Friday, September 30, 2016

Dad's Bird Paintings

My dad is trying his hand at wildlife paintings.  Here are some interesting birds.  In this area (southern New Mexico), you'll only see Roadrunners.  Yes, really.  They will hang around urban areas.  

Blue Jay and Cardinal

Barn Owl and Horned Owl

Bob White and Mourning Dove
House Wren

Red Headed Woodpecker and Mockingbird


Monday, September 26, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Utah Valley Wolverines Women’s Volleyball 9-24-16

I’d planned on going to this match earlier in the week.  This would be my first in person, though I’d seen a couple of Aggie volleyball games on TV before.  As I got ready to leave, I reconsidered.  There was a good baseball game on and likely the last Rangers day game was coming up a bit later.  Unlike some of the other Aggie sports I’ve been trying out, I already knew I liked volleyball.  Since I was thinking about going to a night game during my vacation in a couple of weeks, I wanted to check the place out in the daytime first.  I went with my gut and stayed with the plan.  Was it the right call?  Read on.

Like I said, I’ve seen games before off and on on Aggievision.  Several years ago, I had a full-on crush-at-first-sight on player Erin Brimingham.  In general, I like the sport, but just the indoor version.  I may be weird in this respect compared to most men, but I don’t like women’s beach volleyball.  While the players are showing more skin, it’s generally burned to a crisp and stretched taunt over a rack of tight muscles.  I just find it unappealing (sorry).  The indoor players are generally more pleasant looking, and I find their uniforms very flattering.  This sport is fast-paced and exciting enough to appeal to anybody.  If you’re a girl, these tall, glamorous, athletic, skillful young women should appeal to you.  If you’re a guy, it’s even better.  (I’ll refrain from singling out anybody.  They’re all lovely.)

Wow, I was in the Pan-Am ticket office for the first time since grade school.  I think it was to see the Harlem Globetrotters.  I mention this because there was a mounted Harlem Globetrotters ball inside the office.  Inside, I also see a very nice #3 Jordan Abalos poster on the wall.  From what I’ve seen, she’s pretty much the star of the volleyball team.  I’d picked up four posters at the NMSU soccer match last week, but this one wasn’t there.

I do pick up a nicely printed program.  The girls and their uniforms look a bit different on the cover than currently, so I think the pictures are from last year.  There’s another courtesy table where they’re handing out free Aggie t-shirts.  Was this advertised?  This was a heck of an unannounced giveaway.  I’d meant to go the bookstore to find another white Aggie shirt after the match and here I just get handed one.  Okay, now I feel good about coming even before the game starts.  I do feel a little bad about depriving somebody of my business, but I did buy a new crimson shirt that I didn’t need after the soccer match, so maybe it evens out.  On another table, they had posters lying out, but only the football one.  Darn it!  Now I want that Jordan poster.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.  Where would you put everything?  (Actually, I’d put it on my cubicle wall next to my #10 Alieen Galicia soccer poster.)

At the concession, I get a medium Dr. Pepper (sorry, not liking the new Pepsi deal), that would be size of a large anywhere else, and a pretzel with salt.  The pretzel was okay, but I wish there was some cheese sauce for it.  Maybe I could have asked for some sauce from the nachos.  The salt was a detriment and did not help the flavor.  When I got up at the end of the match, I noticed a pile of salt under my seat that had fallen off it.  I will endeavor to find something at the concession that I can get excited about.

I picked the Aggie end of the court to sit at, since all the seats were general admission, though I knew they’d change sides during the match.  I can see the coach and the girls below my perch.  I’d seen their game on Thursday on TV.  It was an exciting five set match that ended in an Aggie victory.  Adam Young, the Aggie announcer I think for everything except Men’s basketball and football, talked to coach Mike Jordan afterward.  (I didn’t write down his name when he was announced at the match, assuming it was in the program.  It wasn’t.  I found it in a newspaper clipping on Sunday.  Whoever does the programs, you need to put the staff in too guys.  The opponent’s coaches are listed.)  Coach Jordan was unhappy that they didn’t put the match away earlier when they could have.  I get the impression this coach is always unhappy.  He seems like a dad with 18 daughters, that he loves to death and is very proud of, but they drive him crazy all of the time.

I think Adam was broadcasting over the Internet as audio only, since I didn’t see a lot of cameras.  He was holding a card most of the time, which I’d guess had the player rosters on it.  I could see the PA guy at the other end of the table.  I don’t know his name, but he has a great voice.  About half of the cheerleading squad was there.  This time the guys were with them; they weren’t there Thursday.  They’d hold up the standing girls with one hand, over their heads.  (This is what the soccer match needed, cheerleaders.)  Pistol Pete was in the house.

The crowd was kind of small for the venue (that hosts concerts and men’s basketball), but decent.  I didn’t feel lonely, and they could get loud supporting the team.  Previous match attendance figures listed in the program for this year go from 0 to 1,500 with double and triple digit numbers in between.  Thursday’s number was 1,100.  Maybe today was 900.  They were a fairly diverse bunch of families, kids, older people, and a few students.  There were four rambunctious little boys behind me with a mother that was surely contemplating Ritalin for them.  (It was just like the football game.  I wonder if they were the same kids.)        

After warming up and visiting the locker room, the girls charged back out on to the court.  They danced around cheering in two, counter-rotating circles to a slightly updated version of the 50’s classic “You Don’t Own Me.”  I love this.  Their opponent, the Utah Valley Wolverines, also have a spirited cheer on their end of the court.  The starters line up on court and the Wolverines are introduced.  The lights go out and its showtime.  The Aggie girls were each introduced with a spotlight.  Each of them had a ball, which I think was a t-shirt in a wad, and they threw it into the crowd as they’re called out.  Okay, in brutal honesty, none of these girls would make the softball team.  #20 Sasha-Lee Thomas was smart enough to just run off court and hand hers to a little boy.  The Aggie girls look great with their new white tops with crimson trim.  Thanks, new Underarmor sponsorship.  Like the soccer tops, I wouldn’t mind owning one.

Wow, there’s a lot of stats listed there, aren’t there.  I’ve never been to a live volleyball game, much less scored one.  Thankfully, the overhead scoreboard had some stats I could look at.  I apologize in advance for the mistakes in here and players that I’m not probably not giving enough credit to for good play.  Nothing intentional, I just couldn’t keep track of every play and everyone playing.

Set 1
Utah Valley starts off the game with four straight points.  I find myself checking the program to compare records: NMSU 10-4, Utah Valley 4-10.  I wasn’t expecting a walkover, but I was pretty sure the Aggies were better the rest of the conference.  At 3-7 Wolverines, Coach Jordan calls an Aggie timeout and starts rimming the team.  I can see why there aren’t any fan seats near the bench.  I could almost hear him over the music and the PA.  Jordan Abalos serves an ace to tie the score at 9-9.  #6 Tatyana Battle scores a couple of kills to tie it again at 12-12.

Again, the Aggies fall behind 12-16 and there’s another Aggie timeout.  This time the assistant coach talks to most of the team.  Coach Jordan talks to a couple of individual players.  They’re an interesting physical contrast to each other.  The coach is a large, somewhat rotund, bald middle aged man, while the young man I’m tagging as the assistant is lean with short cropped hair and glasses.  I list a couple of questionable calls on kill shots in my notes.  UV goes on a streak and even with a bit of an Aggie comeback, the Wolverines take the set 18-25.

Set 2 UV 1-NMSU 0
The girls change sides, including the cheerleaders.  There is a moment of deadly quiet during the Flex-cam before the music starts.  This is why they keep it loud in an arena; large, cavernous spaces are hard to fill with noise and otherwise very quiet.  The Aggies make a great start at 4-0 and run it up to 10-5.  Wolverine #7 Nakisha Willden makes a couple of great saves, but they end up as Aggie points.  UV makes a run and at 21-18, there’s an Aggie timeout.  I notice the break music: .38 Special’s “So Caught Up in You.”  From here on out, I’m enjoying the music.  A pair of UV aces brings the score to 23-21, Tatyana and Sasha-Lee finish out the set with kills, 25-23 Aggies.  I notice the program says Sasha-Lee is from Jamaica.  I find myself wanting to hear her voice.  There is a lot of chatter on the court in play that you don’t get over the TV.

Intermission  (10 minutes)      
Pistol Pete visits my section.  He interacts with a couple girls and their mom.  The boys behind me give Pete a hard a time, but he’s good with kids.  There’s an air-guitar contest on court between two girls, one of whom was from England, but I missed it.  Nature was calling and wanted that Dr. Pepper I’d drank.  “Hey sexy lady!”  We finish off the intermission Gangnam style.  I felt like dancing, but didn’t.  You’re welcome.

Set 3 UV 1-NMSU 1
At 2-3 UV a ball bounds into the stands behind the court and into the crowd.  Heads up!  8-11 is a UV point, but #8 Kaylee Neal and #4 Ariadnne Sierra make great saves on it.  I kept getting tickled when the PA would announce a girl named “Ari” coming into the game.  (On a similar note, Aggie #13 Alexsa Parker went by the name, “Crash.”  I’m sure there’s a story there.)  9-13 the Aggies serve it into the net two times in a row.  That has to drive the coach crazy.  The Spanish version of “Call me maybe” plays over a timeout.  11-17 is a highly contested point that goes to UV.  The Aggies almost net another serve, but it just gets over, and they get the point, 13-17.  16-18 is another epic point, but this one goes to the Aggies.  I wish I had a touch count on some of these points.  I’m working up a sweat just watching.  We’re “Getting jiggy with it” during a timeout.  #14 Kassandra Tohm got her legs rubbed down behind the bench, maybe from cramps.  #1 Brianna Ainsworth scores an ace to bring it to 19-20. The Aggies would even the score, but the Wolverines would end up taking the set 23-25.  

Set 4 UV 2-NMSU 1
With Ari serving, the Aggies rolling off six straight points, 8-3 Aggies.  She also gets a great dig off of a dive to keep a point going.  #12 Megan Hart gets a couple of kills to drive it up to 14-5.  She doesn’t jump well, perhaps owing to the brace on her knee, but at 6’5” I saw her spike the ball just standing.  I’d also seen her several times at the ballpark in the spring with a much shorter teammate, both wearing volleyball shirts.  They stood out in the crowd and not to mention they’re also nice-looking.  Hey, I’m here supporting your team too.      

A procedural call gives the Aggies a point and UV takes a timeout.  “Return of the Mac” plays and “There it is!”  The Wolverines go on a pair of short runs, but Jordan has a hand in stopping both.  Ari serves up the final three points and the Aggies take the set 25-15.  I didn’t write this down until the end of my notes, but this was where the Wolverines lost their composure.  They clearly got frustrated here.  

Set 5 UV 2-NMSU 2
We go to 15 in the final set (but have to win by two).  I learned that from watching on Thursday, when the match suddenly ended before I thought it would.  The girls didn’t change ends for the start of the set.  “Is it too late to say sorry now,” I see one of the UV girls dancing to the Justin Bieber song.  A cameraman and director are on court picking out people in the crowd dancing.  On the other side of the court, Brianna is waving her arms getting warmed up and accidentally hits Ari on the nose.  No harm done, but Bri is mortified by the friendly fire.

The Wolverines have recovered from the last set and taken a slim lead, 3-4, as Jordan hits a kill into the net.  At 3-5, timeout Aggies.  Kenny Loggins’ “I’m alright,” plays, but things aren’t alright.  The Aggies lose a long point and go down 3-7.  Timeout.  The Outfield’s baseball staple “Use your love” is played.  The Wolverines serve an out, 4-7.  There’s a Wolverine error, 5-7.  On the next point, the UV bench is in an uproar.  There’s an awkward hit at the net by an Aggie that might have been a carry or double hit, but the official standing right next to it didn’t see it that way, 6-7.

At 6-8 the teams change ends.  “They call me Jane!  That’s not my name!”  I don’t know who does that song, but I like it.  6-9 as Jordan hits a kill out of bounds, and then there’s an ace.  Jordan doesn’t change her game here and continues to hit it hard.  She gets two kills in a row to bring it to 9-10.  Timeout Utah Valley.

I’ve got the power!” and “Should I stay or should I go” play.  A spontaneous “Go Aggies” shout comes up from the crowd.  One of the Aggie girls starts skipping rope to stay warmed up.  There’s a moment of absolute quiet as the Wolverines score twice, but again Jordan gets a kill to bring it to 10-12.  She gets another, 12-13.  Ari makes a great dig and Tatyana finishes the point, 13-13.  Timeout UV.  Blue Oyster Cult, “Don’t fear the reaper.”  Tatyana gets another kill, 15-14, and set point.  Ari serves and makes another great save.  Aggies win the point, the set (16-14), and the match (3-2).  Everyone in the arena is exhausted by the end, but it’s a happy kind of tired for the Aggies and Aggie fans.  Hall and Oates, “You make my dreams come true,” plays us out.              

I don’t fault the Wolverines for losing.  It could have gone either way at the end of the fifth set, but it wasn’t luck.  If Utah Valley got frustrated, it was because they were outplaying the Aggies, but they weren’t beating them.  The Aggies weren’t folding in spite of their opponent’s successes and their own mistakes.  Today, they were able to keep their focus and confidence, regardless of the circumstances.  This was so clear in the final set when the Aggies were down, but didn’t stop being aggressive.  “You don’t own me,” indeed.

For the Wolverines, #17 Lexi Thompson lead the offense with 18 kills.  Nobody else on the team was close.  I was impressed with #7 Nakisha Wilden, their captain.  (She's the "libero," a designated defenisve player wearing a different colored top.  I learned this from Wikipedia five minutes before I posted this.  I assumed she wasn't their goalie.)  I don’t have statistics on digs, but she made great save after great save in the backcourt.

I went in thinking Aggie #3 Jordan Abalos was a star and she did not disappoint.  Jordan was the spear point of the Aggie offense with the most kills, 22.  (Sasha-Lee and Tatyana were also in double digits.)  She came up big late in the fifth with four kills (don’t hold me to that number).  The way she looks, acts, and plays on the court, Jordan naturally falls into a starring role.  (Now I really want that poster, but I suspect they’re long gone.)

My player of the game is Aggie # 4 Ariadnne Sierra, Aggie libero (is there a cooler nickname for that?).  She was constantly and consistently making saves and digs in the back.  It was on her serve in the fourth set that the Aggies went on their biggest run of the match, and her second service turn finished that set.  This was when the Wolverines became flustered.  In the fifth, Ari was again serving at the end and made a tremendous save on the final point.  Her prominent presence in these big moments wasn’t a coincidence.  She was one of the smallest girls out there, but Ari had a stature you couldn’t measure in inches out on the court.  It also didn’t hurt that I saw Ari signing autographs for a couple of little girls after the match.  (I’m sure the other girls would sign too, of course.)  

Thank goodness the Aggies won.  I thought I’d heard on the TV broadcast that they had a conference winning streak on their home court.  I didn’t want to be a jinx and have to apologize to the team afterward and get yelled at by the coach.  I am damn pleased with how I spent my afternoon.  I saw a great match and got some swag in the process.  I definitely have plans to make it back over during my vacation next week and to tell everyone what a great time I had at Aggie Volleyball.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Baseball Notebook for September 15 to 20, 2016 Championship Edition

Somehow, I survived none of my favorite teams playing today.  The free game was the White Sox vs the Indians.  Once again, they blacked out the video, but I was really enjoying the White Sox radio guys.  I didn’t get their names, but they were bickering and sniping at each other the whole time.  It was hysterical.  Unfortunately, I missed the walkoff ending, 2-1 White Sox.  I got a little chuckle later out of Yankees losing to the Red Sox on a blown save.  If only they had more depth in the bullpen.  Heh, heh.

The Chihuahuas face the Oklahoma City Dodgers on the road tonight, trying to clinch the championship.  PCL officials are there with the banner for this possibility.  I’m able to hear about the first hour of the game over the Internet before KROD cuts over to high school football coverage.  Patrick Kivlehan was the standout, making a great defensive play in the 1st and hitting a solo home run in the 2nd.  The rest of the game I have to follow on Gameday.  The dogs score one in the 7th, but the Dodgers score three in the bottom of the inning.  4-2 Dodgers is the final.  We’ll play again tomorrow then.

Cole Hamels didn’t have a good start tonight against the A’s, giving up six runs.  I’m watching Gameday again for the 9th as the Rangers are down a run.  Beltre and Beltran both get on.  Rougie strikes out, but Lucroy drives the guys in.  Yes, it’s another one run win.  (I forgot to write down the score.)

I get woken up by the phone at 11:30 Saturday morning.  This late awakening is because of (in order) late night pizza, a stack of comic books purchased at the Hastings’ going out of business sale, and an after midnight showing of The Terror of Mecha-Godzilla on Comet TV.  This is only relevant because Fox started their MLB coverage at 10:30.

As I turn on the TV, they’re just finishing the bottom of the 1st, with the score 0-0 between the Yankees and Red Sox.  Holy crap, they’ve been playing for a half-hour and only completed one scoreless inning.  This is beyond parody, beyond commentary.  I don’t know if I can hang all this on the slow-workings of Red Sox pitcher David Price.  It was a good game, 6-5 Red Sox, not that I care enough about either team to recap it.  The Sox came from behind to win it, and this probably knocks the Yankees out of playoff contention.  Oh, if only the Yankees had acquired some relief pitching at the trade deadline.  Heh, heh.

Forget the little warm-up act, the night belongs to the PCL Championship series between the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Oklahoma City Dodgers.  Proceedings do not begin on a good note for me, as there’s a 40-minute rain cleanup delay in OKC.  This means I miss about an hour’s worth of clear reception of the game over the radio.  I end up losing it in the 2nd inning.  The signal never goes out, but I’m straining to hear it for the rest of the game.

The Chihuahuas’ pitcher, Seth Simmons, was making his first start for the team.  He gets into trouble over his first three innings, giving up a run.  In the 2nd, there is a moment of levity as he walks the opposing pitcher, Alfredo Figaro, who tosses his bat and helmet as he goes down to first.  Both teams and the pitcher himself get a good laugh out of this, as he has to retrieve his helmet.  I wondered if he’d ever worked a walk before in professional baseball.

El Paso’s scoring gets started in the 4th as Patrick Kivlehan doubled in Austin Hedges to tie the score at one.  In the 6th, Hunter Renfroe singled in Carlos Asuaje and Hedges, ousting the Dodgers’ starting pitcher.  3-1 Chihuahuas.  While Simmons had let on runners, his counterpart was giving up hard hits, and it was just a matter of time before those started landing on the ground.  In the bottom of the frame, Will Venable homers to make the score 3-2.

In the 7th, the Dodgers tie off of a runner on third, brought in by a grounder.  3-3 all.  In the 8th, Venable gets on and is moved over, but a steady parade of relief pitchers and pinch hitters leave him there and the score remains knotted.  In the 9th, both the Chihuahuas and the Dodgers get two on, but with two outs, neither scoring.  On to extras.    

10th inning, there’s two on and one out for the Dodgers.  The winning run gets stranded at third.  In the 11th, Kivlehan reaches and moves to 3rd on an error.  Jose Rondon hits a pop up on a bunt attempt.  The Dodger pitcher dives for it.  From the description of the play, he perhaps tried to catch it and flip to the catcher to end the inning, but did neither.  The ball instead pops out of his mitt without catching it and goes to the backstop, and Kivlehan scores.  There’s no error on the play, but it’s now 4-3 Chihuahuas.  The Dodgers get a double with one out in the bottom of the 11th, and he’s moved to 3rd by another out.  The final play is a grounder to Nick Noonan at third, who throws to Patrick Kivlehan at first.  The Chihuahuas win and take the series 3-1.  The El Paso Chihuahuas are the Pacific Coast League champions!
Here after the final game, announcer, Tim Hagerty, finally mentions the Triple-A championship game.  Apparently this game is considered more of an exhibition, while the PCL and IL series are the real championships, I guess.  I almost think there was in a bit of denial about the end of the season.  Tim will be in Memphis calling part of the game on Tuesday versus the Yankees’ affiliate, but this was the final Chihuahuas’ broadcast of the season.  Tim thanked everyone, especially the fans.  And then it was over.  You know, even after winning a championship, the last game is still a little melancholy for everybody.  Thankfully, there’s still over a month of baseball left in the year (and the new season of DC heroes on the CW coming up).

I meant to write up the Canelo boxing match, which started right after the game ended, but after over 3 ½ hours of tense, low reception radio, I’m too exhausted to try and score a fight.  I just watched it.  Canelo mostly mauled the guy.  I called a co-worker afterward, whose girlfriend is a fanatic about him.  She was happy and he was even happier, because she didn’t insist on driving to Dallas this weekend to see the fight.  While he was pricing out seating options earlier in the week, I pointed out that most of seats at Cowboy Stadium cost less than the parking.  “You’re not helping,” he replied.  He started looking up hotel rooms and pronounced all the hotels in the area booked.  “Hey, how about the Gaylord Texan? I interjected, “I’ve heard that’s a nice place.”  “I’ve heard of it too,” Mike replied, “It’s a luxury hotel.  I think I can hear my credit card screaming.  And you’re not helping.”  Adding to his relief, I told him about the massive storms ranging through the area between Las Cruces and Dallas on Saturday.  So, it was a good Saturday for everyone.                      

The free game was the Rockies vs the Cardinals.  As usual, it was blacked out.  Unfortunately, it was also blacked out on Yahoo, which is a pity, because I would have liked to have watched.  Having been to Coors Field, I now pretty much want to see it whenever I can.  I switched over to check out the Cardinals’ radio feed, since I’m already very familiar with the Rockies’ guys.  I ended up leaving it there.  They seemed to be covering the Rockies better than the home broadcasters, a very egalitarian point of view.  As Vin Scully says, “I figure at least some of my audience is rooting for the other team.”  Of course, if you’re Vin Scully, everybody is listening to you if they can.

It ends up being a 5-3 loss for the Rockies.  The Cardinals announcers were surprised by the small crowd.  They thought the Rockies were a fun team to watch.  From the crowd mics, I almost think there were an equal number of the Cardinal fans present.  It was a tough place to play for the red birds though.  Their pitcher, Carlos Martinez, got gassed running the bases in the 4th and needed an extra minute warming up the next inning to catch his breath.
There’s only one story today: the Triple-A championship between the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders.  (Whew!  What a mouthful.  How many syllables is all that?)  I went to work with my Chihuahuas’ hat, ready to put on as soon as the game started.  My main problem during the game was the coverage, namely that of distance.  The NBCSN broadcast was on in the breakroom, and the radio call was on my computer in my cubicle.  I was truly torn having to choose between hearing Tim Hagerty for the last time this season and actually being able to watch the game.  For the beginning of the game, I mostly watched the TV, while later, when work responsibilities beckoned, I mostly listened.

On the TV broadcast, I noticed some pronunciation trouble with Carlos Asuaje.  I presume the Railriders broadcasters didn’t have any problems with Tim sharing the booth with them.  Again, there was also some confusion over Walter/Walker Lockett.  Even Tim got tripped up on that one.  I did learn that the Triple-A championship used to a best of seven affair.  The one game championship was created for TV purposes.  This might be why it’s looked down upon a bit.  

With the game in Memphis, it was unsurprising to see Elvis in the house behind home plate.  It was a pretty good crowd, who were mostly wearing Memphis Redbird gear.  In fact, in a fan interview, one guy thought the Redbirds were playing.  Obviously, a devoted, but slightly confused individual.  There was lots of lawn space in the stadium outfield, which kids were playing on.  For the 7th inning stretch, an all sister singing group, Jackson Avenue, did a snappy version of God Bless America.  Even the players on the field were tapping along with it.  
Let’s just yank the band-aid off.  In the 1st, Lockett started the game giving up three straight hits. Regrettably, that third hit was a three-run homer to Chris Parmalee, later named game MVP.  Thereafter, Chihuahua pitching pitched a shutout.  Unfortunately, the Chihuahua offense only managed one run, as Austin Hedges singled in Manuel Margot in the 6th.  Our final is 3-1 Railriders, who are the Triple-A champs.

I got to listen to most of the radio post-game.  It was good to hear Tim put a bow on a great season for the Chihuahuas.  I was surprised to hear the Railriders’ announcer credit Nick Swisher with creating the team’s winning attitude.  I didn’t know where Nick had gotten to, but he certainly did some good there.  Maybe he’s manager material.  At home, I caught the tail end of a local sports broadcast.  They were reporting form Southwest University Park (another mouthful) on the game.  The team had opened up the ballpark to fans for a viewing party for the game.  Man, I would have loved to have been able to go to that.  (I wonder if the concessions were open?)  Flipping around the dial, there was even a sports report on the Chihuahuas on a Juarez station.  Altogether, it was a great season.  (Mostly because I got a Cody Decker bobblehead, but the PCL championship was nice too.)  I look forward to seeing that PCL Champion banner the next time I’m at the park.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs Nevada Wolfpack Women’s Soccer 9-18-16

My Alex Morgan crush has officially reached its zenith: I went to a soccer match.  No, she wasn’t there.  It seemed like a long shot of her just randomly showing up.  (I even watched a half of an international game last week and didn’t see her, other than standing with her hand over heart during the anthem next another player who was kneeling, protesting whale hunting or something.)  I hadn’t really ever considered going, but there was a radio ad on Friday promoting “Bark at the Park.”  I considered this an invitation.  I’d just assume listen to the Cowboys football game on the radio anyway, which I could do anywhere. 

I usually have a few stock comments about soccer.  In this country, soccer is more part of a socio-political agenda than it is a sport.  As a friend of mine once said, “Soccer is popular internationally because it’s a poor man’s sport.  You just need a ball and a couple of goals.”  It’s also not known for producing entertaining games and for ending in ties, which I think produces soccer’s main byproduct: fan violence.  Soccer won’t achieve mainstream popularity here until it is a sport dominated by large black men.  (Wait!  Think about sports in America for a moment.  I’m right.)  I do appreciate that play is continuous and matches play out in a fairly tidy two hours.  I can’t understand how networks can show 45-minutes of a soccer match uninterrupted, but can’t go five minutes without a commercial break in a NASCAR race.  And finally, Alex Morgan is so gorgeous.  (Hope Solo is too, but she’s been bounced from the US team.  Here’s hoping she gets a reality show.)      

The Aggie soccer field is in between the football stadium and the softball field.  The entrance to the field and the concessions serve both the soccer and softball complexes.  I let out a sigh driving into the parking lot, missing the softball team.  I found myself schlepping in my seat, a cushion, a notebook, and a radio.  I picked up a terrible lunch with a hot dog, drink, and a box of popcorn.  Worse, they’ve changed from Coke to Pepsi, so I don’t get my usual Coke Zero.  One of the guys in the trailer asked about my Chihuahuas hat, which I was wearing to wearing to celebrate their winning the PCL championship last night.  He was impressed when I told him. 

At this point, I’m really juggling things and have to bypass the courtesy table.  I came back after quickly eating.  I picked up four posters (two soccer, one football, one volleyball).  I made the comment that they looked good.  I also got a Larry Rose football card.  Cool.  Later, one of the courtesy girls went into the stands and recruited a kid in a soccer jersey as a ballhawk (retrieving out of bounds balls).  I was interested in one of the new t-shirts on the souvenir table, but not at $28.  I liked the design on the new hats, but didn’t like the snapback strap on them.  The lady at the table also commented on my Chihuahuas hat.  She was listening to the game last night too. 

I have to mention, I loved the music they were playing over the PA when I came in.  It was some rap number with yodeling.  I have no idea who does it or what the name of it is.  I’ll say the crowd was about 500-something (not including the dogs), but that’s just from looking at previous game attendance off the program.  All the stands are on the west side of the field.  There was one long grandstand and two small stands on either side.  On the other side are the benches with shade over them for the teams, along with the scorer’s table. 

Many of the fans, smartly, had umbrellas and also sat on the top row, to get the best overall view of the field.  There’s a park-like area with a couple of trees on the north end of the field were where most of the people with dogs went.  A several kids played around the hill.   A few people sat in front of the stands.  It must have been uncomfortable, but it was in the shade.  Several people did bring in some precious-looking dogs, but I got no petting in.  “Bark at the Park,” was a complete fail for me.  (And that was the other reason I wore the Chihuahuas hat.)  And, oh no.   There he is.  I can hear him and see him.  It’s that older fellow who’s at all the games and is really obnoxious with his cheering.  I’m glad Ron didn’t come with me.  He pronounced this guy his nemesis from watching all those ball games this spring with him.  Thankfully, he’s on the other side of the stands, almost out of earshot.

I looked up the girls on their website Friday and even watched some of their game with the Lobos live over the Internet.  It was a loss.  The announcer mentioned that they had a full house for the game.  People behind me, who’d went, were talking about the game and facilities there.  I really liked the Aggies’ road uniforms, white with a sprinkled crimson trim on the shoulders.  I wouldn’t mind having one of those tops.    

As the teams were lined up before the game for introductions, I looked for #10 Alieen Galicia.  The website seemed to tag her as their star player.  She looked really young with a slight build in the pictures and indeed, she was in-person.  #22 Gabby Campbell was also a standout in the lineup, because she was about a head shorter than everyone else.  The program lists her at 4’11”.  Again, a fellow behind me was pointing her and Alieen out saying, “You don’t have to be big to make it on the field; you just need heart and guts.”  #16 Cristina Bertoldo got the biggest ovation from the crowd, being from Las Cruces.  For the anthem, the Aggie girls were standing and holding hands.  Afterward, someone behind me made a comment about NFL spokesman, Colin Kapernick.  No doubt he was thanking him for making the anthem more important and a proud act of patriotism and not just a formality.

I already like the college game better than the professional or international game.  The clock counts down, not up.  They also stop the clock during any injuries or other prolonged stoppages.  Gee, that only makes sense.  There wasn’t much in the way of theatrics on injuries or goal scoring, which also got on my good side.  Let’s see, our match up here is the 2-7 NMSU Aggies vs the 2-4 Nevada Wolfpack (I hope that’s their nickname, because that’s what I’m going with for the rest of this post).  It doesn’t seem like the Aggies are overmatched on paper here.  I’m really missing not having any radio commentary to help with this game summary.  

My first game note comes at 38’ (minutes left in the half).  The Aggies get a shot on a nearly empty net as the Wolfpack goalie aggressively came way too far out to defend.  Okay, so this is what I’m doing.  I’m recording near misses on goal.  I was wondering how I would write about the game.  I’m still not sure when to cheer.  At 32’ the Aggies make a close header shot on goal.  30’ good jump save by the Aggie goalie.  28’ another good save, caught on the chest.      

At 24’ the crowd starts screaming for an Aggie to pass to an open player in the Wolfpack box.  Right after that, there’s a collision on field that sends both girls to the deck for a moment.  A guy yells out, “Good job!  She’ll remember that for the rest of the game!”  The fans here were very vocal, very knowledgeable and very critical of the ref’s and the players.  The Aggie players.    It was like being at a Little League game with a bunch of bad parents.  It was a shock.  At softball and baseball games, I never heard anybody being anything other than supportive of our players.  They weren’t trying to coach them from the stands or shouting out criticism.  I kept hearing, “Make space!  Make space!”  I’m sure the game is a lot easier to play sitting in the stands than running up and down the field. 

23’ an Aggie slow roller heads towards an empty net, but the Nevada keeper corrals it before it gets there.  17’ our first goal.  Wolfpack #15 Aless Abbuhl scores by herself in the box with two defenders on her.  I’m not happy about this, but somewhat relieved that I won’t be sitting through a nil-nil tie.  The program lists Aless as being from Switzerland.  There must surely be an interesting story here.  There’s another Wolfpack player from Germany.  In fact, most of the Nevada team is from out of state.  Most of the Aggies are from Albuquerque.  (No wonder there was such a good crowd against the Lobos there.) 

16’ the Aggie goalie has to make a jump save.  9’ after a good pass deep in the box, the Wolfpack goalie stops a hard roller.  At 6’ in I have to note a cat call from the crowd to a referee, “Hey Jim, your wife is calling!  She wants you to come home!”  5’ and there’s an Aggie breakaway.  #18 charges into the goalie, who is again way out defending.  At 4’ there’s an injury stoppage.  It doesn’t seem to be too serious thankfully.  2’ and there’s a Wolfpack stationary shot (not sure what the technical term is) from the sideline that goes directly on goal.  It’s caught right on the chest by the goalie.  The PA announces one minute and then counts down the last ten seconds of the half.  

At halftime, Aggie football standout, Striking the Wonder Dog, came out for an extremely energetic athletic display.  I reapplied my sunblock and spent $3 on a bottle of water.  It was robbery, but I wasn’t sitting in a cool enough place to argue.  (88 degrees was the announced temperature, but only in the shade with a fan.  It was a lot warmer than that.)  The Wolfpack players were sitting under their shade.  The Aggie girls were sitting at a corner of the field.  Both were going over strategy.  I turned on my radio to listen to the Cowboys game.  I’m immediately rewarded, hearing Alfred Morris “walk the dog” into the endzone.  As Babe put it, “He made a hood ornament out of the defender.”    

The second half begins.  At the 41’ mark, Aggie #10 makes a good pass in the box, but the Wolfpack goalie makes a good, point-blank save.  I’ll make a point here that the TV really doesn’t communicate how physical the game is.  The girls were constantly hitting and colliding with each other.  There’s tackling and shoving up and down the field.  There’s also quite a bit of chatter going on, something you really don’t hear on TV. 
37’ and I applaud a 27-23 Cowboy victory over the Redskins.  Unfortunately, Ron’s nemesis has changed ends and I can now hear him cheering clearly.  I keep the earplugs in and listen to the post-game show to drown him out.  At 29’, a ball on the sidelines is popped up and goes over the stands.  Like foul balls at the ballpark, keep your head up during the game.  It’s not like they’re going to let you keep any ball you catch here.  26’ the Aggie goalkeeper gets a save and immediately makes another save off a rebound shot.  Good concentration.   

The action drags a bit.  At the end of the row, I see a lady with an umbrella reading a magazine.  I notice that all the girls playing have long hair, like the softball girls.  You’d think short hair would be much more practical.  Maybe it’s to protect the back of their necks from the sun.  Finally some Aggie offense at 18’, the Wolfpack keeper makes a great punch save off a shot after a cornerkick.  At 17’ right after, the ball gets down field.  An Aggie tries to head it to the goalie and it gets away and a Wolfpack player kicks it in.  (Sorry, I didn’t get her number to properly give credit.  That’s what I get for having earplugs in.)  The Aggies at least didn’t record a dreaded “own goal.”  It’s 2-0 Wolfpack regardless.          

The crowd got noticeably louder and, finally, more supportive of the girls after that second goal.  The Aggies started taking a few long pot-shots on goal.  At the 11’, the Aggies made a nice chipshot just outside the box at the goal, but it was caught.  My scorekeeping is suffering as my pencil is now covered in sticky sunblock.  (It doesn’t come off when washed either.)  Another fan came over to me and asked about the goal.  It was referred to as a “hat goal?”  Well, it wasn’t a “hat trick,” since that’s three goals by the same person (in hockey).  Why don’t people ask me questions during a baseball game?  I could probably answer those.  In any case, I had to confess that, in spite of my note taking, I didn’t really know anything about soccer, certainly not as much as the loud-mouthed fans around me.          

Hey, is that Aggie quarterback, Tyler Rogers, walking by in the stands?  He had on an Aggie football t-shirt and looked like him.   I wasn’t able to confirm it until I got home and looked at my football program from going to the Lobo game last week.  Crap!  I didn’t see him again.  I would have congratulated him on the win versus UNM and a 42-point performance yesterday (albeit in a loss) and gotten an autograph.  I’d ask why he was there, but I’ve seen guy basketball players at a softball game.  Why not?
My last game note came at the 2’ mark.  There was scrum of sorts in the Aggie box, and there was a great save at the end of it.  Our final was 2-0, err. . . 2-nil, Wolfpack.  It was the next to worst case scenario for the game for me: the opposing team going up by two or more goals, functionally ending the game, but still having to still sitting through a half waiting for the inevitable loss.  The worst case scenario would have been, me distracted by something and missing a goal being scored.  There’s no videoboard here.  You’re not getting a replay.     

After the game, a fellow walked by with an Albuquerque Isotopes hat.  I restrained myself from taunting him, but still felt smugly superior with my PCL champion Chihuahuas’ hat.  Even better, a co-worker, whom I hadn’t noticed in crowd (since I was sitting down front) came over and said “hello.”  She was there with her boyfriend, who was there rooting on his little sister.  I forgot to ask the obvious question of “Which player?”  Having seen me writing during the game, she asked me if I was reporting on the game.  If want to call this reporting, bless your dear heart.            

After the game, the Aggie girls came out to midfield and thanked the crowd.  That was nice.  I appreciated that.  I think I spent five minutes gathering my things and trying to figure out how to hold them to leave (that’s a seat, a cushion, a notebook, a radio, and four posters I’m trying not destroy).  Much of the crowd stuck around, presumably waiting to see the girls after the coach finished speaking to them.  Hopefully they weren’t sticking around just to yell at them more.  

I’m not familiar enough with soccer to make any constructive criticism or really even dish out much praise.  The most I can say is that the Aggie goalie was kept really busy making saves (#1 Ashley Martin, I think, I didn’t get her number when she was introduced), and the Wolfpack goalie (who I totally didn’t get a number for) got fairly fortunate in the first half, as she kept charging out of the box, leaving the goal undefended.       

So the big question, how was it overall?  Well, this wasn’t the immediate love affair I had after going to an Aggie softball game.  The girls there were very entertaining with their cheering and general espirit de corps.  Also, it was more-or-less baseball.  I was hoping that seeing a soccer match in-person might be more enjoyable than on TV.  It was about the same, but I couldn’t change channels at the park.  I’m probably less critical than most of the people in the stands, but I did want to see a win.   

What did I like?  Aggie #18 Reilly Marks and Wolfpack #8 Mackenzie Robinson were rather attractive.  They were playing on the wing on the sidelines, so I was able to see a lot of them.  (Mackenzie also lost her headband by the sidelines right before the end and came back around and get it after the game.)   Hey, I’m doing what I can to sell your sport here.  I wouldn’t have ever shown up for a guy’s soccer match.  Bottom line, I actually did enjoy it.  All of my issues with soccer are still there, but the in-person experience kept my attention the whole time.  Certainly it’s better than watching it on TV.  I’ll go back if I can.  I was warned a long time ago by a friend that I might like soccer.  It’s taken a while, but he might have been right.     


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Baseball Notebook for September 9 to 14, 2016

I was watching the MLB Free game with the Tigers vs White Sox at work, neither myself, nor the Tigers, really showed up for that game (2-0 White Sox).  Checking the scoreboard, I saw the Rangers and Mariners were at 4 all in the 5th.  The next time score I got was when I arrived home and flipped on the radio.  It was bad reception, but in the 7th, it was 8-4 Rangers as Elvis Andrus just hit a solo home run.  Matt Hicks was very impressed with the shot as it flew into the second deck.  Elvis made a slow trot around the bases, as he’d hit it off of a pitcher who’d drilled him last week.

In the bottom of the 7th, the M’s loaded the bases.  Eric Nadel was uncharacteristically chomping at the bit to be calling the inning, as he chipped in on every pitch.  (Matt calls the 3rd, 4th, and 7th.  You can just about tell the inning by who’s calling it.  This is what happens when you have two great play-by-play guys without a color guy.)  Ranger relief pitching couldn’t find the strike zone in a terrifying display of ineffectiveness.  Amazingly, they only give up two runs.  Thankfully, the Mariner relievers weren’t much better.  The next inning, Elvis doubled in Rougie for his third double of the day, along with his home run.  Sam Dyson restored order in the 9th with a drama-free finish.  10-7 Rangers.

Umm . . .  Erm . . . Well, this is a bit embarrassing.  Here was likely the most exciting, dramatic El Paso Chihuahuas game to date, and I don’t have a recap.  I was having trouble with the Internet connection at work and kept losing the game.  I sort of gave up after about a half hour.  The Rangers were playing the Mariners on the ESPN late game, so I thought I’d enjoy that instead.  One inning later, it’s 5-0 M’s.  AJ Griffin’s weakness to left-handed hitting was completely exposed by a line up composed almost entirely of left-handed hitters.  (The worse of it was, I’d walked out of the room right before Adam Lind’s grand slam.  You may as well see the damage being done.)  Work kept me from watching more of the game other than strolling in to get scoring updates.  (It didn’t get any better for the Rangers.  8-3 Mariners.)

I tried it again with the Chihuahuas’ game and got it this time.  By this point, it was late in the game and the dogs were losing.  I mentally gave up on writing anything and didn’t take any notes.  That was a mistake, because Chihuahuas did not give up.  They’d gone down by three early to the Rainiers.  While Tacoma tacked on a couple more runs, the Chihuahuas chipped away for the rest of the game.  This lead to a 9th inning where, instead of a double play ending the game, a hard, but legal, slide by Hunter Renfroe, resulted in an error and the tying run scoring, five all.

From here the game went into extras. The crowd was a diminished one because of earlier heavy rain and a forecast for more, not to mention it was a school night.  But, they were enthusiastic and got more than their money’s worth.  Announcer Tim Hagerty actually had to excuse himself at one point to get a drink.  His impassioned call of the 9th had left him a little hoarse.  Finally in the 12th, the Rainiers pushed a run across.  At that point, I ended up leaving for home.  It was late, and I’d had a hard day at work, and I wanted to go home.  I was willing to stay to hear a win, but not a loss.  At home, I caught the post-game, 6-5 Tacoma, and the end of the Rangers’ game.  Ugh.  I’m not sure whether to berate myself for not persevering and taking notes, or questioning why I’m doing this at all.  I may have been enjoying the game more just listening.

The free game featured the Indians and the Astros.  An hour rain delay allowed me some extra listening time.  Not viewing time, unfortunately, again the game was blacked out in my area, even though I don’t know where I’d get an Astros game anywhere other than online.  That was okay though.  I never caught the Indians’ announcers’ name, but I liked his theatrics.  He was calling a good, even game, but he’d punctuate those strike outs and hits with a relish.  There was a dramatic inflection on those decisive plays that was great to listen to.  The Indians won 10-7.  My pre-season Astros pick is rapidly fading, but I did call the Indians “the chosen ones” (or “team of destiny,” whatever) around mid-season.  They’re starting to sell me on the possibility.  They’ve got four good starting pitchers.  That’s plenty for the playoffs.

This time I was at least trying to take notes on game two of the PCL playoffs with the Chihuahuas and the Rainiers.  Tonight, these guys looked like the Chihuahuas from earlier in the season.  They were relentless in scoring and punished the opposing team’s errors.  Especially those errors.  In the 5th, a run scored off a bad pickoff throw by the Rainiers’ catcher, and in the 6th, Jose Rondon scored on a wild pitch.  On the defensive side, Walter Locket went 6 1/3 dominant innings, only giving up one run.  Chihuahuas walk over Tacoma, 7-1.

However, it was again a disappointing crowd, about half capacity.  Weather wasn’t an issue.  It was again a school night, but I’m not sure how much of a problem that is, since there was an earlier start time.  There have even been rally towel giveaways the last two nights.  Tim Hagerty gave a shoutout to Rainier fans getting the MiLB feed, mentioning a Tacoma sports bar by name that had the game on.  (I’m thinking they also had the NFL’s season premiere game on too.)  His favorite play of the game was in the 8th, with a bare hand fielding by the first baseman, feeding the pitcher covering first, who also made the catch barehanded.  On to Tacoma.

I only got to hear a little of the game Friday, owing to KROD’s high school football coverage online, but I was delighted by the result, 7-0 El Paso Chihuahuas over the Tacoma Rainiers.  They didn’t have a very big crowd there either, but they were loud and into it, even in a lopsided, late, losing score.  My Rangers’ radio station is usually doing high school football too.  I heard a tantalizing snippet of Matt Hicks speaking, but I could never get the station to come in.  The last update I’d seen of the game was zero all in the 6th.  Sunday morning I get the score in the paper of 2-1 Rangers.  Yeah, that’s some Old School news gathering.

Fox unexpectedly broadcast a Saturday morning game.  Even better, it was a good matchup between the Astros and the Cubs.  Not unexpectedly, it was a full house in Houston.  Of course half the crowd was the rooting the visitors, but somebody paid for all those seats.  Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa were out today for the Astros and I’m disappointed not to see them.  While the announcers were talking about Astros’ phenom call up Alex Bregman in the 3rd, he hit a home run on cue.  1-0 Astros and an Astros’ fan with a mitt made a great catch in the stands to rob a Cubs fan.  Later, Jose Altuve, in a small hitting slump, bunts his way on and is brought home from 3rd with a squeeze play, right out of Cubs manager, Joe Maddon’s, playbook.

The Cubs would score a run to make it 2-1 Astros.  In the 7th, the Cubs make the defensive play of the game with Javier Baez receiving a cut off throw and throwing to catcher, Willson Contreras, who tags a diving George Springer’s foot at the plate.  In the 9th, the Cubs’ tying run is left at third and the Astros win 2-1.  What was up with those bizarre Hyundai commercials during the game?  People choosing other companies’ cars were threatened with a deathtrap?  What the hell?

I tried to get scoring updates on the Chihuahuas’ game after the NMSU football game.  The Chihuahuas were down, then they were up by a run late.  By the time I get home and get the game tuned in, it is literally the bottom of the 9th with two outs.  The first batter I hear is hit by a pitch.  The tying run is on.  Next batter, there’s a batted ball that hits the pitcher.  He picks it up and throws the batter out at first.  Tim Hagerty is barely able to hold back his emotions calling this last out.  The Chihuahuas win 5-4 and will be playing in the PCL championship.  Tim was so happy he didn’t seem to want the post-game show to end.  He pronounced Sal Montes’ jinx over.  I was happy he’d reported that the Rangers had beaten the Angels again.  The next two games will be in El Paso next week.  I can hardly wait.

I saw that the Rangers and Astros were in extras on Gameday, but decided to leave work rather than stay for the end.  Once home, I flipped on the radio and got the post-game.  The Rangers won 4-3 in 12.  Rougie hit the game-winning homer.  Jake Diekman rediscovered the strikezone and got the save.

I flipped over to the Rockies game.  My last update was 6-3 Diamondbacks in the 5th.  When I start listening, the Rockies are up 9-6.  Unfortunately just after that, the D-Backs load the bases and Yasmani Tomas hits a grand slam.  It all happened on five straight hits in a row with two outs.  It is a depressing 12-9 loss for the Rockies.

We start the PCL championship series in El Paso with the Chihuahuas versus the OKC Dodgers.  I finally found out who their opponent is.  They’re the guys who swept the dogs in four games earlier this year in Oklahoma City.  At the start of the game, the Chihuahuas players carry out a banner, which says, “Thank you El Paso.”  That’s a nice touch.    

Walter Locket gets off to a shaky start for the Chihuahuas, yielding four runs off three doubles, a walk, and a hit batsman.  After giving up another run in the 2nd, it’s 5-0 Dodgers.  In the 3rd, the pups have two on and Locket comes up to bat.  A strange defensive alignment is called with one of the outfielders coming into the infield.  It doesn’t help, as the pitcher hits against the shift and drives in a run.  With the bases loaded, Carlos Asuaje clears them with a double.  5-4 Dodgers.

A little interlude here, I notice the Rangers/Astros game is in the 9th, so I put up Gameday.  I like the tracker, but really it’s too nerve-wracking to watch for very long.  The Astros are up 2-1.  Roughned Odor strikes out on a wild pitch, but takes first.  Elvis Andrus triples him in with two outs to tie it.  Jurickson Profar then singles in Elvis for the go-ahead run.  Tanner Scheppers comes out to close.  3-2 Rangers.

Back in El Paso in the 5th, Manuel Margot hits a triple, but is tagged out at the plate on a contact play with the next batter.  Manager Rod Barajas takes the blame for that one.  In the 7th, Nick Torres hits a double, but is eliminated afterward on a baserunning error.  Margot gets on and takes second, but a fly out ends the inning.

In the 8th, an error puts two runners on and Diego Goris singles home the tying run.  The crowd serenades the departing Dodgers pitcher.  With the bases loaded, a sacrifice fly to swallow center by Nick Noonan brings in a speedy Patrick Kivlehan to give the Chihuahuas the lead.  Tim Hagerty is shouting out the play-by-play here.  Goris then scores on a wild pitch.  The dogs do it.  7-5 is the final.  Tim credits the large crowd for helping in the victory.  They were making enough noise to disrupt the opposing pitchers.  Ultimately, the OKC Dodgers were done in by three unearned runs in the game.

Back at home for me, its 11-4 in 6th between the Rockies and the D-Backs.  That’s also the final.  Those last three innings were about a depressing as you’d think.

A bit out of order, as this was actually the last game I listened to last night, but to follow up on that last statement, the Rockies lost again to the Diamondbacks 11-6.  That’s a sweep to a really bad team, giving up double digit runs in all three.  Ugh.  This is more depressing than the drive into El Paso to see the Chihuahuas on Labor Day, specifically seeing the local TV news billboards still advertising the departed (and dearly missed) Breana Pitts on their nightly broadcasts.

And the Astros finally beat the Rangers, 8-4.  They’d gotten out to a good lead, but the Rangers started chipping away at it before the Astros pulled away late.  Derek Holland and Tanner Scheppers didn’t have good games.  I hope that violently drunk guy from last night, who was taken away in cuffs screaming obscenities at the Rangers, feels better now.

When I got to work I was able to listen to Jon Miller calling the Giants versus the Padres.  Once again, is blocking the video, citing broadcasting conflicts.  Yahoo was less discriminating and showed the TV feed, but I really wanted to hear Miller’s pleasant, avuncular voice, so I stuck with just the audio.  Regardless, the Giants lost 3-1 with Bumgarner starting.  That’s also a sweep by a lousy team.

My co-worker, Mike, was listening, “Boy, Michael Savage sounds really mellow today, and I didn’t think he liked baseball.”  Yes, that’s the same Mike who thinks Bob Uecker has passed away, even while listening to him call a game live.  Mike was really impressed with Miller though.  When the Giants changed pitchers, he effortlessly segued into an ad for changing your vehicle’s oil.  Of course, he had to do this a couple more times during the inning, because of Bochy/September call ups, somewhat diminishing the effect, but Mike really respects a good product placement plug.

Okay, on to the important game of the day, the El Paso Chihuahuas versus the Oklahoma City Dodgers for the PCL championship.  In the 1st, Manuel Margot led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch.  Austin Hedges would later drive in Carlos Asuaje to give the dogs a 2-0 lead right off the bat.  In the 2nd, with the bases loaded with Dodgers, Frank Graces got two strikeouts to end the inning without a run.  The Dodgers would score a run in the 3rd, 2-1 Chihuahuas at this point.  

Then it turned into a Hilary Clinton public appearance.  The entire defense had a seizure in the 4th.  Two errors on the same play allowed two runners on.  A third error scored a run.  Finally, on a fourth error, a runner attempted to take home and was thrown out, ironically it was part of a double play that ended the inning.  Amazingly, after four errors in one inning, the pups only give up one run to tie the score.  They must be living right.  

In the 5th, the tie is broken by an Asuaje home run.  In the 6th, Margot hits his second triple and Hedges hits a home run.  Our score is now suddenly 9-2.  Did the Chihuahuas take the 4th inning off?  Did they put a bunch of guys from the stands in uniforms and put them out on the field?  In the 7th, the impostors were back out on the field and a Dodger run scored after an error, 9-3 Chihuahuas.

Thankfully, the real Chihuahuas took the field for the rest of the game.  In the 8th, OKC loaded the bases, but another double play ended the inning.  In the 9th, the game ends on a DP.  How inappropriate.  Our final is 10-4 Chihuahuas, up two in this best of five series. 

It was the last game of the year at Southwest University Park.  The players saluted the fans coming off the field.  It was a great crowd tonight cheering them on.  Respecting the streak, the Chihuahuas’ staff was told to wear the same shirt as the night before.  Much like the game, it might have been a bit smelly and messy, but it worked for a win.  Onto OKC, where I will not be able to hear Friday night’s game due to KROD carrying high school football.  I’ll make the supreme sacrifice and still root for the Chihuahuas to win, rather than lose so that I can hear them on Saturday.      
Hey!  I just checked the schedules.  None of my baseball teams are playing Thursday.  What am I going to do?  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UNM Lobos Football 9-10-16 Part 2

Part 1

Earlier, Ron had seen the drunkest man in the stadium.  He literally all wobbled and weaved by on the concourse.  I missed him, but did meet the second drunkest man standing in the long line to the bathroom.  He was way too friendly and happy to be there.  The third drunkest guy was just outside the bathroom, puking into a trash barrel.  I may have seen that gorgeous girl again briefly, but she went over to the student side.  I looked over the team gear tent by the entrance, but didn’t see anything compelling.  On the way back, I thought I’d get some popcorn.  Apparently, so had half the stadium.  The line into the concessions was longer than the bathroom line (if that makes sense).  The line went out to the entrance of the stadium.  The roving vendors never came around the upper section either.  I missed the halftime show again.  I did hear the Lobo band play their team back onto the field as I got back to my seat.

3rd Quarter
This half is already starting off well.  Half of the cheerleading squad came over to our end of the stadium.  It just wasn’t the same without them.  The Aggie team didn’t start off as well as they go three and out.  Worse, there’s a bad snap on the punt.  The kicker rolls out in the endzone, being chased by Lobo linemen, and has to kick on the run.

I notice that there are kids playing on the steep grass hill on the south end of the stadium, in front of the luxury boxes and next to the cannon, which the ROTC fires on Aggie scores.  They were rolling down the hill.  Ron decides to get up and take a walk.  He returns later and reports, “We’re sitting in the wrong section.”  We’re on the 30.  We should be about on the 40.  On the other hand, he notes, “If we’d been in the right section, we wouldn’t have been sitting by our favorite little Aggie fan.”  View-wise, the seats were about the same.  Price-wise, Ron overpaid, so I’m glad he was okay with it.    

The Lobos start on the Aggie 45.  The Lobos score another touchdown, mostly rushing it.  24-15 Lobos.  The Aggies go three and out again on their possession.  There’s a double-clutch on the punt, but the punter gets it downfield.  

The NM State Softball team is honored on the field for winning the regular season title.  It’s good to see the girls after a few months away.  I think I saw Kayla pass below us.  The PA reports that members of the baseball team are going around the stadium selling tickets.  I may have seen one of them pass below us, but nobody in our section.

A couple goes by wearing hunting camo/team gear that looks interesting.  There’s a fellow wearing an Albuquerque Dukes hat.  Meanwhile, the game must be getting interesting as one of the cheerleaders down below us, forgets to join the others cheering as she watches the game.

The Lobos get a first down, but have to punt.  The Aggies get it back and nearly lose it on an interception that was called off for pass interference.  With a second chance, the Aggies make the most of it.  They methodically move the ball downfield (I’m not using the word “matriculate,” as that is actually an incorrect usage no matter how many sportswriters use it) and score a touchdown.  24-22 Lobos.

There’s a big kickoff return for the Lobos and a personal foul penalty on top of it.  They are well in the Red Zone when the quarter ends.  The Sundancers run out and perform in the vacated endzone.  I’m really wishing for binoculars.  Our squad of cheerleaders also leaves us to return to the other end of the stadium.    

4th Quarter
Okay, here we go.  Get ready for the big finish.  The Lobos go for it on a 4th and 1 and come away with another touchdown.  31-22 Lobos.  With the ball back, the Aggies make a good drive.  They get two 10+ yard passes and a roughing the passer penalty to move into Lobo territory.  Then there was a sack which brought up a 3rd and 18.  Rodgers finally caught a receiver in stride and brought the team into field goal range.  31-25 Lobos with a successful kick.  On the video board, the Women’s volleyball and soccer teams are promoted.  The pictures of the girls they’re using are rather enticing.  This is how to sell women’s sports: sex appeal.

The Lobos get the ball back and here we have the key play of the game.  The Aggies get an interception off a long 3rd down.  At this point, there’s about five minutes left in the game.  The crowd is standing (and I’m standing) for the rest of the game.  The Aggies lose their good field position on a chopblock penalty, going from the 15 to the 35 yard line.  But, the Aggies keep plowing forward after that to inside the 10.  Three Lobo players stop play for cramps on the drive.  Chicanery is suspected, but it doesn’t matter.  An over the shoulder catch in the corner of the endzone by Greg Hogan makes the score 32-31.  The Aggies finally have the lead.

Below us in the lower section, I’m chuckling at a little kid with his shirt off, cheering on top of his dad’s shoulders.  The little girl sitting below us left with her grandparents just after the 3rd quarter.  I nudge Ron and tell him that I’m sorry she left.  She’d lend a heck of a voice to the cheering.  Ron had to spoken to her grandmother.  The little girl was very knowledgeable about the game.  I think he’d like to part-time adopt her.  Meanwhile, there’s a lady sitting next to us that was corralling two rambunctious little boys for most of the second half.  I don’t know how much of the game she’s seen of this half.  Across the stadium, the full student section is still standing.  They’ve been that way the whole game.

The Lobos get the ball back inside of the three minutes left in the game.  They try a deep pass downfield that’s broken up.  The Lobos have to go for it on a 4th down and just make it on a slant pass.  The Aggie defense comes up big with a sack and a dropped interception.  Its 4th and 15, and the radio color commentator, Preston Williams, sums it up, “We need one play from the defense.”  The Lobos get 13 and a penalty called against them on top of it.  Turnover on downs with a 1:23 left.

The Aggies rush for a first down.  I pull out my earplugs and take in the deafening roar of the crowd.  This is really a great moment as the Aggies take a knee while the clock runs down to triple zero.  Aggies over the Lobos 32-31.  The players and the cheerleaders go over to the student side of the stadium and salute them.  The Lobo band plays their team off the field.  Me and Ron are extremely pleased with our evening.  I’m not nominating a player of the game, because I’m just not that football knowledgeable.  I’d hate to be so self-serving to give it to the 10th man in the stands, but I think all of the players on both teams appreciated playing to an enthusiastic full house.  I’ll say it was a real team effort by the Aggies, down the whole game, but never giving up or letting the game get out of hand so that they could have a chance at the end.

Travelling across the stands I picked up a couple of different discarded programs.  One of them turns out to be from last year.  The other one is missing pages at the front.  I wish I could have found where they were giving these out on the way in.  Ron finds his lost earplugs sitting on the trunk of his car.  We go over to a nearby convenience store with an ice cream bar and have shakes.  A bunch of other people from the game also come by, including Lobo fans.  One of them was mad about losing, since he’d come down from Albuquerque, but even he thought it was a good game to have seen.  That’s gives you a good idea of how entertaining the game was.        

Monday, September 12, 2016

NMSU Aggies vs UNM Lobos Football 9-10-16 Part 1

It’s the 107th edition of the Battle of the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Las Cruces.  It’s literally north versus south here.  It’s also man versus parking space.  As Ron and I drove in, it was apparent all of the football and even Pan Am Center parking was taken.  We were going to Schlotzsky’s anyway for dinner across the street and parked there.  (We had the pretzel bread bacon cheese sandwich with the tomato/basil soup side.  This combo has the same effect on everybody who has it: they want another.  It’s awesome.)

Ron’s in his Aggie shirt.  I’m in my crimson and camo with my Aggie t-shirt and a long-sleeve camo undershirt.  Ron smuggled in a water bottle in his pants.  It’s not that he’s against buying concessions, but he must have thought ahead about what the lines were going to be like.  Speaking of that, yikes!  I was planning on getting a slice of pizza from the tent at the entrance later.  $4 a slice!  Yeah, its Papa John’s, but still.

There are two Lobo tractor trailers prominently on display inside the stadium, one at the entrance.  Greeters are handing out Aggie football cards of great former players at the gate.  I always love the cards.  I look for a program, but I don’t see anyone handing them out or selling them.  Football programs aren’t all that useful, since you’re not keeping a scorecard, but it’s a keepsake.  (Does anyone, other than the broadcasters, do such a thing?)  There’s a drone flying over the stadium.  The PA gives a five-minute explanation of the device, the upshot of which is: we’re not spying on you and don’t bring your own.

Our seats were on the south west side in the upper section.  I have my mom’s old stadium seat and Ron brings his seat cushions, which I put on top of the seat.  I’m sitting pretty for the whole game with a commanding view of the field.  The temperature is in the 80’s with a light breeze.  It’s all very comfortable.  

There were a lot of people around.  The official attendance was just under 18,000.  People kept filing in in an endless stream during the first quarter.  From our seats in the upper section, we could see huge numbers of people passing below us.  We saw a few people from work and any number of pretty young women going by.  This was a constant distraction from the game.  If I wasn’t looking, Ron was.  I’m not complaining, just stating.  The hottest girl in the stadium (or at least the most exotic) walked by at the end of the first quarter.  I spent the rest of the game looking for her.    

Amazingly, the little girl from the softball game, who had the biggest cheer in the stadium, sat down in front of us after we got settled.  Ron is thrilled, as he really got a kick out her.  What were the odds of being randomly seated next to someone you know in a big stadium full of people?  I saw the kid that was shagging balls at the Aggie baseball games on the concourse later, whom I’m still convinced I saw up in Denver at the baseball game there.  Now that’s really long odds.

There were two sections of the Lobo fans in the north-east end of the stadium, with the Lobo band on their right.  Next to the Lobo fans was a packed student section.  They all appeared to be standing.  In the front row was the usual group of shirt-less guys with letters painted on their chests.  I think it said “Go Aggies.”  Maybe.  How embarrassing.  You go to all the trouble of painting yourselves up and the people you’re facing can’t read it.  On the students’ left was the Aggie Pride band and in front of them were the Sundancers.  It might be worth getting deafened to sit in front of the band to watch the girls, but this isn’t an option for the fans.  On our side of the stadium is the pressbox.  Whoopee.  I’m missing the Aggies’ large cheerleading squad.  They’re on our side, but on the other end.  It’s just not the same without human pyramids in front of us.  I’m wishing for binoculars at this point.  

The crowd stands as the PA asks for a moment of silence for 9/11, a Lobo player who recently died, and for Lori Paulsen, the Aggies’ honorary team captain who died last season.  In a stadium full of people, it was literally quiet enough to hear the flags on the other side of the stadium flapping.  The Aggie Pride band played the Star Spangled Banner.  Afterward, with the music still playing, the PA read the preamble to the Constitution.  The band then formed two, facing lines, and played the Aggie fight song, as the team charged out onto the field.  The team went to the endzone and knelt in prayer.  The Lobos came out afterward, lead by a player carrying the Zia, New Mexico’s state flag, with the Lobo band playing.    

The Aggies’ new Underarmor uniforms rate a mention.  They look about the same as before, but I’d say that’s a good thing.  As long as they keep that crimson, black, and white color scheme, you really can’t go wrong.  Ron and I both fiddled with our radios to get the game call.  Ron discovered his main earplugs were missing and speculated that he lost them taking out his wallet, paying for his tickets.  Thankfully, he had a backup pair.  So, the familiar, pleasant voice of Las Cruces sports, Jack Nixon, joined us for the game.  (Note that 99.5 FM’s Internet feed plays music, not the game.)  Unlike the baseball posts, where I separate describing the experience and the game play, that isn’t going to work here.  So, things will be mixed together here.

1st Quarter
The Lobos receive the opening kickoff.  Striking the Wonder Dog retrieves the tee to a round of applause.  (He’s going to get a workout today.)  They march down the field, pretty much all rushing, and score a touchdown.  7-0 Lobos.  The net behind the goal posts catches the ball on the PAT, so there’s one stadium improvement from last year.

The Aggies get the ball and move down the field, mostly in the air.  They go for it and make it on a 4th and short on the Lobo 48.  The Lobo band plays, for some reason, as the Aggies kick a field goal.  7-3 Lobos.  With the ball back, the Lobos move downfield again.  They face a 3rd and long at one point and make it, along with a roughing the passer penalty.  The next play is a keeper for a touchdown.  14-3 Lobos.  Over the Lobos fans’ section, a giant banner is unfurled.  It takes some effort to read, but I finally figure it out: “Pistol Pete shot Hamrambi.”  They’re referring to that gorilla that was shot at the zoo and the NMSU’s mascot.  It’s taken down soon after.

With the ball returned, Aggie quarterback, Tyler Rogers, makes a big 20 yard rush on a broken play.  I admit, he’s the only name I was catching during game and that’s only because it was getting called on every offensive play.  Our star running back, Larry Rose, is out right now.  He’s the only other name I know on the team.  The first quarter ends.

The Aggie Women’s Basketball team is honored on the field as last season’s regular season champions.  Later, the PA calls everyone’s attention to the south end of the stadium.  There are some fans sitting on a couch behind the endzone.  This is “The best seat in the house” promotion by a furniture company.  I’m waiting for the “Be the Sundancers towel boy for a game” promotion.  Speaking of promotion, the Las Cruces Comi-Con was this weekend.  I was apparently the only one who didn’t know about it.  There at Schlotsky’s there were some people in comic book themed attire, amongst the football fans.  On field, the two main guests of the show were honored: an actor from the Walking Dead and the star of Starship Troopers.  I’m not enticed to attend.    

2nd Quarter
The Aggies are able to continue driving downfield, mostly on the strength of Roger’s legs, for another field goal.  14-6 Lobos.  The Aggies are able to hold the Lobos on their possession and force a punt.  There was an exceedingly strange play before the punt, where half the Lobo line didn’t move.  The Aggies across from them didn’t either.  It was like it was a blown dead play for just half the field.  The other half of the line did move and the quarterback did a little shot-put to a receiver.  The radio call gave no indication of how weird that play was.

I get a Pistol Pete sighting finally.  He’s down below on the field getting the crowd into it.  At about this time, the sun is starting to set.  The windows on the luxury box across from us on top of the east (student) side of the stadium start reflecting blinding sunlight onto the other side of the stadium.  This goes on for about 15 accursed minutes.  Gosh darn that stupid bank that sponsored this ill-conceived promotion.  Ooops.  Wait.  That’s me and Ron’s employer.  Meanwhile, the other big bank in town was the primary sponsor of today’s game without blinding anybody.

The Aggie drive goes backwards on a sack and a penalty.  They do get off a good punt that sets the Lobos well back.  On their first play, the Aggies force a fumble.  They takeover on the Lobo 20, though this does take a lengthy review.  The Aggies have to settle for a field goal though.  14-9 Lobos.  

The breeze is getting colder, but I’m not freezing, just wishing for a jacket.  The radio calls my attention to a gentleman in a red hat standing on field at the 20 yard line.  He’s the guy who tells the officials when the game is in or out of commercial.  Nothing happens until he leaves the field.  If you look carefully on the sidelines of an NFL game, there’s a guy wearing big orange oven mitts, who serves the same function.  On the concourse, I have multiple sightings of Albuquerque Isotopes’ hats.  No El Paso Chihuahuas though.  

UNM gets the ball back.  Late in the drive, the Lobo quarterback is shaken up on an option and taken out.  There’s two timeouts, some unexplained dead time, and something like three penalties.  I turn to Ron, “Yeah this is why I hate baseball.  It’s so boring and nothing happens.  It’s not like football where there’s constant excitement.”  The crowd gets up four times to cheer on the defense, but it all ends on a Lobo field goal.  17-9 Lobos.

The Aggies get a good return on the kickoff.  A deep shot downfield works and a penalty leads to a passing TD.  That was a good two-minute drill.  The PAT is missed however.  As per last year, our kicker is inexplicably not good on these, but doesn’t have problems further out.  17-15 Lobos at the half.

Part 2