World Champions

“We were 19-31; we didn’t quit then and we weren’t going to quit now.”

Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals Manager

The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 last Wednesday evening to capture the Franchise’s first even World Championship. The Team moved from Montreal to Washington prior to the 2005 season. The only other World Series winner in the Nation’s Capital, was in 1924 when Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators defeated the New York Giants 4 games to 3. The Nationals victory marked the first time in World Series History that the visiting team had won all seven games. 

If you are a Houston Astros fan, you are mighty disappointed that the Nationals defeated the Astros in the Series. Houston was up 3 games to 2 and was going back home for game 6, and the Astros have much more talent than the Nationals. What separates baseball from the other sports is its unpredictability. The Nationals can very well be called, “The Comeback Team” because of the way they won so many deciding games in the Post Season, including the 7th game of the World Series. The Nationals did not win the National League East so they had to win a Wild Card game. They trailed the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 in the bottom of the 8th and scored 3 runs to win 4-3. Then in the Division Series, against a terrific Dodger team, they got two in the 8th to tie and 4 in the 10th to win the 5th and deciding game of that Series. As if that was not enough, the Nationals were trailing 2-0 in the 7th inning of the 7th game of the World Series and they scored 3 runs! And they then added to that lead to win 6-2!  When a team believes in itself collectively like the Nationals do, late inning comebacks can become part of its lore. And, let’s remember, the Nationals accomplished all of this after losing Bryce Harper to free agency! In an era when many scouts are losing their jobs, the Nationals became a favorite of “old school” baseball people because of all the veteran scouts who work for them!

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Justin V.

“When I came into baseball, I had one goal. The Hall of Fame.”

Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander was the Detroit Tigers first round pick (second overall) in Baseball’s 2004 Amateur Draft. Verlander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2006, and he pitched for the Tigers for 12 seasons before being traded to the Houston Astros in 2017. In 2011, Justin Verlander accomplished the rare feat of winning both the American League Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards. Justin Verlander is a six-time All-Star who has led the American League in strikeouts on five occasions. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2017 American League Championship Series.

Justin Verlander is going to achieve his goal! He is a future Hall of Famer! He helped the Detroit Tigers win two American League Pennants, and he helped lead the Houston Astros to a World Championship in 2017! Verlander is a great competitor who effectively changes speeds on his fastball. Verlander put himself in very elite company when he threw his third career no-hitter on September 1st. Several years ago, Verlander battled some injuries and lost several miles per hour off his fastball. He got healthy, regained his velocity and has cemented his place in Baseball History! Verlander took his game to another level when he was traded to the Astros. This year, he is a very impressive 18-6 with a 2.58 ERA and is in a battle for the American League Cy Young Award with teammate Gerrit Cole. Justin Verlander is 36 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down!

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“Anytime you can do things to help the team win, that’s what matters.”

  Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows, who is from Atlanta, was the Pittsburgh Pirates first round draft choice (9th overall) in Baseball’s 2013 Amateur Draft. Meadows was the National League Rookie of the Month in May of 2018. The Pirates traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays later that season. Austin Meadows was an American League All-Star this season. Austin Meadows is batting .286 with 19 home runs and 56 runs batted in.

Austin Meadows joined the Indianapolis Indians in mid-season of 2016. He played well at times in his first year and a half with the Indians, but he did not excel. He also was hard hit by injuries. Meadows began the 2018 season in Indianapolis very determined to succeed. Did he ever! He was much more aggressive at the plate, on the bases, and in the field! Meadows credited Brian Esposito, the Indianapolis Indians Manager, with pushing him to get out of his comfort zone. The results were terrific and earned Meadows a promotion to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Austin Meadows always was friendly and pleasant during his time in Indianapolis. He has a beautiful swing, runs well, and should be a fine Major League player for many years! It could not happen to a nicer guy!

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“I didn’t want last year’s season to define me as a player.”
Josh Bell

Josh Bell was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round of Baseball’s Amateur Draft in 2011. His plan was to go to the University of Texas. He changed his mind and received $5,000,000 signing bonus from the Pirates. Bell is 26 years old and in his fourth Major League season. In 2017, his first full season in the Big Leagues, Bell hit 26 home runs and drove in 90 runs. Last year, his numbers dropped to 12 homers and 62 RBI’s. Josh Bell has bounced back with an incredible first two months of this 2019 season. He is hitting .338 with 18 homers and 52 RBI’s.

Josh Bell has a very good chance to become the first Pittsburgh Pirate player to hit 40 home runs in a season since Willie Stargell did it in 1973. Bell is on his way to becoming an All-Star for the first time in his career and so far, he is having an MVP caliber season!

Bell went to California this off-season and worked extremely hard on his conditioning and his swing. He is standing taller in the batter’s box and that has helped his bat path to the ball. Last season, when his confidence was not as good, he kept changing his stance. When Josh Bell played for the Indianapolis Indians, there were times when he could be “tied up” with hard stuff up and in. He has made the adjustment!

It was a joy to be around Josh Bell when he played in Indianapolis. He is a very kind, considerate and thoughtful person and all of us who know him are delighted about his success!

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“I’ve got to keep on working, keep on grinding & keep going out there to get better.”

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski played tight end for the New England Patriots for nine years. Gronkowski was a four-time first team All-Pro; a remarkable achievement. Gronkowski is a three-time Super Bowl Champion. Gronk was taken by the Patriots out of the University of Arizona in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Rob Gronkowski has 23 receptions in Super Bowl play; the most by any tight end in Super Bowl History! Rob Gronowski announced his retirement from Pro Football not too long after the Patriots won another Super Bowl.

I have seen a number of great tight ends over the years. Hall of Famers. I feel that Rob Gronkowski is the greatest tight end in NFL History! He is an extremely skilled receiver and a very talented blocker. Gronkowski was great in the regular season and terrific in the Post Season, too! Gronk had four seasons of over 1,000 yards receiving; the most by any tight end in NFL History. Let’s not forget that Rob Gronkowski was on the receiving end of 12 touchdown passes in the Post Season; the most of any tight end in NFL History!

Gronk has an exuberant personality; he loves to have fun and has said that, “partying gets me refreshed and makes me want to work hard.”

Rob Gronkowski has had his share of injuries over the years and that may have been a factor in him announcing his retirement at age 29. Gronk was fabulous and one of a kind! He will really be missed!

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“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down. It made me more determined.”

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson is the only man to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both Major Leagues (1961 with the Cincinnati Reds; 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles). Frank Robinson belted 586 home runs in 20 plus seasons in the Major Leagues. Robinson played for the Reds, Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels, and Cleveland Indians. Robinson became Major League Baseball’s first African American Manager when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians in 1975. In addition to managing the Indians, Robinson piloted the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. Frank Robinson was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982.

Frank Robinson was a great competitor. He excelled when he first made it to the Major Leagues in 1956, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Robinson was an aggressive player who slid hard at all times. The Reds traded him to the Orioles prior to the 1966 season saying he was “an old 30.” He responded by winning the Triple Crown and leading the Orioles to their first World Championship. Robinson was a 14 time All-Star. When you watched him bat, it was as if he “dominated” home plate. He crowded the plate and dared pitchers to pitch inside. He got hit with pitched balls often, but never backed down. He was a winner.

Robinson also managed in the Major Leagues for 15 years. He was the American League Manager of the Year with the Orioles in 1989. Frank Robinson passed away recently; he forged a trail of greatness and will not be forgotten.

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“Football has been my love and passion for my entire life.”

Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is a great two-sport athlete from the University of Oklahoma. Murray has been an outfielder on the OU baseball team, and the Oakland Athletics drafted him in the first round of the 2018 Baseball Amateur Draft. Murray was selected ninth overall. Murray is a quarterback for the Sooners, and he recently said that he is going to go to the NFL Combine. Murray is a sure bet to be a first round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy, emblematic of the Nation’s most outstanding College Football player, in 2018.

Kyler Murray is choosing football over baseball. With his arm and his legs, not only did he win the Heisman Trophy, but he also led the Sooners to the BCS! Since his passion is football, he made the right choice. Football offers him instant recognition in the NFL and the potential for instant fame. Had Murray chosen baseball, in all likelihood, he would have spent several years in the Minor Leagues. Since football is where Murray’s heart is, he might have questioned a decision to play baseball during the many long bus rides that are a big part of the Minor Leagues. Yes, there is less risk of serious injury in baseball, and yes, careers in baseball quite often are longer than careers in football. However, in the end, Kyler Murray followed his heart. And I admire that.

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