There are a lot of things I really look forward to about summer.

I love taking the family fishing and sleeping late on summer Saturday mornings. I like fireworks shows when performed by professional launchers (not by people in my neighborhood as much). I love taking a bus-load of people to Wrigley Field, and I especially love taking people there who have never been there before.

And I love cooking on the grill.

I would grade myself as a “C” griller. I do a good job, but I don’t vary off the burgers-and-dogs path very often because my family only likes burgers and dogs.

There is nothing more fun than watching master grillers who have burgers, dogs, chicken, pork chops, shrimp—the whole arsenal of meat lined up and sizzling from one side of the grill to the other.

Today’s column is meant to look like that master chef’s grill—there is a lot stuffed into it.

Cubs at home: No matter what sport or what level we’re talking about, most teams play better at home. This is not a new concept, and the reasons why are obvious. Comfort, sleeping in your own bed, the home crowd—it’s easy to understand.

But the Cubs of 2019 are stunning in how much better they have played at home compared to away from home. After winning Sunday afternoon and completing a three-game sweep of the Brewers, the Northsiders were 39-18 at home but were only 21-30 away from the corner of Clark and Addison. I could throw a bunch of stats at you to prove the point, but it really isn’t required. You don’t need to be a computer geek to know—you just have to watch them. On the road, they don’t hit, they are  impatient at the plate, they make more base-running mistakes and they look lifeless.

This is a problem, because they aren’t likely to have the home field advantage in too many postseason series.

Colts and Bears camp: The hopes are high in Indy and Chicago for the upcoming season, and rightfully so. There are no current, obvious reasons why both teams shouldn’t be in the conversation for games in January and February.

Notre Dame camp opens in Culver: Growing up in Argos as a Notre Dame fan makes it pretty cool that the Irish open their fall camp with a few days of work at Culver Academy.

Why do they do that? Well, because they are Notre Dame, and they can.

But, seriously, it’s a chance to start your preseason training with your veterans and newcomers away from campus. There is a value to the bonding and new relationships built in those circumstances.

High school football: As this column appears in the Times-Union, football teams will have 10 days until their official scrimmage and 17 days until Opening Night.

I think the storylines in the area are really fascinating. Can the Tigers repeat the success from 2018 with most of their defense having traded in helmets for graduation caps? Can Phil Jensen breathe life back into a once-proud Whitko program? Wawasee kids are optimistic that they will be better this year—are they right? Is Triton in a run of prolonged success?

Fall high school practices are underway: The fall sports season had its wick lit Monday with the first official practices for everyone but girls’ golf, and they started playing tournaments and matches this week.

There are a lot of things that must drive coaches crazy, and at the top of that list has got to be kids who showed up to Monday’s first practices and didn’t have a physical form on file in their school’s athletic office.

One of the oldest rules in high school sports is that you cannot practice until that physical is performed and the results recorded. The IHSAA even created a standard form for doctors to fill out so that everyone gets the same treatment.

Advice to parents: Camp out at your family doctor’s office and wait for them to have an opening, and then take it.

Even better, clear your calendar for “physical night” in April or May so you don’t have to mess around in August.

Tincaps netting: Do you ever see an email in your inbox and become too afraid to open it? I did—last Friday.

I got an email from Mike Nutter, the President of the Fort Wayne Tincaps.

My heart sunk, because I had written my column on my experience at the Tincaps game at Parkview Field last week and the ‘near miss’ we had in our section, which was just beyond the protective netting which ends at the far end of the home dugout.

What I wrote was in no way a slam against the ‘Caps, nor was I calling them out. It was about me and what I learned from being in those seats with my young children when a line drive came our way (if you missed last week’s column, I was at the popcorn stand with my son when the ball hit my empty seat).

To my relief, Mr. Nutter said someone had forwarded a link to the article to him, and he appreciated what I had said. He went on to say he agreed with my sentiment about extending netting and there is a plan in place to extend that after the season ends.

I think most parks in professional baseball will have new plans in place by next spring, and that’s a good thing.

Cookout’s over…who brought desert?