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I finally made it back to the pool with the rest of the family today after work, although I left home later than they did. Katie and Julie were interested in playing a variety of competitive racing games to retrieve thrown objects; Gretchen and I eventually convinced them to do something less competitive in the interest of sibling peace. :)


Jul. 17th, 2017 10:56 pm
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We are now through four chapters of Heinlein's The Rolling Stones. Katie is finding it greatly amusing, although she is occasionally annoyed at Heinlein "picking on" things like automobiles.

I am waiting until she finds out about the flat cats. :)
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The spring / summer softball season is finally over. The girls lost their final game today to the second team that they beat on Saturday and finished a game short of the tournament finals. But given that they were a team that hadn't played together all season, had had two practices, and one scrimmage game against a short-handed opponent, plus were playing with a massively different set of rules than they'd played under all season -- and lost to two teams that have all of the characteristics of travel teams, as nearly as we can tell -- they did a magnificent job.

I am very proud of all of them.
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The Des Plaines girls played today in the first day of a softball tournament over in Niles. It appears to be the first year that they're run this tournament and a great many things are being a mystery to us. :)

For some reason, there are five teams in the tourney and rather than scheduling things with a seeding round on day one, two of the teams got a bye so that they only had to play two games on the first day; the other three teams would need to play and win three games to advance to the finals. We were one of the other three teams, winning the first two games; then losing the third game to one of the teams with a bye which appears to be a tournament team rather than a team or all-star team from a house league.

But the girls played well overall. And by winning the first two games, we have postponed our first game tomorrow until 3:45. One win will put us into the finals, but then we will have to beat the team that beat us twice in order to win, this being a double elimination tournament, except when it isn't, because it's theoretically quite possible for a team with three losses to get to the finals if we've read the brackets correctly.

As I said, it's a mystery...
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We had a lovely end-of-season parent/daughter softball game tonight, followed by a party and trophy presentation. Then it was home and off toward bed, where I finished reading The Star Beast to Katie tonight.

Now I just need to figure out what book to read next. :)
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We had a practice game against one of the other tournament teams today. It went well from out point of view, as our pitchers threw more strikes than theirs did. This whole "walking" thing will require some getting used to.

But Katie walked once and reached base on a hit twice, so we will definitely declare the New Bat Experiment to be a success. The first hit was a hustle hit down the first baseline; the second hit better struck on the fly and where the shortstop couldn't quite manage to get to it before it touched down.

And the team won, so there was much rejoicing. :)
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The hard rain started last night near the end of the All-Star Game, cutting off the DirecTV signal. It was about a minute later that I realized that I could actually stream the game on my phone using the DirecTV app. If I hadn't disconnected the Roku downstairs, I could have cast the screen to the TV. There was about a fifteen second delay relative to the broadcast, but since I wasn't getting the broadcast, that didn't seem to matter nearly so much as it might otherwise.

There was more hard rain early this morning. About 9 AM the message came in that we were most likely postponing the practice softball game today. I was horribly surprised. :)

And then there was some more hard rain while I was at breakfast. By the time I headed home, the right lane of northbound Elmhurst Rd. was not something you wanted to drive on.

It's stopped raining now. With any luck, we'll play that practice softball game tomorrow.

And try out the new gear Katie got yesterday. :)
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We went out to Play It Again Sports to hunt for a new bat for Katie, since the one she's been using won't be in the same place she is for fall softball. An acceptable bat was found, along with a helmet that passes league regulations, a new and larger glove, and a bag to put all of this in.

We'll see how the bat and glove do tomorrow. And the helmet, although the helmet doesn't do much unless you get hit in the head...
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Julie's tablet is misbehaving again. This is really annoying.

I've cleared the cache partition. Let's see if that helps...

A Busy Day

Jul. 9th, 2017 11:27 pm
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We had a softball practice today for next weekend's tournament. Then we adjourned to the pool with Gretchen and Katie, resulting in a very late dinner of "what's in the refrigerator?" accompanied by a quick trip to the store for turkey and provolone for Katie. :)

I am really tired. Because the weekend is for resting up...

All Stars

Jul. 8th, 2017 11:46 pm
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Katie's team (which included the girls from Des Plaines, Morton Grove, and Norwood Park) won today's Crosstown All-Star game 6-5. Everyone played well and had a good time.

Then came very late dinner and home to let Ruby out of her kennel. She didn't stay out long, as some damn fool was setting off late night fireworks. Ruby hates big bangs.
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I walked with Katie and the girls from Des Plaines Girls Softball in the Independence Day parade today in Des Plaines. I'd say "marched", because that's what one traditionally does in a parade, but it would be very difficult to describe this as marching. :) Ambling would be more accurate. Everyone had a good time and Uncle Jeff was able to come out and join Gretchen and Julie watching the parade. Much candy was thrown into the crowd.

Later in the day, we went to the local pool where they had planned many child-friendly activities for the holiday.

Ruby the Dog continues to really not like fireworks. The good news is that it should be mostly over soon and taper down to naught in the next few days.
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I had planned to take the family down to the Lisle Eyes to the Skies festival today for the carnival, music, and fireworks. It turned out that this plan was going to result in more unhappiness than happiness.

Having promised Katie a few weeks ago that I would take her to a carnival, we ended up going to the carnival over in Mt. Prospect where the girls had an excellent time using the unlimited ride bracelets that I bought them. They were able to do much more riding than they would have down in Lisle.

Then we headed home, while I stopped at Mariano's on the way to pick up groceries. We have now had a lovely dinner of sandwiches, chips, sweet corn, and salad -- Gretchen was good enough to put together a Reuben for me -- and a very relaxed evening. Well, other than the fireworks that are terrorizing Ruby.

Apparently, someone needs some more exposure to things that go boom before being a hunting dog. Since I wasn't planning on going hunting, we should be just fine...
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Katie was selected to play in the Crosstown League All-Star Game a week from Saturday, which was really nice. And now, the Des Plaines teams are putting together another All-Star team to play in a tournament over in Niles. Katie's been invited to join that too and is greatly looking forward to it!

I have suggested that practice is in order. :)
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Well, it was a noble try.

Katie's team lost 6-2 to the team from Niles today in the finals and finished second in the league, which was pretty good. :) But they were missing two players and it was the balls that were hit to the places where there were no fielders that resulted in most of the margin of victory.

I'm very proud of them all.
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Gretchen says that the end of today's semifinal softball game was like the end of a movie and that I have to write it up for my blog. I, of course, will attempt to comply.

But I don't have the scorecard. All that I have is my faulty memory. It will have to suffice.

We resumed the game at both teams' home field, Chippewa Park, after the game was called on account of darkness after seven innings with the score tied 2-2. I don't know how well the managers and coaches of the other team slept, but comparing notes on our side, we discovered that none of us had slept well and we were all up early.

There was barely enough chalk left in the locked supplies bin to chalk the infield foul lines -- certainly not enough for the batter's box! And why should there be? The season was over and there would be no more games played there.

Well, there was another theory blown to heck. :)

One of our co-managers, Laura, had called in and made sure that we would have an umpire for the game. He showed up shortly before the scheduled start at 10 AM. We compared notes on the rules -- a darned fine idea after yesterday's game, where a critical play turned on an extremely fine interpretation of an ambiguous rule (which was, in my opinion, ultimately called correctly) -- and we were off!

Both teams had blown through all the available innings on their best pitchers, since pitchers at this level are limited to three innings per game. So it was into the depth on the pitching staff. Happily, we had some. Sofia had pitched a good seventh the previous night and proceeded to give us a good eighth and ninth inning. Both teams had scoring chances, but neither scored.

I had told the girls before they started today that all they had to do was play good defense and they would win, because they were good hitters and they would eventually hit. And the defense on both sides was being just good enough. Coach Michelle had set our lineup with the best infield defense, which put tall, reliable McKayla at first, quick Katie S. at second, and strong-armed Elia and my Katie at short and third. Outs were recorded in all manner of ways. Katie snagged a foul pop-up at one point. At another time, a hard shot bounced off her and into foul territory. The third-base coach for the other team called for the runner who had just advanced from first to second to run to third. And Katie recovered, grabbed the ball, and tagged her out easily.

I recall too that the opposing pitcher caught a short pop-up on the infield with two out and the bases loaded when I came in for coach pitch in the bottom of the ninth. And their catcher caught a foul pop. There were good defensive plays all around.

Came the tenth inning and we knew that Emma would need to come in to pitch, Sofia having exhausted her available innings. I had looked at the lineup and had realized that we could keep the infield defense intact by rotating up the middle, bringing Emma in from center to pitch, moving Sofia from pitch to catch, and sending Ava from catch out to center. So that's what I told them to do, not having actually consulted with Coach Michelle first. (I apologized later.)

I don't remember exactly what happened in the top of the tenth, but we got through it without giving up a run, although there were at least a couple of base-runners. I remember the bottom of the tenth pretty vividly. :)

I need to pause to explain to you about "coach pitch". At this level of our local girls softball, when a pitcher gets a four ball count on the batter, instead of issuing a walk, the opposing coach is called out to pitch. The coach can throw three pitches; the batter gets up to three swings, getting as many swings as they had strikes left on them in the count. So if the count was 4-2, then the coach throws three pitches and the batter gets one swing. A foul ball on the last strike is a do-over.

Watching Katie and later Julie as well play at this level last year, I reached a conclusion about coach pitch: a large percentage of the difference between the teams can come down to whether or not the coach can throw hittable pitches. And my theory about hittable pitches is pretty simple: not too fast, minimal arc, and in the strike zone. And please do not bounce the pitch on the plate, because that is going to require a miracle to hit.

(Come to think of it, one of our girls actually did hit a pitch from the opposing pitcher on the bounce today. I forget which girl... :) )

So I don't want to buzz the ball in there, but I do want it moving fast enough so that it's not dropping rapidly as it crosses the plate. It's a fine line. But I am an old junk ball softball pitcher from my days of pickup softball in grad school, so I can usually get two of the three pitches in the right zone. And that means I can usually avoid striking out my own team. :)

I had started the season handling the coach pitch, then had been moved to first base coach, then I got bronchitis and lost my voice, and went to keep score on the bench. As scorer, I used fifty years of experience at filling out a scorecard to help us position the girls better on the second time through the order, because girls at this level have a strong tendency to hit the ball to the same zone all of the time.

And now, after a long journey, I was back at coach pitch again for the end of the season and the playoffs. I hadn't had to do a lot of coach pitch in the current game, because the opposing pitchers were throwing a lot of strikes. So were ours. And the girls on both sides were hitting or striking out off the opposing pitchers, keeping the coaches on the bench, which is almost always the best thing for the team on defense.

Katie was leading off the bottom of the tenth and worked the count to 4-1. I got the ball and walked out to the mound. (I am too old to "trot".)

"Make it good, Dad," Katie called out. "You know where I like it."

And I tossed it in and got it to a good enough spot. Katie hit a hard grounder through the hole between first and second base, past the drawn-in right fielder onto the outfield grass. With the ball in the outfield, runners can advance until an infielder controls the ball on the infield. And I shouted out, "Go two!"

(Yes, I know this is the job of the first base coach. I am, however, probably the loudest person on the field when I don't have bronchitis. :) )

And Katie zipped into second. So we had a runner on second, nobody out, and now the force was off at second. Force plays at second and third are the bane of the offense at this level, as many hard-hit balls that would put you on base with no one on are much more easily converted into force outs.

Next up was McKayla, one of the two authentic power-hitters on the team. Earlier in the game, McKayla had doubled and Katie had scored the first run of the game from first base, because Katie is fast. Any sort of hit into the outfield was likely to win the game right here.

And McKayla got under the pitch and lofted a pop-up toward second. Katie took a few steps off the base. A crowd of girls converged.

The ball hit the ground.

Katie, listening to Coach Mike at third, scooted over there. McKayla was safe at first. First and third, nobody out. No force at home, and now the infield will have to come home with the throw, because Katie is the winning run.

Alondra was up next. She got in some good cuts and fouled a couple of pitches off impressively, but ultimately struck out swinging. One out.

Elia strode to the plate. Elia has more raw power than any other girl on the team and owns the team's only homer of the season. I badly wanted to get the chance to coach pitch to her.

I didn't get the chance. She found a pitch to her liking and lined it to short left field. It was hit hard enough that it bounced off the chest of the girl who tried to catch it. Katie scooted home, avoiding the catcher who was standing on the plate.

I was standing right behind the plate on our side of the fence and I wasn't sure she had actually touched the plate as she danced across it.

"Touch home," I told her.

She went back, tagged the plate, and the umpire signaled safe.

I guess I did have one thing left to do in the game, even if it wasn't coach pitch. :)

The game was over. The Lightning won, 3-2, and are advancing to the finals tomorrow to play the first place team from Niles. They get to play in Bandits Stadium, the professional fast-pitch park over in Rosemont, which will be a kick.

But it was a great game. And either team could have won. They both played their hearts out.

We'll see how it goes tomorrow. One of the other coaches on our team characterized this game as being like the U.S. vs. Russia semifinal hockey game some years ago -- it was the game that both teams really wanted to win.

The one thing that I am certain of: this was the longest game in the league this year. :)
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Katie's team played a heckuva game against the other remaining Des Plaines team in tonight's semifinals.

It isn't over yet. The game was called on account of darkness with the score 2-2 after seven innings, one more than regulation.

We'll resume tomorrow at our Des Plaines home field at 10 AM.

Sleep is for the weak and sickly, I suppose. :)

One Win!

Jun. 22nd, 2017 10:33 pm
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Katie's team played against the Lincolnwood team tonight in their first round of the playoffs (Katie's team had a bye during the play-in round) and won 15-3. This means that tomorrow they will face the other surviving Des Plaines team in the semi-finals.

Fingers crossed! Today, we were blessed with good pitching, good defense, good hitting, and a lot of hustle! That will take you a long way. :)
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Tonight, I headed down to Wrigley Field and watched the Cubs beat the Padres.

Tuesday night, there is a Windycon meeting.

Wednesday night, Katie has softball practice.

Thursday night, Katie's team has the first game of their playoffs.

Friday night, if Katie's team wins on Thursday, they will play again.

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I have spent a fair amount of the weekend trying to finish up some code for the upcoming release at work.

I have also managed to believe that the pitching clinic that Katie was supposed to go to was today instead of Saturday. Saturday, sadly, was correct; I was not.

I am sure that I have brain cells, but I think I need to work on the auxiliary memory.


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