Thursday, July 31, 2008

16 years and 5 weeks later...

There are two weeks left in my 17-year career at Cape Cod Sea Camps. I started in 1992 as a 6-year-old camper who couldn't tie his own shoes, and here I am now a 22-year-old who's done just about everything.

I've taught swimming
I've run an archery program
I've filled in for the director in charge of programming
I've filled in for the registrar
I've driven a van when the bus was too full
I've been the assistant head of the 11-year olds
I've run the 11-year-olds for days at a time
I've been just about everyone's assistant
And I've done really random little tasks that I can't even think of.

And now, I'm ready to leave.

I have 11 days left -- including tomorrow. And it's been a fantastic run.

No sadness, just excitement for the future.

I'll miss the routine. I'll miss the place. I'll really miss the people. But I have no regrets, and I don't regret it if this does turn out to be my last year. And I won't regret it if I end up unemployed and back at camp.

But I think I'm ready to grow up.

It's about time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 26, Chatham

Streakers at the Cape Cod Baseball League? Busch League.
Cleat Chasers winking at a pitcher as he throws in the 'pen? Busch League.
7 run bottom of the 8th to steal away the game from the over-powering Western division? Pretty cool.

In case you couldn't tell, this was the all-star game. I went as a fan rather than a student. I just wanted to see good baseball.

Of course, with over 8,000 fans in a small park, it really took until the 2nd inning until I could find a place to stand by the home bullpen.

Here was my view from my first resting point:

I stood exactly mid-way between the warming pitcher and catcher, and lemme say, a 93-MPH fastball whizzes by your ears. Between the sound of the ball and the sound of the ball against the mitt, it was difficult to concentrate on the game. There wasn't much to see, though. A solo HR made it 1-0, and otherwise, not much offense from my innings at that vantage point.

The most fun thing at that area was watching the two late teen cleat-chasers, as they're called: young females after athletes. One of them -- the one that I must admit I thought was cuter left with a wink. I'm pretty sure it was directed at the warming pitcher, but I can pretend it was me. I mean, I was on the phone on a psuedo-business call talking all about music, the music industry, and sounding all cool and professional. ::rolls eyes and nods::

After a few innings, kids started running up to my area to get autographs -- not mine, of course. I took this opportunity to walk around, get a few different vantage points, and get a burger.

Ultimately, I ended up sitting on the back row of the bleachers on the first-base side. I could get this seat because the game had become one-sided. After trading solo home-runs, the west -- with help from some shaky east defense -- opened up a 5-run lead.

The view from my new seat:

When I sat down, the game was one-sided:

Somehow, the east put together a rally, which climaxed with 3 streakers (not pictured) interrupting the game. The very next pitch, a 2-run home run tied it. (With two outs, no less!):

At this point, I leaned over to the person next to me and said: "This certainly doesn't feel like a tie game." Well, it wasn't for long. Merely 2 batters later.

And that's how it ended.

A fun game to watch. I've never had to park so far away...

The final scoreboard:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

7th Annual Nat Duncan Memorial Archery Tournament

I spoke of this tournament last year. This past Thursday was this year's. It's the tournament in memory of a camper who died September 16, 2001 after a battle with a brain tumor.

This year was the 7th one, and looking back, I realize that I've run -- or helped run -- every one of them. After winning last year, my JCs all said to me, "We'll get you next year!" And I responded by telling them, "No you won't; I retire." I kept my word and shot only 6 arrows the entire tournament, and that was a photo-op.

My day Thursday started with me knowing it was gonna be a great tournament. The head of the 11-year-olds was out, so I had to be her in the morning. The registrar was out in the afternoon, so I had to be him and make sure that the busses left on time with everyone on them at the end of the day. The weather was threatening and I had to keep constant watch on rain, wind, and potential thunder. And I was wearing an ankle brace that -- combined with my shoe -- was starting to cut off circulation to my toes. It was the kind of day I live for.

The tournament was successful and emotional, as it always is. But the emotions have changed. As I was giving the results I looked out and gave a short speech after the camp director and Nat's mother spoke briefly.

I said that I had memories of the first tournament and how it was a celebration of Nat that year, and here, 6 years later, there were only a handful of us who knew Nat, but the tournament embodied what Nat has become: camp as a place of togetherness and fun. It is an event that brings together the entire JC program -- archery folk and non-archery folk alike -- in a day that is just about being with one-another and learning from each other -- which is exactly what Nat's summer at camp was.

Next year, though I will likely not be back at camp again, I plan on taking my vacation around the tournament and continuing to participate.

And who knows; maybe I'll take home a second championship.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July 17, Chatham

I have now been rejected by ore people in Chatham than every other park combined. I was rejected by two more, making my total Chatham rejections 5, everywhere else 2. But I cannot blame the people, as I tend to only approach those who are alone or in groups such that they are not with any children, and a lot of times when people are alone, there's the chance that they're either alone because they came alone to watch a game, and there's the chance that they're alone because they don't want to talk to people.

Before this game, I'd changed my last question from "Baseball Is..." to "Do you have a favorite baseball euphemism?" That is to say, a baseball term commonly used outside of a baseball context. After one interview, I went back to the original question since it seemed people were not coming up with anything. Oh well. Live and learn.

I started by talking to an older gentleman in center field who was a life-long Red Sox fan and enjoyed the Cape Cod Baseball League as the purest form of a pure game.

The next man I spoke to was a Yankees fan from Ft. Myers, Florida. He actually discussed the regional aspects of baseball. He said that baseball is a northeastern game, primarily, and that people take in the game differently elsewhere. In the northeast, we're obsessed with baseball. In the south, they're all about football. (Perhaps the hard-hitting nature of it to go with the hard-hitting nature of the southern culture?) Listening to him talk about the pacing of the game of baseball that southerners tend to find boring, I couldn't help be struck by the fact that the fast moving cities of Boston and New York are obsessed with the slowest-paced game in all of sport. (Sorry, golfers, but I still question if golf is a sport...)

I then spoke with a man from Florida who'd lived all across the country at various times in his life. He told me of his first game as a kid, between the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia Athletics. At this point, I had become a fantastic conversationalist. The interview was probably 5 minutes, and I probably spoke with him for another 10 about New Orleans (as he was sitting in a Tulane chair, the alma mater of my ex-girlfriend), New York City (where he'd worked), Cape Cod, and Florida.

Directly across the street from the field is the fire/EMT/police station, and every now and then, the firemen stand outside. I decided I'd end my night talking to one of them. The one who ultimately talked to me on tape was a Cape Cod native who'd left for a number of years and returned. He had a degree in economics from Hamilton College and spent a year in Boston at a desk job. He decided he hated a desk job and moved back to the Cape to become a fire fighter. We spoke for about 5 minutes about baseball and then I spoke with him for another 25 minutes about his experience as a fireman, his desk job life, and Cape Cod in the winter.

The firemen told me to knock on the police station attached and get one of them to speak to me, but I decided I'd wait until next time I'm in Chatham. It was already 9 o'clock and I had to eat something and also had somewhere to be.

Monday, July 14, 2008

July 13, Brewster, Orleans

I pulled a double-header today, finally getting interviews at the parks that are closest to me. (I had previously been to Brewster 3 times and Orleans twice, all without interviews. Brewster as a fan, and Orleans because, well, when I went last week, the wind was so strong that I had no chance at usable audio, so I just watched a few innings and went home.)

I started my day in Brewster -- a small, new (opened in 2006) ballpark behind one of the elementary schools. It and YD are my two favorite parks of the five I've been to this year -- and six, counting Hyannis which I have not been to in three or four years. It's funny to me that I like the two parks without lights the best. It has nothing to do with day baseball versus night baseball, though I do find some sense of old-timey local feel in day games that isn't quite the same under the lights...

I started my day sitting at a picnic table about 200 feet down the right field line. I sat next to a senior citizen who spends his winters in the Ft. Myers area and has been to a number of minor league and spring training games since living there. I talked with him for the first three innings of the game, though not on tape. (He was too quiet of a talker, I was too far away, and I just enjoyed the leisurely pace of our conversation...about an hour to say seven minutes worth of things. Very baseball-esque...and I love it.)

I started my process in the 4th inning, walking the ballpark once around to scout the fans and then pick my subjects. The first two I spoke to rejected my request to speak to me. One of them, as soon as I left, said something to someone next to him and the whole section started laughing. I can only assume it was about me, and I don't particularly care. I've developed a thick skin through my years in the hospitality industry, though it's been 3 since I've been in said industry.

I ultimately found a man in center field who was a great conversation, but I froze while on tape. The interview was only okay, but it was my fault, not his. Well, live and learn. The process itself is a means of education just as much as the final product will be.

My next interview was a man on top of the hill offset about 30-degrees towards the first-base side of the plate. I hit the jackpot. He is a Cubs fan -- or was, until his son got drafted by the Yankees and now plays for the Class-A-Advanced Tampa Yankees. His son is Zach McAllister. I wish him luck. I did not meet him, obviously, since it is during the season, but his father is an incredibly nice man.

(Also a note while I'm putting names down to look for in the future: Brewster's OF David DiNatale (Miami, '09) showed some AMAZING defense on MULTIPLE plays. His offensive numbers suggest a lack of plate discipline and/or inability to pick up the breaking ball. (3 walks, 13 strikeouts in 35 at bats.) He is also the oldest member of the team, so I would guess he won't be drafted...and if he does, he has a lot of work before he can make it. (Future knuckleball pitcher, perhaps?) Also: When one of Harwich's hitters got up, the man next to me said, "He's one of the best hitters in the league" and then he hit a home run. I want to say it was Dustin Ackley (UNC '10), but I am going to double-check that when I check the box score tomorrow. If the name is wrong, I'll make a note of it in my next post.)

That game ended as it started -- with non-recorded conversations. This time with old bosses. The game was called due to darkness at 8 PM. A 3-hour Cape League game is not it was off to Orleans.


I got to Orleans in the top of the 6th. Orleans had a 3-0 lead over Bourne and Bourne had been held to only one hit. I quickly walked the entire park and tried to find a subject.

A lot of people love Orleans, but I don't. Too many people in too small of a place. The hill where people sit is awkwardly shaped and certainly too cramped to get an interview. (the only place I could stand to interview people would be an awkward angle.) Behind the plate is too congested and would likely yield too much side-noise. So I'm left with the 14 fans leaning on the outfield fence.

I found one.


He's a high school teacher who coaches his school's baseball team. While everyone else's interview has been somewhere between 4 and 7 minutes, his was 12. And I didn't ask him nearly as many questions. He just kept going saying, "You'll edit this down. I can ramble, right?" I, of course, let him, as I was unsure what I was going to get out of him but I knew it would be good.

He spoke of the differences in the game fundamentally in each locale and level speaking from his unique perspective. He turned his head away at a few times, so his voice isn't always perfectly clear, but the sound quality on this is better than I'd feared. His "Baseball Is..." answer was really closer to four answers, including answers to questions I'd never thought of asking.

To sum up his round-about answer: Baseball is a game that demands passion from its fans, because without passion, it's boring.

But in spite of the 4-and-a-half hours of live baseball tonight, I certainly was not bored at all.

After finally interviewing in Orleans and Brewster, I realize that I need to make it back to YD at least twice because it was, by a long shot, the most successful day I had.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"I can't believe you're still here..."

Week two of year 17 at camp is completed. Barring an offer I cannot refuse and/or 3-5 years of trying to actually carve out a career path until I fall back into education, there are now 5 weeks left in my camp career.

Today, we gave out our female camper of the week to one of my all-time favorite campers. Her mother found me afterwards and said, "I can't believe you're still here!" I looked and said, "17 years...still going!"

What I was thinking was, "Y'know what, neither can I." It isn't that I can't believe I'm still here -- in fact, I can't believe that 12 months from now, I WON'T be.

I look at this particular camper as an example of what makes me in total disbelief of everything camp. She's 11. When she was 7, I taught her in swimming, as well as archery. Since then, I no longer teach swim, but I still see a large chunk of the kids in archery. I've watched her grow up.

I've watched a lot of kids grow up!

I'm too young to have seem so many children blossom into young adults, and in some cases, adults. Take David, the person whom I consider my right-hand man. 4-5 years ago, I taught him how to teach swimming and then the year later I taught him how to teach archery. Now, I watch him use lesson plans I created -- verbatim -- to greater success. When I was in my last year of our Junior Counselor program, I was with the 8 year olds...they are all now JCs themselves. And then there's everyone younger.

The funny thing -- the campers who touch you as special people (and favorites) at age 6, 90% of the time, strike you as special people (and favorites) at age 16.

And I've been here long enough to watch it happen -- more than once.

It's a very special feeling. I am going to miss it...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 6, Chatham

This is the 5th park I've been to this year -- but only the third I've been to with my recording equipment. (I've been to Orleans at Brewster as a fan only.)

I didn't interview as much as I wanted to/could have/should have because I went to the game with my father and decided I didn't want to leave him alone for too long, so I did double duty as a student and a son.

Chatham has some bleechers down the left and right field lines. There is a very steep hill in Center that is popular, though I am not a big fan because it does not level off to allow for easy sitting. People either half-roll down or sit at the top of the hill. It's a decent view -- until the fog rolls in, that is -- in in Chatham, the fog rolls in thick and fast. Y'know how smoke blows in the wind when a grill fire is started? (Note to self: clean gril...) Well, that's exactly what the fog looks like. It tends to blow right through and clear up until around 9 or 9:15 when it just sits there and makes it impossible to see as far as the mound from center field.

Today's interviews were notable for a couple reasons.
1) I got my first rejection from spectators. I'm usually good at picking 'em, but I managed to approach two people in a row who said no. The first one made something about about not knowing baseball well enough, and then i told him that didn't matter and he said, "I'd rather not" and I said, "Okay. Enjoy the game!" And went on my way.

2) I got to watch the intended effect of my project.

I interviewed a father and his 9-year old son. There was nothing particularly notable about the content of the interviews, but I did enjoy watching the son's face hearing his father tell stories of his first game, and even more than that, watching the father's face as the son told me about his first game with his dad as well as playing little league with his dad as his coach.

(Side-note: When do coaches become managers? I think in college, it's still a coach of the team...)

I ended my interviews with a couple from Manhattan. I saw this man keeping score and figured I'd approach him between innings and get his take. I was hoping he'd tell me that his dad taught him and have a great story about it. Well, his dad taught him, but no story...

Either way, they were very pleasant and I enjoyed talking to them.

I've found with a number of people -- the first and last interviews of this game, for example -- that the conversation continues after the tape is stopped and I question whether I should keep the tape rolling. For now, I don't regret stopping the tape, but I rather look at it as instant practice of what has been preached.

Next stop:
Either Tuesday the 8th at Orleans or Thursday the 10th at Orleans or Harwich.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 2, Harwich

I went to this game primarily because Caitlin, the head counselor with whom I work at camp, was singing the national anthem. Caitlin has among the best raw singing talent I've ever heard -- and that includes those who call themselves professional singers. Her vibrato is incredible.

I figured while I was supporting her, I should strap on my microphone and recorder and get some interviews.

The last time I was at the Harwich field was no fewer than 10-12 years ago when my grandfather brought me. Sitting in the bleachers with Caitlin and her sister Lauren, I pointed to the exact seats we sat in: second row in the stands on the first base side closest to home plate. It's the fact that I remember this so vividly that makes me even ask old men if they remember the first time they stepped into a major league ball park...

And that's exactly what I did tonight.

Harwich is a great place to watch, but not that interview friendly. Lots of stands and not a lot of free places to watch the game without the stands, which means it's hard to find interview subjects who are in a good location for me -- both physically and audibly.

I started by recording the anthem. (I promised Caitlin nobody at camp would hear this, so it isn't going to be posted her.) I need to go back a few more times with her singing so I can get the best possible take if I do decide to use it. She was fantastic, but midway through, she seemed to lose confidence, and while she was still spectacular, the edge was gone. Still, so much more impressive than anything I've done. (Side-note: Alexi has posted an audio clip of a song I sat in with his band on...)

I only got two interviews, but they were both fantastic. One man -- probably in his 50s -- told me all about the first game he brought his sons to and watching one of his sons grow up playing baseball -- little league, high school, college... -- and coaching and all the life skills being on a baseball team gave his son. Good stuff.

After that interview, I searched for more subjects, but instead got called over by the Harwich bullpen -- the same guys I'd spoken with the night before. I did not record anything with them, but I sat and watched the game with them for a couple or three half-innings. One pitcher was telling all of us about how his high school coach told him that if you do 5-things, you will win every game. The guys started to make fun of him and said, "I can think of one: score more runs than the other guys." As a result, I only ended up hearing 4 of the 5 things. He got shy after we had our laughs at his expense.

My last interview was an elderly man leaning on the fence just inside the left-field foul pole. I asked if I could talk to him and he let out a large cough. I knew right away this was going to be an amazing interview. It was going to be a true baseball lifer with a raspy old voice. Everything I'd ever wanted in an interview.

He turned out to be all that and more. He told me about his first game -- in New York City at the Polo Grounds watching the New York Giants play the Pittsburgh Pirates. He told me about Wally Westlake's homerun over the right-field wall -- a home-run all of 260-feet or so that he asked his dad if it was the longest homer ever hit. He also told me about how he loves to share the discovery of the green of the ballpark and as a result has brought two generations to their first ball games:

"That feeling that you get when you're the little guy and you're coming out from below where you've got your popcorn or whathaveyou and you first look at the field with the lights on and the beautiful green that you hear all us old geezers talk about, you love to bring another youngster to the game. So I've brought 5 of my grandchildren to their first game so I could watch their face and see the same surprise and love of the game in their eyes."

I wish this man would adopt me as his grandson after this interview...

This man was also the second (and I'm sure not the last) person to give me the answer of "Baseball is America."

As I hear everyone else speak, I wonder if I should turn the microphone on myself and speak about my first baseball game and what makes me love the game, if I should let myself answer the question of "baseball is the closest thing to religion I truly believe in," or even talk about how I love that I can talk to anyone about baseball and become instant friends.

For now, I'll let my subjects do the talking for me, though.

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 1, YD

So I decided I'm going to log every game I go to and record for my "Baseball Is..." project here. I may come back and update with recordings, but for now, just text...

This was almost a week ago, but I am still publishing it now before I forget it so I can keep up...


Since this is the first game I'm writing about, I'll put down a sampling of the questions I'm asking people:

-Where are you from?
-Is this your first Cape League Game? (follow-ups about how many, etc.)
-What levels of baseball do you follow?
-Do you talk baseball with random people? (Aside from kids with microphones at games, of course...)
-What do you like about baseball?
-Do you remember your first baseball game?
-Any other memories?
-Do you notice a difference in consumption of baseball and interaction between fans and the game in the different times, locales, and levels?

And everyone finishes the interview by finishing the following sentence or paragraph: "Baseball Is..."

This is the first time I've been to the Yarmouth-Dennis ballpark in my remembering life. I may have been there once over 10 years ago. It's a very nice place to watch a game. And more than that -- it's very interview friendly. A lot of people just sitting on the ground on seats. (Stands are not good because they are cramped and hard to navigate, not to mention the fact that if you talk to someone who isn't in the back row, you get just as much of the fans behind as the people you're interviewing.)

The reason I came to this particular game was that I was supposed to meet the Director of Media Relations (I think that's his title...) at the game and talk to him for a few innings. So I figured I'd make a whole game of it.

The first person I spoke with was an elderly man named Dick. He was not easy to interview because he gave a lot of one-word answers, but ultimately gave me a great answer to "Baseball Is..." which started the ball rolling. Also, he was easy to approach, which is always nice in a first interview for me so I could get my confidence up.

I spoke with another man sitting alone in the outfield and he told me the story of his first and second game at Fenway Park as a kid. More exciting than that was his story of introducing his own children to the game. I realized right then that I had to ask both directions -- not only who introduced my subjects to baseball, but to whom have they passed along the past-time.

I then made my way to the visiting bullpen and talked to a few of the Harwich players. I spoke with them not on tape and they were interested in what I was doing, and then on tape, one of them treated the whole thing as a joke. Another was serious with me, but not necessarily helpful. He actually was a soccer player who hurt his ankle and the school said, "You're fast; here's a baseball glove. Let's see if you can play the outfield."

The best interview was a Y-D pitcher who was selling raffle tickets. His entire premise can be summed up in his "Baseball Is..." answer: "My Life."

I ended my night watching a few innings with the aforementioned Director of Media Relations and then one with the president of the Y-D ballclub. The interviews themselves gave me a lot of information about the league, the teams I was watching, and the way each club is run -- which was beyond fascinating -- but for reasons of mostly my own fault, very few lines from each interview can be used in the final project. Not only did the subject matter veer way off from my intended topic (which I have no problem with because I learned a whole heck of a lot), but I accidentally flipped my microphone gain switch from medium to high, so a lot of the levels are too high to be able to get usable audio from.

Overall, a very successful first day of material gathering.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Watching the Fog Roll In

Tonight I pulled double-duty, going to a Cape League game with my father both to keep recording for my "Baseball Is..." project and as a fan.

On the project front, I interviewed a father and his 9-year-old son. I am not sure how much of these interviews will be used (I figured I get as much raw material as possible without going overboard so I can shape my project once it gets approved officially without too much new legwork...) for the final production, but I enjoy these interviews regardless of their final use. This particular pair, I liked watching the son react to hearing the father's story of his early baseball game, and I liked even more watching the father's reaction to the son talking about sharing the game with his dad. That is what baseball is all about to me, and even if the recordings don't show it, the process does.

As for my own personal experience with the game...

Tonight felt like it could be a scene from Field of Dreams. Chatham's ballpark is famous for the thick fog that rolls quickly in. One second you can see for miles, and the next, you cannot see the mound from center field. Tonight was one of those nights.

Sitting outside as the temperature dropped from quite hot and really humid to cool and even more humid, watching baseball, listening to the sounds that come with being at the ballpark, putting on a sweatshirt, and watching fog engulf the park -- that's what summer baseball should feel like.

Well, that and the stampede of children running after every foul ball...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Baseball Is...

Today, I went to a Cape League game and had a few interviews with various spectators, fans, administrators, and players.

I ended all the interviews with finishing the sentence "Baseball Is..."

This is a rough cut of some of the answers. (I did have an issue with levels being too hot on one of 'em, so it isn't exactly the best quality, but not much I can do about it.)

So here it is.

For those of you who subscribe to the feed, you probably need to visit the site.