Archive for August, 2010
The Auburn Doubledays came into Niles winners of their last four games. Conversely, Mahoning Valley had lost their last five contests. Baseball really is a game of momentum and streaks. One consistent for Mahoning Valley has been the effort put forth by SP Mike Rayl. Rayl had good stuff and struck out eight in five innings for the Scrappers. What hasn’t happened much this season, is good relief pitching following a good start. Julio Ramirez and Clayton Ehlert provided solid bullpen efforts as Mahoning Valley won to end both streaks, 4-2.
The Scrappers put the games first run up when Jesus Aguilar singled to start the second inning. Aguilar moved to second on a passed ball and later advanced to third on a Tyler Cannon bunt. With one out, Diego Seastrunk drove the ball far enough to left field to allow Aguilar to tag from third and give the Scrappers the early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third, Auburn responded with a series of plays that typified what kind of season the Scrappers have had. CF Jonathan Jones was up with a man on third and nobody out. Jones hit a ball to second to score the runner. Kevin Fontanez pulled Carlos Moncrief off of the base with the throw. Moncrief appeared to tag Jones before he reached first, but safe was the call. Jones stole second with the throw going wide right and into center. While advancing to third, the throw appeared to beat Jones to the base, but again, he was called safe. The next batter, Gustavo Pierre, singled to knock home Jones and put Auburn ahead 2-1.
The Scrappers loaded the bases in the fourth on a single and a pair of walks. Cannon got an RBI on a fielders choice pushing Giovanny Urshela home with the tying run. Seastrunk drew a walk with one out to reload the bases. Aguilar scored on a wild pitch to give the Scrappers a 3-2 lead. Fontanez walked off of new pitcher Zach Anderson. Trent Baker then popped out to first. Nick Bartolone had a good at-bat before drawing a walk forcing home another run for a 4-2 Scrapper lead. Moncrief got robbed by Doubledays LF Marcus Brisker who made a beautiful diving catch to end the inning. One hit, three runs, 4-2 Scrappers.
The score stayed 4-2 in favor of Mahoning Valley behind three solid innings of relief from Julio Ramirez. Clayton Ehlert pitched the ninth for the save. Afterwards, Manager Travis Fryman praised the good pitching. ”This is the best outing that Ramirez has had. We tried to stretch him to three innings once before and the results were not real good. We were apprehensive to leave him in there but he was working easy tonight. It was an ugly ball game and they gave us plenty of opportunities to win. They [Auburn] might be the hottest team in our division over the past couple of weeks, so we’ll take it.”
Stephen Meadows is one of the Youngstown State Football players that carried over and made the successful transition between a new coach and an old one. In the interview with Meadows, he touches on the differences between Coaches Heacock (2009) and Wolford (2010). We also discussed everything from tattoos to Brett Favre to what I was chewing. Meadows can come off as a little wild, but said that he has never felt as confident going into a season as he does with this years YSU team.
Paneech: You played linebacker when you were in high school and now you are a defensive end in college. With today’s terminologically happy defenses, is there much difference?
Meadows: In high school I was free to pretty much roam around the field and find the action. At the college level it is very different. In college you have a gap you have to hold down and if you can’t do the job, you are not going to be playing. Everybody on defense has a job, and if everyone does their job, we are going to win games.
Paneech: You are one of the carryover guys from last year playing under Coach Heacock to this year playing for Coach Wolford. What is the difference between the two styles and was there a rough transition?
Meadows: I was recruited by Heacock and I fell in love with this place. Heacock was a great coach and I respect him to the fullest. When he left here, it was a sad time until Wolford came in and stepped the intensity up. There were some serious changes that he made when he got here and all of the slackers are gone now. We knew that if you were not going to play football the Penguin way then you needed to get out. The biggest changes were the intensity and the overall atmosphere.
Paneech: How big of a thrill is it going to be to play at Happy Valley against #14 Penn State?
Meadows: It’s going to be a heck of a thrill. I’m not one to look in the stands when I’m on the field and I heard it gets loud over there, I’m ready to shut ‘em up.
Paneech: What are you majoring in and how is school going?
Meadows: I am majoring in business management, and it is going great. I’m in the new Williamson School of Business and I’m trying hard to keep my eyes open.
Paneech: How did you feel when you heard that YSU was picked to finish seventh this season?
Meadows: Mad! Ever since I got here we have been at the bottom of the food chain. I would rather let our actions speak for themselves this season. I am pretty confident in this team, in fact, I am more confident in this team than I have been on any other team that I have ever been on. This is a tight group, I don’t feel like I have guys that I play football with, I feel like I have brothers.
Paneech: What player in the NFL do you try to imitate, or take after, when you are on the field?
Meadows: My favorite team is the Green Bay Packers, but I am a Brett Favre guy. No matter what is going on around him, he is going to play every snap that he can whether it be the cold or the pain, he is out there giving his all. As far as playing style, I like the way Jarred Allen and Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp, AJ Hawk – all tbose guys.
Paneech: What is the biggest factor you would attribute your success to?
Meadows: I had a long road to get here. My high school and Pop Warner coaches taught me the fundamentals and got my head right to get to this level.
Paneech: What do you do when you have some free time?
Meadows: I enjoy cranking up the heavy metal and shooting some pool with my boys, that’s what I like to do.
Paneech: You have quite the collection of tattoos. How did that start and how many are there?
Meadows: I got my first tattoo when I was 16. I was playing inside linebacker in a 4-4 defense, the buddy I had that played to my right was Russell Isaac Powell and he shot himself so I went and got a RIP tattoo on my right arm. Then to make my mom happy, I got an ‘In God We Trust‘ tattoo on the inside of my arm. The rest have accumulated over the years, my most recent is the big lion’s head (pointing) with a cross going through it which symbolizes that through God’s strength you can kill anything. I have probably made at least 30 trips to the shops. Everything is connected, so it all counts as one.
One Word Answers
Favorite Cereal: Sugar Smacks.
Favorite TV Show: Trailer Park Boys.
Biggest Phobia: Spiders.
Best Movie Ever Made: Braveheart.
The Animal You Most Resemble: Great White Shark.
Best Class Offered At YSU: Home Economics.
Worst Habit: No sleeves in the Winter.
Favorite Drink: Grape Gatorade.
2011 Super Bowl Prediction: Minnesota Vikings versus Indianapolis Colts.
Vegas or Cancun: Vegas!
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers have had a disastrous season statistically. The team batting average heading into Thursday’s game with State College was barely above the Mendoza line at .233. Offense has been the issue all season. How fitting that on reality TV night, that the Scrappers got voted off their own island (lost), got gonged, and couldn’t dance (5 errors) to save their lives.
State College tallied a run in the opening half of inning one when Adalberto Santos hit into a double play allowing Drew Maggi to score from third. Maggi reached base on a Scrappers error. Mahoning Valley responded in the bottom of the first when Carlos Moncrief walked and moved to third on Jesus Aguilar’s double. Diego Seastrunk then hit a one-out sac fly plating Moncrief to tie things up.
Taking a 2-1 lead into the fifth, State College scored again. Maggi walked, advanced to second on a groundout, stole third, and scored when Scrapper catcher Diego Seastrunk’s throw got by 3B Tyler Cannon and scooted into left. Santos kept hurting the Scrappers as he homered to left-center to jack the lead up to 4-1.
Kyle Smith started the eighth inning and mixed walks with hit batters to load the bases and allow State College a couple of freebies. Without recording an out, Smith was yanked. Clayton Ehlert inherited the bases loaded, nobody out situation and one grand slam later, there was nobody on base and the Scrappers tailed 10-1. Six runs on two hits in the inning.
Giovanny Urshela should be returning to the Scrapper lineup soon which would definitely give the starved offense a much needed boost. Manager Travis Fryman talked about Urshela’s progress. ”He looked good today and was cleared a couple of days ago to resume full workouts. If he is symptom-free he will start playing again the first game in Auburn.” Urshela has been sidelined since August 13 when he was plucked on the knuckle by a pitch. Despite missing so many games, Urshela still leads the team in batting average and RBI.
Fryman also said that Jordan Casas would be out the rest of the season.
With Youngstown State and Penn State preparing to open their respective football seasons next weekend, it would only be fitting that a Youngstown area team played a Penn State area team in another sport. With neither the Scrappers or Spikes in the playoff hunt, the game would be played for pride. The Scrappers entered the contest winning three of their last four, but could not muster enough offensive firepower to win this one, falling 3-1 at home.
State College drew first blood in the top of the first inning. Adalberto Santos tripled into the left-centerfield gap. Scrappers starter Michael Goodnight (pictured) should have gotten out of the inning unscathed, but a Kevin Fontanez error allowed Santos to scamper home with the opening run. In the second inning, Santos walked and made his way around to score again on a clean single off the bat of Matt Curry.
The score stayed 2-0 in favor of State College until the top of the seventh. The Spikes added a run to their lead on Matt Curry’s RBI single. In the bottom of the seventh, Fontanez tripled to drive home Brian Heere to get the Scrappers on the scoreboard and cut the State College lead to 3-1.
For the Scrappers, it was another rough night on offense. The run scored gives them a grand total of two in the last 18 innings. With the loss, the Scrappers fell to 28-37. The Spikes improved to 31-33 and inched closer to a .500 mark of respectability. These two teams will play the rubber match of the three game series on Thursday.
The argument rages on and on about whether Pete Rose should be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. For years, I have argued that he should be based on his hitting merits alone, not what he did wrong as a manager. A recent trip to the gambling capitol of the world, Las Vegas, has made me reconsider my stance.
Walking through the Forum Shops at Caesers Palace on Saturday, I spotted a “signing autographs today, Pete Rose” sign outside of The Field of Dreams store. Heading in, I saw Pete sitting behind a table and yacking on his cell phone. He was also writing, but not his name. Making my way farther around the table where he signs, I was able to snap this shot that had a monitor showing horse races. Pete was scribbling his perfectas and trifectas on a big pad while he talked on his phone.
A customer paid the asking fee of $69.00 for an autographed baseball. Rose never got off of the phone, continued to worry about the races and stopped concentrating for a split second to scribble his name on a keepsake I would not pay a dime for, not now.
Maybe Pete should check into rehab instead of Caesers Palace for a week.
YSU Football Coach Eric Wolford seemed concerned with the weather. “I hope it doesn’t get real hot again, not when it is this cool.” The weather is probably the last thing on the first-year leader’s mind these days. Wolford and staff are trying to tie up all of the loose ends on both sides of the ball in preparation of the 2010 season.
“I am at my dream job. If you have to interview for a job, one you have really wanted, in the morning, you are not going to sleep real well. You should always keep a paper and pencil next to your bed so when you wake up you can write stuff down and then hope you can go back to sleep ”, declared Wolford after practice Tuesday. Wolford’s Penguins are working very hard to get ready for their opening game, a September 4 trip to Happy Valley to face #14 ranked Penn State.
Kurt Hess has been named the starting QB for the Penguins. Hess has no previous game experience. Consequently, he is taking a majority of the snaps with the first unit through practices. Marc Kanetsky and Najee Tyler will start the season as backups. Quarterback Coach and Offensive Coordinator, Shane Montgomery, explained the unique situation of inexperience at the most important position on offense. “I don’t want him [Hess] out there thinking if he makes a mistake that he is going to come out of the game. Kurt knows that we put a lot of responsibility in the quarterback and he has to step up. In all fairness, we have to work to take some of the pressure off of him too. We have to be able to run the football to open up the passing game and take that pressure away from Kurt.”
Receivers Coach Phil Longo said the process takes time. “It’s not really ‘polish’ time yet. We are sharpening up everything that has been installed and now we are taking steps to get better at executing what we will be doing on offense. The expectation here is to play every game hard enough to go win the thing.“ Longo also praised one of the new guys when asked if there were any surprises on the team. ” I have been surprised by Andre Barboza, a transfer from Erie. He catches the ball well, runs well, and has really worked hard.”
Wolford has seen some turnover since taking over. In March, the plan was to ‘weed out’ the guys who would not fit into the system. Wolford commented on how that process has gone. “The dead weight weeded itself out, we didn’t have to do anything. Some guys just hang themselves. We have got to lay a foundation here for a future. If you are trying to do a quick fix, you are bringing in renegades and guys that got into trouble with other programs.”
With September 4 fast approaching, the Penguins are pretty much injury-free and are taking the approach of intensity to new levels. Wolford is a perfectionist in many ways and declared that his team did not do enough in practice on Tuesday to win. Thursday was to be an off day, but that may change based on the premise of sharpening things up.
The Youngstown State University football program has a full plate this season. On September 4, the Penguins travel to Happy Valley for a visit with the #14 team in the country, Penn State. The Penguins will play every Missouri Valley Conference game with a chip on their shoulders after being picked to finish seventh in the conference. Monday night the Penguins opened full-contact practice with a bang at a public workout.
The most obvious thing that was different in the Summer edition of the “Oklahoma” drill compared to the Spring version was the increased vibe of intensity. In the Spring, the coaches did most of the pointing, yelling, and screaming. At Stambaugh Stadium on Monday the players made the noise, hit with aggression, got into each others faces, and the coaches were a side dish this time.
Eric Wolford, if for nothing else, has a feather in his new cap already – the ability to motivate. Wolford is a no-nonsense coach who has and will continue to run a tight ship. Vowing to eliminate all of the riff-raff and dead weight is one thing, but actually doing just that in a very short period of time is commendable.
After the Oklahoma drills, the offense and defense scrimmaged under game conditions. Purdue transfer Najee Tyler looked like the frontrunner for the quarterback derby. Tyler looks like a young Randall Cunningham and will create headaches for defensive coordinators all season. Another newcomer, Adaris Bellamy had a couple of slick runs for the offense. Eric Rodemoyer, Nick Gooden, and Torrance Nicholson all looked sharp and focused. Dominique Barnes is going to have a monster season and played consistently during the scrimmage portion Monday.
Penn State plays #1 Alabama in week two of the upcoming season, a week after they face YSU. Don’t look too far ahead JoPa, the kids from the valley are coming to visit.
Momentum and inspiration are a lethal combo. Last night, Mahoning Valley seemed to have found the instruction manuals for the bats they use. Tonight ,Luke Holko was honored before the game which had everyone’s heart pumping. The end result was an 8-7 loss as the bullpen blew a four-run ninth inning lead.
Manager Travis Fryman was as frustrated as I have ever seen him after the game. “This was brutal”, said Fryman, “This home stand we swung the bats extremely well. Our situation is that we have problems with guys throwing strikes out of the bullpen, and if they can’t throw strikes then they shouldn’t be playing baseball. That’s the bottom line, and if they can’t throw strikes then we will have to find somebody who can.”
Mahoning Valley had their most productive inning of the season when the offense exploded for six runs in the bottom of the second. Chase Burnette doubled to start things off. Jesus Aguilar then walked. Diego Seastrunk then nailed the Tim Adleman offering to right field for his third homer of the season to put the Scrappers ahead, 3-0. Dan DeGeorge reached via error and Aaron Fields walked. Carlos Moncrief singled driving in one and new signee and sixth round pick, Nick Bartolone, singled knocking in two more. The half-inning went 51 pitches.
Aberdeen broke through in the fourth as David Anderson hit his second bomb in as many nights. This one traveled an estimated 430′ to dead center and hit about halfway up the screen. It was all that Owen Dew would surrender in his five innings. For Dew, it was nice to finally get some run support in one of his starts.
Aguilar tacked on an RBI-single in the 7th inning. Giovanny Urshela led off the inning with a ground rule double. Urshela advanced to third on a Burnette groundout before trotting home with the seventh run of the game for the Scrappers.
Gregorio Rosario pitched two innings of scoreless relief for Mahoning Valley. Julio Ramirez didn’t fare as well as he surrendered a run and left the bases loaded with one out for Dale Dickerson. Dickerson was very effective and recorded the two needed outs to minimize the damage in the inning. Things didn’t go as well in the ninth for Dickerson as the first couple of batters reached base. JD Goryl entered and could not hold the lead as the Iron Birds rallied to put up five runs and take an 8-7 lead in the final frame.
The Scrappers play Aberdeen again Monday afternoon at 1 p.m. on Senior Citizen Day. Anyone who held a ticket from the Lebronfire postponement will receive free admission with their receipt from the August 5th game.
Last season was the most successful in Mahoning Valley Scrappers history. Shy of winning the Penn League Championship, the year could have been called nearly perfect, except for one unfortunate incident. In the early innings of the second game of a doubleheader, Luke Holko was struck in the back of the head by a foul ball. Holko made his triumphant return to Eastwood Field on Sunday, as GM Dave Smith announced that Luke would be signed to an honorary one day contract.
“He is still a little wobbly when he walks and they had to put some botox in one his legs for balance purposes, but all-in-all he is doing great“, remarked Chad Holko. ”Nicole was driving with him in the car a couple of weeks before Christmas, and he was eating Goldfish Crackers or Cheerios, and he uttered the word ‘more’. It made the holidays much more fun.”
Young Luke seemed a bit overwhelmed at times. In the picture above, Travis Fryman greeted Holko in the dugout during batting practice. Luke was later introduced as he was escorted to the mound by his parents to throw out the first pitch. The crowd was very supportive and provided a standing ovation. Luke then made his pre-game pitch, which was a strike. The paramedics who worked on and transported Luke that night were here and given props.
Fryman commented on the Holko situation. “We have been following it closely for eleven months. My wife and I have their website marked in our favorites and check the status several times a week. We have spoken with Chad and Nicole and have stayed in contact. It’s miraculous how good he looks, he looks like a normal four-year old boy and that is fantastic to see.”
There was a lot of emotion shown as people watched Luke’s every move. For what the family has been through over the past eleven months, Sunday was a celebration of what good humanity and prayer can resolve, even in the bleakest of situations. I also praise the Holko family for never holding a grudge against the Scrappers for what happened. It is an amazing story and Chad Holko said it best, “It’s amazing how something like this makes you realize what is really important in life”.
It should also be noted that the visiting team, the Aberdeen Iron Birds, participated in the pre-game festivities and presented Luke with an autographed ball.
George “The Animal” Steele was recently at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game. There was a laser hair removal promotion on the same night in which Steele picked the fan with the hairiest back to receive a free treatment. For years, Steele was the ultimate WWF (WWE) heel. He struck fear into some fans and amused others with his antics. Eating corner turnbuckles, flashing his green tongue, losing focus during matches, and being the uncontrollable x-factor with the white-taped foreign object, made Steele so much fun to watch. I was lucky enough to have a few minutes with The Animal.
Paneech: I want to get your views on today’s professional wrestling as compared to 40 years ago. What difference have you noticed and do you still watch?
Steele: It has changed drastically and is a totally different business now. I don’t watch wrestling anymore. I got my faith in 2002, I was very, very sick and was given only six months to live. When I made it through that, Vince [McMahon] wanted me to sign a Legends contract, but I chose not to sign as a tribute to my new-found faith. At that time they were using angles involving fornication in a coffin, gay marriage, and all kinds of stuff that didn’t cater to my new lifestyle. So I chose not to get involved and if I watched, I felt as though I was condoning it.
Paneech: Do you keep in touch with any other pro wrestlers or have you eliminated all contact?
Steele: I am on the board of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame. The web address is PWHF.org and it is not just an internet site, we have a building that is three stories. The guys that are in wrestling today will sometime be going into that Hall of Fame.
Paneech: How did the whole “Animal” persona evolve?
Steele: I got that name, George Steele, when I was wrestling out of the Pittsburgh promotion. I was a school teacher making $4300.00 a year. I started wrestling in the Detroit area as a masked man called, “The Student”. Bruno [Sammartino] came to Detroit with an entourage and they spotted me. I took my cap, gown, and mask to Pittsburgh, but they decided that they did not want a masked man, they wanted me. I knew I couldn’t use my real name, Jim Myers, because of teaching and coaching. Johnny DeFazio said this is Pittsburgh, the steel city, but I didn’t like Jim Steele, so we went with George. They wanted me to quit teaching and coaching to wrestle full time, but I loved what I did, so the wrestling stayed a part time venture for me.
Paneech: For years, you didn’t speak, then Capain Lou Albano takes you to Dr. Rodney Papoofnick’s office to get you some electric treatments that will miraculously have you articulating.
Steele: How Now Brown Cow.
Paneech: Exactly, that is what you said. Then Albano tried to convince the doctor to give you more juice to say more and it was too much and you relapsed.
Steele: Before that era, I actually did all of my own interviews. When I was assigned a manager, I would not talk. Because I was not there very long due to teaching and coaching, the manager would fill spots talking about me, but that whole thing with How Now Brown Cow was my own adaptation of what Vince originally wanted. Vince gave me a poem to memorize, it was about a page-and-a-half, and I’m dyslexic, so c’mon give me a break. When the time came to recite this poem verbatim, I said “screw him” and just said How Now Brown Cow. I always did everything my own way. If you watch Vince’s reaction during that segment, he was wondering what I was doing. If I would have read that long poem, no one would have remembered and it would have been garbage. I still have people come up to me randomly and say How Now Brown Cow.
Paneech: You went from a notorious heel for years to this endearing lovestruck being with the whole Macho Man / Miss Elizabeth angle in which you were drawn in to Savage’s valet. How did that angle work?
Steele: I didn’t become a face, I became a cartoon character. I went from being one of the most viscious heels in the industry to a cartoon character. Me, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo were involved in a match at Madison Square Garden during my cartoon character era. We were fighting Big John Studd, Bobby Heenan, and I think Mr. Wonderful [Paul Orndorff] and nobody knew how to get out of the match to end it because nobody wanted to lose. so I said “I’ll get us out of it”. I cleared the ring with a steel chair and ended up hitting the ref with the chair and getting disqualified, so nobody lost anything.
Paneech: Who was a wrestler you really liked to work with, and conversely who did you not like working with?
Steele: I really enjoyed my matches with Bruno Sammartino, they were bigtime hardcore. Later on, I had my feud with Randy Savage, which was very lucrative. That feud lasted three years and had a long run, he was very jealous. People would ask me if I was in love with Miss Elizabeth, and I would just laugh and say no, I have been married to my wife for 55 years, and she [Elizabeth] doesn’t do windows. I never had anyone I didn’t like to work with until they started throwing people who didn’t belong in the sport into matches with me. At a television taping, I faced one such opponent and over the span of four minutes, I threw him out of the ring 17 times. He couldn’t lace his boots and did not belong in a ring, so I got my point across.
Paneech: Today’s wrestlers sometimes whine about working 320 days a year. Is this a realistic number?
Steele: No, absolutely not, they work about 150-200 days a year. Two days out of the week, they do television shows, one live and one taped. I was an agent with WWE for ten years after I retired, so i was pretty familiar with the schedule. I once wrestled 97 straight days. Many days in a row, I bounced back and forth between the East Coast and the West Coast, just back and forth every day, that was a tough span.
Paneech: There was a rock band called Kiss that was huge in the seventies. The deal with them was that you could not see them without their makeup. When you were in public, did you stay in character, or were you a free talking person?
Steele: I was 6’2″ and weighd 290 pounds, pretty imposing. People would come up to me and I would just look at them (pauses) and they would leave.
Paneech: Do you resent Vince McMahon for the direction he has taken the sport?
Steele: No, I don’t. Vince did what he had to do. Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion in Minnesota and Canada was moving Southeast fast. The NWA was gaining major television exposure on TBS and moving North, everything was moving toward Vince. He came up with Wrestlemania as a way to prove he was smarter than the rest of these guys and it caught. I was closer with his father, Vince McMahon Sr., than I was with Vince, although I did watch Vince grow up and aided in his nurturing. I don’t agree with everything he does, but he is definitely very good with business and marketing, and has succeeded.
Steele came off as very articulate and cordial. He took pictures with anyone who asked, but the highlight of the night came between the fifth and sixth innings of the Scrappers game. Steele was on field with Heather Sahli’s hard working promotional team and he clotheslined Scrappy, the oversized mascot. He then encouraged one of the kids on the field to pin the mascot (and hook the leg), and in typical George Steele fashion, started to walk back to the exit, turned and looked at the laid out mascot and ran back to deliver a patended George Steele kick to the head. The audience loved it and he really seemed to enjoy himself. Very classy individual, but obviously, a great performer who had so many people fooled about who he really was all those years.