Blogging from A-Z – Book review: ‘Intentional Walk’

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “I.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)


BerkmanGraphicCardinal red runs through my family’s veins. Well … at least most of them.

For me it’s Dodger blue.

And when I say “me,” I mean Me, Myself and I. As far as I can tell, I am the one and only Dodgers fan in my family. (It started in the mid-1970s with Steve Garvey; I was in junior high.)

A couple of years ago, when our two teams met in the playoffs, things got a little tense at Mom’s house. (Bruce and I watch games there because she’s the one with the TV.) I had to watch in frustration as yet another Dodgers team fell just short of a World Series berth. Oh, well; I’ll always have 1978 (that’s the first year they won the pennant after I switched my loyalty from the Reds).

But once the Dodgers are out of a pennant race, I become a true-blue Cardinals fan and my mother and I can be lovey-dovey again. 🙂 (Bruce just sits on the sidelines and keeps his mouth shut – mostly – because he’s a fellow who knows what’s good for him.)

IntentionalWalkCoverI knew that my favorite Cards pitcher, Adam Wainwright, team manager Mike Matheny and left fielder Matt Holliday professed to be Christians, but I hadn’t realized that the team was known for having several Christians on its roster – until I saw Intentional Walk on the BookLook Bloggers list. Although I jumped at the chance to read the book, it has taken me a couple of years to get around to writing the review. (Don’t judge me. The BookLook folks don’t; they just won’t send me another free book until I post this review!)

Written by Rob Rains, the book is subtitled “An Inside Look at the Faith that Drives the St. Louis Cardinals.” In it, I learned the faith backgrounds of several players and crew members.

It didn’t go deep, though.

The book, while interesting, is uneven in spots and at times seems to have been written by a high school student who spent a few weeks doing research and then strung some interesting facts into a book report for senior English. The writing is a bit unsophisticated, and I’d like to have gone a little deeper with some of the stories. (I probably would’ve given the student a C+ … maybe a B-.)

Each chapter is a mini-bio of a particular player and his faith walk. And each chapter begins with a Bible verse, but many times I was left scratching my head as to what the verse meant to the particular player or how it related to the summary of his faith. The author did a poor job of connecting the dots. (Did he just pick a bunch of verses that sounded good and slap them on each chapter?)

But at least one reference made sense: “Kolten Wong’s faith is with him every day – his favorite Bible verse, Proverbs 3:6, is tattooed onto his back.” This revelation is in the middle of the chapter on James Ramsey and Wong, who at the time (2012) were just team prospects – they weren’t playing in St. Louis yet.

Despite some foul balls (sorry, I can’t help myself), the book does score on some levels.

The prologue alone is worth the price of admission. It gives insights into Matheny’s character and includes a letter he wrote to parents of a Little League team he managed in the late-2000s, after he retired as a player. In it, Matheny outlines what he expects of the players and their parents. I like his honesty:

“I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. … I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the boys. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans.”

He outlines his three main goals for the team, then says, “We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires, no matter what.”

And the chapter on broadcaster and former pitcher Rick Horton talks about a dark period for the team in 2002: the deaths – four days apart – of broadcaster Jack Buck, who had worked for the Cardinals nearly 50 years, and 33-year-old player Darryl Kile.

The story of Matheny’s reaction to Kile’s death is poignant. Matheny, a catcher at the time, was extremely close to pitcher Kile. I’ll let you read that story for yourself.

This is a decent book that gives an inside look into some Cardinals’ lives. I wouldn’t say Rains knocked it out of the park, but he didn’t strike out, either. (Sorry; I have a sickness.) It was a pleasant enough read, well worth the $2.99 on Kindle or, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Cards fan, maybe the full price for a hard copy at ($11.99) or Amazon (paperback starting at $7.80).

I just wish it came with a box of Cracker Jacks.

BookLook Bloggers (formerly BookSneeze) sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in receiving free books for writing unbiased reviews, visit BookLook here.


Tomorrow: J is for ‘juvenile’ (or Type 1) diabetes.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

Share this post:

Remembering before they’re gone

My dad was already 10 years gone from us by the time I started writing a blog two years ago. So everything I’ve written about him has been tinged with the golden glow of memory. Most of what I’ve written about Dad has been about what a wonderful man he was – with a note or two along the way about the not-so-desirable traits I inherited from him (we won’t get into that in this post). Even though he wasn’t a saint, from my daughterly perspective he hung the moon.

But his death is not the only one to have touched me deeply in the intervening months.

Three days ago I attended the funeral of the second of my mom’s brothers to die this year – my Uncle Charles.

Uncle Bill died in March in Yuma, Ariz., where he had lived for more than four decades, including much of my childhood. I never even started writing about him because I just didn’t know how I could say what was in my heart. I didn’t think I could do our relationship justice – Uncle Bill was very special to me.

Because I didn’t get to see Uncle Bill the last time I had an opportunity (something I will always regret), I made sure I saw Uncle Charles two weeks ago, when it was apparent the end was near.

I was expecting him to be so medicated on painkillers that he wouldn’t recognize me, but when I got to his bedside and Mom said, “Suzy’s here,” he smiled. Didn’t open his eyes – just smiled. I stood there a few minutes and just stroked his shoulder. Then later, when Mom and I stood to leave, I took his hand and he squeezed mine.

Such a little thing, but so profound when you know it’s probably the last time you’ll see someone you love so much.

Uncle Charles died Monday, Oct. 26, in Batesville, Ark.

He, too, was a special uncle to me. One of the two pastors who preached his funeral on Thursday talked about what a sweet spirit he had, the other about his being a good friend and wise counselor. Okay, yes, those things were true. But what overpowers my memory about Charles Taylor was that he was mischievous. His antics – like licking his finger and swiping it across your eyeglasses, or pulling your hair ribbon that your mom had tied just-so – were what we talked about after the funeral, my aunts and cousins and I.

He was a mischief-maker and all-around fun-loving guy. But the truest thing that was said about him on Thursday was that he loved his family. No doubt about that. He doted on his wife and daughters and grandchildren.

But what I thought about as we were pulling out of the church parking lot on the way to bury my Uncle Charles was not about the dead, but about the living.

About how much I love my brother.

About how I don’t need to wait until someone’s gone to express my feelings.

I’m not sure whether JT noticed that I hugged him a little longer than usual the last time I saw him – the weekend I said my unspoken goodbye to Uncle Charles in the hospital.

Maybe Bruce’s illness has hit me harder the past couple of years than I have spoken about. (Bruce might disagree that I have left anything unsaid.) We have decided to move to Batesville to be closer to Mom, JT and his girls, not to mention the aunts, uncles, cousins and church family I left behind 23 years ago in search of adventure.

That was half my life ago (I will turn 47 this month). And half a life is enough time to start appreciating the good fortune I had to grow up in a small town (two small towns, actually), where the people at the bank not only know you by name, but they’ve known you since before you knew you wanted to leave them for “bigger and better things.”

The good fortune to grow up with parents who stayed married to each other to the end, with a brother who – even amid sibling conflict of sometimes-epic proportions – still managed to love his little sister in ways that surprised her.

My brother and I are polar opposites. He makes friends easily and I have to know you awhile before I trust you. He goes on gut reaction, while I psychoanalyze everything before making a single move. He can’t sit still for more than five minutes, and I’d spend an entire day reading a good book if I had the time. Et cetera.

Despite our different approaches to life, our basic moral values are the same. After all – despite opinions and theories to the contrary – we came from the same womb.

We were raised by the same two parents, who taught us both to love God, country, apple pie and baseball. (Although the subject of baseball, in itself, casts suspicion on that conclusion – he’s a darn Yankees fan!) [Note: Since reading this post, JT has made it clear that, while he does enjoy a good Yankees slugfest, his veins bleed Cardinal red.]

My bubby is a real guy. He hunts, watches sports ad nauseam, plans Friday-night card games with his friends, mans the grill when we get together for barbecues. And, even though he has two daughters, he doesn’t quite get all that “girlie stuff.”

That’s all okay – in fact it’s the way it’s supposed to be – even though he is not exactly like me. (Would our mother be able to handle it if he were?!)

Like Uncle Charles, and Uncle Bill, and Dad, my brother JT loves his family. Even though the ways he demonstrates it may be subtle at times, it’s an undeniable fact. (He has a big heart, but he’s more likely to express his feelings in deeds than words.)

He calls my mother, his next-door neighbor (actually, their back yards adjoin), every day. When he’s on the night shift, he calls her from work before her bedtime. When he needs to know (or tell) something, he calls her. He is protective of her, as he should be. He buys her groceries for her, mows her lawn, drives her to work when the streets are icy. I’m grateful, because I’m too far away to be of much help with those everyday, practical things.

JT and Mom are so much alike, just as Dad and I were alike. They “get” each other in ways I’ll never understand. I’m glad. I’m glad to know she has him to take care of her in ways big and small.

And when Bruce and I move to Batesville (Lord willing), my brother will take care of us. And we’ll take care of him.

Isn’t that the way it should be?

Share this post:

Random thoughts

My fans (all three of you people who read my blog) have been admonishing me to publish something. I haven’t posted in a while, but not for lack of wanting to. I’ve just been extremely laz — err, busy.

So, while I wait for my mom’s tax return to finish printing, I’ll grace you with some of the fascinating things I have been doing, thinking or saying lately:

  • After two weeks of working on it in spurts, I have finally finished Mom’s tax return. No, you cannot borrow money from her. Because she helped her children so much last year, there is nothing left to loan. Thanks, Mom. We owe you.
  • I chopped off my fingernails the other day to get better at the little game on my new cell phone that I am obsessed with (the game, not the phone), and it didn’t make one bit of difference. Even with nails cut to the nub, I am still pitiful at batting a little ball with a paddle at a bunch of electronic bricks.
  • I make up little songs, sometimes to amuse Bruce, sometimes to amuse myself. Frequently these little ditties are about the dogs. Almost all of them are about what I happen to be doing at the time I sing them. If Bruce isn’t amused, he doesn’t let me know it. He makes up random funny songs, too. We’re weird together.
  • I would love to be in a musical. Like South Pacific, The Music Man, Oklahoma! or my favorite, Camelot. Or how about The Sound of Music II: Suzl, the Forgotten von Trapp? I would be great in that! Not that I can sing.
  • Although Saturday night was an exception (I went to bed at 7:30), I have been staying up until nearly 10:30 lately! (I don’t think I’ve adjusted to daylight saving time yet.) Still, unless you’re my mother, my brother or my husband, or you’re bleeding from both eyes, don’t call me after 9 p.m., even on weekends. I will be mad at you.
  • It’s spring! And I pulled weeds this weekend (both days). And when I got tired of pulling the little suckers, there were still a BUNCH of them left. Today after I got tired and decided not to pull any more weeds, two neighbor boys rode their bikes up to my driveway and asked me if I had any work for them. Now I’m $10 poorer, but my rose bed looks a lot better. They want to come and mow the lawn in a few days. I think I’ll let them. (Note to self: Restock the Popsicle stash.)
  • I LOVE seeing kids take some initiative and get out and earn some money instead of sitting on their bee-hinds in front of the TV or a computer.
  • The dogs finally got baths today. This hadn’t happened since (don’t tell anyone) November. Salsa didn’t like it, but she didn’t bite me once!
  • My friend Lynn, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago (yikes, it’s been nearly three months!), is going to share the Basket-A-Month with me this year. Next weekend is the pickup. SPRING VEGETABLES! FARM-FRESH EGGS, HOMEMADE PASTA! SOURDOUGH BREAD! I’M YELLING BECAUSE I’M DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY!!!!! And Lynn said she’d bring me some of her asparagus and a couple of good recipes. Double happiness!
  • Baseball season is almost upon us, and I’m thinking of Travelers and sunshine. And hot dogs, which absolutely must be consumed at baseball games, no matter what.
  • I’m reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I started reading in college but never finished. My favorite journalism professor recommended it, although it was not required reading. I didn’t do a lot of extracurricular reading in college. I was too busy with the school newspaper and reading for classes. But I’m enjoying this book once again, and I’m determined to finish it this time.
  • I have new flip-flops. They’re black. Well, they’re sort of brown now, because of the weed-pulling.
  • I’m supposed to be making a blackberry-jam cake for my neighbor, who’s going to pay me for it, but she didn’t give me a deadline and I keep putting it off. It’s the pressure. She had one at a friend’s out of town, and it was to-die-for delicious, and I’ve had to Google to find a recipe that seems to approximate what she had. So, pressure. Which makes me procrastinate.
  • More pressure: My church is doing a 25th-anniversary cookbook, and I’m supposed to provide a recipe for my “signature” dish, and I can’t decide whether to share my recipe for carrot cake, which I make money from, or be selfish and keep it to myself. My other cake recipe that gets rave reviews is from Paula Deen, and I want to make sure we won’t be violating any copyrights before I share it. It’s called White Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling. It’s lick-the-bottom-of-the-pan good. I don’t think I’ve shared photos of it that I took when I was making business cards year before last. So let’s end this on a happy foodnote:


Click the comment button to share some of your own random thoughts.

Share this post:

Going green

Today is green day in Jerusalem’s Week of Color.

The pictures I chose for today are a little more meaningful than the previous ones. The first is of cookies for my church’s Christmas Interrupted celebration year before last. I didn’t make the cookies — I think my friend Alicia did — but they depict two aspects of the holiday for me. Christmas cookies always mean fun, and Alicia made them just a little whimsical with the green candies (or is that icing?). But the star shape also makes me think of the star in the East, the one that guided the wise men to worship our Savior.


The next picture, also from 2006, is of a park in Kerman, Calif., where my brother, J.T., played Little League baseball. My parents, my best friend and I spent many hours on those bleachers, cracking open bag after bag of sunflower seeds and dropping the shells down below us while we watched my brother and our neighbor boys play the sport I will always love.

In June 2006, when I had a business trip to California, I talked my mom into going with me. We met up with some old friends, and they drove us around our little hometown, which isn’t so little anymore. I took pictures of the first house I remember living in (on E Street); our church (First Southern Baptist Church and its mission, Primera Iglesia Bautista); the elementary school my brother and I attended (Kerman-Floyd); and Kerckhoff Park …

Kerckhoff Park June 2006
Share this post:

Baseball blues

I may be wasting words by talking about the World Series. It’s not like my Dodgers (or even my family’s beloved Cardinals) even came close, so I shouldn’t be commenting on four teams that I had previously given so little thought to. But it’s baseball, so I must comment.

When the playoffs began, I didn’t much care who won, but I still had to choose a National League team and an American League team. In the AL, I actually rooted for the Red Sox until the Indians started whooping them, then I switched allegiance (can you say “fair weather fan”?). Besides, the Indians eliminated the Yankees; gotta love ’em for that! Then the Sox made a comeback and routed the Indians. Oops.

In the NL, I picked the Diamondbacks over the Rockies, but the Rockies were on a roll and I was impressed. So when the Series started, it was Colorado or bust! But Boston was on a roll, too. By the end of Game 4, I was yelling at the Sox: “Just hurry and put them out of their misery!”

And they did. Swiftly.

I guess I have to hand it to the Red Sox. They just couldn’t be stopped.

Way to go, Sox.

Share this post: