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Being a Father

August 23, 2014 1 comment

Our quirky landlord said something to me the day Lydia was born.  “I learned once they come out, you can’t put them back in.”

Thoughts flooded my mind.  She, was our responsibility for the next 20 some years.  She is totally dependent on us.  She needed me now.  No more running down to the South Side for a Sox game.  No more pickup basketball games at Lombard Chapel.  (Actually marriage had somewhat eliminated some of these youthful pursuits of mine)  Will I be able to provide an adequate income to feed her/clothe her/house her/educate her/spiritually train her?  God, am I adequate for this?  He answered, yes of course, “children are a gift from the LORD” scripture says in Psalm 127:3.  If He, in His perfect wisdom gave me a child, wouldn’t He also give me what I need to carry out this overwhelming task as a father?

That day was 22 years ago.  Three more kids, three more moments of am I adequate?  More questions, boys?  I hear they’re a different animal. Where’s the instruction manual?

Thursday we took Jamie to college.  At least he’ll be close.  This morning we took John to the airport to go off to college for another year.  Lydia is a working adult, praise God, but far away too.  We do have Grace left for another two years unless she decides she would just like to live with her parents.  Everything was cool until I walked into what was the boys shared bedroom for most of their life.

The boys still have what I’ll call a bookcase of memories.  It contains trophies of athletics (go Antigo little league champion Red Sox!) academics, and some Awana trophies.  There’s a picture of a living (well dead) trophy largemouth bass John caught after ignoring my advice of where to dangle his worm!  There are souvenirs, a sharks tooth, dinosaurs made of clay, items that would never bring more than a few cents on one of those pawn shows but of great value in this house.  There’s a baseball, a game ball awarded to Jamie for “his first homerun”, a classic little league homerun on a batted ball that traveled 3 or 4 feet and then was thrown all over the park.

 

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The bookcase of memories

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The Gantz boy trophy case.

 

As I looked through the shelf a sense of nostalgia kicked in, but also a sense of satisfaction.  All those day of birth questions have been answered, or at least mostly answered.  God in His great and awesome strength had seen us through this process.  It’s been joyful, fun, hilarious, (“how bad do you have to go” we asked John in the car during hurricane season.  He replied, it’s a category 5 urinecane!)  a great adventure.   I know our job as parents never ends, but you know when we drop kids off at the airport and watch them fly away for the next 4 months, well, it’s mostly over!

So these thoughts have been rolling through my brain this week.  And then I watch the news, read the newspaper and thoughts of fathering shifts. It’s been a tragic week.  A 9 year old boy in Chicago, playing in his yard, shot.  A 7 year old boy riding in his car with his mom here in Baton Rouge, shot.  A five year old, also at home here, beat to death by his father.  Three boys no longer with us adding to their own bookcase of memories.

“How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.”  These are not my words but of a little known prophet named Habakkuk.  He questioned God.  God answered him.  I will take care of the violence among you.  It will happen in a way you may not like, but I will take care of it.

Since my kids have been very little I have prayed for their protection.  I pray for protection from serious accidents, illnesses, harm at the hands of others and even protection from the ways of this world. But I have also prayed for God to give us His grace to comfort us and strengthen us should we need it in a case of extreme hardship regarding the children.

Please pray for children.  Not just your own.  Pray for the children who are in harms way in this dangerous world.  Better yet, get involved, particularly with children who don’t have a father, or a mother.  You probably don’t have to go far.  There’s probably kids in your church who fit this category.  Tutor if you’re able.  If you’re looking for something to do, go to your local elementary school or high school, and ask.  Counsel at camp. Look up the boys and girls club in your town and find out if volunteers are needed.  Coach if you can.  Teach Sunday School.

But don’t forget these children have parents.  When possible, come alongside them, not in an intimidating way, ie, “I’ve got it together and I’m here to help you”, but in a way that maintains their dignity, ie, “I’m a parent too, what do you do that works?”  Establishing relationships with people is a scriptural model.  Look at these words of Paul and tell me if this happens without relationships:  “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

As a father of children who are approaching adulthood, I now encourage them to do the same.

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Baseball stadiums ranked

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

A lot of guys like me dream about doing a baseball park vacation.  I want to see multiple baseball stadiums.  I don’t want to see multiple football stadiums or basketball arenas.  Sure they’re nice, but the uniform rule book for those sports leads to most stadiums in those sports looking relatively the same.  Not baseball.  Dimensions vary widely,   The seating arrangements are different.  The fields look different.  Oakland has acres of foul territory, Wrigley and Fenway have very little.  The Polo Grounds in New York had a 258 foot right field wall and a 475 foot center field wall and a 290 foot left field wall.

I’m going to rank the stadiums, my viewpoint, debate me if you’d like.  Your favorite should have been 25th instead of 28th?  Tell me why!  So here goes.

#1  Wrigley Field.  Those who know me know this is also my least favorite baseball team.  But it’s a gorgeous place, great views of the city from certain viewpoints, the ivy, bleachers, daytime baseball more often than not.  The bleachers, the hand operated scoreboard, the organ.  Hard to say anything bad about the place.  Pictures are my cousins and high school friends. Permission to use pictures not granted, I’ll ask them someday.

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Image# 2 on my list is Pittsburgh’s beautiful PNC park.  Family ties make me a little partial to Pittsburgh but they did a great job building this stadium.  Classic design with a view of Pittsburgh right across the river.  The view is the thing there no doubt.  Like McCovey cove beyond San Francisco’s park, the Allegheny River flows directly behind the right field wall.  Just like the streets outside Wrigley fans hang out there either on foot or in the water hoping for a souvenir. The baseball’s finally catching up to the park and it hopefully will become a familiar site on tv during the playoffs and world series.  Thanks to cousin John for this view!

Image#3 is a tough call.  I’ll go with tradition and make Fenway the next on my list.  The green monster with the hand operated scoreboard, the generous home run wall down the right field line, the left field foul wall caroming balls crazily into left field, the smallest upperdeck in baseball, and the sunsplashed right field bleachers all make for a memorable park that is high on my list.

#4  ATT park in San Francisco.  Beeeyouteeful.  San Francisco doesn’t deserve such a great stadium because they have so much nice going on there, weather, bridges, mountains, fog, etc, but they sure have one.  The above mentioned McCovey Cove introduced kayakers into the web of major league fandom.

#5  Comiskey Park.  I won’t call it US Cellular.  I actually don’t like the place but of all my sports allegiances, the Sox are the team I absolutely couldn’t live without!  The park is ok, doesn’t hold a candle to the old park.  The food is very good, but I can’t afford it.  I do like the exploding scoreboard, the kids area in left field which actually offers a great view of the park.  The center field dining area with tables above the hitters backdrop is a nice touch too, but alas, the cheap seats are upstairs and they guard the lower deck from the riff raff better than Fort Knox.  I’ll keep going when I can and cheering on the 2005 World Series champions!

A few pics from a visit back on 08ImageImageImageThe city view is from the balcony outside the upper deck.  Now why didn’t they build this park with that as the view?

This is where the list gets tougher.

#6  Busch Stadium  in St. Louis Another stadium built to look old that somehow makes you think the traditions have been there all along.  I’ve walked around the stadium and it’s neat that you can see into the stadium from the sidewalk.  I’d imagine the view gets blocked during games.  The arch mown into the grass is a cool touch, and it seems they’re always playing October baseball so you get to see it a lot.

#7  Comerica in Detroit.  Like Pittsburgh it brought the view of downtown into the stadium.  (Why couldn’t the Sox have done that?)  Don’t know much about the park, but it is nice to look at.

#8  Dodger stadium  An old stadium.  I like the zigzag roof above the outfield seats and the see through fence behind homeplate which makes fans look like they’re sitting right on the edge of the field.  Big and spacious, it’s a park I’d like to see someday.  Picture of my friend Sean and his family.

Image#9  Yankee stadium  Really did a great job of repicating the old stadium.  Of course it’s debatable whether they needed to rebuild it.  My first baseball game, way back in 1972 was in old, old Yankee Stadium.  I won’t post pictures of all these parks but this shows the classic touches put into the park.

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#10  Kauffman  Nice ‘older’ park that has a mallpark feel to it that actually works well.  It’s a pretty place to watch a game, the fountains in center are what it’s best known for.

#11  Coors in Denver.  The nod to the Rocky Mountains in the outfield is a nice touch, and goodness do those baseballs fly far in that thin mountain air.

#12  Angels stadium  Outfield is interesting with the rocky landscape beyond left field where Paulie homered twice in the 05 playoffs.

#13  Camden Yards Baltimore.  Should be higher on this list because of the unique park it was when it opened.  It was the first retro park.  The large warehouse that looks like a giant red monster type wall in right is what it’s known for.  Would really like to visit this park.

#14  Great American Ball park.  Cincinnati’s palace on the Ohio River is intriguing with some nice views.  Great name for a park!

#15-27  All the rest.  Some are retro parks which look beautiful but just joined the trend towards retro.  Some have nice touches like the train on top of the wall in Houston or the trains that roar outside the wall in Seattle.  Bernie the Brewer sliding into the beer mug is classic as are the sausage races, but the stadium is pretty nondescript.  The hill in Houston’s center field is interesting too as is the tomahawk chopping Chick Filet cow on the roof of Atlanta’s Turner field.  I like Cleveland’s toothbrush looking lightpoles and the centerfield backdrop at the Rangers home has always intrigued me.  Phoenix has a very cool looking path between the pitchers mound and home and a swimming pool in center field but that doesn’t save it’s otherwise drab interior.  The Twins did good by ditching the dreadful Metrodome and I’d rate their digs closer to 15 on this list.

#28  Rogers Center Toronto  Large retractable roof stadium which saw a lot of very good baseball in the 80’s and 90’s, but there’s not much to remember that place for.  Watch Joe Carters historic homer in ’93 into some hallway and you’ll understand how bad this park is.  Home runs should land in bleachers, not some formless void.

#29  Oakland Coliseum  A football stadium doesn’t work for baseball.  Ugly.

#30  Tropicana Field Tampa  The worst for so many reasons.  It’s domed and ugly.  No one goes there even though the Rays win more than 90 games every year and could win the World Series this year.  It has wires on the roof that interfere with balls in play.  But worst of all, this horrid stadium is what the White Sox threatened to leave Chicago to inhabit.  Oh my, I’d never recover from that happening!

Any major league park would entice me to go and watch a game.  They’re special places, even the bad ones have their own charms I suppose.  But some of these baseball palaces stand out.  Time for a road trip!