Getting Ready For Baseball Season

Getting ready For Baseball seasonWith spring training wrapping up, it’s getting to be that time of the year when baseball season starts back up.  Warmer weather, longer days and hopefully more free time mean that not only spring is in the air, but flying baseballs as well.  Whether you’re rooting for your nephew’s little league team or going off to see your favorite MLB team, there are some things you need to know for the upcoming season.  Here is a list of them, based off of an article I found online:

Baseball is going to take up some time: Don’t go to a game and think you’ll be out in an hour.  Baseball games have nine innings, which typically takes about three hours.  While some call this boring, others insist that good things just take time.  Even the players will do things to keep themselves entertained during a low point of the game.

Get to know the team you’re watching: The game is a lot more enjoyable if you know the teams that are playing.  Study up on the players and find out which one is your favorite.  And if you can bring up stats, you’ll be able to impress your baseball buddies.

Be prepared: Catching a foul ball or a home run is one of the funnest things to do during a baseball game.  Even though it’s rare, it pays to be prepared, so just in case make sure you’ve got a glove.

Don’t be annoying: If you’re having fun at a baseball game, that’s great, and getting a few $9 beers certainly isn’t wrong.  Just know your limit, and make sure you don’t become that one drunk guy in the stands who ruins the game for everybody else.

Enjoy yourself: The most important thing about baseball is to have fun.  Appreciate a good time with your friends, a couple beers and a stadium brat.

PSG Fighting For Championship

Paris Saint GermainAs they prepare for their showdown with reigning English champions Chelsea in the last 16 of the competition, French champions Paris Saint Germain have been scrambling to make their mark of 2016’s Champions League.  PSG boss Laurent Blanc has already stated that the French team’s whole campaign will be judged by their European campaign, but despite a poor domestic campaign Chelsea seems unlikely to be an easy match.

PSG are in an odd position in the Champions League hierarchy.  They’ve spent huge amounts of money, which has helped them win their annual domestic league championship.  However, the Champions League crown is ultimately what’s on everybody’s mind, including PSG.  Standing in their way is Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, all of whom have more experience and quality to their names.  Real Madrid has already won five European Cups even before PSG existed, while Bayern had claimed three European Cups in the six years before PSG’s formation.  Barcelona’s five European Cup triumphs have come in the last 25 years, yet they’re considered to be the best club team in the world, learning how to win the Champions league through picking-up experience.  Soccer trends have seen teams go through troughs of form, yet those three teams have been the top trophy challengers for the last 25 years.

PSG are just below that group of teams with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, which are dangerous yet not still good enough to match the talents of Spain and Germany.  So far, PSG’s playing in Europe has been successful, and the fact that PSG conceded just one goal in the group stages shows that they’re a difficult team to break beat.  Thanks to their recent growth on the European stage, they’ll be heading into tonight’s game against Chelsea as favorites.

Without a doubt, PSG have been growing as a club and team under the tutelage of Laurent Blanc.  Yet whether or not they’re ready to go toe-to-toe against the heavy hitters on the European stage remains to be seen.  Blanc’s side performed well against Real in the group stages, but still failed to come out on top.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Forte Leaves Chicago Bears

Matt Forte, the second-most productive running back in NFL history, has announced that he will no longer be a member of the Chicago Bears.  In an Instagram post, Forte said that he was informed earlier in the week that the GM wouldn’t be trying to re-sign him in free agency.  Forte made a shout of to the Chicago Bears, in whose jersey he was able to earn his stripes as a true football star.  The Bears confirmed Forte’s announcement on Twitter.  When the new league year begins on March 9, Forte will be a free agent.

Matt ForteThe 30 year-old Forte spent eight seasons with the Bears, rushing for 8,602 yards and scoring a total of 64 touchdowns.  As a team captain, he led the Bears in rushing last season with 898 yards and caught 44 passes for 389 yards while scoring a seven total touchdowns.  Last season, he earned a base salary of $7.05 million.  Bears general manager Ryan Pace had turned down Forte’s request for an extension last off-season, and seems ready to give a larger role in the offense to Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 537 yards and six touchdowns last season.  Forte’s ranking is second, only behind Hall of Famer Walter Payton, on the Bears’ all-time lists for rushing yards, yards from scrimmage (12,718), receptions (487) and 100-yard games (24).  He’s ranking third in total touchdowns and sixth in receiving yards (4,116).

Since Forte got hurt last season and is getting relatively old, it does make sense where the Bears might want to let him go.  Even if Forte has been wildly successful, the Bears have plenty of great players.  Yet great as Forte has been, it isn’t clear how long that will last, as getting run over by huge people all day tends to wear at you, especially once you reach your 30s.  Nonetheless, if Forte is old, then somebody like Peyton Manning is ancient.

MLS in Minnesota

ITodd Proa Minneapolis Unitedt looks like soccer fans in Minnesota are in luck.  At a news conference today at Target Field, MLS Commissioner Don Garber made an official announcement: Minneapolis was awarded an expansion franchise.  Holding up a Minnesota United scarf, he welcomes the state to Major League Soccer.  Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire spoke soon after, getting emotional while thanking various people, including fans, without whom this monumental moment wouldn’t have been possible.  Previously, Minnesota had been playing in the North American Soccer League, one level below MLS.  McGuire purchased the football club after the 2012 season.  After talking to fans after the purchase, he set out to make the team “bigger” than it ever was before.  Since purchasing the team, McGuire has become “an avid and passionate lover” of soccer.

According to Commissioner Garber, Minnesota offers the “perfect recipe for success” in MLS.  What remains unclear, however, is the team’s stadium plan, and how United plans to finance a new facility near the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.  While Garber mentioned a “great plan” for the stadium, he didn’t offer any specifics.  Some of McGuire’s partners include the Pohlad family, who own the Minnesota Twins, and Glen Taylor, owner of both the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Star Tribune.  Using flowery language, Garber described a downtown outdoor stadium in Minneapolis serving as a “cathedral for our league”.  McGuire’s group was chosen over a group led by the owners of the Vikings, who would have had the team play in the Vikings’ new indoor stadium.

While soccer has an avid fanbase outside of the US, its popularity in America itself has been fairly limited for a while now, shadowed by Americans’ intense love of sports such as football and baseball.  It’s really only been in the past 20 years or so that soccer has really gained that much popularity among mainstream American sports fans, and even today it very much remains a fringe sport in comparison with other sports.  America cares every summer the World Cup shows up, but the passion seems to fade away at the start of football season.  Nonetheless, every year, soccer’s fanbase in the US seems to be growing, and this recent announcement in Minneapolis only seems to confirm that.

New Browns Logo

Todd Proa Browns

The new Browns logo (left) and the old one (right)

Earlier today, the Cleveland Browns unveiled a new logo and helmet, quite possibly one of the most uneventful changes in a long time.  Previously, the Browns wore a plain orange helmet up through 2014.  Now, however, the team will be wearing a slightly darker orange helmet in 2015.  While the color hasn’t changed much, the Browns have changed the “Dawg Pound” logo significantly.  While the 2014 dog merely looked like a distrustful mastiff eyeing the paperboy suspiciously, the 2015 dog looks more cartoonish, yet also snarling and much angrier.  On April 14, the team will be releasing the new uniform.  Chances are that it won’t be too exciting, but who knows?

Over the course of their career as a football team, the Browns have undergone a variety of logo, uniform and even mascot changes.  Currently, they’re the only NFL team that don’t have a helmet logo, with the logo-less helmet serving as the team’s official logo, the helmet being nothing more than an unadorned orange color with a top stripe of dark brown divided by a white stripe.

The Browns’ original mascot was a “brownie”, an elf-like creature from Scottish and English folklore that was said to attach itself to houses and farmsteads and help out with work.  This remained their logo, in various forms, from the team’s founding in 1946 until 1969.  This elf has since been revived, although the official mascot is a bull mastiff, featured in the new Browns logo.  The use of the dog originates with the popularity of the “Dawg Pound” section at the First Energy Stadium.  Nonetheless, the Browns’ primary trademark remains the orange, logo-less helmet.

Statistics On Deflate-Gate

Todd Proa Tom Brady

Tom Brady

In the aftermath of the Patriots’ “deflate gate” controversy, a 36 year-old dad named Warren Sharp who runs a gambling website on the side has skyrocketed to fame.  Sharp loves numbers and algorithms, and decided to apply some statistics to the Patriots after hearing about the football deflation investigation.  What he discovered sent ripples through the sports world, and even managed to get a few other statisticians pretty upset.  It could even have implications beyond Brady and Belichick.

Sharp thought it would be a good idea to look at fumbles, which led him to a more refined topic: how well the Patriots held onto the ball both before and after the 2006 season, which was also the year that Brady and Manning pushed for a rule change that allowed each team to provide their own footballs for games.  According to Sharp’s calculations, the Patriots’ fumble rate was 42 touches per fumble from 2000 through 2006, which was about league average.  However, since 2007, this rate has dropped dramatically, to 74 touches per fumble.  Over that time, the Patriots have become the best team in the NFL at holding onto the ball, even including dome teams.

Based on the data and probabilities collected, Sharp says, it’s extremely unlikely that their ability to hold onto the football would change so much and be as far away from the rest of the NFL.  While correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, this is one big correlation.  The Patriots were more-or-less and average team in terms of fumbling a football, and after Brady pushed for a rule change, the Patriots quickly became masters of football control.  In some cases, this finding trickles down to individual players.  For instance, Faulk was drafted by the Patriots in 1999, and played for them until 2011.  Up until the 2007 season, he had 23 fumbles, but after that point, he only had two.  And Brady himself had 59 fumbles in his first six seasons, but only 37 in his most recent seven.  According to Sharp, something clearly happened to cause these numbers to drop so quickly.

Of course, this has yet to prove anything definitely.  Sharp himself had admitted that there’s no ironclad conclusion from his data as of yet.  Fumbles are somewhat random occurrences, depending on a variety of factors.  However, Sharp insists that even taking these things into consideration, his findings can’t possibly be happenstance.  Not surprisingly, however, there are plenty of Patriots fans who aren’t buying this.  Even some statisticians are dismissing it as “bunk”, noting certain flaws in Sharp’s data, and claiming that he had already come to a conclusion before he even started to analyze the data.  According to Sharp, he has no “favorite team”.  He simply loves the numbers.

U Wisconsin is Looking for Another Head Coach

It seems as though the renowned University of Wisconsin football team, the Badgers, are having issues with keeping head coaches in one place. For the second time in three years, the Badgers have lost their head coach to another university’s football program; one that isn’t even as highly ranked as the Badgers are. It began when three years ago, after a string of three straight Big Ten Division championships, head coach Bret Bielema left to take a job at Arkansas even though the team was towards the bottom of their division. Now Gary Anderson has left for Oregon State, a team that is happy to finish above .500. Clearly the coaches aren’t leading for better teams and so the question is what exactly about the Wisconsin program is driving all of these head coaches away?

On paper, the Wisconsin Badgers are a solid team that has been able to hold their own and even succeed in the Big Ten Conference, one of the most competitive in the college football world. While some claim that they have been able to take advantage of the weakness of other teams in the division as an excuse for their recent success, there is no denying that the team played well and deserved their victories. While there doesn’t seem to be a clear excuse for the sudden drop in Wisconsin’s playing ability (they ended in the bottom half this season) or the loss of their coaches, there are some theories floating that can shed light on the situation.

The first is that, quite simply, Wisconsin can’t afford to pay high-level coaches the salaries they want. While a salary of $2,368,600 seems like a lot of money, it actually ranks 40th in the nation when it comes to college football coaches and so the desire for higher pay is a very real one that should be considered. Some other theories are that Wisconsin was never a football powerhouse to begin with and the recent record has been a fluke and also that personal reasons have led to coaches leaving. No matter the reason, Wisconsin both needs a new head coach and needs to figure out why their coaches keep leaving.

If you’d like to read more, the link is here.

NASA’s Sarasota Link

Todd Proa Patrick Rodi

Patrick Rodi

If NASA ever decides to shoot humans into the void beyond the moon, they’ll be using a special, Apollo-like vehicle called Orion.  One of Orion’s key players is Sarasota Riverview alumnus Patrick Rodi, who is working to encourage high school students to follow in his footsteps and pursue off-world adventures.  Rodi and his wife, Yvonne, have established a scholarship fund so that children can make good money and have good jobs so that they can give back to the community.  To encourage student enthusiasm for science, Rodi and his wife established a $500 scholarship fund at Riverview 20 years ago, with graduating seniors set on earning degrees in aerospace, mechanical or civil engineering at one or more than four dozen approved colleges are eligible.

This Thursday, the Orion is expected to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center on its first trial run.  It will be an unmanned, four-hour, 3,600-mile-high orbital exercise called the “Experimental Test Flight 1”, or ETF-1.  This would be roughly 15 times further out than the International Space Station’s routine path.  Orion will be perched atop a Delta IV rocket stack to avoid the liftoff debris that had previously doomed the space shuttle program.  The astronaut module will pop braking chutes after atmospheric re-entry and splash down into the Pacific Ocean.  The EFT-1 involves an unmanned Orion model designed for a crew of four.  The followup mission, a three-week orbit in 2018, will involve a larger spacecraft and bigger boosters.  The first manned launch, a 28-day flight with an astronaut crew of six, is planned for 2020.

According to Rodi, Orion will give us the chance to go into deep space.  To stage those sorts of long-distance missions, however, scientists will need to resolve biological issues, such as how much cosmic radiation astronauts can tolerate outside of low-Earth orbit.  However, Orion is a major step in that direction.  Among other things, Rodi coordinated a troubleshooting team to guarantee that Orion doesn’t get incinerated during its 20,000 mph, 4,000-degree re-entry burn.  Chances are that Orion will encounter other challenges, including micrometeroid impact and space junk littering the cosmos.  It’s been estimated by the Government Accountability Office that Orion and its affiliated launch systems could cost anywhere from $19 billion to $22 billion by 2021.

Kenyon Secures New Swimmer

Todd Proa Kenyon College

In addition to its reputation for swimming, Kenyon College is also known for its outstanding academics and beautiful campus.

When it comes to colleges known for their swimming, there’s one that comes to mind for me: Kenyon College, located in my home state of Ohio.  For years now, the Kenyon Lords and Ladies have been a respected force in collegiate swimming, winning championships year after year.  Their main rival through all of this is Denison, another small, liberal-arts school nestled in rural Ohio.  Every year, the two schools square off, but Kenyon almost always emerges as the victor in these matches.  To keep up their reputation as a leading school in swimming, the Kenyon Lords and Ladies have to carefully choose who joins their leagues.  But lucky for them, many talented young swimmers across the country are more than willing to join Kenyon, and become part of the school’s legendary swimming reputation.  Since they won their first NCAA Championship title in 1983, the Kenyon Ladies have secured 23 first-place finishes at the DIII National level.  For the past two years, they have been the runners-up at the NCAA DIII Championships.  And since 1982, no single squad at the national level has come in below fourth place.

Recently, Kenyon secured a commitment from a senior at California’s La Reina High School, a girl named Abby Chopp.  Chopp, who swims with Conejo Simi Swim Club, has been named to the Scholastic All American Team for 2013-2014, due to her outstanding grades (she has a 4.0 GPA) and exceptional swimming skills.  Chopp’s strongest event is the backstroke, which is great for Kenyon; four of the school’s top backstrokers are set to graduate at the end of 2015, and the Ladies could use some new blood from the likes of Chopp.  Chopp’s current top times are 57.82 for the 100 backstroke, 205.79 for the 200 backstroke and 27.61 for the 50 backstroke.  He long course best in these events are 1:06.18, 2:24.39 and 31.90, respectively.

 

Victories at Speedo Ithaca Sectionals

Hannah Cox

Hannah Cox, shown here at the meet.

Just yesterday, Hannah Cox, of the Upper Valley Aquatic Club put up an amazing double in the 100 free and 200 IM on the last night of finals at the Speedo Ithaca Sectionals.  She won the 100 free with a time of 50.71.  Trailing right behind her was Isabel Reis of Seacoast Swim Association, who took second with a 51.09.  Jinan Andrews of Phoenix Aquatic Club, who plans to swim at the US Air Force Academy, placed third with 51.18.

Cox’s second win of the night, and overall sixth win of the meet, came in the 200 IM.  She dropped over four seconds from prelims to win with a personal best time of 2:02.08.  Right behind her was Caroline Wilson, who touched with a 2:02.15.  In third came Eva Crouse of the Aquabears, who hit the wall with her personal best time of 2:02.59.

Kyra Sarazen of Seacoast Swim Association scored first in the women’s 200 back with 1:58.85, just milliseconds ahead of Linnea Lemerise of Portsmouth Swim Team, who clocked in at 1:58.88.  Third place belonged to fourteen year-old Caroline Gmelich, who came in at 2:02.76.  Dylan Sali of Cornell won his third event of the meet in the 200 back with an astounding time of 1:45.51.  Future Notre Dame swimmer Robert Whitacre of Central Jersey Aquatic Club won second with 1:46.15.  In third came Bobby Smith from Islanders Aquatics.

Drew Modrov, of the Hauppauge Athletic Association, kept his momentum after winning the 50 free two days ago by winning the 100 free with a 44.40.  New York City Aquatic Club’s David Gleason clocked in at 44.90 for second.  Tim Cabasino of Long Beach Aquatics touched third with 45.86.  Brian Poon of Phoenix Swimming won the men’s 200 IM with 1:49.10.  For second, Virginia Tech recruit Christopher Wang scored second with a personal best of 1:51.96.  Third place came to Matthew Grauslys of Executive Swim Club with 1:52.57.

The women of Scarlet Aquatics won the women’s 200 free relay with 1:32.71.  Second place came to the Jersey Gators with a 1:36.46 time.  And Central Jersey Aquatic Club scored third at 1:37.35.  New York City Aquatic Club won the men’s 200 free relay at 1:24.42.  The Hauppauge Athletic Association took second at 1:25.27.  And finally, third place came to Phoenix Swimming, who touched at 1:26.21.

 

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