Massachusetts Pirates Blowout Steelhawks in Final Regular Season Game, Playoff Bound

Yesterday I attended the final Massachusetts Pirates game of the regular season.   I won the tickets in a Mark Fidrych Foundation raffle at the 2018 Make Your Mark Kickoff Event.  (NOTE: the Make Your Mark softball tournament will be held on August 18th at Casey & Memorial Field in Northborough).  I went to the game with my dad, my longtime friend Paul Alfonso, and his dad Tony.

The Pirates play in the National Arena League (NAL), one of many Arena Football leagues across the country.  The season takes place between April and August, ending right around the start of the NFL season.  I’ve been to one Pirates game earlier this year when they played the Maine Mammoths back in May, so I knew that although Arena Football has many differences from NFL football, it was still very exciting.

Arena football is an 8 on 8 game.  There are no designated running backs, but offensive linemen will sometimes run the ball.  Typically, the starting offense is made up of a QB, three wide receivers, and four offensive linemen.  The defense typically has three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and three defensive backs on the field.  The Pirates fans are often called the 9th man, because like the Seahawks in the NFL, they are the league’s loudest fans.  The game is played on a 50-yard field rather than a 100-yard field and is often played in hockey stadiums.  Players will often be pushed into the boards which is considered out of bounds, but sometimes wide receivers dive over the boards to make catches and if they do, it’s considered a completion.  The downsized field makes for much higher scoring.  Although the uprights are narrower, kickers can often make it through the uprights on a kickoff from the opposite end zone, scoring what is often called a “deuce”, worth two points.  The smaller field also makes it so nobody ever punts.  On fourth down, teams will either go for it or go for a field goal.

The 10-5 Pirates were scheduled to play the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the worst team by win-loss record in the NAL.  They had not won a game all season long, and they were 0-14 going into this game, their final game of the regular season.  The game was held at the DCU Center in Worcester, the home of the Massachusetts Pirates.  The stadium also currently hosts the Worcester Railers, the ECHL affiliate of the New York Islanders, and was formerly home to the Worcester Sharks (now the San Jose Barracuda), the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate.

We all made score predictions on our way to the game:

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We arrived at the game, bought some pizza, popcorn, and soft drinks, and took our seats.  Before the game, the Pirates welcomed members of the Special Olympics of Massachusetts team, who were attending the game.

The game began and the Pirates got off to a fast start after the Steelhawks won the toss and deferred.  Pirates QB Sean Brackett was out with a sprained ankle but QB Darron Thomas was doing a good job filling in.  He completed a deep pass to WR Lavon Pearson to get the Pirates close to the end zone.  A Pirates o-lineman ran in the TD to put the Pirates up 7-0.  Steelhawks kicker Spencer Hotaling was off to a rough start.  He attempted a “deuce” on the opening kickoff and missed.  He also missed in a Steelhawks FG attempt, but the Pirates defense had shut down Lehigh Valley quickly in their first drive, making for a difficult kick.  Despite a nice catch by WR Charles McClain, the Steelhawks were shut down again in their next drive, and Spencer Hotaling’s field goal attempt was blocked.

The Pirates scored another TD on a huge catch by WR Mardy Gilyard.  He was being covered very closely by the defense, yet he still scored.  Although Pirates K Ali Mourtada missed the extra point, he scored a “deuce” on the kickoff, making it 15-0 Massachusetts.

To start the 2nd quarter, Lavon Pearson made a catch that set the Pirates up to score another touchdown.

The Pirates scored another one soon after on a one-handed catch by Lavon Pearson.  The Steelhawks did not make much progress offensively in the 2nd quarter, and they were so far behind that they had to start going for it every time on 4th down.  With little time left in the half, the Pirates had one more scoring opportunity.  Darron Thomas had one long pass that was deflected into the stands but completed a long pass on the next down to make it 1st and goal for the Pirates.  The Pirates tried to eat some clock before scoring in order to make sure the Steelhawks did not get another chance before the half.  But they lost the ball in a fumble, losing the opportunity to score.  However, they were up 29-0 at halftime.  The Steelhawks nearly scored on a nice pass just before the half but failed.

During the half, I enjoyed a mini football game between the Worcester Police Department and the Worcester Fire Department.  More fans were rooting for the fire department but it ended in 14-14 tie.  Here is some video I took of this mini-game:

The Pirates scored another pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.  They scored one on a fumble by Steelhawks QB Patrick Ryan that was recovered for a TD by RJ Roberts, and the other on a deep pass to Lavon Pearson.  Ali Mourtada scored a deuce after that one to make it 44-0 Pirates.  Mardy Gilyard scored another TD just minutes into the 4th.  Here is Gilyard’s TD:

The Steelhawks scored their only TD of the game by recovering their own fumble. The ball was nearly recovered by two Pirates players but found its way into the end zone, where Jason Johnson recovered it for the TD.  The Pirates scored 2 more touchdowns before the end of the game.  Lavon Pearson scored on a long ball to make it 58-7 Pirates, and another Pirates TD was scored when Spencer Hotaling missed a long field goal that Pirates DB John Hardy-Tulieau returned for the touchdown.  Mourtada made one more deuce to make the final score Pirates, 67, Steelhawks, 7.  My dad came the closest to predicting the score but we all overestimated the Steelhawks offense.

During the game, I noticed a man with a laptop sitting near us.  I gave him my business card and it turns out that he was writing a recap on the game for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  His name was Bill Gilman.

The Pirates, who finished the season 11-5, will play at home in the NAL semifinals next week.  They will host either the #3 seed, the Carolina Cobras, or the #4 seed, the Columbus Lions.  It all depends on whether the Jacksonville Sharks beat the Maine Mammoths tonight.  If the Sharks win, the Pirates are the #2 seed and play Carolina.  Otherwise, the Pirates are the #1 seed and host Columbus.  The Steelhawks missed the playoffs after a 0-15 finish.

After the game, they allowed fans to walk onto the field for an autograph and photo session.  Paul and I took plenty of pictures on the field, some of them with Pirates players.  I gave the players and a couple fans my business card as well.  Paul got his Pirates football signed by all the players we took photos with.

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Me and Paul in the end zone
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With OL Cornelius Lewis
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With WR Mardy Gilyard
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With OL Bill Vavau
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With DL Kaelin Burnett
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With DB Cheatham Norrils
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With OL Thomas Claiborne

I even met Special Olympic powerlifter Joe Morrill, Team Massachusetts’ only powerlifter at the USA Games, on the field.  He had his USA Games medals with him.  He won two golds (combo and deadlift) and two silvers (bench press and squat).  He had roomed with Tyler Lagasse in Marlborough before.  Speaking of Tyler, I am meeting with him and his family at APEX tomorrow to celebrate his silver medal win at the USA Games, where I will go live on Facebook with Tyler and compete with him in simulation golf, go-kart races, Olympic bubble hockey, candlepin bowling, and other games.

I had a great time at the Pirates’ final game of the season.  Arena football is fast-paced and very exciting.  The rule differences from the NFL give football fans a nice indoor viewing experience during the NFL offseason.  I’d like to thank Ann Fidrych, Jessica Fidrych, and the Mark Fidrych Foundation for making this amazing experience possible.

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Recorded PSA to Air on 98.5 soon

98.5 The Sports Hub has recently partnered with both APEX Entertainment and the Flutie Foundation.  Since I am a Flutie Fellow and I spend time at APEX regularly, 98.5 invited me into their studio to record a PSA about my blog, my fellowship, and how APEX Entertainment and the Flutie Foundation are supporting my career efforts.  I went to record the PSA yesterday at the new 98.5 studio which is bigger, brighter, and more modern than their last studio.

Dan Alperin, a Senior Account Manager at 98.5, greeted us shortly after we arrived and he took the time to show us around the new studio before we recorded the PSA.  I saw Zolak & Bertrand, 98.5’s weekday 10AM-2PM show, broadcasting live in the new radio studio. After that we headed to the recording studio, where Roger Moore, one of 98.5’s producers, was waiting.

He had the PSA copy ready when we arrived. The actual copy I used for the PSA is pictured below. It is typed up in ALL CAPS intentionally as it makes it easier to read. It is also used to ensure timing for the recording, which in my case was a 30-second spot.

 

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Since I had practiced on the way over, I was able to record the PSA very quickly.  Roger was very pleased and impressed since I was able to finish the recording in just 3 takes. Here’s a video of part of my original recording takes:

After that, Roger worked his magic.  He played around with the recording and picked out my best audio for each portion of the PSA and balanced my “EQ”.  EQ is short for equalization of my audio so I would sound at my best.  After that, he added music, and in just about 10 minutes, he was done, and the PSA was ready to send to APEX for approval. We saved the PSA on a flash drive, and I put together a quick video to go along with the professionally produced audio.

We took a couple pictures in the studio before we left.

 

Dan told us the PSA would be on air by next week if not this week.  On our way out, we ran into Scott Zolak, who’s show was on break.  We took a picture with him outside the studio where Zolak & Bertrand was on-air.

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Here’s a couple more pictures of my dad and I from around the studio:

Before we left, Dan let us know about the next Mr. Sid event.  On September 6th, they will have another NFL Kickoff event like last year at Mr. Sid in Newton.  He also invited us to a party at the APEX this week.  I was already planning to be there on Monday with Tyler Lagasse but twice in the span of a week was good with me because I always have so much fun there.

I’d like to thank the APEX Entertainment Center, Dan Alperin, Roger Moore, and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism for making all this possible.  I cannot believe I am going to be on the air for the next several weeks on Boston’s #1 sports radio station!  It’s truly AMAZING!

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Patriots Training Camp with Bob Socci

Today, I had the opportunity to spend a day at Patriots training camp as a member of the press, shadowing Patriots radio play-by-play announcer and Patriots.com Beat Reporter Bob Socci.  I first met Bob at the NFL Kickoff event with the Patriots broadcast team, held at Mr. Sid last year.  (Note: I will be going back to a similar event on September 6th).

Bob learned about the work I had done as a sports blogger and offered to help me by inviting me to Patriots training Camp with him.

Before Practice Began:  “Pre-Game” Videos and Fan Experience

I arrived a little bit early so I could do a live stand-up in front of Gillette Stadium and also conduct some interviews with fans.

First, I interviewed a long-time Pats fan named Jan.  She meets a friend at Gillette every year who gives her the insight on the players at Patriots training camp.

After that, I interviewed Arjun, a 6th grader from Philadelphia who likes the Patriots so much that his parents decided to make the trip north this year.  He was very excited to see the team live for the first time.

Many young fans like Arjun also had the opportunity to take advantage of Fan Experience activities held around the practice fields.  My Dad further explored some of the activities while I was with Bob and the rest of the media.

They had football activities where they tracked your performance and created a Player Profile.  Jimmy from the Patriots staff was really nice and created my card with Pat Patriot’s stats.

Training Camp Profile Card

There were also a number of booths with give-aways for participating in small games like mini-golf skee ball and photo opportunities like the one with my dad.

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Becoming Official Pats Media Member for the Day

Bob Socci met me soon after my interviews in front of the stadium.  I said goodbye to my dad and Bob took me to go get my press pass.

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We walked to the other side of the stadium and went through media security there.  After I gave them my name and affiliation, they handed me my press pass.

My press pass from training camp

All media members received a detailed Patriots preseason roster and media guidelines from the media security table to help us learn about who we were covering and what coverage was permitted and when.

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On my way to the media tent, Bob explained a few things to me about the training camp roster:

  1. Since there are many players on the roster and the roster is not finalized, there may be pairs of players who share a number
  2. Rookies wear numbers based on when they were drafted during training camp and their camp numbers do not usually correspond with their position.  The team’s first draft pick, T Isaiah Wynn wears #50, their second pick, RB Sony Michel wears #51, their third pick, CB Duke Dawson wears #52, and so on.  For the regular season they receive new numbers.
  3. During training camp, quarterbacks wear red while the rest of the offense wears white and the defense wears blue.  On the roster, offensive players who share a number with defensive players (and vice versa) have (o) for offense or (d) for defense next to their name.

Bob also mentioned that during camp, there would only be a 10-20 minute session for media to take photos and videos, and that no tweeting was allowed during camp for media members.  We were allowed to take notes during the no photo/video portions of practice.

Bob told me that after practice the media guidelines would be more flexible.  The only major rules were to stay within certain interviewing boundaries and not take any photos or video of players with their families without permission.

Before practice began, Bob introduced me to the vice president of media relations at training camp, Stacey James, as well as fellow media member Jim McBride.  I also had time to catch up with ESPN Patriots beat reporter Mike Reiss, who I had met earlier in the week at Sports Broadcasting Camp.   I also met a friend of Bob’s, Steve Yood, along with his sons Alex and Josh.

Watching Practice from the Media Tent

Practice started about 5 minutes after we arrived at the media tent.  During practice, I also met Marc Cappello of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Josh Brogadir of WCVB, and Steve Atkinson of Boston Sports Extra.  They were surprised to see someone my age in the media tent.  Some of them told me what they did at my age and how they wished they had started earlier.

The Patriots practice began with some warm-ups.  The team stretched, jogged a little bit, and threw the ball around.  Afterwards they began a walk-through of some plays they would use later in 11 on 11 drills.

Positional drills began after the walk-through portion practice.  This was the portion of practice when the media photo and video session took place.  Offensive lineman competed 1 on 1 against defensive lineman, wide receivers caught balls from a receiving coach, and quarterbacks stayed together as well to take practice throws.  During this time, PK Stephen Gostkowski practiced field goals.  Here is some of my video coverage.

After the photo and video session ended, positional drills continued.  The QBs began throwing to the receivers directly.  Soon after that, they had the Pats secondary go 1 on 1 against receivers catching passes from QBs Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Danny Etling.  The Pats ran a few more offense vs. defense practice plays before starting the 11 on 11 drills.

The Patriots alternated personnel during the 11 on 11 drills with quarterbacks Brady and Hoyer getting most of the reps at QB .  Before practice ended, the Pats held a few more running drills on the hills around the field.  Then, for most of the team, practice ended.  A few guys, including Danny Etling, put in a little extra work after the full team practice.

Some of my Observations from Day 4 of Patriots Training Camp

Keep an eye out for Phillip Dorsett and Jacob Hollister

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WR Phillip Dorsett (#13) after catching a ball from the coach during positional drills

I kept a tally of Brady’s ball distribution during a couple of his drills, and his most frequent target during those drills was Dorsett.  Dorsett had an especially strong catch on a deep pass from Brady during the offensive walk-through.  Hollister had a nice jumping catch in the end zone that Brian Hoyer threw to him during 11 on 11 drills.

Patriots RBs could be a big part of the offense again this season

Brady wasn’t just throwing to receivers and tight ends today.  Brady, Hoyer, and Etling all participated in a drill where they threw short passes to RBs including James White and Pats 2018 2nd draft pick from the first round, Sony Michel.  Michel caught a short pass at the 30 yard line and took it to the house during 11 on 11 drills.

After practice, I was happy to see Meredith Gorman who I worked with last summer at the Boston Herald.  Meredith, now with Patriots.com, conducted a 1 on 1 interview with Michel.

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Meredith Gorman, who now works for patriots.com, interviewing rookie RB Sony Michel after practice

Great to see Julian Edelman back on the field

I enjoyed seeing Tom Brady connecting with WR Julian Edelman for the first time since Super Bowl LI.  Even though he is suspended for the first four games, Edelman missed the entire season last year and now he is back and seems ready to play and make more amazing catches like the one that most remember as “the catch” from the Pats 5th Super Bowl win.   Edelman looked like his old self out there making some good plays along with Pats newcomer WR Jordan Matthews.  Other pass catchers I liked seeing were TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan.  Gronk had a catch deep up the seam even though he was tightly covered, which is one reason Pats fans love watching him.

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Super Bowl LI “the catch” by Edelman

Brian Hoyer had some good end zone connections

I watched all 3 of the Pats quarterbacks perform today but the QB I was most impressed with was Brian Hoyer.  Hoyer made successful end zone connections on his first two passes, including a great throw to Jacob Hollister in the corner of the end zone.

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QBs Hoyer (2) and Etling (58) during practice
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Brian Hoyer after practice

 

Don’t Discount New England secondary

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Stephon Gilmore being interviewed after practice

Even though one of last year’s starting CB and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler signed with the Titans in the offseason, I still believe that Pats will have a good secondary.  For example, today I saw CB Stephon Gilmore break up several pass plays in 1 on 1 coverage against Julian Edelman, nearly intercepting one pass thrown by Tom Brady.  Rookie and Pats 2018 #3 draft pick CB Duke Dawson also came close to picking off Brady while covering Phillip Dorsett.

Trey Flowers was back at practice with bandage on forehead

Flowers returned to practice after leaving yesterday with an ice pack on his head.  In other injury news, Jordan Matthews left today’s practice with an unknown injury, and CB Keion Crossen (back) and RB Mike Gillislee (unknown) did not practice.  Bob Socci told me that WR Kenny Britt, CB Cyrus Jones, CB Jonathan Jones, and WR Matthew Slater were on the PUP list.  However, I did notice Britt participating in warm-ups.  According to the official training camp roster, WRs Darren Andrews and Cody Hollister are on the Reserve/NFI list.

After Practice: Media Session and Tour

After practice ended, Bob and I headed to the designated player interview zone.  I watched some of the interviews.  Bob Socci conducted a stand-up recap with Megan O’Brien as they discussed their own observations from the day.  Some of the topics he mentioned in the interview were things we talked about in the media tent together during the practice:

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Bob Socci and Megan O’Brien Day 4 Recap

James White, Sony Michel, RB Rex Burkhead, T Trent Brown, DE Derek Rivers, and QB Brian Hoyer were among those interviewed.  Although he didn’t stop for interviews, I did see Gronk walk by, as well as a few other players like Phillip Dorsett and Dont’a Hightower.  I also saw the McCourty twins with all their family on the field.  I think it is really cool that after many years on different teams they will now play on the same team and they seem to be enjoying camp together.

Nobody was interviewed at the podium today like Tom Brady was yesterday.  This area is primarily used for interviews with star players like Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

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The empty podium at practice today

In between and after the media interviews, I met some media members including Levan Reid of WBZ, Joe Gallant of WNRI (a radio station in Providence), and Megan O’Brien of Patriots.com.   I also said hello to patriots.com’s Meredith Gorman and the Boston Herald’s Meghan Ottolini.

After the post practice interviews were over, Bob took me inside Gillette Stadium so I could see the media area.  He showed me the TV studio where Patriots All Access is aired.  The studio was filled with football helmets on the shelves and Patriots logos all around.  Bob mentioned he hosts a show with Scott Zolak in the studio next door.  We also walked by the game day media workroom, the writing rooms for various newspapers and blogs, and the weekday press conference room which was the biggest room of them all.

In total, I spent about 4 hours with Bob today and feel like I learned so much about covering the Patriots.  In addition, I saw so much from the media’s point of view.  It was truly incredible and surreal at times.

I’d like to thank Bob Socci and Stacey James for making this experience possible for me.  I’d also like to thank all the media members who spent the time to talk to me and give me tips on sports reporting.

Live on Boston Herald’s “The Rundown”, My First Sports Talk Radio Experience

On July 10th had the opportunity to co-host a Boston Herald radio show called “The Rundown” with John Sapochetti and Jet Striar.  I was invited by the Herald editor-in-chief, Joe Sciacca, who has been so generous to me these last few years, giving me an incredible tour back in 2015 and also inviting me back twice to do mini internships for the last two summers.

I had first met John Sapochetti in 2015 when I did my first mini internship at the Herald.  He is one of their most well-known sports talk radio personalities so I was really excited to learn that I would be his guest co-host.

We arrived at the Herald about 45 minutes before the show to discuss the on-air topics we would cover.  John greeted us in the Herald lobby and we sat in a break room near the newsroom and the radio studio.  I told him about my recent experiences covering the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle and my experience at the Red Sox game I attended the night before.  I had taken some notes at the game that I used on the air later on.  I also met his intern, Will Finley, who is also a huge Boston sports fan and specializes in sports research.  He had an impressive amount of stats that I found inspiring.  Shortly before we went on the air, I met John’s co-host, Jet Striar, an NBA guru and also a Boston sports fan.

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In the studio with John Sapochetti (left) and Jet Striar (right), my co-hosts for the day.

As I walked into the studio, I also met the show’s producer, Christian Burgoyne.  You may hear him make comments in the highlights from the show that I put in this blog post.  Moments later we put our headsets on and the show began.

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In the first segment, John introduced me to his audience and we talked about some things I noticed at the Red Sox game the night before.  After that, I took a quick break while John and Jet hosted a political guest, Luke Vargas.  It gave me a breather and a chance to reflect on how I did early on in the show.

When I returned, we talked about the All-Star Final Vote and how David Price has not met the expectations of the Red Sox fan base after receiving a 7 year, $217 million dollar contract.  Towards the end of the first hour,  we discussed J.D. Martinez.  He did not have a lot of suitors and he was underrated during the off-season.  I think that made it easier for Boston to sign him and so far the signing looks like the best Sox signing/acquisition since Chris Sale.

Below are some of the highlights from the first hour of the show:

In the second hour, we started with a continuation of our earlier baseball discussions.  We talked about what the Red Sox and Yankees might do at the trade deadline and how despite the fact that the Sox may catch a break with their easy schedule ahead, their next big test comes August 2nd against the Yanks.  The Yankees could upgrade their roster by then but the same could occur with the rest of the AL’s top teams, making the American League even more of a league of extremes as I mentioned later in the segment.

During our final segment we discussed some trending NBA off-season news like the Marcus Smart to Sacramento rumor.  We also talked about LeBron James’ signing with the Lakers, Portland’s need for another guy up front, Carmelo Anthony, and Kawhi Leonard.  At the end of the show, John thanked me for being on then I told him it was an honor.

Being on a live sports talk radio show was so surreal, which is why I’m so glad Christian gave me a copy of the whole show to listen to again and create highlights from the unbelievable experience.  I was on air for so much of the show that I had to break up the highlights into two 15-minute segments.

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Check out the second segment below.

I’d like to thank Joe Sciacca, John Sapochetti, Jet Striar, Christian Burgoyne, and Will Finley for making this experience possible.  Stay tuned for a more baseball posts coming soon including Bravehearts-Rox game experience from the press box.  For now, I’ll be taking a week off as I have more broadcasting training at Play-By-Play Sports Broadcasting Camp.

Brockton Rox from the Press Box

Ever since the Futures League added a Worcester team, I have wanted to go see a game.  When I learned my next door neighbor for many years, Jake Rosen, was playing for the Brockton Rox against Worcester at Hanover Insurance Park, I made plans to go.  Jake was the starting shortstop and batted 9th this past Thursday, July 19th.

I got in touch with Jake a few days before the game, and he told me that I could interview him if I got there about an hour before the start of the game.  We walked to the Holy Cross football field away from the pre-game music.

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Check out the full interview below:

After the interview we watched Jake warm-up we had great seats right next to his team’s dugout. 

Before the game started, my dad bought me some chicken tenders with fries which was delicious.  On our way back to our seats, we stopped at the Bravehearts press box.  We knocked on the door, and announcers J.R. Suyemoto and Donny Porcaro invited us in and gave us a place to sit after I handed them my business card.  The game was broadcast live on Facebook as it always is and saved on the Bravehearts Facebook page.

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With Worcester Bravehearts play-by-play broadcasters J.R. Suyemoto (right) and Donny Porcaro (left)

The game was starting soon, and we were getting settled in the press box.  Paul Lambert shared the line-up cards with us so we could follow along.

In the meantime, Jake and the rest of the team were just about ready for the game.

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Brockton Rox SS Jake Rosen just before the game began.

Rox LF Charlie Maxwell led off the game with a single, but the Rox lineup was relatively quiet in the first few innings.  The Bravehearts were also kind of quiet at the plate in the first couple innings, but C Brett Coffel hit a big double in the 2nd inning, and the Bravehearts had 1st and 2nd in the 1st inning despite failing to score a run.  Worcester didn’t really get going until the 3rd inning.  Their leadoff hitter, 2B Mariano Ricciardi, walked to begin the inning, and DH Chris Rinaldi drove him in with an RBI double.  3B Dustin Harris drove Rinaldi in with a long single, and after Mack Cheli, their star hitter, singled, SS Eddie Haus hit another single to load the bases.  Coffel struck out, but Kirk Sidwell drove in a third run with his single and the bases remained loaded.  However, Joseph Pesce grounded it to the pitcher, who threw it to the catcher (Jack Kelly) to start a 1-2-3 double play and prevent the Bravehearts from scoring more runs.

Brendan Connelly, a Brockton Rox reporter from WATD (a South Shore radio station), walked in and sat next tome in the press box.  He told us that he also works at the Boston Herald as a high school sports reporter.  I told him about my Herald radio experience and how I am going to help cover my high school’s sports teams this year.

He helped us by giving us insight on some of the best Rox players and the team overall.  Brendan also told us that the Futures League was a Summer League that featured elite college baseball players, and that some of the league’s top players get drafted into the MLB.  It would be really cool if Jake was drafted by an MLB team and I really enjoyed watching him from the press box.

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With Brendan Connelly of WATD Radio

The Bravehearts made it 4-0 in the 5th inning, when Brett Coffel singled for his 2nd hit of the day and Joseph Pesce knocked Coffel in with a single of his own.  They scored a 5th run on a Mack Cheli sac fly with men on 1st and 3rd.  Eddie Haus tried to get another rally going when he hit an infield single on the next at bat, but the Rox ended the inning before the Bravehearts could get another man on base.  The Rox scored their first run in the 7th after Jack Kelly tripled and scored on a sac fly.

But after a crazy 3-run 7th, a home run by Joseph Pesce in the 8th, and a dominant performance throughout the game by the pitching staff (including 7 strong innings thrown by starter Joseph Mancini), the Bravehearts won, 9-1.

Even though the Rox lost 9-1, seeing my neighbor Jake Rosen hit and play in such a big stadium was incredible, especially from the press box.  Jake hit a hard grounder up the middle in his second plate appearance but was robbed of a single on a close play. Although this was not a great night at the plate for Jake, his defense was strong throughout the game.  Late in the game when I went back to my seats on the first base line, I saw Jake prevent an infield single by a speedy Braveheart:

 

Being focused on one player, I learned of another golden baseball player tradition, never step on foul line when walking on or off the field.

I noticed Jake avoiding the line every time he walked on and off the field.  I asked him after the game if he did it on purpose and he said, “Of course, rule of baseball…”

 

I did a little digging on this superstition and found this story from MLB Pitcher Mel Stottlemyre who last stepped on a foul line in 1987.  Here’s what happened per The Baseball Almanac:

“The first batter I faced was Ted Uhlaender, and he hit a line drive off my left shin. It went for a hit. Carew, Oliva and Killebrew followed with extra-base hits. The fifth man hit a single and scored and I was charged with five runs. I haven’t stepped on a foul line since.”

I really enjoyed my first Futures League game and I owe special thanks to Jake Rosen, J.R. Suyemoto, Donny Porcaro, Brendan Connelly, and Paul Lambert, all who made the experience that much better.

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I definitely plan on going again because the Bravehearts do a great job at making the game fun even between innings like letting kids run on the field and pie eating contests.  My younger brother Ryan who is a gamer, loved the video game music after each play.

Check out my video about this experience:

Stay tuned for more baseball posts soon.

 

Come to BITBAR for a Tasty Meal and All the Classic Games you Remember Most

My brother Ryan turned 13 this past Thursday and he wanted to get together with a couple friends to celebrate.  After discovering the BITBAR, a restaurant/bar/arcade in Salem that has a large selection of classic games including pinball, he knew he wanted to celebrate there.  It’s a great place to celebrate your birthday.

Until 8PM when Bit Bar becomes an adults-only establishment, it is a great family-friendly classic arcade with nice outdoor seating, delicious food, and all the classic games you could ask for.  BITBAR is dedicated to offering all of the classic games people remember playing and enjoying.  They rotate in games frequently to satisfy all audiences.  Currently, they have 7 pinball games and 28 other video games according to the website.  Anyone can request new games and they will consider it the next time they rotate in games.  In addition, they have a GameCube there with many of its best games, including Mario Kart Double Dash, just one of many Mario Kart favorites.  Most of the games are still just a quarter to play, and the GameCube can be played for free.

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Facing off in Mario Kart Double Dash on BITBAR’s free play Nintendo GameCube with my brother Ryan (far left) and his friends

I really enjoyed the celebration as well, and its not just because of how cool the Salem downtown area is.  The BITBAR had a lot for me to enjoy.  They offer a wide range of food options which is great for a picky eater like me.  I really liked the chicken tenders and fries, which are offered in both kids sizes and adult sizes.  My brother also liked the chicken tenders and his friends ordered the kids cheese pizza.  The kids meals come with free drinks with unlimited refills and also free game tokens so that was an extra bonus for us. 

I chose the kids size chicken so I had room for a couple of their many tasty appetizer choices.  They even sell Tetris shaped tater tots.  We decided to order Bavarian pretzels and nachos, both of which we enjoyed. 

They have a lot of gluten free options as well, which is one reason why my brother who has Celiac disease, likes the BITBAR so much.  Since he got diagnosed, he has not found any places that can give him food he can safely eat and the video games he loves to play.  They also offer a lot of cocktails which my parents had as we ate outside.

After we ate, we had a lot of fun inside as well.  They usually have a sports event on TV at the bar, whether it be soccer, Summer League basketball, or a Patriots game.  They also have a couple of classic sports games.  I battled against my dad in NFL Blitz.  He has been playing longer, so he usually beats me, but at BITBAR, I came closer to victory than ever before.

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Me after taking my dad on in NFL Blitz

Although I did not get the chance to play it, they also had an NBA game.  We were having a lot of fun already between NFL Blitz, Ms. Pac-Man, and Star Trek pinball.

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In front of the NBA Midway game and some Summer League action

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In the meantime, my brother and his friends had such a good time that we ended up staying for nearly five hours, almost all the way up until 8:00 PM.  Ever since my brother discovered the BITBAR for the first time when it had recently opened, I had wanted to check it out.  It exceeded my expectations with delicious food and classic games that even I enjoyed, and I’m not even that big of a gamer.  I would definitely go back as it was worth the long drive from the Metrowest.

 

Day 5 in Seattle: Final Round/Week Recap for 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament

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Scott Rohrer (right) with the other top 5 golfers: Brock Aoki (far left), Peter Condon (left), Thomas Cleek (middle), and Tyler Lagasse (far right)

For the 3rd and final round on the 4th of July, Scott Rohrer started the day with a solid lead.  His playing partners for the day, Peter Condon of Washington was 7 strokes back and Thomas Cleek of Missouri was 8 strokes back.  Tyler Lagasse was also 8 strokes back and started on hole 2, just 1 hole in front of Scott in the shotgun start.

All the golfers were strong off the tee from the beginning and early on it was Scott’s strength as it had been for most of the 3-day tournament.

The greens seemed to be playing even tougher on this final day as it had been mostly dry and sunny on day 2 and it was a very clear and sunny day right from the start of the day 3.  It showed, as Scott and his partners struggled with putting on the 1st green and it continued for Scott for the first 8 holes.  It showed in his scores as he started double bogey, bogey, bogey on the first 3 holes and was 5 over as he waited to tee off on the Par 3 9th hole with Tyler putting for birdie on the green of the same hole.

Tyler came out on fire, playing aggressive and with confidence and was even par through his first 7 holes with a birdie on 4 to offset his bogey on 2, his first hole of the day.  Since the tee box was moved closer on the 8th hole to make it a par 3 hole for the tournament, holes 7, 8, and 9 were all par 3’s so Scott’s group had caught up to Tyler’s and Scott was waiting for them on the 9th tee box as Tyler sunk his birdie, making him one under.

At this point in the round, Scott knew he was not playing his best and seeing Tyler’s birdie probably got his competitive juices flowing, especially after he had just bogeyed hole 8.

Scott then hit his tee shot on the 9th green landing his ball about 5 feet away from the hole.  Scott let himself know and everybody in the crowd know that he was still fighting for gold as he fist pumped and yelled “boom” as he did on all of his big successful putts in this tournament.

That was the start of a tournament clinching stretch of holes from 9 through 16.  On the 10th hole, Scott pitched in for eagle from deep rough over the high mound of the back of the green.  Scott was so far away from the hole that we could only capture the ball popping up in the air and rolling into the hole as you heard Scott and then the crowd, roar.

At that point it was clear it was going to be Scott’s day to win Gold for the 3rd straight Special Olympics USA Games.  After the very exciting and momentum changing 9th and 10th holes, Scott had only 2 bogeys for the rest of the day.  He finished the last 4 holes with birdies on 15 and 16.  As he approached his putt on 18, he walked with confidence knowing he had the lead on his two playing partners for the day and that his par putt on 18 was likely for the win.

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I watched Scott beam with pride as he spoke to Jen Lada of ESPN first.  He wanted to give me the first interview but I was happy to wait, watch, and learn as Jen with her producer Josh Vorensky and the ESPN camera crew conducted their interview for the station’s Special Olympic coverage.  Jen pointed Scott in my direction after her interview was finished and he was happy to speak to me.

Tyler Lagasse had won silver for the 3rd straight Special Olympic USA games, 6 strokes behind his friend and first round partner Scott Rohrer.  Scott’s finish was too strong for Tyler to catch up.  Tyler was still all smiles because he loves the game and he gave it his best effort to go for Gold.  I met with him after his round was over.

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I had an unbelievable week with Scott and Tyler.  Without them and the Doug Flutie Jr Foundation for Autism who sponsored all 3 of us, none of the experiences I had would have been possible.

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I started my journey in Seattle with a tour of Eagle’s Talon where Tyler and Scott would battle it out with the other Olympians for 3 straight days.  My tour included the Hole 3 green known for its beautiful view of Mount Rainier.  It was too overcast to see the mountain that first day but over the next several days while following the games, the sky cleared up and Mount Rainier slowly came into view.

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Me at Hole 3 of Eagles Talon during my Day 1 tour.  It was overcast, so I could not see Mount Rainier.

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Me at Eagles Talon on my final day in Seattle with Mount Rainier behind to my right

My week kind of went the same way as I came into the week unclear on what I would do and how it would come together.

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But in the end, each day I grew as a reporter and as a person looking up to Tyler and Scott as I learned of their stories and how they have achieved so much by working so hard.  Over the week I had time with Deborah Horne of KIRO 7 news who put my dad and I on the air.  I got to cheer the athletes at Husky Stadium for an unbelievable Opening Ceremony.  That same day, I had the chance to visit the Space Needle in Seattle Center.  On my last day I met and interviewed with Podcaster Colin Weston of ModGolf.  I also even learned a few tips directly from Jen Lada of ESPN.

But this trip was about all the inspirational athletes I saw at the Opening Ceremonies and especially about Tyler and Scott because they were why I was in Seattle.  To me it was fitting that on the last day as Scott and I reached the 3rd hole for the last time that Mount Rainier was visible for the first time all week.  These golfers had reached yet another summit and I got to share the experience with them.  They have inspired me and many others to keep pushing to be the best you can be.

Behind the scenes, this trip was not easy for me and at times I got very frustrated when things did not go as I expected.  However, just like for Tyler and Scott on the golf course, I was able to find focus on camera.  Now I know I have to keep working to improve my skills to be the best me I can be.  With this life changing opportunity to be a Flutie Fellow covering such an exciting national event and travel to Seattle for the first time, I am one step closer to reaching my goal to become a Professional Sports Broadcaster.

Below are the final results of the Special Olympics USA Games Level V Golf Tournament:

Note: Divisions M01-M03 are High Performance (Blue Tees), the rest of the golfers (M04-M07) teed off from the White Tees.

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This post is also available on the Flutie Foundation Blog