Tyler Gates

My nephew, Tyler Gates, with his brothers Chandler and Landon after Tyler’s graduation ceremony at the Daytona International Speedway, during which grads drove three laps on the race track.

My nephew Tyler graduated from Flagler-Palm Coast High School on Sunday. In his car. While racing laps on the Daytona Speedway.

There are worse ways to adapt in the face of a pandemic which forced the cancellation of all other spring activities, traditions and ceremonies.

Flagler-Palm Coast (named for the being in the city of Palm Coast in Flagler County) among many Florida high schools invited to hold their graduations at the Daytona Speedway, home of the Daytona 500, in Daytona Beach.

I’m betting there’s more than one underclassmen in central Florida thinking that should become the new graduation tradition.

Each graduate drove his own car. They drove one lap, received their diploma, drove another lap, waited for everyone to finish, exited their cars to throw their caps up in the air, drove another lap and then exited the track.

Catch that? Instead of hearing their name called, walking across the stage and receiving their diplomas, these grads heard their name called over the Daytona Speedway P.A. system, cruised around the 2.5-mile track in their vehicles, got their diplomas, and then ripped through another lap.

That’s gotta be pretty dang memorable even if some students aren’t NASCAR fans.

The graduates were allowed to drive as fast as 60 miles per hour. Tame by NASCAR standards, but fast enough to get a thrill of driving on the historic track.

Pity there aren’t any large speedways close to this area.

Tyler played football for FPC (outside linebacker/defensive end) and was on the Bulldog’s powerlifting team (because weight-lifting is a high school sport in Florida, where soccer is a winter sport).

He’ll be reporting later this month for Air Force basic training. Tyler will be an infantryman (the guys who guard Air Force bases) while getting his degree with the goal of becoming a drone pilot.

* * *

Some may recall reading (or trying to ignore) back in 2019 how I was approaching 2020 with some trepidation because, as a child, I was convinced I would never live to see the year 2020.

In brief: would watch Saturday morning cartoon “Sealab: 2020,” thought it looked awesome, did the math to see how old I would be in 2020 (because cartoons were accurate predictions of what life would be like in the future) and decided I would have died of old age long before 2020.

(I’m not safe yet; I still have to make it to that age, and my birthday is later this month.)

Now, I’m starting to think my child self just knew something about 2020.

* * *

As a survivor of the 1981 and 1994-95 Major League Baseball strikes, I know what it’s like to endure a shortened MLB season.

In 1981, baseball decided to play two halves, with the winner of each half playing for the right to advance to the World Series.

In the National League West Division, the Dodgers won the first half and the Houston Astros won the second half, with the Dodgers beating the Astros and then the East Division Montreal Expos.

The Cincinnati Reds took second in the first half and second in the second half for an overall record of 66-42 — the best record in all of baseball that season. The Reds got to stay home for the postseason.

(Honest truth — the same thing happened to me one year in Colgate rec baseball. The league divided the season into two halves, with the winner of each half playing for the league title.

(My team finished second in each half and had the best overall record. No playoffs for us.)

So, that solution to the midseason strike (June 12 to July 31) was … flawed.

The 1994 season halted on August 12 and never resumed. wiping out the playoffs and World Series. The 1995 season started late, but each team was able to play 144 games.

The difference this season, of course, is that there is no labor dispute involved (unless some players object to starting this season at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Anyway, my experience has been, any baseball is better than no baseball. So any effort to get part of the season played would be welcome.

* * *

The Baseball Reference web site has been playing out the 2020 season using the Out of the Park Baseball 2021 computer game.

At this point, the Orioles are in last place in the AL East with a 23-38 record, 13.5 games behind the Yankees (37-25), but close to the Blue Jays (27-35) and the Red Sox (27-36).

The Dodgers have the best record (43-17) in the league, while the Nationals (31-29) trail the Braves (36-26) by four games.

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