“What are you doing here?” she asked as I walked in her front door.
“I’m here to pick up your son. We’re going to breakfast.”
“No you’re not. He’s still sleeping.”
Jack forgot all about it. I wound up going home and having a bowl of Cheerios.
By 9:30, I was standing on the mound where I pitched 45 years ago. The president of the league read off a bunch of nice stuff about WJOB into a microphone. The fans, including my sister and my nephew, clapped. I threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Now there’s an art to throwing out the first pitch. First, aim high. You may be used to playing catch on a flat surface. But a pitching mound is not flat. What happens is you step to throw and you wind up stepping down. Your balance is off. You fall forward and throw the ball into the dirt.
I’ve done this several times in throwing out first pitches. You can either cheat and stand at the front of the mound, where it’s flat. Or you can aim above the catcher’s head because no matter how hard you try, your trajectory is going to be down. So compensate.
The other thing about throwing a first pitch is – warm up for crissake. I got their early enough to play catch with a couple of the kids. Also, don’t go out there barehanded. Wear a glove on your non-throwing hand. You are used to throwing a baseball with a mitt on one hand and a ball in your other. Go with what works.
I did all of this to prepare for throwing out the first pitch. There were a number of parents there that I knew, and I didn’t want to have to hear about it on the morning show. Several dads were cajoling me to mess up.
I warmed up, wore a mitt, stood on the mound, and aimed high. The only thing I forgot to do was take off my winter coat. Yes, it is still butt cold around here. It is the coldest April on record for 137 years. Every day you wake up and you pray that:
- the sun will come out
- it will get over 50 degrees
- there’s not snow on your car
Many days this month, as boys are trying to play baseball and girls try to play softball, it has done none of the three above. I cleaned off my car more this month than in January. It’s a complete travesty that you have a whole half of a continent jonesing to go outside… and it’s nothing but winter weather every day. It sucks.
After throwing out the first pitch, I hightailed it home. My wife was busy. We had a wedding last night, which I’ll get to later, and she had to do a whole bunch of stuff with her hair and her new shoes. It was even more of an occasion since my wife was “officiating” the wedding. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it has something to do with her standing there and giving the couple their vows. It’s one of the perks of becoming a judicial officer I suppose.
Since the wife was busy, I studied for my Marketing 620 final which is coming up on Friday. It’s a take home test. I don’t know how to study for a take home test, so I’m just studying everything. I’m studying Customer Lifetime Value, new product introduction, break even points. SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis, and more.
I’m not just studying all of this stuff because I want a decent grade on the test, which I do. I am studying this because I have been a bad businessman for about 14 years. I don’t know what my margin is on a radio spot, and I don’t know my retention rate. I have not segmented my clients, nor have I come up with a strategy to target them with different positioning. I have been, in a word, a business fool. There’s nothing I can do about what has happened in the past. But I sure as hell can try to make a different future out of it. I hope the three or four of you understand this. No one else does.
“Why are you going for your MBA at your age?” This is a question that comes from many of the people I would consider my friends. Many are retiring or thinking about retiring.
“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do. That’s all.”
But it is, as the three or four of you know, much more than that. After trading at the Chicago Board of Trade for the better part of 18 years, I left in a hurry. Alexis and I bought a couple of radio stations and a newspaper. It has been a lot of work. We have both given thousands of hours to the radio stations and, now, streaming video. Since Alexis took a job on the bench, it is me who gives to the station.
But it is not a directed giving, if that makes any sense. I just go down to the station and talk on the radio for a few hours, and then what?
The rest of the day is helter skelter. I have to:
- adjust the transmitter
- recalibrate the audio streaming
- test the FM signal
- do the logs
- meet with clients
- hire and fire
- review the books
- meet with bankers
I do the things that owners of small businesses across the country have do, which is just make it to the next day. You do it by hustling your ass off. There’s not a lot of strategy to working as hard as you can so that you can live another day to talk on the radio.
I’d like to change that. I’d like to move forward with the semblance of a plan. I’d like to market to local businesses in an organized fashion with a cohesive message. We really are the local leaders in live streaming video. Do something about that instead of just continuing to provide the product with little or no monetary return. It’s poor management. I am poor management, and that is something I am setting out to change.
You gotta recognize the problem before you can find a solution. I am the problem and the solution.
After studying for an hour, I had to skidaddle over to Dowling Park in Hammond at the corner of the 80-94 expressway and Kennedy Avenue. That’s where the Purdue Northwest women’s softball team plays their home games. It’s a beautiful facility, with:
- artificial turf
- heated dugouts
- brand new stands
There’s a lot more that makes the women’s softball facility at Dowling Park beautiful. Someone painted the artificial turf beautiful, and the walls around the park are that traditional ballpark red. There’s a brand new concession stand and, across a little walkway, there’s a brand new college baseball field complete with all of the same things that the softball field has. All of this has been built to accommodate Purdue Northwest teams – oh, and there’s also a brand new artificial turf soccer field.
Soccer, baseball, softball – they all have brand new, top of the line facilities. A guy said to me yesterday –
“If you were a recruit and you went to visit Valparaiso University and then you came here to Purdue Northwest, you ‘d choose PNW. No questions asked.”
As much as I must laud the city of Hammond and Purdue for getting together to make all of this happen, I must also point out that there is one glaring misstep. They didn’t build press boxes.
There’s great stands for the fans to sit in. The concession stand has some of the best coffee in Hammond. There’s great parking. There’s even spots to tailgate, which the parents of the Tiffin University players did for several hours. I joined them for a while. They gave me a piece of chicken, some nachos and a big slap on the back for announcing two whole games in the cold.
In essence, the lack of a press box meant that color analyst Mike Bridgmann and I sat at a folding table next to the PNW dugout and announced softball for five hours – in 44-degree weather with a stiff wind blowing off Lake Michigan. It is truly an honor to be able to announce these women’s softball games. They women try their hearts out on both sides every game, and almost no one complains to the umps or tries to intimidate the other players. It’s really what baseball used to be and probably should be again.
I am sold on announcing college softball. What I cannot get used to is my feet going numb almost every time I do it. I wore:
- long underwear
- camping socks
- camping boots
- a turtleneck
- scarf, gloves, hat
- and sunglasses.
I was ready for a Bears game in December. Still, I froze my ass off. By the time I got home, my feet were ice and I was coughing up phlegm. If you want more details, too bad. Just suffice it to say that I froze my ass off for five hours announcing college softball.
It was worth every minute of it. PNW is getting pretty good at the Division II level. First-year coach Niki Stansell knows what she’s doing. My only fear is that she knows what she’s doing too well and a Division 1 program is gonna see this and take her away. Oh well. Can’t fear what you can’t control.
PNW lost the first one 2-1 in a tight game. PNW beat Tiffing by the mercy rule in the second game. One of the cool things is that there’s so many local girls on the PNW team. A Munster girl, a couple Lake Central girls, and a Crown Point girl, Lexi Madrigal. She’s a freshman. On the other side, the two Buck girls play for Tiffin. They’re also from Crown Point. Several times one of the two Buck girls, Ally or Amanda, stood in the batter’s box and in the catcher’s box was Lexi Madrigal. That’s a lot of Crown Point in one little area.
After the games, I rushed home and put on a sportcoat and drove to the Patrician Hall on US 30 in Schererville. I didn’t get to see it, but my wife officiated over the marriage of the Alexanders. My wife grew up with Amanda’s mom, Irma, in East Chicago. I met a ton of people who listen to the show, which is always nice. You feel better about yourself when people tell you how great you are. Alexis and I danced to a few songs and took pictures in the photo booth. I’d show them to you but you’ve seen enough pictures of the two of us.
By 11pm, we made it home. I was snoring and Alexis was sleeping daintily and quietly by midnight. It was another great day of radio – Little League, marketing, college softball, a wedding and snoring. Can’t beat that.