Friday, August 19, 2022

Rachel Lewis and Athletes Unlimited Softball

I followed and covered Rachel Lewis at Northwestern. Rachel racked up a bunch of honors and accolades. She is the all-time leader in home runs at NU. She was also the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2022.
I was hoping she would be selected in the Athletes Unlimited college draft and she was one of the 13 collegiate players picked. I was so happy for Rachel to play pro ball, especially in front of the Chicago fans.
As an AU rookie, Rachel hasn't played much. She has had six at bats, getting two hits and adding three walks. With a team of elite players, it is hard to crack the starting lineup, but Rachel has made the most of her limited playing time. As a local college player, Rachel always gets a huge reaction from the crowd.
Last weekend, I was finally able to get a picture with Rachel in her AU uniform. It seemed right that she was in purple, like her time with the Wildcats.
Rachel looks like she is having a blast. She deserves this. I hope she gets a few more at bats. Dare I ask for a Rachel bomb? That would make the season.
Check back here for my recurring coverage of AU sports. Also, go to for more of my AU coverage and other fun sports articles.
Rachel Lewis and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2022. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

On the Beat With Andrea of Evkami Art

I recently covered Anime Magic for the first time. Anime Magic is a anime and Japanese culture convention held in Rosemont.
As I meandered through the artist area, I saw the Evkami booth. Among dozens of very appealing booths, this one stood out. I was so impressed, I asked for a picture with Andrea, the creative force behind Evkami. Although I was armed with my video cam, it was a bit too loud and active at the con to get a solid interview, but I took her card to contact her later for one.
Earlier today, the interview came to fruition. I was excited to learn more about Andrea and her career. That interview is at On the Beat With Andrea of Evkami Art.
Andrea is a graphic design artist in the Chicago area. Her creations include keychains, patches, pins, plushies, stickers and more. Her beautiful plushie creations caught my eye first, but then I was pulled into all of her other colorful, culture, whimsical, intriguing products.
The first thing I learned was Anime Magic was also Andrea's first convention as an artist. I was happy to hear that, because I love following the journeys of creators, especially from the beginning stage.
I questioned Andrea about her artistic process, specifically how she knows (or feels) a project is done. I'm always fascinated learning how artists decide they are satisfied with their creations. In doing research on Andrea, I saw a social media post of Nessie artwork where she added a boat, because she "felt something was missing." This is the perfect example.
Andrea also talked about her first time experience attending a convention as a creator. Although anime isn't her main focus, Anime Magic was an excellent choice and the attendees, including me, loved her work. She talked about how it felt having folks come up and admire her work and what her friends thought of her burgeoning success.
I also learned Andrea came to the Chicago area from Wisconsin. She was looking for new and more opportunities and she is finding them. I was also happy to hear she will be doing more conventions. I really look forward to seeing Andrea at future conventions and seeing her new creations.
Until then, I will continue following her journey on social media. I encourage all to follow her, too. She is as interesting as her art. She posts pictures of new products with fun, short descriptions.
For more info and to see all of her work, go to and at on Instagram. She will also be at the DuPage Comic Con September 10 and Milwaukee Comic Con September 24.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

On the Beat With Abbey Cheek

Over several seasons covering the National Pro Fastpitch Chicago Bandits, I conducted more than 150 player interviews, but I missed Abbey Cheek. On Monday, I finally had the opportunity to add Abbey to my list. That interview is at On the Beat With Abbey Cheek.
A native of South Carolina, Abbey was highly recruited out of high school. She went on to have a stellar career at the University of Kentucky. Abbey racked up a lot of records and accolades at Kentucky, including being named the SEC Player of the Year. A powerful hitter, who holds career records at Kentucky for home runs, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage and total bases, Abbey also was named to the SEC All-Defensive team during her final season.
She was drafted by the Bandits and was named NPF Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, the NPF folded after Abbey's first season. Since then, Abbey played one season in Japan.
Abbey talked about her start in softball and her career. She indulged me by answering whether when playing for the Bandits, she ever tried to hit the expressway in batting practice, Despite Parkway Bank Sports Complex positioned with a Chicago expressway well beyond the outfield fence, the possibility of a home run reaching it is a continual topic of discussion among fans.
Last season, Abbey joined the softball coaching staff at Limestone University in Gaffney, South Carolina. She talked about the challenges and rewards of coaching young players at the NCAA Division II school.
Abbey also played the 2022 season with the USSSA Pride of the new Women's Pro Fastpitch league. Although the season was an exhibition, there are plans for expansion and a full regular season in 2023. Abbey talked about the debut season and the WPF future, as well as her own future.
The WPF is a pro league using standard scoring, as opposed to Athletes Unlimited Softball, which utilizes a fantasy scoring system to produce one individual champ. I attended a few WPF games and was impressed with every aspect from the play to the organization. Hopefully, the WPF continues to grow. There is plenty of room for both AU and WPF softball.
I thank Abbey for her time and consideration. Check back here and for updates on the WPF as announcements are made.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

On the Beat With Michelle Morris

Last week, I had the pleasure of being "On the Beat" with actress Michelle Morris. Over many years of talking at conventions, I am fortunate enough to have become friends with Michelle. That interview is at On the Beat With Michelle Morris.

I started the interview with a bit of name clarification. Michelle has gone by Portia Chellelynn at times, but is now using her real name. You can find her online under either name.

Michelle talked about her start in acting. Already doing several things like modeling and appearing in a music video, Michelle got her first part in an unlikely way. From there, she added acting to her already impressive resume.

Anyone who has met Michelle at a convention knows she is special. Many of her fans become her friends. She treats everyone like dear friends. It is always a special experience meeting Michelle.

From there, we got into the main focus of the interview. Written and directed by Bobby Easley, another friend, Witch House is based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Dreams in the Witch House. Michelle plays a grad student escaping an abusive boyfriend. After moving into the Hannah House, she faces strange and horrific events. What is reality and what is the fourth dimension? Does she know? Do we know what's real?

I won't reveal any spoilers, but I will say it is a fantastic movie. There's enough horror to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, without it becoming overdone and cartoonish. It's a psychological thriller. Some parts require a bit of thought. Others need a bit of imagination. The entirety gets the viewer to think and to keep thinking. I always like it when a movie comes back to me over the next few days and Witch House did just that.

Michelle did a wonderful job in her role. She talked about the challenges of some of the most emotional scenes. You can tell how much Michelle puts into those scenes. Even simply recalling some scenes is emotional for Michelle. It's that type of passion which adds to the movie.

Of course, Bobby did a great job, too. Like Michelle, I have known Bobby for several years. Having seen his other work, I figured I would like Witch House, but it surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend Witch House, as do many of my friends, including Tony Feddeler, also a long time pal through the convention scene.

Witch House is available streaming and on DVD through Amazon and elsewhere. Especially with Halloween fast approaching, I encourage everyone to check out Witch House if you want a scary, thrill ride.

I thank Michelle for her time and consideration. I also thank Bobby, Michelle and their whole crew for years of entertainment and friendship.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Friend Encounters: Kenny Rogers and Larry Freda

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

I have featured Larry Freda several times here. Although I have never met my east coast pal, I have been a follower and fan of his many celebrity meetings over the years.
Today's features finds Larry with the legendary musician Kenny Rogers. Larry met Rogers at Bookends, where he was doing a signing.
With a career spanning more than 60 years, Rogers built a Hall of Fame resume as part of the First Edition and as a solo act. Rogers also had a bit of an acting career. Unfortunately, Rogers passed away in March 2020.
Rogers earned another spot in pop culture history, thanks to a Seinfeld episode. Kramer and Newman became obsessed with Kenny Rogers Chicken in what was a hilarious episode.
Once again Larry has met a celebrity who I did not meet. I wonder how many celebs Larry has met total. It's got to be in the hundreds and we will see more here in the future.
Kenny Rogers and Larry Freda in Ridgewood, NJ-October 2012.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Celebrity Jersey Cards #600 Matthew Modine & Jeff Daniels

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys. Today, I continue my alphabetical march through all the MLB teams.

California native Matthew Modine has carved out an excellent career. One of his first major roles was in Full Metal Jacket. Now a New York resident, Modine heads "Bicycle for a Day," a pro-bike organization. Modine played baseball Hall of Famer Honus Wagner in 2004s The Winning Season and earned a Celebrity Jersey Card in the process.
Born in Georgia and raised in Michigan, Jeff Daniels appeared on and off Broadway before jumping to the big screen. His second role was in Terms of Endearment, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The tarantobelus jeffdanielsi, a parasite that kills tarantulas, was named to honor his role in Arachnaphobia. Daniels threw out a pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates and earned his Celebrity Jersey Card.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

On the Beat With Alejandra Lion

About a month ago, I saw Alejandra Lion wrestle in a four-person match at 2econd Wrestling. Very impressed, I reached out for an interview, which happened yesterday and is at On the Beat With Alejandra Lion.

Lion's journey started in El Salvador, but came to fruition in Dallas, Texas. Always a fan of wrestling, Lion debuted in 2018 and has earned a few titles already.

The interview started with Lion discussing her start. We moved on to her match at 2econd Wrestling. She explained the challenge of wrestling multi-person matches. She also expressed happiness at wrestling in Chicago and being able to explore the city a bit.

Lion named a few of her wrestling role models and how it feels to be on the other side, having fans of her own. She also spoke about soaking it in and how she feels entering the ring and wrestling.

She explained her wrestling style and her finishing maneuver. In the four-person match, she showed excellent brawling skills, along with solid technical wrestling. She also made a connection with the fans.

Of course, we had to discuss her hair, one of her distinctive features. The lion has an amazing mane, although sometimes her opponents use it against her. Undaunted, she's not going to change her look.

Lastly, Lion discussed her own animals. The queen of the jungle has quite a little personal zoo.

Still based in the Dallas area, Lion's appearance at 2econd Wrestling was her first in the Chicago area, but hopefully not her last. The fans really got behind Lion and all the women wrestlers at 2econd Wrestling.

I thank Lion for her time and consideration. Check back here and for more of my wrestling coverage, including interviews.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Kris Statlander at New York Comic Con 2021

The New York Comic Con is less than four months away. I plan on being "On the Beat" once again, meeting a lot of interesting celebrities, wrestlers and creators.
Last year, All Elite Wrestling had a large presence at NYCC. Kris Statlander was one of the many wrestlers to appear at the AEW booth. Still dealing with the pandemic, Statlander was wearing a mask, but it was still cool to meet her.
Statlander made her debut in 2016.After wrestling in a few indy companies, Statlander signed with AEW in 2019. In 2019, Sports Illustrated ranked her No. 6 of the top ten female wrestlers of the year.
She was extremely nice, even apologizing for wearing a mask. While the apology was unnecessary, it was classy for her to do it. Masks were (and still are) a part of our lives to some degree. I won't get into the mask debate. I'm merely commenting on Statlander being very nice. The mask did not deter any of the hundreds of fans who lined up to see her.
I am sure wrestling will have a big presence at NYCC again this year. NYCC runs October 6-9.
Go to for info on Kris and her mat mates. Check for updates and scheduling on NYCC 2022.
Kris Statlander and me in New York, NY-October 2021.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Hannah Flippen and Athletes Unlimited Softball 2022

My coverage of Athletes Unlimited Softball Season Three continues on The Every Day Fan with AU SB Week Three Draft Recap. I look at the teams and the leaderboard implications.

On week One, I caught up a bit with former Chicago Bandits player Hannah Flippen. Currently sitting in 7th place in the standings, Flippen is positioned to make a move upwards.

Flippen was a star player at Utah, before playing professionally. She was also a member of Team USA 2016-18. Her mother was an All-American at Utah State and helped the Aggies to two national titles.

During her time with the Bandits, I had a fun exchange after one particularly hot day. When talking of the game, I said "at least the game was short." Flippen thought I said she was short. I quickly restated I was referring to the weather and we had a big laugh.

It's great seeing Flippen and all the players, especially former Bandits, back on the field. With the unique scoring system of AU, I still waffle on how to cheer, but I do lean towards rooting for my former Bandits, like Flippen.

Week three games start on Friday at 5:30 PM CST with Team Jaquish facing Team McCleney. Following at 8 PM CST, Team Chidester battles Team Mulipola. Saturday and Sunday feature two games each, with the week's final game seeing Team McCleney taking on Team Mulipola at 7 PM CST.

Hannah Flippen and me in Rosemont, IL-July 2022.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

On the Beat With Steve Ahrendt

Yesterday, I interviewed Steve Ahrendt, whose presence is felt on many levels in several companies around Chicago. A broadcaster, general manager, podcaster and more, Ahrendt has even stepped into the ring to do battle. The interview can be found at On the Beat With Steve Ahrendt.

As usual, the interview started with Ahrendt discussing his start in wrestling. Having a late start, Ahrendt took a bit of an unusual route entering pro wrestling. In a few years though, he made up for lost time.

In talking about broadcasting, Ahrendt brings up Jim Ross. Although he doesn't copy Ross, he approaches calling matches in a similar fashion. He brings a fan's aspect to the announce table. After I compare him to the WWE's Pat McAfee, Ahrendt gives his thoughts on the football player-turned-announcer.

While broadcasting was his background and entry point, Ahrendt has assumed other roles, too. He also has worked both as a fan favorite and a heel. Ahrendt discussed working both sides, which is easier and which he prefers.

As will happen, occasionally a broadcaster will get involved in storylines and find himself in the ring. This has happened to Ahrendt a handful of times, but he semi-proudly states he is 3-2 in such matches.

Working in a few companies and seeing so many young wrestlers, I asked Ahrendt to name some under-the-radar wrestlers in the area. As expected, he immediately gave me several men and women.

Last week, I interviewed Chicago area entertainer Joey Roth. During the interview and in post-interview reactions, the current issues between Roth and Ahrendt heated up again. Since Joey gave his side, I felt it was only fair to let Ahrendt give his perspective.

Both men make valid points. I have been on the wrestling scene long enough to see where this is going. It will end up in the ring. It might be Roth against Ahrendt or they might have wrestlers battling for them. Either way, both will be involved and it will be highly entertaining.

Ahrendt ends our interview with a preview of several wrestling events where he will appear in some role. Chicago area wrestling is in high gear and Ahrendt is all over the scene.

Thank you to Ahrendt for his time and consideration. Check for my coverage of Chicago wrestling.