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Baseball Also Suffered A Serious Loss in the Kobe Bryant Tragedy (slightly revised)

On Sunday January 26th, the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles shocked not just the sporting world but the world at large.  

 
It was a foggy day in Los Angeles and even the LAPD had refused to fly in such weather.  We all know, sadly, that nothing stops even retired elite athletes when there is a game. In this case, it was Kobe's 13-year-old daughter Gianna's game sponsored by his Mamba Academy that he was hurrying to. 

 
Also perishing in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, the outstanding baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, his wife Keri, and their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa who also would have been playing in the game. 

 
To baseball people in the know, the passing of John Altobelli, no relation to former MLB first baseman and manager Joe Altobelli, is a severe blow. 

 

In addition to winning four California junior college titles and being the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) 2019 Coach of the Year, Altobelli had led the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod Baseball League for three seasons from 2012 to 2014.

 

He had mentored two of New York's biggest stars, the Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Mets' Jeff McNeil.

 
As I post on Monday February 10, my thoughts are with the friends and family at the Altobelli memorial that is being held at the Big A, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's stadium. 

 

The surviving members of the immediate family are J. J. Altobelli, 29, a former University of Oregon shortstop and a 18th-round draft choice of the Cardinals, and his sister Alexis, 16.  

 

Since 2018 J.J. (John James) has been a Red Sox scout. His uncle Tony, John's young brother, is sports information director at Orange Coast College. The OCC Foundation is accepting donations in the Altobellis' memory.

 

There has also been established a GoFundMe account at

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-altobelli-family 

 
That in his earlier life Kobe Bryant was not exactly a family man prompted CBS's Morning's on-air TV host Gayle King to raise the issue in an interview with retired WNBA star Lisa Leslie. 

 

There is no doubt that Kobe had become a huge supporter of girls' and women's basketball. Perhaps it was premature with grieving still so raw in the LA area for King to bring up the subject.

 

But in a gruesome sign of the times, King has reported death threats and has hired security for her home. So has said King's BFF (Best Friend Forever) Oprah Winfrey. 

 

Such is life in 2020 where far from a world of 20/20 vision, we are living In a 24/7/365 cyberspatial world where people seemingly see things only in black or white, heroes or villains.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The Super Bowl a week after the helicopter tragedy turned out to be a helluva game.  As you know, I am a big fan of Pat Mahomes and I'm glad he led the big comeback in the fourth quarter.  

 

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will have to own or "wear" - as Buck Showalter put it when he didn't use Zach Britton in the 2016 AL Wild Card game against Toronto - his role in two blown Super Bowl leads.  As the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, his questionable play-calling allowed the Patriots to win the Super Bowl XL in 2017 after trailing 28-3 in the second half. 

 

I like to think that the 49'ers got their comeuppance for celebrating too early by striking a team photo pose in the end zone after they got a 10-point lead in midway through the fourth quarter.  There was more football to be played as the Chiefs soon schooled them.

 

I grew up in the 1950s with the "Father Knows Best" TV series.  I've never forgotten how father Jim Anderson (Robert Young) ordered son Bud (Billy Gray) to report himself to the coach for reading about himself in the newspaper rather than getting his bed rest.  He was docked a game for his impertinence. 

 

I'd like to think that premature gloating and preening will backfire in the political arena as well.  We are barely in middle innings of political cycle if you catch my drift. 

 

Next time, hope there is hopeful news from spring training for at least some of you fans and your teams. Commissioner Rob Manfred's newly-disclosed idea for expanding playoffs to 14 teams is not what I had in mind. More on that next time.

  

That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

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Pre-Memorial Day Musings

We are past the quarter pole of the baseball season. Unlike the NBA where it has seemed pre-ordained for months that the Durant-Curry-led Golden State juggernaut and LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the finals, I am happy to report that there are no clear favorites for the 2017 World Series.

The old cliche remains true - you cannot win a pennant in the spring but you sure can lose one. The odds look very long for post-season play for supposed contenders Kansas City and Toronto in the AL and the Mets and San Francisco in the NL - all are mired well below .500.

Yet for fans of those teams, please remember there are more than a hundred games yet to play with summery weather ahead. AND YOU SEE SOMETHING NEW IN EVERY BASEBALL GAME. Trust me.

Houston was rolling along in the AL West until a sweep at home this weekend by defending AL champs Cleveland. The Astros still have the best record in baseball before games on May 22, but they must hope that the DL stints of ace southpaw Dallas Keuchel and veteran catcher Brian McCann are brief ones.

A pleasant NL surprise is the Colorado Rockies under new manager Bud Black. They have developed some starting pitching to go with the potent offense they've had for a while. Before games of May 22, they were leading NL West 11 games over .500.

I'm not surprised that Bud Black is having early and I think lasting success. In 2002 he was the pitching coach for the California Angels world champions that had three future managers on the staff to go with Mike Scioscia who remains the senior skipper in terms of active longevity in MLB. (Joe Maddon and Ron Roenicke were the others.)

Here in my home town of New York, the Yankees look poised to reclaim the mantle of Gotham’s best pro team. The huge young right fielder Aaron Judge leads MLB in HRs with 15. His circus catch against Tampa Bay on Sunday saved the game and more than made up for his 4 K’s at bat.

Meanwhile, the vaunted Mets pitching staff has been plagued with serious injuries. I don’t like saying, “I told you so,” but when I read that Noah “Thor" Syndergaard during the off-season had been building up muscles to throw even harder, I knew he would break down.

“Thor” is now out well into the summer (at least), Matt Harvey has been lit up regularly, Jacob DeGrom is continually plagued by throwing hand blisters, and Steven Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw regular season pitches.

It says here that the Mets don’t have a consistent enough offense or defense to make up for these injuries. The Washington Nats look poised to remain on top for the rest of the year in the AL East. Again, though, many many games left to play.

As for my Orioles, they returned from a disappointing 1-6 road trip to win 2 out of 3 at home from Toronto. Their starting pitching bounced back from a disastrous trip away from home, but it is hard to possess great expectations with ace closer Zach Britton out until early summer (at best).

The O's less-than-imposing starting staff is headed by Chris Tillman, free agent-to-be just returned from nagging shoulder discomfort; Dylan Bundy (the most consistent so far but prone to the gopher ball lately); the one lefty Wade Miley (who does work with blessedly fast tempo a la the retired Mark Buehrle); Ubaldo Jimenez (another free agent-to-be who cannot repeat his delivery), and Kevin Gausman who was counted on as a possible ace but has gotten off to a very shaky start..

The Orioles do play spectacular defense most of the time, but it is needed most every day. When normally steady Jonathan Schoop booted an easy grounder in the loss to Toronto yesterday, it led to the three unearned runs in a 3-1 defeat.

Before I sign off, here is an update on baseball at the grass roots.

Weather permitting, the PSAL high school championships start on Wednesday May 26 at 3:30p at various locales around NYC. I have my eye on #3 seed Beacon in midtown Manhattan that seemingly has a deeper pitching staff than usual in 2017.

They tangle with my alma mater Bronx Science at the #3 North Diamond in Central Park, northeast of the 97th Street entrance to Central Park. Updates on the entire
tournament can be found at the psal.org website.

Perennial powers George Washington and James Monroe are seeded #1 and #2 but defending champion Midwood of Brooklyn is a contender as is Staten Island powerhouse Tottenville, runners-up for the title in the last three seasons.

Finally, on Thursday May 25 from 9p-2p, there will be a Scout Day at City Park Stadium in New Rochelle, N.Y - You enter on City Park Road off 20 5th Avenue.

Highly regarded college and junior college players from the New York area and INNER CITY PLAYERS WHO HAVE BEEN RARELY SCOUTED are invited to display their baseball wares to scouts from many major league organizations.

The event is sponsored by the Cesar Presbott Foundation run by the longtime Yankees area scout who signed Dellin Betances among many others. The Presbott Foundation does wonderful charitable work. For years, it has distributed more than 1000 Thanksgiving turkeys to needy areas in the Bronx.

That’s all this time - always remember: Take It Easy But Take It!
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