Sunday, July 29, 2012

The North Woods League All Star Game

Thursday July 24 was the North Woods League All Star Game, hosted by the Madison Mallards. The North division and South division squared off at 7:35pm in front of a sell-out crowd.  I took the day off as an usher for the Mallards to attend the game, because….

We also hosted the Home Run Derby! I’ve never caught a ball and figured it was my best shot. Unfortunately lots of others had the same idea, and the berm was populated by aggressive youngsters willing to sacrifice their bodies for a home-run ball. I figured it was unseemly to fight children, especially at my age. Also I have no skill.  Note the teen in the black shirt and blue hat, (at right) he caught two.

Turns out one of the best places to catch a home-run ball was OUTSIDE the ballpark. We had a lot of balls completely leave the yard – they calculated some of these at 435+ feet. Here’s the group of kids right outside the ‘Backyard’ area, waiting for the next one. 

These two friends (at right) went to the game together, and both ended up taking home a souvenir. Nice work, guys! (They said they’d email me their names, but didn’t, and so forever remain anonymous.)

I talked to another group of youngsters who amassed this nice treasure trove of balls. They did not offer to give me one even with heavy hint-dropping.  The winner of the Home Run Derby was Trevor Podratz of the Rochester Honkers (originally from Hawaii) crushed 23 home runs total to win the derby.

Now on to the game! A large contingent of umpires consolidate before the lineups are announced. Never seen so many in one place before.  And then to the starting lineups! Two Madison Mallards are represented in this year’s ASG, Tyler Marincov (outfield) and Anthony Marzi (LHP) Here is Tyler graciously signing autographs for the kids before the game. (lower right) I have found NWL players to be very generous with their time and attention, especially to little ones. 

The lineups are announced, the South wearing the home green jerseys.  It’s hard to think of Wisconsin as ‘south’ but I guess it’s not called the North Woods League for nothing. Many of the teams come from far north of Madison.  (The Thunder Bay Border Cats travel all the way from Canada!)

A Home Run Derby and a All Star Game – what was the most exciting part? The scouts! I was thrilled to see a veritable ARMY of scouts occupying the area behind home plate. I tend to frequent this area of the ballpark for the same reason: accurately viewing pitches.  Generally we have one or two scouts present.  I realized this was a one-stop-shop of sort for scouts, most of the best players the NWL has to offer without traveling all over the state. 

I love talking to scouts. Even though they are ‘at work’ and doing their jobs, most are quite willing to talk. They love baseball, after all, and most who do love to talk about it. I imagine they don’t really get much attention in the grand scheme of things from fans; in contrast to that I’m practically a groupie.  I admit I want to get as close as possible to anything MLB. These scouts have the aura of that world swirling all around them; they’re a link to that world that I find so fascinating. (In case you’re wondering scouts are not allowed to give interviews, IE for blogs)  In all I met scouts from the following teams: Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays, Angels, Padres, Detroit, White Sox, Rangers, and the Dodgers.  So to those that think North Woods League baseball is not ‘relevant baseball,’ you are quite mistaken. MLB does draft from the NWL. (also Bob Uecker and Robin Yount co-own the NWL team Lakeshore Chinooks, and there is nothing irrelevant about Uecker and Yount!)
After a tight game with well-played defense, it was tied in the 8th inning. (please visit for detailed play by play and stats from the game, box score here)Tyler Marincov, our very own Madison Mallard, steps up to the plate, and promptly unties it – with a home run! It would prove to be the winning run for the South division, and Tyler was awarded the MVP of the NWL All Star Game. The attendance of 6,073 broke the previous All-Star game attendance record set by the Mallards when they hosted the All-Star Game back in 2008.

If you haven’t been to a North Woods League game, I highly recommend attending. Yeah, it’s not MLB baseball. The fielding isn’t as tight, the pitches aren’t quite as fast. Keep in mind these guys are 18-23 college students, just starting out their professional careers.  The tickets and beer are cheap, and Mallards parking is free.  The stadiums are small, keeping you close to the action.  The players are accessible and willing to interact. It may not be MLB, but don’t dare imply to the players that it’s ‘irrelevant baseball’ – their heart and soul is in this game, and so is mine.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Opening Day 2012 Wallpaper

I think I've been overworking my wallpaper designs. I really prefer ones that go to the edges, so it's like being at the ballpark.  Here's a few photos taken at opening day, Miller Park. My camera isn't great, but sometimes that works to my advantage - it gives it a more hazy feel that mimics how it looks in my memory.  And if you're like me, there's something mesmerizing about that velvety bright-green grass.... 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Second Opening Day

It was really bothering me that I couldn’t remember if this was my first opening day. I felt like I’d been to one before but wasn’t sure. When I got home and checked my pictures folder, sure enough there were photos from Opening Day 2009. Looking at them I realized why I couldn’t remember – it was a TOTALLY different experience this time around.  They bore no resemblance to each other at all.

Traffic into Milwaukee was surprisingly easy. There was no dramatic slamming-on-of-breaks at all; usually I witness at least one near-miss or rear-ending. I knew that due to construction there were lane closings near Miller Park, but somehow they didn’t affect the flow at all. (How is it possible that there is ALWAYS construction in this area every single year?) It was so easy that I expected trouble. Right on.

This year I left early as I always do. I like to get there for batting practice and am always eager to assure a parking spot in the lot. I’ve always wondered what I would do if I couldn’t get in the lot. This year I got to find out. After the quick trip up to Miller Park Lane, cars came to a crawl. The trip up, around, and in to the parking lot took at least an hour and a half.  This is unusual, even on a big-crowd day such as this. I went to all three NLDS games and got in quickly and easily, one of the first to park. This time I got up to the lot and encountered a surly cop and parking staff who were asking each of us if we had a parking pass. No one did. The attitude was that we should have known this, though at no point did we encounter signs or people telling us so at any of the previous four opportunities to exit. LAME. And so we were all directed to go straight instead of turn, which meant three lanes of cars merging to one lane. I said, “Where do I go?” He said, “State Fair parking lot.”

Fine, ok. I didn’t know how to get there, and we were getting up on 1:30pm. I was getting very antsy.  I followed the line of cars hoping they’d lead me to the lot I needed. However, at the first stop sign some went one way and some the other! So I picked a car and followed them. To the Potawatomie Bingo Casino ramp. Which we are allowed to use, except there is no shuttle to Miller Park.  Do I call a cab? How do I find one? How long would that take? While freaking out pacing in the parking garage (after parking) I see two fans in Brewer gear getting back into their car. I chase them down and ask where they’re going. To the State Fair lot. Can I follow them? Sure, they’ll wait for me. This stroke of luck and their kindness pretty much SAVED MY DAY. God knows where I would have ended up driving around trying to guess my way to the lot. We park, have a few beers, and wait for the shuttle. 
After a trip through a neighborhood seemingly hitting every side street possible between there and Miller Park, we arrive at the VW Hospital parking lot and trek across the short pedestrian walkway up to the backside of  Miller Park. WHEW. Finally there, but late. Not late to the average fan, but I like to be in my seat at first pitch which did not happen. Didn’t see first pitches, or any of the pomp and circumstance of opening day. Got to my seat, pleased with my location in section 232, only a few seats in.  I’m always intrigued by that feeling – like I’d just been there. Like Miller Park really is home in a way, how welcome and at ease I feel there. Welcome back baseball!

First inning was great. Of course we didn’t know it’d be the only scoring until too late in the game. It was a loss, more annoying of course because the season was bookended by two losses to the Cardinals.  Gallardo had a terrible start, one of his worst. Relief wasn’t much better, and the Cardinal’s scoring seemed ceaseless. All their balls fell for hits; all our hard hit balls were at’em. Ryan Braun went 0-5. I don’t know the odds of that but I’d guess it hasn’t happened before.  A thank you to George Kottarras for his 3 run homer, rewarding the fans who stuck it out to the end.
At the end of the game smoke could be seen rolling onto the field. Fans were greeted by the foul odor and ominous sight of a massive fire upon exiting the park. The fire at Miller metal recycling was visible thirty blocks away and made it look like a thick fog over the area. While looking up details today I also found out that Bob Uecker’s son passed away from Valley Fever at the young age of 52. On Opening Day of all days, poor Bob. My heart goes out to him and his family. This makes all I had written above seem like minor annoyances.

It adds up to a rather dismal start to the year. But you know what? I had a great time. I went to that game for ONE particular moment, which went exactly as I had pictured.  I needed to be there to give Ryan Braun his proper ‘welcome home’ to Miller Park. I had to be there with my sign, letting him know that whatever else he encounters this year, Miller Park will always be a safe haven. It was another great moment involving Braun that I will never forget, and the fans rose to the occasion, giving him a thunderous standing ovation.  (Another nice moment was when they gave Aoki a similar welcome)

It would’ve been nice to win, but luckily that is not what Opening Day is about. Opening Day is about new beginnings. And now I have to go, the Brewers/Cardinals game is about to start. And just like that, yesterday’s over.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bases Loaded Series by Brian Lindstrom

I can't even remember how I stumbled across Brian's work, but I am sure glad that I did. As a painter and graphic designer who loves baseball, I am especially fascinated by those who combine their love of baseball with the other facets of their lives. When I am lucky enough to find one of these talented fans, I will feature their work on my blog and tell you a little bit more about them.  

This work attracts me for reasons beyond it's subject matter. I LOVE typography, and hand lettering is one of the skills I do not really possess. While this is clearly art, it is quintessential graphic design in that it conveys a lot of information in an aesthetically pleasing way. I feel like there is a romance and humor about these pieces that is attractive - I can't really say enough about how much I love this work.  I would love to own an original. Or have him do one of Bob Uecker!

From Brian's website:

"The Bases Loaded Series is an exploration of conceptual graphic design and storytelling using American Baseball as the vehicle. The concepts are driven home with the relationship of text and image, and the process is 100% hand-done. The work in this series tackles issues that have been pivotal to the game of baseball and reflective of our American society.The game of baseball is intertwined in the fabric of the United States of America. The players are household names and the sights, smells, and sounds conjure up memories of our past. These players, events, and emotions, which have contributed to baseball as our National Pastime, are the inspiration for and the subject of, the Bases Loaded Series. All banners measure 26″x40″ and are screen printed onto wool felt with a 1″ felt border.

Currently the Bases Loaded Series is being exhibited at the Big Ten Conference headquarters in Chicago, IL. It will be a solo exhibit at the national Sports & Society Conference in May, 2012 where Bud Selig will be the keynote speaker.

PLEASE make sure you click on the images to view them larger, in order to enjoy all of the detail and nuance.  Also make sure you visit his website to see the rest of the series, as this is only around half of them:  Also if you are in the Madison area, make sure to pick up the April edition of Street Pulse, Madison's Homeless Cooperative Newspaper. Some prints from the Bases Loaded series are featured in the Hearts & Minds section!

Brian runs Newbaric Design Shop and had done impressive graphic design for a wide variety of high level clients. ( - follow him and his company on twitter: @BrianLindstrom_ and @Newbaric respectively.  Brian was kind enough to spare some time answering some questions for me.



I’d like to get a better idea of your relationship to baseball -  what’s your team, how many games do you watch, attend in person, favorite player and why?
"Chicago Cubs - I watch a handful in their entirety on TV, but for me baseball is about being at the ballpark. I keep up with the scores and updates about the Cubs everyday during the season and usually follow their games on ESPN’s scoreboard…I go to a handful of games each year. Most all at Wrigley, a few when they travel to Miller Park in Milwaukee (Wrigley North J).
Favorite player would have to be Ryne Sandberg or Greg Maddux. I was an 80’s kid and grew up watching Ryno, Grace, Dawson, Dunston, & Greg Maddux.
 Ryno you have to love. The guy went about his business in a non-flashy way and was one of the best natural hitters of his time. A lot of these guys like Ryno and Ken Griffey Jr. have to garner a lot more respect since they played in the steroid era, and accomplished what they did without steroids.
 Greg Maddux is simply one of the greatest pitchers of all time. I would always try and go to the games he pitched, even when he didn’t play for the cubs (I lived in California for the last 18 years so he made appearances with the Dodgers and Padres) He dissects the batter with precision, not power.

 I used to go to spring training in Mesa, AZ and got meet all those guys when I was a kid. That kind of thing sticks with you your entire life. In modern baseball I have no loyalty or love for individual players. I like having certain players on my team because they contribute, but there isn’t any emotional attachment. I am a die-hard Cubs and Chicago fan in general. Who is on the team, and who the manager is doesn’t phase me. I guess growing up in Chicago in the 80s and 90s spoiled me with characters like Ditka, Walter Payton, Jordan, Phil Jackson, Don Zimmer, Ryne Sandberg etc. It was a different time when players and organizations had loyalty to each other. It made the emotional attachment as a fan that much greater.

 Now it’s a merry-go-round and there isn’t anytime to become attached. Look at the Pujols and Fielders of today, there is no reason they should not be with their teams until they retire. For what? 
 I always have love for Ron Santo and Ernie Banks. They were my dad’s childhood heroes and I’ve have been fortunate to meet them both. They define class and they both had an unwavering love for all things baseball and Cubs. They are true role models as humans and athletes. They talk to their fans and treat them like fellow humans."
How do you feel about the recent changes in their organization? (Dale Sveum as new skipper, Theo Epstein) What should they do about the goat?  Not part of the interview - I think they should get the cutest pygmy goat they can find, preferably one that was born with a ‘C’ on the side in it’s fur.  Put the goat on the roster, name it after the historic goat.  This includes a full goat-tailored major league uniform (home and away, all versions) with a hat.  The goat will live in the home outfield.  The goat is in play but must be avoided.  If the goat picks up the ball it is a live ball.  If the goat eats the ball in its entirety it is a home run.  The goat does not bat.

"I LOVE the changes to the organization. For the first time in recent memory I am excited for baseball season to start with great expectations. Not just to win, because it might now happen right away, but to be able to watch passionate players that look like they care. The last three managers Baker, Lou and Quade didn’t have any discipline over their players. As great as Castro was this year, he looked like a kid that was bored. I just want to watch professional athletes play like they are getting paid millions. 
 Theo gives us great optimism. 
 Sveum is a Brewer, so I’m skeptical. Not that he was a Brewer, but that he is relatively unproven. Being a hitting coach is different than being manager. I trust Theo knows what he is doing, and that’s good enough for me, for now… 
 As for the goat, I hope these first few seasons go so well that we don’t even have to talk about the goat anymore. No more goats, no more excuses.
 Although seeing the goat make the line-up could be fun J "

Why baseball? How did you decide on baseball as a subject?
"I was looking for a subject that provided a lot of history and subject matter. Basesball is intertwined in the fabric of America, even if you’re not a fan. I felt my audience could relate and find the subject matter interesting, even if they don’t care or follow baseball.
 I love baseball and respect it has an American tradition and as a sport. Football is my favorite sport, but it does not have the same storyline or history that baseball has, even though it’s been around almost as long…"

Did your professors approve of baseball as an artistic subject?
"Yup, they were all for it and very supportive. They encouraged it and were all looking at it from a different angle."

Did you ever feel like baseball wasn’t appropriate subject matter? (We spent a lot of time discussing high art vs. low art, fine art vs. kitsch )
"I have the benefit of categorizing myself as a graphic designer, not an artist, so I don’t have to deal with that critique. I like baseball, I wanted to explore baseball and bring it to life, so I did. If critiques have an opinion, then they should make the art they want to see, not tell someone else if their art is worthy of being created."

I see that you are selling small prints. Since these are screenprints, why not full size reprints? (you have the screens, right?)  Do you take commissions? I’d love to see ‘a history of the Milwaukee Brewers’ or something about Bob Uecker, or Bud selig. Or one about baseball superstitions!
"I have a few duplicates of the artwork, but they are being shown at different shows right now and not for sale. I started doing a few on paper to also sell, but the felt banners soaked up so much ink that time, supplies and money were a factor. I have the screens, but I wash out every stencil after I print, so I would have to coat, burn and print each one again. Happy to do a one off if someone requested it for the right price J"

How do you feel about the expansion of the wild card?  About replay and expansion of?
"I don’t mind the expansion of the wildcard. The playoffs are the fun part of the LONG baseball season anyways, so more games that matter are always good.
 Replay is necessary. For a game to be decided on a wrong call is inexcusable. I think it should be used for every pitch. Let the ump call strikes and balls etc. But for tagged outs, fly balls that weren’t really caught etc we need replay. Do we think these umps have Superman vision? No questions asked, replay has to be used."

How do you feel about Ryan Braun? (guilty or innocent?) About PED’s in general?
"Don’t care about Braun. Only he knows, and I hope he is OK with his decision and ready to pay for his decisions (or not).

 PED’s in general are cheating. All that have been found to use them illegally should be banned from the record books and the sport. If any other American citizen cheats at their jobs and break the rules to get ahead, they are fired. Why do we hold athletes to a different standard?"

Future shows?
"I am in the Big Ten Show right now in Chicago and will be in the Sports and Society Conference show up in Green Bay in May (Bud Selig and an ESPN exec are the keynote speakers, so I’m looking forward to that!)"

Future plans?
"Revamping my website to start working again and finishing up my MFA this Summer."
Anything else you’d like to add?
"Thank you, I appreciate the interest and the response to this exhibit. It’s been very rewarding and educational. Go Cubs!"

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for doing this for me! - Shelly

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baseball Cacti Wallpaper

No Braun decision yet. To quote T-Plush... AHHHHHHHHHHHH Whaz UP?

So here's a multipurpose spring training wallpaper appropriate for any Cactus League teams. Works for desktop wallpaper AND Twitter. Enjoy & hang in there everybody, baseball just around the corner!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Creative Game-Day Gear!

I’d planned this post a while and when I saw Miller Park Drunk’s ‘Brewer Fashion Week’ posts, I decided to jump on the bandwagon.  Visit Miller Park Drunk for consistently hilarious Brewer-related posts!

Because I got both my undergraduate and masters degree in art, I have lived like a student for most of my adult life. (read: poor) I also love clothes, shopping, and fashion in general. As you might guess I am a familiar face at local thrift stores.  Thrift store shopping has always been a favorite activity of mine; I can easily spend three or more hours at a time going through each and very item.  (You have to, they’re all different!) Add all these factors up and it was a natural outcome that I start making my own one-of-a-kind game day gear. 

Unfortunately I am not talking about my screenprinted designs which I’d been hoping to sell – as some of you noticed they are not available on CafePress any longer.  Apparently they keep a better eye on copyright laws than I expected…. I am still looking at screenprinting T-s locally with a company that has a license to use Brewers’ images.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Here’s my first game day masterpiece – Yes I bought a ‘Ryan Braun’ shirt jersey.  I REFUSE TO USE THE WORD SHIRSEY.  Even funnier, I bought a large CHILDREN’S shirt, because they are even cheaper.  (Hey I just told you I was thrifty, I prefer to think of it as a talent)  Of course, the cut of a child’s shirt made it impossible to wear, as a grown woman. SO it sat in my closet until I found a sweet 1970’s zip hoodie in retro Brewer blue.  Add them together and you have my favorite outfit of the 2011 postseason.  I wore it for several weeks without washing it…. Generally with my stocking cap. (not homemade but haven’t seen too many) 

Though not clothing, this sign was an indispensable accessory for the postseason.  It went to the NL Central clinching game as well as all three home NLDS games against the Arizona Diamonbacks.  I don’t know if I made it on TV, but I finally made it on the Jumbotron.  It was during the middle of the 8th inning during game 5.  The crowd went crazy when they saw it up there.  Incredible moment.  I’m going to take this to some games next year too. (and it lives on as my Twitter avatar for @SLVonglahn, and a button below)

After my success at making my Ryan Braun retro hoodie, I kept an eye out for pieces to refurbish.  I found the next two.  Left is a nice older athletic zip up in a decent weight, the right is a fantastic vintage SILK cardigan.  Both in retro Brewer’s blue. (You’ll notice I stick exclusively to the ball and glove logo) While I had planned on transforming them, I think I’ll keep them as solid color pieces to accessorize with…..

My hand-crocheted Brewers stocking cap with matching scarf!!!! My mom made this set for me, for Xmas.  She is so creative and talented.  Currently she is making cute stocking caps which are donated to a hospital to give to cancer patients.  How incredible is that!  She crocheted them, and I applied the 
‘B R E W E R S’ and the logo, cut from another thrift store shirt.

If you’re more in to T-shirts, and you can’t wait for my shirts to come out, please visit Forward Fabrics.  Unique, humorous, locally made. (Milwaukee) I guarantee you’ll get asked “WHERE did you get that shirt???” Follow them on Twitter: @forwardfabrics

As far as shoes, I wholeheartedly agree with the Miller Park Drunk – Converse shoes are awesome.  Always comfortable, available in any color at all.  During this offseason I ran into these, not super sure about them. Should I cut off the ‘fur’? They’re pretty crazy, we’ll see how they fit in the rotation.

And finally, I managed to get an order off before CafePress got wise.  I ordered a selection of buttons to put on my MLB bag. (which I got for $3 at Savers) I need a lot of storage when I go to the ballpark. Gatorade to rehydrate after the 7th, AM radio to listen to Uecker, glove, wallet, camera, whatever giveaway is going on, etc.

OK one more. I happened across this in the clearance isle at Walgreens today & squealed in delight. A  Whitman's sampler of chocolate! Baseball & chocolate, what more do I need? The faux leather box with stitching will be great for ticket stubs & other baseball trinkets... If you hurry you might still be able to find one, though a Google search oddly yields nothing....

So remember, if you’re tired of the same old mass-produced gear, you have options.  Hopefully I gave you some ideas and a little inspiration!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking a Chance on Trust

I struggled for a while on how to approach this blog entry.  I know what I want to say, but I was afraid that it would sound preachy, or I would not be able to find the correct words and be unable to convey an idea that is far bigger than one (beginner’s) baseball blog.  In the end I’ve decided to forge ahead, and just do my best.  It will have to be enough.  As I said, I’m not a writer, just a fan that wants to do some extra talking about baseball.

It’s likely we’ll soon have a resolution to the Ryan Braun situation.  I firmly believe that individuals should be regarded individually. Even if every single player ever accused of cheating lied about their innocence and were proved to have used performance enhancing drugs, that does not mean every one accused in the future is guilty.  I still believe he is innocent.  If I had a reputation I’d be willing to stake it on this.

I’ll admit this is a new situation for me, which could explain what others perceive as my ‘naïveté.’  I have only been watching baseball since 2005, and so I have yet to see a favorite player fall from grace.  I haven’t been burned as many times as life-long baseball fans who put their faith in an athlete’s word only to have their hopes dashed.  A lot of fans who claim not to care about performance enhancing drugs are telling a lie of their own – they do care, and deeply.  They just don’t want to get hurt again. They don’t want to trust, and be wrong.  I get it, I really do.  I’ve been there, in non-baseball situations.

Someday I might be in your shoes, but I plan to avoid it.  Not because I think it could never happen to a player I love, but because I believe there is an alternative to choosing between not caring at all (and so being unwilling to trust) and feeling devastated and betrayed when it goes wrong: taking a chance on trust, because it is worth it.  Trust requires a leap of faith.  It requires opening ones self up to the possibility of being wrong, to disappointment, and to pain. 

I think of how amazing it’s going to feel when my favorite player beats the odds and is exonerated.  Or it’s going to feel really bad when he doesn’t.   I welcome the experience either way, because the full range of human experience is only open to those willing to take the risks with the rewards.  Baseball is more than a game to me.  It is a microcosm of the human experience which offers many learning opportunities.  I’m going to take this opportunity to practice trust, and depending on the outcome, forgiveness.