Belated Farewell to an Old Friend – Jeff Schmahl

I rarely post anything here not related to the Twins, the Kernels, baseball or some form of sports-related topic. This, however, is one of those rare instances.

Growing up in Albert Lea, Minnesota, back in the early 1960s, one of my closest friends was Jeff Schmahl. We were the same age and lived about a block apart. My dad was a high school coach. His dad was the sports editor for the local newspaper. Our families became close friends.

Jeff SchmahlAnd we both loved pretty much any sport that involved throwing, hitting or kicking a ball of some type.

After second grade, Jeff’s family moved to Grand Island, Nebraska. Five years later, my family moved to Webster City, Iowa. But despite the distances involved, our families remained friends.

When we moved to Iowa and I had a little trouble adjusting to the new environment, I went to Grand Island to spend a week or so with Jeff and his family. It was then that it became clear to me that Jeff had a serious case of Cornhusker-itis. I wasn’t much into college sports at the time, but that didn’t stop Jeff from talking about the Nebraska Cornhuskers – a lot. We weren’t even in high school yet, but he made no secret of the fact that he was going to become a Cornhusker.

He made good on his goal of attending Nebraska and he played tennis for the Huskers. Eventually, he did broadcast work on Lincoln television involving Husker sports and later became a vital part of the Nebraska athletic department (introducing HuskerVision to Big Red football fans, for example) and, later yet, joined the Texas A&M athletic department.

I know all of this, not because he and I stayed in touch (we really didn’t), but because our mothers have managed to remain in close contact with one another throughout all of these decades. I would get regular updates on how Jeff was doing from my mother, who got her information from Jeff’s mom via their monthly phone calls.

Unfortunately, this is also the way I found out, about a year ago, that Jeff had been battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

It’s also the way I found out this week that Jeff lost that battle a month ago.

When my mom originally told me of Jeff’s diagnosis, she also mentioned that he had started a blog called, The Last TrainNaturally, my curiosity and my memories of our childhood friendship led me to check it out.

In the Introduction section, Jeff explained why he was starting the blog.

My hope is what I share will encourage you and give you some insight as to what it’s like to be on The Last Train.  Perhaps my words will also provide you courage when it’s time for you to board The Last Train, because it is one trip we are all guaranteed to take.

But more than that, I hope my words encourage you to make the most of the train ride you are on right now.  That’s really what is important to make the most of your life right now and to have a positive impact on the people in your life right now.

That’s really just part of the Introduction, so I certainly encourage you to read the entire thing. In fact, I encourage you to read all of his entries at some point. It’s powerful stuff.

In addition, as part of Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on cancer, Nebraska Educational Television featured several local stories entitled “Living with Cancer in Nebraska.”  The Schmahls were one of the families that were featured. I’ve embedded it below. It’s only about seven minutes long and since you’ve read this far, you should definitely take the time to watch it

Jeff obviously touched a lot of peoples’ lives in his roughly-59 years on this earth. I’m told that more than a couple hundred of them gathered last Saturday in the Club section of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to celebrate his life.

His was clearly a life well lived.

After hearing about Jeff’s condition, I made an effort to write to him – several times. I just couldn’t get the job done and now, naturally, I feel bad about that.

I returned to read his blog periodically, but honestly, doing so brought back so many reminders of having witnessed my father’s ultimately unsuccessful fight against cancer years earlier, that even trying to craft a letter to him became emotionally overwhelming for me.

Fortunately, it is clear that Jeff had no shortage of people in his life who had far more intestinal fortitude than I do in this area and they made sure he knew how important he had been to them.

I wanted Jeff to know I’ve never forgotten the days we spent playing Cadaco’s All-Star Baseball in his basement or the time we spent pretending we were big leaguers ourselves as we pitched to one another in our backyards. He had an odd affinity for then-Twins pitcher Lee Stange, for some reason I have never quite understood – but I can still hear him say that name with great enthusiasm in my mind today.

I would have liked him to know I still remember the two of us going up and down the street handing out free “tickets” for our neighbors to come watch the two of us go one-on-one in hoops in his driveway and setting up all manner of chairs for the inevitable crowd to sit in while we battled. I don’t recall much of anyone showing up, but I do remember he beat me. But then, that was hardly unusual.

Most of all, I would have wanted him to know that I will carry these memories, and more, until, inevitably, I board my own Last Train.

Even more, thanks to his gift in the form of his writing, I’ll have much more than boyhood memories to accompany me through to that final stop. I’ll have his faith, his humor, his courage and his wisdom to support me on that journey, as well.

But the most important take-away, for me, from his efforts over the past year is how important it is that we all focus on what’s really important in our lives right now, while we are still hopefully well short of the time we’ll need to board our own respective Last Trains.

In one of the last blog entries before his death, Jeff’s son, Zach, included a quote from minimalist author Colin Wright.

“You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly.”

I. for one, intend to try to do exactly that.

A couple of weeks ago, my employer for the past 38-ish years informed me that my position was being eliminated. It’s not the way one would typically choose to end one’s employment, but it’s not a terrible thing, either, to be honest. The separation package is sufficient enough that, if I choose to do so, I’ll be able to bridge my way to the point where I can begin tapping my retirement accounts..

I’m still sorting out in my mind exactly what form I want this next phase of my life to take, but at least I have some options and some time to avoid having to rush into anything.

I am clear about one thing, however. I’m going to remember that I only have one life in which to do everything I’ll ever do and I’m going to act accordingly.

Thank you, Jeff, for your friendship so many years ago and for sharing your gift of courage and wisdom with me and so many others during the journey on your Last Train.

Farewell and rest in peace, my old friend.

– Steve Buhr

Episode 95: May Day and a New Commish

We made a new podcast just for your ears. I know, you’re excited too. Thanks for stopping by. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
escrowbar

The podcast returns, a day late, but a dollar better, and with a full suite of podcast hosts. We discuss Trevor May‘s debut, the departure of Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia and what those moves mean for the organization and the youth movement happening in Minnesota.

We’re joined by Brad Swanson (@Bridman77) from the Twins blog Kevin Slowey was Framed (http://smartpitcher.blogspot.com/) to talk about Eduardo Escobar and Twins players heads photo-shopped onto animal bodies (WHAT?! YES!).

We finally get around to answering the expansion draft question submitted last week by former listener of the week, John. Which 15 players would you protect? Send us your list to talktocontact@gmail.com.

We wrap things up by going around the league to talk about the 1st place Royals, everyone being injured, and what the 1994 season might have given us had it not been for the strike.

Enjoy the show.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Jay Corn on twitter @Jay__Corn! If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are pretty cool, you guys.

Eating Crow with the Minnesota Twins

crow eatAlmost a week ago, with the Twins in the middle of being swept by the Oakland Athletics, I wrote (over at BaseballTwins.com) that the Twins had no chance of being above .500 for the entire season, and then went so far as to loudly proclaim the same stance on the most recent Talk to Contact podcast.  After a weekend of hot baseball, from the offense and pitching staff, the Twins are now back to .500, at 6-6, and with an off day today to prep for a three game series at home with the Blue Jays, I find myself on the verge of eating crow.

How did this happen?

The Twins pitching turned in their three best performances of the year, the Twins’ bats woke up in a big way, and some timely defensive miscues allowed the Twins to steal a victory on Sunday.

On Friday night, Kyle Gibson put in another strong start, going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run.  Like his first start of the year, Gibson once again walked four batters, and recorded just three strike outs, so it wasn’t a perfect start, but he got the outs he needed and avoided any real damage (and the run he gave up in the first inning was directly related to Pedro Florimon booting a tailor-made double-play ball).

Not to be outdone, on Saturday afternoon, Ricky Nolasco pitched eight strong innings of one run ball, controlling the ball well, recording four strike outs and surrendering only a single walk.

While Nolasco and Gibson put up strong performances, the Twins hitters did their jobs too, scoring 17 runs in those first two games, with a balanced lineup that saw key hits from Dozier, Suzuki, Pinto, Mauer, Kubel, Colabello and Plouffe.  Everyone was hitting except Florimon and Mastroianni, who managed to be 0-8 (but did chip in two walks) while the rest of the team recorded a .346 on base percentage.

On Sunday, Kevin Correia worked seven scoreless innings, but let the first three batters of the inning reach base, and Brian Duensing came in with two one and one in already.  He couldn’t stop the bleeding and the Twins were down 3-2 going into the home half of the eighth.  IN the bottom of the inning the Twins loaded the bases and Chris Herrmann grounded to the pitcher Wade Davis who tried to start a home-to-first double play, but instead threw the ball away allowing two runs to score.

While the Twins might creep over .500 before this home stand ends, I still think that the Twins next four series after that, against the Royals, Rays, Tigers and Dodgers will put the Twins firmly below .500 without much chance of a return.

For now though, the Twins are interesting, and I look forward to eating crow.

Episode 74: Joe Nathan’s Cy Young Candidacy

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

TigerBeat

 

The Detroit Tigers look to be the best team in the division, and it’s not close. They’re offense will beat you into submission and their pitching will have you doing all you can to scratch and claw a measly run or two across the plate. They are the team the Twins wish they were.This week on the podcast we are joined by Bryan Craves (@DisplacedTgrFan) to recap what’s been happening in Motown since the Tigers were bounced out of the playoffs last season.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help us land more impressive guests for the show.

Talk to Contact Episode 56: Ushererererererer

Episode 56 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

usher1

This week we are joined by a couple of special guests including our new producter/media relations guro, Jay Corn (@Jay__Corn) to talk about the pros and cons of being a season ticket holder for 2014. We are also joined by the famous/infamous Andrew Bryz-Gornia of Twinkie Town (@BryzTwinkieTown) to talk all sorts of things Twins (Platoon splits, off-season acquisitions, Ushering). Paul, Eric, Cody, Jay, and Bryz are essentially porno for your ears, but for baseball. We discuss Paul Molitor’s new job with the Twins, minor league acquisitions and the Diamond award winners, among other things (namely Beer, pie and WS predictions). It’s 103 minutes of pure ear awesome. The off-season is fun, you guys.

Thanks for listening!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes(ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers).

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 28

Episode 28 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Eric and Paul are joined this week by not one, but two guests with international flavor. In the first segment the twins are joined by Gary from Italy (@ForzaGemelli) to talk about baseball in Italy and hopes for the Italian team in the WBC (including Drew Butera, the boat anchor). Later in the podcast fellow international traveler Thrylos (@Thrylos98) of tenthinningstretch.blogspot.com to talk about spring training battles and baseball in general. Eric and Paul go on to discuss injury news coming out of spring training, J.T. Chargois, Camile Pascual, the World Baseball Classic in both generalities and specifics before getting sidetracked talking about beer, and other nonsensical things.

Thanks to Mark Smith (@MarkArtSmith) for the new logo!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help the Twins in games).

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 24

Episode 24 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Eric and Paul are joined by long time Twins blogger Cody Christie (@NoDakTwinsFan,www.NoDakTwinsFan.com) to talk about the Twins off-season moves and a look at 2013. Also joining us is MLB Fan Cave applicant, Michael McGivern (@McGive_It_To_me,www.McGiveItToMe.blogspot.com), to discuss his attempt to gain entry to the MLB Fan Cave, why he’s worthy, and his life as a Minnesota Twins fan (you can vote for him here). In addition to the above, the Twins twins also discuss the Anthony Swarzak injury, Jim Perry‘s place in the Twins HOF, prospect Deibinson Romero and a look forward to spring training. Join us for almost 2 hours of half-drunken #MNTwins talk on the Talk To Contact Podcast.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us bake fluffier cakes.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 22

Episode 22 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Paul "Autograph Hound" Pleiss

Paul “Autograph Hound” Pleiss

Paul spent the weekend up in Minnesota attending TwinsFest, drinking beer and talking baseball. As a result, he sounds both hungover and lifeless on the podcast, but there’s still lots of great content. Apologies to the listener for the audio quality at points during the recording as Paul was using his AWESOME (sarcasm) travel laptop for recording, thus you can literally hear the computer fan whirring in the background trying to keep the computer from exploding. We are joined towards the end of the episode by Jose Bosch (@HJBosch21) from Motor City Bengals (Detroit Tigers blog) to take a look at the Detroit Tigers off-season. We also discuss Twins Hall of Famer Tony Oliva, prospect Matt Summers and a comprehensive review of TwinsFest and the cat video guy.

 

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like a slimmer Ron Mahay.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 21

Episode 21 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

The OTHER (cooler?) Greg Gagne

Once again the Pleiss brothers get together to talk Twins baseball. Continuing their look around the AL Central division they are joined by Lewie Pollis (@LewsOnFirst) from Wahoos On First and Beyond The Box Score to talk about what’s been happening with the Cleveland Indians since the end of their season and what we can expect from the Tribe in 2013. Later in the podcast Seth Stohs (@SethTweets) joins the podcast to talk about the recent release of his Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2013. By the end of the podcast you will have learned something about the Heart of Darkness, Greg Gagne, Josmil Pinto and a whole slough of other Twins news and notes.

 

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like the Red Power Ranger.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 16

Episode 16 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Ben Revere rides to Philadelphia!

This week the Pleiss Twins discuss happenings from the winter meetings and are joined by Alex Kienholz of www.BeyondTheBoxscore.com to discuss the Twins/Phillies trade that sent Ben Revere to Philly in exchange for Vance Worley and prospect Trevor May, the Rule 5 draft and about his interested in sabermetrics. After Alex departs Eric and Paul get into the Jared Burton extension, Tom Kelly‘s Twins career, beer, prospects and a whole bunch of questions from the interwebs.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss