My great grandnephew, Aysa Balcerzak is such a happy little boy. As with all two-year-old boys, he is curious, fearless, and wants to do anything his big sister, Reece is doing. Aysa is so energetic…bouncing all over the place. He and his sister love to dance around the house, and Aysa does his best to dance just like his big sis, but he isn’t really very successful at that…yet anyway. Reece, being the oldest, has had some dance lessons, and Aysa probably won’t, because while he likes doing what his sister does, dancing is not likely to be his career of choice. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely, because Aysa is all boy. Still, the music “moves him” so he will most likely do some dancing in his lifetime. And he knows how to ham it up.
Aysa’s parents try to give their children a variety of activities to try out, and I personally think that little Aysa rather likes the horse he got to try. What kid wouldn’t, after all? He didn’t seem to be afraid, but then his daddy, Keifer Balcerzak was right there holding him, so the ground didn’t seem so far down, and the horse didn’t seem quite so big, and if Daddy thought it was ok, it must be. I’m sure there will be many new experiences in the future. Keifer plays baseball, and I’m sure that he is looking forward to the day when he can get his son started in T-Ball and beyond. Someday I’m sure they will be on a father/son team, just like Keifer has been with his dad, Aysa’s grandpa, Dave Balcerzak. With the love of sports that runs in the Balcerzak clan, I’m sure there will be other enjoyable events in Aysa’s life too…like football games to watch and maybe play. Of course, those things are down the road a little be, because Aysa is only two years old, after all.
While Daddy may be Aysa’s best buddy, his mommy, Katie Balcerzak is definitely his cuddle of choice. As we all know, things like scraped knees, bumped heads, and fights with big sister require a little hug from the one person who can always make it all better…Mommy. She has been the person who nurtured him, and yet, allowed him to be all boy. She was the person who made sure that when he had to go do girl’s stuff with his big sis, he had snacks to make it all worthwhile. Mommies really are the best…at least until the teenage years. Then, all bets are off!! Still, Aysa’s parents are pretty cool, so I’m sure it will be fine. Today is Aysa’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Aysa!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grandnephew, Keifer Balcerzak is a true sports fanatic. He will play just about any sport out there. In the summertime, it’s time for softball or baseball. I didn’t always realize that there was a difference, but it is the hardness of the ball…obviously, but there are rule differences too. Anyway, that aside, I’m pretty sure Keifer has played both. Now that he is a grown man, he has been on teams with his dad, Dave Balcerzak, and now his brother-in-law, Dylan Herr. They have a great time, and they often win in the tournaments they play in. They also play in charity and fundraiser games as well, because these guys are known for their desire to “give back” to help those in need. The proceeds always go to a family or person in need. This year was to help the family of a young 28-year-old dad, tragically killed in a car accident, leaving behind a wife and two young children. These charity events are vital.
Keifer is a great dad to daughter, Reece and son, Aysa. Reece made her entrance very early and had to spend time in Denver. It was a hard time for Keifer and his wife, Katie, so he knows what it means to have the support of those around you with caring hearts. Reece is already into sports, like her daddy, and I’m quite sure Aysa will be too, when he is old enough. Katie is very supportive of all the sporting activities, and so they are a happy sports family. Recently, Keifer and Katie took the kids to the fair and they had the best time. There is nothing more exciting for a kid than the carnival rides, even if it is the kiddie rides, or even the swings at the park.
Keifer, like his dad, is a computer programmer working for the State of Wyoming, but they don’t work in the same division, so they don’t get to work together. A lot of the work they do, in cyber security, which we all know is a seriously important job these days. Working for the state is a great job to have, with great benefits for a family man. Just having a family without having insurance can be a big financial burden, so it’s important to have those benefits. Keiffer is good at his job, and the state is very happy with him. I foresee a long and prosperous career there…plus, he likes his work and that makes a big difference. Keifer is a very blessed man. He has it all. A beautiful wife, and great kids, a career he loves, and buddies to play sports with. It doesn’t get any better than that. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The world was a crazy place on August 20, 1945. It was just eleven days after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. The world was a little “scary.” Just knowing that entire towns could be blown off the face of the earth in an instant, changed the whole perspective of life as we knew it. The war was almost over. By September 2, 1945, World War II would be a blip in the rearview mirror of history. Maybe it was time to look for something…happy, for a change.
Enter Brooklyn Dodgers utility player, Tommy Brown. He was a local kid, who was born December 6, 1927, in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Brown never knew his father and was raised primarily by an aunt and uncle. That was probably the best thing that could have happened. Brown’s upbringing was such that he was able to make something of himself. He started playing baseball, and he was good enough to be called up to the Majors. Brown made his debut with the Dodgers in 1944, when he was just 16 years old. It was an unusual time, because during World War II, millions of men served overseas, so the ball players were serving in the military. Men like future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Yogi Berra were among them. That left a group of aspiring teenagers in line for the majors in an almost unheard of shot in the big leagues. Fifteen-year-old Joe Nuxhall was also called up and pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Cincinnati Reds in the summer of 1944. It would be almost like they were replacement players.
On August 3, 1944, while playing for the Newport News (Virginia) Builders of the Class B Piedmont League, Brown got the call that changed not only his life, but baseball history forever. He was headed to the majors, with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Apparently, they had tried Bobby Bragan at shortstop but were looking for someone more mobile. Dodgers’ manager Leo Durocher told Brown that day he would play both games of a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs. After that shock wore off…for about a second, “Brown, according to a bio on the Society of American Baseball Research web site, advised his manager that he had ridden the train all night, ‘but Leo responded that he didn’t care.'” I guess they were desperate. Brown became the youngest non-pitcher ever to play in a major league game, and the second-youngest overall after Joe Nuxhall, who was 15 years and 316 days old when he first appeared as a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds on June 10, 1944. He got two hits in eight at-bats as the Cubs beat the Dodgers in both games, 6-2 and 7-1. In 1944, he played a total of 46 games, hitting .164 without a homer. Brown, nicknamed “Buckshot,” threw and batted right-handed. He stood 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 170 pounds. Then, on August 20, 1945, he hit a home run…his team’s only run in an 11-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished that season with a .245 batting average. That home run may not seem like much, but remember that Brown was just 16 years old at the time. With that “homer” to his credit, Brown remains the youngest player to homer in a Major League Baseball game, a record that will likely never be broken.
Brown played seven more seasons in the big leagues, spending time with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cubs after leaving Brooklyn. He never became anything more than a part-time player, but he will always have the distinction of youngest person to homer to his credit. Brown married a woman from Nashville and stayed in that area after his playing career ended. He worked at the Ford Glass Plant for thirty-five years, before retiring in 1993. He continues to live in retirement in Brentwood, Tennessee.
When Babe Ruth set his home run record in 1935, and because the record lasted for so many years, many people thought it would never be broken. That idea was shattered on April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers. The game was also broadcast nationally on NBC. It was the end of an era, and many people were sad to see it happen. There was discussion that it shouldn’t count, because of the difference in bats in the 70s, as opposed to the 30s. I wasn’t a big baseball fan in those days, but I remember the argument. I’m sure there was some validity in it, but the fact that the equipment had changed was not something anyone could help. The rules allowed the newer bats, and that was that.
Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record in front of a crowd of 53,775 people, the largest in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They all knew he was close, and no one wanted to miss that all-important 715th homerun. The record-breaking hit came in a 4th inning pitch off the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Al Downing. However, because Aaron, an African American, had received death threats and racist hate mail during his pursuit of one of baseball’s most distinguished records, the achievement, for him, was bittersweet.
Henry Louis Aaron Jr was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934. He made his Major League debut in 1954 with the Milwaukee Braves. That, in and of itself was an accomplishment, because just eight years earlier, it would not have been allowed. Then, Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and became the first African American to play in the majors in 1947. That opened the door for Aaron, a hardworking and quiet man. He was to be the last “Negro League” player to also compete in the Major Leagues. In 1957, Aaron, who played right field, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player as the Milwaukee Braves won the pennant. A few weeks later, his three home runs in the World Series helped his team in their win over the heavily favored New York Yankees. Although “Hammerin’ Hank” specialized in home runs, he was also an extremely dependable batter, and by the end of his career he held baseball’s career record for most runs batted in…2,297. His career lasted for 23 years. He was with the Braves from 1954 to 1974…first in Milwaukee and then in Atlanta, when the franchise moved in 1966…and closed it out with two seasons back in Milwaukee for the Brewers.
When he retired in 1976, Aaron had 755 career home runs to his credit…a record that stood until 2007, when it was broken by controversial slugger Barry Bonds (Bonds admitted to using steroids in 2011). Bonds career homeruns ended at 762, but many people think he should be stripped of the record for the illegal steroid use. Nevertheless, Bonds baseball career was over. Hank Aaron’s achievements didn’t end when his career did, though. He went on to become one of baseball’s first African American executives, with the Atlanta Braves, and a leading spokesperson for minority hiring. Hank Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. On January 5, 2021, Aaron publicly received a COVID-19 vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Morehouse School of Medicine at Atlanta, Georgia. Aaron died in his sleep in his Atlanta residence on January 22 at the age of 86. While the manner of death was listed as natural causes, anti-vaccine activists Robert F Kennedy Jr and Del Bigtree have suggested that Aaron’s death was caused by receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. I suppose we will never know.
With the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent shut down of much of our country, including the schools and many businesses, Americans have faced many challenges…among them, the loss of many sports, at least temporarily. Now, as the country begins the reopening process, sports of all kinds have taken on a different look. Slowly, the summer sports are getting started again. The stands are empty, because social distancing doesn’t permit people to sit so close as they would sit in the stands. The coaches, and reluctantly, the parents decided that it was more important to let the kids play, than to wait until the parents could watch. It has been a similar story in all areas of sports.
For the professional sports, many changes had to be made. A new kind of baseball, Nascar, football, and many other types of sports. Sports had to be reinvented…or a lease the spectator part of sports had to be reinvented. Some sports have missed their opportunity for this year, and they are holding out hope for a real season next year. Even the news was different, because normally after the news and weather, came sports. The sports was still there, but there were no games to recap. We heard instead, about future plans, college draft choices, and the fact that there would be no sports for the time being.
It wasn’t just the professional sports either. Bowling alleys closed weeks before the end of the leagues’ schedules were finished. League officers waited, hoping to get back in time to finish the season, but it was not to be, so reluctantly, they divided the prize money based on the standings at the point when the bowling alleys closed. most prize money was mailed out, but a few waited until this past week so they could meet for the purpose of distributing the funds.
As Memorial Day approaches, it seems that the annual car shows have also fallen victim to the Covid-19 shutdown. That is a sad thing for many people, my husband, Bob being one of them. He practically spends the whole weekend looking at the cars. This time, like so many events this year, will be different. No car shows, little travel, no graduation ceremonies (at least not in the normal sense); just the official end to the school year, since it unofficially ended at spring break…the longest spring break in history. No one failed, and we have no idea how far behind they will be next year, or what returning to school will look like for sure. All we know is that like sports, life reinvented…will go on.
With the eruption and possible explosion of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, my thoughts are drawn back 38 years to another mountain…Mount Saint Helens. The scientists said that an explosive eruption was imminent. The mountain had been swelling up with internal pressure from the gasses deep in the earth. Still, some people didn’t believe the mountain would ever hurt them, and many just couldn’t wrap their head around the possibility that it might explode. So, some people stayed in their homes in the area. It would prove to be a fatal mistake.
It’s strange that we are able to associate things in life with major events in recent history. Many of us can say where we were when we learned of President Kennedy’s assassination, or when 9-11 took place. It is a moment that is embedded in our memories for all time. That morning as the ash rolled into our area, I was getting into my car to go to town. It looked like dust on my car, a very thick layer of dust. Of course, it wasn’t dust, it was volcanic ash. It had never occurred to me that volcanic ash might affect me, but here I was, needing to wash the ash off of my car, so it was not damaged.
My cousin, Shirley, who lives in Washington, said she and her family were in Spokane. She saw a black cloud coming their way, and so she turned on the radio, to see what was going on. She immediately started yelling to the teachers and students from Saint Matthews school, who were at an end of the year baseball game. Every one scrambled to get their belongings, and headed back to the Church, before heading for home. Navigation became difficult. They had to watch the curb on the side of the streets to know where they were. It was a long drive home. They held their breath from the truck to the house, to protect their lungs, and watched the street lights come on. Shirley went out on the front porch and took pictures, before retreating back to the safety of her house. They were forced to stay in the house for about a week, before it was safe to out again. Many safety precautions were in place, and people were told not to breathe the ash because of the glass in it.
Mount Saint Helens is located in the Cascade Range. On May 18, 1980, at 8:32am Pacific Standard Time, it erupted and blasted 1,300 feet off of its top, sending hot mud, gas, and ash running down its slopes. Approximately 57 people were killed directly from the blast, while 200 houses, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. Two people were killed indirectly in accidents that resulted from poor visibility, and two more suffered fatal heart attacks from shoveling ash. The explosion sent plumes of dark gray ash some 60,000 feet in the air which blocked out the rays from the sun making it seem like night over eastern Washington. So…where were you when Mount Saint Helens blew?
For my nephew, Dave Chase, each year is defined by the sports that have taken place, and the games he has been to. Whether Dave is watching sports or participating in them, it’s all about sports. Dave is kind of a complex guy. He is very family oriented, and wants his family to lead happy and fulfilled lives, but he is very much a guy, and that means that while his wife, my niece, Toni has a wide variety of interests, and he sees her personality in their home and all she has done with it, but when it comes to what Toni is doing at any given time, Dave’s mind starts zoning out to…you guessed it…sports. I think that the girly things Toni likes, while making their home wonderful, comfortable, and homey, are things that Dave can’t really wrap his head around, because…well, they don’t have anything to do with sports. About Toni’s activities, Dave says, “I’m a male. I don’t remember what Toni has been doing for the last week, let alone the last year. I am not good at details. I just have an analytical engineering mind.” Every time I read that it makes me giggle. It is just so typically Dave, and I find it hilarious to say the least.
It was a good year in sports for Dave’s competitive teams. His co-ed softball team placed first in Division A, his basketball team went undefeated for the season and they are now competing for first place. For Dave it is the thrill of the competition, and that doesn’t just mean in physical sports. Dave has been playing Cribbage most of his life. His dad taught him how, and continues to be the one person Dave can’t beat. In the last three cribbage tournaments that Dave’s been in he placed 3rd, 2nd, and 1st, in that order.
Dave isn’t picky about what level the sports are in either. His favorite college team is, of course, the Wyoming Cowboys. As any Wyoming fan knows, they did pretty well in 2017, and they are doing excellent at basketball as well, except for the fact that they lost today…darn it!! Nevertheless, for Dave the best way to spend a birthday is at a game, which is where he was today. I just wish it had been a better game for his birthday. A couple of weeks ago, Dave managed to be in the right place at the right time to get caught on television at a Wyoming game. While that may not make him a celebrity, it’s cool to be spotted at the game, courtesy of the news.
Outside of Wyoming, Dave is a huge Dodgers, Lakers and Kings fan. The Dodgers did awesome in baseball this year, even though they didn’t win the pennant. It’s hard to say how the Kings are doing this year, because it’s too early to tell yet, but Dave says that the Lakers have been struggling for a while, but a true fan never gives up on their team…right. And the Rams…now that they’re back in LA…are Dave’s new football team…even if 2017 wasn’t their year. And Unlike Dave, who has no idea what is going on in Toni’s world, Toni has been watching his, and she is very much in the know about every team Dave likes. Way to go Toni!! As Toni said, “All I know it’s been a great year in sports for Dave, and definitely a year where his talents got better with age.” Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens loves all things sports. He really needs a dedicated sports television. I would like to say that the man cave he now has is that dedicated sports television, but my sister, Alena tells me that he “takes control of whatever television he is at.” Mike’s favorite teams are the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos…smart man. Those are my favorite teams too. Mike also loves to watch NASCAR, golf, basketball, bowling, well…the list could go on forever. If it’s sports, he will watch it…or play it.
Mike loves to golf, and has golfed in Buffalo, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming; North Platte, Nebraska, and he has played in some of the nicest courses around the country when he has been on business trips. Mike’s business trips have afforded him a few other opportunities as well. He got to sit in a suite while watching the Dallas Stars play hockey, and was served catered “snacks”…which were amazing, from what I hear…and of course, the whole thing was free of charge, because they like to treat these guys well on the business trips. He has also gone to Avalanche hockey games.
While watching the games is great, Mike is a sportsman in his own right. He has bowled for years, and gone to many bowling tournaments over the years. They have also traveled for other sporting events, going to Las Vegas and Bristol, Tennessee for NASCAR, and of course, Denver for baseball and football. He played softball, in the position of short stop for many teams, but mostly for the Salt Creek Mudders. He played basketball on a City League for years. Mike’s love of all things sports has spilled over to his family, or maybe they just learned to love sports because there was nothing else on television. I doubt that was the case, because he isn’t a meanie, after all, they just got caught up in his enthusiasm, and learned about the sports too. Every year, the Stevens family has a horseshoe tournament during their annual family reunion at Boysen Reservoir. Mike is so good at horseshoes, that he is usually the champion of the tournament. He is so good that he used to get into tournaments in Midwest, Wyoming where he earned money for his ability.
Probably the biggest news for Mike this year, however, has been his new pickup. Mike has never has a new vehicle, and he has wanted a new pickup for years. This past year, that dream became a reality, when he got to buy a 2016 Ford F250 pickup. He is so excited about it, and his family couldn’t be happier for him. Getting a brand new vehicle is a very big deal. His daughter, Michelle tells me that the picture of his pickup has be his phone’s screen saver since his got the pickup. It wasn’t a birthday present, but it was exciting anyway, and his family thinks it was a vehicle that was well deserved. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
For quite a while now, my husband, Bob Schulenberg has been thinking of retiring. Then, with the economic downturn, he was offered an early retirement package, and it was such a sweet deal that he took it. By coincidence, his retirement came the day before a planned vacation to the Black Hills, so I don’t really think it sunk in that he was retired. It was just a vacation. Following the vacation and the retirement party that we threw for him, Bob set out on another trip. This one was to move our granddaughter, Shai Royce out to Washington to live nearer to her parents and her brother, Caalab. This trip was different in several ways. For one thing, I was not with him, so it did not feel like a normal vacation. For another, I was back at work, so it was odd that he wasn’t. I think it was during this trip that the realization began to come to him, that he was retired. Still, it was a little bit like a vacation, because he wasn’t at home either…he was still traveling.
Bob was gone ten days, and the trip was a lot of fun for him. He got to spend time with our daughter Amy Royce and her husband Travis, as well as their kids, Shai and Caalab, with whom he traveled to Washington. It was such a great time. They treated him to all the fun things they could think of. During the days, while Amy and Travis worked, Caalab, who mostly works at night, and Shai who doesn’t have a new job yet, showed him all the sights of Bellingham. They went on the trails, and to the parks, as well as the many food places around. Then, when Amy and Travis were off, they had a barbeque, went to the beach, a festival in Seattle, a baseball game, and of course, a jam session with our own guitar players, Travis and Caalab Royce. Bob got to see their new home, and was quite impressed with their…BIG garage and bonus room, also known as the “House Divided” room, where half is decorated with Chicago Bears memorabilia and half with Green Bay Packers memorabilia.
The trip was over all too soon, but somewhere between the day he left, and the day he came back, Bob became a whole new man. He is more relaxed, less pressured, and maybe even quicker to laugh. I could say that the trip to visit our daughter and her family was good for him, and I would be right, because he had such a wonderful time, but this was something more. I think that during this trip, it suddenly hit him…”I’m retired!! I don’t have to go back to work when I get home…in fact, I don’t have a job to go back too. I can go home and do what I want to…when I want to.” Yes, Bob came back to me, a whole new man. Retirement looks good on him. I think I’m going to like this new relaxed man of mine. He really is…a whole new man!!
Since I was a kid, I have liked the game of baseball. Our parents, Allen and Collene Spencer, figured that with five girls, they had enough for a makeshift game of baseball whenever we went camping, and we all usually liked to play. That was really my first experience with baseball and with sports of any kind, I guess. I was not destined to become some great player, nor did I have any big aspirations in that area, because my interests went a different direction as I grew up. Nevertheless, I still enjoy watching a good game of baseball, and my favorite team is the Colorado Rockies. I suppose my dad…a Yankees fan to the core…probably wondered what I saw in the Colorado Rockies. Still, that was and is my team, and the team of my husband, Bob Schulenberg too. To many baseball fans, I suppose I would not be considered a die hard fan, because I don’t watch every game the Rockies play, but I watch enough to know who I like.
The really die hard fans have their heroes I’m sure, and that makes sense. Every sport has the spectacular players that people follow no matter what team they move to. They are just that good. I suppose that is what originally made baseball fans or the heads of the MLB decide that baseball needed a place to recognize their great players. The idea of a Baseball Hall of Fame began gathering steam in 1935, when members of the Clark Foundation in Cooperstown sought to revive business and tourism after the Depression. The idea took hold, and as most people know, every year new and amazing players are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While the Clark Foundation told a “white lie” to get things started, by saying that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. The story was a phony, and they had a hard time living down the lie. The baseball officials were eager turn the idea into a reality. They backed it…so we have the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Of all those people who have entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s my guess that none were more exciting than the first ones. In fact, on January 29, 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame elected its first members in Cooperstown, New York. The first inductees were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. In preparation for the dedication of the Hall of Fame in 1939 which many people thought was the centennial of baseball, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted. Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history. Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game. Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion. Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history. And, Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers ever to have taken the mound. Today, there are 225 players, 17 managers, 8 umpires, and 28 executives and pioneers who have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and it hosts 350,000 visitors per year. It’s all about baseball.