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Archive for February, 2017

MLB names softball sensation Jennie Finch as Youth Ambassador to support its youth programs

Jennie Finch on the field in 2008 By C5813 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https


Major League Baseball has named former Olympic Gold Medalist, Women’s College World Series Champion and professional softball pitcher Jennie Finch as a Youth Softball Ambassador. Finch will support Major League Baseball’s Youth Programs with initiatives and strategies that are designed to grow softball at the amateur and youth levels. In addition to her duties as an ambassador of softball, she will also support an effort to promote girl’s baseball.

Finch is a two-time Summer Olympics medalist, leading the USA Softball Women’s National Team to the gold and silver in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Finch graduated from the University of Arizona in 2002 after a record-breaking softball career, including a perfect junior season on the mound (32-0) and an NCAA Women’s College World Series Championship in 2001. Finch also pitched for the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch league from 2005 to 2010. She continues to host instructional softball camps throughout the country.

“Jennie Finch is one of the most accomplished female athletes in history and we are thrilled she will be assisting us to grow the game of softball,” said Tony Reagins, Senior Vice President of Youth Programs, Major League Baseball. “Increasing youth and amateur participation is a central goal for our department. We know that Jennie’s passion, insight and talent will be invaluable to our efforts during this special moment for our sport.”

Finch said: “It is an honor to serve in this new role with Major League Baseball to grow the sport that has given so much to me and millions of girls and women throughout the country. Together, we will promote youth participation at the grassroots level while also helping develop the skills of players ready for the next level. This is a really special time for softball and I am thrilled to play a small part in this effort to increase opportunities to play the greatest game ever created.”

Finch’s appointment is the latest in a string of efforts by MLB to increase softball participation. In June 2016, MLB announced its partnership with USA Softball, particularly focusing on the National Governing Body’s support of “PLAY BALL,” an initiative to encourage widespread participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities. MLB and USA Softball also created the inaugural Softball Breakthrough Series (BTS) in 2016. Similar to Baseball BTS events, the Softball Breakthrough Series is designed to promote softball as a viable collegiate option for youth from underrepresented and underserved communities. The event is completely cost-free for participants, who are selected by invitation only. The 2017 Softball Breakthrough Series will be held June 11-15 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which is where USA Softball operates.

For the past 28 years, the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program has provided young men and women with opportunities to play baseball and softball. RBI currently reaches more than 230,000 boys and girls throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Curaçao. Since 2006, young people have had the opportunity to receive free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as other educational and baseball vocational services, through the MLB Youth Academy network. There are six operational MLB Youth Academies in the U.S. in Cincinnati (Ohio), Compton (California), Dallas (Texas), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Washington, D.C. There are three additional facilities under development in the Bronx (New York), Kansas City (Missouri) and San Francisco (California).




Sunday’s matchup Super Bowl LI, Falcons-Patriots





Two teams. One game. It all comes down to this.

On Sunday, February 5, the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons will meet in Super Bowl LI (6:30 PM ET, FOX) at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

“It’s an honor to get to go and play in this game,” says Patriots wide receiver JULIAN EDELMAN, who is the franchise postseason leader in both catches (84) and receiving yards (937). “This is what you fight for. This is what you train for. It’s to get an opportunity to play in this game.”

Super Bowl LI will feature the NFL’s top-scoring team – Atlanta (540 points, 33.8 points per game) – against the club which allowed the fewest points in the league – New England (250 points, 15.6 points per game). It marks the sixth time since the 1970 merger that the Super Bowl showcases the team that led the NFL in scoring against the club that allowed the fewest points.

“This is a really special team,” says Falcons fullback PATRICK DI MARCO. “We have so many playmakers on offense, defense and special teams. This is a special time for this organization. I am super proud and super excited we are going to be playing in Houston. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl – not just get there – and we still have a game ahead of us. We still have one more game to win.”

New England advanced to its NFL-record ninth Super Bowl by defeating Pittsburgh 36-17. Atlanta defeated Green Bay 44-21 to earn its second ever trip to the Super Bowl.

Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK and quarterback TOM BRADY will be making their seventh Super Bowl appearance together, the most NFL title games for any head coach and starting quarterback duo in league history. Belichick and Brady have won four Super Bowls together, tied with Pittsburgh head coach CHUCK NOLL and quarterback TERRY BRADSHAW for the most by a head coach and starting quarterback combination.

“I’m proud of this team,” says Belichick. “They all deserve this. It’s a good, hard-working group.” ​

Belichick is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Noll for the most Super Bowl victories by a head coach with four. Brady, who is making hisNFL-record seventh career Super Bowl start, is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers Bradshaw and JOE MONTANA for the most Super Bowl wins by a starting quarterback with four.

“You never know if you’ll get these opportunities in life and fortunately this team has got the opportunity,” says Brady about advancing to the Super Bowl. “Now we’ve got to do something and go try and take advantage of it.”

Brady and Montana are the only players in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP three times. Brady, who was the MVP of Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XLIX, can become the first player ever to win Super Bowl MVP honors four times.

Brady enters Super Bowl LI already holding numerous Super Bowl passing records, including attempts (247), completions (164), yards (1,605) and touchdown passes (13).

“He’s the best quarterback to ever play the game,” says Patriots running back LE GARRETTE BLOUNT about Brady. “He’s obviously, in my opinion, the best ever.”

The Patriots have won nine consecutive games and advanced to the Super Bowl with a 36-17 victory over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. In that contest, Brady passed for 384 yards and three touchdowns, including two scoring strikes to wide receiver CHRIS HOGAN. Hogan finished the game with nine catches for a franchise postseason-record 180 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m just happy to take advantage of this opportunity and be a part of this team,” says Hogan. “This whole team has worked so hard starting in April in OTAs. We’ve grinded through this entire year. This is what we worked for and this is what we wanted to get to.”

Patriots running back Blount, who led the NFL with a club-record 18 rushing touchdowns, added a rushing TD against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Including the postseason, Blount’s 19 rushing touchdowns are tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer CURTIS MARTIN(1996) for the most by a Patriots player in a single season.

The Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history (Super Bowl XXXIII, 1998 season) with a 44-21 win over Green Bay in the final game at the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta, which led the NFL with 540 points scored, has won six consecutive games and is averaging 39.0 points per game over that span. The Falcons are the first team ever to advance to the Super Bowl by scoring at least 30 points in each of the club’s previous six games.

“I’m happy for everybody in our organization,” says Falcons quarterback MATT RYAN. “We’ve worked hard to get to this point but the challenge is still in front of us. What we set out to accomplish is still in front of us. It’s really difficult to get to this point, and we will enjoy the process leading into it, but our ultimate goal is still in front of us.”

Falcons head coach DAN QUINN, who is in his second year with the team, will be making his third Super Bowl appearance in the past four seasons. Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinator in Super Bowls XLVIII (2013 season) and XLIX (2014).

“I am excited for the opportunity, but more importantly, I’m excited for these players,” says Quinn. “It’ll be a great challenge.”

Atlanta quarterback Ryan, who led the league with a franchise-record 117.1 passer rating, has continued his stellar play in the postseason with a 132.6 passer rating. Over the team’s six-game winning streak, Ryan has thrown 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions for a 133.3 passer rating.

“MVP,” says Falcons wide receiver JULIO JONES when asked how to describe Ryan. “He’s a great player. He’s a great leader on this team and he’s my brother.”

Ryan has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four consecutive postseason games, the first player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. In this year’s playoffs, Ryan has seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

The Falcons have spread the ball out as Ryan threw a touchdown pass to 13 different players in the regular season, the most ever in a season in league history. Among his favorite targets is Jones, who led the NFL averaging 100.6 receiving yards per game this season (1,409 yards in 14 games).

“He’s a beast,” says Ryan about Jones. “He’s an absolute stud. I’ve been so lucky to play with him as long as I have.”

Jones had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. It marked his second career postseason game with at least 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns and he is the only player in league history to accomplish that feat in multiple playoff games. In five career postseason games, Jones has 552 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. His average of110.4 receiving yards per game is the highest in NFL postseason history (minimum five games).

Defensively, the Falcons are powered by VIC BEASLEY JR., who led the NFL in sacks (15.5), and a quartet of rookies – safety KEANU NEAL, cornerback BRIAN POOLE and linebackers DEION JONES and DE’VONDRE CAMPBELL. All four rookies started in the NFC Championship Game and Atlanta can become the first team ever to start four rookies on defense in the Super Bowl. Jones (106) and Neal (105) led all NFL rookies in tackles this season.

“Every day, we are just trying to get one percent better for the guy next to us,” says Poole. “Every play, we are going to give it all we’ve got and not let our teammates down. We’re going out there trying to play ball and let people know that what we’ve got is serious.”

Beasley, who is in his second year, had a career-high 15.5 sacks and is the first Falcons player to lead the league in sacks. During the team’s current six-game winning streak, Atlanta has allowed just 19.3 points per game (27.6 points per game in the team’s first 12 games).

“We feel like we have the potential to be a great defense,” says Beasley. “Early in the season, we weren’t playing as well but we have come a long way and now we’re going to the Super Bowl.” ​




NFL names Dallas Highland Park High School’s Randy Allen as Don Shula Coach of the Year

Don Shula 1952 in the Ohio National Guard during Korean War (courtesy Ohio National Guard Historical Collections via wikipedia commons)


The NFL and the Dallas Cowboys announced today, Head Football Coach RANDY ALLEN of Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas is the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year. The award was created to honor exemplary high school football coaches who demonstrate a commitment to player health and safety, and the integrity, achievement and leadership exemplified by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.

The announcement was made during the 2017 Pro Bowl on ESPN. For the first time ever, all 32 Don Shula Award nominees were invited and recognized in special ways during the NFL’s week-long celebration of football at the Pro Bowl in Orlando.

Nominated by the Dallas Cowboys, Coach Allen was one of two high school football coaches selected as finalists from a group of coaches nominated by NFL teams. As the national Shula Award Winner, Allen will receive $25,000 from the NFL Foundation, $15,000 of which will go to his high school’s football program. He will be a guest of the NFL during Super Bowl LI and walk the red carpet at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 4, the night before Super Bowl LI.

“Randy is someone that I respect and admire greatly. He is a man who understands the fundamental responsibility of being a high school football coach—and that is to build character and shape young lives,” said Dallas Cowboys Owner, President and General Manager JERRY JONES. ”He teaches integrity and life lessons as well as he does the X’s and O’s, and he is very successful builder of character.”

Allen has coached the Highland Park High School football team for 18 years and recently led the Scots to a 5A Division 1 Texas State Championship with a 16-7 victory over Temple High School. As one of the most recognized and winningest programs in the history of Texas high school football, this marks the Scots’ second state championship under Allen’s tenure. Allen previously coached current Detroit Lions quarterback MATTHEW STAFFORD to a state championship in 2005 and currently coaches the grandchildren of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

His success on the field is rivaled by his dedication to building high-character student-athletes, with a focus on leadership and strong moral values. Allen is a teacher who uses his role as a coach to build boys into men and emphasizes the importance of sportsmanship and integrity to his team.

The runner-up was Green Bay Packers nominee and Kimberly High School Head Football Coach STEVE JONES of Kimberly, Wisc. Jones will receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to his high school football program.

All Shula Award nominees are active or retired high school football coaches nominated by NFL teams for their character and integrity, leadership and dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety and on-field success.

Coach Allen was selected by a panel of distinguished individuals. New to the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award selection panel this year are two-time Super Bowl champion (XLI, 50) and five-time NFL MVP PEYTON MANNING, Super Bowl XLII champion and Good Morning America contributor MICHAEL STRAHAN and Pro Football Hall of Fame President DAVID BAKER.

The selection panel also includes:

  • Coach DON SHULA – the winningest coach in NFL history
  • Former Dallas Cowboys Personnel Director and contributor GIL BRANDT
  • 2015 Don Shula NFL Coach of the Year Award Winner MICHAEL BURNETT
  • Former Indianapolis Colts Coach and current NBC analyst TONY DUNGY
  • Executive Director of USA Football SCOTT HALLENBECK
  • Aplington-Parkersburg High School Principal and son of the school’s late football coach, Ed Thomas, AARON THOMAS


Below is a full list of the 2016 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year nominees. For more information on the NFL Foundation, visit or follow @NFLFoundation on Twitter.
2016 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Nominees
Arizona Cardinals Perry High School Preston Jones
Atlanta Falcons Tucker High School Bryan Lamar
Baltimore Ravens Walkersville High School Joe Polce
Buffalo Bills Dunkirk High School Mike Sarratori
Carolina Panthers Hilton Head School Russel ‘BJ’ Payne
Chicago Bears Peoria High School Tim Thornton
Cincinnati Bengals St. Xavier High School Steve Specht
Cleveland Browns Lorain High School Dave McFarland
Dallas Cowboys Highland Park High School Randy Allen
Denver Broncos Strasburg High School Jeff Giger
Detroit Lions Benton Harbor High School Elliot Uzelac
Green Bay Packers Kimberly High School Steve Jones
Houston Texans Ebbert L. Furr High School Matthew Valmore
Indianapolis Colts Westfield High School Jake Gilbert
Jacksonville Jaguars Ponte Vedra High School Matthew Toblin
Kansas City Chiefs* Grain Valley High School

Blue Valley High School

David Allie

Eric Driskell

Los Angeles Rams Narbonne High School Manuel Douglas
Miami Dolphins Carol City High School Aubrey Hill
Minnesota Vikings Minneapolis North High School Charles Adams
New England Patriots Millis High School Dana Olson
New Orleans Saints Edna Karr High School Brice Brown
New York Giants Cardinal Hayes High School CJ O’Neill
New York Jets Curtis High School Peter Gambardella
Oakland Raiders California School for the Deaf Warren Keller
Philadelphia Eagles Perkiomen Valley High School Rob Heist
Pittsburgh Steelers Thomas Jefferson High School Bill Cherpak
San Diego Chargers Madison High School Rick Jackson
San Francisco 49ers Saint Francis High School Greg Calcagno
Seattle Seahawks Tumwater High School Sid Otton
Tampa Bay Buccaneers St. Petersburg High School Joe Fabrizio
Tennessee Titans Whitehaven High School Rodney Saulsberry
Washington Redskins Quantico Middle/High School Paul Roy
*Indicates team has more than one nominee.

# # #

About The NFL Foundation: The National Football League Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those touched by the game of football – from players at all levels to communities across the country. The NFL Foundation represents the 32 NFL clubs and supports the health, safety and wellness of athletes, youth football, and the communities that support our game. For more information on The NFL Foundation, visit:




MLB Commissioner Manfred issues statement regarding deaths of Ventura and Marte

Yordano Ventura pitches in ALDS Game 1 October 8 2015 By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr CC BY 2.0,


Andy Marte with Cleveland August 2009 by Keith Allison via wikipedia commons


Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. issued the following statement regarding the respective passings of Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, who was 25, and former Major League infielder Andy Marte, who was 33:

“Today is a very sad day for our entire game and particularly for the many loyal fans in the Dominican Republic, the home of both Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte.

“Yordano was a key figure in the Royals’ recent success. His electric talent on the mound helped lead the Royals to two American League pennants and the 2015 World Championship. Andy was a respected member of six organizations who played seven Major League seasons, including for the Cleveland Indians from 2006-2010.

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, teammates, friends and fans of both players.”




MLB announces 2017 regular season game times


Major League Baseball recently announced the game times for its master 2017 regular season schedule, which will begin on April 2nd when the Tampa Bay Rays host the New York Yankees at 1:10 p.m. (ET) on ESPN. ESPN will continue its expanded Opening Day coverage with the San Francisco Giants at the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4:10 p.m. (ET)/1:10 p.m. (MT) on ESPN2, followed by “Sunday Night Baseball” on ESPN, featuring the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the World Champion Chicago Cubs at 8:35 p.m. (ET)/7:35 p.m. (CT). The final day of the 2017 regular season, which features 12 divisional match-ups, is scheduled for Sunday, October 1st. For the third consecutive year, all games played on the final scheduled day of the regular season will begin at 3:00 p.m. (ET).

ESPN, beginning its 28th season televising Major League Baseball, will also provide Opening Day coverage on Monday, April 3rd at 1:10 p.m. (ET) as the Atlanta Braves visit the New York Mets, followed by the San Diego Padres at the Los Angeles Dodgers at 4:10 p.m. (ET)/1:10 p.m. (PT), the American League Champion Cleveland Indians at the Texas Rangers at 7:05 p.m. (ET)/6:05 p.m. (CT), and the Los Angeles Angels at the Oakland Athletics at 10:05 p.m. (ET)/7:05 p.m. (PT). The seven games featured on ESPN on Sunday and Monday will include six of the 10 Clubs that participated in the 2016 Postseason. Traditional Opening Day on Monday, April 3rd will feature 12 games, and the first full slate of 15 games will be played on Wednesday, April 5th.

MLB Network will have extensive coverage of Opening Week, featuring the return of its regular season programming lineup of MLB Central, High Heat with Christopher Russo, The Rundown, MLB Now, Intentional Talk, MLB Tonight and Quick Pitch with live look-ins at games in progress, previews, highlights and analysis.

Among the other highlights of the 2017 regular season:

  • In a rematch of the 2016 National League Championship Series, the Cubs will host the Dodgers at Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning on Monday, April 10th at 8:05 p.m. (ET)/7:05 p.m. (CT). The Clubs will square off again for a three-game set at Dodger Stadium beginning on Friday, May 26th at 10:10 p.m. (ET)/7:10 p.m. (PT).
  • The Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, who met in the 2016 American League Championship Series, will play a three-game series at Rogers Centre beginning on Monday, May 8th at 7:07 p.m. (ET). The Clubs will meet for another three-game series beginning on Friday, July 21st at 7:10 p.m. (ET) at Progressive Field.
  • 2017 Opening Day includes an Interleague match-up between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park at 2:05 p.m. (ET).
  • The Dodgers host the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium at 9:10 p.m. (ET)/6:10 p.m. (PT) on Saturday, April 15th, which is Jackie Robinson Day throughout Major League Baseball.
  • Interleague series featuring prime rivals will be played throughout the season, as back-to-back two-game series, with the host club shifting after two contests. The match-ups include: Rays-Marlins (May 1st-4th); Orioles-Nationals (May 8th-11th); Padres-Rangers (May 8th-11th); Braves-Blue Jays (May 15th-18th) in a rematch of the 1992 World Series during its 25th anniversary season; Reds-Indians (May 22nd-25th); Rockies-Mariners (May 29th-June 1st); Phillies-Red Sox (June 12th-15th); Angels-Dodgers (June 26th-29th); Cubs-White Sox (July 24th-27th); A’s-Giants (July 31st-August 3rd); Cardinals-Royals (August 7th-10th); Pirates-Tigers (August 7th-10th); Brewers-Twins (August 7th-10th); Astros-Diamondbacks (August 14th-17th); and Mets-Yankees (August 14th-17th).
  • In the 50th anniversary season of the 1967 Fall Classic, the Cardinals and Red Sox will meet for a two-game series at Busch Stadium on May 16th-17th, as well as a two-game series at Fenway Park on August 15th-16th.
  • In the 60th anniversary season of the 1957 World Series, the Brewers and Yankees will play a three-game series at Yankee Stadium from July 7th-9th.
  • The Yankees will host the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium from April 14th-16th in a rematch of the 1942 World Series in its 75th anniversary season.
  • The Yankees and Pirates will compete in a three-game series at PNC Park on April 21st-23rd, marking the 90th anniversary season of the 1927 Fall Classic.
  • The 2017 All-Star Game, to be hosted by the Miami Marlins, is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11th at Marlins Park.





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