Big Bats

big_bat.jpgOn a short day trip Saturday, I drove down to Louisville, Kentucky and toured the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. For a baseball fan, this is Mecca #2 (the first being Cooperstown Hall of Fame in upstate New York). As you can see, they make big bats in Louisville, big enough to ensure you can’t miss which building houses the museum and factory driving down the street.

After a rah-rah film about baseball hitting, I toured the factory where they make the famed Louisville Slugger bat for major leaguers, minor leaguers, and would-be leaguers. While the art of hand-latheing bats is long gone, the mechanized process is still interesting. Starting with billets made from northern white ash felled from old growth forests along the New York/Pennsylvania state line (and an increasing amount of maple due to Barry Bond’s recent influence), the bats are sculpted via a computerized lathe with uncanny accuracy. (Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed in the factory part of the building.) They are then branded, sanded, and finished to each major leaguer’s spec. While the factory is computerized and as modern as this process allows, the workforce is not so modern. Seems like the Louisville Slugger’s future is somewhat in doubt since their aging workforce has no real replacements inline for the years ahead. Average experience of the workers there is currently over 35 years.

Funniest comment heard on the tour: “Did you make Sammy Sosa’s corked bat?”

Most interesting trivia heard: Ken Griffey Jr.’s bats are finished with a multi-layer coating to hide the wood grain. Seems he thinks the bat’s wood grain pattern is visually distracting while batting. Talk about being focused.

The museum portion was interesting with the usual touches of nostalgia and a generous amount of famous player’s bats, as evidenced by Lou Gehrig’s stick below. And what tour would be complete without the requisite stop in the gift shop? While I didn’t buy anything (they did give me a mini-Louisville Slugger as a souvenir of the tour, something that’ll come in handy should I have to fend off tiny baseballs thrown at me), it was interesting to see how many gaudy things they can conceive using a bat theme.

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My Hero: Mr. Zero

At times I have nothing to say. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just is. Doing nothing usually fails to get the respect it deserves. After all, nothing is the sacred state coveted by Zen practitioners, secluded monks, and other pursuers of enlightenment, so there must be something to it. “Nothing” was the holy grail of the Seinfeld TV show, the concept that launched the mega-millionaires into a life where they could do…nothing, if they wished. Do you ever hear overworked cubicle-mates say with a smile, when asked about what they’re doing on their three-day weekends, “nothing.” Probably not often enough.

Yes, “nothing” is the new trophy wife of the overworked, the hidden objective on all our secret lists, and the easiest-so-say, but hardest-to-do, stretch goal we have. I once heard a group of middle-schoolers describe what they would do if they had all the money they could ever want. One particularly thoughtful girl, after a long pause, replied “Nothing….cause my Daddy says to do that is the most expensive thing in the world.”

In our fast-paced world where most of us struggle to get everything done in a day, the opposite of being busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger is to do nothing, or be un-busy. Sometimes the cure is an abrupt reversal of the causal agent. The shock of this move, if nothing else, will make one assess what’s really important in life. And I can think of nothing more cathartic than to stop and smell the flowers, so to speak. So the next time you head off for a weekend of medicinal reversalness, and your co-workers ask you what you’re up to this weekend, you can wryly smile and say, “Nothing”…and that’s something.

Furry Creature Day

phil.jpgToday’s the day Punxawhatitz Phil steps out to assess his shadow, or lack thereof. Ah, Groundhog Day…a day which reminds me more of the movie than the critter.

When I first started my long-term assignment in Findlay, I discovered a groundhog (woodchuck) living underneath a wrecked Datsun 240-Z at a nearby imported car repair shop. On occasion I’d see the fat little guy (it was the fall and thus Mr. Woodchuck was obviously not counting calories) waddle across the narrow drive to a grassy area and the promise of crab apples. Skittish by nature, the furry guy always seemed to elude my camera (pix is from Groundhog Club). The mechanic working at the repair shop told me a woodchuck family of four lived in a burrow beneath the rusting car, and she would sometime see him peeking out through the transmission hump. I never could time my visits to see such a sight, but I did catch him often enough to admire his plumping-for-the-winter success.

This time of year in Northwest Ohio feels more like the Groundhog Day movie. Days are spent grinding the routine of get up, go to work, come home. Repeat. The weather isn’t conducive to do a whole lot otherwise, and the overcast greyness day-after-day makes it easy to get caught up in a Groundhog-Day-like loop. Although it’s been a mild winter (translation: little snow), the absence of sunlight is depressing.

Today I’d be far more excited to see my own shadow (hence the sun) than whether the celebrated Mr. Phil sees his. At least he can waddle back into his burrow for more shut-eye whereas I have to waddle off to work. Again.

Too familiar

Does this sound familiar? You awake with a killer idea in your head, jump out of bed and head to the desk to write what surely is a great story, only to get distracted (and thus derailed) when you spot something else that really needs doing first, which leads to another, then another.

My Dad on his blog just posted his experience with this memory challenge.

I’m happy to report his muse’s machinations aren’t reserved solely for the octogenarian set: this has happened to me more times than I’m willing to admit. Signs of an over-active mind? Early alzheimers? Over-living? Too much caffeine and too little chocolate?

Whatever it is, it’s a most excellent opportunity to practice present mindedness…assuming one remembers that before the coffee pot beckons…and the trash…and that intriguing newspaper headline…

Birds ‘n Beer

While browsing through my digital photo albums this weekend, I noticed a lot of attempts to capture our feathered friends doing bird-like things, which is not an easy task. As I was trying to create a montage picture during a brief trip to our island (Galveston), I inadvertently captured a nosy crow in flight. My original intention was to collect the beer, Moleskine/pen, crow sitting on the rail, a bit of ocean and palm trees, with Galveston’s scandalous Flagship Hotel as a backdrop. As serendipity would have it, the picture didn’t work as far as a collage, but to my later surprise I managed to catch the crow in mid flight. I couldn’t have done that if I tried, so it was a nice surprise when I finally got home and reviewed my shots on the big monitor.

What I didn’t catch here was the fat pigeon I made friends with while feeding him/her underneath my table with bits of crackers and rice. There were signs everywhere on the upper deck of Fishtales, a great Galveston eatery, asking patrons not to feed the birds (for obvious good reasons). But, being the rebel I am and unable to resist sad pigeon eyes, I slipped the little guy some tasty morsels and he hung around my table throughout lunch (gee, I wonder why. :smile:)

The rest of the photos in this toss-up post today are just a rag-tag assortment of birds I’ve captured in the past but haven’t had a reason to use. In most cases they’re adapting well to man’s environment while occasionally dissing us royally by sitting on our symbolic heads, etc. In all cases these are everyday birds, the commoners of the winged set. It’s easy to take pictures of peacocks or brilliant male cardinals and have a photo with a high oooh factor. I think it’s a much more interesting (and challenging) task to try and capture shots of common birds interacting with man’s world and adapting as only birds can.