winter’s past time

Springfield Massachusetts is a beautiful place, like much of the state it is especially elegant in the months of the spring and fall. The seasons most associated with baseball and football, though another game is held dear to the heart of the community. Also like the rest of the state the winters can be long and covered in snow.

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Springfield College

In this small community of Springfield, sits a campus of higher education. Springfield College is every bit as regal as the community which supports it and it’s members. The campus and it’s storied past seem to speak, be aware of its heritage. The old buildings, halls and gymnasium, though modified and renovated since the founding of the institute, remain to hold to its past.

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Springfield College when it was The International Young Mens Christian Association Training School

In the early 1890’s Springfield College was known officially as The International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School. It is here at The YMCA Training School that a young man was hired by the school’s director as a new physical education instructor. Young Jim, in the process of his interview for the position, after giving a brief discription of his short background, was handed an extrodinary task.

The director asked Jim to do one thing in his new position. Given just one task, he became obsessed with seeing it through. The quest undertaken by the new addition to the faculty was to fill the gap between football and baseball. Those long winter months, of snow and freezing winds always seemed to find athletes not ready to play at the opening of spring baseball. It was as if the winter not only froze physical fitness but also the spirit of competition.

Jim first purposed a regiment of gymnastics and cardio workouts. The YMCA director noted, this could keep the men somewhat fit but did nothing at all to maintain the drive of competition. This brought about the greatest thought that young Jim thus far had. He came up with a game, one now played everywhere, a game that would ensure physical fitness and drive athletes to succeed. The game would in Jim’s mind combine the athleticism of football and the precision of baseball.

Standing in the schools gymnasium as snow fell outside, Jim presented a short list of ten rules to a group he would say, “simply wouldn’t play ‘Duck on a Rock'”. There in the fall of 1891, fulfilling his obligation, with a standard soccer ball and two peach baskets, James Naismith invented the only solely American sport, and the first game of basketball was played.

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James Naismith with soccer ball and peach basket

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the first basketball court in The YMCA gymnasium

all photos from Springfield College archives

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“WE ARE” The Best Game In Town

Normally I try to be unbiased when I write about sports. Just a warning, that’s not gonna be the case of this post. Nope, I love sports, including, hockey, baseball, cycling, tennis, football and golf. Then there is my all time favorite! LACROSSE!

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Penn State shares their first ALC Championship. Photo courtesy of Penn State News

Lacrosse itself, though I love it isn’t where my bias comes into play. The complete one dimensional view is pertaining to the Penn State Nittany Lions Women’s Lacrosse Team! Simply put these ladies are awesome!

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Speaking of awesome, the amazing, ultra fast, super cool, sophomore midfielder Tatum Coffey. Photo courtesy of American Lacrosse Conference

Anyone who has ever played lacrosse knows it is fast, physical and just plain awesome. In this world of awesome, one group stands out amongst the rest. Of course fans always say this about their favorite teams or alma mater. Here is the thing, I have proof that States WLAX is amazing.

First of all they just beat UMASS 12-9 to get to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Winning isn’t the whole deal it’s how they win that sets them apart, everyone contributes. From lightning fast super sophomore, midfielder Tatum Coffey (my favorite player), to the attacking sister duo of Madison and Mackenzie Cyr. Of course talking about Penn State Lacrosse and not mentioning the other super soph, amazing goal scorer Maggie McCormick would be like talking about Manchester United and omitting Wayne Rooney. Here is the thing, that’s just a start! What about Emi Smith, in net and what about seniors Molly Fernandez and Katie Guy. Then there are freshman Ally Heavens and Jenna Mosketti. Actually to save me some time, to see a list of great lacrosse players simply check out Penn State Women’s Lacrosse roster

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Sensational sophomore, ultimate attacker, All-ALC Maggie McCormick! Photo from NCAA.com

Honestly, I’m not making this up. Check out these numbers that prove my point. Five of the PSU athletes earned All-ALC Honors this season, Katie Guy, Kelly Lechner, Maggie McCormick, Mackenzie Cyr and Jenna Mosketti. In twenty games McCormick netted 49 times and assisted teammates on 35 other goals. Kelly Lechner second in goals scored, with 46 of her own. Mackenzie Cyr second on the team in assists with 34, while putting it away 32 times. Coffey and Mosketti combined for 54 goals and 16 assists, impressive numbers considering their positions and the numbers teammates posted.

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Molly Fernandez, Mackenzie Cyr and teammate celebrate… Magnificent Molly drives towards net! photos property of PSU News

Individual statistics give an idea of how a team played, to make it easy lets just look at the team numbers. The overall 14-6 Nittany Lions scored 266 times on 567 attempts. While opponents found the back of the net 225 times out of their 476 attempts, proving they not only score but can defend. Out scoring opponents by an average of 2 goals per game while shooting a lower percentage shows great build up, face offs and possessions have been key to success this season in Happy Valley. All requiring great team play.

If you wanna see great lacrosse catch the rest of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championships and especially Penn States upcoming quarterfinal match, time and opponent TBD.

Check out the Nittany Lions Women’s Lacrosse on Twitter Penn State WLAX or on the web at PSU WLAX

Perfect Through 5, Jon Lester Pitches Shutout

There are few things in this world as exciting as Fenway Park on a Friday night. Spending part of my youth living in the suburbs of Boston, on many occasions, thanks to my dad holding season tickets, that’s exactly where I spent my summer evenings. Now living across the pond, as the English say, I’m tuned in via the web with hopes of reliving that excitement. Last night the Red Sox, with the help of starter Jon Lester did not disappoint.

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Jon Lester (photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Lester 5-0 took the mound to face the Toronto Blue Jays in the as usual sold out Fenway Park. He started strong retiring the first three hitters with good placement and choice of pitches. Through 5 innings, Jon Lester had retired 15 straight hitters. The typical hush about the possibilities of a perfect game was in place as he sent down batters 16 and then 17. With two outs in the top of the 6th Maicer Izturis doubled to left bringing the perfect game to a close. Lester however responded with poise by striking out the next Jay hitter from the stretch.

Finally in full suspense after twice leaving runners in scoring position the Red Sox bats came through giving Lester some needed run support in the bottom of the 7th, extending their 1-0 lead by 4. With a 5-0 edge Jon Lester pitched on, retiring Blue Jays hitters in order. Showing he still had something left, striking out two of the final hitters in the 9th, Jon Lester closed out his 10th career complete game.

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Jon Lester celebrates his complete game shutout… Photo property of The Boston Herald

The one hit, no balls on bases complete game marks Lester’s 5th win of the season. Of the 118 pitches thrown, 79 of them were strikes. With only 5 strikeouts, it is clear Lester had great defensive support. A strong showing for a potential AL Cy Young candidate.

Production Upton

Maybe I’m a sucker for hype or simply think he’s cute. Either way I’ve followed Justin Upton since he was a teenager playing in the minors. Talk about potential, okay everyone in baseball talked about his potential.

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Justin in his days as a Diamondback. Photo curtesy of Sports Illustrated

As Justin approaches the plate in a Braves uniform, a uniform that is engraved into my memory from the, Maddox, Smoltz, Avery and Glavine years, (You know all those years post 1993 when they beat up on the beloved Phillies and most of the rest of the National League) I can’t help but feel a little sad for the Diamondbacks. After all they took the risk drafting him and then bringing him up to the majors in 2007.

Yet, there were always trade rumors surrounding their plans for young Justin. For me it’s hard to believe he’s been in the majors going on his eighth year. However, at just 25 years of age, he should have a lot of baseball left in him. This leads one to wonder why Arizona wasn’t planning to sit back and wait for that potential to come to realization? Maybe they placed him in too big of a role too soon, maybe they expected him to be a 40 home run 40 stolen bases guy at 20 years old. Really it’s hard to say but it’s not difficult to know there were always rumors of trade.

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Upton sporting his new number on that familure Braves uniform. Picture from ajc.com

Regardless of how Upton wound up in Atlanta and what the Diamondbacks feel about it now, Justin seems to be off to a start that many of us have been expecting for some time. Playing along side his older brother in the Braves outfield appears to be pretty positive for Upton. In 121at bats he has hit safely 33 times and reached home on 28 occasions 12 of which being long balls. These are good numbers considering in Justin’s best season he tallied 171 hits and touched home 105 times. At current pace he is looking at 55 plus home runs and for the first time in his career reaching the 100 RBI mark.

This brings up the question, is Justin Upton going to fulfill that potential? Are we going to witness numbers that we’ve never seen before, like some experts speculated when he came up into the big leagues? Time of course will only tell.

For me, it’s just fun to watch him play, unfortunately he isn’t in Phillie pinstripes.

The Hart Memorial Trophy

With the NHL playoffs in swing we close in on the announcement of the 88th awarding of The Heart Memorial Trophy. The Hart Trophy is presented by The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to the individual hockey player who they deem to have been most valuable to his team during the regular season. One could conclude it is the NHL’s regular season MVP Award.

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The three finalist…. Crosby, Ovechkin, and Tavares. Photo from smelltheglove.ca

This years finalists are Sidney Crosby of The Pittsburg Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of The Washington Capitals, who both are former recipients of The Hart Trophy. Earlier today it was announced that the other finalist is would be first time winner John Tavares who skates for The New York Islanders.

Crosby despite missing all of April with a fractured jaw again put up impressive numbers. Playing in only 36 games he finished just four points behind the league leader with 56 total. Finishing second in the NHL with 41 assists and slotting the puck to the back of the net 15 times, it’s clear his performance had a huge impact on Penguin hockey this season.

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Sidney Crosby pictured with The Hart and other NHL silverware. Photo from zimbio

Recording 32 goals this season Ovechkin has already claimed The Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s leading goal scorer. 24 times this season Alex dished the biscuit to teammates leading to sirens flashing to goal keepers dismay; placing him equal to Sid Crosby, four points off the lead with 56 total points. Obviously more than his salary alone proves his value to The Washington Capitals.

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Alex Ovechkin with The Hart Memorial and various other awards. Photo from The Washington Post

Of the three top vote receivers it would appear by points scored this season John Tavares center for The Islanders is the long shot for The Hart; scoring 28 goals and 19 assists this year. His 47 points scored places him 9 back of the other two finalists and 13 off the NHL lead. However, as hockey fans we know the value of a player to his team can not be measured simply by glancing at his points scored. Many would argue that a players +/- is the most valuable statistic, at a -2 that is not a huge help for Tavares, especially if you consider Crosby’s +26. Granted all statistics are relative to line and the play of ones teammates.

With anticipation we wait for the announcement of The 2013 Hart Memorial Trophy winner. Will clear statistical numbers see Sidney Crosby or possibly Alex Ovechkin hoisting The Hart Trophy? Or maybe intangibles that don’t show up in the box scores will lead to John Tavares receiving his first Hart.

Let me know who would get your vote or any opinions.