Friday, May 31, 2013

People Person

Very often it's not what is said, but how we say it that either gets us what we want or gets us into trouble.  Communication is an art form.  It's a manipulation of the words we choose, to manipulate those we communicate with.  You can say what's on your mind, alienate people and piss them off, or, you can say what people want to hear, what makes them feel good and get closer to what you want.
On the surface it sounds dirty & uncouth, but it's really an exercise in courtesy.  A dance with the language.  The right words don't come easy.  If you talk, talk,
talk and never shut up, you probably say the first thing that pops in your head and we all know how that goes.  People skills are no more than the process of selecting the right words and gestures in the proper order.  And maybe throwing in a drink or meal.

It starts with our families, then our friends, our classmates, co-workers and so on.  Women are predominately the masters of this dance.  Not only do they have the upper hand with what's between their legs, but also with what's between their ears.  It's no secret women are better at communicating than men.  However I make it a point to break that stereotype:)  But only on the down-low.  A good poker player never tips his hand.  Women appreciate men who can articulate their thoughts and aren't afraid to show a little emotion.  Being a 'gentleman' is a conscious decision to say and do the right things.  Then again, they also get off on guys with a little attitude.  Show them respect, be nice and do what they say, then pull it back for a day and be a real dick.  Let her know you're being nice by choice, not because you're a pushover.  Once she realizes you're the one in control, she'll be on her knees when it counts.

No doubt choosing the right words takes some thought.  And even if the words aren't clever, just being nice is more often than not enough.  Non-verbal
communication, or what we see during interaction, is the most important part of conversing.  And it's not about being fake or manipulative.  People's true colors will show with time.  If someone is full of shit and just trying to use you, it becomes apparent eventually.  Intent is the hidden factor we all try to figure out when meeting a person.  Ask the right question and you'll sift right through the bs.  Interrogation is Fun-damental.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

10 Tips & Techniques for Young Baseball Players

For the Absolute Best Results, Master 1 Step at a time.  Baseball is all about learning to get better as you play the game.  Take your time and you’ll get better as you play.  Learn the 10 Tips & Techniques and you will be a better baseball player + you will win more games.  Oh and don’t forget to always HUSTLE!!!

1 – Whether you need to get an Out or a Hit, always focus on 1 thing at a time.  Communicate with your Teammates.  Listen to your Coaches & if you don’t know the situation, ASK SOMEONE.  Ask a Coach or a Teammate how many Outs there are.  Ask what base to make the play.  And if you already know, SHOUT it out loud so everyone knows what to do.

2 – Relax & Breathe.  Studies show Hitters young & old forget to breathe when standing at home plate awaiting the pitch.  If you forget to breathe, you won’t see the ball as well + your body won’t react as fast.  Before each pitch, breathe in through your nose.  Oxygen is Power!!!

3 – Be Confident.  Visualize + Imagine yourself getting a hit.  Always try to stay positive & have fun.  Remember this is Baseball, not SchoolJ

4 – Now that your mind is right, let’s get your body insync or Synchronized.  That means working together.  I’m sure you’ve all been told by a coach or parent to “keep your eyes on the ball.”  You can’t hit what you can’t see.  The best way to keep your eyes on the ball is to keep your head still when you swing.  Just try swinging a bat without moving your head.  See how it feels. *The number 1 problem most hitters have is keeping their head & eyes on the baseball*

5 – Head & Hands.  The next crucial tip is meant to simplify what you need to do to make contact with the ball.  Hitting is all about controlling your head & your hands.  Keep your head still, eyes on the ball, then throw your hands at the ball.  Learning to Hit is a process that takes time.  Once you learn the necessary portions of the swing technique, you can begin to experiment to find what works for YOU.
6 – Next is what to do with your feet.  Your feet + your legs keep you balanced.  Just like with your head, if there is too much leg movement you are more likely to swing & miss.  A small stride or no stride makes for an easy swing.  Your hands will go back, your front foot steps forward at the pitcher, then your hands come forward swinging the bat.

7 – Playing Great Defense starts with your feet + your eyes.  When you’re on the field remember to stay ready + loose.  After a pitch is thrown, bounce around a little.  Take a few hops.  Keep your blood flowing & when the ball is hit your way, GO GET IT.

8 – Whether you play Infield or Outfield, always keep the baseball in front of you.  Use your body as well as your glove.  Youngsters have to learn to not be afraid of the baseball.  If the ball hits you, shake it off and say, “Thank you, may I have another.”  The idea is to think of the baseball as your friend.  Whenever you catch it, hit it, field it, toss it or pitch it, YOU are a part of the greatest game in the World.

9 – Throwing a baseball Accurately takes practice just like everything else.  The easiest way is to step straight towards your target & throw the ball.  Just like when batting, Relax, Stay Balanced, Step & Throw.

10 – Ground Balls + Fly Balls can be tough for anyone.  We want to make them simple by breaking down the Best Technique for fielding them.  You should field ground balls by getting your glove on the ground and in position to make the play.  Once again don’t be afraid.  Get in front of the ball.  For Fly balls the technique is simple; when the ball is hit, your first step should always be BACK.  It’s easy to run in for the ball, but GOING BACK takes practice.  Step back, judge where the ball is going, then run to that spot & make the CATCH!

When You’ve Mastered this list, YOU will be a better ball player & a great teammate.  Teammates should always try to help and encourage each other.  Some kids are better at baseball than other kids, but every kid can be a great teammate.  Cheer for your teammates & tell them when they do a good job.

Bonus Tip: When HITTING, relax & wait for the baseball.  Don’t be jumpy or nervous at the plate.  Be Aggressive.  The Pitcher wants to throw you a good pitch.  When you get it, HIT IT!!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Follow the Puck

Let the game police itself.  Whenever you hear this statement, someone usually an athlete, is referring to the confrontational aspects within sports that lead
players to fend for themselves during the game.  It's an old school mentality with a contemporary wisdom, analogous to less government and more control by the people. 

Recently the NBA made some rule changes, pushing for less physical play & more Referee Control, making Flagrant Fouls more prevalent.  Rules & Regulations exist to protect the integrity of each respective game as well as for player's safety.  But every sport has a set of 'unwritten rules' which players adhere to, with respect for each other.  These unwritten rules or codes often allude to matters of respect, sportsmanship, player's health and ego's e.g., in baseball no bunting when up by 6 or more runs, not showing up the pitcher by
hot-dogging a HR, no chop-blocking in football or no stepping under a jump shooter in basketball so that he comes down and lands on your foot, twisting an ankle (Bruce Bowen!!!!).  

The circumstance most often discussed and debated occurs in Baseball; the pitcher hitting the batter, resulting in a bench-clearing brawl.  It happens by accident and it happens purposefully in retaliatory situations.  Either way the fans, cameras and tv screens across the world bare witness to a violent humanity usually seen in movies and MMA fights.  The baseball field, romantic and treasured in poetic anthems and historical context, becomes a mockery of men behaving like little boys.

Though fights occur semi-frequently in baseball (about 5-10 each season), and almost always result in player suspensions, through the years the act has become more frowned upon and discouraged.  Logic says eventually a baseball player will get hurt very seriously or killed, which will outlaw fighting completely.  The only other sport that encourages player policing so manifestly, quite obviously is Hockey.  Fighting in North Amercian Professional Hockey is legal.  Though players who engage in fights receive time in the 'penalty box,' they are only ejected in extreme cases when rules are violated or when multiple fights occur at once.  NHL rules permit one-on-one fighting, but fights involving mutliple participants were outlawed in the 1970s to make the game more mainstream.

Oftentimes the enactment of additional regulations, while popular for commercial value, can dilute the product on the field or court.  Fighting in the NHL is constantly scrutinized and always pointed out by critics as one of the main reasons for its limited popularity globally.
Protecting the athletes is important.  Preserving the games is important.  As we evolve as people, so do our activities.  NFL Football is in the process of evolution.  They have begun to realize the damage being done to their employees and the negative long-term effects of football.  Commercially, the NFL enacted rules to protect their QuarterBacks.  Now Morally & Ethically, they must enact rules & safeguards to protect the 21 other players on the field.

Baseball & Hockey are following suit, also examining the protection of their players.  Pitchers will be wearing caps with protective cushioning and hockey players won't be allowed to hit near the head's of their opponents. 

The games will be the same, but with subtle differences.  I hate the new NBA rules.  Flagrant fouls are now being called every time a player gets hit hard.  There's a common sense difference between a hard foul and a flagrant foul.  Why can't NBA Officials be granted the power to use their Eyes and their Experience to make these calls, rather than a Rule Book?  The NFL needs to protect QB's, but not to the point where any contact to their legs or heads draws a 15-yard penalty.  Once again, The Eye Test must be used to make these calls.  MLB Baseball is looking at their bats breaking and their pitchers being hit by the ball.  Players have been pierced from pieces of broken bats so a ban on the ones that break violently is necessary.  Pitchers wearing protective caps is very necessary.  And funnily enough, Historically, the barely surviving NHL is always the fastest sports organization to enact rule changes and improvements.  Forget waiting 10 years for a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and
Gary Bettman will pass a rule tomorrow to make the game better.  Hockey like Football is beginning to ban severe head contact, but Fighting will always be a necessary evil in the NHL.  It is the ultimate form of self-government in sports.  If you ban fighting in professional hockey, you might as well make the puck plastic and play the game on the street.  If you ban hard hits in football, you might as well put flags on their waist's.  If every time an NBA player gets hit in the head a flagrant foul is called, then you might as well jail Ron Artest and the entire Detroit Pistons team from the late 80s.

Sports teach us to evolve or die.  They teach us to work or fail.  Sports, like America, build character elite.  Don't destroy the games that cultivate the spirit of great men & women by putting diapers on the participants.... 

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Love you Daughter, I Love you Son

Some people can't even say it.  It's not that they don't feel it for someone, but for some odd reason they can't get it out.  They can't tell it to the person.  They
might give them a gift as a substitute, but the person receiving that gift will never be fulfilled unless they hear the words.

Love is simple.  Sometimes we just complicate the execution of it.  There's nothing wrong with giving a gift.  It's one of the World's most common customs.  Every Culture on Earth gives gifts to the ones they love.  But regardless of Culture, not everyone follows that exchange with an "I love you."

I look at Love from different levels or kinds.  There's a level of Love that a couple who's been together for 50 years have.  There's a level of Love a Mother has for her Son & Daughter.  There's a level of Love for best friends.  And there's a level of Love you can have for someone you just met.

There's also a level of Love you can have for the World and everyone and everything in it.  That is Love at the highest conscience.  Understanding Love on that level is a concept I may not be able to articulate, but I'll try.  Oh wait I got it.  The teachings of Jesus Christ (the bible) describe this Love.  It's unconditional Love.  You don't need it from someone else to give it.  You give it for no reason and for every reason.  You give it and you feel it because existing is hard.  When you're born, you don't laugh and do jumping-jacks.  You scream your head off because it sucks.  It's cold, there's people poking and prodding you.  There's all kinds of lights, sights, sounds, voices, laughing, crying and people touching you and saying things you can't understand.  But there's so much Love there.  All the suffering, all the pain is immediately gone once you're placed in that warm blanket into your mother's arms.  That's Love.

Almost every parent feels this Love when their child born.  I say 'almost' because not every parent is able to Love immediately.  Sometimes it takes time, a day, a look, a smile, a hold of a finger, a cry or a quiet moment alone with each other.  It just happens.  But it doesn't just happen.  And that's the point.  Love is a circle.  It gets passed from person to person.  We don't all get the amount we want, but at one time or another we've all felt it.  And we still want more.

The Good Samaritan is maybe the perfect example of a Love at the highest level.  The Samaritan acts without judgment or want.  They help someone because they know it's good.  The Samaritan is passing along the Love they've been given, and that they wish to give.

This post is dedicated to my Mom, Dad, Sister, Nephew's, Grandma's, Grandpa's, Aunt's, Uncle's, Cousin's, Friends and everyone in the World with a Heart-Beat.  And Baseball too:)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Letter to Derrick Rose

A Game 7 for the Bulls vs Nets.  The series has gone back N forth.  Nets won game 1, Bulls won games 2,3 & 4.  Now the Nets have won games 5 and 6, to go from 3-1 down to a deciding game 7 @ the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  The Nets gained back home court advantage winning game 6 in Chicago, but the Bulls are the real story in this Series. 

Chicago has been injury depleted from game one.  Not game 1 of this series, but game one of the regular season.  All-Star and 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the first round of the 2011-12 Playoffs.  This year, the Bulls won 45 games in an 82 game schedule without Rose.  Last year they won 50 games in the lockout-shortened 66 game schedule and attained the number 1 seed for the playoffs with him.

The absence of D-Rose has lingered for Bulls fans the entire season.  With guts and great coaching from Tom Thibodeau, they were still able to get the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.  But now that the 2013 NBA Playoffs are well underway, people are starting to wonder when Derrick Rose is going to play.  It's been an entire year since Rose's injury and he was cleared to play by Doctors, March 9th.  It's May 3rd now.

The Bulls are wrecked!  The heart of the team, Joakim Noah, has been playing with Plantar Fasciitis since the end of the regular season.  Rip Hamilton is still
recovering from a bad back and will be let go next year in favor of rising star Jimmy Butler.  Kirk Heinrich has a deep calf bruise that has kept him sidelined since the end of game 4.  Now the Bulls are dealing with a virus being passed around their locker room, which hampered Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson in game 6.

Suffice it to say, the Bulls need a Rose!!!  Now more than ever!  It's time to come back!!  Right Now!!!  We need you Derrick!

Watching Derrick Rose sit on the bench in his $10,000 suits, while the rest of his teammates are hurt, injured, sick, hobbled and desperate has become a seething & perplexing practice.  Seething in that Derrick has been practicing for 2 months & perplexing in that Derrick has been practicing for 2 months.  What is this guy waiting for!?!?  How can he just sit there watching when the rest of his team is hurt and they're still playing?!?!  Granted, coming back from a torn ACL is a whole different ball game than playing with a foot hurtie (plantar fasciitis).  But it's been 2 FREAKIN MONTHS since he was cleared to play.  Get on the court already dude!!!  Your team needs you.  It's game 7.  Suck it up.  Get a Heart.  Grow a Pair.  Remember the campaign?  #TheReturn The Come-Back.  Well where you at D-Rose?  "I'm All-In."

If Rose doesn't play in game 7 and the Bulls go down, they will lose respect for him if they haven't already.  That team has shown more intestinal fortitude than
any NBA team in recent memory.  They have no superstars, only guys who play hard, share the ball & play hurt.  No one is saying Rose needs to start.  No one is saying he needs to play 40 minutes.  Everyone is saying he needs to play.  They won't admit it, but so are his teammates.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Smell the Roses

"I just wish I had enjoyed the game and the fans more during my playing time," is a quote from Mike Schmidt that caught my attention.  The Greatest 3rd Baseman of All Time didn't have enough fun?  He played baseball in Philadelphia in the late 60s, 70s & 80s.  Woodstock, Disco, Rocky, Pete Rose, The Vet, 10 Gold Gloves, 548 Home Runs, 2 World Series' and you didn't enjoy yourself?  He helped the Most Losing Franchise in Sports History capture their first World Series Title and yet Michael Jack didn't live it up.

Schmidt is a revered figure in Philadelphia Sports, but this was not always the case during his playing career.  Mike struggled his first couple years in the big leagues.  Aside from a brilliant second season where he hit .282 with 36 HRs, 116 RBIs and 106 walks, Schmidt had to bust his ass to stay above .250.  Even as his numbers improved and the Phillies became a perennial contender, Schmidt never endured himself to the fans.  He made a few less than flattering comments about Philly fans to reporters and before Mike knew it, he was being booed at many home games.  Baseball wasn't a game anymore for Schmidt, it was a job.

Mike was a notorious work horse.  He spent so much time in the cage working on hitting.  Schmidt wasn't just a baseball player, he was a professional baseball
player.  Baseball was his life.  From an early age, Mike focused on baseball like a lawyer focuses on evidence.  It was that laser focus & fervent desire to be a great ball player that drove Schmidt.  The times and the cultural happenings didn't matter to him.  His swing, tomorrow's opponent and the Phillies record were the only pertinent issues in his life, aside from family.  Nothing else mattered.

Between Schmidt's drive to succeed & his cold exterior toward Philadelphia, the greatest player to ever suit up in a Phillies uniform was no more than a pariah.  Then one day in 1985 Mike decided to have a little fun.  People who witnessed it described him as The Jackson 5 mixed with Annie.  Schmidt took the field in a big, curly red-haired wig and the fans & media loved it.  It was an irreverent stunt and a small sign of humanity in the otherwise stoic, uber-serious Mike Schmidt.

Seems pretty ridiculous doesn't it.  That a guy could be so caught up in his own existence, he'd almost forgotten to stop and smell the roses.  And that a Media
and Fan base could be so unappreciative, they almost didn't realize or care how great Mike was.  But once Mike let go of the hyper-rigid exterior, people began to appreciate him for what he really was; A Hall of Fame Baseball Player.  Lesson learned.  Michael Jack may have been late to the party, but better late than never.  He ended his career a fan favorite & a first-ballot HOFer.