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The Kid Among Men

There is another George Junior in one of the most exclusive clubs in sports.

George Kenneth Griffey Junior joined George Herman (Babe) Ruth Junior as well as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in the 600 Home Run club.


Throughout his career he has been known as "The Kid" or "The Natural" or just "Junior", but if it had not been for a number of severe injuries (many of which were caused by his amazing catches at center field walls), he would likely be remembered as the greatest of all time.

Still, having seen some great players in my days, Griffey has been by far the most exciting and entertaining player I have ever seen... and has never been involved in any whisper of steroid use.

Thanks for all the memories, kid. You've been great!

Throw My Hat in the Ring

There are many things that would be better to write about.

The great time in America with family and friends.
Fellowshipping in churches - in English.
The contacts we've made and the vision for our future.

However, it is t-minus-3 hours to kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday. So, instead of writing about something serious I'm going to make my prediction for the Patriots - Giants game.

Admittedly, this prediction will be a reflection of my intense dislike for all Boston sports (nothing personal, Beantown, but when you grow up a New York Yankees fan, you have no choice but to dislike Red Sox nation and anything remotely connected to it - and now that they slaughtered my hometown Colorado rockies in the World Series they are even darker on my blacklist).

I have to admit that this Patriots team is the best team I have ever seen, but the Giants are a legitimate squad who are playing very well. And, since I can't root for the Patriots, I can't pick them to win either, so here it is:

...

Giants 31
Patriots 27

...

Enjoy the game everyone.

Rocktober

Unbelievable. Six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in game 4 have all but guaranteed that the Colorado Rockies have swept the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National League Pennant, and will play in the 2007 World Series for the right to be called World Champions.

October belongs to the Colorado Rockies.

I have to say, I am really sad not to be in Colorado. To have a chance to watch our home team play in the World Series from a seat at Coors field - that's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity.

Coors FieldCoors Field : I would love to be back there this October.

Then I remember: every day I spend in Thailand, among my Akha friends, in my bamboo hut. These are rare opportunities as well, and I am incredibly blessed to live a life full of these moments.

Akha VillageDoi Mae Salong : Actually, I guess I would rather be here.

So I guess I'll just enjoy the World Series whenever I can catch bits of it in the city. Go Rockies!

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Sweet Sounds of September

It's been a long time since Lori or I have updated our personal blogs as we have been happily engrossed in life with Abi. However, I have found myself in a strange moment of calm as Abi is sleeping with mom and I have received an unexpected day off from working with Aje. In the spirit of enjoyment I have to write about one of my favorite subjects : Baseball.

Just before opening day I placed my annual predictions for the 2007 MLB season
. I generally try to update those forecasts during the AllStar break, but as we were apparently doing something else at the time, that date slipped by. So lets take a look at the end - day before the 163rd game of the year - at how I did:

First, the easy predictions:

The Rockies will still be a bad baseball team. I could not be happier to have been so wrong. Josh Fogg and the Rockies bullpen found enough gas in the tank to carry the team until the offense exploded late in the year - winning 13 out of 14 games to force the first Game 163 in nearly a decade.

I'll be on the road to Chiang Mai during the game, taking Manoon's family out to get another of their children into a home that can care for his polio, so I'll miss it - but I'm sure glad for the Rockies, and would like to predict that they will lose big to the Padres (after all, I predicted that the they would be a bad baseball team and they were a good team, so if I predict that they will lose big... )

"I'm not superstitious... I'm just a little stitious." .: listen :.
-Michael Scott, The Office

Albert Pujols will still be the best player in baseball. No MVP season for Pujols, but another incredible year, batting over .320 with 30+ hr and 100+ RBI. The only thing is, after a "disappointing" season last year, Alex Rodriguez has again established himself as the best regular-season player in baseball. If he wants to overtake Pujols as the "best player in baseball" he will have to show that flash in October.

The Yankees and the Red Sox are the greatest rivalry in sports. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Now, for the hard calls, my 2007 MLB predictions:

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks ... Looks like I knew what I was talking about.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals ... Oops, maybe I didn't. It really hurts to lose your Ace in the first month. Make that the Chicago Cubs.
NL East: New York Mets ... Fell apart late. Opened the Door for the Phillies.
NL WildCard: Philadelphia Phillies ... Actually won the NL East, leaving San Diego and Colorado to battle it out for the NL Wild Card role.

AL West: Oakland A's ... Oops. 10 games under .500 Make that the Angels
AL Central: Minnesota Twins ... 17 games behind Cleveland
AL East: Boston Red Sox ... Just barely - pitching is looking older.
AL WildCard: New York Yankees* ... Overcame a horrendous start to almost catch Boston, but will settle for the WildCard - Young pitching looks good.

*it is very possible that the WildCard will go to a very good Cleveland Indians team who will not have to endure the difficult schedule of the AL East teams who will all beat up on each other. See? I did know that Cleveland was good.

NLCS: St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets ... hmmm. Let's change that to Chicago against NOT Phillidelphia (Seriously, I love the Rockies chances against Philly, if they can beat Peavy tomorrow.)
ALCS: Oakland A's vs. Minnesota Twins ... Once again - Nope. Make it: New York vs. Boston. I have to say this is what I wanted to write in April, but I couldn't believe it might happen again

World Series: Oakland A's over New York Mets in 6 ... Lets make the world right again. After beating the Red Sox, the Yankees keep the Cubs winless in the last 99 years, back to 1908. However, next year will be interesting again as ARod might be off to friendlier fields in 2008, but we'll save that discussion for my predictions next spring.

2007 Awards

AL MVP - Alex Rodriguez, NYY
AL ROY - Dustin Pedroia, BOS
AL CY - C.C. Sabathia, CLE

NL MVP - Matt Holliday, COL (actually, it might be Rollins, PHI - but it SHOULD be Holliday)
NL ROY - Troy Tulowitzky, COL (that's right, the playoffs, MVP and ROY all in one year for COL)
NL CY - Jake Peavy, SD. Jake Peavy, SD. Jake Peavy, SD. And guess who's pitching game 163 tomorrow?

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Play Ball

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

-From Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer.

I have been pondering sitting down to expound upon a number of posts inspired by conversations I have recently had and articles I have recently read covering topics from human trafficking to disenfranchised peoples, from Lent and the Easter season to the Emergent church. However, April 2nd, the sweetest of all spring days has arrived again. So today I talk about baseball.

The hot stove league has cooled as Spring Training has come to an end. Tremendous stories abound as Baseball becomes a more international pastime. As I mentioned last year, this is a time of excitement and new beginnings for ball clubs around the league. In that spirit of optimism, I am going to forget the fact that my predictions last year were awful and forge ahead, trusting that one day I will get something right.

First, the easy predictions:

The Rockies will still be a bad baseball team. That pitching staff is awful. Terrible. If they do not find a diamond in the rough, or, preferably, acquire a pitcher who can actually keep baseballs inside the diamond, they might finish as the worst team in the National League.

Albert Pujols will still be the best player in baseball. I was born 7 months before Reggie Jackson led the Yankees to his final World Series victory. Growing up watching baseball in the 80's and 90's there was no one else who consistently raised their team to a level of greatness like those old baseball greats. Barry Bonds comes the closest to instilling the fear that the greats instilled, but he has never been able to translate that into team success and a World Series victory. With his herculean statistics and last years World Series victory, Albert Pujols emerged as perhaps the best player that baseball has seen since the all-time greats of Aaron, Mays, Musial, Mantle and Williams.

The Yankees and the Red Sox are the greatest rivalry in sports. Although Toronto and Baltimore have both made strides in the standings in the AL East, the fire that New York and Boston play with is unmatched in baseball. In fact, a Yankees-Red Sox game is probably the premiere entertainment event in professional sports today; from a competition standpoint it is even better than the Super Bowl.

Now, for the hard calls, my 2007 MLB predictions:

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL East: New York Mets
NL WildCard: Philadelphia Phillies

AL West: Oakland A's
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL WildCard: New York Yankees*

*it is very possible that the WildCard will go to a very good Cleveland Indians team who will not have to endure the difficult schedule of the AL East teams who will all beat up on each other.

NLCS: St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets
ALCS: Oakland A's vs. Minnesota Twins

World Series: Oakland A's over New York Mets in 6

That's what I have got for this year, as usual I reserve the right to apologize and do this again at the All-Star break. Remember that you can listen to some of your favorite team's broadcasts live - look here for your teams radio stations.

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a Super Bowl on a Hot Stove

If you are looking for a serious post, you'll have to come back another day...

I've always enjoyed Jim Armstrong's notes columns in the Denver Post and have felt that his approach to newspaper articles would be a better fit as a notes blog - that way the author can assume people know what he is talking about while providing a link to give more information to people who are confused. In honor of all newspapers in English, here's my notes blog for the day...

I like Indianapolis over Chicago for Super Bowl XLI. But I'm almost always wrong...

That said, I have to listen to the home team broadcast of one of the two teams (I don't get the national broadcast on NFL Fieldpass) so I will be listening to the crew from Chicago because they broadcast more like a national crew (and then I will probably be re-listening to the winning call from Indy).

Can I be the first person to say that although Super Bowl XL was the coolest Super Bowl year ever, something has to be done before we get to Super Bowl L. Please, please NFL, go away from the traditional Roman numerals for that one - even Super Bowl 50 would be better than Super Bowl L.

From super bowls to hot stoves...

Once the final gun sounds on XLI we begin the driest season of the year: 58 sport-less days until Opening Day. I guess there's always hockey, golf and the NBA.

The biggest news out of the hot stove league is not whether Andy Pettitte will effectively replace the Big Unit, or what team the Rocket will be pitching for come October. No, the biggest news in baseball is who is on the iSquad.

iPods are certainly everywhere these days. Talk about a monopoly... when will Steve Jobs start getting the bad press Bill Gates gets?

My question for Major League Baseball is this: When Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens (finally) do retire, will they be the last of the great nicknames in baseball?

Another interesting conversation in the hot stove league has to do with the possibility of a Major League Baseball team in Portland. I'd love to see it happen, but in the meantime the Salem-Keiser Volcanoes put a pretty good product on the field.

To finish this notes blog, I might as well plagiarize the conclusion of one of Armstrong's recent articles (is it plagerism if you cite the source? I think I've been working with the AOF director on his dissertation too long)...

...finally, today's golden-oldie quote, courtesy of Hank Aaron: 'It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.'

Who Dat?

I can vividly remember the only Saints game I have ever been to. I was 12 years old and went to a Denver-New Orleans game in the Superdome in New Orleans. It was the first dome stadium I had ever been inside, and I remember being shocked that a football game could be air conditioned in the winter. Come on, I was used to the old Mile High stadium and barefooted kickers in the snow. On the Sunday I spent in the Superdome Denver got killed, and I remember the fans yelling out the New Orleans fight song as we slipped out of the stadium in our Broncos orange and blue.

Who dat? Who dat? Who dat sayin gonna beat dem Saints?

Back then it was an embarrassment to lose to the Nawlins Aints, as they were often called.
What a difference today makes.

With one game to go to Super Bowl XLI, the New Orleans Saints - the dogs of the league for every "last year" they've been around - are favored by every ESPN expert to beat Chicago at Soldier Field to advance to the Super Bowl.

Saints fans, passionate as they might be, always have a backup plan to the hopes for their football team, often involving a night on bourbon street to wash the memories away, and to hear people picking the Saints to go to the Super Bowl is beyond most of their expectations - but there does seem to be something special about this team.

Denver fans used to love and fear the Super Bowl. Four Super Bowls. Four losses. Until that fateful year when Terrell Davis and John Elway went to San Diego and beat the Packers.

This feels like that kind of year for the Saints, at least for this game.

Funny :: Beware of things made in October

October! The greatest month of sports is upon us. Football, basketball, hockey and baseball's fall classic. How sweet it is. I want to commemorate the kickoff of this month (and the launch of the newest addition to The Vernon Journal media suite) with a commercial that has had a special place in my heart for many years now (yes, it's because it celebrates a Yankees champoinship). Enjoy!

Albert Pujols with Dr. James Dobson :: Podcast

Barry Bonds. Terrell Owens. Kobe Bryant. As spectacular as it may be to watch them hit baseballs, catch footballs or play basketball, these names don't immediately bring to mind ideas of high character. In fact, there are personalities in all sports whose names leave a sour taste in our mouths. But here's one to encourage us:

Albert Pujols.

The Dominican kid who became the Major League MVP and who, despite fame and fortune, values his family, marriage and faith in Christ. If you have an MP3 player, or if you just want to listen on your computer, take the time to listen to Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson and his conversations with Albert and Dee Dee Pujols:

My (Inter)National Pastime

Nope, this is not an April Fools joke. Actually, I have been wanting to write about this for some time and it's not April 1st that inspires this post, it's April 2nd. Opening day of Major League Baseball. When I lived in the states, Opening Day was a holiday. A time to renew hopes that the Rockies would not be a horrible team this year. A time to celebrate the off-season acquisitions of the New York Yankees, and to renew my dislike of the Red Sox.

For those of you who do not love baseball, allow me to explain. Think of tomorrow as New Year's day for baseball. In the long run, January 1st really has very little impact on the remaining 364 days in the year - yet we celebrate it. This is Opening Day in baseball. Win or lose, our teams have 161 more games to prove themselves, but this is the holiday to celebrate the new season.

Hamburger Doughnut Combination at Baseball ParkAs with every year, the 2006 Baseball season brings promise and excitement - and gimmicks. So here are my observations / predictions on America's favorite pastime:

Best Gimmick: This one is easy. The Gateway Grizzleys (minor league) of Illinois have released what they claim is the Baseball's Best Burger. It is a combination of two things we just can't get in Thailand - a good old American Hamburger and Krispy Kreme doughnuts (Burger King has nothing to do with this promotion, I just thought the image would look good - plus McDonalds has had some rough publicity lately). Although I can't say I particularly find this combination very appealing, it is uniquely American.

Biggest Newcomers: I have to name two here. The most exciting up-and-coming teams in baseball are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers. I don't think either make the playoffs this year, but they will be fun to watch.

Best of the AL: Again two must be named, the teams to beat will be the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels.

Best of the NL: Hands down the St. Louis Cardinals. No one else is in their league.

Play Ball!

Pablos (not so) poor picks

When I lived in America, one of my favorite diversions was Fantasy Sports. Football, baseball, hockey and the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament became even more interesting when another level of competition was added. I had leagues with old buddies from college, and leagues with co-workers and friends. Of course, nowadays I'm just not around an internet connection enough to maintain the weekly lineups and trades necessary to enjoy such a diversion, but I was able to pick my 2006 Bracket for this years NCAA Tournament.

Now, of all my diversions, the NCAA Bracket is historically my worst. Although I enjoy college basketball, it is not a sport I follow much outside of the tournament itself. Still, every year I would scour pages from ESPN.com and Sportsline.com to see who the Cinderella team of the Tournament would be. I would then combine all the information I had gleaned from these experts and make my educated picks.

This year, I didn't have the time to see who the "favorite" picks were, so I threw my bracket together with what little knowledge I had... and now I am in the 97th percentile of most successful brackets. Though it will likely not last too long, I am ranked 33,000 out of hundreds of thousands of brackets. Makes me realize all the time I wasted "researching" the big winners.

Of course, my picks aren't completely without insight. As a test, we had an Akha friend of ours pick their own bracket, and she chose Duke to be upset in the first round and Utah State to win it all.

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Goodbye Denver, from Trevor and I

Sitting in a Sacremento I have just been floored by a news article from the Rocky Mountain news article:

Cap hits Broncos hard

The cap sacked veteran Broncos defensive line stalwart Trevor Pryce on Wednesday, along with Mike Anderson

I know what's important in Denver, and that a sad as you all are about my leaving, you are devastated to hear this news. Such is the salary-cap age of the modern NFL.

Denver Broncos... Super Bowl favorites?

"Nothing against the Colts, but I just want to play at home" - Rod Smith
Read the full Denver Post article here

I can't believe it, it's incredible. I just don't know what happened.
For my (early) Christmas present to myself this year I bought the NFL field pass, which allowed me to live in an Akha village and still come down to listen to the Broncos games when time allowed. After that first game in Miami, however, I thought I wouldn't have to listen to many games this year. But I did continue to listen and though there was always a lingering doubt from that first game, I found myself asking "Are they really this good?" - fearful to get my hopes up too much (two consecutive years of a combined score of 90-34 against the Indianapolis Colts had certainly quieted we Broncos fans).
Not anymore. Now it's for real. A 100-yard interception return from Champ Bailey and the magic gone from Adam Vinatieri's right foot (I can still hear the Pittsburgh announcer "IT'S NO GOOD! HE MISSED IT! MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS FOR DENVER!") and all of a sudden the Broncos are sitting pretty.
Nothing against Pittsburgh, but Denver hasn't lost a game at home all year. And personally, I am just happy that the Denver Broncos have stretched out their season long enough for me to actually watch a game LIVE. It's the little things, you know?

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Texas? I HAVE been gone a while

I was able to watch (LIVE!) the first three quarters of the Rose Bowl game when I was in Chiang Mai. Dan and I headed off to the airport at 8:30 in the morning to go to the only sports bar we know of in Northern Thailand (I'm certain there are others, we just don't know where they might be) where we enjoyed French Toast and honey while watching Texas take on USC. Unfortunately, we had to move on before the fourth quarter but it was great to see a little bit of American football - I just haven't caught on to the whole soccer thing yet.

There are probably thousands of people writing the same thing all over (America) right now, but I will join the masses and throw in my two cents - Vince Young is an amazing football player. With all this build up about Reggie Bush being the best running back ever, his landslide heisman victory and his heisman twin handing him the ball no one looked twice at the player that made an average team amazing. I couldn't follow college football much this year, but I saw the Big 12 championship game score as (an admittedly hurting) Colorado saw Texas put 70 points on the board. Even after that Young did not turn many heads.

Well, congratulations Mr. Young. A National Championship against a great team, no one can question your ability now (except maybe the NFL)

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A golfing resolution

After 10 months of (almost) 100% of the time with Lori, I didn't realize how much I missed hanging out with "the guys". Not saying this last year hasn't been wonderful, but you can only tell each other the same stories over and over so many times. Other than Lori, most of my friends here speak Akha, and although time with them is wonderful, the stress of language takes away from the low-impact time that can describe most of my friendships.
The other day I got to go out with three (english-speaking) friends for a round of golf ($5 for 18 holes). It was great. Nevermind that I shot a thousand and twelve, it was just great to have a day of foolish jokes and kindly insults lightly sprinkled with good conversation.
It's something I'll have to do more than once a year in the future, in fact, maybe that's my New Year's Resolution: "Golf More"
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Happy New Year everyone

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