January 9th Resolutions

As we usher in another year I have a few resolutions that I want to make.  People, including myself, make resolutions every year and if these people are anything like me, they are washed up by the first of February.  Actually, if you are like me, they probably never pull away from the gate, lingering in the jetway trying to decide whether or not to get on the plane.  It’s with this in mind that I’ve decided to share my resolutions with my tens of readers, in order to establish some accountability and hope to be held to these new, higher standards of living.  If they Mayans are correct and this is, in fact, the last year of existence, I want to make sure go out on the best note possible.

RESOLUTION 1: Lose 30 lbs

I don’t like to just throw a figure out there like this, because I’m not sure its the healthiest approach to weight loss and healthy eating.  The be frank, I don’t care so much about the weight as I do feeling good, living well, and being healthy for my family.  My wife and kids are the best things in my life and while I don’t think I live a terrible lifestyle (big improvements were made last year, diet and exercise wise) I have a lot of room to improve.

To help in the achievement of this goal, I have laid out a plan to exercise 4 days a week.  This begins today, Monday the 9th.  You may already be wondering why my resolutions are starting on January 9th rather than the new year.  I had to go to Austin last week for four days and I knew that, as I alluded to earlier, that I would have lasted for 3 days if I employed this strategy.  You see I was there for my company’s annual sales meeting and I knew it would be four days of great meals.  We ate at a couple of really good places, about which I may blog later.

This is part of my issue.  I love to eat.  Most of you may consider my nutritional acumen to be on par with that of your typical John Belushi or Chris Farley and frankly, a year ago I fit in perfectly well with the locals of Central Wisconsin.  This has got to change.  So while I haven’t created a true diet plan, I figure a change from fatty meats and melted cheeses to, well, anything else, should do me well.  This coupled with the renewed interest in exercise should get me back on track.

When I go to the gym today, I plan to step on the scale and share the results with you.  I’m still debating whether or not I should share a “before” picture.  You know what?  I’ll take the picture for future reference.  If you really want to see it, please comment on the blog (I’d like to hear what you think anyway.  I might not CARE what you think, but I’d like to hear it) and maybe I’ll put it up there.  Maybe a talent scout for “before” models will find it and like what they see.  Anyway, I’m going to share this information with you and each week I’ll conduct a weigh in and share how the week has gone, both from a diet and exercise perspective.

Resolution 2: Appreciate More, Do More, Give More

I don’t think I give enough appreciation for all that I have.  My family and I are tremendously blessed with a great many things.  We don’t want for anything (when it really comes down to it), we are in great health, happy relationships, and we just enjoy our time together.  I don’t articulate this enough, and I need to start appreciating what’s in front of me; what is being done for me and what I have in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what others do for me, but maybe not enough.  My parents, my in-laws, my wife, my kids; everything.  I don’t know that I say or show it enough, and I am resolving to do that.  We have such a great life that I often take for granted and it’s taken seeing some people fall on harder times to understand how much we have to be thankful for.  I am resolving to no longer take for granted the life I have.  Work hard, live right, appreciate the hell out things.  To all my friends and family; thank you for everything this past year.  (Resolution 2: Check.  Glad to have that one out of the way.)

After reflecting on this past Christmas season and realizing how lucky I am, I’m almost ashamed at how little I give in the community.  As part of my resolutions for this year, I resolve to do more for others.  I’m hoping this comes in many forms.  While we don’t “want” for much, I also don’t feel we are in a place financially to give tons of money.  I think we should give more than we do, but ultimately, I’m still trying to build enough savings to buy a future home, which is something I desperately want to give to my wife and kids.  But I know that I can give more of my time and energy and I hope to do so.

I have one volunteer opportunity in the works already and hopefully there will be opportunities to do more.  It’s tough right now, though.  I have to travel for work more than previously anticipated and my free time still needs to be devoted to being a husband and father.  I may blog about this in the future, but for now it will likely be something that I keep to myself, as how I give and what I plan to do for those in need may be a personal thing.  What I’ll let you know, however, is if I’m following through.

Resolution 3: Write More

I like writing this blog, but I have trouble finding time and, really, topics to write about.  I don’t want to just write about nothing, or things that aren’t interesting.  There is a part of this that I find therapeutic and simply relaxing, but I don’t like to just run in place.  I want to go somewhere and when I do something I want it to have meaning.  Not just for me, but for you tens of readers out there.  So please, let me know if what you read is interesting.  Let me know if you’d like me to write about anything specific.

In order to keep the content flowing, I’m considering creating more of a format for this blog.  Doing regular types of posts on regular days that will give me, even with nothing particular to write about, a framework within which to work.  If you stick with the blog as a reader, you will probably hear a lot about the Reds; probably once a week.  You will also probably get a few short snippets from my Twitter feed.  Since most of you don’t follow me there, I may give you a “best of” from the week.  Not that I think my Tweets are brilliant, but looking back on them, they could offer sort of a scrolling news reel of my week’s thoughts.  Might be interesting.

Ultimately, I’d like to post 3 days a week, at the minimum.  So again, this is the accountability thing.  I want you to keep me honest.  If I don’t post something for a while, call me on it.  If there is something you would like to hear about; I’m happy to get an idea for the blog.  May not be well informed, might not be very long, but it’s likely to be misinformed and poorly written; so there’s that.

Happy New Year everyone.  I hope you all had a happy holiday season, whatever it is you celebrate and that the New Year brings you what you want, which I assume is a slimmer, more philanthropic Josh Francis who writes more.

 

 

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Reds Trade for Mat Latos

Because I’m sure everyone wants to hear my thoughts on this, I thought I’d draft a short post outlining how I feel about the recent trade between the Reds and Padres.  The Reds, this afternoon parted with much of their valuable farm system in order to acquire Mat Latos, a 24 year old starting pitcher from San Diego.  To get Latos, the Reds gave up 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, RP Brad Boxberger, and SP Edinson Volquez.  It’s a lot, and I’m sure the Reds were hesitant to pull the trigger, but I think it was what they needed.

I’ve read a lot of reactions to the trade, some good and some bad.  In general, people seem to think the Reds have given up too much.  Volquez has had his troubles last year, but the other three guys are all 1st round picks.  Grandal is one of the best 5 catching prospects in the minor leagues.  Alonso hit well in the minor leagues and showed some really ability in a short 90 or so at bat stint at the end of last year.  The problem with both of these guys is that they are blocked by better players, Mesoraco and Votto.

Votto needs no real explanation as he’s already won an MVP and had another top 10 finish in 2011.  Alonso has shown real potential, but he was no good in his attempts in LF and it just didn’t make sense to hold on to such a valuable trade chip.  Everyone in the universe knew the Reds were trying to trade him.  Mesoraco is maybe the best catching prospect in baseball (with respect to Yankees’ Jesus Montero) and thus Grandal was expendable.  I’ve seen talent evaluators, specifically ESPNs Keith Law not that he’s going to be a star.  He can hit for power and catches a pretty good game.  Grandal could be a stud too, and he’s a switch hitter, but he hasn’t been the system as long and just isn’t ready to step into the starting spot like Meso is.

Boxberger is actually the guy that I wanted to step in for the Reds and close this year.  Now that the Reds were able to jettison CoCo Cordero’s contract they need someone to close and I thought Boxberger seemed the most logical choice.  Many people thought he couldn’t because he’s a rookie, but that’s just bull.  Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was a closer (Kimbrel) and 2010’s AL ROY was a closer, too, Neftali Feliz.  Anyway, it didn’t appear the Reds were willing to do this, so they may as well have used him for the trade.  Edinson Volquez has lost his enamor with myself and most other Reds fans, so I’m glad the Padres were willing to take him, frankly.

So this is a lot to give up, right?  Yes, but I think the risk is worthy for a few reasons.  One, the Reds didn’t do anything to hurt themselves for 2011.  Alonso was likely going to be in LF and while the guy can rake, his defense was likely to limit the value of his contributions.  Personally, I think if Chris Heisey is given a chance to start full time he can provide the same, maybe slightly less, value than what Alonso would offer.  The Reds had no interest in Boxberger as a closer and while he may have been effective in middle relief, he should be fairly easy to replace.  Grandal, as mentioned wouldn’t see daylight in the bigs and Volquez just couldn’t be relied upon to do anything good.

The other reason I believe this to be a worthy risk is that the Reds have, basically, a two year window to try and push for a championship while they have Votto at first base.  Votto has not ruled out signing a long term extension with the Reds, but you have to think the Reds won’t be able to afford him.  Pujols just got in excess of 25 million a year over 10 years and when Votto hits free agency he’ll be a younger, almost as good version of  El Hombre.  Prince Fielder is also looking for an 8+ year contract north of 200 million, which sets the bar pretty high.  It just doesn’t look good and maybe the Reds realize it.  They have probably the best hitter in the National League for two more years; they have to make them count.

This is all without really having examined what the Reds have gotten in return.  I can’t get into the detail nearly as well as what others have, so feel free to go read Dave Cameron’s take on the trade; it’s really good analysis.  The bottom line is that Latos has shown over the last two years to be the kind of pitcher that can sustain success regardless of ballpark.  He throws strikes, showing a strong K/BB ratio, hits as high on the gun as 97, is equally effective to against righties and lefties, and most importantly, is under team control for the next 4 years, not even being arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season.

There are question marks around Latos.  He may be a bit crazy.  He’s been noted as being immature (what 24 year old isn’t?) and I believe he initially fell in the amateur draft because of his attitude.  But I also think that he could turn it around and with the strong clubhouse guys like Arroyo, Votto, and Rolen he may be just fine.  There is also concern that he started 2011 on the DL with shoulder bursitis, which is never good for a pitcher.  One concern that I don’t buy into, however, is that he was a product of Petco Park and its questionable how he’ll do in a small park like GABP.  His home/road splits are very similar and with his high strike out rates and ability to throw 4 quality pitches should allow him to be just as effective (maybe slightly less) as when he was in San Diego.

Ultimately, time will be the judge of this trade; nobody knows if Latos can continue, although as noted, the underlying stats, it appears he can.  And nobody knows if the prospects sent over there will amount to anything.  The Reds clearly feel they need to go for it now and Walt Jocketty has said he’s still trying to make other moves.  One underrated part of this trade is that it opens up about 3 million dollars for this year, so improvements can still be made.  Let’s also not forget that with Pujols out of the division, Fielder likely to go elsewhere, the NL Central is wide open.  This could be the perfect storm for the Reds to swoop in and really do some damage.

Also, Jim Bowden hates the deal for the Reds, so it’s probably the best deal ever.

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Catching up

Never a Dull Moment

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve last written anything so I’ll try to recap the last couple of months.  After my last post I had a couple of you ask me whether our trip to Jamaica had the same drunken confusion that we had on our honeymoon.  Yes and no.  Yes there was drunken confusion; no there was not a kidnapping.  The long and short of it is this: on the first night in Montego Bay, we took full advantage of the resort being all inclusive.  We got separated and being that this resort was actually two and thus quite large, we had difficulty finding each other.

As I meandered about in the hopes of finding Jaimee, I decided to cut across the pool/bar area to save time, because clearly I had a good lay of the land at this point.  Unfortunately, my cavalier attitude was my undoing.  I scanned the area but didn’t see two things: my bride or the pool I was stepping into.  Nobody was around to see it, but if so, it had to have been hilarious.  Completely unaware, I stepped right into it, drunk, without breaking stride.  I came up okay, and the next day rationalized that this was the overflow pool which, in my defense, wasn’t lit up like the regular pool, which is why I didn’t see it.  Either way, I fell into the freaking pool.  

Luckily, I didn’t hit my head or something, because that could have been the end of things for our hero.  I remember getting out of the pool and then getting back in, still fully dressed, to search for my glasses and a sandal, neither of which were recovered.  

The next morning Jaimee and I awoke (apparently we had finally found each other) to find me without my glasses and having only one sandal.  The expression on the face of the lady at the front desk was priceless as I described to her the need to call lost and found for a single, right, black leather sandal, size 12.  No such luck.  We didn’t find my glasses either.  The good news is that I wasn’t the only one to lose something; Jaimee had inadvertently left our camera in one of the resort bars, but that was recovered without incident.

Storage Wars

Not much excitement has transpired between then and Thanksgiving.  We had a great Thanksgiving with the family; even Dusty came home to surprise everyone.  My mother would tell you this was “the best” and my father would say it was a Festivus miracle (clearly disregarding that the Festivus season has not yet come upon us) but I would say the best part of the Thanksgiving holiday was going to a storage locker auction on the Friday following Turkey Day.

For those of you who are unaware of what a storage locker auction is, I will refer you to A&E’s Storage Wars.  The premise is simple; storage lockers are rented and when the tenants fail to pay for a couple of months (not sure how long that has to be), the lockers are put up for auction.  The auctioneer goes to the locker to be sold, rolls open the door and everyone gets a chance to look into the belly of the beast.  You can’t go into the locker, nor can you touch, open boxes, or really do anything with the contents.  People bring flashlights and use various other methods to help make a determination of whether or not to bid on the locker in question.  You are bidding on the entire locker, everything in it belongs to the highest bidder.  Let’s get started.

Attending this early morning was myself, my father, brother Dusty, and uncles Ron and Mike.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but we got there and checked in.  There were a lot of people.  My intention is not to paint these people as bad people, because I don’t believe they are.  What I know of them is merely superficial and is not meant as an attack on their character nor their intelligence, but whoasers.  This group was something else.  Early estimates by the council (me and members of our group) estimated attendance north of 300 people.  As Dusty observed, most of them looked like they were wearing what they found in the last locker they purchased.  The hilarity of the people watching can not be overstated.

So we get to our first locker, which was actually two small ones that were being shopped together.  I assume they were the same owner as not only were they being sold together, but they were next to each other and shared similar qualities (empty Honey Brown beer bottles).  Dusty was adamant that because of the beer bottles and what we can only assume was a used, hopefully empty, pizza box, was not worth bidding on.  The rest of the council felt comfortable with as much as 75-100 dollars.  It went for about 125, if memory serves right.

We did this sort of thing for 15 lockers that day.  The highest price of one was over $1100 and looked to probably be worth it.  It was like an entire apartment or condo was stored in it.  Couple of tvs, couches, bed and other kitchen appliances and such.  Uncle Ronnie wondered aloud if a mattress was really something you wanted to buy at a storage auction, but apparently people do.  I’d say we saw at least 8 of them through the day.  The worst locker went for ten bucks and was all scrap wood.  That’s it…scrap pieces of wood.  

The best locker that I think we saw all day contained an old cocktail table arcade game, Space Invaders; the kind you sit down and watch the game on the top of the table.  It was pretty cool, but of course you have no earthly idea whether it works or not.  This locker also had a nice bike in it, but of course it was missing the seat.  A few other odds and ends; nothing of real interest.  This thing went for 600 clams, which may be okay if the video game works, but otherwise you’re probably hosed.

We came away empty handed, but we had so much fun.  So much laughing, so much people watching, and in general, just a good time with family members.  We will be attending more, and if we buy anything, I will chronicle the experience and share with you what it is we find and any other details I think may be of interest.

So those are the most interesting things that I feel I can relay to you at this time.  I just took two trips for work, Tampa and New Orleans, and will be going to Austin in a few weeks.  Perhaps I’ll see and experience enough in these trips to fill out another edition of the blog.  

 

 

 

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Honeymoon Kidnapping: A Tale as Old as Time

Today (9/9) my wife and I celebrate 5 remarkable years of wedded bliss.  I know for a fact that many of you have can coozy’s from our wedding that have the date right on there, yet I haven’t heard from many of you.  Weird.  But that’s okay, cause what I’d like to do is tell a story about our honeymoon.  The honeymoon in which my wife was kidnapped.

Ours was not terribly different from any other typical honeymoon; tropical, alcohol soaked tourism.  Jaimee and I spent time in a little tourist town in Costa Rica called Tamarindo and some time at a resort not too far from there as well.  One of the very best experiences I can say I have had was flying from tree to tree through the Costa Rican jungle on zip lines.  These can be found in the states now, as near to the Dayton area as Hocking HIlls, and from what I hear it’s pretty cool, but I can’t imagine it being any better than what we had in Central America.

It was twice that we decided to go on this type of excursion.  Before we left the States, Jaimee was apprehensive about this, but a friend of ours had done it and convinced her that a trip to Costa Rica without the zip lines wasn’t complete.  Frankly, I was very gung-ho about it, me being the adventurous sort, as you probably know.  In my mind’s eye I’d already pictured myself swaggering over to the line, grabbing it with one hand, my free arm wrapping itself around my lady and swinging off into the sunset.  I was swinging through the jungle with all the grace and animal magnetism of Johnny Weissmuller (look him up).

Instead, I was the guy who may have been a little too heavy, wearing a helmet that was a little too small, who barely had the trust of the line to hold him up as he scuttled from tree to tree the first three lines.  Graceful, I was not.  You wear these big hulking gloves, the only thing that keeps you from crashing into the tree a la George of the Jungle (it only happened to me once).  The gloves have large swathes of padding across the palm, spanning the area between the thumb and fingers.  When you take off from your platform, you have to keep one hand on your harness and the other on the line behind you.  To slow down, you pull down on the line behind you.  This is typically done as you approach the next landing area but could also be employed if you find yourself screaming down the line at an crazy scary pace (not that I’d know about that).

As I said, we did this type of thing twice.  By the end of the first one, we really loved it.  As I mentioned earlier, it hadn’t quite made it to the US yet.  Our guide told us that it was due to strict liability issues and the prohibitive cost of insurance.  With that in mind, we felt we should take advantage and go again.  This time was better in two ways.  First, we were already pros, obviously.  Second, we were in a smaller, private group.  This was significant because our “guide” was pretty loose on the rules.  For example, we came to a line that was about 1000 feet long, and when he sent Jaimee hurtling through the air he looked at me and the three others and said “watch this”.  He grabbed the line and started shaking it up and down.  You could hear Jaimee scream as the minor tremors reached her.  When he sent me down he did the same thing and let me tell you, those “minor tremors” turn into some large stomach churning ups and downs at about 700 feet away.  This dude also allowed Jaimee to turn her harness around, enabling her to go one stretch like Superman; hanging from the middle of her back, arms outstretched like she was flying.  I was too fat.

So, the rest of our days were really spent drinking and lounging around the pool.  It may not shock you to learn that we took advantage of the all inclusive portion of our stay.  On the Saturday of our trip I really wanted to watch some college football.  I was at the time working towards my MBA and had some homework to wrap up, so I stayed in the room that morning until it was done, at which time I turned on the TV and scoured the channels in search of the Ohio State game.  Successfully identifying the Costa Rican channel for ESPN, I marched down to the pool, armed with this knowledge and planted myself at the pool bar.  Instructing the bartender in my best broken espanol to get the television to ESPN, I was fortunate enough to be getting the New York feed, which ran the Ohio State game.  They were playing Penn State and that’s about all I remember.

My memory is spotty, I suspect because the Buckeyes played well, as every time they made a great play, I helped myself to a shot of tequila.  I’d say I used the same discretion in giving myself a shot as Tressel did giving out Buckeye stickers. For example, tackle for loss?  Shot.  Punt inside the 20?  Shot.  Don’t fall into the pool?  Shot.  You get the idea.  By the end of the third quarter I was smashed, trying to explain to a Venezuelan man who had never before seen American football, the rules of football.  Now, dead sober, think about how you would describe the rules of football to someone who had never ever seen it before.  Pretty tough, right?  Now imagine being smoked on beer and tequila and trying it with someone who barely speaks English.  If only someone had recorded that conversation.

At the conclusion of this “conversation”, a member of the staff helped me to my room.  We were set to leave the next morning, bright and early to return home, our resort transportation scheduled to take us to the airport at 6:30 or so the following morning.  It was kickoff Sunday in the NFL, so naturally I had my Bengals jersey laid out and ready to go.  It wasn’t until I woke up at 6 that all hell broke loose.

I woke up and realized it was time to go.  The shuttle was going to pick us up…any minute, really.  I bounced up and got my clothes on, Bengals jersey for the Sunday contest I was hoping to be able to watch during our layover in Houston.  I realized, very quickly, that Jaimee wasn’t there.  Not in the bathroom, not on the balcony, not outside our room.  Nowhere.  Frantic I tried looking everywhere I could.  Her clothes were still there, her passport still stowed away securely in the safe.  I couldn’t make any sense of it.

I had to call security.  Scared out of my mind, I called resort security to help me find my wife.  They rushed to our villa and I explained to them that our plane was to leave in a little more than an hour and my wife was missing.  Lots of people were looking, but no one had any idea.  It wasn’t long, however, before Jaimee came strolling up with the other couple we had befriended.  Turns out Jaimee had been down at the pool with these people.  But what the hell?  Why would she be down there so early?  It was 6pm…on Saturday.

So there you have it.  5 years ago (and a week or two, I guess), I got drunk and put to bed only to wake up and believe my wife had been taken.  It’s legit, too.  I had my Bengals jersey on and everything.  100% thought Jaimee was missing.  Scariest day of my life (to that point, anyway).  Every day since then has been a blessing, seeing as how I almost lost her.

And its with this story that I’d like to say how every day seems to bring a new adventure with our marriage and every day I hope when I wake up she’s still there.  We’ve tackled restaurants, work, children, and home improvements.  Each time we come out stronger, closer, and usually with a story to tell.  Next week we leave for Jamaica to celebrate the anniversary properly.  It’s likely that we’ll have more to share, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if every morning I wake up with her at my side.

I love you Jaimee.

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My Time as a Dayton Dragon

Much has been made over the past two weeks about the Dayton Dragons and their record breaking run to 815 consecutive home sellouts and all of it well deserved.  The NY Times, USA Today and ESPN have all chimed in, bringing a spotlight to the birthplace of aviation (sorry Kitty Hawk, it’s Dayton).  They’ve outlined the economic distress Dayton is in so I’m not going to talk about that.  I’m also not going to tell you about how great the customer service has been and how President Bob Murphy and my good friend, Executive Vice President Eric Deutsch have consistently delivered quality entertainment even when the product on the field may not have been the best.

For those unaware of what’s happening, the Dayton Dragons are about to break the all time record for most consecutive sell-outs in professional sports.  This spans opening day of the inaugural season in 2000 (or 2k, get it?) and barring rain delay, will break the Portland TrailBlazer’s record on Saturday, July 9, 2011.  As a citizen of the Dayton metropolitan area, I’m proud of the what the Dragons represent to the community.  With all due respect to the U. of Dayton and the NCAA’s First Four, the Dragons provide the brightest sparkle in what’s become a dingy Gem City.

The First Dragon

All that pleasantry aside, many of you may not know that I was once a part of the Dayton Dragon family.  I have two separate experiences as a Dragon.  One, in which I was literally a dragon and the other in which I had one of the best times of my collegiate life.  Let’s look back into my time as a sophomore at the University of Dayton…

There I am, sitting in my dorm room in Virginia Kettering Hall when I get a call from my pseudo-sister Courtney Wendeln.  At this early early stage in my story, there are two key points I must make.  The first is about Courtney.  Her brothers were my best friends in high school and remain part of a collection of “best friends”, if such a thing exists at 30+ years old.  Her family is my second family and by default, she, my pseudo-sister.  The second point that I need to make here is that my phone number in the VWK dorm was xxx-1234.  We (my roommates and I) thought it was awesome (because it is).  Courtney was the first person hired by Dayton Professional Baseball when Mandalay announced the team was coming to Dayton and she called me (courtesy of a conveniently easy to remember number) to see if I could help her out.

The task: BE THE DRAGON.  That’s right, be the Dayton Dragon.  At the time, Dayton Professional Baseball had been coy with the public and the announcement of its name.  They had a contest, in fact, (an early demonstration of their connectedness with Daytonians) to name the team.  Part of the way Mandalay flirted with the uninformed was by staging “dragon sightings” around the Miami Valley in which they would have a news camera film parts of the mascot suit to keep the commoners guessing as to the results of the contest.  Well, for this first staged sighting, they needed a body.  I was that body.

It didn’t take much cajoling on Courtney’s part to convince me to come downtown and BE the Dayton Dragon.  I got down there in a hurry and was given my assignment.  The biggest challenge, as far as I can see it, was putting the damn suit on me.  If you’ve seen Iron Man and how he gets his suit on, you’d understand that this is really a great way to do it.  We, myself and a handful of staffers at Dayton Professional Baseball, must have looked like a couple of clowns trying.  What’s significant in all of this, and something I will tell people until the day I die is this: I was the FIRST person to ever wear the Dragon suit in public.  Yes, I, Josh Francis, was the first Dayton Dragon.*

*I’m assuming that right now you’re putting my picture in a frame and hanging it above your fireplace mantle, possibly next to your photo of the San Diego Chicken or the Phillie Phanatic.  Please don’t. I’m no hero, I’m just Josh.  No pictures, please.  Autographs $5 dollars, $10 for anything Dragons related.

As the original Dragon, my task was simple: infiltrate a local McDonald’s, earn their trust, and man (dragon?) the drive thru masquerading as a member of the Golden Arch Army.  I’m afraid I’ve already been too detailed, but allow me a little leeway; after all, I was the first Dragon.  Since the dragon suit had never been seen in public, the people at Dayton Professional Baseball were extra cautious so that nobody would see me.  They shuffled me outside to a back alley where I was loaded into the back of a kidnapper’s van.  No windows and I’m pretty sure no A/C.  I had to lay down in the back of this van while they drove me…anywhere they wanted, really; I was in the back of a van wearing a dragon costume…what could I really do?

They drop me at a McDonald’s, to this day I don’t know which one, at which point I put on my head and went directly behind the counter.  I shook hands, I danced a jig, I worked the drive thru.  Glorious.  But that suit sucks.  You have to look through the neck, to give you a sense of how big it is, and you sweat like crazy.  I’m a big guy, and yeah, I may sweat more than the average guy, but sweating doesn’t get to me.  Sweating down your face when you absolutely can not wipe it off your face is like Chinese water torture.  Brutal.  But it was a success.  I made the evening news and all my college buddies got a good laugh.

Retrospectively, this was amazing.  I didn’t realize at the time that I would be a part of such a proud history.  Sadly, I had a photograph, which used to make the VP at my old job laugh like crazy, but I lost it.  It may still be somewhere hidden, but we can’t find it.  It was me, in the dragon suit, without the head.  Not that it was anything stupendous, but disproportion between my puny, insignificant head compared to that of the massive dragon torso was a bit comical.

The Handlers

The second part of my history with the Dragons doesn’t have quite the historical significance behind it, but it comprised four of the most fun weeks of my collegiate life.  Again, we begin with Courtney calling me and asking for a favor.  Apparently, as great as the Famous (San Diego) Chicken is, he poaches employees as well as he might his own eggs.  He came to town and ran off with two of the Dragons’ “handlers”, as I’ll call them.

The Handlers were the folks that accompanied Walter Briggs in his pursuit of fan happiness and comprised the remainder of the entertainment staff.  For 4 weeks at the end of the inaugural season and the playoffs, I had the pleasure of being one of these handlers.  I got 40 bucks a game and at least 1 Dayton Dragons t-shirt.  I can’t think of a better job as a college student.

My duties were a variety of things.  First, we went over the “script” in which we ran through every skit we’d go through for the evening’s game and how many “outs” between each.  (Outs were the currency of the game.  We had 6 “outs” before we do the dancing umpire, we had 3 “outs” before we dance the YMCA, for example).  Then we prepared.  The most prep we ever had to do was when we had to fit Walter, a former 3rd string QB for the Jets, into 12-14 Dragons t-shirts.  He did this thing where he’d run around the field taking off shirts and throwing them into the stands.*  Usually though, we’d just get the water balloon launcher ready with plenty of t-shirts and hot dogs to fire at people who, I swear to God, would punch their grandmother to get them.

*On one spectacular day, Walter let ME put on the 14 t-shirts and throw them into the stands.  I think he let my co-worker do it too.  It was really a lot fun.  Also, once Walter got a woman to take of HER shirt.  Good times.  

The fun on the field was great and even better when they asked us to go find “the hottest girls we could” for an on field skit.  I sang (and danced) the YMCA or did the chicken dance at every game and I loved it.  There was even a time when a sister team’s mascot (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes) came to town and I got to go on field with him for a special skit.  Long story short, me (and my pseudo-bro) Casey pretended to be grounds crew but ended up dancing to KC and the Sunshine Band in the middle of dragging the field.  The whole gig was just having fun and being out there making asses of ourselves, and I tell you what, I would do it again right now if I was asked.

Looking Back

As great as it was being an idiot out there in front of everyone, the most memorable things will not be from the game.  It’ll be tossing a football on the field with Adam Dunn or having a drink with Austin Kearns (both of whom were the same age in Single A as I was in college).  Or having dinner with Rey Olmedo.  Or having a Budweiser in the clubhouse with my buddies and Walter after a long night of entertaining the masses.  It’s being asked to sign the jersey of a lucky fan (who already had the whole team sign his jersey) because he said that “I was part of the team, too.”  Those are things I’ll remember and tell my kids.

For now, I’ll sit here and tell those who are willing to listen about the fun times I’ve had with the Dayton Dragons.  They’ve been good to me and I regret that I have’t been as good to them in return.  Life, work, and two kids have really gotten in the way of enjoying the Dragons the way that I wish I could.  Not that I am making excuses, because my wife and kids are more important to me than baseball, but I feel that at times I’ve taken them for granted.  After all, I owe some of my greatest memories to the Dragons.  They continue to host Russia night (as in Russia, OH…pronounced Roo-She) from whence I came and even my brother had been invited to sing the National Anthem (and did).

The Dragons are a bright spot, as mentioned, for the city of Dayton.  I’m proud, as a member of the community to call them my own.  Bust mostly, I’m just lucky.  Lucky to have friends and know people associated with the organization, lucky to have a caring and excellent organization contributing to the Miami Valley, and lucky to have so many great stories to share with my friends and family.

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My Favorite (Fat)hletes

A few months ago I wrote about my experience in Augusta where I was able to attend Monday’s practice round for the Master’s.  One part of this experience I held back on describing was that of me, getting to have my picture taken with Craig Stadler.  Known to most of you, I’m sure, is the fact that the Walrus won the Masters in 1982 placing him firmly in the Golf Hall of He Won That?  What you may not know is that Stads is a family favorite.  I grew up cheering for him as he was, and remains, my father’s favorite golfer.  Keeping my experience at the Masters quiet was necessary because I wanted to surprise my dad with the picture for Father’s Day.  You are correct in assuming that it was a hit.

The Walrus

Judging by his picture, you may infer that Craig didn’t get his nickname as a result of being physically fit.  Per Wikipedia, he tips the scales at a slender 250 lbs, but with all do respect to Wikipedia, I don’t think the editor saw him lumbering down the fairway that day.  He’s a lot of man, and given he’s created an entire clothing line around his “Walrus” moniker, I’d say he’s embraced it.

This is, you may have guessed, what has endeared him to me over the last 20 years.  Since then my time as a sports fan has brought many unique physiques to the forefront for my viewing pleasure.  Fathletes, I like to call them.  Here is a list of my favorites.  You may add your own in the comments section as I certainly haven’t done exhaustive thinking on the subject and I can’t write up everybody.

Bob Wickman – During his early Cleveland days, my buddy, Big Shot and I had the idea for our own sports show.  In short, we thought it would be great viewing to record our conversations while drinking and watching a sporting event.  Essentially, replay the game, but all commentary provided by two, increasingly drunk college students.  As part of this show, we felt we’d hang a mounted deer head on the wall behind us for every Bob Wickman save.  Why, you ask?  Why not?

Rod Beck – Rod Beck lived like his fu manchu, all out.  A constant source of anxiety amongst his fan base, particularly my college roommate during his Chicago years, Shooter patented the “create your own save situation” situation.  If this guy had more than a 3 run cushion, you could almost count on him giving up enough runs/hits to turn an otherwise forgettable inning into a save.  Beck is now 32nd on MLBs career saves list and had a rather questionable death in 2007 (RIP) but I like to always remember him as the player living in a trailer behind a minor league stadium while attempting a comeback with the Iowa Cubs.

Gilbert Brown – Loved watching big Gilbert Brown motor (motor?) through the opposing team’s offensive line, finishing with his gravedigger dance.  What I appreciate much more than seeing a nearly 400lb professional fathlete do a sack dance is see this same guy have a special burger named for him at a local Green Bay Burger King.  The Gilbertburger was a double whopper with everything, cut in half, but no cheese (and I assume a Diet Coke).  Live strong, Mr. Brown.

Jared Lorenzen – I saw the big fella play in person while under center for the Kentucky Wildcats.  I found myself in Lexington that day because a friend of mine had a brother who played for South Carolina, who was in town.  He was shedding would be tacklers left and right.  The guy was just so big.  For those who don’t know who he is, he was a successful QB for Kentucky following the Tim Couch era, but he weighed about as much as a VW Beetle.  Great night in town with a lot of friends, but we were a bit put off by the fact that the bars closed at 1am.  What the hell?

Kung Fu Panda – I love the Panda.  Thank you, Barry Zito for giving baseball a great nickname.  They come so rarely these days, but I don’t if any I’ve heard recently are on point as Kung Fu Panda for Pablo Sandoval.  I really like the nickname Joey Bats for Jose Bautista, a lot, but it’s more of a play on the name where as Kung Fu Panda just seems to personify Sandoval.  I hope he doesn’t lose too much weight, success be damned.

Craig Stadler – Duh.



 

 

 

David Wells – Boomer is a legend all to himself.  A baseball guy, he loved the history and he loved excess.  I haven’t read his autobiography, Perfect I’m Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball, but I assume it could do better than what I can here.  I just loved the guy.  He had an “I care, but I don’t really care” attitude.


John Kruk – Even as I watch Kruk on ESPN I think of him as John One Nut Kruk.  It isn’t funny, as he lost that soldier in a fight with cancer, but it’s just what I remember most about him.  He’s also one of the few fathletes that may have lost weight after their playing days.  He also may be the closest thing to Chris Farley that we have.  If only we could get him to dance at Chippendales to Loverboy…

Honorable Mentions – As I said, feel free to comment on guys I missed.  I’m still trying to learn how to format better with pictures and stuff, so bear with me as I continue to learn.

Butterbean

Tony Siragusa

Dennys Reyes aka Senor Sweat

Cecil Fielder

Mo Vaughn

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15 minute movie review: Eclipse

As any of you who know me realize, my body is a finely tuned machine.  A svelt 256 (so long 260!), I now spend about 4 hours a week at the gym.  Truth be told, I’m pretty proud of the progress that I’ve made in both discipline and flab reduction, but one of the unique experiences that going to the gym provides me is watching between 15-30 minutes of a movie in their cardio theater.

Watching movies, of course, is nothing new.  I like movies.  Movies on the treadmill keep my mind off the fact that my heart is about to explode.  What’s been interesting is seeing only 15 minutes smack in the middle of a movie that I’ve never seen and judging whether the rest of the movie merits a looky lou.  In the case of Eclipse; it doesn’t.

So, being as superficially judgmental as I can be, there are a few key points, as outlined below, for why this movie was deemed unwatchable after viewing a random 15 minute segment.

1. Kristen Stewart: 

How in the world is this girl a star?  Her facial expressions were a constant mix of confused constipation and concerned constipation.  She had the versatility of a mannequin.  I can’t be only person that thinks this, can I?  Perhaps I’m the only sane person that has been exposed to more than 5 minutes of one of these movies.  I don’t know.  I just can’t understand why they would pay Kristen Stewart all of that money, to basically be a still frame of herself through the entire film (15 minutes, at least).

2. Werewolves and Vampires: 

I don’t have anything against these two (as many claim, mythological) creatures.  I watched True Blood and I can sort of understand the popularity of such things.  But why did they make every vampire look like a heroin addict?  This main character vampire guy…what’s with the hair and lipstick?  He’s supposed to be this dude girls swoon over?  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with America.  Girls think this guy is that balls and guys like Macho Man Randy Savage (RIP) get nada?  Not in my America.

And come on, werewolf guy…no shirt?  How is it necessary to the storyline to be shirtless in every single scene?  The last thing I saw was you carry a mannequin (oops, Kristen Stewart) into the woods to protect her, without a shirt.  I’m sure the other werewolves will be frightened by your sculpted, Josh Francis-like, physique.  And another thing; why are the werewolves the size of horses?  This wolf is giving the chick what I think equates to a hug in the wolf world, and she’s shorter than the wolf.  How do these “super-wolves” hide being as ginormous as they supposedly are.

3.  Fight scene:

I saw a scene where I assume the fangers are training to fight, but I couldn’t quite make out from the engrossing dialogue what exactly they were doing.  There was some back story about how one of the guys became a vampire and some other cliched repartee that was just brutal to experience.  Back to the fighting, it looked it was modeled after Street Fighter.  I was concerned that Baraka was going to come out of the forest and zap everyone.  (First I thought it was going to be E. Honda, but the Brazilian Beast just seems more likely in a movie about werewolves and vampires.)

This covers my experience.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this is the worst movie ever made ever.  I challenge you to prove me wrong.

As a side note, I’m going to try to do a movie review of some kind on here semi-regularly (which is almost as much as I write, but we’ll see).

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