Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Red Sox Spring Training Part 1

Spring Training has begun for the Red Sox and I have a few thoughts on the upcoming 2010 season, after having watched the 3-hour live broadcast of the first workout for pitchers and catchers this morning.

First, it is great to see Peter Gammons joining the NESN coverage. He is absolutely a class act and an encyclopedia of baseball knowledge. Also, what other Major League team broadcasts live from Spring Training on multiple days?

Let's talk pitching. I don't think any other team can touch the Red Sox 1-2-3 starters. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey (in whatever order you choose) are the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball. If Dice-K is healthy (which reports say he is), followed by Clay Buchholz and/or Tim Wakefield (who made the All-Star team last year), there is no touching the Sox for starting pitching. Also, their bullpen is as deep as I have ever seen it.

I am struck by the fact that Victor Martinez is so impressed by Jason Varitek's generosity in working with him last season. Tek seems to have no open resentment toward V-Mart, who has taken over Tek's starting position. What other professional athlete would be so mature?

NESN did a nice segment on Gary Tuck, the Sox bullpen coach. I did not realize how lucky the Sox are to have him. Not only does he do a fine job working with the pitchers, but he is one of the premiere catching coaches, working with the catchers. They say he may be the Major League's leading expert when it comes to working with catchers. Lucky Red Sox.

One person I am going to follow in the minor leagues this year is young Red Sox shortstop Jose Inglesias. The Sox have high praise for this young athlete out of Cuba. They expect him to be the Red Sox shortstop of the future. I'm going to make it my duty to keep an eye on his progress throughout the year.

An interesting tidbit I was unaware of: John Lackey's wife is originally from Sanford, Maine. That might have played a role in his signing with the Red Sox this off-season. Interesting.

I also want to follow The Houston Astros this year. Their new manager is none other than former Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills. I have no doubt Mills will be an outstanding manager. The only question is whether the Astros front office is willing to give him what he needs for players.

I was also impressed with the number of position players who reported early in order to have a few extra days of batting practice and whatever else they can get in. I saw Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Yukilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Jeremy Hermida and Tug Hulett (a utility player who played a little bit with Kansas City last year). There may have been others, but those were the ones I noticed.

Coach Merrill's Prediction #1: Daisuke Matsuzaka will have a great year after being injured most of last year and he will win at least 14 games this season.

More predictions will follow in the days ahead.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why we keep going back to Walt Disney World

Cara and I have been to Walt Disney World three times in five years. We took Seth in June 2004. Just the two of us went in August 2007, as a second honeymoon. Then we went again in April of 2009. Nobody came out and asked us directly, but I suspect that a lot of people wanted to ask us why we kept going back.

Why? Why, when there are thousands of other places to go, do we keep going back to Disney? Very good question.

The answers to that question are numerous.

First of all, when you go to Walt Disney World, the experience is never the same twice. Yes, many of the shows and rides are the same as they have been for years. But others have had major renovations, and it is really fun to see the rides and shows and look for the changes. Others have had subtle changes. Still other rides and shows are all new. Disney is constantly adding new stuff, from Monster, Inc. to Toy Story Mania to Expedition Everest, to name a very few.

There is something very comforting in knowing that if you go to the Lion King Musical Show that it is going to be just as spectacular as the first time you saw it. It is fantastic to see the Peter Pan ride, the Snow White ride, the Beauty and the Beast musical, or the Carousel of Progress and know that you will have the same great experience that you had the first time.

It is also fun to see the subtle updates on things like the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents, and It's a Small World. Or major changes, like Spaceship Earth.

And Disney is constantly adding new, exciting things, like Toy Story Mania, Soarin' (one of my favorites), Expedition Everest, and the American Idol Experience (one of Cara's favorites).

We also stay somewhere different each time. In 2004, we stayed at All-Star Sports. In 2007, we stayed at Pop Century. In 2009, we upgraded to a moderate resort, the beautiful Port Orleans Riverside. Each experience was unique and outstanding.

Even though we stayed for a week each time, we still never get to do everything we would like to. In 2009, we experienced several things for the first time, including Rafiki's Planet Watch, Rockin' Roller Coaster (just Cara), Finding Nemo Musical, O Canada, Fantasmic, the Magic of Disney Animation, the Little Mermaid show, and Buss Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Yet, there are still some things we have never done (Tom Sawyer's Island, for example).

I guess my last reason why we keep going back is simple. Do you have anyplace you always return to? My parents love Moosehead Lake, here in Maine. They go there just about every year. It is a special place for them. My sister-in-law, Sara, returns to Peru every few years. It is a special place for her, and now for my brother as well. I have relatives in Texas that always return to Maine. It is a special place for them. Walt Disney World is a special place for Cara and me. That's why we keep going back.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snow Removal Etiquette

This winter has left me baffled by the lack of snow removal etiquette displayed by my neighbors. Is it just me, or have things gotten worse this year? In the past, we have had large amounts of snow, without any issues with snow removal etiquette. I don't understand why it is an issue all of a sudden. True, some of the neighbors are new to the neighborhood. But some have been here for several years. This is what I have seen.

One of my neighbors, last year, used to shovel the snow out of his yard and into the middle of the road. This meant that those of us who live above him have to drive through that mess until the next time the plow comes by to clean up the snowbanks, which is usually a few days after the storm. Thankfully, he has stopped doing this. Now, he has a plow on the front of his ATV and plows the snow mostly onto the sides of his driveway, and actually cleans up the snow that gets into the road. Of course, he sometimes pushes that snow onto the lawn of his neighbor across the street, but this is an improvement over past behavior.

I watched this morning as another neighbor carried shovelful after shovelful of snow and dumped it across the road onto another neighbors front lawn while she was at work. How neighborly of him.

I am currently watching my neighbor across the road as he uses his new snow blower to blow the snow into the middle of the road. At first I thought it was just laziness, not wanting to readjust the direction of the blower. But then I saw him readjust the blower to purposely blow the snow into the road.

People, there are (or should be) some rules for proper snow removal etiquette.

1. Snow that gets removed from your driveway should never find its way to somebody else's property.

2. Just because a neighbor's yard is full of snow does not mean it is a dumping ground for more snow.

3. The road is not the proper disposal place for snow. There is a reason that snow plows spend so much time during snowstorms removing the snow from said roads. It is particularly improper to add more snow to the before-mentioned roads AFTER the plows have finished their snow removal.

4. Dump snow into other's yards as you would have others dump snow into yours.

Believe me, I know that we are all running out of places to put our (damn) snow. My snowbanks beside the driveway are all over six feet in height. But I sure don't want more snow from my neighbors.

Spring is around the corner. Ah, mud-season.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflecting on 2008

I thought it might be a good idea to reflect back on 2008.

2008 was a time of minor change for me. A time for a removal of stress. A time of growth.

It was the first year I had started without Washington, my faithful canine companion, since 1994. In that respect, it was a time of sadness and a time of moving on. It was a time to see that pets' lives are so much shorter than our own and a natural cycle for all pet owners is the death of that pet. It's sad, but it is all part of the circle of life. That is the way God made this world, it is right that the world has death, but that does not mean it is easy.

2008 saw the end of the former leadership in my school district, and a new (although temporary) leadership put in place. With this new leadership, there was a major time of celebration within my school district, almost a freeing from bondage. I don't wish to underestimate the sense of relief when the new leadership was put in place (nor do I wish to get more specific). The district literally heaved a gigantic sigh of relief, those of us who survived and were willing to wait it out. The stress levels throughout the district have dropped tremendously.

2008 saw the long dreamed of deck added to the back of our house. I don't know how many times I stared at the back of my house, anticipating what it would be like to have a nice deck with a door leading onto it. And we were finally able to see that dream come true.

2008 saw a huge maturing of my stepson. I am very proud of the steps Seth has taken to get his life together. He has grown as a person in the last eight months or so, and he seems to be on the right track.

2008 saw me grow as a writer, publishing two new books, and re-publishing my first book, newly updated. Although I am not making more than change on the books, it is a great deal of fun and I shall continue to write.

2008 saw me return to an old love: painting. I have gotten a new set of oil paints and have begun to paint once again (I think it had been ten years since my last painting). I am very rusty, but I am having fun.

2008 saw me falling even more in love with my wife. I know I don't tell her often enough how much she means to me, but she is everything to me. I love her bigger than the trees.

Finally, 2008 saw Cara and me in the best shape we have ever been as a couple as far as finances are concerned. Do we still live paycheck to paycheck? Yes. What else is new there. But we occasionally have a little extra, which is a nice change.

Here is wishing everyone a fantastic 2009!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Snow Days

Oh, how I love a good snow day. One of the perks to being a teacher is that you get the occasional snow day, a day off from school due to snow or ice.

My wife and I had one yesterday, this being one of the ice-related varieties. I mean, what can be nicer than getting up at 5:15 in the morning, expecting to have to go to work, and finding out you don't. You have an unexpected free day, a day to do nothing. You can't go anywhere due to the weather, so you can't use it as an excuse to do some errands. You get to stay home where it is snug and cozy and relax, do whatever you would like, read a book, watch television, surf the Internet, play a game, anything indoors. If it is very snowy out, you will eventually need to clear the driveway and steps, but since you don't have to got to work, you can do it on your own time.

My problem is that by the time I get that phone call telling me there's no school, or by the time I see my school listed on the bottom of the TV screen on Stormcenter (love their theme music), I am wide awake. There is no way I can go back to sleep. My wife is the opposite. Which means I usually curl up in the recliner in the living room with my latest book (right now I am reading The Toomyknockers by Stephen King) and enjoy a few hours reading, drinking coffee (pumpkin flavored yesterday), and watching the snow come down (or freezing rain, yesterday).

Of course, the biggest drawback is that every time we have a snow day, it means one more day in June we have to go. Some people say, no, there are snow days built into the school calendar, we don't have to make them up until we go over a certain number. Bologna, I say. They are only there to remind people that we are likely to use snow days. If by some chance we don't use them (rarely happens), then we don't go those days. So essentially, every snow day is another day in June.

But, as long as we only have two or three or four snow days, it is more than worth it. Instant gratification, and all that.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Boston Red Sox Managers

I am very pleased to announce the publication of my newest book, Boston Red Sox Managers. This book profiles all the Red Sox managers, from 1901 to the present. Included are Joe Cronin, who managed for 13 seasons, and Rudy York, who managed for one game. It includes the very first manager, Jimmy Collins, and the present manager, Terry Francona. And it includes all the rest, 44 managers in all.

This book is actually a part of a much larger book I am writing profiling all the Major League baseball managers, from the 1870s to the present. My original hope was to have the larger book finished before Spring Training, 2009, but I quickly saw that that was unlikely to happen, so I have decided to publish shorter books, categorized by teams, while I work to finish the larger book. The Red Sox, the team I have followed passionately since I was a boy, was the logical choice to start.

Boston Red Sox Managers by Brian Merrill is available exclusively on at a price of $9.95 per copy.