Ranking the Top 20 Boston Athletes of the Decade

Over the last 10 days, I’ve been on vacation in Florida, visiting my family and spending a few days at Disney World. During that time, I haven’t been very active on here (my apologies for that), though I have provided my Week 16 & 17 NFL Picks and some additional sports insights on my Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). After a 2 week hiatus on this blog, 2019 has almost ended.

I’ve done some New Year’s articles in the past, but this isn’t just the start of a year. As we kick off the new year, we also start a new decade.

The 2010s were a very memorable decade for me. This was the decade when I really got into sports. This was the decade when I started this blog, and this blog has led to many great experiences for me. So, I’m going to celebrate by looking back on some of Boston’s best athletes of the decade.

In this article, I’ll be writing about my Top 20 Boston athletes of the decade as we head into the 2020s. These rankings include athletes on all four major Boston teams (Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins). I favored players who consistently contributed to Boston teams over big names who were here for a year or two, but there is still a mix of different kinds of athletes in these rankings.

Let’s get this countdown started:

20. Dustin Pedroia

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: 2nd Base (2B)

Despite facing injuries along the way that have caused a significant decline, Pedroia has stuck with the team for the entirety of the decade. Prior to the beginning of the serious injury problems in 2018, Pedroia batted right around .300 on an annual basis, while collecting three Gold Gloves as one of the MLB’s best second basemen of the early 2010s. Pedroia averaged a .386 OBP from 2010-2017, and he was a significant factor when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. For most of the decade, he’s been a consistent hitter you can trust to get on base and a strong defender. Until injury problems got serious, he rarely sat out of the lineup, determined to play every day. I just hope we can see him return to form in 2020 as he attempts to return from his knee injury one more time.

19. Kevin Garnett

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Power Forward/Center (PF/C)

Garnett’s six season stint with the Celtics began in 2007 when he helped lead the Celtics to their 17th championship alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. His final three seasons with the Celtics were in the 2010s. In these seasons, Garnett was still a starter and a significant contributor for the Celtics. He averaged right around 15-16 PPG and 8-9 RPG, which was a slight decline from his 2007-08 stats but still pretty good. He’s also one of the team’s best defensive players of the 21st century. But when the Celtics began to rebuild, he was traded alongside Pierce, D.J. White and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a handful of lower tier players draft picks. These picks have resulted in the Celtics drafting young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who could determine the future of this team.

18. Al Horford

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2016-2019

Position: Center (C)

Horford is alongside Garnett as one of the best Celtics defensive players of the 21st century. In the 2016 off-season, the Celtics signed Horford on a 4 year, $113 million deal with a player option after his third season. Horford averaged 13-14 PPG while making a huge impact defensively in his three years with the Celtics. Horford played in a variety of roles with the team. He was a veteran frontcourt leader in 2016-17, while contributing to a more star-studded lineup in his final two seasons with the team. He played alongside Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in those last two years. The chemistry issues with the team were clear, but the Celtics still had one of the best starting fives in the league last season, and Horford was an important part of it. Since Horford left for the 76ers this off-season, the Celtics have relied on a variety of players at center, and Horford’s defensive presence has been missed.

17. Tyler Seguin

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Center (C)

Seguin started his NHL career in 2010 with the Bruins. Though his best years have come with the Dallas Stars since he left Boston in 2013, he scored 56 goals and contributed 65 assists with the Bruins. He also contributed to a 2011 Stanley Cup victory and a 2013 Eastern Conference victory. Seguin played alongside many other young, talented players that have stuck with the Bruins longer than he did. Brad Marchand, one of these players, is still on the team now. But Seguin showed a lot of promise in these early years of the 2010s with the Bruins.

16. Dont’a Hightower

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2012-2019

Position: Linebacker (LB)

Hightower has dealt with injury issues over the years, but he has been a pretty consistent key piece to this defense for most of his career and most of this decade. Hightower has collected 25.5 sacks over 8 seasons (5.5 of which came in 2019), as well as 42 tackles for a loss and 63 total QB hits. He has also recovered 5 fumbles during his Pats career. He’s no superstar, but when healthy, he’s a leader on the Patriots defense and a factor in both the pass rush and the run defense.

15. Paul Pierce

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Small Forward (SF)

This Celtics legend finished his Boston career in the 2010s alongside Garnett. Pierce averaged right around 19 PPG on an annual basis in his last few years with the Celtics, and ended up falling off significantly after leaving the team. In his early 2000s prime, Pierce was averaging as much as 27 PPG and 7 RPG, but he was still a leader and a significant offensive factor on this team in the 2010s. Pierce led the Celtics to a playoff appearance in each of his three seasons this decade with the team, including one Eastern Conference Finals run in which the Celtics lost to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

14. Rob Ninkovich

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2016

Position: Defensive End/Linebacker (DE/LB)

Ninkovich is arguably New England’s best edge rusher of the decade. Ninkovich joined the Patriots in the 2009 season. Over 8 years with the Patriots, he put up 46 sacks and back to back to back 8 sack seasons from 2012 to 2014. He also posted 55 tackles for a loss and forced 12 fumbles during his Patriots career. Ninkovich retired after the 2016 season. Though it would have been nice to see him stay with the Patriots a little longer, a slight decline in 2016 may have been a factor in convincing the 33-year old to call it a career.

13. Xander Bogaerts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2013-2019

Position: Shortstop (SS)

Before Bogaerts, it had been a long time since the Red Sox had a reliable shortstop. You could argue Bogaerts is the best Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004. Bogaerts debuted at 20 years old in September 2013 as the Red Sox prepared for a playoff run. Bogey was instantly a factor, playing 18 regular season games while batting .250. He was also a regular starter during the World Series run. It took a while for Bogaerts to emerge as a star. But prior to his breakout year in 2019, he was still a factor in the Red Sox lineup, a strong defender, and one of a few five tool players on the team. After signing an 8 year extension prior to 2019, he batted .304 with a .939 OPS, hit 33 home runs, and put up 117 RBI. Bogaerts has been one of my favorite players on the Red Sox since his debut, and is my favorite since David Ortiz retired. At 27 with 7 years left on his new contract, Bogaerts is here to stay, and despite his slow emergence, he should be a leader on this team for years to come. He’s already won three Silver Slugger awards (2015, 2016, and 2019), and I think there’s much more to come.

12. Milan Lucic

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2015

Position: Left Wing (LW)

Lucic was a consistent top contributor for the Bruins throughout the early 2010s. Lucic joined the Bruins as a rookie in 2007 and stayed with the team until 2015. The 2010-11 season was a breakout year for Lucic in which he put up 62 points. He nearly matched that in 2011-12 (61) and 2013-14 (59). He also put up 27 points in the shortened 2012-13 season. Lucic fell off a bit in the 2014-15 season, scoring just 18 goals with 26 assists. The Bruins also disappointed as a team, just barely missing the playoffs. As a result, Lucic was traded to the Los Angeles Kings as the Bruins began a miniature rebuild. However, for the first few years of the decade, Lucic was a rising star for the Bruins, and one of their best players.

11. Isaiah Thomas

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played: 2015-2017

Position: Point Guard (PG)

Thomas only played 2.5 seasons with the Celtics. He was traded from the Phoenix Suns at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline, and he was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the famous 2017 Kyrie Irving trade. He’s also one of the shortest players in the NBA, standing at 5’9″. However, IT was in his prime with the Celtics, posting his only two 20+ PPG seasons with the C’s. He shattered his personal record with 28.9 PPG in the 2016-17 season and averaged 5.9 APG that same season. Thomas injured his hip in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and he hasn’t quite been the same since then. But he was a superstar with this team, leading the Celtics to a deep playoff run in 2017 and helping them return to the playoffs in 2015 and 2016 after a brief rebuild. He is easily the best Celtics player of the decade, as Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving played even less in Boston this decade, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weren’t really superstars until this season.

10. Stephon Gilmore

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2017-2019

Position: Cornerback (CB)

Gilmore emerged as one of the best corners in the league in his first three years with the Patriots. In his first season, he picked up 2 interceptions and excelled at breaking up passes, but struggled with penalties more than most Patriots players. He cleaned up his act in 2018, and continued to emerge as an elite corner, defending a total of 20 passes compared to 9 in 2017. But 2019 took things to another level. He picked up 6 interceptions (led the league), and matched his 20 PD total from 2018 (also led the league this year). He has made a clear case for himself as the Defensive Player of the Year, and in three years with the Patriots, Gilmore has made a bigger impact this decade than some Pats players who have been here much longer.

9. Zdeno Chara

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Defense (D)

Chara, the long time Bruins player and captain, is one of the best defensive players in Bruins history. Chara joined the Bruins from Ottawa in 2006, and has stuck with the Bruins since. Despite playing for both the Islanders and Senators early in his career, Chara has spent more than half his career with the Bruins. Most (but not all) of this stint has been in the 2010s. In addition to his defensive success, Chara has one of the longest slap shots in the league. In 2011-12, he set a personal best with 52 points. He has declined since that year, but at the age of 42, Chara is still a key piece for the Bruins, and plays in the 1st or 2nd defensive pairing each game. Chara will go down as a Bruins legend.

8. Devin McCourty

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Cornerback/Safety (CB/S)

McCourty’s entire career so far has taken place in this decade with the Pats. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 and has stuck with the team. In the last two years, Devin has played alongside his twin brother Jason in the Patriots secondary.  Devin began his NFL career as a cornerback like Jason, but switched to safety in 2013.  As a corner in his first three seasons, Devin collected a total of 14 interceptions.  After six straight years without more than 2 interceptions, he had 5 in 2019.  Devin was one of our best defensive players in his first few years with the team.  He had begun to decline with age and after moving to safety.  But he has reemerged as an elite safety this season, and he has been a quality starter for the Patriots in all 10 years of this decade, something not many Patriots players have been able to acheive.

7. Julian Edelman

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played this Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Wide Receiver (WR)

Edelman, an undersized QB from Kent State was drafted in Round 7 by the Patriots and converted to wide receiver.  He went from a no-name to a Top 10-15 wide receiver in this league.  I consider Edelman (aside from Tom Brady) one of the biggest surprise breakout players in NFL history.  Edelman contributed minimally in his first few seasons with the team.  2012 was when he first started to show promise, as he caught 21 balls for 235 yards.  In the 2012-13 off-season, WRs Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd left New England for the Broncos.  The Pats signed Danny Amendola to help fill the gap.  But in the end, Edelman made a bigger impact, breaking out for 1056 receiving yards.  Since then, Edelman has been Brady’s reliable slot receiver, usually the #2 or #3 target on the team.  In TE Rob Gronkowski’s absence, Edelman has even emerged as Brady’s favorite target.  He took things to another level starting in 2016, collecting 1106 yards that year and making an unbelievable catch in Super Bowl LI to help the Patriots come back from a 28-3 deficit.  Edelman has continued to improve as the decade progresses, and he has been on the Patriots from the very beginning of the 2010s.

6. Brad Marchand

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Left Wing

Marchand made his debut at the beginning of the decade, and he was quick to make an impact.  Marchand put up 41 points in his first full season with the team (2010-11) as the left wing of the 2nd line.  He has continued to improve throughout the decade, and took things to another level when he joined the first line in Milan Lucic’s absence.  Marchand scored 61 points in 2015-16, followed by back to back 85 point seasons and an 100 point season.  In each of those four seasons, Marchand scored 30+ goals to contribute to those point totals.  Marchand stands just 5’9″, but he makes up for it with his aggressive play style.  He has gotten into many fights, resulting in harsher punishments for fights in recent years.  But it has become part of his playing style, and Marchand did clean up his act a bit in 2018-19 as the Bruins made a run at the Stanley Cup.  Marchand started the decade as the latest young talent to join the team.  Now, he’s a 1st line superstar.

I met and interviewed Marchand back in 2015: Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

5. Mookie Betts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2014-2019

Position: Outfield (OF)

I attended Betts’ debut, and I clearly remember his immediate impact.  In his first game, he showed off his speed with an infield double and helped the Red Sox come back to win 5-4.  He finished the 2014 season batting .291 with an .812 OPS.  Betts has remained a valuable five-tool player for the Red Sox throughout the rest of decade, and he took things to another level in 2016 and 2018.  In 2018, Betts won MVP, batting .346 (led league) with a .640 slugging percentage (led league) and 32 home runs.  Betts had 31 dingers back in 2016 as well as a .318 batting average.  Betts is a bit inconsistent.  Some years, he looks more like a slightly above average five-tool player (not quite a superstar), and other years, he looks like an MVP candidate.  I hope he stays with this team for at least 2020, as he is one of Boston’s best athletes this decade.  But they need to be careful not to overpay Betts.

4. Patrice Bergeron

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Center (C)

Bergeron is a true leader on this team, as he has been throughout the decade.  Bergeron has been a career Bruin, debuting in the 2003-04 season.  At the age of 34, he is still improving.  Last season, Bergeron set a personal record with 79 points, and he is on pace to come close to that again this year.  Bergeron is also on pace to post his third straight 30+ goal season.  Bergeron has been a consistent offensive contributor throughout the decade, and this is in addition to strong defense.  Bergeron and Marchand are very different players, but they are easily the two best Bruins players of the decade.

3. Rob Gronkowski

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2018

Position: Tight End (TE)

Gronkowski’s career was cut short by injury issues that occurred throughout the decade.  But when healthy, Gronk was the decade’s best tight end and Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon.  Gronk posted four 1000+ yard seasons in his nine year career despite many injuries.  In addition to that, he is arguably as good a blocker as he is a pass catcher.  Gronk and Aaron Hernandez were drafted to split TE reps for the Pats in 2010.  Gronk contributed in 2010, but his true breakout and best season came in 2011.  Gronk had 1327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns that year, helping Brady lead the Pats to an AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.  In 115 games, Gronk scored 79 touchdowns and posted 7861 receiving yards.  Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history, and was Brady’s right hand man in the second uprising of the Patriots dynasty.  This decade, Brady and Gronk helped lead the Pats to eight straight AFC title games and three Super Bowls.  It’s a shame Gronk retired so early, but it was in his best interest.

2. David Ortiz

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played: 2010-2016

Position: Designated Hitter (DH)

Known as Big Papi, Ortiz really owned the title of designated hitter.  Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, and he broke out with the team.  From 2003-2016, Big Papi was one of Boston’s best hitters.  In the 2010s, he was arguably Boston’s very best hitter.  Ortiz finished his career with 541 home runs, as he hit the 500 HR mark in 2015.  In this decade, he has made five All Star Games and won three Silver Sluggers.  In this decade, Ortiz averaged 32 home runs per season.  Most of all, Ortiz helped lift the city of Boston out of a terrorist attack, the Boston Marathon Bombings, with his famous “This is Our City” speech that I witnessed live.  After this speech, Ortiz led the Sox to a 2013 World Series victory, the third World Series victory of his career.  He will go down as a Boston legend, and there is only one man more deserving of the title of “Best Boston Athlete of the Decade.”

That man is…

1. Tom Brady

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Quarterback (QB)

Tom Brady is the greatest NFL player of all time without a doubt.  He most definitely deserves the #1 spot in these rankings.  At the age of 42, Brady is still playing.  He might not quite be as good as he used to be, but he’s still playing.  One of his best seasons came in 2017 at the age of 40, when he led the NFL in passing yards.  He has also had very strong seasons in 2010 (led league in TDs), 2011 (broke 5000 passing yards), and 2015 (led league and TDs.)  Even though his individual performance has made him an elite QB for most of the decade and allowed him to fight for all time passing records, what really makes this decade special for Brady is that he led the Pats to three more Super Bowl victories this decade.  He broke the record for most Super Bowl rings by a player (6) and now hopes to lead the Patriots to break the team record (Steelers are tied with them at 6).  He’s not only Boston’s best athlete of the decade.  You could argue he’s Boston’s best athlete yet.  If not, he’s up there with Larry Bird and Bobby Orr at the very least.

 

That’s all for these rankings.  Stay tuned for more articles in 2020, including my NFL Playoff Predictions.  Happy New Year!

Gonk Knocks Football Night at APEX Entertainment Confirmed

I’m proud to announce that we will be holding a Gonk Knocks and football themed charity event at APEX Entertainment to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and the ARHS Boosters.

Check out more information in this flyer:

“Gonk Knocks” Football Night Flyer

We also just posted a site for raffles, auctions, and donations.

With just your cell phone, buying tickets, submitting a donation, entering the raffle, or bidding in the silent auction is easy and can be done in several ways with the first method giving you options for all:

  • Text the word “Auction”to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to the event site where you can choose all the event options like donate, buy event or raffle tickets, or participate in the auction.
  • Go to Gonk Knocks Football Night site where you can choose all the event options like buy event or raffle tickets, select raffle items, bid on auction items, or make a donation
  • Text the word “Donate”to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to make your payment
  • Text the amount with the word donate(i.e. Donate100) to 201.241.4608 and then receive a link to make your payment
  • Text“Auction” or a 3 letter raffle item code to 201.241.4608 to participate in an auction or raffle

NoteMore details will be made available for volunteers or inquiring minds like processing cash or check to do all of the above.  Please continue to check website often as additional raffle/auction items will be added/updated weekly.

I hope to see you on 11/25/2019 to raise money for charity and have fun!

Sox Treat Me to Behind the Scenes Day at Fenway

On Tuesday July 16th, the Red Sox invited me to job shadow the Red Sox public relations (PR) team before the game for a behind the scenes Fenway experience.  I was able to interact with several members of the PR staff for the Red Sox.  The PR staff is in charge of connecting the media to their sources: players, coaches, general managers, and more.  As an aspiring professional sports reporter, shadowing the PR staff gave me an interesting point of view.  The PR team is involved with nearly everything around the ballpark.

When I arrived at Fenway, I ran into NESN sideline reporter Jahmai Webster:

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Abby Murphy, a member of the PR staff who was key to making my visit possible, met me and my dad at Gate D.  Abby introduced me to Kevin Doyle, who passes out game notes across the park.  Kevin gives them to the media for their broadcasts and articles.  He also delivers them to the coaches and players for game preparation.  He even is responsible for delivering them to the suites of team owners and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski.

Today he brought me along as he passed these out.  First, we went to the NESN studio outside Fenway, where I met Tom Caron of NESN.  He had walked up to the Fenway gates to save Kevin a trip.

After that, we visited the Red Sox and Blue Jays clubhouses.  Kevin dropped off a few in the locker room and quickly stopped by the managers’ offices to drop one off.  I learned later that the quick drop off is intentional as the PR staff tries to avoid disrupting clubhouse activity.  They also allow players privacy by avoiding photo and video during certain hours.  It was cool to stop by there though, as I had never even seen the clubhouse doors before.

Next stop after a quick elevator ride was Fenway’s baseball operations offices.  Dave Dombrowski’s suite was next to these offices, closest to the field.  Dombrowski was busy but Kevin dropped the game notes off at his door in case he needed them later.  Kevin and I also went inside Sam Kennedy’s suite to drop off game notes for the team owners.  Kennedy wasn’t there but the door was open and a member of the Red Sox staff was preparing food already for Kennedy and his guests.

Kevin and I also stopped by the legends suite where one former Red Sox player is hosted every night.  For this game, it was two time AL pennant winner and former outfielder Fred Lynn that would be hosted.

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The last stop was the press box where game notes were printed and lineups had just been released.  This was only the beginning of my experience though.  After spending some time with Kevin, I headed downstairs and joined Kyle Montemagno for Alex Cora’s pregame press conference.

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Cora discussed Cashner’s debut, Chris Sale’s struggles, and the status of injured players Nathan Eovaldi, Mitch Moreland, and Brian Johnson among other things.  To see the press conference live and sit with all the members of the press was surreal.  Until today, I watched the coverage on NESN but this made me feel like an official press member.

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Once the Cora press conference was over Kyle took me out on the field to watch batting practice.   Though a lot of media members showed up for the press conference, many went back up to the press box to write pregame articles based on Cora’s comments as opposed to going outside for batting practice.  That allowed me to have a great view near home plate to watch the Sox players.

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I spent a little bit of time at the credential pick-up booth during peak pick-up time.  Credentials reserved passes for the game for media members as well as friends of players and staff.  The Blue Jays had just announced that Jacob Waguespack would be called up to start, so at the last minute, several members of the Waguespack family hurried over to the game.  Many people who didn’t have reserved passes came to the credential booth thinking they could pick up tickets there.  They told me this happens many times throughout the day.

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Towards the end of my afternoon, I joined Kyle to take a closer look at the game notes, which he helped create, and then we stopped by the press box to join the rest of the Red Sox media.

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Check out this short video from outside the press box where I had the opportunity to do a live Fenway “stand-up” to recap my experience:

After this incredible afternoon, the Red Sox made sure I was able to enjoy the game with my entire family, including my cousins and grandparents who had just flown up from Florida on game day.

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I’d like to thank Abby Murphy, Chris Cotillo, Kevin Doyle, Felicia Rutigliano, Kevin Hausmann, Kyle Montemagno, and the rest of the Red Sox public relations staff for helping set up this unbelievable experience for me, one I will never forget!

 

Dunkin’ Sends me to Cup Finals

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Back in April, I predicted the Bruins to go on a Stanley Cup run after gathering momentum in the final months of the regular season.  It’s amazing that now the Bruins are just 1 win away from winning the Cup.

I had really enjoyed watching the first first four games from home.  Playoff hockey, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is a different brand of hockey and watching your favorite team play is even more special.  Tickets to a game in the finals are so hard to get and I never expected the chance to watch a game at the TD Garden.  I had never even been to a playoff game for any professional sport.  I was in complete shock when I found out I would be going to Game 5 with my whole family thanks to Dunkin’ Boston.

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Even though the Bruins lost in a tight game with questionable calls, it was an amazing experience.  When I got home from school on game day, a package from Dunkin’ was waiting for me.  Inside?  Four tickets to the game along with a large assortment of Dunkin’ merchandise.

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Dunkin’ sent us in style in a Boston Chauffer SUV driven by Mark (pictured above).  Mark gave us a warm welcome, was very friendly, and even talked hockey with me and my family before the game.

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We arrived at TD Garden around 6:30, so we had time to grab a a quick burger and fries from Tasty Burger and then head to Fan Fest.  I had the perfect dessert treat, a bag full of free Dunkin’ Munchkins.  We also took pictures with some passionately dressed fans and in front of the NESN and NHL Network pregame shows as they were broadcasting.  I even had the chance to shoot a puck on a mini rink set up in the middle of Fan Fest.

Before the game began, I also took a picture in front of the famous Bobby Orr statue.  While I was there, I ran into Joe McDonald, who I met in the Bruins press box back in 2015.  I also caught up with Blades on the way to our seats.

Blades

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After Fan Fest and getting our rally towels, we found our seats and the game began.  I’m especially thankful for the great seats from Dunkin’ in the Loge section behind the net in the Bruins offensive zone for the first and third periods.  Our view from the seats were perfect to see the action up close.

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The Bruins had control of the game in Period 1, but Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t let up a single goal despite a Bruins power play.  This kept the game scoreless by the end of the period.

Despite going scoreless, I saw many great Bruins scoring opportunities and was thrilled to be at the Garden to cheer the B’s on along with the rest of the very loud and energetic crowd.  It felt surreal being at a Bruins game in June.  The exciting night continued when I visited the 98.5 the Sports Hub suite during intermission.  Adam Moscatel, a 98.5 employee, escorted us up to the 9th floor where the suite was, and I had the chance to catch up with Dan Alperin and Rob “Hardy” Poole of 98.5.

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But when I returned to my seat about a minute after intermission had ended, the score was 1-0 Blues.  St. Louis had gotten off to a quick start in the 2nd period, and I had just missed the Ryan O’Reilly goal that put St. Louis on the board first.

The rest of the period was dominated by St. Louis.  Even on a Boston power play, the Bruins failed to score, or even keep it in their offensive zone for more than a few seconds.  The Blues did not score any more goals thanks to strong goaltending by Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins no longer had momentum in their favor after this period.

During the 2nd intermission, my dad and I left our seats to buy some food, but on our way there, we ran into well-known sports reporter Sean McDonough and took pictures with him:

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Sean McDonough is the son of former Boston Globe writer Will McDonough, who the Sports Museum has named their Sports Writing Contest after.  I have received an honorable mention in that contest for two years in a row.  This year, I wrote about how I got into sports in the first place.  Last year, I won an honorable mention for my essay on the true meaning of Boston Strong based on my experience at the first Red Sox home game after the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was really cool to meet Will’s son Sean, who has also worked as a Boston sports reporter for many years.

We didn’t want to miss the 3rd period so we hurried back to our seats after grabbing a drink.  Early in the period, the Bruins were on a power play.  This time, they did keep control of the puck for the majority of the 2 minutes, but they once again failed to score their first goal.

With about 13 minutes left, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak shot in what looked to be a goal.  The play was reviewed, but in the end, it was not ruled a goal.  The call on the ice was no goal and even though the big screen replays looked to show the puck across the goal line, it was ruled no goal after the officials reviewed it.

The call that really angered the fans came when St. Louis scored their 2nd goal.  Before the Blues scored, their center, Tyler Bozak, blatantly tripped Noel Acciari just a few feet away from a referee on the ice.  However, with Acciari lying on the ice seemingly in pain from being upended from a leg whip from behind, no penalty was called.  Play continued and about 10 seconds later David Perron scored, as a quick pass intended for a wide open Bozak (with the B’s essentially down a man), bounced off the inside of Rask’s pads and in for a goal.  Fans all around the stadium began throwing their towels and water bottles in disgust over the non-call.  Game play was delayed several minutes as they swept up the ice to pick up all the thrown items as items were being thrown faster than the ice could be cleared.  The game eventually resumed, but with the Blues up 2-0 and with less than 10 minutes to go, a Bruins comeback seemed unlikely.  One could make an argument it should’ve still been 1-0 with the Bruins on a power play with hopes of tying the game.  Unbiased hockey fans would agree that the Blues 2nd goal should have never counted as the play should have been whistled dead for a tripping call.  Instead, they were down 2-0.

The Bruins did score one goal before the game ended, scored by Jake DeBrusk.  But the team ran out of time to tie the game and force overtime as Binnington shut them down with his best game of the series.  The Bruins ultimately came up short losing game 5 by a score of 2-1.

Even though they lost, the experience is one I will never forget as I had such an incredible time!

I’d like to thank Amy Righter & Dunkin’ Boston, Mark of Boston Chauffer, and the entire staff at 98.5 the Sports Hub for making my Stanley Cup experience very unique and incredibly memorable.

Fortunately the Bruins won Game 6, taking down the Blues 5-1 to force a Game 7.  The one remaining game to decide the Cup winner will be played in Boston with a crowd likely even more pumped up than the crowd from game 5.

The Blues are far from an easy opponent which is probably why this series has gone 7 games.  In fact, they might be the toughest opponent Boston has faced in for the entire 2019 playoffs.  Anything can happen and I think this game will be a close one.  But as they did against Toronto during this playoff run, the B’s can come back to win a series they trailed 3-2 after 5 games.

What do you think?  Will the Blues get revenge for the 1970 loss to the Bruins led by Bobby Orr to win their first ever Stanley Cup or will the Bruins hoist the Cup once again and parade around Boston this week for the 3rd Boston pro sports Championship in 12 months?

I can’t wait to watch and find out.  Go Bruins!

 

Featured on WCVB Boston’s A+ Segment

Recently, I was featured in a news segment known as the “A+ Report” on WCVB, Boston’s ABC affiliate:

The A+ Report is a segment about students in New England doing exceptional things in and out of school.

WCVB picked up my story after watching my Keynote speech at the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) Visions of Community conference.

At the conference, I told the story of how I got into sportscasting and overcame adversity after being diagnosed as autistic.

You can see some clips of the speech below:

Since the feature on WCVB, Stitch has also picked up my story.  They included a shortened version of my A+ segment as well as an article about me and my story.

I’d like to thank Kristin LaRose and FCSN, Antoinette Antonio and WCVB, and Stitch for allowing me to share my story.  I look forward to more opportunities to share my story in the future.

My Godfather Mark Goldfinger is a Six Star Finisher

Today, I watched my godfather Mark Goldfinger run the 2019 Boston Marathon, his sixth of the six Abbott World Major Marathons.  Mark, along with 5000+ others is a “Six Star Finisher”.  According to their website, “The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City.” 

Mark and his mom stayed a night with us Friday night, and I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his marathon running career.

Mark’s dad Norman passed away last year in San Diego after a battle with prostate cancer.  Until then, both his parents went to cheer him on at every marathon he ran, and his mom Dorene has continued to do so.  She even followed him around in Tokyo where it was below freezing and hailing on race day.  In honor of his dad, Mark has run all six marathons for cancer charities.

“I think what’s motivated me is being able to do something that not everyone can, but people want to do.  There’s a lot of people I run my marathons for; I’ve run all six of them for a cancer charity, the last three have been in honor of my father, and I like running and raising awareness for people who can’t necessarily run or raise awareness for themselves,” Goldfinger said.

Mark ran in his hometown marathon, New York in 2013.

“So far, the New York City marathon in 2013 has been my favorite.  It was my first marathon; the crowds were nonstop the entire 26.2 miles; my dad, my mom, my friends, and my family were all there, and it was really the marathon that gave me the inspiration to continue running,” Goldfinger said.

Boston was his 5th of the Abbott World Major Marathons in 2 years.  After New York, he continued his running career, running the London Marathon and the Berlin Marathon, which were just 5 months apart in 2017.  In London, ESPN featured him in a documentary.  He set his personal best in Berlin.

Mark running the London Marathon (top) and the Berlin Marathon (bottom) in 2017

After his dad’s passing in 2018, he ran in Chicago, Tokyo, and lastly Boston to complete his six stars.

“I was born and raised in New York, so I always knew that had to be my first race,” Goldfinger said.  “About 2-3 months after running New York City, I learned that Abbott World Majors had six major marathons.  Knowing that I had already completed one of them, and that I wanted to do Boston, I thought it would be really cool if I could figure out how to do the next four as well and then finish in Boston.”  “I knew I couldn’t end on any other race except for Boston.”

Mark told me later on that the reason he wanted to finish in Boston was because of its history as one of the world’s most prestigious marathons.

On Saturday, we went with Mark and Dorene to the Boston Marathon Expo where runners could pick up their bibs prior to the race.  Mark told me that things start to feel real for him when he picks up his number for the race.

But before he was able to receive his bib, we had to pass through an airport-like security checkpoint with a metal detector.  This reminded me of the reason this security was added: the Boston Marathon Bombings of 2013.  Last year, I wrote an experiential essay about how I learned the true meaning of Boston Strong.

I had never been to this expo before, so this was a unique experience for me.  I was able to see where runners picked up their numbers and explore the various marathon-related booths and displays.

I learned a little more about the Abbott World Marathon Majors, bought a Dunkin Donuts Boston Marathon t-shirt, and took pictures with Mark and the rest of the family at a press photo station.

As per Mark’s request, we cheered him on from the midway point in Wellesley.  Mark is the first Six Star Finisher that I know, and he is very important to me.  Not only is he my godfather, but his dad Norman was my mom’s godfather.

This is the sign we made for Mark and held up when he ran by us in Wellesley.

We were able to track Mark on the official Boston Marathon app.  We had plans to give him high fives when he passed by, so we tried to figure out exactly when he would arrive.  We held up our sign when the tracker said he was close so he could find us.

Mark was running with his friend Danny Elphinston, who has run all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors with Mark and received his Six Star medal with Mark.

Though Mark and Danny passed by quickly and we barely had time to say hello, it was pretty cool to watch my godfather run the Boston Marathon live.  We watched him right in between Miles 14 and 15.  Soon after seeing us, he would go on to face Heartbreak Hill, the hardest part of the Boston Marathon. For most of the marathon, Mark was running 8-minute miles.  On Heartbreak Hill, Mark was forced to slow down to about a 10-minute mile.

In the meantime, the elite runners finished the race.  Kenyan Lawrence Cherono led the males, just 1 second ahead of 2nd place in the closest finish since 1988.  Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa led the females.  Though we did not see Mark cross the finish line live, we did catch him on a livestream and I got the chance to talk to him after he finished.

“Today was a tough day,” Goldfinger said about his Marathon Monday.  “I was hoping for a much better time, but the legs just didn’t want to turn.  That being said, I’m excited to be part of the World Major Marathon Club and needless to say, I’ll be back to make up for my time today.”

Check out Mark and Danny’s six star medals:

Boston Marathon 2019: Runner Spotlight – Michael Palmer and the Snow Angel Challenge

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day.  As you may know if you have read this blog before, I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.  Doctors said I may never speak.  But almost 14 years later, not only am I talking, I am a budding sports journalist who has written this blog for 5 years.

In honor of Autism Awareness Day, the Boston Herald asked me to tell my story for today’s paper!  I met Joe Sciacca, the editor-in-chief of the Boston Herald at a Red Sox game in 2015.  Since that day, I have gained multiple exciting sportscasting experiences from the Herald, including guest co-hosting a Boston Herald Radio show.

Now, I also serve as a Flutie Fellow for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism so I’d like to share a story about a Dougie’s Team Boston Marathon runner named Michael Palmer.  Leading up to the marathon, he started something inspirational within the autism community.  Below is my video about Michael alongside what I said in the video:

For Michael Palmer, running the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Doug Flutie, Jr Foundation for Autism has personal meaning. Michael has Aspergers. He wants to spread the message that people on the autism spectrum are not alone in their daily struggles to connect with others.

Michael literally spread his wings in creating a “snow angel challenge” as part of his marathon efforts. Michael put out the challenge for people to overcome their fears and barriers and support people like him who overcome challenges daily. I can relate to Michael’s challenges and I am grateful for his efforts, as they benefit me as well. I’m Flutie Fellow Andrew Roberts, and thanks in part to Michael’s efforts, the Flutie Foundation is helping me pursue my goal of being a sports broadcaster.

Michael’s “snow angel challenge” spread through other team members and friends of the Flutie Foundation. Then, recently-retired All-Pro New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski got word of the challenge. While he didn’t jump in the snow, Gronkowski did participate in his own way. Thanks Gronk!

If you’d like to support Michael Palmer’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for autism, please check out the Flutie Foundation website at FlutieFoundation.org.

This is not the last of my Boston Marathon coverage.  I will be writing more runner spotlights this year, including one about a runner for Get Air Sports, a partner of the Flutie Foundation.  On a side note the Pats need a replacement for Rob Gronkowski who had fun in contributing the video for Michael.  Will they address the TE position in the draft?  Find out what I think in my upcoming 2019 NFL Mock Draft.

Stay tuned for more sports coverage soon.  But as the Herald headline noted, my sportswriting journey is only just getting started.