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Wisconsin Bound

I don’t think I have ever taken a vacation that has lasted over a week or ten days at the most. I seem to remember splitting them up. Well I will be leaving July 25th to start a vacation that will take me all the way to August 9th. That’s 16 days. Sixteen days away from baseball, work, and more baseball.

Well, kind of. The first three days of this vacation, Josh will be playing with an underclassmen team from his organization at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The American National director invited some kids to go up with them to play in a 17/18U Tournament. He called it a showcase. I’ll just call it some tournament experience. I am hoping this will give us some more clarity on Josh’s future baseball plans. Hopefully we will all have fun. He gets to stay in a room with other boys in the hotel while I will be rooming with another parent from our team. He left this morning with that parent. I will head up on Friday morning.

One of my favorite times of the year as a baseball fan is the last week of July. I love reading about the proposed trades and reading fans reactions of what could happen to their team. I will have to spend a whole lot less time paying attention to things this year as where I will be has limited cell service and no MLB Network on the TV.

Normally each year we go to a Christian family camp called Northern Pines (1) in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Josh has gone up the past few years both weeks to be a Child Care Advisor the first week and camp the second week. I was planning on taking him from Kenosha to there on Sunday and drive back that night or the next morning. On July 17th, I got a message from the Northern Pines director, Dean Jaderston, asking us if we could just stay up the full first week and work. I asked my boss the next day and she ok’d my taking the time off. Lyn could not take the time off. I recommended to Dean that he check with the Rau family since they are teachers and the other part of our transition team.

Since Lyn has to get there on Friday August 1st because we are part of the transition team, we needed to figure out a way for her to get up there. We could not find any reasonable price planes that took her to the local airports of Appleton or Madison, Wisconsin. Amtrak means train to train thru or train to bus with both thru Chicago. Lyn was not all that thrilled with that so we ended looking at flights to Milwaukee or even to St. Paul, MN where she could catch a ride across with the Rau family. Well, since Lyn could not come, Janelle Rau will be there 1st week now teaching. That means there was extra room in the Raumobile traveling from St. Paul. Milwaukee is about 90 miles away from Green Lake so that would mean about a three hour round trip to pick her up. The cost of the ticket directly to St. Paul was more than twice as much as the ticket to Milwaukee. Dilemma time…So we slept on it.

On Monday the 21st I told my buddy at work the story and he decided to look himself. Would you believe that the cheaper flight to Milwaukee goes thru St. Paul? A call to Todd Rau with an agreement he could pick her up at the airport on Friday morning in St. Paul and drive her over with his son and Lyn booked the flight. The airline just doesn’t need to know that she will not be checking in on her connecting flight from St. Paul to Milwaukee.

So I will be up at Northern Pines for both weeks. I get to hear 5 new speakers during the two conferences as I will be the sound and audio visual guy first week. Most importantly I will get to spend some time with friends I only get to see once a year who are now going first week along with my friends from second week. I look forward to strengthening these relationships and creating new ones. I think God is working in my family to get us ready for these weeks ahead. Come August 9th as we drive back from Wisconsin I hope to feel refreshed and ready to take on whatever life brings us.

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They Have Their Reasons

Since this is the United States of America, shouldn’t privately owned companies be able to do mostly what they want? I mean if you don’t like what they believe, you don’t have to work there. If they have a store, you don’t even have to shop there. It really should be that simple shouldn’t it?

I remember when people complained about Nike possibly having kids working in sweatshops in some Pacific area country and people boycotted them. Seems like they survived just fine. More recently Taco Bell was accused of using something like horse meat in their food. People still go there. So why shouldn’t Hobby Lobby’s stance on contraceptives be any different? Their policy would not affect me personally, but if it did, I could chose not to work there or even shop there if I didn’t agree with them.

I have stores I don’t shop at and restaurants I don’t go to but it’s usually not by what they believe, it’s how their employees are and what their product is. Why should I care if they are Muslim, on the pill, or their mom is a convicted felon? What difference should it make? I don’t shop at restaurants because I don’t like their food or some employees are nonprofessional. Let me give you an example: I love McDonald’s. I mean who doesn’t? I just always seem to have colder food and rude service at the Page and Westport locations. So instead of saying I will not go to McDonald’s, I go to the University City or Bridgeton locations. The U City McDonald’s is my favorite because the employees are always nice and the food (especially the fries) is always hot.

Feel free to stop shopping or eating at places you don’t like for your reasons. That is why they are your reasons. Please do not try to push your reasons on everyone that is all I ask. People and companies have their reasons for doing things.

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St. Louis Cardinals 2014, So Far

Josh's new Marine Camo Hat

Josh’s new Marine Camo Hat

The St. Louis Cardinals are 30-29 and over one third of the way thru a long MLB season. The majority of their early games have been on the road. Finally they came home more during May and many thought that would help them. Well it has, a little (thinking optimistically). Tinkering with the lineup has been done over and over again. Matt Adams developed a small calf injury that has resulted in the call up of phenom Oscar Tavares. That helped for one game. What should they do? I don’t really know but it doesn’t mean I am not going to give you my opinion.

Daniel Descalso’s time in St. Louis is done. Unless there is something further wrong with Greg Garcia, number 33 has served his purpose. Descalso has become a poor at bat, below average defensively and not providing any leadership skills. You gotta give the kid a chance to be a utility player because there are no starting jobs for him in St. Louis.

I hear rumors that a team like the Minnesota Twins is looking into trading for Jon Jay. This makes sense if he can get us a reliever in return. The bullpen in just not right currently. Another way this could be fixed is by sending Carlos Martinez to the minors to stretch him out as a starter and bring up David Aardsma to fill his relief role. That is exactly why they signed him. Either way, Jay should be the odd man out in the outfield rotation.

Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny could also stick to a lineup for a few games in a row. Let Kolten Wong play every day. Give Randall Grichuk or Peter Bourjos at bats every day. I really don’t care which, just pick one. My only guess is that Matheny has to know something we don’t. Maybe they have to play Jay a lot before he gets traded. Maybe Bourjos is having psychological issues. Who knows? The public doesn’t know everything. If we do, there are bigger problems with this team.

I see a lot of people complaining about the Cardinals offense. I get it. Mix it up. Any one of the moves I mention could do the trick to wake up the boys in the clubhouse. I still think that they are a better team than the way they have played so far. Can they catch the Brewers? No doubt. Can they go deep in the playoffs? We will hopefully see. The object is to make it to the playoffs and then anything can happen.

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Proud Dad Moments

Sometimes I find it hard to realize how amazing of a son I have. I am the type to remind him that he can always be better. Sometimes I know he doesn’t like me but I know for damn sure that he loves me and I love him.

Going into this school baseball season Josh expected to make the Junior Varsity team. He is on the same summer team as a bunch of them, so it made some sense. He did not. I don’t want to speculate why he didn’t but God had a plan. Josh played Freshman Baseball for his Pattonville Pirates. Josh was named the team Captain at the start of the season. He never told us that he got picked to be Captain, another teammate did. That’s just how he is. No bragging, but doing the best he can with the situation God has put him in.

My Son Catching for Pattonville's Freshman Baseball Team

My Son Catching for Pattonville’s Freshman Baseball Team

The Freshman Pirates just finished their regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. Josh either pitched or caught in 10 of those games while the other time was at 1B and 3B. His pitching numbers were 4-0 with 2 saves. I didn’t track all his pitching stats but I know his last start he went 6 2/3 inningswith 8 strikeouts while pitching shutout ball against a very tough Westminster team. Batting wise he had a .535 batting average with 17 RBIS, 15 runs and an on base percentage of .675. That means when Josh batted (mostly third in the lineup) he was on base over 2/3 of the times he came up. That stat just amazes me. He was a team leader on and off the field. I also thank some good coaches he had to let him lead.

Oh yeah, in school Josh survived Freshman year taking all core honors classes and one was a Gifted Honors English class he thought was going to get to him. This week, Josh has been invited to school for Freshman awards night. He does not know why and is not looking forward to dressing up.

Some of you know that Josh wants to be a teacher when he is done. Right now he says middle school math teacher and help coach baseball. I know that my son will accomplish whatever he decides to. For fall he has decided he has had enough of football. He may give soccer another try but I think he is leaning towards helping the girl’s softball program at the school by being a team manager.

I ask anyone who reads this that you don’t take away a bragging Dad. Please take away a proud Father who wants his son to be his best and be happy. Take away a guy who does not want to lose his son. Take away a guy who works hard every day to be a better father. I love my son and am more proud of him than he ever may realize. Please let the ones you love and are proud of know how you feel.

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Cardinals Care 50/50 Raffles

Beginning on Friday April 25th, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cardinals Care started a 50/50 Raffle. Simply put, however many dollars in tickets are sold, Cardinals Care will give away half that amount. Hence the 50/50. The raffles will be held at all weekend home games along with midweek series against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Cardinals Care was formed to give fans a way of teaming up with the Cardinals to help children in our community, so this raffle is a perfect opportunity for fans to do their part while giving them the chance to win a big prize. This is how it works: Cardinal fans, ages 18 and older, may play the Cardinals Care 50/50 Raffle by going to any of the six ticket kiosk locations throughout the stadium from the time gates open until the end of the 6th inning. Raffle tickets may be purchased with cash in three quantities: Three (3) Numbers for $5, 10 Numbers for $10, and 40 Numbers for $20. Cardinals Care 50/50 ticket kiosks are located on the main concourse between sections 144- 148 and behind sections 163-165, inside Gate 2, in the center of the Redbird Club, and on level 4 behind sections 435 and 454. The winning ticket will be announced each night in the middle of the 7th inning, as well as posted in stadium and online at cardinals.com/5050 (1). Fans can also call 314-345-9661 Monday through Friday for the winning numbers. Fans need not be present to win. Winning ticket verification and prize claims can be made during the game by reporting to Guest Relations outside Section 148, by going to the Cardinals’ Administrative Offices (700 Clark Street, St. Louis, MO 63102) Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., or by emailing CardinalsCare@cardinals.com along with your contact information.
I got to participate on the first 50/50 night. I was located at a kiosk by Section 454. I had a blast on the top level. With it being the first night, I had some explaining to do. I was actually selling tickets before the actual news release came out. It was a fun night and I have already signed up for a second night on Friday May 16th. So far thru three games Cardinals Care has given away around 24,000 dollars in cash. This means, that they have also raised that much for Cardinals Care.
I hope everyone gets the chance to help Cardinals Care and kids in our community this season. You just might see me there..

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St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Nominations

Located at Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village, the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame (1) should be a stop for every Cardinals fan. With this being the inaugural year, they have opened some of the voting to the fans. The Cardinals selected a ‘Red Ribbon’ committee of Cardinals baseball experts and through a secret ballot process they came up with the listed nominees. You can vote for two of them here (2) or include the Twitter hashtags for them until April 22nd:

Jim Edmonds (#EdmondsHOF) .285 AVG, 241 HR, 713 RBIs Jim Edmonds joined the Cardinals in 2000 and played eight seasons, making the postseason in six of them and playing in two World Series, winning in 2006. The three-time All-Star won six consecutive Gold Gloves from 2000-05. He ranks 4th on the Cardinals all-time home run list with 241 and hit the game-ending home run in the 11th inning of the Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS.
Bob Forsch (#ForschHOF) 163-127, 3.67 ERA, 1079 K’s Bob Forsch played 15 seasons with the Cardinals, making 401 starts, ranking 2nd all-time to franchise history. He threw two no-hitters, coming in 1978 and again in 1983, becoming the only pitcher in Cardinals history to throw two. He played in three World Series, winning in 1982, a year in which he threw a three-hit shutout in the Cardinals first ever NLCS game. The two-time Silver Slugger Award winner won 163 games for the Cardinals, ranking third in franchise history.
Keith Hernandez (#HernandezHOF) .299 AVG, 265 2B, 662 R Keith Hernandez played 10 seasons with the Cardinals, winning six straight Gold Gloves from 1978-1983. He was a co-MVP in 1979, batting a league leading .344 with 11 HR and 105 RBI. The two-time All-Star was a member of the 1982 World Championship team.
Willie McGee (#McGeeHOF) .294 AVG, 301 SB, 255 2B Willie McGee played in 13 seasons with the Cardinals, playing in 1661 games, 9th all-time in franchise history. He was a four-time All-Star, won three Gold Gloves and was the 1985 National League MVP with league leading marks of a .353 batting average, 18 triples and 216 hits, while stealing 56 bases. McGee played in three World Series, winning as a rookie in 1982 when he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. Is one of six players to steal over 300 bases with the Cardinals, swiping 301.
Mark McGwire (#McGwireHOF) 220 HR, 473 RBIs, 1.111 OPS Mark McGwire finished his career playing five seasons with the Cardinals. In 1998, he broke the Major League Baseball single-season home run record of 61 set by Roger Maris with 70. He blasted 220 career home runs with the Cardinals ranking 6th in franchise history, leading the National League in 1998 and 1999, the top two season totals in Cardinals history. He set the Cardinals single season walk mark with 162 in 1998. Had back-to-back seasons of 147 RBI, ranking tied for 3rd in Cardinals history. He was a three-time All-Star and won the Silver Slugger in 1998.
Matt Morris (#MorrisHOF) 101-62, 3.61 ERA, 986 K’s Matt Morris pitched for the Cardinals from 1997-2005, finishing 3rd in the Rookie of the Year award in 1997 and was a two-time All-Star in 2001 and 2002. He played in five postseasons and one World Series, in 2004. He led the National League with 22 wins in 2001 and won 101 games over his career with the Cardinals.
Ted Simmons (#SimmonsHOF) .298 AVG, 172 HR, 929 RBIs Ted Simmons played 13 seasons with the Cardinals, making his Major League debut at 18-years old in 1968. He was a six-time All-Star and won the Silver Slugger in 1980. In 1975, Simmons set the National League record for hits by a catcher with 188. He posted six seasons of 20 or more home runs and 10 consecutive seasons from 1971-80 with 75 or more RBI. His 172 HR rank 9th and 929 RBI are 7th all-time in Cardinals franchise history.
Joe Torre (#TorreHOF) .308 AVG, 558 RBIs, 161 2B Joe Torre played six seasons with the Cardinals at catcher, first base and third base from 1969-74. He was a four-time All-Star and was named National League MVP in 1971, leading the league with a .363 batting average with 137 RBI and 230 hits, while hitting 24 home runs. His 230 hits were the most since Stan Musial had 230 in 1948, the most by a Cardinal since World War II. He posted a career batting average of .308, ranking 10th in Cardinals franchise history.

How can you choose? I don’t know how you are going to choose but I will give you my two choices. I think all but one of these are Cardinals Hall of Famers. Keith Hernandez hasn’t been around Cardinal Nation a bunch and for that I do not think he belongs. He’s kind of shunned us.

My choices are personal. They were kind of tough for me. One of them was easy and that choice is Bob Forsch. Bob was literally one of my heroes as a kid. I wanted to be a consistent and nice Cardinals pitcher as a kid. Bob Forsch was that. I remember meeting him when he came to my Cub Scout event in like 1981. Professionally, he has made the second most starts in Cardinals history with the third most wins. He was a hitting pitcher which also made him a better pitcher.

My second choice is for a totally different reason. No one person did more for baseball’s resurgence in the 1990’s than Mark McGwire. Off the field look at how many people bought Cardinals gear just in the year 1998 alone. That is because Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the world with their homerun race. 70 homeruns. 162 walks. 147 RBIs. Just wow what numbers. He also came back as a hitting coach. Never mind what you think of him as a person, he did not break any rules that were in effect during his playing time.

Yeah my nominees are for two very different reasons. Like I said, this is my opinion and you can vote for yourself if your opinion differs. That’s what makes us all proud to be members of Cardinals Nation!


Our Spring Break at Walt Disney World

There was no doubt I was going to do a blog about my family’s spring break trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Sorry it took so long. I decided because of the week that we had, that I am going to do two blogs. One normal one now and one about the food. The food one will come later. There is a lot to share. Let’s just say according to my Fitbit, I averaged around 23,000 steps a day. I want to give a big shout out first to Emily for watching our house and the puppy girls. I believe you are their favorite.

Oh how much I love Disney’s Magical Express. We dropped our luggage off at the airport in St. Louis and about 2 hrs after we arrived at our hotel in Disney World, there was our luggage. That is just part of the Disney touch. You arrive at the Orlando airport and there are plenty of signs to get you to the Magical Express area. Before we went through the lines, we had to put on our Magic Bands and they would stay on our wrist every waking hour of the week. Magic Bands are your ticket to everywhere. They have your hotel access, park passes, Fast Pass + information, and payment method all in one and stored electronically. Anyway, we boarded a bus and we were at out hotel some 45 minutes later.

Saturday was spent relaxing and exploring the Downtown Disney area. We stayed this trip at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort. That’s a smaller, New Orleans themed hotel with lots of trees and shade. The Downtown area is going thru lots of construction with expansion there and I am excited what that will bring later. We found out that when the construction is all done, they will rename the Downtown area ‘Disney Springs.’ Kind of cool, the name goes with the expanding Saratoga Springs hotel. There is lots of shopping and exploring to do there. We did a lot but were kind of saddened by the lack of pet items. There used to be a dedicated store, but it seemed to have been replaced by something lame.

Sunday was a long day exclusively at the Magic Kingdom. We got there when they opened and could have stayed there 17 hours that day. Think we made 13 of those. We were the first on Jungle Cruise. We enjoy getting there early as you always get a chance to chat with the cast members. The day was filled with our only trip to Splash Mountain, our first to Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain. Got our mountains in for the day. It was a fun day to start our park hopping for the week since it is the only day we ended up staying in one park all day. Nothing beats the Magic Kingdom.

Magical Memory Maker picture at Animal Kingdom

Magical Memory Maker picture at Animal Kingdom

Monday was another long day. This time we started early at Animal Kingdom thanks to an extra magic hour. This is where it is advantageous to stay on property. We walked right onto the Kilimanjaro Safari and we got lots of pictures of the animals. It really is cool to get Disney’s take on a wild animal park. They do it very well. They also got rid of the campiness of the Safari ride that there used to be and made it purely an animal safari. We got on another mountain early with the smaller amount of people in the park, Expedition Everest. Josh hated this ride when we first took him on it years ago. We all rode it twice that day due to jumping into the single rider line for our second trip. In the afternoon we headed over to Hollywood Studios where we had our fast passes set up for the day. Yes, I got my Muppet fix in with Muppet Vision 3D. We also got Josh to ride Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Think it might have been his first time but he might have rode it with Aunt Joanne years ago. The evening ended with us meeting some very nice cast members while waiting for them to let us into Fantasmic. Light rain forced us to break out our ponchos for the only time in the week and we enjoyed one of our favorite shows brought to the Studios from Disneyland.

Tuesday had us most of the day at EPCOT and finishing back at the Magic Kingdom. EPCOT had the early magic hour and we got to almost walk on Test Track and ride it again in the single rider line before it got too busy. They have updated the ride since we had been there last and it is much better. Your group gets to create your own car and upload into your Magic Band. Then you load it into your vehicle and you see how your design performs. Very cool. After the ride you can drive your car around a track or make a commercial. We did both. Nice upgrade. Here we also got to see two of our friends, Figment and Crush around riding Soarin’. Love this ride and the views of our old home of California. We explored some of the rides in Mexico and Norway in the EPCOT World Showcase or international area. We also felt sorry for the people waiting up to four hours in line to see the Princesses from Frozen. They are temporarily in Norway. Word is that they will be moved to the Magic Kingdom. After dinner we spent some time hopping on a few rides at Magic Kingdom. I also learned that while checking into every ride on the Foursquare app, you can get hints of hidden Mickeys on each ride in the comments area. It was fun reading all the things about the rides. We even found the abstract Donald Duck on a chair in the Haunted Mansion we saw in a comment.

Wednesday was all about planning around our favorite dinner spot so we started at Animal Kingdom and headed to EPCOT after lunch. More animals and Everest for today at Animal Kingdom along with seeing the Finding Nemo Musical show. Always a good show. One of my favorite parts of the movie is used only after the show stops. Seagulls on the side of the stage saying ‘mine, mine, mine.’ Found a small souvenir afterwards; see if you can find it next time you are over. Going to EPCOT we found out that Disney now has buses that go directly between parks. This was new to us since we stayed off property last trip. Another very cool Disney touch. We enjoyed a calm evening walking around EPCOT and hitting some of the slower things. We were amazed all week by the Flower & Garden show they were hosting. Loved the topiaries included one featuring ‘Muppets Most Wanted’. We got to watch the Illuminations fireworks show and called it a night at about 9:30.

On Thursday morning we decided we needed to sleep in a bit. There were no early magic hours for us. It was a good decision. We headed to Hollywood Studios late morning and got to see Voyage of Little Mermaid. Nice show, glad we used Fast Pass +. Same goes for the Indiana Jones Stunt Show. Nicely done action show with live stunt guys. Same act as I remember seeing it last time 5 plus years ago. Finally we got a chance to ride Josh’s favorite ride, Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster. It, as always, was rockin’. After a cool experience at dinner we got a bonus Fast Pass and used it on one last trip to Toy Story Mania. Man does your forearm hurt after that ride. Was much better fast passing it then the 90 minute wait we had earlier in the week. Then we headed over to the Magic Kingdom so Lyn could see the Wishes fireworks. Was a good ending to the day.

Friday morning took us back to EPCOT for the last time this trip. We got on Soarin’ right away without a Fast Pass so that was fun. After an early lunch we did the Seas pavilion and rode Nemo and Friends via Fast Pass and Living with the Land. If given more time I would have liked to have done the gardening tour. My Grandpa tried to give me a green thumb as a kid and I try my hand in it when I can. Having a garden is a good thing to me. Then to cap off EPCOT we ended with Test Track. Great way to end that park. After dinner we headed for one last time to Magic Kingdom. Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear capped off the night and the trip.

Saturday was up early to drop our luggage off with an airport representative at the hotel and then a bit later we were on the bus to the airport. That morning is when the heaviest of rains happened all week. God bidding us farewell on our journey home. After a somewhat bumpy flight, we were happy to see Emily again at the airport in a much chillier St. Louis.

Next trip, please come join us. It is always more fun on vacation with family and friends.


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