Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 (It Was a Very Good Year)

Ground Ball With Eyes has been a ghost town of late, with this being my only post in December, after also writing only once in November and once in October too. My absence here has not been due to writing less, in fact it's quite the opposite. At the end of the 2013 season, I took over as managing editor at Let's Go Tribe, and after writing there twice a week or so for the previous year, I've had at least one post up there every since day for more than two months, often more than one, and that's left me with precious little time for other research or writing.

With old daddy Earth fixin' to start one more trip 'round the sun, and everybody hopin' this ride 'round be a little more giddy, a little more gay*, I wanted to take a moment to look back on some of the biggest events of my 2013, which has been one of the most eventful, memorable, and wondrous years of my life.

*That's a line from 'The Hudsucker Proxy,' one of the greatest movies ever to feature a New Year's scene.

January saw me turn 33, which is probably the start of your mid 30s, so I can't even play it off like I just entered that decade any longer. It's a good thing so many things in my life are going well, allowing me to be comfortable with my status as a man "in his mid 30s."

In February the 49ers, the football team I grew loving, made it to the Super Bowl, the first time one of my favorite teams played for a championship in 15 years. What else? I don't know, it was probably really cold that month, there was that.

In March Liz and I went to the Cayman Islands during my spring break. We went snorkeling, which I'd never done before, and saw eagle rays and all sorts of colorful fish. I stayed in the water for almost two straight hours, which I'm pretty sure you're not suposed to do.

April brought the start of another baseball season, and while I'd been writing at Let's Go Tribe all offseason, I was excited to be a part of things there while the team was actually playing. The experience did not disappoint, as the start of play brought even more readers to the site, and I began to really feel like a part of the community there. Liz and I also celebrated the anniversary of our first date by returning to the same restaurant, where she reminded me on that first date I talked about the Maddux. How I ever got a second date, I'll never know.

The next major event of the year for me was the birth of my soon-to-be niece Evelyn, on May 18. None of my siblings have any children yet, and while strictly speaking, Evelyn was not family to me at the time, it felt like she was (and in the end, that probably matters more than whatever "strictly speaking" might tell you. Getting to see her every couple weeks since then, slowly transforming from a bean into a small person, has been an absolute delight. On Thanksgiving she waved for the first time, and it was to me. It's a bit embarrassing to admit what a treat that was for me. I can hardly imagine what it will feel like to be a dad someday, given what a rush it is to be "Uncle Jason." Look at that picture though, how could anyone not love that baby? I mean really.

June brought the start of blessed, blessed summer break. Liz and I spent a few days at her family's farmhouse in Michigan, a trip somewhat diminished by my having done something to my back a few days earlier, and finding it hard to stand up straight or walk during the worst couple days. The day we drove home I flew to Oregon to visit my mom, a trip I hadn't made for a few years. She lives in a beautiful part of state, not far from the California border. The highlight of the trip was a day trip to Crater Lake, where the water is impossibly blue. Many of my fondest memories of time spent with my mom over the last 10-15 years are from time spent outdoors, I'm grateful she's in a position to enjoy so much time there herself as well.

In July my sister Jennifer came to Chicago for a week, because her boyfriend was here working on a movie. I hadn't seen her for a year, and I'd never met him, so it was great to be able to spent time with them both. He's a great guy (and a proper baseball fan, can you beat that?!), and she's as happy as I can remember her being. I spent much of that month preparing for the biggest trip of my life, and finally, late in the month, I boarded a plane and headed to Tanzania. I won't go into great detail, because even though five months have passed, I still intend to transform my journal entries and photos from the trip into some writing here, but July ended with somewhere near 15,000 feet above sea level, pleading with the gods to let me sleep.

I did sleep that night, and on the morning of August 2, I made it to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro or anywhere else in Africa. I'd felt awful for a couple days of the climb, but the final hour to the tip top was euphoric. When we made it back to base camp, I wrote Liz a letter in my journal. After the climb I spent three days on safari, where I saw fantastic wildlife, but by the time I arrived at the airport, I was ready to be home (too bad it was another 32 hours til I'd get there!). It was a trip I'd spent years thinking about, and it proved worth every dollar and every ounce of energy it cost me.

In September I attended an event with Liz and her mother, who was on the board of the group hosting event. Also on the board was Andrea Thome, wife of Jim, my favorite Cleveland Indian ever. Liz's mother introduced me to Jim, and later in the night he and I spent 10 minutes talking about this and that. he proved just as friendly as his reputation would lead you to believe. The next weekend Liz and I ran the Chicago Half-Marathon, her first time at the distance. I pulled my calf about four miles in, but managed to finish. The two of us drove to Iowa to see my grandmother, who turned 88 this year. Her mind is still sharp and she gets around pretty well. I can only hope to be in such good shape at such an age.

In October I watched the Indians play in the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. They lost, but it was still a great season for them, and for me at Let's Go Tribe. By this point I'd also bought an engagement ring, and I spent much of the month trying to make plans with Liz that would allow me to propose. She kept canceling on me though, too busy with her graduate school program for even a nice dinner out.

In early November things came together even better than any of my attempted plans. Her program led her to spent a week in Michigan, and on the Friday night of that week I jumped on a plane and joined her at the farmhouse. We went up to the cliff overlooking Lake Michigan, her self-described "favorite place in the world," and I read her the letter I'd written her from my tent at base camp beneath Kilimanjaro, in which I'd said I was going to marry her.

I vowed this would be the year I finished my shopping early, but I make that vow every year, and there I was on the night of the December 23rd, standing in line at a department store. There were reports that Evelyn might be too sick to join us for Christmas, but she pulled through like a trooper, making everyone's day. My sister Alison flew in from Rome, she and our brother Colin had brunch with Liz and me, reaffirming that no matter how pulled in different directions the family becomes, we'll always make time for each other.

Liz, our families, my friends (27 years of friendship and counting in some cases)... I'm lucky to have so many people to care about.

I'm hoping to get back to posting something here every couple weeks. Maybe I'll do some non-baseball writing, or perhaps I'll only write here much during my summer break from teaching, I don't know. I've already accomplished more than I expected to when I started this blog in 2012. The main reason I started writing again was to feel like a bigger part of the baseball world. This year I've had great discussions with numerous fans and writers, my work has been linked to by national outlets, my name was spoken on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, and I'm now being paid a bit to run the biggest and best Cleveland Indians blog in the world. I think all of that qualifies this site as an enormous success, no matter what becomes of it going forward.

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