Why I Don’t Cover Baseball Any More

Pitchers and catchers report next week for spring training. On that day, I’ll pick up my sons at daycare, take them home, make their supper, beg them to eat their green beans, help them with their homework, maybe play with them for a while, help them get ready for bed, read them a book, yell at them to get back into bed, ask them don’t they know how late it is, chase them up the stairs and back into their bedrooms, threaten to withhold tomorrow’s dessert if they don’t go to sleep, and check on them on my way to bed, amazed, as always, at how achingly beautiful they are in repose.

It wasn’t so long ago I would not have been able to do any of those things. And not merely because I didn’t have kids back then. I wouldn’t have been able to do those things on the day pitchers and catchers report for spring training because I would have reported, too.

I might have mentioned once or twice that I used to cover baseball for a newspaper. I wrote about the Tampa Bay Rays for a newspaper here in Tampa. That job went away for good in July 2008. The layoff ended a 16-year run for me at the paper. The last decade of that was spent writing about baseball.

I asked off the Rays beat after the 2005 season. Why? Why would I leave what many people (myself included) would consider the career of a lifetime, the dream job? It couldn’t be more simple: My wife and I were expecting our first child in December of that year. There was no way I wanted to put my family through the rigors of a baseball season year after year after year.

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Dad 2.0 Summit: Next Year, I’m Singing

Houston Sunrise

Sunrise over Houston during the Dad 2.0 Summit, as seen from the 18th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel.

First, it was about the song. The song we all dance to as loving, engaged, parents and creative souls. The tune that wakes us in the morning before the sun or the kids are up so we can be ready for work or whatever our day holds before we make them breakfast and walk them to the bus stop. It’s the melody of the midnight crying jag. It’s the chorus of cookies and milk. The lunchbox aria.

Second … it was about karaoke. Maybe first it was about karaoke.

Dad 2.0 Summit in Houston, Texas, will probably best be remembered by those who (wisely) chose sleep deprivation instead of resting peacefully at night in the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel as the weekend when Canada made a scene. Not the scene. A scene, as in, “Holy Black Hockey Jesus, did you see that guy spin around that stripper pole while belting out Neil Diamond (or whoever)? No? Well, check out this six-second video on Vine! Ha! That guy rocks.”

Yeah. You know who I’m talking about. Chris Read, CanadianDad, proved that there is room on the dad blogging stage for the new guy. He earned his place there, one of five Spotlight Bloggers invited to read at the second Dad 2.0, with a moving tribute to his late father, as well as a willingness to put himself out there over the past year as a prominent resident of what I thought of as the Planet of the Pixelated Parents before I got to Houston on Thursday.

See, as I touched on in an earlier daily recap (and told pretty much anybody who stopped to chat with me during the weekend), my perception of my fellow attendees was shaped by the months of research and reading I did before I ever wrote word one here. I knew them as avatars and blog posts and rabble rousers or peacemakers. I knew them as pithy tweeters and witty digital conversationalists. I knew them, or their personas, as they wished me to know them.

Most of them didn’t know me at all. Which, yeah. Feb. 21 will mark one year since I “launched” this thing, whatever it has become. Even though parent blogging remains a fairly new phenomenon, especially among the growing field of dads, one year is a blink of an eye in this well-established, tight-knit community.

Going to Dad 2.0 was like crawling into my laptop screen and melding with the circuitry of the surreal. Throughout the weekend, familiar faces drifted by, like scrolling through a living Facebook photo album.

That surreal sensation was completely gone by the end of the event. I can’t begin to recount every interesting conversation or in-person connection I made in Houston. What I can do, though, is point out that there is something beyond intimate about a blogger conference for a natural introvert like me. I think what makes it so interesting in terms of making those real connections with people is that, if you do your homework (and, as a lifelong journalist, of course I did), then you meet these writers and content creators already knowing a great deal about them. There is no need for the verbal circling and sparring that takes place as you get to “know” them. As I say, you already know what they want you to know about them – because they’ve written it or talked about it on a podcast or depicted it in viral meme form.

Also, it helps that we all come from the same place emotionally and creatively. We’re parents. We love to write (or draw, or take photos, or whatever the medium of choice might be). We love to tell stories.

That’s what I’ll remember about my first Dad 2.0: the stories of the people I thought I knew, as told in their actual voices in hotel hallways, on a ballroom stage, over a game of Texas hold ‘em with fake money, in the hotel lounge, or in a bar.

I’ll remember the impressive keynote speakers, of course, and the five men who weaved sublime tales about being dads, bloggers, and Internet pros – the Three-headed Dads. And I will always, always remember the warm welcome everyone gave me when I stumbled through my Spotlight reading on that first morning. I’ll also remember the guys from Dad Labs grabbing me as I raced out of the main ballroom on my way to the restroom to ask if I had time for a live, streaming interview with Clay Nichols. In case you were wondering (which, of course you were), I had to piss like a racehorse throughout the conversation.

I’ll remember Manwich and Army of Frankensteins. Free! Booze and food. The kilt.

I’ll remember the walk from my hotel room on the 18th floor to the bank of elevators. Out the door, right turn, right turn, left turn, long hallway. Push “down.” Which one would arrive first? Where would that magic box carry me next? Who would be there when I got there? Would the people and lobby have dissolved into flowing green streams of pixelated code? Would Agent Smith be waiting at the bottom to chase me back into my rabbit hole? Would a black cat walk by … then walk by again?

Somebody, Amy from Mom Spark, I think it was, called herself the glitch in the Matrix when I floated my “climbing into the laptop screen” analogy for the first time. (Oh, you didn’t know writers tested material in conversation before committing it to the page? Why do think writers talk at all?)

Most of all? Most of all, I’ll remember the weekend as the time when the pixelated people of the Daddy Complex and Howtobeadad and Beta Dad and Honea Express and Always Home and Uncool and Black Hockey Jesus and Canadian Dad and BloggerFather and OWTK and Pet Cobra and Daddy in a Strange Land and Clark Kent’s Lunchbox and Bobblehead Dad and the Daddy Doctrines and Momo Fali and the Muskrat and Lesbian Dad and Bitchin’ Wives Club and the Captain and Laid Off Dad and Super John and so many, many, many more morphed into David, Charlie, Andy, Andy, Whit, Kevin, um … Jesus, Chris, Oren, Jeff, Jason, Jason, Ron, Jim, Chris, Momo, Michael, Polly, Amy, Creed, Doug, just plain John and on and on and on. Turns out they’re all real. And they’re almost all warm and friendly, and curious and alive, and dancing to the same tune.

Oh, yes. I’ll be back. And next year, I’m singing.

Beer

Beer. Lots of beer.

The Year of Disney

This is why we're going back again. And again. And again.

This is why we’re going back again. And again. And again.

Is today February?

The 4-year-old knows. He knows that the Year of Disney begins for us when the calendar turns to February. Every day since he learned that fact, he has asked the question.

Is today February?

Not yet, we tell him. Soon. Shortly after February arrives, we’ll make the first of many planned trips over to Lake Buena Vista to visit the Mouse and his minions. We’ll use the seasonal passes Disney offers to Florida residents. Choosing the less-expensive seasonal passes saves us money, but there will be blackout dates. That’s actually OK, because the blackout dates take place during the high summer, as well as at Christmas and Easter. Going to a Florida theme park in June and July is as close to experiencing the heat of the Earth’s core as you’ll ever get. The Brits and Brazilians can have those dates. As for Christmas and Easter – those are the dates when the park administrators routinely close the gates to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom because they reach maximum capacity. You can have those dates, spring and winter breakers. If we want to get lost and disoriented under the relentless crush of a crowd of wild-eyed strangers, we’ll go to Ikea.

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