Tag Archives: Vin Scully

Bucket list check: Goodbye Vin

Several years ago, at the lowest point of my life, I was in rehab and far removed from everything familiar and comforting. Like so many do when life dead ends, I started the so-called Bucket List focused on things I hoped to do again once I put my life back on the rails. Almost every item involved an experience I wanted to share with another person.

One item on the list: listen to a Vin Scully broadcast one more time. I didn’t need to share it with anyone else, just legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.

The sweet, understated, folksy charm of Scully connected me back to my childhood. Night after night, I carried my radio down to the local market that had the game of Pac-Man. I’d put the radio above the game, break out a roll of quarters I saved from my various chores or entrepreneurial activities, and tune into Scully’s Dodger broadcasts.

These times said a lot about me. I didn’t need a lot of others around to find my happy place. I loved baseball and still, do. I loved mastering anything–in this case, Pac-Man, where eventually I could play three or four innings on a single quarter– and I tended to be both competitive and addictive even when the activity didn’t matter to anyone else.

But mostly, they reminded me of a marker in my life that felt uncluttered, uncomplicated and happy. These three things don’t often align in my life.

At the time I wrote the list, I knew I couldn’t get a Dodger broadcast until the next season. I told my brother during a visitation about my hope.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Scully is retiring this year.”

I couldn’t believe it, and yet, of course, it made sense. He had already broadcasted for more than 60 years–a staggering run of longevity and excellence. But still, like everything bad happening during that time it felt personal, like punishment. Fate needed to take my to the shed, again and again.

But fate showed some grace. Scully re-upped for quite a few more years bringing us to this day today, the last time he broadcasts in LA. I sit in my dream apartment, my dogs nearby, just passed my seven-year sobriety mark, and I can cross this off the bucket list. I’ve heard Scully a few times in the last few years, but this is special. I’m here at the end of his ride and again, in a better place in my life.

When I added Scully to my Bucket List, I optimistically hoped to listen to a Giants/Dodgers game. If I was going to have a memorable moment, why not go for one of the great rivalries of all time and one that marked my growth. I grew up a Dodger fan and yet long ago moved myself and all my allegiances to the North. I’m San Francisco through and through these days, even if an adopted not naturalized citizen.

Scully’s final broadcast will be later this week, on the road here in San Francisco, for a final Dodgers vs. Giants game. I’m not sure I can get that broadcast, but I’ll watch the game along with Vin for one last time.

In this world so full of grace, it’s nice to be reminded of how much I’ve been given.

“God is so good,” Scully reflected today on this special broadcast.

She is indeed.

 

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Facebook redefines ‘family’ in unexpected ways

If a guy named Matt Smith meets a guy named Steve Smith it may, at best, raise a nod of acknowledgement. It means nothing.

But somehow, especially for my father, if two guys with a weird name like Bolsinger meet, it’s a family reunion.

My father is the keeper of all things Bolsinger. For more than a decade he kept a blog called The House of Bolsinger documenting Bolsingers from the past and connected them to each other in the present.

Thanks to Facebook, these associations are far easier than ever. Pop has “met” a gang of Bolsingers from all across the country, including the mother of a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher named Mike Bolsinger, who my dad calls “my cousin.”

When Pop heard Mike would be pitching in AT&T Park in my beloved San Francisco, he suggested (that’s putting it mildly) that I go do a story on “your cousin Mike.”

Fair enough. I try to please him when I can. I nabbed a press pass and headed down to the yard.

It sounded silly, especially trying to pitch this to various magazines with a straight face (and explain it to the media people of both the Dodgers and the Giants), but as Ole’ Cousin Mike took the mound on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, I sat in the press box and felt this odd sense of pride for a stranger I’d never met.

I had first heard of Mike back in 2007 when he pitched for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  I was covering the Oakland A’s at the time and doing a lot of writing about the minor leagues and the draft. That strange name connection stuck and I’ve “followed” his career arc, very loosely ever since. When he first started in the big leagues, last year for the Arizona Diamondbacks, my brother noticed and sent me a text.

I went on and saw Mike struggling to get out of the fifth, if I recall. I texted the update to my brother.

“Well he’s a Bolsinger like us. Probably has a weanie arm,” he joked.

We are nothing but self-effacing. But still, both of us love baseball.  We were both just a touch pleased to see our odd name on the back of a baseball jersey.

As I sat in the press box, flipping through the press packet, I noticed Mike Bolsinger on the big screen of my favorite ballpark in the entire world. I snapped a photo and smiled. Cool, I thought, knowing full well it had absolutely nothing to do with me as a stranger with the same name took the mound.

I made the most of this day, like catching up to Mike’s manager Don Mattingly who said, “I thought he did really good. Got his breaking ball over and changed up with it. He did everything we asked him to do.”

I kept score the entire game, something I don’t do much anymore, but loved to do as a kid:

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Later I ran over to the Giants locker room and interviewed second baseman Joe Panik. He looked a bit confused when I asked him only one question.

“What did you think of Bolsinger today?”

Panik gave the customary quote of he did well, he made us battle, etc.

“Cool, thanks,” I said and walked away to his surprise.

Despite myself, I felt that familiar sense in my gut of pulling for him to do well, against my favorite team no less, a team whose World Series Championship last year made me so happy, I made it a point to go see the trophy they won.

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After the game I watched as a the gaggle of reporters surrounded Mike in the locker room asking him questions about his start. Mike’s on the fringes of the big leagues. He has had about dozen starts in his career. This experience was still pretty new to him and it showed. Not in an awkward big-headed way, but in the coolest way: He was digging it. And no, I didn’t know him, but I was…happy… for him as I watched.

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After the rest of the reporters left in search of other quotes, I was introduced to Mike and asked him questions no other reporter likely ever will.

“So what were the worst nicknames you were called growing up?”

His eyes rolled knowingly.

We swapped stories about the butchering of our name. He used the exact same words I’ve muttered so many times when he said, “I don’t get it. It’s said like it sounds. I tell people all the time, ‘there are no As, the L is before the S…”

“I know right,” I said. “Look, there’s no balls, no slinging.”

We both laughed and grimaced.

I shared some of my nicknames: Slinker, Bowlbutt, Ballsucker.

He’d heard similar. He said he’d raise a fist for emphasis until the nicknames cooled.

“I got lucky I guess, being a pitcher. I was called Bullseye.”

“Shit,” I said. “That’s awesome.”

I was genuinely jealous.

 

So there we stood in the middle of the Dodgers locker room after one of life’s truly big moments for Mike “Bullseye” Bolsinger and the only thing that brought us together is our strange last name and my father’s affinity for Facebook.

Somehow in this era of Facebook, the definition of “family” means something entirely different from I think ever intended. Most of the time I hate it, which is why I don’t go on it. These posts are placed remotely. I don’t “socialize” through Facebook. I don’t know what’s happening on Facebook. I avoid the ever-present reality show that we make of our lives on Facebook that may have something to do with the rampant narcissism that author David Brooks chronicles in his latest book, The Road to Character.

I can’t tell you how many family spats, dustups, hurt feelings and broken relationships started with the words “friend” or “post” or “like” or “didn’t like” related to Facebook. I’ve blissfully unaware of such nonsense. I’ve made my protest of this version of “social life” known with a T-shirt I wear often:

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My family and friends are the people I touch, the people I take pictures with, the ones who speak to me in person, not this loose cabal of stalkers who relate only via likes and posts.

You get the point right? I’m not a Facebook fan.

But…

But…

But this day in the sun that only came about because of Facebook and my father and my father’s affinity for other Bolsingers, I had to confess, it was pretty EFFin cool. Facebook “family” for a day? Sure. I’ll take it.

Mike made it easier. In all of the five minutes I’ve known him (yes, he’s my new BFF, but he doesn’t know it yet… maybe I’ll send him a “friend request!”) he showed the ability to laugh at himself, showed genuine humility and showed class.

As I listened to the gaggle of reporters asking him about his start, he admitted he was gacked (my word, not his) to face Buster Posey in a crucial situation in the 6th.

“That was fun,” he said.

I’ve interviewed several pro athletes. Few let reporters in on the joy of the game.

It wasn’t BS either. During his next start he gave up a monster home run to the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton that actually left Chavez Ravine… left the whole stadium not just the ball park. His reaction?

“I looked back and thought, ‘that was awesome,’ and then got on with the game,” he said.

A game he went on to win, no less, earning himself another start this Sunday, with Vin Scully, my all-time favorite of favorites announcing the name “Bolsinger.”

“Did he pronounce it right?” Mike asked me.

We both agreed he probably did and the legendary Vin Scully saying our name is right up there with pretty great days.

What’s not to like? His Twitter account highlights on my favorite Bible verses, Joshua 1:9:  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” It also has a photo of quote from my own hero, Martin Luther King Jr, taken at his D.C. memorial. I’m surprised a bit by our common interests.

If five minutes shows anything, it showed me Mike’s mother and father did a hell of a job.

“So congratulations on being the most famous Bolsinger now,” I told him. “Make us proud!”

He laughed. “I’ll do my best,” he said.

Even though I despise all things associated with the team of my youth (except Vin Scully and pitcher Mike Bolsinger) I find myself thinking ahead to Sunday and watching the game and listening to Vin say Bolsinger on the mound and knowing I will want him to win. How’s that for Facebook “family?”

It’s weird man, really weird. But in this day and age when Facebook dominates so much of our culture in so many tragic, disconnect, silly, ways, it’s nice to know that it does some good too, by connecting dots no matter how loosely in this great karmic world we call home that would likely have never been connected any other way.

‘My’ name in lights: Bolsinger pitches for Dodgers

I grew up in a Los Angeles suburb listening most nights to the crooning play-by-play of the maestro of broadcasting Vin Scully calling Dodger games. I had an overly active imagination, so more than once I heard Vin Scully announce my name in my head as I swung a mighty whiffleball bat.

Today, Scully finally introduced my name as a Dodger on a broadcast–well, the last name anyway– as pitcher Mike Bolsinger took the mound at AT&T Park against the San Francisco Giants.

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Sitting here in the press box and seeing the name Bolsinger on the big screen is sort is weird and sort of cool in a weird, cool kind of way.

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I first heard of Mike Bolsinger seven years ago when he pitched for the University of Arkansas.  I was writing for The Bleacher Report and SF Examiner covering the Oakland A’s. I took a lot of interest in the baseball draft, which wasn’t much of an event back then. I noticed Bolsinger drafted in the late rounds. I was mildly curious and began to read clips about his starts. He seemed a marginal prospect at best but still the best known Bolsinger by a wide margin. Last year he became a major league baseball pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a testament to his hard work to climb through the minors and keep at it until his dreams came true.

Somewhere around that time my dad, a self-appointed keeper of all thing Bolsinger Including A House of Bolsinger blog, began to tell me about my “cousin” Mike the pitching star. When Mike finally broke into the bigs, a handful of Giants and Angels fans from California who share his name and took notice. Why not? “Family” in the age of Facebook is a very broadly defined term.

So today’s a good day for we Bolsinger clan, a small, hearty group with a funny last name as Ole Cousin Mike does us all proud (we are I  the 4th inning and Mike’s dealing a shutout so far). After the game I’ll head down to the locker room and interview him for a lifestyle story I pitched (believe me, I’ve pitched weirder stories in my day). We will talk a little baseball, family, swap awful nickname stories (“no sir, no balls no slinging, just Bolsinger,” I’ve said to more than one coach in my life) and whatever else comes up, just one Bolsinger to another.

Opening Day: Dodgers team to hate the most

The grass is Eden-like green. The first pitches have been tossed across the country. Bats smack, gloves pop, organs trill and life is good again.

Nothing like Opening Day to turn writers of prose into flawed fumbles of poetry. It’s just a lyrical game, far too often poorly described, much like romantic love that never quite reads like it feels. You just have to live it.

The two best words in my lexicon: play ball. Two other fun ones:

Prediction time.

I’ll leave the mashup that is the American League this year for a minute and get into the Senior Circuit, where truly great teams still exist and dominate the hopes of those trying to knock them off the pedestal. But the greatest of those teams likely won’t be among the playoff finishers this year. The Giants won’t repeat.

But the Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals and maybe even the Pirates will. History tells us one of these teams will endure a bad rash of injuries and head-scratching slumps and maybe not live up to its potential. History tells us the Dodgers are the least likely to weather these types of turmoil. The stopgap solutions of Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are not as great as people think, especially Rollins who at 36 may be the worst leadoff hitter in the National League.

The Dodgers are on their way to building a similar perennial power, while temporarily playing the awful Yankee-like overspender to bridge the gap. They have spent gazillions to offer some competitive teams while rebuilding from the inside out to make franchise, which took a ton of money, but also a lot of baseball smarts. But I’m still not sure they are going to put it all together this year. I want to believe they won’t. They’ve been good, but they’re going to soon be great. I hate ’em (though the All-time Giants still kick the All-Time Dodgers arses). But I love Vin Scully and for him alone (and the sheer joy of listening to him call a ballgame, I’m predicting they win the division).

The Nationals and Cardinals may be two of the best run organizations in sports. They have built powerhouses. The Nationals have so far mostly underachieved while the Cards have proven they can overachieve when it counts the most, much like the Giants who seem to be the only team that has their number in recent years.

The Cubs are coming. Joe Maddon was a brilliant hire, perhaps the one guy Theo Epstein wanted more than Jon Lester and he ended up getting both. Maddon alone makes the Cubs a contender in my book. The downside is all that young talent will take some time to sort itself out. They will strike out … A LOT… and as much as during the steroid era strikeouts didn’t matter much, they are absolutely killing teams again (rightly so… not that real baseball skills like moving runner and turning over the lineup are back). I wonder if Maddon is great enough to offset the terrible dead spots the strikeouts will create. I can’t decide.

I can decide on the Padres. Everyone is excited about them much they way they were excited about the Blue Jays last year after its spending spree and the Marlins the year before that in its spending spree and so many other teams that suddenly grow sick of stinking up the joint and decide, EFF THIS, and start spending money like Bernie Madoff before his prison stint.

The problem is it never works. Ever. The only times big spending works is when it’s coupled with deep internal talent. The Yankees overspent for decades but only won four championships when Big Money George was banished and the team was allowed to nurture the likes of Derrick Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada. The Dodgers outspent everyone but didn’t have the chemistry the Giants develop with consistency through its organization.

The Padres didn’t spend as recklessly as its predecessors but it gave away years of accumulated talent. Justin Upton can hit it out of the cavernous Petco Park, but my bet is Matt Kemp looks nothing like his old MVP self and just looks old. The pitchers will be good, but they are always are and the offense can’t be as bad as its been, but it still won’t be great. I see a near miss for this team and then back to the depths where it has been.

The surprise team in the West, if there is one, is the Rockies. The team can mash, thanks in part to its mile-high park. In an era where everyone has pitching, few teams have hitting, so the Rockies could stand out especially because it may, just may, just just may may have enough pitching to make one of its once a decade or so runs. The Marlins are going to be good. They have sooo much talent, but again the Cubs problem of youth and strikeouts could hurt them. I see the Cubs and see the Marlins and see two similar teams, but I see Joe Maddon and the Marlins fade away.

There is little else in the National League that interests me.

So the predictions:

East: Nationals
Central: Pirates
West: Dodgers
Wild Cards: Rockies, Cardinals (or maybe the Giants and then God forbid the other teams in the playoffs, but I suspect that’s wishful thinking.

Check back tomorrow for the American League, the playoffs and the World Series predictions.

Opening Day remains vital link to American pastime

As my life swirled ever-deeper into alcoholism, my interests diminished as if being forced through a funnel. At the end, I kept my work, my life with The Bride, our family and little else. Fun meant Happy Hour. I did little else because supposedly I was stressed out and tired at the end of the day. I didn’t want to do anything but watch a movie and relax, which was code for have a 4 p.m. cocktail, open a bottle of wine, drink it will mindlessly watching TV, open another bottle and get a little happy until I fell asleep in a stupor. Some days it took more than two bottles. Some days the cocktails started again around closing time. Some days it was not a stupor but a blackout.

Over and over again.

Recovery is about expansiveness. Once I broke through to the other side, life became big again. Glorious. Beautiful. Artistic. Creative. Interesting. It became filled with those “Ah-ha” moments that define EffinArtists.com.

Tomorrow is part of that expansiveness returning. It’s opening day of major league baseball. It’s the one interest of mine that I have loved and participated in for decades. It brings me back to the excitement of my youth, of going to games with my children and watching them become fans, of the thrill of covering baseball and seeing Opening Day from a press box, and the rhythm of consistency every year this time of year.

The only times in my life I let Opening Day slip by relatively unnoticed were the times at the very end when the grip of addiction took its toll. I can’t tell you how happy I am today to have it back.

I won’t be in ballpark this year, but I’ll have the television on for the first games. I’ll make sure to tune in to every inning of my hometown Giants. I’ll boo everything about the Dodgers except the magic artistry of Vin Scully.

And if ever there is a picture more beautiful that the artistic symmetry of a ballfield–the grass and the dirt and the distant skyline and the Opening Day colors of bunting and banners and American pageantry–I don’t know what it is.

We celebrate life and recovery every day (or try to anyway), but on celebrations of our past and present and future like Opening Day, it is truly time to take pause and thank the heavens for small blessings.

They say on Opening Day “hope springs eternal.” On Opening Day every team has the World Series in their view. Six long months from now through the dog days of summer there will be only one champion. But on Opening Day, everyone is a winner. Hope indeed. Eternal, indeed.

Play ball.

PS. Not that matters but each year I predict my winners for the coming season. In my mind I want to show I stand with the legion of prognosticators on the web and hold my own. Most year’s I do. So it’s important I call my show now so I can brag, or be rightly belittled at season’s end. So…

Predictions:

American League

  • East: Rays
  • Central: Indians
  • West: A’s
  • Wild Card: Angels, Orioles

National League:

  • East: Nationals
  • Central: Cardinals
  • West: Giants
  • Wild Card: Dodgers, Pirates

American League Champs: Rays

National League Champs: Nationals

World Series Champs: Nationals

If you are a baseball fan and want to talk trash later in the year, you better get in now with your predictions by replying below. If you don’t call your shot, don’t start talking later.