Thursday, February 26, 2009

R.H. Levitin Presents ... A Preview of the 2009 Major League Baseball Season

Spring starts soon and that means just one thing -- baseball season is almost here!

We're now in the transitional period between the cold of Winter and heat of Summer with the longest Spring Training session in Major League Baseball History underway.

There's more to the game than chilled beer, peanuts, power-hitters, and pitchers. Here's a few treats to look forward to during the 2009 season, courtesy of this blog's resident baseball fanatic and publisher, R.H. Levitin ...

  1. The Red Sox are coming to D.C. for inter-league play. This will be the best match-up since Cubs-Red Sox at Wrigley Field in 2005 when Greg Maddux knocked a homer into the cages below the bleachers in left-center field helping the Cubs solidify a giant lead and eventual win. Why? Red Sox fans will at least bring their rowdy A-Game, illuminating Nationals Park with obscenities, sing-a-longs, and the energy that should be present at any and every baseball game played. Maybe Nationals fans will take a few pointers on how to cheer on their home team. It couldn't hurt.
  2. The Cubs have a chance to end their post-season drought and notch a few tallies in the old "Win" column. There might even be a division title waiting for them but -- after two consecutive clinches, a third one might anger fans more ... that is unless they end that post-season drought.
  3. The Yankees will continue to spin star-player A-Rod a web of positive publicity after confirmation surfaced of his drug use during his time with the Rangers.
  4. The Dodgers may or may not have Manny in the line-up (we'll know tomorrow), it all depends on the slugger's inflated ego either taking a break and taking the field and, of course, money.
  5. The Phillies are the reigning champions of baseball? Am I still the only person confused by this? We'll see how they fair with those rings on their hands -- continued greatness is expected by the Phillie "PHaith"ful but prominence may not be what 2009 has in store for the team.
  6. Ken Griffey, Jr. is back where he started. For all of us who remember the final scenes of 1994's Little Big League, the image of a cocky young player by the name of Junior is etched into our minds. The 39-year-old veteran re-signed with the Mariners earlier this month. Welcome back, Junior. It'll be nice to see you play in the uniform that made you a name in this game again.

A lot can and will happen until October rears its pretty little head. At least we get to watch the ups and downs of America's greatest past-time while we're at it.

Photo Compliments of R.H. Levitin's personal photo collection. Photo by Darienne Myers, August 2008.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

COMING SOON -- Baseball Traditionalists: A Fading Fad or Classic Past-Time

Before Yankee Stadium was torn down and re-built, "The House That Ruth Built" stood in the Bronx as the third oldest Major League Baseball stadium in the country -- the oldest being Boston's Fenway Park and the second oldest being Chicago's Wrigley Field.

These baseball sanctuaries have hosted thousands of events ranging from religious services with the Pope, Jimmy Buffet concerts, the circus, football, and even hockey. But -- to loyal fans of thee infamous ball clubs who fight for a "W" every time they set foot on the green and gravel-filled fields -- these man-made structures are more than institutions housing sporting events, they are the core of every team and every fan. If the fan is Dorothy, the park is Kansas. And really -- who wouldn't want to go home?

Stay tuned for a look at these three Major League Baseball icons as Spring Training gets on its way and the regular season sneaks up right behind it.

- R.H. Levitin -

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The "Pom-Tini": The New Cosmopolitan for 20-Something Women

The once illustrious cocktail that caressed Carrie Bradshaw's Sex and the City lips for six seasons and a feature film, lost its original glamor the day my roommate discovered that the "Pom-tini" had a unique allure all its own.

Look out Cosmo, you better watch your back, a new drink is in town and she's a lot tougher than your light pink exterior. This darker mixture of vodka and pomegranate juice is the latest beverage to quench the thirst of urban-chic working women.

Picture this: A night out with your man. You're young -- a 20 something on the brink of real life but not there yet -- eager to paint the town red and re-visit those "good old days" where free time was just as abundant as "That's What She Said..." jokes told by college kids living still in dorms. The time comes to order a drink at the bar while you wait for the older couple who came in for the early bird special to get up from your reserved table (yes, you were smart enough to make reservations -- you figure if your man is responsible enough to pay for the dinner, the least you can do is make a reservation).

It's now time to decide -- "What cocktail will titillate my taste buds tonight," you ask yourself. You tend to go for the "class act" Sex and the City approach by ordering the Cosmopolitan Carrie and the rest of the gang worship while out on the town. But alas! ...this is a special occasion, a Comso will not do.

You remember -- you love pomegranate juice.
The decision is made -- "Pom-tini" it is!

The flavor of fresh fruit juice mixed with a bite from the vodka after being shaken and chilled makes for a revitalizing drink.

If my roommate can come up with a new drink idea for girls on the go who care to show s certain amount of glamor and sass, so can you.

Start engaging in some personal bar tending, ladies! You never know what you'll think of next.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Chicago Bred Indians Closer : Why I Miss Kerry Wood

The Chicago Cubs pitching and catching staff, and the rest of Major League Baseball's specialized staffs, reports to Mesa, Az. (and Florida for everyone else) today to open the spring training season. The biggest difference from this season and last season is that Kerry Wood no longer sports the royal blue and white pin stripe number 34. He's a Cleveland Indian.

Let us flashback to 1998 and remember what made this Rookie of the Year a Chicago sports superstar. The man threw 20 strikeouts during his fifth career start on May 6, 1998. That game was a one-hit, no walk, 20 strikeout shutout against the Houston Astros, that tied Roger Clemens' record for strikeouts in a 9-inning game and breaking Bill Gullickson's single-game rookie record of 18 strikeouts in 1980.

Wood was the fourth overall selection in the 1995 Amateur Draft and spent three years playing in the Minor Leagues before his Major League debut.

I wont lie. I miss Kerry Wood.

The 2003 season broke my heart. Millions of Cubs fans watched as their beloved team went from five outs until the World Series to the Florida Marlins taking it all away. That was also the year Dusty Baker used and unintentionally abused the two aces of the Cubs pitching staff -- Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Both of which won positions as pitchers on the 2003 All-Star team.

Various shoulder surgeries put Wood out of a dominant and result producing starting position between the 2004 and 2006 seasons before coming into his own as a "force to be reckoned with" closer for the Cubs, but 2005 started the transition.

I witnessed Wood's first relief appearance under unique circumstances. It was my last night in Chicago before leaving for college the next day. It was a night game. The lights of Wrigley field were that of a sanctuary, illuminating the field on that warm, non-windy Chicago evening. It was August 2005 -- and I had first row seats behind home plate.

kerry wood on the mound Kerry Wood, August 2005. Photo By R.H. Levitin

My dad took me to that game as a final, "Goodbye, You're going to college now so Cubs games in Washington, D.C. may or may not be a scarce entity to experience." And -- that it was.

Wood shot the ball over 94 mph at a time -- every time -- for the three batters he faced on the Cincinnati Reds. He even whizzed the ball by Griffey, Jr. I had never seen anything like it.

Even if the Cubs lost (I blame the loss on the Cubs' starting pitcher of the day, Jerome Williams, he choked. It was embarrassing.), it was a good day for me.

First row behind home plate at Wrigley Field to see a Chicago Cubs night game with your dad the night before you leave for college? What could be more memorable ...than a Cubs World Series victory? Nothing.

A few less than memorable players left the Cubs this season though. Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco are playing elsewhere -- but that's okay. The Cubs will be fine. They just have to focus on cultivating the youthful talent, ensure the veterans stay healthy and happy, and -- most of all -- they need to have fun. Because after all, that's what baseball's all about.


All photos in this post are compliments of R.H.Levitin's baseball photo collection.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February's One-Liner for the Road

Flashes will flash, pictures are taken, but if I'm not mistaken beauty's in the eye of the beholder -- I hold it all.

-R.H. Levitin-