FlatGround

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I have a new Twitter addiction.

FlatGround.

Created by Rob Friedman, FlatGround uses social media to prevent pitchers from falling through the cracks, giving them the best chance to be seen by someone and keep playing this great game. Every day, dozens of pitchers post videos of bullpen sessions and the appropriate statistics of age, height, weight, and how hard they throw various pitches. And every day, I scroll through the bullpens, studying the mechanics of young pitchers from coast to coast.

Not only are these pitchers getting offers from colleges and independent baseball teams and affiliated baseball teams, major league pitchers are also keeping tabs with the account and passing along wisdom and advice to the next generation.

How cool is that?

Tip of the hat to Lance McCullers and others.

I wish FlatGround would have been an option when I was 16. I might have kept playing for just a little longer, long enough to let my body begin to catch up with my heart and dreams.

There’s a part of me that thinks it would be fun to post a FlatGround video. Maybe I could ramp up my fastball to 60 or 62 mph and then break off a nice 48 mph slider.

I think my best submission, though, might be this simple video of playing catch with Jim “The Rookie” Morris at the K.

44 RHP with master’s degree.

Author.

5’11”

185

Sits low 60s. Working on secondary pitches.

Played catch every day of 2018.

Catch-partner is Jim “The Rookie” Morris at Kauffman Stadium.

Looking for opportunities to tell stories and encourage baseball dreamers and throw out a first pitch for the Royals.

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Kurt and the Giant Fork

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There is a giant fork in Springfield just outside the offices of Classy Llama in Chesterfield Village. I wrote a poem about it in This is My Springfield; Brad took a photo of it and Sophie also illustrated it. There is a plaque at the base of the fork that reads:

Fork Etiquette

Welcome to the world’s largest fork,

standing 35 feet, made of polished stainless steel

and signifying the home of The Food Channel.

Please enjoy it and be safe, but stay on the concrete.

Hashtag your photos #worldslargestfork

Giant Fork - 1.jpg Kurt is the CEO of Classy Llama and Nucleus Commerce and invited me inside. I couldn’t find any accompanying knife or spoon.

“I make lots of messes that other people have to clean up.”

He’s excited about launching a leadership training course publicly later this year as well as taking the education of his children to the next level.

“They are home-schooled and will be coming to the office a couple days a week.”

Kurt’s a teacher at heart and loves the opportunities to share his knowledge with others. He’s not necessarily a baseball fan, it’s been decades since he last played catch, but he understands and appreciates the strategy behind the game. I played catch with the southpaw behind the brick walls which helped shield us from the steady west breeze. We discovered a common love of Lord of the Rings and I told him the story behind the wedding ring I now wear on a necklace.

“You don’t get to choose who you are. You get to discover who you are and do your best to live accordingly,” Kurt said, which reminded me of something Elrond said to Aragorn, “Put aside the Ranger…become who you were born to be.”

I think last year was a year of discovery. Playing shapes imaginations and souls and encourages cooperation and conversation. I’ll be figuring out the best way to live accordingly in response for quite some time.

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Many thanks to Don West, Corey Riggs, and Mediacom for sharing the story of Catch 365!

Dear Shoeless Joe

joe

Dear Shoeless Joe (The Movie),

I love baseball.

From the major leagues to the movies, I am absolutely convinced baseball tells some of the best stories about what it means to be human.

Field of Dreams reminds us of the importance of relationships and that it’s okay to chase ridiculous dreams, even if no one else understands them at the time.

The Sandlot instills the importance of always playing this game with the joy and passion of a kid.

A League of Their Own and 42 teach us that baseball is a sport for all people.

Ever since I was introduced to Shoeless Joe via Field of Dreams, I have hoped for his innocence. A player of his caliber deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

I am writing because, at this time, I cannot contribute financially to this project. But if you need extra ballplayers for the filming, I have experience.

I was an extra in the documentary First Boys of Spring, quietly acting as third baseman for the Red Sox. I’ve been on camera a couple of times over the last year as I just concluded 366 days of playing catch. My arm’s in great shape and I have my own antique glove. Maybe this video can serve as an audition.

If you have no need for me, I understand. But, if filming brings you anywhere near Missouri, please let me know. I’d love to connect with you for a game of catch.

I cannot wait to see your movie in December!

For love of the game,

Ethan Bryan

To support or help spread word of the movie project, click here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shoeless-joe-the-true-story-movie#/.

Windy Queen City

Even in this wind, a wind that blew down multiple sections of the fence in my backyard, my hat stayed on. That’s the sign of a good hat.

I was back at the field where, in the middle of an interview with Daniel, the daily catch-playing resolution finally stuck. Daniel has since moved on to a new job, leaving for DC last fall. The storyteller in me wanted the resolution of one more game of catch with him, to end the year like it started.

Hannah, graciously, agreed to play catch.

She’s on Day #5 with the Daybreak team at KOLR, recently moving to Springfield from Chicago after graduating from Illinois State University. She asked questions about the catch-playing year, lessons learned, and even asked if I still had a flip phone.

I was quite proud to show off my new flip phone.

The roaring wind must have felt like home. It reminded me of the two days my family spent in the Windy City last summer. I told Hannah the stories of meeting and playing catch with Shaun and Shane at Millennium Park. And then Hannah told me her baseball story.

Last summer, she went to DC.

To cover MLB’s All-Star Game.

And interview all the Cubs.

And Bryce Harper.

“When it was Bryce against Schwarber in the finals of the home run derby, I was pulling for Schwarber, but I was pretty happy when Bryce won it, too.”

I only asked one question about the Chicago Bears and then the topic was dropped.

Much, much too soon.

As a Chiefs fan, I know the horrors of playoff football. I’m already nervous for the game against the Colts on Saturday.

So, Hannah and I played catch as the wind blew the ball here and there, exaggerating any natural movement we had on underhand tosses.

As we parted ways, I promised her a copy of This is My Springfield as a gift welcoming her to the Queen City.

Looking forward to the stories you’ll tell, Hannah!

Long Ball City

lbc ben 2

One swing

changed everything.

The home run that sticks out most clearly in my mind is Alex Gordon’s bottom of the 9th inning blast in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series. My whole family was already in bed when he hit the bomb to straightaway centerfield. I jumped up and down and pumped my fist and the dog went crazy. I quietly tiptoed to the bedroom and whispered the news to my wife who had no recollection of it the next morning. The next day, I wrote a poem as tribute to Gordon’s baseball heroics.

Ben is convinced that the home run is the most exciting play in sports. He’s started a new side hustle celebrating famous moon shots, big flies, and taters.

“Because hitting a spherical baseball with a cylindrical bat is the most difficult thing to do in sports, the collective excitement generated by the longest of such hits should be celebrated in distinctive ways,” he wrote on the website for Long Ball City.

I’ve been following Ben’s journey on Twitter and Facebook where he updates new designs as well as the stories behind them. I already have one Long Ball City t-shirt, the one commemorating George Brett’s Pine Tar Incident at Yankees Stadium off of Goose Gossage. The next one on my wish-list is the Route 66 Rocket, a design honoring the baseball program at Missouri State University.

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Ben is gearing up for the second semester at MSU where he’ll be teaching three courses including one that will end with the Create-A-Wrestler Contest. I cannot wait to see the winners. He’s also preparing to get back in the booth with Art Hains, calling the baseball games for MSU, and making plans to head to Omaha for the College World Series.

Ben showed me the design work for future t-shirts featuring the Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and North Carolina Tar Heels.

At Fassnight Field, in front of an audience of handball players and others enjoying this incredibly sunny day, Ben and I played catch and dreamed audacious dreams for 2019.

One Swing

One swing

changed everything.

Self-narrated scenario of

countless backyard wiffle ball games,

sandlot games, video games,

baseball dreamers from

coast to coast.

World Series.

Ninth inning.

One out.

Fearless, nigh-unhittable

Reliever.

The weight of the hometown crowd

on your shoulders —

the same crowd who desperately tried

to

will

you

90 more feet

one year prior.

One swing

changed everything.

You touched first base

one finger

pointed to heaven.

Catch 365 Superlatives, Part Four

There are new catch-playing stories to come, starting tomorrow. The goal for 2019 is one or two stories per week. As for the conclusion of the 2018 Awards…

Surprise Catch-Playing Invitation, Unable to Accept I am positive I received an invite from someone in the Netherlands, though I have never been able to find it again. I can only figure I deleted it by accident.

Surprise Catch-Playing Invitation, Accepted – From Bob Dyer and Stan Sipka to play catch at the Field of Dreams (Day #206).

Best Soundtrack for Catch 365 – Aaron Unthank’s Courageous (Day #170) that we played together in his studio and Mark West’s (Day #335) One Green Baseball.

Best Game of Catch Across Language Barriers – With Little Bear (Day #142) of the Beijing Shougang Eagles from the National Pro Fastpitch League. Knuckleballs and curveballs are a universal language.

Biggest Surprise Stories – I had no idea that Phil (Day #361) was a Russian specialist for the Army and that Andy (Day #289) was documenting the largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

Game of Catch with the Most Heart – Bigby’s (Day #151) got the heart of a superhero and the scars to prove it.

Best Catching a Movie – With Jennifer and David (Day #99) at Alamo Drafthouse. A Field of Dreams fundraiser for Miracle League which covered the cost of 15 players.

The Energizer Bunny Award Goes to The Mighty Henry (Day #119). Born 3 months premature, Henry’s already had to keep on going, to keep persevering, to keep not giving up. And he does it with a contagious joy and energy. “We like the Royals. Me and Uncle E. We do.” It’s an honor to be his Uncle E.

Best Game of Catch with Dad – At the Field of Dreams, of course (Day #206, part 2).

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Happy 22nd Anniversary to Jamie!

honeymoon pic

Catch 365 Superlatives, Part Three

Sophie Catch 365 Charcoal

Best Art Inspired by Catch 365 – Sophie Bryan.

Largest Game of Catch on a Single Day –  Invited by Josh to do a storytelling (Day #297), with 42 different 5th grade students at Wilson’s Creek Intermediate School.

Best Motivational Speech – Coach Gum (Day #310), the head coach for the University of Central Arkansas Bears baseball team, stirred my soul when he talked about the importance of catch and presented me (and Kaylea) with team marbles.

Tallest Catch Partner – At 6’10”, Officer Boomgaarden (Day #54) takes this easily. The first time I tried to take a selfie, I cut myself out of the picture.

Most SUPER Game of Catch – Springfield’s Thor (Day #6). Superheroes are for real.

Most Catch Playing Venues in Two Days In mid-September, with Shane and Shaun (Days #258 and #259), we hit 11 different ‘official’ venues, plus an undocumented game of catch with the neighbor boy across the street.

Biggest Alex Gordon Fan Besides Me – I loved talking about Alex Gordon and the Royals with Nic (Day #325) and loved that he gave former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Kinney a hard time!

Best Game of Catch with Someone Affiliated with Both the Yankees and the Cardinals – Bill Virdon (Day #61). Rookie of the Year with the Cardinals. Manager of the Year with the Yankees.

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Superlatives, Part One.

Superlatives, Part Two.

Catch 365 Superlatives, Part Two

I did not play catch today.

Instead, I wrote about playing catch.

The next real game of catch is already in the works.

More accolades.

Longest Single Game of Catch – A therapy game of catch with Aaron Unthank (Day #256) lasted right at an hour. Therapy games of catch shouldn’t be rushed.

Coldest Game of Catch – 0 degrees. -15 wind chill. On January 16, in front of the Royals World Champions photo mural at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, with Josh Kennedy (Day #16).

Largest Charity Softball Game and Catch – Playing on Team Blue helping raise $2000. I was 0 – 2 at the plate, but I made a pretty sweet sliding catch. (Day #146)

Best Game of Catch That Turned into a Book – On Day #224, I met Lindsey and Skylar and heard of Skylar’s epic bucket list. “Love makes all dreams possible.” Skylar’s book, Sky’s High Dreams, raises money for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute.

Best Homegrown Field – Ryan Cellan (Day #150) in Wallingford, Iowa. Ryan’s continued working on his field throughout the year. It is positively beautiful.

Prettiest Natural Landscape – Playing catch with Baseball Seams Company founder Nate Rueckert (Day #149) in front of the roar of the falls.

Favorite Historic Games of Catch – Four-way tie.

  1. Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (Day #34).
  2. Mary Moore and Perry Barber at the field of the Rockford Peaches (Day #152).
  3. Jackie Robinson Field, home of the Daytona Tortugas (Day #171).
  4. Players of the AAGPBL at the NLBM (Day #250)

Because of these games, on my want list are the following jerseys:

  1. KC Monarchs, #22
  2. A Springfield Sallies or Rockford Peaches jersey
  3. A Montreal Royals jersey, #9

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Superlatives, Part One.

Catch 365 Superlatives, Part One

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My writing desk in the Royals room is covered with reminders and mementoes from Catch 365. Over the next couple of days, just like MLB awards CY Young and MVP and other honors after the season, I’ll name the superlatives of Catch 365.

Favorite Day of Catch – Every single one of them. Literally. Playing catch was the best part of every day. Thank you to everyone who joined me on this journey.

Favorite Glove – The old Wilson from Brett and Play OK Antiques (Day #28). The new Wilson A2000 from Wilson (Day #88). The George Brett Wilson with the blue laces, thanks to Justin (Day #353). I love Wilson gloves!

Longest Drive for a Game of Catch – Jim (Day #168) intentionally drove 611 miles to meet me for catch on his 50th birthday which was also Father’s Day.

 Catch Partner from the Farthest Distance – Simone (Day #143), the only female in Australia’s National Baseball Hall of Fame, was in Springfield because of the National Pro Fastpitch League. Approximately 9300 miles between our homes.

Most Encouraging Catch 365 Supporters – Mom (Day #133) and Shirley Virdon. Almost every day, these two amazing women gave me high fives and words of encouragement for the stories. Their support meant the world to me.

Most Consistently Willing Catch Partner – Harper Satterfield (Day #7) brought his glove to church almost every Sunday for a year. High five, Harper. Way to commit to the cause!

Youngest Catch Partner – Benton Exner (Day #63), 21 months old.

Oldest Catch Partners Bob Snider (Day #294) and Neighbor Bob Reynolds (Day #300), 90 years old.

My Longest Drive for a Game of Catch – Universal Studios, with both of my daughters, (Days #172 and #173). 1,172 miles.

Favorite Birthday Buddy – State Representative and Roller Derby Girl, Crystal Quade / J. F. Slay (Day #228)

More awards tomorrow!