Amish lad tries to make MLB roster

While some established baseball veterans with huge contracts ride into spring training driving a Mercedes GLE 63s or Polaris Slingshot, one rookie has to endure ribbing about driving a horse and buggy. But Erasmus Kolb, who is Amish, can tolerate the gentle jokes from his teammates because he has a chance at his lifelong dream of playing baseball at the highest level.

Feb 18, 2017; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Colby Rasmus (28) poses for a photo during photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 18, 2017; Tampa Bay Rays photo day at Charlotte Sports Park. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kolb, an outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system, is at his first spring training camp, at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida. His teammates in various minor league stops over the past three years have accepted his beliefs and behaviors, while at the same time poking good-natured fun at what to many of them are eccentricities regarding dress, horse-drawn buggies and barn raisings.

While Kolb, who grew up in Shipshewana, Indiana, adheres to traditional Amish beliefs, he is an outgoing and fun-loving member of his team. He is also very serious about his desire to play major league baseball. While many Amish young people conclude school after eighth grade, Kolb continued through high school in order to play organized baseball. He received offers to attend several Mennonite and similar denominational colleges but when the Rays drafted him in 2013 he signed with them as likely the quickest way to reach the majors. Scott Russell, his manager in High-A, says that “Rassy has always had a single-minded determination to play hard and play well and make it to the top.”

Kolb is known for his wiry strength (“farm work” he says) and speed (“from chasing my older brothers and sisters”). He also knows what he needs to work on. “I need to be more selective at bat,” he acknowledges. “I need to work more walks and cut down on strikeouts.”

In uniform it is difficult to distinguish Kolb from being just another member of the team, especially as he is fairly fluent in Spanish, having studied the language in high school sensing that it would be a useful tool to interact with teammates from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other Central and South American countries. His former Low-A manager Manny Torres believes that Kolb “has a special affinity to make the Latin players feel welcome, I think because he has been a bit of an outsider too.”

Difficult to distinguish — except for the beard. In typical Amish tradition, Kolb has kept his beard. Throughout his minor league progression it has earned him distinction and recognition with which he is sometimes uncomfortable. Out of uniform, wearing simple pants and a solid-colored dress shirt, and with the beard, he does look quite Amish. “I feel I need to be consistent in who I am,” he says, “but boy, I can get a lot of looks when I’m in a new town.”

His teammates, however, are quick to support him. Especially when fans or players from opposing teams make inappropriate comments. “He’s one of us,” says Kevin Roberts, his teammate in AA last year. “Really, every one of us is different in different ways. We all like Rassy and we have his back when someone says something stupid.”

Kolb’s interest in playing professional sports has generated some disagreement among the Amish in his home area. His bishop, Jacob Borntrager, ultimately gave approval to Kolb pursuing his dream. “There are aspects of this with which we are uneasy, yes, but Erasmus is well-grounded and has strong family support to keep him focused on both his goals and his beliefs,” said Borntrager. “If nothing else, it may help clear up some of the misconceptions people have about the Amish and our beliefs and values.” His father, Isaiah Kolb, adds that “He certainly has this gift, so we hoped he would have a chance to see where it leads while he is young. There will be opportunities for Erasmus to start his own home after this endeavor is over.”

The Amish are a church group with an Anabaptist background. Sometimes called “Plain People,” they share common historical roots with the Mennonite churches. The early Anabaptist movement in Europe formed during the Reformation. Anabaptist refers to being baptized again, as in adult baptism as believers. The Amish broke from the Mennonites in 1693, seeking a stronger separation from “worldly ways.” They wear modest clothes, do not drive cars and do not have electricity in their homes. They are a humble people, value simple living, are family-centric and believe in being as separate as possible from the rest of society.

What does Erasmus Kolb hope to get out of his first spring training? “I’m just soaking this all in. The atmosphere, the training, learning from the guys who’ve made it. This is great. But I know I have more work to do.” While he is certain to return to the minors for more seasoning, the major leagues now appear to be in sight. He’s after the view from the top of the barn.

shavedThe photos of Colby Rasmus (who is actually pictured above) with a beard inspired me to create this story. Too bad he shaved.

Posted in Baseball, Faith | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cubs Signings & Trades Predictions (Guesses…)

What players should the Chicago Cubs be after as they fill out the roster for 2017 to try to repeat as the World Series champions?  I obviously have no inside connections, but I do have some ideas as to who might make interesting and helpful additions.  So here are my predictions of possibilities.

Which would you choose?

Door #1

  • Trade for Chris Archer or Zack Greinke
  • Sign Daniel Hudson

Add an ace starting pitcher in trade and sign a good bullpen arm. (I don’t think the White Sox would trade Chris Sale to the Cubs.)  I am willing to trade Javier Baez in a deal for a controllable ace like Archer or Greinke.

Door #2

  • Sign Kenley Jansen
  • Trade for Jake Odorizzi

Sign one of the best closers in baseball and trade for a second-tier starting pitcher.  (I prefer Jansen’s overall abilities a bit over Aroldis Chapman. He might also come slightly cheaper.) Trade Jorge Soler, Miguel Montero (Tampa Bay needs a catcher) and whatever other minor (sic) piece it may take in a deal for Odorizzi.   Then sign a good defensive veteran backup backstop (Brayan Peña?) to replace Montero.

Door #3

  • Trade for Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle

Oakland won’t sell low on Gray, but they’ll trade these guys for a good return.  There is injury risk, however, in both these pitchers.  Doolittle also has a cool tie to Chicago.

In addition to the above possibilities, I imagine them adding outfielder Jon Jay (platoon partner with Albert Almora in center field) and a left-handed reliever (a situational lefty!).  A sleeper lefty is Jack Leathersich, who is in the Cubs minors.

The Cubs bullpen isn’t in a bad place.  They will need a closer. (Though he did quite well pre-Disabled List, I’m not sure Hector Rondon is the future answer, but the Cubs know his health better than we do.)  They’ll have Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm, though if Mike Montgomery moves to the rotation and Travis Wood is gone via free agency then Rob Zastryzny is the only returning lefty.

Your thoughts?

The Cubs win the 2016 World Series - New York Times photo

The Cubs win the 2016 World Series – New York Times photo

Posted in Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, Prospects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tea Time

I was trying this tea for the first time and it made me feel very safe. It’s “Super Antiaccident” or something like that. But it also says “Helps reduce free radicals” and I don’t think I like that.

Posted in Food, Wordplay | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dona Nobis Pacem

I typed “dona” into Google. Three of the four prompts were for Donald Trump. Then I added a space and it zeroed in on what I was seeking: Dona Nobis Pacem. Give us peace.  Just a small juxtaposition.

Before this election many people felt disenchantment and disenfranchisement, sometimes for legitimate reasons. They expressed that through voting. Now after the election others feel fear, numbness, disappointment, dread, sadness, despair, anger. For very real reasons. I have fears too.  I have worked with people who have disabilities.  We have a family member diagnosed with a psychological disorder.  We have a wonderfully mixed extended family, with a sister-in-law, the spouse of a niece and spouses of cousins, and their children and grandchildren, who are people of color.  I worry now more than ever for these people’s safety and well-being.

These feelings are in the end not about politics, not about losing a vote. This is ultimately, I think, about who we are as people, and as a people. Are we exclusive and wall builders, or are we inclusive and bridge builders? Do we mock the other’s differences, or cherish the other’s uniqueness? Do we demonstrate contempt and derision or show kindness and mercy?

Our president-elect seems to me to be a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, narcissist and a bully. He has brought out those worst, ugliest sides of many of his supporters. This election has endorsed those attitudes and emboldened some of those who care little for others who are not like them. The real fear is that now our country will be less kind, less just, less safe for many.

And Christians who voted for this man?  What?!?  How in clear conscience can someone who professes to follow the God of Love and the Jesus who died for all, vote for someone who cheated on his wives, boasted of assaulting women, retweeted white supremacists, has been fined for racial discrimination, stiffed numerous small businesses and contractors, has pending suits against him, filed for bankruptcy six times, ridicules people because they’re not beautiful or have a disability or are of ancestry from another country, insulted the parents of a veteran, etc.  How? How?!?!?

Yet we must assume, at least hope, that half of our country is not OK with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexual assault, disrespect to persons with disabilities and violence toward minorities. We must hope that people voted for this man for other reasons, and that those who did will now help hold him accountable in his office and demand that he clearly renounce the ugliness that has already shown itself in only a few short days.

I cannot help by notice the incredible irony as members of the Republican Party now call for us all to unite, when it seemed their primary platform and policy for the past eight years was obstructionism and division.

With this election I fear some people will suffer — and not the rich, the white, the males — but minorities of skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith tradition, immigrants, the poor, the disabled, the children, the least among us.

Pray for wisdom and justice in Congress. Pray that the rights of all people will be upheld, that we will good stewards of our resources and the environment, and that we will be cautious and seek to make peace and not war in areas of conflict around the world.

The future has not been taken away. It will just require more time and more effort to continue to look out for the least among us, those we are called to love. Take the time to experience your emotions. Live with them a little, sift them around. But do not give in. Do not let the darkness consume you or stifle you.

For those who are Christians, we answer to a higher calling — one that allows us to participate in civic activities but that calls us back to honor and serve the God who is above all principalities and powers. God is in control and our security is there, not with a political party or particular candidate. God’s reign endures. And we are called to be protect the most vulnerable among us and to be ambassadors of the peace of Christ. That is the end to which we must be faithful. Do not serve fear, hate, injustice, violence. Serve love, always love.

It is much too easy to hate. Or to give up. Love is the hardest work. We must love boldly and courageously. Indifference is not an option.  We must remain vigilant and engaged. We must support and uphold the rights of all persons, especially those in the minority. We must stand up for what is truth and what is right. Do not be afraid of those who are different, but champion their rights. We must resist when necessary. We need to be a counter-cultural community against the bigotry that feels so strong right now.

Let’s make America safe again.

Dona nobis pacem. Grant us peace.

What can one do?

Live Hope. Find Joy. Continue to follow the Light. I am always hopeful, and I will do my best to remain so now. Light a candle. Be light.
⦁ Say a prayer.
⦁ Find moments and signs of joy.
⦁ Stand up for the vulnerable.
⦁ Speak out against injustice.
⦁ Do a random act of kindness.
⦁ If you see harassment don’t do nothing. Find a positive way to be with the person. This is not easy to contemplate or do, but we must not be silent.
⦁ Donate to groups that work to support and protect marginalized people.
⦁ Be a patron of local minority businesses.
⦁ Visit an African American or Latino church, a synagogue or mosque. Better yet, all of them.
⦁ Talk, and listen, to those with whom you disagree.
⦁ Volunteer–at your local school, soup kitchen, counseling center, health care center, senior living community, youth center, women’s shelter, hospice, homeless shelter, food bank, literacy coalition, environmental group.
⦁ Listen with love to someone’s pain.
⦁ Build community with those who believe as you do.
⦁ Make space at your table for those who need hospitality.
⦁ Provide sanctuary for those in need.
⦁ Show grace to those you encounter.

Be light.
Darkness cannot put out light.

Posted in Contemplation, Environment, Faith | Tagged , | Leave a comment

MLB GM Quotes of the Week/Month/Year

Here are a couple of quotes from baseball general managers that are highly amusing. It’s great that they can exhibit a sense of humor in trying times for their organizations.

The Houston Astros removed Luke Gregerson as their closer after a number of games of ineffective pitching.  A closer is the pitcher who comes into games with tight scores, keeping the other team from going ahead, to close out the game. The Astros have a couple of other closer possibilities, including Ken Giles, a former closer with the Phillies, and Will Harris, who despite excellent statistics had a total of 2 career saves in 178 appearances prior to this season.  Astros Manager A.J. Hinch would not name a new closer, however, opting for the fabled “closer by committee” strategy. But when asked about Harris, Hinch coyly said, “Get him in fantasy baseball and see what happens.”

A suspension of nine games was announced for Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, for intentionally throwing a pitch at an opposing batter. A report was posted that the Royals have discussed trading Ventura, in part due to his emotional volatility. Royals General Manager Dayton Moore declined to address the speculation but offered the comment, “If we traded Yordano Ventura, who are we going to put in the starting rotation that’s as talented as he is?” Moore said, “I may not be the best general manager, but I can count to five” [starting pitchers].

Posted in Baseball, Fantasy Baseball | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Some Notes from the Middle Third of the Baseball Season

I’m behind on posting some notes that I find interesting from the baseball season.  Here are a few from the middle third (June and July) of the 2015 season.

Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis established the all-time MLB record for consecutive errorless games by a non-pitcher on June 18, breaking the previous mark of 392 set by Darren Lewis from 1990-94.   Markakis extended the streak to a new record of 398 consecutive games without an error until June 25, when Denard Span of the Washington Nationals singled to right leading off and Markakis bobbled the ball for an error, allowing Span to take second base.  Markakis had not made an error since Aug. 10, 2012, while with the Baltimore Orioles.  Markakis signed with Atlanta in the off-season.
On June 28 the  St. Louis Cardinals not only became baseball’s first 50-win team of the season, they became the first team in a decade to reach that mark in its first 74 games.  The 2005 Chicago White Sox were the last team to reach 50 wins that quickly, along the way to winning that year’s World Series championship.  Thirteen of the last 17 clubs to reach 50 games by this point in the season (just before the halfway mark) went on to finish with at least 100 victories, and only two of those teams missed the playoffs.  Four of the previous 18 teams over the past 50 years to attain 50 wins before losing 25 games — the Tigers (1984), Mets (1986), Yankees (1998) and those 2005 White Sox — went on to win the World Series that season.
On July 7, Joey Rickard, a Tampa Bay Rays OF prospect, walked a Southern League record six times in a win for the AA Montgomery Biscuits.  He didn’t swing once in his six trips to the plate. That patience earned the 24-year-old a run batted in and two runs scored. He also recorded three stolen bases. Rickard posted a .418 on-base percentage (OBP) across two minor league levels to that point in the season and had a .319 batting average since joining Montgomery on May 8.  Rickard finished the season at AAA Durham. improving his OBP and OPS (On-base percentage Plus Slugging percentage) at each level.  His combined 2015 season batting average was .321 with a .427 OBP.  
I have lots of notes for August-September….
Posted in Baseball | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Paths and Possibilities

“All paths provide opportunities.”

–3rd-Century philosopher Oud Ona Wok

   while walking criss-crossing paths at Oxbow County Park

Posted in Contemplation, Opportunity | Tagged | Leave a comment