Thursday, July 18, 2024

Pittsburgh Trivia

In the earlier days of this blog, I regularly had Trivia Tuesday posts. They became less and less popular, so I stopped writing them. While I have no plans on bringing the Trivia Tuesday posts back, I thought I would try some old-school Pittsburgh trivia questions. Please leave your answers in the comment sections below.

1. Who was with Quinn in the morning?

2. Where does the place go crazy every 16 minutes?

3. Who said it would?

4. Fill in the blank: Don't say Olds, say ________ Olds.

5. What is the name of this sticker?

6. What is just minutes from the mall and on what street is this located?

7. What is Edgar Snyder's original phone number? (No area code necessary.)

8. What is Rusted Root's most-successful song?

9. Who is this?

10. What restaurant (probably best known for their roast beef sandwiches) had the slogan, "Fast Food with Style?"

Good luck! (There are no prizes, so please don't cheat. Even if there were prizes, still don't cheat.)

Monday, July 15, 2024

I Killed Dr. Ruth

When I worked at The Ohio State University, my organization created a speaker series. This series was a fundraiser from donors in the Columbus community since the speakers didn't really appeal to most 18-24 year old college students. For example, Ira Glass of This American Life was one speaker. I didn't know anyone at the time in that age range that listened to NPR. While I don't remember any of the other speakers, there was one exception of an individual who appealed to college students and beyond: Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

Dr. Ruth was exactly like she appeared on television. A small woman with a distinctive accent talking frankly about topics many people don't discuss openly. I don’t remember what she had to say (this was 20+ years ago), but she signed books after her talk. I mention this because I recently thought to myself that I would write a post about Dr. Ruth and the fact that I have a signed copy of her Sex for Dummies book (“For Dummies” books were a really popular genre back then) when she passed away. The book is in a box somewhere in my home, and I haven’t seen it or thought about Dr. Ruth in years. And just randomly, I thought about a potential blog post about this topic within the last week or two. 

So now, I feel somewhat responsible for her death. Therefore, I’m writing to apologize to Dr. Ruth’s family and friends. It seems like she lived a very full and fulfilling life. May her memory be a blessing.

Photo by Chris Delman/AFP via Getty 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

No One Cares About My Fantasy Team

Back in April, I wrote this:

I've mentioned multiple times that I have been in the same fantasy/rotisserie baseball league since 1992. I have won the league just twice during this time in 2014 and 2016. My team is off to an amazing start where I'm in first place in 8 of the 10 categories and have a huge lead in overall points. Since it is only April, I figure there's no way that my team can keep up this pace. My apologies in advance to Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Elly De La Cruz, Zac Gallen, Tyler Glasnow, and William Contreras who I expect will all get injured in the next few months.

Sure enough Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Zac Gallen, Javier Assad, and now Tyler Glasnow have all been on the injured list. J.T. Realmuto, who I acquired in a trade, is also hurt.

Except for Assad, all of these players are or have been all-stars. Somehow, I'm hanging on to first place with guys like Hunter Goodman, Brett Wisely, Donovan Solano, Michael Toglia, Kyle Freeland, and the corpse of Chris Taylor, all playing prominent roles on my team.

Still, if some of these guys get healthy, I like my chances. (Please come back soon Mookie and Fernando!)

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Potomac League

While I don't remember how I learned about it, I took the boys to several Potomac League baseball games in Tysons last summer. They had a great time. It's an intimate experience watching collegiate baseball players play, and you're so close that you can clearly see and hear all of the action.

We've attended two games so far this season, and in the first game, all three boys got league T-shirts, Pedro Tulo (10) participated in an on-field dizzy bat race, and The Moose (13) and Luigi (6) competed in a between-inning bocce ball contest where they rolled a ball from near the pitcher's mound to get the ball closest to home plate. (Luigi defeated his brother and two other older kids.) I think my kids are well-known among the league since they are the only kids approaching players for autographs after the game.

Despite going to games the last two summers, I didn't really know much about the league. So I sent some questions to the league, and intern Ella was nice enough to respond. 

1. When did the Potomac League begin?

The Potomac League had its first season last summer in 2023, previously it was known as NVCL. 

2. How does the league find players to participate? Is there someone that recruits local high school graduates now playing in college?

Players are knowledgeable about the league due to many reasons. Capital One Park is the home field for Marymount University, and all of the coaches in the league are high school coaches in the area. These players are all primarily from the Northern Virginia area, and players recruit college teammates, and coaches recruit former players.

3. How are the teams selected? Is there a draft?

Yes, players are selected by a draft that is held in the middle of spring.

4. It seems like each team plays about 5 days a week. Do some of the players have other jobs or internships during the summer?

Yes, some players do have jobs while playing in the league. We try to plan our schedule so that teams play at different times during the week, which in turn helps those who have internships or jobs be able to work a bit later during the week if they are in the 6:45 game.

5, For you personally, how did you get involved with the league? Has it been everything you hoped it would be?

I found out about the league through my Athletic Communications Director at Marymount University. We are lucky enough that Capital One Park is our home field and I was able to apply for the internship last year. I loved it so much, I decided to come back for a second year. We have a great group of players, a wonderful fan base & a strong leadership committee that makes showing up everyday easy!

Thanks to Ella for answering my questions. Since my kids are still young enough for free admission, it only cost me $10 to attend a game ($5 for a ticket and $5 for parking). Great deal. While this isn't the major leagues and I prefer a grass field to a turf one, the games are competitive and fun to watch. If you're in the DC/Northern Virginia area, check out a game.

More information about the Potomac League is available on their website.

Friday, June 28, 2024

A Hawk Tua Post

Back in March, I wrote about a hawk living on my street. And no this was not Dominique Wilkins or Tre Young. Over the last few months, several other hawks joined the original. While they were loud, I was fascinated being so close to them.

The unfortunate side effect was that one parking spot on our street was completely unusable unless you were okay with you car being unclean.

About two weeks ago, our street was repaved. Between the loud equipment and the asphalt smell, I believe that the hawks abandoned their nest and moved about a block away. I still hear the hawks, but it's less frequent now, and I haven't seen one in the nest lately. I'm not an ornithologist (yes, I had to look up this word) nor do I play one on the internet, so I don't know if they will return to the nest on my street.
As for the Tua portion of this post, I think Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa will have a good 2024 season.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Tooth Fairy Fail (Almost)

On Sunday just after lunch, Luigi (6) lost his second tooth. He was very excited. We put his tooth in a bag for him to put under his pillow and went to our neighborhood swimming pool. We then had family over for dinner, and after they left, I went grocery shopping at Wegmans. After getting the kids ready for bed, I did a little work and watched some TV before falling asleep on the couch. I finally woke up after 3:00, cleaned Lucy’s litter box and took a shower since I never did that after swimming. Nothing like a 4:00 AM shower! I went to sleep and woke up only a few hours later to go to work. 

As I was getting ready to leave, Luigi woke up and was on the verge of tears holding the bag with his tooth. Crap! The tooth fairy completely forgot to do his, I mean, her job. I tried to calm him down by calling the tooth fairy. He heard me leave a message for her (on my work voicemail), and then he decided to lay down on my bedroom floor. With the bag in my hand and then put in my pocket, the tooth fairy magically put $2 under his pillow. I told Luigi to go back to bed and that the tooth fairy would come soon. Fortunately, he must have been too tired or upset to think about putting the tooth back under his pillow or to look to see if money was there. About 10 minutes later, he got out of bed and happily showed off the $2.


* Looking at the bottom of his mouth, we're fully aware that braces are in Luigi's future. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

End Of An Era

I am writing this post from a bus. For the first 15 years of this blog (this blog is so old!), this was a common occurrence. Nearly everyday, I took the bus to the Metro to get to work. Then the pandemic hit, and I worked from home. When I returned to the office, the thought of cramming onto crowded Metro trains seemed less appealing. 

There have definitely been pros and cons to my commute to work by car. I listen to more podcasts. I’m able to talk on the phone with family. I have more flexibility as to when I leave my home and office. Conversely, I spend a lot more money on gas. I read much less and get less exercise from not walking to and from Metro stations and my office. I also write less frequently and don’t get my afternoon power naps.

Over the last 4 years, I’ve probably taken the bus and Metro to work about 20 times, and that number might be high. Because of me and others who similarly adjusted their commuting routines or work remotely, my bus route is being eliminated. I’m disappointed, but I’m certainly not mad. It doesn’t make sense to keep this route. I’m about to get off the bus at the Metro station, and there are 5 of us on the bus including the driver. Yes, it’s a Friday and the summer, but this number wouldn’t be significantly higher on a Tuesday in March.

Next week, there is a new route going through my neighborhood. The bus will take me to a newly built transit center where I will transfer to another bus before getting to the Metro. It probably won’t make much sense for me to take this new route most days. I realize I am fortunate to have a car allowing me options to get to work, so I may drive to the free parking garage at the transit center and take the bus from there to Metro. It’s not perfect, but it will save money on gas, and there are more frequent buses to and from the transit center to the Metro station. It may be a good compromise. In the meantime, thanks to all my bus drivers, familiar faces I’ve seen on the bus over the years, and everyone else who administers the bus operations and allows the buses to run.

Changing the subject, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve barely written any posts the last few months. I’m finding it difficult to focus on writing since my mom passed away. (The bus is actually helping with this right now since I can’t stand up and do anything else!) I’m struggling to write thank-you notes to people who honored my mom with various donations. I also feel like I need to finish the thank-you notes before writing a new blog post. Just know that I’m (slowly) working on it and am excited to write about some fun things I’ve been able to do recently.

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Zac Brown Meets Russell Wilson

New Steelers quarterback Russell Wilson is certainly making the rounds. He had an impressive introductory press conference as a member of the Steelers, threw out the first pitch at a recent Pirates games, and over the weekend, Wilson went on stage during the Zac Brown Band concert.

He seems loved by most of Pittsburgh right now, but that could change quickly if he has multiple interceptions in his first game. With that written, we’re hoping for big things from Wilson and wish him success. I also want to hear Ciara perform a new version of the song “Pittsburgh’s Going to the Super Bowl.”

Thanks to OneBURGH for the picture. Please click here for all of my Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear posts.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sad Post

It's really easy to take people for granted. You see someone regularly and you figure that they'll always be there.

Even before we registered The Moose for kindergarten, we rushed to sign him up for the before and after care program at the elementary school. And I really do mean rushed. Registration was conducted by calling a phone number at a specific time. Both my wife and I called with cell phones and our home phone like we were attempting to win concert tickets from a radio station contest. While we were on a waitlist for months, The Moose received a spot just a few weeks before he started kindergarten.

Signing him up for the before and after care program at the school was one of the best decisions we made. Pedro Tulo and Luigi followed The Moose into the same program and are there before and after school nearly everyday. The staff is incredible, and they really care about the kids. That's why this is so sad. 

One of the staff members at the before and after care program who had been at the school since before The Moose started kindergarten passed away over the weekend. It was completely unexpected and shocking to the entire community. He knew everyone at the school and participated in nearly all of the school activities. He was such a positive and caring person and truly greeted everyone with a smile. For us personally, we valued his relationship with our kids. He was interested in how they did in their sporting events and listened to them tell him about what they were doing.

I feel like I've heard many news stories over the years of crisis counselors or teams being available at schools. This is the first time I've seen it in person. Although I didn't drop the kids off at school on Monday, the principal, vice principals, school counselors, and county staff were all present. One of the guidance counselors specifically met with Pedro Tulo (4th grade) knowing how well he knew the staff member. Later in the day, Luigi (1st grade) and several of his classmates met with another counselor and made a card for the teacher's family. I'm sure this was driven by the school staff since Luigi doesn't really understand what's happening.

I dropped off Pedro Tulo and Luigi at school on Tuesday, and that's when things set in for me. The other before and after care staff looked tired and sad, the county staff were talking to each other, and the kids were playing board games like nothing happened. It was surreal. 

We told The Moose (7th grade) that the staff member took his own life, and he didn't understand why. I agreed. This was an individual who was so caring and positive. I tried to explain that you never really know what's going on in someone's life and that it's important to talk with people who you trust and love. Meanwhile, I continue to read heartfelt tributes about him online, and we made a donation to the GoFundMe page for his wife and young son. I feel particularly awful for them. 

I'll conclude this post by simply writing that it is okay to share feelings with people you trust. While I realize that I'm not very good at doing this, I know that there are people around me who are available to listen. There are numerous resources available if you need to talk with someone. You're not alone. 

Thursday, May 09, 2024

My Mom

About a year ago, my mom noticed that she had less and less of an appetite. She would eat a few bites and be full. After several months of seeing various doctors and undergoing a variety of tests, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July. My mom met with several more doctors and learned about what treatment would entail. It was a lot. And even after months of chemo, rebuilding her entire stomach, and having a feeding tube, the likelihood of the cancer returning within two years was significantly higher than other types of cancer. After seeing my dad fight lung cancer and living on her own in Florida with my brother and I up north, she decided it wasn't worth it to receive treatment. She was ready to go out on her terms. 

However, things aren't that easy. It's not like you receive a cancer diagnosis and then pass away immediately. While I could write a separate blog post about healthcare coverage in the United States in terms of end of life care, I'll simply write that my mom was able to prepare for dying. Over a period of months, she would randomly email or text my brother and I with people we needed to contact or things we needed to do. She also donated clothes and other household items. She was able to live in her own home, went out occasionally, and had friends visit. Barely eating, she became weaker and weaker and any type of activity would tire her easily. She was able to watch The Moose's Bar Mitzvah online in early April, and I really think she was holding on to see it.

My mom passed away last week. She had been on hospice for months but that only meant that a nurse, social worker, or doctor would stop by the home every few weeks. Over the last month or so, the nurse visited more frequently until my mom was placed on crisis care where a hospice nurse was there 24 hours a day. My brother and I were able to make it to Florida in time to be with her when she passed away.

I realize that the first three paragraphs of this post are about my mom's sickness and death. She would definitely not want to be remembered like this. She was a vibrant person who loved doing things like going to concerts or musicals and especially loved doing these things as a grandmother. She wanted her five grandkids to remember fun experiences with her. We went to the circus, Legoland in Philadelphia, various kids museums and parks in south Florida, and most importantly, a cruise to the Bahamas last April. At the funeral and at the shiva minyan, her grandkids all talked about how much fun they had on the cruise. That's truly how her grandkids will remember her.

As for me, I'll remember my mom as always being there to talk. When I lived in San Diego or had late night papers in college and grad school, I could call at any hour, and she would be awake and available. Yes, my dad coached me in baseball and soccer as a kid, but my mom was always at my games and musicals and Cub Scout events. She was loyal to her family and friends, to her hometown of East Liverpool, and to Pittsburgh. She also didn't join a group just to join. She got involved in activities becoming a board member or building director. She also loved to travel and went on cruises regularly after my parents moved to Florida.

Two fun stories that I"m not sure everyone knows. 

* My mom did not attend her prom but instead went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game with her uncle.

* My parents dated for two weeks before getting engaged and got married four months later. They shared the same birthday and also the same anniversary.

Even though she's only been gone for days, I've already found myself wanting to call my mom to tell her something about my kids or about conversations I've had with people who knew and loved her. She is and will definitely be missed.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Random Ramblings: April 2024 Edition

I'm in several different soccer referee groups and receive countless emails per week from assigners looking for referees to work games. Instead of countless, I decided to see how many I actualy receive per week. From Monday, April 8 at 12:01 AM through Sunday, April 14 at 11:59 PM, I received 63 emails about working games. 63!!

We're now at the halfway point of Passover where I question the amount of food I have for the remainder of the holiday. Sure, I probably eat more fruits, vegetables, and eggs during Passover than the rest of the year and that's easy to get, but I'm never sure if I have enough matzo, macaroons, or Molly's Passover cakes, which is what my kids eat for breakfast during the holiday. We're also at the point where there is limited or no Kosher for Passover foods at most local grocery stores. By the way, the Molly's cakes aren't going to make it to Tuesday!

I miss the days when you could transfer your balance on one credit card to a brand new credit card with no transfer fees and at 0% APR for a certain period of time. It seems like every credit card company now charges a 4% transfer fee on the amount of funds transferred. 

I've mentioned multiple times that I have been in the same fantasy/rotisserie baseball league since 1992. I have won the league just twice during this time in 2014 and 2016. My team is off to an amazing start where I'm in first place in 8 of the 10 categories and have a huge lead in overall points. Since it is only April, I figure there's no way that my team can keep up this pace. My apologies in advance to Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Elly De La Cruz, Zac Gallen, Tyler Glasnow, and William Contreras who I expect will all get injured in the next few months.

I don't think it's an overstatement that Woodland Hills High School has one of the best public high school theater programs in the country. This year's show is "Wonderland," and WHHS is one of only two high schools in the country to perform this pilot musical based on Peter Pan. Check out the story/video about the show by WTAE.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

My IRS Story

I owed money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) this year. Not fun. With a lot going on, instead of going to the post office and getting some type of delivery receipt, I simply put the payment in an envelope and mailed it from a neighborhood mailbox on approximately March 15th. 

My wife signed up for the postal service's daily digest. While I like the surprise of opening the mailbox and seeing what's inside each day, she receives daily emails with pictures of envelopes of what will be in the mailbox that day. It's pretty neat. On March 20th, she received a picture of the letter that I sent to the IRS. Immediately, I got concerned that maybe I used the wrong stamp and that it was being returned. However, the letter was not in our mailbox. On March 25th, we received another picture of the envelope to the IRS, and again, it did not appear in our mailbox.

Fast forward several weeks, and the check still did not clear the bank, and we never received the envelope back. With the April 15th tax due date quickly approaching, I called the IRS who confirmed that they did not receive the payment. I called USPS, and they had no idea where the mail went. So somewhere in the world, there is currently a check with our address and social security numbers on the check. Lovely.

I called the bank and cancelled the check. Then, I just paid the IRS online which is what I should have done originally. The payment went through on April 12th. Monday afternoon, I looked at my bank account online and saw there was a pending payment to the IRS. Of course, I thought, the check arrived and is being processed. I contacted my bank who said that this was a second online payment. While I have no idea why there was a second payment, the bank cancelled that transaction. The mail/check is still a mystery.

Based on my experience this year, I think I just won't pay the IRS again. I'm sure that will be fine for everyone involved!


It's still not over! Since my post nearly two months ago, I received a check in the mail from the IRS. The online system processed my payment twice, and although I cancelled the second payment with my bank, the IRS did not receive the cancellation. Therefore, they sent me a refund check for the second payment. In talking with an IRS representative, instead of just ripping up the check and being done with it, I need to cash the check and send another payment to balance everything out. This is apparently easier than the process of ripping up the check. 

Since that phone call, I received a letter from the IRS indicating that they received the initial check (about 4 weeks after I mailed it and after the April 15th deadline) but that they could not cash it since the check was cancelled. I'm just ignoring that one. 

If you're scoring at home, I have now paid the IRS by check and sent two payments online (though the system processed it three times). I have cashed a check and cancelled two payments through my bank. I really hope I'm done now.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Moose's Bar Mitzvah

The Moose recently turned 13 and celebrated his Bar MItzvah. This is a very big deal. A Bar Mitzvah (for a boy) or a Bat Mitzvah (for a girl) is a coming of age ceremony in Judaism. He went from being a boy to becoming a man. Let's celebrate with a little Motownphilly!

The Moose read from the Torah and led a significant portion of the Shabbat (Sabbath) services. He worked really hard learning prayers in Hebrew and taking weekly lessons over about a 10-11 month period. He did an amazing job.

While I could (and probably should) write more about the Bar Mitzvah and celebration, this post is about the program we created for the service. Actually, this is about the fake program that I created that was not distributed during the service. Here are a few excerpts:

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony takes place when a Jewish child reaches the age of 13. The word Bar Mitzvah means “son of a mitzvah.” Son of a mitzvah sounds much better than a different expression starting with “son of a.” Clearly, this is in reference to the Dusty Springfield song, Son of a Preacher Man. Are you thinking of something else? A mitzvah is an action which connects Jews both to the divine and to all other Jews past, present, and future. In practical terms, this means that this is the age when a Jewish child is considered old enough to assume the rights and responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. The Moose will now be expected to fulfill these moral and ethical commandments throughout his daily life. As an adult, he is also expected to start paying rent and make meals for his brothers. Cleaning the cat’s litter box would also be appreciated.

During the Torah service, the weekly reading is divided into sections, each called an aliyah. At least eight people, including The Moose, will be honored by being called up for an aliyah to the Torah. Before and after each section of the Torah is read, the individual called up for that aliyah recites a blessing or sings songs/reads lyrics of songs by the late singer/actress Aaliyah, most notably from “Try Again” or “Are You That Somebody.” Those with Pittsburgh ties may choose to sing “Ah, Leah” by Donnie Iris.

Two books are used during the service – Lev Shalem, the smaller red prayerbook, and Etz Hayim, the larger red volume, which contains the Torah, selections from the Prophets, and commentary. There used to be a third book, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, but the rabbis determined that scarlet was not the correct shade of red. The rabbis do approve of the scarlet and gray. O-H!

I also had fun including various celebrities like Adam Sandler, Drake, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis (A Black Swan reunion!), Benny Blanco, Gal Gadot, Rowdy Tellez, Deni Avdija, and others as receiving honors during the service. Dolly Parton and the late Kenny Rogers (via hologram) are listed as reading the poem "No Religion is an Island" since they like islands (in streams). 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

2024 Pittsburgh Pirates Predictions

I've learned long ago that what's important are the people that show up, not those who don't. So while I sent invitations to many people to participate in this 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates predictions post, I'm very excited by the group who responded. Let me introduce you to these amazing participants:

Brian McElhinny - Former operator of the fantastic blog, Raise The Jolly Roger. Still writes about the Pirates at @rtjr.

Amanda Godsey - Steelers and Pitt writer for The Tribune-Democrat. You can also follow her at Twitter at @amandafgodsey.

Josh - Even though I'm currently his chief rival, I really appreciate that Josh is always willing to participate in any of my silly blog post ideas. Josh writes the outstanding blog Josh's World.

Gary Morgan - One of the most prolific Pirates writers/podcasters around, most notably as the co-editor of Steel City Pirates.

Sean - It's me! I write Sean's Ramblings. Thanks for being here.

The Moose: My now 13 year-old son. I really hope he doesn't have a Twitter account!

Jim Rosati - One of people behind the Pirates' blog/podcast/site North Shore Nine.

1. Even though he's not on the opening day roster, there are high expectations for the overall #1 pick in last year's MLB draft, Paul Skenes. What do you expect from Skenes in 2024?

Brian: I expect him to come out strong in the minor leagues, but with short starts as they work to build him up for a professional season, which is much longer than college and will eventually have him pitching every 5 days rather than every 7. I think their care with his innings and workload is going to be his biggest limiting factor - not his ability or readiness from a talent or preparation standpoint. Once he is up, which I'd guess is the early summer, I expect him to be a good - maybe not great - major league starting pitcher right out of the gate, with enormous potential to get even better quickly and get to ace level. Again, the innings are going to be severely limited and that will frustrate people, but it's understandable. 

Amanda: I expect Skenes will be in Pittsburgh sometime this year, maybe in May or June if all goes well. I’m expecting big things from him; he has great stuff and should turn into the Pirates ace. That may not happen by the end of this season, but it’ll be exciting to see what he can do in the majors.

Josh:  I am going to be totally optimistic here and say he has 10-12 wins after finally being called up. Finishes top 3 in ROY.

Gary: I expect Paul to get on schedule, stretch out and be a regular contributor by mid season to the big club. Caveat is I think they'll limit his innings to 160 or so.

Sean: 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings. He's going to have the exact same numbers as Spencer Strider in 2022 (and also finish 2nd in the rookie of the year).

The Moose: I think Skenes will have an amazing season. He will have a 3.25 ERA and a lot of strikeouts.

Jim: I think he will spend at least a month in the minors, but I think there is a very real chance he is up before mid-June. Like any rookie, he will probably go through some bumps, but the stuff is so good that even with those bumps, he should very much be an above average starting pitcher in his first taste of the big leagues. I'm going to guess he makes about 15 starts and has an ERA hovering around 4.00 and that we will see a whole lot of heat and positive signs for the future. 

2. After missing nearly all of 2023 with a fractured ankle, Oneil Cruz is back! What do you think his stat line (home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, anything else) will be for this year?

Brian: Man. I want to go high on all these, I absolutely love watching this dude and think the sky is the limit - there's just that Pirate fan part of the brain that tells you to pump the brakes and is always fearing the worst, which we basically experienced with his injury. I will go 35 HR, 25 SB, 90 RBI. 

The biggest thing I am watching is how often he can get on base (.300-ish career so far, want to see that up 20+ points) and how often he can avoid striking out (get below 1 per game). You know he will hit the ball hard.

Amanda: 30 HRs, 90-100 RBIs, 25 stolen bases.

Josh: 24 HR/66 RBIs/20 SBs/.252 AVG

Gary: He's got the capability to have a 40/40 type season. Offensively I think he'll produce, what I'm interested in is can he hang at SS?

Sean: Oneil is going to be a 25/25 hitter. I'm really hoping for at least a .333 on-base percentage.

The Moose: Cruz will have an amazing year. Cruz will hit 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, and he will win comeback player of the year.

Jim: I am so happy he's back. Stat line, 28 homers, 85 RBI, 24 SB, and inconsistent but decent enough SS play. 

3. Who will lead the Pirates in home runs this season?

Brian: Cruz

Amanda: I’m expecting it to be Cruz, though Jack Suwinski also has a shot. If Suwinski can have shorter slumps this season compared to last, he should easily hit 30 homers.

Josh: Bryan Reynolds with 27

Gary: Cruz

Sean: Suwinski is going to hit 30+ home runs this season.

The Moose: I think there is going to be a tie. I think Jack Suwinski and Oneil Cruz will both hit 30 home runs.

Jim: Jack Suwinski

4. Skenes' girlfriend is social media star and LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne. When do you think Dunne will make her first visit to PNC Park for a Pirates game?

Brian: His first start at home - it will have a big time event feel. 

Amanda: I’m betting she’ll be there when he makes his MLB debut.

Josh: May 24th for Skenes debut against the Braves.

Gary: Don't care, didn't care, won't care.

Sean: I'm way too excited for the Livvy Dunne-Paul Skenes media coverage. It will be a step below Taylor-Travis but with more food (see the couple at Primantis or eating Smiley Cookies). Livvy will be at the May 21st Pirates game against San Francisco for Skenes major league debut.

The Moose: This is going to be a surprise to some people but I think that Livvy Dunne will come to the Pirates first home game of the season.

Jim: Livvy will be in attendance for Paul's first start at PNC Park. Let's call it May 24th vs Atlanta for Fireworks night. Let's show her what Zambelli's is all about.

5. Will former Milwaukee Brewer Rowdy Tellez be more successful on the Pirates than former Milwaukee Brewer Daniel Vogelbach?

Brian: He might stick around longer, but I have sort of a bad feeling about Tellez. Yes, there is some upside with the bat and there's a world where he regains past form and hits 30+ HRs, but there's also a world where he is the face of an underwhelming offseason. I am concerned about his defense at first as well and the impact that could have. 

Amanda: I’m hopeful he will. His stats from last year don’t look great, but Tellez had a couple injuries midseason last year that almost certainly affected his production and power at the plate. If he can stay healthy and hit around 20 homers, the signing will be a win for the Pirates. 

Josh: Tellez because I want to be optimistic.

Gary: If he's healthy he'll run into 20, so yeah probably. Plus he plays the field (albeit not well) it's more than just a DH does.

Sean: Yes! Vogelbach had a 0.6 WAR (wins above replacement) with the Pirates. Have to think Rowdy will do better (like 0.8) and maybe even get a stolen base.

The Moose: Rowdy tellez will be more successful because he was a big part of the Brewers last year to help the team make the playoffs. Rowdy Tellez was a ok hitter last year and he was better defensively then Vogelbach. Rowdy Tellez had a better batting average than Vogelbach.

Jim: No.

6. Will the Pirates be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

Brian: Soft buyers, or maybe neither. I think they'll be at least close to contention and there will be some pressure to make more of a push with more young talent arriving. Can't see a big splashy move though, just filling holes type stuff.

Amanda: I’m going to be optimistic and say they’ll be buyers.

Josh: Both. They will be borderline playoff contenders, trade away someone like Tellez, but also go out and bring in someone to fill a need. 

Gary: Hopefully both. I can see them both needing to move vets and needing to bring in others at different positions.

Sean: Buyers. They're going to acquire some extra starting and relief pitchers. Maybe Jose Quintana if the Mets do poorly again?

The Moose: The Pirates will be buyers because last year the Pirates started off 20-9 and the best team in the MLB if they keep consistently winning like that without key players getting hurt they would like to buy more players to push for the playoffs and have a good season. (Sean's note: I may need to talk to his English teacher about grammar and punctuation.)

Jim: Can I say both? I could see them doing sorta what they did in the early 2010's where they maybe sell off a reliever (Chapman), but add some pieces elsewhere.  

7. The answer to this probably has a lot to do with your answer to the previous question. What is your prediction of the Pirates overall record and what place will they finish in the NL central?

Brian: The spring optimism is starting to get to me, I am really tempted to go into .500+ territory, which would be right in the wild card mix, and I do think that is possible but the major league pitching they are entering the season with just isn't good enough for me to quite get there. 80-82, 3rd place. 

Amanda: 84-78 and second in the NL Central.

Josh: 79-83. I think they finish in 3rd place in the central

Gary: 84 wins, 2nd place in the NL Central.

Sean: I'm optimistic. Since I already saw Amanda and Gary go with 84, I'll predict 83-79. 3rd place in the central

The Moose: This will be a shocker to some people but the Pirates will go 90-72 and the Pirates will finish second in the division behind the amazing Cubs.

Jim: 85-77, Pirates win the NL Central

Thanks to everyone for participating! We'll have to see how we did in October. Please feel free to share your predictions in the comment section below.

Photos by Charles LeClaire-USA Today (Skenes), Pittsburgh Pirates (Cruz), Livvy Dunne's Instagram account (Dunne), Pittsburgh Pirates Instagram account (Tellez)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Just A Girl

I had a small television in my residence hall room during college, but the only way to access any stations was to get cable through Time Warner. I think I paid about $10-$15 a month for the privilege of having ABC, CBS, NBC FOX, PBS, CNN, and ESPN. I don't remember having any other stations, and I know for a fact that I did not have ESPN2, though my neighbor (who now has an Oscar, Emmy, and Pulitzer) did and let me watch the Penguins-Capitals 4 overtime Petr Nedved playoff game. 

This is a long way of writing that I did not have MTV in college, and this is way before YouTube. Therefore, at some point during my time in college, I saw the video Just a Girl by No Doubt on a break from school. The song sounded different than anything else out there. Between the music (I'd never heard of ska), Gwen Stefani's voice, and an appealing video, I loved the song instantly. 

Which brings me to 2024. Listening to SiriusXM's Hits1 station with the kids, I heard a new version of Just a Girl by Hayes Warner, Billy B, and Kevin Rudolf. These are three people who have never been in my kitchen. While I hope this attracts more people to the original No Doubt song, let's just say I'm not a fan.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Random Ramblings: March 2024

* Six-year-old Luigi is playing baseball for the first time this spring. While he is using his brothers' old helmet and bat, he got a brand new glove as well as a cup. He is completely fascinated by wearing a cup and keeps calling it his "penis cup." Fortunately, he is only using this name in the house.

* Based on the Pittsburgh Steelers off-season acquisitions, I planned a blog post about the team's 2024 soundtrack. The post was going to start with two Wilson Pickett songs in honor of the Steelers quarterback combination of Russell Wilson and Kenny Pickett. Of course, the Steelers traded Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles making the entire post moot. I guess I need the Steelers to hire retired quarterback Philip Rivers as a member of the coaching staff or organization and sign wide receiver Phillip Dorsett from the Denver Broncos so that I can created a new playlist featuring this song:

* I haven't mentioned Lucy very much since we got her in September. She constantly wakes us up around 5:00 AM but waited until around 6:00 the first few days after we moved the clocks forward. That ended. We're back to her waking us up at 5:00 again.

* I'm really happy for the Duquesne men's basketball team winning the Atlantic-10 tournament and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. The team hasn't been very good for most of my lifetime, so the Duquesne fans and graduates deserve to celebrate.

* Fun fact: Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot's son Robbie Dambrot plays for the Loudoun United soccer team.

* There is now a hawk living on our street. Oh, it's not Dominique Wilkins. I don't know when the hawk moved in, but our neighbor noticed him/her on Saturday. I'm now completely fascinated by this and really want to get some pictures and videos. This is my second attempt which isn't terrible. 

* The best view of the hawk would probably be from my kids' bedroom per the picture above of Lucy looking out the window. With the nice weather recently, the cherry blossoms have started to bloom almost earlier than ever blocking any possible view of the nest. This is clearly a first-world problem since the cherry blossoms on my street are beautiful and don't last more than two weeks. 

Monday, March 04, 2024

Sean Contacts Presidential Candidates

Virginia's Presidential primary takes place on Tuesday, March 5th. Virginia has open primaries, meaning that you show up to your polling place and simply ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot. While this generally doesn't impact the overall results, it does make things interesting. For example, in 2008, I remember some Republicans saying they would vote for Barack Obama in the primary believing he would be easier to defeat in the general election than Hillary Clinton. (I'm not sure if this is true or not since John McCain only defeated Mike Huckabee by about 45,000 votes in the 2008 Republican primary and Obama defeated Clinton by almost 300,000 votes in the Democratic primary).

So that brings us to 2024. Here are your ballots for Tuesday's primary: 

I contacted the campaigns of everyone on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots and asked one simple question: Why should Virginians vote for you? (Or if the candidate has withdrawn, who do you support and why?)

Here are the responses:

Nothing. No one replied. Actually, I take that back. I received a "Failure Notice" that the email account I tried to reach does not exist message from Vivek Ramaswamy. I appreciate the fact that his campaign completely ended and decided to stop paying for things like email addresses.

While Sean's Ramblings isn't CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News, or any of the local news stations in the Washington, Richmond, or Virginia Beach markets, this seems like a missed opportunity for candidates to communicate directly with voters on a smaller scale. 

So where does this leave Virginia voters? My guess is that most Republicans will vote for Trump, most Democrats will vote for Biden, and others will vote for a candidate of the opposite party as a "protest" vote. And maybe candidates will want their voices heard on Sean's Ramblings in future elections! 

Friday, February 23, 2024

A Taylor Swift Post That's Not About Taylor Swift

You may have heard of a singer named Taylor Swift. She is currently taking her talents to Australia as part of her Eras Tour. Singer Rita Ora, her husband filmmaker Taika Waititi, and singer (and Sean's Ramblings favorite) Katy Perry attended Swift's Sydney concert which took place yesterday/today/tomorrow (I don't know the time difference between Sydney and the Eastern time zone of the US). So why I am writing about this? Check out Rita Ora's hat for the show.

Clearly, Rita Ora is excited about the Pirates signing Mitch Keller to an extension!

For more Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear posts (this is my second this week!), please click here.

Photos from The Era Tour Twitter page (here and here), the Taylor Swift Updates Twitter page, and a screenshot of a brief video of Ora and Perry by Cooper.