An Open Love Letter to Matt Shoemaker

This was intended for, but apparently the Eastern European hackers really like the hits for their pharmacy website, because it’s been hijacked. Rather than waste my efforts, I’m going to post it here until Bugs is back up and running. Matt Shoemaker is a pitcher for the Angels, by the way. 


My Handsome Matthew David Shoemaker,

You never stop surprising me. After you signed with the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, our paths never crossed. How could they? You, undrafted out of Eastern Michigan, and me, only paying attention to real baseball prospects. But this year. Oh, Matty, this year. The stars brought us together.

Somehow you broke Spring Training and made the Angels’ 25-man roster. You pitched serviceably out of the bullpen, fulfilling the role of a versatile long man. Honestly, I didn’t expect you to last. In May, however, you returned. In my birthday month, no less! I just love how you knew that. Anyway, you returned, and you returned for good. Your boss, Mike Scioscia, handed you some starts once Hector Santiago shit the bed and lost his spot in the rotation.

Rotoworld treated you like another one of their hussies.

shoemaker rotoworld

But you showed them. And me, darling. You caught my interest. But I kept my distance. I didn’t think it could last. In June I swooned as you struck out a career high 10 against the Indians. You aroused my faith. So much that the stinker you tossed against the Kansas City Royals on June 27 (4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER) did little to dissuade me.

I never told you this, my man stallion, but what I saw in you, that thing that gave me hope, was your strikeouts. We all know you’re not a bombshell. Radar guns aren’t shorting out from excitement when you step on the mound. You weren’t the kind of guy that was ever going to make the cover of Baseball America. But you figured out how to succeed with the tools that God gave you.

How does one, armed with a measily 90-mph fastball, manage to strike out more than a batter per inning pitched? It’s because you know how to use your tools.

Your splitter makes me tremble inside. But it’s your ability to hit the right spots with five pitches (splitter, four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider and knuckle curve) that puts these batters to bed to the tune of 8.86 whiffs per nine innings.

Everything changed for me on August 9. That’s the date I fell in love. The Man Crush was born. It was at home, in Anaheim, and you guys were hosting the Boston Redsox. I was laying in bed. Cemented in a 4-4 tie in the 17th inning, you entered the game in relief. Just three days before you pitched well in a 2-1 loss to the Dodgers (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 K). You twirled three perfect innings with four strikeouts until Albert Pujols’s walk-off home run ended the marathon and sent your aching arm to chill in a bucket of ice until the clubs in Downtown Santa Ana turned the lights on and made the hood rats go home.

I bragged about you to my friends. I wish I could’ve massaged that right shoulder of yours.

My honey, that is when you stole my heart. To pitch that long in relief – that well – on short rest was heroic. Gutsy. And thrilling. But you weren’t done.

When super model Garrett Richards tore up his August 20, many considered the Angels’ World Series dreams in jeopardy. Even after an 8-3 victory in that game, the clubhouse was silent. No one celebrated the victory. Everyone was crushed about losing Richards.

Baseball media based the rotation. They wondered whether you and your buddies could keep the Angels in a pennant race without the bombshell. That very next night you showed them. At Fenway Park you entered the seventh with a no-hitter until the “butthole” Will Middlebrooks ripped a double down the left field line. You finished the 2-0 victory with 7.2 IP, that one hit, just one walk and nine strike outs.

You lifted the Angels when they needed it the most, my precious. You ooze humility, grace and class. And you’ll need to do it again tonight against the Miami Marlins. That trashy Wade LeBlanc, filling in for Richards last night, was bombed in a 7-1 drubbing and you’re tied again with the Oakland A’s for the Western Division lead. We need you to keep us in the this game. To pitch well. To win. And I know you will.

My beloved, I’ll be there tonight to root you on. Look for me in the suites behind home plate. Watch for my fluttering baby blues. With butterfiles in my stomach and my heart at your mercy.

Eternally Yours,

Seth Tearz

A Brick in My Foundation of Support

After Jax died, people came out of the woodwork to give. Old friends from high school, acquaintances I forgot about and people I’ve never met scribbled cards, sent flowers and gifted money. The beauty of the human spirit wrapped us in a tight embrace when we needed it most. It was completely touching for us.

But a group of men I’ve never met in person stepped up in a shockingly, thoughtful way that touched me deeply with something I love – Angels baseball.

In 1998 I started a computer Strat-O-Matic 20-team baseball league with three friends. Remember, I’m a big baseball nerd. The four of us drafted players, traded for better ones and competed against seventeen computer teams in a 162-game season. Gradually the league expanded to 24 teams and other “human” owners settled in to run franchises in our Westside League.

The league is now in its 16th season of play. Owners have come and gone, leaving due to increased job responsibilities, a new addition to the family or lack of interest. But quite a few of today’s owners have participated in the league for several years. And while we only know each other from the internet, some of us have developed deep friendships as we mix in stories from our personal life between a brainstorm of mock rookie drafts, battling for a World Series championship and busting each other’s balls when our players start to suck in real life.

Led by Steve Jack – the league’s webmaster, my right-hand man and all around pot stirrer – this group of men put together funds and surprised me with an Angels jersey with “Jax” and the number 08 on the back, indicative of his birth year.

They also purchased a personalized brick that rests outside the front of Angels Stadium between the two large helmets. On the ground is a pitcher’s mound designed into the brick layout, and to the right of the mound lies the brick.

My buddy Ian and I set off to find the brick last night. It was opening night at Angels Stadium and we had tickets in our usual season seats in Section 240, Row A. But first, we needed to fuel up.

Greasy Del Taco quesadilla

Greasy Del Taco quesadilla

We hit up Del Taco for a quick bite before parking in our usual spot near Chapman and Eckhoff in Orange and hiking our usual trail under the 57 freeway overpass, over the Santa Ana riverbed and into the stadium’s parking lot. That’s my quesadilla. No, I didn’t spill water on it. It was that greasy. Now that’s impressive, even for Del Taco.

The packed stadium buzzed with anticipation and hope of an Angels season that will bleed into an October playoff run.The usual pomp and circumstances filled the outfield prior to the game, which turned out to be a crapfest for Angels fans.

Panoramic shot from our seats at Angels Stadium on Opening Day

Panoramic shot from our seats at Angels Stadium on Opening Day

Prior to taking our seats Ian and I scoured the bricked infield in search for the Westside League’s gift. All proceeds of the Angels Brick Program go to the Angels Baseball Foundation, which helps fund local and national youth organizations aimed at creating and improving youth programs in education, healthcare, arts and sciences.

Ian finally spotted the brick, which read his name and “Always Loved”. Jax’s interest in the Angels really started to pick up as he turned three. He sported an Angels hat or t-shirt often and his favorite player was Torii Hunter.

Always Loved brick

Always Loved brick

Four days before he died we went to a game with my wife’s family to celebrate Father’s Day with her grandpa. We had such a fun night as a family and Jax especially enjoyed watching a game from a baseball standpoint for the first time, and not just taking in the stimulation around him. We have a large canvassed photo in our living room of the five of us on that night. The brick memento ties together perfectly my love for the Angels, my love for Jax and my wish that he always be remembered.

The relationships I’ve built with these faceless baseball fans means more to me than my Boston Chowderheads winning another World Series. While it’s a virtual baseball world, we live real lives. And the support we’re able to offer each other in tragedy, sickness and the valleys of life make all the hours put in to run the league more than worthwhile.

Thank you Steve Jack and the Westside League.

Opening Day Shines Through My Darkness


Via Sports Memes.

On March 28 last year I sat in the office of a marriage and family therapist’s office and explained how everything in my life seemed gray. Beyond stressed by work, the usual rainbows for me were buried behind ominous, dark clouds of depression.

Just over a year later, one of those rainbows is about to pop through the darkness. Today is Opening Day in Major League Baseball. Sure, there was a game last night, but watching the Texas Rangers take on the Houston Community College Astros is just one last Spring Training tune up, right?

I fell in love with baseball when I was 8. I was in third grade at a new school and all of the boys I wanted to be friends with were California Angel fans. It was 1986. Wally Joyner took Orange County by storm and Wally World officially opened for business. He quickly became my favorite player. Lanky Mike Witt with his breath-taking curve balls was my favorite pitcher. My iPhone and iPad are named after them, respectively.

I signed up for Little League the next season and played through high school. I’ve run a fantasy simulation baseball league since 1998, I have season tickets to Angel games and my wife just renewed our subscription for another year. I’m a huge baseball nerd. And I love it.

For many baseball fans, today is earmarked with hope for their favorite teams. Everyone is tied for first. Maybe that big trade in the offseason will push your team into contending for the division. Or maybe that flashy prospect you’ve been drooling about in your farm system will be 2013’s Mike Trout or Bryce Harper.

I make myself dig for hope now. My therapist told me that the loss of a chid is the worst loss one could ever experience. Our kids aren’t supposed to die before us. Looking forward to small things like Opening Day, Gray and Ellie’s t-ball classes or a night out with the boys gives me hope. I need something to look forward to in order to keep from hyper focusing on loss. Without hope I’d lay in bed all day clutching a bottle and smelling of death.

The Angels open up today at Cincinnati against the Reds. Local hero Jered Weaver takes the mound with phenom Trout, the legend Albert Pujols and the big free agent Josh Hamilton behind him. Their hope is a World Series. My hope is to bask in the beauty of baseball for a day before the dark returns.