Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Colon Looking Good!

Bartolo Colon showed flashes of his Cy Young days, shutting down Seattle for seven innings, and Dustin Pedroia's RBI ground-rule double scored the go-ahead run as the Red Sox scored four times in the eighth for the win.
I saw him pitch twice in Spring Training and said this man was going to make an impact on the Red Sox at some point in 2008! Well - my point is well taken Bartolo Colon has been HUGE for the Sox in his first two appearances. he was just fine last night in Seattle, leading the Sox in their first road win in what seems like a year.
Colon is ON right now and should remain in the rotation. You "never" have enough pitching. Red Sox have a nice asset at their disposal in the former hefty Cy Young Award winner.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Many of our Brothers and Sisters have made the ultimate sacrifice for our dreams. Many have left much behind for our comfort and relaxation. It is this day - Memorial Day 2008, that we sit back and take time to thank them. We speak of freedom! We experience liberty! None of this would be possible unless our wonderful defenders stood on the mountain tops for us all.

God Bless them all and God Bless our America!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Never Mention A No No -- Even In the Men's Room!

Lester pumped his fist after recording the final out, with zeros lining the Green Monster behind him.
Lester tipped his cap to the crowd after finishing the no-no. "Really, words can't describe it right now," Lester said immediately after the game.

"He's not just a good kid because he threw a no-hitter," Terry Francona said. "He's a good kid because he's a good kid."

Relievers running in from the bullpen, including Jonathan Papelbon (right), got their shots in on Lester as well.

Lester salutes V-Teck for a job well done after his No Hitter at Fenway Park.

Lefthander Jon Lester, the 24-year-old who survived cancer to pitch the World Series clincher for the Red Sox last fall, threw the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history on Monday night, striking out nine Royals and walking two. He saluted the roaring Fenway Park crowd after the game.

Lester's no-hitter wouldn't have been possible without a great diving catch by Jacoby Ellsbury in the fourth inning.

A memorable night at the Old Ball Yard for the old Baseball Head. May 19th, 2008!

Young Jon Lester. A survivor. A man, who has taken life by the boot straps and has spit in the eye of death. A man who pitched a no hitter before his 25th birthday. A man, who excited almost 38,000 lunatics at Fenway Park last night. A man who will be remembered for being the 15 player in Boston Red Sox History to toss a No No!

The game at some points had a feel of a playoff atmosphere. At times the park was DEAD! People were doing too much thinking. After the 6th inning the wheels began to turn. Murmurs and rumours..a nudge a shake of the head..with a point to the left field score board..and a nod -- just a simple nod of the head. Everyone knew! It was happening.

Some people say they remember their first Fenway game. Mine was in the late 1950's. I am lucky i can remember what happened to me on May 18, 2008. SO, I was in Box 147 Row BB Seat 1 with my buddy Kathy Murphy last night. We never planned on the experience Lester and the World Champs had in store for us. Ohh what a night!

Jacoby made a huge stab at a liner in the 4th to save IT. Lester took over from there. Things started to get edgy in the 6th. The beer started to work and those who ran to the stalls began to chat about IT and I demanded SILENCE. "You can not talk about IT here and YOU can not talk about IT in the stands. JUST GO and get back out there!" i know that was rude, but that is baseball. Ya never - ever ----- ever talk about a No No.

Owen Carlson of the South End Astro team of the Yawkey league came by to say hi during the 7th and we just nodded at each other knowing the "code". Ushers and even the "pink hats" who were there for the night KNEW.

The 7th -- oh nooo -- the 7th. Can it be real. YES it is. After a 1-2-3 6th. The 7th is always the tough one in a No No! Well - Lester mowed 'em down in the 7th and the 8th.

Oh My GOD! I am 55 years of age. I have never seen a No No at Fenway Park. is tonight the night? The only one I saw was the Dave Righetti No No against the Sox on July 4th in 1984 in Yankee Stadium. Will this be Lester's night/ But can i share the excitement?
A walk to the lead off man - The #9 guy showed Jon was still human. What happened after that is history. A part of Fenway and Boston history that we will all enjoy speaking of for many years.

It is so nice in sports to share some else accomplishments. I did nothing other than cheer last night, but I felt so much a part of the action. Being there is always twice the fun! Now we CAN talk about IT - John LESTER PITCHED A NO HITTER AT FENWAY PARK ON MAY 19!

God Bless this young man!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Dying Lad's Wish Comes True - To Play Ball One Last Time!

Freedom's John Challis gets a hug from Beaver's Al Torrence after a game April 24.

The 18-year-old kid dying of cancer gets his wish, a chance to swing a bat maybe one last time in a real baseball game.

He hasn't played in a few years, but he's called on to pinch-hit. His eyes light up at the first pitch and he puts all of his 5-foot-5, 93-pound frame into one mighty swing, making contact and sending a line drive into right field for a single -- if he can reach first base. The cancer he's been battling for almost two years has spread to his pelvis, making running nearly impossible.

The kid worries about falling as he hustles down the first-base line. When he gets to the base, he lets out with a yell. "I did it! I did it!"

Safe at first with a hit and an RBI, the kid is hugged by a crying first-base coach. The opposing pitcher takes off his glove, starts applauding and his teammates follow suit. The kid's teammates run onto the field to celebrate.

It sounds like the climax to a heart-tugger movie. But there was no producer or film crew at the game between Freedom and Aliquippa high schools two weeks ago. The scene was as real as the tumors in John Challis' liver and lungs.

John is a kid with cancer, a senior at Freedom in Beaver County who was told a few weeks ago by doctors that cancer was winning and it was close to the end. The disease that started in his liver was now taking over his lungs.

"They said it could be only two months," he said, fighting back tears.

He paused before his seemingly never-ending optimism came through again.

"I told my mom I still think I can get two more years."

But his story isn't about dying. It's about inspiring.

His story, words, actions, beliefs and courage have become known around Freedom and surrounding areas in Beaver County, bringing people together from other communities and other schools.

Three weeks ago, Freedom baseball coach Steve Wetzel organized "Walk For A Champion" on Freedom High's school grounds. The purpose of the walk-a-thon was to raise money for one of John's wishes -- a last vacation with his mom, dad and 14-year-old sister, Alexis.

More than 500 people took part, including baseball teams from eight Beaver County high schools and members of Center High School's football team. John also used to play football at Freedom.
Mr. Wetzel, who calls the teen his hero, hoped to raise $6,000. That total was easily surpassed "and people are still calling with donations," he said.

The family has booked a cruise for June.

The Challis effect - A Beaver County church had planned a fundraiser, but John and his family asked the church instead to conduct the event and give the money to a fifth-grade boy in Beaver County who has a brain tumor.

"His family can use it more than we can," John said. "That's just common sense. Someone does something good for you, then you help someone else."

Actions and statements like those are what has inspired so many others. All of Aliquippa's baseball players wear John's jersey number "11" on their hats. At the walk-a-thon, Aliquippa star athlete Jonathan Baldwin, a Pitt football recruit, presented him with a ball signed by Pitt players.

After the walk, John addressed the crowd.

"He spoke from his heart," Mr. Wetzel, the coach, said. "He said, 'I've got two options. I know I'm going to die, so I can either sit at home and feel sorry, or I could spread my message to everybody to live life to the fullest and help those in need.' After hearing that, I don't know if there were many people not crying."

Last Thursday, Beaver pitcher Manny Cutlip tossed a three-hitter against Freedom as John watched in street clothes. After the game, every Beaver player came up to him and shook his hand. Some hugged him and some said they were praying for him. Manny Cutlip asked Mr. Wetzel if he could go to lunch some time with John. It happened the next day.

"I don't know what to say. I just wanted to get to know him better and see if I could learn anything from him to help me in my life," said the young pitcher, an imposing 6-foot-3, 225-pound standout athlete who will play football at IUP.

At lunch, he gave John a new football with a handwritten personal message on it. Part of the message read, "You have touched my heart and I will always look up to you as my role model."
Talk to John and you'll laugh at his sense of humor when he says things such as, "You can't let girls know that you know how to text message because they won't leave you alone."
But listen to his mature views on life and his philosophies ... and you might cry.
"I used to be afraid, but I'm not afraid of dying now, if that's what you want to know," he said. "Because life ain't about how many breaths you take. It's what you do with those breaths."
Figuring it out It's been almost two years since John found out about his cancer. He knows the date like a birthday. June 23, 2006.

He discovered only recently that doctors didn't expect him to last through that first summer. "To me, that's already an accomplishment," he said.

In the first few months after the cancer discovery, John's father, Scott, would get up in the middle of the night, peek into his son's bedroom and see him wide awake, staring at the ceiling.
"He would just be thinking," the elder Challis said. "He's always been one who had to try and find an answer for everything. He wants to figure things out."

Through his own thoughts and through his deep Catholic beliefs, John believes he has "figured it out." He answers questions with maturity, courage and dignity, traits that have become his trademarks.

John requested that his mother, Regina, not be interviewed for this story because it will be too hard for her. He talks to his father about what to do after he dies.

"I sit up with him at night until 1 or 2 in the morning," Scott Challis said. "He'll tell me, 'Dad, when I'm gone, you have to do this or that. You have to watch your weight.' He's worried about my weight. He tells me I have to take care of mom.

"When the doctors told him a few weeks ago about how the cancer was winning, he had a lot of questions about what it was going to be like and about being comfortable. Later on, he broke down with me and you know what he did? He apologized. He was upset because he felt like he was letting everyone down who had been praying for him."

Scott Challis has found talking about his son makes the situation easier to deal with. But many people like to talk about John. Shawn Lehocky is a senior and one of Freedom's top athletes. For every football and baseball game, he wears a red wrist band with John's No. 11 on it.

"It seems like everyone in this community knows who he is now and he really has brought so many people together," Shawn said. "He's always on my mind. To see him and what he's going through, I don't know if I could act like that. He said some pretty strong words at that walk-a-thon that you don't hear 17- or 18-year-olds say every day."

John fought back tears a few times during last week's interview.

"Sometimes I cry, but people cry for all different kinds of reasons," he said. "Sometimes I just want to know why, but I think I figured that out. God wanted me to get sick because he knew I was strong enough to handle it. I'm spreading His word and my message. By doing that, I'm doing what God put me here to do.

"It took me about a half year to figure all that out. Now, when I'm able to truly believe it, it makes it easier on me. And when you know other people support what you're thinking, it makes it easier."

When asked where he gained his wisdom, he answered, "Through cancer."

"They say it takes a special person to realize this kind of stuff," he said. "I don't know if I'm special, but it wasn't hard for me. It's just my mind-set. A situation is what you make of it. Not what it makes of you."

He regularly wears his Freedom baseball hat. Under the bill of the cap is his name, plus this line: "COURAGE + BELIEVE = LIFE."

"I guess I can see why people see me as an inspiration," he said. "But why do people think it's so hard to see things the way I do? All I'm doing is making the best of a situation."

John then raises his voice.

"Why can't people just see the best in things? It gets you so much further in life. It's always negative this and negative that. That's all you see and hear."

John tries to keep complaining to a minimum, but he acknowledges his moments of crying.

"If I'm mad at anything in this, it's that I'm not going to be able to have a son, I'm not going to be able to get married and have my own house," he said, fighting back tears again. "Those are the things I'm mad about. But not dying."

The role of sports
John loves sports. He is an avid hunter -- "got three buck and two doe in the last year," he said.
He played baseball through Pony League and always loved football, despite his small stature. As a sophomore, he started on Freedom's junior varsity team as a slotback and cornerback.

"I was 108 pounds. I had to be the smallest player in the WPIAL," he said with a laugh.

The cancer forced him to stop playing football as a junior.

"But I will never forget," his father said, "when he first got sick he told me, 'Dad, I have to dress for a football game one more time.' "

He got his wish in the final game of his senior season, against Hickory. Coaches let him kick off once. He was supposed to kick and immediately run off the field to avoid danger. Instead, he stayed on the field and got a little excited when the kick returner started heading his way before being tackled.

Later in the game, the coaches put him in for two plays at receiver. Mr. Wetzel and others who saw the game proudly tell how, on one play, John tried to block a defender, fell down, but got up and pushed another defender.

Mr. Wetzel said seeing John play in that last football game, doesn't compare to seeing his hit against Aliquippa in that April 14 baseball game. John vividly remembers the details leading up to the hit. When he walked into the batter's box, he saw Aliquippa's catcher wearing a protective mask with the initials "J.C." and the number "11."

"I just looked at him and said, 'Nice mask.' "

He then noticed an Aliquippa coach saying something to the pitcher.

"I'm thinking, 'If they're going to walk me or throw easy to me, I don't want it handed to me,' " he said. "But sure enough, he threw me a fastball. That's what made it so good. ... There were only about 20 people there watching, but everyone was cheering."

Mr. Wetzel said: "We made it to the state [PIAA] playoffs two years ago and I thought that was the best feeling. I got to play in WPIAL championships at Blackhawk as a player. But that day, that hit, that moment ... That was the best feeling I've ever had in sports."

Six days later, Freedom played a game at PNC Park. John attended the game, but had an IV line in his arm for a treatment he was getting. He took out the IV line and asked Mr. Wetzel if he could pinch-hit again.

"Unbelievable. He told me the doctor said he could take it out for up to seven hours," Mr. Wetzel said. "He told me he just wanted to be a normal kid one more time."

So Mr. Wetzel let him pinch-hit. This time he struck out.

They have a unique coach-player relationship. Mr. Wetzel invited John to be part of the team a year ago and John calls the coach one of his best friends. They talk every day, at least on a cell phone, and go to lunch together once a week.

"The kid has changed my life," Mr. Wetzel said. "I cry for him just about every day. I'm 32 and I'm getting married in September. You know what he told me the other day? He told me to save him a seat in the front row of the church, because even if he's not there, he'll be there in spirit.
"He just keeps doing things and saying things that are just unbelievable. I know our team will never forget this season because of Johnny."

The two want to start a foundation in John's name for young cancer patients.

"Even if [the foundation] is something that can help only one kid or one family, to see people in a different way like I have, it will be worth it," John said. "Maybe it will help younger people who haven't gotten to see the finer things in life that I got to see."

John plans to attend Freedom's prom May 9 and plans to graduate in June. As John ended this interview, he said he wondered how his story will come out in the newspaper.

"When you write this, don't overthink things," he said. "I've learned that. There are a lot of unanswered questions in this world and the reason they're unanswered is because if you think about them too much, you're always going to come up with different answers. So don't confuse yourself and think about this too much."

Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.
First published on May 4, 2008 at 12:00 am

Saturday, May 3, 2008

CUZ Stu & Al D -- On the Road.....

Our good friends Stu Sklaver and Al Ditulio have been watching Yawkey League Spring Baseball. here is an early report from the CUZ:

On Somerville & Medford

I don't know if this is something you want to use for your blog or for the site itself.

But, last night Al D and I called a high school game for Somerville against Malden...good game...but what followed is what might be of interest to you.

The game was at Trum Field and immediately following the high school game was a scrimmage game between the Medford Maddogs and Somerville Alibrandis. Al and I stayed for 2 innings and its very clear to see why these 2 teams are so good. They can lose important players, (ie, Kevin White) and not seem to miss a single solitary beat.

Somerville has a new lead off hitter in Tommy McDonough and looks like he added muscle and lost weight if its possible for him to add any more muscle. Justin Crisafulli also seemed to be slimmer and Scott Rogers looked good, but Jon Morse was incredible on the mound. If I had a speed gun, his fastball was really up there. Derek Bates also looked great, and if he can stay healthy, he can win the (whoever you name the pitcher) of the year award this year. I just have that feeling. Dave Scioli shaved his head???!!! and Sal Mendonca stole home on the front end of a double steal. Frank the Tank McPherson called a strong game behind the plate, and this is all before Desroches even got in the game!!!!!!!!!!!

Medford also looked good last night. Johnny Cunningham was his pesky old self, getting on base twice. I don't know what got into Buddy Hanley but he was lining the ball all over the place, 2-2 with 2 singles. Sean Gildea was warming up in the bullpen when we left, as he doesn't leave for River City until next week. The key for the Maddogs in talking to Dave Hanley is the return to full-time play of Marc Crovo their catcher. Of course, he was working at the jail last year and time constraints would not allow him to be there often. Jay Sablone was his own happy go lucky self too.

Anyhow...in the two innings I caught, Somerville and Medford still look like 2 very tough teams to beat, although Dave Hanley said, he wants to get out to a 12-0 start to keep ahead of Somerville.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Supah Fans Web Page

My very good friend - Kevin Krueger has launched a new apparel business. he is a hard-worker. A great kid and one of the finest players in the history of the Yawkey Baseball League! give his page a look and buy - buy - buy!
Hiya, SupahFans- Spring has sprung green throughout New England.
Likewise, our famous green "Entering Fenway" (Dirty Water) products are growing too.
See our models below and click any of the images to shop the store. You will see we've added:
1) Grass green women's fitted tees
2) Irish & forest green unisex long sleeves
3) Grass green Onesies- "Dirty Water" graphic on back just like the big kid shirts.
Across the city, the street team is rallying SupahFans before each Celtics home playoff with sales of:
1) "Entering The Garden" - Legends Live Here shirts
2) Garnett Pierce Allen '08 MVP tees3) brand new Retro '86 MVP tees
4) Token White Guy (Big Scal) shirts...seriously
!Come buy our street wear on Causeway to receive a $3 MVP banner free for the game. Now I hear you asking, "How else can I get my Green ON this spring?" I suggest:Our Limited Edition ORGANIC "Legend" Manny Being Marley tee shirts. My favorite Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is nearing his 500th home run. Should Manny reach this milestone, I will personally print and initial 500 shirts.
Check the web store for this $24 keepsake and Go Green with our first organic product. Stay fresh... and thank you for your continued support.
Kevin Krueger
Head CoachSupahFans.com