The second half of the summer is spread out before us like a lazy afternoon with a Schwinn in the garage and a Dairy Queen a few leafy blocks away.
What to do? Hey, I know:
• Salute Derek Jeter. I know you've seen him play in something like 3,423 October games. But the guy is 37. He isn't going to be doing this forever, no matter how young he looked in punching out five hits on the historic day he charged into the 3,000-hit club.
|Actually, it might be time for Brian Wilson's beard to meet a razor. (Getty Images)|
• Learn how to slide like Heath Bell.
• Learn how to smile like Prince Fielder.
• Learn how to groom like Brian Wilson.
• On second thought, shave. Please. Leave the beard to The Beard.
• Change the channel when the television commercial wants to "take you inside Brian Wilson's beard." Talk about making a guy lose his appetite for his next meal.
• Hoist a brew to the Brewers, the most fun Wisconsin attraction this side of the Mars Cheese Castle. Their midnight ride to grab closer Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez was the coolest thing about All-Star evening (Prince Fielder donating his size 54 -- seriously -- jersey to the Hall of Fame was a close second).
• Count with K-Rod and the Brewers. He's finished 34 games in 2011. He has a $17.5 million option for 2012 that automatically vests if he finishes 55 games. Do you think Milwaukee will allow him that luxury during the stretch run with John Axford? Doubtful.
• Take your radio to the beach and listen to your local team play. There is still nothing like baseball on the radio, where the broadcasters paint a more vivid picture and where your imagination can run wild to fill in the blanks.
• If you live in Houston, scratch that above idea. Who wants to listen to (or watch) the Astros? I'm sure you've got better things to do, like weed, paint the trim on your house or get the ladder out and wash your upstairs windows.
• Skip the boxing on HBO for the Chicago White Sox. Because if they don't turn it around, the simmering feud between general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen is sure to blow up again. There is no way the White Sox should not make a second-half run. Of course, there's no way Adam Dunn should have been that off balance throughout the first half, either.
• See Moneyball with Brad Pitt playing Oakland general manager Billy Beane when it opens in theaters in September. Then wonder why they made the movie when the A's never won and the Minnesota Twins -- parallel team to the A's throughout the 1990s and 2000s -- have had far, far more success.
• Boycott Frank McCourt's Dodgers like everyone else.
• Read the Vanity Fair story on the McCourts, in which an anonymous source refers to Frank as a "financial suicide bomber" (best three-word description I've heard yet) and the author refers to Jamie as a "Chihuahua" (ouch!).
• Catch (Mike) Trout in Anaheim while the 19-year-old phenom is still around before Peter Bourjos returns.
• Watch Bourjos run. Anywhere. To first base. Legging out a triple. Blazing across center field like a gazelle to make another seemingly impossible catch. Amazing speed.
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• Listen to the legendary Vin Scully call a Dodgers game, because he is 83 and, like Jeter, he isn't going to be doing this forever.
• If you don't live in Los Angeles, then purchase the MLB Extra Innings package from your local cable (or DirecTV) provider. Because you can get it pro-rated for the season's second half, and if you do this and listen to Scully every night, it is like your own personal poetry reading. And if you do this, there is no need to thank me. Thank yourself.
• Say a prayer for the Rangers' Josh Hamilton and for the Stone family.
• Visit Pittsburgh's PNC Park, sit up high behind home plate and marvel at a Pirates team that is finally bringing baseball excitement back to Pittsburgh ... and between innings, gasp at the beauty as you look beyond center field at the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the Allegheny River and the Pittsburgh skyline.
• Re-read Ball Four. Or, as inimitable baseball writer Larry Stone of the Seattle Times quipped at the All-Star Game, Ball Three, if the Mariners were to write a similar book.
• Watch the Mariners, and count along with the umpires and manager Eric Wedge. How many balls in a walk? You never know. Twice in the last week of the first half, Seattle opponents got away with taking first base on ball three.
• Visit Kansas City to scout the site of next year's All-Star Game. Remind yourself as you tour Kauffman Stadium that one of the most underrated and beautiful ballparks in the game opened in the early 1970s. My, were those architects way ahead of their time. While there, order the burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, the ribs and brisket at Gates Barbecue, say hello to the memory of the great Buck O'Neal while touring Negro Leagues Museum and learn some history at the American Jazz Museum.
• Teach your kids to keep score.
• Teach yourself how to throw a curveball in honor of Bert Blyleven's induction into the Hall of Fame next weekend.
• Pick up a Wiffle ball. This will make throwing that curveball soooo much easier.
• Carefully place some baseball cards in your bicycle spokes, saddle up and peddle away. Stop off for a milkshake, then stop by the park and watch the kids play. It's a beautiful day and, like Jeter and Scully, this summer isn't going to last forever.