Saturday, February 28, 2009

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Well no one ever accused Campbellsville of being fast paced like New York City. Being back has been a big change. You don't really see how much the economy has been affected in small town USA until you are here. I am working, but only odd jobs. The company that I got offered a job with has a hiring freeze in place until further notice.
Luckily, I have been able to do small odd jobs here and there. I have spent alot of time at the doctors office that my mom works at. It's a small, private practice eye doctor's office, and the doctor is only in twice a week, because he has other offices in surrounding counties that he visits. But he is the biggest pack-rat I have ever met. He has five rooms filled with old junk that needs to be tossed or sold. I counted 23 old computers that don't work that he refused to toss. And old equipment that is out of date and can't be used. So he has brought me in to move it into the attic. I keep thinking of the scene in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? where the mom (who is in excess of 350 pounds easily) dies in the upstairs of the family home. The family can't carry her downstairs, so they burn down the home. I feel like that is what will happen to this doctor's office when he passes, because there is so much junk in the attic now. And he owns an unused office next door that is filled with junk also. But instead of cleaning it and renting it out, it just houses junk. Pretty pointless, but organizing the junk has given me work.

And a little update to my last post. Last Friday the Hilltoppers baseball team won in a shutout, and Matt pitched six dominant shutout innings. There was supposed to be a doubleheader Saturday and another game on Sunday, but they were all cancelled because of rain/snow. So that only gave us one game before we went to Vanderbilt to play. For those who don't know college baseball, Vanderbilt is kind of like USC in football or North Carolina in basketball. They constantly pump out top players and live at the top of the rankings. We got down 7-1, but came back, only to fall short 10-7. Tough loss, but a good game for the guys. What was good to see was my buddy Chad Adcock pitch great. Chad was the first player that I met when I came on with the team. He tried out as a walk-on shortstop. While turning double plays during tryouts, he was throwing sidearm, and the coaches saw it and sent him to the bullpen to pitch. He had never pitched sidearm, but they kept him on as a project player. So my first day on the job, I was fixing the mounds, and they made him help. He didn't think they would even keep him around, but he is now a senior and has played off and on. He joined the Bible study and is maybe the most liked guy on the team. He had a rough year last year, but really got after it in the summer and fall. So the coaches brought him in to pitch, and he shut down Vandy. He threw 1 2/3 innings and struck out a few guys without giving up any runs. Against a team like Vandy, that's a very big deal.
And yesterday, our guys played a doubleheader against Albany, a team that beat us in a home series two years back. Matt pitched the first game and threw six more dominant shutout innings and we won 11-0 in 6 innings. In college baseball, there is a ten run rule after six innings during a doubleheader or Sunday game, so it only went six innings. The second game was total domination, and we won 23-2 in six innings. We played alot of freshman, and the two runs were given up off a backend pitcher who wont see much action this year. So the season has started off well. More updates to follow. Have a blessed day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Play Ball!!!

That's right, it's finally opening day at WKU. This year's WKU baseball team is projected to be the best that the school has ever fielded. And from being pretty close to the program for the past few years and knowing the history of the program, I know that this will be a great year. The program has gotten a huge makeover since Coach Finwood took over. Last year, we won the conference title. And for those who don't know, the college baseball landscape is much different than basketball and football. In baseball, the Sun Belt Conference is a legit national contender. So winning the conference tourney last year was a big deal. And this preseason, we have been picked by every publication and the coaches to win the regular season title.
The guy on the top right is Matt Ridings. Matt was the first guy to come on board the baseball team Bible study back when I was with the team. He wasn't heavily recruited, but has a great chance to set every pitching record in school history. He is a preseason All-American and preseason conference pitcher of the year. I had to put him up because his picture was the only that I had. My only complaint is that I can't get a radio broadcast in Campbellsville, so I have to get text updates from the guys still working for the team. But don't worry, I will keep my bloggies updated on how the team does periodically.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beyond Belief

I spent most of the day Monday reading. I love to read, but I definitely don't spend hours on end reading. The longest book that I had read in one sitting may be Green Eggs and Ham. But I love biographies, especially athletes biographies. I know many don't see athletic biographies as higher reader, but I dig it.

When I was a senior in high school I heard the tragic tale of Josh Hamilton, the number one draft pick from the 1999 MLB Draft. He was considered a can't miss prospect, one with his head on straight, humble, and with everything in order. And he torched the Minor Leagues in his first two years, so much so in fact that his parent team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, strongly considered calling up "their future" at the tender age of 19. They didn't, and soon after, things began to unravel for him. He was in a scary car wreck with his parents during spring training, on the same day that the Rays told him that he would be in the Minors for a bit longer. He had a resulting back issue, forcing him to rest. His parents, who had traveled with the team his first two years in the Minors, went back to North Carolina to nurse their injuries, so for the first time, he was alone, and without baseball. He decided to get a tattoo, and after getting several tattoos in a short period of time, got introduced to alcohol and cocaine by the tattoo artist. He would eventually spiral downward, fail several drug tests, get bounced from rehab to rehab, and get suspended from baseball for an extended period of time.

That was the story as I knew it my senior year of high school. And that was the story for awhile. He was a drug addict, alcoholic, deadbeat dad and husband, prodigal son, and estranged grandchild. All of that resulted on him losing all of the athletic ability and strength that he had.

After a failing marriage, nights spent on dirty trailer floors with crack dealers, losing the trust of everyone around him, and having his story told at seminars as a cautionary tale, Hamilton hit rock bottom. After a night of extreme drug use and wandering aimlessly, he ended up on the front porch of his Granny. She was the only one left who would take him in. And she loved him unconditionally. Hamilton had become a believer early on in his drug use, but just allowed Satan to take control. But he began to look to God. He opened a Bible in his granny's spare room, and began to read. And let it soak in. He began to detox, and had dreams of beating up Satan with a bat but never finishing him off, and eventually losing strength and giving up. But after a short time with his granny, he had another dream, but God came to his rescue, and Satan was defeated.

The next time I heard about Josh Hamilton was in January of 2007. He had finally kicked the addictions and was getting back into baseball. He had lost almost all of his chances, but was trying a comeback. He was sober for two months in 2006 and the Rays let him play for a low level independent ball team, which is as low as you can get in professional baseball. In early 07, MLB had their Rule 5 Draft. This is a draft where any player who was signed to a big league contract who wasn't on a big league's 40-man roster(anything below the bigs, essentially) could re-drafted. Usually, this draft isnt a big deal. Nobody notable or really promising comes of this draft. But the Cubs drafted Hamilton and traded his rights to the Reds. A rule with this draft is that a drafted player has to be placed on their new teams big league roster, or they get sent back to their original team. So Hamilton was going to be a big leaguer.

For non-baseball or non-sports people, that may have seemed like alot of babble. Basically, the former addict, the former joke, the former cautionary tale was going to be a big leaguer. But this time, he was following God, and seeking to put people around him to hold him to a higher standard. He had the team essentially hire a babysitter who took his meal money, traveled everywhere with him, and never left him alone. He was being drug tested 3 times a week, never failing one. One more failed test and he was banned from baseball for good. When he made his debut with the Reds, the fans gave him 4 standing ovations. He was finally the feel good story. And every reporter and fan who wanted to hear the story got it. And he always lets them know where his power came from.

My favorite and probably everyone elses favorite Josh Hamilton moment came in July of last year. I was at Xtreme Fitness in Campbellsville running on a treadmill and watching the Home Run Derby on one of the tvs. When Josh started training again, he had a vivid dream of being at Yankee Stadium in the Homerun Derby and seeing him hit balls out, and then being interviewed by a femial reporter. At this point, Hamilton was my favorite player in the game. But Hamilton stepped into Yankee Stadium and put on a show that no one will forget. Instead of having a coach or teammate throw him pitches for the Derby, he brought along a man in his 70's who used to throw him batting practice as a kid. He told this man when he was still in high school that if he ever competed in the Derby that he would let him pitch to him. Hamilton put on the greatest show in Derby history. In the Derby, you get 10 outs, and an out is any swing that is not a homerun. At one point, he hit 13 straight homeruns. He finished with 28 in the first round, a record. The last time he was in Yankee Stadium he heard chants of "Josh smokes crack", but this time they were chanting "Ha-mil-ton." Afterwards, he was interviewed on the field by Erin Andrews, ESPN's female correspondent. He told the world about his relationship with Christ and how God is His strength.

So I was excited to read his book, if you can tell. And sorry for the extremely long post, which may be longer than the book itself. But I can man up and say that there were times in the book when I was in tears reading about his struggles and recovery. I highly recommend the book. I read all 250-plus pages in one sitting, and wish there was more. If not the book, check out the link at the bottom of this post. Early into the 2007 season, while he was still with the Reds and before the Derby and his All-Star appearance, he wrote a guest letter/article for ESPN:The Magazine. It's not terribly long, so if you get the chance, check it out. This book also excites me because of the ballplayers at WKU. I had talked to them before about Josh's testimony, and they were all intrigued. on Western's sports website, they have been doing profiles of each of the senior players leading up to the season. Each of them were asked the same questions about themselves. One of the questions was "What book have you recently read or enjoyed reading?" Every single senior on the team said Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton. It excites me to know that these guys are hearing an incredible testimony from a guy more talented than them, who seemed to have everything, but who wasn't following God. That excites me more than anything. If you read the article below, there is an incredible addition to the story at the end of the article that is in the book. If you read the article, let me know and I can fill you in.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Bucket List(for 2009)

I am a person who likes to set goals. I like to look at a piece of paper and see a list of desires that I have. It keeps me focused and actively pursuing those. I was thinking about my bucket list the last few days. It was funny, because as I was thinking about it, I was on Facebook, and Chris Raynolds made a comment about bucket lists in his status. Technically, a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you "kick the bucket." But I don't know when I will kick the bucket. So this is my Bucket List for 2009, in case I kick it on New Years 2010.

1.Do all the devos and readings for DA Carson's "For the Love of God." For anyone who never went to Living Hope in Bowling Green, this was a churchwide challenge to read God's word and study together, but it was from a few years back. I didnt do it because I was doing my own thing, and focusing on just a few verses at a time. But I really want to gain perspective on the grand scheme of the Bible, and see how it all fits together. It's a devotional book with assigned readings, and at the end of the year, if you have followed along all year, you will have read the Old Testament once and New Testament twice. So I'm excited to continue reading.

2. Get out of unnecessary debt. This includes all debt except for my student loans, which will take me awhile to get paid off. I have some medical bills because of my dads old company filing for bankrupcy and not paying the insurance company for families that were covered on the insurance plan. And I didn't know I had outstanding debt till I did a credit check. Not fun.

3a. Run a half and full-marathon. The half will come during my training for the full. I have had this great desire to run a marathon, but for one reason or another(injury, lack of time, lack of will-power) I haven't finished my training plan and run the race. I'm already on the path. I started a 12-week Spring Training schedule designed by Hal Higdon, Runner's World's former editor. After the 12-week plan, I will begin a 30-week plan, with the goal being to run the St. Jude's Memphis Marathon in December. Katie Lewis, it better be a good one, so don't let me down. When training in the past, I havent given myself enough time to build up a good base and shed weight before starting. I have a slow pace anyways, so the spring training and extended summer and fall training plan should help drop my times. So keep on me folks! I want to do this.

4a. Go bungee jumping. I have wanted to go bungee jumping for awhile, but haven't been around a place that does it. Well, I'm going to take the initiative and find somewhere that does this year. I'm really excited to think about it.

4b. Go skydiving. This is a bigger goal. I don't know anywhere to go skydiving, but this summer I'm going for it. So if anyone wants to join me for either of these, let me know!!

5. Fly to LA to see Jeremy and Amanda. I have never been on an airplane. The closest I have ever been to an airport was to pick up Balcy from the airport. I'm not scared of flying at all. My family didnt vacation much growing up, and when we did, we drove. I'm shooting for late July/early August to go out there. Jeremy and I have talked since my sophomore year of high school about going to LA and being tourists for a little bit and even going on an audition or two, just for fun. And since he lives and works out there now, and is kinda in the industry, he swears that it will be easy for him to get us into a meaningless audition. Definitely no hope or desire to stay or act, but I would love to say that I auditioned. Plus I miss them and want to hang out with them.

6. Get back on track to graduate. With everything going on, I know that finishing school as quickly as possible is a huge goal. I will be working full time, so going to school full time also will be tough, but do-able. I want to be back in Chattanooga soon, so this is how that is going to happen.

7. Coach little league baseball. I absolutely love kids and baseball. And I know how big of an impact coaches have on kids, and how so few impact them the right way. I want to coach football as well, but Campbellsville doesn't really have much of an outlet for youth football. I get more and more excited the more I think about it. And my dad was an incredible coach (winningest coach in Kentucky, led lots of youth teams to state titles, lots of kids playing pro ball, president of the top little league in the US), and even if he cant do much physically, I know he would love to get out there and help out with the kids. Even though he can come off as a grizzly bear to people my age, he is great with kids.

8. Be a better friend. I have the best friends in the world. But I also know that I can be a subpar friend at times. I'm not very good at calling(other than Jeremy), and I want to do that more often. I also don't pray enough for my friends. Sure, I pray when they are dealing with things, but definitely not the way I should when things are going good. All of the other things on my bucket list have a set goal, while this one doesnt, but this one is really important to me.

9. Make the deans list. I would love to be on the dean's list my first semester back. I am a little bit worried about my study habits, since I have had a break from school. But I also think my resolve is better than ever. So dean's list it is.

10. Send my parents on vacation. My parents really need a vacation. They have alot of burdens and worries, and a vacation would go a long way. And they never want to go anywhere big. They would much rather go to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood than really anywhere else. And they have really helped me in the past, so I want to repay the favor.

Well there is my bucket list. I have alot of other goals in my spiritual life, but I don't think the Blogger website is big enough to hold all of those. For my readers: what's your bucket list? I know everyone has goals and desires. Well, share. That's my challenge. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

National Signing Day Thoughts

Well, yesterday was National Signing Day, aka Todd is glued to all day. I'm kinda obsessed with It is set as my homepage right now and I check it a ton. For those who don't know, is a sports website that works primarily at reporting, scouting, and projecting the future of prep athletes. The biggest thing that rivals does is rank football recruits, classes, report on where they might go, and uncover a ton of information on soon to be college stars. They don't ever touch personal lives, only report on grades if they are really, really outstanding, and try to stay away from crushing souls, which can happen with athletes at that age. I got hooked on Rivals my junior year of high school, when two guys I went to school with were big time recruits. That was the first class that Rivals evaluated, so it was cool following the progress of those guys as I was still in class with them. Both are playing pro ball now, one was a pro-bowler and now with the Raiders, and the other is in the CFL, so it was cool to know them when.

But here we go, my thoughts on signing day:
2009 Top Classes-
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Ohio State
4. USC
5. Texas
6. Florida State
7. Michigan
8. North Carolina
9. Georgia
10. Florida

Now this only shows the projections of which classes will turn out better. Tennessee had to dominating recruiting classes in the last four years and they have stunk. And generally if your team won a national title or were in the title game, you usually dont get a top class, so Florida being top 10 is awesome. We took fewer recruits because we have so many young stars. Several top prospects chose against us because they knew they wouldnt get playing time as freshmen. But our average prospect rating was the highest in the country, so overall, the guys we got were just as good or better than any other school, there just werent as many. And going back and looking at the top recruits from years past is what I did alot yesterday. Here are the top recruits from 2006-
1.Percy Harvin!!!!
2. Andre Smith
3. Chris Wells
4. Gerald McCoy
5. Sergio Kindle
6. Matthew Stafford
7. Vidal Hazelton
8. CJ Spiller
9. Allan Bradford
10. Mitch Mustain
11. Sam Young
12. Myron Rolle
13. Brandon Spikes!!!!
14. Reshad Jones
15.Brandon Graham
16. Taylor Mays
17. Robert Rose
18. Stafon Johnson
19. AJ Wallace
20. Al Woods
21. Ricky Sapp
22. Tim Tebow!!!!

If you follow college football, you will see that most of these guys ended up being studs. Some were major busts(Mitch Mustain, Sergio Kindle). And I stopped at 22 because I wanted to show how far down the list Tim Tebow was. He was considered a once in a lifetime recruit, but a good one. So the rankings dont usually go exact, but they are still pretty dead on, generally.

In other recruiting news, WKU put together their best recruiting class ever. They signed 26 players, 3 of which have no business even going to WKU, because they could have gone to bigger schools. But after you go 2-10(given, they played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country with games against Alabama, Ball State, UK, and Virginia Tech), everybody thinks they can start as a freshman. We scored the best recruiting class in the conference, and will begin our first official bowl eligible D-1 season with a good foundation.

Sorry to the mainly female persuasion who read my blog who dont care one bit about all of this recruiting stuff. But these are Todd's Thoughts.