Monday, May 21, 2012

CSVA in Indianapolis

The last six months the center of the sports world may have been in Indianapolis. Last December the Big Ten Conference held its inaugural football championship game here, then a few months later in February the NFL brought its big show - the Super Bowl - into the heart of Indiana. It holds the NFL Combine every year, as well at the Big Ten's basketball post-season tournaments. And in less than a week, racing biggest event is held at the local speedway, the Indianapolis 500. But for a few days in May, the video coordinators of many of the NCAA schools congregated in downtown Indianapolis for its annual convention. CSVA (Collegiate Sports Video Association) is that group of video staffers who spent a few days to re-connect, meet those in the business and learn more about topics that are in their daily lives.

This year's hot topic is the migration of HD into their work flow and moving forward from the 40 schools who experimented with it in 2011 with outstanding results. The Big Ten led the way in 2010 starting the progress of finding a viable HD solution. Over the past two years other schools also worked towards this better quality solution and demanded that of their Sports Network providers. At this year's CSVA, those coordinators who adopted HD spoke of its benefits, and the major players in the solution (XOS Digital, DVSport, Sony, Panasonic) discussed of how each other worked towards this new standard for origination and exchange. Those conferences who will fully be HD in 2012 are the Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC.

CSVA also recognizes excellence in the field. Each conference selects their Video Coordinator of the Year. Upon winning this award they are then put into the field for National Video Coordinator of the Year. I was fortunate to be the recipient a year ago for both awards, and this year's honor went to Chris Luke (a one-time contributor to SportsFanEngy) at North Carolina. The Association also took time recognize excellence in the field of video editing with highlight videos meeting different criteria. And the Hall of Fame included Jeff Pons of the New York Jets

Another highlight of the event are the tours of the different sporting facilities. Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Colts facility were two arenas that gave the video staffs an inside look to their operations. A visit thru Bankers Life Fieldhouse was also scheduled, but was unavailable due to Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-finals between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat.

Next year's event will take place in Tampa, Florida.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wood Retires

Photo Courtesy: Chicago Tribune
Reluctantly Chicago Cub fans have fond memories of their favorite players in the blue and while pinstripes. Those memories replace what many other fan bases have - visions of World Series being won. Santo, Williams, Banks and Sandberg are among the few who Cub fans adore, yet all of their memories lack those players hoisting a World Series trophy above their head. Today, one more Cub favorite, Kerry Wood bowed out graciously from the Friendly Confines.

In front of an all-Chicago crowd as the White Sox began interleague play on Chicago's North Side, Kerry Wood went to the mound in relief to throw three pitches, all strikes, and leave the field with one last strikeout. He then left crossed the third base line, and headed towards the home team dugout only to be met by his son and a standing ovation of fans from both teams.

Wood will always be a Cub favorite. In his fifth start for the Cubs, Kerry Wood struck out twenty Houston batters - a game I remember watching at home with my Dad, one of our last together in his living room. With every pitch, every strike I became captivated and the look on my Dad's face was priceless as the team he cheered for his whole life was doing something he had never seen before. And when the last Astro batter was retired on strikes we looked at each other happy for the accomplishment, and excited to have shared it together.

As Wood's Cubs years went by, the success that many had hoped for didn't necessarily occur. He was traded to Cleveland and acquired by the New York Yankees, but Cubs fans always kept an eye on what #34 was doing. Then one off-season Wood had a brief discussion with then General Manager Jim Hendry to get a deal done to bring him home. It may not have been the money he could've acquired elsewhere, but it was important for him to pitch for the Cubbies, in whatever role they could use him. Whether it was closer or long-relief, he wasn't afraid to take the ball, and wasn't afraid to meet the media if the results weren't what the Cubs fans were looking for. 2012 was tough for Chicago fans to watch, and tougher for Wood. He realized it was time to retire. News broke prior to the first game in the Cubs - White Sox Crosstown Classic, and Wood wanted one more time to come in from the bullpen. Three pitches, three strikes and one K, the only way Kerry could end his Chicago Cubs career.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Iowa Cubs

Baseball games can provide something that you've never seen before. I experienced a few of those things today while watching the Chicago Cubs' Triple A affiliate, the Iowa Cubs take on the New Orleans Zephyr's, associated with the Miami Marlins.

To begin with, the starting pitchers of each time had no-hitters going for the first few innings. However the Cubs' Casey Coleman's bid was erased on an infield single by his opposing moundsman, Alex Sanabia in the third. Sanabia didn't only have a no-hitter going into the sixth, but it was also a perfect game. However that ended when Casey Coleman doubled off the right-field wall with two outs. Both pitchers didn't let those hits deter their play, but Coleman was taken out after seven only allowing 2 hits and striking out 9.

A total of four hits were allowed in this nine-inning affair, one each from the starting pitchers. Sanabia stayed strong into the 8th as he had seven strikeouts over the course of the 8 innings, but with runners on the corners and one out, Sanabia got his spike stuck in the mound while in his motion and balked in the winning run. And that was the final, 1-0 Iowa Cubs.
 Above, Casey Coleman comes off the mound following the third inning. The young prospect in the Cubs' organization has had a chance in the majors, and based off his showing today, he is making the most of improving in Des Moines. His era on the year is 3.48.
 Another prospect in Des Moines in first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo has shown great promise to make the parent team while in spring training, and at some time will make that next step. But in Chicago Bryan LaHair has been hitting the ball well, and there hasn't been a place to move him to. However if Rizzo keeps up his .355 batting average, someone in Chicago will be finding time on the bench. Today Rizzo struck out twice and popped up to the third baseman in the batter's box in his first at-bat.
Former Chicago Cubs catcher, Ron Hassey is now the manager of the New Orleans Zephyrs. I believe Hassey was brought to Chicago with Rick Sutcliffe in exchange for Mel Hall.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cubs - Dodgers

There are teams that excite a fan when they come to town. Those teams exist in all of the different sports at the different levels. In the NFL an example would be the Dallas Cowboys. The NBA has the Knicks, Lakers or Celtics. In college USC, Michigan or Ohio State to name a few on the football side, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina on the basketball side. The Yankees would be among those teams in Major League Baseball, as would the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of those teams with an extensive history, names that help define the sport's history, and the voices and personalities that is Dodger Baseball.  And this weekend the Los Angeles Dodgers came to Chicago's North Side to play another iconic team, the Chicago Cubs.
For most of us the Los Angeles Dodgers has one person that would be Mr. Dodger and that is Tommy Lasorda. Lasorda managed the Dodgers for their best era while on the nation's left side. Lasorda would be the rolly polly guy who sat in the dugout, seemingly as casual as the LA lifestyle. But he had the fire building in that stocky frame that enjoyed the game more than those who also wore the Dodger Blue. And when it was time for Lasorda to step away from the dugout, he still was part of the LA family, and he is a constant at home as well as on the road.
And the Dodgers have had their fair share of league-leaders. In 2012 Matt Kemp is that guy. Definitely a name many knew coming into the season, he is turning into a player that everyone will know by the all-star break. He is leading the league in many offensive categories, and on this cold, damp, windy afternoon in Chicago, Kemp was denied three possible home runs due to the outdoor conditions.
Vin Scully has the been the voice of the Dodgers since the team's move to LA. But today he doesn't carry every game, deciding to call those games at home as well as those in San Diego, San Francisco and Phoenix. On the road Steve Lyons helps take up some of the announcing responsibilities. Lyons (right) has also worked for the Fox Network's national games and post-season.
 Dale Sveum is in his first year as the Cubs manager. Part of getting to know the team he has, he finds himself playing those he likes to see more of to those he'd like to leave in the clubhouse. Brian LaHair is playing his first full season at first base. Progress is being noticed.
Wrigley Field continues to evolve. The outfield ivy remains, but just above the right-field line is the newest addition to the historic ballpark. In right field an LED board giving in-game stats is new. And above that is the Budweiser party deck. This are took the place of some family seating, but it has given the ballpark a little bit of a different identity.
 But as some things in the ballpark evolve, other traditions remain. Former broadcaster Harry Caray sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at the 7th inning stretch of all Cub home games. But with his passing in 1998, guests have been brought in to sing. There have been good and bad singers, and then there are those that are very forgettable. Yesterday's may fall into the latter category. Chicago Bear offensive lineman Roberto Garza was the guest conductor on Saturday.
And maybe the way to get to the ballpark, Chicago's public transportation system. The "L" allows fans a seemingly easy way to get to one of baseball's hard to reach diamonds. Wrigley Field was built in a neighborhood on Chicago's near north side.There are no major highways within three miles of Wrigley and the CTA provides a solid solution. My son and I like to park near O'Hare and the take the Blue Line to the Addison stop, where there buses pick you up and drop fans off outside the main entrance of Wrigley Field.