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!

 

Bravehearts Turn it Around for Victory after Slow Start

Despite a slow start, the Bravehearts took down the Westfield Starfires 7-4 on Friday night June 28.  They were led Angelo Baez’s 5-inning, 10 strikeout start and Riley Livingston’s 4 for 4 night.

Though it was hot, it was a good night for baseball, and the stadium was packed.  The Bravehearts were wearing special jerseys for Ghostbusters Night.   A couple of those jerseys were auctioned off during the game.  Bernie Carbo, an ex-Red Sox player on the 1975 American League champions, was in attendance.  I got the chance to interview him:

After the game there were fireworks for the nearly sold out stadium.  A good show to get everyone excited for the upcoming holiday.

Before the game, I caught up with leadoff hitter Mariano Ricciardi and assistant coach Adam Chase:

Krish Vyas, the team’s honorary captain, was in attendance.  He went on the field and in the clubhouse before the game, and spent the game with me and other Bravehearts media members in the press box.  Check out my interview with Krish about what he does for the team and how his role with Bravehearts all got started:

The Bravehearts started off slow.  They did load the bases twice during the first 3 innings, but they weren’t able to score a run in these innings.  The Starfires ended up striking first in the top of the 4th.  Star outfielder Thomas Joyce led off the inning with a single, and he advanced on a long single into the left field corner by Danny Crossen.  C Tommy Quinn hit a deep double that scored both runners to make it 2-0 Westfield.

But Worcester’s bats had been heating up, and it showed as the game progressed.  In the bottom of the 4th, Riley Livingston (who had already singled once), hit a solo shot into left center, making it a 1 run game.  The Bravehearts continued to rally their way back in the bottom of the 5th.  John Thrasher hit what looked to be a single into center field but he was able to stretch it to a double.  That allowed him to score on Mack Cheli’s RBI single and tie the game.  Tyler Becker followed with a deep shot into center for a double, putting both him and Cheli in scoring position.  Paul Coumoulos’ single drove them both in.  It was now 4-2 Bravehearts, and there was only one out.  The Bravehearts loaded the bases again with two outs thanks to another hit by Livingston and a walk by Nick Martin, but their bases loaded struggles continued as Ricciardi struck out to end the inning.

With Angelo Baez out of the game in the 6th, Thomas Joyce hit a moonshot, all the way to the Papa Gino’s sign in right.  But the Bravehearts still held the lead after this, and extended it when 3B Ben McNeill hit a 2-run dinger of his own into deep center.  But this wasn’t it for home runs.  Devin Kellogg hit one for Westfield in the 8th to make it 6-4 Worcester.

The Bravehearts extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with a pair of singles followed by an RBI ground out.  Bryce Hellgeth earned another save to seal the victory in the 9th.

I caught up with Ben McNeill, one of the game’s best hitters, after the game:

Riding a 3 game win streak, the Bravehearts are now above .500 with a record of 13-12.  This week, they travel to the North Shore on Monday and Nashua on Wednesday for a twin bill.  Will their win streak continue?

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

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.

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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!

 

Nashua Silver Knights @ Worcester Bravehearts Recap

This past Thursday, I began my summer internship with the Worcester Bravehearts and attended their Opening Night against the Nashua Silver Knights.  The team ended up tossing the first no-hitter in team history.  Check out my video recap below alongside a transcript:

This past Thursday, May 30th, the Bravehearts opened their season at home. Before the game started, I had the chance to speak with Manager Alex Dion and leadoff Hitter John Thrasher.

Even with several players out of the lineup because their spring seasons are still ongoing, the Bravehearts kicked off their season historically strong, tossing a combined no-hitter against the Nashua Silver Knights. This was the first no-hitter in the team’s 6-year history. Shawn Babineau started off the no-hitter with 6 shutout innings, and he was perfect through 5 innings. The bullpen gave up 2 runs due to walks and errors but without giving up a hit . Worcester got out to an early 5-0 which was more than enough with the pitching staff in a groove.

Keith Foulke, the 2004 World Series-winning Red Sox closer, was the night’s special guest and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. I got the chance to interview Keith on top of the press box after he tossed free t-shirts to fans in the middle of the 2nd inning.

In the bottom of the 2nd after the t-shirt toss, the Bravehearts got on board with a 2-0 lead. A trio of walks loaded the bases, and Jakob Sessa drove in two runs on a double to deep right center.

Though it was a combined no-hitter, Jack Gardner stepped up in this game, both offensively and defensively catching all nine innings of the no hitter. I spoke with Jack after the game.

Gardner contributed to Worcester’s hot start in the third inning with a base hit. Cleanup hitter Paul Coumoulos drove in the runner on third, Tyler Becker, on a groundout to give Worcester the 3-0 lead. Aidan Wilde’s single drove Gardner in to make it 4-0. The fifth run was scored on a sac fly by DH C.J. McKennitt.

After the game, I also caught up with manager Alex Dion and general manager Dave Peterson.

Despite on and off rain all night, it was an exciting Opening Night, and an amazing start to the Bravehearts season.

Bruins Secure Game 7 over Leafs after Strong Start

5 minutes into the game, it was scoreless.  The Bruins began the game out-shooting Toronto 4-0, but the Leafs got into Bruins territory.  By the time the Bruins had their next real chance to score, it was still scoreless, but the Leafs were out-shooting the Bruins 7-5.  Matt Grzelyck was stuck in traffic in the offensive zone, but he found Joakim Nordstrom  open, and just like that, the Bruins were up 1-0!

They went on to dominate Game 7, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1.  They were led by a dominant fourth line and a 30-save game out of Tuukka Rask.  Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari made up tonight’s fourth line, and the three of them combined for 2 goals and 3 assists.

The game did not have many penalties.  It consisted mostly of back and forth goalpost action.  The Leafs ended up out-shooting the Bruins 33-32, but the Bruins were far more successful in scoring.

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This back and forth action continued through most of the rest of the 1st period, but Marcus Johansson scored Boston’s second goal unassisted soon before 1st intermission.  Johansson had possession behind the net and whipped around for the goal before Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen could do anything about it.

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Boston slowed down a bit during the 2nd period.  A quick offensive takeaway for Tyler Ennis (who assisted) led to a John Tavares goal to begin the period.  This made it 2-1 Bruins.  The back and forth play continued until Bruins defender Brandon Carlo was penalized for cross-checking Andreas Johnson.  The power play allowed Toronto some more chances to score, but Tuukka Rask and the defense stood strong, preventing all of them.  I had expected a back and forth high scoring game due to the recent defensive struggles of these two teams.  But the Bruins defense rose to the occasion tonight and was part of the reason why they made it out of Round 1.

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After the strong Bruins defensive play, the Leafs didn’t really gain any more traction until late into the 2nd period.  But once again, Tuukka Rask stood strong and picked up 3 more saves.

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The Bruins took control after 2nd intermission.  The 3rd period began in Boston territory, but the Bruins received the puck a couple minutes in, Sean Kuraly got out of a difficult situation, driving the puck all the way to the goal.  3-1 Bruins.  Once again, the 4th line stepped it up for the B’s.  About 5 minutes in, the Maple Leafs began another power play after the Bruins got caught with an extra man on the ice.  The results were much less the same as the first power play.

The Bruins were still up by 2 with 3 minutes to go, so the Leafs emptied their net.  Toronto kept the puck under control at first, but after Charlie Coyle’s offensive takeaway, there was nothing to stop a Bruins empty net goal.  Patrice Bergeron scored another empty netter at the last minute to make it 5-1 Bruins and secure the victory.

The Columbus Blue Jackets eliminated Tampa Bay, so the Bruins will be taking on Columbus in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  Can they come up victorious and become one of the final four teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?  Find out later this week.

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:

NBA 2019 Playoff Predictions: Who Finally Takes Down Golden State?

I know, it’s a little late.  But before we know the surefire winner of each series, I figured I’d share my NBA Playoff bracket.  Believe it or not, I don’t think Golden State’s championship-winning streak will stay alive.  But who could possibly beat the Warriors?  See my prediction below:

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I have the Celtics taking down the Warriors in a 7-game series.  But how will they get there?

I think Boston should easily take down the Pacers.  With Victor Oladipo out of the picture, I cannot see Indiana doing much in these playoffs.  Kyrie Irving ruined the Celtics’ chemistry during the regular season, but I don’t think this will be as apparent in the playoffs, where the whole team will be motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to win it all.

The Pistons may have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to lead them, but that won’t be enough to pull off a series upset over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a powerful Milwaukee Bucks team.  However, the Celtics have multiple star players on their roster who will outplay Greek Freak’s teammates and help Boston win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  I can’t see anyone getting in Toronto’s way until they face the Celtics.  The Raptors are by far the strongest team in their quadrant of the bracket, led offensively by Kyle Lowry and defensively by Kawhi Leonard.

But I do see Boston riding the momentum and overcoming adversity as they take down Toronto.  Their roster is stacked, so if the Celtics are on the same page motivation-wise and get off to a strong start (as I see them doing against Indiana), they could be a threat to Golden State.

The Warriors should not have a hard time with Western Conference opponents though.  Besides Boston, the Warriors are the only team I have sweeping their first round opponent.  The Rockets won’t be as easy an opponent as the Clippers, but a healthy Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will outplay James Harden and Chris Paul.  I could see the Thunder, KD’s old team, making a run as well.  Portland is known for playoff choking, and Denver’s lack of experience could come back to haunt them.  I think they should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, but the Thunder might be a bit much for an inexperienced team like the Nuggets.

Golden State, however, will end Oklahoma City’s run.  With Marcus Smart back and the team united by a common goal, the Celtics should have a chance at Golden State and I’m staying optimistic with this bracket.  I’m sick of Golden State winning, and it would make it even better if the Celtics could be the team to finally beat them.  As long as Kyrie Irving’s selfish ways don’t come back to haunt them, the Celtics should have a chance.

That’s all for my playoff predictions this year.  Stay tuned for more Celtics playoff coverage soon.

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.

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.