5 reasons Nebraska could go unbeaten. Seriously. (UPDATE: Just kidding)

Wednesday


The Nebraska Cornhuskers take on UCLA this week and they win, don’t be surprised to see the team finish unbeaten this season. Think I’m wrong? Consider this - Beating UCLA would likely leave one roadblock for Nebraska: A Nov. 9 meeting at Michigan.

But Michigan will be coming off an always difficult battle with Michigan State the week before and we all know how difficult back to back difficult games can be (just ask the majority of the SEC).

Here’s 5 reasons you should load up on your Nebraska football tickets now because those Husker tickets will be far more expensive when the team is sitting on an 7 or 8 straight wins to start the season.

1) This is the best offense of the Pelini era.
2) Michigan is overrated. Remember, Nebraska beat up on them last year.
3) Tim Beck is a genius. If he could get Taylor Martinez to player well, he can get anyone to do it. I’d load up on Husker football tickets just to watch Beck coach.
4) Kenny Bell. Only reason he wasn’t first team All Big 10 is people felt bad for Penn State.
5) The schedule speaks for itself. Get through UCLA; roll Northwestern; and you’ve got one tough game. That’s not asking that much.

So there you have it. Everyone is sleeping on Nebraska football, but saying they can win the national title isn’t as much of a stretch of saying the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl.

Besides, I’d take Nebraska Cornhuskers tickets over Dallas Cowboys tickets any day of the week.

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Iverson and Jeter: A case of supporting casts

Tuesday

There was a scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm a few years ago in which Larry David gets into a phone argument with a stonemason over Derek Jeter. The stonemason, as many sportswriters have suggested in recent years, says that Jeter is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball and doesn’t deserve the money he is paid. Of course David, a diehard Yankee fan, counters with the stereotypical redundant Jeter defense – he’s clutch hitter and a great clutch player.

In a lot of ways, the scene represents an argument that has dominated conversations in the northeast for my entire life as a sports fan. For years, the question posed by Yankee haters and feared by Yankee fans has been: Who would Derek Jeter be if he were not playing in New York?

The answer, with all pun intended, is Allen Iverson.

You would have never guessed that would be the case all those years ago. Three days before Jeter was to be named American League Rookie of the Year, Iverson stepped onto the Corestates Center (now known as the Wachovia Center) floor and dropped 30 points in his first game as a pro. By that time, Jeter was already a World Champion and looked to be on the fast track to becoming the most famous player on the most famous franchise in all of sports. Iverson was considered a future star as well, but he was mostly known as the kid who did jail time before somehow getting accepted at Georgetown to play for John Thompson.

It didn’t take much time to realize that their careers would head down very different paths. Jeter became a suburban hero. If you played shortstop in little league, you had to have a Rawling's glove with his signature on it. Iverson became an urban icon. You wore his sneakers and his jersey because The Answer defined cool.

Their dissimilarities in image would actually be reflective of the teams on which they played. Jeter was the face of the Yankees, but everyone chipped in. The Yankees were committed to winning and they did that more than anyone in the late nineties. Iverson’s 76ers were an example of what happens when mismanagement and bad luck are paired together. Example: The Sixers picked second in the NBA draft the year after they got Iverson. They took Keith Van Horn. The number one pick was Tim Duncan.

Think about how differently things could have played out if Iverson and Duncan were teammates. Instead, as Bill Simmons points out in The Book of Basketball, “Iverson’s prime was saddled with overpaid role players, overpaid underachievers, overpaid and washed up veterans and underachieving lottery picks.”

So of course that led to Iverson being a one man show. He was the future Hall of Famer who would never come close to winning a title. Even in 2001 when Iverson won the MVP and led the Sixers to the NBA Finals, the next best players on his team were Aaron McKie and a 35-going-on-50 year old named Dikembe Mutombo.

In other words, Iverson is what Jeter would have been if were drafted by the Kansas City Royals instead of the Yankees.

That seems hard to believe now. Iverson appears to be on his last legs. Jeter seems fresher than he’s ever been. Iverson recently retired from the NBA only to return to his old stomping grounds faster than you could say Brett Favre. Jeter was just named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. And of course, there’s the money. Iverson’s one year contract with the 76ers will earn him more than 20 times less than Jeter’s salary for next season.

But if you look at their whole careers, the two become the perfect case study for how a player’s value is dictated more by his supporting cast than any other factor, including his own talent. Jeter basically lucked out. Iverson wasn’t so fortunate.

And the rest is history.

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Why Shouldn't Kobe be Called the Best Ever?

Friday

A group for my old little league recently popped up on Facebook and it’s only a matter of time before the “my generation was better than your generation” argument starts and the entire city begins to weigh in. That’s just how my hometown is. Bar fights break out over things like this. West Haven children memorize City Champions first, and then if there’s time, they get to the Presidents of the United States. In all seriousness, I’m pretty sure the City Council has devoted an entire meeting to discussing the fastest pitchers in history.

(Note: My name wouldn’t appear on that list, but I did have a nice curveball.)

It’s important to note that the debate is never over the best team. If you won a championship, then you won a championship and no one can ever take that away from you. It’s always about the players who were in your league at the time you played. So take the best five players from my time versus the best five players from your time and then we get into it. That’s why fights happen. Because I’m not just defending my honor, I’m defending the honor of guys I haven’t seen in 20 years.

These arguments exist, of course, because no one wants to slight their own generation. It’s not just little league teams, although in small towns that might be the most pressing issue. It’s television shows and music and movies and life in general. I find these debates laughable. It’s not that I hate history, but I’m sorry, I’ll take the advancements in my time over any other era in history. Card catalogs sucked. Newspaper ads sucked. Encyclopedias sucked, and they were heavy. Amazon, Craig’s List and Google win. Every time. Not to mention, online sports betting, which you can click here to find.

And I haven’t even mentioned DVR and On the Go products yet.

The reason I bring all of this up is because Kobe Bryant just became the all time leading scorer in Los Angeles Lakers history, which has led the sports media to debate whether or not he is the greatest player in franchise history.

Across the board, the answer has been no.

Depending on who you talk to, the top three seems to be some combination of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain. The old white guys usually put Jerry West in there and Elgin Baylor typically gets thrown in the conversation as well. Only then does Kobe join the party. No matter where he ranks, it’s pretty impressive to be included with those guys at all. But why can’t he be considered the best ever? Why is it so hard to put a guy playing in a far more competitive NBA atop the list?

He’s the best player on the planet at a time when basketball players are the best athletes on the planet. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago, let alone 40. He’s bigger, stronger and faster than his predecessors and he’s playing in a league that is significantly bigger, stronger and faster than it has ever been. The old guard likes to complain about expansion diluting the NBA. I choose to believe $100 million dollar contracts made it more competitive. The money made basketball more desirable to young people over the past two decades, which has made the talent pool that much larger.

Sports, and this goes back to whole little league topic, is one the few places where you can’t even have a civil conversation comparing past to present. It gets too emotional. For example, you might say Happy Days is the greatest show in history, but you have to concede that it would have been nicer to watch in high definition. There is no concession in sports. People will always argue that their favorite player growing up was a lot better than anyone playing today.

Which is why in a column praising Kobe for becoming the all time leading scorer in team history, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke still chose to criticize him for being too much of a ball hog. Whatever it takes to put the stars of today down, right?

But guess what? Kobe is HD. He is the iPod. He is the internet.

Evolution wins.

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Sweet 16 tidbits

Thursday

For all the upsets that took place during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, one could argue that ten of the best 15 teams in the country are still alive and kicking heading into the Sweet 16.

Even the losses of Gonzaga (honestly, who didn’t see that coming?) and Georgetown (has only made it past the Sweet 16 once since Allen Iverson was donning a Hoya jersey), it wouldn’t be shocking to see Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio State (the highest-seeded teams left in each region) cruise to the Final Four.

That said, while it appears as though Louisville and Ohio State may be locks, don’t be surprised if No. 4 seeds Michigan and Syracuse give a hard time to the Jayhawks and Hoosiers, respectively. I foolishly picked the Wolverines to go down in round 1, but Trey Burke has reestablished himself as the best guard in college basketball. I’m always hesitant to pick the Orange, but Indiana hasn’t played particularly well in over a month and the ‘Cuse defense could present all kinds of trouble.

My Final Four picks remain the same: Louisville, Ohio State, Florida, Miami.

Side note: Can anyone even wait for football season? It’s only March and I’m already counting down the days. (By the way, this website has information about betting during the NFL season; not that I do that sort of thing.)

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Rules for a poker tournament online

Tuesday

When it comes to a poker tournament, the rules and regulations are not really set in stone. Every tournament may have its own unique rules and regulations that would be decided by the poker room that organizes it. However, there are a few basic rules that tend to generally apply to most of the tournaments today. Understanding these rules will make it easier for you to follow the game and know what to expect when you start playing.

Rules about chips

Generally, in all poker tournaments the players will all start with the same number of chips. Some of these tournaments may also allow you to purchase additional chips during the later stage of the game. Normally, these tournaments are known as the buy-in or the rebuy tournaments. However, not all tournaments will offer you this option so it would be necessary for you to check the details before you sign up for it. Players would be able to participate in the tournament until they run out of chips if there is no re-buy option available in the game. The player that manages to remain in the game till the last and has all the chips would be the winner for the tournament. The tournaments with the re-buy option would generally be longer and would also have higher prize amounts. The two largest tournament sites are Stars and FTP - you can visit this site for the latest download of both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars.

Other general rules

Another rule with most poker tournaments is that there would be a specified time at which all the participants have to start playing. There may be a very few tournaments that will allow you to simply come and play when you want. Another tournament strategy with most tournaments is that the bids would increase at regular intervals. With some poker tournaments, the time frames may be specified in advance while in other tournaments it would be based on play periods. Most poker tournaments today follow these general rules but there may also be additional rules put in place as determined necessary by the organizers. Once the tournament is complete and the winner has been declared, a large portion of the accumulated prize pool would be given to the top winner. Normally, this amount is 40% of the pool, 20% normally goes to the second place player while another 10% goes to the third place player.

The prizes offered at all poker tournaments such as The WSOP are different. In many tournaments, the prize is in the form of a place or a buy-in to a highly renowned poker tournament and not cash prize and these tournaments are generally known as satellite tournaments. With the popularity of tournaments like the world series of poker and world poker tour increasing rapidly, a large number of professional players are interested in getting a chance to participate in them. However, with buy-ins of over $10,000 it is not possible for them to afford it. The satellite tournaments organized online offer them a chance to win a seat in such prestigious tournaments.

For more information on how to play both live and online poker tournaments, we recommend you check out this website. They offer up-to-date information on times and buy-ins for some of the largest online tourneys.

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Double-Up Tournament Tips & Strategy

Monday

There are several online poker rooms that support double-up tournaments in their poker room, with PokerStars being the biggest of them all. Most double-up tournaments will have ten players and the top five players will walk away with double their buy-in. There are a few different ways to play these types of tournaments and you’ll end up making your own game plan as you go along I’m sure, but I’d like to share some tips with you to get you through the early going.

If you already have experience playing online poker then you’re going to want to multi-table these tournaments right from the beginning. I typically play around 3-4 games at a time as all the screens fit nicely on my laptop that way. The reason you want to play multiple tournaments at all times is because these tournaments are pretty slow and you’re not going to be playing many hands in them anyways. Below are some tips and strategy that you can use while playing double-up tournaments. You can find even more tips at Poker30.net.

* You don’t want to play many hands in these tournaments. If you’re going to play a hand then you need to be raising the pot up every time. If you’re already facing a raise then you can flat call if you’d like although if you have a premium hand I’d go over the top. The key in double-up tournaments is to apply a lot of pressure on your opponents when you do eventually play hands.

* When the blinds start going up, you’re going to need to start stealing some of the blinds. Generally I wait until the blinds reach the 50/100 level before I start trying to steal the blinds. Position is everything when stealing blinds. You don’t really want to steal the blinds on the button unless you know the two blinds will fold to a bet. I find raising from the middle works better, especially when you only do it a couple times a tournament.

* If you have a monster hand such as QQ-KK-AA or even AK-AQ suited you need to be willing to call someone else’s all-in. There will always be opponents that raise the pot all the time in hopes of stealing blinds, especially at the lower limit games. Even though you only need to make it to the top five you need to take advantage of your premium hands. If you end up losing the hand it isn’t a big deal and you can make it back.

* If you take a bit hit early in one of these tournaments don’t count yourself out. I see many players lose a big pot and then within a few hands they will be all-in with a marginal hand. If you’re sitting with 500-800 chips you still have plenty of time to wait for a semi-good hand. In this position you may also be able to steal a couple blinds if you wait for the right position.

* When you’re at the bubble in a tournament like the WSOP, you want to make sure you don’t take any risks. If you’re in the top three positions then I wouldn’t even think about playing any hands unless you have high pockets. If you’re in the lower part of the bubble then you might need to make a move, but I would wait until you have a big hand. Don’t take any risks when you’re on the bubble with marginal hands because you may be called by one of the chip leaders.

Tournaments are gaining more and more popularity around the world. From Italy to Germany, it is really becoming a multi-national game. For those who are looking for a reliable German poker website review or Italian poker website review, we recommend you take a look at Poker30.net today. They offer strategy in English, German, and Italian.

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10 Things to Watch in the NCAA Tournament

Best 1st Round Game: No. 8 UNC VS No. 9 Villanova
The Tar Heels have played their basketball of the season over the last six weeks, but their best win of the season was a home victory over UNLV in December. Villanova has beaten more good teams (4-2 against top 25 schools), but it also have several embarrassing losses on its resume (Columbia, Providence twice, Seton Hall). Bottom line: While they both underperformed for much of the season, both teams have the potential to cause Kansas headaches in the round of 32. Prediction: UNC 74-67

Best 2nd Round Matchup: No. 3 Michigan State VS No. 6 Memphis
Tom Izzo has built a reputation for being one of the best tournament coaches in college basketball, but it’s worth noting that his teams have more 1st or 2nd round losses (5) than elite eight trips (4) since the 2001/02 season. Memphis hasn’t beaten anyone good, but might be the most entertaining and athletic team in the country and Josh Pastner is one of the top young coaches in the country.  Prediction: Memphis 78-73

Overrated: Marquette
The Big East rightfully gets a ton of respect and the Golden Eagles deserve credit for going 14-4 in conference, but they don’t shoot the ball well and weren’t very impressive in out-of-league games (remember when they put up just 47 points in a loss to Green Bay?). Don’t be surprised if Davidson knocks them off in round 1.

Underrated: Kansas State
Despite falling to a 4 seed, the Wildcats have to be pleased with their path to the regional final. They’re athletic, they rebound and they have a talented backcourt.  This is a team that could do real damage.

Biggest Upset: No. 13 South Dakota State over No. 4 Michigan
If you love guard play, you’ll be glued to your television for this one. Michigan started so strong, but fell apart during the second half of the season. South Dakota State is unproven, but they’re one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and that often proves to be the equalizer come tournament time.

Upset Pick Everyone Will Get Wrong: No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Oklahoma State
Everyone suddenly feels bad for the PAC 12, but there’s a reason the league’s teams got no respect. The Ducks played well at the end of the season and seem to be a trendy pick for an upset, but they don’t shoot the ball well and they turn it over too much. Not a good combination.

Potential Choke Artist: New Mexico
All the pundits seem to have fallen in love with the Lobos, but they’re still a Mountain West team who didn’t play many tough games all season. They play great defense, but they don’t seem to have anyone who can take over a game, which could make them vulnerable in the round of 32 against Arizona or hot-shooting Belmont.

Sleeper: Creighton
The Bluejays shoot the lights outs and have one of the best players in the country (Doug McDermott), but a lot of people seem to think Cincinnati will take them out in the 1st round. Think again. This is a veteran team that has tournament experience. They’ll be prepared for that first game and if they shoot the ball well, it’s not inconceivable that they could take Duke out either.

First 1 Seed to Fall: Gonzaga
Gonzaga deserves plenty of credit for what it has accomplished over the last 14 years, but the Bulldogs didn’t play anyone all season. They deserve to be where they are, but if any No. 1 seed is going down on the opening weekend, it’s probably them.

Final Four Predictions:
Louisville, Ohio State, Florida, Miami

Louisville over Miami 71-61 in the finals.

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Why I Coach...

Tuesday

Little League season starts soon and I always like to post this right around this time...

Anybody who thinks the Chicago Cubs are the most loveable losers in the world never met my little leaguers. Then again, no one has ever witnessed anyone, anywhere, lose quite like us. We were the Bad News Bears without a happy ending. We made the Washington Generals look first-class. I felt bad watching the runs pile up on my helpless little guys, but the other teams felt worse – you know things aren’t going well when the other coaches are rooting for you.

Winning just wasn’t our thing. Not that any of my little guys knew – once, after an especially bad whooping, one of my nine year olds tugged on my t-shirt and asked if we had won. Won? I gave him a perplexed look, “buddy, we didn’t even make it out of the batter’s box today.”

Such was life for my team during our 0-16 campaign. We struck out, we dodged groundballs, and for a bunch of fourth graders, we had an uncanny ability to remain clean (dirt also wasn’t our thing). But the truth is, I’ll probably remember the losing only slightly more than my team, and that’s only because I actually kept score for every game. It’s everything else, the hilarious stories and the head-scratching ones, the heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking tales that made this season memorable for me.

Teaching baseball to children is a lot like teaching someone to speak English. Every time they think they’re getting the hang of it, another crazy rule pops up and throws everything off. The “infield fly” rule is just a preposterous as “I” before “E” except after “C.” And why, as my first basemen once asked, can’t you just throw the ball at the runner to get him out? Monkey ball works in kickball.

The key is learning all the positions, but that also means knowing right from left, which can be tricky. Sometimes it can also be hard to pronounce the names of each spot on the field. For example, one kid spent the entire year asking to go to the mountain and I would always say no. I thought he was talking about the big pile of dirt behind out dugout. Turns out he meant the pitcher’s mound, and he took the hill in our final game. Jose hit four batters in a row.

My actual pitcher (we only had one) was a 3’2 seven year old who played right field and batted dead last on opening day and was the starting pitcher and leading off by game three. He was so tiny that our catcher (his brother) would often knock him over when throwing the ball back to him. But Joey knew that pitching was all about intimidation, so he’d wear eye-black to look older and make his “mean face” to strike fear in the hitters. That’s heart.

Of course, every team has an overachiever. Ours was our shortstop. Chris knew how to catch and could throw all the way across the diamond. He liked to dive and slide and even though he had an awful habit of throwing his bat after swinging, he made contact enough to be considered our best hitter. In one already out of reach game, a ball was hit to shallow left field and he made the greatest catch any of my kids had ever seen, so they did what the pros do: They jumped on top of him and celebrated as though it were the game-winning catch. One problem: It was only the second out of the inning and a runner tagged up and scored.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t laugh or smile at everything that happened this season. Sometimes reality hits hard. They old motto is “kids say the darndest things,” but in actuality, they’re brutally honest. Mom drinks too much. Dad’s never around and he doesn’t pay child support. Or we’re going to be homeless. Real life problems that winning in baseball won’t solve. My friends often tease me by comparing me to Keanu Reeves in “Hardball,” but the truth is, real life tends to be a lot less entertaining and a lot more eye-opening.

It’s the tear-jerking stories that make me want to come back and should make you want to get involved. Sometimes we don't realize that kids these days are lonelier than ever. Not every child has a reliable parent to turn to or someone willing to pay attention to them. Too many grow up with John Madden as their male role model and Grand Theft Auto has taught them far more about stolen cars than they will ever know about stolen bases.

It's really sad, especially when you hear from people who have already given up on a generation. Children need coaches and role models in their lives now more than ever. It's so easy too. Spend a couple hours a week with a youth. Mentor them. Coach them. Teach them. Do something.

It's not hard to have an impact on a child's life.

So make it happen.

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5 College Basketball Predictions

Saturday

March Madness is comings and it’s time for a couple of fearless predictions (click here for online betting, by the way).
 
1) With three teams in the top five, it’s safe to say that anything short of sending a team to the NCAA championship game would be a letdown for Big Ten basketball. But consider this: The conference hasn’t had a national champion since 2000 (Michigan State) and has only sent four teams to the Final Four since 2006.
 
Here’s one reason why: The league’s teams play the slowest brand of basketball of any major conference in the country. Over the last five years, only two teams have finished inside the top 50 in the country in scoring.  
 
They beat up on each other all year, but when it’s time to play a run-and-gun offense in the post season, these teams often struggle to keep the pace. Indiana could certainly change that this year; but don’t be surprised if the Big Ten ends up the Big Flop.
 
2) UNLV can get to the Final Four. They were one of the most talented teams in the country a year ago, but they kind of ran out of gas at the end of the season and then got a bad matchup in the tournament.
 
With one of the best recruiting classes in the country and Mike Moser back, the Rebels could officially return to prominence this year.
 
3) An all-Kentucky national championship game is worth betting on. Louisville might be the best team in the country and Kentucky again brings in the best recruiting class. If they played today, Louisville would be the favorite. If they play in March, it’s hard to best against John Calipari.
 
4) Sleeper alert: Baylor has a real chance to unseat Kansas as the kings of the Big 12. With a star-studded recruiting class and one of the nation’s best backcourts, this is a team that can make a serious run. They won’t win 30 games again because it will take a few months to put it all together, but I wouldn’t want to play the Bears in March.
 
5) Final Four Prediction: Louisville, Kentucky, UNLV, Florida.
 
Louisville over Kentucky in the finals.
 

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5 Key Predictions for College Football Season

Friday


The first weekend of college football is here and we’ve got 5 key predictions for the season

 1)      Neither Alabama nor Michigan will win the National Title.

Everyone seems to thinking the big prime-time game of the week will decide one half of the BCS title game, but they seem to forget that both of these teams have their flaws. Michigan is going to score plenty of points, but I’m not totally sold on their defense and judging by college football betting sites, neither is ‘Bama.  The Crimson Tide will struggle to make it out of the SEC this year.

 2)      The SEC is too Stacked

 This seems like an every year occurrence, but this year takes it to a whole new level. With 5 teams in top 10, I can’t see anyone coming out undefeated. And don’t be surprised if Florida, who is barely in the top 25 ends up winning the whole thing.

 3)      Never Bet on the Big 10

 Wisconsin has had the most talented team in the country three times in the last decade and they squandered it every year. Betting on the Badgers would be going to an MLB betting site and taking the Rangers to win the whole thing. The best team? Maybe. But they always find a way to screw it up.

4)      West Virginia is Going to be There in the End

 It’s their first year in the Big 12 and I expect WVU to not disappoint. Remember, this is a team that scored 70 points in the Orange Bowl last year. West Virginia is going to steamroll the entire conference and that includes Oklahoma the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

5)      National Championship: USC over West Virginia               

USC is absolutely loaded and has something to prove this season. The Trojans might have the best college football team since Miami in the early 2000s and I expect this team to cruise to the BCS title game.  Their only real hurdles are home games against Oregon and Notre Dame.

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MLB needs to promote its black players

Saturday

At our first Little League practice last week, I asked my players to introduce themselves by stating their name, favorite team and favorite major leaguer. Being from southern New England, the majority of them were either Red Sox or Yankees fans who loved David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. No surprise there. What was shocking was when one of my little guys raised his hand and told me Ken Griffey Jr. was his favorite player.

Yes that Ken Griffey Jr. The one whose batting stance I imitated when I was 12 years old. My favorite player. The one whose last 40 homerun season came a full year before any of my current players were born.

Do you realize it’s about time for “The Kid” to legally change his nickname to “The Grandpa?” Griffey is older than all of my players’ parents – by at least ten years.

It just goes to show you how far baseball still has to go in virtually every inner city in this country. And if you want to know just how sparse African-American participation is in baseball, start with Little League. The odds of seeing more than a couple black kids on any roster are slim-to-none, which is why when Connecticut baseball coach Jim Penders calls baseball a “white-collar” sport in this country, he might as well being saying it’s a white-faced game.

Penders isn’t the only one who has expressed concern in recent years. Not even close. In fact, at the beginning of every Major League season, the race issue becomes a major talking point. This season, Torii Hunter said that people don’t realize how bad it is because they see dark-skinned Latin players and assume they’re black. He referred to those players as “imposters.”

Many believe the reason less African-Americans are playing baseball is strictly a financial issue. In 2008, Penders told the New Haven Register that he recruits the best players who can afford to come to school, as opposed to just the best players. But that points to an across-the-board problem, one that affects Americans of all backgrounds and isn’t just happening in sports.

It still doesn’t explain why baseball continues to thrive even in poor white communities while it has become an afterthought in almost every urban area. The sport is becoming as segregated as hockey, golf or tennis in most parts of this country, which basically means an entire generation is missing out on our national pastime.

Like most of Major League Baseball’s problems, it has only itself to blame. The two most well-known black ball players right now are Griffey and Barry Bonds, the same as it was 15 years ago. But Griffey is at the tail end of his career and Bonds has essentially been banished from the game. Bud Selig and company have done an awful job in recent years at marketing any of the current African-American stars, all but passing up Jimmy Rollins, C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard in favor of guys like Joe Mauer and Tim Lincecum.

It’s not that Mauer and Lincecum don’t deserve to be stars, but when you have a serious lack of interest from the black community on your hands, why wouldn’t you make the effort to reach out using your most valuable assets? Fielder and Howard in particular have the ability to resonate with young fans the way Griffey and Bonds did in the nineties. Last year, Fielder took home the Home Run Derby -an event that is still quite popular with the Little League crowd- and Howard became the quickest ever to reach 200 homeruns, getting there in just 658 games.

It’s not just chicks who dig the long ball; it’s everyone, especially kids.

And Fielder and Howard and now Jason Heyward’s homeruns can reach the inner cities. These guys are young enough to be fan favorites for another decade and baseball needs to take advantage of that.

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