Thursday, April 29, 2010

You use to fish for what????

My Uncle Vaughn sent me this picture today in a text message. The message simply read "going fishin", but I already knew what he was up too when I saw the picture. You see these little tasty treats that you see on the plate are strawberry dough balls and they are used to catch big monster carp! Did you just say carp? Yep I did!

When I was a kid, my grand-parents had a lake house at Lake Sinclair. It was a pretty little place on one of the coves off of the main body of water. If we still had it today, it would be worth a lot of money, but back then it was just a great place to go skiing on the weekend and do a bit of fishing. The fish of choice was big golden carp. My Grand-Daddy, Doc Luckie, would go up on Wednesday and throw out a bunch of meal cakes off of the dock and bait the fish up for the weekend. They would always be there waiting for us to pull them in all day. We would fill up a freezer in a weekend and Grand-Daddy would take them back to Marshallville to give them to his farm hands. They would grind them up and make something like salmon patties out of the meat. I never ate one, but I sure did catch my share. They were fun to catch because they fought hard and always had good size to them. Doc even held the record on the lake for biggest carp caught at one time or another. All of us fished. The men, the women, the kids, everyone. I would wake up fishing and fish until I went to bed at night. It really was a lot of fun.

Now back to the picture. Grand-Daddy found a recipe in an outdoor magazine for these dough balls that you see. He always used strawberry jello because he said that it had the strongest scent. It really is nothing more than a ball of dough with onions and strawberry jello, but those carp love 'em. You take the dough ball and mold it around your hook. Attach a slip cork and chunk it in the lake. Let the bait sink to the bottom and sit back and be patient. I learned a lot about fishing by fishing for carp. I learned to watch my cork and let the fish really take the bait before I set the hook. You see a carp will sit there and suck on that ball for a while before he will actually pick it up to where you can hook him. All the while your cork is twitching and bobbing up and down. I can still hear Grand-Daddy telling me to let him have it, let him have it, let him have it, them BAM!!! Set the hook as hard as you can!! I'm a hard hook setter to this day because of that.

Grand-Daddy died in 1997. I still miss him today. He was a great outdoors man, farmer, husband, father, and Grand father. My Dad will probably tell you that he misses shooting doves with him the most. My Uncle probably misses deer hunting with him the most, but I miss fishing with him the most. He was always teaching me to be a better fisherman. A lot of times it would be just him and me out on that dock with our bait in the water. I cherish those times and realize how lucky I was to have a Grand Daddy like Doc!

"When you set that hook, you jerk his teeth out boy!"

I love you Grand Daddy!

Monday, April 26, 2010

This and That!

The Kids were out of school this past week for spring break. They spent the first three days being spoiled by their Cheri at her house. Dana and I decided to take them on a day trip on Thursday. We chose to go to that little swamp down in Waycross named Okefenokee. It was a nice little trip. We saw all of the local wildlife, took a little train ride, saw a reptile show in which the kids got to touch some snakes and baby alligators, and lastly we took a little boat tour down into the swamp. The weather was nice and the kids seemed to enjoy it. Reid got a snake from the gift shop and Mia picked out an alligator. We were definitely tourist for the day!


Spring break means no school. That means easy mornings with not much rush. The kids like to go to Mama's in their PJ's, so we let them sleep a little late. Since the mornings were not very hectic, my wife said that I could catch up on my turkey hunting. I have not been able to go much because of our busy schedule. I took her up on her offer Wednesday morning. Daddy was out of town, so I was on my own. I set up in the middle of a clear cut where we had seen a gobbler the weekend before. I started calling and had a bird working very soon. I was still calling to the gobbler in the tree when I looked up and saw two birds headed my way. The Jake was leading the way but his buddy was a nice three year old bird that dropped like a ton of bricks when that Browning sounded off. He had a 10.5 inch beard with 1 1/2 inch spurs. I was back in the truck and headed home by 7:00.

I went back to the woods on Friday morning with Daddy. We set up in about the same spot to see if I could get that other gobbler that had been talking to me on Wednesday. He was still there and was roosted on the edge of the clear cut about 400 yards away. We worked him a long time before he decided to head our way. Can you believe that he came down the same path that my gobbler from Wednesday walked? He also had a Jake leading his way right to us. I dropped him within 20 yards of where I killed my Wednesday gobbler. He was a two year old bird with a 10 3/4 inch beard. It was a good week for me, not so good for the turkeys! I have now killed the limit and will put the Browning up for the year. I will however offer my calling services to any of my friends that need a little help filling their quota.


I helped my neighbor put together a ping-pong table this weekend. I have always like ping-pong. The Stone boys had one growing up and we played on it a lot. When I got into college we had a table in the fraternity house that got its share of play also. It was fun to play again as I have not touched a paddle in years. Maybe I will get one for my shop for Reid and I to play on. For now I guess I will just have to head to my neighbor's house to re-live some of my youth.


The Braves are stinking up the joint! That is all!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Will little league be the death of High School Baseball?

I love baseball! Always have. I grew up playing ball in the local recreation league. I started in T-ball and worked my way up to pitching machine and then on to real live pitching. I made all of the all-star teams and traveled at the end of the season playing for those teams. I got older and started playing high school baseball. Two years on the JV and then my last two years starting on the varsity. This was a pretty normal baseball life for a slightly above average kid with a lot of love for the game. Our parents supported us, took us to practice, made the trips to the game, made sure we were there for the next practice, etc.. Our coaches coached us. They were the boss. We did what they said. We worked hard and hustled or you did not play. They ran the team and if you didn't like it then you could run some fences. Times have changed!

Reid and I went to the ball field last night a little early. It was our first 7:00 game so we have not really had the opportunity to watch any of the other games being played at Lions Park. Lions park is made up of 4 ball fields, all of which can be seen from a central location. As I stood there and watched the 4 games that were being played I couldn't help but notice the fans that were yelling for their team. These people are nuts!! Keep in mind that these kids range from ages 7 to 12, some of which have probably never played the game before. They are being coached by someone who has graciously volunteered their time. They are equipped and provided a nice field to play on by our local DLS, the umpires are paid way to little, and admission to the game is free. You would have thought it was the 7th game of the world series and that the lives of these young children were on the line. Parents were yelling at the players. Parents were yelling at the coaches. Parents were yelling at the other players. Parents were yelling at the umpires. Parents were yelling at other parents. It was really a little hard to believe.

Hank Braddy, who has been a long time little league coach in both football and baseball, and I have talked about this some in the past. He told me to come watch a 9 and 10 year old game in which they actually start keeping score. This is still a pitching machine league. He told me to watch the crowd when a kid strikes out. Sure enough it happened. A kid for the other team strikes out and the fans go crazy. Now let me ask you something. What did your team do that helped that kid strike out? The pitching machine struck that kid out. Unless you are the father of that said pitching machine, shouldn't you encourage that child to try again next time even if he is on the other team? Aren't we trying to teach our kids to love the game?

One of my favorite movies is The Sandlot. It is a baseball movie about some neighborhood kids that played at the local sandlot everyday. It reminds me of Ms. Judy's backyard that I blogged about earlier. They played baseball everyday and took the new kid on the block and turned him into a ball player too so that they could field a team of 9 men. My favorite scene in the movie is when a team of "preppy" ball players ride up to the sandlot on their polished bicycles wearing their matching clean baseball uniforms and new cleats. They challenge the sandlot boys to a game but refuse to play them on the sandlot field because it was not good enough for them. The sandlot boys show up the next day at the "preppy" ball field and can't help but notice all of the shiny new bats, new balls, fresh chalk lines, white bases and manicured grass. The "preppy" boys had been equipped by their parents with everything that they could possibly need to be successful in the game except for one thing. They were never taught to truly respect and love the game. All of the glitter could not beat a team with heart! The Sandlot gang beat those "preppy" boys like a drum and sent them home crying to their mamas. I want those kind of kids on my team. I want kids that don't need the shiny new bats or the latest in baseball gear. I want kids that love the game because it is a great game!

The game of baseball can teach us a lot about life. My pastor, Mike Ruffin, who is a big baseball, fan told me the following in a blog that he wrote to me last summer. I had asked him to give me some guidance on what I should teach Reid about the game of baseball when all of its heroes are either on steroids or money hungry. He offered the following among other things...

"Teach him about the value of teamwork, about how in baseball it’s really difficult ever to give one player the credit or the blame for a loss because it really takes the whole team to win or lose. Teach him that in baseball size doesn’t matter, that some of the greatest players ever to play the game were not great big guys but were in fact really small guys. Teach him that some of the most valuable plays in baseball involve a player giving himself up for the sake of the team—the sacrifice bunt, the sacrifice fly, and hitting behind the runner—and that the players who can do such giving of themselves are just as valuable as—and perhaps more valuable than--the big bashers."

I think that sums it up pretty well and that is the kind of coach and parent that I want to try to be. I want my kids to love the game in every aspect. Sometimes you get to hit a home run or make a big play. Sometimes you are asked to bunt or support your teammates from the dugout. Both are very important to the team!

Now it may sound like that winning is not important to me. Trust me, I want to win every game, but I will not sacrifice the teaching of the game to EVERY kid on my team just because I want to win. I hope that I will try and spend more time with the kids that need more coaching than with the kids that need less. Who knows, you may have a late bloomer on your hands that will grow older and become a better ball player because of the time that you spent with him at practice. I just wish that ALL of the kids received encouragement from the fans to do there best and to keep on swinging!

Now that brings me to my thought on why I think that little league is killing high school baseball. Remember when I said that I played two years of JV baseball and then two years of varsity baseball? That was normal 20 years ago. Guess what, you even had to try out for the baseball team and there was a possibility that you may get cut! (oh the horror) Visit the local high school baseball field today. The varsity is made up of a bunch of freshmen kids because they do not have enough players to field a competitive team using only juniors and seniors. Where are the ball players? I'll tell you where I think they are. They are as far away from a baseball field as they can be. If my parents acted like some of the parents that I see today, I wouldn't have played either. When a Mom or Dad yells at an umpire, it embarrasses the kid. When a parent tries to coach their kid from the stands, it confuses the kid. When a parent yells at the coach, it teaches the kid that the coach and leader of the team does not have to be respected. When a parent yells at the other team, it teaches the kid that sportsmanship does not matter and that you should win at all cost. If you were a kid would you want to play baseball???

You never win every game! I think that kids would rather quit playing the game than play with all of the pressure that parents place on them. It is just a game, yet somehow little league has turned into a pressure cooker for kids and the parents are the ones turning up the heat.

Reid, I promise that I will give you whatever you need to play the game of baseball as long as you LOVE to play the game of baseball. If you love the game then I will help you to be successful. If you love the game then I will give you my time and will be both your father and coach. If you love the game I will teach you about team work and respect for your teammates and coaches. If you love the game I will always be your biggest fan! If you love the game then you will respect the game and I will be a proud parent of a baseball player!

But you know what son? If you do not love the game then I will not force you to play it and I will love you still because you are my son. I will support you in whatever you decide to do. Right now I can only hope that I will be a good father and coach. If I can do that, then you will love the game!

Play Ball son! Daddy/coach loves you!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Power Alley!!!!

The Braves are playing the Padres tonight. They are also paying tribute to Jackie Robinson by wearing throwback uniforms that all have the number 42 on them. In fact, all major league teams playing today will wear the number 42 on all of their jerseys. The Braves have chosen to wear uniforms circa 1984. You remember these! The powder blue ones. They all look like giant smurfs! But these uniforms have a very special place in my heart because in 1984 I was 12 years old and loved baseball more than my next breath. I also loved the Braves. Chris Chambless was actually my favorite player on the Braves, but every little boy wanted to be Dale Murphy, and we all had this poster hung on our wall. Power Alley baby!!!!

I think the glow from that bat is actually why I have trouble with my eyesight today. It was the coolest poster and probably my last ball player poster that hung in my room. (The walls later gave way to the girls) The thing about Dale Murphy was that he was such a great person and role model for young people. He played the game hard and was very successful on some very bad Braves teams. Dude could rake! In 1984 he hit 36 home runs and batted .290. Not too bad for someone who I would venture to guess was never in the same room with a steroid. He even won two MVP awards. He was one of the most feared power hitters in the National league who once hit 49 dingers in a single season. He could steal bases and could field his position. He played outfield but was considered the Braves emergency catcher. He was a ball player.

Dale Murphy is not in the Hall of Fame. He should be. His numbers are very similar to Jim Rice who was elected just a couple of years ago. The Murph had a pretty good push going there for a while, but his votes are losing numbers year after year as better players are coming onto the ballet. I would love to see him make it for the simple fact that baseball needs more good guys to be out front and remind fans that not all stars are money hungry selfish steroid users.

So as I sit back and watch the Braves play tonight, I will be reminded of my childhood and all of the memories that these uniforms and Dale Murphy provided to a boy who loved baseball and still does!

Thanks Murph!! I still have the poster!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I like nicknames. Every group has them for each other. They can be as simple as a last name used as a first name as in my case where I get called "Luckie" a lot. They can be because of your type of profession like in Hank's case where he is called "Doc" all the time. Or they can be for a reason known by only few in the group. These are the ones that keep you guessing. I have a friend named Brian that has a nickname for just about everyone. Hang around long enough and you will soon find yourself with one too. Here are some of my favorites that all belong to different friends of mine. See if you can figure them out.

Big Sexy / Big Perm / Kick
Swine / The Administrator / Hark
Hammer / Ratt / Willie
Doc / Dunnie / Wolf
Tabes / T. Guy / Big Rat
Red Eye / Squirrel / Lil Rat
Big John / Cal / Stew Baby
JT / Bubba / Super Dawg
Heavy D / BB / Hush puppy
Swing Lube / Big Dawg / Two Gloves
Councilor / Clay-bird
Sr. Lillies / John Boy
Elvis / Jr.
Lunsford / Thunder
Blush / Bax

Now doesn't that sound like the nicest group of folks???

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Masters was not the only golf Tournament this weekend!

Ten years ago I decided that I wanted to invite a few friends for a weekend of golf at an out of town location. That was the birth of the Mike Durden Invitational. The first trip was taken to Shelman's Bluff and we played The Sapelo Hammock golf course which was owned at the time by Hank Cook's father-in-law. The first trip included 24 people split into teams of four. We stayed in campers and a cheap hotel that was down the street from the golf course. As the annual tournament grew in popularity, and more and more people wanted to attend, it became obvious that we were going to have to find a new venue to accommodate everyone. After one year at a state course in Ft. Gaines in which they were not as happy about us being there as we would have liked them to be, I found the perfect place for larger groups, The Dothan National Golf Course and Hotel. (not to be confused by The Augusta National)

The tournament has a new name these days. The Wild Chicken Cup also has a new tournament director. Hal Wiley and Brian Braddy took over hosting duties from me a few years ago and have grown the tournament from 24 players to 40. We now play a Ryder Cup style match with two teams of 20 men each. Team Red -vs- Team Black. Team Black took a two year winning streak into the weekend, but was unable to defend the title due to some remarkable play from Team Red. It was a good time all around. Thanks for the memories guys!


Fred Couples played well this weekend at the Masters. If not for a second round 75 in which his back began to flare up, he may have had a chance. Didn't he look so cool striding up the fairway in those deck shoes and no socks?


Congrats to Phil Mickelson! He played well when he needed to and won his third Green Jacket. I hope the media will give him some credit for what he has accomplished this year. He won a major in a year in which his wife and mother are both battling breast cancer. The media made Tiger out to be some kind of Superman just for showing up at the tournament in the same year in which all he did was play with a bunch of breast. Just for note, they did not belong to his wife!


Reid has his first real baseball game tonight. He is so excited. I just hope we have fun and that the boys will play hard and not be scared of the ball. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Augusta, Home of the .....

world famous Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Golf Tournament. I had the chance to attend Monday's practice round at the Masters, and yes I did see Tiger. He was playing with Fred Couples so I followed them for a few holes. Now it is nice to be so close to these great golfers, but I go to Augusta to take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds the golf course. The blooming azaleas and dogwood trees make for quite a site against all the green grass and powder white sand traps. If you have never been it is very hard for someone to describe to you just how beautiful the entire grounds are. But Monday was different. Due to a late spring, all of the azaleas were not blooming, robbing the place of a lot of red, pink, and purple colors. There was one color however that seemed to stand out above the rest. That color was yellow! The great pine trees on the course were dumping what looked like pounds of pollen all over the grounds and into the Augusta air. As we stood at the club house and looked towards Amen corner, all you could see was a cloudy yellow haze all over the sky. Everyone was talking about how bad it was and how they were betting that they would all be sick before the weekend. So I am officially hoping for some rain before the weekend to knock some of that pollen out of the air and take some of that yellow color with it. Augusta is all about green pine trees. Not yellow ones!

Go Freddie! You the Man!!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Georgia Southern football, where did you go???

Spring football has been in full swing in Statesboro for the past two weeks. Jeff Monken and his new coaching staff have been evaluating players and trying to find the right guys to run our "new/old" triple option offense while also trying to find some mean guys to play on the defensive side of the ball. Curiosity has been high as fans are eager to see us return to our National Championship form and want to watch just how new head coach Jeff Monken plans on getting us there. Crowds have gathered on the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek to watch the daily practices and the media has been giving our beloved Eagles some extra attention also. This includes the great guys from the Georgia Southern Radio Network. Chris Blair and Ryan Chambers have been posting almost daily interviews with coaches and players on youtube, which allows someone like me to get a feel with how things are going during this spring revival of our program. Being the person I am, I tend to try and read between the lines of what people are saying during these interviews and watch their body language to see if I can determine if they are sincere. This is what I have observed...

Our new coaches are trying to be just as nice as they can be when they mention our current players and how they are progressing, but you can tell that they think we are SOFT! They say things like we have to be more aggressive, or we need to step it up some, or we need to find players who have a fire in them, or we have got to get stronger and faster. Sounds to me like he wants them to look like the Georgia Southern teams of old. What happened to those teams?

Four coaches in 6 years has something to do with that, but I think it has more to do with the coaching philosophy that was brought in by our most recent former coach. I liked Chris Hatcher. I had a chance to meet him once and he was a great guy and was willing to talk with me like we were old friends. Chris had a great deal of success at Valdosta State and I wish him luck at Murry State, but I just never really did like his style of football. Chris played a dink and dunk kind of offense that relied on getting fast people in open space. It seemed to be an offense that relied on just a couple of superstar athletes, and if you didn't have those athletes, you struggled. It seemed to be more about those individual guys and not the entire team. Where was the team concept that Georgia Southern was built on? Where has Georgia Southern Football gone??

Erk Russell took a bunch of walk ons and big hearted kids to the promised land by making sure that GSU football lived by one rule. TEAM me! He also had another rule that was GATA! I like both of these rules and look forward to getting back to that style of football. I think Jeff Monken is trying to get us back to our beginnings. Time will tell if his first recruiting class is a good one, but it can't be much worse than our last few where 60% of the kids are no longer with us for reasons varying from violating team rules to academic problems. I hope that we get back to recruiting kids that WANT to be Eagles and WANT to be part of a team that has ONE common goal. Get us back to a National Championship!!

I will continue to watch the videos and hope that our Eagles can once again find that team concept. I look forward to getting back to hard nosed football where we hit someone square in the mouth and ask them if they want some more. I look forward to running the football right at people and not throwing a bubble screen on first down every series. I look forward to a defense that pushes people around and makes things happen on their side of the ball. I look forward to a coaching style that not only wins football games, but makes great men out of Georgia Southern Graduates! I look forward to us bringing back our past!

Eagles soar above the storm. If Coach Monken can weather the storm that he faces while he is rebuilding this fine football program, then The Georgia Southern Eagles will certainly soar once more above all the rest!