Category Archives: Writes

As if to meet the moon

I watched the rare blue super moon eclipse this morning from the front porch. It was crisp morning, but not the usual frigid Kansas January 31st morning. Nature has provided us a bounty of the celestial phenomenon this year as a reminder of how incredible our planet and our universe really are. Watching westward through the bare branches of our oak, just minutes before sunrise, this Robert Frost poem came to mind.

“We ran as if to meet the moon” Mercy, that’s a kickass, beautiful line.

 

Going for Water
By Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.

 

The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the moon at roughly five miles per second Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, Alexandria, Virginia. Onboard are; NASA astronauts Joe Acaba, Mark Vande Hei, and Scott Tingle: Russian Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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A Scoreboard

Our community is incredible, people! Thanks to the generous people and businesses who’ve donated their time, skill, materials, and dollars over the past four years, we’ve been able to complete some pretty awesome renovations at Campbell Field. It’s slowly transforming into a respectable high school baseball field.

Some of the upgrades have been documented in previous blog posts, The Beginning and Campbell Field Renovation Phase I, and over the next month or so, I hope to share the updates for Phase II, III, and IV. We are almost at the end of the trail for the renovations. It has been a long road since we started in 2013.

There have been highs and lows, successes and struggles, but even at the worst of times, it’s been fun for us. The thing we are most proud of is that the renovation costs involved minimum tax dollars, which we hope will allow more of the city recreation budget to be spent on actual recreation programs.

One final project we’d like to take a run at before we shift our focus from renovating Campbell Field to maintaining Campbell Field is to raise funds for a new scoreboard. If you’ve been out to watch a game at Campbell Field in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed one glaring dysfunctional part of the baseball landscape is our scoreboard.

Last April, an area high school coach complimented the upgrades to the field but asked if we are ever going to get a new scoreboard. I told him our scoreboard is special. It’s a home field advantage because we send coded messages through the system so only Clay Center baseball fans are able to decode the random symbols which are supposed to be real and actual numbers.

All joking aside. Our scoreboard is old. It’s been fixed over the years, but it’s at the end of the line. Many of the sockets do not work anymore. We’ve tried every year the past four years to repair it. We can’t find replacement sockets or light bulbs anymore. Even the second-hand parts we were fortunate to reclaim from an area town’s retired scoreboard did not solve the problem.

We are in the market to purchase a replacement. Nothing fancy, just a scoreboard similar to the one we’ve had the past 25 years that we hope will last at least 30 years or more. We’ve been shopping around and requesting quotes for a year or so. With freight and wireless controls, an updated LED model of what we have now will cost around $6000.00.

I know money is tight all over, but we would like to turn once again to the community and ask for your financial support. The Clay Center American Legion has joined us in this effort to raise money. The Legion would like to use the new scoreboard as a memorial to three men who had a tremendous impact on the sport of baseball in Clay Center, Oran Erickson, Walt Knitter, and Charles Ellis.

We have set up a fundraising account with the Clay Center Community Improvement Foundation. Your tax-deductible donations are greatly appreciated and, as always, we promise to spend every penny in the most efficient way possible with the continued goal to make and keep Campbell Field a source of community pride.

Below is the CC Community Improvement Foundation information if you are interested in making a donation to the scoreboard fund. Just designate your donation to go to the “Campbell Field Scoreboard Fund” and the nice folks at the Foundation will take care of the rest. We appreciate any help to purchase the scoreboard in memorial to these three great Clay Center individuals.

If you are unable to help financially at this time, don’t worry. Come out, instead, and watch a baseball game sometime or contact me to arrange a tour to see the improvements. Campbell Field and the Tommy Watt Batting Cages are something we are extremely proud of and we hope you will be too.

Thank you, Clay County!

(Note: If an organization or business is interested in becoming a Campbell Field sponsor, we have a Banner Donor level available. A 5-year donation commitment of $1000 ($200/year) will not only help the long-term support of Campbell Field but will get the logo & name of the donor organization or business displayed on a custom fence banner. If interested in becoming a Banner Donor, contact Larry Wallace, Jr. at 632-3345 or Rex Carlson at 632-2223 or email me at coachhays@gmail.com.)

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The Tokohama Ruse

In 1887, after a season of white baseball players increasingly refusing to play with or against black players, the “gentleman’s agreement” to implement a color line in professional baseball was approved. Cap Anson, one of the greatest players—and most outspoken bigots—of the era, receives much of blame for using his influence to force the issue. Truth be told, though, American professional baseball rosters were stacked with bigots who came from Southern and Northern upbringings. The ills of a society were again reflected in its sports.

In 1901, John McGraw of the newly formed Baltimore Orioles club of the brand new American League attempted to bring in a black player named Charlie Grant into the whites-only league in what has been coined, The Tokohama Ruse. The Tokohama Ruse has so much wrong with it. Blatant racist actions by all parties.

Fueled by a desire to win and compete in the fledgling league, John McGraw’s new Baltimore Orioles team was desperate to bring in talent. This original version of the O’s was short-lived as they went bankrupt after the 1902 season and the modern version of the O’s would not be established until 1954 when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. During their training camp in Hot Spring, Arkansas, McGraw ran across an extremely talented infielder who he wanted to sign.

The problem was the player McGraw had set his sights on was a light-complexioned black baseball player named, Charlie Grant. Grant was a talented infielder with the Negro League Columbia Giants playing out of Chicago. In order to make financial ends meet during the offseason, he was working at a resort in Hot Springs. Grant and some of the other player/employees of the resort formed a baseball squad whose main purpose was to provide a sports entertainment option for the guests.

McGraw saw Grant play and wanted to sign him. He knew none of the other owners would allow him to bring in a black player, so he came up with one of the more blatant racist moves in sports history. Light skinned Charlie Grant was now Chief Charlie Tokohama, a Cherokee who was the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother from Lawrence, Kansas. McGraw developed the elaborate backstory and chose the name from a map of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in the hotel which had a creek named Tokohoma Creek.

To make matters worse, McGraw painted Grant with warpaint and had him wear a feathered headdress on the field. Chief Tokohama played right along with the deception, probably for the chance at making some decent money playing at the highest level of his sport. It was reported he performed well in practice and on the road for the exhibition season, where fans lined up to see the spectacle of the “Chief”.

Before the Orioles made it back to Baltimore to open the season, though, cracks developed in the Chief Tokohoma scam. Charlie Cominsky, the owner of the Chicago White Sox, was the first to speak out as he revealed Charlie Grant as the true identity of Tokohama. John McGraw and Grant continued to publicly deny the allegations and stuck with their original story.

Cominsky’s reply?

“I’m not going to stand for McGraw bringing in an Indian on the Baltimore team,” he said. “If ‘Muggsy’ [McGraw’s nickname] really keeps this Indian, I will get a Chinaman of my acquaintance and put him on third. Somebody told me that the Cherokee of McGraw’s is really Grant, the crack Negro second baseman from Cincinnati, fixed up with war paint and a bunch of feathers.”

Nice political correctness, fellas.

Well, anyway, the truth breaks and McGraw quietly let go of Grant before the season started, saying the young Indian player was too inexperienced, especially on defense. Grant returned to Chicago where he continued to play baseball in the Negro Leagues. After 15 seasons, he returned to his hometown of Cincinnati and worked as a janitor. In 1932, Charlie Grant was killed when a car lost control after blowing a tire, jumped the curb, and hit him as he sat in a chair on the sidewalk.

With all the wrongs of the Chief Tokohama ruse, one does wonder what would have happened if it would have worked long enough for Charlie Grant, not Chief Tokohama, to show he could play alongside white professional baseball players. I doubt nothing.

The institutional bigotry was too ingrained for it to succeed until Jackie Robinson received his chance from Branch Rickey to become the first black player to break the color line. Or was he? In a future post, we’ll look into the Washington Senators, who in the pre-Jackie Robinson era employed several Cuban players, who may have actually been the first black players to break the barrier.

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The Importance of the Little “Lies”

I’d like to thank Mrs. Lane, Mrs. Murphy, and the freshman and junior English classes at Clay Center Community High School for the opportunity to speak about story structure and the power of story. It was an absolutely fabulous experience for me, and, hopefully, also a positive experience for the students.

The day reminded the 53-year-old grumpy, old man in me how awesome our young people are. It reminded me to have confidence in the future. It reminded me that these students will be fully capable of cleaning up the mess my generation is leaving them. I challenged them to keep their natural BS meters sharp by reading and thinking and attacking problems. I pleaded with them not to lose this skill as they grow and mature. A well-honed BS meter will be an essential skill as they learn to live with the portal to access all of humanity’s information that they carry in their pocket.

Parents and school administrators, be proud of your students! Their potential shines and I can’t wait to see them mature and grow into the people they dream to be.

Below is an excerpt from HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite books and movies) I’d like to share with the students as repayment for being so warmly welcomed into their world for a day.

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN

The Hogfather nodded at Death, as one craftsman to another, and then at Susan. She wasn’t sure if she was being thanked—it was more of a gesture of recognition, of acknowledgment that something that had needed doing had actually be done. But it felt like thanks.

Then he shook the reins and clicked his teeth and the sleigh slid away.

They watched it go.

“I remember hearing,” said Susan distantly. “That the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently.”

NO. IT WAS REMEMBERED.

Now the Hogfather was a red dot on the other side of the valley.

“Well, that about wraps it up for this dress,” said Susan,. “I’d just like to ask, just out of academic interest…you were sure I was going to survive, were you?”

I WAS QUITE CONFIDENT.

“Oh, good.”

I WILL GIVE YOU A LIFT BACK, said Death, after a while.

“Thank you. Now…tell me…”

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?

“Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?”

NO.

“Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

She turned on him.

“It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath. I don’t need silliness!”

THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.

“Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.

The walked in silence for a moment.

“Ah,” said Susan dully. “Tickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literal-minded than that.”

I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need…fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

THERE IS A PLACE WHERE THE GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.

“Yes, but people don’t think about that,” said Susan. “Somewhere there was a bed…”

CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A…BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.

“Talent?”

OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.

“You make us sound mad,” said Susan. A nice warm bed…

NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME

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A Story of Two Cats

I am not a cat person. Never really have been. Never really will be.

But, there have been two cats in my life that wiggled their way into my dog-loving heart. Is there is a common factor between these two felines that has raised them above a “leave me alone and go catch mice” relationship?

Why yes there is.

They’re badasses.

BAD ASSES.

Big Bad Bud was one of a kind. He didn’t really like people and he was a killing machine. Birds. Mice. Rats. Squirrels. If it moved and/or pissed him off, it was dead. I can’t find the video or the photographic evidence, but Triple B once killed an adult squirrel and laid its lifeless body in front of the back door. I know, many cats do this. But do they also eat the squirrel starting at the head and leaving only a fluffy tail on the doormat? I don’t think so.

And the really incredible thing about Big Bad Bud was he only had one working eye. The other one was blind when we adopted him. Much to my dismay, we had to give him away when he got old, got cranky, and started to become nasty toward our other cat and some of the kids who hung out around the house.

We gave Bud away to some friends who live in the country and needed a mouser for their outbuildings. It was a match made in heaven. Bud fulfilled his duties wonderfully for a period of time until, one day, when he disappeared. Common sense states the elderly cat was caught by a coyote or wandered off to die in the woods. But for me, I believe in the Legend of Big Bad Bud. I believe he is still out there wandering Washington Co. hunting and surviving on his own.

The other cat is our current senior feline. Willie. The family we adopted Willie from was moving and could no longer keep him at their new residence. They asked if we were interested, we said yes. They thought Willie was around eight-years-old when we took him in. That was twelve years ago, making his age now around 20. He adjusted to Hays House life pretty quickly. Until his first Christmas at the house and he peed on the Christmas tree and was permanently banned to the life of an outdoor cat. He went out. He rarely complained. He, like Bud, was also not a fan of people.

The past 12 months, Willie has been slowing down. He is truly showing his age. He’s fought off several bouts of unknown illnesses, worked through the introduction of a new cat, Nala, and worked through the death of his respected friend and housemate, our chocolate lab, Sophie. I’ve known for the past few years that his days were numbered and getting close.

A few weeks ago, he got backed over by our Yukon. He hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. He’d been down and sleeping most of the day for about 3-4 days. I thought he was a goner, but he rebounded. He was still kicking but kicking it slowly. Willie never sleeps under the vehicles. Never. When we turned on the SUV to back out of the driveway on a Friday evening, he must have not woke up and the rear tire ran over him.

This time, I thought he was a goner for real. He crawled to his spot behind the garage and wouldn’t budge except for his labored breathing. I sat with him and tried to make him comfortable. I almost called the vet to get him put down. I convinced myself to give Willie until the morning and see if nature took its course during the night.

When I woke early Saturday morning and went to check on him, he was gone! I couldn’t find him anywhere around the garage. I wondered if a dog or coyote or something took him off during the night. But when I trudged through the house and out the front door to get the newspaper, there he was lying in his third favorite spot by the front porch. Alive but not kicking very well. Again, I thought about a trip to the vet. Again, I thought if Willie got his three-quarters dead-self moved across the yard, he deserved the gift of time. I gave him until Monday.

I raked and mowed leaves. In the middle of the process, I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Wille! He is standing on all four legs. Moving 10 feet or so, and lying down for a rest. Incredible.

Every day I gave him another day before getting him put down. Every day he survived and improved. Limping and moving slow, but eating and drinking again. This past week, less than two weeks after the accident, he showed up to greet me one evening when I came home from work as he’d always done. Walking normally with a slight limp. I hate to get sentimental, but I just about cried. Willie is one incredibly tough cat. He doesn’t know any better than to survive. He has to be on Life #8.99999.

BADASS.

So, we will see what the future brings for Willie. In the meantime, the next badass cat at the Hays House will have big shoes to fill to follow Big Bad Bud and Willie.

My kind of cats. Badass SOBs.

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GM For A Day: Free Agent Edition

Here’s my rapid free agency analysis of what I’d do as the Kansas City Royals GM For A Day. They missed a great opportunity to trade these players for some future value because they wanted to squeeze a few more marketing dollars from the fan base. Not trading at least the Big Three (Hosmer, Cain, Moustakas) throws the rebuild from a potential 4-5 cycle to probably a 7-10 years cycle. It won’t be another 25-30 year cycle, I promise…

The Royals under Dayton Moore built the modern model of competing in the post-steroid (???) age. Draft well. Trade smart. Put together a core group. Let them lose 90-100 game and slowly get better over next two seasons. Make a run at a championship by bringing in free agent pieces to the big puzzle picture. Don’t get attached, use veterans to get draft picks, retool, and repeat.

The Royals management played the plan to a “T” until it came time to let guys walk out the door. The Gordon signing sent the plan reeling. An organization that should have had at least two World Series championships and four playoffs appearances fell short without even showing their face in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Free agency 2017-2018 needs to be focused on getting back to the plan. Cycle back to first base and start again.

What would old Coach Hays do?

(Royals Free Agent List as obtained from MLB.com)

Eric Hosmer

  • Let him walk and go cry in the closet for a week. I love the way the kid plays, but he’d bankrupt the organization. Signing him at even 75% of his market value will handcuff the organization for years. They could have possibly pulled this off if they’d shown some discipline and let Alex Gordon walk.

Alcides Escobar 

  • Keep. Escobar can be signed for a reasonable amount. He is a proven defender. His offense fits into a 7-9 in the order batter. He’s a known swimming in a swamp of unknowns. Also will allow the club to try and sell the potential of Raul Mondesi for a couple young arms.

Mike Moustakas 

  • Sayonara, Moose! What does Moose’s production mean in terms of “W”s? Not much. Let me put it in simpler terms. He had a club record 38 homers in 2017 and didn’t even crack 90 RBI’s (85). Solo HRs don’t win baseball games.

Lorenzo Cain

  • Walk. He is 31. At this age, he is already physically breaking down. Money spent on Cain might be money spent remodeling the training room.

Jason Vargas 

  • Walk. He doesn’t have the arm stamina anymore and may not get it back. He should have been dealt at the deadline before his arm withered and he floundered the second half.

Melky Cabrera 

  • Walk. He was in the way of younger outfielders. Bringing him in for the second half of 2017 hindered development of Bonifacio, Orlando, and Soler. The future was now for these young guys. Melky was a waste of time.

Peter Moylan 

  • Keep. He showed promise in the bullpen. Ned just wore him to shreds by mid-August.

Trevor Cahill 

  • Keep him & hope to hell he finds himself. (That’s the subject of my next Royals GM for a Day post…Hope to Hell These Guys Find Themselves.)

Mike Minor

  • Keep. At his price point, it would be a waste to not find out what he can do for the next 2-3 years.

So there’s my Royals GM for a Day, Free Agent Edition. What would you do? Please leave your ideas in the comments section. I’d like to read your ideas! And stay tuned for the next Royals GM for a Day, where we’ll look at the returning roster and dream.

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Halloween 2017 Read: I Am Stretched On Your Grave

“I Am Stretched On Your Grave” is an English translation of an anonymous 17th Century Irish poem called, “Táim sínte ar do thuama” This version of the translation is by Irish author Frank O’Connor. The music version was published in 1979 by Irish musician Phillip King and recorded by his band, Scullion.

This poem drips in sadness and grief. It paints an eerie picture as good as any classic gothic horror classic. It is the perfect poem for a windy, cold, and cloudy Halloween day in Kansas. Many Irish bands besides Scullion have recorded versions of this song. My favorite is the Sinead O’Connor version from her 1990 album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

Happy Halloween! Be safe and try to keep warm. And seriously, doesn’t “Táim sínte ar do thuama” just sound frighteningly awesome?

I Am Stretched On Your Grave

I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

When my family thinks
That I’m safe in my bed
From night until morning
I am stretched at your head

Calling out to the air
With tears hot and wild
My grief for the girl
That I loved as a child

Do you remember
The night we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost

Thanks be to Jesus
We did what was right
And your maiden head still
Is your pillar of light

The priests and the friars
Approach me in dread
Because I still love you
My love and you’re dead

I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm

So I’m stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hands were in mine
I’d be sure we’d not sever

My apple tree my brightness
It’s time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather

Written by F. O’Connor, P. King • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

 

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