Friday May 13 2016
Walleye Chop Adult Hockey Tournament
After repeated requests, I gave in. I had work off Friday night so I decided to join Team High Life for the opening round of Walleye Chop, an annual adult hockey tournament in Blaine, MN that draws hundreds of teams from around the North American continent. Team High Life is comprised primarily of Mora (MN) area hockey players ranging in age from 18 to 50. We were matched up against the Missouri Mudhens for the opening round. Team High Life was not at its best on this night. Some early defensive breakdowns and overall inconsistent play led to a 7-3 Mudhen victory. Team High Life was still alive in the tournament, with two more games of pool play on Saturday.
Saturday May 14 2016
Stigma Breakers WI Run
For the 2nd consecutive year, I was able to join Julio and the Stigma Breakers for a few miles of their run across the state (this year being Wisconsin). There was an incredible group of individuals taking part in this endeavor, from those volunteering and crewing, to those running portions or even the entire distance! We joined for about 10 miles of highway, before departing for the day’s next activity. This was to be one of my most significant training runs in the lead up to Kettle.
Eichten’s Cheese and Bison Market
We hadn’t eaten any breakfast that morning. Just coffee before heading over the border to run across the foreign land. I mused how convenience stores in WI were so much better than in MN. After obtaining a 6-pack of New Glarus at 8 am, we joined the run. Those ~10 miles went quickly; I really felt like continuing, but baseball was calling and Smooshie was shivering. As we drove away, my stomach was fussing. We needed to find food, and fast. What an ordeal it was to find a proper spot for lunch. We must be two of the most indecisive people on the planet! We drove through Hudson and then Stillwater, passing by a number of respectable looking eateries. Both towns were bustling with activity on this mid-spring Saturday. We decided it best to continue on and find something out of the city. We must have driven for an hour, once pulling in to a roadside BBQ place, before reconsidering and continuing on. I was getting ornery with hunger, but soon everything fell into place. After passing by the Franconia Sculpture Garden, we were approaching Center City, when off in the field what did we see, but a herd of bison lazily grazing on this cool spring day. And then there it was: Eichten’s Cheese and Bison Market. What a gem of a find! Quaint little shop with restaurant attached, fun drink selection, high quality meats and cheeses, friendly staff and delicious food. We each had a set of bison sliders and shared a basket of sweet potato fries, which was so heaping we didn’t quite finish it. I will definitely be returning next time I’m in the area.
Mora Blue Devils vs. Duluth Dukes
Here we are again. Spring fever leads to baseball fever. This year marks my 15th season playing in the Eastern Minny Amateur Baseball league, and what I believe to be my 28th consecutive summer of playing organized ball. Pretty good streak I think. It was a cold and blustery day for a baseball game, which is not unexpected during a Minnesota spring. Our off season rust showed from the very first inning. We gave up 3 runs in the top half, before somewhat settling in defensively. Offensively, we never got much going. We had our share of base runners, but struggled at the plate as a whole. We faced a formidable opponent, in former Cubs pitcher Bryce Oslin. I have had success against him in the past, but on this opening day I was 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts, an embarrassing stat line, I guess. But that is what makes me the player that I am, and how I’ve been able to make it in this league for a decade and a half. The fact that this 4 k day slides off my back like water off a duck, and knowing that I will return to form, if only for a spurt or two this year. The bat felt good in my hands at least. The final score that day was 1-4. It was good to get that one over with.
Sunday May 15 2016
Mora Blue Devils vs. Isanti Redbirds
What a difference a day makes. After being miserably cold a day earlier, this was going to be a near perfect spring day for baseball. The wind was whipping in every which direction throughout the game, but the temps were comfortable. The Isanti Redbirds had been a dominant force in MN amateur baseball for the better part of the past decade, winning the Class C State Tournament title in 2011, after which they moved to class B and continued their success against the teams of the Metro Minny. I suppose it has been looming for a few years now, but it seems they’ve officially entered a rebuilding phase, with a mere handful of recognizable players remaining. One of those stalwarts, Adam West, took the start on the mound for the Redbirds this day. I expect I’ve had in the neighborhood of 200 plate appearances vs. Batman over the years, going back at least as far as junior high school (figure that’s about 6 hours total that we’ve spent dueling). I led off the game with a solid at bat, coming out swinging, hitting a foul ball or two, and battling my way to an eventual HBP (which is actually my specialty). After drawing a walk my next at bat, the strikeout string continued, with two more, 6 in two games, oof! Not unexpected for the first weekend of bat touching, plus I blame half of it on our new hats. They are freaking sweet, but I need to swap mine for a larger size; the one I had was squeezing my head too hard. I had to leave the game after the 6th inning, in order to make it to hockey down in Blaine. So I took my leave, with the game well in hand it seemed. The Blue Devils would earn the win, 7-4, on the back of a strong pitching performance by Derek (baby) Graves, and helped by a crisp gap shot off the bat of Logan Orazem. “Dream Big”
Team High Life vs. Those Guys
On down back to the Super Rink for the championship game for our Sunday night MN Wild Adult Hockey League game. Hockey is the habit I just can’t shake. I’ve been playing for about the past 28 years, and have been trying to quit for the last 14. I used to skate and play hockey most every minute of the winter. It was a passion growing up. It was the thing I loved the most and the thing I was best at. As a kid, when I would picture myself as an adult, it was usually as a hockey player. Over time, all those feelings changed. The game I loved had become a chore, leaving me feeling constantly inadequate and searching for answers. The team that I staked my life on was broken, and I hadn’t the wherewithal to fix it. After eventual inevitable failure, I quit any serious pursuit of the game. In recent years, I’ve been lucky to lace up a half dozen to a dozen times a season, but I still haven’t been able to quit. I never learned how to say no. I’ve had a strong internal drive to skate in the past, but that is all but gone. Two individuals inspire me to keep skating, I guess. My old coach, Russ Peters, taught me power skating when I was young. I know my edges well because of him. I played hockey with Josh “Poopie” Callander since Ponies. We were in the same Kindergarten class, Mrs. Frerich’s blue day. I realize now, Josh was the closest I ever had to a partner, a close friend with shared interest, ability, and drive. Poopie still loves to play hockey. The Blaine league is known for having an assortment of choppy teams and players and usually incompetent referees. Tonight’s game was no exception. Those Guys ended up going up 2-0 in the 1st; both goals could be credited to the failure of the officials, but who’s keeping track? I don’t usually place blame on the refs, but these guys were a joke. Anyways, the game was well contested. We had more than our share of opportunities, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Their team was mostly a bunch of dicks; one of them wanted to fight me after I introduced him to the side boards. We lost the game, but I made it through the season free from any serious injuries! Thank goodness. Now I can give my full attention to trail running….and baseball….and juggling….and…..