Category Archives: Uncategorized

Too Young

Two Sunday mornings the past six months and two times the news of a shocking death of a promising, young baseball player. On September 25, 2016, young pitching phenom Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins died in a high-speed boat accident. Today, the news of Kansas City pitcher Yordana Ventura’s death in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

It’s tough when these young and talented athletes die before their time. It’s especially rough when one of the deceased in from your team. Ventura was a Kansas City Royal. He was an extremely talented young pitcher who was just beginning to mature and settle in as a top-notch major league pitcher. He will be truly missed by all of us in the Royals Nation.

These deaths always bring back a wave of my memories of the other young athletes whose early and untimely deaths still weigh heavily on me. Thurmon Munson, captain and catcher of the hated New York Yankees.  Young Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals. Roberto Clemente who died in a plane crash delivering humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico. Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, Pat Tillman of the Arizona Cardinals, Len Bias of Boston Celtics. The list of those we lost early is long and heartbreaking.

Every untimely athlete’s death leads me one particular death that still makes me sad today. The death of Joe Delaney on June 29, 1983. Joe Delaney was a running back who, in his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, looked like he was the long-awaited savior to a fan base who had waited a decade for a spark of hope. He was personable, he seemed to be a great kid and a great teammate, and he was an incredible talent at running back.

The news of his death that summer day was like a shot to the chest. I was just out of high school and I broke into tears. It was more than just hearing that one of your sports heroes had passed away, though. It was hearing your sports hero died while attempting a rescue of three boys drowning in a pond—even if he didn’t know how to swim himself.  Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star wrote a great remembrance of Joe Delaney a couple of years ago. It is worth a few minutes to read and remember.

delaney_action1_06-29-2008_ig13q0sv

 

delaneyjoe_

 

My condolences and prayers go out to the family of Yordana Ventura and to his Royals family.  We will remember him for his smile and his enthusiasm for the game. He will always return to our thoughts when we think about the 2015 World Series Title.

ee4f8392770ff58bd2f60f4c21685901

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

ROAR

Tiger Bike Night. It’s one of the highlights of our local high school football home season. Local motorcycle enthusiasts line up along the track, and, after the team walks down the line of bikes, they take a lap around the track before kickoff. It’s cool. It’s LOUD. It’s probably the closest representation of what goes on inside the head of a player at the line of scrimmage just before the ball is snapped during a game.

My favorite memory of Bike Night from the days when I still coached was the first time they ever did it. I think it was 2005 or 2006, but those details begin to fade in my aging memory. The details may fade, but the visceral feeling doesn’t (and I hope it never does.).

This Bike Night was something completely new to CCCHS. We stood outside the locker room and watched the bikes drive through the stadium gate and line up in front of the stands at the south end of Otto Unruh Stadium. There was no plan for players to interact with the bikers, so we went back into the locker room to wait for the signal for us to come out for the national anthem and player introductions.

I wish I could describe the feeling in that locker room when the riders began to rev their engines. Words will not do justice to the reaction of the body and the reaction of the fifty odd, crammed-into-a-locker room-collective-of-teenage-boys, already emotionally charged to play a football game, when they felt the roar of the bikes.
It was electric.

The player’s eyes danced as they looked to their left and right at their teammates. Tight smiles formed across the faces. Each understood what the others were feeling. The rumbling and the roar flowed through the blood spiked by the release of adrenaline. They were ready to run through the concrete walls.

Blood
Intensity
Power

Chained power in the revved engines transferred to the hearts of each and every one of us. Energy in motion. Ready to hit the opponent in the mouth with a brick. Ready to shine your shillelagh and charge onto the field. Ready to play Tiger Football the way we were supposed to play Tiger Football.

Full throttle.
Fast forward.
Balls to the wall.
Hit you like a cannon shot.
Every man, every play.

Clay Center Tiger Football. The way the game was meant to be played.

I appreciated the bike night event. The 2016 Tiger Bike Night is this Friday. I don’t know if I’ll go. I don’t know if I can feel that special ROAR again and not feel the tug on my gut that pulls unrelenting back into that world again.
That grating, tingling sense which gnaws on you like a phantom limb. Always there, yet missing. The world of competing and pushing, pulling, driving, willing over 60 kids toward a common goal each year. All this wrapped up in that visceral rumbling of dozens and dozens of bikes, each revving their engine on the most beautiful piece of real estate in the county. Our house.

Finally, if you find yourself in Otto Unruh Stadium on this Friday Night In America listening to the roar of Tiger Bike Night before the Tigers vs Goodland football game, do old Coach Hays a favor. Close your eyes and feel the ROAR. Feel it in your gut and in your chest. Close your eyes and dream of competing. Close your eyes and appreciate the community of players, coach, and fans in our little gem of a city. Then bring on the three B’s:

Bandanas
Bikers
Ball

Friday Night In America…Biker style!

tiger-bike-night

Photo courtesy of the Orange & Black Pack

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

IN THE BEGINNING Cover Reveal

 
Today Month9Books is revealing the cover and some excerpts for their Charity Anthology IN THE BEGINNING! Which releases October 25, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive an eGalley!!
 
On to the reveal!

 
Title: IN THE BEGINNING: Dark Retellings of Biblical Tales
Editors: Laureen P. Cantwell and Georgia McBride
Author: Stephen Clements, Nicole Crucial, Mike Hays, Sharon Hughson, Marti Johnson, Elle O’Neill, Lora Palmer, & Christina Raus
Pub. Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it: Amazon
|
B&N |Goodreads
 
In the Beginning (Oct. 25, 2016) –Eight authors
come together to build a powerful collection of dark young adult short stories inspired by the mysteries, faith, and darkness found within the Bible. Old Testament and New Testament, iconic and obscure figures alike are illuminated, explored, and re-envisioned throughout this charity anthology from Month9Books.
 
IN THE BEGINNING, edited by Laureen Cantwell and Georgia McBride
 
Daniel and the Dragon by Stephen Clements
A troubled orphan named Habakkuk dutifully follows his master, the prophet Daniel, into temples of blood-thirsty demon-gods, battles with unspeakable horrors, and bears witnesses to mind-breaking evil until his master’s zealous defiance of the king’s law seals their fate.
 
Babylon by Nicole Crucial
Far above the earth, in Second Eden, where moments and eternities all blur together, young Babylon befriends Sefer, the Book of Life. As Babylon awaits the moment she’ll fulfill her destiny, she and Sefer try to understand the world in which they live.
 
Last Will and Testament by Mike Hays
A homeless young boy, Baz, bears the weight of humanity on his shoulders and upon his body. When dark forces test a new-found friendship, Baz’s willingness to bear the ugliness of their world will be shaken. 
 
The Demon Was Me by Sharon Hughson
Based on the story of the demon-possessed boy healed by Jesus, this tale provides a glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where a teenage boy seeks to journey to a better land and yearns to discover the kind of man he’s meant to be, only to be hijacked by an evil spirit intent upon chipping away at the hope, faith, and resilience of its host.
 
The Deluge by Marti Johnson
A non-believer shares the story of Noah’s ark-building and the deadly downpour that follows. Fear, faithlessness, and the fallibility of mankind collide in a community where second chances aren’t unlimited and a better-late-than-never attitude just might be your doom.
 
Condemned by Elle O’Neill
Just sixteen-years-old, Barabbas finds himself pulled out of Routlege Academy and into a reality show competition—against Jesus himself—where the reward for the winner is life.
 
First Wife by Lora Palmer
In a first-person retelling of the saga of Jacob, Rachel and Leah, themes of family, deception, guilt, and heartache emerge amidst the first days of Leah’s marriage to Jacob—a marriage mired in trickery a mere week before Jacob was to marry Leah’s sister Rachel.
 
Emmaculate by Christina Raus
Based on the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we enter the troubled mind of Emma, who finds herself torn between her religious upbringing and the purity ring that binds her to her boyfriend and the pregnancy that results from her relationship with another boy.
 
Anthology Excerpts:
 
From THE DEMON WAS ME, by Sharon Hughson:
 
The ghastly black fog overtook me. 
Icicles pierced my back. Every muscle in my body spasmed. I plunged face-first against the ground. Something sharp gouged my cheek. Shivery tingles pervaded my insides. A vile presence pressed against my mind.
            
“Get out!” I rolled to my back, arms outstretched. I wanted to fight, throw the intruder off me. But how can you resist something as ethereal as air?
            
Laughter rang in my ears. Sinister. It shuddered against my soul. Terror and hopelessness collided in my chest. A foreign power clutched at my mind.
            
I screamed. I rolled to my side and squeezed my eyes shut. If only I could disappear.
            
Another dark wave of laughter echoed through my skull. Convulsions gripped me. Against my will, my limbs flailed in every direction. A spike pressed into my mind. I cradled my throbbing head. My body, a tumbleweed in the wind, spun on the ground.
  
From BABYLON, by Nicole Crucial:
 
Only those will enter Heaven whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
 
These were the first words I heard, in the beginning of time.
 
But Sefer, the protest comes, Revelation wasn’t written until the first century.
 
My answer is that time is a funny little plaything to God, or so I imagine. That first sentence was the wind that breathed life into my chest, the binding of my pages, the ink in my soul. It knitted together my stardust-atoms from across centuries and millennia and planes of existence.
 
And when the first dregs of consciousness swirled at the pit-bottom of my spine, I yawned and opened my eyes to paradise.
  
From CONDEMNED, by Elle O’Neill:
 
To his surprise, as he heard the metal door grind to a stop, there was a popping sound, like the flash-lamp did when they experimented in Classic Photography at Routlege. Except no camera appeared—not that he could see anyway—but rather a digital time clock, bold red numbers, already beginning their descent, in striking relief against the black paint covering the walls.
 
29:48:12.
 
29:48:11.
 
Of course they would include the fractions of a second, he thought. He was now fighting a tiger against a racing clock. For all that they were merely numbers, he saw their dwindling trickle as if he were watching grains of sand pour through the hourglass of his fingers, helpless.
 
29:47:03.
 
The tiger looked at him. It didn’t glance his way. It directed its massive head at him, its eyes trained on Barabbas … and they didn’t turn away.
 
Another man, in another arena, stood calmly while the tiger advanced. His breathing was even, he did not watch the clock, and he looked with love upon the prowling beast. When it snarled, he slowly exhaled; when its whiskers glanced his weaponless fingers, he blinked gently as the hot breath of the tiger dampened his skin.
  
From LAST WILL & TESTAMENT, by Mike Hays:
 
I’ve found money, I’ve found food, and I’ve found myself in plenty of trouble on plenty of occasions, but I’ve never found another human being just lying around. That’s what happened when I found a person-shaped ball of olive drab and camouflage clothing—which would have been more at home in the reject pile down at the army surplus store—under our
decrepit, worn sign for the “Extraordinary 
League of Witch Assass_ _ _.”
 
It’s true. I found a boy about my age sleeping at the end of the Extraordinary League of Witch Assassins driveway.
 
 
From UNWANTED, by Lora Palmer:
 
“Let me see you,” he whispers. “Let me truly see you.”
 
I swallow down the fear this moment brings, the anxiety that once he does see me, he will no longer accept me. No, I must stop thinking this way. My husband is not like Jacob, dazzled by the superficial beauty of my sister. My husband, my love, will see me.
 
Taking courage from this, I let out a shaky laugh as he helps me stand. I long to see him, too.
 
“All right,” I say.
 
He lifts my veil, his deft fingers moving slow, relishing the anticipation of this moment. At last, he lifts the linen over my face and lets it slip to the floor behind me. We stare at each other, stock still, in stunned silence.
 
It was Jacob.
 
From EMMACULATE, by Christina Raus:
 
The Ten Commandments are pretty straightforward. Killing? Bad. Lying? Nope. Adultery? Don’t even think about it. But is real life really that straightforward? If you tell your boyfriend that you’re going golfing, when really you’re going out to cheat on him, is the lying or the adultery worse? What if you stab the guy you’re having an affair with? Isn’t being a murderer worse than being a cheater? I think the stabbing is worse than the lying and the cheating combined. So, it was kind of unfair for God to group killing, lying, and cheating all together under one umbrella. They all seemed really different.
 
I was an adulterer. I couldn’t deny that. I was also a liar. A very, very good liar. But I wasn’t a murderer.
 
 
From THE DELUGE, by Marti Johnson:
 
The stench of mildew and mold is heavy in our nostrils, and my lungs feel as though they are on fire. My breathing is audible in the lulls between the thunderclaps. My mother huddles, shivering, propped between two rocks. She is coughing painfully, and I can hear her teeth chattering.
 
It is hard to breathe because the air itself is full of water.
 
A deeper shadow has fallen across the side of the mountain on which we are sheltering. I pull aside the brambles, and gasp in amazement when I realize what it is. “Look!” I call to the others, and point at the sight. The ark has risen with the water, and now bobs up and down. It sits high in the water. We hear nothing from it but the creaking of the wood timbers and the sound of the branches and rocks on the hillside scraping against its hull.
 
 
From DANIEL AND THE DRAGON, by Stephen Clements:
 
Your god is a liar!” roared the wizened man in thin black robes, as he pounded his breast with his fist.
Habakkuk stood by the gates of the temple as his master picked a fight with a sanctuary full of the slavish followers of Bel, a bloodthirsty demon god. A fire raged in the fanged maw of a giant, stone head sunken into the back of the temple, there to receive the offerings rendered unto Bel. He had seen this before in other temple raids with his master, though not on such a massive scale, and not at the heart of the demon cult in Babylon itself. The fire raged as the greatest offering that the Babylonians—who adored Bel above all other gods—could sacrifice to their deity was their own newborn children, rolled their screaming, helpless bodies down a stone, handshaped altar into the fire. They offered the fruit of their wombs to their dark god, who devoured the innocent souls sacrificed to him in eldritch rituals.
Giveaway
 Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive an eGalley of IN THE BEGINNING, International. Click HERE to go to Month9Books and enter!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Trained Eye

“At Level I (certification), they told us we would be practicing and refining the basics for the rest of our career, but the truth of it is that I and many others had approached it looking for the step-by-step instructions that made us worthy of the title “Coach.” We came for our checklists and expected to leave with a certificate. But it doesn’t work like that. Because no amount of technical know-how can substitute for a seasoned coach’s eye. That’s what I was missing at my Level II: I was aiming too low.”      – Greg Woods,  SFG II-Certified Fitness & Training Coach

It is the eye that makes the difference. The eye which is developed through hours and hours upon hours of watching and learning. The Trained Eye as we often call it. The Coach’s Eye. Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something that the most effective coaches have.

Something ineffective coaches lack.

It is the ability to watch and see the correct movement. The ability to see the incorrect movement, diagnose the problem and take the proper corrective action. The ability to recognize and analyze the patterns of a skill or game is vital to success. It is gestalt psychology put into action that often separates skill level. Mastering the necessary patterns should be the goal of any training or coaching endeavor. This is what the Trained Eye is all about.

Hitting a baseball, for example, is a skill I like to think I have a pretty decent Coach’s Eye for (see Hitting Position: The Hosmer Breakdown post). This particular eye for hitting a baseball has been a 50-year work-in-progress. I’ve been a hitter since I was old enough to lift my Carl Yastrzemski-signed 28” Louisville Slugger wood bat above my shoulder. I had great coaches, brothers, and neighborhood baseball gang to lay the foundation of growing up a hitter.

I studied hitting by watching live games and batting practices and games on the TV and by hitting. Later as a coach, I became a disciple of front hand hitting and learned from observation, videos, books, and the old standby…trial and error. To make a long story short, my eye for coaching hitters took hours and hours upon hours. (And I’m still learning!)

Football offensive and defensive line coaching was no different. Neither was strength and conditioning coaching. The Coach’s Eye was necessary to teach proper footwork, body positioning, hand placement, and leverage. Knowing what these skills look like, knowing how to teach them effectively, and knowing how to correct them, are vital to success.

I often get strange looks while coaching hitting sessions or watching games when I make a comment about how a hitter is off-balance or a defensive end loses leverage and gives up a big play. What earns strange looks from these otherwise normal human beings? In these situations, I can see the pattern when others can’t. The spatial relationships of a swing at a low, outside fastball or weaknesses in a defensive front stand out when I watch them.

As the 2016 Olympics draw near, pay attention to the judging and coaching with the world-class athletes competing in Rio. Challenge yourself to try and see the patterns. To my untrained eye, all the gymnastics routines look pretty much the same—unless somebody falls. Finding the consistent patterns in these sport movements is tough to the casual observer. The difference between a gold medal and simply being there for the post-event party in the athlete’s village is often a whisker-thin-line only noticeable by the trained eye of a coach or a judge.

Not surprisingly, the Trained Eye goes beyond the realm of sport.

In science, trained eyes make great discoveries.

In art, trained eyes produce beautiful works.

In writing, stories get “easier” to create at a higher level of quality as the development of the Writer’s Eye improves.

Just about any skill or ability to teach any skill improves with hours and hours upon hours of development of the Eye.

Find your passion and get started on your own Trained Eye.

Iris_close-up

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Training, Uncategorized

A beautiful sight.


19 years. 

For me, through the ten years as an assistant coach and four years helping from the fringes, this picture speaks volumes. It represents 14 years of hope and work and falling just short. 

It had been 19 years since Clay Center Comminity High School qualified for the KSHSAA state baseball tournament. 

I remember the first appearance in 1997. It was the first high school baseball game I’d been to in years. I had turned my back to the game after flaming out as a college freshman in 1983. Immaturity, poor decision making and crappy lifestyle choices ended my career playing a game I had love so much. 

I went to that game in 1997 mainly to see my old Legion coach, Dennis Hurla, who coached Clay Center’s opponent, Bishop Ward. Seeing Dennis and watching the high school game being played woke me from the frost of my self-impose exile. I became excited about the game again, began to learn & relearn as much as I could about the game, and found a new path in coaching. 

19 years later, the boys scratched their way into the state tournament. They lost their first round game to a good team but, more importantly, I hope they’ve triggered another wave of hope to the young (and old) baseball communities in our grand, little town.

A huge “Thank you” to the seniors who scratched and clawed and found a way to succeed. Also, a great amount of appreciation goes to Coach Bent and Coach Carlson for setting high standards and demanding excellence, even during the darkest of times.

Finally, a challenge to the Tiger Baseball underclassmen. Don’t be happy with how 2016 ended. There is still A LOT of work to be done to get the program where is needs to be and where it should be. Don’t assume success in 2017 is a done deal. Nothing is a given in sport. You need to put yourself in position to grab the brass ring first. And then you need to reach out and grab it from your competition.

Let this appearance change your life the way the Tiger Baseball game in 1997 helped change mine. 

Baseball can be “our” sport.

And, after a 19-year hiatus, this can be our time. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Only JV

I left the house with purpose of mind. As soon as the local high school baseball practice was over, I’d jump on the field, rake the pitcher’s mound, rake the batter’s box, drag the field for tomorrow’s home JV baseball game, and get home in time to eat dinner with my wife. Thirty minutes…tops. Life has been a little crazy lately so I thought nobody would really mind if we just did the basic field prep work and went home. I told myself it was only a JV game. Get the field playable and forget all the bells and whistles of a normal varsity home game.

We finished the mound. We finished the batter’s box. I ran the finish drag around with the mower while RC hand-watered the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box. Well, it was only a JV game. 90-minutes later, I am raking the limestone track around the backstop with the new sprinkler laying down a fine spray of water on the dry-as-a-bone dirt and I pause to look at my watch. 90-minutes. Yeah, I missed dinner with my poor wife.

I continued to rake until everything was in its pre-game place.

I know it’s only JV game, but there is no “only”.

Every game matters. Every game is important.

A game deserves the very best of what we can give.

Every play, every pitch, every possession.

Life is like a JV game. It’s not often in the spotlight. It is not all glory. It is work. It is getting better every minute of every day. It is giving your best even though the crowd is small and nobody seems to really be paying attention.

This environment is where you get better. Get better at your game, your art, your career, your very human-ness.

Put your time in. Do your very best. And then wake up and do your very best tomorrow.

Hard work is the magic.

IMG_2900

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized