Sunday, February 26, 2017


112 miles.

112 miles is a little more than a nice ride in the car. It's not exactly a hop-skip-and an easy train
ride, either. Trying to cover that distance using two wheels and your own two legs, two lungs, and
heart, well, it can flat-out be a bit of challenge.  Throw in a 2.4 swim before it and a 26.2 mile
run after it, and that challenge has a way of turning into misery.

Completing the middle stage of an Ironman is, arguably, the hardest one for many endurance athletes who seem to have an extremely close relationship with mind-numbing pain.

112 miles on a bike. On a hard seat. On a two-loop 56-mile course that takes you through the Adirondack region. No, not one on a flat-as-an-ironing board course one like those in Florida
or Texas. This bear of a course goes through and around Lake Placid, consisting of rolling  hills, lung-searing inclines, and a 12-mile finish that goes up, but never down.

Yeah, it's a bitch. And a long one.

A lot of riders have gone further than 112 miles and many of them do it a lot faster than
this 50-something, slow-twitch, 220-lb, boy-in-a-man's body can. Nobody gets a medal for
completing it and I'm not bragging because I've done it three times over. I'm just a guy
who wants to share my experience because there's a lot of things that go through your mind
during a stage that can least nearly seven hours without stopping even once. Not even to go
to the bathroom.

That 112-mile bike ride doesn't begin until after a 2.4 mile swim and a 600-yard run from
the water to the transition area where the man boobs flop with every stride and the brain tries
to reset itself after an hour of swimming in what seems like a blender, with arms, legs, and
elbows flying all over the lake at 6:30 in the morning. Once you slip out of the wetsuit into
cycling shoes, shorts, shirt, and a helmet, reality hits you in the face like a sledgehammer: Now
I have to bike 112-miles. That is a lot of time on the bike and a lot of time to think.

There are only two things that are really important to me when I begin the journey: avoid a
flat tire and hydrate myself enough so I can go the distance. Truth to be told, I really spend
most of my time on two wheels praying to God about one thing. It usually goes something like
this, "Please, God, don't let me get a flat tire." Flat tires suck. They are worse than being forced
to watch a season-long series of the Kardashian's. If  you get a flat tire during a race, it'll cost
about 30-45 minutes to repair it---that's if everything goes right.

In the first Ironman I did in 2014, the bike ride started out in a monsoon. The rain pelted my
face like brass needles into a dark board as thunder and lightning lit up the sky. My feeling at
the time was, "Well, if you're going to take me now, Lord, I won't have a problem with it.
There can be worse ways to go than during an Ironman event." I seriously didn't care about
the lightning crackling above me. I had trained for more than six months. There was no way
I was going to quit now.

The downpour went on for the entire first loop of the race. Then the skies opened and the sun
came. So did a litany of thoughts. "What the hell am I doing this for anyway? I paid $750 to
put myself through absolute torture more 12 hours? Seriously?" Yeah, when you have to sit
on a bike for almost as long as an average work day, some crazy things go through your mind.

Another one for me was, "What the hell am I going to do when I have to go to the bathroom?"
I mean, I didn't want to stop and get off the bike. If that happened, I feared  my legs would
cramp up and I'd have no desire to finish the race. But during a race where you consume more
than 20 16-ounce bottles of Gatorades, countless gels, goos, bananas, and orange slices, you
have to go to the bathroom, right?


For some reason, I had the urge to go to the bathroom, but never could. I'd see riders ahead of
me standing up on their bikes to relieve themselves and others squatting in the woods, but I
could never go. Ever.

The 112-mile bike ride wasn't completely filled with pain. Riding in the Adirondacks offered
some amazing scenery with rivers, mountains, and beautiful trees. It was easy to lose yourself
in the scenic ride.

But the pain was never far way--nor were the prayers about making it through without
blowing a tire. That would be a total buzz kill.

I've been lucky in all three Ironman events I completed. I never blew a tire. Thank you, Lord.
When I approached the end of the 112-mile stage knowing I wouldn't have to fix a flat tire,
I always let out a big yell, celebrating my luck and ability to avoid jagged edges, potholes. or
anything else that could've ruined my ride.

And after I changed into my running shoes, visor, and sunglasses, it was finally time to relieve
myself after six and-a-half hours on the bike. Yep, almost four minutes standing up next to
a trough-like, make-shift urinal in the transition tent. I'm not going to lie. It felt amazing.

A little relief before a 26.2 mile run does the body and mind good.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Jim Bibby died eight years ago today. There may have been better pitchers who toed the
rubber in the history of major league baseball, but very few of them possessed the character
and love of the game that Bibby did. . This is to honor the man who touched so many lives
and gave me a lot of laughs during the two years we spent together in the Carolina League.

I first met Jim Bibby in spring training with the Boston Red Sox organization nearly 30
years ago. He was one of the biggest human beings I'd ever come across. He stood 6'5"
and was 260 pounds of massive. And I mean just massive.

God supersized nearly everything on his refrigerator-sized frame. His legs, back,
arms, and shoulders were ginormous. Bibby looked more like a current NFL defensive
end than former major league pitcher.

If you didn't know Bibby, you'd take one look at him and believe he was one of the baddest
men on the planet. If you did  know him, you'd realize Bibby was one of the nicest guys
who'd ever walk into your path. His smile, laugh, and personality matched the size of his
physical gifts, making him a person you couldn't soon forget and one you always wanted to
be around.

I'll never forget shaking hands with Bibby at our first introduction in spring training back in 1988. His hands were the size of lobster traps, making mine appear to be those of a
two month-old infant. Bibby was one of the few people in the game who could hold eight
baseballs in one hand. I can hold three. A man with extra large hands can hold five. The sight
of Bibby cradling eight is mind-boggling.

Attached to his right hand was a powerful arm that vaporized hitters with 95-mph fastballs.
Bibby enjoyed a solid 11-year career in the major leagues, recording 111 victories while
authoring a no-hitter. There was nothing secret or complicated about his approach on the
mound. He'd just hump up and fire fastball after wicked fastball, challenging you to hit it.
No games, no nibbling, no backdoor sliders. Just straight heat.

Bibby, whose brother, Henry, played in the NBA,  pitched for the Cleveland Indians and
Pittsburgh Pirates during the late 70's and, unfortunately, is pictured  (below) in two of the
worst uniforms in the history of the game.

In 1976, Bibby pitched for the Tribe in those hideous all-rust colored uniforms. After
getting traded to the Pirates a year later, Bibby pitched in either all-gold, all-black, or half and
half. Imagine seeing a guy that big in those uniforms, throwing darts in the mid-90's? Scary.
The baseball looked like a Tic Tac coming out of those monster hands, rearing back in attire
better suited for Halloween than major league baseball games.

There was a lot of little boy in this mountain of a man. When I played for the Lynchburg
Red Sox of the  Carolina League, Bibby was our pitching coach. He appeared as though he
never had a bad day in his life. He was loud, funny, and still ultra-competitive. Bibby threw
batting practice to us nearly every day and always made like he was on the mound pitching
in the 1979 World Series for the Pirates.

During batting practice, Bibby moved to the front of the mound, making the distance to the
plate about 55 feet. He would grunt, groan, and release a fastball that you could hear hissing 
on its way to the plate. Bibby wanted to do two things: turn your bat into kindling wood
or blow the ball past you When he accomplished one or the other, he'd have a mile-wide grin
on his face and roar with laughter, the old man reveling in overpowering kids half his age.

When Bibby, as the pitching coach, would come out to the mound to consult with a young kid
having trouble finding the strike zone, he'd often take off his hat and bury his head deep into
his shoulder, hoping to dry the river of sweat produced on all those sweltering Virginia summer
Standing next to Bibby on the mound as he'd offer some words of advice to a struggling pitcher,
I'd flash back to his days in the major leagues and laugh to myself at an experience that seemed
so surreal. As I kid growing up, I was a baseball junkie. On Saturday afternoons, I'd always 
watch NBC's Game of the Week with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. I vividly remembered the
time Bibby was pitching on a blistering summer afternoon in Pittsburgh back in 1979.

Bibby was on the mound and I recall Gowdy saying, "Bibby is really laboring out there. Just look
at the sweat dripping off the brim of his cap." It wasn't dripping. It was more like a torrential downpour. I had never seen anything like it. I couldn't believe a human being could possibly sweat that much.

Less than a decade later, I saw first hand just how much Bibby could sweat. It was like a
tsunami rolling through the hills of Virginia. Forget about towels, he needed a leaf blower to
dry the sweat off him. Ah, but it didn't matter to Bibby, he just had that big 'ole grin on his face,
as if he was having the most fun of anybody that walked the face of this great earth.

That was Bibby, he loved life and never spent a day worrying about the past. That was gone
and he seemed like a guy who always set his alarm for early the next day because he didn't
want to miss out on what it would have to offer.

In 2002, the Lynchburg professional baseball franchise retired Bibby's number 26. It's the
only baseball number that's been retired in the city's history. Nobody deserved that honor more
than Bibby.


Bibby died in 2010 of bone cancer. which was about the only thing that could suck the joy and
happiness out of a great, great man. He was just 65-years-old, yet still just a kid in a large man's
body. In the journey through my baseball life, I met thousands of different people, but only a
few I can say really had an impact on my life. Bibby was a special man who was so large, so
humble, and so full of enthusiasm. He was a fun-loving guy who just never to wanted to grow up.

But that was OK. He was Bibby and everybody loved him.

                                          PITCHER BART HALEY AND JIM BIBBY

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

If you're a baseball fan, those seven words are simply beautiful. They mark the beginning of
a new season and unlock images of palm trees, chamber-of-commerce weather, and a tiny
slice of paradise.

As snow and sleet blanket the northeast while thick icicles hang from my window, playing
catch is seemingly as far away as the distance between Connecticut and Florida. Photos of
players reporting to spring training under sunburst skies dominate the news feed on Facebook.
Thoughts of  my first spring training flood my mind like the melted ice that will be unleashed
on our roads once the temperatures work their way into the 40's.

1988. Winter Haven, Florida.

In early March of that year, I pulled into this sleepy town in central Florida with a mile-wide
grin on my face and the enthusiasm of a Little League kid playing in a real uniform for the very
first time. After a trying and unfilled career at UNC where I played three different positions
and started to switch-hit during my junior year, I signed with the Boston Red Sox on
Christmas Day.

I got a break because the team had lost Todd Pratt in the Rule 5 draft to the Cleveland
Indians. Pratt would eventually be returned to the Red Sox and enjoyed a solid 10-year
career in the major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.

It didn't matter to me how I got to the Red Sox and Winter Haven, but I was there and
enjoyed every single second of it. I was wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform and the catchers
helmet I was issued, had the 'B' on it. I still have that same helmet which fits nicely in my
closet. It has no value to anyone else on the planet, but that helmet, currently buried beneath
a bunch of old sweaters, is priceless to me.

Every day of spring training felt like Christmas. Everything is new. The uniforms. The bats.
The gloves. The spikes. And, of course, the baseballs. They are so clean and shiny they look like
pearls glistening in the sun. The air was remarkably fresh and the smell from the grass on the
perfectly manicured fields was intoxicating. The roads into the facility were lined with
palm trees and if there was a cloud in the sky during our four-weeks of camp, I never saw it.

What I did see was the best hitter who ever lived. Yep, Ted Williams.

The baseball legend was Red Sox royalty. He was a roving hitter instructor but may as
well have been God in baseball spikes to me. I was 22-years-old at the time and wasn't into
hero worshipping, but this was Ted Williams. I was in awe of the man.

During the second day of spring training, I had been one of the last players to go into the
hitting cages that were perfectly placed in between the major and minor-league camps The cages separated the facilities but they were used by everybody, from Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and
Dwight Evans, to the last player on the minor-league roster.

I had been hitting with one of the coaches when Williams stopped to watch me hit. I said
to myself, "You have to be kidding me." Then I heard the voice of God. It was a powerful,
booming voice that I had heard during interviews with Williams on television.

"Swing with a slight upper-cut. You need to get the ball in the air."

I stopped almost immediately when Williams said, "Come here, son."  I went over
to the netting that separated us and I looked at the Splendid Splinter in amazement. I
was just as impressed with what Williams did outside of baseball, as his Hall of
Fame accomplishments.

Williams served two tours of duty as a brilliant military fighter pilot for our country. If he
didn't miss all that time, there is little doubt he would've hit 700 home runs. And this living
legend was giving pointers to a non-descript minor-league player.

Williams and I eventually walked out of the dark, dank batting cages into the magnificent Florida
sun. My grandfather, a former minor-league pitcher in the New York Yankees organization,
had traveled from Venice, Florida, to Winter Haven, to see me play. I don't think he was
expecting to see Williams.

I introduced Williams to my grandfather, who received an autograph from Williams, which
he'd send me many years later just prior to his death.

I said to myself, "I've been in spring training for two days, how the hell am I ever going
to top this moment in my baseball life?"

It wouldn't happen during the remainder of spring training, that's for sure. However, playing
baseball every day in spring training was pretty damn special and I soaked it all in like the
sunshine that beat down on us every day.

There were bus rides to places like Kissimmee and Haines City to play against minor-league
teams from the Astros and Kansas City Royals. I'd become teammates with those kids on the
buses, many of whom I am still friends with today.

There would be two more trips to spring training. One more to Winter Haven and one to
West Palm Beach with the Atlanta Braves organization. They were special as well. It's
spring training. There is nothing quite like it.

In 1995, I worked in Fort Myers as a sportscaster. The team I covered during spring training
just happened to the Boston Red Sox. They had left their long-time home in Winter Haven
for a spanking new ballpark in town. Ted Williams wasn't there, but a few of the guys I
had played with were.

They had reached the major leagues and I was there covering them. The memories came back.
The palm trees were there, so was the near-perfect weather, and hours and hours of baseball, of course.

Ah, it's spring training and there is nothing like it. Nothing.

Monday, January 30, 2017


It didn't take me long to figure out which charity team I wanted to run for in this year's
Boston Marathon. As I was scanning the expansive list on the Boston Athletic Association's
web site, the second team featured was the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes foundation.

That is the team I want to run 26.2 miles for.  If I'm going to train and go through all the
pain that goes with completing a marathon, this is the team I want to do if for. This is where
my heart. This is what I want to do.

Massachusetts Fallen Heroes is a non-profit organization  dedicated to honoring those
who have given their lives in service since September 11th, 2001. The mission of is to honor
the fallen, assist families of the fallen and to empower returning Veterans.

Click this link

We can thank Veterans for their service, but it is not enough. Neither is a single holiday during
the year. Our team is hoping to raise more than $100,000 to help them in their transition from
the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to their lives back home. Many Veterans need more
than a pat on the back and a government leader saying, "good job." They need some direction
and assistance.

I am hoping this helps just a little bit.

Honoring those who have served our country or lost their lives doing it is something I've
really tried to do since 2011. Brian Bill was a Navy SEAL from Stamford, CT, a city
that borders New Canaan, the town where I spent a good portion of my life in.


Bill was tragically killed while fighting in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. He was part
of the Extortion 17 mission that saw the highest number of casualties of any single day during
the war. He and more than 30 other SEAL's were killed when their helicopter was shot down
by the Taliban.

I didn't even know Bill, but he became one of my heroes. I dedicated an endurance race
to him shortly after his death and have become friends with his mother, Patricia
Parry and sister, Amy. They are amazing people still dealing with their tragic loss.

I see this as another way to honor Brian Bill and so many of the other courageous heroes
who sacrificed their lives for our country. They always need to be honored and remembered.

The goal is $7500. I've donated $250 and paid the $355 entry. Now, I need a little help
from my friends to get to the finish line. $5, $10 or $1 per mile. No donation is too small.
It all goes to the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes foundation and is tax-deductible.

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Chris Pinder was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 15th round of the 1987 MLB draft.
A left-handed pitcher out of Virginia Commonwealth University, Pinder rose to AA and
played four seasons of professional baseball before retiring. We played against each other
in the Carolina League during the late 80's.

Baseball stayed in his blood, though, and literally. He and his wife, Beth, gave birth to three
boys and a girl, all of whom excelled, or are still excelling in baseball and softball. In August,
Chad, a former star at Virginia Tech, fulfilled his dream by reaching the big leagues with the Oakland's A's.

Daddy Pinder throwin' gas for the Indians in 1988

Can you just imagine being the parents of a kid who made it to the major leagues? Chris Pinder,
in his own words, describes the moment Chad received the call to the show and the greatest
gift he received nearly four months later.

All the kids were home this Christmas which is starting to become more of a challenge as we travel
down the road of life. Our oldest, Clark flew in from Houston where he is working after a very
successful high school baseball career where he was a three-time All-State selection in Virginia.  

Our second son, Chad, was able to be here as well after his third season in the Oakland Athletics
organization. Chase, who is four years younger, came home from Clemson University where he plays centerfield for the Tigers.  Our last child, Avery, is a junior at Poquoson High School where she excels in softball and basketball.  Needless to say, we have some athletes who love to compete. 

Chad had a meteoric rise through A’s farm system and was playing for the team’s AAA affiliate
in Nashville, Tennessee last summer. He called me one day in August to talk about a hamstring injury
he’d been trying to recover from. 

"Pops, just got done with the hammy and they are sending me to Dallas", Chad said over the phone. 
I was a little irritated in the fact they would send him all the way to Dallas for a hamstring injury
that he has been playing great on.   

I said, "Ok, I guess the A’s have to do what they want. Doesn't make sense,  ok.”  There was that
long silence that made me a bit uncomfortable and Chad put me at ease, then in a state of exhilaration. 
 "Dad, that was a joke. I just got the call!”, my son blurted into the phone. “I’m going to Dallas to play
against the Rangers!” 

I immediately went silent, as if the entire world came to a complete halt. Really? It couldn't be real,
is it,” I said to myself. “Oh, wait, of course it is. You have taught all the kids to believe in themselves
their entire lives! 

My kid was going to the big leagues! I just said to myself, “Wake up dad, it has finally become a
reality.” My mind became flooded with all the memories of Chad I and going to baseball fields together
and working toward his dream. After all the plastic balls tossed and the ground balls rolled
to him on the living room carpet, my boy was going to the big leagues. 

All the minutes, hours, and days spent helping him reach a dream was now really happening. His
hard work, relentless drive, God-given talent and inner fire was rewarded with a gift for Chad to join
The Elite group known as Major League Baseball. 

Many of those thoughts blitzed through my mind on Christmas day as the entire family shared
gifts and counted our blessings Chad came up to me and said, "Pops, I have one more present for you".  
Chad goes behind the couch and pulls out a large rectangular box wrapped nicely and says, "Pops, this
is for you". 

I was taken aback and froze just like when he told me he was going up to the big leagues.   
I slowly took off the wrapping paper and there it was. I was frozen stiff and speechless. Chad says,
"It's for you, Pops.” It was a shadow box with the Oakland Athletics jersey he was wearing the
day he got his first hit in the major leagues. The ball was also in the shadow box with its MLB
authentic sticker on it. So was the line-up card from that days game against the Chicago White Sox.

I just stared at it for what seemed like an eternity.  We were all just stunned that Chad would give
it to me. What a true blessing for my wife, Beth, and I to have kids who think of us in this way. There
were big hugs in the center of the circle in the living room, tears of joy rolling off our cheeks and falling
gently to the ground. 

What an emotional event and a great treasure for a proud father to have. It was something Chad
worked so hard to accomplish. I was sincerely humbled and very grateful. 

It was the greatest gift for  a father to receive!