Author Archive

Introducing Adam

By Adam Dries, Broadcast Assistant

Hello Crawdads fans! My name is Adam Dries, and I am happy to say that I will be part of the ‘Dads broadcast team alongside Andrew Buchbinder this season. I am very excited to have this opportunity, and look forward to some exciting baseball.

Let me start by giving you a little background on myself. I graduated from Western Carolina University in 2010 with a degree in Communications, focusing on Broadcasting and Public Relations. While at Western I served as the voice of Lady Catamount Athletics, as well as the host of a sports talk show called “Season Ticket.” The radio station was my life, as was the Athletics Department, where I served as the equipment manager for Men’s and Women’s Basketball and the Football team. I was constantly seen around campus running errands for one of the teams, or hosting interviews for the radio. College was great, but as do many fun times it had to end.

Once I left Cullowhee, NC I moved back home to the Raleigh area to begin my job search. This led to a position as a Procurement Specialist for a Non-Profit Research Company, where I bought many different items. After nearly two years in this position, I decided to start another chapter in my life and pursue another position. This brought me to my current position as a Procurement Officer for the City of Charlotte. The job is challenging yet rewarding every day, but after a day at work it is nice to escape to the world of sports.

My fiancé is currently finishing her second degree as a Nursing Student at Lenoir Rhyne University. After debating it briefly we decided that living in Hickory would make her studies easier, and would give us a chance to experience the Hickory area. The drive to Charlotte has not bothered me at all to this point, and by living in this area I am able to get back to the sports world after work.

I look forward to a great season of Crawdads’ baseball! Check back to see an occasional blog from me.

Adam Dries is entering his first season as broadcast assistant with the Hickory Crawdads.  A 2010 graduate of Western Carolina University, Adam also currently serves as a procurement officer for the City of Charlotte.

Farewell

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

I came to Hickory to intern with the Crawdads in April of 2011. I arrived on a Friday, sometime in the afternoon and had just enough time to unpack some things in my apartment and get in a catnap before coming back to work that night. I was stationed on the picnic deck and helped serve a buffet before heading to the front gates as the game came near an end.  I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and didn’t even know my coworkers yet, but I soon found myself on the top of a dugout trying hopelessly to blow bubbles.

After that ill-fated attempt I looked for another way to be helpful, which led me to the field. First day on the job and I was standing on the field after the game. Then all of a sudden, I was under attack. Tennis balls came flying at me from every which way and I had no place to hide. Did I really do that bad of a job at blowing bubbles?

Of course, it was just time for launch-a-ball. And the balls were being thrown at the targets on the field, not at me – you learn a lot on the fly in minor league baseball – so I was able to relax and soak in the fact that I was working for a minor league baseball team.

Flash forward eighteen months: a lot has changed. I went from a concessions intern to Director of Food and Beverage. I met (and liked) my coworkers. I’ve not only served, but set up and cooked for picnics. I’ll never blow a bubble again. And now I am leaving Hickory, the Crawdads, and minor league baseball.

The life of a minor league baseball employee is certainly unique. The hours can be long, your life can be hectic and you can have a lot of fun. I’ve met many fantastic people in my two seasons, including some really great friends. And I’ve had some really fun experiences that I never would have been able to have if it weren’t for minor league baseball and the Crawdads.

But besides the cool stuff, I’ve also learned a lot. Like I said, the job is unique. And until you get here you don’t really know what it’s all about. But once you’re here you have no choice but to work hard, otherwise the job will get the best of you. I guess that’s like most jobs, it just seems to be magnified in this setting. But that’s what was great about it; the lessons you learn and work ethic you develop in this industry will be with you forever.  

So while I’m moving away and changing careers, I don’t regret a second of my time here. I’ve always loved minor league baseball, and actually worked for three summers in the concession stand of a minor league team back home in Oneonta, NY. But to be a part of the Front Office and be involved with the day to day operations of a team was an opportunity I’m thankful to have had.

So to the team, the city, and the industry…farewell. Until next time, when I’m in the stands enjoying a hot dog and ice cold beer. 

Jeff is leaving the Crawads after two season to move back to Florida to pursue new opportunities.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Sports Weekend Wrap-Up

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

What a weekend it sports it was. If you missed any of the action, I’m here to highlight the biggest news and best games, and recap the football picks Andrew and I made on last Friday’s podcast. But I’ll warn you…it was ugly.

MLB Playoffs

The weekend got kicked off with an incredible night of baseball that featured not only two excellent series ending games, but one of the best and most improbable playoff comebacks ever.

The first game of the evening was a tight 3-1 New York Yankees defeat of the Baltimore Orioles to win what had been the most evenly matched series so far this post season. CC Sabathia got the win for NY, pitching a complete game and holding off the Orioles as they threatened multiple times in the late innings.

But as good as that game was, it was no match for the drama of the series deciding NLDS Game 5 match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals. Washington got off to a quick start, scoring 3 runs in the first off of Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright. They ended up chasing Wainwright in the third inning, en route to taking a 7-5 lead heading into the 9th inning. 

The Nationals, in front of their home crowd, brought in their fantastic young relief pitcher Drew Storen to finish out the game. Storen had appeared in only 37 games during the season, but pitched exceptionally well, to the tune of a 2.37 ERA. 

No one, I’m sure, was ready for what would happen next. The Cardinals, of course, came back. But not only did they tie the game, they took the lead. A two run lead. They scored 4 runs in the top of the ninth, two runs each on base hits by Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma.

The Nationals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth and, just like that, their season was over. I’m sure it will be a while before they get over the loss, but it was the end of a very special season for the Washington franchise.

The only game on Saturday was Game 1 of the ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. It was a long, 12 inning game which was ultimately won by the Tigers. But not before a little drama.

Bullpen meltdowns continued to be the theme of the weekend, as Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde gave up 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Yankees sent the game to extra innings. The final blow of the inning was a two run, game tying home run by Raul Ibanez. It was yet another clutch homer by the Yankee who also huge home runs in the ALDS against Baltimore. The Tigers were stunned, and it looked like Yankees were in business.

What ended up happening, however, was much worse than just a loss for NY. Not only did the Tigers score twice in the 12th, and ultimately win the game, but the Yankees captain and shortstop, Derek Jeter, broke his ankle and is out for the rest of the playoffs. Losses are tough, especially in extra innings, but as long as the series isn’t over there is always that next game to rebound. It’ll be hard, though, to rebound from the loss of Jeter.

Sunday featured two more close games, as the Tigers took a 2-0 series lead with a 3-0 win over the Yankees and their struggling offense. Not as much drama as in game 1, although there was bit of controversy over a blown call that went in favor of the Tigers.

The NCLS got started with the Cardinals beating the San Francisco Giants 6-4 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. The Giants then evened the series up on Monday night, beating the Cardinals 7-1.


NFL

Like most football weekends there were some good games, some great games, and some blowouts. There were also a few surprises, like the New England Patriots losing to the Seattle Seahawks or two of the top teams, the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers getting trounced at home by the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants, respectively. 

But the biggest shock, the best game and the most drama all came on Monday night. Fast forward to half time of Monday’s game when the Denver Broncos went into halftime down 24-0 to the San Diego Chargers.   Enter: Peyton Manning. The Broncos, not at all sharp in the first half, were led by in the second half by their quarterback who went 13-14 for 167 yards after halftime as Denver scored 35 unanswered points to beat the Chargers 35-24.

Manning and the offense couldn’t win the game all alone, of course, and the Denver defense helped out in a big way. The Broncos intercepted Chargers QB Philip Rivers four times, including one for a touchdown by Chris Harris. 

The two teams are now tied for first in the AFC west with 3-3 records.

PICKS

On the Weekly Crawdads Boil Podcast last Friday, Andrew Buchbinder and I made picks for three NFL games, as we will do each week for the remainder of the season. Each week we’ll keep track of how we did right here, even when the picks go as poorly as they did this week.

(Winners in bold)

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

Andrew: NYG

Jeff: SF

Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets

Andrew: IND

Jeff: IND

Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans

Andrew: HOU

Jeff: HOU

Records: 

Andrew (1-2)

Jeff (0-3)

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Should Triple Crown = MVP?

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

Baseball is great, isn’t it? And great as the final day of the 2011 season was, this year was even more improbable. Who saw the Nationals having the best record in the league? Or the Orioles and A’s in the playoffs? Not to mention the late, incredible run the A’s put on to chase down the Rangers and win the West. And, perhaps most impressive of all, what about Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown? The first one since 1967, no less. Truly a special season for the Tigers slugger.

Why, though, is it so special? Well, if you’re a fan of the history of baseball like me then you’ve probably associated the words Triple Crown and the name Carl Yastrzemski the same way you’ve done with 56 and Joe DiMaggio, or .406 and Ted Williams: as sacred, nearly untouchable feats, the likes of which we would not see matched in our lifetimes.  But Miguel Cabrera proved this to be untrue.

But what does it mean? Well, from taking a quick look at the landscapes of sports media and sports fandom it appears to mean that the Triple Crown should automatically make Cabrera the American League Most Valuable Player, no questions asked. But I do have a question to ask: why?

Baseball is a game of statistics, no doubt. But why are the three Triple Crown categories (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) seemingly the be-all end-all of hitting stats? For one thing, they are among the oldest stats in a game that sure does love its history. They were on the back of baseball cards. They were the stats shown on television when the game was first beginning to be broadcast. They resonate with fans. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they are the best stats.

I guess before going any further I should mention that I think Mike Trout, the rookie centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, should be the AL MVP this year. But I don’t want to get too much into the war of statistics between the two players, at least not yet. I’d just like to explain why what Trout has done this year should not be immediately dismissed, despite Cabrera’s supremacy in the Triple Crown categories.

My first problem with these stats is the use of them. By taking stock in leading the lead in any category one must also take in context the rest of the league. My point: with his 2012 AL league leading batting average of .330, Cabrera would have been second in the National League. And last year, when Cabrera led the AL with a .344 average, .330 would have been good for only fourth. Now, a .330 average is nothing to scoff at, but in most seasons it won’t win a batting title. This year that particular category was a bit of an anomaly, and I don’t think an anomaly should play a part in determining the MVP.

The biggest problem that I see is not with average, though; it’s with RBI. By consistently being at or near the top of the league in batting average, Cabrera has shown an uncanny ability to hit for contact as much as power. It really is incredible. But his league leading 139 RBI says as much, if not more, about the lineup around him then what he was actually responsible for.

If the Tigers lead-off hitter, Austin Jackson, didn’t have a 60 point increase in on-base percentage, maybe Josh Hamilton edges out Cabrera for the RBI crown. And what if Hamilton, who missed 15 games, played in 5 or so more and hit another two home runs? Then we aren’t even having this discussion. Yes, there are always a lot of what if scenarios that ultimately don’t matter. And yes, Cabrera should get some credit for playing in 161 games. But this all is just to illustrate my point that leading the league in these categories only means so much when you realize how many people play a role in the statistic leaderboards.

What should be done, then, when determining an MVP, is taking the best candidates side by side and examining their seasons. This will go beyond HR, AVG and RBI. We need to look also at on-base and slugging percentages, and thus OPS (on-base plus slugging). Let’s not discount base running and defense. And sure, to some extent we can take a peek at where the teams play a role in this, but we have to remember that baseball very much and individually played game and one player can only have so much impact on the standings. And even if you want to give Cabrera credit for the Tigers making the playoffs, just remember that the Angels actually finished with a better record than the Tigers while playing in a tougher division.

There are many other new stats that support Trout, things such as RE24 and WAR, but in an attempt to keep this relatively simple I’ll look to more common stats to argue for him. Trout led the lead in steals and runs which, if you are going to give credit for home runs and RBI, you certainly can’t discount. There is also one stat that Cabrera led the league in that helps out Trout here: his 28 double plays grounded into (GIDP). If Cabrera should be lauded for his ability to hit with runners on base (RBI) then he should also be penalized for his failure in those situations (GIDP).

I could go on and on. And on. But if I don’t stop now, I might go on forever. I’ll end by saying that Cabrera will almost certainly with the award, and that’s ok. I get it. But this is just another battle between the old guard and the new guard of baseball fans and writers. The new guard has won a few of these battles (Felix Hernandez and Zach Greinke Cy Young awards) and will win many more. I understand the lore of the Triple Crown is too much for even those writers who are starting to accept some of these new metrics.  But it should be noted that not all Triple Crown winners have won the MVP, so even in the days before WAR and OPS and the like it wasn’t a guarantee for the award. So why should it be now?

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

‘Dads Playoff Predictions

With the 2012 playoffs right around the corner it’s time for the Crawdad’s staff’s post season predictions.  The Crawdads want to know how you think the playoffs will unfold!

 

Jared “Walk off” Weymier:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

Texas over New York

ALCS – Oakland over Texas

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

Washington over Oakland

Andrew Buchbinder:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

New York over Texas

ALCS – New York over Detroit

NL:

Wild Card – St. Louis over Atlanta

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over St. Louis

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

New York over Washington

 

Matt Moes:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

New York over Texas

ALCS – Oakland over New York

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over Cincinnati

World Series:

Oakland over Washington

 

Megan Meade

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

Texas over New York

ALCS – Texas over Detroit

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Cincinnati over Washington

World Series:

Cincinnati over Texas

 

Douglas Locascio:

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Oakland over Detroit

Texas over New York

ALCS – Texas over Oakland

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – San Francisco over Cincinnati

Washington over Atlanta

NLCS – Washington over San Francisco

World Series:

Texas over Washington

 

Jeff Dickson

AL:

Wild Card – Texas over Baltimore

Division – Detroit over Oakland

New York over Texas

ALCS – Detroit over New York

NL:

Wild Card – Atlanta over St. Louis

Division – Cincinnati over San Francisco

Atlanta over Washington

NLCS – Cincinnati over Atlanta

World Series:

Cincinnati over Detroit

Playoff Fever

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

The Texas Rangers, major league affiliate of the Hickory Crawdads and back to back American League Champions, will be making another appearance in the MLB postseason. After a loss last night to go along with an Oakland Athletics win, the two teams are tied for first in the American League West but both are guaranteed at least one of the two wild card spots. They would each surely like to win the division, as that would place them directly in the divisional round of the playoffs rather than in the wild card match up, a one game playoff between the two wild card teams with the winner moving on.

That addition of the second wild card spot in each league has added some intrigue, if not the drama to match the end of the 2011 regular season. As it currently stands, in the American League the Baltimore Orioles would face either the Rangers or A’s in a one game playoff of the two wild card teams, with the winner to face the top seeded division winner. As of today that would be the New York Yankees, who currently hold the best record in the league.  

The other American League spot has been secured by the Detroit Tigers, who have won the Central Division and will be the third seed. They are in line to play whoever wins the West.

In the National League the division races are all wrapped up. The Washington Nationals have won East, the Cincinnati Reds the Central and the San Francisco Giants the West. The wild card winners are the Atlanta Braves and the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

This new change to the playoff system had two main goals: to add drama to the end of the regular season, and to better reward teams for winning their divisions. Has it worked? Well, first of all, there was no way this season could match the end of the 2011 regular season which concluded with one of the most exciting and dramatic days of regular season baseball history. That being said, this new format hasn’t yielded enough drama to warrant an additional playoff spot.

 Yes, the National League playoff spots would have been secured days ago had it not been for the second Wild Card, but save for a little hope for a few extra teams there really hasn’t been what I would consider any drama. The two closest and most dramatic playoff races are actually in the chase for division titles in the AL East and West. If anything the extra Wild Card may be taking some drama away in these cases, as both second place teams are in the playoffs even if they do not win the division, albeit for only one game for one of those teams.

All of that aside, there are some very interesting storylines heading into the postseason. Not only have the Washington Nationals unseated the Philadelphia Phillies from their perch atop the NL East, but they are tied with Cincinnati for the best record in the majors. If winning the division after years at the bottom of the league wasn’t enough of a story, they will be heading into the playoffs with perhaps their best and most important player, all-star pitching Stephen Strasburg. The righty went 15-6 with a 3.16 era on the year but was shut down by the team for reaching their self imposed innings limit, in place to keep Strasburg, who missed almost all of the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, from reinjuring his throwing arm. If the Nationals don’t win the World Series you can bet that there will be loads and loads of stories that bring this back to attention. Actually, it will probably be a story all the way through until they either win it all or get knocked out.

And just down the road, in Baltimore, the Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. And you want drama? The O’s have done this with by far the lowest run differential of all the teams in or near the playoffs, thanks in large part to an incredible 16-2 record in extra innings.

Then look out west. The A’s came out of nowhere to claim a spot in the postseason (and sport an 11-5 extra innings record) when most people thought they would be near the bottom of the division along with the Mariners.

Oh, and back the Reds. While they came into the year with higher expectations than these other surprise teams, I doubt there were many who thought they would have the best record in the sport this late in the year. Especially with star first baseman Joey Votto having played in only 110 games.

And the superstars. Even with a handful of surprises, there will still be plenty of names you’ll know and players to follow. Atlanta Braves and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is back in the playoffs in his final season. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain will try to lead the Giants to another title. Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder will carry the Tigers into the postseason. You may have heard of a few guys on that Yankees team. And of course, back to the parent squad of the Crawdads, the Rangers are led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre. 

The Orioles and A’s are bit younger and may not have the big names, but that makes their stories even more compelling.  Then there are the Cardinals, the one team that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest. No more Pujols. No more LaRussa. Not full of rookies, but not led by a bunch of superstars, they slip into the playoffs a little under the radar. Actually, quite a bit under the radar considering that they are the defending champions. But I’d imagine that is just how they’d like it.

Jeff is entering his third season with the ‘Dads and second as the Director of Food & Beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

Not a Single One

By: Ben Bauer, Stadium Operations Assistant

In my 20 years of existence, I have been to countless baseball games ranging from Single A Minor League up through the Major Leagues. Whether it is my glove or a hat, I am always standing at the ready to catch a foul ball. I chase after them, diving under seats or sprinting through crowds, just to grab that shiny, white ball that a Professional hit. In all these games, in all these years, I have still yet to nab a foul ball. Not a Single One.

Let’s begin when I was young, maybe seven or eight years old. My entire family was vacationing in Denver, N.C. and decided to go to a baseball game. We headed out to the only team home at the time, the Charlotte Knights.  I had my hat on, my shoes tight, and most importantly my glove snug in my hand. I had a good feeling that night may be my chance. After about six innings or so of nothing, my dad and I decided to grab a quick refreshment from the concession stand. On our way back we stopped to watch a single swing from behind home plate, since we were out past first base. The pitcher pitched, and the batter popped it up. It went soaring, and then I realized where it was heading: right to the seats of my family, more specifically MY seat. I rushed back, but by the time I got there, my Uncle had already claimed the ball as his own. I had the right seat chosen, just missed it by a hotdog (and not even a Jumbo Dog like at LP Frans).

Fast-forward two years to another family vacation down on Lake Norman. The weather was beautiful, so what better way to spend the night than at a Hickory Crawdads baseball game. This time we went to the third base side, since that was where the home team dugout lied. I had my seat picked and my glove was ready to be put into use. After another six innings, we had some relatively close balls, but no legitimate opportunities. My dad asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat, but I wasn’t falling for that again, so I waited till the seventh inning stretch to go up. I figured I could get up and back without missing more than a batter or two and I was right. I missed only one batter. I was happy walking back knowing I didn’t miss anything, at least so I thought. To my surprise, I came back and saw my cousin’s pants soaked  from her drink and a ball in her hand. It couldn’t be. Not again! The ball had bounced in my exact seat before hitting my cousin’s drink and finding its way into her hands. I had missed my chance AGAIN!

Add in a couple Reds and Indians games to the loser list for foul balls and move ahead to my current position: Stadium Operations Intern with the Hickory Crawdads a.k.a. Lead Burger Wrapper. I was so excited to begin working for an actual Professional Baseball team, and then I realized I would be in foul ball heaven. There would be balls bouncing all around, so surely I could snag one. Unfortunately I soon came to realize while reading the intern handbook, and I quote, “Employees may never chase or pick up baseballs”. Well so much for that idea. Not that I would steal a ball from a fan, but if it happened to land in my hand and I happened to hide it quickly, what’s the harm?

As I was enjoying my time working for the Crawdads, despite an unfortunate policy, I noticed a sheet with my name under Batting Practice duties. I thought to myself: this could be it. Even though it’s not a foul ball, a home run ball would be way better. So that day I sat on the warning track watching the balls soar over the fence. I waited for a few and then rounded them up. JACKPOT! Only I soon realized that these balls were not all shiny and clearly used multiple times. Then I looked up and saw a player staring at me, clearly waiting for me to throw the balls back in. Another chance missed and another opportunity squandered.

So here I sit looking at a pair of Columbus Clippers tickets marked Row 1 down the first base line dated late August. I figure if I can’t catch one, maybe one will roll up to me in my inaugural first row appearance at a sports game. I will surely bring my glove and will be patiently waiting every swing of the bat for that first foul ball because as of now I have yet to catch one. Not a Single One.

Woe is CLE

I understand why some people aren’t interested in sports.  You already have to deal with the highs and lows that real life brings, why compound that with the trials and tribulations of a sports life as well? So many years of my life have been chipped away by the eternal hope and heart-crippling agony that following my teams has brought me.  Who knows, maybe I could have been a doctor or something if I’d have used all my sports brain cells on something else.  I’m not sure how knowing that Mo Vaughn was the 1995 AL MVP is ever going to help me out in life, but it’s up there anyway. (Albert Belle was flat-out robbed.  Also, I was 7.)

Originally, this was going to be a happy post.  My favorite team of all favorite teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers, held 4 of the first 34 picks in the NBA draft.  With Rookie of the Year (and commercial funny man) Kyrie Irving already in place as the cornerstone of the franchise, this was our chance to set us up for a decade of winning and May basketball at the Gund.  (As with Jacobs Field, it will always be Gund Arena to me.)  Instead, Cleveland did what Cleveland teams do.  First, they spent the #4 pick on a 6’4″ shooting guard who rode the pine for 40% of his team’s games in Dion Waiters.  Then, to make matters worse, the Cavs traded all 3 of their other picks for the 17th pick to draft a player whom espn.com compared to Jamaal Magloire (!?!?!) in Tyler Zeller.  I’m sure you can already tell I was less than pleased.  Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.  After all, there is a reason why I’m wrapping hot dogs and not running an NBA franchise right now.  Maybe Waiters is the next Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook who becomes the ultimate second banana, a scoring machine who forms the best backcourt in the league.  Maybe Zeller isn’t some backup center stiff and scores at will on the low block as he did at UNC.  Maybe one day I will get to stand on E. 9th and cheer on my heroes who finally brought a championship to Cleveland.  Maybe.

I am turning a quarter of a century old in December, and I have yet to see a winner in Cleveland.  This story has been told many times by far better scribes than I, but I’ll try my best to educate you.  The city of Cleveland has not been home to a champion since the Browns brought home the hardware in 1964.  That’s a long time ago.  As if that’s not cruel enough, every time we get close the sports gods find a creative new way to torture Cleveland fans.  You already know these lowlights because ABC/ESPN always shows them whenever there is a nationally televised Cleveland game, but we’ll run through them anyway just for old times’ sake. 

Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, The Blown Save, The Decision.

So depressing. The last two were the ones that hurt me most, if only because they were the two that I was old enough to care about.  I don’t think Cleveland will ever see teams as good as those Indians teams of the mid to late 90’s.  A classic “things were so much better back in my day” pronouncement, but those lineups were quite a sight to behold.  There simply were no breathers for pitchers.  Kenny Lofton.  Albert Belle.  Manny Ramirez.  Jim Thome.  Matt Williams.  David Justice.   Just masher after masher.  The ’97 lineup was so loaded that All-Star game MVP Sandy Alomar Jr. hit 7th and should-be future hall of famer Omar Vizquel hit 9th!  Unfortunately, the pitching could never quite measure up and so we were always left standing at the altar.

Then there is LeBron.  Oh, LeBron.  I could write a whole blog on LeBron.  (Maybe I will).  I will always remember watching the 2004 draft lottery, jumping and fist-pumping with my brother, knowing that we were getting the “Chosen One.”  Watching one of the best basketball players of all-time on a nightly basis was a pure bliss.  LeBron ripping apart Detroit in crunch time of game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals is the greatest moment I have had as a sports fan.  His duel the next year with Paul Pierce in game 7 of the conference finals was just as legendary.  I understand that sports is a business and they don’t care about teams the way we do, and that we would change our jobs too if we were presented a better opportunity for success.  (Except for me.  Yay Crawdads!  Wooo!)  But to go on TV and make an hour long spectacle and embarrass the city that adored him while leaving the team no time to sign any free agents is unforgivable.  He was loved so much that we were ready to build statues and rename the city LeBronland if he came through.  Some people seem to think LeBron will someday come back to the Cavs.  I pray that never happens.  I would rather hate him for eternity.  (What if your significant other made an hour long announcement at the neighborhood cookout that they were leaving you for someone else? Would you want them back in a few years?  I know I wouldn’t.  I’d rather heckle them as they worked on their garden or something.)

Being a sports fan is tough.  There is only one winner and 29 or so losers every year.  Luckily, the years don’t stop coming.  It only takes one where the big time player wants to spend his season on Lake Erie, where the breaks go our way, and the sports gods finally smile upon Cleveland, Ohio.  As I write this, the Tribe sits 1 game out of a playoff spot.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be dancing in confetti come November.

Luke is beginning his first year with the Hickory Crawdads as a concessions assistant.  Previously, Luke has worked in baseball with the Akron Aeros, the Cleveland Indians Double A – Affiliate.  He was born and raised in Uhrichsville, OH and attended Kent State University where he earned a degree in Sports Administration and a minor in Business.  Luke has simple tastes, enjoying warm weather, funny jokes, and dancing

Road Trips

By: Jeff Dunlap, Media Relations Assistant

I have been thinking about it, and Road Trips are like an art form.  They need vision, hard work, and a little bit of luck.  It’s like Nolan Ryan throwing a no-no or maybe Van Gogh painting one of his famous pieces of work like “Café Terrace at Night” (my personal favorite).  You may think I’m being a little ridiculous when I compare a road trip to these things or even a no-hitter to a famous painting, but the truth of it is, anything that is done above and beyond the expected or standard should be considered an art form.  Hitting a perfect drive down the center of the fairway… art.  Filling out tax forms to make sure you get that perfect, giant return… art.  Writing a children’s book that the old or young alike can enjoy… art.  Or I suppose I can use a better known phrase to describe it; art is in the eye of the beholder.

I recently took such a trip when I drove from Hickory, NC to Waukesha, WI and then back, all in four and a half days.  That is roughly 1,656 miles.  This particular road trip I took had a little bit of what I’m talking about.  First, I planned.  I knew I only had four days to enjoy before I had to be back before work, so I mapped out how I would get from point A to point B and back.  Pretty basic stuff since these days all you need to do is throw it into a GPS, but nonetheless I did that and decided if I wanted to use any highways to go along with the freeways I would be taking.  Another important thing to plan is food.  And I’m not talking about stopping at a fast food place for a bite to eat.  I’m talking snacks for the ride.  You need three types of snacks for a long road trip. 

Snack 1: Hearty or meaty snacks that can sometimes substitute for meals.  These are things like beef jerky, cheese sticks, or maybe something like a lunchable.  The importance of having these snacks is simple, sometimes the decision needs to be made to “power through” and stopping is just not in the cards.  Thank you for staying open 24/7 McDonald’s, but I’ve got half a tank, some beef sticks, and only 2 more hours to go.

Snack 2: These are your drinks.  Drinks can serve two main purposes of road trips.  The first is simple; drinks are delicious and can keep you hydrated.  The second purpose is to keep you awake.  These are your coffees and energy drinks.  Drinks are dangerous as well though.  Drinking too much can make for unwanted pit stops to the john so you need to plan around that.

Snack 3:  Nuts and anything crunchy.  Crunchy snacks don’t necessarily stop your hunger, but they keep you busy and help pass the time.  It’s the action of going back into the bag again and again that keeps you as active as you can be within the limits of your car.  My personal favorite of these types of snacks… pistachios.  Not only are they delicious, but they make you work for it.  You have to take it out of the container, crack the shell, eat the nut, and then get rid of the shell.  It’s a whole process.

The next step is putting in the work.  You’ve got to rack up the miles to make the most of the time you have.  Whether you’re going the speed limit or 10 over, it doesn’t really matter.  You just have to put some distance between your starting point and your finish line.  The other aspect of putting in the work involves what you do when you get to where you’re going.  It’s a waste of a road trip if you finally get to your destination and waste time in your hotel room or watch TV the whole time.  If you are going to take the time to get there, make it worth it.  Being tired from the road is not an excuse.  Go out on the town, grill out, see the sights, do something.  It’s all one big trip so if you don’t make the most of the time you have at your destination it’s a failed trip.

The last thing, and maybe most important part of the trip, is leaving some room for spontaneous decisions.  Everyone has seen the movies; if everything goes to plan you didn’t make the most of your trip.  Now, this aspect of the trip is different for everybody on every road trip.  These are things like stopping to see the largest ball of yarn in the U.S., sleeping at a rest stop because you can’t afford a hotel room, or maybe your car breaks down in rural Indiana and you’re stranded for a while.  These are only examples of the things that you don’t plan that make a road trip complete.  It is important to embrace them and make the most of the situation.  Staying positive and creating an adventure is much better than sitting on the side of the road feeling sorry for yourself. 

Quick example of this from my recent trip was a little game I played with my roommate called, “how many Red Bulls does it take to make it from Indianapolis to Waukesha on virtually no sleep?”  The answer, we found out, was four.  But it didn’t stop there.  We had the chance to hang out for another night in my hometown and probably take it easy.  What did we do instead?  Found out we had a buddy who could make it up for a Cubs game in Chicago, so we bought tickets and met him in Wrigleyville for the game and a night in the big city.  The last mini adventure we experienced during this road trip was the last 100 miles home.  I am not exaggerating when I say that for 100 miles I drove through monsoon rains at 2 a.m. in the morning going 20mph on a 70mph road to get home.  It was both miserable and impressive.

Now, I’m not saying that I took the best road trip of all time or that I’m the Nolan Ryan or Van Gogh of road trips.  What I am saying is that there is a way to do it and a way not to do it.  I may not be Nolan Ryan or Van Gogh, but feel free to compare me to Zach Greinke or Grant Wood. 

Jeff enters his first season as media relations assistant with the Crawdads.  Born and raised in Waukesha, WI, Jeff graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Communications while also playing baseball for the Huskies during his time there.  He has previously worked with 1250 Sports Radio in Milwaukee, WI as well as Comcast Cable at their Cambridge studio.  He is an avid Wisconsin sports fan who stays busy playing sports, watching movies, and enjoying various outdoor activities. 

The Glory of Clean Clothes

By Andrew Buchbinder, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations

Greetings from lovely Salisbury, MD!  The ‘Dads are here on the Eastern Shore getting set to wrap up the road trip in Delmarva tonight, which is good news because I am down to my carefully-calculated final pair of clean socks.  I’m convinced that packing is a science, and depending on the day, I’m not very good at it.

Actually, I typically overpack.  Through six years of packing for road trips, you would think I’d be better at doing this, but, alas, I am not.  I think the problem lies in the possibility that I think too much. Ok, the probability that I think too much. 

I think, “what if I go for a run and use two pairs in one day?” (a rare occurence); “what if I leave a pair in hotel #1 and don’t have enough for the back end of the trip”; “what if…” well, those are really the only two scenarios of atypical sock depletion, but you get my point.

Don’t even get me started on shirts and shorts.  You need t-shirts, polo shirts and shorts.  And you need extras.  The first time you don’t pack extra shirts and shorts will be the last time, because you are just about guaranteed, with universal laws being as twisted as they are, to have some sort of food or beverage take out a garment. 

I like to think of myself as a borderline obsessively neat eater, but you have to take into account your surroundings and, most importantly, the surrounding eaters.  More often than a rational human being might think, collateral damage occurs when food consumption is involved.  Don’t believe me?  Just you wait.  Just you wait for some lemon juice to come spritzing your way on to your previously spotless white Crawdads polo, just you wait for a Pepsi to be spilled on your khaki shorts, just you wait for a member of the waitstaff to drop a thing of ranch on any color shirt, just you wait…

Not only will spills happen, but they always happen on day one or two of the trip, so you are forced to wear spotted articles for the rest of the week.  Which brings us back to packing spare pairs, and the essential nature of this.  Well, the typically essential nature of this, which is the thought process that usually leads me to overpacking.  Not this trip, though.  I threw caution to the wind.  I packed only the bare minimum of what I needed, down to the day.  And now I need to come home… and do laundry.