burgers I’d only read about. It gave me indigestion.

Many years later, if I occasioned to pass a Burger King near meal time, I would be sure to get a “Whopper.” That, I thought, was one of the best sandwiches ever. But then when I happened to live near a Burger King I discovered that the “Whopper” was best when taken with some considerable intervals in between.

My favorite American fast food became the Chinese take-out. You know, that stuff that they just pack into the Styrofoam folders. The irony is that I haven’t found anything like that here in Bangkok. I think Chinese-American food is unique to only one country.

Meanwhile, back to the subject. The tycooness was reputed to live on a budget of less than $400 (American) a month.

Now I am cheap in most respects and quirky. There are some things that I do that defy logic. For instance, I don’t like to throw out a sliver of soap. When a bar of soap gets thin, I will meld it into a larger bar by using them together until they are one. I doubt if that saves me a penny a month, but I always do it.

But why would someone worth billions of dollars limit their spending so severely?

They do it because it makes them happy.

I will write more on that subject.

In the meantime a cautionary note. Nina Wang’s husband was twice kidnapped. It was said he was too cheap to hire bodyguards. After the second kidnapping, he was never seen again. Nina Wang died of ovarian cancer. It was said she suffered the symptoms for three years but was too cheap to seek medical help until it was too late.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


(PICTURE: Okay, there's one space left on the last evacuation chopper. Which one of these gets that seat? Case closed.)

I have written on this subject before. Putting women in combat is dumb. That is carrying “Political Correctness” to its ultimate ludicracy (that’s not a word but it conveys my meaning). If women cannot be treated equally, they should not be there. It’s as simple as that.

There’s an article in the Telegraph *HERE* about two women soldiers who were killed in Basra. Please read it. It is an important piece.

It says, in part:

While they cannot join a unit where the primary duty is "to close with and kill the enemy" - for example the infantry or cavalry - women undertake a number of hazardous postings.

I would go far, far further than this. Women should never be in a zone in which there is the chance of evacuations. Why? Because they will always be evacuated first or if not the very first, certainly not the last. That is not fair to men in the same position.

I was in war zones for YEARS! Many years. I always resented the presence of American women there because I knew that their presence cut down the chances of my survival. They would always be taken out first if it came to that. And indeed, in Saigon it did come down to that, and the women were taken out first.

You might say, “Of course they were taken out first.” Then I say, then of course, they should not be put in that situation.

That seems perfectly logical to me so I must be missing something.

Friday, April 06, 2007


There has been a spectacular Hubble image of a barred spiral galaxy just released. Here is some of what the news report says:

NGC 1672, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, is seen almost face on and shows regions of intense star formation. The greatest concentrations of star formation are found in the so-called starburst regions near the ends of the galaxy’s strong galactic bar. NGC 1672 is a prototypical barred spiral galaxy and differs from normal spiral galaxies in that the spiral arms do not twist all the way into the centre. Instead, they are attached to the two ends of a straight bar of stars enclosing the nucleus.

Astronomers believe that barred spirals have a unique mechanism that channels gas from the disk inwards towards the nucleus. This allows the bar portion of the galaxy to serve as an area of new star generation. It appears that the bars are short-lived, raising the question: will non-barred galaxies develop a bar in the future, or have they already hosted one that has disappeared?

In the new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, clusters of hot young blue stars form along the spiral arms, and ionize surrounding clouds of hydrogen gas that glow red. Delicate curtains of dust partially obscure and redden the light of the stars behind them. NGC 1672’s symmetric look is emphasised by the four principal arms, edged by eye-catching dust lanes that extend out from the centre.

I wrote about these things years ago. Read my, The Case of the Missing Water on Mars, which I wrote in 2004. I wonder why the scientists can’t see that they are witnessing the miracle of creation. Why can’t they see that the matter is all outbound and not inbound?

The dust? That is matter that has not coalesced into a star yet. Just not dense enough.

It’s all pretty obvious when you can look at it through the eyes of a child, which is my vantage point.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Why anyone could view sweaty, bed-wettin’, little boys as sex objects is beyond me, but those people are around. I’m sure there are no more today than there have been, but we are more alert to the threat today. There are always childless men hanging around Little League activities. They can adopt the guise of “regular guys,” but I was always suspicious. It doesn’t hurt to be suspicious.

A marine captain came to one of our games as a volunteer umpire. His first question to me was, “Are your players wearing athletic cups?”

Without missing a beat I replied, “Of course.”

Now I had no idea if even one was wearing a cup and seriously doubted if even one was. (It’s in the LL rule book that they must wear cups.) But what was I supposed to say? Was I supposed to tell him I didn’t know and let him do his own examination? I couldn’t have cared less if they had cups. That’s just a CYA thing for LL anyway. The only time I wore a cup when I played was when I was catching.

I didn’t manage again.

My kid as an 8-year-old showed no promise whatever. That didn’t bother me, he was a good kid. What more could you ask?

Then I saw him run in the outfield as a 9-year-old. What a change a year can make. Have you ever watched the graceful, swift movements of a natural athlete? Well that’s what I saw.

To make a long story short, after he graduated from college (the first in my family) I sent him 30 pounds of press clippings I had collected about him.

Needless to say I was proud. He had experiences in sports that I dreamed of for myself but never came close to achieving.

And then there’s that weird assimilation thing. The irony is that he assimilated much better than I. He’s married to a beautiful lady from the Midwest and lives in the Midwest with her and their three kids. Here I am in Thailand with a large, extended Thai family.

Go figure.


(After winning our first game 31-7).

Then the criticisms began, in a pseudo-friendly way. “Why do you call all the boys by their last names?” “They all have first names, you know.” “They are just little boys.” “Do you know their first names?”

I ignored those remarks. I called all the kids, even mine, by their last names because I knew it would make them feel older, more mature. I didn’t want them to feel like little boys. I made it a point not to get friendly with any of them. I was the boss and I ordered them around and they did what I told them. That was our relationship.

But it had started. The parents, who had walked out on the team, had seen success and now wanted back in. At our next game they brought a huge dispenser of iced orange Gatorade and hung it in our dugout. Have you ever tried to keep a dozen 8-year-olds focused when there was unlimited orange drink around? The kids were constantly lined up for a drink. It was a severe distraction. Despite that we won the game easily. Drinks were banned from the dugout.

Then they complained that my kid was playing second base when better players were in the outfield. That was true but I didn’t respond. That is the manager’s prerogative. Little did they know, I would gladly have stepped aside to let anyone else manage so they could then play their kid wherever the frack they wanted.

Then came the killer complaint. I HAD SWORN IN FRONT OF THE KIDS! This was my golden opportunity. I couldn’t remember having sworn, but I immediately resigned as manager. Unfortunately they launched an investigation and found I had once said “shit” when a ball hit me in the shin. They came to the conclusion that this was not only pardonable, but understandable. They talked me into coming back.

I carefully kept the batting averages of all the kids. After a few more lopsided wins, I noticed that our poorest hitter was hitting better than Stan Musial did in his career. Not by much, .333 to .331, but it was enough to make me proud. (For those who might not know, Stan Musial was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He was usually called simply, “Stan the Man.”). I printed out the averages of all the kids, including Stan Musial at the bottom, and passed the list to all the parents.

I don’t think any of them had any idea what it meant. They looked at them as if they were test grades from school. One hysterical mother phoned me to tell me her kid had been crying all day because of where he placed on the list. (This kid was hitting over .500! There were no errors in that league. Getting on base by batted ball was a hit.)

My team parents went to league headquarters and got a rule passed that no batting average would EVER be printed, mentioned, or referred to in any way. That was the perfect time for me to resign. I was replaced by another parent who immediately made his incompetent kid the shortstop. The team went on to lose two games after that during the rest of the season. I don’t think they would have lost any had I remained in charge. But I don’t take a lot of pride in that because I had been handed, in the luck of the draw, three stars and six decent players at the beginning of the season. That would be a good team at any level of baseball.

What I did take tremendous pride in was bringing our three lousy players to the point where they helped the team considerably. To see those three nerdy little guys accepted and sometimes celebrated by their teammates made me more happy than I can express.

That was my point in showing everyone how good they were hitting. It was really a brag on my accomplishment.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Managing in Little League? My advice is: Don’t do it!

That might be some of the best advice you get in your life.

When my kid turned 8 he was anxious to get into Little League. Anything to blend in, to be one of the group. I had brought him home from Vietnam when he was 4. So at 8 I signed him up for Little League. On the sign-up form they ask you to volunteer for something. Strictly out of guilt, it didn’t seem fair to ask everyone else to do the work, I checked, “Coach.” Well it turned out no one else checked anything so I got appointed Manager. There was no player draft. They just gave me 12 kids at random, like you deal a deck of cards, except for my kid of course who had to be on my team..

At our first practice almost all the parents turned out. Many helped chasing balls and hitting flies and picking up fallen kids and such. At the end of the first practice they had all given up on the team. It was doomed. They wished me a smirking good luck. I hardly ever saw any of them again. Not one parent helped with or even watched another practice.

I didn’t know why they wrote off the team. Three of the kids were really good, three were pretty bad, and the other 6 were so-so. (My kid was in the middle.) To me, it had the makings of a pretty good team. Most teams would be glad to have that level of talent.

But the effort required of me, both physical and mental, was enormous. As usual when getting into a project, I threw myself into it with complete psycho-tinged abandon. Which meant abandoning regular work and most everything else for the three weeks of our pre-season training.

During our pre-season, in addition to our regular practice, I emphasized two things. After a ground ball was fielded and thrown to first, I called out a random base to throw to, and then another, and then another. It was like working with an empty slate. They did it without thinking. The kids got expert in this. That turned out to be a devastating weapon when playing against wild-running 8-year-olds.

The second thing I emphasized was extra batting practice for our 3 weakest players. Some days the practice would be for them alone. I did not want an automatic out in our lineup.

When we came to our first game, I didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t played any practice games. I just hoped it wouldn’t be an embarrassment for us. All the parents showed up, most likely expecting the worst.

What surprised me most was the intensity of our players. In the top of the first inning we scored 15 runs. The opposing team came off the field in tears. My job then was to keep our team from losing its concentration. It’s hard to keep an 8-year-old focused when his team is leading by a couple of dozen runs. It didn’t help that our parents had started rooting for the demoralized, tearful opposition. We won that first game 31-7. It would have been more but my guys let up.