Tuesday, September 21, 2021

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Softball Week Four

Week Four of Athletes Unlimited Softball produced some interesting results. There's a new overall leader and reigning champ Cat Osterman has dropped out of the top ten in the standings. Mid-season arrival Kayla Wedl had her first pro hit. Anissa Urtez won a game MVP on Hispanic Heritgae Day.

Amanda Chidester led Team Gold to a perfect 3-0 record. Aleshia Ocasio's Team Purple went 2-1 and Sahvanna Jaquish's Team Orange went 1-2. Surprisingly, Cat Osterman's Team Blue went 0-3.

Despite her team going 3-0, Chiddy actually dropped one spot in the standings and now trails new leader Aleshia Ocasio by 52 points. Newcomer to the top four is Carrie Eberle with 1,378 points. Rounding out the top four spots is Sahvanna Jaquish, who dropped two spots, with 1,336. Osterman dropped to 12th place with 1,186. While it is possible to jump a lot of places (see Eberle's jump of 16 places), I don't see Osterman rebounding that much. I think it's Ocasio's time to win it all. 

On her way to her big vault in the standings, Eberle picked up two MVP awards. Alyssa Denham and Anissa Urtez finished in the top three for two of the games. 

Game 19-Alyssa Denham, Tori Vidales, Nadia Taylor

Game 20-Anissa Urtez, Sam Fischer, Sara Groenewegen

Game 21-Gwen Svekis, Odicci Alexander, Kelsey Stewart

Game 22-Carrie Eberle, Anissa Urtez, Morgan Zerkle

Game 23-Amanda Sanchez, Lilly Piper, Alesia Ocasio

Game 24-Carrie Eberle, Ali Aguilar, Alyssa Denham

The AU Week Five Draft is tonight at 5 PM CST. The teams return to the softball field Saturday as Eberle's Team Blue faces Chidester's Team Orange at noon CST. The nightcap sees Ocasio's Team Gold battling Jaquish's Team Purple at 3 pm CST. The season ends on Monday with the final game at 9 pm CST featuring Team Orange and Team Gold.

The postgame press session for Saturday featured Tori Vidales, Alyssa Denham, Nadia Taylor, Anissa Urtez, Sara Groenewegen and Sam Fischer. That interview session can be found at On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Softball 09/18/2021.

Go to AUProSports.com for more info on all of AU leagues. Check back here for my continuing coverage of all AU Sports.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Friend Encounters: Chris Zorich and Tony Feddeler

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

My friend Tony Feddeler is usually known to be a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, but today I feature him with a legendary player from the Chicago Bears.
Native Chicagoan Chris Zorich was a star at Notre Dame, before being selected by the Bears in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft. Zorich played with the Bears for most of his career, before finishing with the Washington Redskins for a few games in 1997. He was named an alternate for the 1993 Pro Bowl. 
I was always a big fan of Zorich. I attended several events held by the Christopher Zorich Foundation back in the day.
Zorich's latest endeavor is the Chris Zorich podcast. Zorich has had many former Notre Dame players on his podcast, including Rocky Bleier, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann and others. Of course, it is not just all about Notre Dame. It's a highly entertaining listen and I encourage everyone to give it a try.
I am also a fan of Tony. As I have previously written, I don't remember where we first met. We have narrowed it down to the Chicago Bandits softball game, a comic con or a wrestling event. That doesn't really help much though. It really doesn't matter though. We've had many great times at all of these events over the years.
One such event was the Chicago Pop Culture Con in 2019. We actually crossed paths at Zorich's booth. I think I even took the picture.
It was great seeing Zorich again. It had been many years since the last time I saw him. He's really a great guy. I say the same thing about Tony, too.
The Chicago Pop Culture Con is a fun event. It isn't huge, but they have a solid guest lineup and it is well-run. It's a staple on my convention circuit every year.
Look for The Chris Zorich Podcast on YouTube. Check out ChicagoPopCultureCon.com for news and updates on future events.
Tony Feddeler and Chris Zorich in St. Charles, IL-December 2019.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #555 Pat Mahomes & Alex Morgan

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, I continue working my way alphabetically through all MLB teams.

Patrick Mahomes is a second generation athlete. Patrick's father Pat pitched for several teams during a 12 year MLB career. Selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 10th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and has since led them to a Super Bowl victory. After four seasons, he has a 38-8 winning record and is already being compared to the greatest QBs of all time. Patrick tossed a first pitch for the Kansas City Royals to earn his Celebrity Jersey Card. I am sure it was on target.

Born in California, Alex Morgan Morgan attended UC Berkeley, where she played for the California Golden Bears from 2007 to 2010. She has played for several teams professionally, as well as Team USA. Among her many awards, Morgan won a Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics. Morgan was given the nickname "Baby Horse" by her teammates on the U.S. women's national team for her speed, running style, and youth. Morgan earned her Celebrity Jersey Card while throwing a ceremonial pitch for the Royals.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

On the Beat With the Dallas Wings 09/16/2021

The Dallas Wings held a practice day media session featuring Coach Vickie Johnson, Tyasha Harris and Marina Mabrey. It was a quick, but interesting session.

Coach Johnson started by discussing the playoffs. As expected, she stated making the playoffs is great, but it's only the start. It's not enough to simply make the playoffs. While I agree with Coach Johnsopn in theory, guiding the Wings to a playoff berth in her first season is quite an accomplishment and bodes well for the future.

I asked Coach Johnson about dealing with a losing stretch. The Wings went through a 2-6 skid in July and August. During stretches like that, when does a Coach shake up things versus stayibgthe course? Coach Johnson gave her insight. I still wonder if the streak went longer what would have happened. Fortunately for the Wings, they were able to get back on track.

Finally, I asked Coach Johnson about a sandwich named after her at the Carnegie Deli in New York years ago. She chuckled a bit and stated she did enjoy the sandwich, but she had a slimmed down version of the 3,000 calorie monster.

Next up, Harris talked about lessons from this season. Harris is having a similar season to her last, mostly coming off the bench, but providing a solid contribution.

Last was Mabrey. I asked her to talk about her clothing line, which she gladly did. All of her products can be found on MarinaMabrey3.com.

Dallas is 13-18, in fifth place of the WNBA Western Conference. With the league reseeding in the playoffs, in the first round, Dallas will face the Chicago Sky, who will finish in second place of the Eastern Conference. It's a single elimination game in Chicago. Despite home court and a slightly better record, I think the Sky will be a low points favorite.

The media session can be found at On the Beat With the Dallas Wings 09/16/2021. Go to WNBA.com for more news on the Wings and the league. Also, return here for more coverage.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Abby Ramirez and her Father With Special Moment at Athletes Unlimited Softball

Last Saturday, I witnessed one of the most touching moments ever on a softball field. Athletes Unlimited's Abby Ramirez caught a ceremonial pitch from her father Ruben.

Ruben, ICC Chief of Police, was honored for his selfless response to the events of 9/11. Ruben tossing the pitch to Abby, followed by their embrace was a simple, yet touching moment. It was a fitting tribute honoring all efforts from that tragic day. Abby would go on to place third in the MVP voting on Sunday, which was Causes Day.

Ruben and Abby embraced after the pitch, as the crowd erupted in applause. It was a touching moment and the perfect way to start what was a special weekend. On the 20th anniversary of one of the most tragic events in world history, the packed stands joined Abby is saluting her father, who represented all who gave themselves to the effort during that horrible time.

Having known Abby for several years, I know she appreciated the whole day more than anyone (except maybe her dad). The Ramirez family deserved all of the love on Saturday and I am happy to have witnessed it all.

Abby Ramirez and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2019.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Meeting Simply Sound

I have wanted to see Simply Sound perform live for a while. When I saw they were appearing at Moretti's near me, I finally did.
Simply Sound is comprised of Rod Guico and Katie Somers. They play a wide range of songs from today and the past decades, covering hits from Tom Petty, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and more. I enjoy all of their covers, but especially love their harmonizing.
At Moretti's, I didn't submit a request, but I was happy when they performed Billy Joel's Piano Man. I don't like many covers of it, but I really enjoyed their version.
They were also super nice when I talked to them prior to the show. Simply Sound appears at many places around the area, seemingly doing a circuit. I am sure they will return to Moretti's and I will be there again.
Check out SimplySoundLive.com for more info. Also, follow Simply Sound on Facebook for more frequent updates.
Rod Guico, Katie Somers and me in Morton Grove, IL-July 2021.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Amanda Chidester Tops Athletes Unlimited Leaderboard

With three weeks in the books for Athletes Unlimited Softball, Amanda Chidester leads the pack. Chiddy's great weekend allowed her to vault 12 spots into the top position.

Three of the top four spots are held be former Chicago Bandits. Chiddy leads with 1,132 points, followed by Sahvanna Jaquish and Cat Osterman tied with 1,118. Aleshia Ocasio is in fourth with 1,116 points. Last year's champ Osterman is the one never to have donned the Bandits uniform, but we love her anyway.

Chiddy is the catcher who grabbed my "slightly" high ceremonial first pitch and called it a strike later in a media session (which I have recorded as proof). A big favorite in Rosemont, fans always join in when her "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" walkup music plays. 

There are still two more weeks to play and a lot can happen (as witness by Chidester's big leap this week). Osterman is always a threat and the top ten are separated by a mere 244 points. Things are really heating up and the finish should be exciting.

Go to Athletes Unlimited Softball Week 3 Recap for more info. Also, check AUProSports.com for full game summaries from Bruce Miles.

Amanda Chidester and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2019.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Softball 09/11/2021

This Sunday was a special day for Athletes Unlimited Softball. It was Causes Day.

Part of the unique structure of all Athletes Unlimited sports is the Athletes Causes Program, empowered by Give Lively. Each player chooses a charity, which will get 50% of that player's season bonus. It's a wonderful program, which not only raises money, but also awareness for the charities.

Players can also create their own fundraising pages to support their cause. They also use their social media platforms as another means of spreading the word.

This is such a special feature of AU. The players have strong connections to their causes. Many players have personal or community interactions with the causes.

After Saturday's games, Bubba Nickles, Kelsey Harshman, Dejah Mulipola, Amanda Lorenz, Aleshia Ocasio and Taylor Edwards participated in the post-game press session. The players talked about why they selected their causes. That press session can be found at On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Softball 09/11/2021.

For more detailed info, go to the Causes page on AUProSports.com. Also check back here for my recurring coverage of AU sports.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Friend Encounters: Heather Furr and Alli Alberts

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

Is today's feature really a Friend Encounter? Is a picture of two teammates really a celebrity encounter? It's my site and my rules, and I say it qualifies. Besides, it gives me another reason to write about two of my favorites from my years covering the Chicago Bliss of the Legends Football League.

Heather "Rockstar" Furr and Alli "Bert" Alberts were two key parts of the Bliss dynasty. Together they won multiple titles, collected many awards, received a lot of accolades and had a big fan base.

Heather was the quarterback and a natural leader. She wasn't the best pure QB in the league, nor did she possess the best QB skills, but she was a winner and as tough as could be. She was the female version of a healthy Jim McMahon. Heather knew how to play, knew how to market herself and the team and was just fun to watch. I would take Heather on my team every time!

Alli was Heather's favorite target. A star wide receiver, Alli also shined on defense. She had great hands and looked so smooth on the field. She could also mix it up with the toughest of them.

They were great solo and even better together. Best of all, they were incredibly nice people, who always had time for an interview or chat.

Several years removed from their playing days, Alli is well into her dentistry career and Heather is carving her niche in real estate. Both are married with one young one.

I have a lot of great memories of covering the Bliss. Actually, Heater and Alli were two of the first four Bliss players I ever interviewed at a sports convention in Rosemont in 2013. At the time, I didn't have a clue at how much fun was ahead.

I will always have great memories of Alli and Heather. I appreciate all they did on and off the field. I thank them for their time, consideration and friendship always.

Alli Alberts and Heather Furr in Chicago, IL-November 2017.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Celebrity Jersey Cards #554 John Hickenlooper & Jared Polis

Celebrity Jersey Cards is a weekly series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing sports jerseys. Today, I continue working my way alphabetically through all MLB teams.

Pennsylvania native John Hickenlooper was mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011 and governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019. He currently serves as a senator for Colorado. He did commit a jersey infraction by tucking in his jersey, while tossing a pitch for the Rockies. Still, he earned a Celebrity Jersey card. The #12 was most notably worn by Clint Barmes. 

Born in Boulder, Colorado to the founders of greeting card and book publisher Blue Mountain Arts, Jared Polis succeeded Hickenlooper as Governor of Colorado. Polis is one of the few people to be openly gay when first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first gay parent in Congress. Polis attended a Rockies game with team owner Dick Monfort in a rare Celebrity Jersey Card showing someone in the stands and featuring a team owner. This card also bends the time continuum, as the Rockies were not in existence at the time of the original set.