Sea Isle Polar Bear Plunge 2012: Yes, We Jumped in the Ocean

Sea Isle Polar Bear Plunge 2012: Yes, We Jumped in the Ocean

The premise is fairly simple: go to the shore in the heart of winter and jump in the freezing ocean.

As I learned on Saturday at the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, getting zig-zag-walking wasted also seems to be a common activity of participants in the yearly ritual.

Now, first let me say that before I write about what a shitshow our day was, we also saw some really cute/awesome kids who looked to be about 5 years old run into the ocean with their dad. So at least parts of the plunge could be family friendly. But that warm and fuzzy feeling didn't last very long.

Here are the most memorable anecdotes from my experience of jumping into the ocean on Saturday and hanging out with a bunch of lunatics all day in Sea Isle.

This was our first Polar Bear Plunge. My older cousin has had it on his bucket list forever and for whatever reason he rounded up a bunch of us this year to drive down to Sea Isle early Saturday morning. I wasn't amped about the idea initially, but what the hell, right?

There's a whole formal event with costume contests and even an organized walk on Sunday to raise money for charity, but being noobs we were just there to do two things: drink some beer and jump in the ocean so we'd have a story to tell.

The most memorable moment of the day could have happened before we even arrived at the plunge site located around the 40th Street promenade. Parking is pretty tough in the hours leading up to the 2:00 p.m. jump off, so we had to park about 15 blocks away and take a nice walk on a beautiful day.

Once we were about 5 blocks from the event, we heard a burly man hanging over a deck balcony with a red solo cup in his hand screaming into his cell phone.

"I can't walk up there. I'm too drunk!"

This was shortly after 12:00 noon and hours before the plunge was even set to start. It pretty much a perfect summation of the day.

Prior to jumping into the ocean with temperatures in the low 40s, you want to get your body nice and warm. My preferred method of choice was a couple of Yuenglings and a shot of tequila at the Ocean Drive (The OD), a bar resembling a football field's worth of a basement. The plan worked like a charm as my experience of jumping into frigid water proved to be rather fun and enjoyable.

I will admit, however, to standing on the beach surrounded by what seemed like tens of thousands of people, wondering to myself what exactly in the hell were we doing there. (As for the actual attendance, we have no idea, but the guy at the registration booth told us that they had already given out the 4,000 t-shirts they ordered so were were out of luck there.)

Some people hesitated, dilly-dallying, etc. But it seems like you just have to pull the band aid off and go right for the full submersion. It was cold but it wasn't nearly as cold as I'd thought it would be. We were treated to one of the warmer February days at the shore in ages. I hung out in the water for a good 30-45 seconds before heading back in. The view from the water of the throngs of people on the beach was wild.

After jumping in the water and doing a quick switch out of wet clothes into something fashionable like sweatpants, we hit up the OD for some celebrating. Being first timers, we weren't sure what kind of scene to expect at a bar 2 blocks off the beach in February. So after a few celebratory beers, we headed back to our hotel to clean up and put on something that would impress the classy women of Sea Isle. The problem with this plan was that when we returned to the bars around 6:00-6:30 p.m. it was like a zombie convention. It appeared as if nobody else had taken a quick "break" to shower up and get their act together before a long night.

Our first stop was the Springfield Inn and I can 100% assuredly say I've never seen a place full of so many sloppy drunk people. The guy who checked our IDs at the door told us they were closing at 8:00 p.m. which made no sense to us at all? But after about five minutes in the joint it was pretty clear why they wanted to close so early on such a busy day for them. The place was a madhouse.

We didn't think there was any way to catch up with these people. A couple of guys in bathrobes were working the dance floor pretty hard before a guy who could only be described as a 300-pound man you'd see tripping his face off at a Grateful Dead concert tried to steal the show.

The crowning event of the evening was, however, a bar-clearing brawl started over an argument about very important things. The thing about the brawl that was so damn entertaining was the fact that there were only about seven or eight bouncers while there were about fifteen or so combatants. It wasn't one of those throw a couple punches and dudes get separated type fights, punches were thrown, people were tossed, bouncers were in headlocks, more punches were thrown, shirts were pulled off. It was nuts.

We were also treated to the rare sight of seeing a guy's head used to open a couple of doors while in mid-headlock on his way of getting kicked out. You've always got to respect a bouncer who takes his cues from Robert De Niro in Casino.

This all went down at some point around 7:00 p.m. We probably hit up four or five more bars, drank for another five or six hours, and woke up on Sunday feeling like we'd just finished competing in an Iron Man competition.

But we all had our wallets. Only one of us lost a credit card and only one lost a cellphone. Pretty good Sunday breakfast at Uncle Bill's Pancake House and that's a weekend at the shore for you.

Hopefully it's like 20 degrees colder next year.

*

Here's a 360 panorama I took while in the ocean. Click to scroll:

And here's high-quality footage of us jumping in the ocean. Video by Going to the Shore:

Future Phillies Report: The Bash Brothers are killing it in May

Future Phillies Report: The Bash Brothers are killing it in May

The Bash Brothers are operating at peak efficiency this month for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who can't lose in May.

That's where we'll start this week's Future Phillies Report.

OF Dylan Cozens (AAA)
Cozens is having a Joey Gallo-esque season for Lehigh Valley, hitting for a low batting average (.219) with a whole lot of strikeouts (63) and homers (12). 

He's slowed down some after a torrid start to May, but in 19 games this month he's hit .311 with eight home runs, two doubles, a triple and 19 RBIs. He has six walks and 23 strikeouts.

Cozens was named International League Batter of the Week the second week of May, when he had two walk-off home runs and a game-tying, ninth-inning single.

Cozens has made some improvements against left-handed pitching but he still has a long way to go. Six of his 12 homers this season are off lefties, but he's still hitting just .175 against same-handed pitching with five walks and 30 strikeouts.

The more Triple A pitching he sees, the more comfortable he should become against veterans with good breaking balls and an actual plan on the mound. Keep in mind Cozens doesn't turn 23 until May 31.

Cozens is on the 40-man roster and will probably get a look in September. It would seem unlikely that he'd get a call-up to replace an injured outfielder before then, a relevant topic given the minor injuries this last week to Michael Saunders and Daniel Nava.

1B Rhys Hoskins (AAA)
Hoskins is the one offensive prospect we feature regularly here who I'm confident will be up with the Phillies before September. He continues to impress not just as a power hitter but as a "hitter's hitter" — a guy who controls the strike zone and has few holes.

As productive as Hoskins' April was, his May has been just as impressive. He hit .338 with six homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.063 OPS in April compared to .296 with six homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.045 OPS in May.

Hoskins had a two-homer, five-RBI game last Thursday in a rare Lehigh Valley loss, which snapped the IronPigs' 12-game winning streak.

In total this season he's hit .318 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs, nine doubles, two triples, 24 walks and 27 strikeouts. His consistent production could create an interesting scenario soon because if Tommy Joseph continues to hit, one of them could become a valuable trade piece that could bring back a starting pitcher. 

In Hoskins and Joseph, the Phillies have two powerful, young, inexpensive first basemen who project to hit somewhere in the middle of the order. Why not use an organizational strength to improve an organizational weakness?

Joseph has already shown he can hit for power at the major-league level, but Hoskins' upside seems higher because of his plate selection.

SS J.P. Crawford (AAA)
He's almost there. After 171 plate appearances, Crawford has nearly reached the Mendoza line.

Crawford's multi-hit game Friday made him 10 for 25 over his last six games with a double, a homer, six RBIs, five walks and six strikeouts.

He's raised his batting average this month from .145 to .186, and even when he's slumped he's taken his walks — 25 in 39 games.

Crawford has hit .235 this month with a .358 on-base percentage. If his pitch recognition remains consistent when he reaches the majors — and keep in mind it's a skill he's shown at every rung of the minor-league ladder — it won't matter if he hits .260, he'd still be a valuable two-hole hitter.

This is the hottest Crawford has been all season and the Phillies are hoping he can keep it up for at least another week or two.

OF Roman Quinn (AAA)
I wrote about Quinn at length on Monday, outlining the reasons why he should be called up by the Phillies (see story).

Entering play Tuesday, he had hit .333 with a .424 OBP in May, fueling Lehigh Valley's surge by contributing at the top of the order.

Quinn would, right now, be a defensive upgrade for the Phillies, and it's not as if Saunders has done a whole lot to keep his job anyway.

OF Nick Williams (AAA)
Williams has homered three times in his last six games. All three were solos, but one was a game-tying shot in the ninth inning and his home run the next day was a game-winner in the 10th.

The ninth-inning bomb went to the opposite field and was off veteran big-league closer Joe Nathan. Both were good signs — that Williams' power can travel to left-center field and that he did it against a pitcher who's had a lot of success and experience.

On the year, Williams is hitting .258 with an on-base percentage right around .300. He has six walks and 47 strikeouts. For the 700th time, that's a concern and it's probably always going to be there. To make a difference in the majors, the Phillies will need Williams to produce about 30-35 doubles and 15-20 homers per season. In that regard, the recent uptick in barreling balls is a promising development.

2B Scott Kingery (AA)
The most surprising storyline in the Phillies' farm system this season is Kingery's home run jump. The guy has 14 homers already before Memorial Day. He hit five last season.

The quick assumption would be that Kingery is taking advantage of Reading's homer-friendly ballpark, but six of the 14 homers have come on the road.

On the season, Kingery is hitting .290/.369/.665 with eight doubles, four triples, 14 homers, 28 RBIs, 17 walks and 31 strikeouts. He's also 9 for 10 in stolen base attempts. And he's committed one error all season.

This has been a breakout year for Kingery, who will make the jump to Triple A in 2017 if this continues. 

C Jorge Alfaro (AAA)
Alfaro has been striking out a lot lately. He has 27 strikeouts and no walks — you read that right — in 70 plate appearances this month.

His batting line has dropped to .281/.308/.410 with 10 extra-base hits in 146 plate appearances. 

Like Williams, Alfaro is probably never going to show enough plate selection to be a true superstar. But there's some more confidence Alfaro will be able to hit in the majors, and if he can hit .260 with power and a strong arm behind the plate, that might be enough.

RHP Sixto Sanchez (High A Clearwater)
A stiff neck has kept Sanchez off the mound since our last Future Phillies Report, but he remains the Phillies' highest-upside pitching prospect and maybe their highest-upside prospect overall. 

He has 28 strikeouts and three walks this season with a .211 opponents' batting average, and he still hasn't allowed a home run in 104 pro innings. He has a blazing fastball and above-average command, especially for an 18-year-old.

Carson Wentz building rapport with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith

Carson Wentz building rapport with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith

For a few weeks now, Carson Wentz has been throwing to his new weapons, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, in an attempt to grow their chemistry.

Something was different on Tuesday.

"The biggest thing is we get comfortable on air and now all of a sudden, there's a body in the way," Smith said. "It's weird. But you have to get open against somebody. Just have to knock the rust off these next few days. A lot of us have been playing long enough. We just need to be where [Wentz] expects us to be."

On Tuesday morning, the Eagles kicked off their OTAs, the voluntary practices that lead into the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. And for the first time this spring, offense and defense went head-to-head in full-team drills (see 10 observations).

It was just the latest step in the progress of building a rapport between the quarterback and his top receivers, who were added during free agency.

"I don't think it's too tough," Jeffery said. "I think it's just working each and every day. He knows what type of player I am; I know what type of player he is. It just makes it better. Just keep working."

Wentz said in addition to on-field work, he and his new receivers (and new RB LeGarrette Blount) will be looking to sneak in as much extra time together as possible. That extra time will come in the locker room, in the training room, in the film room and in the cafeteria, wherever and whenever they can.

At least now, thanks to OTAs this week, they'll have tape against the defense to look back at and use to get on the same page.

"It's a work in progress," Wentz said. "No doubt about it. It's a work in progress with guys I've been here with a year now. It's just an ongoing process. You're putting in new plays, new routes, things are always changing. So it's a process, but I feel very comfortable with them at the same time. But again, we're still just going to continually build that relationship."

While Tuesday was just the first day of practice in a long process leading up to the season, both Jeffery and Smith showed off their respective skills.

While Jeffery is quiet off the field, he already made plenty of noise in Day 1 of OTAs.

"It's been great with him," Wentz said. "He plays on time, he knows what he's doing, his catch radius is impressive. That's the first thing that jumps out at me. I'm just looking forward to continuing to build that relationship."

Jeffery is the big receiver with a huge catch radius, while Smith is the speedier receiver, even though he still has good size at 6-0, 205 pounds.

Were both their skills on display at Day 1 of OTAs?

"Definitely," cornerback Patrick Robinson said, shaking his head.

Jeffery and Smith are still the new guys in town, but they both worked with the first team on Tuesday, while Jordan Matthews played in the slot (more on him here). (Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham worked with the twos; rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson worked with the threes.)

For Matthews, playing in the slot with Jeffery and Smith outside should help him quite a bit in 2017. So the Eagles' slot receiver said he was glad to have them added to his team.

"Both of them bring a lot of production," Matthews said. "Both of them are playmakers in their own different ways. The biggest thing I like, too, is in a room full of guys, you need competition. That's going to be what elevates guys' level of play. When you bring in two guys like that, who have had production over a long period of time, and they're also willing to come out here and work during the voluntary part of the offseason, you're going to have everybody get pushed."

Matthews has spent a ton of time with Wentz over their year together and already has a great relationship and chemistry with his quarterback.

Now it's up to Jeffery and Smith to catch up. And they're off to a good start.