Sunday, May 25, 2014

From the Archives: Baseball Spring Break in Florida

With former St. John's baseball catcher Joe Burke (the subject of one of the features I wrote for the team website) right before he got me drunk

Looking through my archives recently, I stumbled upon an assignment I had to write for one of my journalism classes. It was an easy assignment.

All I had to do was talk about what I did on my spring break that year. It was an exercise just to shake the rust out and talk about whatever we did in a captivating and entertaining way (even if your week included playing video games or mowing the lawn).

I can’t say any of my spring breaks were boring. My job with St. John’s baseball ensured arduous plane/bus rides, long hours punctuated by midnight peanut butter and jelly making, and meals provided by such high-regarded restaurants as Golden Corral and Shoney’s. I dropped into my first class back from the break infinitely more exhausted than when I last left it a week before.

But I loved every minute of it. There was a top step at the end of the dugout reserved for me every game, I got to see parts of the country I would have never seen otherwise (i.e. Fayetteville, Ark., and Corvallis, Ore.), and I was as close to the game I’ve loved since birth as I was ever going to get.

However, that doesn’t make for a good story, especially not for a cranky, older journalism teacher. There has to be some angst, some repression of urges, and some admission of torture to justify being an aspiring writer. So this pieces comes off more irritable and self-deprecating than reality.

Plus, I was 21. I didn’t know shit.

2005 St. John's Baseball

On the Couch in Florida
Some college students spent their spring break being rubbed down by exotic, tanned goddesses on some remote, tropical slice of heaven. Others could be found erasing memories of class by engaging in elaborate drinking games on some sandy beach. This writer chose to enjoy his spring break in a much different manner.

I spent one week…on a couch. It was a couch in sunny Florida, but still…a couch.

And I did so willingly and was completely sober.

Now, I know the questions that must be swirling around in your head. Why would a junior in college with a precious week off from papers and tests be spending every night sleeping on a couch? What would possess a newly christened 21-year-old to do so without the company of Sam Adams or The Silver Bullet?

It so happens that I am the head baseball manager for the St. John’s Red Storm baseball.

Okay, I made it sound a lot cooler and prestigious than it actually is. I am essentially, for lack of a better description, the team mother.

There are numerous perks that come with this job, including free trips to places such as Florida, Louisiana, and Minnesota. I get some cool NIKE gear free of charge and get a sizable grant for my tuition. However, there are times such as these (i.e. rooming with two coaches in a suite better suited for two and being forced onto the couch made for little people) that make me question what I do for a living.

My week consisted of ensuring that each room got a wake-up call, usually at some ungodly hour of the morning; setting up post-game meals, which received harsher criticisms than those handed out by The New York Times to first-time authors; and doing laundry, consisting of three different uniforms, laundry bags, and jock straps.

And sleeping on the couch.


I did get to watch 10 entertaining baseball games in 80-degree weather, while most of New York City suffered through February’s winter doldrums. I did get to bond with some of the country’s best collegiate athletes, many of whom may very well end up in (or close enough) to the major leagues. Of course, that entailed trucking back to the hotel to retrieve a forgotten jersey before game time, engaging in a prank war that consisted of baby powder and two buckets of water, and getting thrown into the pool, despite my embarrassing confession that I couldn’t swim. And sleeping on the couch. Sober.

You may be asking yourself, “What is this guy doing with his life?” Or my personal favorite, “Why is this educated, mature adult choosing to spend half his life doing laundry and cleaning up after a team full of knuckleheads and jocks?”

I really didn’t have an answer to either question until the last day of our trip. One of the coaches came up to me and in an unprecedented show of gratitude said,

“Outstanding job this week, Ford,” he said, while putting my hand in a vise grip. “We couldn’t have gotten through this week without you.”

To say I was taken aback would be the understatement of the century. In two years as the manager, I only heard feedback from the coaches if I royally screwed up (i.e. like the time I forgot to set my clock ahead and was an hour late getting the team breakfast).

I now felt like I belonged; like I was an equal part in our quest for glory. As we were winging back to the cold skyline of New York City, I gave myself an “A” for spring break 2005.

Even though I slept on the couch for a week.


But happy.

You can see a fraction of my face in the back of this photo. Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer had just won his 300th game at Hofstra.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Family History: 16 More Family Photos I Couldn’t Live Without

My Uncle Jimmy and friend Maurice in New York City

“Find any more pictures?”

My mother’s eyes lit up.

“Yes! I found that one of Jimmy I’ve been hunting around for. He’s on top of the Empire State Building!” Sure enough, she had found a picture of my Uncle Jimmy and his friend Maurice in the city I called home for 11 years. The best part of it is (aside from the hairdos) is that the east side of the city is behind them. One can make out the Chrysler Building, UN Headquarters, and the 59th Bridge going into Queens (and Roosevelt Island underneath it).

“He’s in my city!”

“It’s not your city anymore,” my mother said.

“She’ll always be my city. Even though she bled me dry and nearly sucked the life out of me.”

After eating a Whoopie pie—okay, fine, two Whoppie pies—I started scanning in some of the other treasures my mother had found since our last photo project. After adding the new ones to our collection, we realized our tally had reached nearly 400 family photos.

That’s a lot of Fords and Blanchettes.

Here are some of the other pictures I decided to share with the world (even though some of them might get me killed).

Grandma and Grandpa Ford looking young and in love. 

Here they are at their 45th anniversary party. Still pretty frisky. 

My cousin Melissa and I dancing at said party. That was the last time Daniel Ford pulled off wearing white pants. 

My mother’s sister Rolande and her husband Don (on right) with an unidentified couple. 

Another great photo of my mother’s sister Artheline. 

These compilations wouldn’t be complete without my Uncle Pit and his truly awesome hair. Here he is with my Tante Lucille. 

Uncle Stephen, Aunt Kathy, and my father hanging out. So far, we’ve only found one picture that includes my Aunt Ellen. 

My Uncle Bobby looks thrilled with my mother in this picture. 

These Mainers are up to no good. My mother is the second from the left. My cousin Ivan is in the cage. No one knows why...

No one looked cooler than my Uncle Jimmy out and about. He always looked like he was about to get into trouble and enjoy doing so. During one of the last conversations we had, I told him not to get into too much trouble in the hospital. "Don't worry, if there's trouble here, I'll find it," he said. He was pretty sick, but he still had plenty of humor left. As you can see in the following picture, I can't quite pull off the same look (although I did manage to convince a beautiful woman to sit next to me):

(That sound you hear is my mother screaming, "Oh my god! You look just like him!)

Speaking of uncles I look like: my Uncle Clifford’s wedding.  

My Pépère is unimpressed with being surrounded by several young girls. 

To keep things fair, here is one of me wearing a Superman outfit. My cousin Judy—who I followed around like a shadow—is helping me tie my cape. 

My Aunt Avie (who my father calls "a peach") with my grandmother. I’m going to let my Aunt Kathy write the rest of this caption: “How beautiful can any woman be! You can see by these pictures that her sweetness has always been there (except when she talked about that girl's basketball coach that she couldn't stand or the Red Sox!).”

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