Oliver’s First Baseball Glove

We keep coming back to baseball. For some reason it’s like the glue that holds this blog together. It’s the glue that has helped bond my family together from Pop to Oliver. Through this Covid-19 pandemic all we have wanted was sports to get our nation back to cheering for something and unite most of us in hating the Red Sox.

Up until today Major League Baseball wasn’t a thing. It started and stopped and started again (and stopped again in the top of the 6th inning… not because of Covid, but because of baseball’s arch memos is: RAIN. BUT, that did not stop us from celebrating opening day… in… July! Opening day is more than just games starting, it (usually signals that warmer weather is near and fathers and sons can start playing catch again.

To that point, giving your son his first baseball glove is something that needs to be celebrated.

The history of baseball is passed on from generation to generation. My grandfather passed it on to me and I’ll pass it on to my sons. I was Phil Rizzuto turning double plays and Rickey Henderson robbing homeruns over Pop’s Boxwood Hedges.

Getting your first glove is a rite of passage. I still have the glove Pop bought me. I remember going to the store to buy it with him. I remember breaking it in and the smell of the leather. I blogged about buying Jax his first glove a couple of years ago and now it is Oliver’s turn.

While Jax is devolving into a pretty decent switch hitter who throws lefty, Oliver is just learning the basics, but seems to have the right handed swing and also throws righty like his dad. Playing catch is beginning to actually “happen” now. Both Jax and Oliver enjoy it and Oliver now, with his very own glove is definitely more interested, even it means he’s purposely throwing a ball in the woods, laughing about it and then spending 10 minutes trying to find it… over and over and over again!

Being able to now be out there with both my sons, all with our baseball gloves on… there’s just something magical about it. The ball going back and forth between us… no words need to be spoken, although neither of my children usually go more than thirty seconds without talking… again just like dad). But, just the popping of the glove…. like an invisible string connecting us. That’s what makes it magic. In the end that’s what baseball does, it connects us with our past, with each other… and right now it’s connected Oliver to his big brother and dad!

A Decade to Remember

As 2019 its door and the start of a new decade opens, it’s a time to reflect and look forward to the amazing things on the horizon. As far decades go… the 2010s were as Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” And considering this last one was my fourth… I know a good decade when I see one. But really… four decades… that is pretty crazy. I’m now 40 – as in 40 years old.

This decade saw so many ups and downs, So many gains and so many losses. However, all of the losses make the gains so much more exuberant. I became a dad and also an uncle (which is like being a dad, except you can just send the little tyke home when you are done playing with them!!!)

This decade was pretty nuts… I “went viral” as is the popular phrase these days for my Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs that i build for the boys… so that in of itself is pretty indicative of what this decade was like!

If I had to summarize the last ten years in a sentence or two it would read something like this… I fell more deeply in love with my beautiful wife then I ever imagined possible. I lost my person, my grandfather, but I gained two of the most amazing little boys anyone could ever ask for. (ohh… and I won a Super Bowl)!

The decade started out with me taking the career path I always envisioned, as I took my first administrative job as an assistant principal, which I later parlayed itself into becoming a principal, including turning that first building around from a “Tier 3 Schools” in need of improvement to a “Tier 1 School of High Distinction, High Achievement and High Growth” in under three years. I’m proud of what was accomplished and I’m proud of the amazing students that worked so hard every day.

As I said earlier, there were losses. I lost my last two grandparents. Pop, left us the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Jackson still talks about him, and unfortunately Oliver will only know him through the stories that are still told at the dinner table like folk tales. Steph lost her father, which was one of the hardest to explain to our little ones.

I was able to walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (four times). I caught wide receiver Jordy Nelson during a Lambeau Leap and visited Broadway a few times.

Stephanie and I moved into our dream house in an amazing community with some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our children love all their new friends and we are so lucky to have amazing people around us everyday.

There is no better part of the last ten years than that of bringing into this world two of the most amazing little boys that have ever lived. Jackson and Oliver have made Stephanie’s and my life so much more than we could have ever asked for all those years ago. They have changed my life. They make every moment of my life better, more important and most of worth living.

To Stephanie,

It hasn’t always been perfect… but two decades have gone by with you and my hope is that the next many decades are spent by your side. Our boys are lucky to have you as their mother, their protector and their best friend.

2010 ➡️ 2020

Mickey Mantle, Mike Trout and Jackson Carmine

First there was the Commerce Comet, then came the Millville Meteor… and now-wearing number 7 for his local fall-ball team is the Bristol Bullet.

I was psyched when Coach Dave hooked up our switch hitting slugger with Mickey Mantle’s number. I always wore 24 for my favorite player Rickey Henderson, but I was a right handed hitting speedster who liked to steal bases and slide head first. Jax is shaping up to be a pretty damn good hitter from both sides of the plate!

If there are two guys you want your son to be similar to on the baseball field you could do a lot worse than Mantle and Trout. Growing up in 2019 (although we are Yankees fans, Mike Trout is a player who you enjoy watching and rooting for. While we bleed blue for the Yankees, I’m glad Jax will have Mike Trout, a fantastic baseball player and even more importantly a fantastic human being, to look up to as a role model.

20,000 Baseball Cards Under the Sea

‪Want to promote reading? Kids don’t always have to read a book to be reading. While traditionaly we ask children to chose a “book at their level,” mixing that in and promoting “reading for information” outside of a “book” is real world, rigorous & engaging for kids. (IE: The back of a baseball card!‬) Then, hook your children with a book that connects to their interests

I love that Jax wants to “do baseball cards.” In a time where screens (iPads, iPhones) dominate the world, it’s refreshing to unplug once and a while. I’m not going to get on my high horse and say that my kids do not have time on YouTube or what not… but I do try to make sure there is a happy medium. The best part is that both boys are great at regulating themselves. Baseball cards have always been a huge part of my life and they seem to be seem becoming a bonding time for Jax and I (Oliver just throws them all over the place).

Get your old baseball cards out now, comic books… look through them, heck read the back of a cereal box… inspire your kids to be a reader by being a reader yourself!

#ReadingForInformation #BaseballCards #InterestBasedReading #Yankees #PinstripePride #PrincipalsKid #ChroniclesOfANewDad

2019 MLB Scouting Report

IF, Guilford, CT. (BA RANK: 6)

Profile: Pre-K • B- Switch T: L •

Committed to Kindergarten for the 2019-2020 season

Has a small, lanky frame with quick feet and quick hands. Fragola doesn’t overwhelm with tools or physicality since he barely eats any fruits or vegetables, but he plays an extremely sound game both offensively and defensively.

At the plate, Fragola has average power from the right side, but he has a short swing with quick hands and is capable of spraying line drives to all fields when batting from the left side of the plate. A solid-average runner during the early summer intra-squad games, scouts have clocked better run times from him this spring, to the point where he’s now considered an above-average runner.

Fragola’s defensive ability is what sets him apart, however, as he has some of the most consistent and reliable hands in this years T-Ball class. He has a huge arm and when he uncorks a throw it reminds scouts of of Henry Rowengartner. Fragola’s instincts and overall feel for playing defense are extremely polished. He seems to make every play that comes to him—making the position look much easier than it actually is. Will work harder if ice cream is promised after games.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

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Such a huge day today for father and son, for baseball fans, for Yankee fans… for baseball in general. So here’s the background… there’s an old saying that hitting a baseball is the hardest things to do in sports. Throw in the fear of getting nailed by a fastball, and you can understand the challenges coaches face trying to teach these little future stars how to play the game.

Many kids when I was growing up were told to “just make contact“, “hit the ball on the ground” or “swing down on the ball.” Hitting a baseball is one of the most complex collection of movement patterns in sports. Hand eye coordination is so important. They say Ted Williams- arguably the greatest hitting in baseball history- could see the laces on the ball as it spun out of the pitchers hand… but the game has changed drastically since the WWII era. So why then… are we teaching our kids to just hit down on the ball? So why do we want to restrict or teach our children to settle for base hits?

Folks… “CHICKS DIG THE LONG BALL!” Tom Glavine said it… heck Greg Maddux said it… and they are two of the greatest pitchers of my generation.

It’s no different for Jackson “The Judge” Carmine who is starting his first season of coach pitch baseball. That’s exactly why he is swinging for the fences. Exit velocity and launch angle and all that advanced saber-metric crap… that’s what he’s learning… he’s four years old and the youngest player on his fall ball team by far… but he’s a dominant force in the lineup. I feel sorry for the opposing coach who has to get down on one knee and toss the ball to him. It must be what a rookie, journeyman reliever feels like facing Aaron Judge.

No really, he’s going to play the game at a young age the way he wants. He’ll learn the right way to play and we’ll have have fun out there together… even if I’m that journeyman reliever who’s out there tossing pitches to him to launch to the moon.

I’m just so excited to see my little guy out there swinging the bat. A four year old hitting pitches is pretty cool, especially if that four year old is your own kid! Watching him make contact and put the ball in play on his first at bat with live pitching was amazing. I’m so proud of him… even if it was just a ground ball! LOL.

Los Chivos de Hartford and Oliver’s First Game de Beisbol

Baseball continues to play such an important part of my father/son(s) interactions. Especially now that Oliver is more than a sack of potatoes with eyes, and being that he can engage in activities for longer than twelve seconds now it was finally time to take him to his first baseball game.

I’ve written about how growing up baseball was so important to me and how it shaped me as a young man. I’ve discussed how it shaped my relationship with my grandfather (Pop) and now how it’s shaping my relationships with my sons. Then again… it’s America’s Past Time and a father/son rite of passage… so how surprising is it that my first game with Oliver was such a big deal.

No it wasn’t at the Cathedral that is Yankee Stadium we didn’t get to see Derek Jeter’s last home game, but we did get to witness one of baseballs top prospects, Brendan Rodgers, in one of MiLB most amazing parks, Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats. Not to mention they have the dopest logo and mascot in all of sports. Needless to say it was baseball, it was live and it was amazing.

We sat in the right field stands for a night game (which is not recommended for a 15 month old, let alone a four year old). The view was amazing and the stadium dogs, chicken fingers, pretzels, ice-cream, french fries and waters were tasty (by the way: that was just for the kids). We watched the Yard Goats win 11-1. They played as the Los Chivos de Hartford and rocked sick alternate jerseys for the game. Highlights included Brendan Rodgers going 3-4 and Peter Lambert pitching a complete game four-hitter.

Now listen I’m not going to sit here and lie and tell you that bringing two children to a ballpark is easy, or that it isn’t without its difficulties (and choice words muttered under my breath from time to time)… but it is quite amazing to be with both my boys, especially with Oliver for the first time, at a baseball game.

It was great to experience everything as a family, to be with my wife and two boys. But of course being a dad and taking my son to his first game is extra special. I enjoyed every second of exposing Oliver to how the game works… and he enjoyed clapping when I clapped. He smiled and seemed to be enamored by the green grass and beautiful sunset over the first base side seats. He enjoyed the food and the fans, but I’m pretty confident in saying I enjoyed being there with him and his brother more than either of them will ever know (that is until they have sons of their own). Then again if you read this blog often… you already knew that, besides it’s America’s Past time and a father/son rite of passage… and everybody knows that.

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Click here to read about Jackson’s first game at Yankee Stadium: Jackson’s First MLB Baseball Game

Perseverance

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When it’s time to go to bed and your child is demonstrating a quality that many people including adults are lacking, you have to just nod your head and tip your cap in Derek Jeter style.

I’ve done every teacher/ parent move in the book. He gets a five and two minute warning and then it’s time to head off to bed, but this kid is persistent. He tried it all… and he continues to try it all.

• I need to pee.

Even though you insisted 60,000 times you didn’t have to pee three seconds before this statement?

• I’m thirsty.

Impossible because you literally are holding a cup full of apple juice.

• I had a bad dream.

You have to be sleeping in order to dream… I call BS on this one.

• Please leave the bathroom light on because it’s so dark outside.

It’s night time. It’s supposed to be dark out.

• I want a hug and a kiss.

I gave you a hug and kiss when we came upstairs and the fourteen times I put you to sleep tonight, and when you asked for a drink… I see a pattern here.

• I have to tell you a secret in your ear

Unless the secret consists of you telling me you’re going to sleep right now, then I don’t want to hear it.

• Where’s Peppa Pig? I need my Peppa, George, Susie Sheep and Pedro Pony!!!

You mean the same Peppa Pig that you just threw across the room and said get this out of here?

• I’m really squished right now… there are too many stuffed animals in my bed.

Why the hell did you put them all in the bed in the first place?

After all that… the most effective move he made… the move that showed he won’t give in… the move that will define him is this:

When all else fails, curl up in the fetal position and pretend to be asleep!

Nice work kid… a tip of the cap to you:

Field of Dreams

Lets start out with the negative… on the drive to Jackson’s first baseball game… In the course of a seven minute ride to the field he asked, “are there yet,” 27 times. I was sure as sure as soon as we get there he’d want to go home.

There were, however, a lot of positives in his first game. Lots of great points to build off of. At such a young age players haven’t had a chance to develop bad habits, so establishing proper technique and having the time to work on skills no matter the child’s age is always a plus.

Which brings us to Jackson’s first “official” T-Ball game. Jax showed incredible speed, a quick first step and the ability to cover all positions as evident from his first time playing the field. About 12 seconds in he took off into the outfield, crossed over two other fields, went down a massive hill and literally into the parking lot of the next school before anyone could even get within shouting distance.

Later that inning… he took off for a second time. He was found in the woods a few minutes later.

Although he seems to show above average skills as a fielder and the speed to be a plus base runner, it was at the plate where Jax showed off his major league ready skills.

Batting three times in three innings he went 3-3 with three runs scored. (Mind you everyone went 3-3 with three runs scored. However not one other child hit from both sides of the plate. I’m not sure if he’s going to stay a switch hitter, and it’s clear he doesn’t have the sweet swing of Will “the thrill” Clark just yet, but I’ll pretty impressed with a barely four year old hitting righty and lefty in his first game.

I had fun… he had fun… and he looked damn cute doing it! The only thing better then playing the game yourself, is watching your son play it.