I sat around the whole day in my pajamas, when it came time to get ready, I realized I was out of deodorant, not good! I threw on some clothes, grabbed the emergency $10 bill I had stashed away and drove off to Target.
I grabbed a Speed Stick (by Mennen!), which was on sale and a 2 liter of Pepsi (I needed more caffeine) which was also on sale and that left me with 4 bucks to play with, so I slinked over to the card aisle… I eyed the 8 pack boxes and made plans just in case my lovely wife returned from her gambling trip with bags of cash, then started looking more realistically at the single packs. I grabbed a 36-card jumbo pack of 2008 Topps Updates and Highlights and sped off to the register. I had to be at the skating rink in less than an hour and still needed to shower and try out my new deodorant, no time for excessive browsing and daydreaming!
I found a register with no line and a grandmotherly looking cashier started scanning my items. She noticed my cards and asked “Do you ever get any David Wright cards?” Her schoolgirl-ish smile told me why she was asking. “I hope not” I said, “I don’t like getting cards of guys who are better looking than me, my wife will steal them.” She giggled, apparently liking my response (which is completely untrue, my lovely wife is not a fan of Mr. Wright) and handed me my bag while wishing me a good day. I rode the accelerator all the way home, stashed the jumbo pack of cards for later, and got ready for derby.
I arrived 10 minutes late, but that was okay because, as usual, the rink wasn’t letting us in when they were supposed to. I nervously chain smoked ,wishing I had brought a mug of coffee with me. I visited with the rest of the team while waiting impatiently to get inside. The doors finally opened up (25 minutes late) and I ran inside. I didn’t actually run, I had a large bin of stuff, plus a table and chairs, I kind of stumbled in. I got my announcers table set up. I like to display the raffle prizes and trophies on the front of the table so people can get a sneak peak at my handy work prior to the bout. This was the first derby bout I had ever been to without the company of my wife, Esther Gin (n Juice) and I brought her derby helmet with me and set it up on my table.
It was still over an hour till the bout was going begin, even though the doors had opened for us, the fans were still out in the parking lot. We always have kegs of free beer served by lovely roller girls, so no one ever complains, but I thought I would use this time of peace to take down some more notes. I scrawled away in my notebook, I swear one of these days I am joining the ranks of the modern citizen and getting a lap top. Meanwhile, the other team had arrived. Yes, the North Carolina Rogue Roller Girls were in the building! They entered in unison, as a team, already in their uniforms, which were camouflage tops with a bomb on it. They looked pretty darn intimidating. I got up from my chair to seek out their captain, Bull Lee (don't let the pretty picture fool you, she was an animal on the rink!). I had a little bit of e-mail communication with Bull last week, but had never met her before. She was easy enough to locate, things are much easier when people wear their names on the backs of their shirts!
She provided me with a roster for her North Carolina squad and we exchanged a little small talk regarding their trip. They all drove down together in a giant van; it was a 10-1/2 hour trek from Fayetteville, NC to Bradentucky, Florida. I offered sympathy because I can barely handle the 15 minute drive to work each day, but she assured me that it was nothing for them. Apparently the whole team was either in the military themselves (US Army, USMC) or they were Army brats, either way, driving 10 hours was nothing for them. They had been bouting all year long without an off-season taking on teams from Columbia, SC; Richmond, VA; Savannah, GA; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Jacksonville, Florida. I told her “good luck” and walked away while reading the NC roster, I laughed at a few of the names on there with Risky Biscuit being my favorite. I returned to my announcer station, trying to prepare for the bout. Chuck U. Farley, the head referee this evening, came over and we scheduled the start time, I was gonna get things going at 6:55 so we could stay close to the 7 PM start time. I grabbed my microphone and did a quick sound check, then disappeared outside again; I had 20 minutes to kill, so I thought I would kill my lungs for five of them. More and people were arriving, not only was the parking lot at the rink full, there were cars everywhere, the lot next to us, the lot next to that, there were a lot of cars, I wandered around trying to count them, thinking that a Saturday bout (rather than our normal Sunday night bouts) is obviously a great way to get people out. Five minutes were killed and I tried to make my way back inside (I needed a soda before I could get started) and there so many people between me and the door that this could take a while. It did, I made it to my station (large Pepsi in hand) and looked at my phone, it said 6:54, game time. Deep breath. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Florida Wheels! I wanna thank you all for coming out tonight to watch your hometown, Bradentucky Bombers take on the North Carolina Rogue Roller Girls, is everybody ready for some roller derby?” With all that said, it became a blur, I babbled on for a few more minutes, introduced the visitors and introduced our girls. It was the first bout I had called where I was not introducing my lovely wife, I missed her. The game was intense from the opening whistle and North Carolina’s defense was like none I had ever seen. We had played teams with a lot of big girls, hard hitters, dirty players, you name it. Their defense was just GOOD. Their captain, Bull Lee, stayed up front and she was not letting anyone past her. Ten minutes in and North Carolina was up 12-5. In derby, where you can score 10 points in 60 seconds, that is an extremely low score. It was a defensive battle. Both teams had great techniques and tremendous athletes out there and neither teams jammers were getting through the pack. I repeatedly encouraged the crowd to cheer their home team. I would yell “cheering makes her skate faster!” and the crowd would erupt, it seemed to work. Our defense was on fire, we were rotating 2 teams of four blockers every jam and they were hitting on all cylinders. The problem we were having was our jammers couldn’t stay out of the penalty box and with your jammer sitting down, you can’t score. It was a tight game all night, neither team let up. Bull Lee stayed out on the floor for nearly every jam, but the rare times that she took a breather, we capitalized and scored big. They maintained the lead from the opening whistle to closing bell, but never by much. It was a one-point game at one interval, and between 3 and 11 points for much of the game. The defense was the story on both sides, but they had a pair of speedy jammers who got them points in Leif Mia Lone and West Coast Ma Fia, which combined with Bull Lee and Suthern Hail blocking up front, was just too much for the Bombers. Our squad had won its last 3 home games, but could not pull it off against the team from Fayetteville. After 60 solid minutes of derby, it came down to the final seconds, but we lost a very entertaining game. The crowd loved it; nearly everyone in the packed house was on their feet in the final minutes trying to push their team ahead. I pretty much worked my voice into a hollow growl, but I saved a little bit to award the trophies after the game and say a few words about our captain, Vixen Da Crusher after the game. Vixen had been a founding member of the team and had skated in every single bout the team played since its inception three seasons prior. She was the face of the team. She coached our “rookie” team and led the defense on our “A” squad, but 3 years of dishing out and receiving high speed hits had caught up with her. I called her to the center of the rink, but she was starting to ice her knees already, so I walked over to her and we presented her with a trophy; a roller skate with a fox tail on it. Thanks Vixen, thanks for everything!!! After that, I awarded the trophies I had made the day before to each teams best jammer and blocker. After that, the crowd quickly dissipated, everyone heading to the after party at a bar down the street. We had some cleaning up to do and then we would be “after partying” too.
Driving to the bar I wondered to myself how the Rays were doing against the Marlins in South Florida. I didn’t have to wonder for long, the majority of the TVS that were mounted at each of the bar had the game on. I used one of my “free drink” coupons, order a draft Harp and pulled up a stool and squinted to see the score. It was tied up at 3 a piece in the seventh. Jeff Nieman had already been yanked, but his line score looked solid. He went 6 innings and only gave up one run on a solo shot by Dan Uggla. J.P. Howell came on in relief and quickly let 2 more runs score and here we are, seventh inning and a tie ballgame. I used what little voice I had left to scream at the television and somehow Longo heard me and responded. He drove Akinori Iwamura home in the top of the 8th. Dan Wheeler game on to pitch the bottom of the 8th and was nearly perfect, shut the Fish down and we went into the 9th with the Rays up by one run.
Matt Lindstrom was pitching for the Marlins in the 9th and was serving up grapefruits and the Rays added insurance runs on top of insurance runs. Jason Bartlett, Zobrist, Hernandez and BJ Upton all drove ‘em home in the final inning, ending it with a 10-3 lead.
I wondered who would pitch the bottom of the 9th with Percival on the DL and Wheeler, Balfour and Howell already having been used. I was taken back when a 36 year old right hander walked out of the pen with Isringhausen on the back of his shirt. I remembered Issy from his glory days with the Mets, I followed him pretty closely and he proved a disappointment, as a starter, at least. He revitalized with the Cardinals, and then lost it all over again. I knew the Rays had signed him, but I hadn’t actually seen him pitch since the spring. I was nervous, even with a 7-run cushion, I was nervous. They came up and he shut them down. With the big lead, it wasn’t a save situation, so his career total stands at 293, but he looked good out there. It was actually his 3rd appearance this year and he has yet to allow a run, not too shabby Issy. Another case of an aging, ex-superstar closer resurrecting their career in St. Pete. Cool. The cool thing was the Rays won and that ups their record to 23-22, over .500 for the first time in six weeks! I took the final swig of my beer and took a wander, taking in all the wonderful debauchery of a roller derby after party. Ladies on the ground, leg wresting, ladies giving other ladies lap dances, ladies dancing on the bar, ladies dancing all over. I love derby. I also miss my wife and don’t wanna dance without her, so I say my good byes, offer congratulations to the standouts from both teams and head for my Jeep. I still have that jumbo pack of cards waiting to be opened. I still have this blog to write. My other half is due to arrive back at 5 o’clock and I don’t plan on sitting in front of the computer once she’s back.
It was after midnight when I got home. I sent a quick text to the wife, turned on Baseball Tonight and took off my announcing costume and got comfortable. Its funny, during the week, I am up at 6 AM every morning for work, but as soon as Friday hits, it’s rare for me to fall asleep before 5 AM.
I grabbed my duel-rack-jumbo-pack and decided a scissors would be my best bet for opening it. I was initially really disappointed that there were Heritage high numbers in the pack, the regular wax style packs were a split-combination of the two. Oh, well, at $3.49 for 36 cards, I was dreaming if I thought there would be Heritage in there, plus it didn’t say anything about it on the pack and that is the type of thing you would want to advertise. It was a great rip; it really is quite a value. I know that is the idea with this brand, they are far from premium and most hardcore collectors scoff at them, but I like the value and the variety. I like having a card of each one of the All Stars from the ’08 mid-summer classic; I like the cards from the World Baseball Classic, including the Kosuke Fukudome card I pulled. What I really like is the EVAN LONGORIA card I just pulled!!! Hell yeah, my first ever Evan Longoria card. This is cool. It is probably the least sought after card ever made of Longo, but its mine and I pulled it. It’s a highlights card and it celebrates his first ever “walk-off” home run on May 9th of last year. There was another “highlights” card commemorating John Smoltz’ 3,000th strikeout, in which he victimized Felipe Lopez of the Nats last April. He struck out 10 that game and only allowed 1 run in seven innings, but still took the loss. Can’t this guy get any run support? No wonder he only has 210 wins… There was a time that 3.000 Ks was your ticket to Cooperstown, but that isn’t always the case, just ask Bert Blyleven.
I pulled 3 other Rays, Willy Aybar, Dioneer Navarro and Reid Brignac, plus a score of other All Stars. Guys I forgot made the team like Ryan Ludwick, Justin Duchsherer and Carlos Marmol, plus guys who will undoubtedly be back this year like Ryan Braun and Dustin Pedroia. There was a Xavier Nady card, which made me cringe seeing him in pinstripes on cardboard for the first time. The only worse than the Pirates dumping Jason Bay and Xavier Nady was the Pirates giving them to the Yankees and Red Sox. As is, the Sox got the better deal; Nady has been on the DL almost all year. The card that struck me the most was of young D-Backs pitcher Billy Buckner. I started looking into him when the Rays initially drafted him in 2003. He didn’t sign, opting to become a Gamecock for a year before getting drafted in the second round the following year and signing with the Royals for a bigger bonus. The Royals traded him to the D-Backs and he’s finally proving to be a legit big league starter, proving that with a dominant performance against Oakland on Friday where he went 7 innings and lowered his ERA by nine in getting the win. Its not really his pitching that fascinates me, it’s his name that has caused me to follow his career. Sounds very similar to another former big leaguer. The guy I am thinking of wasn’t a pitcher, though. He was an outfielder and a first baseman, a good hitter who used to be a solid fielder, too. Why does that name sound so familiar? Oh yeah, because it’s the same name as the guy who made the most famous error in baseball history! Oh, and there is no relation. Granted, he was only 3-years old when Bill Buckner forgot to get down on a ground ball, but still. They play the same sport; I think I would change my name or at least come up with a nick name. If I was scouting a promising young boxer named Mikey Tyson, I would certainly encourage him to change his name. That said, if he went by Jennings (his middle name) Buckner, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed that he was a late round pick by the Rays in ’03, so I guess he does have it figured out. I rounded out the big pack with a gold card of 22-year-old righty Ryan Tucker. He is set to make his first start for the Marlins later this week. His 5-8 record at Jupiter last year isn’t that impressive, but he did strike out more than twice as many as he walked, so who knows.
I collated the new cards in with the ones I had ripped last week and was surprised to see I had only one duplicate and it was a Rays (Willy Aybar) card, cool. A few minutes later my phone rang and it wasn’t my wife. Kinda weird to see the phone vibrating at 2 in the morning with an unavailable number, but I was up and wasn’t busy, so I answered. The thick British accent belonged to my brother-in-law, Jonathan, who lives (with my sister) in London, England My older sister, Dawn, had just given birth to a baby girl. She was in labor for over 20 hours before they decided to go with a C-section, but the outcome was a healthy 8 pound baby girl. They named her Ruby May Kelley. Welcome to the world Ruby!!!!
1. James Shields will take the hill on Sunday against Josh Johnson, how about a sweep guys?
2. The lovely Ester Gin (N Juice) will be arriving home on Sunday at 5 o'clock, making this the final installment of Home Alone.
3. Thanks to Invertabrat, photographer and blocker for the Bradentucky Bombers for being awesome and loaning some pics of the bout and party for this post.
4.Congratulations to Dawn and Jonathan on the birth of your beautiful baby girl!!!
5. Thank you to anyone who read this entire post, you are a trooper!
5. Thank you to anyone who read this entire post, you are a trooper!
6. Next home derby bout is on June 21st at Florida Wheels.
7. I will be watching the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins at home on June 13th, but solely as a spectator and photographer.
8. As soon as rent is paid I will make my first trip out to the Trop, stay tuned!
9. Go Rays!!!!
8. As soon as rent is paid I will make my first trip out to the Trop, stay tuned!
9. Go Rays!!!!