Hockey Anyone?

For one of my first outings in the Quad Cities area, I went to my first minor league hockey game. It was definitely not what I was expecting. But let me set the record straight to begin with. I’m from Texas where football is king and other sports have a hard time climbing out of its shadow. The tier usually is football, basketball, and baseball. Hockey isn’t even in the conversation. I’ve been to two Dallas Stars games before and that’s because there was a sports job fair earlier in the day and part of the package was tickets to that night’s game. One game was against Vancouver and the other one was against Pittsburgh. I was able to witness great games with stellar players like Jaromir Jagr and Brenden Morrow.

Jaromir Jagr stretching before a home game. (Jarah Wright)

Jaromir Jagr stretching before a home game. (Jarah Wright)

Brenden Morrow (Jarah Wright)

Brenden Morrow (Jarah Wright)

It’s almost hypnotic the way they are able to move so gracefully across the ice and then have the force to nail each other against the boards fighting for the puck. I ended up really enjoying my time at those games so whenever someone in the office asked if I wanted to go to another hockey game, my answer was immediately yes. We went to watch the Quad City Mallards which is the ECHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. I have never seen an arena so full of people.

Although dollar beer and hot dog night could have had something to do with it….. (Jarah Wright)

Although dollar beer and hot dog night could have had something to do with it….. (Jarah Wright)

And you could tell this place was full of regulars. They were doing chants together without any warning almost like a group of European soccer fans. They nearly scared me death at one point. A clip of Christopher Walken’s Saturday Night Live cowbell sketch came over the video board and then hundreds of fans in the arena whipped out cowbells and started shaking them as hard as they could. Then whenever the Mallards scored they cheered, held up their fingers for each goal, and started doing an Ole chant while waving their arms back and forth. It was definitely entertaining for me to watch, maybe even more than the game itself. That being said it was a good game. The Mallards beat the Wichita Thunder 4-0 and have a chance at getting into playoffs. If that happens you can definitely count on me being there. Who would have thought that a Texas girl who has almost never seen ice would like hockey so much?

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

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A Minor League Journey: Season 3

It’s that time of year again. Spring training is winding down and players are waiting to see where they’ll be assigned for the season. Coaches, players, interns, and some front office staff members are making their way to their new homes for the year, myself included. Last year I wrote about the epic cross-country trip to Idaho. Thankfully this season I’m about 10 hours closer to home and didn’t have to worry about blizzards but I did have a few hiccups on my adventures to Iowa. The trip only took two days and about 15 hours on the road. Starting out I decided to get a big chunk of the drive out of the way and left Dallas to head to Tulsa, Oklahoma. You guys know I’m always stopping at ballparks to check them out and I did check out where the Drillers play. That makes it the 18th ballpark I’ve checked off the list. It’s a super nice ballpark and the skyline in the background can’t be beat. (Except maybe by the Orem Owlz.)

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I made a slight detour after lunch in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to tour the Bluebell Ice Cream factory which was neat. The original facility is in Brenham, Texas and is five times larger than this plant but it was still cool to see. Contrary to many ice cream myths, there are no cows at the factory. (That fact upset some of the kids on the tour.) They go through about 20,000 pounds of sugar a week and can make thousands and thousands on pints, half-gallons, and gallons of ice cream a day. We saw where they were packaging the ice cream and it looks insane. There are machines that twist and fill the containers with ice cream before a lid pops on. Workers then package the ice cream and put it on a conveyer belt to head to the freezer which can get to more than 40 degrees below zero. Then you have workers dedicated to getting the containers and loading them into the machine. Finally, there’s the guy who has the best job of all. He’s in charge of….marshmallows. All he does in load marshmallows into the machines and he gets to eat all the ice cream he wants. Sounds like a pretty awesome job to me! I got back on the road and stopped for gas at what once was the World’s Largest McDonald’s that was built over the Interstate. The golden arches were the steel girders. However, I think they might have lost that crown because all of the signs were gone and the food court is now shared with a Subway. Plus the arches were gone so it wasn’t very photo-worthy.

When I go on road trips, I’m always looking for fun little side trips to break up the long hours on the road. I use Roadtrippers.com which I would highly recommend because it’s how I find some of these places. I was pretty skeptical whenever I saw Mickey Mantle’s childhood home pop up because I had never even heard that it still existed. Nevertheless, I pulled over in Commerce, Oklahoma to try to hunt it down. In a really run down part of town in a neighborhood of small houses that look like they’re falling apart, I found it.

Mickey Mantle's childhood home (Jarah Wright)

Mickey Mantle’s childhood home (Jarah Wright)

According to the plaque outside of the home, this is where Mickey Mantle first learned to play baseball which is pretty cool. I can image him and his dad playing catch in the front yard.

Plaque outside the house (Jarah Wright)

Plaque outside the house (Jarah Wright)

After checking out the house, it was back to the car to make it to Kansas City for the night. The weather was definitely not cooperating because it was heavy rain the whole way there. On the Interstate near Kansas City, the rain was so thick on the road you couldn’t see where the lane lines were. But I made it to the sports complex to see Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. I knew they shared a parking lot but it was wild seeing just how close the two complexes were to each other. (Although I shouldn’t be too surprised because the Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys have a similar setup in Arlington.)

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Needless to say, I was disappointed the weather wasn’t nicer because I wanted to look around some more but after a long day of driving, I decided to head back to the hotel. Something weird happened on the way back. I went to school with Dom Dwyer who plays for Sporting KC. As I was getting off the Interstate I looked up and there is a huge billboard of him promoting Sporting KC. No matter how famous he gets, I’ll always remember him as the guy from TJC. Anyways, the next day I had some things planned out but then my car started acting up. I could drive it but it was pretty stressful driving the four hours to get to Davenport. No fun stops to tell you about on this leg of the trip but I went through Des Moines and I know the Iowa Cubs play there so hopefully I can bring you guys some fun MiLB shenanigans again later this season.

(P.S. The Quad Cities River Bandits released their promo schedule yesterday and it looks like there are going to be some epic nights. I’m looking at you Pitch Perfect night.)

Royals With Bacon

Never thought I’d have a Pulp Fiction reference as the title of one of my posts but there you go. I decided to continue my trend of Kevin Bacon by connecting him to teams in the Royals system. I’ve already written about the Idaho Falls Chukars being connected to him. However, I did find a link through one of the Royals minor leaguers. One of infielder Mark Threlkeld’s cousins is Lauren Conrad aka LC from The Hills and Laguna Beach. She was in Epic Movie with Jennifer Coolidge. Coolidge was in Austenland with JJ Feild. His partner is Neve Campbell and Campbell was in Wild Things with Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon with the cast of Wild Things. (Image courtesy: The Telegraph UK)

Kevin Bacon with the cast of Wild Things. (Image courtesy: The Telegraph UK)

Kansas City Royals outfielder Bo Jackson had a small acting career after retiring from baseball. He was in a movie called Fakin’ Da Funk which was released in 1997 which co-starred Tatyana Ali. Ali was in The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air with Will Smith who was in Men In Black with Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee Jones was in JFK with Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon in JFK (Image courtesy: IGN.com)

Kevin Bacon in JFK (Image courtesy: IGN.com)

Using the JFK link again, we can find a way back to Kevin Bacon. Butch Davis spent part of the 1983 and 1984 seasons playing for the Kansas City Royals. Davis had a cameo in the minor league classic Bull Durham with Kevin Costner who was in JFK with Kevin Bacon.

Movie poster for Sleepers (Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Movie poster for Sleepers (Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Wally Joyner spent four years playing for the Royals from 1992-1995. He played himself in the movie Little Big League which is honestly a cinematic gem. I mean who doesn’t love a baseball movie about a kid running the Minnesota Twins. (Although Rookie Of The Year was better. The Pitcher’s Got A Big Butt scene cracks me up every time.) Anyways, Dennis Farina was in LIttle Big League. Farina co-starred with Brad Pitt in Snatch and Pitt was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.

Bacon Nation

Six Degrees Of Separation is too fun a game not to play especially when it involves minor league baseball teams. I’m continuing my posts about all things Kevin Bacon and baseball. You can read my previous posts here: Baseball and Bacon and Idaho Falls Chukars Edition. I’m interning with the Quad Cities River Bandits this season and decided to see how my new team stacks up on its Bacon quotient.

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(Photo courtesy: IMDB)

The Quad Cities River Bandits are the Class A affiliates of the Houston Astros. Houston is the home of the Johnson Space Center which was a filming location for Apollo 13 which starred Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon with Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. (Image courtesy: indiewire.com)

Kevin Bacon with Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.
(Image courtesy: indiewire.com)

I might be repeating my previous Baseball and Bacon post a bit for the second chain. Kevin Bacon was in A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise who was in Interview With A Vampire with Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt played Billy Beane in Moneyball. Beane played for the Jackson Mets, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets that were part of the Texas League. The Jackson Mets moved to Binghamton and joined the Eastern League in 1991. The Houston Astros took over the Double-A franchise renaming it the Jackson Generals where the team remained until 1999. Nolan Ryan and his group took over moving the Generals to Round Rock eventually becoming the Round Rock Express. The owners of the Round Rock Express acquired the Triple-A franchise in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and moved that club to Round Rock. The Double-A version of the Round Rock Express moved to Corpus Christi eventually becoming the Corpus Christi Hooks who are an Astros affiliate just like the Quad Cities River Bandits.

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Kevin Bacon in Footloose (Image courtesy: Yahoo)

This chain starts similarly to the one above. Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with Dianne Wiest who was in a movie called The Scout. In that film Brett Saberhagen made a cameo. Saberhagen was involved in a trade that sent Gregg Jeffries to the Royals. But Jeffries had played for the Jackson Generals which eventually became the Corpus Christi Hooks: an Astros affiliate.

Kevin Bacon with Elizabeth McGovern in She's Having A Baby (Image courtesy: eonline.com)

Kevin Bacon with Elizabeth McGovern in She’s Having A Baby (Image courtesy: eonline.com)

Kevin Bacon was in She’s Having A Baby with Alec Baldwin. Alec Baldwin is the narrator for Baseball’s Golden Age, a TV series about the history of baseball. Former MLB pitcher Billy Pierce is one of the interviewees/commentators on the show. Pierce threw 300 games in his major league career finishing with a record of 211-169. While playing with the San Francisco Giants, he played with Gaylord Perry who played with Corpus Christi in 1959. Corpus Christi is an Astros affiliate just like Quad Cities.

Kevin Bacon with Christian Slater in Murder In The First (Image courtesy: IMDB.com)

Kevin Bacon with Christian Slater in Murder In The First (Image courtesy: IMDB.com)

I decided to try to focus in more on the Quad Cities area with my Bacon quotient and decided to try a different tactic. Kevin Bacon was in Murder In The First with William H. Macy. Macy is married to Felicity Huffman who was in Desperate Housewives where Anne Marie Howard made a guest appearance. Howard moved to Davenport with her family when she was 14. Davenport is home to the River Bandits.

Kevin Bacon in Flatliners (Image courtesy: The Telegraph UK)

Kevin Bacon in Flatliners (Image courtesy: The Telegraph UK)

Kevin Bacon was in Flatliners with Julia Roberts who was in Runaway Bride with Rita Wilson. Wilson was in Raise Your Voice with Davenport native Dana Davis completing the Quad Cities cycle.

So that’s the best Bacon number I’ve got for the Quad Cities and it still strengthens the thought that anyone could be connected to Kevin Bacon somehow. Hope you guys have enjoyed this post and I hope to keep continuing the tradition of Kevin Bacon posts. Kevin Bacon approves!

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Baseball Is A Love

There are some things you just never forget. Yesterday, my dad gave me a candy bar and I recognized it immediately. It was the same brand, same wrapper, and same chocolate that I sold for Little League all those years ago. It brought a flood of memories back about my journey through the world of baseball. I’m still chasing my baseball dream. I started this blog to keep writing about baseball. I usually work three to four part-time jobs every off-season saving and hoping to work another season. I’ve even turned down full-time jobs covering news beats like cops to follow my heart with the chance that I’ll get a full-time job offer in the industry I love. People call me crazy and say I’m unrealistic in such a competitive job market but they don’t understand how deep my baseball roots go.

I started playing Little League baseball when I was five. I fell in love with the game and remember watching Texas Rangers games on TV while sitting in my dad’s lap. My favorite player was Rusty Greer. Whenever he would come up to bat, I would stand in front of the TV imitating his batting stance telling my dad that one day I would be the first girl to play Major League Baseball. My dad would laugh saying he knew I would. He was my first coach and I played for him until I was forced to make the switch to softball. I adapted quickly and played in youth leagues for a few years before switching to tournament team softball.

Our team was good and we played in tournaments all over the country. One year we went to nationals and placed seventh in the country playing at Disney’s Wide World Of Sports Complex. I’ll never forget that tournament. Our opening ceremonies were at Cracker Jack Stadium aka the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. I met my first batch of minor leaguers there. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves minor leaguers were scrimmaging on fields close to ours. We walked over to watch the game. Instead we were invited to the bullpen to take a team picture with about six of the guys. For 14-year-old girls, that’s about as good as it gets. I started attracting attention from colleges and decided to accept a full-ride softball scholarship with a high profile Division I university. Things were looking pretty good.

However, during my freshman year of high school I suffered a bad injury that led to a lot of health problems. One of them was a tumor. After the schools heard about that, every softball offer disappeared. Recovering from that surgery was awful. They caught the tumor before it turned into cancer but I was depressed because softball and baseball had been all I’d ever known. My parents coaxed me to get better by buying me a bat telling me I could use it when I was better. I used it for motivation and was able to play during my senior season but was still forced to hang up the cleats. In college I tried to find ways to stay involved in the game which led to being an umpire. It was alright for a job but it’s hard to be behind the plate when you want to be in the batter’s box. I was also introduced to sports writing after our sports editor didn’t want to take baseball pictures. I said I would do it and realized I could still stay involved with the game.

I was still working for my student newspaper when I met a minor league baseball broadcaster at a college newspaper convention. His job sounded like a lot of fun and I was allowed to shadow him at a game. At the end of the night I asked if he was looking for any interns. When he said yes, I asked if I could apply. He said yes and two weeks later I had landed my first MiLB internship. That season opened up my eyes to the wonderful world of the baseball industry and how things work behind the scenes. I fell in love with the job and the industry which is why I’ve continuously pursued it. I’m still looking for that full-time job but for now, I’m extremely happy to be heading into my third MiLB season as an intern.

Nothing can explain the happiness that warms my heart when I hear a ball hit a catcher’s mitt, a bat hitting a ball, or even the hum of the stadium lights. After hundreds, maybe even thousands, of games it never gets old. This socially awkward and unconventional writer had found a home. Baseball truly is a love.