Hello Stingrays Fans and Happy New Year!
With the holidays behind us we look forward to the clean slate of another year and the mid-season grind that comes with injuries, call-ups, trades and seven games in nine days. It seems that Christmas break was a small eternity ago already and the All-Star break is just around the corner. A long overdue writing session is definitely in order as SS would be nothing if not late. There were several topics of interest, including holiday parties, time off well spent, and of course the usual antics. I thought I’d bang out some of the highlights from the most wonderful time of the year, 2008.
First, a housekeeping tidbit: Trainer DJ Church turned the magical age of 40 a couple weeks ago, if you missed it on your Facebook reminder, or, if you haven’t had the opportunity to wish him well in bounding over the hill, I’m sure he’d welcome all encouraging remarks as he embarks on his midlife bliss.
Many of you know that our booster club tends to spoil us most of the time, but primarily during the giving season. The booster club holiday party was no exception this year, and of course what congregating endeavor would be complete without its share of ruckus behavior. This is an annual bash that we look forward to as players because it’s an evening of cutting each other down, eating until all dignity is lost, and we get presents. Yes, I realize that more than a few of the players, myself included, are encroaching on the upper echelon of their 20’s, but we still love toys. This year we decided that we would give back a little bit to the entertainment of the evening by instigating a mandatory ugly Christmas sweater dress code with a faux prize awarded to the ugliest sweater to appear at said event. I had done my homework and headed directly to Goodwill where I would be boasting a size medium red Woolrich v-neck flanked with a turtleneck I wouldn’t have fit in when I was 12. I eagerly counted down the days. The day of the party arrived and when I walked into the locker room for practice that morning, it would seem one or several comedians had found a more fitting wardrobe for that evening’s affairs. The loyal SS readers will recall the short quip about Mrs. Scherer’s cat, Sasha. Oddly enough, the boys haven’t forgotten it either. Hanging in my stall was a black over-shirt with three cats displayed on the front adorned with bells, ribbon and festive attire appropriate for the season. The cat that most closely resembled the one inhabiting my own apartment also had a dark Sharpie mark made to symbolize its shaven parts from a costly abscess removal – truly hilarious. I wore it proudly, feeling confident that if I could be let through the gates of the Air Force base where the party was being hosted, I would certainly be in the forefront of the running for best sweater. A young gentleman at the gate shouldering some type of automatic arm apparently required no identification for entry, as the passengers of previous vehicles had been similarly dressed. A long story short, the kitty sweater came in a close third behind a too-close-to-call two-way tie. Not surprisingly, Tom Maxwell was wearing a pocketed zip-up that would be reminiscent of something Mr. Rogers would wear if he were drunk on egg nog. And being that Roca Wear and South Pole don’t manufacture Christmas sweaters, “Nasty” Nate Kiser was relegated to a tight cream sweater with green tree accents – think bald, white Incredible Hulk trying to hide in a forest.
Moving on with the events, it is a well-known time honored tradition that the rookies sing a Christmas carol at the booster club party so that the rest of us can laugh at their humiliatingly awkward folly. Last year, when my class was being ridiculed for our vocal styles, we at least had the benefit of double-digit numbers to hide behind. This year’s crop was not so fortunate. With the fairly recent addition of Ben Boudreau, the number of English as a first language rookies soared to 2. Granted the other was Johann Kroll who is an incredibly gifted guitar player with a willingness to overachieve. Kroll learned the chords to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and hand-scrawled the lyrics for two French-Canadians (Dubic, Lacriox) and one Czech (Neuvirth), who were unfamiliar the elementary school favorite. I was quite certain the scenario would play out much like the Chinese restaurant climax of Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story”, however the echo at the end of each line soloed by Dubic really tied the song together and Kroll’s surgical picking precision hid any stumbling monotone voices.
As if the crowd had not been treated to enough entertainment for one evening, Booster Club president Nancy Sullivan had asked Johann to play a song for the group from his new album to which he happily obliged. I’m not the type of guy who worries about Mrs. Scherer running out on me, but I do know that there were likely more than a few women’s hands being held a little tighter than usual as their eyes fawned away from their own paper. He can most accurately be described as an instrumental genius with the voice of an angel wrapped in a cocoon of warrior masculinity. Infer what you will.
Caution shameless plug: The Johann Kroll website is up and running and awaiting interested parties for their listening pleasure. I would encourage folks to peruse his songs and purchase his new CD, Chasing Dreams, as it’s pretty solid and he is a decent human being. You can find it all at www.JohannKroll.com Double Sidebar: I just realized that SS is a product of my mind and I’m allowed to write pretty much whatever I like, provided it stays within the boundaries of good taste. That being said, I might be inclined to discuss various business ventures for a small nominal fee. Inquire within.
Keeping in the spirit of the holiday season and our break being as short as it was this year left a few guys and their significant others opting to remain in Charleston for the quick vacation. PL O’Brien and his belle wanted to impress a little culture upon us; enter my first fondue party. PLO had tried to explain to me the amount of eating and more so the length of eating that would go on during this evening of French ritual, but I just couldn’t imagine getting full from such small pieces of food. The last time small pieces of food brought me to my knees was an all-you-can-eat sushi roll contest with equipment manager John Williams last year in Pensacola and that took 8 rolls, three hours and likely ¾ cup of mercury before I hit a wall. These were going to be even smaller pieces than sushi, I was confident. After the Morin’s, the O’Brien’s, and the Scherer’s sat down to the table it was at least an hour and half before the lady folk began to show signs of slowing. One by one they fell, leaving more skewers for their male counterpart, to which we quickly made up for lost time and heaps of meat began to disappear. After 2 ½ hours PLO graciously bowed out in anticipation of the chocolate dipped goodies that would be coming later. Travis and I were not so gracious. I think we hit our apex shortly after the 3-hour marker and the scene looked a little bit like John Candy’s efforts in finishing ‘the old 96er’ in the classic film “The Great Outdoors”. Hands were shaking, bringing meat from oil bowl to mouth and upon our meat completion the chocolate dipped everything was a bad idea. There was no yacking but I will concede that it was well after 7 pm the next evening before I ate my first morsel of food again.
Have a safe and Happy New Year. See you around the rink…