St. Baldrick’s

The 2011 Chicago Cubs seem to be clicking on the field finally, as they rallied back from 9-0 and 12-2 deficits to beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 14-13 today. The winning hit came off the bat of Bryan LaHair.

The Cubs won in walk-off style yesterday too, when D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That game, the first to be televised on WGN this year, featured a pitching matchup between the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster and the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley — the same pitching matchup I saw in person in spring training last year (though at the Dodgers’ home park, Camelback Ranch, not the Cubs’ home field, Hohokam Park, where yesterday’s game was played). In last year’s game, the Dodgers beat the Cubs 7-3 and Reed Johnson homered for the Dodgers. This year, Johnson is back with the Cubs but didn’t homer; instead, LeMahieu did and the Cubs won 5-3.

In an interesting side note to Sunday’s game, Cubs third-base coach Ivan DeJesus got to watch his son Ivan DeJesus Jr. in action playing second base for the Dodgers. DeJesus was the only Cub I was able to get an autograph from during my spring training trip last year.

Speaking of father-son baseball pairs in the same park,  Cubs broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly made sure to let viewers know Sunday that Cubs farmhand Michael Brenly was at Hohokam Park and ready to play. The younger Brenly was wearing No. 88, which reminded me that Mike Fontenot wore that jersey number during a spring training game I attended last year. Interestingly, Fontenot normally wore No. 17 — the number now worn by pitcher Matt Garza, who had to wear a No. 94 jersey Friday because he forgot to pack his No. 17 jersey. I wonder if Mark Grace ever had that problem during spring training.

Yes, my mind has been spending a bit of time thinking back to last year’s spring training trip, and I wish I was back in Arizona right now. But that’s not in the cards for 2011. What is in the cards, however, is me getting my hair shorn again to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which helps fund cancer research. I did that right before my spring training trip last year, and this will be the eighth year I’m participating in my local St. Baldrick’s fundraiser. It’s something I’m proud of doing annually. I urge you to donate to this worthy cause if you can; you can do so online here. If you want to read about where the money donated to St. Baldrick’s goes, you can do so here. Thank you for your consideration.


Pete Miller III, president of Miller Group Media, died this morning. He was 50.

Unfortunately, if you looked for information about Miller’s death on the NewsTribune or Ottawa Delivered‘s websites tonight, you didn’t learn anything more than what I wrote in the first paragraph of this post — even though Miller Group Media owns the NewsTribune and Ottawa Delivered.

Since being laid off by The Times in November 2008, I have never been quick to praise the Ottawa daily newspaper. But tonight I commend it for being the only local newspaper with any significant information about Miller’s death posted on its website. I understand that Miller Group Media is probably wrestling with exactly how to deal with Miller’s death publicly — especially because of how he died — but I guarantee it is the talk of the Illinois Valley tonight, and the media group owes it to its readers to give them, minimally, a little more information than it has so far. (Can you imagine the Chicago Tribune and WGN withholding information about Sam Zell if he died? I can’t. And Miller Group Media arguably is the smaller-scale equivalent of the Chicago Tribune/WGN media group in the Princeton-Spring Valley-Peru-La Salle-Ottawa area because it also owns three radio stations and another newspaper.)

I have no doubt the NewsTribune will publish a wonderful, moving tribute to Miller in its print edition tomorrow. But that just shows the backward thinking of the people who actually run the NewsTribune. From what I was told when I worked at Ottawa Delivered, Miller was the main (perhaps only) reason Miller Group Media invested heavily in Ottawa Delivered, a startup newspaper and website that embraced a Web-first mentality. The approach seemed to work as a template for using social media in particular and the Internet in general to help grow readership for a community publication — at least before the editorial staff lost two reporters in January. Holding back news in the era of 24-hour news cycles and instant gratification just doesn’t make sense anymore, and newspapers that continue to do so will lose in the end.

With that said, I will remember Miller as a friendly, charitable man who genuinely cared for his community and gave back to it in many ways, mainly through sizable donations to places like Illinois Valley Animal Rescue and the Illinois Valley YMCA in Peru, and to various local charity events. Last year when I auctioned off my goatee to raise more funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation (after already getting my head buzzed for the cause), Pete was quick to come up with a $50 donation on the spot. When I thanked him afterward, he told me I was the brave one for losing my hair — and he meant it. That moment was a perfect example why no matter what you thought of Miller as a media mogul, you can’t deny the loss of his charitable soul.

Rest in peace, Pete.

I’m crazy excited, and not only because Spring Training begins later this month.

Next month I’ll finally go on my first (way overdue) trip to Spring Training in Arizona – but first, I’ll get my hair shorn for St. Baldrick’s again.This is the seventh year I’ll be participating in the event at Jeremiah Joe – every year the fundraiser for childhood cancer research has been held in Ottawa – and according to the St. Baldrick’s Web site, I apparently now qualify to be part of the “Knights of the Bald Table,” an elite group of St. Baldrick’s participants who were involved for at least seven of the event’s 10 years.

But that isn’t the best part of this year’s St. Baldrick’s event for me. This year I’m particularly excited because others from Ottawa Delivered will be joining me onstage as a team. Editor-in-chief Steve Diogo and sports reporter John Snodgrass also are taking the hair-loss plunge, and all for a good cause – to raise funds for cancer research.

By myself, the most I ever raised for a single St. Baldrick’s event was about $2,ooo. I’d love to top that amount this year — and blow it away with the help of Steve and John.

Here’s how you can help: Click here to find the Ottawa event on the St. Baldrick’s Web site. Click on a participant’s name (or a team name, like Ottawa Delivered) and donate online by pledging through that person or team, or if you prefer to send a check, there are instructions for that on the Web site, too.

The three of us are having a friendly contest to see who can raise the most money for St. Baldrick’s, but honestly, it doesn’t matter who wins. What matters is the extra funding we are able to raise for cancer research. Everyone knows somebody affected by cancer, and organizations like St. Baldrick’s aim to end that cycle.

Fortunately, there is no rule that says we can’t have some fun while we’re fundraising. I urge anyone who can to check out the event, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 13, and lasts until 2 p.m. People pack into Jeremiah Joe to show their support and catch the fever of giving for a good cause. (Yes, you can donate at the event, too.)

So please, visit the Web site and donate in the name of one of us, or someone else you know who is participating. We’ve got office bragging rights on the line, but more importantly, the Ottawa Delivered team is excited to again be lending a hand – or, in this case, a few heads of hair – toward a good cause that is important to the Ottawa community.

Now you’ll have to excuse me – I have to go buy some sunscreen to apply to the top of my head during my Spring Training trip. 

              * * *

To donate to St. Baldrick’s, click here

All individual donations are acknowledged on the St. Baldrick’s Web site.

This column was originally published in the Feb. 11 edition of Ottawa Delivered.

Here it is, the second installment of my writing experiment, “Thursdays with Chia Obama!” This past week Chia Obama sprouted a lot of “hair,” and it’s growing in every direction! Apparently Chia Obama is going through an Albert Einstein phase — which is better than him sporting a mullet.

If you missed last week’s edition of “Thursdays with Chia Obama,” you can find it by clicking here. Once you’ve caught up, read on! And don’t forget to let me know what you think of the story.

* * *

It is Friday afternoon and we’re preparing to leave for Kane County, where we’ll watch Chicago Cubs players Aramis Ramirez and Reed Johnson rehab with the Class A Peoria Chiefs. I’m heading for the door when I notice a fly buzzing around the kitchen. The winged annoyance lands on a window near Chia Obama, instantly reminding me of President Obama’s recent Swat Heard ‘Round the World. Channeling the president’s mad fly-swatting skills, I slowly raise my hand and strike quickly. Got the sucker on my first try. I expect to hear from PETA soon.

* * *

It is Saturday, July 4, 2009 – our nation’s 233rd birthday. After shaking the morning cobwebs from my mind, I head to the kitchen to water Chia Obama. I am surprised to see what appear to be tears coming from Chia Obama’s eyes.

I am not exaggerating. The clay pot soaks up some of the water poured into it, and sometimes drops appear on Chia Obama’s face. This is the first time they look like teardrops.

I can’t help but think the tears are appropriate, as Chia Obama’s namesake, President Obama, obviously loves his country – otherwise he wouldn’t have run for president during such a pivotal time in our nation’s history – and today is Independence Day, the day we celebrate our country’s freedoms.

It also is possible Chia Obama is crying tears of joy because we won’t have Sarah Palin to kick around for much longer. Or so it seems …

* * *

It is Wednesday evening, and rain has been falling most of the day. The precipitation helped make this the coolest July 8 in northern Illinois in 118 years. The temperature outside the house makes today feel like a May day.

Chia Obama is growing a significant head of hair – except in one small spot on the back of his head. However, the longer his hair grows, the less his bald spot shows.

Personally, I have never had a problem with thinning hair. By that, I don’t mean my hair is not thinning. I’ve had a thin head of hair for years. But I don’t have a problem with that.

Some people needlessly worry about such things. But unless you’re a hair model or something like that, why does it matter how voluminous your hair is, especially if you are a man? You should feel blessed you have hair to lose.

Every March during the past six years, I’ve gotten my head buzzed as part of a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which collects money for cancer research. The annual event always serves to remind me and others that cancer patients don’t have the option of keeping their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. They’ve got worse things to worry about than thinning hair or a blossoming bald spot.

Think about them the next time you are unhappy with your hair.

* * *

Check back here at The Bread Line next Thursday for the third installment of “Thursdays with Chia Obama”!

Sporting a Don King hairstyle on July 4, Chia Obama appears to be crying. Though inanimate, Chia Obama likely cried more sincerely than when Fox News commentator Glenn Beck fake-wept and told viewers, "I just love my country, and I fear for it."

Sporting a Don King hairstyle on July 4, Chia Obama appears to be crying. Though inanimate, Chia Obama likely cried more sincerely than when Fox News commentator Glenn Beck fake-wept and told viewers, "I just love my country, and I fear for it."