The MLB All-Star game is one of the most magical nights of the summer. Played on a Tuesday evening, it brings baseball fans, families, and friends together to see all of their heroes playing on the same major league diamond. It truly is a mesmerizing and inspiring event and it is even more special that the midsummer classic will be played on Target Field. This showcase is significant for so many reasons other than the natural state tie-in. The state of Minnesota has enjoyed games played on natural grass since 2010 and the players, coaches, fans, supporters, and friends of the BOLD baseball team were able to watch their Warriors win a Class A title in that pristine ballpark nearly a year ago. My favorite all-star memories involve amazing talents such as Torii Hunter, Pedro Martinez, and Ichiro Suzuki. Hunter’s amazing catch, robbing Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 game held in Milwaukee is an undeniable and iconic defensive feat of brilliance that hasn’t faded even though the uniforms and footage of the game has inevitably become dated. The memory of Pedro Martinez pumping fastballs at his home park of Fenway stands out as well. Especially, when he challenged the hulking Mark McGwire with a blistering heater. To see a guy built like noted Red Sox fan Matt Damon generate so much velocity was amazing to see in 1999. And nothing is routine, a lesson that was crystallized in 2001 when I saw Japanese import Ichiro Suzuki in his first all-star game. I never saw a player beat out a chopper to second base with such ease as Ichiro. That game was special because it was the last midsummer classic played by baseball’s Iron Man Cal Ripken Jr. but that dazzling display of speed is an artifact of the game that I will always cherish. This terrific night will involve former Twins such as Carlos Gomez, Pat Neshek, and Justin Morneau in the always captivating home run derby. If it is power you fancy, Jose Bautista and Giancarlo Stanton will be there. If it is special speed, look no further than Gomez or Mike Trout. And for no surprises hardball, Clayton Kershaw will bring the heat. All eight positional players for the AL will be from different teams, so if you don’t want to see multiple players wearing the same cap of a rival team in this jewel of a park, you are in luck. A special night in a special ballpark, it doesn’t get much better on a Tuesday night in the middle of the summer than this.
The NBA Draft will be held on Thursday night. Aside from the flashy suits the prospects will be wearing, the NBA will usher in a new crop of talented blue-chip players who will either grow their game and change a franchise or be out of the league prematurely like Timberwolves draft pick Will Avery, a 1999 first-round pick out of Duke. Maybe not all eyes will be on the NBA draft the same way viewers were tuned into the NFL Draft and the pre-coverage may not be as comprehensive, but it is still a premier event in my mind because dreams will come true for players and for a fan picking a coveted top pick. After all, the first rule of any mass media manual is to “give the people what they want.” A few days before the 2014 NBA edition of their draft, things are different now than they were in 2007 but not completely with some similarities remaining. The reliable San Antonio Spurs made quick work of a Lebron James-led team just as they had in 2007. Premier and proud franchises such as the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers were mired in mediocrity and for the Lakers, it appeared that a trade involving Kobe Bryant would be an inevitable end for the superstar and the only franchise he had known. At the top of the draft, a freshman 7-footer in Greg Oden appeared to be the consensus top pick with an intriguing athletic force with the dynamic skill set to contend for multiple scoring futures in his future. Of course, Greg Oden’s career was marked by injuries while Kevin Durant flourished as the Rookie of the Year for the Seattle Supersonics and later as an MVP for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just recently, Kansas 7-footer Joel Embid was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and will miss 4-6 months of game action for his new team. Whether he precipitously falls down board or not will be revealed on Thursday but atop the draft board Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker of Duke are now the talented scorers who flashed excellent talent and a propensity to score in bunches. While they may not be the franchise-changing elite game changer of Durant, Wiggins and Parker have the ability to be perennial all-stars and possibly contend for league scoring titles. Also, the Timberwolves in the summer of 2014 still have issues with the short-term outlook of their team. Still facing a postseason drought that has now reached a decade-long hiatus from the 2004 team that reached the Western Conference finals, the Timberwolves’ face of the franchise Kevin Garnett in 2007 was moved to the Boston Celtics and now in 2014, the franchise’s all-star power forward in Kevin Love is unhappy and the topic of a myriad of trade rumors. It appears unlikely that Love will re-sign a long term deal with a team that was last a playoff contender while he was in high school, so a similar move may be in the cards this year. When a talented player is on the trade market, much talk is devoted to the notion of trading the star or risk losing a Love, Garnett, or Chris Bosh for nothing when free agency begins. The challenge for the Timberwolves has been drafting, often missing out with picks while players like Garnett, Love, and Ricky Rubio have been the exceptions.Furthermore, keeping the core intact has been an issue. When these players are traded for diminished returns and find the postseason glory they had been desperately searching for here, it is difficult to for a fan base to be passionate and enthusiastic about a team at all.
Baseball is a hard game to watch when you realize that you have no friends. But I like watching college baseball on TV; the cool uniforms, the sharp plays, and how everyone is Happy
I know very little about most things but I know quite a bit about living life alone. I have no friends and I always was envious of people who received social invitations to games, community events or just lunches to catch up. This week, I saw a friend at a crowded event and he just acted like I wasn’t there. It only got worse after that. I also try to be nice to others but that doesn’t seem to work out either. If there was only some way I could be happy.
I can’t wait to leave this area. There is nothing here for me. I don’t think I’m going to say hello to that so-called friend ever again.
The NFL Draft delivered its usual bevy of goods. Included in the bag of treats for draftniks and pro football fans in general were stunning picks, last-minute trades, and for the second straight year no running backs selected in the first round. The Vikings made ten selections and seven picks were devoted to shoring up a defensive unit that has to face Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Trading back from eight to nine with a familiar first-round trading partner in the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings picked UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr with their first pick. I hesitate to designate Barr with a position as I am eager to see the type of defensive scheme the Vikings will employ. Gone are the days of an even man, Cover 2 alignment perhaps. Barr is an explosive yet unpolished talent who has a quick first step to turn the corner and utilize his athleticism. The team has not seen a standup pass-rusher like him for a while and I am excited to see if he can deliver big plays when rushing the passer. For the third straight year, the Vikings traded into the bottom part of round one to get two first round picks. By offering their fourth-round pick this year to Seattle, the Vikings switched spots with the Seahawks and with the 32nd overall pick, drafted a talented winner in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, the 2013 Sugar Bowl MVP, demonstrated a great feel for reading defenses at Louisville. The Vikings addressed their quarterback issue by picking Bridgewater, a smart and instictive student of the game who moves well in the pocket and can deliver solid touch and accuracy. His pro day showing highlighted a less than ideal postseason but to paraphrase a parlance from Rasheed Wallace, “the tape don’t lie.” It remains to be seen if he will start week 1 against the Rams and 2010 first overall pick Sam Bradford. But, coming away with a quarterback was imperative, especially a young offensive threat in Cordarrelle Patterson. Mammoth Gophers defensive tackle Rashede Hageman was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons. Hageman is a success story and it will be interesting to see him play a road game at his old collegiate stomping grounds, TCF Bank Stadium when the the Falcons play the Vikings in September. With the picks of Bridgewater and Hageman, I looked around my room and saw a couple of telling reminders that things are changing. The first indicator was a cardboard cutout of Christian Ponder posing with Sofia Vergara of Modern Family fame that I got a grocery store only after asking the manager what they did with cardboard displays like that. “Oh, we just throw it out. If you want it Levi, you can have it.” I choose to add it to my Vikings shrine even though it has absolutely no practical value. Second, is a 2013 Golden Gopher football poster featuring Hageman hanging near the Ponder “shrine.”I wonder, will a Bridgewater Pepsi cardboard cutout featuring the 2014 first-rounder and Julie Bowen be near the soft drinks at the local grocery store? I would think not but the draft was an exciting event to behold, a blend of poker, pageantry, and glory.
Even though he is 3-0 against the Vikings, I have always held Peyton Manning in high regard. The first selection in the draft of 1998, Manning is the epitome of a number one; relentless yet humble, reliable, classy and truly appreciative of the history of the game that he plays. Manning’s remarkable career has taken him to Honolulu and one day, a certain trip to Canton for induction into the Hall of Fame. Manning was the first pick of the first draft that I followed and actually made a mock draft of. In my Trapper Keeper, I did my best to predict the 1998 NFL Draft. I kept it for so many years but like most mementos, it gets lost, discarded after one of life’s many moves. But the unrefined chicken scratch of “1. Colts-Peyton Manning” is an iconic etching that I think of whenever Manning takes the field. In my mind’s eye, it accompanies each touchdown pass while wearing the number 18 that is closely linked to him the way number 4 is linked to another certain Hall of Fame quarterback or how the number 23 needs no description when in conversation with anyone. The first time Manning took the field against the Vikings was on Christmas Eve in 2000. As a bit of a precursor, the Vikings played the Colts in the final game of the 1997 season. In a game the purple needed to make the postseason, the quarterbacks that day for the Colts were Kelly Holcomb and Jim Harbaugh. Since it was a game involving an NFC team hosting an AFC team, the game was aired on NBC. The Vikings won that day and the Colts secured the number one pick of the 1998 Draft. In a broadcasting aside, NBC did not air NFL games until acquiring the Sunday Night game package and in 2006, the first Sunday Night game featured Manning and his Colts squad against younger brother Eli and the Giants in New York. CBS has been airing a vast majority of Manning’s games since he was a collegiate quarterback at Tennessee. A simple enough saying echoed through the house; “Number 18 on Channel 4.” So at the end of Manning’s third season in the final game of a game the Vikings did not need to make the playoffs or improve their seeding, Manning and the Colts routed the Vikings. In 2004 on my birthday, the Colts led by Manning defeated the Vikings 31-28. The loss put a damper on the final moments of my birthday. In 2008, the Vikings held a two possession lead over the Colts only to falter due to a mixture of Manning heroics, and the unsavory combination of Brad Childress and Tarvaris Jackson. My favorite pleasant memory of Manning does not involve the record-breaking touchdown passes he threw to Brandon Stokely or most recently, Julius Thomas. It does not revolve around the Super Bowl he won seven years ago in the rain. Rather, it was the third preseason game this past season against the St. Louis Rams on a Saturday night on CBS. It is a common belief that the third preseason is the most imperative exhibition game but that doesn’t mean that it will be a ratings boom. After all, Saturday nights in August are meant for socializing. But here I was,, watching Manning during a sideline interview. I was transfixed as I saw him hone on every aspect of the Broncos offense, addressing each question with a dignified and thoughtful response and I was even more aware of the composure of Manning, the ultimate number one pick. When it comes to leadership, poise, and meticulous focus, Manning has always checked all the boxes. Whenever a beloved relative was in the room, she didn’t ask about the two teams playing or what the records of the teams were. She gently asked, “Is Peyton Manning playing today?” And as I struggled through a Vikings quarterback turnover-prone affair, I said, “No, but I wish he played for us.”
I’m glad I got to see Flores on ESPNU this weekend against Cal State Fullerton. He had two multi-hit games and he stretched a single into an extra base hit. a take charge guy, he is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Last summer was not fun overall but the only bright spot was watching guys like him play ball.
I’m not happy that the draft is in May. Most people have things like weddings or proms to be excited about but all I have pretty much is the draft. It is so awesome to watch dreams come true and know that your team landed the prospect you had been targeting all along. Last year, I really wanted the Vikings to draft Cordarrelle. I thought he was destined to be a stud since I saw him on espnu against NC State the Friday night before Labor Day. I felt such a rush when the commissioner announced his name, it didn’t matter that Cordarrelle didn’t have a qb to throw him the ball or that the Vikings coaching staff inexplicably kept him on the sidelines during September when he could have provided a jolt of excitement to an anemic passing game. All that mattered that night was that the Vikings got my guy. It made me sad eventually when I realised that I can’t pick the people i can hang out with. Having Cordarelle is a blessing, he will be awesome for the people lucky enough to see him play on the big-screens.
National honesty day is on April 30 th. It is said that honesty is the best policy. Honestly, I have no friends and I don’t fit in anywhere. I never imagined being so isolated. Most of the time, I wonder why I am here. I don’t think anyone really cares about me. Having no friends is something I am used to but it doesn’t get easier knowing that I have never connected with anyone. Most of the people i know usually betray me and try to make me feel worse but it is no use because I am pretty hard on myself. I feel everyone stare at me and I don’t really have anything going on. I feel pretty bad that no one wants anything to do with me but that is the way it is.
Gophers hoops have a bright future
Despite missing out on a NCAA Tournament bid and a ticket to the “Big Dance” the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball finished their season on a high note by recently winning the NIT. The men’s program competed and played well under Richard Pitino, beating a strong SMU team coached by Larry Brown at Madison Square Garden. While it was disappointing as a fan to not see this team partake in March Madness, the Gophers played with energy and represented the University of Minnesota well. After deciding last year that the program needed to go in a different direction, Gophers Athletic Director Norwood Teague hired Pitino. The son of two-time NCAA Champion and coaching legend Rick Pitino, the young Pitino was seen as a curious hire considering he had only one year of collegiate head coaching experience after replacing Isiah Thomas as Florida International head coach in 2012. Teague hired the enthusiastic young Pitino to replace Tubby Smith. Coincidentally, Smith was hired in 1997 to replace the elder Pitino who left the University of Kentucky for a NBA head coaching job with the Boston Celtics.
Teague made a similar hire on a rising coaching star earlier this spring when the University hired VCU head basketball coach Marlene Stollings to lead the women’s basketball program. A coach with an impressive recruiting track record as an assistant coach at Ole Miss and coached VCU to a 22 win season in 2013-14. Before her two-year tenure as VCU, Stollings was the Big South Conference Coach of the Year after leading her Winthrop team to only their second winning season in nearly a quarter of a century with a 18-13 mark. Teague had a previous connection and knowledge of Stollings from her participation in a collegiate coaching networking program. An Ohio Native, Stollings replaces Pam Borton, the head coach of the superb 2004 Gophers squad that led by Lindsay Whalen reached the Final FourThe Gophers women’s basketball program’s last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2009. In her time as a head coach, Stollings’s teams have a strong reputation for great guard production and she will get the chance to coach a great one in star guard Rachel Banham when the leading Big Ten scorer returns for her senior year.
Both programs have a bright outlook with two enthusiastic and capable coaches who promise a high-tempo pace of play. Establishing an identity of relentless drive is a common bond that Stollings and Pitino share. Recruiting is essential as it provides a strong infusion not only of talent but in finding the right fit of student-athletes. Last June, I had the opportunity to hear Pitino speak in the area at a University program and I was impressed by his demeanor and conviction. He spoke of the process of players that players like Mo Walker had to go through in order to be part of a successful program. In Walker’s case, it meant losing 60 pounds to physically be able to play in at a high pace. Stollings will be part of a similar program this spring and I am anticipating hearing her speak. Teague has made two impressive hires that have brought optimism and excitement to fans of the maroon and golden. It is my hope as a fan of hoops in this great state that the narrative will be redefined from being a bubble team into one of conference prominence enjoyed by fans. The next step will be annual invites to NCAA Tournaments and I believe those will come because of two young and impressive head coaches with a passion for basketball.