SEVENTEEN INCHES

December 1, 2018


I received the following article from a good friend of mine detailing a speech given by Mr. John Scolinos.  I thought it was a very important speech and decided it was very worthy of posting and you might enjoy the read.  Take a look.

Twenty years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.  One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare. ” Who is John Scolinos, I wondered.  No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948.  He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.  Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches.  Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.  Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible.  I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.  “I may be old, but I’m not crazy.   I stand before you today to share with you what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room.  “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”    After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than an answer. “That’s right,” he said.

“How about in Babe Ruth’s day?  Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause.  “Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos.

“Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?”  Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.  “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked.

“And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here?  How wide is home plate in pro ball?”………..

“Seventeen inches!” they responded.

“RIGHT!  And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!” came the reply.

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.  “And what do they do with a Big-League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches” Pause.  “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy.  If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target?  We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches.   We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it.  If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

“Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice?  Or when our team rules forbid facial hair, and a guy shows up unshaven?  What if he gets caught drinking?  Do we hold him accountable?  Or do we change the rules to fit him?  Do we widen home plate? ”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.  He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something.  When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows.

“This is the problem in our homes today.  With our marriages, with the way, we parent our kids.  With our discipline.  We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards.  We just widen the plate!”

Then, to the point at the top of the house, he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today.  The quality of our education is going downhill fast, and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate, and discipline our young people.  We are allowing others to widen home plate!  Where is that getting us?”

Silence.  He replaced the flag with a Cross.  “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years.  Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves!  And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government.  Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries.  They no longer serve us.  And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed.  At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.  From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader.  I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today.  It is this: If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools, & synagogues & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine.  Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches.  He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.  His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now we should go out there and fix it!

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READ THE GOOD BOOKS FIRST

November 22, 2018


I had a marvelous literature teacher my senior year in high school.  Her name was Mrs. Robinson. Can’t remember her first name; we never used it anyway.  Mrs. Robinson repeatedly told us to “read the good books first—then read them again”.  She meant later on in our lives, probably adult lives.  Okay, what is your definition of a “good book”?  I have a very simple approach to this.  Take a look at your son, daughter or grandchild’s summer reading assignments.  The books they were supposed to read throughout the summer.  The ones there may or may not be Cliff Notes for.  These are just some of the “good books” determined to be timeless.  What we may call the classics.  Some old—some new, but the ones used to demonstrate writing style and prose uncommon relative to our modern writers.  We are inflicted with books today, not all mind you, but some that represent throw away literature. Once read never to be re-read.  Basically, time wasting garbage.

While cleaning out our attic this past summer, I found several boxes of books our sons were instructed to read during their time in high school.  I’m going to briefly talk about one right now—“Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe”.

BIOGRAPHY:

Given below is a portrait of Mr. Poe probably made in his late thirties.

Edgar Allan Poe is undoubtedly one the greatest and most-recognized American authors in our countries history although his life was not a bed or roses by any stretch of the imagination.

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe’s father and mother, both professional actors, died before he was three years old.   John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia thus giving him his middle name.  John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where he excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s gambling debts.  Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated and in 1827, he moved to Boston where he enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was thirteen years old at the time. (This was a great shock to me and I had no idea Poe ever married much less someone of such a very young age.)  Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies.  A tragic end to a great writer.

The following short stories are in the book I just mentioned:

  • Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Purloined Letter
  • The Tall-Tale Heart
  • The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdermar
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Tale of the Ragged Mountains
  • A Descent into the Maelstrom
  • The Black Cat
  • “Thou Art the Man”
  • Metzengerstein

It became very obvious as to why his works are considered classic.  The writing style is very much unlike the style of any America writer.  His ability to keep the reader in suspense is remarkable.  The manner in which he describes a specific chain of events using the English language must be considered legendary.  He is a marvelous “word-smith” putting together sentence after sentence demonstrating his “high-class” writing ability.

Mrs. Robinson was absolutely correct when she told us to read the good books first.

WESTIN—CHATTANOOGA

November 18, 2018


Just about every Friday evening my wife and I celebrate the weekend by going to dinner.  We like to go early, i.e. 4:30 or 5:00 P.M. In other words—happy hour.  The crowds are smaller and the prices are much more in line with a reasonable budget.  This past Friday, we tried the Westin—Chattanooga located at 801 Pine Street. Pine Street is just west of the “main drag” and close to I-27.  Great location for a restaurant.  We heard the Alchemy Bar and Restaurant on the tenth (10th) floor of the hotel was great.  We were not disappointed in the least.

The Westin was at one time Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Chattanooga.  A digital picture of that building is shown below.

This building was called the “Gold Building” for obvious reasons.  The gold windows reflected sunlight, thus keeping the interior office areas much cooler and saving considerable utility expense.  Blue Cross basically outgrew these facilities and relocated some miles away.  Westin purchased the building some time afterwards and spent millions and over one year of time in refurbishing it and turning it into a marvelous hotel and commercial facilities.

As mentioned, the Alchemy is located on the tenth floor.  We will take a pictorial tour of the facility.

You are greeted with a plaque indicating the location and name.

One of the great features of the Alchemy is the lighting.  Lights everywhere and beautifully done.

I hope you can tell the restaurant is “kid-friendly”. When we were there, there were children ranging from infant to young teen. All very respectful of the furnishing and QUIET.

The dining area is very spacious with plenty of room to move around.  I did not include it in the pictures but here are high tables along the picture windows to the left of this JPEG and to entry of the facility.

You get a great view of the famous Lookout Mountain.  Lookout Mountain is noted for the “Battle Above the Clouds”—a famous battle between the North and the South during the Civil War.  This profile is on the City seal just as you see it here.

The picture below shows a small portion of the Chattanooga skyline.

LOBBY:

The lobby is really inviting with an exceptional amount of space.  The pictures below will definitely give you that reality.

I want to note the “picture wall” below.  The Westin has hung pictures of Chattanooga new and old to show a very brief “evolution” of the city center.

CONCLUSIONS:

You really need to make Chattanooga one place on your agenda while driving South.  We have become a destination for visitors due to the following: 1.) Great dining, 2.) The Tennessee River and all the “stuff” you can do on that river, 3.) Great accommodations, 4.) Wonderful tourist attractions in the downtown area and the surrounding tri-state areas. It’s a great destination summer, winter, spring and especially the fall.  Come on down.

THE WAR TO END ALL WARS

November 11, 2018


Exactly one hundred (100) years ago today (November 11) the first world war ended.  World War I, which introduced industrialized killing to a world utterly unprepared for it, ended at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

WWI actually ended in 1918.  That day was described in America as Armistice Day. Church bells would sound at 11 a.m. and people would observe a moment of silence to remember the men who died in the 1914-18 war. In 1954, in the aftermath of World War II, Congress renamed the day as Veterans Day. Let’s take a brief look at several reasons for the term “War to End All Wars”.

  • By that first Christmas, over 300,000 Frenchmen had been killed, wounded or captured. During the same period, the Germans suffered 800,000 casualties.
  • Throughout four years of war, casualties on both sides on the western front averaged 2,250 dead and almost 5,000 wounded every day,” Joseph Persico writes in his “11th Month, 11th Day, 11th Hour.
  • Battles large and small were fought on three contents — Africa, Asia and especially in Europe — the war claimed some nine million combatants and an estimated seven million more civilian lives.
  • America, which entered the war in April 1917, lost 53,402 of her sons in combat and another 63,114 to non-combat deaths, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • 204,000 American soldiers were wounded.
  • Germany lost 2.050 million men, while Russia lost 1.8 million. Great Britain lost 885,000 men — more than twice the number of Americans killed in World War II.
  • France’s losses were catastrophic. Fully 1.397 million men, 4.29 percent of France’s population, died in the war.

I would like now to present a timeline relative to the events of WWI.  This may be somewhat long but I think on this Veterans’ Day very important.

1914:

  • June 28—a Serb teenager, Gavrilo Princip kills Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • July 18—Austria-Hungry declares war on Serbia
  • August 1—Germany declares war on Russia
  • August 4—Germany declares war on France
  • August 23—Japan declares war on Germany
  • September—Battle of the Marne stops the German advance in France
  • October 29—Ottoman Empire enters the war
  • November—Beginning of trench warfare
  • December 25—Unofficial Christmas Truce

1915:

  • February—German U-boat campaign marks the first large use of submarines in warfare
  • April—Allied troops land in Gallipoli, Turkey, a defining moment for Australia and New Zeeland
  • April 22—First use of a chemical weapon, chlorine gas, near Ypres, Belgium
  • May 7—British ship Lusitania sunk by German U-boat
  • May 23—Italy enters the war against Austria-Hungary
  • October—Bulgaria joins the war on the side of the Central Powers

1916:

  • February 21—Battle of Verdun begins
  • March 9—Germany declares war on Portugal
  • July 1—Battle of the Somme begins with the first mass use of tanks
  • August 27—Romania enters the war and is invaded by Germany
  • September 4—British take Dar es Salaam in German East Africa
  • October—Soldier Adolf Hitler is wounded
  • December 23—Allied forces defeat Turkish in Sinai Peninsula

1917:

  • March—Bagdad falls to Anglo-Indian forces
  • April 6—United States declares war on Germany
  • April—Battle for Vimy Ridge which was the defining moment for Canada
  • July—The last Russian offensive ends in failure as their revolution nears. Inconclusive Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium
  • October 15—Spy Mata Hari is executed by a French firing squad
  • October 26—Brazil declares war joining the Allied Powers
  • December—Battle of Jerusalem

1918:

  • March 3—Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ends Russia’s involvement in the war on the Eastern Front
  • April 21—Legendary German fighter pilot known as the Red Baron is shot down and killed near Amiens, France
  • June—Battle of Belleau Wood, which the defining moment for the United States
  • July 21—German submarine fires on Cape Cod which was the only attack on the mainland U.S.
  • September 26—Battle of the Meuse-Argonne begins
  • October 30—Ottoman Empire signs armistice with the Allies
  • October 31—Dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Empire
  • November 9—Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicates
  • November 11—Germany armistice ending the war

You can see from the chronology of major events above: this was a war of global significance.  A war our planet has never known.  As we know, it was not a war that ended all wars.  We never learned that lesson.

THE MOST UNRELIABLE

November 7, 2018


One of the things I like to do with my posts is deliver information you can use in your daily life. “Stuff” that just mike make a difference.  I certainly hope this one does.    Some of the information you will read is taken from Consumer Reports Magazine and Design News Daily Magazine.

Consumer Reports recently published information regarding the reliability of automobiles offered for sale in the United States.  They drew their conclusions from owner surveys of more than five hundred thousand (500,000) people. The surveys look at numerous problem areas including engine, transmission, suspension, cooling, electrical, climate, brakes, exhaust, paint, trim, noises, leaks, power equipment, and in-car electronics, among others.  We will highlight now those automobiles considered to be the most unreliable.  This list may surprise you as it did me.

I would say that if you are looking for new wheels you heed the information given by Consumer Magazine.  They accept no advertisements and generally conduct their research by interviewing consumers and actually testing the products they report on.

MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

November 6, 2018


Atlanta is the host city for one of the most beautiful stadiums in our country.  Also, from an engineering standpoint, one of the most complex.  You can see from the digital above the stadium at night.

My wife and I traveled to ATL recently to visit our granddaughters and thought we would take a tour of the stadium prior to our visit.  The Atlanta Falcons were not playing so things were relatively quiet; otherwise, you could not get within ten (10) feet of the places we were allowed to go on the tour.  The prices for a tour are as follows:

  • Adult Ticket-$25.00
  • Senior Adult Ticket: $20.00
  • Parking: $15.00 (In the parking garage.)

I don’t think this is too bad for the “look” we got.  The entire tour is about one hour and twenty minutes.

STATISTICS:

Let’s take a look at several statistics to get some idea as to the immense project this was.

  • Arthur Blank indicated the groundbreaking of the stadium would be conducted the last week of March 2014. The stadium opened in 2017.
  • Cost to build: $1.15 Billion (Yes that’s billion with a “B”.)
  • Construction time: Thirty-nine (39) months
  • Parking space: 21,000
  • Stadium height: 305 Feet
  • Field level: 1018 Feet above sea level.
  • Total stadium footage: 2,000,000 Square Feet
  • Total concrete: 150,000 Cubic Yards
  • Total structural steel: 27,000 Tons
  • Roof size: 14.5 acres
  • Total seating capacity: 71,000 expandable to 75,000
  • Club seats: 7,600
  • Number of suites: 190
  • Concession points of sale: 673
  • Bars and restaurants: 24
  • Beer taps: 1,264
  • Escalators: 25
  • Scoreboard: 63,800 Square Feet

In other words, this is one big place.  Let’s now take a digital tour.  I made all of these pictures so please forgive, in some cases, the armature nature.

As you approach the stadium you get an idea just how big it is. This is the walkway leading from underground parking.

The most prominent indicator announcing “we have arrived” is the Atlanta Falcon—otherwise known as the “dirty bird”.

We mentioned earlier the number of escalators used to access seating. From the JPEG below, you get some idea as to the layout.

With out a doubt, the most prominent feature of the stadium is the dome and the skylight.

As you might expect, the roof is an un-suspended design with no supporting internal posts or columns blocking view from any seat.  The complexly of the superstructure may be seen as follows:

This is a civil engineers dream, or nightmare.  Choose one.  There are eight (8) petals to the retractable dome and they actuate like the shutter on a camera lens.

CLUBS WITHIN THE STADIUM:

There are various clubs within the stadium, each bearing the name of the sponsor.

The AT & T Perch is the first you encounter.

Atlanta is the hub for Delta Airlines so you know they will be involved in a big way and support a club—a beautiful club at that.

Mercedes-Benz sponsors an equally beautiful restaurant and bar called the Gullwing.

 

Another “Benz” club is shown below with internal seating.

PLAYING FIELD:

OK, this is a football stadium.

LOCKER ROOM:

By far, the most disappointing aspect of the entire facility was the locker room.

We are taking bland and generic although, maybe for game day, things improve greatly.  After all, this was a guided tour.

CONCLUSION:

I can certainly recommend to you taking the tour the next time you are in Atlanta. It is well worth it to see the come by itself.

BORDER SECURITY

October 27, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from the publication “Military & Aerospace Electronics”, October 18, 2018.

For more than a week, thousands of migrants from Central America have been marching north towards the United States. They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs.   Many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers and I am certain they are correct. One can only guess as to how many will die along the way but there is safety in numbers.

On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of one hundred and sixty (160) people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.  By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than one thousand (1,000) Hondurans had joined. Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

I will not debate the pros and cons of allowing them into the United States but our federal government is positioned to stop as many as possible from entering.  This post will strive to detail the methodology used by our military and the Office of Homeland Security to facilitate that effort. The technology is striking and, for the most part, developed by the military.  Homeland Security is using that technology.  Please keep in mind, these programs have been developed over the years and not specifically for the caravan slowly approaching our boarders.  Let us now take a very quick look at some of the methods used.

  • Air-based technology
  • Apex border situational awareness
  • Artic communications and technologies
  • Biometric technology engine
  • Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAISE)
  • Countering violent extremism—actionable indicators and countermeasures project
  • Data analytics engine
  • Eye-dentify
  • Future Attribute Screening Techniques (FAST)
  • Ground-based technologies
  • Identity and access management engine
  • Low-light internet protocol cameras
  • Pat-Down Accuracy Training Tool (PATT)
  • Polar Scout
  • Space-based technology
  • Port of entry-based technology
  • Port and waterway resiliency
  • Port of entry people screening
  • Port and coastal surveillance
  • Port of entry forensics and investigations
  • Post Tracking System (PTS)
  • Small dart aircraft, or the hunt for drug-smuggling aircraft at the borders
  • Tunnel detection and surveillance
  • Video-based training for border patrol trackers
  • Virtual shooter

For the sake of time, I will let you discover the specifics of the list above but as you can see, it is very extensive and laden with cutting-edge technology.  Most of the technology, if not all, was developed for the U.S. military but adopted by Homeland Security.

If members of the caravan are successful they will be on U.S. soil. In the very near future The Border Patrol will have to take them into custody and unless Mexico agrees to take them back, the migrants will be held in detention until they can be deported.   If the migrants are accompanied by children, the government has virtually nowhere to put them.  Let’s just hope there is no more separating children from mothers and fathers.

The Trump administration has been preparing to expand family detention capacity by housing detainees on military bases, but those facilities do not appear to be ready. And once asylum-seeking migrants are on U.S. soil, it becomes significantly harder for the government to deny them access to the legal system, with the rights and protections it affords, in accordance with international laws and norms.

At this writing the caravan is still more than one thousand (1,000) miles away from U.S. territory, and there is a great deal of Mexico left to traverse. If the group manages to advance fifteen (15) miles per day, it would take more than two months for the caravan to arrive at the Rio Grande.  That timeline changes significantly if caravan members manage to board buses, trucks or freight trains, in which case they could reach the U.S. border in less than a week. But that’s a major if, absent a significant fundraising effort to provide mass motorized transport.

I cannot imagine living in a country in which it is unsafe to go to the market, making a doctor’s appointment or visiting a family member.  This is the condition that seemingly exist in the three countries mentioned earlier.  Then again, look at the southside of Chicago on any one given weekend.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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