April 22, 2014

23

Twenty-three

I don't know if it's normal to have a favorite number. Some people do. Some don't.


Ever since I was a t-ball player, I wanted to wear number 23. My favorite player as a kid was Kirk Gibson. He played right field in old Tiger Stadium when I was a kid. He hit the ball hard. Ran hard. Played the game with an intensity that I emulated.

Sparky Anderson deemed him the next Mickey Mantle as a youngster in the Tigers organization and it took him some time to overcome that hype. But he was quick. And strong. And always fun to watch. I remember him seeming to care about winning and not much else. He has two of the biggest at bats that I've witnessed in my lifetime. They're so big I don't even have to mention them.



April 21, 2014

A Stack of Baseball Cards

The Only Baseball Cards are TOPPS Baseball Cards

My original Topps baseball cards from 1978 are long gone (read that like Ernie Harwell calling a Cecil Fielder home run). One way or another, those cards disappeared. Probably because someone didn't keep them picked up. In 1978, I was only six so I might have been to young to start a card collection.


Into the '80s

A couple of years later — 1980 — I was suddenly old enough to keep good track of my cards. Of course, I still have them, but they are old and somewhat worn out. That's because I used to look at them all the time. I suppose my baseball cards were like the Internet before the Internet existed. I used to look at my cards every time a game was on TV. Back then, the Tigers were on once or twice a week and we had the NBC Game of the Week, which I watched religiously. Even when the Tigers weren't playing.

Tiger Cards and The Others

I kept my cards in the right order, too. Tiger cards. And all the others. And I had a many Tigers cards. I would find them at flea markets and garage sales and buy only Tigers cards. I guess I thought that's what mattered more than anything.


Still At It

I continued collecting for years, with my peak year being 1987. I was 15 and bought cards all the time. I put together and traded away many sets that summer. It was one of most fun summers of collecting I ever had. The next summer, I started working for real at the Grand Traverse Resort; I've worked ever since. I've also continued to buy baseball cards every single year, usually only Topps cards. I just bought a couple of packs today.

Changing My Ways

I have gone through phases. I used to keep my cards in collectors boxes, sorted, and all that good stuff. Now, I just stack them up in my closet and hope they don't get damaged. I know that I should order a couple of boxes to store the cards in, and probably will. Today, though, I just open the pack, look through them, see if I have any Tigers (yeah, still), and then put them away. I guess that's what works for me. Plus, I have the Internet to look up the stats.

Favorite Stat This Year

The Tigers as a team stole 35 bases last year. They were led by Austin Jackson with eight. Through three weeks this season, the Tigers have stolen 16 bases and Rajai Davis has seven already. I like the change in approach but I can't believe how few runs we're scoring in 2014.


April 18, 2014

Hashtag #Vinyl to #Cassette to #CD to #MP3

LPs, Albums, & Rock 'n' Roll Music In General

"The secret to survival is knowing when to walk away and know when to run." — Kenny Rogers

I remember being a kid back in the late 1970s when the song "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers was running up the charts. It was such a huge hit and fun to sing along to. As a youngster, I never knew what the song was about. I didn't know what gambling was — or any of the other terminology in the song. I had the album on vinyl and enjoyed listening to the all the songs. I wore it out.

I wore out a number of albums when I was a youngster. I had a couple different vinyl versions of Billy Joel's 52nd Street, Foreigner's Double Vision, and a couple of others. Then, naturally, I bought those albums on cassette; I proceeded to wear them out, as well. I might have wore out three versions of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. The CD versions don't necessarily wear out but they do get scratched and rendered useless eventually.

I remember wearing things out. It brings up a question, will my MP3 versions of the previously mentioned albums EVER WEAR OUT? Does everything have its day? Is it true that "every dog has his day?" When we finally realize what the lyrics mean, how close should we listen to them?



April 02, 2014

Security Changes

This is not the new replay system. At all. 

The new security measures at Major League Baseball games are — in a word — absurd.

What normally would have taken three minutes on Monday afternoon took 35 minutes. I missed the first half of the first inning, all the introductions, Chet Lemon throwing out the first pitch … Sure, MLB said "Get there early," but what does that mean. I imagine if you got there early and the gates weren't open, you just stood in line.


Oh, in line. There was no rhyme or reason. I would bet there must have been 50 people who just walked into line and walked in with no one directing them. Those of us who had been waiting didn't make a fuss because we just wanted to get in the game (that was my train of thought, anyway).


Lafayette Coney Island still makes the best coney dog in the city. Maybe in the state. 


We missed Kenny Kreiner, but Steve Lott, Mark Grossbauer, me, and John Huckins had fun in the city. 


Courtney and I enjoyed lunch at Pub Rub Bar B Q (with the gang) then enjoyed the ballgame. 


Can you believe the sauces … Kansas City v. Detroit. 

Merrill Edge and Bank of America

It catches me off guard every time I hear it.

There's a new advertisement for a company that provides financial advice.

The song they use to make you pay attention is one of the best ever, "My Life."

If Billy Joel hadn't written the song more than 35 years ago and if it hadn't been included on the seminal album, 52nd Street, would we just think it was a simple jingle? I mean, is Billy Joel a jingle writer now that he's not writing pop songs — now that he's no longer a "pop singer" …

"My Life" is one of my favorite songs of all time. I don't think it's going to make me check out Merrill Edge and Bank of America, though. Yet, if the companies hadn't used that song as a jingle, then I would have no idea which company the advertisement was pushing.

March 28, 2014

#Miguel Cabrera

Big Bucks. Big Bucks. No Whammy. 


I usually don't like contracts like the one Miguel Cabrera just signed.

Prince "Floppy" Fielder

Contracts like that scare me. The Prince Fielder contract excited me but also scared me. I could only imagine what Prince was going to be like at the end of the contract. I guess I imagined some old, slow slugger weighing in at 400 pounds and providing little to the team. I never envisioned he would do a whale–like belly flop as the American League Championship Series died.

Miguel's contract excites me.

Miguel Cabrera. One of the greatest ever. 

Let's look back to that fateful day in December 2007 when the Tigers suddenly and quickly acquired the young slugger from the Marlins for a gaggle of talent including the Tigers' top two prospects. We even were able to land Dontrelle Willis in the deal (um, insert comment).

Miguel will be a Tiger at 40. That's all right with me. He is such a great hitter. He is a great teammate. But, he's also become a great person. Early in his time with the Tigers he had bouts with alcohol. I may even have written on this blog that they should cut their losses and trade him before he bottoms out.

To General Manager Dave Dombrowski's credit, he stood by Miguel and helped him grow and battle his demons. Miguel has become a personable ballplayer. He also seems genuinely interested in winning. It has never seemed like it's about statistics with Miguel — or that he just wants to rack up numbers. He wants to win.

He is a true, genuine superstar. He is so great. During the baseball season my wife Lori gets tired of me saying (every day!) "It is so cool to have the greatest baseball player play for my favorite team. I've never experienced this my whole life. And so few people get to experience it." He is just phenomenal.

But there's more to it than that.

I have met Miguel Cabrera. A couple times. He is a superstar. Maybe even the face of the franchise; however, he and Justin Verlander may battle for that title. Heck, the best pitcher and the best hitter. I must be living through a good time to be a Tigers fan. But since I lived through the '90s and through 2003, I've earned my stripes ...

Miguel Cabrera and one of his fans. 

Miguel attends that Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Detroit Tigers Bar-b-que every year. I remember when we saw him there in 2013. We were amazed. Here was a dude coming off the greatest offensive season in years — a Triple Crown winner — and he was mingling with the Tigers fans. I was shocked. I gained a new appreciation for Miguel that night. Especially after he talked with folks, took pictures, and hung out for a couple of hours.

He didn't have to do that. But he did.

It takes a special person to get a contract … like that.

March 23, 2014

#Teaching and #Learning

Teaching English

In 1995, I started my educational career as an English and journalism teacher at a small school in the middle of Michigan. I taught English, advised the yearbook, and started a school newspaper; coached varsity softball; was involved in school improvement activities; joined the strategic planning committee — in short, I did whatever I thought I needed to do to understand my career.
I worked a great deal on the English curriculum team at a time when we were examining the curriculum documents other schools and ISDs had created. Then, Michigan released the Michigan Curriculum Framework.

The "framework" was a set of standards and benchmarks for all of the core subject areas. It also included components for the expectations on professional development and other items. I remember working on aligning our curriculum at the school to what the expectations were within the MCF. We did countless gap analyses to ensure that we were meeting the requirements of the State.

Several incarnations of the MCF have followed. Other items like the MiClimb (Clarifying Language in Michigan Benchmarks) documents followed. Then, the Grade Level Content Expectations and High School Content Expectations arrived. This is when Michigan arrived with curriculum. These were not quite power standards as recommended by educational consultants like Ainsworth, Schmoker, and Marzano but the new documents were able to be "unpacked" and easily "aligned" in student–friendly terms.

Power Standards

Ainsworth came up with the idea of power standards and shared the theory in his early 2000s book called Power Standards. Schmoker pushed idea forward with Results and Results Now. Schmoker's work inspired me greatly and I have used Results Now with a number of teachers and teacher groups to share the idea of power standards, professional learning communities, and effective instruction.


I've had the opportunity to work with Schmoker a number of times, including bringing him in to ISDs and conferences to share his information. He presented to the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District in 2009, focused on the work in that book. He came to the Michigan Association of State and Federal Program Specialists fall institute in 2012 and also presented to a group from the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District. His focus at that time was on his latest book, Focus.

The journey

The educational journey has been a good one. I've spent time as an athletic director, curriculum director, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. I've learned a  great deal over the years but always have tried to keep the focus on teaching and learning. In the past few years, the popular thing to do is to focus more on the learning as a result of the teaching.

It's still the same world (education) but it's vastly different (students' needs). I believe that a good curriculum taught by teachers who have the materials and tools they need to be effective will take care of any test score concerns that schools and parents have.

February 23, 2014

#Back in #Michigan

Land of ice and snow

I love Michigan. I can't think of a better place to live. This winter I can't think of a better place to leave. It's been cold. Snowy. Icy. Windy. Just plain - wintry. We haven't had a winter like this in a long time - 30 years or so.

I'm on a plane

We are just about to land in a Southwest Airlines 737 in Grand Rapids after a week in 88 degree heat in Lakeland and Orlando where we were able to talk to members of my favorite baseball team. I found out that JV will sign an autograph. I found out that Jose Iglesias speaks really good English. I found out that Miguel Cabrera is a great guy and great ball player.


But as we land, we both know it is COLD back in the Great Lakes State. Rumor has it that because of the nearly solid ice lakes - Superior, for example - that it is going to be a cold summer. After this winter ... a cold summer doesn't seem right. 


I guess it is nearly 28° as we glide home. That would be 60 degrees lower than yesterday — not to mention that we haven't felt 30ish in Michigan much since November. 

That said, I love my state. No poisonous snakes. Four seasons. And the Detroit Tigers.