I grew up in the suburbs of South Jersey in the 80s. A place idyllic with respect to many important aspects of childhood, but also an aggressively cynical place filled with wizened realists who spent their mornings philosophizing on diner bar stools for all who would, or even wouldn’t, care to listen.
As for the idyll, my home town had, at its various points of entrance, signs that read, “Welcome to Medford: Excellence in Public Schools” and “Welcome to Medford: A Great Place to Raise a Family.” And it was, though I didn’t know it at the time. As we can only use inductive reasoning based on our own experiences to shape our worldview, I faultily presumed the immaculately groomed youth sports facilities—especially the baseball complex, in which I spent the bulk of my childhood springs, from 8am-8pm, completely unsupervised and completely safe, with a group of friends and teammates, $5 in our pockets for concessions, playing in one game, watching the rest (and announcing some from the broadcast booth behind home plate, when we—well, let’s be honest, it was mostly me—weren’t banned for giving our friends inappropriate nicknames while announcing their approach to the plate), all the while playing home run derby or inventing new pitches on any fields that were not being used for even a moment between games—were normal, and that all kids had those experiences. Similarly, I now know that our 96% rate of kids from town attending four year colleges right after high school (with the bulk of the rest going to 2 year colleges and/or trade schools) wasn’t the normal American public school experience, nor was feeling challenged by both teachers and peers, nor being able to take every AP class in existence (seriously, we offered every single one—I even took AP Psychology my senior year as a bit of a lark), as well as four years of not commonly offered foreign languages, like Italian. I had no idea how much my parents paid in property taxes, or that in some places, pot holes were not immediately patched. Honestly, the only aspect I picked up on as abnormal was our winning state titles in pretty much every sport every year, and how much our parents cared about us succeeding in all of these areas (the town had, I shit you not, two different sports psychologists—always booked to the gills).
Equally important to the town’s psyche as the carefully engineered Stepford Childhoods, however, were the bar stool philosophers—world weary old men who would spend half their day sipping coffee on diner bar stools, hurling cynical gems at all who would listen.
These men were not just the construction workers letting off steam before paving roads at 6am in below freezing temperatures, though. No, they were your grandparents, uncles, and fathers, pulling you away from your idealized childhood and welcoming you to the desert of the real (before taking you to the land of make-believe, such as the aforementioned baseball complex, kids parties, or church). It was man time. It hardened you up. It let you know how the world really was. It was the bitter taste of black coffee jolting you into awareness. It was the scrapple on your plate of sunny side up eggs and home fries. Sometimes there was pie afterwards.
This is not something you really see in the south, unless you run into Northeastern expats. I’ve lived in three different southern cities over the past two decades, and never once have I heard an old man tell a pie-eyed small child over breakfast, “Listen, you can hope in one hand; shit in another; see which fills up first.” Not a once. And yet, this morning, amidst the promise of a new year, I found those precise words emanating from my mouth between bites of scrambled eggs.
I hold these two ideals in my hands as I struggle to compile resolutions for the coming year that are both hopeful and cynical. Let’s see which fills up first.
Resolution the First: I Will Write an Average of Three Articles Weekly During Baseball Season
At the very least, I will give you one series preview, one series recap, and one game thread. You can take that to the bank. That’s not all you’ll get from me this year, though...
Resolution the Second: 2019 Will be More 2014 than 2016-18
Remember when things were fun? Remember when Dansby was the Mansby, Carson Fulmer was staring holes through the back of each and every batter’s head, Walker Buehler took no days off, Rhett Wiseman’s neck burned with righteous fury, John Norwood said “Fuck you, Jobu, I do it myself,” Adam Ravenelle closed out the Cavalier Wahoos, and Turd Ferguson wore an oversized hat merely because it was funny? Remember the joy of kicking the ever-loving crap out of everyone we played? Remember the giddy mood we were all in, and how it held throughout the whole year?
In 2019, all of that is coming back. Say Hey to a murderer’s row lineup of JJ Bleday, Pat DeMarco, Austin Martin, Stephen Scott, Philip Clarke, Ethan Paul, Jayson Gonzalez, and the triumphant return of Julian “Chinfante” Infante’s power bat (trust me, last year was a prolonged slump, and 2019 will see the return of the Boom Stick). Welcome freshmen who will aggressively push them for playing time, such as John Malcom, Justyn Henry-Malloy, Dominic Keegan, Tate Kolwyck, et al. Welcome the big arms of Kumar “Harold” Rocker and Austin “Big Walnut” Becker, as well, as they try their damnedest to break into a top-heavy, veteran rotation featuring Drake Fellows, Patrick Raby, and Mason Hickman (with stiff competition expected from sophomore lefty Jake Eder)—and/or get innings in an increasingly stacked bullpen featuring flame-throwing lefties Jackson Gillis, Zach King, and Patrick Stover.
No one in college baseball will have three lefties in their bullpen with stuff like ours. Hell, few colleges will have one.
Strap yourselves in, boys and girls, this team is primed to dominate.
Resolution the Third: I Will Become Irrationally Angry During at least One Managerial Blunder Per Week
*Sidles up to the open diner stool...
Listen kids, without constructive criticism, it’s all participation trophies, grade inflation, and an epistemology of “what’s true depends on what you feel.” You don’t want this. You want the coach, teacher, colleague, writer, and/or significant other who calls you out on your bullshit. Otherwise, though outwardly coated in a gloss of praise, you’re full of shit. The only people who truly care about you are the ones who will call you out when you’re wrong. Trust them. Everyone else is just trying to get something out of you. Listen only the person who praises you when earned, and pans you when you deserve it. Pay this forward to others, as the world so clearly needs it.
Though Corbin is clearly the best coach Vanderbilt has ever had, in any sport, and I would not trade him for anyone, I will bring back my “Second Guesses No One Asked For” column when warranted. Remember, though Corbs had the keen eye and courage to get Tony Kemp on the field any way possible, he also thought the same about Ro Coleman. No man is infallible, and it is our job to call him out when he is wearing Ro colored glasses.
Resolution the Fourth: I Will Bring Back “Scouting Report” Columns
Each week, I will release a full scouting report on at least one Vanderbilt player. Click here and scroll for examples of both resolutions three and four. Hell, the whole column is also an example of resolution two, to be honest. This 2019 team is Omaha bound, damn it, and deserves the full 2014 treatment all damned year.
Resolution the Fifth: Get Back into Fighting Shape
Clearly, the aforementioned four resolutions will take care of getting me back into writing shape as a reporter, analyst, and columnist, but no list of New Year’s Resolutions is complete without acknowledging what the holiday season has done to your physical fitness. This past spring, summer, and fall, I took off 20 lbs, and did some sort of workout (hiking, jogging, weights, tennis, softball, or basketball) every day. With the winter, and no one willing to do anything with me outside anymore, I went into hibernation mode and put 5 lbs back on. I hate the gym. I love outdoor activities. I need to get past this during winter months.
Resolution the Sixth: Do Something Fun at least Once Weekly
This, believe it or not, might just be the hardest one. It is so easy, especially when the days shorten and temperatures drop, to concern one’s self only with work. Fuck that. I live in a city where, for example, four breweries have recently opened their doors (or moved to bigger and better locations) this year. I have literally no excuse not to find at least one day a week to get out of my routine.
*So what are your resolutions (Vanderbilt sports-based and otherwise)? Post in the comments below.