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Part 2: Life On The Road, 30 Days of #GiveASpit and baseball (The journey)

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio






“It ain’t never been done ‘cause we ain’t ever done it.

You’ve got to stop thinking so negative, son!”

Bo “Bandit” Darville

(as performed by Burt Reynolds)

Smokey & The Bandit



ONCE THE TRIP WAS FINALIZED and it was decided that I’d be flying more than originally planned, the only real concerns we had about the voyage were the not-so-remote chances of some catastrophic weather or travel issues that could derail the goal: getting to 30 MLB games in 30 days without interruption or too much drama.

We also couldn’t afford to get sick or injured. Carrying bags around the continent would suck with a bad back or a bum foot. As we learned in 2014, your health is everything!

Would all the planes arrive on time? Would weather cooperate? Clearly, a few poorly timed storms and the trip would be a mess. You can only truly plan so much and then fate determines the outcome.

And if you’ve listened to my radio show at any point over the past quarter of a century, you know that I despise rain delays. Nothing good happens when it rains in baseball.

I’ve dedicated some time on the radio over the past few months discussing the trip and some of the comedy, drama and sights I saw on my unique journey. Most of my guests along the route joined me afterward to talk about it on the radio.

I’ve also joked that no one prepared me for 30 straight days of airplanes, airports, hotels, stadiums, restaurants and their various brands of cheap toilet paper.

There were many statistics and “over and under” side bets I was making with my wife on the 30-30 trip regarding beer consumed, hot dogs inhaled, hangovers, bad hotel pillows, crappy showers, lost/forgotten items, etc. And as much as we prepared to travel light and packed as little as we’d need, we never thought we’d really succeed in our goal of never having to check a bag for 30 days. But, miraculously, I literally lived out of one suitcase, one backpack and carted a giant cotton swab “prop” in a long tube through every TSA checkpoint in the United States. (By the way, TSA Pre is a wonderful thing!)

Toward the end of the 30-day journey, most mornings I was torn by an extreme coffee situation. I’m a coffee nerd but it became a daily decision about whether to caffeinate before a flight at 5 a.m. (and not sleep) or afterward, in the next airport or city after a plane nap.

And there were several days at the end where I was extremely loopy and working on three or four hours of sleep and moving from hotel bed to shower to car to highway to parking garage to shuttle to TSA to gate to plane to seats to sleep…

Some days – like in Dallas, San Diego and Denver – I was running on fumes and took a few hours to sleep. In others, like Los Angeles and Milwaukee, we were full of energy and put almost 20,000 steps on my wife’s Fit Bit.

You can see my 30 ballpark rankings here at WNST.net but to be honest there are no truly awful experiences in Major League Baseball in regard to stadiums. And the beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. As I wrote in my preview blog for the rankings, many of these stadiums – or is it stadia? – provide a pretty similar experience. Whether it’s hot dog races, presidents or sausages, it’s all kinda the same thing. They all do “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the 7th inning. They all bluster “God Bless America” every night. They all have “walk up” music for individual players.

Most have the most annoying item in modern sports – the P.A. or music or scoreboard imploring the crowd to “make some noise” with various cues and sounds. Nothing more cheeseball than that.

Every team has a team of people trying to make the “game day experience” something memorable. Every team wants to do something special when you come to the ballpark to lure you back and attract you as a lifer baseball fan.

Or at least they should.

But that part is a mixed bag – market to market, team to team, brand to brand.

Some teams always win. Some teams almost never win.

Some have vibrant fan bases. Many are a distant second citizen to the NFL.

Some teams treated me well. Some treated me like garbage.

Certain ballparks have a “wow” factor and some don’t. Some have good teams right now and some are in the midst of having awful seasons this summer so the experience wasn’t as rich. Seeing Toronto or the New York Mets in September would be far different than having seeing them in June. And seeing Houston and Kansas City this June was far different than anything they’ve seen in those ballparks in many Junes.

I had some “wow” moments and memories of my own on this tour and that’s what the rest of this essay is about: the stuff that’s worth telling you about.

Let’s start with the MVP of the 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour: artist Mike Ricigliano. The skinny dude with the funny hats has been drawing cartoons of me (and virtually everyone else in the sports world) in Baltimore for 30 years. I met him at The News American in 1984 on the weekend my son was born. He’s one of the enduring friends in my life and we’ve had a lot of laughs over the years. His son was originally responsible for dubbing me “Nasty Nestor.”

Here’e the story of the giant cotton swab – the enduring item from the 30-30 #GiveASpit tour.

On April 8th, I attended a Washington Capitals game with an NHL fan from Edmonton, Alberta named Rob Suggitt – a kindred spirit in hockey fandom.

While Caps Senior Manager of Community Relations Peter Robinson was giving Suggitt an incredible tour of the Verizon Center on the 27th night of his 30 rinks in 30 days mission for Make A Wish, I was telling them about my similarly arranged baseball tour.  Robinson said: “You should get a giant cotton swab and take it everywhere you go! That would help you get people on the registry.”

You know what?

He was right.

By request, Ricig made the fabulous cotton swab that started in the hands of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush along with Randy Johnson the night before the tour started.


It was an instant hit at the United Center in Chicago that night.

Every stadium we swabbed in – except Minnesota – we had Ricig’s giant cotton swab leading the way to get folks to our booth to learn about the bone marrow registry and get on the list for There Goes My Hero and Delete Blood Cancer.

Some of the looks we got from fans were priceless. Dude in pink shirt waving giant cotton swab in stadium bowl! But it was a lightning rod to get folks to our table for education, swabbing and success.

It also caused some attention we didn’t want. We were pulled up by Comerica Park security in Detroit and forced to take it to the car. They thought it was a weapon. I told them it was a weapon to save lives.

The gate agent at the St. Louis airport forced us to check it on a one-hour flight to Milwaukee but “The Swab” made it successfully onto 21 other flights in 30 days on the road. I guess if you get on airplanes every morning with a third carry on that’s a giant Q Tip, eventually you’ll encounter the wicked witch of Southwest.

People have repeatedly asked me what the highlights of the tour were over the 32 days on the road. It’s impossible to recount everything we saw and every person who was kind to us but I hope this essay captures the essence of

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Pettine adds Moeller, Montgomery, former Raven Weaver to Browns staff

Posted on 06 February 2014 by WNST Staff

BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine on Wednesday named 11 assistants to his initial coaching staff. Pettine named George DeLeone assistant offensive line coach, Chris DiSanto assistant strength and conditioning coach, Richard Hightower offensive quality control coach, Dowell Loggains quarterbacks coach, Derik Keyes assistant strength and conditioning coach, Mike McDaniel wide receivers coach, Andy Moeller offensive line coach, Wilbert Montgomery running backs coach, Paul Ricci strength and conditioning coach, Tony Tuioti defensive quality control coach and Anthony Weaver defensive line coach.

The Browns coaching staff also includes coordinators Jim O’Neil (defense), Kyle Shanahan (offense) and Chris Tabor (special teams), and assistants Brian Angelichio (tight ends), Bobby Babich (assistant secondary), Chuck Driesbach (linebackers), Brian Fleury (assistant linebackers), Jeff Hafley (secondary) and Shawn Mennenga (assistant special teams).

Assistant offensive line coach George DeLeone

DeLeone is a veteran coach of 41 seasons, including the last three at Connecticut where he served as offensive coordinator from 2011-12 and associate head coach/offensive line in 2013.

He has spent 37 years coaching on the collegiate level and four in the NFL. DeLeone has coached in 12 bowl games, including the Fiesta, Sugar, Gator and Orange bowls. On the professional level, he was the San Diego Chargers offensive line coach (1997) and the tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins (2008-10).

DeLeone also coached at Southern Connecticut (1970-79), Rutgers (1980-83), Holy Cross (1984), Syracuse (1985-96 and 1998-2003), Mississippi (2005) and Temple (2006-07).

During his 18 seasons at Syracuse, the Orange played in 12 bowl games, posting an 8-3-1 record. While working with the offensive line at Syracuse, five of his players were drafted in the NFL.

The New Haven, Conn., native graduated from Connecticut with a degree in physical education. He also earned a master’s degree in physical education from Southern Connecticut.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Chris DiSanto

DiSanto first joined the Browns as assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2013.

DiSanto spent the 2012 season in the same position at the University of California. Prior to his time with the Golden Bears, DiSanto served four seasons (2008-11) as assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Oakland Raiders.

After graduating from West Chester (Pa.) University in 2000, DiSanto served as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons (2000-02), while also serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Philadelphia Kixx (Major Indoor Soccer League), the Philadelphia Wings (National Lacrosse League) and at his alma mater. In 2005, DiSanto served as the offensive line and assistant strength and conditioning coach for the University of Pikeville. DiSanto spent 2007 as a strength and conditioning intern with the Minnesota Vikings.

A native of Holland, Pa., DiSanto played four years with multiple teams in Arena Football League 2 as an offensive and defensive lineman. During the 2006 season, DiSanto served as captain for the Spokane Shock and helped the team capture the league championship.

Offensive quality control coach Richard Hightower

Hightower, who spent the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins, owns eight years of coaching experience, including seven in the NFL.

After spending two years (2010-11) as the Redskins’ assistant special teams coach, Hightower acquired additional duties assisting the defensive backs in 2012. During his tenure, he helped linebacker Lorenzo Alexander reach the 2013 Pro Bowl and aided a defensive unit that ranked tied for third in interceptions in 2012.

Prior to Washington, Hightower spent the 2009 season coaching wide receivers at the University of Minnesota, where he guided Eric Decker to first-team All-Big Ten honors. Decker, selected by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2010 draft, has registered at least 85 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his past two NFL seasons.

Hightower launched his coaching career as an assistant with the Houston Texans (2006-07), before being elevated to special teams assistant in 2008.

A native of Houston, Texas, Hightower received a bachelor of arts in marketing at Texas, where he was a three-year letterman.

Quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains

Loggains (pronounced DAAW-uhl LOGG-ins) spent the past eight years (2006-13) with the Tennessee Titans. He served as the offensive coordinator in 2013 and during the final five games in 2012. Last season, he helped Tennessee to a 3-1 start before an injury to QB Jake Locker.

Loggains was the quarterbacks coach from 2010-12, when he worked with Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck and Locker, a first-round pick in 2011. The previous two seasons (2008-09), Loggains was the quality control coach for the offense. He originally joined Tennessee as a coaching administrative assistant (2006-07).

Prior to the Titans, Loggains spent the 2005 season as a scouting assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. His duties included assisting with opponent film breakdown, self-scouting and statistical analysis to be used in game-plan preparation.

A native of Newport, Ark., Loggains was a four-year letterman as a quarterback at Arkansas, where he appeared in 50 games. He graduated with a bachelor of science and master’s degree in education. Loggains was a two-year starter at quarterback for Abilene Cooper (Texas) High School.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Derik Keyes

Keyes first joined the Browns as assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2013.

Keyes spent the 2012 season in the same capacity with the Houston Texans. Prior to joining the Texans, Keyes was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at his alma mater, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, for the 2011 season. He began his coaching career as an assistant strength and conditioning intern in 2009 at Louisiana-Lafayette.

A four-year letterman as a safety at Louisiana-Lafayette, Keyes was named second-team All-Sun Belt Conference as a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations/business finance in 2008.

Wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel

McDaniel spent the past three seasons with the Washington Redskins, first as an offensive assistant (2011-12) before serving last season as wide receivers coach.

In 2013, he helped Pierre Garcon lead the NFL and set a franchise record with 113 receptions. His total surpassed Hall of Famer Art Monk’s mark of 106, which stood for 29 years. Garcon also finished eighth in the league with 1,346 receiving yards.

From 2009-10, McDaniel coached the running backs for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions (originally named the California Redwoods). In 2010, Mountain Lions running back Cory Ross was named UFL Offensive Player of the Year.

McDaniel spent three seasons (2006-08) as an offensive assistant with the Houston Texans. In 2008, WR Andre Johnson led the NFL in receiving yards (1,575) and receptions (115).

McDaniel got his start in coaching as an intern with the Denver Broncos in 2005.

A native of Greeley, Colo., McDaniel was a wide receiver at Yale, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history.

Offensive line coach Andy Moeller

Moeller spent the past six seasons (2008-13) with the Baltimore Ravens. He was an assistant offensive coach for three years before spending the past three as offensive line coach.

Under Moeller’s guidance, guard Marshal Yanda was selected to the Pro Bowl from 2011-13 and guard Ben Grubbs was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. In 2012, the Ravens scored a franchise-record 398 points and totaled the second-most total yards (5,640) in team history en route to winning Super Bowl XLVII.

Moeller’s offensive line helped pave the way for running back Ray Rice, who registered more than 1,100 rushing yards and 1,600 scrimmage yards in four consecutive seasons (2009-12).  Rice led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage in 2011.

Prior to Baltimore, Moeller spent eight seasons at Michigan, where he served as tight ends/offensive tackles coach from 2000-01 and offensive line coach from 2002-07. He tutored two All-Americans, center David Baas (2004) and tackle Jake Long (2006-07), the first-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Moeller’s offensive line helped block for a 1,000-yard rusher in five of his six seasons as offensive line coach.

Before joining Michigan, he spent six years at Missouri. Moeller served as offensive line coach from 1997-99 after coaching the tight ends, tackles and special teams from 1994-96. He coached Army’s offensive line, inside linebackers and special teams from 1998-93. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Indiana in 1987.

A four-year letterman and two-year starter at linebacker for Michigan, Moeller earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. A native of Ann Arbor, Mich., Moeller earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and communications.

Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery

Montgomery spent the past six seasons (2008-13) as the Baltimore Ravens running backs coach. During his time in Baltimore, the Ravens made five playoff appearances, captured two division titles and won Super Bowl XLVII.

He oversaw the development of 2008 second-round pick Ray Rice, who was named to three Pro Bowls (2009, 2011-12) and was named second-team Associated Press All-Pro twice (2009, 2011). Rice rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 1,600 scrimmage yards in four straight seasons (2009-12).  He led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage in 2011 and was second in the league with 1,364 rushing yards. He also set a team record with 15 total touchdowns. Rice ranked fourth in the NFL with 9,214 scrimmage yards (6,180 rushing and 3,034 receiving) from 2008-13.

Montgomery also helped fullbacks Le’Ron McClain (2008-09) and Vonta Leach (2011-12) to multiple Pro Bowls.

In 2008, Montgomery’s unit ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (148.5) and fifth in 2009 (137.5). The Ravens also set a team record with 22 rushing touchdowns in 2009.

Prior to Baltimore, Montgomery spent two seasons (2006-07) as the Detroit Lions running backs coach after spending nine years (1997-2005) with the St. Louis Rams. He coached the Rams running backs from 1997-99 and 2003-05, while serving as tight ends coach from 2000-02.

In St. Louis, Montgomery guided two of the NFL’s top running backs in Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. Faulk currently ranks 10th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, while Jackson is 20th.

During his first season with the Rams (1999), Faulk set an NFL record with 2,429 yards from scrimmage as he joined Roger Craig as the only player to total 1,000-plus rushing and receiving yards in a season. Faulk was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year as St. Louis led the NFL in total offense (fifth in rushing) and went on to capture Super Bowl XXXIV.

Prior to joining the coaching ranks, Montgomery spent nine seasons (1977-85) in the NFL as a running back. He was a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia and played eight seasons with the Eagles (1977-84). He finished his playing career with Detroit in 1985.

Montgomery was a two-time Pro Bowl honoree (1978-79) and two-time AP All-Pro selection (1978-79). In 1979, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,012.

An inaugural inductee of the Eagles’ Honor Roll in 1987, Montgomery holds the Eagles’ franchise record in several categories, including career rushing yards (6,538).

As a four-year starter at Abilene Christian, Montgomery set the NAIA record for career touchdowns with 76. He also set the record for touchdowns by a freshman with 37 in 1973, while leading the Wildcats to the NAIA Division I national championship. Montgomery was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

Strength and conditioning coach Paul Ricci

Ricci spent the past two seasons (2012-13) as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the New York Jets. Prior to joining the Jets, he served as the director of basketball performance at Texas Tech for one season (2011-12). Ricci was the director of basketball performance at Maryland from 2008-11.

Ricci spent nine seasons (1999-2008) on the strength and conditioning staff of the Baltimore Ravens, including the staff that helped the team claim a victory in Super Bowl XXXV.

Ricci had a one-year stint on the strength and conditioning staff of the Arizona Cardinals (1996), in addition to spending spring training with the San Diego Padres (1996).

Ricci played offensive line for Penn State. He earned a master’s of education from Goucher College and an undergraduate degree from Temple University.

Defensive quality control coach Tony Tuioti

Tuioti (pronounced TOO-ee-oh-TEE) spent the past six seasons at Hawaii. He served as the team’s linebackers coach (2012-13), defensive tackles coach (2010-11) and director of player personnel (2008-09).

In 2010, the Rainbow Warriors led the nation in takeaways (38). In addition, Tuioti’s defensive tackles registered 22.5 of the team’s 30 sacks.

Prior to Hawaii, Tuioti served as defensive coordinator at Silverado High School in Las Vegas, Nev., where he helped the team to the Southeast Division championship with a 10-1 record. Tuioti was the head coach at Kalaheo High School on O‘ahu in Hawaii from 2003-05. He led the Mustangs to the OIA playoffs for the first time in 10 years and was the youngest varsity head coach in the state.

A four-year letterman at Hawaii, Tuioti was an All-WAC defensive lineman. He is one of two former Rainbow Warriors to win a WAC championship as both a player and coach.

Tuioti earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hawaii. He served as graduate assistant coach from 2000-01, while earning his master’s in educational administration. Tuioti also received a second master’s degree in special education from UNLV.

Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver

Weaver spent last season as the defensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills, where his defensive linemen accounted for 47 of the Bills’ 57 sacks, a franchise record and the second-most in the NFL in 2013. Buffalo was the only team to have three players record double-digit sacks, with DE Mario Williams leading the team and finishing fourth in the NFL with 13. DT Kyle Williams registered a career-high 10.5 and DE Jerry Hughes recorded a career-best 10. DT Marcell Dareus added a career-most 7.5 sacks. All four players were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Prior to Buffalo, Weaver spent the 2012 season as the assistant defensive line coach with the New York Jets. He also spent a season (2011) as the linebackers coach at North Texas after beginning his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant at Florida in 2010.

As a defensive end, Weaver was a second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 and played seven NFL seasons. He appeared in 103 regular-season games with 98 starts, while spending time with Baltimore (2002-05) and Houston (2006-08). He recorded 260 career tackles, 15.5 sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Weaver was a four-year starter at Notre Dame and earned All-America honors.

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