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Baseball Eagerly Awaits Field Updates

in Sports by
Baseball Renovations Pic

Following a 22-17-1 run last year, the Swarthmore Baseball Team sought to bolster certain aspects of the program for the bright future ahead. While bringing in a strong freshmen class still proved a priority for the program, it became clear that the outdated facilities would need work to keep up with the rapidly improving gameplay and influx of future recruits. This fall, the administration rewarded the team’s success and efforts, securing funding and beginning construction on key improvements to Clothier Field.

With the first home game currently scheduled for Mar. 18 versus powerhouse Penn St. Berks, construction has ramped up in hopes of finishing before the homestand. This first phase consists of upgrading a significant portion of the seating and technology around the ballpark, including a press box complete with improved broadcasting functionality. The second phase will continue throughout the season, as the Palmer, Pittinger, and Roberts (PPR) Halls undergo simultaneous construction, integrating the dormitory into the landscape of the outfield fence. The athletics department compared this state-of-the-art fence integration improvement as mimicking the likes of the right field fence at the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park, where fans have a close and intimate experience with the game before them.

Another important addition to the Swarthmore baseball program was assistant coach Dan Gusovsky, who came from William & Mary to lead the pitching staff and conduct recruiting process.

In an interview, he said “The renovations will enhance Clothier Field to an elite, unique facility, that we will proudly call home.”

In the meantime, the baseball team and fans will have to adapt to the ongoing construction beyond the left field and fence and around the ballpark. Most significantly, the left field fence now lies at a much shorter dimension, with a temporary telephone-pole fence separating the field from the construction.

The press box, named in honor of former legendary Swarthmore head baseball coach Ernie Prudente, the school record-holder for all-time wins as head coach with 216, will also be an adjustment for the team’s supporters and athletics staff. The press box will include brand new broadcasting equipment, which is particularly useful for the live online streaming of home games.

Our supporters will not only have an enhanced experience watching our games live, however, our supporters will be able to watch our games with higher resolution [online]… our program couldn’t be happier with the investment made by our administration that will bring everlasting recognition to a true Garnet great,” Gusovksy said.

However, this wait and accommodation will be worthwhile for the team in its long-term effects on the program. Citing a recent example of one of this year’s top-prospects leaving on account of inadequate baseball facilities, Gusovsky claimed, “The renovations will give us an edge in winning recruiting battles with competitor schools. The unique character of Clothier Field will separate our field on a national level.”

Nevertheless, the team understands the significant added responsibility and commitment the construction represents on behalf of the administration. As the season continues, the team will look to improve on last year’s foundation, with eyes set on the Centennial Conference Championship and beyond. Led by a seasoned senior class of outfielder Ryan Burnett ’17, infielder Wesley Fishburn ’17, and catcher Steven Matos-Torres ’17, the Garnet will kick off their 2017 season with back-to-back weekend doubleheaders on Feb. 25 and 26. This warm-up will be followed by the long-awaited Spring Break trip to Ft. Myers, FL with a 10-game road trip. All of this hard work seeks to jumpstart the team into peak form for the arrival of conference gameplay a few weeks later, with hopes of an eventual championship opportunity.

As Gusovsky would emphasize, “I believe that Swarthmore has doubled down on reasonable expectations for our baseball team’s home field, and I know that our players will continue their hard work on and off the field.”

The Garnet will continue to work hard and prove their value throughout the rest of the school year with hopes of winning a conference championship this upcoming May.

Baseball Primed to Do Big Things

in Sports by
wesley

If one takes a walk into the fieldhouse these days, they’ll be greeted by the sounds of bats clinking and balls smacking against leather. That’s the Swarthmore College Baseball Team, hard at work as they prepare for their season. The Garnet team, coached by Matt Midkiff, is looking to rebound from a tough season which saw them finish with an overall record of 22-17-1, but a losing record in conference play of 6-11-1, earning them second to last in the Centennial Conference.

Last season saw the departure of key players Nate Booth ’16, Roy Walker ’16, and David Wolfson ’16. Booth pitched for the Garnet and posted a 2.06 ERA to go along with 35 strikeouts in 11 starts last year. Walker, the team’s right fielder, was the Garnet’s best hitter last season. He led the team with a .349 batting average and 36 RBIs while also playing stellar defense. Wolfson contributed 14 RBIs and 2 home runs, adding some power to the Garnet offense. The Garnet also lost Brian Gibbs ’17 who started 9 games as a pitcher, posting a 3.07 ERA while striking out 64.

Though the graduated seniors will be missed, the Garnet brought in a very large and strong recruiting class, including 18 freshmen who made the roster. The Garnet also return some key parts, most notably Wesley Fishburn ’17. Fishburn started all 35 games as a freshman in 2014, batting a solid .286 and contributing 12 RBIs. But his performance as a sophomore was truly a revelation for the Garnet. Fishburn batted .399 for the season and set a Swarthmore single-season record with 59 hits. He won the Centennial Conference Golden Glove Award, given to the best defensive player in the league and was also named to a number of all-star teams, including the All-Centennial Conference First Team and ABCA/Rawlings Mid-Atlantic All-Region second team. His junior season was not as spectacular but still impressive, finishing second on the team in batting average and RBIs. Fishburn, who tore his ACL in the final game of the 2016 season, is not yet at full health, but once he is, he will be a menace for opposing pitchers as he looks to cap off his exemplary career for the Garnet. Jaron Shrock ’18 returns as the backstop for the Garnet after a solid sophomore campaign cut short by injury. Charles Groppe ’19 also returns for the Garnet after his freshman season in which he posted a 3.33 ERA and struck out 36 in 8 starts and 12 total appearances. Griffin Kammerer ’18, a hard-throwing relief pitcher, looks to be effective this year as well.  

In an effort to be a step above the rest of the competition, the Garnet coaching staff has started holding 6 a.m. practices every Tuesday and Thursday. These practices primarily focus on conditioning drills and improving the fitness of the team. However, they also serve another purpose: to help with team-building and to give the team experience with adversity, something they will often face as they head into the thick of the season, playing four or five games each week and often two in one day.

Sawyer Lake ’20, a pitcher on the team, said, “We work hard and we’re proud of the fact that we’re training when everyone else is asleep. It’s been a great bonding experience, it’s something we all take part in. No matter the position, no matter the year, it’s the whole team putting in the effort to edge out our competitors.”

Hopefully for the Garnet, their 6 a.m. workouts will pay dividends. With the new training routine and the many new faces, the players have a lot to be excited about.

Fishburn said, “We’ve got some really talented freshmen and some upperclassmen who’ve worked really hard to take the next step, so I’m confident that we’ve got the talent to make a playoff push.”

Fishburn admits the team still has a lot of unknowns because of its youth but expects that many players, both freshmen and underclassmen alike, will step up and take important roles.

The players are also very excited to get back onto the new and improved diamond at Clothier Fields.

Outfielder Ryan Burnett ’17 said, “Our field has been undergoing a lot of renovations and we’re ready to get back out there, especially with the addition of our new press box and stadium seating that will allow everyone that comes out to a game to be more involved.”

Hopefully Garnet fans will come out in force this year to cheer on this Swarthmore squad that’s looking to strike big. The team plays their first game of the season on Feb. 25 at Arcadia University. After that, they’ll travel down to Fort Myers, Florida for spring break, playing in the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. They’ll play 10 games total in this tournament against such schools as Hiram College and the United States Coast Guard Academy. Then, they play their home opener on Mar. 18 against Penn State Berks. Centennial Conference play starts on Apr. 1 with a doubleheader at Johns Hopkins, last year’s Centennial Conference champion.

The Garnet, with a plethora of youthful talent, look poised to fight for a top spot in the Centennial Conference this year and in years to come.

Cooperstown, Where Do We Draw the Line?

in Columns/Sports by

While there are many individuals out there with a wealth of knowledge on every baseball player and statistic, even for us average Joes, the recent Hall of Fame controversy provides a philosophical discussion. The debate regarding which players are selected to join the Hall of Fame has evolved from a simple opinion of their talent into a moral conversation. Now the question of whether to let in suspected steroid users is a judgement call that all of us have the right to weigh in on.

Though we all have our opinions on who should make the Hall of Fame, ultimately a group of veteran baseball writers get to make the decisions. Veteran members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America are baseball writers who have given ten years of service to the Association, and they have received the privilege to cast a vote for up to ten players every year. There was a total of 442 ballots cast this year. Players are placed on the ballot in several ways, most commonly by waiting at least five years after their official retirement from playing in the MLB. From the time that players are placed on the ballot, there are three different ways which they are removed from the ballot. The first and most exciting way for a player to get off the ballot is for that player to have over 75% of the electors vote for them. If they get 75% or more of the votes, then they are accepted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. If a player does not reach the 75% mark, they can remain on the ballot for up to ten years. If they are unsuccessful after their tenth year,they are removed from the running. They are also removed if they receive less than 5% of votes from the electors in any given year; also lose the chance to enter the Hall of Fame.  

This year, the hall of fame will welcome its three newest members: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez. Ivan Rodriguez was even a first-ballot Hall of Famer. However, the most contentious discussions have not surrounded Raines, Bagwell or Rodriguez; controversy has arisen over the players who were not elected. Barry Bonds, a name even the most clueless fans know, shot up in vote percentage to almost 54%. Arguably one of the best hitters in baseball, with countless MVP awards under his belt, he seems like a shoe in for the Hall of Fame. However, his career and successes are mired by the steroid era and the dark cloud of performance enhancing drugs that cast a shadow on his accomplishments. The same goes for other players such as Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Sammy Sosa. Though none of these players received enough votes, recent increases in voting for Bonds and Clemens may be an indication that the day is coming where steroid use will no longer keep “The Greats” from the Hall of Fame.

There are two major factors that explain why Bonds and Clemens have received an uptick in votes. First, a new wave of writers with a different perspective on integrity became eligible to vote and flushed out an older generation of writers who actually worked in the steroid era. Second, Bud Selig, the former commissioner who presided over the steroid era and is often accused of allowing this behavior, was elected to the Hall of Fame. Others, such as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicler, who have previously voted against all-stars with known PED use are now reconsidering.

Slusser said, “[It is] senseless to keep steroid users out when the enablers are in the Hall of Fame. I will now hold my nose and vote for players I believe cheated.”

The moral and philosophical debate regarding these recent Hall of Fame votes centers around three questions. First, should steroid users be allowed in the Hall of Fame? Second, if there are players in the Hall of Fame who most likely used, but never confessed or got caught, why do they have the right to be in when “The Greats,” such as Barry Bonds, have to be kept out? Lastly, what about those non-users who might take a hit in votes and not be able to get in.

Speaking about himself and Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds said, “The guys that are supposed to be there are supposed to be there. Period. I don’t even know how to say it. We are Hall of Famers. Why are we having these conversations about it? Why are we talking about a baseball era that has come and gone?” 

From Bonds’ viewpoint, no “perceptions” of PED use should be allowed to stand in the way of the selection of the obvious record breakers and Hall of Famers such as himself. It appears that baseball writers are on the verge of agreeing with his perspective.

Of course, there will always be writers that reject any players accused of steroid use on the principle of the stated guidelines for BBWAA voting which say that integrity should be a considered factor in the voting process. Time will only tell how integrity will be interpreted with relation to the Hall of Fame as this wave of suspected steroid users comes through the selection process.

 

Should club athletes qualify as Athlete of the Week?

in Columns/Sports by
Should club athletes qualify as AOTW

The process of selecting the Athlete of the Week at the Phoenix every week is fairly simple, but that may change. Typically, the athlete who performed the best or had the biggest positive impact in their team’s game will get the weekly spot in the Sports section. The section, however, may begin to feature both club and varsity athletes in the coming years. The change comes as a part of a larger campus discussion regarding the cooperation, valuation, and, at times, animosity between the two groups of campus athletes. In the discussion of changing the way we select Athlete of the Week, the question of club athletes’ qualifications for selection as Athlete of the Week has arisen.

     Club sports play an important role in the lives of many students at the college. Between volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and rugby, some of the more prominent club sports on campus, non-varsity student-athletes have the opportunity to competitively participate in various athletic events. There are currently seven chartered clubs including Fencing, Men and Women’s Rugby, Men and Women’s Ultimate Frisbee, Men’s Volleyball, and Men’s Badminton. These clubs are highly organized and have clearly defined policies specific to club sports teams that they must follow. Like all students, members of club sports teams must also comply with policies set out by the college, including sexual assault and harassment, misconduct, safety, and hazing policies. Club athletes can face disciplinary action if they don’t adhere to these policies. The implementation of these policies suggests that club athletes are held to a particular behavioral standard as they are representatives of the school.

     Club sports are also held to standards of organization, similarly to varsity sports. Club captains are required to submit rosters, have their players sign an assumption of risk form, verify that the team has team insurance, and ensure that the team is authorized to travel. Most importantly, captains are required to develop and establish an attendance policy. Attendance policies are important in club sports, too, because club athletes can receive PE credit, which is a requirement for graduation, similar to varsity athletes.

     Because club athletes can receive PE credit, their activities are officially recognized by the school as competitive athletic events that contribute to a student’s learning in the same way varsity athletic events do. In order for a club sports to be eligible for PE credit, they must follow certain criteria. Club sports are required to hold at least three practices a week while they are in season, must have a committed coach or supervisor, and must keep attendance, as mentioned before. Club sports are classified as a chartered student organization, and thus receive funding from the Student Budget Committee. In the event that funding does not completely cover total costs, teams are allowed to fundraise on campus with approval of the athletic department although varsity teams also have the opportunity to raise funds through on-campus events.

     Much like varsity sports, club sports play a competitive schedule. Almost every club team played an away game last year, and every team could have qualified for their respective postseason, given they earned a good enough record. Teams are required to attend their scheduled games, or they run the risk of forfeiting.

     The competition creates rivalries. Last week, the Women’s Rugby team edged out Ursinus for the first time in five years. The long-standing rivalry between Swarthmore and Ursinus illustrates the competitiveness of many club sports on campus. Tim Greco ’19, a member of the Men’s Rugby team, spoke to the competitive edge not only present but required for competing in club sports.

     “The people on the team care about their performance very much. If you don’t care about doing well, you won’t be out there to begin with risking yourself getting hurt. There’s definitely a competitive spirit, on the same plane as varsity athletics,” said Greco. Greco also mentioned how club athletes represent the college, bearing the signature Swarthmore “S” on equipment and jerseys. He said, “We are still representing the college. It does not matter if it is through an official sport or through a club sport. We are still representing Swarthmore. Not only how well we do, but our level of sportsmanship reflects back on Swarthmore.” Some argue that many club teams are just as committed and dedicated to their sport as varsity teams.

     Rose Ridder ’19, a member of the Women’s Rugby team and former swimmer, spoke along these lines saying, “Some club sports are more hardcore than others, but some are definitely not hardcore. Some varsity sports are more hardcore than other, but some are definitely not hardcore.”

     Ethan Chapman ’19, a member of Men’s Ultimate Frisbee, approaches the question from a different perspective, saying, “The commitment level is higher [as a varsity athlete], but you’re bound to it. If you’re playing frisbee, and you’re committed that much to your team, the same level as a varsity player, that says a lot about you,” he said. “You’re not bound to that. Everyday, you have the option to not go, and nothing will happen. But if you choose to keep going, that just says so much about your dedication.”

     Chapman expanded on his statement when he said, “When a varsity athlete is on a team and is having a bad day, they are still forced to go to their practice. In club sports, if you’re doing it just for fun, and you’re having a bad day, you don’t need to go. But if you have that commitment, and you go on your own, again that just says so much.”

     On the other hand, many varsity athletes feel the current method for selecting Athlete of the Week, and for covering Garnet sports in general, should go unchanged. The argument, most often, was that only varsity athletes should be selected because they are more committed to their sport.

     Varsity athletes are, in general, not allowed to miss any practices except for emergencies, class conflict, or injury. By-and-large, coaches hold each individual athlete accountable for missing any type of team practice or lift, often requiring each player to make up the practice or lift on their own time. In some cases, athletes get sent back to their dorms for being late to a lift or practice without a proper excuse.

     “Some varsity athletes compete every single day for as many as three to fours hours, taking up a lot of your time. Varsity is official, people work really, really, really hard. Club seems to be more of a fun thing,” shared Chris Chan’ 17, a member of the Track and Field team.

     An anonymous player on the Softball team shared similar sentiments, explaining that she felt that varsity sports are more intensive than club sports.

     “They [club athletes] don’t put in as much time as we do, and don’t have official coaches. In general, they don’t get recruited or have to worry about getting cut.” She continued, explaining that she perceives club sports as less standardized and, therefore, less competitive.

     “They [club athletes] don’t have statistics or a league to be compared with. What would you be measuring them against? No one knows how good their competition is.”

     The majority of varsity athletes get recruited to play at the college; however, club athletes typically do not. Being recruited to play a sport in college is a slow and painful process. Most college coaches go to recruiting events that host hundreds of players, only being able to get a short glimpse at each of them. Many times, they go to recruiting events already knowing which players they want to take a look at. Other times, they rely on recommendations from travel coaches to build their recruiting classes. Some varsity athletes made the life-changing decision to attend one college over another solely because one college offered the opportunity to play on a varsity team.

     Of course, there is always the uncertainty of not being accepted into a certain college even after being offered a roster spot, which can make finding a school to play at even more difficult. Jackson Roberts ’19, a member of the Baseball team, recalls a situation in high school where he made plans to originally commit to another college.

     “I had made up my mind about playing and studying at [undisclosed college]. I had it taken away from me when I didn’t get in. I knew the baseball coach really wanted me, so I assumed I’d get in. I thought it was the best situation for me,” he said. In the end, the circumstances changed, creating undue challenges for Roberts.

     “I was forced to find alternative plans. Varsity athletes face and think about these things first. I don’t think club athletes think about that first. I think they choose a school based on academics, then reached out to club athletics after.”

     Another difference between club athletes and varsity athletes, many believe, is that varsity athletes are held to a different behavioral standard. Many varsity athletes can recall the traditional speech given by coaches before every weekend, which includes reminding ever player that, although they may be members of other groups, they are identified as a member of their team first. Many people identify well-known varsity athletes as varsity athletes first. Although club athletes still represent Swarthmore, they are not always identified as club athletes first. This distinction socially separates them from club athletes.

     All of this being said, the conversation will likely continue, as the athletic department and campus attitudes towards athletics shift and change.

 

First look: This year’s MLB Postseason

in Columns/Sports by
Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As another MLB season chock full of storylines and controversy comes to a close, let us first reflect on the season before getting swept up in the rush of playoff baseball. In the beginning of a the new era, the Cubs seem primed to have a shot at a World Series, having not won a championship since 1908. The MLB also implemented new timing rules in an attempt to “Make Baseball Fun Again.” We saw multiple legends end their careers, as sluggers David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez both declared their retirement. It was a season of controversy between the famed Odor-Bautista brawl at second base and the usual never-ending hatred of umpires. Most of all, it was just another MLB season, full of the pleasure and fun that have made baseball America’s pastime.

      October baseball has begun, and the pool of contenders for World Series Champion has been narrowed down to eight teams. Before I make any claims or predictions about any of these teams, I should make a caveat: I was born in Maine and have lived in Washington, D.C. most of my life. I have been a lifetime Red Sox fan and a Nationals fan since they came to D.C. in 2005. I will try to keep as much of my personal bias out of this piece, but without further ado, my predictions for the 2016 MLB playoffs are as follows.

      The Baltimore Orioles will not win the American League Wild Card game. As much as I love our orange, aviary friends up Interstate-95, I believe that the Orioles cannot survive on their shaky pitching rotation. While Chris Tillman was tremendous in the first half of the season, he has since fallen off track. Dylan Bundy and Ubaldo Jimenez have picked up the slack for him, helping the O’s clinch a spot in the postseason. However, Bundy’s rookie status moved the O’s to shut him down after reaching his inning limit, while Ubaldo has proven to be one of the streakiest pitchers in the MLB since his record year with the Rockies. I will admit the Orioles have a solid lineup and one of the most underrated bullpens in the MLB, but their incredible home record of 50-31 at Camden Yards this season is not encouraging as they’ll have to face the powerhouse Blue Jays at the Roger’s Centre in Toronto .

The Toronto Blue Jays will get KO’d by the Rangers in the AL Divisional Series. While I do believe they will win the Wild Card game, our friends from above the border will unfortunately have to take on the red-hot Texas Rangers. Earlier this year, this matchup resulted in one of the more memorable moments of this MLB season when Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor knocked the helmet and sunglasses off of Blue Jays fielder José Bautista with a vicious right hook to start a bench-clearing team brawl. Animosity aside, this is the best Rangers team we have seen since Ron Washington’s squad lost in the World Series in 2011. While the Rangers certainly had success early in the season on the backs of their pitching rotation, which included players Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, their front office made some key additions. After signing Ian Desmond in the offseason, accurately predicting a big comeback after his devastating season last year, the Rangers continued to make big moves in acquiring Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gomez, and Jonathan Lucroy. Their line-up already consisted of perennial All-Stars Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. Frankly, the Rangers only have a small achilles heel in their bullpen, meaning they have a better shot at winning games early on in any series and will probably be hindered as they get deeper into the postseason.

The Washington Nationals will win their NL Division Series and lose in the NL Championship Series. This season’s Nationals team is quite different from last season’s platoon of players. As devastating as last year’s early exit from the postseason was, this Nationals team will only have so much gas in the tank this year. While you could chalk off the past few year’s losses to poor decisions from manager Matt Williams and poor performance from closer Drew Storen, it would be a tough case to argue that Dusty Baker’s career .421 playoff win percentage would do much to change that. I will say that the Nationals have definitely made some improvements, finding a more youthful pitching staff, led by Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. Similarly, Daniel Murphy has proven that he can hit in the postseason just as well as anyone else, but, with Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos out for the postseason because of an ACL injury, I am pained to say that the Cubs stand the best chance of winning the NLCS.

     In a previous article, the Phoenix had mentioned that this might finally be the Cubs’ year.  As much as I would love the Cubs’ World Series drought to continue, they, nonetheless, have a strong shot at bringing home a trophy. I have to give General Manager Theo Epstein credit as he was the mastermind behind quickly building a powerful team composed of both elderly and youthful talent. The Cubs appear similar to the Orioles in that they both have starters that carry the team for a short streak before the next one picks up. This works in the long-term season, but in a short five or seven game series, premier arms like Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks can only start twice. Ace Jake Arietta has simply fallen off since the All-Star break, posting a 3.69 ERA and a dismal 12.60 ERA in his most recent start. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for the Cinderella story, I’m afraid this is just not the year, Cubbies.

The Boston Red Sox will win the World Series. Yes, I am a Red Sox fan, but I am making this decision based purely on objectivity. The Red Sox, hands down, have had the best offense in the MLB this year. Between Jackie Bradley Jr.’s impressive streak earlier in the season and Mookie Betts’ breakout season, the Red Sox are moving into postseason play with an unforgivingly high level of momentum. The Red Sox were red hot with a stellar 11-game win streak coming into the playoffs. The Red Sox also have one of the most underrated rotations of the year between David Price, Rick Porcello, and Drew Pomeranz. Losing Steven Wright and Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada to injury does not sit well, but considering the Red Sox depth on the bump and in the outfield, they should be fine. Similarly, the return of Koji Uehara, adding onto the already stellar closing battery of Junichi Tazawa and Craig Kimbrel, serves as an impressive boost for the Red Sox playoff run. If all goes well, the Red Sox are destined to bring home a trophy.

José Fernández, Dee Gordon, and why we watch sports

in Columns/Sports by
JoseFernandez

José Fernández would have been first to tell you that baseball is, at heart, just a game.

      He always had a smile on his face. It didn’t matter whether he was dicing up hitters with his filthy curveball, cheering on his best friend and teammate Giancarlo Stanton in the Home Run Derby, or even just looking silly at the plate. Nobody played the game of baseball with as much pure, childlike joy as José Fernández did.

      Perhaps this is because all of the other challenges he faced in his life. From early on, Fernández knew he wanted to play baseball for the rest of his life, and he knew making his way to America was the best way to achieve that goal. Fernández made four attempts at defecting from Cuba as a teenager. He failed three times, spending months in prison. His failures did not deter him. His love for the game and desire to improve his family’s quality of life pushed him to keep trying to get out of Cuba. On his fourth attempt, Fernández made it, although not without problems. While on a boat to Mexico, a woman fell overboard into stormy waters. In spite of being a teenager with little experience in the water, Fernández instinctively dove overboard and saved the woman, only to discover that she was his own mother.

      Fernández made it to America in 2008. Once here, he struggled to adapt. Like most defectors, he didn’t speak much English and was overwhelmed by all of the technology and culture that shape the American lifestyle. While at an airport in Tampa, a serviceman entered a  bathroom to find Fernández on the floor, searching for the handle that would make the automatic toilet flush.

      To Fernández , baseball was the easy part of living in this country.

      Fernández was part of a new group of players that are challenging the old-school notion that there is no fun in baseball. He played with flair, excitement, and a chip on his shoulder, but most of all, he played with incredible talent. José Fernández was a damn good ballplayer. No pitcher had struck out batters at the same rate he did. Fernández’s Fielding-Independent Pitching and Earned Run Average Plus put him among the all-time greats. The former first-round pick took the baseball world by storm, bursting onto the scene quickly. At 20 years old, Fernández compiled an incredible 2.19 ERA over 170 innings, while leading the National League with the fewest hits per 9 innings. He was almost unanimously named NL Rookie of the Year and came in third for Cy Young voting.

      Fernández’s death shocked the sports world. On Sunday, Fernández and two other friends  accidentally drove full speed into a jetty off the coast of Florida while boating. Officials found their bodies at around 3:00 am, noting that Fernández most likely died on impact. Fernández was 24 years old and had just announced that he and his girlfriend were soon expecting a baby girl. The social media world exploded, with players upon players expressing their love for Fernández  and grief over his loss. Videos poured in of Marlins players and fans crying over his death. If one thing is for sure, it’s that Fernández was loved very much.

      A player of his ability and youth has never died so suddenly before. The Marlins were stunned, as were the residents of Miami. The home game against the Atlanta Braves was cancelled. However, they still had a regular season game scheduled for Monday, and decided to honor Fernández as best as they could.

      One of the reasons we love sports is the emotions that come with being a fan. Monday night’s game was definitely not lacking in this department. The Marlins took the field with everyone wearing Fernández’s number 16 jersey. Even players from other teams hung Fernández jerseys in their dugout. A moment of silence was held, followed by a somber horn rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Tears were shed.

      In the bottom of the first inning, leadoff hitter Dee Gordon came up for his at-bat. Usually a left-handed hitter, Gordon took the first pitch from the right side while wearing Fernández’s helmet and mirroring his load. He switched over to his normal left-handed batter’s box on the next pitch.

      Dee Gordon is not a power hitter. He’s known for his ability to get on base and then steal bases. He’s a great player, but nobody expects him to hit for power.

      However, on the next pitch, Gordon took a big hack. He swung out of his shoes, and  Bartolo Colon’s 85 mile-per-hour pitch was smashed out of the park. Colon didn’t turn around.

      Gordon sprinted around the bases, trying to compose himself. He failed. Tears streamed down his face by the time he touched the plate and gestured to heaven, telling Fernández that he did that for him. He walked back to the dugout, where his teammates embraced him. When asked about his home run, Gordon let his emotions take over, saying, “I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you all might as well start.’ I ain’t ever hit a ball that far, even in BP. We had some help.” It was Gordon’s first home run of the season.

      The Marlins went on to win the game 7-3. They had completed their tribute to Fernández. It’s hard to watch games like these and think the baseball gods did not have a hand in Gordon’s home run. For a team and a city that was hurting, they have found solace that Fernández was looking down on them, jumping up and down with his trademark smile, celebrating Gordon’s home run.

Vin Scully, a timeless legacy in Los Angeles

in Columns/Sports by
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After announcing play-by-play for the Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 seasons, the renowned Vin Scully has decided to conclude his career. Scully, nicknamed “The Voice of the Dodgers,” is well-loved by the people of Los Angeles and Dodger players, alike. In his final game at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 25, each Dodger player took a brief moment to step back, look up to Scully in the broadcasting booth, and tip their helmets to him in respect.

      That sunny, southern California afternoon game could not have been a more ideal way to end Scully’s storybook career at Dodger Stadium. Going into the ninth inning, the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies were sitting at a 2-2 tie. In the top of the ninth, Rockies slugger David Dahl drove a pitch over the center field fence for a solo home run, putting the Rockies up 3-2. With the Dodgers down by one run, superstar shortstop Corey Seager came up to the plate and belted a solo home run of his own, tying the game at 3-3. With the game going into extra-innings, Charlie Culberson emerged a hero by sending a ball into the left field pavilion, walking the game off for the Dodgers. In addition to the dramatic finish, the Dodgers also clinched the N.L. West division that day for the fourth year running.

      Although the win may have excited many Dodger fans in the moment, Scully is quite used to it, having been around for plenty of Dodger victories. In fact, according to baseball-reference.com, Scully has witnessed over 10,000 Dodger games, six World Series titles, 23 no-hitters, and has done so over the course of 12 presidencies. No other sports broadcaster in professional sports history has been a part of the same organization for as long as Scully was.

      Scully’s long tenure in professional sports started with humble beginnings. Scully’s father died when he was only four years old, so the announcer never really got to know him. During his childhood, Scully worked in the basement of a hotel in Manhattan and occasionally delivered mail. After high school, he decided to serve in the United States Navy. After two years of service, Scully began attending Fordham University with the intention of studying broadcasting and journalism. Scully was raised Roman Catholic, and was attracted to Fordham because of its Roman Catholic affiliation and closeness to home.

      After graduating college, Scully was rejected from every broadcasting network he applied to – reportedly almost 150 – except for CBS Radio. Red Barber of CBS Radio took Scully with him when he was hired by the Dodgers in 1950. After working alongside Scully for three years, Barber left the Dodgers, leaving Scully all by himself. When the Dodgers made it to the World Series in 1953, Scully was only 25 years old, and had become the youngest person ever to do play-by-play for a World Series game.

      Ever since then, Scully has done a terrific job, accumulating accolades beyond compare. Scully has already been elected to numerous halls of fame, including the National Radio Hall of Fame, National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame, and American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame, who also named him Sportscaster of the Century in 2000. To honor his greatness, Bud Selig, commissioner of the MLB at the time, presented Scully with the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. This award has only been given out to 14 people in the history of professional baseball.

      One of the greatest moments in Scully’s career came in 1988. One could never forget hearing him narrate the emotions of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series, after watching Gibson limp his way up to the plate and face Dennis Eckersley, the most dominant closer in the game at the time.

      Although Scully will be missed, Dodger fans will never forget hearing his voice on the radio or television during some of the brightest moments in Dodger history.

Weekend Roundup

in Sports by
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Baseball:

The Garnet (19-14, 3-8 CC) are beginning to turn their season around. This week, they went 3-4, sweeping Washington College and taking a game off of Muhlenberg while falling twice to both Johns Hopkins and Gettysburg. In the contests against Washington College, pitching was the story. In game one, Brian Gibbs ’17 and Charles Groppe ’19 combined to pitch eight shutout innings, helping the team earn a 3-2 win. In game two, Nate Booth ’16 picked up his fifth win of the year, throwing six innings and only conceding one run (no earned).

After going 0-4 on the weekend, the Garnet rebounded on Tuesday against Muhlenberg. Again, Booth came up big, throwing six innings and allowing no earned runs. However, it was a different senior who played the role of hero. In the bottom of the seventh, Roy Walker ’16 stepped to the plate with a man on first and the game knotted 5-5. On a 1-1 pitch, Walker walloped a hanging curveball over the left-center field wall. Jackson Ramey ’18 threw a scoreless eighth and fireballer Zach Gonzalez ’19 shut the Mules down in the ninth, picking up his second save of the year. The Garnet travel to Muhlenberg this Thursday and host McDaniel for a double header this Saturday.

Softball:

The team (10-20, 1-9 CC) had a rough weekend, getting swept by Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall. That being said, the Garnet had some bright spots. Specifically, they showed some fight in the final innings. In game two against Dickinson, they entered the bottom of the seventh down 4-0. Mary Olesnavich ’18 led off the inning with a double. The next four batters proceeded to reach base, making it 4-2. With no outs and the bases loaded, Elizabeth Curcio ’19 had a chance to tie the game. She did just that, ripping a two RBI single down the right field line. The game went to extra innings and the Garnet ultimately fell short 5-4. The Garnet host Washington College for a double header this Thursday.

Track:

Both the men’s and women’s teams traveled to Johns Hopkins for a meet last Saturday. Maggie O’Neil ’17 not only recorded a personal best in her javelin (36.6 meters) and hammer throws (35.45 m), but she also set school records in these events. On the men’s side, Noah Rosenberg ’17 also set a personal record with his javelin throw (43.79 m). Rosenberg’s classmate, Zain Hannan ’17 similarly had an impressive day. He came in eighth in the 400 m sprint and twelfth in the 200 m sprint.

 

Women’s Tennis:

Last week, the tennis team came through with two big conference wins. Last Wednesday, they defeated Ursinus 6-3. After dropping all three doubles matches, the Garnet singles players responded. Not only did all six players emerge victorious, but also none of them dropped a set. The team carried this momentum into Saturday where they defeated F&M 6-3. This win was particularly noteworthy because F&M had defeated Swarthmore two years in a row. Swarthmore (5-1) holds sole possession of third place in the conference and has positioned itself in a good position to make the conference tournament. This week, the Garnet have home games against Bryn Mawr on Thursday and Dickinson on Saturday.

 

Men’s Tennis:

The win streak is now at eight games for the men’s tennis team after their 5-4 win against 29th-ranked F&M on Saturday. The Garnet had a 2-1 lead after doubles play thanks to wins by Mark Fallati ’18/Josh Powell ’18 at #1 and John Larkin ’17/Blake Oetting ’18 at # 3. Larkin also earned a win in the #2 singles match, as did Josh Powell at #5 and James Hahn ‘19 at #6. The victory keeps the Garnet undefeated in conference play going into their next match against Dickinson on Saturday at home.

Men’s Lacrosse:

Despite forcing overtime, the men’s lacrosse team were eventually defeated by F&M 9-8 on Saturday. The Garnet had a 4-0 lead going into the second quarter, but were pushed back on their heels as F&M responded with four unanswered goals. The teams were deadlocked for most of the match after that, with F&M holding an 8-7 lead with one minute left in regulation. However, Cam Marsh ’18 was able to score a goal, one of his team-high three for the game, to tie the score at 8-8 and push the game into overtime. Unfortunately for the Garnet, F&M ultimately put in the game-ending goal in overtime. The team’s record is now at 2-3 in conference play and 7-5 overall. They host nationally-ranked conference opponent Dickinson on Saturday.

 

Women’s Lacrosse:

The women’s lacrosse team had its senior day match against F&M on Saturday, where they honored the six seniors on the team: Elizabeth Upton ’16, Christine McGinn ’16, Nathalie Perry-Freer ’16, Lizzie Kolln ’16, Tazmin Baliff-Curtis ’16, and Connie Bowen ’16.  They couldn’t savor the moment for too long though, as they were handily defeated by their opponents, ranked 5th in the country, 15-0. F&M scored 12 of those goals in the first half to seal up the result fairly quickly. The team will get a chance to improve their conference record, 1-4 after the loss, when they play at Dickinson on Saturday.

 

Men’s Ultimate:

After a stellar regular season, the men’s ultimate team played in the East Pennsylvania D-III Conference Championships last weekend. The Earthworms went in seeded 4th but ended the tournament in 3rd place, surprising many teams along the way. The Garnet had a 6-4 lead against Lehigh, a powerhouse ranked 1st in the conference, before they turned on the gas and pulled off the comeback win. They also had a 11-9 lead against Haverford, ranked 2nd in the conference, before losing 12-11. To earn 3rd place, the Worms defeated 3rd-seeded Muhlenberg 12-11 in their last game of the tournament after losing to them earlier in the weekend in pool play. Max Franklin ’19 led the team with 27 assists while Lee Tarlin ’17 had a team-high 16 goals for the weekend. With the result, the Worms earned a bid to the Regional Championships in Oberlin, OH on April 29-30.

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