“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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“Your character is the accumulation of your thoughts, habits and priorities on a daily basis.”

Nick Saban

Nick Saban is in his 12th year as the Head Football Coach at Alabama. Saban is in his 46th year as a football coach. All of Saban’s head coaching jobs, with the exception of a two year stint with the Miami Dolphins, have been at the collegiate level. Prior to coming to Alabama, Saban was the Head Coach at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-1999), and LSU (2000-2004).

Saban has had a great deal of success in all of his head coaching jobs at the collegiate level. His teams have won more than 230 games while only losing 62. Saban has won six National Championships (LSU in 2003), and five with Alabama (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017).I feel the way many others do. Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all-time. He goes for his seventh National Championship Monday evening vs. Clemson. In fact, it’s the fourth consecutive year the two schools have faced each other in the National Championship game. First, let’s give Nick Saban credit for being a great Head Coach for such a lengthy period of time. He is 67 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down!

Nick Saban is extremely focused and very bright. His work ethic is second to none. He is a great recruiter whose football knowledge is off the charts. What more can you say? Well, you can say that Saban has a quality that all great coaches and managers have. That is, he does a terrific job of holding his players accountable. That is the way to get players to continually improve, and Nick Saban has been doing that for decades!

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“Branch Rickey was my mentor in Baseball and a strong influence in my life.”

Carl Erskine

Carl Erskine pitched in the Major Leagues for 12 years, all of them with the Dodgers (1948-1959). Carl’s lifetime record was 122-78 with a 4.00 ERA while pitching mostly at hitter friendly Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Carl Erskine threw two of the seven no-hitters in the National League in the 1950’s. Erskine won 20 games for the Pennant winning Dodgers in 1953, and in 1954, Carl was a National League All-Star. Carl Erskine was the pitching mainstay on five Pennant Winners and one World Championship team.

It is an honor to write about Carl Erskine because he is a close friend, a great man, and he was a very good pitcher. Carl’s mentor, Branch Rickey, was a very knowledgeable baseball man, and someone who was deeply religious. Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. Carl Erskine broke into the Major Leagues in 1948, the year after Jackie’s arrival. Carl and Jackie became friends in an era when there was a great deal of racism. Carl Erskine is a man of great dignity and class and someone who always displays warmth to his fellow human beings.

Carl Erskine was a terrific competitor and as his Hall of Fame teammate, Pee Wee Reese, said, “Carl Erskine is a nice guy who wins.” Carl often was at his best in big games. He struck out 14 New York Yankees setting a World Series strikeout record in 1953.

I was privileged to broadcast Indianapolis Indians games with Carl for a number of years. On those broadcasts, and in our many conversations, I have learned a great deal from him. Carl Erskine turns 92 this week, and anyone who is able to spend time with him, cherishes the moment! He is that good a man!

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