Hurt feelings: What happens when the chains talk back

Jan 21

(Note: For those who don’t know, I also run a disc golf blog – Rattling Chains. I have written some first-person posts over there that I think some readers here will enjoy, so I’m going to sprinkle them in every once in a while on a day when I’m coming up blank!)

By Disc G. Basket, Esq. 

I’m sick of it.

You see, me and my brethren are sick and tired of you disc golfers treating us like crap or second-rate citizens.

Rattle those chains, you say. Make them sing, you say. Throw it harder and make it stick, you say.

A disc golf basket speaks up — and makes it known that rattling the chains is a painful thing!

Apparently, you don’t realize that we baskets feel what you are doing.

You don’t think it’s a coincidence that a perfect putt pops into the chains and then lands on the ground, do you?

We have to deal with a lot, you know.

Sometimes, we’ll have to smell some of that herbal stuff that some of you players bring around. You know, not all of us like to smell that stuff! And booze? How many times are you going to leave empty beer (or soda or something else) bottles in our baskets?

Our baskets aren’t made for that or other trash that people can leave behind. Now we realize that it’s not just disc golfers who leave stuff in our baskets, but they do.

People sometimes also sign us after we’re kind enough to allow an ace. Really? Sign your disc and move on. For those of you kind enough to come out and wipe all that graffiti off us, we thank you.

Back in the day, when we were first installed, we’d be treated like Kings and Queens.

Players would come by in awe of us. Kind of like a new baby. Unlike a baby, however, soon you were whipping pieces of plastic at us. Sometimes, there were sharp edges.

What the heck, dude?

You ever watch the ladies play? They treat us with respect. They don’t worry so much about the sound, rather getting it in the basket.

Most guys whip it at us. And if they miss? Then they slam it to us!

Aw, heck, who am I kidding? The ladies like to hear the chains sing as much as the guys. Maybe more.

That means I never get a break.

Sometimes, we just get so annoyed that we have to get even. One of my longtime chain buddies showed me this video — watch the disc. It’s going in. Until my buddy decided to mess with the thrower.

YouTube Preview Image

Tell me something. Would you just go up to another person and whip a piece of plastic into their face if it made the sound of chains?

If you did, you’d be looking at jail time.

But if you send a Star Destroyer or something into the chains, it’s OK to do. Some discs don’t hurt as much as others, I’ll admit that. I’m a fan of tap-in putts. Unfortunately, most of the time, people don’t have a tap-in.

I’m just looking for a little sympathy here.

We won’t get it, we know. Instead, you’ll keep firing the disc at us, just to hear that magical sound.

Look, I know the sound is awesome. After all, I am the one that makes that sound. It’s my chains. It’s my basket.

It’s not you, it’s me.

So think next time before you fire a disc into the chains. Remember, we have feelings to. And that stuff hurts!

But, if you do it and you think you have the perfect putt… well, just think for a moment as that disc hits the chains and bounces out.

Was it a bad shot?

Or am I getting even?

This first appeared on Rattling Chains on Aug. 8, 2012. 

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Years later, getting to drive a Zamboni still a great memory

Jan 17

How many of you are fans of hockey?

If so, I’m sure at some point during your life, you’ve wanted to drive a Zamboni.

And I don’t mean an ice-surfacing machine — I mean an actual name brand Zamboni. Coming out on the ice during the intermission of an ice hockey game and putting down a new sheet of ice.

The Zamboni making the ice ready at a recent college hockey game I attended.

Ahhh, we can all dream.

This post would have been better if it had run Wednesday. Alas I didn’t realize it would have been the 112th birthday of Frank Zamboni, the inventor of the wonderful ice resurfacing machine. Not only was it his 112th birthday, but Google had a playable doodle in his honor.

When I was in grad school, I wrote for a few weekly papers as I tried to make ends meet. At one of them, one of my beats was covering a solid high school hockey team. I really enjoyed it and the coach helped me land a solid interview with the main guy who drove the Zamboni. I did an interview with him and then he took me on a spin with the Zamboni.

Then it happened.

Though he didn’t let me drop a new ice surface (I had no training and those things are quite expensive, you see), I got the chance to take a lap around the rink driving the Zamboni.

Way too cool.

So, I went digging and found the old article. I’m not sure if this was the printed version or the version I originally sent in, so I did a little editing to shorten it, but here’s the bulk of that story I wrote several years ago.

But, before you read the story … I’d encourage you to hit play on this video and listen to the Gear Daddies and their song “Zamboni.”

YouTube Preview Image


Meet Northford’s “Zamboni Man”

North Haven Post (April 3, 2003)

It’s a hockey fan’s dream.

Drive a Zamboni around the ice, drop a new sheet and park. It sounds simple.

Not so fast.

Ice resurfacing machines aren’t as easy as they look. It’s not just hopping on them and taking a spin around the ice; these machines are complex. From adjusting blades to worrying about the amount of water being used, it’s not effortless.

No matter what rink one enters to watch a hockey game, there’s going to be some version of an ice resurface machine.

At Northford Ice Pavilion, there are several drivers to cover the crazy schedule at the rink, but one full-time driver sticks out.

Greg “Griz” Belcher is in his fourth year at Northford, and eighth overall at driving an ice resurface machine, and is Northford’s only full-time driver.

Yale grad

“People ask where I learned to drive,” Belcher said. “I tell them I got my bachelor’s degree at Yale.”

It’s a joke Belcher said he likes to play because it shocks people. The truth is Belcher earned his stripes at Ingall’s rink on Yale’s campus.

Before his entrance into the world of resurfacing ice, Belcher was working for a beer distributor as a driver, and the drivers on strike. After others replaced the striking drivers, Belcher was jobless.

“A friend talked me into coming down to drive,” Belcher said. “Which I thought was interesting. It’s not ruining my body like going up and down stairs and in and out of cellars delivering beer.”

Belcher started to learn the fundamentals of a Zamboni at Yale and soon he was mastering the machine.

“It took me a good month or so,” he said. “The hardest part is adjusting the blade. If you have figure skaters, it’s not as bad as when there are hockey players.”

“Once you get used to it, it all falls into place.”

In his years of driving the machines, however, he’s had the chance to get to know players, coaches and everyone else involved with the rinks. North Haven coach Mike Violano said he’s known Belcher for years.

“Griz has a great attitude for his job,” Violano said. “You get a guy that knows his job and he understands what it means to each team. That’s why he’s an important part not only to the game, but to the rink.”

Northford’s “Pond”

Most rinks are home to only one or two teams. Not the Northford Ice Pavilion. Try two colleges, five high schools, four club teams and a precision skating team. That doesn’t even include youth leagues, clinics and open ice time.

“It gets hectic all the time around here,” said rink manager Bill Maniscalco.

The facility has two rinks; a pro-shop, snack bar and two ice resurface machines – a Zamboni and an Olympia. Some nights, the ring could face having three games of high school or college level.

“During the wintertime, we’re constantly going,” Belcher said. “All the teams are fighting for position time to play and practice.”

Maniscalco, who pitches in driving the machines among his other roles, such as scheduling, working the snack bar, billing and whatever else needs to be done. He has a staff of around six drivers. Some include Quinnipiac University hockey players.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Maniscalco said. “You have to know the group that’s out there. You have to leave a good sheet, because if not, I’m the one who hears about it.”

But with all the teams practicing and playing at Northford, teams know what the rink has to go through to get things going.

“We’re treated well at Northford,” Violano said. “The Northford facilities are good and the people take pride and care of them.”

Violano said hockey parents and families have a network of knowing which facilities are good and which aren’t. Spending as much time in rinks as they do, they know which have the best ice, snack bars and every other aspect.

“Parents talk about rinks,” Violano said. “It’s almost like having Rink U.S.A. and ranking the rinks. They would give Northford one of the better stars.”

Complicated Machines

Ice resurface machines aren’t toys. Although it looks fun to drive one, when it’s on the ice it’s doing some serious work. With razor sharp blades, it’s making sure the ice is perfect to skate on.

It’s actually a complicated procedure. But basically, it shaves ice. The water that comes out of the machine is usually at 150 degrees or hotter.

“You’re cutting ice while you’re making ice,” Belcher said. “Hot water is sent down, which fills in cracks and makes better ice.”

The procedure of how the ice resurfacer works is just as complicated. Someone couldn’t just jump out of the crowd, start one up, go on the ice and work the machine.

“You just don’t put someone on the machine and say ‘go do it,’” Belcher said.

But what the machines do is something hockey people value. Fans don’t always understand how important an ice resurface machine is to a rink.

“The people that understand hockey know how to appreciate it,” Violano said. “It’s like any other profession. They take care in their job.”

With throwing down a new surface, hotter water equals better ice. A towel behind the machine spreads the water evenly. Belcher said the hot water hitting the cold ice is one thing some people wonder about.

“That’s why a lot of times people see the machines on the ice and they see steam,” he said.

The machines

Not every machine is a Zamboni.

The name Zamboni is a brand name, and is trademarked by Frank J. Zamboni & Company, Inc. Northford has two different machines, an Olympia and the popular Zamboni.

Zamboni, however, is the brand name most people think of when they see a machine come onto the ice. The Zamboni website ( charts the machine back to 1949, created by Frank Zamboni.

He owned an ice rink and needed to figure a way to resurface the ice. Back then, they used a tractor with a scraper behind it, and then had people get rid of the shavings, spray water and then use a squeegee to clean it off. This took about an hour.

He was soon working on a machine to make the process easier. The first Zamboni came in 1949. The machine improved and changed with just about every one that was made.

Now, one of these machines can clear and resurface an ice in about 10 minutes.

The Olympia is newer to the market, and is a bigger machine. The big difference between the two is the engine. The Zamboni is made with a Volkswagen engine, the Olympia with a 350 Chevrolet engine.

“If you look at our rims, it says Chevy truck,” Belcher said. “If you drive down the road and pull next to a Chevy truck, that’s our Olympia.”

With the bigger engine, the Olympia has more power. Belcher said he doesn’t have a preference to which he would rather drive.

“I like both of them,” Belcher said. “The Olympia we have is bigger and holds more snow and water. I could cut both sheets without dumping or filling with water.”

No matter the machine though, driving almost seems like it might have been something Belcher was destined to do. Resurfacing ice came natural to him, even when he was younger and playing pond hockey.

“When I skated on ponds, we used to break a hole into the ice, grabs someone’s trash pail, fill it up with watcher and dump it on,” Belcher said. “It just makes it smoother.

“You don’t want big ruts out there; someone could break an ankle.”

The Perks

Although the novelty of driving has somewhat worn off for Belcher, he still enjoys it.

“It was fun, but now it’s like a regular job,” Belcher said. “But everyone looks at you like ‘wow, that’s the coolest job going. There’s still fun in it.”

It doesn’t hurt that Belcher is a hockey fan. One thing Belcher said he really enjoys is the children that run up to the glass and wave and scream as he passes by. Fans of all ages love to cheer for the “Zamboni man.”

“Little kids are always waving at you so that’s fun,” Belcher said. “When you make the turns, that’s where everybody wants to stand and wave. A lot of times I smile, but they won’t be able to see it.”

Belcher’s smile is hidden by his bushy beard, but he does notice the children waving and cheering, even though he was always taught at Yale not to look into the crowd, a rule he still follows to this day. Jumping and screaming children catch his eye, however, and he can’t help but to smile.

Belcher said he can’t complain about where he is now. He enjoys work, has a good time and works in a positive environment. Even though the hours in the winter can get long with a lot of games and teams playing and practicing, he doesn’t mind.

“I like it here,” Belcher said. “It’s busy, so it keeps me busy. You’re never bored.”

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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The Baseball Hall needs to shake up its election process

Jan 10

Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.

That’s the motto of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. The Hall is a not-for-profit entity that is independent of Major League Baseball.

Well, so it goes.

For many years, I covered the Hall of Fame. I know many of the employees and the countless hours they put into everything that makes the Hall one of the most wonderful places in the world, especially if you are a fan of baseball history.

As a paying member of the Hall, I get free entry all year, so I can come and go as I please. It’s nice to go escape and look at the history of the game. I spend hours there, even when I plan on just checking a few things out. I’ve also spent time in the research library, looking up players for the HooHaa 9.

One thing with the Hall, though, is it seemingly has no say in who is enshrined there.

Though the Hall decides the veteran committees, the main election is done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. On Wednesday, those writers decided nobody would be elected to the Hall this year.

I could spout number after number about the players I think should be elected. Or about how certain players were dominant for a generation. But let’s call it as it is — the steroid era is what did this election in.

What I have issue with is the fact that voters seem to treat the Hall like it’s the Hall of Perfection. It’s not. There are a lot of scumbags in the Hall. There are a lot of people with low moral character. And I guarantee there are cheaters in the Hall.

The ball Barry Bonds hit to become the all-time home run king is showcased in the Hall of Fame, though if the writers will likely continue to make sure he’ll never be enshrined.

Again, the ones who decide who goes into the Hall are writers. That’s needs to be changed. I don’t think players should be in total control. I’m all for writers having a say, but the process needs to be changed.

Let’s do a history lesson. In 1994, baseball went into a labor war, which ended up canceling the World Series. In the meantime, it was the beginning of the end for the Montreal Expos, who arguably had the best team in baseball that season.

Once it returned the next season, baseball slowly worked back into the hearts of people. But what really did it? The Mark McGwire vs. Sammy Sosa home run race in 1998.

Remember “Chicks dig the long ball?”

Steroids were rampant in the game that time. I find it hard to believe people didn’t know about it. But nobody cared. Money was flowing. The game was back and people were slamming home runs, which the crowds loves.

Then it all started to fold.

Steroids became the worst thing. Reports came out. People admitted guilt. Moral objections flew all over the place. Then came the “cleaning” of the game.

I’m all for cleaning up the game. I don’t like performance-enhancing drugs. I’m not a supporter of drug use. I want to see the game pure, just like anybody else. That being said, it was an era of the game, so people like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds should be in the Hall.

It’s part of baseball history.

This game has gone through time. It hasn’t always been great. There’s been racism, drug use, cheating and anything else you can come up with. Ask some of those old timers about greenies. How about the amount of players who did — and still do — cheat on their wives? There’s been many other illegal drug uses. Talk about morality.

There might already be someone in the Hall who used steroids. I have no clue who, but Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins confirmed there has been “talk” among some Hall of Famers that there’s suspicion of one person as being a user.

Everyone in the steroid era is under suspicion though, and apparently that’s enough to keep people out.

Jeff Bagwell is close, but not in. Mike Piazza was fully looked over this year. Craig Biggio — and his 3,000 hits — were left out this year. Though some people might question Bagwell and Piazza, they haven’t truly been connected to any steroids scandal.

Heck, people like Clemens and Bonds never failed a drug test. Though there’s not likely many people on this planet that don’t suspect steroid use for the two, the facts are the facts — no drug tests have been failed.

My favorite is the first-ballot setup, where it’s some special honor to be in right away. That’s silly, too. You’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not — it’s as simple as that. In the 15 years it took for Jim Rice to get into the Hall, his statistics never changed. Never. He didn’t get any more homers or hits.

This is the power trip for the writers.

Let’s remember, too, that I spent much of my career as a sports writer. I covered the Hall. Though the minor leagues, I covered pro baseball.

But I never understood why covering baseball meant somebody should be able to decide who is in or out of the Hall of Fame.

I still can’t figure out why Jack Morris isn’t in the Hall. Or why Dale Murphy didn’t get more of a look. Heck, Fred McGriff, who I don’t ever think I heard in the steroid discussion, hit 493 home runs and garnered a whopping 20.7 percent of the vote this year.

Now, to be fair, I’m not against players of this era having it being noted on their plaque. But it would have to be everybody. As far as I’m concerned, everybody is possibly guilty.

For heaven’s sake, Andy Pettitte admitted using PEDs at one point during his career.

It’s time for a change to the system. The Hall needs to stick to its mantra and start preserving history. Players like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should be in the Hall. Should it be noted on their plaque what happened? Absolutely. But they are Hall of Famers.

So are Clemens and Bonds. And others who are in the steroid era. Eventually Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted use, will be up for election. I don’t like A-Rod and his moral character goes beyond steroids. But is he a Hall of Famer? Yes.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going to change. The Hall won’t sever ties or start a war like this to take control of it. You risk a lot by doing that, without a doubt. And I understand their spot. Still, something should be done. Because to let a bunch of writers who are preaching morality decide who is in or isn’t in the Hall is not working anymore, plain and simple.

I don’t mind a morality clause for gaining induction, but it needs to consider many things. This is a full era of the game we are talking about. Players are going to go into the Hall who may have used but never been suspected.

Plus, it would appear that the writers are also punishing those who aren’t directly connected to the steroid scandal, anyway. Otherwise Morris and Lee Smith would already be in. And players like Curt Schilling would have been much closer this year, if not in.

But hey, you have to protect that first-ballot status.

I still love the Hall of Fame. I love the history. I love the game. And I realize steroids are an extremely important part to the history — now and in the future. You can’t tell the story of baseball without them.

Leaving these players out might make some living Hall of Famers happy and allow the voting contingent to feel like they are doing the right thing, but in the end, they are trying to ignore history.

It’s time for the Hall to step in and start work on a new way so it can be honestly looked at in more than just a morality clause.

Until then, this will continue for at least the next 15 years, if not longer.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Freedom from fantasy football — life away from the game

Dec 10

I just realized something — if I were playing fantasy football, the season would be coming to an end soon.

With the NFL in Week 13, many fantasy leagues will be coming to a halt soon — at least the regular season. Playoffs will be happening soon in these fantasy leagues, with all the excitement building to who will win it all.


Based partially on finances and partially on the reality that fantasy football has lost its zest, I stepped away this year from a fantasy league that I was a co-commissioner in. It’s a league I wanted to do more than a decade ago. I wanted to experience an auction draft and see what it was like. Another person jumped in with me and the Beer is Beautiful League was created.

Over the course of the years, we only lost or added a few times. For the most part, the league remained the same group of people. The draft was usually interesting and there were patterns that were often followed.

  • The same owners would draft fast or slow
  • The same owners would get nasty toward others
  • The same owners thought their team was always the best
  • The same phrases were usually tossed out
  • I would always get Peyton Manning, and sometimes overpay

With Manning no longer on the Colts, this season seemed like the perfect time to step away. In all honestly, I had started to get bored with it a few years ago. The season dragged on. I hated making moves. Trades never seemed to work in my favor and I hated trying to beat people to free agents.

I had lost all interest.

And I just couldn’t stay away from Manning. Being he was my favorite player on my favorite team, it was hard to not overpay for him. Unfortunately, it often hampered my ability to make other moves because I’d spend so much on Manning.

Now, to be fair, the league was set up where quarterbacks could earn a ton of points. Still, you needed a good running back and receiver.

During the reign, I did win the league one time. I’m glad I experienced that because it would have stunk to not win it at least once.

That being said, I don’t miss it.

Not one bit.

I’ve been able to watch football this year in a different way. I’m not worrying about statistics or a called-back score or someone dropping a guaranteed touchdown. Missed field goals don’t bother me and a fumble won’t end my week.

I actually enjoy sitting down and watching a game again. And I’ve watched more college football this year, too, without worrying about what those kids might be like when they hit the pros.

The other good things is on any given Sunday, I might not watch a minute of football. And I don’t have to worry about checking statistics and such. I just see the scores of games and move one.

In that regard, it’s so nice.

Like many things in life, all good things come to an end. I had left the possibility that I’d return in a year or so, once I was employed and could afford to get back in it.


This year has made me realize how much I enjoy not playing fantasy football.

I won’t say I’ll never play it again. Who knows. But I can say this — I don’t foresee me doing it again. I have no plans on playing this game again. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m over it now.

Still hearing people talk about where they are in fantasy leagues or the players who haven’t worked out and all the other little nuances makes me even happier about this choice.

It’s a funny thing when you take something out of your life that you thought was not replaceable — and then realize it is.

And it’s also nice knowing I won’t have to worry about ponying up a few extra bucks for free agents and stressing out about players million-dollar player performing so I can win a few extra measly dollars.

This choice was right for me, that’t for sure. I’ve definitely enjoyed life without fantasy football enough to know it was the correct decision.

The big picture also made me realize how right this was — my life right now is too real for me to worry about anything fantasy.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Photo Friday: Curling and sweeping down the ice

Nov 30

Having the chance to watch curling up close was a really cool experience.

Ever since I first saw the sport in the Olympics, I’ve been fascinated by curling. I don’t know why, being many people consider it quite silly. But there’s something about it. In every Winter Games since it returned as an official sport in 1998, I’ve tried to watch as much of it as I could.

All the yelling and screaming and sweeping for some odd-looking stones on a sheet of ice.


Releasing the stone.

Curling is thought to have been invented in Scotland in the 1500s. Curling artifacts from that time period have been found that support this claim. The sport has become much bigger than one country, however. Many countries from around the world play it.

A few years ago, I was at a geocaching event. When there, a geocacher mentioned being part of a curling club. I’m pretty sure it was one of the ones — Schenectady maybe — in the Capital Region in New York. Alas, I never followed up on it as I had mentioned having interest doing some photos.

I put that in the back of my head and moved on.

I always caught curling when on TV with the Olympics and such. And with that, I always said if I hit a lotto, I’d try and hire a world-class coach and grab some friends and find a way to try and get good enough to play in the Olympics.

Needless to say, I haven’t won the lotto.

However, earlier this year, one of the guys in the Capital Region disc golf group mentioned an open house at the Albany Curling Club. Turns out besides being a disc golfer, Deric was also a curler.

That triggered my mind — I still wanted to get photos of this wonderful sport. And while I was at it, maybe learn a little about the game, too.

So I reached out to Deric and inquired about doing some photography. He eventually set it up for me to come watch one his team’s matches against his coaches team.

Let me tell you — this sport is pretty cool.

Sweeping in front of the stone.

It actually looks easy when you watch on television. Of course when you see it, you’re seeing world-class professionals. Take in mind that what I watched this past week was a local league. Think local softball or baseball. Or football. Something not at the top level.

But there’s something special about things at that level — regular people playing the sport. And understanding it. And knowing what is supposed to happen. That, of course, doesn’t always happen, but that’s what makes it even better.

With this being the only match being played when I was there, I had the chance to walk around the second sheet of ice as I took photos. This gave me the opportunity to watch the eight people — four per team — play the game. There were five males and three females among the two teams.

Though I didn’t understand everything going on, I got the gist of it. Watching the releasing of the stone and the sweeping was interesting. It’s definitely a sport that has grabbed my interest.

One thing I know — it’s a lot colder on that ice than I thought. I’ve been in many an ice rink, but it was cold! Should I go again, I’d have gloves and a winter hat!

It’s definitely a game I’d love to try one day. Hopefully, wherever I end up in this job hunt has a curling club as it seems like a great way to stay active and get out and do something fun and cool during the colder months.

You can see all the photos I have up from this past week by clicking here.

I’m also posting a few of my favorite shots below.

Sending the stone.

Some brooms.

The action.

Watching after the release.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook!

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Brookens makes it easy to cheer for the Tigers

Oct 24

Tom Brookens, managing the O-Tigers in 2006.

Tonight is Game 1 of the World Series.

People who know me realize that outside of the Phillies, there aren’t many teams I’ll pull for. I have a couple of other teams I’ve been able to get behind over the years, but for the most part, if it’s not the Phillies, I’m not cheering.

This year is slightly different.

With the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, I can root for a team. See, from 2004-09, I covered Detroit’s Single-A short-season squad in Oneonta. It was one of my career goals — covering pro baseball. I enjoyed every aspect of it and over the six years, I met a lot of different personalities. I always got along quite well with the managers and coaches that were sent to Oneonta and many players were extremely fun to deal with.

Tom Brookens coaches third during the 2006 season in Oneonta.

I won’t lie that some teams were better than others to cover. The same can be said about all managers, coaches and players.

But the two years Tom Brookens was the manager of this team made it a lot of fun to cover the squad.

What I always liked about Brookens was his straight-shooting style. He didn’t hold anything back. He remained calm, but he would tell it like it is. And I liked that. He did things based on a mutual respect.

At the beginning of his first season, I spoke with him in-depth for several stories. We were in the dugout during a workout chatting about the team, season and, when the interviews were done, just some chatter about other things.

But professionally he asked one thing — after the game, he would like about five minutes or so to speak to the team. After that, it was open game. And if a player refused to talk for whatever reason, to get him and he’d help with the situation. See, being in the minors is more than just adjusting to play baseball at the professional level. It’s learning all the nuances, such as dealing with fans, media and everything else.

Especially at the level I covered.

Brookens made it that much more fun.

Those two years (2005-06) were also excellent when it came to minor leaguers in the Detroit system.

Brookens’ 2005 team went 48-27 and won the division. That team featured 10 players who, at some point, would at least get a taste of the major leagues. Some of them, such as Matt Joyce (now with the Tampa Bay Rays), Burke Badenhop (also now with the Rays) Guillermo Moscoso (now with the Rockies) and Will Rhymes (also with the Rays) would go on see some significant time in the majors. Joyce was a 2011 All-Star and Badenhop has been a reliever at the top level for several years with the Marlins and Rays.

Brennan Boesch was a core player for Tom Brookens in 2006. He’s now on the big club, where Brookens is a coach.

The following season, Oneonta went 44-32, again winning the division. Seven players on that team have major league experience, including Brennan Boesch, who has been on the big team for the past couple of years. He hasn’t been on the playoff roster this year, however, as he was a bit cold down the stretch.

That team also featured Casper Wells (now with the Mariners), Casey Fien (who pitched in 35 games with the Twins this year) and Cristhian Martinez, who has pitched out of the pen for Florida (2009) and Atlanta (2010-12).

There’s much I remember about “Brookie,” including is southern Pennsylvania sound, his way of dealing with players and the way he always treated everybody with respect. He also made himself available to me for future stories, even after he left this team as he climbed the ranks. In the end, he always showed how much of a class act he is and for that, he’s always been my favorite manager I dealt with.

And, with knowing some people in the organization, it’s nice to see some of these people reach this level and have a chance at that ring.

I watched as the Tigers swept the Yankees in the American League Championship Series and as the celebration unfolded, I saw Brookens with that big smile and his signature mustache among the crowd. It was easy to smile and be happy for this squad.

Brookens won a World Series as a player (1984 with Detroit), and if the Tigers win, this will be his first as a coach.

Knowing what kind of person Brookens is makes it easy to cheer for a Detroit World Series title this season.

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