Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Friday At Target Field

On Friday, May 21st, I went to Target Field to see the Milwaukee Brewers play the Minnesota Twins. I went by myself, accidentally on purpose. I bought a scorecard and a pencil, and settled down in the right field bleachers, hangin' out with Michael Cuddyer and Corey Hart.

By the end of the first inning, the Twins had scored seven runs against Brewers starter Dave Bush, all on walks, singles, and doubles. Bush managed to record just one out before he got the hook (he got Justin Morneau to fly out to center). He walked in a run, too. At one point, Bush - normally a very quiet, noncombative presence on the mound - and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano got into a very heated argument, and both men had to be restrained from charging each other! Heh.

Well, obviously, it wasn't much of a game. The Twins took it, 15-3, including another crooked number: a five-run 4th inning against Brewers sad retread Jeff Suppan. But there were a couple other notable moments...

1. Carlos Gomez hit a home run! A three-run homer off sharp Twins starter Nick Blackburn. It was his first homer back here in Minneapolis, where he learned to be a man playing baseball, or at least slightly less of a boy playing baseball. When he tossed the bat after the ball had been well crushed to deep left field, it grazed Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Gomez was apparently unaware of this. Some players, were they to flip their bat and have it hit the opposing catcher, would be ducking and covering the next time they came up to bat - retaliation in the form of a beaning would be appropriate. However, since Carlos is such a goofy, unrestrained character, the Twins didn't seem to mind. Gomez apologized immediately after the game, and the Twins took it with good humor. But, for example, had it been "Hollywood" Braun? SMACK. PLUNK. CRUNCH.

2. Carlos Gomez fell over swinging at a breaking ball! That happened before the home run, and the crowd cheered and laughed a little. Again: we here in the Twin Cities are very familiar with Go-Go. I'm going to step in with a little editorial here: I fully support Carlos Gomez, and the way he plays ball. He's always exciting, even when his lack of finesse is maddening. This year, his good offensive numbers (power, on-base pct.) are up. As long as he plays his highlight-worthy defense in center field, and hits reasonably well, he can occasionally screw up the etiquette/refinement part of the game. Which, as we all know, is all kind of bullshit anyway. In today's media-friendly major leagues, Bob Gibson would be muzzled and/or drummed out of the game. More on that another time.

3. Todd Coffey! He ran out at full steam to finish the game in the 8th inning, when the Twins victory was just about inevitable. The fans sitting around me in the bleachers had never seen this guy before, and they were all very, very impressed. I wish he could've had his intro music ("The Ultimate Warrior Theme Song") playing, though - that would've probably been enough to start a Minnesota Twins Fans Who Love Todd Coffey Fan Club.

4. PLOOOOOOOOOOOUFFFE! Trevor Plouffe, a rookie from the Twins farm system, was brought up for this game to sub for the injured starting shortstop J.J. Hardy (a former Brewer, by the way). If there's one thing I've learned about crowds, it's that given the chance to shout/bellow/bay a word with the "oooo" sound in it, they will seize the moment with aplomb! BRUUUUUUUUCE... Bruce Springsteen. KUUUUUUUUUUUUUB... Jason Kubel. YOUUUUUUUUUUK... Kevin Youkilis. And now Trevor Plouffe. He acquited himself well, playing solid defense at short, and batting two for five with two RBI's and a double. Note: Ploof is the sound a sack of flour makes when dropped from the top of a ten-story building.

Allright, that's Friday, May 21st. The Brewers were, in a word, annihilated. But the weekend wasn't all lost for the Brew Crew - and I will write another entry soon about my very different experience at Target Field on Sunday, May 23rd. Stay tuned for the next installment of Nato's Rock And Roll And Baseball Blog, now with 100% more coverage of John Axford's moustache!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello Again (A Long Entry To Make Up For A Long Gap In Entries)

Hi everybody. Sorry it's taken me so long to update this dusty old blog, but I've been a very busy baseball-fan rock-and-roller. Let me explain...

First off, I went on tour. And for much of the tour, I was playing solo. That dramatically cuts down on free time. Then again, the way I tour (lazily), I'm not sure that's a good excuse! Anyway, it was a great time.

I played with my Twin Cities band (the Blue Diamond Band) in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. The first two were phenomenal - check out the pictures up at www.myspace.com/natocoles, if you're interested. But... Chicago! Oh, Chicago, you Sick Man of the Midwestern Scene*. Despite the heroic efforts of the awesome Blackbelts, there were few people at the show indeed. Based on my experiences elsewhere, with rabid fanbases numbering even into the high teens (!), I just can't fathom why Chicago would show me such a cold shoulder. Maybe I shoulda played Broukal's in Blue Island. Luckily, there was an awesome afterparty, with foosball and snacks. And drinks. And I'm pretty sure somebody had a prescription for their glaucoma if you know what I'm saying.

*In the 1800's, the Ottoman Empire was called "the Sick Man of Europe," because although it controlled lots of territory, it was a dysfunctional government with virtually no military power whatsoever, propped up only by the diplomatic machinations of England, Russia, Germany, and the like. This is pretty much the basis for the board game RISK.

Anyway, the Blue Diamond Band headed home after Chicago, and I headed east. After a couple good solo shows in Detroit (a bonfire with Bobby from The State Lottery) and Cleveland (at The Soggy Dog House, Cavs game on mute), accompanied on the long drives only by my trusty ally and confidantessa Sara ("The Most Powerful Woman In Washington D.C."), I made it to New York City.

I love New York City. I used to live there, and I have to admit, I miss the New Yorkiness of it all. The crowds! The buildings! The subway! The noise, the heat, the traffic... these things are almost charming, if you don't have to live amongst them day in, day out. And the people are great. Joining me for three east coast rock shows were Jon and Jimmy from the excellent band Sandworms, and my nominee for "Most Interesting Man In The World Who Does Not Prefer Dos Equis," Mario Viele (a St. Louis ex-pat who is pretty sure he knows who Albert Pujols is and that he's a pretty good batter or something).

It was great to see all my friends in Brooklyn. My old Used Kids bandmate Danny has a great new band called - brace yourselves - Marvin Berry And The New Sound. Great Scott!, what a good band name. Good band, too. We played one of my favorite shows I've ever played at Lulu's, a great bar in Greenpoint (neighborhood of Brooklyn). Also, with this Jon/Jimmy/Mario band, we played in New Brunswick, New Jersey. After that show, I played a solo set at one of my favorite unknown bars in America: McCormick's! Jay Insult DJ'd, because he is the best person to do that in the universe. And to ice the cake, I raced over to old Used Kids bandmate C.J.'s "Bad Hug Radio" show, and played some songs on that! Look it up. The last show with that band was in Philadelphia, at J.R.'s Bar. This bar is CRAZY. It was awesome, enough said!

For the rest of the tour, down to Florida and then back up to the Twin Cities, I was on my own. I had a picnic in historic Ft. Lauderdale, randomly encountering my very good friend Colin (who does sliceharvester.com, a document of one man's attempt to eat a slice of pizza at every pizzeria in NYC). I rocked Gainesville, Florida on Cinco De Mayo with The (acoustic) Grabass Charlestons, and Dave and Rich (acoustic) from Vaginasore Jr. (what a name!). I did an impromptu "Storytellers"-style set with Russ Van Cleeve from The Tim Version in St. Petersburg. Most importantly out of anything I did on this tour, I played a set of Tom Petty covers at Aaron and Robin's wedding on the beautiful Gulf Coast beach - which, at the time, was entirely oil-free.

On the way back north, I played a cool set in Atlanta, on a bill with one of my favorite bands I'd never heard before - North Trolls. In Chattanooga, I played requests to the loyal few in the backyard of JJ's on Dollar Beer Night! In other words, it went well. And in Carbondale... hoo boy.

I have two tales to tell of Carbondale. First off, on Ray Suburbia's orders, a bunch of my friends and I drove out to the hamlet of Neunert, IL, less than a mile from the Mississippi River near Fountain Bluff, to get insanely cheap, outrageously awesome fried chicken. Seems that Wednesdays, a bar out there called Bottoms Up has a special where you can get half a chicken for $2.50, plus dollar beers and dollar sides (including GREEN BEANS WITH BACON BITS, a favorite of mine). Well, word had gotten out, and it was the last Wednesday with college still in session at Southern Illinois U, so the wait was horrific: two hours and fifteen minutes for our food! But we waited (and took advantage of those dollar beers), and it was amazing. I can't remember the last time I ate so fast, or that fried chicken tasted so good.

The second tale is of the show. It started late. How late? LATE. It started at 2:30am! And that was just the first band! There were THREE BANDS, including me. I'm as night-owlish as they come, but I feared the worst: would anybody make it to the end with me? Nick said "play until dawn," and so I did. And believe it or not, a handful of folks did watch the whole thing! I took what requests I could, ending with "Achin' To Be" by the Replacements (as I often like to), put my guitar and harmonicas away, and scrambled up the block to crash on a soft couch in front of a cooling breeze from a fan. AHHHhhh...

Well, that's that. I got home on May 14th, had a birthday party, and have since settled back into Twin Cities Livin' (tm). That's the rock and roll side of things. Turning our attention to Cinco Diamond Sacks, here are some thoughts I have regarding the first quarter of the 2010 Major League Baseball calendar.

1. The Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, and New York Yankees are really good, because they can hit and they can pitch. One of these three teams is going to win the AL Pennant. Mark my words.

2. The Milwaukee Brewers are not really good, because they can't pitch. At all. Except for Yovanni Gallardo. And that's a shame, because their shitty overall record is going to steal Ryan Braun's 2010 NL MVP award away from him, and give it to some undeserving clown like Albert Pujols or something. Also not really good: the Kansas City Royals, the Seattle Mariners, the Bal'mor Orioles, and the Houston Astros. I'm not ready to nail the casket shut yet on anyone else, but it looks pretty grim for the aforementioned Fucked Five.

3. Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, and has been for the past five-plus years. Not that anybody in the mainstream media noticed, because most of those years were in Toronto. It occurs to me that if you asked the average Yankee fan, "who would you rather have starting Game One of the World Series, Roy Halladay or Andy Pettite?", that fan would definitely at least have to think about it.
3.a. It's really a shame that the Blue Jays can't draw fans anymore. The Skydome used to be ON FIRE when the Jays were playing at home. Now? Crowds at Toronto games at the Rogers Centre aren't quite down to Marlins tomblike numbers, but it sure looks a lot like some of those World Baseball Classic games when the Netherlands would square off against Italy (if that actually happened). Somebody in the Blue Jays organization really needs to shake things up.

4. Jason Heyward, that Atlanta Braves rookie phenom? FOR REAL. For my money, he's got Rookie Of The Year wrapped up. If Stephen Strasburg even wants consideration, he would have to combine Pedro Martinez's 2000 season with Eric Gagne's 2003, and toss in Micah Owing's bat to boot.

5. Did you think I'd get out of this entry without even mentioning the White Sox once? Well, the pitching has been a disappointment and hitting has been what we thought it would be (not great), and so they're headed straight for the middle, like the Replacements used to joke on long van rides... but we'll always have this (it's been all downhill since Opening Day, when this amazing play occurred): http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100405&content_id=9079870&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=cws

Ok. If you made it through my entire blog entry, good for you! The next ones will be shorter. I'm headed to two, if not all three of the Twins/Brewers games at Target Field this weekend. I will report back when I'm able! See ya later.