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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Xavier Exorcises Demons With Second Half Comeback




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Xavier coach Chris Mack, arrived late for the postgame press conference by greeting the 1989-90 and 1964-65 teams and former coach Pete Gillen.

"Let me set the record straight. I wanted to imitate my team and not show up on time," Mack quipped.

The Xavier Musketeers have developed a disturbing habit of starting slowly before mounting a rally in the second half.
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Xaviers 89-76 win over the Blue Demons of DePaul University followed that script.

The Blue Demons were on fire from 3-point range in the first half, building a 50-42 lead, making 11 of 19 from long range.

To make matters worse the half ended with Xavier's Jalen Reynolds committing a technical foul giving DePaul a 10-point lead before the second half clock started.

"We woke up. They were playing better than us and harder than us," today's hero Myles Davis said.  "We have to get better and come out stronger with more energy."

The Musketeers trailed Providence by 12 on the road before forcing overtime in a 69-66 loss.  They have trailed at the half in each of its last five games.

Myles Davis scored a career-high 25 while Xavier (17-7, 4-4 Big East) while reversing the 3-point trend for DePaul with a 2-for-9 mark. Davis added a career-high eight rebounds to boot.

"They were too comfortable," Myles Davis said.  "We had to take them out of their comfort zone."

Myles Davis only make one 3-point shot but scored off the dribble more than he has in the past.

"If you told me he would have 25 points and went 1-for-6 from 3-point range, I wouldn't have believed you," Mack said.  "It was by far his best game in a Xavier uniform."

Freshman Trevon Bluiett added 21 points and Matt Stainbrook scored 17 for Xavier.  "He is a matchup problem," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.  "He can shoot the three and drive to the basket.  He has good size.  That's why he's having such a good year and is probably the Rookie of the Year.

"Trevon played with a lot more confidence than he has in the last four or five games," Mack said.

DePaul (11-10, 5-3 Big East) had four players in double figures; Tommy Hamilton 15, Aaron Simpson 14, a career high, Myke Henry 13 and Darrick Wood 11.  Xavier did manage to hold DePaul's leading scorer to his lowest point total of the season, six.

The Blue Demons scored just 24 points after the second half clock started.  Their 50 first-half points were the most they'd scored in an opening half all season

"They are tough to guard," Mack said.  "They can stretch the floor at all five positions.  We played man-to-man 95 percent of the time in the second half.  We put fewer bigs on the floor that let us guard them outside. We made them miss in the second half.  In the first half we just hoped they missed.  That's not reallly playing defense."

Xavier took care of the basketball with a season-low five for the game.

"I thought our transition defense let us down," Purnell said.  "We didn't go to the basket as much as we should have."



Monday, January 19, 2015

Bubba Watson Knows Baseball




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Bubba Watson 
Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters championship on the Professional Golf Association tour, bought the Reds Double A Pensacola franchise.

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Watson was born in Pensacola and has been a fan of the Blue Wahoos of the Southern League

"Ever since I went to my first Blue Wahoos game I have been a big fan of the team. I love the atmosphere, it’s such a great place to go with friends and family. I wish Pensacola had a team like this when I was growing up. There's something special about pulling for the hometown team. It's great that Quint and Rishy were willing to let me be a part of it. I look forward to a long and exciting partnership with them. I just hope Quint doesn’t get tired of my crazy ideas because I have been known to have a few. One thing I know for sure is that you won't see me out there in a uniform playing. I already asked, and they said I can't do that even if I own part of the team,” said Watson.

Watson was born in Pensacola and raised in nearby Bagdad, Florida.  He attended Faulkner State Community College and the University of Georgia, where he helped the Bulldogs win the 2000 NCAA championship.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Xavier Beats Marquette At Home




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Xavier trailed by nine points at halftime but came all the way back to pull out a 62-58 win over the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Xavier turned ball over 12 times in the first half but the Musketeers turned the tables in the second half.

"As simple as I can put it the difference in the game was the difference in turnovers between the first half and second half," head coach Chris Mack said. "The changed defenses and had a lot of tipped passes.  In the second half we recognized the defenses better and we hit some shots because we had more composure.  We were lucky that we were only down by nine at halftime."

Remy Abell made a 3-point shot at 7:20 in the second half to give Xavier (12-6 3-3 Big East) its first lead of the game at 47-45.  Abell made a career-high five for the game.

Marquette (10-7 2-3 Big East) held Xavier to 22 points in the first half, the lowest total for a half this season.

Matt Carlino had six 3-pointers and tallied a game-high 27 points.

"I thought we did a decent job on him but he hit some, tough, tough shots," Mack said.

There were two ties and a lead change down the stretch but Xavier took control at the end when freshman Trevon Bluiett grabbed a missed 3-point attempt by Carlino with six seconds left..

Carlino would have tied the game but Bluiett made three of four free throws in the last 16 seconds and rebounded his lone miss to seal the win.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deep Hall Of Fame Class Gets Elected




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Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 2015.

It is the first time since 1955 that four players were elected at one time. It was the first time ever that three pitchers were elected in the same class.

Biggio is one of 28 players in baseball history with 3,000 or more hits (3,060). He hit 668 doubles in his career and led the league in doubles three times.  Biggio was drafted out of Seton Hall University in New Jersey.  He was the first pick of the Houston Astros in the 1987 draft.

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Martinez was the top pitcher of his era. He is the first Hall of Famer born in the 1970's.

Randy Johnson was 6'10" tall but Martinez is generously listed at 5'11" and was told he was too small.

"I had a chip on my shoulder," Martinez told the panel of the Baseball Network.  "The umpires knew I had a chip on my shoulder and would tell me to keep it clean.  But when I was on the mound, I was taller than everyone else."

"I was a fan of Mario Soto growing up," Martinez said.

Martinez had a record of 219-100 with a 2.93 career ERA.  He completed 46 of his 409 starts.


I once asked Ken Griffey Jr. (who will be on his first ballot next year) who was the best pitcher he faced.

"One word.  Pedro," was his answer.

Smoltz completes the Atlanta Braves super rotation in the Hall.  Teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were elected last year along with his manager Bobby Cox.

Smoltz was drafted in the 22nd round in 1985 by the Detroit Tigers.  Smoltz is a Michigan native. The Tigers traded Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander in 1987.  He broke in with the Braves in 1988.

Bobby Cox made the trade while he was the Braves general manager, then returned to the bench as manager.

Smoltz won 213 games and saved another 154.  He started 481 games and relieved in another 242 games.

Randy Johnson won 303 games and struck out an astounding 4,875 batters in 4,135 and 1/3 innings.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reds Trade For Marlon Byrd








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The Reds traded its minor league pitcher of the year, Ben Lively, to the Phillies to obtain 37-year old outfielder Marlon Byrd.

 Byrd, in a career-high 154 appearances last season hit .264 with 28 doubles, a career-best 25 HR and 85 RBI. He led the Phillies in HR, extra-base hits (55) and total bases (263) while ranking second among all National League right fielders in HR and RBI.
 
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            A National League All-Star in 2010, Byrd has averaged 15 homers and 71 RBI over a 13-year Major League career with the Phillies, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates. He has 845 career appearances in center field, 398 appearances in right field and 144 appearances in left field. Byrd spent most of the last 2 seasons playing right field for the Mets and Phillies.
 
Byrd was a key acquisition for the Pirates down the stretch in the 2013 season in which the Pirates defeated the Reds in the wild card playoff game.
 
The 22-year old Lively was a combined 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA for Class A Bakersfield and Class AA Pensacola in 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Xavier Soars Over Eagles




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The Xavier Musketeers built a sizeable lead at halftime but had to hold on to top the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 71-57.

The Eagles trailed by 17 at the break but battled to within eight in the second half.

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"We responded and didn't let it get to us," said senior Matt Stainbrook, who scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Xavier 9-3. Stainbrook made four of his six shots to improve on his 65.5 percent field goal percentage which is fifth in the nation.

"When you come back from Christmas break, you work on a lot of things. And you have the confidence factor after a loss (in overtime at Auburn)" Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "One of the things we must do is defend. There point guard is leading the nation in assists for a reason."

Brett Cromer has 708 assists the most by any active player in the NCAA.  Cromer was credited with nine against the Musketeers.

Remy Abell led the Musketeers with 13 points.  Dee Davis added 12.

James Farr had a game-high nine rebounds before leaving with under four minutes left in the game with cramps.

Bernard Thompson had a career-high 17 points.  Thompson is the only active player with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 225 steals.

"Remy Abell is our best perimeter defender," Mack said. "When he went out to get a rest, Thompson hit a couple three's.  When a shooter gets confidence."

Mack follows his 120th career win with a meeting with Georgetown on New Year's Eve at 10:00 pm. Mack is tied with his predecessor, Sean Miller, who is the head coach for No. 3 Arizona.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reds Trade Pitchers Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon






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When the 2014 spring training opened, Mat Latos had knee surgery.  Manager Bryan Price dropped the bombshell news that Alfredo Simon was going to get a chance to start in his place.

The plan was for Simon to hold the fort until Latos returned but the big right-hander put together an All-Star first half of the season and finished the season in the starting rotation.

On Thursday both Latos and Simon were traded by the Reds.

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Simon, who pitched so well that he may have priced himself out of the Reds small market, went to the Detroit Tigers for the Tigers first round pick in the 2013 draft and shortstop Eugenio Suarez.

Crawford a 6'2" right-hander from Stuart, Florida, was 8-3 in 23 starts for Western Michigan of the Midwest League.  He pitched at the University of Florida.

Suarez, 23, hit .242 with four home runs for the Tigers in 85 games.

Latos was dealt to the Miami Marlins for 24-year old right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and catcher Chad Wallach.

Latos will pitch for his hometown team this season. He grew up in South Florida.

DeSclafani made five starts for the Marlins last season.  He was 2-2, striking out 26 and walking five in 33 innings. DeSclafani also pitched for the Gators at the University of Florida

Wallach 23 is a right-handed hitter, who hit .321 with two home runs at Single A Greensboro last season.  He was the Marlins fifth-round pick in 2013 from Cal State Fullerton, where he was the teammate of Reds' pitching prospect, Michael Lorenzen.  He is the son of Tim Wallach, who played for the Montreal Expos.  Chad's brothers Matt and Brett played professional baseball.

"We're in a better position to start looking at some other possibilities to improve our club -- the hitter we're looking for and some bullpen depth," Reds general manager Jocketty said.

The trades themselves did not directly address the Reds' need which is a power hitting leftfielder but it frees capital to sign a free agent.  Simon and Latos were due to get huge raises in arbitration.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Xavier Snares Jaguars After Slow Start








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Xavier rebounded from a slow start to improve to 7-2 on the season against the Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis Jaguars with a 66-43 win.

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"There was no excuse we just didn't come out ready to play," James Farr said.

IUPUI ran off to a 10-3 lead five minutes into the game.  Xavier finally caught the Jaguars (2-6) on a 3-point basket by Dee Davis at the 8:10 mark.  The bigger, stronger Musketeers didn't trail after that, leading 27-23 at halftime.

"It happens no basketball team is perfect," Remy Abell said.  "It didn't start the way we wanted to.  We didn't come out like we needed to come out.  I will buy that we took them lightly.  We came out against Alabama with a lot of pop.  Games aren't won in the first half.  We have to take this as part of our learning curve."

Xavier had eight of its 18 turnovers in the first 10 minutes.  Dee Davis, Jalen Reynolds, and Jamie Farr had two apiece.  Trevon Bluiett and Myles Davis had one each.  Davis turned it over again at the 4:08 mark but played errorless ball from then on.

"I thought we were non chalant.  We were uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half," coach Chris Mack said. "Guys started to play with much more intensity in the second half.  The point guard (Dee Davis) sets the tone.  I'm sure he would admit that.  It is disappointing that he is a senior.  Good teams consistently play both halves with equal intensity."

Xavier pressed the Jaguars and forced 22 turnovers of their own and pulled in a season-high 14 steals.

The Musketeers dominated the second half, out scoring IUPUI.

Xavier did hold IUPUI to its lowest point total at 43.

"Our defenses was better.  We got some steals with the press.  For the most time when we pressed, we turned it over," Mack said.

No one played more than 27 minutes for Xavier.

Bluiett lead all scorers with 12 points. Abell had 10.  Marcellus Barksdale was the only Jaguar in double figues with 10.

Mack's wife gave birth to their first son, Bradon.

"It was exciting but it was really odd not being at practice the day before a game," Mack said.  "I didn't like that feeling at all but it was great to see the look on my daughters face."

Mack and his wife Kristy Hester Mack, who was the head coach at Colerain High School have two daughters.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Xavier Rolls Tide To Get Back On Track




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Xavier took the loss of two games in California out on the visiting Alabama Crimson Tide in a high-scoring 97-84 win at the friendly confines of the Cintas Center.

"We definitely wanted to get the bad taste of those two losses out of our mouths," Myles Davis said.  "We talked about it all day."

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It started out slowly for the 6-2 Musketeers. Alabama 5-2 lead by five points early  Matt Stainbrook, the leading scorer and rebounder for Xavier was whistled for two fouls in the first 90 seconds. He sat out most of the first half. His understudy Jalen Reynolds and freshman Sean O'Mara filled in to help Xavier build a 41-30 lead at halftime.

Myles Davis led Xavier with 18 points off the bench.  Freshman J.P. Macura scored 13.  Reynolds scored 12 and led the Musketeers with seven rebounds. Remy Abell had 12. Dee Davis had 10 and Matt Stainbrook contributed all in the second half.

"Sean O'Mara hasn't played much this year.  He really, really helped our team with his defense," coach Chris Mack said.  "The bench won the game."

Remy Abell held Alabama's leading scorer, Levi Randolph to two points in the first half and 15 for the game, one under his average.

"Most of his points came after the game was decided," Mack said.

Alabama's Ricky Tarrant scored 23 to lead all scorers.  Shannon Hale put 12 points up for the Crimson Tide.

Xavier outrebounded Alabama 32 to 22.  Michael Kessens had five to lead the Tide.

Rodney Cooper scored on a layup to start the second half.  After Matt Stainbrook made two free throws, Hale hit a 3-pointer to cut the margin to eight.  Xavier outscored Alabama 21-10 over the next five minutes to take control of the game.

Alabama closed the gap over the last two minutes.




Xavier Takes On The Crimson Tide At The Cintas Center







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It is the seventh all-time meeting between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Xavier Musketeers.


The teams split the first six games down the middle.  Xavier won a 77-74 decision in Tuscaloosa last season.

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Alabama is 5-1 with its lone loss to number 13 Iowa State on November 24.  They have wins over Arizona State and South Florida.

The Crimson Tide is led by Levi Randolph, who is averaging 19.3 points per game and 6.2 rebounds.

Xavier is 5-2 on the season with losses to Texas El Paso and Long Beach State in the Wooden Legacy Classic in Anaheim, California.  The Musketeer defeated Long Beach State at the Cintas Center on November 18.

Matt Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett are tied for the lead in scoring at 16 points per game.  Stainbrook leads the team with a 8.1 rebounding average.


Bearcats Gain Share Of American Conference Championship








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It is the fifth title or share of a title for the University of Cincinnati Football Bearcats in the last seven years.

The Bearcats held on after the Houston Cougars drove 84 yards for 38-31 win..

Gunner Kiel threw for two touchdowns as Cincinnati built a 21-10 halftime lead.

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The Bearcats held a lead throughout but Greg Ward Jr. threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes to threaten the lead.  Ward's pass from the Cincinnati 11 was high with two seconds left.

Cincinnati (9-3, 7-1) scored on its first possesion of the second half when freshman Mike Boone ran for his second touchdown of the game out of the "wildcat formation".

Houston (7-5, 5-3) answered on its first second half drive when quarterback Ward scored on a 40-yard run.

Boone and Cougar tailback, Kenneth Farrow each rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Boone finished his fresman season with three touchdowns in the game and nine for the season, including two third quarter scores that allowed the Bearcats to survive two touchdown passes by Ward.

Kiel threw one pass in the second half.  He was replaced by Munchie Legeaux.  Kiel's two touchdown passes gave him 30 for the season.

Cincinnati, Memphis and Central Florida ended the regular season with identical 7-1 conference record.  Cincinnati lost to Memphis but Houston, who played all three, defeated Memphis and lost to UCF.  Connecticut's lone conference win was a 37-29 upset of UCF on November 1.








Friday, December 5, 2014

Jim Stoeckel Beats Bushes In Bahamas For Reds




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The Reds' Director of Global Scouting is searching the world for baseball talent.

Baseball is hugely popular in the Caribbean, with nearly every country participating in international competition.  Asia has a growing base of players and a well developed high school baseball system. Europe is gaining ground in this area.

The Bahamas are loaded with quality athletes and Stoeckel, with the help of nationally renowned coach Patrick Knowles of Freeport, have identified quality athletes with the potential to excel in the Major Leagues.

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"There are a lot of world class athletes in the Bahamas," Stoeckel said.  "They don't have high school programs like they do in Asia, but they have athletes.  Baseball is turning toward a traditional National League style, where pitching and defense are emphasized.  We are looking for players who can win games without the bat."

Recently the Reds signed two very young players from Freeport on Grand Bahama Island located just 55 miles from West Palm Beach, Florida.

Outfielder and left-handed pitcher Reshard Munroe, 17, and thirdbaseman/catcher Quinton Rolle, 16, signed with the Reds on September 8.  The Reds sent them to an instructional camp in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic with other young, raw talent.
Quinton Rolle                        Reshard Munroe

(see more detail about these two players in future posts)

The pair hope to follow in the footsteps of outfielder Antoan Richardson, who broke in with the Atlanta Braves in 2014 and returned with the New York Yankees this past season.

"I have heard of Antoan Richardson because he made it to the top," said Munroe, who has seen very little big league baseball played and only on then on television news from a Miami TV station that is received on the island.

Richardson is one of six major league players born in the Bahamas, all from the more populated Nassau Island.  Andre Rodgers, an infielder, was the first. He had an 11-year career with New York and San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, beginning in 1957 .  Outfielder Tony Curry played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1960-61 and the Cleveland Indians in 1966.  Wenty Ford pitched in four games with the Braves in 1973.  Ed Armbrister played five seasons with the Reds from 1973-77.  He was involved in a controversial bunt play in the 1975 World Series against the Boston Red Sox as a fifth outfielder on the Big Red Machine.  Outfielder Wil Curry was the last player from the Bahamas to play in the Major Leagues.  Curry played in seven games for Cleveland in 1983.

There have been 30 years between Curry's brief appearance and Richardson's current stint.

Stephen Adderley, a general manager of Freeport Oil Company, who is enough of a big league fan to keep a baseball card of Pete Rose in his wallet.  Adderley accompanied Rolle to the interview nd explained that Nassau had a good league until the late 70's but it fell apart.  Rolle played Little League Baseball from the age of six through 12 on a team sponsored by FOCOL.

Freeport began home rule in 1973.

"Baseball is making a comeback," Adderley said.  "They are trying to qualify for the World Baseball Classic.  That is one of our goals.  Somewhere along the line that is going to happen.  The last of our guys played for England National Team if they were born before the Bahamas was independent, they could play for England. We have new leadership and baseball is making a comeback in the last 10 years with new leadership.  We have a national tournament with over 500 kids in it."

Knowles coaches the Youth National team and Rolle born in January 1998, is the youngest player ever selected to the National Softball Team.

There are still not a lot of players in the country yet but the competition is getting better. 

"We don't have a lot of players here yet," said Munroe.  "The baseball is not as good as the US or the Domincan Republic. You basically play the same teams, so you never get any better. I had to go to the Dominican to find that out."

There are plenty of athletes in the Bahamas,

"My competition for players here has been the other sports, basketball and football.  There is a football player for the University of Miami," Stoeckel said.

Look for more baseball players from the islands in the future.

"Since I signed there have been a lot more guys who want to play baseball," said Rolle, who graduates from Jack Hayward High School in June.