Thursday, April 10, 2014

Remembering Nick Adenhart. 5 Years Later

April 8, 2009: Another beautiful night in Southern California, especially for baseball. Especially for an Angels fan. A new face was making his 2009 debut on the mound, a 22-year-old kid from Maryland.
I got to the stadium early, sat in the empty stands and looked at the full moon hanging so large in the sky that I wanted to reach out and touch it.
Then I saw the kid - youthful and exuberant - jogging out to the bullpen to warm up. Nick Adenhart only had 1 major league victory, ironically on May 12, 2008 (my birthday).
He had a terrific spring in 2008 and made the starting rotation. I looked down, saw his jersey, and noticed his jersey number: 34.
I nudged my then-girlfriend (now fiancee) and pointed at Adenhart.
"He's going to be be here for a while," I said. She looked down and asked, "Why do you say that?" "Because he's got a real number and not some really high number."
We then settled in to watch Adenhart pitch well enough to win, but the bullpen blew the lead late, denying him the victory. We left, saddened by the loss, but encouraged by the future of this young pitcher and future staff ace.

April 9, 2009: I was working the Breaking News shift at the Orange County Register.That meant coming in at 6 a.m. and reporting about various crimes, accidents and other incidents around Orange County. On this morning my editor, Tom Gordon, told me that there had been a huge crash in Fullerton overnight and people had died.

I made phone calls and posted a quick story that was picked up by other outlets.  As the minutes ticked by, I started to gets calls. The first call was from someone who told me that one of the people in the car was a member of the Angels cheerleaders. Then I got a call that one of the people in the car was a member of the Angels. Then I got a call from Maryland from one of Adenhart's family members asking for information. I called family members who said the Angels would make a statement. The Angels had no comment.

By 7:30 a.m., I had no offical confirmation of who was in the car, but AM 830 - the Angels radio - and KTLA/5 were claiming that Adenhart was in the car. We had to make a decision: Go with reports and stay on top of the story or play catch-up. We called Editor Ken Brusic, who let us make the call. We decided to go with what we had and cite sources claiming Adenhart was in the car.

The Angels held a press conference confirming Adenhart was killed, along with two friends, with another seriously injured. While my colleagues went to the crash site, the hospital and Angel Stadium and called in information, I complied it and wrote update after update after update.

There comes a point in any reporter's work where they forget about the impact of what they're writing about and focus on the story. I was in that zone of putting it together - forgetting about the kid that I saw pitch hours earlier, forgetting about how he and two others lost their lives. Instead, I was focused on telling the story: What happened to cause the crash? What happened to the driver of the other vehicle? Who was with Adenhart in the car and where were they going?

The story was a tragedy: A rising star going to celebrate with his friends. The driver of the minivan, a convicted drunken driver who was attempting to get his life together, was out drinking to celebrate getting a job. He got so drunk that he went from LA County to Fullerton (a place he'd never been) and ended up changing the lives of so many people.

After a 12-hour day, I filed one more story and went home. As I drove home, the impact of what happened finally hit me. The loss of life - combined with my personal feelings of seeing Nick Adenhart pitch and seeing the promise his life had suddenly ripped away - left me in tears.

April 10, 2009: I came back in and worked with co-workers to piece together the aftermath of the tragedy. I wrote a story about the driver of the minivan being charged and how the Angels were planning to honor Adenhart.

I wrote stories about the preliminary hearings and went to the funeral service of Courtney Stewart, who was driving the car with Adenhart.

I had never personally met Nick Adenhart, but I felt connected to him through my work. I felt that telling the story allowed me to have a little part of honoring Adenhart through the tragedy of the loss of his life.

I went to my first Angels playoff game later that year. The Angels were playing the Yankees and were trailing late in the game. I looked up and said, "Nick, any help you can give would be appreciated."
A calm spread over me and I sat back and watched the Angels rally to win the game.

On the first anniversary of the crash, I went to the crash site and left a note. Five years later, I still mark the death of Nick Adenhart. It is the one story that has stayed with me despite the distance of time.
       

Monday, March 3, 2014

Change Your Stars ... Believe It


"I believe in the impossible; If I reach deep within my heart; Overcome any obstacle; Won't let this dream fall apart; See, I strive to be the very best; Shine my light for all to see; Cause anything is possible; When you believe." I Believe by Fantasia Barrino

Life is a series of journeys. My educational journey has taken quite a few twists and turns before I arrived as the finish line.

I went to a Marine Science Magnet for high school because as a child I wanted to be the next Jacques Cousteau and discover why whales beached themselves. After three years of seeing teachers who were burned out by marine sciences (and the realization that most marine biologists only made about $35,000 a year), I decided to take a different path. I was off to a good start when I was accepted to Princeton, USC, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.

Instead of picking a college, I instead went to junior college, where I found a love for journalism. I spent too many years in junior college, after getting sidetracked in a pursuit of becoming a full-time minister. I finally got my foot in the door at a local newspaper and began working my way up the ranks. About the same time, I put my educational pursuit on hold when I had my oldest daughter and worked full-time to support a burgeoning family.

After several years of working as a sports reporter (with one editor telling me that I didn't need a degree because I had contacts and experience - with another telling me my failure to finish my degree was a sign that I could not finish what I started), I found myself back at the bottom of the rung when I switched to news reporting in 2007.

A few months later, my editor called me over and suggested that I got back to college because I had issues with writing basic English.  I found a commercial for the University of Phoenix and started taking classes in 2008. Two classes every nine weeks. 50 weeks a year. My then-wife told me that she didn't think I'd finish because I was a quitter who couldn't finish what I'd started. And soon thereafter, she divorced me. In 2010, I earned my associates degree.

But I wasn't done. I started work to earn my bachelor's degree. One class every five week. 50 weeks a year. I did homework in the middle of a softball tournament in Las Vegas. I worked two jobs. My grandfather died.

There were times when I wondered what I was doing, if it was worth it and would there be a payoff at the end of the road. And then I saw that video link of Fantasia - a woman who had a dream of being a star, took a chance, worked hard and became an American Idol. The tears of joy she had while she sang the song became MY tears of joy when I realized that I was becoming someone different. I was becoming the person I was supposed to be after all this time. And in 2012, I earned my Bachelor of Arts.

My life changed again after walking off that stage. I was filled with the desire that I'd had in my youth, but had given up on as I got older.

That desire was to have a positive impact on the world around me. To change the world - one person at a time. So I went back to get my master's degree. Instead of majoring in Marriage and Family Therapy to become a Sports Psychologist, I decided to major in Public Administration to understand how governments worked for the inside. My goal was/is to run for public office to fight people like myself who needed a helping hand in order to pursue a degree later in life. I was fortunate enough to work for an elected official.
The experience only lasted a couple of months, but I gained months worth of material for my coursework. I didn't have to work two jobs anymore, but I still had to do homework. I took a final in a hotel room while watching the Presidential debates. I wrote a paper and took a final in an apartment standing up because I didn't have a desk.

To be honest, I never pictured this day - the day when I would finally be finished with school. It's a been a long and hard 22 years to get to where I am today. But I wouldn't trade the journey for anything.

So what's next? Another journey. But for now, I'm going to savor THIS moment. You see, I've waited all my life for this moment to arrive. And FINALLY .... I Believe.

Until next time ...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Escalation ... Not just for getting to 2nd floor

"We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds, and YOU'RE  wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops." - Gary Oldman in Batman Begins.

The author confesses that he owns a pair of the comfy plastic clogs pictured at left and aside from slippery surfaces, would wear his Crocs anywhere. As it turns out, detractors of the fashionable footwear may have a point.
Believe it or not, Crocs have been known to cause harm to children - on escalators. Snopes.com references several situations of youths getting caught in the teeth of escalators - injuring themselves either at the top or at the bottom of the escalator. The article references the common factor in the injuries is that all the injured children were wearing Crocs.

However, we would like to point out two other commonalities: In the instances quoted, the injured were children and they were riding escalators. It all comes down to one's perspective.


The debate about the rights to bear arms is a hot-button issue, with millions of dollars spent by advocates for and against the right of Americans to bear arms as referred to by the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The current day application of these 27 words have been heavily debated over the years. Taking a historical perspective, the bill was written in reaction to British law, which temporarily suspended the right of certain citizens to bear arms (based on religion). Colonists also stated their need to own (bear) arms in defense from raiding natives and to raise up militia to protect themselves

This week - a year after the tragic shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that took the lives of 26 people in only 11 minutes and 17 months after a tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, that saw 12 people killed and 70 injured - a high school student in Centennial, Colorado, shot and killed a schoolmate during a short spree.

Proponents of civilian gun ownership would say that any sort of legislation limiting the rights to bear arms would be the first steps in banning all civilian arms ownership. Or that taking the guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens would put more guns in the hands of criminals.

This is not an argument for or against gun ownership. This is a commentary. However, this is a society where a man can shoot an unarmed teen for being in the wrong neighborhood and appearing dangerous; another man can kill a prostitute for taking his money and not having sex with him (an illegal act); or a mentally disturbed man can kill six people and wound several others- including a Congresswoman - even though his father knew he was so disturbed the father would disable the family car at night.

No matter what one's perspective is on the right to own and/or possess arms, this question still remains:

What practical use would an average American civilian have to own a semi-automatic machine gun - easily converted into an automatic - that can shoot 50-60 bullets a minute, as well as being able attach a drum that holds 100 rounds?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Take a long look ... and then look again

Can you believe it? The seventh installment of the Star Wars saga is set to be released in theaters in 2015 - two years from now - but there's already poster art.

Take a look at the poster on the right. It looks like the Millenium Falcon, Han Solo's ship is in distress. There are few X-wing fighters, one of which looks like it has taken some damage. In one glance, this poster shows action, drama and excitement.

Doesn't this poster get you excited to see the next offering? Too bad this poster isn't an official poster. It's a fake.

The real term is "fan-inspired." It was created by AndrewSS7 and can be viewed here.

One of my good friends was fooled when he saw this post on Facebook that teased the poster and the site it was posted on. Even though the post had the disclaimer (Fan-made poster by AndrewSS7), my friend and others thought it was real.

As I previously posted, the truths we cling to are often shaped by our points of view.

Now take a look at the photo above. If you are a baseball fan, you recognize this as the seminal moment of Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.

With two out in the bottom of the ninth inning, the runner (Allen Craig) tripped over the third baseman (Will Middlebrooks) and was apparently thrown out at home to send the game into extra innings.

However, the umpire ruled that Middlebrooks obstructed the runner and Craig was awarded home plate, giving the Cardinals the victory.

The rule on obstruction has nothing to do with an intent by the fielder to block the runner, as reported by ESPN. Instead, the rule is based simply on the act of obstruction. Any controversy about the call is the result of the umpire doing his job and making the correct call no matter the situation.

In the NHL, officials are noted for not making calls in the third period, just as NBA officials are noted for letting players "play" in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Joe Torre, the executive vice president of baseball operations, said the rule will be looked at after the World Series. At issue is the rule of intent, because as it is currently written, the umpire was obligated to make the call - regardless of the situation.

If it is changed, the rule will include intent, which will allow the umpire the flexibility of whether or not to make the call (presumably NEVER in the bottom of the ninth inning of a World Series game unless the fielder tackles the runner).

So instead of a hard and fast rule, obstruction would be determined by the umpire's point of view.

Until next time ...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sliced onions are great for ... hamburgers

"Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it" - Mykelti Williamson in Forrest Gump.

Welcome to 2013! If you're reading this  you - like every other person on the planet - survived the Mayan Apocalypse. We're a few months late to attempt to debunk the latest end-of-the-world myth, but there are plenty of other myths to examine.

The photo to the left shows sliced onions. Bubba told Forrest Gump of all the wonderful uses for shrimp.

The same could be onions. You can grill it, fry it, boil it, bake it or saute it. It comes fresh, frozen, pickled, chopped or dehydrated.

There's steak and onions, liver and onions, peppered onions, French onion soup, salads and sandwiches.

People also have use for onions for reasons other than the normal culinary uses, including science experiments, with doctors known to prescribe onions as a natural laxative, relieve headaches, coughs and/or even hair loss.

The subject of onions came up shortly after I moved to my new home of Arizona. I moved to Phoenix in December and got to experience unseasonably cold weather, which led to me to catch a cold and experience flu-like symptoms.

A friend suggested a an interesting home-remedy of having a plate of freshly sliced onions near my bed, which would absorb the germs.

Sounds reasonable, right? Not according to Snopes.com.

The notable myth-busting site claims the legend of onions being a flu-virus collector goes back to the turn of the 20th century. However, this legend is false. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2009, " Biologists say it's highly implausible that onions could attract flu virus as a bug zapper traps flies. Viruses require a living host to replicate and can't propel themselves out of a body and across a room."

Sad, but true. Onions have great flavor and add to so many dishes. However, a sliced onion gathers no flu-virus.

Until next time ...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

And justice for all?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." - First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This head belongs to Texas middle-school student Patrick Gonzalez, who went to a very-talented barber and had the image of San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner shaved into the back of his head. Despite getting the 'do pre-approved by school officials, the 12-year-old was sent home and told to remove the image from his head. The reason given was that the image was "distracting" to the teacher and other students.

When asked his reasoning for the $75 clipping, Patrick said the reserve is his favorite player because both are Gingers and the Spurs were in the midst of sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers in the second-round of the NBA Playoffs.

In other words, Patrick was using his head as a form of speech to express support for his favorite basketball player. And then he was punished.

This good-looking young man on the right was a child prodigy, gaining entrance into Harvard University at age 16, going on to earn a PhD and becoming a professor at Cal at age 25.

Theodore "Ted" Kaczynski is more widely known for being the domestic terrorist nicknamed "Unabomber." Kaczynski has made the Federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado his home since 1998, where he is serving life without the possibility of parole.

In spite of his incarceration, Kaczynski was able to send his greetings to the Harvard University Class of 1962's 50th reunion. Kaczynski updated his entry in the Harvard alumni magazine - listing his current occupation as: prisoner, his residence as: the supermax and his awards as: his eight life-sentences.


The First Amendment right to free speech applies to all. In the responses in the above cases invokes a reminder from George Orwell's "Animal Farm" - "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

Until next time ...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Kissing Game ... What?

"Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind." - Peter Falk in The Princess Bride.

Happy New Year! Most of us celebrate the passing of the new year by counting down the seconds and then planting a smooch on a loved one, or the person/s nearest us in a room or crowd.

The celebration of the New Year is one of the few times it's OK to kiss a complete stranger and not get slugged by the stranger, the stranger's significant other, your significant other or a combination of all three. By no means are we advocating waiting until the end of the year to get your smooch on with a stranger just to feel the soft lips of ... Sorry, where was I?

Ah yes, kissing. Sam from Casablanca sang "A kiss is just a kiss," (ff to :35) but I must disagree. Kisses have meaning. Kisses have depth and kisses can be symbolic.
For example - take one of the most famous kisses in history: The picture of a sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square - taken on Aug. 14, 1945 - was shot most famously by Alfred Eisenstaedt (This photo was taken by Navy photojournalist Victor Jorgensen).

The sailor was grabbing women and randomly kissing them in celebration of President Roosevelt announcing the end of World War II. At first look, the pair pictured kissing could have been lovers. But they were complete strangers.

Fast forward 66 years to another kiss caught in the middle of a public situation - this time in Canada. Normally, I crack jokes about our neighbors to the North, but in this instance, I must tip my metaphorical cap to the Canadians featured below.

In the aftermath of the Vancouver Riots, which happened in anger after the Canucks were shutout in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals by the Boston Bruins. No fan of New England sports teams, I can understand the angst of being on the losing side in a sports contest.

But let's be sensible: Did the fans in Ottowa riot in 2007 when the Ducks beat the Senators for the Stanley Cup? Did the fan in Philadelphia riot (moreso than normal) when the Toronto Blue Jays won the 2003 World Series?

Championships aside, the riots did occur. At first glance, the couple in questions - Australian Scott Jones and his Canadian girlfriend Alex Thomas - seem to be sharing a tender moment in the midst of urban crisis.

But there was more than meets the eye. Jones later said that after he and Thomas were knocked to the ground, he was kissing her to comfort her and calm her down.

In this case, a kiss was definitely more than a kiss. It was meant to help the turbulent times go by.

Until next time ...