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Jeff Twitty Jersey

Some romances are made for the theater; some are made in the theater.

Mary Carter’s Friday night plan was to to pick up a friend who worked at the Flick Theater in Jacksonville so they could cruise around Levy and hang out at Sonic.

The first time I saw my future spouse:

She says: “He was so nice-looking. I can honestly say I knew I was going to marry that man.”

He says: “She had long brown hair and she had some jeans on and had a really pretty face and really white teeth and she smelled good. All the check marks were there and everything was right.”

On our wedding day:

She says: “It was just the tender words my dad had said — he has since passed away and I was a big-time daddy’s girl. He was really glad I had chosen someone like Jeff and he knew he was going to take care of me.”

He says: “I was a senior in college and I actually had class that day. I got out of there by noon and hustled home and started getting ready for the wedding. I had a big honeymoon planned and things were looking good.”

My advice for a long happy marriage is:

She says: “Communication is super important. Don’t stay mad at one another. Life’s too short.”

He says: “You have to always communicate — talk to each other on a regular basis. Family values are really important. We were both Christian people and it’s important to be in church. It’s important to maintain family values and friendships.”

“I got there a little bit early, before my friend got off work. When I got there she said there was this guy she wanted me to meet,” says Mary, who was 17 in 1977.Cue the entrance of Jeff Twitty.

“Back in those days, they wore these three-piece leisure suits,” says Mary. “I’m actually a year and a half older than him but he looked much older in his suit. He walked in and I noticed him instantly.”

Jeff had a girlfriend, too, and they went to find seats in the theater.

“I didn’t know my girlfriend knew him but I said, ‘Now, if you want to fix me up with something, fix me up with something that looks like that.’ She just kind of laughed,” Mary says. “I said, ‘He’s got such a cute butt,’ which is so out of character for me. I don’t know why I said that — just girls being silly.”

Jeff circled back to the concession stand, where Mary and her friend were standing, to buy popcorn and drinks.

“As he turned to walk off my girlfriend said, ‘Hey, Jeff, my girlfriend thinks you’ve got a cute butt.’ I was mortified,” she says. “My face turned all red.”

Mary rushed from the theater lobby to her car in the parking lot. Jeff was unruffled.

“I just thought, ‘OK, that’s no big deal …’” he says. “But I liked the way she looked and I thought, ‘I’m going to have to check her out.’”

When Mary’s friend finished her shift she came out to Mary’s car.

“I said, ‘Why in the world would you do that? And why did you want to fix me up with your boss who has a girlfriend when there’s this cute guy that you work with?’ She said, ‘Well, he’s got a girlfriend, too,’ and I was like, ‘Well, he’s cuter than the other guy!’” she says. “Funny thing is, when she went back to work the next week, he had a thousand questions about me as well.”

Jeff, Mary learned, was the theater’s projectionist. He was the reason she saw every movie that ran over the next six months. He was also the reason she sometimes joined her friend at the pizza place next to the theater where theater employees hung out.

When Jeff broke up with his girlfriend, he called Mary. She was going to Greers Ferry Lake with her family, and he and a couple of his friends headed to the lake so he could spend some time with her.

“We just started talking and we’ve been together ever since,” she says.

On the night of their first date, Jeff had to change the movie marquee at 9 p.m. He left Mary with his aunt, a woman she hadn’t met, for 45 minutes before they went to dinner.

Mary was a speed skater so when they weren’t at the pizza place or the movie theater they were at the skating rink together, and they took trips to the lake when they could.

At the end of a date in March 1980, Jeff started talking about places he would like to go. His cousin had gone to the Pocono Mountains, he told Mary, and he wanted to go there on a honeymoon someday.

“I said, ‘Well, you’ll have fun.’ And he said, ‘You’ll have fun if you go with me,’” she says. “That was our proposal, I guess.”

They exchanged their vows on Feb. 27, 1981, in the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club on the Jacksonville Air Force Base, where Jeff’s mother worked.

“It was my fairy-tale wedding,” Mary says.

The fairy-tale wedding was followed by a fairy-tale honeymoon — in the Pocono Mountains.

Jeff is a Farmers Insurance agent in Jacksonville. Mary is a Jacksonville alderman. They have two sons — Brian of Jonesboro and Travis of Dallas.

The girl Jeff was dating when he met Mary has remained one of their closest friends over the years.

“She is a sweetheart,” Mary says. “She’s known to my kids as the ex-girlfriend, he’s known to her kids as the ex-boyfriend, but we’re all really good friends.”

The ex-girlfriend lives out of state now but she visits when she’s in town to see her family, and she has sent Jeff and Mary a Christmas ornament for each of the last 38 years.

“I have an ex-girlfriend tree,” Mary laughs.

Friends and family threw Jeff and Mary a surprise 25th anniversary party in the building that used to house the Flick Theater, now a venue called Unique Connection Center.

“If we make it to 50 and if this place is still standing,” Mary says, “I guess that’s where we’ll have to have our party.”

If you have an interesting how-we-met story or if you know someone who does, please call (501) 425-7228 or email:

Danny Reynolds Jersey

The Sounders began to address the holes in their defense Thursday by selecting UNC Wilmington star Danny Reynolds in MLS’s SuperDraft.

Reynolds, a 6-foot-1 defender from Shilton, England, was chosen in the second round with the 35th overall pick. He was recently named the Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-CAA first team honors.

Seattle, which won the 2019 MLS Cup in November, has one true center back on its roster in Xavier Arreaga. Reynolds is versatile enough where he could contribute at that position or left back, but will likely see more playing time with the Tacoma Defiance.

“Defiance coach Chris Little is high on Danny,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said via conference call. “He’s a position of need. (And) he’s a left-footed defender, those aren’t common. So we got ourselves what we felt is another option there. A player like that, who is left-footed and can play left back, center back, they’re probably always going to have some role in the organization.”

With their other second-round pick (52nd overall), the Sounders selected UNLV midfielder Timo Mehlich. The 6-footer from Monchengladbach, Germany, scored 11 goals during the 2019 season.

Mehlich may not report to the Sounders this season, however. He reportedly signed with a USL team.

“We control his MLS rights,” Lagerwey said. “If he is good enough to play in MLS, he’ll play for the Sounders.”

The two MLS expansion teams had the opening three picks in the draft. Inter Miami selected Clemson striker Robbie Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick and Georgetown defender Dylan Nealis with the No. 3 overall pick. Nashville SC nabbed Indiana defender Jack Maher with the No. 2 spot.

FC Dallas picked Seattle University defender Nkosi Burgess with the No. 14 overall pick. He’s the Redhawks’ fifth player to be drafted by an MLS team in the past four years.

The league will hold the third and fourth rounds of its draft Monday. The Sounders have one third-round selection (78th overall).

Rave Green players are filing back to the club this week with on-field training opening Tuesday at their Starfire Sports facility in Tukwila.

First-choice players forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan aren’t available for the Sounders. They’ll participate in the U.S. men’s national team camp through the first week of February.

Toru Murata Jersey

It’s always fun to keep an eye on familiar players who’ve taken their talents across the pond. Now that the 2019 season is in the books, it seemed an opportune time to check in. Numerous former big leaguers and others of note are playing abroad, many of them thriving in Asia’s top leagues.

We’ve seen foreign stints help spur big league revivals from quite a few players. Eric Thames, Miles Mikolas, and Chris Martin are among those that played significant roles in the 2019 MLB campaign. Whether any of the players covered below will do so remains to be seen, but there’s certainly a path.

We started by looking at position players and pitchers in South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) before turning to the hitters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Remember, teams in these leagues face limits on the number of non-native players they can carry on a roster. That creates a lot of pressure to secure big production from those roster spots, which often spurs mid-season change.

Here’s a 2019 wrap on the NPB’s hurlers from abroad …

The Saitama Seibu Lions slugged their way to the best record in the Japan Pacific League, but they got some of their best innings from imported pitchers. Former Dodgers and Athletics righty Zach Neal turned in 100 1/3 innings of 2.87 ERA ball after spending some time with their minor league affiliate early on. He could be eyeing a return to the Majors, though a 4.6 K/9 rate in Japan is a red flag even if it’s accompanied by a pristine 1.3 BB/9 mark. Righties Kyle Martin and Deunte Heath, who had quite brief stints with the Red Sox and White Sox, respectively, helped the Lions as well. Martin notched a 3.67 ERA in 41 2/3 innings (albeit with 28 walks), while Heath chipped in 31 1/3 innings of 3.73 ERA ball and averaged 9.8 K/9 against 4.0 BB/9.
Mariners fans surely remember Cuban-born lefty Ariel Miranda, who started 40 games for them from 2016-18. Now 30, Miranda tossed 86 innings for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and notched a respectable 4.19 ERA in a hitter-friendly league, though he carried an unsightly 58-to-48 K/BB ratio. Dutch righty Rick van den Hurk hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2012, having carved out a career between the KBO and NPB. He only pitched 17 2/3 innings for the Hawks this season but turned in a 3.12 ERA and a terrific 22-to-2 K/BB ratio. Given his track record there — 3.50 ERA in nearly 500 NPB innings — the 34-year-old could be in Japan to stay. The Hawks also enjoyed 57 2/3 innings of 3.90 ERA ball from Japanese-born southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada, who was with the Cubs from 2014-15 before returning to Japan. At 38 years of age, he’s still chugging along.
Former Twins righty Alan Busenitz and former Indians righty Frank Herrmann formed a dominant setup combo for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Busenitz chipped in 51 frames with a 1.94 ERA with 7.9 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. Herrmann’s 3.04 ERA and 49-to-16 K/BB ratio in 47 2/3 innings hardly went unnoticed, either. Herrmann will turn 36 early next season, but Busenitz is still just 29.
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters didn’t benefit much from former big leaguers, as right-hander Johnny Barbato struggled through 32 innings. Avid Indians fans may remember right-hander Toru Murata, who pitched 3 1/3 innings for the Tribe in ’15 after spending several years in their minor league system. He chipped in 34 innings with a 3.18 ERA but walked nearly as many hitters (21) as he struck out (22). Former Cubs righty Justin Hancock tossed seven innings but was hit hard. Padres diehards may remember minor league righty Bryan Rodriguez, who tossed 91 1/3 innings of 3.25 ERA ball for the Fighters.
Left-hander Andrew Albers, formerly of the Twins and Mariners, was dominant for the Orix Buffaloes in 2018 but took a step back with a 5.83 ERA in in 63 1/3 innings. The Buffaloes, however, received a seventh strong season from perhaps forgotten Cardinals righty Brandon Dickson, who posted a 3.03 ERA in 35 2/3 frames and has racked up 856 innings of 3.32 ERA ball since first signing with the Buffaloes back in 2013. Orix also picked up former Pirates prospect Tyler Eppler prior to the 2019 season, and after spending some time with the Buffaloes’ minor league club, he emerged with a 4.02 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings.
The 2019 Yomiuri Giants received innings from four former big league pitchers: Taylor Jungmann, Rubby De La Rosa, Scott Mathieson and Ryan Cook. Jungmann struggled to an ERA just over 6.00 in 44 1/3 innings, while De La Rosa fared best (2.25 ERA in 25 innings). Mathieson, now 35, was limited to 22 2/3 innings of 4.37 ERA ball but has been a consistently impressive presence in the Giants’ bullpen since 2012 (2.46 ERA, 54 saves in 431 frames). Cook tallied just 15 innings and surrendered eight runs.
Lefty Edwin Escobar’s biggest claim to fame in affiliated stateside ball might’ve been being included in a trade for Jake Peavy, but the 27-year-old has become a force in Japan. In his third season overseas, he turned in 75 1/3 innings of 2.51 ERA ball with 10.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 for the second-place Yokohama DeNa BayStars. Former Cubs righty Spencer Patton took a step back after a dominant 2018 with the BayStars, tossing 36 2/3 innings but posting a 5.15 ERA. He did rack up 45 punchouts in that time. And former Nats lefty Sammy Solis made a brief 2019 cameo with the Yokohama club as well, tossing 4 1/3 innings with one run allowed.
Right-hander Randy Messenger, of mid-2000s Marlins/Giants/Mariners fame, has become one of NPB’s best starters but struggled a bit in his age-37 season (4.67 ERA in 79 innings). But with more than 1600 innings of 3.13 ERA ball in a decade’s worth of time in Japan, he’s left a legacy with the Hanshin Tigers and been compensated handsomely for his efforts. The Tigers also received 103 2/3 innings of 4.69 ERA ball from righty Onelki Garcia, who tossed a combined 7 1/3 innings between the Dodgers and Royals in MLB. Hanshin was also a who’s-who of former Cubs, with righties Pierce Johnson, Kyuji Fujikawa and Rafael Dolis logging significant time. Johnson was brilliant, notching an immaculate 1.38 EA with 14.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 58 2/3 frames. Fujikawa (1.77 ERA) and Dolis (2.11 ERA) split closing duties and combined for 35 saves in 111 1/3 innings (both split almost evenly).
Former big league righties Casey Lawrence (Mariners) and Johnny Hellweg (Brewers) made extremely fleeting appearances with the Hiroshima Carp, who boasted perhaps the most impactful foreign pitcher in the league: lefty Kris Johnson. The former Twins/Pirates hurler has been flat-out dominant in five seasons with the Carp, totaling 756 1/3 innings with a 2.54 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 since making the jump. He’ll turn 35 next week, but it’s perhaps worth noting that the former Sawamura Award winner’s record contract is expiring.
Remember situational lefty Enny Romero? He’s not only starting games for the Chunichi Dragons, he’s doing so fairly well. In 116 frames this year, he posted a 4.26 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9. Fellow southpaw Joely Rodriguez, who spent parts of two seasons with the Phillies, overwhelmed NPB hitters with a 1.64 ERA, 11.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 55 2/3 frames out of the Dragons’ pen. Even Daisuke Matsuzaka — yes, that Daisuke Matsuzaka — tossed 5 1/3 innings with the Dragons at the age of 39, but he didn’t fare well. To this point, however, he’s announced no plans to retire.
Lastly, the Yakult Swallows had five former big leaguers suit up for them: righty David Buchanan, right-hander Scott McGough, southpaw David Huff, righty Ryota Igarashi (blast from the past!) and right-hander Albert Suarez. Buchanan paced the group at 99 2/3 innings, though his 4.79 ERA wasn’t much to behold. McGough notched 11 saves and a 3.15 ERA, however, while Huff continued his strong overseas career with a 3.97 ERA. Igarashi is still going strong with a 2.98 ERA at age 40, and Suarez yielded just three runs in 17 2/3 innings.

Dave Skaugstad Jersey

#16: Dave Skaugstad at 17 Years, 8 Months and 15 Days

Beginning his career as a 17-year-old on September 25, 1957, Dave Skaugstad appeared off to a promising start as a big league hurler.

Pitching four innings of relief in a loss to the Chicago Cubs, Skaugstad allowed three hits, three walks and no runs. He would make only one more appearance in the next week, but then never again pitched in the majors.

Skaugstad pitched several more years in the minor leagues before retiring from the game in 1965.

#15: Rod Miller at 17 Years, 8 Months and 12 Days
Making his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 28, 1957, Rod Miller struck out in his lone at bat as a pinch hitter.

He would play three more seasons in the minor leagues before retiring from baseball in 1960.

#14: Jim Pagliaroni at 17 Years, 8 Months and 5 Days
Earning his big league debut as a catcher August 13, 1955, Jim Pagliaroni was the youngest backstop to see Major League action in baseball’s modern era. As a 17-year-old, he swatted a sac fly in one plate appearance in an 18-9 loss to the Senators.

Pagliaroni wouldn’t see the big leagues again until 1960, when he stuck as a big league catcher for the next 10 seasons.

In 849 games, mostly with the Red Sox and Pirates, as well as short stints with the A’s and Seattle Pilots, Pagliaroni hit .252 with a .751 OPS, hitting 90 home runs with 326 RBI.

Deacon Donahue Jersey

PITTSFORD — What do dinosaurs have in common with the Catholic Church?

Both count Peter Dodson among their biggest fans, for one thing. An accomplished paleontologist and a committed Catholic, Dodson is a professor of vertebrate paleontology and veterinary anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania. He traveled to the Diocese of Rochester in March to talk with more than 150 local Catholics about the connection between faith and fossils, noted Deacon Dennis Donahue, new-evangelization coordinator at Auburn’s St. Mary Parish as well as Ss. Mary and Martha Parish.

Deacon Donahue, who coordinated Dodson’s visit in conjunction with officials from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, said the paleontologist’s presentations were well-received by people of all ages. Dodson spoke to 70 middle-school students March 29 at Siena Catholic Academy in Brighton and to 35 younger children March 30 at Auburn’s Hilton Garden Inn, where the children had the opportunity to touch some of the fossils Dodson has unearthed over the years.

Adults also had the chance to touch a fossil — a vertebrae more than 150 million years old — after listening to Dodson’s March 28 presentation at St. Bernard’s as well as a March 29 talk at the Auburn hotel. The talks geared toward adults focused more intently on the alleged conflict between science and religion.

These days there’s a popular misconception that science and religion contradict each other, Dodson said, noting that he was unaware of this belief when he embarked on his scientific career path. A lifelong Catholic, Dodson had never noticed any potential conflict between science and religion, so he was taken aback when he attended a seminar during which a respected evolutionary biologist put forth what Dodson termed “an atheist manifesto.”

“He said that this is what evolution shows us: There is no God, there is no soul, there is no life after death, there is no such thing as free will. (He said) a scientist who believes in God is a hypocrite, and you must check your brains at the back of church,” Dodson recalled.

The speaker maintained that the number of evolutionary biologists who believed in God could be counted on one hand, and Dodson, feeling stunned and alone, left the seminar and spent the next few days “in a funk.” Later, however, Dodson realized that no studies had ever been conducted to back up the speaker’s claims.

“He set me on a course of study and investigation and learning and engaging in this topic,” said Dodson, who later became the founding president of the Philadelphia Center for Religion and Science.

Decades of study have reinforced Dodson’s initial belief that science and religion are not at odds with each other. In fact, a later survey showed that approximately 40 percent of scientists hold some sort of religious beliefs, he said.

“It’s the atheists in science that make the most noise, but understand that religious belief is not going to go away,” Dodson said.

The field of science actually developed in western Europe because of religious beliefs, not in spite of them, he added.

“Modern science is a fruit of western Christianity. Until the Enlightenment, virtually all scientists were persons of faith, and doing science was an act of worship, and exploring creation was praising the creator,” Dodson said.

Science and religion actually complement each other, Dodson said, noting that one of his heroes, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, likens the two fields to the two sides of the human brain and heart.

“He said science is like the left side of the brain and religion is the right side. Science takes things apart to see how they work, and religion puts thing together to figure out what they mean,” Dodson said. “Which is more important, the left side of the brain or the right side of the brain? The left side of the heart or the right side of the heart? Believe me, you’d better have them both.”

While science is a “tremendously valuable human enterprise,” it does not tell people how they ought to live their lives or treat their neighbors, Dodson said. And the Bible does an admirable job of showing people how to get to heaven but is not meant to be a scientific manual, he said.

“So what then of the dinosaurs? I say that dinosaurs are one of the jewels of creation,” Dodson said. “God loved dinosaurs, and like all creation, dinosaurs give praise to God, so remember the works of the Lord are trustworthy and the heavens declare the glory of God.”

Al Platte Jersey

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says he and his office have reviewed 75,000 emails relating to the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal. They have interviewed at least three current major league managers, an untold number of players and dozens of major league personnel overall.Al Platte

All that gumshoe work may not inform the commissioner’s impending punishment of the Astros than 19 words he put forth on Sept. 15, 2017:

“All 30 Clubs have been notified that future violations of this type will be Al Platte subject to more serious sanctions.”

This proclamation came in the wake of a groundbreaking sign-stealing scandal involving the Red Sox, an Apple Watch and the home video room at Fenway Park.

So when Manfred slapped the Red Sox on the wrist, he accompanied the fine with a missive to every major league club, that sign-stealing is cool but, he reminded, “no such (electronic) equipment may be used for the purpose of stealing signs or conveying information designed to give a Club an advantage.’”

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Yet there went the Astros, just a week after this pointed Manfred memo was circulated, banging away in a relatively meaningless late-September game against the Chicago White Sox, their video camera-laptop-trash can system apparently in midseason form. With any luck, MLB’s investigation will reveal the extent of the Astros’ shenanigans that postseason, when they went 8-1 at Minute Maid Park and won the World Series.

The bill for thumbing their nose at the commissioner is about to come due.

Manfred’s office is soon expected to announce penalties resulting from the Astros’ alleged scheme. It appears the Astros cooperated with the investigation, which is wise, since they say the cover-up is always worse than the crime.

But if there’s anything worse than a cover-up, it is blatantly flouting your czar’s edict handed down just days earlier.
Al Platte
The result may be, at least temporarily, an Astros organization that looks a lot different than it did just 10 weeks ago.

Assistant general manager Brandon Taubman is already gone, fired under pressure from the commissioner’s office after a profane, bizarre and misogynistic diatribe toward media members that the organization initially denied before stumbling through an awkward contrition that spanned most of the World Series.

Now, general manager Jeff Luhnow, architect of the franchise’s teardown and subsequent buildup into a near-dynasty, among the game’s most influential figures by ushering the analytics era into a bolder but also colder stratosphere, is in the cross hairs.

Bruce Konopka Jersey

Rowing as if they were made for this, the Penn Varsity Lightweights went hell-for-leather off the start into the strong headwind, built a huge lead, and then held on to claim their first win in the Varsity Eight since Gerald Ford was president. Perhaps more surprising than the win was the fact that the Quakers did it out of Lane 6; a monumental win, soup to nuts.

One person who was not necessarily surprised was Penn coach Colin Farrell. “I think this was a year where it seemed any team could win it,” he said. “It was really competitive all year, and you saw that this morning in the heats. We came here to try to win the race; that was our goal the whole year. I don’t think what the other teams are doing today really changed our approach. We made some adjustments after the heat, they did a really good job executing it.”

Like Gladstone, Farrell paid tribute to the dynamic in leading to the day’s results. “I came to Penn to try to change the culture here and help this team get to the top, so it’s the day we’ve been working to for five years,” said Farrell. “At some point, it may hit me that we actually did it, but it’s been the mission all along.”

Perhaps fittingly, Penn was racing in the “Bruce Konopka ’78″ today; Konopka, the longtime coach of the Penn Lights, was in the boat the last time Penn won the event.

It’s almost a cliché by now, but the EARC Lightweight league is so deep that, if you are not on your toes, you can be out of the game pretty quickly. Cornell, the top-seeded Varsity eight, was on the wrong end of a four boat canvas finish in the heats and was relegated to the petite final, along with 5-seed Harvard.

On the clock, the Cornell lights posted a slightly faster time in the Petite than Penn did in winning the Grand 15 minutes later, so the duels for lightweight supremacy are likely to go another round at the IRA.

In a collegial move in a very collegial league, the Cornell lights were quick to give Penn (and Cornell alum Farrell) their due.

Cornell won the Lightweight 2V, and after the racing, Cornell assistant coach Bill Brumsted reflected on the challenges of preparing athletes for racing in a league where the racing is so deeply competitive.

“I think getting the athletes to wrap their heads around the reality of the level of competition is always a challenge, even when you’re having a successful regular season,” said Brumstead. “You need a systematic approach, and I would say we still tweak it on a year to year basis based off of what we see as opportunities. Definitely a challenging league to be a part of. And rewarding.”

The lightweight 2V trophy is officially named the “Cornell Trophy,” so whenever Cornell wins the 2V there’s extra mirth on the podium.

Despite not winning an event outright, the Yale lights threw down three silver-medal finishes to claim the Jope Cup for lightweight points.

“This is pretty full circle for me, we won this is 2016, my freshmen year,” said Yale captain Matt Matejka. “Especially after last year when we were not near this cup, to finish this year with what I believe is the deepest team we ever had, is incredibly special. Every boat did their job to get these points. Penn drove hard after us in every event all day, and we did our job to hold them off. Every one of our athletes medaled today, either gold or silver.”

Did the raging headwind make things even more difficult for the lightweights? Not everyone thought so. “I’d say it’s a myth,” said Navy’s Matthew Pentaleri, stroke of Navy’s winning Lightweight 3V. “Keep it high, and blade in, blade out, hang on it, and then it’s just a pretty simple sport.”

Yale claimed the lightweight 4V, and Harvard the 5V.

Ham Iburg Jersey

Pete Alonso smacked a rookie-record 53 homers and Yordan Alvarez helped slug the Astros to within a victory of a World Series championship en route to near-unanimous selections as league Rookies of the Year in 2019. Several other first-year players stood out as well, with Mike Soroka placing fifth in the Majors in ERA and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez showing why they ranked as the game’s top three prospects entering the year.

Which rookies will make the biggest impact in 2020? Not only did we present a leading candidate for each of the 30 teams last month, but we also surveyed front-office officials for their opinions as part of our 2020 Pipeline Poll, the results of which we’ll reveal over the next few days.

Among other topics, we asked the executives, “Which prospect will contribute the most in 2020?” Here’s what they had to say:

1) Gavin Lux, SS/2B, LAD, (35% of votes)
2) Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK, (19%)
3) Brendan McKay, LHP/DH, TB (15%)
4) Jo Adell, OF, LAA (8%)
5) Sean Murphy, C, OAK (8%)
6) Luis Robert, OF, CWS (8%)
7) Bobby Dalbec, 3B/1B, BOS (4%)
8) MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD (4%)

L.A.’s Lux leads the way

Besides winning the poll, Lux garnered 90% of the votes given to National League prospects. The 20th overall pick in the 2016 Draft hit .347/.421/.607 with 26 homers and 10 steals between Double-A and Triple-A last season, becoming the first middle infielder age 21 or younger to post a 1.000 OPS in the upper Minors since Gregg Jefferies in 1987. He also came within .001 of on-base percentage of leading all Minor League shortstops in all three slash stats for the second straight year.

Lux has made consistent contact from the left side of the Ham Iburg plate since he entered pro ball, and he began to take off once he got stronger and began using his legs more in his swing. He’s a solid to plus runner who has the tools to get the job done at shortstop, though he has had issues with his throwing accuracy in the Minors and some scouts believe he profiles better at second base. That’s probably where he’ll play with the Dodgers, who have Corey Seager at shortstop and whose best second baseman last year (Max Muncy) is better suited for first base.

Los Angeles showed enough faith in Lux to give him 19 starts during a September callup and three more in the NL Division Series after he pinch-homered in the opener against the Nationals. He became the youngest player to hit a playoff pinch-homer in MLB history and the youngest Dodger (surpassing Cody Bellinger) to homer in the postseason.

Southpaws will duel for top spot in AL

Our survey respondents were split between two left-handers as the top rookie Ham Iburg candidates in the American League, with Luzardo nosing out McKay by a single vote. Luzardo wouldn’t even be in this discussion if rotator-cuff and lat strains hadn’t shut him down for much of 2019, though he did make it to Oakland in September and was spectacular (1.50 ERA, .119 opponent average, 35 percent strikeout rate) in his first taste of the Majors.

Luzardo owns a pair of well above-average pitches in his power sinker and fading changeup, while both his curveball and slider are solid offerings. His pitchability is as good as his stuff, enabling him to reach the big leagues at age 21 despite having Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2016 and not being fully turned loose in pro ball until 2018. The A’s also placed him on their postseason roster in October, and he provided three scoreless innings against the Rays in a wild-card loss.

McKay went No. 4 overall in the 2017 Draft as the first player who could have been a top-10 pick as both a hitter and a pitcher since Dave Winfield in 1973. Though his pitching has proven more advanced than his hitting in pro ball, the Rays continue to envision him as a legitimate two-way player. He needed just 165 innings in the Minors before debuting in Tampa Bay, where he logged a 5.14 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 49 innings and went 2-for-10 with a homer before serving a relief role in the AL Division Series.
Ham Iburg
His path to an Opening Day roster spot is less clear than those of Lux and Luzardo, but McKay is big league-ready with a solid four-pitch repertoire (highlighted by his fastball and cutter) and quality command. He also has a ceiling of .275 hitter with 25 or more homers per season, though he’s further away from that than he is at reaching his upside as a No. 3 starter.

Freddie Benavides Jersey

MONTERREY, Mexico – The Reds departed on their road trip to Mexico on Thursday afternoon, but it turned into a quasi-homecoming for bench coach Freddie Benavides.

For Saturday’s series opener at Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey, Benavides was expecting around 20 family members in the crowd. Benavides grew up in Laredo, Texas, and still lives there in the offseason. It’s about 140 miles from Monterrey, so his wife and two daughters made the drive to see him on Friday’s off day.

Some of his wife’s relatives are from Reynosa, Mexico, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Monterrey. Benavides distributed his allotment of tickets and other relatives bought their own tickets to Saturday’s game.

“It’s good to get close to home,” Benavides said. “I didn’t get to go home. I didn’t want to deal with the traffic and stuff going back and forth. It’s good to get some family I haven’t seen in a while. It’s good.”

Acting manager Freddie Benavides fills in for suspended Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell (25) in the third inning of the MLB National League game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. The Reds led 4-0 after five innings. (Photo: Sam Greene)

Benavides is in his sixth season on the Reds’ major league staff. He managed Tuesday’s game against the Miami Marlins while David Bell served a one-game suspension. He was the club’s infield coach in 2014-15 and the first-base coach from 2016-18.

It was Benavides’ first trip to Monterrey in several years and he was blown away by how much it’s changed. His paternal grandmother was originally from Monterrey.

“I came for a wedding back in the day, but I haven’t been over here in a long, long time,” he said. “This has really changed since I’ve been here.”

The best part of the schedule for Benavides’ family was Friday’s off day, which allowed Benavides and his relatives to spend a lot of time together.

“It’s beautiful,” Benavides said. “We went out sight-seeing. My daughter had an itinerary for us yesterday, so we went out sight-seeing and different places. It was really fun.”

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos was the only Mexican-born player on either team. He represented Mexico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Gallegos told MLB.com that the Mexico Series in Monterrey was a great opportunity for kids to watch games because they don’t have an opportunity to watch in the U.S.

Benavides said his family had the trip circled on their calendars after it the Reds announced they were playing in Mexico for the first time in franchise history last summer.

“They were excited,” Benavides said. “(One daughter) left school for this trip. They were not going to miss it.

“The only one who didn’t make it was my son because he’s playing college ball (at Arkansas-Little Rock), so he stayed in Arkansas. My girls made it. My wife. Then my sister. My dad, he didn’t want to take the drive. He watches on TV, so he stayed back. It’s good to see cousins and different people.”

Benavides hoped to enjoy dinner with some relatives following Saturday’s game, depending on the length of the game. He was just grateful that the trip helped bring some family members together that he hadn’t seen in a long time.

“Even though it’s not home,” he said, “it feels good.”

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Terry Francona: Best baseball TV analyst of the decade

The best baseball TV analyst of the decade was Tito Francona, and he only did it for one season. His first assignment at ESPN was spring training 2012, and my boss gave him to me in hopes that maybe I could help him navigate through a new job and help him with, among other things, his impossibly bad sense of direction. This was surprising to me given that I have no sense of direction, but compared to Tito Francona, I was Vasco da Gama.

Our first assignment on the Bus Tour was in Orlando, Florida, where ESPN had us stay at Fort Wilderness, which is a Disney property literally in the woods. The rooms were individual log cabins with bunk beds, as if we were Cub Scouts. “As soon as I walked in,” Tito said, “I thought it was a joke. I thought everyone was going to jump out from behind a curtain and go, ‘Ha!’ When they didn’t, I thought, ‘Maybe I should have gone to Fox.’”

Tito had won two World Series with the Red Sox, he was on his way to the Hall of Fame as a manager, and he was staying at a campsite. Tito called the front desk of the property looking for room service. The nice lady told him, “Sir, room service here is the Coke machine you saw in the front lobby.” After 10 incredulous minutes, Tito called my room and said, “Do want to come over? We’ll go out in the backyard and make some s’mores.”

The funniest spring of my life continued two days later at Yankees camp with Tito as a working member of the media. “I was dressed in a Today’s Man $89 suit, pinstriped,” Tito said. “It’s the first time that I have ever said ‘Good luck this year’ to [Yankees manager] Joe Girardi and meant it. It was weird. I threw that suit in the trash can that night.”

I laughed all spring. I asked Tito how bad the Phillies were when he managed them. “We were so bad, and we were so young,” he said. “I was trying to teach them how to win, and how to be professionals. My closer was Wayne Gomes. Great kid but so young with so much to learn. So I bring him in from the bullpen in the ninth inning, and he gets to the mound and he has mustard all over his jersey. I screamed, ‘Gomesy, what are you doing? You can’t come into a game with mustard on your jersey!’ He said, ‘Tito, it wasn’t me. Some people in the stands threw hot dogs at me when I was leaving the bullpen.’”

Then Tito laughed.

“And we were at home,” he said.

Torey Lovullo: Best (legal) sign stealer of the decade

For 150 years, stealing signs has been an integral (and, lately, extremely controversial) part of the game. So many have been so good at it: Gene Mauch, Sandy Alomar Sr., his boys Roberto and Sandy Jr., Eduardo Perez, Buck Showalter, Rich Dauer, Davey Lopes, Ted Simmons, Paul Molitor, Joe Nossek, Tom Foley. But no one was better this decade than Torey Lovullo.

“Torey is the best sign stealer on the planet,” said former infielder Kelly Johnson, an ex-teammate. “When he was the first-base coach with Toronto [in 2011 and 2012], he would make a little hissing noise when the pitcher was throwing over to first base. He was never wrong. Never.”

“He is a great decoder,” said Cubs third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who took signs from Lovullo when Lovullo managed 48 games for the Red Sox in 2015. “We watch the same guys, he picks up things that no one else can. I ask, ‘What did you see? I can’t see that.’”

Lovullo is wicked smart and observant, he is a former player, a former coach and currently the manager of the Diamondbacks. He said sign stealing is “alive and well today. Every pitch of every game, a sign is being given. It is the underworld side of the game, and it is understood by everyone in the game. There are a lot of moving parts every night.” (The Astros are currently embroiled in a sign-stealing controversy, but unlike Lovullo, they allegedly needed electronic assistance, where Lovullo just uses his eyes.)

He doesn’t mind staring at another man for four hours at a time because, he said, “we are trying to win a pitch, win an inning, win a moment. That can make a difference in a division race. It’s all about helping your team gain a competitive advantage. What’s happening inside the game is the grease that runs the engine of the game.”

Stealing signs can be difficult. “The [2017] Twins, I couldn’t decode what they are doing,” Lovullo said. “The teams that are hypersensitive to those things are the teams that are doing it themselves. They are so good at concealing signs because they are so good at stealing signs. I am trying to crack into the president’s bedroom, and they will not let me in.”