Posted on 30 September 2015 by WNST Staff
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Posted on 29 September 2015 by WNST Staff
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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
Posted on 08 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio
Pittsburgh – Although the baseball in PNC Park in the early days was far from ideal, this community benefited more than any other in baseball from its stadium upgrade. The urban backdrop of this gem at the confluence of the Allegany, Ohio and Monangehela sets it apart among all of the other new parks. You feel like you can reach out and touch the city and the big yellow Clemente Bridge in the outfield. The park is nestled into a small space and the rich tradition of Bill Mazerowski, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and even all of the Steelers glory feels a part of this place that many call their favorite MLB park. Normally, I don’t recommend any visit to Pittsburgh but this place makes the trip worthwhile. Hard for even a diehard Steelers, Penguins and Pirates hater to hold any animosity toward this gem. And over the past few years, the team on the field has finally played up to the stadium it calls home.
Posted on 24 February 2015 by Luke Jones
SARASOTA, Fla. — New Orioles outfielder Travis Snider may be the leading candidate to replace veteran Nick Markakis in right field, but he isn’t taking anything for granted this spring.
Playing parts of seven seasons without ever recording as many as 360 plate appearances in a single campaign, the 27-year-old can’t dwell on the opportunity presented to him in Baltimore after the free-agent departures of Markakis and slugger Nelson Cruz. Call it a force of habit for a former first-round pick who’s seen more disappointment than success in his major league career with numerous minor-league demotions and nagging injuries.
“I don’t worry about what happened last year and who you guys say I’m replacing,” Snider said in an interview with WNST.net. “I came here to play when they tell me to play and where they tell me to play. For me, the focus remains on the day to day of getting better and when they put my name in the lineup, I’ll be ready.”
Fair or not, the pressure is on Snider to perform as he represents the Orioles’ most significant addition of the offseason. The beginning of his career doesn’t remotely stack up to Markakis’ nine-year run in Baltimore, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette hopes Snider’s .776 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2014 — Markakis’ was .729 — is a sign of a once-heralded prospect finally figuring it out at the major league level.
Snider’s numbers spiked in the second half of 2014 as he hit .288 with nine home runs, 24 runs batted in, and an .880 OPS to help lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a wild-card berth. The numbers reflected the kind of prospect Snider once was in posting a .968 OPS in 835 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
Even if his offense remains a question as a .246 lifetime hitter according to William Hill Sports, the Orioles already like what they’ve seen from Snider defensively as he will potentially replace a two-time Gold Glove winner in right field. The left-handed thrower was viewed as a good defender in Pittsburgh and was frequently used as a defensive replacement when not in the starting lineup.
“I don’t care who you are, you always have these preconceived ideas and visual and then you actually see it,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I watched Travis Snider run two balls down in right field during [batting practice]. You take something out of everything.”
After five disappointing years with Toronto in which he could never live up to his potential as the 14th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Snider was traded to Pittsburgh midway through the 2012 season. His improvement at the plate hardly came overnight — the left-handed hitter batted just .215 in 2013 — but he credits the winning culture in Pittsburgh over the last two years for changing his mindset, which led to his own improvement in 2014.
After being acquired in exchange for minor-league pitchers Stephen Tarpley and Steven Vault, Snider believes playing for a club that has advanced to the postseason in two of the last three years and is coming off its first division title in 17 years is the perfect environment to pick up where he left off in his final year with the Pirates.
“I’ve been able to take some steps forward in my career and the way I approach each day by remaining focused on each day and not worrying about stat lines or box scores and those types of things,” Snider said. “As a young player, I got caught up worrying too much about myself. Being part of a winning culture, it made it easy to buy in and knowing that you’re playing for each other and the pressure is taken off of your personal accolades and put onto the team and what you have to do each night to get the win. It makes baseball a whole lot more fun when you play that way.”
With Snider and the impending signing of infielder Everth Cabrera the only notable position players added to the mix this winter, the Orioles will likely need a breakout performance from an unheralded name similar to what they received from Steve Pearce a year ago to give themselves the best chance to make it back to the postseason. A former Pirate himself, Pearce rose from anonymity at age 31 last year to hit 21 home runs and post a .930 OPS and is now being counted on to fill a regular role this season.
It’s the perfect example to which a player like Snider can aspire after years of failing to live up to expectations as one of the best prospects in the game.
“Steve Pearce was one of the best stories in baseball last year, and that was one of the first things that I told him,” Snider said. “Understanding that this game and this business doesn’t always go the way that we plan, the guys that are able to overcome that adversity and make the most of those opportunities [succeed]. It was a lot of fun for me to watch him do what he did last year.
“We all get humbled at some point in this game. Opportunities come and opportunities go, but understanding where that focus remains and to see guys go out there and do what he did last year, that’s pretty cool.”
The opportunity will be there for Snider this season, but it will be up to him to take advantage.
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Posted on 29 April 2014 by Luke Jones
BALTIMORE — On the night Orioles third baseman Manny Machado was poised to make his return from the disabled list, Mother Nature had other ideas as Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates was postponed due to rain.
The game is currently scheduled to be made up Thursday at 7:05 p.m., but Wednesday’s forecast looked even worse as rain continued to hit the Baltimore area. With the teams sharing a common off-day on Thursday, the possibility exists that a day-night doubleheader will be required to play the two-game interleague series.
Weather permitting, starting pitcher Chris Tillman is now scheduled to take the hill on Wednesday night with Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton opposing him.
For fans holding tickets for Tuesday night’s game, no exchange is required as they can be used for Thursday’s game. The Orioles provided the following additional information regarding Tuesday’s postponement:
Eutaw Street gates will open at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, with remaining ballpark gates opening at 5:30 p.m. Ballpark parking lots open at 3:30 p.m. and prepaid parking permits dated for April 29 are valid for Thursday’s game.
Fans unable to attend the May 1 makeup game can exchange their April 29 tickets for any remaining home game this season on a “dollar-for-dollar” basis. All exchanges are subject to availability and must be completed by June 30. Complimentary tickets are non-exchangeable. StubHub tickets are also non-exchangeable, but may be resold on StubHub up until 7:05 p.m. on May 1. All tickets are valid for the makeup game.
Ticket exchanges can be performed at the Box Office or submitted in writing along with the original tickets and mailed via certified mail by June 30, 2014 to:
Attention: April 29 Rainout
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
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Posted on 21 March 2014 by WNST Staff
MCGLYNN SCORES SEASON-HIGH 23 POINTS TO LEAD TOWSON PAST EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 83-77
Tigers Advance to Quarterfinals of CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Sophomore Four McGlynn made a career-high tying six three-pointers and tallied a season-high 23 points to lead the Towson men’s basketball team past East Tennessee State, 83-77, in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on Friday night.
Towson (25-10) has won 25 games for just the third time in school history and will advance to play in the quarterfinals of the CIT next week. The game date, time and opponent will be announced at a later date.
McGlynn shot 6-for-7 from the field, all three-pointers, and made five of six from the free throw line. He’s scored 20 or more points in two of his last four games and was just one point shy of tying his career high in scoring.
Senior Jerrelle Benimon scored 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out a game-high six assists. He was joined in double figures by classmates Mike Burwell (13) and Rafriel Guthrie (12).
Towson shot 50.9 percent from the field and made eight of 15 from beyond the arc. The Tigers improved to 9-2 on the year when shooting 50% or better.
East Tennessee State (19-16) started the game hot, making 8 of its first 14 shots to go up 18-6 at the 14:34 mark. Trailing 22-11, Towson roared back by scoring 13 straight points during a 19-3 run that put the Tigers up 30-25 with 6:46 remaining in the first half.
After trailing by as many as 12 in the first half, a Marcus Damas steal and layup at the buzzer gave Towson a 40-34 lead at the intermission. The Tigers ended the period on a 29-12 run with McGlynn hitting three of his six three’s during the spurt.
A Damas jumper early in the second half gave Towson its first double-figure lead of the game at 48-38. After the Bucs cut the Tiger advantage to 49-45, Towson scored 16 of the next 21 points to go up by 15, TU’s largest lead of the game. McGlynn hit a pair of three-pointers during the run, including one to cap the spurt and give the Tigers a 65-50 lead midway through the second half.
Towson struggled from the free throw line late to allow East Tennessee State to get to within 77-72 with 42 seconds remaining. However, McGlynn and Damas combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line down the stretch to clinch the Tigers second straight postseason win.
Sophomore Timajh Parker-Rivera recorded seven points, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and swatted a career-high five shots. As a team, Towson blocked 10 shots, its second most of the season. Freshman John Davis had four point and eight rebounds in just 12 minutes of action.
Stay tuned to TowsonTigers.com for information on the CIT and Towson’s quarterfinal opponent.
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Posted on 20 March 2014 by WNST Staff
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — The Towson men’s basketball team will play at East Tennessee State University on Friday at 7 p.m. in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
The game can be heard on the Towson Sports Network (TSN) with Damon Lewis calling the action. Fans can also sign up to watch this game and all of the remaining CIT games for free by clicking here.
Towson (24-10) is coming off a thrilling 63-60 win at USC Upstate on Wednesday night. With the game tied 60-60 and 1.6 seconds remaining, senior Jerrelle Benimon found sophomore Four McGlynn who took one dribble and drained a half court shot to give the Tigers their first ever postseason win.
Towson will look to advance to the quarterfinals of the CIT on Friday as the Tigers will meet the ETSU Bucs for the first time on the hardwood.
East Tennessee State (19-15) topped Chattanooga, 79-66, on Tuesday to advance. The Bucs and the Tigers share two common opponents. Towson defeated USC Upstate but lost on the road against Stephen F. Austin. The Bucs won at home against Stephen F. Austin, but fell twice to conference foe USC Upstate.
Junior guard Rashawn Rembert paces ETSU by averaging 16.8 points per game. Freshman A.J. Merriweather leads the Bucs on the boards by grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game.
The winner of Friday’s game will advance to the Elite 8 of the CIT. That round will be played from March 25-27 at campus sites.
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Posted on 02 February 2014 by WNST Staff
Monday, Feb. 3, 2014
BALTIMORE, Md. — Morgan State looks to remain in the race for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season crown as it welcomes Hampton to Hill Field House. While the game is not for first place, the winner will have a leg up on the competition. This will be the second meeting of the regular season between the Bears and Pirates. Tip-off is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU. The game will be an ‘Orange Out’ as MSU fans are encouraged to show their school spirit by wearing orange to the contest.
SCOUTING THE PIRATES
The Pirates welcomed back eight veterans, including four starters, from a squad that posted a 14-17 overall record, and finished third place in the MEAC with an 11-5 record. Du’Vaughn Maxwell (14.8 ppg) and Deron Powers (11.0 ppg) lead the Pirates in scoring. Du’Vaughn also controls the boards for the Pirates by averaging 6.7 rpg to go along with 65 blocks (3.3) on the season. Edward “Buck” Joyner, Jr. enters his fifth season as the Pirates’ head coach where he currently holds a 75-75 record. The Hampton University men’s basketball team needed five more minutes than expected, but still remained unbeaten on the road in MEAC play with a 79-76 overtime win over Coppin State Saturday evening at the Physical Education Complex. Jervon Pressley led four Pirates in double figures with a season-high 16 points to help the Pirates extend to a 3-game winning streak.
COMFORTABLE AT HILL FIELD HOUSE
Todd Bozeman has won at least 10 home games in three of his six seasons in Baltimore. The 2007-08 (12-1) and 2009-10 (11-1) squads finished with just a single loss, while the 2010-11 squad went 10-2. Bozeman has led the Bears to a 63-23 (.732) overall home record at Hill Field House.
THREE IN DOUBLE FIGURES
Thru 19 games last season, three Bears averaged more than 10 points a game. Justin Black leads with by averaging 18.4 ppg (No. 3 in MEAC), Ian Chiles averages 15.2 points per game, while Anthony Hubbard is averaging 10.9 points and leads the squad averaging 6.5 rebounds on the boards.
BLACK A MEMBER OF THE 1,000 POINTS CLUB
Senior guard Justin Black eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his career as a result of his 24-point outing against Cal State Northridge (12/27) … Black currently has 1,150 career points.
POUNDING THE PAINT
Morgan State is eager to get the ball inside this season, even more so than normal. Through seven conference games, MSU is averaging 74.3 points per game, ranking second in the MEAC, including 13.4 points in the paint. This includes a dominating 50-22 edge in the paint against Hampton (1/20).
THEIVES IN THE NIGHT
Two Bears are averaging better than 1.0 steals per game – Justin Black (2.2 – ranks No. 2 in MEAC), and Donte Pretlow (1.7 – No. 4). Morgan State is also No. 4 in the MEAC by averaging 7.3 steals per game.
TOUGH IN THE PAINT
Ian Chiles, Cedric Blossom and Thair Heath are shooting better than .500 from the field this year. Thru the first 19 games Chiles is shooting 55.4 pct (ranks No. 4 in MEAC). Heath is shooting 54.5 pct., while frontcourt teammate Blossom is shooting 51.0 pct from the floor (Ranks No. 9). The Bears are among the top teams in the MEAC ranked No. 4 in field goal percentage (.419).
WELCOME TO MY BLOCK PARTY
Ian Chiles has been making the most of his 7-foot-2 frame. The senior recorded a career-high 7 blocked shots against Marist on 11/25. He’s currently ranked No. 4 in the MEAC averaging 2.7 rejections per contest (52) and now has 151 career blocks.
THE 3-HEADED GRIZZLY
In the first seven conference matchups this season Justin Black, ian Chiles and Anthony Hubbard have scored 310 points, while the rest of the squad has produced 232 points. In the blowout of Howard, the trio combined to score 39 points with Black scored a team-high 17 points. Against Delaware State, the trio accounted for 45 of the Bears’ 77 points with Ian Chiles leading the way with 24. The trio has totaled 844 of the team’s 1,217 points, 69 percent of the team’s scoring load.
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Posted on 01 February 2014 by WNST Staff
BALTIMORE – Michael Murray has rung up some impressive statistics during his time as a member of the Coppin State University men’s basketball team.
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