Monday, July 25, 2016

Friendly Encounters: DB Sweeney and Tony Feddeler

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

I've teased Tony Feddeler here a few times about always meeting attractive women celebrities.  While he is guilty as charged, in all fairness, he does meet some male celebrities, too.
Tony is a good guy.  I met him at the Chicago bandits games, where he is a regular fixture.  We also share comic cons and some wrestling in common.
Tony and I were both at Days of the Dead last November, but somehow our paths did not cross that day.  His path did cross with actor D.B. Sweeney though, as shown in the picture below.
Tony has met a lot of celebs.  I just happen to have featured more of his pictures with attractive women.  I guess I might be guilty as charged on that one.
Tony Feddeler and DB Sweeney in Schaumburg, IL-November 2015.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On the Beat With Michelle Gascoigne of the Chicago Bandits 2016

Today our recurring coverage of the Chicago Bandits leads us to Michelle Gascoigne.  A product of the University of Oklahome, Michelle is in her fourth year with the Bandits (and the NPF).
While at Oklahoma, she threw a perfect game and also was a 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in 2013.  That lead her to being the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NPF draft.
Michelle had an outstanding rookie season, going 6-1 with four complete games, while having an ERA of 1.92.  She has won 6 games in every season and is on pace for that again this season.
In our interview, I asked Michelle about charting on her non-pitching days.  Non-pitching doesn't mean off day, as Michelle explains.  Actually, I didn't quite realize how involved the players were in such activities.
Pitch charting is also a good experience for her coaching career.  Michelle talks about her current coaching status and her future plans.  Michelle still has a long future in the NPF, but she will also have a successful coaching career.
It has been a real pleasure watching Michelle over the last few years.  She is a class act and a real competitor  I had to laugh last year, when during pre-game warmups of my big at-bat game, she wished me luck, but the look in her eyes told me I had no chance (she was right). 
To learn more about Michelle and the Bandits, head to  Also, return here often for our continuing coverage of the Bandits.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Celebrity Jersey Cards #283 Johny Hendricks & Demi Lovato

Athletes get trading cards.  Why not celebrities?  At least celebrities wearing athletic jerseys should get cards.  I am doing my best to create cards for jersey-clad celebs.

Mixed martial artist Johny Hendricks was born and raised in Oklahoma.  The Texas Rangers would be the closest baseball team for him and he showed his support while throwing out a first pitch.  He gets extra points on his Celebrity Jersey Card for the title belt and for performing with some sort of arm support.  Isn't his first name just begging for a "G" after the "N"?
Demi Lovato rose to fame via the Disney Channel.  The Dallas native repped her hometown jersey for her first pitch.  It's hard to criticize this young beauty, but I take points off for her wearing a jacket over her jersey on her Celebrity Jersey Card.

Friday, July 22, 2016

On the Beat With Sammy Marshall of the Chicago Bandits 2016

The Johngy's Beat recurring coverage of the Chicago Bandits takes us to outfielder Sammy Marshall.  In an odd, but timely coincidence, today also happens to be Sammy's birthday.  Happy birthday Sammy!
Sammy had an outstanding career at Western Illinois.  She is only the third player ever from WIU to play professionally.  She broke the WIU and conference record for career batting average (.456), and also ranks in the top 10 in NCAA history.  Sammy was a 2x Summit League Player of the Year and a 4x All-Summit League First Team selection.
She was drafted 18th overall by the Bandits in the 2015 NPF draft.  Last season, she saw more action on the basepaths than at bat.  She scored 11 runs, with only 6 at bats.
Those 6 at bats were a very small sample size, making it difficult to show her overall talent.  We talked about being hitless last season.  That had to be frustrating, but Sammy persevered and was a team player.
In her second season, due to several factors, Sammy has seen considerably more playing time and has produced on both offense and defense.  It has been a real pleasure watching her blossom this season.
We talked about her playing time, playing in her home area and more.  We talked about the Marshall family's support.  It is heartwarming to see their love of Sammy and the Bandits, both at the Ballpark and on social media.
It's also great to see Sammy develop into one of the faces of the team, despite her relative youth.  Sammy is a fan favorite and role model for what she does on and off the field for the Bandits and the young fans.
I also want to commend Sammy for her recent statement on social media.  Sammy politely reminded fans to treat all other fans with the proper respect.  It was a simple gesture.  She didn't preach or scold.  She just spoke up as a leader of the team.  Well done, Sammy!
It is players like Sammy, who really have drawn me into the team.  I started out covering the Bandits as something different to do.  I really fell in love with the sport and the Bandits organization.
Check out to learn more about Sammy and to get the latest team news.  Also keep checking her for our continual coverage of the Bandits.
Finally, one last Happy Birthday to Sammy!  Enjoy your day!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On the Beat With Megan Blank of the Chicago Bandits 2016

Our continuing coverage of the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch champion Chicago Bandits brings us to Megan Blank.  The University of Iowa product is in her second season in the NPF.
Megan had an excellent career at Iowa, being a 4x All-Big Ten First Team selection.  She holds or is tied for the Iowa recrods for single-season batting average (.442), career batting average (.410), career doubles (63), doubles in a season (20) and doubles in a game (3).  She is also in the top ten of twelve stats categories.
Megans earned her spot on the Bandits via an open tryout.  She saw a good amount of action in her first season, finishing with 97 at bats.  She hit .258 and had 3 home runs, 14 rbi's, 11 runs scored and 2 stolen bases.  This season, her average is down slightly, but her numbers are solid and she has played excellent at third base.  She has been a valuable contributor on both sides fo the ball.
In our recent pre-game interview, Megan talked about winning the NPF championship, settling in at third base and more.  She also talked about adjustments from her rookie season.
I had to ask her about her bobblehead.  Megan was a good sport about it, although I think she is too humble to really talk about it.  I wasn't kidding when I told her I still get people asking me about her Iowa bobble head.  I think Papa Blank should work on getting a Bandits bobble head for Megan.  I'd buy one (I'm certain that several members of Bandits Nation would join me in line for one).
Megan is one of the young stars of the Bandits.  She should have a long career in the NPF.  I look forward to watching her progress, while contributing to a lot of success for the Bandits.
To learn more about Megan and her Bandits teammates, head to  Also, be sure to check back here for recurring coverage of the team.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On the Beat With Emily Carosone of the Chicago Bandits 2016

Our continuing coverage of the Chicago Bandits leads us to Emily Carosone.  She is another good looking ballplayer in the very talented crop of Bandits' rookies.
Emily had a great career at Auburn, where she holds school records in single-season runs (88) and RBI (80) and second for single-season batting average (.438).  She is one of two players in Auburn history to be named to multiple All-American teams.  She capped off her Auburn career by being drafted by the Bandits in the fourth round of the 2016 NPF draft.
As a rookie, playing time is always hard to get, but Emily has seen a decent amount of action at second base this season (with Danielle Zymkowitz moving to right field).  In limited time, she has put up some promising numbers.
In the interview, we talked about her excellent numbers at Auburn and her good start with the Bandits.  Her response was ever so humble.  Answers and attitudes like hers no longer surprise me from NPF players (especially the Bandits), but they are always refreshing.  Clearly Emily is here to play ball and she works to continually improve her skills.
We also talked about her reaction leading up to the draft and the draft itself, as well as playing in Chicago.  I think Emily will have plenty of time to get to know Chicago, as she should be here a long while.
For more info on Emily and the rest of the Bandits, check out  Also, return back here for our recurring coverage of the 2015 NPF champs!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

On the Beat With Lacey Waldrop of the Chicago Bandits 2016

The continuing coverage of the Chicago Bandits puts pitcher Lacey Waldrop in the spotlight today.  The second year pitcher is a unique player and person.
Lacey had an outstanding career at Florida State University where she piled up honors.  She was a 4x All-ACC performer, a 2x ACC Pitcher of the Year and a 3x NFCA All-American selection.  She was named the 2014 USA Softball National Player of the Year.  She finished her career holding the FSU career mark for wins (109) while ranking in the top five in appearances (170), strikeouts (917) and saves (7) on the way to becoming the first player in FSU history to be drafted into the NPF.
In her rookie season, she went 3-5 with a 3.42 ERA.  That ERA deserved a better record, but Lacey's value isn't based on W/L record.  She is a talented young pitcher who has a bright future.
The true essence of Lacey goes well beyond the stats though.  She wears #13 to prove to others that it is not unlucky.  She smiles, while not losing one bit of her competitiveness.  She is not your average pitcher.
I talked to Lacey about her frame of mind which lead to her gaining the smile without losing the passion.  We also talked about her appearance on a billboard, which resulted in an even more interesting photo.  Lacey also talked about adjustments from college and her first season.
Lacey is a real pleasure to watch and know.  As I wrote earlier, she is a unique individual, yet she fits in perfectly with the Bandits.
Head over to to learn more about Lacey and the Bandits.  Also, be sure to return here for our continuing coverage of the 2015 National Pro Fastpitch champs!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Friendly Encounters: Kerry Wood and Bridget McDonnell

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

Kerry Wood was a phenom with the Chicago Cubs, but his career was derailed by injuries.  Still, he is a beloved figure in Cubs history and often seen around Chicago.
Bridget McDonnell made the Chicago Bliss as a rookie and helped them win their second straight Legends Football League championship.  BMac has moved on from the Bliss, but she has remained active on the Chicago sports scene.
The two met at Joe's on Weed Street.  I wonder if Wood knew he was meeting a champion?  More importantly, I wonder if he knew he was meeting a veteran who has served our country well?  With all due respect to Wood, BMac is the true star in this picture.
Thank you for your service, Bridget and thanks for being a friend.
Bridget McDonnell and Kerry Wood in Chicago, IL-May 2016.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Celebrity Jersey Cards #282 Christina Aguilera & Mike Tyson

This is a regular series which attempts to combine my lifelong passion for trading cards with my semi-professional interest in celebrities.  We continue working our way alphabetically through Major League Baseball.

Singer Christina Aguilera was born in Staten Island, NY.  She gained a lot of fame from her stint on tv's The Mickey Mouse Club.  She released her debut album in 1999 and has been on the rise ever since.  She sang the National Anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates and earned her Celebrity Jersey Card.  I assume her #1 is just for her, as the last Pirate to wear it was in 1947 and only three Pirates ever have worn it.  It does work well for Ms. Aguilera!
Boxer "Iron" Mike Tyson is a native of Brooklyn, NY.  At his peak, he was a dominant boxing champ.  Unfortunately, he battled demons and spent time in jail.  His career faded, but his legacy remains.  I listed him as a "Pitcher" on his Celebrity Jersey Card, because the National League did not have Designated Hitters back in 1986.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

On the Beat With Danielle Zymkowitz of the Chicago Bandits 2016

Today our recurring coverage of the Chicago Bandits brings us to Danielle Zymkowitz.  In her 6th season, DZ is the team veteran and she shows no signs of slowing down.
Danielle had a great career at the University of Illinois.  She broke the Illini career records for batting average (.384), hits (277), runs scored (202), stolen base attempts (106), stolen bases (91) and stolen base percentage (.858), on her way to being a 3x All-Big Ten First Team selection.  She signed with the Bandits after an open tryout.
As of this interview, DZ was on pace to have her best season in the NPF.  She is doing this, while being a team player and playing some right field, along with her usual second base.
DZ is one of the team leaders and one of the most popular players.  Her great attitude comes through clearly in the interview below.  She talks like a mature ball player.  She is willing to play right field, because the team needs her there.
We also talked about winning the championship, becoming the team veteran and other fun topics.
Of course, I had to ask her about her current cereal of choice.  The cereal question is a staple, since I read on that cereal was her favorite food.  Danielle takes my question with the right amount of humor, yet seriousness.
I also had to ask Danielle about how long she intended to play.  As always with veterans, I really hate this question, because I never want to hear that they might retire.  In no way do I want to imply that she is thinking about retiring, but when the years start piling up, it is always a question out there.  We lost Amber Patton and Tammy Williams during the last offseason.  I hope Danielle plays several more years.  I also look forward to asking that cereal question again.
For more info on Danielle and the rest of the team, head over to  Also, be sure to check back here for our continuing coverage of the Bandits.