Wednesday, September 30, 2020

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Week 5 - 09/26-28/20

As the Athletes Unlimited season came to an end on Monday, once again Cat Osterman was in the spotlight. Osterman's Team Yellow went 3-0, while she finished with 2,480 points to capture the Athletes Unlimited championship.
Osterman's teams went 12-3 for the season. She had 95 strikeouts with a 1.53 ERA and pitched six complete games and two shutouts. 
For her efforts, Osterman received a gold medal after the final game. She also became the first entry into the Book of Unlimited, a 500-page book which will record every AU champion.

September 26
Team Warren (Orange) beat Team Ocasio (Purple) 7-4
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Piancastelli (Blue) 9-5

September 27
Team Warren (Orange) beat Team Piancastelli (Blue) 15-9
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Ocasio (Purple) 15-2

September 28
Team Piancastelli (Blue) beat Team Ocasio (Purple) 9-8
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat Team Warren (Orange) 18-3

Standings
Team Osterman (Yellow) 3-0
Team Warren (Orange) 2-1
Team Piancastelli (Blue) 1-2
Team Ocasio (Purple) 0-3

Final Leader Board
1-Osterman-2,408
2-Jessica Warren-2,020
3-Victoria Hayward-1,860
4-Erika Piancastelli-1,840

Outfielder Haylie McCleney Named GEICO Defensive Player of the Year

The final week of games saw a season high 104 runs scored. That brings the season total to 362 or 12.06 runs per game. These numbers make Osterman's 1.53 ERA even more impressive.
In the post-game media sessions, I asked the players for their biggest takeaways on the season. Erika Piancastelli, Amanda Chidester, Jordan Roberts, Tori Vidales,Anissa Urtez, Katiyana Mauga, Taylor Edwards, Morgan Zerkle, Cat Osterman, Jessie Warren gave insightful answers, but as each gave her thoughts, a definite pattern formed. 
With the whole league living in “the Shield,” a term coined by Osterman (naturally), the players lived as a group for more than five weeks. Basically every experience was shared by all. Bonds were built. Friendships were forged. Memories were made.
This was an experience unlike any other. Six weeks or so ago, 56 elite athletes arrived in Rosemont excited and ready to start playing softball again. As the first players in the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited, these pioneers were under the microscope.
As previously mentioned, AU utilizes a unique concept. It is run by the players for the players. It features a fantasy-like scoring system, which has teams redrafted every week.
While these athletes were happy to be playing again, it came with unusual pressure. The first class of athletes would set the tone for the league going forward. AU came with much hype and hope and the players needed to prove the concept, which they ultimately did in spectacular fashion.
Through it all, I never saw any signs of pressure from the players. In fact, I saw quite the opposite. The players looked happier than I have ever seen athletes.
From a fan's perspective, I admit I was a bit unsure about the scoring system and changing teams. After watching a few games, I started to get the concept and more importantly, I actually started to like it.
My only lingering questions about the scoring center on playing time. What is the incentive for non-starters? Those players will always be on the lower end of the leader boards. Maybe that is just part of the experience though. Sort of like rookies in sports, maybe they need to work their way into the lineups.
Another thing to note is the value of a two-way player. Players like Aleshia Ocasio, who pitched and played the field, could rack up big points. Ocasio missed a week of play due to a family emergency, yet still finished in 11th place with 1,584 points.
Lastly, winning innings and games was of major importance. Infielder Abby Ramirez finished in 20th place with 1,380 points, despite a .125 batting average. Obviously, Ramirez benefited from being on winners, but those winners benefited from Ramirez's presence on the team.
I am still not entirely sold on the changing teams though, but that's probably more a product of my age. I do see the fun and excitement of the weekly drafts and the strategy that goes into each. I don't know if that has staying power or how it would work with an expanded league.
My questions are minor points in my overall review of the debut season of AU. This was a major success. I saw the reaction on social media. I saw and heard all of the players unanimously praise the league.
While I was disappointed that the pandemic prevented fans and media from being in attendance, the games became must-see television for me. The post-game media sessions were Zoom meetings, but we had plenty of time to talk to each player and the players made them interesting and enjoyable. I didn't imagine enjoying the Zoom interviews as much as I did.
I really have nothing but praise for the entire Athletes Unlimited season. Like most people, I came into the league with high hopes and a few questions. My hopes were exceeded and my questions were answered. Athletes Unlimited softball has a bright future and I look forward to other AU Sports debuting.
For more info on the AU Softball league and their future plans, go to AUProSports.com. The fun has just begun!
Thank you to all involved with Athletes Unlimited for the access and hospitality all season. It has been a great experience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Amanda Chidester Settles the Great Ceremonial Pitch Debate

The Athletes Unlimited Softball season came to an end yesterday. I will be recapping it all tomorrow, but for today, I am featuring a very important interview. As exciting and fun as the whole season was, perhaps the highlight for me came in Sunday's post-game press session.
Last season, I had the pleasure of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch for the National Pro Fastpitch Chicago Bandits. Despite being perfect in practice (of course), my actual pitch sailed a tad higher than I intended. In case you missed it, I am including the video of that pitch.
 
Despite the catcher Amanda Chidester very clearly catching the pitch without leaving her catching position, some naysayers insisted the pitch was not a strike, even calling it bad (thanks Jim Strong). Even Bandit Nation gave me a backhand compliment by stating it was better than Crystal's pitch (which actually went backwards).
I admit, on video, the pitch looks a bit off (although it is no Baba Booey), but it's a different view on the playing field. Insist as I might, everyone still felt the pitch missed the strike zone (to say the least).
On Sunday, when Amanda was in the press session, I knew it was my chance to settle the debate. At first, Amanda did not recall the pitch, but that's understandable considering she has caught hundreds of ceremonial pitches. It soon came back to her and she emphatically stated it was a strike. Who would know better than the catcher?!
I hope this finally settles the debate. People can question me as much as they want, but nobody should question Amanda. A star at the University of Michigan, Amanda's credentials include a lot of awards and accolades, most recently being named the 2019 NPF Player of the Year!
Thank you to Athletes Unlimited for the opportunity all season long. Thanks especially to Amanda for being a great catcher and a even better sport. Go to AUProSports.com for more info on the softball league and their other ventures. Also check ChicagoBandits.com for info on Amanda and the Bandits.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Friendly Encounters: Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow and Tommy Else

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

I love this picture. It's a real family meeting a television family. It even looks like a real family portrait.
My buddy Tommy Else and his mom went to the Hollywood Celebrities Show and met Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, who played Wally and Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver on television's Leave It to Beaver.
I can't believe I have known Tommy for so many years. It seems like yesterday I was emailing him about his audition for Resistance Pro Wrestling. He won that audition and I interviewed him at his first RPro show, which can be found at On the Beat With Eric St. Vaughn.
Over the next 8+ years we have had a lot of great times in and out of RPro. Aside from wrestling, we have gotten together for music, kickball, podcasts. 
I'm not Tommy's only podcast adventure. He has a whole network, called (what else?) "The Or Else Network" available on SoundCloud. Other podcasts include, "Jesse Unplugged," with Jesse Anderson, "Checking In," Tommy checking on his friends during quarantine and "Losing Friends," which explores many (sometimes controversial) topics. I hope you check out his work and I am not saying that because I am a proud part of the Or Else Network.
in Rosemont, IL-March 2018.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Celebrity Jersey Cards #500 Rich Pyle & Rick Dale

This is a regular series in which I create virtual trading cards for celebrities wearing jerseys. Once again, we are working our way alphabetically through all of the Major League Baseball teams.

Detroit native Rich Pyle rose to fame on television's Hardcore Pawn. He left the reality show in 2013, but has remained active on tv, radio, at conventions and on the music scene. Pyle is an accomplished drummer. The Detroit Tigers invited hometown boy Pyle to throw out a ceremonial pitch. Were they trying to "drum" up interest (sorry)? Was he just a "pawn" for them (even sorrier)? Either way, Pyle earned his Celebrity Jersey Card that day.
Rick Dale was the star of American Restoration, a another reality television show featuring Rick's Restorations, Dale's Las Vegas business. Ironically, Dale had previously appeared as an expert on Pawn Stars. Dale has been restoring things since his childhood and Rick's Restorations is still thriving. Dale earned his Celebrity Jersey Card when he threw out a ceremonial pitch for the Tigers, losing his sleeves in the porcess (in a nod to former player Ted Kluszewski?).

Saturday, September 26, 2020

On the Beat With John Bullard of Chicagoland Championship Wrestling

Yesterday, I featured wrestler Tully Bertorelli, who will be part of the inaugural Chicagoland Championship Wrestling event on October 3 in Michigan City, IN. Today, I present my second interview with John Bullard, the owner-promoter of CCW.
Television host, wrestling promoter and man of many more hats John started promoting CCW many months ago on social media. The pandemic forced a delay, but John used the extra time to make the debut bigger and better.
I had the pleasure of interviewing John a few months ago. That intro interview can be found at On the Beat With John Bullard on YouTube. A lot has happened in the 5 months since, including the rescheduling of CCW's debut. That brings us to last Thursday, when I revisited John for an update on CCW's debut event.
The night's wrestling card has shaped up nicely, despite the unfortunate injury to Vic Capri. John stated that Capri will still be at the show to meet fans and to watch the action. John also announced the new main event as Marshe Rocket vs. Garrisaon Creed vs. Chris Logan in a three-way for the CCW Heavyweight Championship. Any two of these athletes battling would be a main event. Having all three compete raises the level even higher.
John was kind enough to answer questions sent to me from the first interview. In this interview, John discussed the future tag team situation, a possible Women's title, the health precautions and safety measures at the event and more.
We also talked about the pairing of Steve Ahrendt and Joey Roth on commentary. That duo has the potential to be gold on the broadcast. I won't hear them live, since I'll be at the show, but I will definitely rewatch it on video and on the DVD when that is released. John gave info on both of those viewing options, too.
Lastly, I asked John about the rumblings from the famous Chicago Connection. For 20 years, the Chicago Connection has been the dominant force on the local wrestling scene and leader PL Myers seems to have plans for CCW. John was just as mystified by the recent actions of the Chicago Connection, but he assured me that he and his security staff are ready for anything.
The more we talked, the more excited I got for this event. I have seen a lot of wrestling companies come and go over the years. Some are still standing, while others were “one and done.” Chicagoland Championship Wrestling has been built on a solid foundation and will have staying power. John has big plans and a grand vision, but he is building things the right way. He has already secured broadcasting on Amazon Prime and is working on other possibilities. He has brought in a nice mix of wrestling talent. No matter who walks away with the Heavyweight Championship, that title will be around the waist of a deserving champ.
I always must state I am not employed by Chicagoland Championship Wrestling. As a pop culture reporter, I am always looking for fun new events. While wrestling isn't new, the CCW version is going to put a new spin on it and that is why I approached John about covering it. John graciously granted me press credentials and I will be at the inaugural show doing interviews and other fun stuff to be reported here.
Chicagoland Championship Wrestling debuts Saturday, October 3 at the American Legion #451 in Michigan City, Indiana. The doors open at 6 pm CST and bell time is 7 pm CST. This promises to be a debut like no other. This promises to be a night like no other!
Go to ChicagolandChampionshipWrestling.com for more info. Also, check the Chicagoland Championship Wrestling Facebook for more frequent updates.

Friday, September 25, 2020

On the Beat With Tully Bertorelli

Last week, I had the pleasure of finally interviewing Tully Bertorelli. Technically, I interviewed Tully two weeks ago, but somehow it failed to record on my end. Fortunately, Tully was kind enough to do another interview and I greatly appreciate his patience.
Tully is a man of many hats. He's a wrestler. a musician, a comedian, a stunt actor and probably many other things. More importantly, he is a good dude and I m happy to call him my friend.
I have known Tully for a while. Our paths have crossed at comic cons and wrestling shows, but timing always prevented an interview at any of those events. One good thing that has come from the self-quarantine has been the increase in doing interviews, even if they are Skype and not in person.
Tully has a lot of projects on his plate. His next event will be appearing at Chicagoland Championship Wrestling's debut event October 3 in Michigan City, IN. I will be there "On the Beat" covering the event and hoping interviewing Tully again in person.
Tully had some very interesting thoughts on Chicagoland Championship Wrestling. Surprisingly, yet fittingly, he is not going after the Heavyweight title (at least not now). Mr. Made for TV has his sights set on the Television title, which will debut at a future CCW show. I'll let him explain his reasoning, but it all makes perfect sense.
In addition to talk about CCW, Tully discussed his introduction into wrestling, his wrestling favorites, his versatility and much more. Obviously, Tully is a multi-faceted as he is multi-talents. It was a very interesting interview for me and I am sure you'll enjoy it as well.
Check out Tully on Instagram and his music at Billy Club Master Chef on Band Camp. Also, go to ChicagolandChampionshiipWrestling.com for info on that exciting new wrestling organization.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

On the Beat With Athletes Unlimited Week 4 - 09/19-21/20

Last weekend, Athletes Unlimited softball started with some surprises, but ended with something familiar. Once again, Cat Osterman was at the center of the focus.
Just when it looked like Osterman was unbeatable, almost untouchable, the unthinkable happened. For the first time all season, Osterman's team lost a game and Osterman actually lost a pitching decision. You can't keep Osterman down though. She finished the weekend with a masterpiece last night.
Monday nights are magical for Osterman. In four Monday night starts, Osterman is a stunning 4-0, allowing just two runs.

Week Four Final Results:

September 19
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Reed (Orange) 2-1
Team Hayward (Blue) beat Team Osterman (Yellow) 4-1

September 20
Team Hayward (Blue) beat Team Reed (Orange) 8-3
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Osterman (Yellow) 11-0

September 21
Team Warren (Purple) beat Team Hayward (Blue) 7-5
Team Osterman (Yellow) beat  Team Reed (Orange) 2-0

Standings
Team Warren (Purple) 3-0
Team Hayward (Blue) 2-1
Team Osterman (Yellow) 1-2
Team Reed (Orange) 0-3

Week 5 Team Captains
Osterman (Team Yellow), Jessie Warren (Team Orange), Piancastelli (Blue) and Ocasios (Team Purple)

The weekend saw pitching be the focus. A few pitchers took no-hitters late into games. The offenses scored a total of 44 runs, down 35 runs from last week and also a season low.
Aleshia Ocasio returned from a leave of absence and promptly threw a complete game three-hitter on Saturday. Ocasio was in the zone all weekend on the mound and at the plate. In doing so, she jumped back into the top four spots on the leader board.

Season Leader Board
1 - Osterman 1990 points
2 - Warren 1580 points
3 - Piancastelli 1510 points
4 - Ocasio 1508 points

Other highlights included Sahvanna Jaquish belting two homers on Saturday and Sunday. Also, Jaquish and Haylie McCleney went deep back-to-back on each day. In a humorous moment, Samantha Show put one over the left field wall right into the hands of AU CEO Jon Patricof, while he was being interviewed on air by Eric Collins and Danielle Lawrie. Of course, ending the week with a 2-1 pitching clinic was the capper.
The weekend media sessions featured Ocasio, Erika Piancastelli, Jessie Warren, Haylie Wagner, Jaquish, McCleney, Samantha Show, Kelly Barnhill, Morgan Howe, Jessica Burroughs, Shelby Pendley, Osterman, Gwen Svekis and Hannah Flippen. Maybe because of familiarity, the sessions seemed a bit looser and more casual than usual. The sessions are always fun, but this week seemed to have a bit more humor.
AU writer Bruce Miles handled the game situation questions as usual. Check AUProSports.com for his game coverage.
I asked the players about a wide range of topics. With only one week of play left, several players gave their thoughts on the experience and leaving “the Shield,” as Osterman has dubbed the Rosemont facility. Clearly, the players are already emotional about the impending end of this season. While they all have played for many years, the experience of staying with each other like this was like no other.
Piancastelli and Svekis talked about being behind the plate, working with pitchers who were dominating and handling a potential no-hitter. Part is fun, part is pressure, but mostly it is simply handling a pitcher like always, with very little thought of the ongoing no-hitter.
One very interesting moment was when I asked about the next season for AU. Ocasio answered “I don't know,” but the AU Media Rep's answer was more telling. I tried for the scoop, and while I did not get one directly, the answers indicate plans might be in place, but not released to the public yet. 
I understand their thought process. AU will want to make a big announcement about next season. A scoop here would have been great for m, but not as big for AU. I will stay on it and I expect an announcement, perhaps even shortly after this season, capitalizing on the momentum built.
In a bit of a shocker, Cat Osterman (Team Yellow) made fellow lefty pitcher her number one pick in the Athletes Unlimited Week 5 draft. For the first time this season, Osterman did not make catcher Gwen Svekis her top pick, but she did take Svekis later in the draft.
In Monday's post-game press session, Osterman said she was “keeping my cards close to my chest this week.” Had she already planned on taking Wagner? Was this a late curveball? Was she just tired of battling against Wagner every week? We will ask her about that in the weekend's press sessions.
One thing is certain. Osterman wants to end the season in a strong way. A 1-2 punch of Osterman and Wagner gives Team Yellow a lethal combination. Already holding the top spot on the leader board by a large margin, Osterman looks to lock up the season championship.
With the second pick, Jessie Warren (Team Orange) took pitcher Danielle O'Toole. The lefty pitcher is the only player to be selected in the first round every week.
The rest of the first round saw Erika Piancastelli (Team Blue) pick the red hot catcher Sahvanna Jaquish and Aleshia Ocasio (Team Purple) select pitcher Jessica Burroughs. Piancastelli probably will use the versatile Jaquish at a position other than catcher, since she already has a solid one in herself.
Familiarity was the key for Ocasio in this draft. Ocasio, who had a brilliant return from a short leave of absence, selected seven players she had previously taken. Currently sitting in fourth place in the overall standings, Ocasio is looking to move up, although Osterman will be tough to catch.
In one of the strange twists caused by the unique draft system, all four of this week's captains played together on the same team in Week One. Teammates the first week, now they will battle each other to end the season.
The Athletes Unlimited Softball League has come a long way in a mere few weeks. It all comes to a big climax this weekend. Athletes Unlimited ace writer Bruce Miles vowed we (the media) “will finish strong” and we will have to do just that to match the players who will certainly finish with a memorable weekend of games.
Week 5 of Athletes Unlimited begins on Saturday, September 26 at noon CST as Team Warren faces Team Ocasio. Check AUProSports.com for more info. Also, check here, GlobalTravelerUSA.com, Patch.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for my coverage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

On the Beat With the Los Angeles Sparks 09/17/20

This is a few days late, but the WNBA and Athletes Unlimited is giving me lots of content all at once. In a couple weeks, when both seasons end, I'll be wishing for stuff to cover.
The Los Angeles Sparks finished the WNBA regular season with a record of 15-7 good for 3rd place in the Western Conference. The Sparks were also the three seed in the playoffs due to the WNBA ranking by overall record regardless of the conference.
After a first game bye, the Sparks faced the Connecticut Sun in a single elimination game in the second round of the playoffs. The Sun had beaten the Chicago Sky 94-81 to advance. The Sun was the seventh seed based on their 10-12 record, although they had finished in second place of the Eastern Conference.
Last Thursday, the Sun defeated the Sparks 73-59. It wasn't a shocking outcome, but it was a bit of an upset by the Sun.
After the game, Coach Derek Fisher talked about the game, the season and the team. Obviously disappointed in the loss and exit from the playoffs, Fisher remained positive and praised his team for all that was accomplished this season.
In the playoff loss, Candace Parker played 40 minutes, scoring 22 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, dishing five assists and and blocking two shots. That's a very impressive stat line, even for one of the greats of the game.
The first pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, Parker has played her entire 13 year career with the Sparks. She's a two-time MVP and a five-time All-Star. She has been an All-WNBA 1st or 2nd team selection eight times.
Like Coach Fisher, Parker was disappointed, but remained positive about the season. Parker got a bit reflective, discussing moments from her career. She addressed the issue of possibly leaving the Sparks, but did not commit either way. From her tone and her history, this reporter thinks Parker is staying in Los Angeles for te duration of her career.
The Sparks ended their season with a disappointing loss, but like all other teams in the WNBA, nothing will diminish all that was accomplished during this season. The Sparks should be right in the thick of it again next season, especially if Parker is still part of the core. 
For more info on the league, check WNBA.com. Also, check here, GlobalWoemensSportsRadio.com and GlobalTraveler.com for my coverage of the WNBA.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

On the Beat With the Connecticut Sun 09/16/20

I am a little behind with this Connecticut Sun media session, but it is still relevant. Prior to their victory over the Los Angeles Sparks last Thursday, Coach Curt Miller and players Natisha Hiedeman, Briann January and Jasmine Thomas took questions from the press.
The Sun finished the season 10-12 good for second place behind the Chicago Sky in the Eastern Conference and also for the 7th seed in the overall playoff seeding. Last Tuesday, the Sun beat the Sky 94-81, thanks in large part to outscoring the Sky by 16 in the third quarter. The team seems to be embracing the underdog role and having fun.
Coach Miller talked about the practices leading to the game. He joked about his role as a "passing" using his "passing skills," which was funny especially considering the three players after him are guards. I think it show that the Sun is loose and having fun.
Thomas talked about the mood of the team. She went on to say nothing has really changed in practices. The whole season was preparation for this.
Hiedeman talked about the good vibe of the team, being happy with her productivity in her short time on the court and her music. Of course, I had to ask her about her music. While nothing new is out right now, "Rocket," her last song, was released about a month ago and is available on all platforms.
When January joined the session, I switched gars and asked about Zoom media session with reporters from all over, as opposed to the usual sessions with the local crew. I've wondered about this all season and this seemed like the perfect time to ask, considering it was a very loose session.
It's interesting that this media time was very loose. The Sun had beaten the Sky and were about to face the Sparks. The team was not showing any signs of pressure and that starts with the coach.
Fun seemed to be the theme this day, even for reporters. It wasn't recorded, but prior to the team joining the sessions, Sun Public Relations Specialist Annette Hogan joked about having the most fun media sessions and the reporters completely agreed. That was followed by one reporter playing fun music including the Sesame Street theme. It was an interesting experience, which probably doesn't translate greatly here, but it was one of those moments which will stand out. We were like old friends hanging out on a porch.
The Sun went on to beat the Sparks 73-59 to advance to the next round of the playoffs. On Sunday, The Sun beat the Las Vegas Aces 87-62 in Game One of the series.
Go to WNBA.com for more info. Also, check here, GlobalTravelerUSA.com and GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com for my recurring coverage.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Friendly Encounters: The Honky Tonk Man and Joey Roth

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

Despite his pro wrestling career and my coverage of wrestling, I have yet to see him in action. I have met him several times at various comic cons and wrestling events.
I knew of his affinity for Roddy Piper and the Ramones, his interest in comic cons, his IPW Chicagoland Wrestling championship, his partnership with Roxi Heart and other assorted tidbits, but I didn't have a lot of details until I interviewed him. I learned a lot about Joey in our interview at On the Beat With Joey Roth.
One of the best times I had at Wizard World was meeting Joey and us interacting with a couple wrestling legends. We met Lisa Marie Varon and The Honky Tonk Man. Everyone loves LMV, especially in Chicago, but Joey was a bit more excited to meet HTM.
It's completely understandable. HTM was a great character in the WWF back in the day. He was the longest holder of the Intercontinental title. Joey is the longest holder of the ICP Chicagoland title.While not quite as prestigious as the IC title, Joey's reign has become legendary.
It was cool seeing them interact. I think HTM originally thought Joey was a cosplayer, a regular sight at comic cons. He soon learned that Joey and the title are legit.
As wrestling shows start happening again, I plan on finally seeing Joey i action. I am quite sure I will not be disappointed, but knowing Joey, I will also probably be surprised. Much like Piper, when you know the answers, Joey changes the questions. I am looking forward to this.
Check out Joey Roth on Facebook for more info and fun. Also, go to WizardWorld.com for all info and scheduling for all of their events.
The Honky Tonk Man and Joey Roth in Rosemont, IL-August 2019.