Monday, April 2

Is Opening Day the best? Yes, Opening Day is the best.

Sure, the Cubs stunk, though only the box score can tell me that. (Working during the game, sigh, though I did get cursory, surreptitious glances at the score throughout the day.) I got home only in time to hear some sort of odd Mitch Williams-Don Zimmer highlights montage, but also in time to turn on the Royals-Red Sox game - about the seventh inning or so - on ESPN. I got to see Alex Gordon put the ball in play for the first time of his career, after two strikeouts to start it.

I loved Jon Miller's statement at one point: "The Royals, and these fans - Opening Day means more to them than to most." The implication, of course, is that Opening Day is valuable to the teams that know they'll suck. Because, after all, they don't suck yet.

So, I watched Alex Gordon ground out sharply to first - it would've been a double, but there was a runner on first and the sharp grounder was handled for a three-unassisted putout - and then I decided to go for a run. I usually go for a run after work and, in fact, going for a run is one of the more boring recurring themes of this here blog. So, my run was fantastic - a random selection of R.E.M. songs comprised the soundtrack, and 'Exhuming McCarthy' came right at the end, powering me to a strong finish. Early on in the run - perhaps during "Gardening At Night" - a series of thoughts hit me:

1) It's Opening Day.
2) Opening Day means hot dogs.
3) Sunday night's ultra-successful stir-fry dinner yielded two lunches worth of food; therefore, I don't need to make dinner tonight solely for the purposes of leftovers tomorrow.
4) Shoot. It's not that cold outside. I'm already dripping sweat on this long-sleeved t-shirt.
5) I'd really like hot dogs for dinner.

So, powered by 'Exhuming McCarthy,' I crushed the final half-mile of my run, immediately showered and, in 45-degree weather, donned my sandals, shorts, (long-sleeved) t-shirt, and Tigers cap and headed to the grocery store.

The list:
1) Hot Dogs
2) Hot Dog Buns
3) Kosher Dills
4) Sport Peppers
5) Celery Salt
6) Bag of spinach - need my greens, after all

I already had onions and relish, and I don't like (neither eating nor slicing) tomatoes, so my proper Chicago-style hot dog menu ingredients list was complete. I also already had beer, and there was no Old Style at the store, of course. I could've purchased Goose Island, but the Honker's was something like $11 (plus deposit) for a six-pack and, let's be honest, it's not worth it. The Sam Adams Honey Porter served me well.

Minor quibbles:
- In deference to my slightly-expanded waistline, I went with turkey dogs.
- There was not a single poppy seed bun in the store. I had resolved to purchase wheat hot dog buns, even if there weren't poppy seed wheat buns. However, upon entering the hot dog bun aisle, I determined that I'd defer to authenticity and go with poppy seed buns, even if they were enriched white buns. Sadly, this decision was moot as, again, not a single poppy seed bun to be found.

Gosh, though, it made for a fantastic meal. I had the salad first - the spinach, some chopped onion, carrots, celery, balsamic dressing, some fresh ground pepper, and some parmesan - then went to the hot dogs. Boiled, of course, Chicago-style. I toasted the buns, I gave myself an extra kosher spear and, oh baby, it was perfect. I also had an apple.

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While doing my hot dog shopping, I resisted the urge to pick up some Twizzlers - after all, the Twiz is a Rud-family baseball-watching tradition. But, no, I couldn't do it. After all, I plow through anything sweet just about the moment I obtain it. (Witness my "jar of peanut butter in four days" story of a few weeks ago. Despicable.)

However, while in line, I saw it - another Rud tradition. Starburst. Mmm. Starburst.

I'd say probably my happiest memories involve Starburst, baseball, and a scorecard. I think just about all the Ruds really liked afternoons involving Starburst, baseball, and a scorecard. I think, if pressed, even the youngest Rud will admit to looking back fondly on days spent with her brothers, eating Starburst in the sun. It's a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

Other Rud Wrigley essentials:
- Twizzlers
- Peanuts, purchased before the trip to the El, at the grocery store
- In latter days, I believe, sunflower seeds
- Skittles
- A thermos of lemonade
- A squirt bottle, to the benefit of the sweaty beer vendors
- The binoculars, but only if they were hung around your neck
- During one three-game-in-five-days stretch during one spring break, bananas. Lots of them.
- During this same stretch, the Tribune sports section

How cool is it that outside food is allowed in the park? It still is, isn't it?

Wrigley was about the best, and then the yuppies took over.

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My final Baseball Prospectus-related piece of baseball geekdom (though I doubt it):

They project stats. They list comparable players, based on age, and similar performance in the three years prior to reaching that age, and they project. That's how they do things. They also list four comparable players under each reviewed players bio. Player comparables go back to 1960, I believe, though not that far for minor league comparables.

Julio Franco is, of course, old. Real old. 48 this year, I believe.

His comparables:
Satchel Paige
Strom Thurmond
George Blanda
Harriet the Galapagos Tortoise

That's comedy, folks.

- - - - - - -

I talked to The Boy tonight. I was caffeinated. I was excited about my just-picked up hot dogs and fixins. I took an hour of his time. It was great.

- - - - - -

Great commercials I've seen a lot of lately:

"We're with A.I.G., honey, so I'm just thinking about butterflies." If I had assets to manage, I'd manage them with A.I.G.

"Mac is asking you a question. Deny or allow?" "Allow." The message here is that Windows is uncool and Macs are cool. Being uncool, I'm satisfied with my pre-Vista machine.

- - - - - - - - -

It's like Greg Oden really, really tried tonight. It's a shame they lost. I like Oden a lot, as a player. I like Conley more. I like the entire Bucks roster a lot more than I like the Florida roster, though Horford's pretty likable, only because of his wide-eyedness.

- - - -

My life has been changed for the better a few times in recent weeks, due to foodstuffs.

Generally, I eat lunch at 1 - last night's entree, and an apple; or a tuna sandwich, an apple, carrots and celery, and another piece of fruit (a bag of grapes or, if it's the right season, clementines) - and then eat a snack at about 3:45. Generally, the snack is a Nature Valley granola bar. Nature Valley Oats N' Honey is about my favorite food ever. Maple and Brown Sugar is another traditional favorite, and sometimes I'll dip into the variety pack, featuring Cinnamon and Peanut Butter varieties. Sometimes, I'll have a similar product if it was on sale that weekend; for instance, South Beach Diet 100-calorie bars, which are just okay.

Last week, Nature Valley bars were on a killer sale. Buy One Get One, perhaps, or a 3-for-5 bucks, or something like that. This being the case, I got adventurous. And, with the adventurousness came fantastic success, in the form of Roasted Almond Granola Bars. (For the record, Nature Valley's site sucks.) (For the record, you can order boxes of granola bars on Amazon. Who knew?)

I don't know if it's just excitement over having found something new and exciting, or if the Roasted Almond Granola Bar is really that good but, sweet Jesus, the Roasted Almond Granola Bar is pretty fantastically good.

The second foodstuff is less-standard, and perhaps more fantastic. Yesterday's stir fry recipe (You need a recipe for stir-fry? I do.) called for sliced fresh ginger. And I wandered through the various aisles, and I had no success finding fresh ginger. Perhaps because I'm stupid, or perhaps because there wasn't any. Who needs fresh ginger, after all?

So, what's better than fresh ginger? Ginger in a squeeze tube, my friends.

Nothing more.