The paper route

I caught this opinion piece by Peter Funt while I was sorting through emails and catching up on news this morning. His view is true and another sign of the sad state of the newspaper business.

I never saw a kitten thrown out of a van, and don’t recall anything so crazy when I had my paper route, but his stories brought back a lot of memories that I rarely think about anymore of my first job as a newspaper delivery boy, tossing our hometown newspaper in suburban Kansas City onto the driveways in my neighborhood. … Maybe it was my second job – I worked for a couple summers as a little league umpire, too, but which one came first, I no longer remember. Later, once I could drive and entered high school, I was a “courtesy clerk,” aka grocery sacker, at the local Price Chopper – which provided some crazier experiences, including a night that I witnessed a robbery while I was collecting carts outside the store – and then a tester, and whatever else my dad needed me to do, at the LCD factory where he worked.

I don’t remember exactly how I came to be a newspaper delivery boy. A newspaper ad, it must have been, that my mom saw and shared with me to gauge my interest. I thought it sounded good, I assume at that age, mostly because it meant extra spending money in my pocket for baseball cards and Slurpees from the 7-Eleven a few blocks from our house. It was the early ’90s, and I couldn’t have been more than 13 or 14 years old.

I remember it was spring time – March or early April – when I took the job. I spent a few early mornings riding around with a woman who oversaw the newspaper delivery operation, learning my new route. Thinking about it now, in this day and age, it seems almost blasphemous to basically be picked up at 4 or 5 in the morning by a woman I’d never met and for her to drive me around for a couple hours in her beater of a car with no parental or company supervision. But the early ’90s still had a vestige of earlier decades when we were more trusting of people and kids were allowed to roam and explore our surroundings with the neighborhood kids and be gone for hours without Mom or Dad growing too concerned.

When it was time for me to do the route on my own, my mom drove me on most mornings until the weather warmed and I could go completely solo on my bike. By the summer, my parents and I had recruited my younger brother to help.

It was a daily newspaper. So every morning, one of my parents woke me up around 4 in the morning. We retrieved the stack of newspapers from our front step and then lugged them to the laundry room at the back of our house where we rolled them, placed them in rubber bands – we also placed them into orange plastic bags if it was a rainy day – and stacked them in my white canvas delivery bag. … Until that time, I don’t think I knew people got up and went to work so early.

Along with the stack of newspapers came a spreadsheet that showed all of the addresses on my route and the names of the subscribers. Every morning I had to review the list to look for new subscribers, or subscribers that had canceled and no longer required a stop at their address. I recall there were maybe 40, 45 addresses – it might have been much higher, now that I’m thinking about it – on the daily list, which covered our subdivision and two or three neighboring subdivisions, all located within one or two square miles.

The job for me didn’t last more than two or three months. By July I had moved on to other things. Because I was becoming a wise teenager and quickly realized – I think my parents did, too – the pennies I was being paid for each newspaper I delivered were not worth the stress of my parents rattling me out of bed every morning, carting me around on the days I couldn’t ride my bike and the amount of labor it took for a 13-year-old kid to get all of the papers neatly rolled and delivered by 7 a.m.

But some of the things I recall most clearly – and that make me happiest – about that time is the trust my parents put in me to do the job, to hold some responsibility and, above all, the care they took in helping me try it. Lord knows, they couldn’t have liked getting up so early those mornings either. … I remember, too, how good it made me feel on the occasions when one of the subscribers stepped outside as I rode up to the front step on my bicycle, complimented me on the job I was doing and handed me a dollar bill as a tip. It made me want to place the newspaper on that person’s doorstep just a little bit neater after that … I remember how fun it was to watch the progress of the sun rising as I neared the end of my route each morning … And I remember the fun my brother and I had on the days that he helped me, racing our bikes to see who could finish their half of the route faster and then wahoo-ing as we reconvened near the end of the route and raced up the winding road to our driveway.

Did it help shape my love for newspapers and influence me to embark on my newspaper journalism career? Maybe, but I believe that fate was sealed years earlier when I would eat breakfast with Dad before school and he’d share the sports pages of the Wisconsin State Journal with me. That’s a whole other story.


A pickle for the ages

I’ve missed watching Lorenzo Cain doing his thing for the Royals this season … Oh, but he’s been good for the Brewers.

With the Brewers and Cubs playing at Miller Park this week, my attention is on that series, and I turned on the game last night, just minutes after this happened

So great.

Afterward, LoCoin credited Rusty Kuntz and the Royals for the play. Because, of course, the Royals practiced it during the crazy, stealing, keep-the-line-moving fun that was 2014 and 2015.

Elsewhere on Tuesday night, the Royals were on the wrong side of a different rundown.

Both plays epitomize the Brewers’ and Royals’ seasons so far.


Summer nights

Our nights are busy these days with Phoebe and Faye, but I’m hardly complaining.

I rushed home from work tonight to find the girls on the living room floor and watching TV, Faye dressed and ready to go in her T-ball uniform, and Kates had made a tuna melt for me, waiting beautifully on a plate at my side of the dining table. I had just a few minutes to eat because we had to get Faye to her 5:30 game.

The T-ball game. Faye is always one of the smallest on the field in stature, but she’s also one of the mightiest. Tonight she had the privilege of playing in the pitcher’s circle on the defensive side. And at the start of every inning, she was the first one on the field and down in her crouch, ready to field the ball – even before the first batter had left the opposing dugout. … The same goes for her plate appearances. In the on-deck circle she’s as focused on her practice swings as any of the girls. Then she steps to the plate, waits patiently for Coach to place the ball on the tee, puts the ball into play and puts her head down to run to first base.

While every T-ball game offers a loaded hour of entertainment and teachable moments, tonight’s game included a first baseman who got pegged in the middle of the back when she wasn’t paying attention on a batted ball that the pitcher fielded and threw toward first base. But tonight’s best folly happened when one of Faye’s teammates took off from first base on a foul ball and didn’t hear our coaches trying to stop her until she was halfway between second and third base – and then the batter put the ball in play while the runner was crossing the pitcher’s circle on her way back to first base, which created further commotion as the coaches yelled for her to turn around and head for second base.

* * *

The postgame. Barely a T-ball game of Faye’s has ended this summer without Phoebe asking me on our walk back to the car if I’ll help her practice her softball skills – and of course I won’t turn her down. I’m thrilled she’s enjoying it so much. … So we took Kates and Faye home, grabbed the ball gear and headed back to the ball fields. We practiced her hitting and her pitching for a solid hour, and the improvement she’s showing from the first practice of the season this year is remarkable. We both wished we could have stayed longer – but at that point tonight’s blazing sun was starting to give me heat stroke and Phoebe’s arm was rapidly turning to Jell-O. I had trouble convincing her we needed to head home but she finally gave in.

It’s been pure joy – and a revelation – watching Phoebe learn and play softball this summer. After the ups and downs of coaching her machine pitch team last year, I wasn’t so sure she would stay interested in the game and regretted not starting her earlier with T-ball like Faye. This year, though, she’s embracing the game, and the smile on her face and positivity that radiates from her during every game is a marvel to me. I’m so proud.

Last night’s softball game had us driving 45 minutes east to the small town of King City – population 1,013 – for an 8 o’clock game, and it was a heartbreaker. Batting in the top of the first, our girls came out swinging like they usually have this summer, and Phoebe came up with the bases loaded. If my memory’s right, she worked the pitcher to a full count – and then she smacked a line drive back through the middle of the field. She cleared the bases and landed on second base because of an errant throw – her first hit of the season. The inning ended soon after with our girls up, 3-0. … But then they laid down in the bottom half of the inning and let the home team jump right back into the game, trailing 3-4 when the first inning ended. … No runs crossed in the second and third innings, and our girls finally got their bats going again in the fourth inning. Phoebe’s turn came up again with two outs, and she worked a full count. She barely got a piece of the 3-2 pitch to stay alive and then hit the next pitch on the ground to the shortstop, who made a good play on it and a throw that barely beat Phoebe at first base. The top of the fourth ended with our girls having retaken the lead, 5-4. … Ah, but the game’s not over until it’s over. Despite a strong performance by our third-string pitcher in that final ending – that included her snaring a line drive straight back at her glove – a series of hits and overthrows allowed the home team to win the game in the bottom of the inning, 5-6.

It was past 10 o’clock when we arrived home, and way past Phoebe’s bedtime for a school night. Kates graciously allowed her to sleep in this morning and check into summer school two hours late.

* * *

Now it’s me time. The Royals are playing a late game in Los Angeles tonight, giving Kates and I a chance to have the game on for the first time in weeks. She’s reading. I’m writing.

I read this Sam Mellinger column today. And I get it. Sam knows what he’s talking about.

I’ve accepted the fact that Eric Hosmer’s gone – and have taken to watching Padres games occasionally just to see him play.

I’m resigned to the fact that Mike Moustakas will not be a Royal when the trade deadline arrives.

But I shudder to think about the Royals dealing Salvador Perez

Or even Whit Merrifield, who’s quickly become one of this old second baseman’s favorites. Seriously, Royals second basemen have been pitiful since Frank Whitenot including Ben Zobrist, who I love watching, too, but he was a rental to help the Royals win a world championship. Call me crazy, but Whit reminds me of a Chicago Cubs second baseman who was a favorite of mine.