Speeding Up Baseball


I love baseball. It was the first sport my Dad and I shared, on the radio, and in the barnyard in pitch, catch, and bat rounds with him and my first two brothers.

Screams to speed up Major League Baseball games have been heard for some time, now, in today’s version that has extended a regular nine-inning contest to three hours and more.

Allowing a pitcher less minutes, or seconds, to deliver a pitch isn’t the answer to speeding up the game. That’s not fair to the pitcher’s ability to establish his own rhythm.

I don’t think the game should be sped up at all. That’s messing with strategy and the integrity of the game. However if we must succumb to this cry for more speed, a simple solution is at hand. Why not just cut down on the allowed foul balls batters may hit?


Hitting pitches into foul territory entails a mammoth amount of time, and it is hard on a pitcher who has to keep throwing numerous strikes to gain one more for a strikeout.

So, let’s rule that on a potential third strike, batters will be called out if they foul off three pitches in a row. If a batter can skillfully manage to hold off a third strike by fouling off pitch after pitch, why in the dickens can’t he get a hold of one?

Photos from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

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Champions In Sport

Passing the Bat

There’s more about sports at my Champions In Sport blog.


A neighborhood park baseball field

Heart-warming and mysterious at the same time.

That’s the interesting mix seen each year at the MLB ASG (Major League Baseball All-Star Game) and Home Run Derby events.

Heart-warming are the acts of inclusion and conversation conveyed by the players and coaches to the youngsters in attendance. Mysterious is the number of players and coaches who seem to take little, or no, notice of these kids in uniform who participate in the ceremonies.

The youth are the future. They get to bat after the present All-Stars and coaches retire to their memories, canes, and wheel chairs to be applauded not for the present, but only for yesteryear.

These kids are ball boys/girls, towel holders, drink dispensers, star-struck, eager onlookers during Home Run Derby and All-Star Game nights. They take part in something only a few each year are privileged to experience. One day some of them will be the players and coaches. What will they remember when that time comes?

It’s the way of human nature to pass the bat along.

Hats off to the guys who help pass that bat by expressing genuine shares to these kids who look to them with hero worship and who may, in the future, emulate them in the same way they were greeted on these eventful nights.

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg


Time to Flag It


Jadar Johnson, 22, rookie draftee of the New York Giants, has retired.

His reasons are two-fold, but No.1 is profound — he values his health, he said. He also has plans to pursue less reckless ventures, ones that will tend to not endanger his life, as does professional football, or any level of contact football of today’s variety.

Brain disease and damage is becoming more and more a culprit that is making footballers take a second look at their choices. Are the demanding physical risks of the sport worth the rewards?

Could players do better to get that college education and begin a different life at an earlier stage in their football careers, as Johnson has decided to do? Taking the rookie paycheck and retiring with one’s head mostly intact may become a welcomed trend.

Stats are beginning to appear that confirm 99% of football players are being brain-wrecked to some degree…

It’s time to raise the red flag and start all level, non-contact Flag Football Safety Leagues that will take over the crunching cruelty of the current National Football League. There already are some flag football leagues, for youngsters and for former NFL pros.

Let’s trend that!

See Also: Ryan Nagelhout’s article — “The American Flag Football League Had Its Day in San Jose, But Making It The Future Will Take Time”

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

Coffee Cup Series


Rudolph-the-Red-nosed-Reindeer failed to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to another NBA championship, and the Golden State Warriors, via the new king, Kevin Durant, sent a message that pricked like fork tines. They said emphatically through their dominant play to the title, “We’ll be here awhile.”

Rudolph ultimately agreed, stating he’d probably be sitting down to figure things out before the next title run begins.

Drinking from Rudolph’s coffee cup I call “Humble” for now…

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

(See also http://www.championsinsport.wordpress.com/ “LJFF Helps Keep Kids in School” and
http://www.fansandgamers.wordpress.com/ for more of this continuing Coffee Cup Series!)

Derby Fever…


“Here’s lookin’ at you, California!”

A few seasons ago, it was California Chrome and the DAP that rocked the American Kentucky Derby world in one of the most improbable Derby back stories.

This time around, the back stories of the 1-1/4 miles Derby, run exclusively for three-year-olds, were just as luscious:
— Venezuela’s leading trainer, Antion Sano, twice kidnapped in his home country for his horse racing stables’ fortunes, left Venezuela and started over from scratch in the USA, acquiring Gunnevera for $15,000. The horse earned an unlikely Derby spot in the exclusive field of 20.

— Seven-time Trainer of the Year Todd Pletcher, having captured one Derby crown from 45 entries, entered his usual numbers to Run for the Roses, but this time he had the last minute favorite, Always Dreaming, winner of the Florida Derby, and the favorite had won the Derby over the last four years.

— Patch, one of three Pletcher entries, made the Derby field without the benefit of two eyes. His left orb was removed a year ago when a severe infection was successfully halted to save his life.

— Bob Baffert, meanwhile, had no entries in a dry year, after having the Derby favorite in the field for… years! No problem. He won the Kentucky Oaks (the Derby version for three-year-old fillies) the day before with Abel Tasman, who charged from last to first under veteran jockey Mike Smith.

— Always Dreaming was sired by Bodemeister, a Baffert Derby favorite in 2012. Bodemeister finished second that year.

— Trainer Mark Casse, who years before owned a house one door down from the Churchill Downs track, where the Derby is run, took on his son, Norman, as an assistant. The two had been separated for many years after Mark’s divorce from Norman’s mother.

— Weatherman Jim Cantore, who’s “thunder snow romp” was rebroadcast for a whole Winter season, picked — ready? — Thunder Snow to win the Derby! But Thunder Snow didn’t like the sloppy track and on-and-off-rainy day, apparently preferring snow, as he bucked just out of the gate and made it known that he was done for the day.

— Jockey Rajiv Maragh, six months removed from a 16-month rehabilitation following massive injuries from a track spill, gained a Derby mount when trainer Graham Motion found himself needing a jockey for Irish War Cry, one of the early favorites to win the race.

— In the end, all-time leading money winner among jockeys, John Velazquez, and Pletcher, teamed for the Derby win. Although having worked together for many years, it marked the first time the duo crossed the Derby finish line ahead of the pack together, and the dream came true. Pletcher, by the way, tied his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, this year for most career Derby entries at 48.

The dark brown colt Always Dreaming led the field early, then brightened the day in a 2-3/4 lengths victory that included a powerful, kick-away stretch run and a fourth straight racing triumph.

Here’s the rest of the finishing field:
(2) Lookin at Lee; (3) Battle of Midway; (4) Classic Empire; (5) Practical Joke; (6) Tapwrit (Pletcher’s third entry); (7) Gunnevera; (8) McCraken; (9) Gormley; (10) Irish War Cry; (11) Hence; (12) Untrapped; (13) Girvin; (14) Patch; (15) J Boys Echo; (16) Sonneteer; (17) Fast and Accurate; (18) Irap; (19) State of Honor.

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

Champions In Sport

Ohio Basketball High Mark


High School Varsity Basketball Coach Paul Wayne, an Ohio coaching legend and a 2015 elected member of the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, didn’t forget to thank the community of Holgate, Ohio, when he garnered his 500th career win in March of this year as mentor of the Tinora Rams.

That victory came in Division III Sectional Tournament semifinal play at Defiance on March 1. It was Tinora’s fourth win of the 2016-2017 season. This past season’s gig at Tinora was Wayne’s first head coaching job since 2013, when the Holgate school board chose not to renew his coaching contract.

Four-hundred-ninety-six wins in Wayne’s career came as head coach of the Division IV Holgate Tigers over a span of 36 years. In that time, Wayne also earned honors as 2007 Mideast Section Coach of the Year as named by the National Federation of State High School Coaches Association, and he collected a total of seven District 7 Coach of the Year awards, also during his Holgate tenure.

Wayne states his coaching goal as helping his team “strive to reach its potential and hopefully go above that” each year.

Along the way, Wayne’s coaching career has reached the treetops of Ohio.

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

(For other Ohio stories see:
http://www.chickensoupforbuckeyes.wordpress.com )

Winning and Losing As A Team


Perhaps the caption to the picture (ABOVE) could be “Ouch!”

However, the reason for using a basketball game image, as the college national championship was decided just last night, is that basketball is a team sport, and such sports demand team work and dedication to one’s teammates in order for individuals, and teams, to achieve success.

Along the way of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, a player made a last minute error in purposefully fouling an opponent, when the play should have been to defend and let the clock run out, hopefully to secure a one-point victory. Instead, the foul gave the player’s opponent an opportunity to swish two game-winning free throws.

But these young men, the player’s teammates, all got it — support your teammates in victory, or in defeat, or when a mental error becomes very costly. The player’s teammates did exactly that, to a man. They supported their teammate, and, regardless of losing one game, these young men all went home winners.

In games, as in life, lessons on team play make winners out of those who choose to support their team. Life is a team game, and all members of every team are important.

Photo courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com

Few Exceptions…


Cee-Cee has her own sports hero

At the time (1978) Jay J. Coakley published Sport In Society, the book included the statistic that only 20%, or less, of all college athletes finished their academics sufficiently enough to graduate.

Coakley claimed any good athlete who wanted “to continue sport participation beyond the high school level”, especially those pursuing football, or basketball, must seek to attend college. Indeed, there are only a few exceptions to this idea.

And, he said his research showed that “athletes were receiving an average of three times the amount of financial aid received by nonathletes”.

Is anything new in 2016? Should it be?

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

Along Came California Chrome


His name was drawn from a cowboy hat. California Chrome — California for his home state, Chrome for the horse racing term used to describe the white splashes on his coat — came flashing into the Thoroughbred racing scene in 2014 as an underrated three-year-old.

He astonished by winning two of the three classics for three-year-olds, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He failed, however, to sweep the Triple Crown when he was beaten in the Belmont Stakes. His bid to become the first horse to win the three classics since Affirmed (1978) was ruined.

But his popularity went skyward with the American public even when his four-year-old season went awry in 2015.

In March of this year, with $6 Million in earnings already under his girth, he shipped to Dubai for the global World Cup — and won, taking over the all-time money earner title in North American Thoroughbred horse racing.

Up to the November 5 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Classic raced in the United States, the five-year-old California Chrome had remained undefeated in his 2016 campaign. Just by a neck, as he was caught in the final yards by Arrogate, California Chrome’s perfect season was snapped.

Only the third horse in history to win the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome remains in training to race one more time, in January of 2017 in America’s Pegasus World Cup. A victory there would put him in a class by himself.

Nonetheless, his money title of over $14.4 Million would seem secure for some time to come. The title had been held by Curlin, at $10.5 Million since 2008.

Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg