Sunday, August 26, 2007

Round Rock Express' Tribute to Mike Coolbaugh

The Express are on the road right now, and I had been listening to the broadcast of tonight's doubleheader in Omaha via the internet. Only problem was, Gameday wasn't functioning for the second game, so I was keeping track of the score with the PCL scoreboard page. When the game was over, and I was about to close out the Express webpage, I noticed a new link for "Mike Coolbaugh". There's a nice write-up about him and his career.

They have also posted the video tribute shared with fans after the August 3rd game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. It captures his personality. Coolie with his wife & kids, helping his oldest (about 3 at the time) run the bases. Goofing off outside the dugout after a rain delay. Coolie with his teammates and fans. 2005 "shirt off the back night" and his broken wrist that prevented him from being a September call-up to the Astros. Coolie playing ball: hitting a home into the bullpen, and making a throw to first for the out.

Related posts:
In memoriam: Mike Coolbaugh
Mike Coolbaugh: The Tributes
Why the Rockies should win the World Series (10/4/07)

Friday, August 24, 2007

USS Grunion found

This article caught my eye.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The mangled remains of a vessel found in the Bering Sea are likely those of a World War II submarine that disappeared with a crew of 70 off the Aleutian Island of Kiska.

The discovery of the USS Grunion on Wednesday night culminates a five-year search led by the sons of its commander, Mannert Abele, and may finally shine a light on the mysterious last moments of the doomed vessel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

BadA$$ Marine

If you haven't seen the video yet, you should take the time to watch it. This unknown Marine SSgt Lawrence E. Dean II speaks with great passion.

Here are his words:

Free She Called

and She called...
Blacks, Whites...wait
African Americans and Caucasians, Asians, excuse me.
Vietnamese, Philippines, Koreans and Jamaicans or Haitians, waitin' Hispanics y'all.

Please be patient
Mexican, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelan, Cuban, Dominican, Panamanian Democrats
I beg your pardon, you partied with the late, great Reagan?
Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist, 5 Percenters, Hindu, Sunni Muslim,
Brothers and Sisters who never seen the New York city skyline when the twin towers still existed.
But still She called.

From the bowels of Ground Zero she sent this 9-1-1 distress signal.
Because She was in desperate need of a hero,
and didn't have time to decipher what to call 'em,
so she called 'em all Her children.
The children of the stars and bars who needed to know nothing more than the fact that she called.
The fact that someone attempted to harm this daughter that covered us all with her loving arms.
And now these arms are sprawled across New York City streets.
A smoke filled lung, a silt covered faced, and a solitary tear parted her cheek.
Her singed garments carpets Pennsylvania Avenue and the Pentagon was under her feet.
As she began to talk, she began to cough up small particles of debris
and said, "I am America, and I'm calling on the land of the free."
So they answered.

All personal differences set to the side
because right now there was no time to decide which state building the Confederate flag should fly over,
and which trimester the embryo is considered alive,
or on our monetary units, and which God should we confide.
You see, someone attempted to choke the voice
of the one who gave us the right for choice,
and now she was callin'.
And somebody had to answer.
Who was going to answer?

So they did.
Stern faces and chiseled chins.
Devoted women and disciplined men, who rose from the ashes like a phoenix
and said "don't worry, we'll stand in your defense."
They tightened up their bootlaces and said goodbye to loved ones, family and friends.
They tried to bombard them with the "hold on", "wait-a-minute's", and "what-if's".
And "Daddy, where you goin'?".
And, "Mommy, why you leavin'?".
And they merely kissed them on their foreheads and said "Don't worry, I have my reasons.
You see, to this country I pledged my allegiance to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.
So as long as I'm breathin', I'll run though hell-fire,
meet the enemy on the front lines, look him directly in his face,
stare directly in his eyes and scream,

And if by chance death is my fate, pin my medals upon my chest, and throw Old Glory on my grave.
But, don't y'all cry for me.
You see, my Father's prepared a place.
I'll be a part of his Holy army standing a watch at the Pearly Gates.
Because freedom was never free.
POW's, and fallen soldiers all paid the ultimate sacrifice along side veterans who put themselves in harm's way.
Risking their lives and limbs just to hold up democracy's weight, but still standing on them broken appendages anytime the National Anthem was played.
You see, these were the brave warriors that gave me the right to say that I'm Black. Or white.


African American or Caucasian,
I'm Asian, excuse me.
I'm Vietnamese, Philippine, Korean, or Jamaican.
I'm Haitian, Hispanic

Y'all, Please be patient.
I'm Mexican, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, Cuban,
Dominican, Panamanian, Democrat
I beg your pardon, you see I partied with the late, great Reagan.
I'm Republican, Independent, Christian, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist, 5 Percenters,
Hindu, Sunni Muslim,

Brothers and Sisters We're just Americans.
So with that I say
"Thank You" to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines,
for preserving my rights
to live and die for this life
and paying the ultimate price for me to be...FREE!


Turns out he wrote it to help explain to his grandmother why he is willing to go to war.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I went to the movies today

School hasn't started yet. I wasn't scheduled to work either of my part-time jobs today. So, I was able to take the time to see The Bourne Ultimatum this afternoon. As expected, it was an awesome action flick. I love the character of Jason Bourne - he's intelligent, resourceful, only kills when he has to, does his best to protect the innocent and he can kick some serious a$$. I won't spoil what happens in the movie, but I highly recommend it. And I might have found more reading I will want to do, too.

Anyhow, while sitting through the previews, a trailer came on for The Kingdom. I'm interested to see how they handle this "ripped from the headlines" story: a Western housing compound is attacked by terrorists, and an FBI team goes to investigate. Not having heard anything about this movie, I wonder if the writers will let the terrorists be actual Islamic militants. Only time will tell. The movie opens September 28th.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

East German Border Guards Had 'Shoot-to-Kill' Orders to Stop Defections to West has this article from The Times (UK):

Researchers have discovered a Cold War “shoot-to-kill” order in what amounts to the clearest evidence yet that East German troops were given a licence to fire on people fleeing to the West, the Times of London reported.

The written order, issued to Stasi secret service agents, states: “Don’t hesitate to use your weapon even when border breaches happen with women and children, which traitors have often exploited in the past.”

It's something I've known in my heart for a long time.

Dragon Rider

I picked up Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (translated by Anthea Bell) (recommended for children ages 9 to 12) after running across it in the children's literature section. Thought I'd check out a new author of a children's fantasy, since the story blurb on the back cover seemed interesting:

With Ben and Sorrel on board, Firedrake sets out in search of the mythical place where dragons can live in peace forever. Along the way, the three friends encounter fantastic creatures, surprising courage - and one ruthless villian determined to end their quest. Only a secret destiny can save the dragons in this enchanting adventure about the true meaning of home.

Unfortunately, from the beginning, humans are the bad guys, as we learn in Chapter 1, "Bad News". Rat tells Firedrake humans are coming to the place where the dragons live. In Chapter 2, "A Meeting in the Rain", Firedrake takes Rat to tell Slatebeard, a dragon elder, the news. Slatebeard has Rat tell everyone what she saw and heard:

"Humans are coming!" she cried. "They've woken their machines and fed them and sent them on their way. They're already eating a path through the mountains only two days' journey from here. The fairies will hold them at bay for a while, but they'll get here some time or other - because it's this valley of yours they're heading toward." (pp. 8-9)

Later in the same chapter:

"Why would they want to come here? Surely they have all they want where they are."

"Humans never have all they want," replied Rat. (p. 10)

And some more:

"For some of you," the old dragon continued, "it will be the first time, but many of us have had to flee from human beings before. Although now it will be extremely difficult to find a place that doesn't belong to them." Slatebeard shook his head sadly. "It seems to me there are more and more humans with every new moon."

"Yes, they're all over the place," said the dragon who had been mocking Sorrel a moment ago. "It's only when I fly over the sea that I don't see their lights beneath me."

"Then we must just try living in harmony with them," suggested another dragon.

But Slatebeard shook his head. "No," he said. "No one can live in harmony with human beings." (p.13)

I could pick out more quotes from Chapter 2, but I think you can get the point with these selections...

In Chapter 4, "A Big City and a Small Human Being", at the beginning of the journey to find the place where the dragons can live safe from humans, Firedrake and Sorrel are looking for Rat's cousin, but come across a small human boy named Ben, first. They find Rat's cousin, Gilbert, in Chapter 5, "Gilbert the Ship's Rat". Gilbert provides a map to help them on the journey. He also gives them a bit of advice on how to proceed:

Gilbert Graytail leaned forward and traced an invisible line on the globe. "By my reckoning you journey out to go something like this: a fair stretch south first, then turn east." He scratched his ear. "Yes. Yes, that's it. I think the southern route is best. The humans are at war with one another again in the north [ed. - is this a fictional war, or is it supposed to be a real one? Since Gilbert the Ship's Rat uses a laptop, it's not a historic conflict...]. And I've heard some very nasty stories about a giant." (p. 41)

Ignoring the "humans are violent and bad" overtones, the basic storyline is fine for a children's book, but the story seemed to drag along - usually, I would have flown through a children's book of 523 pages (like I just did recently with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that weighs in at 784 pages), but I sometimes felt very unmotivated to continue reading - I finally finished it because I knew I was soon to get my copy of Harry Potter 7 in the mail... The language doesn't seem to flow nicely and seems awkward at times, but that, I'm sure, has to do with the translation into English from German. I don't care for a couple of the characters. They are rude and resort to frequent name-calling ("dimwit", "fat little ratty bum", "stuck-up rat", "revolting stinkhorns", "fur-face", "little titch", "stupid creature"). That's not the kind of example I want set for students - "good guy" characters resorting to calling names instead of getting at the source of a disagreement through honest debate.

When our adventurers are close to their goal, they meet another brownie, except, unlike Sorrel, this one has four arms, not two. When relating his quest to this new brownie, the author lets Firedrake get in one more jab at humans, saying:

"We come from a valley faraway to the northwest, a place where my kind went many hundreds of years ago when human beings were beginning to take over the world. Now they are reaching out their greedy hands to steal our valley, too, and we must find a new home."

Overall, I cannot recommend Dragon Rider, and although I purchased this book, I won't be using it for a read-aloud, and I won't be putting it out in a classroom library - I might just sell it to a used book store and be done with it (although I don't like this book, I have a problem with throwing books away...)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mike Coolbaugh: The Tributes

It's been longer than I wanted it to take to follow up on Mike Coolbaugh's untimely death.

Mike Coolbaugh didn't give up on his dream to play professional baseball. From an article in the Houston Chronicle:

Coolbaugh had felt the chill of chasing a big league dream in places like Medicine Hat, Canada, where summer game-time temperatures often were in the 30s.

He had been to 18 professional baseball towns in three countries, places with names that seemed to come from some kind of fiction tale, Harry Potter-esque places like Hagerstown, St. Catharines and the Doosan Bears of South Korea.

He even was among the finalists who just missed making the roster for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, at which USA Baseball won the gold medal. Along the way, he kept loving the game. Nothing could end the dream.

"He was going to do it for a living," said Astros second baseman Chris Burke, who became friends with Coolbaugh at then-Class AA Round Rock. "If there was a place to play, he was going to play. He was going to play until you took the uniform off his back."

From the same Chronicle article:

"The game humbles you and teaches you a lot of lessons," Purpura said. "He lived that."

So let's make it clear: Baseball and the Astros have lost one of their true greats.

Coolbaugh wasn't a great player, but he was the kind of professional who appreciated the game more, worked more, dreamed more.

If it's true the greatest stories are not about the destination but the journey, few would parallel or inspire more than Coolbaugh.

The article concludes:

"He was the first guy that I met that had the attitude of, 'Listen, I'm going to play ball no matter what,' " Burke said. "No matter where, he was going to play professional baseball.

"He had some bad-break stories, but he loved the life. He was committed to playing the game. Baseball is what he did."

His was among the greatest success stories in the game. The story of never giving up.
Coolbaugh was honored with a pregame moment of silence, accompanying video board images and a tribute read by public address announcer Kevin Cruise. It was originally planned that the teams would line up before the game as a mixed group, but Tulsa Manager Stu Cole changed his mind because he felt the moment might be too emotional.

“I think it’s brought us closer together,” Cole said of the national support the Drillers have seen. “Because with everything that’s going on we know we have the support from everybody in baseball. Baseball is a fraternity and you really find that out when things like this happen. It’s a benefit to us to know that so many people care.”

Drillers players wore Coolbaugh’s initials and his jersey No. 29 on their caps, Coolbaugh’s jersey hung in the Drillers dugout and Tulsa left the first base coaches area open in the first inning as a tribute. Pitcher Jon Asahina, who was hit in the head by a line drive at Dickey-Stephens Park in April, took over first in the second inning.


Travelers utility man Ryan Leahy appeared at one of the donation tables [ed. - for fans to contribute to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund] in full uniform, the Tulsa ribbon pinned to his cap, to trade autographs for donations. Leahy said a few hit batsmen and some bad blood between the Drillers and Travs early in the season did nothing to diminish Arkansas’ support for the guys in the visitors dugout.

“It’s hard to put into words, but anything these guys need we’re willing to help them out right now,” Leahy said.

As Mike Coolbaugh's pregnant widow sobbed uncontrollably and his two young sons gently laid red roses into their father's casket, his friends attempted to put the ballplayer's tragic and untimely death into perspective Monday.

"In my eyes and the eyes of others, it's all still very surreal," said Brooks Kieschnick, a former baseball teammate of Coolbaugh's in the minor leagues. "You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than what happened to Mike."

Fighting back tears, Kieschnick paused to collect himself [ed. - I was told that other former teammates who attended the funeral were in no position to speak to press, so great was their grief].

"He's going to be deeply, deeply missed," he said.

Father John Wagener offered Coolie's family and friends these thoughts (from the same Express-News article):

"But I do have one answer I'd like to propose [ed. - in trying to explain the "possible meaning" behind Mike's death]," Wagener said. "Mike played by the rules in every way. He's not in the Hall of Fame; he didn't have the most RBIs. Maybe God is saying, 'See? See what one of you can do in life?'

"Saints don't think about themselves, they think about God. Mike was one of those (saints)," he said.

Again, everything I hear people saying about Mike is about the great guy he was:

He [ed. - Marty Shaughnessy, former high school football coach of Mike's] recalled Coolbaugh as an honor student, a fine athlete and an even better person.

"He was one of those pleasure-to-see-every-day kids," Shaughnessy said. "This was such a freak thing, a terrible, terrible tragedy. It's hard to put into words."


But as successful as Coolbaugh was as an athlete, it was his strength of character that made him special, a pallbearer and former teammate said.

"He was a great friend," said Mike Frank, who roomed with Coolbaugh at Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis, Tenn., in the minor leagues. "He was always thinking of other people. I loved him like a brother."

Coolie graduated from Roosevelt High School in the city of Windcrest. Windcrest has a water tower they decorate as a candle - I remember it from when we would drive the residential streets of Windcrest during the Christmas holidays to see all the light displays when my dad was stationed in San Antonio. The "candle" was lit in Mike's honor from sunset the day of the funeral until dawn the following morning. The "candle" can be seen from the I-35/Loop 410 interchange.

At Tulsa's first home game since Coolie's death, his Number 29 jersey was retired and placed on display in the stadium. "During the game, fans participated in raffles and auctions of autographed items that helped to raise over $10,000 for the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund that will benefit his family."

The game was played entirely without first base coaches. The Drillers had decided to play the game without a coach to pay tribute to Coolbaugh. The Wranglers also elected to honor him by playing the entire nine innings without a first base coach.

Tulsa also displayed a special number 29 patch on its uniforms for the first time. The patch is located below the left shoulder of the jerseys and will be in place on both the home and road uniforms for the remainder of the season.

The Wichita pitcher, Dusty Hughes, from that first game back in Tulsa, had been Coolbaugh's roommate last year for three weeks when they were both rehabbing in extended spring training.

"During that time, Hughes and his wife often talked to Coolbaugh's wife, Mandy, on the phone, asking her questions about pregnancy. The Hughes were expecting their first child. The Coolbaughs have two children (another is expected in October.)

"That was a big help and now our daughter, Kaylen, is 8 -1/2 months old," Hughes said.

Hughes wrote Coolbaugh's uniform number, 29, which was retired by the Drillers before the game, on his cap and also on the mound."
"My dad and I were at a Redbirds game and I was trying to get autographs from the players," Joe said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "I hollered 'Hey, No. 29, can I have your autograph?' He turned looked at me and said, 'My name is Mike.' "

An instant friendship started.

The Benafields sat close to the Redbirds dugout and Joe would cheer loudest for Mike.

"One night Mike looked up and asked if we could stay after the game for a few minutes," Dale said.

Coolbaugh presented his young fan with his personal bat that he had cracked that evening.

"You should have seen Joe afterward," Dale said. "He skipped all the way to the truck."

Joe said his objective in giving up the bat is to let Coolbaugh's young sons know just what type of father they had.

"Maybe this is a way his sons will remember him," Joe said. "They're pretty young and I thought this was a good way for them to know their dad."

That's a very thoughtful and generous 13-year-old.

On Friday, August 3, the Express were playing the Rockies' Triple-A affliliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, in Round Rock. With the rain-out at the last game on the previous home stand, just the day after Coolie's death, this game was selected to hold the tribute. Round Rock's uniforms now have a small black patch on the front right with the letters "MC" and the number "32", Coolbaugh's number when he was with Round Rock in 2005. Before the game started, there was a memorial pitch which ended out in left field with Barry Wesson, who walked the ball to third base. Brooks Conrad joined Wesson at third to remove the special base, marked with "32" on each side. The ball and the base are to be presented to Coolbaugh's family. A member of the grounds crew replaced third base so the game could begin. Fans were reminded that all home run dollars will go to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund for the remainder of the season. During the 7th inning stretch, a moment of silence was observed, and the Booster Club began passing the helmet for fans who wished to make a donation to Mike's family. After the game, the announcer, "Grubby", played the video he had prepared with clips from Mike's time with the Express, to include footage of his wife, Mandy, and his little boys. It was set to the song One More Day by Diamond Rio.

One more day, one more time
One more sunset maybe I'll be satisfied
But then again I know what it would do
Leave me wishing still for one more day with you

I'm sure there was hardly a dry eye in the entire ballpark. I know my sisters were a mess, and I wasn't much better.

The next day, I overheard one of the season ticket holders telling someone that Mandy and her sister had been at that game, up in the suite level with Jay Miller, the GM.

At Monday's game, the Express announced that over $14,000 had been donated at the ballpark for Mandy and the children. Since then, there were two more home games and more home runs. The Express are on the road until August 18th. There are twelve more home games for the rest of the regular season. Nothing will make the pain of losing a husband and father go away, but the donations fans here and elsewhere have made to the Coolbaugh family will at least ease one burden

Other resources:

Mike Coolbaugh's obituary at
Drillers to retire No. 29 at Tulsa World (7/31)
Don's Extra Point: In Memory of Mike Coolbaugh (7/25)
Lessening the family's burden at Tulsa World (8/1)
Fans pay tribute at Tulsa World (8/1)
Related post 8/26/07:
Round Rock Express' Tribute to Mike Coolbaugh
Related post 10/4/07:
Why the Rockies should win the World Series