Thursday, December 31, 2009

This Year I Resolve...To Eat From Life's Table

"Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting."-Mother Teresa

While many sports lovers see New Year's Day as a day to watch copious football, recover from ample over indulgence and, this year, to prepare for hockey from, of all places, Fenway Park, I am trying to embrace the New Year as one, last ditch effort to produce...that word again...change.

Tick-tock..tick tock...I glance down at my watch tonight..New Year's Eve..It's 11:55 PM, December 31st. Five more minutes until the New Year. I sprint over to the buffet table and grab a final fistful of Lays overflowing with onion dip (several hours old and slightly coagulated).

I wash down, yet another plastic cup of bubbly. I chew rapidly. One eye on Time Square and the other scouring the buffet table to see if there is one last, tasty morsel that I can down before the ball drops.

I spot one lonesome brownie at the far end of the table and decide that with children starving all over the world, it is my civic duty to make sure that this brownie is not wasted. I sprint towards it with the speed of Usain Bolt...10-9-8 seconds until the New Year is upon us...7-6-5...I shove down the brownie and lick onion dip off of my fingers at break neck speed.

4-3-2...I search the room for Kate who is obviously already puckered up to receive her New Year's Kiss. One second remains until I start my New Year's lose regain the slim, muscular body of a man half my gain control of my runaway eating habits.

I'm prepared to make the necessary changes to ensure my success. Sure I over ate a little bit tonight, but I was bulking up...carbo-loading.. trying to reach my peak weight so that my immense loss would be that much more impressive to my supporters and fans.

The clock strikes midnight. I grab Kate. We lock lips in a passionate embrace as a small fleck of potato chip tumbles from the corner of my mouth.

Out of the corner of my eye, I discover that the empty plate of brownies has been refilled. Aaah, maybe just one, I think. To celebrate the New Year, of course.

I realize that each year for the past who knows how many, that I've had the same resolution. To rediscover my athletic body of old, which I know resides somewhere deep below these many layers of chub.

Every December 31st, I fool myself into believing that simply by waking up in a new year, I will awake as a slimmer, trimmer version of last year's model. With one magical flip of the calendar page, these unwanted 20...I mean 30...Ummm, these unwanted 40 pounds will instantly disappear from my bulging waistline. Each January 2nd, while munching on a Ring ding and searching for my feet, I decide to wait until next year.

So, I've decided that this year will be different. This year, I've committed myself to "gobbling up" everything around me. To taste each and every morsel of each and every day. To drink heartily from this cafe called life. To open my eyes each and every morning with the sole purpose of ingesting every ounce of food the world has to offer.

To refrain from taking life so seriously and simply to enjoy each moment to it's fullest. To laugh more. To love more. To begin each day by putting my feet upon the floor and realizing how lucky I am to be alive.

To enter each day motivated, excited and enthusiastic. To make a difference, not only to my friends and loved ones but to every life that I come in contact with in the flesh or while writing on these pages.

In Robert Schuller's book, "What Happens to Good People When Bad Things Happen", Schuller lists actions "big and small" that we can take to ensure a fuller, more enjoyable life. "Think freely. Practice patience. Smile often. Savor special moments. Live God's message. Make new friends. Rediscover old ones. Tell those you love that you do.

Feel deeply. Forgive trouble. Forgive an opponent. Hope. Grow. Be crazy. Count your blessings. Observe miracles. Make them happen by never quitting. Discard worry. Give. Give in. Trust enough to take. Pick some flowers. Share them. Give a promise. Look for rainbows. Gaze at stars.

See beauty everywhere you look. Work hard. Be wise. Try on fourth and two (okay, so I added that one on my own). Try to understand. Take time for people. Make time for yourself.

Laugh heartily. Spread joy. Take a chance. Reach out. Let someone in. Try something new. Slow down. Be soft sometimes. Believe in yourself. Believe in others. See a sunrise. Listen to rain. Reminisce. Cry when you need to. Trust life. Have faith. Enjoy wonder. Comfort a friend. Have good ideas. Make some mistakes. Learn from them. Trust others. Celebrate life.

The beauty of resolving to eat from life's table is that you don't have to wait until the next January or the next Monday morning to begin your new diet. It is fat free, cholesterol free and contains no preservatives. It is a diet that you can begin today. A diet that if accidentally broken, can easily be restarted by simply deciding to change one's attitude.

How often do we break our diets and decide, "Well, I've already broken it anyhow. I might as well gorge myself until next Monday morning?"

By resolving to live life to its fullest, it is unlikely that someone would say, "I didn't have faith today. I'll just wait until next Monday morning." Or I didn't tell my wife I loved her today. I think I'll wait until next December 31st to tell her."

See some days, life is more important than sport. And though there will be football aplenty tomorrow, coupled with bowls filled with left over dip, maybe we can all resolve to live life a little bit differently.TC

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Seamheads and Sports, Then and Now. His top stories can always be found on his blog The 'xoxo' of Sports at

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guyton to Appear at Patriots' Playoff Party to Benefit Pets in Need

New York Jets v New England Patriots

They say if you want to get something done, ask a busy man to do it and with the New England Patriots busily preparing for their home playoff game against a still-to-be-determined Wild Card opponent, there are few as busy as second year linebacker Gary Guyton.

Whether against the Ravens, Broncos, Jets, Steelers or any of the many possible playoff opponents, Guyton is taking an evening away from his game preparation to be the guest of honor at the NE Patriots Playoff Party to benefit Pets in Need.

The event, which will be held at the Sky Box Restaurant in Tewksbury on Tuesday, January 5th at 6:00 PM is the brain-child of Jon Goode, the Vice President of Communications for the Lowell Spinners, Class A affiliates of the Boston Red Sox.

“We are hoping this will be a big event as it falls on the Tuesday before the Patriots ‘kick-off’ their Super Bowl run this year,” explained Goode, who keeps a schedule nearly as busy as Guyton’s through, not only his role with the Spinners, but also through his own Foundation, C2Mission, which benefits those with Cystic Fibrosis and Cerebral Palsy.

“We are very excited about having Gary Guyton join us to help this very worthwhile cause, Pets in Need, he added.” Adults and fans of all ages are welcome at the event and are encouraged to bring their cameras and their autograph books.

Each ticket includes an 8×10 picture of Gary Guyton, photo and autograph opportunity and a chance to participate in a Q & A with Guyton.

“I can’t wait to hear some of the questions,” added Goode. "The New England fans know their football."

“We will also be hosting a NE Patriots silent auction and a raffle. I am limiting tickets to ensure intimacy and time constraints.” Tickets are $20 each ($25 at the door) with $5 being donated to Pets in Need.

Pets In Need is a small adoption program run privately by volunteers who have joined together to save the unwanted and abandoned cats and dogs. The organization is strictly no-kill. Fans are encouraged to reserve tickets early to save money and to ensure admission to this exciting event. To find out more about Pet's in Need, please visit their site.

To reserve tickets fans can e-mail Goode at or call him directly at 978-805-5106.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Local Brazilian Musician Speaks About Marta's FIFA Award

With the announcement by FIFA naming Brazil's Marta as their Women's World Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive year, I hurried to my virtual rolodex in an attempt to try to score a Brazilian perspective on the award.

Amongst the thousands of names which have found their way into my growing list of connections, I didn't expect to find too many who make the land of Carnival their home. The Brazilian population in my rural town of Winchendon, MA can probably be counted on one hand.

Then I remembered a gentleman I had met at my first WPS Breaker's game last spring. I tried desperately to jump start my memory to recall his name.

After scurrying through every letter from A to R, I came upon the name "Marcus Santos" and knew I had struck pay-dirt.

Santos and his band Bloco Afro-Brazil, had entertained the crowd of Breaker's fans playing their Brazilian styled beat from the end zone of historic Harvard Stadium.

They added a Brazilian flare to the game reminiscent of the World Cup and created an excitement which would become synonymous with Breaker brand soccer as the season went on.

Since the Breakers were playing Marta and the Los Angeles Sol that day, I assumed the band was there to root for their native hero. I later found out that they planned to attend every Breakers game and add the Bloco sound to each home contest.

"We're here to pump it up for the Breakers," said an excited Santos, who played a beautiful wood grain bongo and occasionally blasted a loud golden whistle while the band cranked.

The handsome Brazilian with the toothy white grin wore a green bandanna on his head and a bright yellow tank top to match the Brazilian flag, which waved in the Cambridge breeze. "This is our first Breaker game and we are so happy to be part of this great event."

The band's official name, Bloco, simply means Group explained Santos, who can only be described as refreshing and exuberant.

I later found out that Santos is a contemporary percussionist, educator, and native of Salvador City in Bahia, Brazil.

Having been raised in the uniquely rich African-influenced culture of Bahia, Santos has committed his life to the study, preservation, and teaching of Afro-Brazilian music and heritage.

I emailed my friend Marcos and hoped he remembered me from our interview many months ago.

Much to my pleasure he did and was nice enough to share his thoughts on the latest hardware Marta will be displaying on her mantle.

"This is huge in Brazil," explained Santos, who has been called one of the best Brazilian percussionists by the Brazilian Times. "Brazil is still a society that sees soccer as a male sport. It is very interesting to see that in the US, soccer is more associated with women and it is completely the opposite in Brazil."

"Therefore, it's great to see that both countries are changing the way they perceive soccer as a sport."

Santos feels that Marta's popularity in Brazil is increasing and that some day she may grow in popularity to the level of male stars like Pele, Ronaldo, and Kaka.

"We may not see this anytime soon," he explained, but if Brazil’s women soccer team wins a world championship or an Olympic gold medal (the Brazilian men's team has never won a gold medal), she could be as popular as the men's legends."

He views the game of women's soccer in the United States as being quite different in popularity than it is in his native country.

"I believe women's soccer is very popular in the US, especially if compared to the popularity in Brazil. When the Brazilian men’s team plays, the country literally stops. You see very few cars and people in the streets.

"I can see that changing in the next few years in Brazil, especially if Marta keeps doing what she is doing and is able to accumulate a few championships over the years."

He explained that when Marta plays against the Breakers there is a buzz throughout the Boston-area Brazilian community.

"As you know, I play with my group at the Boston Breakers games and I realized quickly that the news of her coming to play in Boston spread very fast within our community in New England. Our people love her and really got involved."

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report and Sports, Then and Now. You can find his top stories on his own blog "The 'xoxo' of Sports ". Marcus Santos website can be found at . His CD Batukaxe' is available at CD

Spinners Honor Mason With Montalbano Award; Mason Shares Thoughts

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, have announced Patrick Mason as the first annual Greg Montalbano Award Winner, to be presented at the team’s annual Alumni Dinner Tuesday, Dec. 29 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

Montalbano, a Westborough, MA native, was drafted by his hometown Boston Red Sox in 1999 after a great college career at Northeastern University. He made his professional debut in 2000, finishing the season with a pair of starts with the Spinners.

The following season, Montalbano won 12 games and earned a midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton. He was named the Minor League Pitcher of the Year by the Red Sox organization and appeared to be on the fast track for Boston.

Montalbano had overcome testicular cancer as a freshman at Northeastern in 1996 and the removal of several non-cancerous tumors in the years that followed. After arm injuries side-tracked his Red Sox career, he found himself pitching for the Worcester Tornadoes, when he learned that the cancer had returned again.

A fighter, Montalbano continued to pitch while undergoing treatments, serving as a volunteer coach at St. John’s High School and a South End baseball team, and as a volunteer, he educated high school and college students about testicular cancer.

His interview aired on WEEI during the 2008 Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon can be heard here

Montalbano passed away Aug. 21, 2009 and the Spinners are honored to continue his legacy.

With the first of what will become annual award, the Spinners and Montalbano's family selected Northeastern University assistant coach Patrick Mason as the inaugural award winner.

“[Mason] was Greg’s catcher at Northeastern,” said Spinners Vice President for Communications Jon Goode. “They had a strong connection on the diamond and with the work Patrick does in both the New England baseball community and community as a whole, he was a great selection by the Montalbano family for this award.”

After speaking with Mason following the announcement of the award, it became clear that the two were more than just battery-mates, but teammates and, more importantly, friends.

"It is truly an honor to be named the first recipient of the Greg Montalbano Award. Greg was an incredible person who held himself to the highest of standards."

"Greg dedicated his life to helping others, whether it was making a sick child smile and feel comfortable, teaching the game of baseball to less fortunate kids, being a good friend, or the countless other ways in which he helped people, Greg always put others before him."

Mason served as the catcher at Northeastern from 1994 to 1997 and was team captain during the 1996 and 1997 seasons. He currently serves as Northeastern's pitching coach and also works with infielders and catchers in his current role.

He was an assistant coach at Framingham State in 2004 after four years with Boston College. For the summers of 2003-’06, he was a coach with the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League.

"Greg Montalbano had such a positive impact on so many peoples lives, to know that the Montalbano family and the Lowell Spinners feel I am a worthy of an award in Greg's name is the ultimate compliment.

Mason will be presented with a plaque commemorating the award at the Spinners Alumni Dinner on Dec. 29. Montalbano's former teammate and current Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis will also be present at the dinner.

In the game following Montalbano's death, Youkilis wore the initials GM on his cap in honor of his fallen Red Sox brother and proceeded to hit two home runs and drive in six runs in a 14-1 rout of the Yankees.

On the same day but 1,500 miles to the south of Fenway, Montalbano’s former Northeastern teammate, Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena, went 3-for-4 with two home runs and a walk-off single. Pena, a native of Haverhill, MA had a sign that said "That was for you, Monty."

Mason feels that Montalbano would be a bit embarrassed knowing of the award in his honor, but feels he would be proud knowing what the award stood for.

"Helping people is what Greg did," he explained. "And knowing his award was to honor others who do the same would make him happy. As far as me as the first winner, I'm sure he would have a good joke to tell, everyone who knew Greg knows that his sense of humor was second to none."

Mason and Montalbano met in the summer of 1995 while playing for the Milford, MA town team that played in the AAABA national tournament in Johnstown, PA, prior to rejoining again at Northeastern.

"He was an awesome teammate, who inspired everyone who wore the same uniform. He could make everyone laugh at the most inappropriate times while he managed to keep a straight face, yet he was the most fierce competitor you have ever seen."

Mason added, "When the game was on the line, Greg wanted the ball and we wanted him to have it."

"Off the field, Greg was as good of a friend as someone could ever have. The type of friend who would take time out of his busy spring training schedule to go out to dinner with me and a player I was coaching at BC who had been recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. He did this because he knew he could help.

"(He was) the type of friend, who would leave his buddy front row tickets to a road game in Norwich, because he knew I was going on a date that night and it would help me impress her."

"And the type of friend who would stop by my office or the field and hang out after spending the morning at Dana Farber and help me plan practice.

"Greg was a dear friend and I think he would be happy that his friend was the first winner."

For more information on the Alumni event, please contact Jon Boswell at or by phone at 978-805-5117.

The previous story uses excerpts from a press-release by the Lowell Spinners. Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award winning children's story that teaches kindness and sharing through baseball.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Biancalana and Yellin: A Look At Baseball Geeks vs. Traditionalists

Guest Post by Buddy Biancalana and Steve Yellin of PMPMSports

I just returned from the Winter Baseball Meetings in Indianapolis. The gathering is always an interesting few days for me due to my partner, Steven Yellin, and my working to introduce new methods of teaching sports.

Baseball traditionalists, as one general manger told me, are very slow to change, whether it has to do with technology or something pertaining to training techniques.

I understand the resistance to new ways in our fast changing world.

A day doesn’t pass for me that I don’t think I should be taking greater advantage of social media. I know it’s the quickest and most economical way to spread information, but I still don’t utilize it to the degree I could and should.

Why? No good reason, except that I just haven’t decided to stretch myself in that direction yet.

Another interesting experience for me at the Meetings was looking around and seeing so many “non baseball looking” people. The geeks, as we know, have infiltrated baseball and have brought great creativity, analytical methods, and knowledge.

Although, for decades scouts have been able to look at a stat sheets and gather beneficial information, the geeks have come up with new names for these stats, created new stats, and bunched them together to give us useful information. I really enjoy speaking to the geeks and learning about their hypothesis of the game and its players.

Statistics certainly can tell a lot about a player. When I began to understand the mind-body connection about 13 years ago, I quickly realized that on-base percentage was the best statistical indicator of a player’s mind-body connection.

A high OBP indicates a hitter is not swinging at bad pitches and is drawing walks. When he swings, he is getting hits. So OBP, for the most part, indicates how well a hitter executes his intention when at the plate—his body is executing what his minds wants.

Some years later, the stat OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage, was introduced. OPS is an even better stat in measuring a hitter’s mind-body connection, because not only does it indicate the hitter’s ability to draw walks and get hits, but also indicates his ability to fairly consistently get his hands and body in position to drive the ball for extra base hits. OPS also indicates whether the hitter has good timing.

It tells the story if the hitter is able to release his hands on time in order to hit a big piece of the ball and elevate it (not a fly ball, but a rising line drive). Great mechanics are wonderful, but its good timing that allows for outstanding sports performances.

Along with the many gifts the geeks have brought to baseball, they have also brought many second baseman and left fielders who don’t run, throw or drive the ball as well as clubs would like. But these players have a strong mind-body connection, and therefore, a history of a high on-base percentage.

But going base-to-base on offense and allowing runners to take the extra base when playing defense, is not going to help produce many championships. That is often the case for such players.

The reason the geeks have been able to be of help in the baseball world, is because many of the traditionalists were having difficulty developing the tremendously, talented perfectly sculptured player. Many owners and general managers needed to look at different ways to protect and increase the returns on their money.

It could be said that many of the Traditionalists didn’t understand the mind-body connection, and thus opening the door, and in walked the geeks along with their line of second baseman, left fielders, and some talented players with high OBP.

Over the last several years or so, I think both parties would agree they have learned how to coexist and utilize the gifts each possesses.

What would make the geeks very happy is if the traditionalists on the field could do a better job at getting their second basemen and left fielders to have high OPS and not just high OBP.

What would make the traditionalists very happy would be teaching the tremendously talented, perfectly sculptured players how to access deeper levels of mind-body coordination so they could consistently get their hands and bodies in position to drive the baseball with excellent timing.

Then, all of us lovers of baseball could more often enjoy the beauty of watching stallions take the extra base, and also experience the thrill, or disappointment, of a runner thrown out at third or home. This is our expertise at Perfect Mind-Perfect Motion.

Happy Holidays,

Buddy Biancalana & Steven Yellin

Once per month, freelance writer Todd Civin shares his space with former Major League shortstop Buddy Biancalana. As a 1st round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, Biancalana played Major League Baseball with the Royals and Houston Astros. As the starting shortstop for the 1985 World Champion Royals, he received the highest number of MVP votes of any position player. He and famed tennis instructor, Steve Yellin, are the co-founders of PMPM Sports.

Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own , the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pat Patriot Arrested For Going "Long and Deep" Once Too Often (Satire)

In a story that sounds more reminiscent of something coming out of the Tiger Woods' scandal, New England Patriots mascot, Pat, has reportedly been arrested as part of a prostitution sting.

The Providence Journal reports that one of the 14 individuals who serves as the "Pat Patriot" mascot has been arrested by R.I. State Police in a prostitution sting.

Robert Sormanti, 47, of Warwick, R.I., is one of the people who wears the mascot costume for the New England Patriots. When contacted by the newspaper, the team released the following statement:

"The Patriot mascot costume is worn by multiple people, all are held responsible for their actions. The individual in question has been suspended."

The Patriots official added, "Our main concern is that none of the other individuals who play Pat want to get in the suit."

Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, has allegedly applied for Federal Stimulus money in hopes of getting the over-sized suit dry-cleaned.

Added Kraft, "Not since John Hannah arrived with the nickname "Hog" or Brady was photographed with the goat have we had such a sexual scandal here in New England."

The Vice president of Human Resources for the Patriots weighed in on Pat's arrest, "Pat does a great job arousing the crowd and apparently, he began taking the job home with him."

Coach Bill Belichick saw the scandal in a different light, "Our offensive line has had difficulty opening up holes and we may have found a solution for our running game."

Rumors have surfaced that the Patriots may change the name of the mascot from Pat to either Dick, Peter, Johnson, John, or Woody.

Patriots Vice-President Jonathan Kraft added, "This is a real blow to the organization. We are uncertain at this time whether Pat was actually wearing the costume at the time of his indiscretion. But since it is constructed without a fully functioning fly, we believe that only the large head may have been worn."

There had been talk of the Patriots putting up a statue of their famous mascot, but stories of Pat's erection were premature.

In the video footage seen below, Pat is apparently scouring the end-zone following a touchdown searching frantically for a madam.

Said Sormanti following his arrest, "I was only there to hang out. If I had only been satisfied with a 'Pat'."

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report , Sports, Then and Now , and Seamheads . Civin performs "sit-down comedy" in his free time stating that "stand-up is simply too tiring."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sox Add Boof To Winter Meeting Shopping Cart...Say What?

The Boston Red Sox continue to be the (laughing stock), talk of the Annual Winter Meetings by announcing a trade for the venerable Boof Bonser...Say what?

Bonser, who missed the entire 2008 season due to right shoulder surgery, has a career record of 18-25 with a 5.12 ERA. The 28-year-old right-hander has 96 career MLB appearances with 60 of them being starts.

In his last full season with the Twins in 2008, Bonser went 3-7 with a 5.93 ERA, striking out 97 and walking 36 in 47 games (12 starts).

Born John Paul Bonser, he legally changed his name to Boof after the 2001 season. ...Say what?

Since the end of the season, the Red Sox have added the likes of Jeremy Hermida, Tug Hulett, Marco Scutaro, and Ramon A. Ramirez to the roster, while losing Alex Gonzalez, Takashi Saito, and Billy Wagner to free-agency.

With a trade looming which would send Mike Lowell to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league catcher, Max Ramirez and Jason Bay shopping the free-agent market, Red Sox Nation is starting to show concern.

Yesterday, the New York Yankees re-signed veteran left-hander Andy Petitte, while trading for All-star center-fielder Curtis Granderson. Epstein has apparently countered with trades that would bring Ramirez and Bonser to the Hub....Say what?

One has to hope that Epstein has some other tricks up his sleeve.

Team Hoyt Helps Kick-Off Children's Hospital Boston, Miles for Miracles

With each successive event where I am able to witness Dick and Rick Hoyt interact with a crowd, I become fearful that I'll eventually reach the bottom of my personal well of emotion. I am concerned that at some point I will become immune as I watch the famed father/son marathon duo interact with yet another adoring fan.

Upon attending this weekend's Children's Hospital Boston Miles for Miracles Kick-Off Reception at the Boston Marriott Newton, however, it became clear to me that the fountain of sentiment will flow indefinitely.

I watched endlessly and fought back waves of tears as fan after fan approached father and son Hoyt, hoping to share what the two have personally come to mean to them.

One young woman rolled up in her wheelchair and shook the hands of Dick and Rick. She told the two of them that she would be competing in her first race this spring. Her face filled with pride as Dick congratulated and encouraged her. Rick did the same, as was evident by his smile and the expressiveness of his eyes.

The next fan approached, an able bodied athlete with his family in tow, and told Dick and Rick that he is grateful to them for motivating him each and every morning when he doesn't have the strength to train and hopes to see them pass him by during the course of the marathon route.

And yet another family carefully positioned their daughter's wheel chair next to Rick long enough to create a Kodak moment of their own, which will forever inspire them all during the future challenges they are sure to experience.

And on and on and on throughout the entire kick-off event.

The Miles for Miracles team raises funds each year for Children's Hospital Boston, while running April's Boston Marathon®. Each runner is required to raise a minimum of $3,250, with all proceeds going to Children's Hospital Boston.

The reception is an annual event used to kick-off their training, motivation, and fund-raising campaign.

Master of Ceremonies Jordan Rich, a popular Boston personality on WBZ1030 radio, greeted the crowd of approximately 400 runners, runners' partners, and their families and welcomed them to the annual fun-filled event. Tables were filled with a mix of athletes, the Children's Hospital patients they will be running for, and the families of each.

Rich then updated the crowd on the incredible total of over $12 million raised by the group in the 14 years since the group began.

In 2009 alone, they raised $1.4 million for Children's Hospital Boston (CHB), a total they hope to surpass this year.

The Miles for Miracles effort began in 1996 when a handful of Children's supporters entered the Boston Marathon® and raised $110,000 for the hospital. Now more than 300 runners compete in over 10 races a year, raising nearly $2 million for Children's.

The afternoon continued with a moving video presentation created by Children's Hospital Boston and featuring John Costello and Rick. Costello is the Director of the Augmentative Communication Program at CHB and has worked with Rick Hoyt since 1986.

Costello works with a team of speech language pathologists and occupational therapists at CHB to help non-speaking patients, like Rick, communicate. The team uses everything from simple picture boards to the latest sophisticated technology.

Rick uses a single switch at the right side of his head to use his current communication device, called E Z Keys. With E Z Keys, he is able to write speeches that he can store and then have spoken aloud. He uses the device to conduct motivational speeches around the globe, as he did during this event.

Says Costello, "We have the potential to help someone express their wants, thoughts, desires, emotions—and give them the chance to reveal their personalities."

The video, which shows Costello working with not only Rick, but with other CHB patients as well, brought many of the audience members to tears as they seemed to keep one eye on the video screen and the other on their physically challenged family member.

Tears flowed and hugs and kisses ensued as the presentation wore on.

The crowd was then inspired and entertained by Rick himself, who took center stage to spur on the athletes and patients alike. Through his prepared speech and use of E Z Keys, he shared his story about his long relationship with Children's Hospital, his admiration for Costello and other staff members, and his dad Dick. The two have teamed up to compete in over 1,000 athletic events, including 27 Boston Marathons.

Dick then took the mic and echoed Rick's sentiments about the CHB staff before the lights dimmed and the crowd was inspired yet again by the Hoyt's "Yes You Can" video.

As one can "only imagine," the crowd was moved to a long-standing ovation as the video came to a close.

Said Andrea Marlar, the Director of Special Events for the Children's Hospital Trust, "Rick and Dick and Hoyt received a standing ovation after their portion of the program—which was a first for our event. I knew they would be an inspiration for runners and patient families."

"We are fortunate to have them part of the Children’s family and they helped us kick-off our 2010 Boston Marathon season in style."

When the crowd settled, Dick and Rick Hoyt were then presented with the Katie Lynch Award, which is presented to individuals "who demonstrate a positive spirit, love for life, and commitment to others."

The Hoyts were choked up as they received the award with the two tiny purple running shoes at the top.

Katie Lynch was a long-time Children’s Hospital Boston patient before her passing in October 2002. Standing only 28 inches tall, Katie raised more than $27,000 for CHB in 2001 when she walked 26.2 feet on her own in an effort to not only raise funds but to share her message with the world.

Overall, it was an inspiring and motivating afternoon that left runners ready to train hard and raise a mountain of funds for Children's Hospital Boston, and left me sure that the perpetual fountain of emotions will forever flow strong.

To support the Children's Hospital Miles for Miracles team, please visit . To sponsor a specific runner or patient partner, search for their name on the site. To learn more about Team Hoyt, please visit the Team Hoyt website.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer for the Bleacher Report and Sports, Then and Now and does Public Relations for Team Hoyt. To contact him please email

A Satirical Look at Boston Red Sox Attempt to Acquire Max Ramirez To Use Up Old Manny Jerseys

In a move clearly designed to use up old inventory from the Red Sox souvenir shop, the Boston Red Sox have reportedly acquired minor league catcher Max Ramirez from the Texas Rangers in exchange for gold-glove third baseman Mike Lowell.

Said GM Theo Epstein, "When we were forced to trade Manny Ramirez two seasons ago it left us with a surplus of Ramirez jerseys at our souvenir store. As a small market team, we simply can't afford to be holding a surplus of inventory."

Since the departure of Manny, the Sox GM has traded for Ramon Ramirez last season, while snatching Ramon A. Ramirez off of waivers earlier this offseason. The reported acquisition of Max Ramirez from the Rangers would leave the Red Sox 40-man roster with no fewer than three Ramirezes.

Added Epstein, "We had a lot of shirts. Maybe the Yankees can afford to fill their roster with Grandersons, Teixeiras, and Sabathias, but we need to shop a bit smarter. When an opportunity comes along to use up old inventory, we need to take advantage of the market."

The Sox were reportedly interested in re-acquiring Hanley Ramirez from the Florida Marlins, but Epstein stated that the Max Ramirez move makes much more sense.

"Four seasons ago we traded Ramirez for Mike Lowell. To turn around now and trade Lowell back for Ramirez is simply not the type of move we want to make. We feel that would be confusing to the fans."

In fact the idea to jettison Lowell to the Rangers may be simply to reduce confusion amongst Sox fans.

"Our Class A team is called the Lowell Spinners. Fans from Lowell became geographically confused when Mike would play for us down in Boston. Many would call in to radio talk shows and question why Mike wore the Lowell name on the back of his uniform while Spinners players wear the name on the front. We felt it was time to simplify things," Epstein said.

In an unrelated move, according to Epstein, the Sox are reportedly talking to Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox, Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, J.C. Ramirez of Seattle, and Wilkin Ramirez of Detroit.

Red Sox owner John Henry twittered the following in a series of 140-character tweets: "If we can corner the market on Ramirez, and use up all those old Manny shirts, we may only have to raise ticket prices slightly in order to field a non-competitive team. We just don't have the luxury of spending like the Yankees do."

The Red Sox passed on acquiring Edwar Ramirez from the Yankees when they found out his name was not Edward as they originally thought.

"Couldn't do that to the fans," explained Epstein. "For a guy to play in this league, missing consonants from his name is simply not in our best interest."

Todd Civin is a freelance writer for the Bleacher Report, Seamheads and Sports, Then and Now. In his free time he does sit down comedy stating that stand up is simply too tiring. He can be reached for hire or comment at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Assumption College Basketball Legends Show True Meaning of Team

The Assumption College Greyhounds beat the Southern Connecticut State University Owls last night 95-72 at Laska Gym in Worcester.

Exciting? Sure. If you're an Assumption student, fan, or alumnus, it's probably darn right newsworthy.

For me, however, the evening took on an added significance that became much greater than the final score. In the hardwood equivalent of The Field Of Dreams , I was treated to my own personal episode of "If you build it they will come."

Only in this true to life dream, the field that "they" came to wasn't a corn field, and it certainly wasn't in the middle of Iowa. Instead, it was the newly remodeled and luxurious Laska Gymnasium parked smack dab in the middle of the Assumption College campus in Worcester, MA.

And the ghosts of baseball past weren't ghosts at all, but the living legends of Assumption basketball past. Though a bit older and slightly grayer than they were when they donned the Assumption uniform, the likes of Don Lemenager (class of '56), Jimmy Monahan ('65), Ted Paulauskas ('66), and even the legend himself, Hall of Fame coach Andy Laska, are not ghosts at all.

Instead, they are the living icons who hold the history of Assumption basketball so very close to their hearts. They have been entrusted to pass their tales of many victories and occasional defeats on to the next generation of Greyhound hoopsters.

Without this link to the Assumption past, the memories, the stories, the history which is the very fibre of Assumption College basketball becomes lost and quickly fades away after these AC veterans move on.

As a personal thanks for helping them preserve a story of "Assumption's grandest moment on the court," the team was gracious enough to host me at the game. A thank you for a story I had written several months ago about one of their heroic teammates, Danny Gearin.

In my October 18th column, entitled The Man with The Golden Touch, I chronicled how this special hero became an incredible influence on my life as well as my educational and vocational path with his magical golden touch. In 1976, Danny Gearin selected me "randomly" out of a crowd of high school hall dwellers and instantly changed my life forever.

Some twenty years earlier, Gearin's magic touch and court savvy produced the same magical results and forever changed Assumption College basketball lore.

When Gearin passed away unexpectedly at the age of 44 in 1978, not only did I lose a mentor and a close friend, but his Assumption basketball brothers lost an incredible teammate and hero.

As a thank you for honoring their fallen comrade, former Assumption student newspaper editor John DiPietro reached out to me via phone last week and invited me to personally meet coach Andy Laska and other former Assumption players.

DiPietro, a 1972 graduate of Assumption, is the President of ABC/D Marketing and author of the motivational sales book You Don't Have to Be Perfect to Be Great . DiPietro informed me that "Coach and his players wanted to meet the guy who wrote the story about their teammate."
Upon my arrival, I was treated to the most amazing night of basketball camaraderie I have ever witnessed. I was first introduced to Diane Laska-Nixon, daughter of the legendary coach and Director of Alumni Relations at Assumption College. She thanked me for coming out to meet the team and welcomed me graciously.

I was then tapped on the shoulder by current Assumption team captain, Courtland Bluford, who poked his head out of the locker room prior to taking the court and shook my hand and thanked me for coming. In my four years as an undergrad at Syracuse, I can assure you that none of the players ever thanked the fans for attending.

To me, it was the ultimate show of respect by a current Greyhound, as he honored the legacy which was created by his predecessors some five decades before. The gesture wasn't staged and is a credit to Bluford, who is part of a generation that is often accused of ignoring history and often thinks of the "me and the now," instead of the "we and the how" approach to the game.

DiPietro then introduced me to Lemenager, who was Coach Laska's first captain in 1951, as well as in 1954 and 1955. He was the backcourt mate of Gearin, and led the team to third and fourth place finishes in the '54 and '55 NAIA Regional tournaments.

I then met, Paulauskas, who was Laska's final captain in 1966-67 and led his Greyhound squad to a second place finish in the NCAA Regional Tournament. Paulauskas is the current Athletic Director at Assumption, a post he has held for the past seven seasons.

And then just prior to tip-off of the game, the doors opened in the far corner of the gym and the coaching legend Laska entered the gym that bears his name. The 84-year-old coach greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile and took a seat next to me on the bleachers This wasn't the seat where Andy would ultimately watch the game. That seat is on the opposite end of the aisle, in the very corner of the gym and though not marked is clearly reserved as "Coach Laska's seat."

Upon Laska's induction into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in October, 2002, his bio read as follows:

"The man who could very well be described as Worcester's greatest ambassador of the game, Andy Laska has left a incredible trail of success at the high school, prep school, collegiate and amateur levels."

"His final won loss ledger of 224-96 tells only a part of the story of his legacy to the game in Central Massachusetts."

"He began as one of the outstanding high school players in the city's history averaging 20 points per game (during a time when teams regularly averaged under 40) leading North High to the Western Massachusetts championship and into the New England tournament. He earned all Inter-High (1941, 42, 43) , all-Worcester (1941, 42, 43), all-state (1941) and all New England (1943)."

"After time out for three years of military service in the Pacific, he played collegiately at the College of the Holy Cross. The Crusaders won the 1947 national title and played in the N.I.T. in 1949. He co-captained the 1949 team that set then record 26-game win streak."

"He served as basketball coach (1951-67), golf coach (1969-86), Director of Athletics (1956-86). He also served coach at Worcester Academy (1954-56) . . . winning the New England Prep title in 1954."

"He organized and conducted basketball clinics in Lebanon (1965) and served as business manager of the U.S.A. National Team (1975). He was named the new England Coach-of-the-Year in 1957 and 1964, was elected to the Assumption College Athletic Hall of Fame (1967) and had the Assumption College gymnasium dedicated and renamed in his honor (September 20, 1975)."

Included in his trail of success are the following:

a. 1953-54, the first winning season in Hounds' history since 1933-34;
b. 1954-55, the first N.A.I.A. tournament team in the College's history;
c., 1956-57, team finished 21-1 led by captain Joe O'Brien '57, declined N.A.I.A. bid to play and beat Holy Cross (69-68) in the Pete Houston Benefit Game. Still the ONLY team in Hounds' history to play and beat both Holy Cross and Providence in the same season.
d. 1957-58, team won N.A.I.A. regional tournament and advanced to its first national tournament in Kansas City, MO.
e. the College is admitted to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and celebrates with its first N.C.A.A. tournament berth
f. team get second N.C.A.A. tournament berth, the first of an N.C.A.A. Division II record 17 consecutive.

As athletics director he was involved in the implementation of Title IX on campus including adding scholarship aid for female athletes (1976) . . . the first institution in Central Massachusetts to do so. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Northeast-10 Conference, which has now grown to 15 institutions.

He coached eight all-Americans during his tenure at the College including: Buddy Masterson '60, Fred Barakat '61, Ed Hippert '62, John Jenkins '64, Steve Warner
'64, Jim Monahan '65, John Driscoll '66 and George Ridick '67.

1951-52 6-10
1952-53 5-12
1953-54 11-8 first winning season at College since 1933-34
1954-55 13-5 N.A.I.A. regional
1955-56 15-7 N.A.I.A. regional
1956-57 21-1 did not accept N.A.I.A. berth to play Holy Cross in Pete Houston Benefit (winning 69-68)
1957-58 16-4 N.A.I.A. regional CHAMPION
1958-59 13-5
1959-60 14-6 N.C.A.A. regional
1960-61 14-5
1961-62 12-5
1962-63 14-5 N.C.A.A. regional
1963-64 19-2 N.C.A.A. regional; ranked No. 2 final A.P. national poll
1964-65 16-6 N.C.A.A. regional
1965-66 18-6 N.C.A.A. regional CHAMPION
1966-67 17-5 N.C.A.A. regional

I was admittedly nervous as I was approached by this coaching legend, who is arguably Assumption's version of UCLA's John Wooden. Once I heard Laska's kind and gracious voice, however, any semblance of nerves disappeared. He, too, thanked me for honoring Gearin and then proceeded to educate me with a course in Assumption Basketball History 101.

We discussed everything from Gearin, who he referred to as a "good ball-handler and the smallest guy on the floor," to the "ice water" that flowed through Gearin's veins.

He shared the most minute fact about the Gearin story, but a fact that is a testament to how cool Gearin was.

"Just before he shot the first free throw," explained Laska. "A piece of paper blew onto the gym floor. Danny bent over and picked it up before he stepped to the line and sank the two free throws."

I had been warned by DiPietro that Coach could tell you every word of every time out pep talk he ever had and this seemed to lend credence to that lore.

Laska, who still attends every home game, then showed off the newly renovated gym. Originally built and dedicated in 1963, and then rededicated in 1975 when it was named after him, the gym now boasts a new floor, bleachers, beautiful overhead lighting, and comfortably cushioned seating under the baskets.

"I never expected the gym to be named after me," laughed Laska. "And then I lived 35 more years to enjoy it."

Laska moved to his special seat as the game commenced, but was right back over at the end of the half. He proceeded to point out yet another former player in Monahan. "He was a guard," explained Laska. "In the dedication game in '63-64 against Providence he and his backcourt mate shot 18-28. That game was one of the greatest moments of my career."

I asked Laska to share some other great moments before the second half started.

"Oh, there were so many," explained Laska, who likes to play golf in his post-retirement days. "I'd have to say when we beat Providence at the dedication of Alumni Gym in 1956-57 and then when we beat Holy Cross in the Pete Houston benefit game."

Laska went on to explain that the team that went 21-1 in '56-57 is the only Assumption team ever inducted into the Assumption Hall of Fame as a team, and that they actually passed up a trip to Kansas City to play in the NAIA tournament in order to play the famed game against their cross-town rivals, Holy Cross.

The second half began and Coach returned back to his seat. Occasionally during a lull in the action he'd remember another fact or anecdote he wanted to share.

When the final horn blew and another Assumption victory was etched into the record books, I said good bye to my new Assumption friends.

I have to believe that Danny Gearin looked down on us all and smiled, knowing that the memories of "The Game" would live on for another day.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Triathlete Shows It Is About the Size of the Fight in the Dog

John Young will never be able to dunk a basketball. Probably wouldn't fare very well in the high jump and more than likely will never be asked to put the star on the top of the community Christmas tree.

At 4'4" tall, there are many more "size-dependent challenges" where John Young wouldn't have a very high probability of success, either. But rather than focus on the "can't do's" in life, Young continues to prove to the naysayers, to himself, and, perhaps most importantly, to his 7-year-old son Owen, that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that is important.

I was introduced to Young by Dick and Rick Hoyt. While doing a story on the famed father/son triathlon duo, they shared an email that Young had previously sent to them. After using the email in my story, Dick and Rick Hoyt—Modern Day Super Heroes, I was thanked by Young for acknowledging his own personal athletic endeavors.

I couldn't let the opportunity pass to delve deeper into the story behind John Young. A new hero was born.

Young was born 43 years ago with achondroplasia, a congenital condition that affects the body’s ability to form cartilage. The affliction, a form of dwarfism, hinders normal bone growth.

Though Young’s parents and siblings are of average size, Young has lived his life with the stature of a "little person", but the heart, drive, and determination of someone three times his size.

Through his refusal to accept size as a deterrent, Young has served as a school basketball coach near his previous hometown of Toronto as well as during a stint in Hong Kong, and at his current school, The Pingree School in South Hamilton, Mass., where he is also a high school mathematics teacher.

He has since moved on to become Pingree's varsity swimming coach, a position that he has a pedigree for. In 1993, Young competed in the World Dwarf Games in Chicago as the sole representative of Canada. He won two gold medals swimming in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard breaststroke.

"I really enjoyed coaching basketball and hesitated to give it up, but in retrospect, I'm glad I made the switch", he said. "Swimming is a sport I do myself, where with basketball I was really a "book coach." I never really played the sport, I just enjoyed it. It was something I understood."

He is now beginning his fourth season as coach of the Pingree swim team, a program for which he has high hopes.

As a teen in Toronto, he spent his high school years managing the varsity football team, while playing intramural rugby and hockey.

“I’ve always been interested in athletics, either as a fan, participant, or coach,” he explains.

But his latest challenge is as a triathlete, a sport where he can successfully compete against himself and his own personal times, while competing with able-bodied athletes.

"I don't see myself as disabled; in fact I don't like the term", he said. "I see myself as simply differently-abled."

To date, Young has competed in four triathlons. In his first event last July, the Mill City Triathlon in Lowell, Young competed in the aqua bike portion of the event. The aqua bike portion of a sprint triathlon includes a one-third-mile swim in the Merrimac River, followed by a 13-mile back ride.

He found the Mill City event to be "both exhilarating and terrifying", as the water was running both high and fast.

"At one point in the race, for about 15 minutes, I was swimming but not moving because the current was so strong. My wife actually thought I was going to get carried away," he said, laughing.

The one-third mile swim took "50 minutes up and 12 minutes back," John says with a chuckle. After he completed the 13-mile bike ride and went into the record books as an official finisher, he was hooked.

His official time for his first aqua-bike was two hours and one minute.

Young hesitated to participate in the run portion of the triathlons because running is the piece that he finds most physically challenging. However, after some coercion by Pingree Athletic Director Chris Powers, Young decided to add the run to his triathlon repertoire.

"Chris said, 'Just walk the run portion. What difference does it make as long as you finish?'"

He entered the Witch City Triathlon in Salem, Mass., as one of 299 competitors. As the only little person in the field, he cycled faster than 21 competitors and actually swam and ran faster than one finisher.

But in John Young's mind it isn't about winning but simply challenging himself to compete. He admits that he is doing this as much for his son Owen as he is for himself as an exercise in self-esteem building.

"My son was born with the same type of dwarfism my wife, Sue, and I have. About 18 months ago he was really struggling, finally realizing that all of his friends are going to be bigger than him and faster then him. It's difficult for him," explains Young, who also competed last summer in the challenging Timberman Triathlon in Gilford, N.H., and the TDD Triathlon in Douglas, Mass.

"He asked 'Can I get better shoes? Will that make me run faster?' We try to explain to him that there are other ways he is going to find success and running against other people probably isn't one of them."

Following the Witch City event, Young was approached by the team captain of Comprehensive Racing, who asked him to join their team. "He contacted me and said 'If you're going to keep racing, we want you on our team.'"

"I've never been invited to join any type of athletic team. I was always the last one picked. For the first time, to actually be wanted—even at 43 years old—was the coolest thing in the world."

Before I ended my conversation with my new favorite inspiration, Young shared his favorite quote with me, a quote by Ashley Halsey.

"Triathlon has become life in microcosm, a metaphor that gives truth to the wisdom passed from each generation to the next: Work hard and you will be rewarded, have faith in yourself and you will excel; do not falter when an ill wind blows your way."

And that, is why John Young competes.

Upcoming events:

John Young will be competing this Sunday, Dec. 6 in the Jolly Jaunt a 5K walk/run in Danvers, Mass., to benefit the Special Olympics. His personal pledge page contains the following quote:

"Being physically challenged myself, I've gone through much of my life being told by others that there are certain things I shouldn't do because of my short stature. Running and competing in triathlons is one thing I have chosen to do in order to get fit and show people you can do pretty much whatever you set your mind to.

"To that end, I'm participating in the 2009 Jolly Jaunt because I believe in the highly-effective programs run by Special Olympics Massachusetts, and I want to do something to help."

"I have set a goal to raise money for my local-area Special Olympics athletes. Special Olympics athletes never pay a cent to participate in any of the 26 different sports offered, so we are raising critical dollars to fund the year-round sports training and athletic competitions for athletes in Massachusetts with intellectual disabilities.

"By running/walking or financially supporting the 2009 Jolly Jaunt, we can improve the lives of some very courageous and dedicated athletes in Massachusetts with intellectual disabilities and other closely-related developmental disabilities.

Your donation will help to provide them with programs and services that will bring them a more healthy lifestyle, as well as happiness and pride and in all that they do."
Feel free to donate on my personal pledge page. TC

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Sports, Then and Now, and Seamheads. He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

The Joe Niekro Foundation is the most recent non-profit organization to join the A Glove of Their Own team and will earn $3 from each sale of the book purchased using the donor code JNF636 Joe Niekro Foundation.