Views from the Press Box at the Nat – Part 1

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The view from outside the press box as the sun was setting

Friday night, June 29th. The Single-A Vancouver Canadians, after winning their last series against Tri-City, spanked the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, 11-1, in the opener of a five-game set.

THE GAME: Yes, it was a rout, but the chatter in the press box early on was about LF Brandon Polizzi, the No. 9 hitter in the Vancouver lineup. A few of us were impressed with Polizzi, who started the game in left field before moving over to second base after two innings. Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 35th round in 2017, Polizzi has good speed – and is arguably the best base runner on the Canadians this season. If he’s not hitting .148 (coming into tonight’s action), he’s probably the leadoff hitter on the club.

Anyway, the exciting Polizzi thrilled the crowd on this night by smacking a run-scoring triple to right field to cap a three-run second inning, as the Canadians took the lead early and never looked back.

3B Bryan Lizardo, the regular third baseman playing first base on this night, was 4-for-4 with a double, three runs scored, and three RBI. Five games into the season, when the Canadians had their home opener at Nat Bailey, Lizardo was hitting just .071. Tonight’s four-hit game raised his average to .325.

RF Griffin Conine continues to impress. One of the highlights of the C’s offensively – there were plenty on a night the team scored 11 runs – was Conine’s two-run triple to right during a five-run sixth-inning outburst that put the game out of reach. The son of former major-leaguer Jeff Conine, Griffin had homered the day before in the 3-2 victory over Tri-City.

North Vancouver’s Will McAffer, meanwhile, has become this team’s “vulture.” Entering the game with two outs in the fifth in relief of starter Jordan Barrett, McAffer got out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve a 5-1 lead and then proceeded to work the next three innings to earn his third win of the season.

Barrett, the starter, didn’t throw harder than 90 mph, according to the radar gun. He did, however, have good location in the first four innings before seemingly tiring in the fifth and came one out short of a victory. Some in the press box were crowning Barrett “Cy Young” – until he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning, that is. Still, it was a good night for the left-hander drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round in 2017. He gave up just one hit with eight strikeouts – walking five.

The only player who struggled offensively was CF Hunter Steinmetz, who was making his Canadians debut. Called up from Bluefield (rookie ball) the day before, Steinmetz went 0-for-5 hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup. The native of Jefferson City, MO, was selected by the Blue Jays in the 11th round of the 2018 draft out of Missouri State.

Overall, a great night for the home team, as the C’s banged out 16 hits – they outhit the Volcanoes 16-2 on the evening – to send Salem-Keizer, the league’s top team at 10-4 entering play, to the lopsided loss.

THE ANECDOTES: And oh, by the seventh inning, the game had dragged on so much that I desperately needed a Coke. I walked over to the fridge to grab a bottle – before Jordy, one of the media relations assistants, persuaded me to put it back. I needed that. It’s easy to give in to temptation – on a long night, sometimes I just have a craving for a pop. But I definitely needed the awesome Jordy to keep me in check. Yes, I placed the Coke bottle back into the fridge and stuck to water.

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OTHER SIGHTS: What can I say about the sunset? Well, a picture is worth a million words, so I’ll let the follow image do the talking…

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Yes, people DO want you to fail…

That’s right. People DO want you to fail. I’ve experienced it. It happens. That’s life. You then shut those people out of your lives.

Up to now, there have been three Dereks in my professional life. All wanted me to fail. That’s rough. But that’s life.

Years ago, I was young and very naïve. I was in some kind of trouble, and Derek #1 was in a position to help me. I sought his assistance, but his response was “I can’t do it.” No, he could, but he didn’t want to. Okay, so, life moved on. I realized, at that young age, I had to do everything myself to get out of that mess. I learned to become independent. Looking back, Derek #1 could have made things easier, but he chose not to. That’s fine.

Fast forward to several years later. I was in a company where I frequently gave input to my boss, Cheryl, so that operations could be smoother and more efficient. Some of my ideas – designed to improve efficiency – were eventually implemented. Cheryl valued me as an employee. But then, the company hired an older woman named Sally, and I believe there might have been some power struggle there, because Cheryl abruptly resigned. During one particular staff meeting (actually, it was the only one Sally called while I was still in the company), when I tried to present an idea, Sally shot me down every time – in fact, interrupting me mid-sentence. Yet, she let others speak.

Either she heard some gossip about me from other employees, or she was against me because I was valued by Cheryl. Maybe even because I’m a short Asian male. Whatever the case was, that was definitely discrimination. Of some sort. Others were allowed to speak, but I was cut off each time.

Derek #2 observed this during the meeting, and he sought to undermine me. When Cheryl was around, the staff was expected to be respectful toward me because I was one of the supervisors. After Cheryl’s departure, Derek #2 knew that he didn’t have to listen to me anymore because he saw that Sally – clearly – was against me and wasn’t on my side. (Previously, Derek #2 often looked like a scared kitten when Cheryl lectured him.)

Anyway, I gave some constructive feedback on the emails he was sending out to clients – giving him pointers to be more professional-sounding in the emails. Derek #2 flatly refused and waged war. (During this time, the environment was toxic, with Amie, a manager, always asking me to step out when she needed a cigarette, to vent about how incompetent Jay, the project manager, was. Because Amie was the manager, I let her speak without interrupting.) Derek #2 somehow got Amie to team up against me, and told Sally things about me in an attempt to get me fired.

I was called into a private meeting with Sally – and Jay, who was there as a witness. I had just completed a tough medical project for the company. But Sally had her poker face on, and she said, “Do you know why you’re here?” (Duh. She’d never called private meetings before, and this was unannounced, so what was her point in being that rude?) In typical fashion, she displayed her discriminatory attitude toward me, saying I had done things harmful to the company. I explained that Derek #2 had threatened me, and that I had some things to say about that. Of course, Sally said that was between me and him and nothing to do with the company. At that point, I knew Sally was the type of two-faced person who pretended to be kind and caring in front of her own bosses, and negative toward me for whatever reason. I left the key on the desk, and walked out, never to return again. I had no interest interacting any further with someone who wanted to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Sally, as far as I was concerned, was the type of person who could drop dead and I would not shed a tear.

Derek #3 was a fellow instructor I encountered sometime later. An arrogant prick, he loved dishing out insults while frequently bragging about himself. Unprompted, he would show people photos of his apartment or his car – or new phone, etc.

I would want to discuss the progress of common students that we were teaching. I saw it as an opportunity to come up with ideas to help those students improve. He would, instead, go on and on about how those students were doing GREAT in his class because he was a superior teacher. I let it go for a while. Finally, one day, tired of his insults, I had the audacity to return the favour. His face turned red and he wanted to fight me, and threatened to throw me to the ground. He then tried to get me fired. He failed, of course, because it was clear to the administration that he was acting childish and being unreasonable.

The point is that all three Dereks wanted me to fail.

There was also the case of Abbie, a person who complained about ex-managers and co-workers from other companies (some hair salon where she worked) as well as ex-managers in the same company – saying they all were against her, blah blah blah, … and oh, a person who wanted to destroy me.

But we can save that one for another time.

A look-back at the career of 1993 Cup champion Paul DiPietro

Let me first say this to get it out of the way: I’m not a Habs fan and I have never been a Habs fan. Growing up, I loved the Bruins and I thought Denis Savard (who played for Montreal in the early 1990s) was awesome – but I never rooted for the Canadiens in 1993. 

Having said that, the Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup run is a part of hockey history, and that championship is magnified every spring when the last Canadian-based team alive is eliminated – as no Canadian team (not Montreal Canadiens, but Canadian, period) has won a Cup since then. Even if I am not – and was not – a fan, it’s a story that still must be discussed. 

June 9th, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of the Cup clincher. To “celebrate” that, here’s sportswriter and blogger Rajan Nanavati with a guest post, discussing the career of forgotten Cup champion Paul DiPietro – an unsung hero who was a key contributor during Montreal’s 1993 run. 

K.P. Wee


The Interesting, Long-Lasting Hockey Life of Paul DiPietro

By Rajan Nanavati

In life, we tend to be so focused on where we’re going, that we often forget to take a step back and enjoy the journey.

If we could give advice to former NHL player and Stanley Cup champion Paul DiPietro, we would do so. While he was one of the stars of Montreal’s championship in 1993, it was a long and twisted road for DiPietro to get there.

In 1990, the Montreal Canadiens selected DiPietro with their fifth-round pick (102nd overall) in the NHL Draft. Despite scoring 119 points in 66 games as a member of the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), DiPietro lasted that long largely in part because of his size, or lack thereof — he was only 5-foot-9, which didn’t exactly give him the idea frame of someone destined for a long career in the league.

Like most rookies, DiPietro spent his entire rookie season playing with the Fredericton Canadiens — also known as the “Baby Habs” — of the American Hockey League (AHL). But, it didn’t take long for the “big league” Canadiens to realize that they might have a future contributor on their hands. In DiPietro’s rookie season, he had 70 points in 78 games, which included 39 goals.

Clearly encouraged by what they saw, DiPietro spent his next two seasons splitting time between Fredericton and Montreal, playing at last 29 games for the NHL club in both years. In fact, his 17 points in 29 contests during the 1992-93 season solidified a spot for DiPietro on Montreal’s postseason roster, as the Canadiens finished with the third-most points in the Prince of Wales Conference standings.

That decision would unquestionably pay dividends for Montreal. After the Canadiens found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the favored Quebec Nordiques, with the local media even saying that the Canadiens should consider trading away future Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, Montreal turned the tide in the series, winning the next four straight games. DiPietro would help Montreal clinch the series in emphatic manner, as he tallied a hat trick plus an assist in Game 6 of the series, giving Montreal the 4-2 series win.

In Game 1 against the Buffalo Sabres in the ensuing series, DiPietro picked up where he left off, adding another goal and an assist in Montreal’s 4-3 win. His goal in the first 6:23 of the second period helped give Montreal a 3-1 lead in the game. You could say that helped Montreal start off on the right foot against Buffalo, as they swept the Sabres in a series that lasted only six games.

In the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, DiPietro added two more goals and an assist in Montreal’s 4-1 series win against the New York Islanders. His goal in Game 2 helped tie the score up late in the second period, and Montreal would add another in the third to secure the win. DiPietro scored again in Game 4, though Montreal ended up suffering their lone defeat in the series; he was the only score for the Canadiens in their 4-1 loss.

Montreal then advanced to the 1993 Stanley Cup, giving them their third appearance in the league’s final series in a decade. However, while Montreal did most recently make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1989, they were on the losing end of the series, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames; it was only the second loss in the Stanley Cup in 33 years for the franchise that has been to and won the most Cups. Montreal had most recently won the Cup in 1986, but nothing after that.

The series had an added layer of intrigue, as Montreal would be facing off against Wayne Gretzky – “The Great One” himself – and the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky had led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships, but hadn’t been to the Finals after being traded to the Kings – until now.

Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and the Kings got off to a fast start, with Robitaille tallying two goals and Gretzky dishing out three assists (and a goal of his own) in the Kings’ 4-1 win over the Canadiens. But LA’s celebration would be short-lived, as Montreal would end up winning the next four games straight.

Ironically, in a series featuring the game’s greatest player in history, DiPietro is the name whom the history books will likely remember, as he scored two goals in the deciding Game 5 of the series, giving Montreal a 4-1 win in the game and the series. DiPietro scored the first goal of the game, and when Los Angeles tried to make a comeback while trailing 3-1 in the game (and the series), DiPietro scored the last goal of the game, which was effectively the nail in the coffin of the Kings.

Members of that Canadiens team that won in 1993 have all lauded how DiPietro emerged as one of the stars for Montreal in that series. Others commented on how DiPietro contributed as a fourth line or reserve player, giving them the types of clutch goals and key plays that are needed from guys deep on the roster in the postseason.

The hero of the 1993 run would go on to play another two seasons with Montreal; in the year after DiPietro helped Montreal win the cup, he registered a career-high 13 goals with the Canadiens. But two seasons later, Montreal traded him to the squad that was “persona non-grata” to any hockey fan in Quebec: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unfortunately, DiPietro bounced between the NHL and the minors once again, eventually culminating in the Leafs trading DiPietro to the Los Angeles Kings (in something of an ironic twist). But his career alongside Gretzky was very short-lived, as he spent the vast majority of his time in the IHL, with teams like the Phoenix Roadrunners and Cincinnati Cyclones.

But if you think that was the end of DiPietro’s career, you couldn’t be more wrong. DiPietro went on to play another 16 years of professional hockey, the vast majority of which took place in Switzerland. It wasn’t until 2014 when we officially saw DiPietro retire.

One more knuckleball is one too many (guest post by Drew Farmer)

As I’ve been busy, I haven’t had the opportunity to post more regularly. In the meantime, here’s one from Fantasy Sports insider Drew Farmer.

One more knuckleball is one too many

By Drew Farmer   |   Twitter @DrewMFarmer   |   Facebook @DrewMFarmer

One more knuckleball is one too many… or perhaps one more season in the Big Leagues is too many. For former Major League Baseball player Phil Coke, the knuckleball was an attempt at preserving his Big League career. It was a chance for one more day in the sun as a member of the elite class of the boys of summer. Yet, one more knuckleball is one too many.

Coke’s dream of returning to The Show at 35-years old was spurred on by the befuddling pitch that defies bats, catchers’ mitts and the laws of physics. Coke hoped he could master the greatest pitch in a hurler’s arsenal for one more chance at MLB glory. It is the pitch few attempt and even fewer master. It is an uncontrollable slow-moving bastard of a pitch. But the nine-year veteran of the mound just didn’t have it and the knuckleball was too elusive.

Coke made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees as a relief pitcher. His stuff was average as his four-seam fastball hit the mid-90s and topped out at 97 on a good day. He was hittable, and for the most part, Coke’s ERA showed it. Good left-handed relief pitching is difficult to come by, however. The need for an arm to gobble up innings is a necessity and Coke played the role perfectly for the Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays. His success as a relief pitcher provided Coke with the chance to play in the Big Leagues as a journeyman. The need to play match ups late in games gave Coke an extended career. Perhaps one others haven’t been afforded.

Coke’s best season came in 2010 as a Tiger. He recorded a 7-5 record while posting a 3.76 ERA in 74 games. He also had two saves. But as the arm declined, so did Coke’s chances. Every season was a fight to stay with an MLB team. Every spring there was the fear of being cut. He had to perform on the days he was called upon. Two innings here, four innings there; whatever he could get was a chance to impress. It was also a chance to move closer to the exit, if he gave up runs.

After bouncing around the bigs in 2015 and 2016, playing for four different teams, Coke’s MLB career was finished. He went to Japan and pitched one season for the Orix Buffaloes. It was more of the same for the hurler, and after just one season, the club parted ways with Coke.

Despite registering a 4.56 ERA in Japan, Coke had one last go at an MLB career. In the spring of 2018, he attempted a comeback. He was accompanied by a new pitch; the unharnessed, unreliable knuckleball.

Coke hoped to make a club in spring training, but the best he could do was a contract in Mexico with Acereros de Monclova. The knuckleball didn’t last long, however. Coke was released less than two months after signing on with Monclova.

The lefty reliever wasn’t able to get the knuckleball to work and impress clubs. Nor could he get his knuckleball to defy the bats and batters in spring training or south of the border. The odds of returning to MLB with a new pitch in his mid-30s were always against him. Although Coke is still searching for a team that will let him take the hill just one more time, it looks like one more knuckle ball is one knuckleball too many.

Sent by 514-841-1334…. Learn to write proper English before sending hate mail…

Yeah, what a coincidence, right? Someone called from 514-841-1334 – a telemarketer wanting to sell website services – and I hung up on him. Minutes later, I receive a piece of hate mail. Yeah, you’re so obvious….

By the way, if you can’t even write proper English, it’s like I would take you seriously, right? And, very classy, using my email address to fill out the contact form to send this hate mail.

*That’s the phone number that showed up on caller ID, but it’s a fake number. The call came from India, as the IP address indicates that.

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This is what I keep saying… but…

I keep saying in the press box at Nat Bailey Stadium, seven-inning games are the way to go… but everyone around me thinks, “Uhmm… NO!”

Ahhh, I guess I’m not the only one who has thought about how seven-inning games might be good for the game. Here’s an ESPN.com story discussing how Jim Kaat feels about this very subject!

Love it!

People who can’t change…

Redskins’ sources say the coach personally broke down the game tape with the quarterback. When they were finished assessing the Chargers game, George told the coach that he played as well as he can possibly play.

Chris Mortensen on ESPN.com in 2001

This is a blast from the past. When it happened, I was upset that then-Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer didn’t give Jeff George another chance. George had a great arm, I thought. He was way better than plenty of starters in the NFL, I thought. Why not give him another shot? Why didn’t anybody else give him another chance?

Now, as a teacher, I know. Sometimes, some people are uncoachable. Now, I’m not saying that George was like that. The stories penned by many football journalists implied that, including the one above. I don’t know George or anyone involved personally, nor have I talked to any of them. That’s what’s been suggested or implied based on what writers have written.

I had this student. Let’s call him Shawn.*

*The name has been changed to protect the student’s identity. 

I would tell Shawn, “All right, Shawn. Make sure you come on time moving forward. Class starts at 9:00, not 9:09.” His response? “I’m trying my best already,” he would retort. No, it’s not a traffic thing or commute issue. He lived about eight minutes away on foot. However, he chose to wake up every morning at 8:55, change, and rush to school.

He never brushed his teeth – it was obvious. You could smell it standing close to him.

I explained to him that you have to develop a good habit, wake up early, as it affects your future career, etc. It was in one ear, out the other. Now, I’m not talking about a child or teenager here. The guy was 26 years old.

“I’m teaching you to develop strong habits,” I would say.

“I have 10 minutes to be here. I don’t need to be here at 9:00,” he would say, referring to the school’s rule of allowing students a 10-minute window to arrive because of traffic. The 10-minute window is not for people who are lazy. And Shawn was exploiting the rule due to his laziness.

I would tell him to create a title and double-space anything that was to be handed in. I would remind the class every time. I even had a package that I handed out detailing examples of this. Every time he handed in his assignment, those two things were “forgotten.”

Now, we’re not talking about a learning disability. Shawn simply didn’t care. And it doesn’t matter how patient you are, his stubbornness was something he refused to change.

When he received a low grade for the term, he was “angry,” (his words). He thought that if he paid, he was a customer and should receive royal treatment.

The more I taught Shawn, the more I thought about the football example.

Then I realized… it’s true. Some people, unfortunately, can’t be coached. In life, that’s just the way it is.