Day 1 in Seattle: Touring Willows Run Golf Course

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I landed this afternoon in Seattle and after settling into the hotel, I decided to check out the Willows Run Eagles Talon golf course ahead of the level 5 Special Olympics USA golf tournament.  When I arrived, I received a warm welcome from the staff.  They gave my father the keys to a golf cart so we could tour the 6,800 yard 18-hole golf course that the Level 5 golfers will be competing on from July 2nd through July 4th.  We made several stops along the course to take pictures and make a video (see below):

This post is also featured on the Flutie Foundation blog

 

Special Olympics 2018 USA Games Golf Preview: Lagasse, Rohrer Battle For Gold Once Again

Special Olympics USA Games

Starting with the Opening Ceremony this Sunday, July 1st, I will be in Seattle to cover the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games on behalf of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism.  As a member of the press, I will follow golfers Tyler Lagasse of Massachusetts and Scott Rohrer of South Carolina.  Both golfers are sponsored by the Flutie Foundation this year and as a member of the autism community, I am honored to report on these two amazing golfers and inspiring individuals.

Tyler and Scott have finished 1st and 2nd in each of the last two Special Olympics USA Summer Games (New Jersey 2014 and Nebraska 2010).  Look for daily updates on Boston Sports Mania and on Flutie Foundation social media including their blog.

Read below to learn more about Special Olympians Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer.

A Brief Golf History: Tyler Lagasse

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Tyler is a 31-year old autistic adult from Tyngsborough, Massachusetts.  He began golfing in 2003 and has traveled to Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Nebraska, and several other places for Special Olympics tournaments.  He is a member of the Special Olympics hall of fame, won an honorary ESPY in 2017, and was even featured on a Golf Channel program in 2010.  He co-authored a book about autism with his mom, published in 2015 called What Do You Say?: Autism with Character.  Several times including 2014, along with a few other Special Olympics golfers, Tyler has been invited to the Pro-Am, a PGA event.

Tyler has never competed before on the 2018 Special Olympics course, Willows Run, but he has plenty of experience on 18-hole courses.  At the 2017 Pro-Am tournament, he played a round with a personal best score of 70, par for the 18 hole course.  He won silver at the 2008 Special Olympics National Golf Invitational in Florida as well as each of the last two USA Summer Games.  While Tyler has never won gold on the national stage, he is hungry for his first gold medal.  This past week, Tyler noted, “I want that gold medal so badly, I want to do whatever it takes to get it, because I may never have this opportunity again. To me as well as many others coming to Seattle, this is MY Olympics”.  Tyler is clear very competitive but in the book he co-authored with his mother Deborah Lagasse, golf is also therapeutic for Tyler.

“Golf sometimes makes me come face to face with my demons inside. I consider golf a tool for dealing with adversity because I have faced endless adversity all my life; most of us do sometimes. Golf also helps me feel good about myself, tests my resilience and mental toughness. I learned so much about myself through golf and it’s given me an identity, something that fits my personality and golf has allowed me to put my personality on display” (Tyler Lagasse).  Tyler also writes about every golf tournament in great detail so he was even able to provide me with some of his previous USA Games and Pro-Am stats.  He is proud to be sponsored by the Flutie Foundation.  “They’ve come out of their way in helping me surpass my fundraising goal for this year’s USA Games. I thank them for their support because they see me as a talented individual rather than one living with autism. And they see the gift that autism has, and that gift is hope” (Tyler Lagasse).

Tyler will be competing starting Monday July 2nd in the Level V Golf Tournament and his biggest competitor in this tournament will likely be Scott Rohrer, who is also being sponsored by the Flutie Foundation.

A Brief Golf History: Scott Rohrer

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Scott Rohrer is an autistic adult from York, South Carolina.  He has golfed for 20 years and he was 7 when he started.  Scott had a personal and Special Olympics best of 71 (-1) in the opening round of the 2010 USA Games.  He topped that score at the 2015 Los Angeles World Games.  When another golfer beat that record, he only did better the next day.  He scored a 60 on a par-66 course to break the Special Olympics World Record.  He finished the tournament at a Special Olympics best -12.  He has won 7 gold medals on the national stage, including a gold medal in each of the last two USA Games tournaments.  Tyler Lagasse earned the silver medal in both of those tournaments.  Scott has won medals at other tournaments as well including a bronze medal at the 2014 World Golf Cup.

Scott works on a tree farm with his dad, Jeff in York from Monday to Thursday each week but spends the weekend on the golf course.  His golf games against his dad are pretty close but he usually out-drives his dad.  His mom Elizabeth is his caddy.  Scott can be very streaky.  He came back from a triple bogey and bogey to start the day to score a second straight 75 on Day 3 of the 2010 USA Games.  Golf brings Scott out of his shell, and people who play with him see him as a competitive golfer not as someone with autism who plays golf.

The big stage as Willows Run is set and now the question is will Scott Rohrer win another gold medal or will Tyler’s hunger and competitive spirit help lead him to victory and his first gold?

Previous Competitions Between Tyler and Scott

2010 USA Games

Scott won gold in this tournament, shooting 71-75-75, while Tyler won silver, shooting 79-78-75.

2012 Pro-Am (Stats courtesy of Tyler Lagasse)

Tyler came in 3rd overall playing with Gary Woodland, shooting a 58 (-13).  Scott shot a 64 (-7) playing with Brendan Steele.

2014 USA Games

Scott won gold for the 2nd consecutive USA Games tournament, shooting 76-78-78.  Tyler won silver again, shooting 84-81-88.

2014 Pro-Am (Stats courtesy of Tyler Lagasse)

Tyler came in 4th overall playing with Tommy Gainey, shooting a 55 (-16).  Scott was not far behind, shooting a 59 (-12) with I.K. Kim.

2016 Pro-Am (Stats courtesy of Tyler Lagasse)

Tyler (with Rod Pampling) and Scott (with Scott Langley) tied for 4th with a 52 (-19).

The Tournament Venue: Willows Run Golf Complex

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Willows Run is located in Redmond, Washington, about 20 minutes from downtown Seattle.  It includes two 18-hole courses, Eagles Talon and Coyote Creek, both of which are par-72 courses, just like the course that the 2010 USA Games golf tournament was held on.  Special Olympics Level V golfers will be competing on Eagles Talon from 8:30 AM-3:30 PM every day from July 2-July 4.  The course is over 6,800 yards in total and has a lot of long and narrow tree lined holes so hooking or slicing off the tee could definitely be dangerous.  The greens are playing fast, even though it’s been wet the last few days.

For more information on Willows Run, see my article from the day I arrived when I toured the course. (video below)

Other Level V Golfers To Watch For

There are 12 golfers participating in the high performance stroke play Level V competition, including Tyler and Scott.  I have provided a little information on the other golfers in their competition below.

There are two divisions within the Level V high performance competition.  Both divisions compete in the same pool, but Division 2 golfers are ranked separately for medals.  Tyler and Scott are Division 1, while some of these other golfers are Division 2.  Also, the expectation is the each day will  begin with a shotgun start so that more golf is ongoing at once, starting at 8:30 AM.

Garrett Stortz, Alaska

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Stortz joined Special Olympics in 2007, participating in field hockey.  He eventually switched to his favorite sport, golf.  He is a member of Division 2 in the high performance stroke play competition.  He is eager to represent Alaska in the USA Games.  Special Olympics has changed his life as he has met many new people who share his passion for golf.  Stortz also participated in Level V Golf at the 2015 World Games in LA and the 2014 USA Games.  He won the Division 2 gold in 2014 and Division 2 bronze in 2015.

Joel Murray, Louisiana

Murray is a longtime Special Olympics golfer who will be part of Division 2 in the Level V high performance competition.  He has been invited to the Pro-Am before and was not far behind Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer the last time he competed in a Special Olympics national tournament (Nebraska 2010). He had a personal best 18-hole score of 73 in Nebraska and won gold in a lower division. He will also be competing in the Level V tourney in Seattle.  Murray is a longtime Special Olympics golfer.  Murray won the 2009 National Golf Invitational Level V Play and had the lowest score in Pro-Am history in 2013.

Travis Curtis, Maine

Curtis joined Special Olympics Maine in 2007.  He will be participating in Division 1 of the Level V High Performance competition, but he has also played Unified golf in the past.  He came close to a medal at each of the last two USA Games and is hopeful that he can bring a medal home from Seattle.  He has won gold in the state competition each year since he started in 2007.

Thomas Cleek, Missouri

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Cleek has been a multi-sport Special Olympian for over 10 years.  He won gold in a lower division in the 2014 USA Games, where he last played on the national stage, but this year Cleek will be part of Division 1, where he will have tougher medal competition like golfers Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer.  Can he take home a medal as he moves up into the highest division?

Chris Lussier, Rhode Island

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Nicknamed the Mayor, Lussier has been competing in many sports for team Rhode Island over the last 10 years.  He has also competed in unified competitions with his dad as his partner.  They have developed a closer bond by competing together.  Chris also met his girlfriend, Amy, and many other friends from Special Olympics.  He won gold in the Level III Unified golf competition back in 2014.  He also won a medal in golf at the 2010 USA Games, and he even won gold in the unified golf competition at the 2011 World Summer Games.  This year, he will compete in the 2nd division of the Level V high performance individual stroke play competition.

Miles Stroud, Texas

Stroud has participated in multiple sports at Special Olympics for ten years.  He says his favorite sport is definitely golf though.  Miles has a handicap of 9.2 as he enters the 2nd division of the Level V high performance individual stroke play competition.  He is a huge fan of all Texas A&M sports, and he cheers for the Aggies in his down time.  He won gold as a part of Division 4 of the Level V competition at the 2012 Special Olympics National Golf Invitational with a 72-hole score of 301.  Will Stroud take home a medal in Seattle as part of Division 2?

Brock Aoki, Utah

Aoki has been golfing since age 6 or 7, and will compete in Division 1 of the Level V High Performance competition.  He plays golf in nearly all his free time, though he has just started a full time job as a chef.  He may be dedicated to golf, but can he keep up with the scratch golfers in his division such as Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer?

Tony Marino, Utah

Marino started competing in Special Olympics at age 13.  He will compete in Division 2 of the Level V High Performance competition.  Marino has played as far away as China in Special Olympics golf.  Marino was paired up with Tyler Lagasse in the Opening Round of the 2008 National Golf Invitational, and they got along well.  Tony has also been a coach for Special Olympics.  Marino is happy to travel around the world and participate in multiple sports thanks to Special Olympics.

Grace Anne Braxton, Virginia

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Braxton is a long time Special Olympics golfer and swimmer.  She has participated since 1981, and that was before Tyler Lagasse or Scott Rohrer was born.  She was ranked #1 among female Special Olympic golfers in the world in both 2007 and 2011.  She won the Division 2 gold at the 2010 USA Games and has participated in the World Games in 1991, 2007, and 2011, and won gold in both 2007 and 2011 when she was ranked #1 among females.  She also participated in golf at the 2014 USA Games.  Braxton will participate in the Division 2 High Performance Individual Stroke Tournament again this year in Seattle.  Will she take home another medal?

Peter Condon, Washington

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Condon has been playing golf since 2006.  He will be part of Division 1, Tyler Lagasse and Scott Rohrer’s division, in the Level V High Performance Individual Stroke Tournament.  Condon has loved golf ever since he started and is eager to participate in his home state in this year’s USA Games.  The question is, has he played on Willows Run before, and will home state advantage help him win a medal in a division that includes some of the country’s best?

Stay tuned for updates live from Seattle as the story unfolds.

My Night to Shine

I am honored to be a recipient of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation Shining Star Award which I received at the 2018 Night to Shine gala on Saturday, May 5th.

 

I was selected after emceeing the Flutie 5K in 2017.  For the last five years, The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism has awarded a select group of people and companies who have truly made a difference in the autism community.

My family and I arrived at the TripAdvisor headquarters right when Doug Flutie and his wife Laurie did.  Doug was carrying a huge cymbal but he and Laurie stopped to say hello and congratulations.  This was a great start to the night that would only get better.  We checked in at the desk in the lobby and I was handed a special honoree magnetic name tag to wear.

We headed down the hall and saw Milo, a robot boy built to help learners with autism learn social and behavioral skills (https://robots4autism.com/milo/).

 

We spent the first hour networking, catching up with people I knew, and meeting new people.  We talked to Nicole Gugleimucci from the Foundation who had helped me prepare for the Flutie 5K event last October and notified me about this exciting honor.  We also met the new Executive Director of the Foundation, Nick Savarese.

After meeting several more people, we looked at the many awesome sports-related silent auction items to bid on.  At our table, we met Paul Alexander, the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Eastern Bank.  Shortly after, we decided to wait on bidding and get seats near the stage.

We sat in stadium-style seats in a 4-story atrium area at the center of the TripAdvisor Headquarters, which had an amazing view of all the floors.  I also noticed walls made out of live plants which looked really cool.  The ceiling had a sky with clouds which made it feel like the outside was inside.  They had a huge movie-sized video screen counting down the time to start the ceremony.

Susan Wornick, a longtime reporter and former anchor from WCVB-TV in Boston was the emcee for the event.  After Wornick introduced herself and Doug and Laurie, she passed the stage and microphone over to MUSE.

MUSE stands for Music, Unity, and Social Expansion.  They are a school that teaches independence and more skills to people with autism through music (http://www.muse-foundation.org/).  A MUSE band got on stage to play two songs and they were very impressive.  Everyone clapped to the beat for their second song as the crowd got really into the music.

After a standing ovation, Wornick returned to the stage to thank the sponsors and invite Nick Savarese to talk about his first year with the organization.  Nick asked me and a few other guests to stand up and everyone cheered which was pretty cool and I really appreciated.

Lisa Borges was called to the stage.  Lisa had worked in Nick’s position nearly as along as the Flutie Foundation had been around.  They handed her a large flower arrangement and thanked her for all she had done.  Laurie and Doug came up to the stage and thanked her as well.

A video was shown about the history of the foundation, which dates back 20 years.  The video gave an update on Doug Flutie’s son Doug Jr. and showed how the Flutie Foundation started Autism Awareness and wants to continue to build on that.  They have helped so many with autism, including me.  Thanks to the Foundation, I learned to ski with my brother in one weekend and now skiing is one of my favorite activities.  This year I was able to join my school’s ski club which has been a great social opportunity for me.

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After the video, Nick talked about how the organization has evolved and will continue to do so.  I was happy to learn that they will also add focus on the many children with autism that will be entering adulthood soon, like me, or already are adults like Doug Jr.

Wornick returned to the stage to begin announcing the Shining Stars.  I was ecstatic when my name was announced and rushed to the stage as she read my bio discussing some of my achievements including my sports blog that I started when I was 10 (https://andrewr1008.wordpress.com/).  She handed me the award, a glass star-shaped trophy with my name on it.  They took photos of me with Doug Flutie, Nick, and Susan as people continued to applaud.

Get Air Sports (a trampoline park that supports the foundation http://getairsports.com/ ), Luca and Danni jewelry (https://lucadanni.com/), John Breen, Alan Seymour (Doug Flutie’s good friend from Junior High School), Wegmans (https://www.wegmans.com/), NCGIT (https://ncgit.com/), and Amy Weinstock (http://autismhighereducationfoundation.org/amy-weinstock/) were the other Shining Stars and Get Air gave the foundation a big life-sized check for over $200,000 on the stage.

Susan then began a live auction for four very significant donated prizes.  The bidding for some of the items went over $10,000 and it was really exciting to see some of the bidders go back and forth trying to win with the final bid amount.

After the auction was over, many of the hundreds of guests came up to me to congratulate me and we exchanged contact info.  I said hello to Lisa Borges and I told her I would be back for the 2018 Flutie 5K and hoped to see her too.  I met Tyler Lagasse who Nick had asked to stand up with me.  He has autism too and plays golf competitively and wrote a book with his mom (https://www.amazon.com/What-Do-You-Say-Character/dp/1503556840).  We even caught up with Susan Wornick who wants to put me in touch with legendary sportscaster Bob Lobel to see a Red Sox game!

I did not end up winning any silent auction prizes but Jayme Parker, a longtime NESN reporter, took a picture with me and said she would keep in touch with me.  The experience of meeting her was like an auction prize that I had bid on and I went home with just as much excitement as I had at the start of the night.  The event was so much more than I could have ever imagined and I am so grateful for the experience!

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I would like to thank the Flutie Foundation for sharing this post on their own blog: http://www.flutiefoundation.org/blog/my-night-shine.

I would also like to give photo credit to Jenny Nourse Photography and thank them for the amazing pictures.

 

Honored to be One of Flutie’s Shining Stars

This is a picture of my brother Ryan and I meeting Doug Flutie at an event through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation at Skyzone in Westboro, Massachusetts.

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:

Football Stars: Doug Flutie 

Waterville Valley Skiing Trip: How I Learned To Ski In One Weekend 

 

 

 

 

The Day I Learned The True Meaning Of Boston Strong

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 8th inning 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.

References

“Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Box Score, April 20, 2013.” Baseball Reference, 20 Apr. 2013, www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS201304200.shtml

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My brother and I enjoying the entertainment outside Fenway Park during the long security lines.
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Keeping score at the game.

I hope you enjoyed reading my essay.  If you would like to enter the contest yourself, sign-ups for 2019 will be open next January.  It is open to students between grades 4 and 12.

 

 

 

Race to the APEX For Non-Stop Entertainment

 

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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
  • Bumper cars

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.

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My dad and I bowling and watching the game

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.

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After that, we headed right to the go-kart track, known as the IC Federal Credit Union Speedway.

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Me in front of the logo for the go-kart track

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!

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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.

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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!

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Me after I got all geared up to race

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.

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.

See the APEX Entertainment website here: https://www.apexentertainmentcenter.com

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500th Post Special: My ‘Super Sarge Salute’ Tour of WBZ

Wow, it feels like yesterday when I started my website.  Today marks my 500th post.  I’ve had some awesome experiences along the way.  I was a guest writer for Bruins.com, had a 3-day internship at the Boston Herald, had my “Baseball Bits” quoted on Felger & Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub, did some sample recordings at 98.5, and was the co-MC of the Flutie Foundation 5K where I handed out awards with Doug Flutie.  Recently, I attended a 98.5 Patriots charity event for Families First at Mr. Sid and met Mike ‘Sarge’ Riley, a sports reporter for 98.5 and WBZ 1030 AM Radio.  He invited me for a tour of WBZ that would be known as the ”Super Sarge Salute.”

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.

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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.

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Me in front of a vintage radio and television.
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!

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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.

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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 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.

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Me and my brother at the news desk doing a mock broadcast.
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.

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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.

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My brother and I were shocked to see snow on the radar.
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.

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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.

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Me with Sarge in the WBZ Studio doing the #sargesalute.