Monday, June 26, 2017

Friendly Encounters: The Killer Bees and John Crowther

Friendly Encounters is a weekly series featuring my friends who have met celebrities.

When we last featured John Crowther, he was with with Nicolai Volkoff.  John was promoting Nicolai Volkoff: The Comic Series.  John was kind enough to give us a little scoop on his next project, too.  That project would feature the Killer Bees (Jumpin' Jim Brunzell and B Brian Blair).  The Killer Bees project is now officially on Kickstarter at Killer Bees: Issue 1.
The Killer Bees: Issue 1 is the biography of The Killer Bees in comic book form, based on interviews with Blair and Brunzell.  Highly successful and extremely popular, The Killer Bees were among the top tag teams from the mid-1980's through the mid-1990's.  They remain popular to this day.
The Killer Bees: Issue 1 promises the same kind of in-depth and behind-the-scenes stories that were featured in the Nicolai Volkoff comic.  There will be stories about the AWA, WWF, UWF and more.  All of this will be accompanied by awesome artistry.
The Killer Bees: Issue 1 is your chance to relive some of the greatest moments in wrestling or to learn more about those times.  It is a championship combination of wrestling history in comic book form.  I love the concept and I look forward to more from John.
Once again, on the Kickstarter page for The Killer Bees, there are several levels of pledges, each coming with a set of rewards.  This is a chance to get a cool comic and to get some other fun stuff, like Killer Bees decals, autographs, trading cards, other similar comic releases and more.  The Kickstarter campaign ends on July 11.
I appreciate John sharing his comics and campaigns here.  They are great quality and I am sure wrestling fans or even plain comic fans will love these comics.
Brian Blair, John Crowther and Jim Brunzell in Orlando, FL-April 2017.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Good Bye, Good Luck and Thank You Angel Bunner

Angel Bunner had a great career at Auburn University.  She was 44-21, with a 2.24 ERA during her four seasons there.  She also had the third-best single-season ERA at 1.53 in 2011.
Bunner became the first Auburn softball player to be taken in the NPF draft, when she was drafted 17th overall by the Carolina Diamonds in 2012.  She also pitched for the NY/NJ Comets.  She joined the Bandits midway through the 2016 season.  She pitched well, but never better than pitching the first six innings of game 3 of the championship series versus the USSSA Pride.  Bunner got the win and earned her place in the history of the Bandits and the hearts of the fans.
Unfortunately, Angel signed with the Pride during the offseason and is pitching for them this season.  In 11 appearances this season, she has an ERA of 1.35.  It's always tough seeing your players go to other teams, but Angel will always be a favorite here for her contributions to the 2016 NPF championship.
I want to publicly thank Angel for her time and consideration during her short stay here.  She was always friendly and professional.  I thank her, too, for helping the Bandits win the title.  I wish her good luck with the Pride and I look forward to seeing her this season, even if she will be wearing the wrong uniform.
Angela Bunner and me in Rosemont, IL-July 2016.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Celebrity Jersey Cards #328 Mike McCready & Bill Withers

This is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys.  Today, we continue working our way alphabetically through MLB teams.


Musician Mike McCready was born in Pensacola, FL, but moved to Seattle as a youth.  He is the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of Pearl Jam, who were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  McCready stayed true to his Seattle connection by wearing the Mariners jersey, while playing the National Anthem at a game and earning a Celebrity Jersey card in the process.
Bill Withers was born in Slab Fork, WV, one of the greatest town names I have heard.  The musician has won three Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.  He went old-school for his Celebrity Jersey Card, which actually bends the time continuum, as the Mariners did not exist at the time of this card's release.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good Bye, Good Luck and Thank You Michelle Gascoigne

Michelle Gascoigne had an outstanding career at Oklahoma, going 49-7 record with a 1.65 ERA.  She threw a perfect game, along with setting records and receiving awards and achievements.  This lead to her being drafted by the Bandits seventh overall in the 2013 NPF draft.
Gascoigne went on to have a solid career with the Bandits.  She was a fierce compeitor on the mound and a lovable fan favorite off the mound.  She was a big part of the pitching staff that lead the team to two straight NPF titles.
While playing with the Bandits, she started her coaching career.  First she was a Graduate Manager at Oklahoma, then an assistant coach at Northwestern, a position she still holds.  She has a bright future in coaching.  I am hoping she stays in the Chicago area, but I think many schools will be calling her soon.  Either way, I'll continue following her career.
Gascoigne was one of the pitchers I sought out prior to my one at bat against the Bandits in a charity game.  Like the others, she said I pretty much had no chance and she was right.  It all was in fun though and I appreciated her talking to me about it and not just brushing me off, like the over-excited fan that I was.
Gascoigne was always a class act on and off the field, in interviews or just casual ballpark chats.  I appreciate her time and consideration.  I wish her great success at Northwestern and I am excited to be able to continue covering her there.  I thank her for all you have given the Bandits fans and me.  Good luck and Go Cats!
For more info on the reigning back-to-back champion Bandits, go to ChicagoBandits.com.  For more info on the Northwestern softball team, go to NUSports.com.
Michelle Gascoigne and me in Rosemont, IL-July 2014.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

On The Beat with Ellen Roberts of the Chicago Bandits 2017

Covering the Chicago Bandits is one fun summer experience.  Today, that experience includes our interview with pitcher Ellen Roberts.
Ellen is another member of the Aussie Eight with the Bandits.  Prior to the Bandits though, Ellen starred at the University of Memphis.  She holds the school record for career saves, innings pitched, starts and appearances.  She also showed some offensive pop, hitting a homer in an American Athletic Conference quarterfinal game in 2014.
She signed with the Bandits last offseason.  As of this writing, she had 16 appearances, including 3 starts, with an 1-2 record with one save and a 3.73 ERA.  She also has 21 strike outs in 20.2 innings pitched.
We talked to Ellen about playing all over the world and about the 2020 Olympics.  We also talked about playing with her Aussie mates on the Bandits, first impressions of Chicago and some other fun stuff.  Of course, I had to ask about her hitting.  Like a true pro, she downplayed it, but gave a thoughtful answer.
Ellen comes to the Bandits with a great attitude and an impressive resume.  We certainly will need her pitching talent as the season wears on and Ellen is definitely up for that challenge.  We've only seen a small sampling and bigger things are ahead for her.
I thank Ellen for her time and consideration.  She's an elite athlete and a real pleasure to watch.
I thank the Bandits for their continued hospitality.  They are a fantastic organization on and off the field.  Go to ChicagoBandits.com for all of the info and go to a game for all of the fun!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On The Beat with Abby Ramirez of the Chicago Bandits 2017

We are back "On the Beat" for our fourth season with the reigning back-to-back National Pro Fastpitch champion Chicago Bandits.  Today, our coverage brings us to Abby Ramirez.
She originally caught my eye, because I had read about her prep career, including being named the Illinois Gatorade Softball Player of the Year in 2013.  I wasn't necessarily even following women's softball then, but i knew of Abby!
Because of the Bandits and the NPF, I actually started to watch women's collegiate softball a few seasons ago.  Abby was one of the first collegiate players I remember watching.  She collected a bunch of awards and honors, including All-Big Ten Defensive Team at 2nd base in 2014, while playing for the University of Michigan.
After going undrafted, she signed with the Bandits last offseason.  I am sure she was excited to join her hometown team, but I was also excited to see her play here, after watching her for years at Michigan.
In our interview, we talked to Abby about playing under the legendary Coach Carol Hutchins, joining her hometown team, her favorite things in Chicago and more.  Though only a few games into her NPF career, we asked about her first impressions and we loved her answer.
I think Abby will have a long and successful career in the NPF.  Bandit Nation already has embraced her, but that love will continue to grow.  It's always special to watch local players succeed with the Bandits.
I really appreciate Abby's time and consideration.  She is an excellent addition to the Bandits.  Welcome home Abby!
I also want to thank the Bandits for their continued hospitality.  The organization and the individuals make this such a joy.  I encourage everyone to join the fun.  Head to ChicagoBandits.com for more info and then head to a game (or two).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

On The Beat with Taylah Tsitsikronis of the Chicago Bandits 2017

We are very happy to continue our coverage of the back-to-back reigning National Pro Fastpitch champion Chicago Bandits.  Today, our coverage brings us to newcomer Taylah Tsitsikronis.
Taylah was one of four Aussie Spirit players to join the NPF last season.  With the Pennsylvania Rebellion, Taylah played in 12 games, hitting .100 in 20 at bats, with one home run, one rbi and one run scored.
Taylah and 7 other Aussies joined the Bandits for the 2017 season.  She has already gotten into 8 games, hitting .200 with 2 rbi and 3 runs scored.
In between her stops in the NPF, she played in the World Cup of Softball and the Women’s World Softball Championship.  If that isn't enough, the 2020 Olympics are also on her radar.
Clearly Taylah is one talented and busy player.  I am really looking forward to watching Taylah for the rest of the 2017 season as she settled into her role with the Bandits.  I see big things ahead for Taylah.
In our interview below, we discussed all of this.  I also asked her about catching versus playing other positions and some other fun stuff.
Being with 7 of her Aussie mates must help, but playing in a foreign land has to be a challenge, especially playing in the NPF, where the best of the best of the United States play.  Taylah is certainly up for that challenge.
I really appreciate Taylah's time and consideration.  Doing interviews in a foreign land might be as challenging as playing here, but Taylah was awesome.  It was a real pleasure meeting her.
As always, I thank the Chicago Bandits for their continued hospitality.  I encourage everyone to check out a game and support these great athletes.  Go to ChicagoBandits.com for more info.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Friendly Encounters: Debbie Gibson and Josh Watko

This is a weekly series featuring friends who have met celebrities.

Josh Watko is the creative force behind JW's Wrestling Memorabilia, the best of wrestling memorabilia and memories.  The site is filled with great wrestling stuff, but Josh is not a one trick pony.
Josh attends a lot of comic con or celebrity appearances in his area.  At one such show, he met singer Debbie Gibson.  Josh's comment on his picture was "Debbie Gibson and I...two '80s icons and we're still hot as Hell."  He is quite the kidder.
I have to agree with him about Debbie.  She still looks great.  Even when I saw her up close at a different event, I thought she looked great.
Sorry Josh, I like you and all, but I can't compare you and Debbie.  On the other hand, Josh runs a much better website that she does.
Josh Watko and Debbie Gibson in Pittsburgh, PA-August 2015.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Celebrity Jersey Cards #327 Lucille Ball & Bob Hope

This is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys.  Today, we continue working our way alphabetically through MLB teams.

Actress and all-around entertaining legend Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY.  She rose to major fame opposite husband Desi on television's I Love Lucy.  I don't know the story behind this picture, but it did involve Bob Hope, then part-owner of the Indians.  I am sure it was something wacky.  Ball gets major extra points for wearing the full uniform.
 Like Ball, Bob Hope was an entertainment legend.  Hope was born in England.  Sometime after rising to fame, he became part-owner of the Cleveland Indians.  This allowed me to make the first Celebrity Jersey Card featuring a pipe and a super-large cigarette.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On The Beat with Texas Charge Asst. Coach Roman Foore 2017

The reigning back-to-back National Pro Fastpitch champion Chicago Bandits are off to a great start and we are very happy to be covering them for our fourth season.  Today, our coverage finds Texas Charge Assistant Coach Roman Foore, formerly of the Bandits.
It's always strange seeing familiar faces returning with different teams.  Such was the case when I saw Coach Roman sporting the blue and green of the Charge.
Coach Roman was a steady force and a big part of the success of the Bandits during his time here.  He was also great to me whenever I needed interviews or just for general chat.  He was a good sport, even when I talked about serious topics, like the mustache luck or the Minnesota Twins GM job.  Coach Roman rolled with it, no matter what the topic was.  I appreciate all of it.
The Bandits underwent a huge change in the offseason and Coach Roman found a new home with the Charge.  While I hated to see him go, perhaps it worked out right for him, as he is now coaching with his wife, as you will hear in the interview below.
In addition to discussing the latest addition to the Charge coaching staff, Coach Roman talked about returning to coach against the Bandits, winning titles, and more.  Of course, I also asked him about the GM job with the Texas Rangers.
Thank you to Coach Roman for his time and consideration this weekend and over the last few seasons.  Good luck in Texas, as well.  Thank you to the Chicago Bandits for their continued hospitality.  For more info on the Bandits, check out ChicagoBandits.com.