Seabrook Fish Kill Teaches Baseball Lesson

Over the past couple of weeks the city of Seabrook, TX , as well as other neighboring cities, have dealt with the lingering effects of a fish kill along the shores of Galveston Bay.

While there is always a certain sea faring odor associated with living along the water, it is usually a salty aroma that makes one want to read Ernest Hemingway novels in a smoking jacket wearing a captain’s hat while eating black licorice rope and sipping iced tea while Nat the lighthouse keeper helps guide the ships safely to port.

A recent fish kill along Galveston Bay has been a little less "Hemingway" and a lot more "Silence of the cod" lately. Photo R. Anderson
A recent fish kill along Galveston Bay has been a little less “Hemingway” and a lot more “Silence of the cod” lately.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course even Nat and Papa Joe himself would have turned their noses at the smell of thousands of dead bait fish washed upon the shore.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials the fish kill is likely being caused by low oxygen levels in the water which can be caused by many naturally occurring things such as algae blooms and other factors that make it hard for the fish to “breathe” under water.

In an official statement released by the city of Seabrook residents were notified that the region’s Kills and Spills Team (KAST) was on top of the situation and that fishing was discouraged in areas where fish carcasses have accumulated due to health concerns.

I can only speak for myself but usually the sight of thousands of dead fish “carcasses” in a given area is pretty much going to discourage me from fishing there without needing to have the city tell me.

Of course while there is never a good time for a fish kill, having one during Memorial Day weekend makes the fine folks at the local tourism office a little squeamish as they try to kick off the summer tourism season.

The waters of Galveston Bay are churning with more than just shrimp boats lately with the arrival of several thousand dead fish washing up on the shore. Photo R. Anderson
The waters of Galveston Bay are churning with more than just shrimp boats lately with the arrival of several thousand dead fish washing up on the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

With seaweed of biblical proportion washing up a bit further to the south there really are no odor free beaches and waterways for one to visit for the time being.

Of course in time nature will takes its course and the salty Hemingway smells will once again return to the shores as the numbers of dead fish and seaweed subside.

While the fish kill is currently limited to mostly smaller fish time will tell if larger fish in the food chain will start to die off with so many of their food sources killed off. As the animated lion and his friends taught me through song, it is all part of the circle of life.

Speaking of fish kills and singing lions, there is a similar circle of life within the ranks of professional baseball where each big fish club is only as strong has its minnows, err Minor League clubs.

Major League Baseball teams like the Tampa Bay Rays depend on a strong Farm system to survive. When the smaller clubs suffer the big club feels the pain which is similar to how the big fish feel during a fish kill ala the circle of life. Photo R. Anderson
Major League Baseball teams like the Tampa Bay Rays depend on a strong Farm system to survive. When the smaller clubs suffer the big club feels the pain which is similar to how the big fish feel during a fish kill ala the circle of life.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams with a healthy level of oxygen and prospects throughout the system tend to thrive while the clubs with a weaker farm system tend to flounder.

Much like seasonal fish kills the ebbs and flows of the haves and have nots in baseball also seem to be cyclical with each team rising and falling with the tides depending on how strong their farm systems are.

The good news for fans of teams such as the Astros, and others who are in rebuilding mode, is that while the product on the field at times may stink during the rebuilding years it never affects the noses of fans in the same way that thousands of dead bait fish will do.

Of course is one ever happens to see a Kills and Spills Team visit their Ballpark odds are the situation is a bit more serious than first thought and it might be time for a fan to “fish” elsewhere for awhile.

Residents along Galveston Bay anxiously await a return to a more fragrant experience full of licorice and lighthouses. Photo R. Anderson
Residents along Galveston Bay anxiously await a return to a more fragrant experience full of licorice and lighthouses.
Photo R. Anderson

So while the residents along Galveston Bay will have to wait a little longer to don those smoking jackets and break into the licorice at least they know that the fish are sure to disappear one way or the other eventually.

Until then the birds will continue to swarm all over the free Golden Gill buffet while residents can stay indoors with the windows closed and watch some baseball.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check the seals on the windows since the direction of the wind just shifted.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

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Remembering the Sacrifices this Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day which is a United States Federal Holiday that occurs each year on the final Monday of May.

It is a day of remembrance and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day. Photo R. Anderson
The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day.
Photo R. Anderson

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the United States Civil War to honor soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who lost their lives in battle.

Memorial Day was expanded in the last century to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

While dating back to the war between the states, in recent years Memorial Day has also marked the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day acting as the second bookend in September to signal the end of the summer season.

Over the course of the past weekend families traveled all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf as they officially left winter behind and embraced the feeling of summer.

This year around the shores of Galveston County the outdoor celebrations of Memorial Day weekend included the added sights and smells of shores lined with seaweed and dead fish.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Photo R. Anderson
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
Photo R. Anderson

As part of the holiday weekend, numerous television networks used the time to air marathons of their most popular shows to capture the attention of those viewers who were not out in the sun catching waves or barbecuing as their way of celebrating the weekend.

As with most other holiday weekends, Memorial Day also becomes a time when advertisers discount everything from dishwashers to pickup trucks in an attempt to rake in the dollars and lure shoppers into their establishments.

Large flags and camoflauge hats will mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball today. Photo R. Anderson
Large flags and camouflage hats will mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball today.
Photo R. Anderson

Major League Baseball will honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by wearing camouflage on their hats and uniforms during their games today.

And of course in keeping with true American capitalist values that tend to come to light during holiday weekends, versions of those hats and jerseys are available for purchase by the general public.

Of course, not every Memorial Day tribute includes direct commercial time-ins.

There is one Memorial Day tradition that still tends to get me choked up and seems to honor the fallen in the way the holiday was intended if not with a bit of a 21st Century feel.

I am referring to the Memorial Day Weekend NASCAR race. Each year the pre-race show includes a strong military presence, bagpipers, and Taps being played.

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race. Photo R. Anderson
NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race.
Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR is arguably the most commercialized of the major American sports with advertisements seeming to cover every spare square inch of both driver and car. But, when it comes to pausing to honor the troops they tend to get it right year after year.

It is hard not to feel the sacrifice that was being made when watching the pre-race ceremony and hearing those bag pipes and lone bugle mournfully wail.

Of course the part where they roll out the extremely large American flag, a staple of most sporting events these days, is another nice touch.

Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless soldiers and I am glad that we have holidays, and pre-race ceremonies where we can be reminded of that.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the coming years the commercial aspects of holidays like Memorial Day will overtake the true meanings behind them.

Instead of being a time where Americans all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those that came before them, I fear that the holiday will complete its transformation into a holiday where travelers merely focus on the cars before them as they rush to their weekend getaways, or catch up on those projects that the extra day off from work allows them to finally tackle.

Ceremonial pitches honoring the troops and first responders. Photo R. Anderson
Ceremonial pitches honoring the troops and first responders.
Photo R. Anderson

So while you are enjoying that extra day off of work, or grilling some meat on the grill, or even grilling your flesh on the sand today, take some time to think of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers.

It is often said that freedom isn’t free and that it comes at a great cost. Days like Memorial Day allow us to remember that cost and appreciate the freedom a little more.

If you happen to come across a member of the Armed Forces today in your travels to and from the beach or that store with the huge sale on mattresses take a moment to tell them thanks for doing their part to keep us free to enjoy those sandy shores and have the means to purchase that mattress with 90 days same as cash financing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to cook something on an open flame and see if I can find a solider to thank for my right to make that burger extra crispy.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Baseballs are Made of Basic Things but Spark Fantastic Memories

On the surface, and even down to their core, baseballs are pretty basic items.

Start with a cork core, add two thin rubber wrappings, cover with about 370 yards of wool yarn in varied thickness and color, adhere a cover of white cowhide with rubber cement and hand stitch exactly 216 times with 88 inches of red thread and one has a completed baseball.

On the surface there is nothing really special about a baseball's individual parts. Once those parts are assembled though a baseball can have a life of its own and can be highly sought after. Photo R. Anderson
On the surface there is nothing really special about a baseball’s individual parts. Once those parts are assembled though a baseball can have a life of its own and can be highly sought after.
Photo R. Anderson

The cork-cored ball was introduced around 1910 and standardized the way baseballs were made. Very few modifications have been made to the design in the 104 years since.

Of course the simplistic breakdown of a baseball does not really convey the role that they play in the culture of the game.

Pitchers try their best to make a baseball move in ways that trick the batters while the batters are looking for that one perfect pitch to hit out of the park.

The battle over control of the baseball between pitchers and batters lies at the very cork core of the game of baseball itself.

Of course not all interactions with baseballs occur between a pitcher and a batter.

Recently two examples of interaction with baseballs within a Ballpark showed how they can be much more than the sum of their parts in the eyes of the beholder.

Our first example takes us to Pensacola, Florida and Bayfront Stadium home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Southern League.

Last Thursday night before a game against the Jacksonville Suns Pensacola Blue Wahoos catcher Ross Perez was called upon to catch the ceremonial first pitch.

On the surface a catcher being asked to take part in the opening pitch is really nothing out of the ordinary as they are often called upon to partake in opening ceremonies.

What made this particular first pitch different was the person throwing it.

Recently the Pensacola Blue Wahoos hosted a father/son first pitch. Photo R. Anderson
Recently the Pensacola Blue Wahoos hosted a father/son first pitch.
Photo R. Anderson

Perez was surprised to discover that the person throwing the pitch was his father who had come all the way from Venezuela in a surprise visit.

Making the moment more special for the father and son was the fact that the elder Perez had never had seen his son play a professional baseball game.

So a baseball made of basic materials helped a father and son from Venezuela connect on a Florida baseball diamond.

The second example of the power of a baseball came from Arlington, Texas and the Ballpark of the Texas Rangers.

In this particular instance a young male fan received a ball during the game and then proceeded to give it to a woman sitting behind him.

Of course the chivalrous act was caught on camera and the fan had his 15 minutes of fame for giving the ball away.

A closer look at the exchange revealed that a decoy ball caught during batting practice was given to the girl while the young man kept the game ball.

It is fairly common for fans to use decoy balls and this particular fan’s sleight of hand was the sort of thing that would put Penn and Teller to shame.

Ceremonial pitches such as J.J. Watt's during the season opener of the Houston Astros last year have been a part of the baseball landscape for decades but sometimes they can take on a deeper meaning. Photo R. Anderson
Ceremonial pitches such as J.J. Watt’s during the season opener of the Houston Astros last year have been a part of the baseball landscape for decades but sometimes they can take on a deeper meaning.
Photo R. Anderson

So while the ball given to the “cute girl” was not the actual game ball it is still a nice gesture but it also shows the power of a baseball and the desire to keep the real thing.

These are just two examples of baseballs creating lasting memories and opportunities inside Ballparks.

There are countless more that occur every night in Ballparks of every shape and size. In fact during the time it takes to read this article it is likely that several such baseball memories have occurred somewhere in the world.

Individually the pieces of a baseball are nothing special but when something as simple as cork and twine wrapped in cow hide is put together they become almost magical under the right circumstances.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about cow hide has me craving a juicy cheeseburger with some Heinz 57 and perhaps even some french fried potatoes.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Manatees Would Swim Inland Under Winter Park Proposal

Recently it was announced that the City of Winter Park, Fla., the Brevard County Manatees, and Rollins College had reached a tentative deal to bring the minor league baseball team to Winter Park, beginning with the 2016 season.

The Brevard County Manatees are a member of the Florida State League and a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, Florida may be without its two biggest tenants in 2016 if the Manatees and Nationals leave for greener pastures. Photo R. Anderson
Space Coast Stadium in Brevard County, Florida may be without its two biggest tenants in 2016 if the Manatees and Nationals leave for greener pastures.
Photo R. Anderson

Under the proposal the current Rollins College Ballpark, Alfond Stadium, would be torn down and replaced by a 2,500 seat minor league stadium which Rollins College and the Manatees would share.

Total cost of the project to be divvied up by the public and private sectors is said to be about $33 million and would include a Ballpark and parking garage.

Winter Park City Manager Randy Knight was quoted by several Orlando media outlets as saying that the fact that Orlando is the largest metro area in the nation without a professional baseball team played a role in the city’s decision to pursue a team.

After hosting Minor League Baseball since early in the 20th Century, the Orlando region was left without a Minor League Baseball team when the Double-A Southern League Orlando Rays relocated to Montgomery, Alabama and were renamed the Biscuits following the 2003 season.

The Brevard COunty Manatees, the Florida State League Class A Milwaukee Brewers farm team have a preliminary deal in place to move to Winter Park, Florida beginning in 2016. Photo R. Anderson
The Brevard COunty Manatees, the Florida State League Class A Milwaukee Brewers farm team have a preliminary deal in place to move to Winter Park, Florida beginning in 2016.
Photo R. Anderson

Without a team to call their own baseball fans in Orlando were left with hour long road trips to either Brevard County or Daytona if they wanted to catch a game.

While few people would argue on the surface that returning Minor League Baseball to the Orlando market is a good idea there are two sides to every relocation.

On the positive side of the coin the Orlando area would gain a new team and Ballpark to fill summer nights with the sounds and smells of baseball.

The negative side of the coin would be that Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium to the east would lose their summer tenant on top of the likely loss of their Spring Training tenant the Washington Nationals.

Without a regular team calling it home Space Coast Stadium could fall into disrepair and meet the wrecking ball which is a fate that has befallen many Ballparks before it when they lost their professional tenant.

Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals Spring Training days in Space Coast Stadium may be numbered. Photo R. Anderson
Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals Spring Training days in Space Coast Stadium may be numbered.
Photo R. Anderson

While there was a movement to save historic Tinker Field despite it never being able to host baseball games again there are no such historic memories attached to the newer Space Coast Stadium.

In a perfect world there would be room for both cities to have a team but the fact remains that much like those sword wielding immortals from the Highlander, there can be only one.

Brevard County is likely to try to fight hard to keep both the Nationals and the Manatees as tenants inside Space Coast Stadium for many years to come through various incentives as several studies have shown the economic benefits of having the teams play there.

For years the Brevard County Manatees have given their fans much entertainment with each ticket. Soon fans along the Space Coast may have to travel inland to catch their team. Photo R. Anderson
For years the Brevard County Manatees have given their fans much entertainment with each ticket. Soon fans along the Space Coast may have to travel inland to catch their team.
Photo R. Anderson

However,with the current economics of baseball and the desire to treat Ballparks like disposal commodities it may prove to be a losing proposition to keep the teams in the 17-year-old Ballpark.

Under the current plan construction would be in 2015 with the team moving over a year later which would be just shy of Space Coast Stadium’s 20th Anniversary season.

Wherever the Manatees end up for the 2016 season they will likely still entertain the fans with the various aspects of Minor League Baseball that have entertained families for generations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to take part in some dizzy bat.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady’s Professional Pitching Debut was Short and Memorable

As noted on Monday former NBA star Tracy McGrady took the mound for his regular season professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters.

While McGrady’s pitching line of 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run by Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet certainly does not sound like a Hall of Fame effort at first glance it is certainly notable in so much as it is not every day that someone goes pro in a second sport.

McGrady earned two NBA scoring titles and seven All-Star Game appearances during his first professional sports career.

Tracy McGrady made his professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
Tracy McGrady made his professional baseball debut last Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

While McGrady spent 16 years in the NBA honing his basketball skills, the 34-year-old had not played organized baseball since high school.

Prior to Saturday’s game McGrady had just one inning of spring training work against Alvin Community College under his belt so he is obviously still green when it comes to baseball.

Speaking of green the Skeeters very well could be sitting on a promotional gold mine based on the sellout crowd on hand to watch the 1 2/3 innings of work.

Granted many of the fans arrived after McGrady’s debut had ended but if his outings get longer or the fans arrive earlier it very well could be win-win for all involved.

While I am not saying that the McGrady experiment is solely a money making promotional gimmick it is hard to forget that a 50-year-old Roger Clemens was sent to the mound in the team’s first season to drum up awareness of the new kid in town.

While many could question the long-term feasibility of McGrady as a pitcher, Sugar Land Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti stated in a post-game interview that he was sticking with McGrady as a starting pitcher.

Former Houston Astro turned Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet  (#12) collects his bat after rounding the bases on a foul pole rattling home run given up by Tracy McGrady Saturday night as Koby Clemens and the Skeeters dugout look on. Photo R. Anderson
Former Houston Astro turned Somerset Patriots shortstop Edwin Maysonet (#12) collects his bat after rounding the bases on a foul pole rattling home run given up by Tracy McGrady Saturday night as Koby Clemens and the Skeeters dugout look on.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course most managers prefer their starters to go until at least the sixth inning before making the call to the bullpen so clearly there is some work to be done there in terms of increasing McGrady’s pitch count while increasing his results.

Time will tell if he makes as big of an impact on the baseball scene once he works out some issues with his mechanics.

Personally I would love to see McGrady succeed in his professional baseball career.

While not all of us our multimillionaire former NBA stars with high name recognition, we all have dreams beyond our current jobs or other situations in life.

And if a 34-year-old retiree can chase his dreams it brings hope for the rest of us in terms of finding that next chapter to get out of whatever rut we find ourselves in.

The team has not yet announced McGrady’s next start but I am fairly certain that they will try to tweak the rotation to ensure that all of his starts occur during home games to help maximize the crowds and the aforementioned green.

It is even highly possible that McGrady has contract language similar to what Roger Clemens had with the Astros where he does not even travel with the team on road trips.

Tracy McGrady’s pitching line from his professional baseball debut is 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run.  Photo R. Anderson
Tracy McGrady’s pitching line from his professional baseball debut is 1 2/3 innings, 35 pitches (18 strikes/17 balls), 2 earned runs, 2 walks and a home run.
Photo R. Anderson

While I do not know if that is the case I would certainly hope that McGrady is traveling with the team and getting the full Minor League Baseball experience. Taking the bus rides alongside his teammates would certainly be a good team bonding experience and just might make them run after his wild pitches and other miscues on the mound a little bit faster.

And while giving up a home run in your professional debut is certainly not something that any pitcher wants to do McGrady can take solace in the fact that the foul pole hitting shot came off of a former Major Leaguer instead of a college kid during spring training.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go work on my curve ball in case the Skeeters need a thirty something left handed specialist to come in and mop up in the late innings.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson