I’m very excited to see Doug Flutie again to be honored as a shining star at the Flutie Foundation Night to Shine. I’d like to thank Doug and the Flutie Foundation for this honor. The Flutie Foundation has done a lot to support me and this blog, including inviting me to emcee the 2017 Flutie 5K, and I would like to thank them for that as well. Below are two articles I have written in the past about Flutie:
Recently, I entered the 2018 Will McDonough Writing Contest through the Boston Globe and the Sports Museum at TD Garden. On Monday, I found out that I received an honorable mention at the 8th grade level for my 500-word essay. Over 1000 kids participated in this contest. As a prize, I will be receiving a certificate and four free museum passes. I have been to the TD Garden for Celtics games, Bruins games, and many other events, but I have never gotten the opportunity to visit this museum, and I am really looking forward to it.
You can see the other winners and honorable mentions for the contest and more information about the contest here.
My essay was about the attending the first Red Sox game at Fenway after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. I have also added pictures below that were taken on the day of the game.
Below is my official essay.
The Day I Learned The True Meaning of Boston Strong
It was the middle of the 8thinning at Fenway Park on April 20, 2013. As usual, Sweet Caroline was playing. But this time Neil Diamond surprised everyone by showing up to sing it live. It was the first Fenway game since the Boston Marathon bombings. The game was against the Royals and I was there for my cousin’s 10th birthday.
Although the bombings were on Marathon Monday, I didn’t hear about it until Wednesday because I was only nine and my parents didn’t want me to know about the awful news. While in line at Dunkin Donuts I saw coverage of the bomber manhunt on TV so they had to tell me what was going on.
As the weekend approached, the Red Sox canceled the Friday night game. The city was on lockdown until the second bomber was caught. That night I couldn’t fall asleep until I knew the bomber was captured. Fortunately, he was and Saturday morning we headed to the first game since the bombing.
When we arrived on Lansdowne Street, the entertainment outside Fenway combined with thousands of people singing “Hallelujah” inside the park helped lift the sadness in the city. We had to wait on a long security line but nobody seemed to mind. We were just happy that the game was on and the city was safe.
The energy inside Fenway that day was indescribable. The pregame ceremonies began honoring the Marathon bombing victims, the police that hunted down the bombers, and the paramedics who helped many wounded victims. The Red Sox were wearing special Boston Strong jerseys and there was a “B Strong” symbol on the Green Monster. As part of the ceremony, David Ortiz firmly stated, “This is Our F***ing City!” I had been to several games before but this was different.
The game itself started off slow but the crowd was loud after the inspiring pregame ceremony, chanting “USA” and “Boston Strong” rather than “Let’s go Red Sox.” The Royals jumped out to a 2-1 lead. But after Neil Diamond’s surprise appearance, Daniel Nava crushed a go-ahead 3-run homer to give the Red Sox a 4-2 lead. Although Lorenzo Cain hit a solo homer in the top of the 9th, closer Andrew Bailey finished the job for Boston, who won 4-3.
After the game we were ecstatic, but we had no idea how much the Red Sox would turn things around for the remainder of the season. Following a dismal last place 2012 season, I believe this game propelled the Red Sox to a 2013 World Series victory.
As we approach the five year anniversary of this historic game, what I remember most is how unified the city, as well as the country, seemed to be after such a violent event struck our city. I wish our country didn’t feel so divided and helpless right now especially after numerous mass shootings. We need the feeling of unity and resilience that everyone felt that day at Fenway Park.
A huge plaza known as the APEX Center of New England recently opened in Marlborough, Massachusetts. It is located on US-20, near Exit 24 on I-495. One of the best parts of this new plaza is the APEX Entertainment Center, which just opened its three-story, quarter-mile long, go-karting track this week.
APEX Entertainment also includes these attractions:
A huge arcade, including a mix of classic and modern arcade games
A bowling alley (with 30 lanes) that includes both 10-pin bowling and a New England favorite, Candlepin bowling. At the end of each lane above the pins are huge TV screens to watch current sports events
A ropes course above the arcade with a view of the go-kart track
Several sports simulation machines
An American Bar and Restaurant named the Pit Stop Tavern, also with a great view of both the go-karting track and the bowling alley
A Boston themed laser tag arena, complete with a 3-story model of the Prudential Center
If you’re interested in more formal dining, the 110 Grill is a few doors down in the same plaza. The management at APEX Entertainment provided me with an all-access tour and gave me the opportunity to try out the go-karts and the bumper cars. My dad, my brother and I were greeted by Sherie Gaw, one of the managers at APEX Entertainment.
She showed us the sports simulators first. Not only can you play virtual baseball, football, basketball, golf, and soccer, but you can also play other games such as zombie dodgeball. They even have a carnival simulator.
Next, she took us to one of her favorite spots, where we could get a great view of the bowling alley and the movie-screen sized TVs. From where we were standing, we could see all 30 bowling lanes, some of which are candlepin lanes. In addition, they have a special feature in some of the 10-pin lanes called Angry Birds bowling. For dedicated bowlers, they will have leagues starting this summer.
The APEX is also a great place to watch sports. Their bowling alley includes several huge TVs, and there are many more TVs around the Pit Stop Tavern and the bowling alley. We had a great time when we came there to watch Week 17’s match-up between the Patriots and Jets, the game that secured home-field advantage for New England.
On our way to the go-kart track, we walked by the classic section of the arcade, which included 1999 NFL Blitz and a vintage hockey game.
After that, we headed right to the go-kart track, known as the IC Federal Credit Union Speedway.
Nobody was racing yet when we got there, so Sherie took us on a walk around the track. It was the longest, most interesting go-kart track I had ever seen! The track is a quarter of a mile long. Sherie led us through one lap in the direction that the go-karts are supposed to go. I even got a picture in the special 110 Grill go-kart after!
Next up, we walked through the part of the arcade filled with lots of new arcade games. Next to the arcade were the bumpers cars. There are six bumper cars and my dad, my brother, Sherie, 2 other APEX employees and I filled the arena and had some fun-filled bumping action.
Once the go-karts opened for the afternoon, we registered ourselves and the three of us had the whole track to ourselves as they had just opened. We put on head-socks and sized ourselves for helmets, and soon enough, we were in the go-karts and ready to race. The maximum speed for the go-karts was 40 mph, but we went around 20 mph. Although I wasn’t going at full speed, it was the best go-kart ride of my life!
My favorite part is where you go down to the lowest part of the track, through a tunnel, and right back up. Soon after that, you can make a hairpin turn that leads you up to the highest part. On your way back down, they say you can even get some air if you’re driving at top speed.
A view of some of the huge APEX go-kart track
In my fastest lap, I went at a speed of 19.5 mph, finishing the lap in 46.3 seconds. My dad won the race, going 20.5 mph in his fastest lap, which he finished in 44 seconds. I came in second, just ahead of my brother, who went at a speed of 17.75 mph during his fastest lap, which took about 51 seconds. You can get your race results using an app called “Activity Box.” To log in, just ask to view your license at the go-kart registration desk.
After the race, we went upstairs to play arcade games and cool off with a refreshing iced beverage from the Pit Stop Tavern. My dad and I faced off in NFL Blitz. He played as the Patriots and I played as the Eagles. Although I was upset that he beat me 31-3, I was also happy that the Patriots won as we were simulating this year’s Super Bowl match-up.
Before I left, I watched a number of racers going at top speed in a very competitive race. Check out my video of two racing drivers here:
I’d like to thank Sherie Gaw for taking the time to show me a first class APEX experience and Ashley Coffey for setting it up. If you haven’t visited yet, I recommend that you race to the APEX for non-stop entertainment.
Yesterday Sarge gave me and my family an all-access tour of WBZ Studios, home of WBZ-TV, WSBK-TV, and WBZ 1030 AM Radio. When I first walked in, I noticed images of some of my favorite WBZ Newscasters like Steve Burton, Dan Roche, Barry Burbank and David Wade. I even saw digital posters of two of my favorite CBS shows, Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory.
Sarge greeted us in the lobby and we began our tour. He told us about the history of the station. It started as a radio station in 1921. It was one of the first radio stations in the country and the first in New England. In 1948, WBZ-TV began airing.
First, we went to the Sports News anchors’ offices that included offices for Steve Burton and Dan Roche. They had sports pictures all over the walls and it felt like being inside a miniature Boston sports hall of fame!
After that, we entered the huge newsroom. TV reporters were on one side and radio reporters on the other. The TV side was quiet but the radio side is always busy. I got to meet Charlie Bergeron, another WBZ Radio sports reporter who I had just heard on the radio on the way to the studio. He took the time to tell me about the specifics of his job and show me the sports update script he was currently working on. I even got to go into the studio to watch his next live broadcast!
Next, I met the radio traffic reporters and saw a live image of the current traffic, which was noticeably quieter during the weekend. I also saw part of their script for their next report. After the newsroom, we visited a huge control room. Sarge said that even he’s overwhelmed by it.
Then came the best part of my tour. We got to visit both TV studios. The first one we visited was mainly used as a backup studio but they did traffic reports there when the other studio was being renovated.
Me on the stage of the old studio.
My brother Ryan in the studio audience cheering me on.
Me on the left on the stage of the old studio and my brother Ryan on the right cheering me on in the studio audience.
But when I saw their main studio, I felt like I had just walked into my TV when WBZ News was on.
When I first walked in, I saw Barry Burbank, a meteorologist who I had grown up watching. I had previously met him when he came to my elementary school, Peaslee in 2015, but I didn’t get the chance to talk to him until this day.
Then we saw the news anchors’ desk, the couch that was often used during Patriots 5th Quarter, and the area where they filmed the weather forecast. We even saw snow in Michigan on the current radar, and according to Barry, it could be coming our way, but he didn’t want to forecast it yet.
On our way out, we got a glance at the WBZ Hall of Fame. We continued to listen to Sarge on the radio on our way home.
That wraps it up for my 500th article on Boston Sports Mania. This tour was an unforgettable experience and I’m grateful that I got to learn so much as I continue my pursuit to become a sports journalist. I’d like to thank Mike ‘Sarge’ Riley and give him a huge #sargesalute for this amazing experience.
This past week, I had an amazing chance to see what’s it’s like to work as a journalist at the Herald. Not only did I see how the newspaper works, but I had a full multimedia experience by observing both a radio show and video for the website.
I started on Wednesday morning, and I got up early and caught the 7:30 train for my first commute. I arrived at the Herald a little bit before 9:00 and Editor-in-Chief Joe Sciacca’s assistant Barbara Long met me in the lobby. She gave me an extended tour, and we read the paper.
Barbara told me, “When people come in, the first thing they do is read the paper.”
Once we were done, I met an editor and radio host, Zuri Berry. I spent the morning observing Zuri and then eating lunch with him. He was working on editing the other interns’ articles and looking for news that had been sent to the special Boston Herald inbox. One of the interns, Peter, was an 18 year old sports fan going to Auburn in the fall. Zuri told me that someone always has to keep an eye on the Herald email account to see if any news was sent to them. Although my passion is sports, Zuri told me that journalists need to keep on top of all news.
In the afternoon after Zuri prepared for his radio show, I sat with managing editor Joe Dwinell and he showed me all the drafted articles on the website waiting to be edited. Then the sports editor Sean Leahy showed me the sports budget that would be presented at the news meeting. The sports budget shows what articles will fit into the space allocated for the sports section. During the meeting, I presented the entire sports budget! One of the articles I presented even made the front cover. It was about Tom Brady’s 40th birthday and what it meant for his career. After the news meeting, it was time for me to go. It was a great first day.
When I came in the next day, I saw the article I presented on the cover as I read the paper. As a gift, they gave me a poster of the Herald’s front cover from the day after Super Bowl 51. The headline was “Roger That” with a picture of Tom Brady holding the Lombardi trophy.
By the time I was done reading the paper, sports editor Rachel Fox was there and I spent the morning with her. She had a TV by her desk and I put on SportsCenter while she looked at what sports articles were going up on the website. At noon, I went with sports reporter Meredith Gorman to a birthday party for Tom Brady at Faneuil Hall. TB12 wasn’t there, but there was a goat with a Tom Brady jersey!
Meredith picked up lunch for us at Quincy Market and we took an Uber back to the Herald. After lunch, I sat in on Zuri Berry’s radio show and observed in the radio control room for a bit. It was a great experience to see the radio show in action. I stayed with Zuri until the 3:30 news meeting, where I listened and took notes.
For my third and final day, I came in right at 9:00 and read the paper. The Red Sox recap and Pats camp notes were the most interesting to me, especially since the Red Sox won in a high scoring game, 9-5. After finishing the paper, Barbara let me use her computer to write an article for my blog. Once Zuri Berry had arrived and read the paper, I spent the rest of the morning with him. I stayed with Zuri to watch the first hour of his radio show. Later, I went to see the sports budget that Sean had made and attented the 3:30 news meeting for the third straight day. At the meeting, I presented the Patriots articles planned for the sports section. Before I left, I talked to Joe Sciacca about the great week for a bit and said my goodbyes to Sean, Zuri, Barbara and everyone else.
I’d like to thank Joe Sciacca, Barbara Long, Zuri Berry, Jenny Miller, Mark Murphy, Sean Leahy, Rachel Fox, Meredith Gorman, Joe Dwinell, Peter Santo and everyone at the Herald that made my first internship experience great.
I learned so much in only three days. My favorite part was learning how the Paper came together each day. I can’t wait to come back and learn more.
Last night, I got home and said, “What a day, what a weekend, what a trip!” You might be wondering, what trip? Well, I’ll tell you all about it.
Northborough residents Barbara and Fred Kohout applied for the grant that the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation gave to the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports (WVAS) program. This program provides one on one lessons for skiers who have developmental or physical disabilities. It also includes a free lift ticket and access to free skiing equipment.
Waterville Valley used the grant to give several families of many applicants an all expense paid ski weekend at the resort. Families also got a free two night stay at the Snowy Owl Inn, a hotel in a very convenient location for Waterville Valley skiers. We applied back in January for this by sending our application to WVAS director Cynthia Powell and we won the trip!
Over the past few weeks, I had been so excited for this trip, and it was 5 times better than my expectations! Between eight hours of one on one skiing with really nice instructors, good food and a fun all-around experience, it was an amazing weekend.
After a two hour drive up to New Hampshire on Friday, we arrived and checked in to the Snowy Owl Inn. We wheeled our bags up to our hotel room right above the lobby. It was a charming hotel that had a lot of nice touches. It had a lot of interesting details that added to it. For example, there was a collection of owl figurines at the reception desk, and a moose head in a scarf above a lobby fireplace.
After settling in to our room, we went down to the parlor room to play Monopoly Deal and head to dinner. After playing, we met a couple of the ski instructors. They gave us a warm welcome, gave us some info on the program, and even left us with a goodie bag that included resort merchandise, the schedule of events, and other helpful supplies for our stay.
It was tough finding a restaurant that my brother Ryan, who has Celiac Disease could eat gluten free at, but the ski instructors that met us told us to try Valley Pub & Grill, a restaurant at the Town Square. The Town Square was a big hotel down the street from the Snowy Owl that additionally included a shopping center with restaurants and other stores.
The place we went to had a nice place for us to sit, and good food not just for Ryan but for me. I had a delicious chicken tenders dish that I would have every night at dinner if I could. We went back to the hotel and ended our night watching the start of Inside Out as a family in the parlor room before going back to the hotel room for the night.
We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a continental breakfast in the parlor room before getting our ski clothes on. We were set to start skiing at 10:00 that morning. We drove up to the mountain and got our helmets, boots and skis in the adaptive office. There my brother and I met our personal instructors, Marc, Dean and Larry.
The first thing they taught us before we even knew how to put on our skis was how to stop and go down the mountain. To stop, you make a “pizza”. That just means you point your skis together to make a wedge shape. To go down, you need to keep your skis straight, known as making “french fries”. They put an edgy-wedgie, which is an elastic strap that keeps our skis together to help us make better wedges.
Then we practiced skiing short distances; we didn’t even have to try the J-Bar yet. We just went down from one of our helpers to another, and the one we skied to would help us back up part of the mountain. When the J-Bar line became less crowded, we tried going on with our helpers, our skis going in between theirs. For a little bit, we did the same thing up at the very top of “The Pasture”, but they wanted to find a way for us to be able to go all the way down the trail.
Dean was able to get tethers for our skis, and we went down with ease. The tethers attached my skis to Marc’s. I was now skiing in front of him turning left to right with Marc tethered behind me. I began to get the hang of it on tethers as the morning went on. After a delicious chicken tender lunch similar to the night before at one of the resort’s restaurants, we went back out.
We did a couple more tethered runs before Marc decided that I didn’t need them anymore. Before I was mostly controlling my turns; now I would have full control. We continued to go up the J-Bar together but now our instructors skied in front of us while we followed their turns. We continued to do that for most of the afternoon, but I tried riding the J-Bar alone a couple of times. I wiped out before getting to the top, and after some struggles, we decided to hold that off till the next morning.
After the Saturday lessons, we went to a social for just the families that got free adaptive skiing through the Flutie Foundation. There was food and drinks provided along with a ribbon ceremony for all of the skiers. Cynthia, Marc, Dean, Barbara, Fred and the other instructors and families were there. Making all those pizzas up on the slopes made me really crave actual pizza, and that was the perfect apres ski snack.
We went back to the Valley Pub & Grille for dinner, and played a board game called Say Anything and finished Inside Out in the parlor room before bed. After Ryan was asleep, the rest of us watched part of Dodgeball in our hotel room before actually going to sleep.
The next morning we loaded our stuff into the car and checked out of the Snowy Owl after I grabbed a bagel at the convenience store at the Town Square. All our ski stuff was ready when we arrived at the Adaptive Office that morning.
I started my morning back in between Marc’s skis on the J-Bar, but we picked up where we left off when it came to going down the mountain. Throughout the morning I was really getting the hang of the S-shaped turns we were taught to follow down the mountain. By 11:00 I even got all the way up the J-Bar alone several times. Part of it might have been that the snow was better in the morning, but I improved my skills too.
By lunch, it was no more edgy-wedgies for both me and Ryan, and we were almost ready to go to the Lower Meadows, a section with our first trails that weren’t bunny trails. The area had a two person chairlift that led to four green circle trails. We were even beginning to learn the more advanced way to land than the pizza; it’s almost like a turning motion that would just slow you down on the slopes, but stops you at the bottom.
We ate the same meals, except it was at a nicer restaurant, the T-Bars Restaurant and Lounge. I enjoyed some March Madness action while I ate. In the afternoon, we took a few more runs on The Pasture J-Bar before going over to the Lower Meadows, which had a chairlift instead. Even though I had to go on slow mode the first few runs, I got the hang of the chairlift relatively quickly; it was 5 times easier than the J-Bar!
We went on some runs on Leroy’s Loop, the easiest course in the Lower Meadows that had lots of natural turns, enforcing what we had learned over at The Pasture. Our parents came to visit earlier for this last lesson. They had come for 30 minutes in the first three lessons; this time they came for the last hour. I did the most runs of the entire trip and had the most fun that afternoon. I went on the chairlift with my mom several times and for the first time, we were all skiing as a family! This was the best feeling yet!
At this point, on Leroy’s Loop at least, our instructors didn’t need to help us much anymore. On our last run we went with our instructors; we had to take Revelation and Baseway, two tougher Lower Meadows green circle trails that led to the rental return area. We returned our skis, and for one last time, said goodbye to Marc and Dean. We even had a little graduation at the Adaptive Office that afternoon. I enjoyed some Cinnamon Toast Crunch as my apres ski snack before heading home after a great weekend.
This experience was amazing for us. My brother and I learned to ski in just one weekend and had a blast while doing it. I’d like to thank the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation along with Barbara and Fred Kohout, Cynthia Powell, Marc Bellerose, Dean Haymes, Larry Gannon, my entire family and everyone else who supported me in this amazing trip. I hope to return next year for more skiing at Waterville Valley. Maybe we’ll even meet some of next year’s Flutie Foundation families.
Also, don’t miss Doug Flutie tonight on Dancing With the Stars. I met him at an Autism Alliance of Metrowest event at Skyzone in Westborough. I did a project on him at school last year and blogged about it. Go team Kutie!
Yesterday I had the very special opportunity to get a private tour of the Boston Herald by their editor in chief, Joe Sciacca. He was a very kind and generous man who took a lot time of his busy day to show me and my family how a modern news organization works. Joe had invited us to come visit him after I was introduced to him by news reporter, Matt Fitzgerald when we were all at a Red Sox game a couple of weeks ago. I arrived at the Herald around 1:30pm and Joe met us in the lobby.
He gave us a tour of the studio. Our first stop was the archive room. “This is what they had before the internet”, Joe Sciacca said. It was organized like a library card catalog, except filled with newspaper clippings from over the years. We found old files on John F. Kennedy and former NESN announcer Jerry Remy.
Our next stop was the Boston Herald radio studio. We met Tyler Sullivan and Chris Villani as they took a break from a show on Tom Brady’s DeflateGate appeal.
They let me in, and I sat in the same chair that Patriots Jonas Gray and Dominique Easley sat in last week.
They let us in to the production room as well. I saw the Boston skyline background shown behind the radio hosts on a computer in place of the green screen. They were very generous and gave my brother and me Boston Herald Radio T-Shirts.
Joe stressed that all learning about all multimedia platforms is very important to be a successful news organization today. That was good news because I am starting a multimedia camp next week at Worcester Academy (http://www.worcesteracademy.org/) for the next two weeks.
Our next stop was a studio for video reporters. One of the things filmed here are the movie reviews. Joe also showed us a back area where they kept backpacks filled with video equipment like cameras and tripods so that reporters could cover a story all on their own. We also paused for a photo opportunity.
After that, we visited a photography room. He mentioned that there used to be a dark room, where photos were developed but now that everything is digital it is a bit different.
Then we visited the main news room. I met the sports editors, Rachel Fox, Sean Leahy and Mark Murphy, and the main Red Sox writer Scott Lauder. Lauder is one of three Herald staff members that attended last night’s Red Sox-Orioles game.
After that we visited a conference room where the staff meets to plan out the newspaper each day. They lay it out on formatting sheets to use as a model for the printed paper.
The last stop was Joe Sciacca’s office. There were some cool things to see in there, like an old fashioned typewriter with a carrying case that reporters used before computers. He gave me the Fenway 100 year anniversary issue of the paper and a packet of articles that had tips on how to be a good journalist.
He mentioned that he was a journalist for over 30 years before becoming editor in chief. Lastly, I got to sit in in Sciacca’s chair. I felt special in that chair.
This day was an unforgettable experience, and I was very inspired by this visit.