Saturday, April 21, 2018

Congratulations Marissa Panko of the Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Wildcats outfielder Marissa Panko was named the Big 10 Conference Softball Player of the Week. In a weather-shortened week, Marissa had a .833 batting average, with a .875 OB%, 1.333 SLG%, 3 doubles, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Clearly it was an honor well-deserved.
Marissa has started all 38 games this season. She is hitting .313 with 19 RBI and 30 runs scored. The senior infielder/outfielder also started every game last season (49 games at shortstop and 5 at second base), while hitting .329.
The Wildcats are in 4th place with a record of 9-5 in Big Ten Conference play. Overall, they are 27-13. They have ten games remaining. The Big Ten Conference tournament runs May 10 through May 12 in Wisconsin.
I'll be covering Team Purple and the Big Ten through the end, which hopefully will see the Cats on top. This is an exciting team and Marissa is on fire!
Marissa Panko and me in Evanston, IL-Spring 2017.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Happy Birthday Jean!

Today my sister Jean celebrates her birthday.  As always, I celebrate her here and hope she has a great day.
I can never say enough good things about Jean, nor thank her enough for her unwavering support, love and help.  She always does the little things, like making sure there is plenty of Coke for my visits, but she also does the big things.  Never was this more evident than last February.
I had a fairly intense nose and throat surgery to lessen my sleep apnea attacks.  Jean flew in from Florida, put me up in her house and spent a week nursing me back to health.  I couldn't have done it without her and I dare say, it was actually fun being together.
Of course, it isn't just what she does for me which makes her great.  It's who she is.
Whether together or by phone or text, we share laughs and gripes, good times and bad.  She's a sster, but more importantly, she's a friend.
Happy birthday, Jean.  I love and appreciate you immensely!
Jean and Scott Parker in Lemont, IL-September 2017.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On the Beat With Suzi Yoonessi at C2E2 2018

As I wrote yesterday, I had the pleasure of being part of a media session for Daphne and Velma at the recent C2E2. It was pretty exciting to sit next to Director Suzi Yoonessi as she answered questions and talked about Daphne and Velma, the newest part of the Scooby Doo franchise, which was such a big part of my childhood.
In the video below, Suzi gives us a little summary of the plot, which involves Daphne and Velma's friendship prior to being part of the Scooby gang. She also gave us a bit of a scoop about the future of Daphne and Velma.
Suzi is an award-winning filmmaker. She has been a producer, director and screenwriter. She is very talented and very passionate about her work.
Daphne and Velma is her latest project and her current passion. Of course, she would speak highly of a movie she is promoting, but this wasn't just promotional talk. She spoke of positive feamle characters, of the strong friendship between the two and of this not being a "high school" movie, despite the high school time frame. I felt that Daphne and Velma was really special to her.
Unfortunately, because of my time constraints, I did not get to see the screening of Daphne and Velma. I was very disappointed, but I will see it when it is released next month.
The Scooby Doo series has been so iconic, yet the characters of Daphne and Velma have not been fully detailed and developed until now. This is a unique look and part of the Scooby franchise. I seriously cannot wait to see this movie.
Check out SuziYoonessi.com for more info and follow Suzi Yoonessi on twitter. You can also check out the official trailer for Daphne and Velma on YouTube. Be sure to look for Daphne and Velma when it is released on May 22.
I want to thank Suzi for her time. I also want to thank C2E2 for this opportunity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

On the Beat With Sarah Gilman at C2E2 2018

At C2E2 2018, I had the pleasure of being in a press session for Daphne and Velma, an upcoming movie featuring the two female characters from the iconic Scooby Doo franchise. Because media sessions can be handled many ways, I never know exactly what to expect. I did, however, request time with actress Sarah Gilman, who portrayed Velma Dinkley.
Late Saturday afternoon, the media folks gathered in a special room above the C2E2 main floor. We were seated at tables in groups of 5 or 6. The various people involved in Daphne and Velma were brought to each table and we had about 10 minutes with each of them.
I was excited when Sarah joined our press table. Like so many others, Scooby Doo was such a big part of my childhood. To be sitting with someone playing one of the lead roles was a great opportunity. From the second she sat down, I realized two things about Sarah. She "was" Velma" and she was just so cool. 
In the video below from the media session, Sarah explains how she got the part and shows why she was perfect for Velma. It's best to hear it directly from her.
As a twenty-two year old actress, Sarah showed great poise and maturity in the media session. Balancing humor with seriousness, she answered all of our questions, delivered interesting side stories and generally delighted us.
In short Daphne and Velma is the story of the two women before the Scooby gang was formed.. Fred, Shaggy and Scooby are not part of this movie. It's a story about women, with many women involved in the project. It's such a unique concept. It should be especially great for young girls, but highly entertaining to all of us.
Unfortunately, time constraints prohibited me from seeing the screening of Daphne and Velma. That really killed me, but I will definitely catch it on video as soon as possible. It comes out May 22 and my calendar is already marked!
You can follow Sarah B. Gilman on twitter to get updates and fun news. Also, check out the official trailer for Daphne and Velma on YouTube.
I want to thank Sarah for her time. I also want to thank the fine folks at C2E2 for the opportunity. Lastly, I encourage everyone to check out Daphne and Velma!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The "Or Else" Podcast: Episode 13: Kickball

The latest episode of The "Or Else" podcast is up on Soundcloud and it is jam-packed with stuff. In one short hour, we crammed in a wrestling event, a comic con , a kickball tournament and more.
Episode 13 starts with us talking about RPro's "Lights Out" event at Bourbon Street, a great place for wrestling. We follow that laughing about the fun we had at Wizard World 2013. We end it with more laughs about our experience playing kickball for charity (spoiler: one of us got a hit and scored!).
This episode is especially meaningful for me. It starts with wrestling, but ends with fun and friendships. Tommy Else, C Red, Barry Ryte and me are four guys who probably wouldn't have met, let alone become friends, without RPro. Within a couple years fo the debut of RPro, there we were participating in a charity kickball tournament.
The picture below says it all. (Sorry, Barry had left by that point.) The beautiful Chicago skyline is in the background, as we celebrate an amazing day. It may be cliche, the bonds made through RPro are strong and wonderful. In doing "The "Or Else" podcast, I get to relive these moments and remember how much fun I had. The six years flew by quickly and sometimes events are forgotten or blurred. With The "Or Else" podcast, they are coming alive for me and hopefully for the listeners who were part of this journey. This is Tommy's story at heart, but it's my story, too. It's the story for all who were part of RPro.
My little cousin Noah is another example. While he has only been to a few shows, he did some interviews for Johngy's Beat at those shows and at the RPro booth at Wizard World. That was always surreal to me. I grew up with his dad and to see Noah interact with the RPro talent was just so cool for me. I might be biased, but I always found his RPro interviews to be highly entertaining. The wrestlers always delivered in those interviews.
I hope the listeners are enjoying the ride. The feedback has been excellent so far. What started as a plan for a handful of episodes has grown into another great experience because of RPro.
Check out The "Or Else" podcast Episode 13: Kickball on Soundcloud. You can also listen to all of the episodes at The "Or Else" podcast main page on Soundcloud.

C Red, Tommy Else and me in Chicago, IL-Summer 2013.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Friendly Encounters: The Godfather and Hardcore Heather Owens

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

Hardcore Heather Owens doesn't look all that "hardcore" in this picture.  In fact, she looks rather giddy.  Then again, she is with the Godfather.  I'll let that sit there.
Heather is one of my favorite wrestlers at Resistance and one of my favorite people at Days of the Dead.  She looks small, but she is a ball of energy and fun.  She works hard and is well-loved at both places.
I have long-predicted a run as Women's champ at RPro and I still think it could happen in The Resistance.  She's been a loyal and popular worker for several years there/  Similarly at DotD, Heather (along with her her Zubaz-wearing husband Ed Gonzales) has been a tireless worked from the debut of the great con.
None of that stops her from having a fun time everywhere she goes.  That brings us back to the picture with The Godfather (aka Charles Wright).  When you're talking The Godfather, you are talking fun.
I love this picture.  It just screams fun.  This is the type of fun that is always happening at Days of the Dead.
Despite Heather having a great time with The Godfather, she did not join the infamous Hooooo train.  She remained a #ClassyBroad.  (She might kick my butt if I said anything different!)
Go to DaysoftheDead.com to get all of the info on this great horror con.  They have yearly events in five cities and you would definitely see Heather, although she might be a blur.
Hardcore Heather Owens and The Godfather in Indianapolis, IN-June 2017.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Celebrity Jersey Cards #370 Cat Osterman & Monica Abbott

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys.  This week, we feature two softball legends, while we continue our alphabetical journey through all of the MLB teams.

Cat Osterman was born in Houston, TX and has been a collegiate 4-time All-American, 2-time medal winning Olympian and retired 6-time pro All-Star.  She is one of the all-time greats in softball and I had the pleasure of watching her pitch against the Chicago Bandits and interviewing her.  She is a class act on and off the field.  Catcher Jason Castro joins Osterman on her Celebrity Jersey Card.
 Monica Abbott was born in Salinas, CA, but attended the University of Tennessee.  She was a 4-time All-American, bronze medal winning Olympian and a 4-time champ in the NPF.  I had the pleasure of watching her up close during her time with the Bandits.  I also saw her pitch a no-hitter, although it was against the Bandits.  Still, it was awesome to witness.  Like Osterman, Abbott is truly an elite pitcher.  Also like Osterman, she is a great individual on and off the field.  First baseman Tyler White joins Abbott on her Celebrity Jersey Card.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

On the Beat With Art Baltazar at C2E2 2018

I had been in the Aw Yeah Comics store in Skokie several times (usually looking for Aquaman comics or other related stuff). I didn't realize that comic artist Art Baltazar was the owner. (Yes, my reporter skills sometimes betray me). I finally figured it out when I saw his booth at a comic con a few years ago (better late than never).
When I saw Art would be at C2E2 2018, I contacted him about an interview and he replied that we "would make history." I looked forward to learning more about this talented character.
Art talked to us about his start in comics creations, his career, creating his own characters and more. Although he is completely humble, you can feel the joy he has for his work.
One bit really stood out. Having his work rejected by some companies, Art would eventually be on the receiving end as companies called him about his characters. He tells that story not out of vengeance, but more out of almost a kid-like glee. It is great to see that sort of passion and enthusiasm. It's a great story of not giving up, believing in yourself and the ultimate achievement and Art deserves it all and to be proud of it all.
I really enjoyed talking to Art and I hope to talk to him more in the future (that's fair warning, Art!). I had a lot more questions, about his work and the industry, but I don't like taking up too much of an artist's time at the comic cons and I also like learning bits and pieces over the years.
Check out ArtBaltazar.com to learn more about Art. Besides being insanely informative, it is wildly fun (much like Art). You can also follow Art on Facebook and Art on twitter to get quick updates and random thoughts.
I want to thank Art for his time and consideration. I'm not sure if we made history, but I had a great time with him. Thanks, also, to C2E2 for the opportunity!

Friday, April 13, 2018

On the Beat With Jane Labowitch at C2E2 2018

When scanning the artist guest list for C2E2 2018, as soon as I saw Princess Etch, I knew i wanted to get an interview with her. Princess Etch is Jane Labowitch, a talented artist who uses Etch-A-Sketch to create beautiful masterpieces.
While Jane proves Etch-A-Sketch isn't just child's play, she did get her start when she was only four years old. Obviously, she honed her skills over the years through a lot of practice. Jane's talent and training go beyond just mastering Etch-A-Sketch. She also earned a BFA in Illustration at the American Academy of Art. Her clients include MTV, the Cartoon Network and many others.
I was fascinated by her work. Like a lot of folks, I tried my hand at Etch-A-Sketch and like a lot of folks, I never was able to get beyond the basics. It blows my mind to see the beauty and the detail in Jane's creations. 
In our interview, Jane talked about her start with Etch-A-Sketch, her path to become Princess Etch and much more. It was funny to hear her talk about her Etch-A-Sketch skills as a youngster, but I'll let you hear that from her.
When I told my friends I was interviewing Princess Etch, the most popular question was how she makes her creations permanent, once she is done with them. Jane answers that question.
You can find out more about Jane at PrincessEtch.com.  You can also follow her at Princess Etch on Facebook.
Jane was a delight. I am still amazed at her mastery of the Etch-A-Sketch. It is unique and incredible. I appreciate her time in giving us this interview. Thanks, too, to C2E2 for the opportunity to meet awesome people like Princess Etch.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Morgan Newport and the 2018 Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats Women's Softball team will be in back action this weekend. You can find my story about the Cats on the Patch at Northwestern Wildcats Returning Home.
The Wildcats are 23-13 on the season. Unfortunately, they are only 6-5 in Big Ten Conference play. There are still 16 games remaining, including a four game home stretch starting this Friday. The Cats host the Ohio State Buckeyes for 3 games, then enjoy an off day, before finishing this homestand against Green Bay.
One of the big reasons for the success of the Cats this season is sophomore pitcher Morgan Newport. She is 10-5 with a 3.87 ERA. She has 5 complete games in 12 starts. She has 46 strikeouts in 72 1/3 inning pitched. Morgan has certainly blossomed in her second season of collegiate play.
As a freshman, Morgan appeared in 33 games. She started 5 games, relieved in 22 and was the Designated Player in 5 games. She went 7-6 with 3 saves and a 3.85 ERA.
In high school, Morgan was a star on the mound and at bat. She never hit below .411 and also pitched a no-hitter, among her other accomplishments. She also played many years of club softball. Clearly she had the resume and now she is starting to show real star power in her second season with the Cats.
One of the coolest parts of following Northwestern softball is watching the development of the players. Morgan will get several more opportunities this season and I'll be watching closely.
You can go to NUSports.com to learn more about Morgan and her teammates. You can also check here for recurring coverage of Team Purple.
Morgan Newport and me in Evanston, IL-Spring 2017.