Right, so the first of clearing out the started but then neglected to complete them posts that are piled up in the drafts folder begins right now. Some of these partial posts are sitting here because I was waiting/hunting for more data, others most likely because I got distracted by something else and forgot, like the awesome Blade Runner oral history that ran in Los Angeles Magazine back in JANUARY? I have a partial post about that. Here's hoping I can find the magazine so I can finish that one up. It was a good article. Did you know that the first draft of the Blade Runner script framed it as a flat-out romance?
Anywho, seven months ago Didi and I went to the Watts Village Theater Co. to take in one of the 365/365 plays. The report that I posted here about that day was Part The First. IT IS SEVEN MONTHS LATER and I am just now putting up Part The Second. I started it back then, hit 'save as draft' and then completely forgot about it until a few weeks ago when Didi started talking about some baseball game he went to. Didi is a baseball freak.
So here's the second part of our trip. This entry was written by both of us.
After the 365 show was over, Didi and I went off to find some baseball place in Compton. At first we thought the place was at Magic's park, but after wandering around there only to discover it wasn't, it occured to us to use the cell phone. Somebody actually picked up the line and gave directions to the spot, which turned out to be at Compton Community College.
As I'm trying to follow Didi -- who in typical male style was
flying down the highway at speeds my Held Together By Duct Tape And The
Will Of My Mechanic Jetta could not match -- my head was full of
suspicion. Anyone familiar with the years of troubles at CCC would know why (short version: corruption, mismanagement, state takeover). I was thinking the baseball
people had set up shop in an economically disadvantaged area at a
crippled institution so it could prey upon these kids who do not have access to managers and role models and the like to guide them through the dangerous waters, as the rich kids do across town.
As sometimes is the case, turns out I was completely wrong.
The MLB Urban Youth Academy opened last February. It's mission is not to provide easy grist for the athletic mill, but to provide role models for the young black and Latino males in the neighborhood. If some of the kids ultimately choose a path other than pro sports, but leave the academy with study skills, discipline and a sense of themselves as young men of potential and deserving of respect, that's fine with the academy.
It is a *beautiful* facility. Besides all the sports-related stuff like weight rooms and those spa-things sports teams use to help with injury, it has an entire study area with computers and a mini-library. There are tutors available to work with the kids. We ended up getting a full tour from Doug Takaragawa, head of programs. (I'm not providing a link to his name because I'm unsure if the few stories that pop up in an internet(s) search are actually about him, as none have a picture attached.) We also talked to Carl Nichols, who runs the instruction program. He had just returned from taking a group of the kids to Australia for a big baseball contest thingy, and he was gearing up to take another group to China. How phenomenal is that? A bunch of kids from Compton, some of whom rarely even get to the beach a few miles down the road, got to represent their program and country on the international playing field.
One thing I liked was how the academy means it when describing how their approach is not solely about feeding the MLB system. If the students do not keep their grades and behavior up to par, they are kicked to the curb. More than one kid has tried to test this, found himself out the door/down the road, and only then realized he had to find a way back. That way back involves proving themselves, really. The kid has to demonstrate a full commitment in both school assignments and attitude adjustment to prove that they Get It Now and will put in the work needed for the opportunity.
Didi had a great time talking baseball details with Takaragawa and Nichols. I stood there listening and occasionally asking rookie questions. Eventually Didi and I went outside to look around. They have mini-stadiums, so he picked one, we sat behind home plate, and I had a wonderful time listening to him talk about baseball some more, how he used to play a game similar to baseball in his childhood. The game he played was called Kasti, which involved rocks rolled up in paper, which still sounds dangerous to me. He what baseball meant to him when he was a kid, why he still loves it, and then something to do with statistics. Oh! I learned that if you say "there's no such thing as a slider or a curveball..it's all speed and illusion" to a baseball fan such as Didi, you are going to get an EARFUL, let me tell you.
Takaragawa came out. found us and handed us each what I thought was a nice program book about the facility. Didi instantly realized he'd handed us copies of the program book from the World Series. This program book, as Didi explained IN GREAT DETAIL, is a big deal. Since all I was going to do was read it and throw it away, I then toyed with the idea of giving the book to a friend of mine to put up on eBay for me. Instead I handed it over to him so he could give it to one of his baseball buddies. Say this about that program, it was slick, it had excellent production values, it was on obscenely expensive paper and it was fat with ads. Based on that program book, MLB is doing all right financially. (Of course I then wondered why they couldn't let a little bit of that moolah trickle down to the men & families living the tight belt in the minor leagues, but that's just me.)
If you're interested in learning more about the academy, this article gives a pretty decent overview of its origin, this one talks about the college-level academic courses they offer the students, and this one answers the question about why that place had the prettiest grass I had ever seen outside of the golf courses in the Coachella Valley. Really. I couldn't stop staring at the fields, they were so gorgeous. Here's an article about some of the academy players getting drafted recently for the MLB.
My eldest nephew likes baseball for some reason, and plays on a team. He's so cute in his little outfit! I'd take him to this place.
After the academy adventure, we went back to my neighborhood and hit up Woody's BBQ for food, dumping my car at the house and taking his. Now, as everyone knows, if you're coming from Crenshaw it's a left off Slauson to get into the parking lot, and you have to make this left sitting in the middle of the not-quite turn lane for traffic heading in the opposite direction. So what you do is sit there and zip in the second there's enough space. Or you can risk creeping over into the oncoming traffic and force your way across. Usually you don't get hit. It's fine.
But Didi? He pulls back into traffic, goes to the end of the block, turns onto that block and does a quick turn in a driveway, then loops back up Slauson and into the parking lot. I'm like, WHAT are you doing?
Didi: This is SAFER. I don't want to cut in front of all those cars coming at me!
Me: Nobody cares. We do this all the time! It's accepted. Sometimes it's backed up all the way to the light. This is how we drive over here. Even the cops do it.
Didi: YOU can get away with that. I will not perpetuate the stereotype of bad Asian drivers!
Me: You're surrounded by bad African American drivers. NOBODY CARES.
He refused to believe me. However, he soon discovered I was not lying about how good Woody's is. Next time I'm going to take him to Philip's, or maybe to Roscoe's since he deserves to experience the glory of buckwheat waffles and chicken wings at the same time.
Anywho, that was a really good day.
Okay, so that's how *I* was going to end this entry, but Didi was like, no!
hmmm...it was only a really good day? That was a GREAT day! You were with me, and we were at the baseball thingy. :P That was an awesome day. So, when are we going to Philip's?
And you know what? He is right. It was a great day!
This picture of a truck full of cans that tried to kill me on the 110 was taken a couple of weeks after our adventure, when I had to go back to Compton for the day job. Grrr on the driver, but pretty cans.
Clearly, my claims of being back up to speed around here by late this week didn't happen. Let's aim for regular service resuming Tuesday-ish. I shall let this overly-long post stand you through the holiday.