Thursday, November 22, 2007

Amazing Race

A self-described ‘‘redneck from the Cove that likes to run’’ someday will apply to dentistry school and fulfill his longtime goal.

In the meantime, Brian Sell will settle for being an Olympian.

Sell qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, by finishing third in the marathon at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in New York City on Nov. 3.

‘‘The last six or seven years, I’ve been saying, ‘If I don’t do this, I’m going to quit and go to dental school,’’’ the Woodbury native said. ‘‘I’ve been running well enough to keep doing it.’’

Sell, a Northern Bedford and St. Francis graduate, is only the second Olympian ever from the Mirror’s coverage area.

He has the adulation of the first, Maureen (Latterner) Brown, a member of the U.S. handball team in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

‘‘I always have serious respect for those marathoners,’’ said Brown, formerly of Carrolltown and now living in Colorado Springs, Col. ‘‘Even me running three miles, it’s like, ‘wow!’ Those guys blow my mind.’’

The feeling isn’t one Sell always gave people.

‘‘Nobody knew he had this kind of potential,’’ former St. Francis teammate Art Remilliard said.

Sell never even knew, until the 2004 U.S. Trials in Birmingham, Ala. An unknown on the national stage at the time, Sell began establishing his pedigree by leading the 26.2-mile race through the first 21 miles before hitting a wall. He finished 13th that day.

‘‘Ever since then, I’ve seen the Olympics as a possibility,’’ Sell said.

His crowning achievement came on a bittersweet day in the country’s largest city.

The marathon through New York City began at 7:30 a.m. No more than 15 minutes after finishing the race and qualifying for the Olympics, Sell learned of the death of Ryan Shay, another American vying for a spot on the team.

Shay had collapsed about 5 1/2 miles into the race and was pronounced dead at 8:46 a.m., according to New York City Police.

Sell learned of the tragedy from Dathan Ritzenhein, who finished second in the marathon, as he made his way to his first of many press conferences.

‘‘It definitely makes you think it could happen to anybody,’’ said Sell, who considered himself an acquaintance of Shay’s. ‘‘At the same time, it’s a small chance that would happen. ... His death has been on my mind a lot because of who he was. You could go at any time.’’

Sell continued to be whisked away to press conferences and other ceremonies well into the afternoon. At 2:45, he made an appearance at a party that his sponsor, the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, threw on his behalf.

The Olympian walked into a room of nearly 400 people with his wife, Sarah, 15 minutes before the bash was scheduled to end.

‘‘He was late to his own party,’’ Kevin Doyle said, ‘‘but we’re not going to hold that against him.’’

Doyle, a groomsman at Sell’s wedding and former Red Flash teammate, caravanned to New York City with several of Sell’s college buddies. Teammates from Canada, Oklahoma and Alaska all converged to watch Sell, whom Doyle called the fan favorite.

‘‘In the middle of New York City, there were Brian Sell fans everywhere,’’ Doyle said. ‘‘I think part of his appeal is how average he was in high school.’’

Sell presented his friends with VIP passes for his sponsor’s party.

‘‘I got there late,’’ Sell said. ‘‘Pretty much everyone had left. [The sponsors] extended the party almost an hour so we could make it over for a few minutes. ... It would’ve been nice to hang out with them and talk to them a little more.’’

Sell left the restaurant on 83rd Street and later crashed at his hotel with his wife.

‘‘We had pizza and went to bed,’’ he said. ‘‘We were pretty tired.’’

Sell will begin preparations for ‘‘the biggest marathon in the world’’ by training in Florida for a week or two to adjust to the heat.

First, though, is a 30-kilometer race in Japan in February, followed by a 25-kilometer race in Grand Rapids, Mich., in May.

Sell won’t initiate a training regimen specifically for the 2008 Olympics until June, two months before the Games.

‘‘It’s one thing to be an Olympian,’’ he said. ‘‘The big thing now is to go and run well there. If I do that, I’ll consider myself an Olympian. I don’t want to treat it like a vacation.’’

The concept of relaxing is foreign to Sell. Terry Bennett, St. Francis’ longtime trainer, said asking Sell to cut back was like taking oxygen away from him.

If the coaches wanted Sell to run 80 miles in a week, Sell ran 90. If the coaches asked for 90, Sell would increase the workload to 100.

‘‘Runners think rest is a four-letter word they don’t ever want to hear,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘Brian was the epitome of that.’’

Sell transferred to St. Francis in 1998 after going to Messiah College out of high school and took the Red Flash program to an elite level. The track and field team cracked the Top 25 in the fall of 2000, and another one of Sell’s teams finished third at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, beating programs like Penn State and Princeton.

‘‘He made people around him better,’’ former St. Francis track and field coach Kevin Donner said. ‘‘Because of Brian Sell, St. Francis had some outstanding track and cross country teams. He made other people around him great.’’

Sell remains grounded despite his accomplishments. Following Shay’s death, Sell remarked he’d give up his spot on the Olympic team in a second if it would bring Shay back.

‘‘I guess in a time when we think of pro athletes as showy, Brian is a great counter-voice to that,’’ Remilliard said. ‘‘He’s somebody who’s humble and excellent at the same time.’’

The excellence is something Brown can relate to thanks to her Olympic experience.

‘‘Walking into the opening ceremonies was everything they built it up to be on TV and radio,’’ Brown said. ‘‘You can’t explain the feeling you get.’’

Sell will experience the feeling first hand in August in Beijing. His wife will be there, and it’s likely a few of his college teammates and coaches will make the trip to follow one of the country’s top marathoners.

‘‘It’s something to celebrate, I guess,’’ Sell said of his berth on the Olympic team. ‘‘But it’s kind of like I have a bigger goal now.’’

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Victories against Notre Dame (spoof)

Interesting perspective from the Onion.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Brian Sell - Post Race Interview


Dear Pirates fan,

I am extremely excited to officially announce that we have hired John Russell as the new manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

John's hiring is another significant step in the process of changing the culture of this organization to a culture of pride, passion and excellence. Throughout the process it became clear that John was the top choice to lead our ballclub. His positive energy, intense passion for the game and strong managerial experience set him apart from every other potential candidate we considered. John has been extremely successful getting the most out of his players in his 10-plus years of managing.

During his Minor League managing career, John was a two-time Manager-of-the-Year and twice selected by Baseball America as a top managerial prospect. John is a great teacher of the game, an exhaustive communicator and tireless worker. He will hold himself, the coaching staff and our players accountable for being the most prepared and hardest working club in Major League Baseball. He will ensure that our players continue to improve at the Major League level and play with the pride and passion we, and you the fans, expect of them.

He brings a focused intensity to the managerial role and to our clubhouse. I am extremely confident in John and his abilities to manage our ballclub and instill in our players the sense of pride they should take in playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He shares our vision of how we will return the Pirates to a consistent winner. Thank you for your continued support of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Neal Huntington
General Manager, Pittsburgh Pirates

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Navy Ends Losing Streak Against Notre Dame

By John Feinstein

Every once in a while, something happens in sports that reminds us all why we care about games even in times when it would seem games really don't matter very much.

A moment like that took place Saturday on one of college football's most hallowed fields. Only this time, the home team was the victim. The heroes were the visitors. Those were the kids from Navy — young men who will never play in the NFL but may very well fight in Iraq very soon — who somehow found a way to beat Notre Dame 46-44 in three overtimes in a football game as remarkable as anyone is likely to ever see.

Navy and Notre Dame play football against one another every fall. Quite literally, this is the most one-sided rivalry in football history. Prior to Saturday, Navy hadn't beaten Notre Dame for 43 years. The last time Navy won, John F. Kennedy was president, Vietnam was just a place in southeast Asia, and Roger Staubach was Navy's quaterback.

There are good reasons why Notre Dame dominates Navy. It has more football tradition than anyone, from George Gipp and Knute Rockne (win one for the Gipper) to the fight song and touchdown Jesus. It has its own TV network — NBC pays millions of dollars a year to televise all Notre Dame home games — and more money than it knows what to do with. There isn't a football player born who doesn't at least think about playing at Notre Dame. The Irish don't recruit players; they select them.

Not so Navy — especially now, when coach Paul Johnson has to answer questions in recruits' homes about how likely it is that someone's son might have to go to war if he plays football at Navy. Navy is four years of a hard life: It is academically stringent and militarily difficult, and no corners are cut for football players. If you graduate, your reward is five years in the Navy or the Marine Corps.

Most of Navy's players are smart, tough kids too small or too slow to be recruited by Notre Dame or other big-time schools. They are kids like Zerbin Singleton, who scored the first touchdown Saturday. He's an aerospace engineering major who wants to be an astronaut. As a kid, he watched a bounty hunter shoot and arrest his mother; was injured by a drunken driver in a car accident; and was told by coaches at Georgia Tech that, at 5 feet, 6 inches and 174 pounds, he was just too small to play college football. He transferred to Navy, and on Saturday, he helped beat Notre Dame.

Navy's team is full of kids like Singleton: Reggie Campbell, the 5-foot-6-inch offensive captain who scored the winning points Saturday; Brad Wimsatt, who hopes to follow his two brothers into the Marines as a pilot; Kaiponoa Kahayaku-Enhada, the quarterback who spent the entire afternoon urging the Notre Dame crowd to get louder because he so loved being part of a game like this one.

There simply is no way Navy can beat Notre Dame. There are too many obstacles — size, speed, strenth, money, referees — to overcome. On Saturday, an extraordinary group of young men proved that if you believe enough and care enough and absolutely refuse to ever give up, you can overcome just about anything.

If that's not inspiring, I don't know what is. That's why sports is worth caring about — because at its best, it can inspire us all.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Torre at Peace Leaving the Yankees

Joe Torre heard enough.
He felt insulted. He felt unappreciated.
He won't even set foot in Yankee Stadium anytime soon, not even to clean out his office. "I walked out of there, I'm not going back," he said. "I just leave the memories."
A day after he turned down a one-year contract, convinced the team no longer was committed to him after 12 seasons and four World Series titles, he went out his way — grateful, yet defiant; respectful but hurt.
He didn't say goodbye in Yankee Stadium. Instead, he spoke for 67 minutes — one minute for each year of his life — in a hotel ballroom near his home in suburban New York, close to the Connecticut border.
There was no Yankees logo, just a simple desk — appropriately draped in black — and a velvet background in the team's navy blue.
He was coming off a $19.2 million, three-year contract that earned him $7.5 million this season, double what any other manager made. When he heard the offer — $5 million for next year and the chance to earn $3 million more in bonuses — he knew the team's management wanted him to walk.
"The incentives, to me, I took as an insult," Torre said, according to the Record of New Jersey.
General manager Brian Cashman informed him of the proposal on Wednesday night, and Torre traveled from his home to the team's Legends Field spring training complex in Tampa, the following morning to meet with 77-year-old owner George Steinbrenner, his two sons, team president Randy Levine, Cashman and others.
"Are you going down to make a deal or say goodbye?" Cashman said on the flight.
"I really don't know," Torre replied.
Turned out, the meeting lasted just 20 minutes.
Torre made a counteroffer.
"It was just mentioned and dismissed real quickly," Torre said. "And at that point in time I realized that it was either the offer or nothing. So at that point is when I said goodbye."
So long to the pinstripes. Farewell to the most exciting years of his baseball life.
Torre has spent his managerial career looking in players' eyes and reading their minds. It wasn't hard for him to figure out the Yankees' offer was one they hoped he would refuse.
New York doles out multimillion-dollar deals to busts such as Carl Pavano, Kei Igawa and Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees routinely tell players they have a policy against including bonuses in contracts.
"The fact that somebody is reducing your salary is just telling me they're not satisfied with what you're doing," Torre said. "Two years certainly, I think, would have opened the door to have further discussion but it never happened.
"There really was no negotiation involved. I was hoping there would be. But there wasn't," he added.
Following the team's third straight first-round elimination from the playoffs on Oct. 8, Torre waited to hear from the Yankees. With each passing day, he knew the likelihood of him staying on dwindled that much more.
"If somebody wants you to do a job, if it takes them two weeks to figure out, yeah, I guess we should do or we want do this, then you're a little suspicious," he said. "If somebody wanted me to manage here, I'd be managing here."
His family stood and watched from the side of the ballroom. His voice trembled at times. When he saw several hundred media assembled, he was taken aback.
"You got to be kidding," he said when he walked into the room.
Since the end of the season, his house had been staked out, O.J. style. Reporters were on the edge of his lawn, cameras everywhere.
"The worst part about the helicopters is they showed I had a bald spot," he said.
Torre made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons with the Yankees, won 10 AL East titles, yet that wasn't good enough. He had spoiled Yankees' fans, spoiled Steinbrenner & Sons, by winning the World Series four times in his first five years. He hadn't won it since 2000 and hadn't even been there since 2003.
No other major league team has made the playoffs even two years in a row right now. As Torre spoke, Boston manager Terry Francona wanted to stay in his office at Fenway Park and watch.
"It's unbelievable that — it's almost like The Bronx is Burning," Francona said. "You're watching something unfold that's just unbelievable."
Torre couldn't fathom why the Yankees would offer a one-year deal tied to performance.
"I've been there 12 years and I didn't think motivation was needed," he said. "I felt pretty well renewed every year going after something and we knew exactly what was expected here. So, I just didn't think it was the right thing for me. I didn't think it was the right thing for my players."
As the owner has aged, he's allowed his sons to be part of the decision-making. Others, such as Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost, also have input.
In the end, Torre had few allies.
"I think Brian Cashman wanted me back," he said.
Anyone else?
"I can't be sure," he said.
He went to Florida to look at them face-to-face and didn't like what he saw.
"There was no response other than, you know, they had a business to run and this is the way they felt it was best to do it," he said.
Now, he'll think about going to horse races next summer, perhaps taking a trip to Wimbledon. If teams come to him with managing offers, he'll listen.
Meantime, Don Mattingly, Joe Girardi and Tony Pena were asked Friday to interview with the club as possible replacements for Torre.
"We're going to be interviewing maybe as many as five, six candidates, and we'll see how that goes," said son Hank Steinbrenner. "The job, there's been no real decision on that yet. They're going to be real interviews, and probably starting next week."
A decision isn't expected to be announced until after the World Series.
"I'm not sure if I'm in a position to recommend anybody. I just lost my job," Torre joked. "They've both been exposed to what goes on there. And if either one of those are offered the job and they say yes, they're certainly going in with their eyes wide open."
Tony La Russa and Bobby Valentine also could be considered. The expectations will be the same: Win the World Series or else.
"I'd like to believe that with a new manager, a new legacy starts," Torre said. "To expect a new manager to come in and right away get lucky like I did in '96 is a little unfair."
His fondest memories are of the World Series titles.
"Watching Charlie Hayes catch that popup, the magical year of '98 and to follow it up in '99 and beating the Mets in 2000, which I thought we needed to do that because even though the Mets could have been a better team than us, the Yankees could never lose to the Mets," said Torre, who began his managing career in Queens. "You have to be on both sides to understand how important that is. And I've been on both sides."
He was asked how he felt about his decision when he got up Friday. Torre, as always, had the final laugh.
"Which time when I woke up? You've got to realize you're 67 years old, you wake up a few times," he said.
Then he turned serious.
"I was very much at peace with my decision," he said.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ohio State is #1 in BCS

For the second straight season, but in far different fashion, Ohio State debuted at No.1 in the first Bowl Championship Series standings.

Last year, Ohio State was the preseason No. 1 in the polls and stayed there until losing the BCS national title game to Florida.

This year, Ohio State took advantage of several upset losses in the last three weeks to gain the top BCS spot. Ohio State earned a BCS average of .9416, followed by South Florida at .9200, Boston College at .8906. Louisiana State is fourth and Oklahoma is fifth.

Ohio State began the season ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press, but rose to the top of the BCS this weekend after No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 California suffered defeats.

South Florida is No. 3 behind Boston College in both human polls but earned the No. 2 spot by finishing No. 1 in the BCS computer component.

The top Pacific 10 Conference has four teams ranked in the top 14, with Arizona State surprisingly leading the way at No. 8, followed by Oregon at No. 10.

California, which figured to be No. 1 in the polls until it lost at home to Oregon State, is No. 12 in the BCS while USC is No. 14.

The Trojans have a dismal BCS computer ranking of No. 23, the worst in the BCS top 14, but the Trojans have yet to play three schools ranked in the BCS top 12: Arizona State, Oregon and Cal.

The BCS standings are a rankings calculation comprised of the USA Today Coaches' and Harris polls and the average of six computer indexes.

The top two schools in the final BCS standings on Dec. 2 will play for the BCS national title on Jan. 7 in the Louisiana Superdome.

The Associated Press poll, which started in 1936, can crown an independent champion. The AP, citing ethical concerns, pulled out of the BCS formula following the 2005 season and was replaced by the Harris poll.

This is the 10th season of the controversial BCS system. It was created in 1998 as a rankings mechanism to pair No. 1 against No. 2 in a sport that has resisted a playoff format.Before 1998, the champions of the Pacific 10 and Big Ten conferences were contracted to play in the Rose Bowl. The formation of the BCS allowed those champions to be released to the title game if either was ranked No. 1 or No. 2.

The BCS standings are also used to create major bowl access to schools from outside the six major conferences.

In 2004, Utah of the Mountain West Conference earned a BCS bid by finishing No. 6 in the final standings and went on to complete an undefeated season by beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last year, Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference earned a bid to the Fiesta Bowl by finishing No. 8 in the BCS.

This year, Hawaii is trying to become the latest "non-BCS" school to earn a berth. Hawaii will earn an automatic bid if it finishes No. 12 or higher or No. 16 or better if the champion of any of the six BCS conferences finishes lower.

Hawaii debuted at No. 18 in the BCS, leaving the Warriors six spots below the coveted No. 12 position.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Paul Johnson Press Conference following Navy Victory over Pitt

A few quotes from Navy Coach Paul Johnson following his doube-overtime win over Pittsburgh on October 10, 2007.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Unprecedented Scoring Opportunity

In a surprise pregame scoring opportunity, the Navy Midshipmen score on an unopposed play from the three yard line.
Here the headlinesman, Tim Schlenvogt, signals the score as fullback Eric Kettani barrelled into the end zone untouched to put Navy on the scoreboard first. Unfortunately the play didn't stand and Navy had to score against an actual defense moments later following the kickoff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Dear Pirates Fans:

I am extremely excited to officially announce today that we have hired Neal Huntington as our new General Manager. After a comprehensive search for a baseball executive who can restore the culture of success within the Pirates organization, Neal is absolutely the right choice to lead our baseball operations department and to build a winning organization of which all Pirates fans can be proud.

As you get to know Neal and hear from him personally, you will see that he is extremely intelligent, analytical and driven to succeed. Neal is highly regarded throughout the game as an outstanding evaluator of talent and as one of the young executives who understands and utilizes the most sophisticated statistical and analytical tools of the trade.

Neal shares my vision on how to transform the Pirates into an organization that can consistently compete. Equally important, Neal knows how to implement the changes, systems and philosophies required to accomplish that goal.

Neal has more than 16 years of professional baseball experience. He has spent each of the past 10 seasons working in numerous roles for the Cleveland Indians organization that is fresh off the heels of winning another division title. He was a key member of themanagement team that rebuilt the Indians into a consistent winner through the aggressive acquisition of young talent secured through the draft, the international market and trades.

During his tenure with Cleveland, Huntington was a key member of the executive team that drafted 2007 Cy Young candidate C.C. Sabathia, signed international free agents Fausto Carmona, who has won 18 games this year, catcher Victor Martinez and infielder Jhonny Peralta. Cleveland also acquired outfielder Grady Sizemore and infielder Travis Hafner through trades during Huntington's tenure.

His experience as a vital member of a strong baseball operations department in a winning organization will be critical as we move forward in building a similar culture of success here in Pittsburgh. His strong leadership skills, character, intelligence, commitment and broad experience convinced me that Neal is the right person to build and lead an outstanding baseball operations staff.

As Bob Nutting stated today, this is an extremely important time of transition for the Pirates as he has taken orderly steps to building a culture of success and a culture of pride. I believe with Neal and myself now in place we will implement that vision of excellence and build an exciting ballclub that will make you, our fans, proud.

Thank you for your continued support of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Frank Coonelly
President, Pittsburgh Pirates

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Commander in Chief's Trophy - Week 3

Navy (2-2) had a thrilling 46-43 win over Duke (1-3) at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. With just 38 seconds remaining in the game, Ketric Buffin picked off a Blue Devil pass at the Navy 18 and returned the INT 8 yards. QB Jarod Bryant then called his own number five times and rushed for 48 yards to set up Joey Bullen's 44 yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

Army (1-3) fell to Boston College (4-0) 37-17 at Chestnut Hill. BC had 573 yards of total offense to Army's 259. Carson Williams completed 15 of 32 passes for 191 yards to lead the Black Knights.

Air Force (3-1) lost to BYU (2-2) 31-6 in Provo. Chad Hall ran for 19 yards and caught six passes for 80 yards for the Falcons. His numbers couldn't counter BYU's Harvey Unga who had 112 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving on the afternoon.

This week Air Force visits Annapolis to take on the Midshipmen in the first game of three that decides the Commander in Chief's trophy. Army will take on Temple (0-4) at Michie Stadium.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Judge Grants OJ Bail

The judge in the O.J. Simpson robbery case set bail at $125,000 at Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday morning.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

UNO shocks Wichita State

WICHITA, KAN. -- Talk about your shockers.

UNO pulled off its biggest in a long time Friday, rallying for three runs in the top of the ninth to knock off top-seed Wichita State, 7-6, in the Wichita Regional before 7,084 fans in Eck Stadium.

"It would have been very easy for us to roll over," said senior centerfielder Brandon Bowser, whose one-out single in the ninth brought in the winning runs. "Nobody expected us to win this game. We weren't even supposed to be here. But you can't tell a single guy on this team that."
The Privateers are assured of being here at least until Sunday. UNO (38-24) will face Arizona, a 4-3 winner against Oral Roberts in Friday's first game, at 7 tonight. The winner is assured of playing Sunday night for a trip to the super regional.
Wichita State (49-16) plays Oral Roberts in the 1 p.m. elimination game. The winner of that game will meet the UNO-Arizona loser on Sunday afternoon.

And not long after Friday's celebration, the Privateers already were thinking about the Wildcats.
"This is a good win, but we have to turn our focus to the next one," Bowser said. "We have Arizona tomorrow, and that's what's on our minds now.

"Anything's possible."
It didn't seem possible that UNO would be in this position going into Friday.
The Privateers, who were in the NCAA Tournament only because they won last week's Sun Belt Conference Tournament, were playing the nation's No. 15 team before a packed house in its home stadium. And even after they jumped to an early 4-0 lead, Wichita State came back, tying the score in the sixth and taking a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh.

Going into the ninth, UNO had had three hits since the third, with one runner getting as far as second. When Josh Tarnow struck out to begin the ninth, and Nick Schwaner swung and missed at strike three, the end seemed near. But the third strike on Schwaner was a wild pitch, and he reached first base.
Drew Anderson followed with a single, as did freshman pinch hitter Ryan Eden, bringing in Schwaner.

That brought up Bowser, who was 0-for-4 for the game.

"The coaches always tell me to be patient when you come up in a big spot," he said. "I guess I was due."
Anderson and Eden pulled off a double steal to put runners on second and third.
Bowser then lined a 1-1 pitch up the middle from Noah Booth, the last of five Shockers pitchers, giving the Privateers the lead.

"Everything fell right for us," UNO Coach Tom Walter said. "These guys are not afraid of winning."
There still was work to be done, and the Shockers threatened when leadoff man Damon Sublett singled off closer Adam Campbell. But Privateers catcher Josh Tarnow threw out pinch runner Ryan Jones on a botched hit-and-run, and Campbell struck out Matt Brown before getting Connor Gillaspie on a fly to Bowser to end it.

"That's my job," Campbell said. "There's a lot of pressure because this is a regional, but I wasn't nervous so much as I was excited. Josh's throw was absolutely beautiful and after that, all I had to do was focus on the hitters."

UNO built its early lead by playing smart at the plate and on the base paths.

Johnny Giavotella started things in the second by drawing a walk, and Greg Wolfe and Tarnow followed with singles, the latter bringing in Giavotella. Schwaner grounded out to bring in Wolfe, and Tarnow advanced to third on a fly to center by Drew Anderson.

Ware walked to keep the inning going, which signaled the end for Wichita State starter Travis Banwart. It was the shortest outing of the season for Banwart, who is a member of the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team. The Privateers got to reliever Anthony Capra by adding a third run via a double steal. Tarnow scored when the throw to second went wide.

In the third, the Privateers added to their lead when Giavotella's bloop to center scored T.J. Baxter.
The Shockers got to starter Bryan Cryer for two runs in the bottom of the third, and scored another in the fourth, and tied the score in the sixth.

But the Privateers fought back against Noah Krol, who has 11 saves this season, in the ninth.

"No words can describe what these kids accomplished tonight," Walter said. "They were playing one of the best teams in the country in one of the toughest venues in the country in the NCAA Tournament with one of the best closers in the country on the mound. But you put these guys in a position to win, they'll do it. They didn't come here just to play two and go home."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bowser Named to Academic All-District Team

NEW ORLEANS – University of New Orleans outfielder Brandon Bowser and second baseman Johnny Giavotella have been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District VI team, it was announced on Thursday.

Bowser was a first-team district pick, making him eligible for the Academic All-America team, while Giavotella was a second-team selection.
Bowser, a senior out of Roaring Spring, Pa., is a mechanical engineering major and sports a 3.86 GPA. On the field, Bowser is hitting .300 with five home runs and 31 RBIs. He has started 45 games and is third on the team with 50 runs scored.

Giavotella, meanwhile, has a 3.5 GPA while majoring in accounting. He is one of the top hitters in the Sun Belt Conference, hitting .376 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs. Earlier this season, the Jesuit graduate was named the top sophomore second baseman in the country according to Baseball America.

“There is a reason these guys are two of our three captains,” said UNO head coach Tom Walter. “They both serve as incredible leaders for this team and are about as good of representatives of the University of New Orleans as you will find.”

The duo is two of six players from the Sun Belt named to an All-District team.

To be nominated, the student-athlete must be a starter or important reserve with at least a 3.20 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) for his career. No athlete is eligible until he has reached sophomore athletic and academic standing at his current institution (thus, true freshmen, red-shirt freshmen and ineligible transfers are not eligible).

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Altoona Curve Experience

May 5, Cinco de Mayo, was my first chance to be part of the Curve experience in 2007. It didn’t take long to realize that the game against the Akron Aeros was just a part of that experience. The Curve, winners of the 2006 John H. Johnson President’s Trophy for Minor League Baseball’s top franchise, had a full slate of activities for the 5,124 fans in attendance.

Erik Estrada, Ponch from the hit show CHiPs, made a celebrity appearance for the second straight year on Cinco de Mayo. The Curve endearingly titled the evening “Cinco de Estrada”. Estrada was the epitome of class as he spent hours last year signing autographs and having his picture taken with hundreds of fans long after the game had ended.

Estrada enthusiastically shared his views on last year’s appearance.

“It takes 15-20 seconds to sign an autograph, say hi to someone on a phone, or give a hug. Why not do that? Fifteen seconds is nothing when it can make their day. It really chaps me when celebrities complain about that.”

Next to former player Adam Hyzdu, Estrada may be one of the most appreciated celebrities to grace Blair County Ballpark.

“I think I learned that (attitude) from my grandfather helping him sell sno-cones on the streets of Harlem when I was five years old.”

The game featured a highly touted pitching match-up. The Aeros sent #22 prospect Aaron Laffey from Cumberland, MD to the mound against Yoslan Herrera. Herrera is a Cuban defector and the #4 prospect for the Pirates according to Baseball America.

The Curve also have three other top six prospects on their roster – Andrew McCutchen (#1), Neil Walker (#2), and Steven Pearce (#6). Now is definitely the time to visit Altoona. It’s rare to have this many top prospects at one level of minor league baseball and they all may not be here together for too long.

Unfortunately, the Curve fell to the Aeros 5-1 and dropped to below the .500 mark for the season, 12-13.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Traveling Violations: A coach's coach

ST. LOUIS – He’s been telling it like it is for 42 years as a coach, always unflinchingly honest and direct, a breath of fresh air. So, no, there was no reason to expect anything to change now that Royce Waltman’s bumbled dismissal was humiliatingly public.

Waltman has been fired as the head coach of Indiana State and that probably means little to most college hoops fans. It should mean more.

This is a coach’s coach, the kind of guy you’d send your kid to play for and learn from in a heartbeat, just the way parents in Indiana had for decades. This is the kind of leader college basketball likes to pretend all of their coaches are like, when in truth, so few are.

He had been a high school coach, a Bob Knight assistant at IU, a small college champion and finally the guy who resurrected Indiana State from its depressing post-Larry Bird era and returned the Sycamores to a couple of NCAA tournaments earlier this decade.

But as the Missouri Valley grew, ISU stumbled and that, Waltman said, was on him. No excuses, not now, not ever.

“We failed,” Waltman said after a 59-38 loss to Creighton ended ISU’s season at 13-18. “There’s no one to blame for that except myself.”

Indiana State had fallen off in recent years, so the school had little choice. But make no mistake, college basketball is a poorer place without this guy, the grandfatherly teacher. The way the school’s Board of Trustees decided to fire him a week ago and then let it become the worst kept secret in Terre Haute was an unfortunate way to end it.

“Well, don’t take this as a bitter comment because I am not one bit bitter but the administration handled this with the deft touch of a 20-mule team,” Waltman laughed.

Waltman was disappointed Friday and worried about the future. For over four decades he’s had a team to concern himself with; a group of young men to teach and now, well, who knows? He can’t imagine a winter without a team. But now, at 65, and coming off this disappointment, he knows he might be done – no matter his 599 career victories at the college and high school level.

“I can’t get a head coaching job,” Waltman said. “You gotta understand, if you get fired for cheating, you get hired right back again. If you get fired for losing, it’s like you’ve got leprosy; so young coaches need to bear that in mind. Cheating and not graduating players will not get you in trouble, but that damn losing …”
That’s always been Waltman’s way, take no prisoners. Don’t get the idea that this press conference was a final rant against an unfair system. Waltman spent as much time cracking jokes as anything.

When initially asked to comment on the accuracy of a report in the Terre Haute paper that he was done, he deadpanned, “Well, I would say it’s very accurate.”

College hoops can only hope he hooks on somewhere as an assistant. He was a victim of his own success in many ways. When he took over in 1997, the Sycamores had suffered through 17 consecutive non-winning seasons. He immediately got them to 16-11 and then into the 2000 and 2001 NCAA tournaments. But he couldn’t maintain it and Waltman says that’s on him.

“We had some great teams and then we made some recruiting errors and some mistakes and we found ourselves in a position where we didn’t build as we should have,” he said. “I’m embarrassed by that.”

ISU will go younger, for sure, and will probably find a more polished, supposedly more exciting coach.
“Whatever they choose to do is their decision,” said Creighton coach Dana Altman. “But they’ll have a hard time finding a better coach and a better man than Royce Waltman.”

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dennis Johnson dead at 52

Dennis Johnson, the star NBA guard who was part of three championship teams and combined with Larry Bird in one of the great postseason plays, died Thursday after collapsing at the end of practice while coaching an NBA developmental team. He was 52.

Johnson, coach of the Austin Toros, was unconscious and in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived at Austin Convention Center, said Warren Hassinger, spokesman for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate him for 23 minutes before he was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, Hassinger added. Mayra Freeman, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office, said there will be an autopsy.

The Toros postponed home games Friday and Saturday nights, the NBA Development League said.

Johnson, a five-time NBA All-Star and one of the league's top defensive guards, was part of the last Boston Celtics dynasty. He spent 14 seasons in the league and retired after the 1989-90 season. He played on title teams with the Celtics in 1984 and 1986 and with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979, when he was MVP of the NBA Finals.

"Whether he was leading his teams to NBA championships or teaching young men the meaning of professionalism, Dennis Johnson's contributions to the game went far beyond the basketball court," said NBA commissioner David Stern. "Dennis was a man of extraordinary character with a tremendous passion for the game."

Johnson was a favorite teammate of Bird's, and the two were part of one of the most memorable plays in Celtics history.

During the fifth game of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit, Bird stole Isiah Thomas' inbounds pass under Boston's basket and fed Johnson, who drove in for the winning layup. Boston won the series in seven games but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

"Dennis was a great player, one of the best teammates I ever had, and a wonderful person," said Bird, now president of the Indiana Pacers. "My thoughts and condolences are with his family at this difficult time."

Bill Laimbeer, the center on that Pistons team, remembered Johnson as a "great player on a great ballclub."
"He played with passion and grit," Laimbeer said. "It was fun to play games like that. You always enjoyed it. It made for not only great games but great entertainment."

In the 1984 Finals, Johnson guarded Magic Johnson effectively in the last four games. In 1985, he hit a last-second jumper against Los Angeles which won the fourth game. In 1986, he was part of a team that featured four Hall of Famers — Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Bill Walton.

Johnson had a reputation for delivering in big games.

"I hate to lose," he once said. "I accept it when it comes, but I still hate it. That's the way I am."

He averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 assists for his career. When he retired, he was the 11th player in NBA history to total 15,000 points and 5,000 assists. Johnson made one all-NBA first team and one second team. Six times he made the all-defensive first team, including five consecutive seasons (1979-83).

Johnson was born Sept. 18, 1954, in Compton, Calif. He played in college at Pepperdine and was drafted by Seattle in 1976. Johnson was traded to Phoenix in 1980 and Boston in 1983.

New Steelers coach buys home in Shadyside

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Tomlin has accomplished something in his first month on the job as Steelers coach that his two Super Bowl-winning predecessors did not in their combined 38 years with the team: He bought a house in the city of Pittsburgh.

Tomlin, his wife and three young children will move in soon. He may be the first Steelers coach to live in the city in more than 50 years, according to Dan Rooney. Walt Kiseling, who last coached the team in 1956, was probably the last one to live in the city, said Rooney, the club's chairman and former president.

"There are lot of things to do in the city," said Rooney, who moved with his wife, Patricia, back into his late father's house on the North Side years ago from Upper St. Clair. "It's a good place. They usually clean the streets of snow in the city, and where he is going to live is pretty good."

As Mayor Luke Ravenstahl tries to convince families and young professionals to live in the city, he has a high-profile new resident to hold up as an example. Mike and Kiya Tomlin bought a large house in Shadyside and the young coach said he plans to live there for as long as the Steelers employ him.

In that sense, he's no different from the two coaches who preceded him, Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher. Each bought a house for their families when they were hired and lived in it until they left the Steelers. But neither lived in the city. Noll lived in Upper St. Clair in the same house for all 23 years on the job, and Cowher lived in the same house in Fox Chapel for his 15 years with the Steelers.

Tomlin will become the first head coach of the Steelers to pay Pittsburgh city taxes in a long time. His new home in Shadyside is old, roomy and has a good back yard for his children -- two boys ages 6 and 5 and a daughter, 9 months -- Tomlin said.

"I'm a guy who likes to get out and do things with my family," said Tomlin, 34 and the second-youngest head coach of any of the four major pro sports leagues. "We're close to a lot of the activities and things. It's a great place, close to work -- all of the above. Just the diversity the city gives us as a family is important to us."
Tomlin's move into the city not only is unusual for a Steelers coach, but it's also rare even for players. Most live in the suburbs north of the city, although some live on the South Side, where the Steelers UPMC training facility is 7 years old.

The city has lost residents for decades, and officials have tried to find ways to lure occupants to downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.

"I think that's great news," Ravenstahl said upon learning of the move, "and I think it is indicative of the trend, and ideally the continued trend for young professionals and people to move into the city of Pittsburgh, and it's great to have coach Tomlin as one of those folks."

Ravenstahl has proposed a possible tax abatement for downtown residents and those in 20 other city neighborhoods. Although Shadyside is not one of them, having the first Steelers coach and his family on the tax rolls is considered at least good public relations for the city.

"We're really excited," said Ravenstahl, who has not yet met Tomlin.

Tomlin said city fathers can use his move to Shadyside as an example, if they'd like.

"If it's something that works as a positive for what they're trying to get done, great. But it was just a personal decision for my family. I think it's the best thing for us and we're excited about it."

Tomlin was born in Hampton, Va., and went to school in Newport News.

"I'm kind of an urban kid myself, born and raised. My wife's from North Jersey. That's probably our comfort zone."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

PNC Park Threatens To Leave Pittsburgh Unless Better Team Is Built

PITTSBURGH—After five years of serving Pittsburgh as their state-of-the-art sporting facility, PNC Park, the home of the rundown, poorly maintained Pirates, said Tuesday it is threatening to leave Pittsburgh unless a new team can be built within the next three years.
"I love the city of Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are an old, dilapidated club built from other teams' spare parts, and its very foundation is rotting away," the stadium said to reporters assembled in its press box. "I had every intention to stay here for the duration of my career as a ballpark, but given that I haven't seen any realistic long-term plans for improving my resident team's ramshackle condition, I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about taking my services elsewhere."
The young stadium, regarded as one of the best of the recent crop of real-estate development projects throughout the league, added that "after this year's All Star Game, I have learned that a ballpark of my caliber deserves to host that kind of play every day."
"The Pirates have become such an eyesore that I've even had to resort to bringing in different teams each week to play in me," the stadium said.
Although Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy said he is doing everything in his power to keep the park in Pittsburgh—attempting a rebuilding process every few years, making small free-agent additions, and erecting a new six-foot-tall outfielder in left field—the stadium dismissed the moves as nothing more than "a fresh coat of paint on a team that's in danger of collapsing under its own weight."
Mets owner Fred Wilpon has been vocal about his interest in bringing PNC Park to New York for the 2007 season so that it may take over for an aging Shea Stadium.
"The New York Mets have all the necessary components in place to fulfill PNC Park's needs," Wilpon said. "We have a gleaming new shortstop in Jose Reyes. We have a visually stunning, jaw-dropping player in Carlos Beltran. And the infrastructure of our minor-league system is designed to ensure that PNC Park will be inhabited by great ballplayers for years to come."
"Also, PNC Park has already established a good rapport and budding friendship with this year's Home Run Derby runner-up David Wright—the bedrock of our team's stability," Wilpon added.
Though PNC Park would not elaborate on its relationship with Wright, it did say that Wright mentioned how much he enjoyed its dimensions, especially those in left and left-center.
Pittsburgh fans were irate upon hearing news of the stadium's possible relocation.
"If that ballpark left, this city would be devastated," said Pittsburgh resident Howard Valinsky. "I make a point of taking my kids down to the stadium during Pirates away games so they can stand outside of it and marvel at the rugged limestone and the blue steel—both of which have had an excellent year despite rainy conditions."
Valisnky added: "The fact that McClatchy hasn't given this stadium the sort of beautiful, well-designed team it deserves is a travesty. Let's face it, the Pirates have been falling apart for years. Frankly, I find myself wondering if it's even safe for fans to be near them."
The stadium echoed Valinsky's sentiments, saying, "The fans have been so great at being there for me. But if I can't hold a team that can compete, then what's supposed to hold me here?"
In a last-ditch effort to keep PNC Park, a citywide referendum will be added to this year's midterm election that, if passed, would draw from a property-tax fund to aid McClatchy in assembling a new, state-of-the-art team by 2010.
PNC Park, however, is not convinced.
"When I came here in 2001, they promised me a championship team," the stadium said. "I was warned by venerable and much-beloved Three Rivers Stadium—which imploded soon afterwards, as you know—that I should look elsewhere, that this team was set in its ways and not focused on rebuilding, that they were simply using me as a means to make money," the stadium said. "I was young and brash and I didn't listen. Now that I am more mature and have settled a bit, I realize I have to do what is best for me and my family."
In the event that the Pirate organization does not have the financial wherewithal to meet the park's demands, there are contingency plans in place to attract other stadiums to the city. While the league has said it frowns on the idea of putting an expansion stadium in the Pittsburgh area, some have floated the idea of bringing over old Tiger Stadium, which went into forced retirement in 2000.

from the Onion -