Parenting: Phase 2

So…I have been searching for relevance with NuckolBall.

  1. There is a lack of drama with my boys. Things are in a groove.
  2. I’ve taken a new job this past year, so work has occupied a bigger part of my energy and focus (and I’m not blogging about that).
  3. This MLB season has been a little boring – and to be honest, this site has never really been about baseball.

I will tell you that Jack’s fall season of little league has started. This past spring season Jack went hitless again and struggled pretty mightily, but I didn’t write about it. It seemed like the same story all over again and I’m a little over it.

This Friday night, his first at-bat of the fall season started with his trademark wishy-washy approach where he tries to draw a walk and takes shitty, late swings at the ball and strikes out looking. So I figured, “here we go again.” But then on his second at-bat he corked a shot past the 3rd baseman and flashed to first. He had another game Saturday morning where he got another hit and pitched a scoreless inning. Jack’s friend Max called him Sunday to ask if Jack could come over; I heard Jack on the phone:

“I got a hit, a walk, and struck out.”

There was a brightness in his voice. It was pretty great.

But that’s not what I want to write about at all. What was really notable about the weekend for me is what happened after the game. It happened quickly:

After the game, Jack and his friend Christopher decided to go downtown and get lunch and hang out. (Can I have some money, Dad?) Alex went to diving practice.

In a blink Shani and I were looking at a free afternoon. We stared at each other a little uncertain that it was real. But it didn’t take us long to take advantage.

We shot to the Farm and Fisherman and sat at the corner of the bar. We laughed about God knows what. We talked about how handsome we think Alex is becoming. We drank piney IPAs and shared the “breads and spreads” platter. Shani told me all about the book she’s reading. Man, we had a great time.

And it occurs to me: Is this our future? Is this the next phase? Beers and snacky dinners at 3:30 PM? In bed by 10:15 on a Saturday?

More and more we are finding ourselves kidless and staring at each other, saying: “I guess it’s just us.”

About 5 years ago Shani and I got into a big fight. I don’t know the exact cause, but really it was a product of taking each other for granted in the midst of managing the kids. It’s easy to lose each other among the bed times and play dates, and we had to some degree. It had come to a boiling point.

“Look man,” she said to me. “There’s gonna come a day when these boys leave us, so you and I have to be right!”

It ended in a pretty desperate hug in the kitchen and I remember saying in a choked-up and murky voice:

“When I picture heaven, it’s being with you forever. You know that, right? That’s what I want heaven to be. With you.”

I’m getting a little choked up writing about that, actually. But this weekend at the Farm and Fisherman made me think about that fight. Above all, it brought me to a big realization:

I believe Shani and I are have reached a new place in our life as parents. I wrote a blog post about a year ago called In Transition about the pain of entering it. But now we’re through the transition. We’re there. Our kids are driving their own agendas. They don’t want me as a playmate anymore; they want to call their friends and do their own thing. They don’t need me to put them to bed. We can leave them home alone without even thinking about it. Parenting isn’t the all-encompassing effort it once was. It’s not priority #1 the way it used to be.

More and more Shani and I are able to step out to grab a beer together or have dinner by ourselves.


I am officially declaring that we have entered a new place in parenthood. It opens up a new range of topics and considerations for NuckolBall posts (I’ve updated the site look to commemorate it).

Parenthood: Phase 2 is here.

It feels weird, but I’m getting used to it. Get ready for a new ride.

3 Keys to Success at Work

Note: This post is part of the Donna G Project. This is written to and for my boys.

OK, now for part 2. Follow these 3 steps and you will dominate at work. People will scheme and beg to get you onto their team. People who go to other companies will try and recruit you.

For starters, all the wisdom I am about to impart upon you is based on The Fundamental Truth:

Most people’s primary objective at work is to do as little as humanly possible.

Remember it. Learn it. Accept it. It is the key.

Key to Work Success #1: Do the reading

Before a project begins, they usually send out a whole mess of background materials. My experience is that nobody reads it.

You should. Here’s why:

It immediately makes you the expert. You may be the least experienced person in the room, but if you suddenly start quoting facts and referring to points in the reading, suddenly everyone takes notice. And you know why…because with you around it means they don’t have to do the reading. Now you’re the guy everyone needs to have in every meeting. You’re the guy they want at the presentation in case there are any questions.

People are lazy. They don’t want to read all that crap. They want to pretend like they did it. And when they have a team member who digs in and knows the background, they want that person around.

Look, it’s gonna take you a couple hours at the most. Spend the time. Highlight key facts. Underline stuff. Look things up that you don’t know.

Do the reading.

Key to Work Success #2: Be great at receiving work

Imagine you’re a manager. Your job is to go around and assign tasks to people. And here’s where The Fundamental Truth comes in big time.

“I already have so much on my plate.”

“You gave me that proposal just yesterday.”

“I’m not sure I would know how to handle it properly?”

“What’s the deadline? Are you serious?”

Managing people is getting people to do stuff that they are trying to avoid. They bitch about it. They whine. They wheedle and negotiate and make excuses. And a manager has to pet them and threaten them and be nice to them – all to get them to just do their goddam job. Hell, sometimes it’s such a pain in the ass, managers just do the work themselves to avoid the headache.

So now a manager comes to you, asks you to take on a task, and you say:

“That sounds fun! I’d love to do that. Thanks! When do you need it?”

Imagine how great that will feel for your manager. Instantly your boss will be telling everyone what a great addition you are to the team. People will be trying to get you on committees and task forces. Your boss will start confiding in you, because unlike everyone else on the team, you’re not a source of stress.

Oh, and get this…if you do all this, all the time, when you do say you have too much to handle, your boss will actually believe you.

When someone gives you a task at work, act like they just gave you a present. Trust me, you’ll shoot up the ladder in record time.

Key to Work Success #3: Bring 2 ideas to the meeting

Corporate America is full of brainstorms. You’ll get into that meeting room and the meeting organizer will lay down some corporate-speak:

“I just got this proposal that’s due next week and I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to get creative and come up with some out-of-the-box ideas.”


“I haven’t spent any time thinking about this assignment so I want you all to figure it out for me and then do a lot of the work. Go.”

Now for the most part, everyone around the conference table just showed up because the meeting was on their calendar. They barely read the invitation.

Here’s where you come in. Before the meeting ever starts, read the invitation, find out what the meeting organizer is looking for, and come into that meeting with 2 good ideas. When the meeting starts, everyone is looking at each other and wishing they weren’t there – that’s when you jump in.

“Well, I did a little thinking about this beforehand. How about this…”

Suddenly, the meeting organizer is thinking: “Holy shit! I gotta invite this guy to all my brainstorms!” Everyone there will be thinking that. You look like a total go-getter, all because you spent 15 minutes thinking of a couple ideas.

Oh and by the way, everyone will want you on their team and in their meetings because they know you’re gonna do their work for them.

2 ideas. That’s it. Bring ’em.

Now – one final point to make about all 3 of the keys to success: they will SAVE you work. Sure, they’ll get you promoted and paid better, but in the long run they will actually save you time. Trust me.

So there you have it. Now go succeed. It’s easy.

The 2 Keys to Happiness at Work

Note: This post is part of the Donna G Project. This is written to and for my boys.

First and foremost, we will clearly lay out The Fundamental Truth when it comes to work:

Most people’s primary objective at work is to do as little as humanly possible.

Let me say it again:

Most people’s primary objective at work is to do as little as humanly possible.

That is THE Fundamental Truth, and people are brilliant at achieving this goal.

“I’d love to help out, but…”

“I’m not confident I’ll do it right without proper guidance.”

“If you ask, I’m there, but on one asked.”

The energy, planning, strategy, and creativity that goes into achieving this goal is mindboggling.

OK, so now I’m gonna blow your mind with this next fact:

The vast majority of people are not happy or satisfied with their job.

Are you seeing a correlation? Any bells ringing? Because this fact and The Fundamental Truth are directly related.

Think of it this way: if you spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at a job that you are actively trying to avoid, by definition you will resent it. You don’t want to be there. You’re just trying to get out of there. You’re doing as little as possible. You don’t value it one bit.

Of course you’re miserable. You’re spending the majority of your waking time doing something that gives you zero satisfaction. You are wasting most of your time. You are wasting your life.

And all of this brings me to the first key to happiness…

Key to Work Happiness #1: Do a Kick Ass Job

Whatever your job, nail it. Dominate it. Attack it.

If your job is washing dishes*, get those dishes clean and then go scrub out the pots and pans. Organize the store room. Wipe down the counters. Hose down the air filters.

Look, you’re there for 8-hour shift, right? Avoid your job like most people do and you’ll walk out of there saying: “Finally, I can get out of there and start doing something I value!” Kick ass at that job and you’ll walk out of there saying: “I’m glad that’s over, but I sure kicked ass in there.” It makes all the difference in the world.

You are going to have to have a job for most of your life. My recommendation is that you avoid the trap of The Fundamental Truth and kick ass at your job.

Key to Work Happiness #2: Don’t Rush Into a Career

There is a TON of pressure to have a career. This starts very early.

“What major are you considering?”

“What colleges are you looking at?”

“What’s your plan after you graduate?”

Older people, especially the ones who care about you, want to feel like you’re OK. We worry about you. We’re invested in you. We want to be able to say: “He has a job in a big company. He’s doing well.” That brings us great comfort. That means you have an income. You have health insurance. You’re on the path to home and wife and kids and stability. It makes us feel like you’re safe and that we’ve done a good job.

I am sure you will get that pressure-vibe from me. You’ll get it from your mother too. Anyone who cares about you will be subtly pushing you into the safe haven of a career.

But I’m here to tell you – don’t rush it. Don’t succumb to that subtle gravity. Because it may not feel like it, BUT A CAREER WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. Corporate America is dying for young, responsible, competent people (think back to The Fundamental Truth). It will feel like the opportunity to get into a good company is rare and has to be taken. But those opportunities are honestly a dime a dozen. Those opportunities will come again and again and again. Those opportunities will come agains and again and again. (Plus with my next entry – 3 Keys to Success at Work – you will absolutely rocket through any organization and blast up the ranks.)

Look, when I was 23 I had a great job. But then I quit. People thought I was crazy. My parents were all a-flutter. But I quit and spent a year living in my car and driving around the US.

Want to know what the consequences were to my career path?


I came back and in 6 months was right back into a secure job.

A few years later, I quit AGAIN. This time I spent a year travelling the world with your mother.

Oh, but wait, there must have been consequences of that rash action, right?


Once again, there were no consequences. I came back and in about a month I dove right back into the world of security and career. And here I am now – good job, house, kids, wife, whatever.

And get this – looking back – imagine the consequences if I had NOT quit my job. What would have happened if I had made a career my primary focus?

I wouldn’t have backpacked through that meadow in Washington that was so beautiful I prayed to God thanking Him for giving my eyes.

I wouldn’t have been on that boat in Thailand where that Japanese guy barfed on me.

I wouldn’t have trekked the Himalayas. I wouldn’t know what kava tastes like. I wouldn’t have heard the call to prayer in Morocco. I wouldn’t have gotten that God-awful haircut in Des Moines. I wouldn’t have spent my first wedding anniversary with your mother listening to a Vivaldi concert in a gothic cathedral in Paris.

In other words, the consequences would have been devastating. The career would have been the same.

A career will always be there. There is plenty of time to fall in step and gain stability – a stability I find wonderful. But the time to wander and explore and wonder and soar? That time, my sons, is limited.

So trust me, do not rush into a career.

Stay tuned! The second part: 3 Keys to Success at Work is coming soon!

*Note about the example of being a dishwasher. In many cases, that is a hypothetical example. That is not the case for me.

Backpacker Battle Royale: Many photos and 1 video

Location: The Appalachian Trail

Distance: 6.5 miles to the Kirkridge Shelter and then back the next day

Elevation: 1549 feet

The competitors: Alex and Mike

The question: Who will come out as the superior backpacker?

Your narrator: Mike Nuckols

The Face-off Begins
The Face-off Begins

Category 1: Pacing Yourself

For better or worse, I approach life as a to-do list. Whether it’s eating a meal or doing my Christmas shopping, I go full force towards my goal until I collapse. Backpacking is no different.

But Alex takes breaks. A lot of them. Whenever he says, “let’s rest at the next rock,” I find myself thinking: “Come on! Let’s keep pushing!” But then I rest and find that I needed a break as well. We’ll sit on a nice rock, eat some trail mix, and chatter away. Plus we see some cool stuff while we’re hanging out.

That’s really the way to do it, and if it weren’t for Alex I would push through the entire 6.5 miles – only stopping when I’m ready to drop.

Break time
Break time. Again.
Break time. Again.
And another break.
And another break.
Walking stick (spotted during a break)
Walking stick (spotted during a break)
Spotted during a break
Centipede (spotted during a break)

Advantage: Alex

Category 2: Eating habits

Shani has imparted terrific eating habits on my boys. They eat until they’re full and then they stop.

On the other hand, I generally eat like I’m headed to the electric chair. I never stop until my plate is clean. I never stop when I’m full. I stop when I’m stuffed. This is usually a bad thing – unless you’re burning through 5-6 thousand calories a day.

At camp breakfast, Alex didn’t finish his oatmeal and just nibbled a few dried apples. We got a half mile before the boy bonked. We had to sit for 30 minutes while he devoured half a pound of trail mix and a pound of dried cherries.

Not enough breakfast.
Not enough breakfast.
Our boy is bonked.
Our boy is bonked.

Advantage: Mike

Category 3: Being comfortable around “freaky weird people”

Shelters on the AT are first-come first-serve. Last year we had the shelter to ourselves. When I told Alex we might have to share it this time, he told me:

“I am NOT staying with freaky weird people!”

When we reached the shelter there were 3 guys from Virginia who were trekking from New Jersey to North Carolina. Alex and I set up a tent at a clearing nearby. After our tent was set up, we went to the shelter to cook hot dogs over the fire, but it started pouring rain. Minutes later, 4 local high-school kids (total hippies) rushed in from their campsite in a nearby field. We were all huddled under the shelter as the storm passed.

“Smell that, Alex?”


“That’s marijuana.”


“Does it make you want to try it?”


Hillbillies and Hippies
Hillbillies and Hippies (hard to see)

Advantage: Mike

Category 4: Going Shirtless

So it was hot. Hot and humid as hell. So Alex decided to pack shirtless – and eventually, so did I.

Alex is CUT. He swims an hour a day and dives an hour a day. Me, I cut a very different form. Thank God there weren’t a lot of ladies along the trail who would have lost control at the sight of my daddy abs.

Shot of Alex packing shirtless.
Shot of Alex packing shirtless.
Censored to protect women from too much lust.
Shot of Mike has been censored to protect women from too much lust.

Advantage: Alex

Category 5: Telling the people we love how we feel about them

We got into great conversations on the trail and at the campsite.

  • Alex described how he felt about his friends. “What I like about my grade is that no one is really popular. Everyone is the same and we’re all friends.”
  • He ranked every type of dried fruit he’d ever eaten. “And cherries are the best, of course.”
  • He went through the entire Egyptian creation mythos. “Then Set tempted him into a coffin and then connected him with the underworld.”

But at least once an hour, one of us would just blurt out: “I’m having so much fun – I love you so much! Thanks for doing this.”

We got into a long conversation about telling people that we love them. I’m really good at this (sometimes to the point where it becomes uncomfortable). Alex is also good about it. Although he doesn’t say it to Jack “because that wouldn’t be brotherly.”


Advantage: TIE

Category 6: How to date Taylor Swift

It was a 2-hour car ride to get to the trailhead and 2 hours back the next day. Alex had Taylor Swift albums loaded up and we listened to them the entire time while he sang along in the back seat.

He told me, at length, what the expectations were for dating Taylor Swift. In fact, he let me know: “If you don’t get at least 2 songs written about you, that’s a fail.”


Advantage: Alex

Who won? You decide.

End of the road

Here are a few more photos.

First overlook of the Delaware Water Gap
First overlook of the Delaware Water Gap
Sweaty boys climbing Mount Minsi
Sweaty boys climbing Mount Minsi
Made it to the top (took FOREVER)
Made it to the top (took FOREVER)
Setting up the tent
Setting up the tent

Hanging in the tent.

We were tired as hell, but talked for 2 hours before we fell asleep. "It's like a sleepover," said Alex.
We were tired as hell, but talked for 2 hours before we fell asleep. “It’s like a sleepover,” said Alex.
Victory burgers.
Victory burgers.

Finally…the video. This is at Eureka Springs. We had run out of water 2 miles earlier. We stopped here for 30 minutes, filled up on water, waded in the cool water. A terrific stop.

And because I love you (see what I did there?) – a bonus video. I give you…the chicken walk.

To Balk or not to Balk

So…when it comes to 9-and-under boys diving in South Jersey, Alex dominates. In fact, for the past 2 years he has come in first in every single event he’s entered.

Except one.

These may be may favorite photos of all time:




Last year, Alex placed 4th in the 3-meter championships. As you can see, he was not happy with the results.

Now…to make proper excuses, our pool does not have a 3-meter board, so Alex had only 2 practices at that height all summer. I’m certain the kids who placed ahead of him belonged to pools that had a 3-meter board.

This year is different. First off, Alex took dive lessons over the winter that included work on a 3-meter. Second, Alex had at least 6 practices this summer on a 3-meter board. But there is a downside to all that training.

Alex was lined up to do:

  • Forward dive tuck (degree of difficulty – 1.4)
  • Inward reverse tuck (degree of difficulty – 1.3)
  • Reverse dive tuck (degree of difficulty – 1.8)
  • Reverse somersault (degree of difficulty – 1.7) Also known as the “reverse sommy
  • Forward one and a half (degree of difficulty – 1.5)

The degree of difficulty (DD) is a major factor in your total score. Whatever scores the judges give you is multiplied by your DD. Alex’s dives were at a much higher DD than any other diver, which gave him a tremendous advantage. It means that even with average scores, Alex will crush every other diver.

Which meant that realistically, there are only 2 ways Alex could lose.

The first issue is Alex’s kryptonite. But Shani made sure we took care of that.


So with that out of the way, it came down to the real threat: the balk.

Think back to when you were a kid and think back to jumping off the high dive. Think about how that felt. Getting up there and looking down at the water. That tingle in your belly as you psyched yourself up to jump. Were you scared? I sure was.

Ok, so now imagine getting up there to do a flip. Scarier? How about a back flip? Crazy, right? Well, how about you go off the board forward, and at the same time throw yourself into a back flip?

That’s the reverse sommy, and I can tell you that Alex has only once done it without balking. A balk is when you hesitate once you start your approach to the dive. If you balk, you get no points for your dive.

If Alex balked on the reverse sommy – zero points – and we’ve got a sad face again. It was his 4th dive. So here we go.

  • First dive – nice. Scored 4s and 5s.
  • Second dive – nice. 4s and 5s.
  • Third dive – gorgeous – and this with a 1.8 DD.

But then came the reverse sommy, and here’s where it gets heartbreaking. As a parent, it’s hard to figure out how to handle when your kid doesn’t succeed. And you can say all the right words about bravery and doing your best…but they don’t care. You’ve got devastation on your hands. I’m never sure how to handle…

Awww…I’m just messing with you. Alex nailed it.

No sign of a balk at all. And check this out…here’s dive #5.

And finally…here’s Alex on the winner’s podium. First place.


Final note: Check out that kid to the right. That kid came in second – and a week from Saturday, he will go up against Alex in the 1-meter championships. He’s a gorgeous diver and such a sweet kid.

With any luck, the little shit will break his ankle over the next 10 days.

Written with Guilt

I was in San Francisco for work this week (and hit a Giants game). I had dinner with one of my best friends, Reef. Reef asked me how things were going and I went into Jack going to camp and how good I thought it was because he’s been dealing with social pressure and blah blah blah.

So Reef says to me:

“It’s funny how much more you talk about Jack than you do about Alex.”

Pow. Leveled me. It was one of those observations that:

  • You were completely unaware of
  • Gets you right between the eyes because its so undeniably dead on

Actually, Reef has a talent for that kind of observation. Especially when he’s on drugs. But to stay on subject…

I stammered a bit and then launched into an hour monologue all about Alex to assuage my guilt. But I also pointed out a few things:

  1. Jack provides more drama. Every stage is new to me, so I’m more scared of it. I don’t know how to handle it. And more drama means a better story.
  2. Alex is just easier. He’s good at everything; everyone adores him.

In all honesty, Alex is the font of happiness for the whole family. Jack’s becoming a pre-teen, which means he slams his door and rants with indignation when we don’t believe him when he says he scrubbed his armpits when he took a shower, even though he reeks of BO and is obviously lying.

Shani reacts fantastically to whatever emotion Jack is feeling. Those two are like voodoo dolls of each other. If Jack is sulking, Shani starts sulking as well. When Jack gets angry, she matches him with equal rage.

Me, I’ve started a new job that is infinitely harder than my old job. I’m constantly distracted and less in the moment than I should be.

Then there’s Alex. He goes to diving practice and chatters away with all the kids at the pool. He’s invited to play with a different friend each day. He reads. He brushes his teeth. He goes to bed without a fight. He sleeps late. His armpits don’t stink yet.

He’s happy.

Sometimes I feel like I’m using him to cheer myself up. I’ll lie down next to him on the couch and he’ll wrap his arms around my head and say, “I love you so much, you’re the best daddy, mmmmmm.”

If I could bottle those snuggles and sell them I’d put every therapist in the world out of business overnight.

So I feel bad about the fact that I talk more and write more about Jack.

But don’t worry…I know just how to cheer myself up.



With Sadness

I’m sorry to report that Josh the lizard died this weekend.

You may recall Alex’s quest to purchase a lizard in posts from last year — some readers even threw Alex some paying work that helped contribute to the purchase.

Shani noticed he wasn’t moving Friday night. Alex reached in, picked him up, and the lizard was floppy and clearly dead. I wrapped him in a bag. Alex proceeded to absolutely sob uncontrollably for 30 minutes. The boy doesn’t mess around with his sadness.

The next day we buried Josh in the backyard — here is the gravestone Alex made.


It is worth noting that he wrote “I love you” a second time at the bottom of the stone where it would be underground and “Josh could read it.” After the burial, Jack and Alex went out a little later and I saw that both of them were kneeling by the grave.

I don’t think there will be another lizard in Alex’s life, but who knows. The big heartbreaker quote for me was when he told me the next day: “Lizards are supposed to live 8-10 years, so I expected to have Josh until I was 16.”

Oh — at Alex’s insistence, we also went to church on Sunday. Although we screwed up the times and missed the service. So the three of us spent 10 minutes praying, and then spent the another 10 minutes having an incredible conversation about religion.

Godspeed, Josh.

A Quick Deke to Comerica Park

We begin our Tiger Tale with this:


I had a free night and asked the hotel if they had a map. How classy, right?

Then we go to this:


I got it for $30 off a scalper. Great seats – field level, 20 rows back off 1st base. I was feeling good, and then…




That moment when you first see the stadium. That’s a big deal to me. It’s genuinely awe-inspiring. There it was – with giant statues of tigers and huge bats. The big lights and sheer scope of it. My bouncy step got that much bouncier.

I went through, got to my seat and check this out…


That’s Miguel Cabrerra not 50 feet away from me. Dynamite, right? OK…look closer. The field seats at Comerica are on a low pitch, which means it’s really hard to see. People’s heads in front of you block your view. A true design flaw if you ask me. But then again, people’s heads in my way was secondary to…

OK, time out. An important lesson for non-baseball fans. This is a cardinal rule at a ballpark.

Do not get up from your seat in the middle of an at-bat. Same goes for returning to your seat. Wait for the at-bat to finish and THEN you can get up/sit down.

Why? Because people (like ME!) are trying to watch the damn game! And for some baffling reason, Tiger’s fans had no idea this rule existed. I was stunned. And getting irrationally furious.

Oh, and the other thing that was happening – EVERYONE was taking selfies. I’ve never seen so many selfies in my life. It was like a selfie flashmob. In fact, the mother in front of me took a selfie of herself and her little girl. Then the little girl started demanding and whining that her mother delete the selfie. And when mom refused, the little girl started fake crying.

I felt like I was losing my mind. After a few innings, I sort of staggered away feeling frazzled. I bought a hot dog and took the escalator up to a higher deck.

Now…let’s look at this photo and tell me what you see?


It’s the shot from my new seat. In fact, as I entered the section, I found 3 guys standing at the back waiting for the at-bat to end before returning to my seat. But back to the photo, because it contains 4 things I loved seeing.

  • The kid at the bottom left is wearing a baseball glove. It’s hard to see. Just at the bottom of the frame. He was hoping to catch a pop up and carefully watching the game for his chance
  • In the center, a kid is on his dad’s lap and they are keeping score. The dad is teaching his son how to log a game.
  • Top of the frame is the view of downtown Detroit – a view I couldn’t see at all from section 118.
  • Far right? Oh yeah – that is a real deal baseball mutant. She and her mate were chattering away about the game and having a great time. Pros. She was eating soft tacos and snuffling them down like an anteater. I got her in mid-snort.

What was also nice about this section was the view of the field. I could see what was going on. No heads in my way.



So now…I could give excuses. I had an hour drive back to my hotel and I had to get up at 6 and run an all day workshop. High profile for a big client. And the game was out of reach for the Tigers (down 12-3) and every pitcher just kept walking batters and then they’d switch to another pitcher who would warm up and then walk the next guy.

And then…and then…oh God. OK.

I left. I left before the end of the game. I did. I did that. Here’s a shot of the sunset over the city I shot on my way out.


So…not sure if it’s even valid considering what I just admitted, but my review of Comerica Park is:

  • GORGEOUS stadium. Grand and majestic. It feels like you’re entering the Roman Coliseum about to watch something enormous take place.
  • Fans suck in the spendy seats. Fans are solid in higher decks. Plus the seats are better.
  • Food is nothing special.

IMG_2030 2


The Meteoric and Painful Rise of Jack Nuckols, Pitcher


This weekend concluded the spring baseball season for Jack, and it was a rough one at the plate for our hero. There was a regression in his approach where at-bats were filled with tentative swings, attempts to draw walks, and head shakes as he shuffled back to the dugout following a called strike three.

Game after game slid by without a hit. Midway through the season, after another game where he went 0-for-3, Jack rode beside me in the car in a fragile silence. I tried the “get ’em next time” peppy-talk and got nothing. After a few more minutes, I spoke:

“What’s the matter, bub? You look real sad.”

That was all it took. It was like I had nudged a tall tower of blocks. He spoke back, his voice high-pitched with misery.

“I’m just sitting here realizing how bad I am at baseball.”

He fell into inconsolable tears, weeping into his hand.

“Why does the person who loves it the most have to be the one who is the worst at it?”

At this point I was crying too (I do that). I told him he was young and had years ahead of him. I told him that baseball was the hardest sport in the world. I told him he was brave. I tried all the regular parent bullshit you say, but he just kept right on bawlin’. It sucked.

The season kept on and Jack kept doing nothing at the plate. He looked lost up there. But then, with just a few weeks left in the season, Shani and I got an email from Jack’s coach.

Wanted to let you know that I’m pitching Jack for an inning tonight. Please don’t tell him beforehand.

So as Shani and I arrived at the field, Jack was off to the side warming up. He came back to the dugout and mouthed to us: “I’m pitching.” And boy oh boy was there a lot of emotion he was trying to cover up behind a cool face.

Next inning, out he went.

So Jack is a lefty and he’s small. He went out there and shot these slow, lefty loopers right in for gentle strikes. The inning went:

  • Groundout to the pitcher
  • Groundout to first base
  • Groundout to the pitcher

1-2-3 inning. Wowzers! I’d been expecting a walkfest mess, but it went great.

The next game, Jack warmed up again, was sent out, and put down another 1-2-3 inning. As Jack came back to the dugout, the coach came over to him:

“Jack, think you can handle another inning?”

OK…so a second inning. That is significant. One inning is giving a kid a chance to pitch. Two innings means a move into the stable of regulars who pitch for the team. Plus, this was the top of the order for a good team.

  • First batter: groundout to the pitcher
  • Second batter: line drive double
  • Third batter…

The third batter was a boy named Thomas who is one of the best hitters in the league. I frantically texted Shani to tell her who Jack was facing.

“Crapass” was her response.

But Jack pumped in a few of those loopy slowpokers and…

  • Groundout to the pitcher

Jack walked the next guy (men on 1st and 3rd), and then struck out the next batter.

OK, so to say I had a different kid on my hands from that day forward is a major understatement. “Self esteem” is an overused term, I think, but in this case it was like you could see Jack’s newly-glowing self-esteen floating over him like he was pulling around a balloon.

He took to lecturing Alex on how to sequence pitches. He used his prize money from the essay contest to buy a pitch-back and spent hours in the backyard announcing games with himself. Shani asked him if he was happy after getting out of the last inning:

“Yeah, I was happy, but when you walk off the mound you have to look like it was no big deal. That’s how you do it, Mom.”

He kept pitching in every game following and continued to get hitters (good hitters) out.

“I have a 0.00 ERA still,” he informed me.

The team was the underdog heading into a double-elimination playoffs. Jack led the game on the mound and looked shaky. It was raining and the ball slipped from his hand several times. He hit a batter (not hard) and walked another. Then a double ended his perfect ERA. They ended up losing that game.

Then the next game, with the season on the line, Jack took the mound in the 2nd inning and the loopy leftshot was consistently off the plate.

  • Hit batter
  • Walk
  • Walk
  • Walk

As he threw you could see him withering like a weed. After every pitch he would look imploring at the coach, begging with his eyes to be pulled.

When Jack finally came off the mound, he was anything but stone-faced. The team lost and was eliminated by the playoffs.

So a tough season? The team never really got into a groove and Jack didn’t either. But as I look back, I’m filled with gratitude and good feelings.

I love Jack’s coach. He has made it clear that he does not draft based on baseball skill – he drafts to get the nicest kids he can. And sure, lots of coaches say they do that, but this coach really does.

I love the coach’s wife. She is a mainstay in the stands; she beams and smiles through the entire game. She notices every kid’s success and revels in it.

I love sitting with rational parents. Drafting kids based on niceness means the parents are terrific. I’m not much for chit-chat, but I’ve really enjoyed sitting among them.

And above all, I love being a dad. Shani is in the stands next to me. Alex is running the snack bar or begging for me to buy him candy. The pace of a baseball game makes me sit back and realize that this is it. This is fatherhood. These are the moments.

So thanks to everyone for a great season. And beware, Jack has not let up on that pitch back. He will be taking the mound this fall.