Meeting A Little Angel

Aug 1, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Maci Novotny, who just turned one month old. (Click on any image to enlarge)

So we just got back from a wonderful trip to Colorado, where we met the newest addition to the extended Doyle family. Little Maci Novotny not only lived up to the reviews and hype we’d been hearing, she outperformed them all. One of the sweetest little girls I’ve ever seen or met, and by far the least fussy little baby I’ve ever been around. I don’t think she cried for a total of two minutes the entire time we were there, and that was Friday to Monday. Such a sweetie, and her “rookie” parents Erin and Eric have taken to the assignment like seasoned pros.

All in all, we got to spend some wonderful time with all the clan out there. We stayed with Jim and Deb (Barbara’s older brother and his wife) at their house in Berthoud, and as always they were incredible hosts. If their pad was an Airbnb you’d rate it 5 stars for both the accommodations and the hosts. Spent a lot of time with Erin and Eric of course, both at their house and out and about. Little Maci never complained once about the restaurants we went to or all the funny strange faces that kept appearing just an inch from her nose as she blinked and smiled. Nephew James and his girlfriend Rachel were with us a lot. James has been doing his best to transition away from JT, which everyone called him for years, so in honor of that I’m just going to dig my feet in and still call him JT. It’s only fair. And finally, niece Leah and her man Levi made wonderful appearances, despite the fact they work at the same place but on different shifts. It was awesome. As were the brats I grilled for dinner one night. My right shoulder is sore for patting myself on the back so vigorously.

Little Maci specializes in three things: Sleeping, eating, and that other thing that necessitates the changing of diapers. She’s a healthy little girl, for sure! And it wasn’t just our imagination that she grew and developed during the parts of four days we were there. Everyone agreed with that. By the time we left, she was masterfully holding her head up and focusing those little eyes on anyone who would hold her.

Much of the gang. Not sure what’s in those paper cups.

On Sunday, we met at a wonderful park and sculpture garden in Loveland (where Erin & Eric and Leah & Levi live) for a fun picnic and a walk through the sculptures. Bagels were consumed, and since I’m not sure of the exact park rules I will deny any mention of there being mimosas. Never happened. It was just orange juice, as far as you know.

Leah made it out to the park for a while, but had to get to work before I started clicking off pics, rapid-fire on our walk, with my phone. She and Levi, you might recall, were the ones who bought a house right before we moved home from Spokane, and they came out to our place to “go shopping” for furniture. We’d be downsizing again when we got back to Woodbury, and had some nice stuff that needed a new home. They obliged, then rented a truck and drove it all back to Colorado.

So where are Berthoud and Loveland? The town of Berthoud is north of Denver by about 45 miles, and just a little west of I-25. About twice as far north of Denver as Boulder. Loveland is another seven or eight miles north. Due west of Loveland is Rocky Mountain National Park and the great little village of Estes Park. Loveland is pretty big, and the downtown area is really cool, full of historic old buildings which now host restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and other fun shops. Neat place! Berthoud is smaller, but much to Jim Doyle’s chagrin it’s changing fast. A new TPC golf course just opened, and the town is booming. As David Bowie would say, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes!” and they’re not necessarily the kind of changes the longtime locals want.

As anyone from the Denver region knows, it’s one of the easiest places on Earth to figure out directions. The mountains are always to the west of you. If they’re not, we’re all in trouble.

Much of the gang in a tree. Photo op city. L-R: Deb, Jim, Erin, Rachel, and JT

Late in our walk through the Loveland sculpture park, we found this tree that begged for photos. It really did. You could almost hear it. Well, it just looked like a perfect photo op and I’m sure we weren’t the first to do it. No one was injured in the staging of this photograph, and no trees were harmed.

On Sunday night, we all gathered in Jim and Deb’s back yard to fight mosquitos and have a fun conversation. At some point, I don’t know why but Rachel asked me (knowing my background) “Hey Bob. Why are pro baseball fields so many different shapes and sizes? Shouldn’t they all be the same?”

My explanation was as follows. It’s mostly just tradition now, but for many early decades the ballparks had to be built to follow the contours of the city blocks upon which they were built. If the blocks weren’t square, the field shape wasn’t perfectly symmetrical. Think Fenway Park. Then, in the 1960s when the rage became a rash of “cookie cutter” circular stadiums with artificial turf, everything started to look the same, and no one really liked that. Yes, the stadiums could host the local NFL team as well as the MLB team, and the artificial turf allowed them to switch back and forth without ruining either field, but they were sterile and not very fun. So, when all the newest set of parks began to pop up, quirks and oddities were built in. Of course, every MLB field has the mound 60-feet 6-inches from the plate, and the bases are all 90-feet apart, but the outfields are unique, in most cases. And that’s a home field advantage.

That question led to a long series of questions from all around the table, and I had to be on my toes to have the right answers ready to go when I’d be asked about home runs, or team nicknames, or how ballparks were built. It was fun, and I hope I imparted at least a little knowledge. I got lucky when Levi asked me “Do you know why the Rockies mascot is a Triceratops dinosaur?” I wouldn’t have, if Jim hadn’t told me just the day before. It’s because they discovered Triceratops fossils at the site of Coors Field when they were preparing the ground for construction.

The one story that got the biggest “No way” responses and wide eyes was the one about former Oakland A’s owner Charley Finley hiring a young man he met in the Coliseum parking lot. The young entrepreneur had a boom box, and he was dancing for the incoming crowd as he sold baseballs he’d tracked down as foul balls. Finley liked his attitude and energy, so he hired him to be a batboy. His name was Stanley Burrell. They players liked him, and thought he looked like a young Hank Aaron, who was always known as Hammerin’ Hank. So, they called Stanley “Little Hammer” and the nickname stuck. That Little Hammer kid became pretty famous. You know him today as MC Hammer.

Nice new addition to the Man Cave!

Here at the house, Erica stayed with the boyz while we were gone. What would we do without her? I’d alerted her to keep an eye on the front porch because I was expecting a package, and sure enough it showed up right after we left. I posted this on Facebook, but I’m aware my FB audience and blog audience are not necessarily identical, so I’ll mention it here, as well. At a recent silent auction, I had my eye on two items. One was a Team USA jersey with “Miracle On Ice” goalie Jim Craig’s name and number, and he autographed it. The jersey is a replica, of course. I’m not sure any of Jim Craig’s actual jerseys from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics have ever been on the market, but if they have I certainly would not be able to afford them. I’m just happy to have the replica. Without Jim Craig’s “stand on your head” incredible performance against the Soviet Union, especially in the third period, the USA would not have won that game, and subsequently the Gold Medal game against Finland. He’s a hero in all of American sports. It would be an honor to meet him some day.

The only problem I have is that I really don’t have a way to display the jersey here. It begs to be framed, but then I’d have to frame it with the backside and his autograph showing, and that means I’d never see the USA on the front again. Some people display stuff like this on mannequin shells, but there’s no way I’m doing that and I wouldn’t have a place to put it. My so-called Man Cave is a functioning office and home theater, not a museum. So, I guess it will just go in the same closet with a lot of other jerseys I’ve collected, whether they be baseball, soccer, football, or drag racing. Or even softball plus drag racing. I still have my NHRA jersey from when I helped Bob Vandergriff run the NHRA team when we played the NASCAR boys near Charlotte a few years ago.

Seemed like a good place for the new purple item

The other item I bid on was a Vikings football helmet, signed by quarterback Kirk Cousins. A) I’ve always wanted a meaningful football helmet, even if it is a replica. B) I’m as stickler for guys who take the time to sign a legible autograph. Kirk’s autograph is beautiful, and under his name he wrote “You Vike That!” ┬áThat was a nice touch.

That wall is the “entertainment” section of the cave. Original signed artwork by legendary cartoonist Chuck Jones, a “Jersey Boys” poster signed by the entire cast (thanks Buck!), a Rush limited-edition lithograph (it’s the cover of their album “Power Windows”) signed by Geddy, Alex and Neil, and the big screen itself. The cabinet below houses all the electronics for the system and a few books. The helmet just naturally fit there as a counter balance to the MISL soccer ball, from my days in indoor soccer. Yes, that soccer ball is on the cover of my book “Bats, Balls, & Burnouts.” Small world, eh?

So that’s about it. A fun trip to Colorado, great company with wonderful family, a sweet little angel of a baby, and some new memorabilia. I’m not a hoarder. I choose my stuff carefully, and about four times as much stuff as is on display is carefully sorted and stored in the utility room and an extra closet. It all means something to me, or it wouldn’t be shown or kept. Yes, I still have my Paintsville Hilanders jersey, with the number five on the back, the patch on the sleeve of a batter wearing a plaid kilt, and authentic pine tar stains on the shoulder, but it’s in a closet too. With the Jim Craig jersey going in there, the Paintsville jersey will have more good company.

See you next week, I assume. And as always I hope you’ll click on the “Like” button at the top if you did indeed enjoy this. Do it for Maci!

Bob Wilber, at your service after meeting a little angel.


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