Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

March 28th, 2004:

One week to go

Opening Day for the Timbergrove Little League is this coming Saturday. We’ll finally get to play on the brand-new fields that were supposed to be ready for last year’s season but were delayed due to drainage problems. We were able to practice there last Tuesday, and with two batting cages we were able to really multitask effectively. Gary worked with pitchers and catchers while rotating everyone through for a few swings while I hit grounders and fly balls for some defensive drills. It was really sweet.

There have been a couple of bumps and bruises in recent practices, thanks to some bad hops and some bad glove-holding technique. The former can’t be avoided, but I’m hoping that the latter will help convince some of the kids who hold their gloves pocket-side up all the time that there’s a better way. We made it through last year without anyone getting really dinged up, and I hope that continues this year.

One of the mothers approached me after Thursday’s practice to ask if we were going to work with the kids on how to slide. That’s something I didn’t do last year, and truth be told it’s not a really high priority this year, not when the basics of throwing and catching are still big needs. Besides, though I’ve not forgotten how to do it, I’m not sure how easily I’ll get back up after demonstrating a slide. Seeing a coach injure himself will surely leave an impression, though it may not be the impression you want to leave.

We definitely have some pitching power this year – four guys who can throw fastballs that will be hard for the average kid to hit. Defense is always a shaky thing for any team, so the more Ks you can rack up, the better your odds will be. The catchers will come from this same group of kids, so we might also be able to control the running game a bit. The rule is that you can’t leave a base until the ball passes the batter. For the most part, if the pitch is caught by the catcher, runners stay put. Our guys will have a chance at making a play at least some of the time when they don’t catch the ball cleanly.

We’ve had good weather karma so far – no practices lost to rain as yet. Fridays are the designated rain days during the season. I hope we don’t need them.

Six days to go. I’m getting excited.

Let us all now join together

This is what Democratic unity looks like.

John Kerry is getting fund-raising and message-making help from his former Democratic primary foes, some of whom are potential running mates and big financial draws in important parts of the country.

Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are opening doors and wallets for Kerry as he tries to raise $80 million for his presidential campaign by midsummer.

Kerry began this month $5 million in the hole, but he’s raised about $1 million a day on the Internet for the past 10 days. However, he still lags far behind President Bush, who has $108 million on hand and is expected to raise as much as $200 million by the end of summer.

Nevertheless, the speed with which Kerry has recruited his former rivals as allies has stunned many Democrats and unsettled Republicans, who worry that the Democrats’ animosity to Bush, doubts about the war in Iraq and fears about the economy are helping Kerry unite his often fractious party.

“This is the only time that I can remember where all of the groups that make up the Democratic Party, everyone has said, you don’t have to be with us 100 percent,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.

The money and the willingness to give are there – Atrios would now be a John Kerry Pioneer if Kerry were into giving out nicknames and decoder rings. It’s Joe Biden’s line about not having to be with us 100% that really gets me fired up, though. We can reconvene the circular firing squads after November if we want to, but for now we’re focused, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Kerry’s former rivals are starting to ramp up their roles. Gephardt will campaign with Kerry in Missouri on Saturday. Clark and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean are tapping their Internet networks and soliciting help for Kerry. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is expected to campaign for Kerry soon in Florida. Edwards, a former trial lawyer who’s been on vacation, has told Kerry aides that he’s ready to hit the stump and has made his extensive contacts among deep-pocketed lawyers available to Kerry.

“They’ve all offered to do both money and surrogate stuff,” said Steve Elmendorf, Kerry’s deputy campaign manager. “We’ll be utilizing them a lot.”

Just wanted to note that last bit for those who might have wondered why not all of the candidates were mentioned in the opening grafs. Yes, even Lieberman is helping out, and Florida is one place he can really make a difference. Those of you who spit when you hear his name should keep that in mind.

More commuter rail considered

Another day, another commuter rail study.

Harris County is casting its eye on five additional corridors to study for potential commuter rail lines.

Commissioners Court is expected next Tuesday to tell the county’s Public Infrastructure Department to begin negotiations with a consultant to conduct a preliminary study of existing freight lines along Texas 3, Mykawa Road, FM 521, Hardy Road and U.S. 59 North.

The consultant, DMJM+Harris, already has performed a preliminary assessment of potential commuter rail corridors along U.S. 290, Texas 249 and U.S. 90A.

That study, completed last December, concluded that by using existing freight lines, the county could get more than 80 miles of commuter rail in northwest Harris County at a cost of about $295 million, or about $3.5 million per mile.

Since then, Eckels and Commissioners Court have said they wanted to look at other potential corridors. Eckels and Commissioner Steve Radack have championed the idea of commuter rail, arguing that it would be cheaper to implement than the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s $5.8 billion rail plan.

Eckels, who could not be reached for comment Friday, has said he believes the county could have as much as 100 miles of commuter rail within five years.

I know that being not-Metro is one of the things that’s motivating Robert Eckels here, but if the end result is commuter rail, then I don’t care what his reasons are. It’s the right thing to do and that’s what really matters. Now if someone could only convince him that rail along the I-10 corridor would have more riders and would do more to relieve traffic congestion than any three of those five new lines under consideration combined likely would, then we’d really be getting somewhere.

David Crossley, head of the Gulf Coast Institute, said he favors all the planning and study the region can get on transportation issues. But he questioned whether the new corridors identified by the county would interfere with Metro’s rail plans.

Crossley also questioned how commuter lines would be integrated into other mass transit options and whether the proposed corridors would be suitable for stations serving new or existing neighborhoods.

“All we’re really doing is encouraging people to move much further out,” Crossley said. “It’s just a matter of fact that commuter rail needs to be looked at carefully because commuter rail is one of the precursors to sprawl.”

David, I love you and all, but let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good here. Cheap housing and the perception of better schools is what encourages people to live farther out. The option of commuter rail into downtown may someday make the top ten list of reasons to live in exurbia, but I’m not holding my breath. Sprawl is going to happen whether commuter rail is there or not. Why not put in a hedge against the insatiable highway-construction monster?