Sunday, May 3, 2009

I'll be coming to your city.....

R= Runner
B= Batter
F= Fielder

Question #1:  R1 on first, less than two outs, B2 hits a line drive to F6 who allows the ball to strike his glove and then intentionally drops it so as to be able to double up the runners.  Is this a legal play?  What call should the umpire make, if any?

Had I been asked this question a couple of months ago I wouldn't have known the answer.  After having read the rule book though nearly a half dozen times, studied the case book inside and out, read through the umpire's manual at nauseam, given this situation in a ball game I am confident that I could apply the correct rule and make the right call.

For the last few years I have had the itch to try my hand in high school umpiring.  A real good friend of mine has been doing it for quite sometime, and with his consistent prodding I finally relented and this year decided to do it.

Most people have had a hard time understanding why I would want to do it.  It's a thankless job.  An umpire is constantly under the microscope and is open to criticism from the coaches, players and fans.  I have a say in what the coaches and players can get away with but no control over the fans, and sometimes they can be ruthless.  I've had to develop a thick skin.

So why do I do it?  I love baseball.  I love being around the game.  I saw it as an opportunity to better learn the sport.  I enjoy being in the middle of the game even if it is from an officiating position.  So far it has been an enjoyable experience.  

I enjoy the challenge of learning something new.  There is a lot that goes into being a good umpire, from knowing the rules to knowing the mechanics that put you in the right place to make a call.  When I watch baseball on tv, I find myself watching the umpires as much as I do the players.  I keep track of how the umpire calls a watched strike compared to a swinging strike, how they punch someone out on a backwards K, or how the base ump sells his call on a close play.  Just being an umpire for me is not enough, I want to be good at it as well.  That's what I am working towards.

Question #2: With a fielder in a position to make a play, R2 is on first and R1 is touching second.  R1 is hit by a batted ball by B3 while touching second.  What is the call in this situation?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Evolution of a Hitter!

If any of you have spent time around my 3 year old boy, Kade, then you already know how much he loves to hit a baseball.  It's been that way since about the time he was 18 months old.  The baseball bat never seemed foreign to him.  From the first time he picked it up it was as if he already knew what to do with it.  

There was talk of Kade becoming a hitter long before he was even born.  At that time though, we were just hoping that the Kademan would make it to this world to even have that chance.

Kade is our miracle baby.  For two weeks in May-June of 05, we weren't sure if Amanda and Kade were going to make it.  Amanda, while 27 weeks pregnant with Kade, came down with a very serious case of pneumonia.  As they put the tube down her throat so that the ventilator could breath for her, the doctor told me that she might not make it through all that was ahead of her.  "You're wife might die."  Those were words I most definitely was not prepared to hear.

Shortly thereafter the realization hit that not only could I lose my wife but also my unborn son.  Everything dear to me was about to be taken away.

Not only was her health a concern, but that of Kade's as well.  He wasn't quite far enough along that they felt comfortable taking him unless they absolutely had to.  The worry was that his lungs were not quite ready.  Out of precaution, just in case things turned for the worse, they pumped him full of a steroid to help his lungs develop.

My boy was now juiced.

From that came the talk of him being a power hitter, this while he was still in the womb.  We made jokes of Payson City having to run drug screenings before they would allow him to play T-ball, or having to put an * next to his name when he gets to high school, etc.  

We really didn't know at the time how appropriate it was to talk of Kade and hitting a baseball.  It didn't take long for us to find out though.

Thankfully everything went well with Amanda.  She recovered, went full term, and delivered a healthy little boy.  We were so grateful to finally have him with us.

You can imagine how happy I was when it became apparent, when he was just over a year old, that Kade liked sports.  He would sit down with me and watch whatever I was watching.  When Memo would knock down the money shot and I would cheer, he would cheer also.  We watched BYU football, Utah Jazz basketball, Sportscenter, etc.  The one thing that caught his attention more than anything though was baseball.  He was mesmerized by it.  

It wasn't until the following spring that we finally bought him a bat.  We got him one of those big red "Captain Cave Man" bats.  He could barely hold the thing up.  As big as it was though he knew exactly what to do with it without any coaching from me.  

With time the bat and balls got smaller, and we graduated from the tee to under hand pitch and then on to overhand pitch. 

He was hooked.  

He is a shy kid.  When someone new would come to the house, he wouldn't talk to them but eventually he would end up by their side with his little indoor bat and a ball.  That's how he would break the ice.  He would have them pitch to him.

We would watch him play make-believe and laugh because the majority of the time he was acting like he was swinging a bat or shooting a basket.  Sports were always on his mind, especially baseball.

As he has gotten older though he isn't nearly as obsessed with hitting.  He has other hobbies and interests, but baseball is still towards the top of the list.  

I took him to get a hair cut a couple of weeks ago and when the gal asked him what he was going to do for fun that day he said, "go home and play baseball with my Dad."  I love it.

Every mother crow thinks that her baby is the blackest, well, I think Kade is a pretty good little hitter.  He's got coordination that I never had, but he also shares my love of the game.  What Dad wouldn't be happy with that?

To be honest though, that's only a small part of it.  I love it when he asks me to play baseball, I love the time that I get to spend with him throwing, I love that we have this special bond between us, a passion that brings us together.  I love it not only because it's baseball and he's actually pretty good at it, but because every time I play baseball with my boy it reminds me of those long tear filled days when I pled with my Heavenly Father just for an opportunity to know my son.   

We talked of baseball in the hospital, but at that time we didn't even know if he was going to live.

I love watching him hit a baseball because I can!  It's an opportunity that I have been given, one that I am very grateful to have and one that I'll never take for granted.

I love being a Dad!

In the videos he is 18 months, 22 months, 2 years old and then lastly 3 years old.  The last video you'll have to turn your head to the side to see.  Sorry. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A great night of Basketball!

If you are a basketball fan and you live in the state of Utah, chances are last night you had something to be happy about.  The Jazz, Cougars and Utes all played and all three teams came away with wins.

On the College level, the MWC is shaping up to be a close contested battle by a number of teams vying for that #1 position.  As of now the Utes sit alone atop the conference standings after pulling off a very important win over Aztec team that going into the game shared the top spot.  BYU as of late has been playing some good basketball and still has a chance at the conference title with the majority of their remaining games at home, including a match up against the Utes at the Marriot Center.  The problem for the Cougs however is that they have to travel to Las Vegas as well as San Diego, places that Dave Rose has yet to coach his team to victories. 

You can feel the excitement for March madness build as we get closer and closer to the end of the season.  The talk is that the state of Utah could possibly, once again, produce four teams that make their way into the dance.  The Utes and Aggies are well on their way, the Cougs need to finish strong and the Wildcats need to win their conference tournament.  It would be cool if all 4 could pull it off.

As the college teams look ahead to March, the Jazz are heading into the All-Star break looking forward to getting some key players back in the line-up.  The Jazz have been hit hard by the injury bug but still find themselves in the play-off hunt.  With the return of Boozer and AK the Jazz should be able to make a run and improve their spot in the West.  As of now they sit at number 8.

I have at times been critical of Booz, I don't necessarily care much for the guy, but his return will give this team a big boost that they definitely could use.  As much as I like Paul and as well as he has played in Boozers absence, I still think Boozer gives this team a better chance of winning with him in the starting line-up.  Combine Carlos's double-doubles with an experienced Milsap going against the opposing bench and I think that sets the Jazz up to have quite a bit of success.  These last 30 games should be pretty exciting.  I love this time of year.

Last nights game felt like it had a post season atmosphere.  I spent most of the time on my feet cheering and yelling.  It was exciting basketball, a close game with back and forth lead changes.  Big shots were made by both teams and because of that it made it even that much sweeter that the Jazz pulled it out in the end.

The two best plays of the night were D-wills crossover that about put Kobe on his butt and then Memo mocking Kobe after the big Turk knocked down a 3 to put the Jazz up for good.

Great game and a great win. 


Friday, January 9, 2009

Collie to the NFL!

Can't say I blame him.

If I were in his shoes I would do the same thing.  He has nothing to gain by staying another year.  He wouldn't come out of next season any more attractive to the NFL than he already is now.  He would be risking injury by staying at the Y, and even as good as he is in college, an injury could take him out of consideration for the Pros much in the same way it did Luke Staley.  Playing in the NFL has always been his goal, so I say go chase your dreams while you are healthy and able to do so.

He will be impossible to replace.  In the history of BYU, even with a long list of good receivers to come through the program, they have never quite had one quite as dynamical as Austin.  Not only will his play be missed on the field but his leadership as well.  He was the one who emerged as the team leader during a season when this team sorely needed one.  

Will the Y move on and survive without him?  Sure.  It won't be easy, but the Cougs will have a cast of receivers, including the returning McKay Jacobsen, who will try to fill the void as a collective group. 

Looking at it with a "glass half full" approach, hopefully this will force Max to look the whole field and spread out his passes rather than keying in on only one receiver.  

Good luck Austin!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The best Ute team ever?

This will be the first and last time that I actually dedicate a post to the Ute football team in order to give them credit for being a great team.  

Before the season started I went on record saying that I felt they would be a good team, but thought in regular Ute fashion they would squander a game away somewhere in the season as a result of their own undoing.  At times they came close to proving me right but in the end were able to hold to their perfect record and put a exclamation point in dominating fashion onto a outstanding season.  To go undefeated is no easy feat, especially when you have to finish it off by beating one of the best teams in the SEC to do it.  

As I watched the game it brought to mind a couple of different questions about this team, questions that are still being thrown around the radio today.  Is this team better than the 04 team, and are they really deserving of being voted #1 in the polls?  Interestingly enough, my answer for both questions is the same for the same reason. 


As great as this team is, and they truly are great, they struggled at times during the regular season to barely hold on to victory.  A two point win over a 3-9 Michigan team, an end of the game touchdown to beat out Air Force and a 3 point win over New Mexico are examples of games when this team struggled against average or less than average opponents.  Not to mention the TCU game where the Utes were fortunate/lucky to come away with the win. 

My point is, the 04 team rolled through their schedule.  They dominated opponents game in and game out, leaving no room for criticism.  They hit the ground running from the very beginning of the season and never slowed down.  Unfortunately for them, they were never given the chance to prove how good they really were on the nations biggest stage.  

The 08 team on the other hand was slower in progressing.  They've peaked at the right time, and are playing as good of football as anyone now, but it wasn't sustained throughout the entire season.  At times they looked less than stellar.

Listen, the truth of the matter is though that they really are an amazing team worthy of a top five finish.  Should Ute Nation be clamoring for a #1 ranking?  You bet.  I don't think they are the best team though, but don't blame K-Whit and the fans for arguing the point.  I would be doing the same if it were the Cougars.  

I still wouldn't put them as the best Ute team of all time, and if I had a vote for this years champion they wouldn't get mine over OU, Texas, USC or even Florida.  I think they could hang with them and on a given Saturday possibly pull off a win, but they weren't consistent enough for me over the whole season to count them as college football's best.  One of the best, yes.  But not the best.

In any regard, it was an amazing season that has all Cougar fans red with envy.  The last time BYU had a season that is even close in comparison was back in 96 after knocking of K State in the Cotton Bowl.  They finished with one loss and #5 in the final polls.  The Utes have more than matched that twice in the last 5 seasons.  

Utah isn't just a basketball school anymore.  Who's the big brother now?  

Reality Bites!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coaching Changes...

Though I bleed Cougar blue, as an Aggie alum I still like to keep up to date with the programs up at USU.  It has been announced that Utah Defensive Coordinator Gary Anderson will take over the football head  coaching position.    

I'm excited to see what Coach Anderson can do with what appears to be a hopeless program.  He has agreed to take over a team that for as long as I can remember has made a habit of losing.  As impossible as a task that it may seem, it appears that the athletic program has finally decided to put some money into football.  With Anderson's ability to recruit and a knowledge for coaching, maybe he is the guy to get that thing headed in the right direction.  We'll know in a few years when he either gets fired or moves onto bigger and better things.

It sounds like he will be taking some other Coaches with him from the Utes staff as well. 

I was also happy to see former BYU QB and current USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian land the job in Seattle.  Much like Anderson, he has inherited a UW program that is hurting in a very bad way.  

The odds are stacked against these guys but hopefully they can find a way to succeed.     

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How come 10-2 feels so bad?

Going into this game I knew that BYU was going to have their hands full. I never denyed who the better team was, that being the Utes, but I had thought the disparity between the two teams was closer than what was shown last night on the field. I thought that the Cougars could hang with the Utes and if things bounced right for them they could be in a position to take this game in the fourth quarter.

Half way through the third quarter, when the score was 27-24, I was feeling pretty good about our chances to pull off the upset. Then the wheels came off.

My biggest concern going into the game was whether or not the Defense was going to get enough, if any stops to keep the Cougars in the game. The Utes offense moved the ball very effectively on the Y's D, but aside from the first quarter I thought the defense stepped up their level of play, and played well enough that the Offense had a chance to win this game. I wasn't expecting a lot from the defense, but they exceeded my expectations.

Overall, with the exception of #15, I thought the offense played a pretty good game. Austin Collie proved once again that he is a man playing amongst boys with another 100+ output by the junior receiver. As I watched him play I realized that our days of watching him wear Cougar Blue very well could be coming to an end. I really wouldn't be surprised to see him take his game to the next level in the upcoming draft.

I thought the running game was effective. Both backs ran hard, and for the most part were able to take the intial hit and still drive for a few extra yards. The offensive line I thought had a good game opening up holes to run through as well as giving protection to the quarterback.

Pitta was definitely missed. He was able to get in on a few plays, but he wasn't able to contribute like he normally would. It was nice to see Reed get a few touches, and to be honest, he should have be thrown to more.

Max Hall had what was probably the worst game of his life. To be honest, I actually feel kind of sorry for the guy. I screwed up a co-ed softball game this year and had a hard time letting it go. I can only imagine the let down that he is feeling right about now. To lose on that stage in the way that he did has to be pretty gut wrenching.

Who else can you blame though? He was personally responsible for 5 out of the 6 turnovers, with the sixth one coming on a bad pass that was tipped up in the air. The last one wasn't all his fault, but he still had a hand in it.

The timing of the turnovers couldn't have come at a worse moment either. Just before the half during the Cougars last drive, they had the momentum and were in a position to take the lead before going into the locker room. The Utes would then have to kick to them to start the second half. Hall throws a pick that still after watching the replay I am not sure who it was for. As bad as the pick was, he then followed it up with a personal foul that put the Utes in scoring positon. Not the kind of play you want to see from a team captain.

Fortuately, in the third quarter they were able to overcome it and work themselves back to a 3 point defecit. Again, with the ball and the momentum, Max turned the ball over killing the drive.

The Utes were able to score 28 points off of turnovers. It's hard for any defense to stop a team when they start with a 31 yard field, much less a 4 yard field. Every single possesion that BYU had in the fourth quarter ended in a turnover.

I won't take anything away from the Utes D. They definitely are a good squad. I hate it when people don't give a defense credit for creating the turnover, but I will say that Max made their jobs real easy at times. I could have sworn some of those balls had Christmas bows on them. They were in the right position though and made the play. In fact, Hall was lucky he was only picked 5 times.

It was an Ugly game. I hate seeing the Cougs lose, even more so when it is against that damn team in red. Congrats to the Utes though for doing something that the Y couldn't. They stayed focussed, grounded, took it one game at a time, won 12 straight and now will be the first non-bcs team to play for the second time in a BCS bowl. That blows. Jealousy is a hard pill to swallow.

I'm not ready to give up on Max. I still think he is a great qb, just had a bad night. He has some bad habits that he needs to address, but will have a very long offseason to think about them and hopefully work them out.

Bring on the bowl game. Nothing heals a wound faster than getting back on the field. If the Y ends up in Vegas, which all sources suspect they will, we'll be there with our game day gear cheering them on.