Author: DJB

Bumpy roads often lead to beautiful places

When much-maligned Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez was asked how he felt after his ballclub just completed an improbable four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), he went back to something his mother told him: “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.” Then, in light of earning the franchise’s first trip to the World Series, he added, “And this is a beautiful place.” Oh, is it ever! NLCS Most Valuable Player Howie Kendrick—one of 18 resident “Los Viejos” (the Old Men) on the Nats playoff roster over the age of 30—said, “I can truly say this is the best time of my career, the best moment of my career this year.” I can add that in my 55 years of being enthralled by baseball—beginning as a nine-year-old with a 1964 trip to Wrigley Field on a family vacation to see the Cubs play Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals; to following Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants from afar, as a kid growing up in Middle …

Something More Significant

In her 2018 study Leadership in Turbulent Times, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin tackles a subject that could not be more relevant. Drawing on the life and lessons of four U.S. presidents, Goodwin holds up the achievements, foibles, and resilience of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She examines how each came to be known for leadership as they dealt with civil war, the inequalities of the Industrial Age, the twin crises of global economic depression and war, and, finally, the struggle for civil rights. Leadership, in other words, in times of crisis and transformation. Something like the times we are in at the moment. I’m in the midst of reading Goodwin’s study. However, her examination in the opening chapter of the young Abraham Lincoln, and one quality she calls out from that period, came to mind this week after hearing the hate speech of the current resident of the White House directed at Somali Americans in Minnesota. In contrast to the powerful having a sense that they can bully and hurt …

Let’s Dance!

I suspect I wasn’t the only person having a private dance party in my television room at precisely 12:23 a.m. this morning. Or once again at precisely 12:41 a.m. No, indeed! The Washington Nationals faithful—after enduring crushing defeats in the 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017 National League Division Series (NLDS)—were ready to celebrate in that crazy 2019 Nationals way: the dugout home run dance party. Why? First, because Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit back-to-back solo home runs off Dodger legend (and playoff goat) Clayton Kershaw in the 8th to tie the 5th and final NLDS, win-or-go-home, game. Then Howie (THAT man can HIT) Kendrick blasts a grand slam home run in the 10th inning at 12:23 a.m. East Coast time. And finally, Michael A. Taylor made a diving catch in center field in the bottom of the inning at 12:41 a.m. to close out the game and bring the Nationals their first Division Series win in five attempts. And we all danced! Thank God the Nats don’t play in the NFL (also known as …

All That’s Left to Learn

Gap years provide opportunities to try something new or—if your time off comes later in life—to return and revisit neglected passions. In the last six months I’ve taken a writing course. I’ve incorporated my long-time love of guitar playing into my daily routine. A course on wine or bourbon tasting, to gain fresh insights into a couple of my more pleasurable pursuits, may be in my future. Perhaps I’ll use the new bike path that runs in front of our house as the impetus to rekindle my passion for cycling. And while I’d given yoga a chance in the past, there were always other, seemingly more important, calls on my attention. But I now find myself here, in my gap year, returning to the yoga studio. There’s a very logical reason for making this move: my muscles and joints were crying out for more flexibility. Several months ago I tripped while stepping off the train in London and fell to the concrete platform, landing directly on my right knee. For a number of weeks the …

Now That Was Exciting!

I was there for Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series, camera up and ready to capture Drew Storen throwing the division-winning strike that never came. Two years later I was in the stands when rookie manager Matt Williams walked to the mound in the top of the 9th. There stood Jordan Zimmermann, just one out away from completing two of the most amazing back-to-back games with a potential win in Game 2 of the 2014 National League Division Series following his no-hitter to end the season. Only Williams never gives him the chance. Williams pulls Zimm from the game and puts in . . . yes . . . Drew Storen. Who in this instance quickly gave up two hits and one run and the Nats went on to lose the game in an excruciating 18 innings. And there was more in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Yes, there’s a pattern here. So the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th in last night’s National League Wild Card game was …

Follow Your Heart

What happens when, facing a choice, your heart suddenly inserts itself into the conversation? The final question in the recent Democratic presidential debate focused on resilience in the face of personal setbacks. All the candidates had strong responses, but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had—by almost all reviews—the most moving story. It connected at such a personal level for many because it was an account of following his heart. A military officer and elected official from a deeply conservative state, Buttigieg spoke eloquently about living in fear of the impact that would result from revealing that he was gay. Yet he reached a point, he said, where he was “not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.” The good news ending to his story of following the heart is that “When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with eighty percent of the vote.” As an ambitious young politician, the safe approach …

Ballpark

The latest stop on my quest to visit all 30 Major League ballparks* found me, earlier this week, with a friend at the front gate of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It had taken almost an hour by train during the height of the evening commute to get from midtown Manhattan to Flushing. After stepping off the subway, I was disappointed to find the ballpark—home to one of two major league baseball teams in the nation’s largest city—in what was essentially a suburban setting, surrounded by parking lots. The game had just begun so we stopped only briefly to take in the entry rotunda, yet even that short pause made me think of the gateway to Ebbets Field, the famous home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was only later that I discovered that the ballpark was in its unfortunate location thanks to that old enemy of urbanism, Robert Moses. And yes, the owners of the Mets had appropriated the Brooklyn Dodgers and the “New York City history of the National League as …