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2 posts from June 2011

June 17, 2011

A wall of their own

Fenway Park has its Green Monster, Wrigley Field its ivy. Old Crosley Field in Cincinnati had a terrace angling up to the outfield wall, which made life interesting -- and sometimes perilous -- for those chasing down fly balls.

Unique touches are part of a ballpark's charm and so it goes with the Martensdale-St. Marys High School diamond in the tiny town of St. Marys, south of Des Moines. When a hitter sends the left fielder back to the wall, you can take that literally. Because part of the left field fence truly is a wall _ the brick wall of an old gym.

There's no longer a school attached to it and it's not even a gym anymore. Now it houses -- get this -- an indoor hitting area. Martensdale-St. Marys may play in Class 1A, the division with the state's smallest schools, but it's strictly big-time when it comes to baseball.

The building's roof rises initially at a modest angle from the top of the wall, then inclines more sharply upward to the peak. A ball that hits off the wall is in play. A ball landing on the roof is a home run. Learning that bit of information took me back to my younger days when I'd stand in the barnyard of my grandparents' farm in western Ohio, toss a ball into the air and try to hit it onto the roof of the barn. Or, if I really got ahold of it (that happened only rarely), over the barn.

The St. Marys diamond, which sits on the east edge of town, doesn't have a barn. But a postcard-perfect white church stands beyond the right field fence, replete with stained glass windows and a tall, elegant steeple. I forgot to ask if a powerful left-handed hitter had ever broken one of those windows.

Naturally -- this being Iowa, after all -- a cornfield borders the ballpark down the left and right field lines. That adds to the challenge of finding foul balls that carry out of the park, but there's always a handful of youngsters eager to tromp through the rows of green stalks to find them.

On a warm summer evening, with the sun dipping behind the church, a baseball fan would be hard pressed to find a more bucolic spot to watch a game. Did I mention the concession stand? Alas, no cheese balls, but bag of popcorn, a hot dog and a large pop costs all of $3.50. Let's see, $3.50 in a major league park would get you, well, it probably wouldn't get you anything.

Topping it off, you get to see one heck of a high school baseball team. On Thursday night, Martensdale-St. Marys routed Winterset 18-3 (it took the Blue Devils only 3 1/3 innings to score all those runs) for its 60th straight victory, which broke the state record held by Lansing Kee, another small-school baseball giant. 

Highlighting the victory: Robert Walker tagged one onto the left field roof, the ball landing with a thump and rolling halfway to the top before tumbling back down. The church, on this night, escaped untouched.

If the Blue Devils win out and claim their second consecutive state championship, their streak could reach into the upper 80s.

Even those diehards at Fenway would be impressed with that.


June 02, 2011

Time Management: One day at a time

You've heard them before: "Time is money. There are only 24 hours in a day. Always set aside time for yourself. If you want time you must make it." Suggestions are everywhere regarding how to better manage that precious finite resource each day.

I've been exploring those tidbits of advice for a NAWBO-CI "happy coffee" I'm hosting on June 6 at 5 p.m. on the Greenbriar patio in Johnston. Women business owners will gather to share our time management strategies or perhaps the lack of them. We'll discuss what's working and what's not. I've downloaded 130 time management tips to see if there's some workable nugget that I haven't yet tried. There's always some idea worthy of consideration, but to insert another known phrase into this blog: Old habits die hard.

Yesterday was a time management gem for me. By 1 p.m. I'd completed all my appointments and the morning tasks that I'd prioritized to be done by 2 p.m. During the rest of the afternoon I was able to work on three projects at my desk; two of those had come up during my morning appointments and I'd labeled them "urgent." Yes, that pushed some "important, but not urgent" tasks to the top of today's list, but yesterday ended great. I quit working by 5:30 p.m. because it was a gorgeous day and I wanted to get out to enjoy it. The evening provided time to sit outside and relax, read, do a Sudoku puzzle or two and have a nice dinner with Chuck. Reminder to self: Savor June 1, 2011.

Because other days my ever-present to-do list is untouched by 10 p.m. When you're a sole proprietor in a service business, some days are spent reacting to pressing requests and living in the dreaded "fire fighter" quadrant Dr. Stephen Covey describes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. No amount of routine-building and establishing of priorities is going to work on those days. Yet that's one thing I love about being a freelancer: Every day is different. I haven't been bored in 31 years. And some mornings (hey, I've identified mornings as my most productive time) I even "make" time to write a blog! But as you can tell by my sporadic posts, blogging is in an "important, but not urgent" category for me. Hope to see central Iowa WBOs on Monday night to share time management insights.