Tag Archives: Baseball

Sports unite America after biggest tragedies

By J.D. McKay

Eighteen years ago today, America was physically hit as hard as when the British burned down Washington, including the White House in 1814. America was very different at that point in time, of course. America was missing something that I believe Americans associate with our country, sports. 

It is early to say, but probably the biggest tragedy of my age group’s lifetime will be 9/11. Sports were also affected. There was not another sports game until Sept. 16. But 10 days after 9/11, the Mets Mike Piazza hit one of the most memorable home runs in baseball history. The game was the first pro-baseball game played in New York after the attacks. The Mets were down 2-1 in the eighth inning, but Piazza hit a two-run home run, putting the Mets ahead 3-2. The American flags that were already around the stadium started fluttering. Mets fans erupted. It gave the country and New Yorkers a chance to cheer about something after such a tragic time.  

However, that season was a good year to be a fan of the other New York team, the Yankees. In game three of the World Series, the Yankees were hosting the Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium. President George W. Bush was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. The game was sold out. Bush knew he needed to look good on the mound, but the pressure only rose when Derek Jeter warned him not to bounce it. When Bush stepped out of the dugout, U.S.A. chants echoed around the stadium. He threw in a beautiful pitch, and the handheld flags waved around the stadium. His pitch was a great moment for New Yorkers, showing that America was too tough to let terrorists win. 

But 9/11 is not the only moment where Americans united over sports. In 2005, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina. The New Orleans Saints were in a time of turmoil. They were terrible, considering relocating, and without a true quarterback. Now we know the Saints did not move. They found the answer to the other two questions in one man, Drew Brees. Brees did not only led the Saints back to the playoffs, but he also helped rebuild the city. Specifically, his Brees Dream Foundation helped rebuild schools, parks, and athletic facilities. The Saints did not play a game in New Orleans until 2006. But in their first game back, they had one moment that has been memorialized. Steve Gleason blocked a punt early in the game that was returned for a touchdown. The announcers were silent for almost a minute as the stadium erupted, and the Saints players pointed back at the fans, as if telling them that was for them. Gleason diving to block the ball will forever be outside of the Super Dome, and the title on the pedestal could not be any better: Rebirth. 

Sports have united America during other tragedies. The Astros won the World Series just two months after Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017. All of Boston sports rallied after the Boston Bombing. That was best seen at the Boston Bruins game on April 17, 2013. The fans took over singing the National Anthem from Renee Rancourt, who was brought in to sing that night. 

Terrorist attacks try to bring America down. However, we typically come back stronger. Sports are not always the events that bring America together, but they help create strength and toughness in a city and a country that desperately need it. 

 

Predicting the MLB season with 50 games left

By J.D. McKay

Next week is when competitions at FC really start, so I will write my preseason column next week. However, right now there is not much happening in sports. The MLB is nearing the end of the season. The NFl preseason is starting, and just about every other league is in the offseason. My NFL preview will be the Wednesday after Labor Day, so I guess it is MLB. 

There are about 50 games left. The trade deadline has come and gone. I think the Houston Astros won the trade deadline. They traded for Zach Greinke, one of baseball’s best pitchers. Pitchers are the most important players in the post season and that will make them very competitive in October. The Reds seemed to be selling at the deadline, despite still being one winning streak away from really being in contention. They traded fan favorite Scooter Gennett and Yasiel Puig. However, they got my preseason pick for AL Cy Young, Trevor Bauer, for Puig. My trade deadline loser was the Yankees. Their starting pitching has being terrible for the past few weeks but the did not trade for a pitcher. That could prove to be fatal. 

The post season is going to be here in two months. Unfortunately, I do not think the Yankees will win the World Series despite being the best team in baseball. Starting pitching is too important and, as I said above, theirs has been poor. Unless their pitchers pull it together, it may be a quick exit. I like the Astros to be the American League representative in the World Series because of their trade for Greinke as well as Justin Verlander. Those two should be able to win enough games in the playoffs to get to the World Series. 

The National League I see as a toss up. The Dodgers are good, they have two great starters. However, the NL Central has been the toughest division in baseball this year. I could see a team coming out of that division and excelling against teams that are not constantly playing top teams. 

Earlier this year I predicted Astros vs Dodgers in the World Series, and I am sticking with that. However, I predicted the Dodgers in six games. But after the Astros trades, I am expecting the Astros to win the World Series in five games.

 

Summer sports wrap-up

By J.D. McKay

That was fast. 

As an athlete, it went even faster. Strength and conditioning coach Donnie Gumble trained athletes hard this summer. The cross country teams went to a week-long camp to run, with some athletes putting in more than 40 miles. Plus, the basketball teams played in summer leagues against other top teams. With the work Gumble put in with our athletes and the rest of the work they put in this off season, it should be a very good year in FC sports. 

There was plenty of action outside of Floyd County, though. Most of it was a surprise, too. I expected the Warriors win in five games, then sign another big name free agent like Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard. Serena Williams and Roger Federer would win women’s and men’s at Wimbledon. The Yankees would be the best team in the MLB at the all-star break, and a veteran would win the homerun derby. Romeo Langford would be a first round pick but not a Lottery Pick. Finally, our local summer sports team, the Louisville Bats, would be the worst team in Triple A baseball. 

If you follow sports very closely you know that only none of those statements are totally true. The Warriors lost in six games. Then, balance in the NBA was restored for the first time since 2014. Anthony Davis joined Lebron in LA. Then, a few weeks later, the Clippers formed the second super team in LA with Leonard and Paul George. The East Coast was not just watching this happen. The Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Irving to form their own super team. Houston traded for Russell Westbrook to go with James Harden and get a pair of their own. Plus, Golden State still has Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The other NBA statement I made was only partly true. Langford was a first round pick; however, he was a Lottery Pick and will be playing basketball for the Boston Celtics and ex-Butler coach Brad Stevens. 

Neither Federer or Williams took home titles at Wimbledon. They were won by Novak Djokovic in the mens’ and Simona Halep in the ladies’. There was some other craziness around the tournament. Fifteen-year-old Cori Gauff qualified for the tournament and upset Venus Williams in the first round. She stuck around until the fourth round before losing and all of her matches were the most watch of the day in America. 

My baseball predictions were the most accurate. The Yankees were the best team in the American League and second best in baseball. The Bats are not quite the worst team in Triple A baseball, but they are the second worst. The only completely false statement was the veteran winning the Homerun Derby. That was dominated by two rookies, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso. Guerrero had the greatest Homerun Derby of all time. He hit 91 homers in 13.5 minutes. That was spaced out over two hours, but that many dingers is impressive regardless. Even with that many homers, he still lost in the finals to Alonso, who hit 23 to beat Guerrero’s 22. 

Finally, I did not have much of a prediction for the Stanley Cup Finals, but the St. Louis Blues finally took home the Cup for the first time after 50 years. They played seven and the final game was won by goalie Jordan Binnington. Who had perhaps the greatest most clutch performance I will ever see in hockey. He gave up one goal on 33 shots and as a hockey fan, I was amazed, because most of the shots he blocked were shots that are almost always goals. 

This summer was crazy in sports. That feels weird to say but it really was. Hopefully the rest of the school year is as crazy as the summer was. Or maybe not, I do not know if we can handle that for 10 more months. 

 

FC wraps up successful sports year

By J.D. McKay

It is my last column of this school year, so it is time for an end of the year wrap up. All in all, we have had a great year. Unfortunately, we have come up short in a few sectionals, but we have also had success against New Albany.

Girls’ cross country was very good. They won their regional and got second at semi-state by two points. Junior Sydney Liddle followed in her dad’s footsteps and became FC’s first second generation all-state athlete. Next year, the girls have a very real chance of winning team state and Liddle could win individual state. The boys’ cross country also won regionals. They were led by junior Luke Heinemann, who finished sixth there and could win regionals next year if he stays healthy. They only graduated two guys, so they could win semi-state next year.

Football had a pretty good year, too. They beat New Albany, Jeff, and Providence. It was their first year with new head coach James Bragg. The conference was very tough this year and their 5-5 record was pretty good for the level of competition. Next year, the sectional is winnable for all the teams in it, the first time FC has been in a winnable sectional in three years.

Girls’ volleyball had a good year. They beat New Albany and Jeff. They have a tough sectional and came up short against Providence in the sectional championship. The boys’ had a terrific fifth season. They were ranked in the top four for most of the season. They also beat Trinity. They lost in the state semifinals to eventual champion Roncalli.

Girls’ soccer had another good season. They won sectionals against Seymour 2-1. Junior Katie Yankey was all-state. They could be very good next year. They lost a few seniors, but they have a lot of talented returning juniors. Boys’ soccer also won sectionals 1-0 over Jeff. They had a big senior class, so they might have a tough year next year. However, junior Xander Ochsner is very good and could lead them to a successful year and sectional championship.

If you asked one of the players on our boys’ basketball team, they would probably call the season a disappointment. However, they had a very good year. They beat New Albany in the regular season and tied Jeff for first in the conference. Unfortunately, they lost to New Albany, who overcame some adversity and injuries to play a great game. Their head coach, Jim Shannon, also ran a tough triangle and two defense that made senior Cobie Barnes and sophomore Jake Heidbreder less of a threat. Barnes was all-state.

The girls’ season was pretty good. They went in with mixed expectations. They were hit with the injury bug again but still managed to beat New Albany and Providence. They have a lot of underclassmen so if they stay healthy they could be good next year.

Boys’ and girls’ swimming both had a pretty typical year by their standards. Both went undefeated during the regular season. Both won conference and sectionals. Both teams have pretty good senior classes, but they also have lots of underclassmen talent, so they should continue their success.

Wrestling had a decent season. They beat New Albany in sectionals. Unfortunately, they did not win sectionals. However, they had two all-state wrestlers, junior Jonathan Kervin and sophomore Gavinn Alstott. Freshman J Conway also went to state. Those three alone make the future of FC wrestling bright.

Boys’ golf dominated like it always does. They will easily win sectionals next week. They may even have two finishers in the top three. The girls’ also dominated like they usually do. Freshman Sophie Cook won, sophomore Zoe Hoehn got second, and junior Francesca Hartlage got third.

Baseball had a better year than many were expecting. They beat New Albany as well as Castle who was ranked very highly at the time. Ultimately, they lost in their sectional which is very tough, boasting New Albany and Jeff.

Softball had kind of a weird season. They started the year playing below their talent level. But as the season progressed, they improved. That led to beating Seymour in sectionals after losing to them in the regular season. Unfortunately, they lost to Jennings County 2-4 after being up 2-0 going into the last inning. Next year, they will be led by junior Taryn Weddle, who will be going to Louisville after she graduates.

Girls’ track had a successful season. They won sectionals and conference. They have two freshmen, Annalise Zeinemann and Reece Davis, who are going to state as pole vaulters. The 4 by 800 meter relay advanced to state as well as the 4 by 400 meter relay. Junior Sydney Liddle and Chloe Loftus is going to state for the 2 mile. The boys’ season was disappointing. They lost sectionals for the first time in 17 years after going into the season with a chance at winning regionals. However, senior Cam Sturgeon is going to state for discus, senior Devon Montgomery for pole vault, and senior Jon Gunn for the 100-yard dash. The 4 by 800 meter relay also is going to state.

Girls’ tennis has had a successful year. They won sectionals over Eastern Pekin in straight sets. Boys’ tennis had probably the best season of any team. They advanced all the way to state before losing to eventual state champion Carmel. They are only losing one senior, all-state Lucas Sakamaki. They should be very good next year.

The last sports are the unified sports, track and football. This was the first year for unified football. It was not a great season competitively, but that is not the main goal of unified sports like it is for some other sports. It is a fun chance for impaired students to compete with their classmates. Some schools should probably put more focus into this aspect than the competitive aspect. Unified track also did not have an outstanding competitive season, but once again, that is not the main goal. The main goal is to try new things and give all types of kids a chance to be on an FC team.

This has been a pretty good year for FC, but the future looks even brighter. This talented senior class will be hard to replace but there is a lot of talent below it. Be sure to stay connected with FC sports by reading my column next school year. My first column will be on July 31.

Pro baseball is making changes

By J.D. McKay

This summer I began working for the Louisville Bats Ground Crew. It is a pretty sweet job, and I am having a lot of fun, but that is not the point. Baseball is evolving. I am sure that anyone who follows sports has heard something like this: “Baseball fans are dying,” or “baseball is boring and losing popularity.” Baseball has heard them, especially minor leagues, and is making changes.

One change is making uniforms fun and entertaining for fans. The MLB has recently started a players weekend where players are allowed to wear nicknames on the back of their jerseys. Plus, they wear special Mother’s Day, Veterans Day, Father’s Day and Fourth of July hats and uniforms.

The Minor Leagues have not stopped at those holidays to wear special uniforms. On May 4 they often wear Star Wars uniforms to celebrate May the Fourth be with you. One new very cool thing most of the MILB is doing is adding Copa de la Diversion uniforms. They take their team’s typical uniforms, and make it something from Spanish-speaking culture. For example, the Delmarva Shorebirds are becoming the Gallos de Delmarva, meaning the Roosters of Delmarva. The Bats are becoming the Murciélagos de Louisville and wearing them on June 28. Those uniforms will make the game a little more fun, and you will get to see me dragging the field between the fourth and fifth innings. The Bats also introduced the Louisville Mashers last year and the Derby City Mint Juleps this year. Both uniforms have dope hats and jerseys.

The MILB also introduced a pitch timer in 2015. If it took a pitcher more than 20 second to pitch, a ball was called without throwing a pitch. This fixed some things, but it did not always fix the problem. For example, if I am at a game, it will inevitably take four hours, even with the timer. However, just last Tuesday, I was at a game that took one hour and 59 minutes. So the timer can be successful.

The last change is the amount of dingers hit. It is wild. Homers are being hit at an alarming rate over the past two years and into this year. There are several explanations for this. One is that bat angles are changing, accounting for more strikeouts but also more homeruns. Another part is that athletes are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, so that probably accounts for it. The last, partial conspiracy is that baseballs are being made differently. Some people say that baseballs are being made basically to add more pop. That seems unlikely to me, but it is certainly possible. Pro baseball has denied that a lot.

Baseball can certainly do more to be more interesting, it could add a DH to the NL. That is kind of a lame idea that real baseball fans like myself disagree with, but small fans might like that more. They could also play fewer games. That is unlikely, but it could happen if the game was truly collapsing.

All in all, baseball will not ever completely die. It is the first sport many Americans play, so that feeling of their first home run will always stick with them. I am sure that some parts will change over my life, and I am looking forward to seeing what. But right now, baseball is evolving at all levels.