Wintered Out, Red Rocks and Presidential Hats
Monday, April 6, 2009
Nothing like arriving at the ballpark this morning to three inches of snow.
Roger Bossard and his crew of 12 arrived at 6 a.m. to begin shoveling off the field. They finished around 1 p.m. and a few of their methods were, well, unorthodox to say the least.
“There’s inches of snow on the field, guys are shoveling and they have the water on,” laughed bullpen catcher Mark Salas. “I’ve NEVER seen that.”
“City of Chicago water comes out at 48 to 50 degrees,” explains Bossard. “So a trick I have is to use the water to help melt off the snow. We literally had tons of snow on the field this morning.”
And because of the drainage system, the outfield does not turn into a skating rink a la the Winter Classic.
Players took batting practice in the cages under the stands and a few brave ones ventured out to play catch or run on the field.
All wore long underwear and stocking caps.
Alexei Ramirez, of all guys, played catch and fielded a few ground balls on the warning track. He fired a few snowballs for fun, the very first time he had ever seen snow.
“Hace mucho frio”
Things look good for tomorrow, according to Bossard. Chilly but good. The winds will come down a little, and it should be in the low 40s. Not perfect. But it will work for baseball.
The last time we lost Opening Day to weather at home was 1982, a snow storm that basically wiped out the first week of the season.
Quite a few Sox players are approaching some memorable career milestones in early 2009, including:
Mark Buehrle needs 15 strikeouts to tie Gary Peters for fifth in club history
JD needs two home runs for 300 and nine RBI for 1,000
Ozzie Guillen needs 67 victories for 500
PK needs two home runs for 300 and 43 RBI for 1,000, five runs scored to tie Aparicio for fifth, 32 hits to tie Minoso for eighth and 13 xbh to tie Baines for third
AJ needs two home runs for 100 (ask Uribe about that)
Jim Thome needs seven HR to tie Mike Schmidt for 13th all-time, nine walks to tie Harmon Killebrew for 14th all-time, 12 RBI for 2,000 in his career and three doubles for 400
I have taken some abuse from friends and family members for glossing over my spring training “hike” in Sedona. So, thanks to the weather postponing today’s Opener, I will take this chance to bore many of you with an elaboration.
First off, you must understand I am not a hiker. My family hikes. When they start to talk about camping, I start to look for the nearest Ritz or Four Seasons.
But in the spirit of family time and adventure, I agreed to hike in Sedona this March on our off day. After driving up a dirt road (first warning sign) we reach the trail head. Winds were gusting to 40-50 mph (no joke), but the hike took us along Oak Creek, through populars and up to the base of a mountain called Cathedral Peak. It was fine. Pleasant. Nice. A good 45-minute walk.
Then my eight-year-old said the famous words, “let’s climb the mountain.”
Up we go. Now, I work out most days, elliptical, bike, treadmill, stairmaster. I was not prepared for this. As my three kids and young-at-heart spouse scampered up the pretty barren rock, I plodded along behind, occasionally gasping.
Finally, we all reached a point I can only call … the tree line.
If you haven’t seen the red rocks in Sedona, think BIG barren mountains with little vegetation. We had reached a point where you needed to climb, hand over foot, using pre-cut grooves in the rock provided by the U.S. Forestry Service. I am thinking, “Into Thin Air.”
We work our way up one crevase until we really cannot go any higher. We’ve reached a point where we’ve come out into the wind and it is howling. You could get blown off the mountain and it is a long way down.
So at this point, we head down. Two kids ahead of me, then me, my wife and youngest in the trail. We are working our way, single file, back down the side of the mountain, step by step down that crevase. My two kids make it down and are safe below me.
I start down by myself. Suddenly, a strong, strong gust catches me (this is the strongest burst of wind I’ve ever experienced, and I lived through a Hurricane long ago), blinds me with rock and dust, rips my hat off my head and up into the air (I apologize for littering in a National Park but my Ruffled Feathers golf hat is high up on some Red Rock somewhere in Arizona) and sends me hard up against the rock.
Then I hear it coming. More rocks.
Something, the wind, a wild animal, an angry former Sun-Times columnist. Something sends a pile of rocks tumbling and pouring down the side of the mountain at me.
It happens so fast I don’t really think. I cover my head with my arms and hug the side of the rock. Hundreds of small pieces, some the size of soccer balls, bounce by and over me.
My wife, a spectator above, and my kids, standing safely below, watch without even a “heads up.” It all happened too quickly.
I was fine, but really was lucky an errant rock didn’t clock me cleanly and give a whole new meaning to “visiting Red Rock country.”
It wasn’t over.
Once we reached flat ground, we headed back to the rental car. The wind was howling through all those beautiful popular trees which looked great as we walked in and now became weapons of family destruction.
Tree limbs crashed and fell. With the other four ahead of me, I suddenly heard a loud crack and then heard this limb (how big?) crashing through other trees.
“I might die,” I thought, trying to hide myself up against the biggest, nearest tree I can find.
I hear it coming closer. All of this happens within seconds.
Bang, I feel and hear the mid-sized branch strike up against the very tree I am cowering behind. I feel the entire tree shake and vibrate with the collision.
With the kids hiking confidently ahead of me back to the car, I stumble along in my own kind of “Near-death march,” finally reaching the safety of the white Impala.
“That was fun,” my son offered.
“I need a margarita,” I replied. “And a Resort. And a hot tub. And a computer. And a cell phone. And an internet hookup. And a big screen TV.”
The next day, we woke up at the Hilton Resort to hike around two big rocks, The Courthouse and Bell Rock. It was pretty, once again, but every step was painful and enough was enough.
We reached a sign that read, “Entering Back Country,” or something like that.
“What’s that mean,” my daughter asked.
“It’s where I’m going to die,” I said, imagining a big diamondback rattlesnake just waiting for me.
An hour or two later, we finish the hike (aren’t I a trooper?) and reach Bell Rock.
“Let’s climb it,” my 8-year-old excitedly asks.
Fool me once, fool me twice. “Go ahead,” I offer. “I’ll wait by the car.”
So if anyone happened to see a middle aged man (be kind), happy to be alive, laying on a picnic table beside the trail to Bell Rock one random day in March, it was just me, waiting safely for my family to go up and down yet another Red Rock.
So that’s my story, and most of it is true.
If you didn’t read it in the Sun-Times, we mailed out Sox caps to leaders of 16 other countries in the world, inviting them to become — like President Obama — fans of our club. Why not? I figured. If even one enjoys the gift, has a sense of fun and decides to wear it when meeting with our President, it is international news. Worth a shot, don’t you think?
And, of course, President Obama has an open invitation to throw out a ceremonial first pitch any time he can make it. Name the date (and I hope it’s in October).