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Oregon State Beavers vs. Nevada Wolf Pack

After doing this now for a couple of years, it is about time I covered a college game. Actually, I did go to the Oregon-Oregon State game at PK Park in Eugene last year, but it was so cold and wet that all I wanted to do for the next week was stay in my warm bed to recover.

So, through the good fortune of my brother getting a couple of tickets from his friend Jerry, Tom and I ventured to Corvallis to see the (occasionally) number 1 ranked Beavers take on the Wolf Pack of Nevada. Their stock fell last week after they dropped a series to Utah (their first series loss in the PAC 12 after 14 consecutive wins).

The Beavers play at Goss Stadium , most recently renovated in 1999, the oldest continuous ballpark in the country. It is right in the heart of the OSU campus, a compact venue with a capacity of 3,248 (though they’ve occasionally packed more in) and not a bad seat in the house. Our seats were in the second row behind home plate – sweet!

One side note – like so many parks below the major leagues, Goss has a turf field (everything but the pitcher’s mound). As a result, far fewer baseballs are used during a game because there’s no dirt (well, not much) to sully them. The uniforms are clean through the game too since the only way to dirty them is for someone to lose his way from first to third and slide into the mound.

OSU has a storied baseball program, with two national championships to its credit. One of the OSU boosters took us to the trophy room before the game to look at those trophies and other memorabilia.

We were concerned about the weather, since the night before had been cold and wet and the forecast was similarly gloomy. It wasn’t that bad, though – last year’s Oregon-OSU game still ranks as my coldest, wettest baseball experience.

That previous OSU-Nevada game ended in the bottom of the 11th when the Wolf Pack’s center fielder, Cole Krzmarzick (10 letters, too few vowels), dropped a fly ball off the bat of Adley Rutschman (more about him later) allowing the winning run to score. So Nevada had a score to settle this night.

They started down revenge road in the 4th inning with three home runs, an impressive display of power that put them up 5-0. Tom and I were at the left field pavilion to get some food and got to see all three dingers clear the fence. (Speaking of food, all you need to know is major league prices and high school quality – $5 for a soda – really???) OSU’s bats were largely silent until the 6th, when they scored a couple. They added another in the 7th (should have been 2, but a perfect throw from left cut down the runner at the plate).

Then came the wacky 8th. With two out and no runs in, a walk, pinch single and a walk loaded the bases. Then two different Nevada relievers walked four straight batters to give the Beavers a 7-5 lead.

Coach Pat Casey brings in his ace, Luke Heimlich, to finish them off in the top of the 9th. This is curious because Heimlich is scheduled to start a very tough series against Arizona this weekend. And what does he do? Gives up two runs to blow the save and tie the game!

The Beavs don’t score the the bottom of the 9th, so we’re off to extra innings, just like the night before. Heimlich comes out again, but this time he holds Nevada scoreless in the top of the 10th.

OSU has the top of their order coming up, so there’s hope. Steven Kwan leads off with a not-very-good bunt (he’s famous for his bunts, but this one was handled easily by the pitcher). One down. Andy Armstrong, filling in for the injured Nick Madrigal, is hitting well, so there’s still hope. He pops up. Two down. Then comes Adley Rutschman, 3 for 3 on the night with a walk, so there’s (a little) hope.

Rutschman is the grandson of Hall of Fame Linfield College football coach Ad Rutschman and initially went to OSU as a football kicker. Baseball intervened and Adley had a very creditable year in 2017 as the regular catcher, when OSU went to the College World Series (though that didn’t go so well for the team).

This year, again as the regular catcher and occasional first baseman, Rutschman is hitting the cover off the ball (current average .426) and he’s a switch hitter. How high in the draft do you think a switch hitting catcher with that batting average will go?

Anyway, Rutschman is up with two down, takes a couple pitches and then strokes a liner to center. Looks like Krzmarzmick can get this one and we go to the 11th. But the ball drops a little faster than expected and he gambles with a dive, but misses. The ball rolls to the fence, and when Rutschman sees that, he turns on the jets, loses his batting helmet around second and slides home on his belly with an inside-the-park home run to win the game!

There were no errors in the game. The pitching was sub-standard. But from a purely entertainment standpoint, this was one of the best games I’ve ever seen.

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London


Just a quick trip for meetings, but I managed to snag a few hours to play tourist in what might be the most culturally vast (for many Americans) city in the world. There’s a trove packed into a relatively small geographic space.

I’m not writing a guidebook but simply providing a glimpse of a some interesting attractions.

I started with dinner with a friend at Fuller’s Red Lion Pub, where we enjoyed the house pie (cubes of steak in a rich sauce cooked in a dough container with a dough lid on top – it looks a bit like a round African thatched hut) and a beer (Oliver’s Island ale – it tasted flat, even though we could see the bubbles). The pub is just a stone’s throw from Parliament, off the Westminster Bridge on the north side of the Thames.

Very close by, between Parliament and 10 Downing Street, are the Churchill War Rooms, part of the Imperial War Museum. This warren of underground rooms served as the headquarters for the British government’s conduct of World War II. People lived and worked in a sunless environment that apparently did not feature the best air quality (the ventilation wasn’t great, so naturally fetid underground air coupled with tobacco smoke made things interesting). Map rooms, communications systems, bedrooms, dining areas – it’s all there and genuinely fascinating.

On the art front, the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House is a gem. It isn’t large, but it has a splendid collection of impressionist and other paintings by many of the masters. It will only take you a couple of hours to see everything but it offers rich rewards.

I also made a very quick visit to the British Museum. It doesn’t do much for me because it is mostly what I no doubt wrongly think of as archeological. Yes, there’s art, but a lot is ancient and not paintings, and thus isn’t my favorite. That said, in the print room, I found this brochure left lying on a counter by a previous visitor, which somehow struck me as the right comment for an artistic setting.

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Scotland

I recently had meetings to attend in Edinburgh, so my lovely wife and I decided to take a few extra days and enjoy some of the sights in a[n] (almost) country that we’re quite fond of.  This trip only enhanced that sentiment.

We went to both Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle (you can buy a pass that gets you into both – and into many other attractions – for less money than buying tickets to each separately) and Stirling is far more interesting.  There are free guided tours at each, but Stirling was the central point for control of Scotland and it changed hands between the English and the Scots several times, thus making it central to Scottish history. 

We also enjoyed the inscriptions on some of the buildings leading up to Stirling Castle!


My wife “discovered” a Scots artist who is little known outside Scotland but clearly should be.  Phoebe Anna Traquair was remarkably talented – a painter, sculptor, muralist and tapestry artist who was very prolific.  Her work can be seen at the Scottish National Museum (admission free), the former Catholic Apostolic Church – now the Mansfield Traquair Centre – and the Song School, next to St. Mary’s Cathedral.  Actually, that latter one is a bit tricky because the space is used for other purposes and can be seen only by appointment (unless you get lucky, as we did).  When we went to the Song School, there was no one around and it was locked.  We asked someone next door, who, very helpfully, said there might be a man who had a key, and, sure enough, there was and he let us in.  Here’s just a sample of what we saw.


If you visit Edinburgh, be sure to allow time to take in the spectacular Royal Botanic Garden.

We also enjoyed a lovely drive out of Stirling into the Highlands and all along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.  When we got to the end of the road (but not the end of the loch), we asked a man there how to go further.  He was a local, on an outing with his dog Stella, and seemed happy enough to tell all.  Only problem was that we could only understand about one word in ten (the Scottish “brogue” is real!).  We heard “ferry,” “Christmas,” “party,” “family,” and a few other words and gathered that we were indeed at the end of the road, but could take a ferry from the other side to a building we could see further up the shore where we might attend a party at Christmas time.  In any event, we didn’t find any more road.


Loch Lomond

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Tanzania, Zambia (and Zanzibar)

OK, I know most of you thought this blog was about baseball – and it is.  But if you look at the “masthead” you’ll see that it also mentions travel.  Yes, but that was just about the oddities that occasionally pop up along the way between games, right?  Well, yes, that’s what it has been to this point, but now it is time to get serious about the travel part.

So I recently went to Tanzania and Zambia to look at an innovative new program that Mercy Corps is implementing there (as well as in Kenya) with a $25 million grant from MasterCard Foundation.  It is based on the simple observation that between 65 and 70% of rural farmers in most parts of Africa have cell phones.  So what, you ask.  Well, as MPesa has demonstrated in Kenya, money can be made by turning cell phones into checkbooks and ATM’s so that folks can pay bills, deposit money in a mobile or savings account or do many other things that you’d normally have to go to a bank to accomplish.

So Mercy Corps’ task is to convince bankers, who are interested in making money but are also congenitally conservative, that there is a huge number of rural folks in Africa who could be customers at very low cost.  They wouldn’t have to build lots of new branches or hire lots of staff.  All they have to do is make use of the cell phones the farmers already have in order to bring them into the fold.  That’s where the phone companies come in – they also want to increase their revenue, and the more traffic that flows over their lines the more money they make.

So MC’s work is filling the gaps – persuading the banks they can make money off the deal, the telcos they can add to their services and make a profit, the farmers that they can increase their productivity (and thus their profit) by adopting the new technology.  The program has already begun in Kenya and is rolling out in Tanzania and will soon begin in Zambia.  There have already been measurable results in Kenya showing significant income improvement for farmers, so this could have a wide-reaching impact on the reduction of poverty in an area where agriculture is the backbone of the economy.

Farmers will be able to order seed on line (instead of having to settle for the often low quality seed the local merchant stocks – usually at a high price) and get it within 24 hours (kind of an Amazon for rural farmers) and perhaps most importantly, will get information like a county extension agent might provide – when to plant, which crop might do best in a particular area, what fertilizer or pesticide to use and so forth.

This is one of the most innovative and impactful programs I’ve seen in my many travels through the Mercy Corps world and it holds great promise for other parts of the world as well.

So I don’t have any pictures of Tanzania (what other country can boast of a main city with as cool a name as Dar es Salaam – place of peace?) or Zambia because I spent all my time (most of it anyway) in meetings with banks and telcos.  I did get out to the countryside briefly in Zambia and met some interesting farmers and aggregators (kinda like our feedstores).  Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, is a lovely city made more so by all the flowering (lavender) jacaranda trees, and Dar es Salaam is quite prosperous looking as African cities go (though the majority of the population lives in the country in poverty.

My last day there (a Saturday) I didn’t have any meetings and was able to take a day trip by ferry to Zanzibar.  It used to be a separate country and was a famed slave trading center for east Africa up into the Middle East and over to India.  It is an island off what used to be called Tanganyika and the two merged in the 1960’s to become Tanzania.  It is now called “semi-autonomous,” which seems to be an understatement.  I had to present my passport to be stamped both going and coming as well as going through customs inspection that is far more rigorous than you see at most international airports.  Also, Zanzibar is heavily Muslim while the mainland is primarily Christian, so all in all, it is a strange fit.  But the main town, Zanzibar City, and its ancient center, Stone Town, is an interesting contrast to the more conventional mainland.


A traditional dhow in the bay at Stone Town.

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Home

So it ends as it began, with a picture of beautiful Mt. Hood.  There are differences, though.  This one, as you can tell, was taken on the move (no doubt a dangerous driving maneuver) because I was anxiously approaching home.  It was taken headed west, whereas the beginning one was taken going the opposite direction.

It was quite simply a great trip.  I covered a total of 7,683 miles through 16 states (including, unexpectedly, Texas and Oklahoma) in 23 days.  Given how far south I went (Albuqurque) on the way to Cooperstown, it is surprising that the eastbound half was 3,855 miles and the return was 3,828.  I saw 14 games and went to 15 stadiums (I’m still bitter that the Cards game was rained out at Busch!), including minor league venues.

A big part of the fun was meeting lots of wonderful folks.  Everyone to whom I described the trip seemed genuinely pleased to hear about it.  Some expressed envy, and all seemed to think it was “cool.”  As I’ve tried to convey in these posts, there were interesting, quirky and entertaining aspects to the players, games, parks, food, ads and other sights and sounds along the way.

My planning was not great.  I did not calibrate carefully enough the distance between games (for a couple I simply forgot to look at it).  I didn’t leave time for non-baseball travel attractions.  So I’m certain there are many things I missed, such as the world’s largest ball of twine or the deepest hand-dug well, and so on.  I also suffer from the “just want to get there” syndrome – once I started driving, I’d spend way too much time calculating how many miles or hours remained until I got to the next park.  But if I’d done the trip taking all that into account, I’d still be traveling, so maybe it’s just as well that I have these flaws.

Thanks to all who suggested a blog.  Sometimes I felt pressed to write a post, but knowing that you were following along forced me to pay closer attention and, as a consequence, I got a lot more out of the trip than I otherwise would have.  Thanks also to all who posted comments or sent me emails of encouragement or correction.  It was nice to know I wasn’t really alone.  And speaking of that, thanks as well to friends and family who joined me along the way.  That enhanced the experience tremendously.

If you want to discuss the trip or any aspect of it personally, call me.  If you entertain thoughts of a similar trip, just do it.

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Schedule

Okay, folks, here is the schedule of my trip.  The first listed team is home and I’ll be in their stadium (duh!).  The keystone for the schedule is the Hall of Fame induction of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza on July 24 and the games are slotted around that with the three criteria of 1) have I been to that stadium; 2) how far is it from the last stop; and  3) does the date (and game time) work.

           July 18 – Royals vs. Indians

           July 19 – Cards vs. Padres

           July 21 – White Sox vs. Tigers

           July 22 – Reds vs. D’ Backs

           July 24 – Cooperstown

           July 26 – Pirates vs. Mariners

           July 27 – Indians vs. Nationals

           July 29 – Tigers vs. Astros

           July 30 – Brewers vs. Pirates

           August 2 – Rockies vs. Dodgers 

All are night games (7 p.m.) except the Indians which is at noon.

If you want to join me at any point along the line, send me an email (bobnewell@dwt.com) and we’ll make the arrangements.

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