Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer College Baseball League Roundup

The Cotuit Kettleers of the CCBL (photo - sportspix.com)

College summer leagues are drawing near to their conclusion through much of the country. Here's a brief roundup of three of the better-known circuits.

Cape Cod Baseball League - Widely considered the top college summer league, the CCBL has the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and Falmouth Commodores atop the league's East and West divisions, respectively. The Red Sox are the league's two-time defending champs.

The league's regular season ends on August 3 and is followed by a quarterfinal, semifinal, and final playoff structure.

Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League - The Baltimore-DC area circuit has sent the Baltimore Redbirds and Bethesda Big Train to its championship series for seven straight years. The Big Train won the title the first three times the two teams faced each other, while the Redbirds roared back to claim the last four championships.

The Ripken League's postseason is setting up for a rematch of the two. The Redbirds (29-11) lead its Northern division while Bethesda (28-12) is leading the Southern division.

Northwoods League - This upper Midwestern league plays its season in two halves and segments its teams in two divisions. The Eau Claire Express and Wisconsin Rapid Rafters won its North and South divisions, respectively, in the league's first half. The Mankato MoonDogs (North) and Rockford Rivets (South) currently top the league's divisions in its second half.

The Kenosho Kingfish captured the league's 2015 championship.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Baseball: The Late, Great Newark Bears

Bears' manager Tim Raines beckons to the pen c. 2009 (photo / Newark Bears)
I recently came upon a photo of the latest, and presumably final, version of pro baseball's Newark Bears. The namesake successor to the storied New York Yankees' affiliate of the 1920s-1940s returned pro baseball to Newark, New Jersey from 1998-2013.

I caught up with the team nearly three years ago to the day when I contacted the remnants of their front office for an article just as the Bears were fading from the world's baseball map. Newark was withering in the Texas heat at the time, losing four straight to the Laredo Lemurs of the independent American Association. The Bears by then were in the Can-Am League, an independent circuit a competitive rung below its initial place in the Atlantic League.

I wondered why the Bears were facing a team that wasn't in their league. "The Can-Am League only has five teams. It's a small league and you're not going to get a lot of variety playing the same four teams every month," said the Bears' director of media relations at the time, Daniel Frankel. The team closed out the campaign, and the franchise's final year, with a 37-63 mark in 2013.

The Newark Bears' second incarnation, while not as successful as the original International League franchise, captured two championships including Atlantic League titles in 2002 and 2007. Located in the shadow of New York City, the team also proved a magnet for former major-leaguers who hoped that proximity to the Mets and Yankees could facilitate late season call-up to the bigs - even though the Bears were unaffiliated. Their all-time roster includes Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Armando Benitez, and Jay Gibbons, among others. Former New York Giants' quarterback Danny Kannell had a stint with the Bears in 2001 while working his way back to an NFL roster.

Executives and coaches hoped for something similar, despite the Bears' increasingly tenuous financial stability heading into the 2010s. In 2011, the team's front office and coaching staff included former major leaguers Mike Torrez, Ron Karkovice, Tim Raines and Jim Leyritz. Newark was managed by well-known ex-big leaguers, including Bill MadlockTim Raines, and Gary Templeton. Templeton was the final manager in the Bears' history.

Former major leaguers (L-R) Torrez, Karkovice, Raines & Leyritz
with CEO Tom Cetnar in 2011 (photo - Jim Hague)

Newark's home field, Riverfront Stadium, draws current duty as the home park for the Rutgers-Newark and NJIT NCAA Division III baseball programs each spring. That duty is nearing its end for the stadium. Built in 1999, Riverfront was purchased earlier this year by a real estate developer and is scheduled for demolition. - TF


The Bears' 2013 logo (photo/image - Newark Bears)
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Friday, July 8, 2016

U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene





Eugene, Ore. - The U.S. Olympic Trials continued today at historic Hayward Field. The sprint events included well-known repeat champions Justin Gatlin and Allyson Felix. Gatlin, 34, earned a return bid to the Olympics by capturing the 100m final and is currently competing for a 200m bid. He earned a 100m gold in 2004 in Athens, and a 100m bronze in the 2012 London Olympics. In between the two olympiads, Gatlin served a four-year doping ban that began in 2006 and ended in 2010.

Felix, 30, earned a trip to her fourth Olympic Games when she won the 400m final on July 3. Like Gatlin, she is currently vying for a 200m spot. Felix's résumé includes a total of six Olympic medals in three events    4X100 (1), 4X400 (2), and 200m (3). She first gained the podium when she earned a silver medal in the 2004 games in Athens.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Baseball: MLB Holds Fort Bragg Game






Major League Baseball held what it called simply the Fort Bragg Game at the eastern North Carolina military base on Sunday night. The game pitted the Atlanta Braves against the Miami Marlins, with the Marlins prevailing, 5-2. Lefthander Adam Conley garnered the win for Miami, and is now 5-5 on the season. The first three hitters in the Marlins' lineup – J.T. Realmuto, Martin Prado, and Christian Yelich – each had three hits and collectively drove in four of the team's five runs. 

The game was the first-ever MLB game played on the grounds of an active military installation. Marlins' manager Don Mattingly was as thrilled as his players about the venue, and the event. "Probably the best venue that I've ever played in," said the Marlins' skipper after the game. "I had the chance to play at Yankee Stadium, the playoffs. There is nothing like tonight."






Another Western State Adds Varsity Lacrosse

For several years I've contributed lacrosse articles to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).  This week I w...