Category Archives: Writes

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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Post #400! The Alien Dog Attack Saga

Unbelievable! This is the 400th post on The Coach Hays Blog. Who knew so much stupidity could reside in one place? Certainly not me when I start this little shindig back in 2010. One of the first bits of stupidity was this serialized story called Alien Dog Attack. It all started with a picture and kept going driven by a single goal…to make my mother laugh. It worked.

For the 400th post, here’s Alien Dog Attack and links to the Parts 2-9. I just realized today I did not finish the story. There is no Part 10. I’ll work on it.

I’m also sharing this story in the celebration of the dog who inspired the story, our chocolate lab, Sophie. She passed away at a few weeks ago. She sat right next to me for the writing of most of these 400 posts. She gave the best writing advice, was a great sounding board, and she’ll be missed as old Coach Hays pushes forward to the next 400 posts.  As will the real Big Bad Bud, who was the baddest ass cat I’ve ever been around.

Alien Dog Attack #1

It’s here! Run and hide! The Hays house was invaded this afternoon. The mom was able to click a quick photo of the invader before we were forced to take deeper cover. We are currently fighting off the alien attacker from the dining room. We have lost the living room and the office already in the fight. Trying to battle the laser beam ocular weapon of the canine from outer space has proven most difficult. We just don’t have the weapons to hold out much longer…

 

Alien Dog Attack #2

Alien Dog Attack #3

Alien Dog Attack #4

Alien Dog Attack #5

Alien Dog Attack #6

Alien Dog Attack #7

Alien Dog Attack #8

Alien Dog Attack #9

 

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Repetition

You want to be good at something?

Okay, okay. I know. That answer is easy. Everybody wants to be good at something.

But what does it take to get good at something?

You have to do whatever that something is over and over and over and over and over and over. Get the picture?

If you want to be good at something, you have to practice that something well. You have to repeat it.

Repetition is the key. Repetition with purpose.

If I want to be a good hitter, I need to repeat my swing over and over again. I need to repeat my over and over again while attempting to get a little closer to a perfect swing with each subsequent repeat.

If I want to be a good writer, I have to write. Over and over and over again. I need to work at crafting the words better with each idea and each sentence. Repetition.

Very few, if any, kids walk into first grade, kick up their feet, and tell the teacher they’re ready to read War and Peace. The first graders have to learn the sounds the letters make, learn the combinations and then the meanings. Thousands of repetitions are required before your average first grader is going to where the wild things are or even seeing Spot run. Thousands of repetitions, hundreds of mistakes and failures. Being good at something is all about the Fail Cycle.

  1. Try
  2. Fail
  3. Regroup
  4. Learn
  5. Try again
  6. Succeed
  7. Level up
  8. Back to #1

Practice with a purpose. Repeat with the purpose in mind. Get better.

  • Hit the ball harder.
  • Write better stories.
  • Teach kids to read.
  • Construct a house.
  • Repair a car.
  • Operate a farm and/or a ranch.
  • Design a bridge.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Anything worth doing is worth doing the best you can.

Over and over and over and over and over again…

Why all this nonsense on repetition with purpose?

Because I think we are in a place where we want the “Easy Button”. If it ain’t easy, I ain’t doing it. Failure means “quit trying”. Failure means packing up the tent and crawling home. We want to be good, we want to pound our chest about how awesome we want to be, but we forget the “anything worth doing” bit.

We forget the satisfaction is in the journey and the trials and the tribulations. We forget that if we do the work and do the practice and do the repetition, good things usually happen. The “Oh yeah, that thing is really hard, but I just kicked its ass” feeling is a feeling like no other.

Speaking of repetition. This is post #399 on The Coach Hays Blog. Who would have ever guessed when I started this thing back in 2009 as an energy outlet after my football coaching career went belly up it would still be in existence?

I guess the better question is, how can one guy be so damn stupid?

Thanks for hanging around and putting up with my rants and raves and idiocy.

Who knows what the next 100 posts will bring?

More repetition on the theme of STUPIDITY without a doubt!

 

 

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The Best Years?

There’s a nugget of life advice often given to high school kids, particularly high school athletes. A nugget that is so off-the-rails I cannot believe it has survived

“These are the best years of your life.”

Best years? Lord, I hope not! The best years of your life in high school? That seems kind of depressing forecast on the power and potential of each young athlete and student.

The BEST years?

No, but they are special years. They are years in which the high school students are afforded unique life opportunities. They are special because the future is a blank and open canvas.

Teenagers, listen up! You may feel a giant load of pressure right now to define your future. The system will tell you that you should have the specifics of life cemented firmly in place by graduation day. WTeenagers, when that day arrives and this pressure mounts, fling off this weighted jacket of the system’s expectations.

The canvas of your future should be painted with your passions and desires and likes and dislikes. 

It’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your life when you are 18. It’s okay to say no to the dreams others have for you that aren’t fit for you. It’s okay to try something and fail and then get better for another try.

So why do we so often call these high school years the best? They aren’t. Or they shouldn’t be if you pursue your dreams.

Why do we, as adults, anchor kids down with low expectations? Teenagers grow up. Teenagers have great value even though they often bury or masks their potential. And sometimes, kids just need to get away and find another environment in which to blossom.

There’s an old coach’s saying. “The best thing about a freshman is that he becomes a sophomore.”

I believe in that saying and an expanded version which reads,

“The best thing about teenagers is that they become adults.”

As a coach, as a teacher, or even as a parent, remember those teenagers who are driving you absolutely bat-poop crazy today, have the potential to be awesome and productive citizens in the near or far future. They need dreams, resources, and some adults to believe in them.

Believe in your kids.

See the good in them.

Recognize their potential.

Help them down the path to fulfill their passions.

Make them work to achieve their dreams.

Be there to help them rebound when they fail.  Give them the space to back up, reassess, grow, and attack time after time until the dream is a reality.

Develop in them a strong gluteus maximus rubberi, so they know how to bounce up when life knocks them on their ass.

And please people, stop it with the “best years of your life” advice to teenagers. Teach them to believe in the potential of tomorrow. Teach them to work and to fail and to bounce back.

The high school years are special years. Enjoy every minute and every experience. But graduating high school is not the endgame. Life is the endgame. And, if my math is correct, most of us hope to have much more life to experience after high school.

To each and every teenager I ever had the opportunity to coach, I am proud of the adults you have become or are becoming. Your best years were definitely beyond any of those years you spent on a sports field with me.

Keep the faith in yourself!

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Campbell Field Renovation: Phase One

We’ve talked previously about how the Campbell Field Renovation project started with an almost busted nose and how the upgrades to the batting cages rose out of tragedy.  Now it’s time to start the meat and potatoes of how to renovate a baseball field with minimal money and very little skill. (Hint: It’s all about living in a great and giving community where people are willing to give their hard-earned dollars, their time, and their skill to help give our kids a decent place to play baseball.) 

Soon after we made the decision to start improving Campbell Field, there was a story in the local paper about how our baseball field was an unsafe eyesore. The comments were harsh and only barely based in truth. The hardest part to stomach was that these comments came from people who knew nothing about the field, the history of the field, or had ever raised a finger to make the field better. I can’t speak for the other two members of the newly formed ad hoc committee, but it pissed me off.

If we needed any added incentive to improve Kelly Campbell Field, this provided the fuel to drive the project. I guess as a positive side to the facility being called out in public like it did, it was that we three were not the only ones ticked off by the disparaging comments in the media. When news spread we were starting this project, many members of the community stepped up and donated money, and services and time. It was something special.

So here’s what we presented to the city council as Phase One of the plan and the people who were involved in each of the projects. I tried the best I could to remember all the names of the wonderful community members who have helped at Campbell Field. If I leave anyone out, I apologize in advance. Please send me a message and I’ll add you to the honor roll.

Once again, a huge “Thank You” to the baseball community of Clay County and beyond! This renovation project was truly a labor of community love for the game.

Phase 1 (Fall 2013)

A. Initial preparation for infield grating.

  • Spray and kill grass in designated areas.
  • Remove baselines sprinkler head and base anchors from the infield.
  • Remove dead grass.
  • Tilling and grading dirt in high spots for field shaping.
  • Shape infield with available dirt.
    See diagram #1

Thanks to:
Gary Carlson and Art Tannehill for their expertise and skill grading and reshaping the infield.

B. Seeding grass around the infield area.

  • Ground and soil preparation
  • Seeding
  • Water

Thanks to:
Phil Francis for soil prep and seeding.
Clay Center Coop for the donation of the grass seed.

C. Limestone track around dugouts and batter’s walkway.

  • Sod cut from high pole to high pole, 3’ wide, 3” deep.
  • Fill with crushed limestone, level, and roll pack.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to:
Scott Howe for the use of his sod cutter.
Brian Martin for the donation of limestone screenings from Martin Quarry.
Arlan Close for hauling the limestone screenings.
Sean McDonald and CTI for use of a John Deere bucket tractor to place the limestone.

D. Construct dugout protection screen.

  • 25’ long, 4-4.5 foot high pipe frame, attached to concrete.
  • Slide and tie netting over the frame.
  • Install safety pad rail over top of posts.

Thanks to:

Steve Cyre of Clay Center Public Utilities for fabrication of dugout screens from recycled pipe.


E. Bullpens

  • Double mound and double plate bullpen mounds for both home and away side of the field.

Thanks to:
Morganville Lumber for the donation of the original wood frames.
Andy Bent and Barrett Long for building the original frames.
Top Cut Construction for rebuilding the bullpen frames in 2017.

Until next time when we take a look at Phase Two.

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