Saturday, May 21, 2011

30 and Counting...Still

A couple years ago, I wrote that my goal was to see a game at all the current major league parks by the end of the 2017 season. Not surprisingly, the time frame of that goal is beginning to look a little unrealistic. Honestly, I'll be happy to simply reach the point someday where I can say that I've visited all of the existing ballparks, so I'll amend the goal as such.

At the time, my number stood at 18 of the 30 active ballparks. Since then, I've visited two new ones, Turner Field and the new Yankee Stadium, but this only brings my active total to 19, as the Twins subsequently moved out of the Metrodome and into their new digs, Target Field.

Coincidentally, 30 is actually the number of total ballparks I've visited, including 11 that are no longer current major league parks. To keep track of this, I've created this Ballparks Visited page on the blog because, to be honest, I constantly find myself having to peruse the standings in order to refresh my memory regarding my personal count. Now, hopefully I won't have to do that anymore.

Since I added no new parks to my list last year, a couple ideas involving multiple stadiums have already been discussed this year. First, my friend Will suggested we attend the SABR convention in Long Beach, California in early July. Conference registration includes trips to two major league ballgames, at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium, but Will nixed the idea before I could get on board.

Later that month, KJ is attending a conference, also in Long Beach. If I choose to accompany her, schedules would permit trips to both Petco Park in San Diego and Angel Stadium, but we'd need to stick around until the weekend to hit Dodger Stadium on Friday night. Unfortunately, the weekend in question is when the Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place, so neither of these Southern California plans will allow me to get to all three of these parks at once.

We haven't ruled that trip out yet, but the latest idea is a September long-weekend mini-road trip to Citi Field in Queens, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Nationals Park in Washington. Stay tuned for more on those plans, if you're so inclined.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rox Looking to Bring a Can-Am League Crown to the City of Champions

Brockton, the seventh largest city in Massachusetts, refers to itself as the "City of Champions," mainly due to two legendary boxing champions—Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler—who called Brockton home.

The Italian-American Marciano was born and raised in Brockton. Hagler's birthplace was Newark, New Jersey, but his family moved to Brockton during his early teenage years, and it was there that his boxing career got its start.

But, it's the Brockton Rox—of the independent Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball—who, following a strong 2010 campaign, are looking to bring some glory back to the South Shore city they call home.

As my eight or so loyal readers are well aware, KJ and I recently moved to the South Shore, less than a half hour from Brockton. A few months ago, we decided to purchase a flex pack of 12 vouchers to Brockton Rox games. Each voucher can be exchanged for a game ticket at the stadium's ticket office, so we're looking at probably attending at least six games this year.

My father is a Hudson Valley Renegades season-ticket holder, and I love the idea of having our own local team to root for on a regular basis. So, we're definitely candidates for being future Rox season ticket holders. We just need to check out the product first, before we make such a commitment.

The Rox open their 2011 season with a seven-game home-stand from May 26 to June 1. That stretch runs through Memorial Day weekend, so KJ and I plan to attend our first game of the season, most likely on Friday, May 27. Of course, I'll be blogging about all of our experiences, and maybe even writing a post or two about the Can-Am League in general, and the Rox specifically, prior to the start of the season.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Frequent Spins (2011.3)

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys!
"Station Approach," the opening track of Elbow's 2005 release, Leaders of the Free World, was an absolute eagle in my book, but the rest of the album never lived up to the expectations created by that first song. Still, based on just one song, I've been waiting for this band to reach that potential, and finally they have. While there are no eagles here, there are a few birdies, and that's enough to capture my attention.

J Mascis - Several Shades of Why
I was living in New Hampshire when the Dinosaur Jr. front-man's first solo album, Martin + Me, was released. I was shopping in my favorite record store, Portsmouth's Rock Bottom Records, and asked the clerk what she thought of it. Her response was that it was basically Mascis's "Unplugged" record, and while he was definitely not capable of melodic folk, she really liked the album. 15 years and three solo releases later, Several Shades of Why is a much more melodic effort than anything he's released before. Somewhat surprisingly, that turns out to be a good thing.

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now
There was a time when it seemed every band had an expiration date. That is, a point where the momentum of their early, defining material wears off and they try—repeatedly and unsuccessfully—to reinvent themselves. That point came for R.E.M. almost 20 years ago. Then, in 2008, they went back to basics with Accelerate, and it worked. Three years later, they continue that no-nonsense approach with Collapse Into Now, proving there's really a very simple formula for artists looking to extend their shelf lives.

The Strokes - Angles
The Strokes are a band that seems to be in jeopardy of becoming the Joe Charboneau of indie rock. Maybe there's a better baseball analogy than that one, but Charboneau always comes to mind when thinking of someone who burst on the scene showing so much promise, only to fade to oblivion shortly thereafter. Of course, that's not entirely the case here, despite the fact it's been ten years since their debut, Is This It, and they're just releasing their third subsequent album, with none of them anywhere near as good as their first. At times, I've thought this is their second best album, but reality is it's about as good as the prior two. That is, much better than any of Charboneau's post-rookie seasons, just not as great as the one that got everybody excited.

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
This one came recommended by a couple different reputable sources. Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers called it his favorite album of this year so far, and Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis selected Vile as his opening act for some early 2011 tour dates. Pitchfork's review plays the "name three artists" game, referring to Vile as "...channeling  the energies of John Fahey or Tom Petty or even Bob Seger," which is quite an interesting perspective. While I've definitely been enjoying this album, it's not instantly catchy, in my opinion. So, you may have to be a little patient to try and decide if this will be one that falls into the "rewards repeated listens" category.

Lucinda Williams - Blessed
I'd almost given up on the artist who I've always considered the queen of alt-country, but with this year's release of her best album in a decade, it's occurred to me that she's much better when she waits at least three years between album releases. While her last few efforts were a little too focused on the bluesy side of her persona, Blessed marks a bit of a return to her rocking side, a la Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, an album that was famously six years in the making. Not that this record comes anywhere near the brilliance of Car Wheels, but it's a pleasant return to the style that turned me on to Lucinda in the first place.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Beer for Breakfast?

Sunday, my brewing partner AB* stopped by with two six-packs and two 22-oz. bombers of our most recent brew, I've Seen All Good Maple Bacon Porter. We'd been trying to get together for the past couple weeks to taste it for the first time, but life just kept getting in the way.

*I've been referring to him as just "my brewing partner" for quite some time, mainly because I mask everyone's true identity on this blog with a nickname or pseudonym, and I just haven't been able to think of an appropriate one for him. AB, in fact, are his real initials, but I assure you he's not August Busch.

When we developed the original recipe, our expectation was that it's alcoholic content would wind up in the 5.5-6% range. Unfortunately, the final specific gravity reading we took just prior to bottling told us otherwise. Our brew had only fermented enough to reach 4% alcohol. I'm not really sure why. The obvious answer would be we didn't let it ferment long enough, but by all indications, that wasn't the case.

Regardless, considering its two most unique ingredients are maple syrup and bacon, I'm rationalizing that we intended all along for it to be a breakfast beer. So, the next time KJ makes me bacon, eggs and pancakes, I think an I've Seen All Good Maple Bacon Porter will make the perfect accompaniment.

As far as the results are concerned, the bottles we opened were a bit over-carbonated. Inconsistent carbonation is fairly common in home brewing, so it's possible they're not all like that. Otherwise, in all likelihood, we overdid it with the maple syrup used for bottle priming. That wouldn't be a big surprise, considering it was the first time we used this particular ingredient as a substitute for priming sugar.

Taste-wise, I'm quite pleased. AB says he could recognize a very subtle maple flavor, although I didn't. I did, however, enjoy its full-bodied flavor and pleasant smokiness. It isn't exactly what we expected—although we weren't really sure what to expect—but is another brew that we're proud to consider an AfroDan original.