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Saturday, December 18, 2010

When I grow up...

On behalf of all of the weekend athletes around the world, I'd like to thank Tom Fenton for paving the way. Who is Tom Fenton? On December 16, 2010, Tom Fenton became the Phoenix Coyotes back-up goalie.

As the Phoenix Coyotes were preparing to face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, their starting goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, was stricken with the flu. Hours before the puck was to be dropped, Phoenix didn’t have time to call their minor league affiliate to acquire a fill-in goalie.

The Coyotes Head of Pro Scouting, Frank Effinger, took his search to the streets of New York, scouring the city (and state) for anyone that had experience goaltending. He found Tom Fenton of Purchase, N.Y. Luckily, after ignoring Effinger’s first couple calls because he was getting a haircut, Fenton quickly called him back. Effinger instructed him to get his butt down to MSG as soon as possible.

Fenton, 26, is currently a graduate student and hockey coach from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. Fenton’s goaltending experience consists four years with the American International College in Springfield, Mass. He won 14 of 81 games with a 3.87 goals-against average, including a 1-12-1 record with a 3.60 GAA in the 2008-09 season.

I don’t think Bryzgalov’s starting position will be in jeopardy after he recovers from the flu.

Sure, it’s only one game and Fenton didn’t even get to play in the game, but who cares?! He lived his dream for one night, putting on an official NHL jersey, warming up on the ice and sitting on the same bench as his heroes. Later asked, how much money he would make for his services, he responded, “Oh, I don’t know; I just signed the paper. I don’t care if there is anything involved there.” Fenton gives hope to all of the weekend athletes out there, that believe they still have what it takes to make it!

While growing up in Chester, N.Y., I had only one dream. That dream was to play for the New York Yankees. After Little League games, my dad and I would meet my best friend, Gary Ciuffetelli, and his dad at the Chester Diner. Over a cup hot chocolate and a piece of pie, I would pronounce that one day, I would be playing for the New York Yankees. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

To reach my goal of playing for the Yankees, I put in countless hours at the gym and hitting thousands and thousands of baseballs off a tee into a homemade net in the garage. Unfortunately, despite my extreme work ethic and determination, you can’t teach 6’3” height or flick a switch to run a time of 6.6 seconds in the 60 yard dash.

After high school, I decided to focus on being a student and having fun at a bigger, more prominent university rather than playing for a smaller school in the middle of nowhere, just for the sake of playing college baseball. But to this day, the little boy from Chester, N.Y., still burns deep inside of me. I still believe I can hit that 390 foot home run off the scoreboard against Hoggard High (see picture above); I still believe I can walk onto the mound and strike out the side against Jacksonville High.

I often receive calls from friends I’ve made while playing throughout the years; we’ll reminisce about the great times we had playing together or the battles against one another. Even my dad at 49 years young, still loves the game, often showing off his Tom Seaver-esque pitching mechanics in front of the mirror (I’m guilty too). As we get older, we don't lose that passion; we all wish we could play the game we love, one more time.

That being said, I am proud to announce my return to baseball!

As a lifetime New York Yankees fan, I will grant General Manager Brian Cashman and Director of Professional Scouting Billy Eppler the first opportunity to acquire my services for the upcoming season. Though my strength is hitting, I realize there is a significant hole within the rotation, thus making my ability to pitch, valuable to the organization.

Mr. Cashman and Mr. representatives and I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Boston's Offseason Grade: Incomplete

Since winning two world championships in four years, ending the 86 year championship drought, the Boston Red Sox became an old, unproductive team. The combination of age, injuries and lack of talent resulted in a mediocre product on the field. Through the diligence of Theo Epstein, the best general manager in baseball, Boston is back.

Epstein wasted no time to land one of the most underrated, best all-around players in baseball. Epstein traded three average prospects for All-Star first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez. Before next season, the organization had better reinforce the ‘Green Monster,’ because he will be hammering it on a nightly basis. His ability to go to all parts of the field with power cannot be emphasized enough; he is a great hitter and is an early favorite to win the 2011 MVP award. The addition of Gonzalez will also have a “Teixeira Effect,” for the Red Sox; the Boston infield will shrink with an above-average defender on the corner, enabling the rest of the infielders to cover more ground and play at a higher-level.

Now that Boston has a formable middle of the lineup with Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Gonzo, they needed a guy to get on base, someone that is arguably the most explosive player in the game. Welcome to Boston, Carl Crawford. Crawford possesses more pure ability that anyone in all of baseball. Not only is he a terror on the base paths, Crawford is maturing into a great hitter with notable power. If he and Jacoby Ellsbury are able to stay healthy, Boston will be scoring at a record pace. Crawford’s arrival to Boston will have a similar impact in the outfield as Gonzo has in the infield, providing Gold Glove presence. Bottom-line…speed kills.

With the phenomenal improvements to his program, Epstein still has work to do before pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 14th. Boston’s rotation is not good. Clay Bucholz is the future of their rotation with electric stuff, and Jon Lester is a warrior on and off the field. But that’s it.

Josh Beckett is all huff and puff. The one time tough guy, who would be able to reach back and throw it by you, is finished. I recommend he lose the eight Phiten necklaces, because they aren’t working. John Lackey also tries to intimidate the opposing hitters with a snarling look upon his face. John, you look constipated; just throw the ball. Dice-K is another bad major league Japanese pitcher. He has never proved that he can stay healthy, nor be a reliable option when he is.

Though Epstein is the savior of the franchise, he should have done anything to sign pitcher Cliff Lee. “The Nation,” will be temporarily satisfied that the New York Yankees failed to buy the lefty, leaving them without a clue in the Bronx. Nevertheless, Boston still does not have a championship level rotation. Lee would have fit perfectly with the ruff-neck, self-proclaimed idiots. If you’ve heard him speak, you would understand.

They will considerably regret not signing Lee. Lee has proved time after time again that he is great when it matters and is not afraid of anything or anybody. He’s walked into Yankee Stadium, the biggest sports stage in the world, and embarrassed the underachieving Yankees. Gonzalez and Crawford will help win games from April to September, but Lee would have won games in October. If they did sign Lee, the Red Sox and the city of Boston would have begun planning its World Series victory parade. Now, they still have work to do; the clock’s ticking.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it 2011 yet?

Sunday evening, following my weekly nap during the dreadful Carolina Panthers game, I found myself on the edge of my seat once again. It was neither a football game nor an update from the MLB Winter Meetings, but golf.

One year after Tiger Woods’ life and career came crashing down, I was once again captivated by the man in red. Following the infamous Thanksgiving car crash and alleged 9-iron to the face that would set off a domino effect in Tiger’s life, I questioned if we would ever witness such greatness on the golf course and if so, appreciate his gift.

Tiger’s inappropriate behavior off the course has been well-documented and talked to ad nauseum. In the future, he will have to explain to his children about why mommy and daddy don’t live in the same house and what he did. No matter how many major championships he wins, he will forever be remembered for his actions off the course.

Following the final round and playoff hole of the Chevron World Golf Championship, I considered my resurgent interest in PGA Golf. I took a few days to think, if it was okay to be so enthralled by this individual and a game? I came to a conclusion…

I don’t care about what he did. I do NOT condone what Tiger did, but as an amateur public course player and fan of the game, I thoroughly enjoy watching him play golf. When Tiger is on top of his game, there is nobody better. His ability to perform with a golf club at such an extraordinary level can only be compared to Michael Jordan with a basketball. I want to watch and be entertained by the best of the best, and Tiger is still the best and most exciting golfer in the world.

Tiger would eventually lose on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to the surprise golfer of the year, Graeme McDowell. The putts McDowell sank in the playoff and preceding 18th hole to win the tournament were extremely difficult; he most definitely earned his eighth career PGA Tour victory.

By Tiger-standards, the 2010 golf year was horrible, on and off the course. But his swing and play has improved, and it will continue to improve going into the 2011. The finalization of his divorce will pay dividends, as he will not longer have that cloud of distraction over his head. This will enable him to focus on golf while also allowing him to live his life however he chooses going forward. I hope the rest of the PGA Tour players enjoyed 2010 because starting in 2011, it’s on and Tiger is on the prowl.