Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thank You Chicago Bandits

I have completed my third season of covering the Chicago Bandits.  Each year seems to get more enjoyable.  I cannot say enough good things about everyone involved and the organization as a whole.
It all starts with owner Bill Sokolis.  Bill's deep love for the game, the players and the fans is palpable.  He has made me feel like a member of the Bandits family right from the start.
General Manager Aaron Moore wears more hats than I even can count.  From scouting the future Bandits to overseeing all on game day, Aaron is omnipresent.  I appreciate all he has done for me, including unprecedented access.
In my other life, I own/run Arch News Agency, a printed materials distribution company.  Last winter, I talked to Aaron about distributing the Bandits schedules.  We had a good run with that this season and the plan is to do even more next season.  I believe in the Bandits and am happy to help them in any way.
There are so many other great people, such as Johnny Sole, Jason Lowenthal, Dina Kwit, Irwin Shiffman, Sam Viebrock and the interns and other staffers, including Swiper, of course.  Plus, the many great fans of Bandit Nation, like Sheri Samson, Chris Bejcek, Mark Pandocchi, CA Stevens, Tony Feddeler, the Marshall Family and more.  I must also mention the supporters from afar, like the Blank family (who sent me the cool bobblehead).  Believe me, I appreciate each person and each kind word.
I am also thankful for the many great members of the Johngy's Beat crew this season.  Jack Keenan has been a great help from day one, but he missed time this year being in the hospital.  In his absence, Peter Atsaves, Christopher Atsaves, Cuzz Gekas and Charles Alexander filled in admirably.  I couldn't have done it without them.
I am already looking forward to next season.  I am planning ultiple road trips and even more ways to cover and promote the Bandits.  I'll periodically still run news on the Bandits here during the offseason, but you can also check out ChicagoBandits.com for all the news and updates.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Honoring First Responders at Wizard World

I have been going to Wizard World for many years.  Each year, I seem to enjoy it more.  This year, without a doubt, was my favorite Wizard World.
The four day event started with a moving ceremony honoring Rosemont First Responders.  Wizard World President John D. Maatta was joined onstage by Lou Ferrigno, Jason Mewes, Ralph Macchio, Cerina Vincent and Ray Santiago.  They presented First Responders with special Captain America shields.  I was honored to pose with these true heroes.
The rest of Wizard World was a blur of celebrities,. panels, games, artists, collectibles and friends.  Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring all of the great fun I had at Wizard World.  Spoiler alert: I'll be featuring John Cena, Carrie Fisher, Michael J. Fox and more.  You don't get much bigger than those three.  Actually, the rest of the star-studded lineup, including Milo Ventimiglia, Dana Delorenzo, William Sadler, Deborah Ann Woll and morre, could be a headliner at any show, too.  Wizard World is just that jam-packed full of stars.
All of this pop culture greatness is a ton of fun, but even more impressive was the ceremony honoring the First Responders.  It wasn't necessary, but it was wonderful.  These heroes deserve recognition and what better place to do it than a convention loaded with superheroes of every sort?!
This is just one reason why I love Wizard World.  Followed by the weekend of star-gazing, cos-playing, panel-going madness, this ceremony made one stop and realize a true hero.  Better yet, it honored them in front of thousands of people.  My hat is off to Wizard World.
Stay tuned here for more coverage of Wizard World.  Lots of great times are ahead.
Rosemont First Responders, John D. Maatta and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2016.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On the Beat With Tampa Bay Rays Coach Rocco Baldelli

While on our annual baseball trip, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tampa Bay Rays Coach (and former player) Rocco Baldelli.  From the moment I was approved for Media Credentials at Tropicana Field, Rocco was my main target.  I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
As usual Chuck Gekas and I arrived very early on game day.  Because our excitement doesn't die down, we always arrive at earliest time allowed.
The entire staff of the Tampa Bay Rays could not have been any nicer.  Each team and stadium has different rules.  This was our first trip to Tampa, but we were made to feel at home.
We checked out the clubhouse, the press box and other usual off-limits areas.  This is one of my favorite parts of being a part of the media.
Of course the best part is walking onto the field.  I am not ashamed to say that the little kid in me still loves this.  It is especially cool this early because the stadium is empty.
We watched some batting practice and talked to some members of the local media.  We saw Rocco in the outfield and waited until he headed to the dugout.
Rocco invited us into the dugout to talk to him.  He could not have been any more gracious wuth his time.  I am always grateful for the time and consideration of anyone we interview.  It is always extra special when that person talks a bit more off camera.  Rocco talked to us both before and after our interview.
In the interview, we talked about his transition from playing to coaching.  While injuries derailed his playing career,  the setbacks did not stop Rocco.
We also talked about some of his favorite cities to visit.  He had some interesting picks.  It's always refreshing when the person doesn't just pick the usual big cities.
Lastly, I had to ask him about Joe Maddon and the Cubs.  Rocco is very familiar with Maddon, of course.
I really appreciate the hospitality of the entire Rays organization.  I especially am thankful to Rocco for giving us a great experience.  It's times like this that I truly love what I do and I soak in every minute of it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Friendly Encounters: Jon Heder and Heather Owens

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

Heather Owens added the caption about this being a typical Sunday afternoon.  Perhaps when you are part of the Days of the Dead team, meeting celebs like Jon Heder are part of a typical Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, too).
As part of the DotD team, Heather works hard to help make everything run smoothly.  That's why I get a kick out of seeing her enjoy herself meeting any celebrity.  If this is one of her perks, it is well deserved.
The entire Days team is close-knit and hard-working.  I have never had a bad DotD experience and the few glitches I have witnessed have been cleared up quickly by Heather or one of the others.  They act fast and get results.
Whether she is DotD Heather or "Hardcore" Heather from wrestling, H2O is the best.  I encourage everyone to check out DaysoftheDead.net and get in on the fun!
Jon Heder and Heather Owens in Indianapolis, IN-June 2016.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Celebrity Jersey Cards #287 Kyle Busch & Regan Smith

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.

Race car driver Kurt Busch was born in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The Busch family is one of the more accomplished racing families.  It looks like #78 on his jersey, which I would guess was one of his car numbers, but our other Celebrity Jersey Card star is also wearing that number.
Regan Smith is also a race car driver, but he comes from Cato, NY.  He sports #78 on his Celebrity Jersey Card.  Does anyone know if there is any significance in the #78?  I give him extra points for having his name on the scoreboard behind him.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Henry Winkler Is Really Cool

We have all heard that Henry Winkler is one of the nicest guys and I saw just how nice he is at a Hollywood Celebrity Show.  He is in a class by himself.
Winkler, best known for his role as "Fonzie" on tv's Happy Days, had one of the longest lines at the show, but nobody complained.  Winkler did his best to keep the line moving and the fans happy.
First, he stood in front of his table.  This allowed more interaction and quicker picture-taking.  He didn't have to continually move back and forth.  He chose to stand up the entire time of his appearance.
In addition to this, he also occasionally walked the length of the line thanking people for waiting and for being fans.  It was sort of a preview of actually meeting him.
Lastly, he tinually brought handicapped people to the front of the line, rather than have them struggle while standing so long in a line.  Despite being pushed back a few people during your time in line, again nobody complained.
These may seem like simple things, but simple things make a huge difference.  I have never seen a celebrity do more for the line of fans.  I'm almost surprised he didn't supply beverages and snacks.
Besides all of that, he actually tried to make your moment with him special.  Granted he couldn't spend 10 minutes with each person, but he really tried to make your moment special by connecting with you.
Itt's one thing to hear stories of how nice Winkler is.  It was just that much better to see it in person and be involved.  All I can say is that Winller truly is the coolest.
Henry Winkler and me in Rosemont, IL-October 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Allison Mack at Motor City Comic Con 2016

Allison Mack made her movie debut in Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, but she is probably best known for her role on tv's Smallville.  Her portrayal of "Chloe" made comic book history.
Chloe, Clark Kent's best friend, was a character created for the show.  She had not appeared in any Superman comic or other creation.  Mack's work made the character so popular she eventually was written into the actual Superman comic.  That is called changinghistory and making an impact.
At Motor City Comic Con 2016, Cuzz and I met Mack and experienced just how likeable she was.  She was adorable.  Greeting us with a huge smile and questions about our interest in her an the show, she immediately won our hearts.
Just look at that picture.  Her smile was real.  She was having fun at the show and all of her fans were, too.
I enjoyed Smallville and was a fan of Mack's, but I probably wouldn't have sought her out to meet her.  I am so glad MCCC brought her to the show though, because meeting her was a fun experience.  Now I hope I can see her again sometime.
Allison Mack, Cuzz Gekas and me in Novi, MI-May 2016.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Aiden O'Shae in Total NonStop Action

Jay Bradley is a true professional wrestler.  He isn;t a guy who jumps pff pf garages or smashes people with barbed wire bats.  He is old school and he is fun to watch.
I've known of Jay for many years.  I've known him for about 4 years, first seeing him at Resistance Pro.  I am sure he would have held RPRO gold if not for his busy wrestling schedule overseas and with TNA wrestling.  He's also the kind of wrestler who doesn't need the gold.
The world of pro wrestling is filled with politics and shenanigans.  I don't claimn to know all of what happens backstage.  I don't know why someone like Jay has never had a bigger push in the WWE or TNA.  I think he has what it takes to be a regular on the card.
I will respectfully admit I do not care for the Aiden O'Shae character.  It's not that I don't like Jay's work.  I just like Jay as Jay.  Jay doesn't need a thug gimmick.  He's an arse-kicker, lone wolf.  That is his character.  That is him.  Changing him into a stereotypical Irish street tough gimmick detracts from the talent that is Jay.  Of course, this is just my opinion.  I don't run the wrestling companies.  I am simply a fan who has an insider's view.  I see Jay and I think he deserves more exposure.
I also want to say that Jay has always treated me with nothing but respect and friendship over the years.  He is a true pro.  If you want to see an excellent wrestling match, check out Jay (or Aiden) in action!
Jay Bradley and me in Waukesha, WI-December 2015.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cuzz Buzz: William Zabka at Days of the Dead Indianapolis 2016

Johngy's Beat Contributor Cuzz Gekas is back again with his "Cuzz Buzz."  This time, he is recapping our encounter with William Zabka at the Days of the Dead Indianapolis 2016.

The Karate Kid was released in theatres in 1984 and became an instant hit with movie goers across the country. The movie remains popular to this day and spawned several sequels and even an ill-fated remake in 2010. The story revolves around Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) a teenager who relocates with his mother from New Jersey to California. There he becomes the target of bullies, until wise old Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) teaches him self-defense and some valuable life lessons. William Zabka played the role of “Johnny”, the lead antagonist of Daniel’s tormentors from the Cobra Kai Karate dojo. Johngy and I had the opportunity to meet Zabka at the 2016 Indianapolis Days of the Dead convention. He was friendly and outgoing as he discussed his role in the movie and other recent endeavors.
 Although, he was an accomplished wrestler in high school, Zabka had no martial arts experience prior to the film. Through training he became proficient in the art of Tang So Do which he continues to practice even today.   Zabka talked about the climatic final fight scene between him and Macchio, choreographed in great detail by Pat Johnson, a ninth degree black belt and stunt coordinator for the film (and also the referee in that scene). These days Zabka remains active as a writer, director and independent film maker. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2004 for Best Short Film; Live Action (“Most”) and has directed music videos for several bands including Rascal Flatts. He continues to act on occasion appearing in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine and reprising the role of Johnny in several episodes of the TV series How I Met Your Mother. Many actors scoff at a single role that brought them fame, but Zabka to his credit, seems to have embraced his contribution to a classic film from over 30 years ago.
William Zabkas, Cuzz Gekas and me in Indianapolis, IN-June 2016.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cards That Never Were: Claude Osteen 1975 Topps

Cards That Never Were is a recurring series in which I create virtual cards for players who were missed in the original sets.  It is a concept I have borrowed from far too many to thank, but I appreciate all of them.
For this card creation, I admit to fudging the rules just a bit.  Claude Osteen did have a card in the Topps 1975 set, but I don't think he had the right one.  I'll get back to this in a moment.
Osteen made his debut in 1957, but did not pitch in the majors in 1958.  He returned in 1959 and pitched through 1975.  Osteen received cards from Topps from 1959 through 1976 with 1961 skipped, despite him appearing in 20 games.  Oddly, 1961 is not my concern.
I am focusing on 1975 Topps here.  Osteen appeared with the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to the magical airbrush.  He had been traded from the Houston Astros late in 1974 and Topps did not get a picture of him with his new team.  These type of cards bugged me the most.  Topps should have gotten a picture of him with the Cards.
Unfortunately, by the time the card came out, Osteen had been released by the Cardinals and signed by the White Sox.  I wouldn't expect Topps to be able to put out a card of him with the Sox, since he was signed in April.  Ordinarily I wouldn't even create a virtual card considering he did not pitch for the Sox in 1974, but I bent my rules and created one.  In the "old" days, when Topps put out cards in series, this might have been possible.