Philadelphia Sports: Letter A

Considering how professional sports in Philadelphia have officially gone down the toilet in 2015, I have elected to shine a spotlight on the players who gave this fanbase something to cheer about. 

There were plenty of ups and downs, yet there are players who will forever be known in the city of “Brotherly Love.” Over the next few weeks, there will be a Philadelphia Sports Alphabet, A-Z. 

Kicking things off with letter A, is none other than Hall of Fame center fielder, Richie Ashburn. 


Now remembered in Citizens Bank Park with the naming of “Asburn Alley”

Career Statistics

  • Hall of Fame inductee 1995
  • Phillies tenure: 1948-59
  • .308 hitter
  • 1,198 walks
  • 2,574 hits 
  • .397 on-base percentage
  • 6x All-Star 

Whether it was his bat or glove, Ashburn knew how to get the fans on their feet. His heart, hustle, and will to win were qualities that Philadelphia embraced. 

During his tenure, Ashburn a brought National League championship to the city in 1950 as a member of the “Whiz Kids.” 

Ashburn wasn’t quite done after his playing days, joining the media after retirement. The center fielder joined the Phillies’ broadcast team in 1963 and was the voice alongside Harry Kalas for over the next two decades, up until his death in 1997. 

Richie Ashburn was truly a fan favorite who put his speed, bat, and voice on display for nearly 50 years, earning him a top spot in the Philadelphia Sports alphabet. 

Famous quote: “To cure a batting slump, I took my bat to bed with me. I wanted to know my bat a little better.”










Throwing Away a Career

By: David DiPasqua, Jr. 

            Baseball’s Freedom Field back home was where it all began for Charlie. The fifteen year old had the best arm in the league with a good head on his shoulders. Parents across Fresno County labeled him the “perfect” child as the teenager did nothing wrong, received straight A’s, and was hands down the most talented athlete to ever go through the tiny town of Kingston. Didn’t hurt he was the definition of tall, dark, and handsome as well. In essence, he was a role model that the entire ninth grade looked up to. Girls wanted to date him. Boys wanted to be him. The golden boy could do no wrong with his gold cross, black collared shirts, khaki shorts, white socks, and black Converse sneakers. Hell, the kid was color coordinated every day of grade school. Talking was not his strong suit, mostly keeping to himself unless Blake, the school bully was on the prowl. Blake was the type of child who was a product of his own home environment. Coming to school with fresh shiners underneath his right eye, but Charlie had a problem when he attempted to inflict verbal or physical pain on other students.

            High school is a tough time for students as everyone is attempting to find their niche. Fat jokes stunk up the hallways as the bathrooms were reserved more for crying. It was a rough time for almost everyone, except Charlie. Nothing could faze the kid. His 6 foot, 3 inch frame as a freshman attending Freedom High School intimated most students, especially the seniors. His number one enemy happened to be the senior captain on the baseball team, Blake Doyle. As a junior, Blake had a .595 batting average with 17 home runs en route to the first state finals appearance in school history. Coach Harrison admitted that Doyle had the makings of a Division I ballplayer, except for his large ego. He was a cancer in the locker room, cursing at his teammates for not making plays in the field.

“He bitches in the locker room. Completely yells at his father in the stands during a game. He throws his bat against the cage when he strikes out. I’ve seen five year olds throw the same temper tantrums,” Coach Harrison said to a handful of parents on the team at the last team meeting in June.

Coach Harrison fielded several complaints about Blake, but could never do anything about it. His father was on the school board, his son was the best player in the past decade, and brought in a significant amount of revenue to the school. His hands were tied. Mr. Doyle was in charge of the schoolboard. He only showed up to the mandatory meetings, yet the issues always revolved around his son. The lack of returning players this upcoming season was directly his fault, but what could be done? Freedom High School was receiving major media coverage from local news outlets and ESPN. 

            By the second week of school, Charlie was sick of the pain that Blake was inflicting on the freshman class. Girls, guys, it didn’t make a difference to him. Charlie decided enough was enough and did something about it after school let out.

.           “Hey Blake, cut it out. These guys did nothing to you. Leave them alone.”

            “What you going to do about it golden boy? Go cry to a teacher,” said Blake.

So, Charlie acted as if he was walking away. Five seconds went by and bam! Charlie quickly turned around and gave him a right hook that landed square in his face. Blake fell like a sack of potatoes on the cement. Nose was clearly busted, causing blood to run over his Nike Dry-fit t-shirt. The big bully got up, attempting to make a run at Charlie. He dodged the left jab thrown and delivered another hook to his face. Blake was down for the count. From that point on, Charlie earned the respect of students, teachers, and even Blake. That didn’t mean Blake stopped being a jerk to everyone in school. He thought he was going play professional baseball, giving him the right to do whatever he wanted.

Charlie came to the rescue of hundreds of innocent victims who fell under the wrath of Blake or other bullies. Fists did fly on a few occasions, yet his big frame would overwhelm his opponents. He fought for all the right reasons, earning the respect of his peers. Bullying would not be tolerated on his watch. These acts of kindness earned Charlie the nickname of “Captain America” and class president of ninth grade. The funny part was that his name was not even on the ballot. Students wrote in his name at the bottom of the tiny pieces of paper, whispering to one another that he would be the best candidate. Rumors spread like wildfire at school. Instagram was even using the hashtag #VoteForCharlie.  Before you know it, Charlie was receiving more votes than the three candidates, Emily Blatter, Alex Smith, and Dan Dotter combined. All three individuals were not even disappointed in the decision as they knew he would do a great job. The final tally was 195 votes for Charlie, 72 for Alex, 64 for Emily, and 48 for Dan.

Emily said in the school newspaper that “Charlie has proven to us that he’s willing to go the extra mile to make everyone feel safe and secure in our school environment.”

            He was old fashioned with manners that made him more mature for his age. Charlie asked Ms. Johnson if he was allowed to speak to his peers during the assembly Thursday afternoon. She was hesitant at first, but shook her head with a wink in agreement after a minute. Ms. Johnson was straight out of college, immediately gaining the attention of all the boys in school. She was trying to secure a job at the school by being in charge of several clubs including student council. So, Charlie spoke at the back-to-school assembly.

“Thank you to all my classmates who nominated me, but I will have to respectfully decline the position. I do not have the time to completely dedicate myself to the class.”

There was a standing ovation, even though Alex took over after the resignation. Ten seconds later, students rushed out of the auditorium, including Charlie for a four day weekend of fun without homework, teachers, or any obligations. Once the bell rang, Charlie disappeared into the distance. He typically walked home, cutting through the local baseball field and playground. Communicating with him via text or social media was nearly impossible on weekends, since his Facebook account was basically nonexistent. He didn’t have a Twitter, but used Instagram on occasion. Text messages on his iPhone 6 were marked as read, without a response. This was unusual for most people in this day and age, but Charlie was so cool that people ignored it.

            Trevor, the school reporter felt compelled to find out the truth on the situation. His life revolved around reruns of Channel 6 News’ clips via YouTube and gathered tips on how to become a better investigative reporter. Beside him was a brown leather briefcase that he brought to every class. His role models growing up were Woodward and Bernstein.

“I’m always busy on the weekends with sports, family, and other obligations” Charlie told Trevor for years.

Trevor never took no for an answer. That day, Trevor secretly followed him all the way home for an inside scoop. He lied to his mom and said he went to the playground across the street with friends. It was only a half mile bike ride from his house, making it easy to travel back and forth. After Friday night, he became obsessed. Sleeping over Dan’s house next door was a mission to just find out any more details on him. Dan was a staff writer on the newspaper who repeatedly told him that there was no weird activity was going on, but nobody was nearly as dedicated as Trevor.

“Wouldn’t you rather play video games with us? Can’t you just drop it?” Dan remarked.

Trevor was enraged by his comment, furious that Dan would give up on a front page news story.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this story if you like it or not Dan!”

Dan’s parents got whiff of Trevor’s intentions and only allowed him to stay the one night. While Dan played Madden on his Xbox, Trevor took notes on his iPad about the house. Nobody ever entered or left the property. The two bedroom blue house on the corner of Bay Avenue sat on top of a hill. Finally on day three, something happened that changed everything. Trevor’s mom called and told him to come home. There was some resistance on his part, but he eventually caved in. His favorite meal of steak and mac n cheese was too good to resist. Trevor hopped on his bike and peddled his way home before the clock struck 7. The only child was spoiled. Living with a single mom was difficult, but they made it work by giving him everything he ever wanted.

When the sun went down, it was time to investigate. His bedroom window was low enough to the ground that he was able to sneak in and out without being detected. His mother worked the night shift as a nurse at the local hospital in town, allowing him adequate amount of time to go down the street before she got home. Not everybody had it easy. Trevor was invisible when he walked through the halls. He wanted to be remembered. This story could be his big break. The minute he heard the 2004 Hyundai Accent pullout of the driveway, it was show time.

            Trevor grabbed his mountain bike and dashed his way to the playground. However there was something else that grabbed his attention. Freedom field’s scoreboard was lit up for some reason. The lights were dimmed but it was obvious somebody was in the press box. This could be an opportunity for another story. Flashes of front page headlines ran through his mind. Out of pure curiosity, he made his way toward the field. The scoreboard suddenly turned off. If you turned your head for a minute, you would have missed it. Trevor plopped his bike next to the snack bar that still had that hotdog aroma from the games played earlier. Alongside the snack bar were the records for the most home runs, strikeouts, and wins in the league’s history. It was like a shrine as they all had Charlie DeStefano 2014 in each slot. This made Trevor laugh, but he caught himself with his hand, covering his mouth. Somebody walked around the corner into the dugout. This has potential! Let’s sneak behind the bleachers for a better view. It was clear that two individuals went in, but only one person left. Trevor had a slight smirk on his face as he reached into his briefcase for his iPad. He waited for anybody to come out as the darkness allowed him to slowly make his way to the dugout. Hands were shaking, without knowing what was in store for him.

            From behind, Trevor heard footsteps quickly approaching him. He quickly stashed the iPad into the briefcase and ran to his bike. His glasses fell to the ground, leaving him blind as a bat. Scared, blind, and out of breathe was Trevor. On top of it all, he was now in a foot race with a stranger that was faster than him. As he turned the corner, a fist connected with his face. I’m going to die. I’m going to die ran, through Trevor’s mind. Immediately he dropped to the ground without recollection of where he was. When Trevor woke up, everything was a blur. A pounding headache combined with a scrape down his left elbow put him in excruciating pain. Trevor reached for his iPhone in his pocket, which was smashed when he fell. Screaming for help at the top of his lungs was the first solution. The throbbing pain from his head stopped that idea after three shouts of help. Calling 911 was out of the question, since the phone broke and he was not supposed to be out after dark to begin with. Alone and confused, it was time to go home.

            Ten feet away was Trevor’s bike with a hole cut into the back wheel. The briefcase containing the iPad was gone. Only piece of evidence left at the scene was a pair of fifty dollar bills beside the front wheel of the bike. So he picked them up and slowly walked back to his house in the middle of the night, vomiting on the neighbor’s lawn before crawling back into his room. Finding out who was the culprit became the number one priority on his list. After a restless night of sleep, it was time to pop in some Advil, pullout the first aid kit, and go to work. First thing on the to-do list was to check his email. Luckily, there was an update on his iCloud account showing a video that transpired last night. A ha! This is the moment I have been waiting for. He hopped onto his laptop and dissected the pitch dark video with a fine-toothed comb.

            Images of a gold cross flashed across the screen. There was only one person that had that type of jewelry… It had to be Charlie. Maybe “Captain America” was not so innocent after all! Charlie’s face was covered up with a Giants hat, but that HAD to be him. There was a woman in the picture too. She looked oddly familiar with blonde hair, brown eyes, and a black dress. It took 15 minutes to realize it, but there was a Freedom badge hanging from her neck. The bright orange stood out, representing the Flyers.

            “Oh my god! It was Ms. Johnson. She was with Charlie last night. This could be my big break, the scandal of the year!”

Trevor connected the dots. The money must have belonged to Ms. Johnson, who was up to something. What was so important that it had to occur in the middle of the night at a baseball field without any witnesses? Then the big assumption came. Charlie and Ms. Johnson were having a secret relationship. This was plausible as Charlie never seemed to be home or in contact on weekends. His parents never attended any meetings, sporting events, or even the graduation ceremony from middle school. Headlines began running through his mind. The golden boy has secret relationship with teacher. Student was hot for teacher. Teacher seduces high school freshman. These were big assumptions. It was time to investigate the hottest teacher in school and the most famous child to every walk the streets of Fresno County. Video wasn’t enough. Trevor needed more proof.

When Trevor’s mom woke up in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, it was made clear that he was not attending school the next day. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that her son snuck out of the house. His missing glasses, a welt underneath his eye, and a clear cut on his elbow gave the impression that he was robbed. The most horrific feeling was seeing her son injured and not being able to come to her for help.

“Ma, I fell off my bike after you left for work. I wanted to hang with my friends. Relax. I’m fine.”

“NO you are NOT fine. You are grounded until further notice. Now go sit on the couch.”

As a nurse, she knew the protocols for a concussion. Trevor sat on the couch as she conducted several basic tests. Results indicated that he had demonstrated signs of nausea, fatigue, and a massive headache. Due to his condition, school was out of the question. So, Trevor emailed Dan to ask Charlie a few basic questions to see if he would mention anything.

Dan responded to the email with two letters, “N.O.”

Trevor was on his own if he wanted to find out the truth.  He was anxious to pester him with questions about this weekend. When Monday morning rolled around, Charlie was willing to answer his phone. Nothing was new as he failed to directly answer the questions, but did it in such a polite tone you would have thought he was running for office. Trevor was absent for a week, but finally returned to school with a new found confidence that Charlie was guilty. His locker was easy to spot, being the last one next to the fire hydrant at the end of the hallway. The combination of 8-24-2 was inserted and there stood the iPad! Somebody broke into his locker to deliver the briefcase with a sticky note attached.

It read, “Leave him alone. I am watching you.”

This gave Trevor the chills as he felt somebody was now gunning for him. Whoever it was, they knew their stuff about technology. They hacked their way into the iCloud account and erased the entire hard drive. Obviously, they waited for the perfect moment because they knew Trevor was at home all week watching the film. Everyone will now think Trevor was making stuff up. Weeks went by, but not a shred of evidence came to light. The video was useless, Charlie was perfect, Ms. Johnson was an actual teacher, and now back to square one.

Weeks turned into months and before long, nothing materialized out of the story. The end of March was the most important time of year for Freedom. It was baseball season. Tryouts brought national attention, which meant this could be his big shot. Headlining the team were the freshman phenom Charlie DeStefano and pro prospect Blake Doyle. This was hands down the best duo in the sunshine state, producing numbers that were unheard of. Blake was the cleanup hitter, smashing balls over the leftfield fence nearly every game. Charlie used his cannon of an arm for five complete game shutouts. Nobody had ever seen an arm like this. The southpaw threw in the upper 90s, while also having a cutter, changeup, curve, and slider in his arsenal. By midseason, the team was undefeated with a 13-0 record.

ESPN interviewed Charlie after the most recent victory over their rival Riverdale.

“It feels great to be out here on a major stage and producing. We have some great fans that have supported us the entire year. We are looking forward to the playoffs.”

Trevor wrote the games up for the newspaper, but paid extra attention to Ms. Johnson who cheered on the Flyers at every baseball game. The odd part was that she went to the away games too. Maybe she was just a big fan, but who knows… The farther the team went, the more media attention followed. There were scouts from every university and professional team lined up along the batting cages to see Blake and Charlie play. From Boston College University to the Texas Rangers, everybody wanted to catch a glimpse of their talent. This 1-2 punch landed them on the cover of Sports Illustrated, adding more exposure to the high school.

A perfect record was on the line as the Flyers made it to the state championship game for the second consecutive season. Coach Harrison was ecstatic, mentioning how far the team chemistry has gone.

Coach, Ryan Gillan of CBS sports, “What’s the difference for your team this season?”

Harrison says, Charlie DeStefano with a giant smile on his face.

“Charlie has become the glue for this team. He plays like a proven senior. Just look at the stats. 12-0 record, 100 innings pitched, 0.85 ERA, and a 167 strikeouts. He’s a leader on and off the field. The team is having fun. That’s the biggest difference from last season.”

The championship game is scheduled to be played on Sunday, at Freedom field, allowing a week of preparation for both teams. Standing in their way of a state title was rival Riverdale. This was the game of the century. Friends, family, alumni, among others were flying in from all over the country to see if the Flyers could go undefeated. The ticker at the bottom of ESPN read,

“Freedom High School takes on Riverdale in the state final. DeStefano (12-0) vs. Marlow (10-4). First pitch is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.”

Everyone on the team felt like celebrities, constantly being interviewed by journalists. Several teachers did not mind being on the local news, discussing the student-athletes. All of the special attention made Ms. Johnson queasy, avoiding reporters at all cost. She hid in her classroom, waiting for the press to go home. Thursday was an awful day as something triggered waterworks. Coach Harrison saw the young teacher crying as she dashed to her 2009 black mustang, which was parked directly next to the exit. It was an escape route.

The last day of school before the big game had severe complications. Nobody was to be late for class or get into trouble. Coach Harrison sent an email preparing the team for Sunday.

“Get a goodnight sleep. Eat healthy. Don’t let the press get in your head. Focus on the game. Be ready come game day.” –Coach Harrison

Not once did it say anything about grades or being a student-athlete. The exposure seemed to be getting to Blake, as his head was in the clouds during practice. Friday’s closed practice to the media was by far his worst performance of the season. Trevor normally stuck around, trying to get a quote for the school paper. Blake signaled over to Trevor,

“Meet me at 8 on the field if you want an interview. It’ll be worth it.”

It seemed like a trick, but it was worth the risk. The sun went down. Trevor arrived 15 minutes early, since his ma said he wasn’t allowed to stay out past 8:30. His grandmother came to stay after the last fiasco. To his surprise, Blake sat on the dugout with a paper bag in his right hand.

“Blake, what’s so important?

“Well, Trevor here you go. Sorry about everything.”

He handed him the paper bag and walked away. Trevor took a peek inside. It contained a black flash drive. What the heck could be on the drive? He’s probably making fun of me again. Trevor didn’t think much about it.  He stuffed it into his jean pocket, listening to his iPod on the walk home. He walked into his room and stuck the drive into his computer. There were three documents available to view.

The first was the erased video! Blake must have been the one who took my bag. After watching it again, it was very dark to see the two people in the picture. However, the second document was the smoking gun! There were months of documented emails between Blake’s father and Ms. Johnson. Ms. Johnson was having a secret relationship with Mr. Doyle. In return, she supplied the answers to all the Math exams for a small fee. He thought that Blake couldn’t do it on his own. All my evidence was here. Location, time, and people involved.

Charlie was innocent. The flashes of the gold cross belonged to Mr. Doyle. Anyway, document three displayed a picture of a written letter Mr. Doyle wrote to the young teacher. It was short, but stated:

“You were fun while it lasted. You served a purpose. If you want to keep your job, keep your mouth shut.”

Trevor’s jaw dropped. It was time to write the story. Timing meant everything though. Attaching Blake’s name brought credibility to the story. ESPN would have thought the story was a fake, until Ms. Johnson called his cell phone. It was easy to obtain, since it is the first option on the internet when you google his name. His Facebook account had all his contact information, in addition to email. Blake must have told her that he was tired of being abused. It was time to make a statement. Baseball was only a sport. It was time to make a stand against his father.

The story broke Saturday night. All the major networks had their own headline for the story. Reporters knocked on Ms. Johnson’s door, wanting to hear whether the news was true.

            “That son of a bitch Doyle is going down. He beats his own son. Manipulates people to get what he wants. I was trapped. Admitting it now before the big game takes away all his hard work. This was the ultimate slap in the face.”

            Emails and video evidence was enough to arrest Mr. Doyle. Blake never returned home that night as he knew a fist was awaiting him. Instead he went to Charlie’s house. Three knocks on the door the next morning placed Blake’s father into police custody. Reporters flocked to the tiny apartment as the phrase “no comment” was being shouted as he was taken into the vehicle.

            Charlie spoke in front of the entire team before practice in private. The clubhouse door was unlocked, allowing them to discuss what occurred. Coaches listened in.

            “Yes, the reports are true about Blake’s father. Blake will not be playing tomorrow. We must understand that this moment is larger than some baseball game.”

            The players stood united, willing to fight for their teammate who was going through a tough time. His entire life revolved around what his father wanted. He never had a say. This led to the biggest scandal in Fresno County. From the news to trending hashtags, Freedom High School was in the media for all the wrong reasons. Ms. Johnson’s involvement regarding academics forced the Flyers’ to forfeit the title game. Blake’s math grades were under investigation, in addition to the rest of the teams. The school became under scrutiny over the summer. Pending investigation, the rest of the team was cleared besides Blake. He had to retake the Calculus course over the summer, even though he was selected in the second round of the Major League Draft. Charlie stood by his side when he received the phone call by the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was the first time Blake smiled since the incident. Both went out to the local Lids store to pick up a Pirates cap.

            “Blake I’ll always have your back. We are family. Just remember me when you get to the show,” Charlie said with a smirk.

West Chester Football Transitions into PSAC East Champions

By: David DiPasqua & Amber McNeila

West Chester University’s roller-coaster season has consisted of growing pains with four new captains entering their 2015 campaign, but the team prevailed en route to their first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division title since 2008.

The Golden Rams (7-3, 6-1 PSAC East) tackled several issues this season, including the new leadership as well as the controversy of losing All-American tight-end Tim Brown for an ineligibility technicality deemed by the NCAA. Taking responsibility as the captains on the squad were the individuals of Andrew Cohen, Brandon Pepper, Tim Brown, and Brandon Monk.

Head coach Bill Zwann entered his thirteenth year at the helm, acknowledging the amount of youth on the roster. In order to gain the trust of their teammates, the leaders have instilled a lead by example approach. It took some time to gel, but West Chester would eventually catch their stride.

Adapting to a young quarterback such as sophomore Pat Moriarty has been difficult, especially when the team fell into a 0-2 hole to begin the season. Lenoir Rhyne ran past the Golden Rams in the season opener, surrendering over 400 yards on the ground to the team who defeated them in the NCAA DII football final four, two years ago. Unfortunately, West Chester’s lack of experience showed as they were plagued by turnovers, ultimately losing 41-28. The absence of Tim Brown truly hurt the squad, missing his presence on-and-off the field.

In late August, Brown was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to a semester violation. Collegiate athletes are afforded ten semesters of full-time classwork, before their athletic eligibility runs out. There was an error in the process, which placed Brown in his tenth full-time semester last spring. This was a glaring weakness as Brown compiled 53 receptions for 1,059 yards and 17 touchdowns a season ago and was clearly a leader in the locker room. Although an appeal was submitted by coach Zwaan, the decision by the NCAA was later overturned after two weeks to fire up his teammates.

After this rough home opener, it would take another week for the Golden Rams to find their groove. In week three, the Golden Rams traveled to Seton Hill after blowing a fourth quarter lead to Mercyhurst in week two. Players began to lose faith in the leadership on the squad, but having Brown return was a bonus that changed the team’s attitude into a winning mentality.

The rough start had players shaking their heads, but any questions about West Chester’s ability evaporated after ripping off a four game winning streak against PSAC opponents, Seton Hill, Millersville, Lock Haven, and Kutztown by a combined score of 173 to 64, or an average of 43 to 16. West Chester was clicking on all cylinders, especially by the play of their senior defensive back, Brandon Pepper and fellow captain Andrew Cohen on the defensive line. The Golden Rams have held their opponents to 23 points per game, while the offense lights up the scoreboard with a staggering 36 points on average.

Midway through the season is where the tough stretch of games came into play. West Chester’s winning streak was snapped at Shippensburg, once again allowing turnovers to get the best of them. Despite the tough loss, coach Zwaan’s squad was able to rebound in time for their homecoming game against rival Bloomsburg University on October 24th. In a tight game, the Golden Rams and Huskies traded the lead multiple times. However, West Chester’s Shaquil James delivered the final knockout punch, intercepting the ball in the final seconds to secure the victory. The sophomore stepped up in a time of need, illustrating that underclassmen have played a pivotal role in this team’s success.

Last Saturday is where the Golden Ram’s truly shined, hosting East Stroudsburg for an opportunity for the division title. The stadium was rocking as the Warriors fell short of a furious comeback they displayed in the fourth quarter. West Chester held onto a 41-27 win, giving coach Zwaan his fourth PSAC Eastern Division title during his tenure (2004, 2007, 2008, 2015).

The statistics speak for themselves. Everyone is contributing in a variety of ways. Cohen has been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive front with 11.5 sacks, while quarterback Pat Moriarty has given this team a lift by throwing for 26 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards this season.

With the playoffs only days away, hopefully the Golden Rams carry that same passion and intensity into Saturday as the leaders of the team have found a way to channel their energy to motivate the team.

West Chester takes on Slippery Rock (9-1, 6-1 PSAC West) for the 2015 PSAC Championship Game this upcoming Saturday, November, 14th at 12:10 p.m. inside John A. Farrell Stadium.

Marple Newtown Clinches District One Class AAA Playoff Birth

By: David DiPasqua, Jr.

Marple Newtown’s historic season continues, returning to the District One Class AAA playoffs for the first time since 2011.

The Tigers (8-2, 6-2) are hungry for their first playoff win in school history, traveling to Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania for a matchup with the Pottsgrove Falcons.  In head coach Chris Gicking’s second season, he acknowledges the hard work that everyone has put in for this opportunity in the playoffs.

“I’m really proud of the kids and coaches for all their hard work and that is something I’ve been saying since week one. It’s great to have the support from the administration and community to make it that much easier,” Gicking said.

A major part of the success this season can be contributed to the senior leadership on offense, defense, and special teams. With sixteen seniors on the roster, experience has been a key attribute for coach Gicking’s squad.

The coach noted how “these seniors have led by example, vocally, among other ways. Everyone has their own role and does it as best as they can. They are great kids as well as a great class.”

The vocal point of the offense has been centered on the play of All-Delco wide receiver Abel Hoff.Marple Newtown’s entered the season with high expectation after breaking the school and Delaware County single season record with 70 receptions in his junior campaign.

The senior captain picked up where he left off, leading the team statistically through the air and on the ground. Thus far, Hoff has reeled in 59 receptions for 909 yards and 9 touchdowns. On the ground, Hoff showcased his versatility by being the team’s leading rusher, compiling 425 yards on 87 carries, finding the end zone 6 times.

“I feel extremely blessed to have had the career I’ve had. It’s amazing to see all of our hard work payoff. I love playing with my brothers and its awesome being able to get them fired up by making big-plays,” Hoff remarked.

An added compliment to Hoff on the outside has been the play of former quarterback Marcus Weathers. The senior transitioned to wide receiver in the off-season, allowing his 6’1” frame to create mismatches in the secondary against the opposition. This decision gave the Tigers another vertical threat down the field, while allowing sophomore Anthony Paoletti to take the tabbed as the starting quarterback.

Paoletti has stepped into this starting role without hesitation, playing like a proven veteran in coach Gicking’s system. As the season has progressed, the sophomore has felt more comfortable in the offense.

Paoletti accredits this to the senior leadership, stating “since this is my first year at the varsity level, I didn’t really know what to expect, but our captains and others senior leaders have helped me a lot throughout the season.”

The sophomore quarterback has flung the ball around to his playmakers, throwing for 1,496 yards, which are the most passing yards in a season for a Marple Newtown quarterback in over a decade. Additionally, Paoletti has chipped in a total of 14 total touchdowns, 12 through the air and a pair on the ground.

Ever since his Marple Junior Tiger days, Paoletti has been eager to play under those Friday night lights. The playoffs are “a huge accomplishment for me and my teammates as we are able to go into the playoffs this year. We can’t wait to get practice started this week.”

In order for players such as Hoff and Paoletti to have success, the offensive line must be doing their job as well. The big guys upfront deserve a nod for the success this team has had this season.

Defensively, the Tigers have had a stout defense that has only allowed 10.3 points per game. With three shutouts on the season, the Tigers’ defense is certainly one of their strong suits moving forward.

Clogging the running lanes has been the play of linebacker Gino DiCamillo. The senior has the most stops on the team with 72 tackles, leading the Tigers for the second consecutive season in that category.

Noah Turner has been a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, contributing 60 tackles, 5 sacks, and 15.5 tackles for loss. The 5 sacks are the most as a Tiger since Chris Kurkian back in 2010.

Joining DiCamillo and Turner has been the play of his counterparts, Matt McKee, Kyle Kelly, Matt Trainor, Justin McKeown, amongst others who have gotten after the opposition.

Executing the game plan is what the Tigers have done all season. “My father [Harry Gicking] is a perfectionist on defense and starts with him, but the kids have done a great job of executing. The defense has been amazing,” Gicking remarked.

A key contributor in secondary has been the superb play by junior Carmen Christiana. In his second season at safety, Christiana has proven to be a reliable last line of defense with 57 stops and an interception.

The Tigers have been clicking on all three phases this season, including special teams with the play of George Lambritsios. The two-sport student-athlete has excelled in soccer with All-Central league honors as well as on the gridiron. Lambritsios this season has connected on 63% (7-11) of his field goals with a long of 45.

Defeating Strath Haven last Friday night secured the Tigers’ eighth eight-win season in school’s history.

Hoff has one last comment, mentioning that “we are not finished with this season yet, like coach Harry Gicking says we have to ‘finish the job.’ I’m not ready to hang it up and neither are any of the seniors.”

Coach Gicking shares Hoff’s enthusiasm by mentioning how “Marple Newtown is going to give everything we got. We know Pottsgrove is an excellent program and has been for a very long time. Coach Pennypacker has done an amazing job there. We have our work cut out for us. We are going to go up there and give it everything we have.”

Marple Newtown heads to Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania for a District One Class AAA playoff first round matchup this upcoming Friday, November 13th at 7 p.m. at Pottsgrove High School.

Live coverage of the District One Class AAA playoff game will be provided by the Tigers Radio Network, which can be found at

Philadelphia is to Blame for Toronto’s Antics

Despite being nicknamed the “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia has been noted as the most hated fan base in sports according to Sports Illustrated, GQ, among others. 

This is a direct result of Eagles’ fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus nearly 50 years ago. Do not worry though, Toronto Blue Jays fans can throw beer cans onto the field during the seventh inning of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers and get away with it. If in Philadelphia, this would have been without a doubt been on the front page of every newspaper across the country. 

The media controls everything in today’s age. Toronto fans elected to voice their displeasure  against the controversial ruling on October 15th by throwing beer onto the field. This is unacceptable in any fashion. Imagine if this situation occurred in Philadelphia. The media would have gone bananas! 

From SportsCenter to talk radio, the media would have blasted the fan base with all the prior events that have transpired. People are quick to bring up Santa Claus or back in 1999, when fans chucked batteries at St. Louis Cardinal, J.D. Drew. Drew had a rough past with Philadelphia, causing the incident. The reputation of being “bad boys” has remained intact. Those who wear the Philly colors would prefer the term “die-hard” fans instead of these negative connotations. 

GQ ranked the worst fan bases in America and… Surprise, surprise they ranked Philadelphia number one and two! The passion for their team is apparently taken too far by fans. The display of poor behavior has allowed reporters or commentators to bad mouth the fan base. However the actions by Toronto are an afterthought. 

Is Philly really to blame? Toronto fans knew better than putting incident men, women, and children in harm’s way. 

The safety of the fans, players, and the media must be a priority. Unfortunately, when situations get out of hand there are severe consequences. In the case of Toronto, Albert Grummitt was arrested for throwing a beer can that nearly hit a woman with her baby. The revision of beer sales comes two weeks too late. Adults are acting like toddlers, forcing the hand of the league to instill tougher policies. 

This action was a complete disgrace, which requires action from the league. Nothing surfaced from the commissioner’s office, but instead the selling of beer cans in the upper decks was suspended for the American League Championship Series this week. Beer cans have been substituted for plastic cups, but it’s not enough. For the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, employees are told to keep the caps of any bottles so that fans do not throw them on the field. 

Are these the type of values that Toronto fans want to teach the younger generation? I know it was only a small proportion of people, yet it is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. This is not the type of exposure that Major League Baseball wants, but for Philadelphia this is usual behavior? They are easily blamed, since they have a horrific past full of incidents and apparently obnoxious fans. 

Let’s double-check events that have transpired over the past decade in Canada: 

Doesn’t sound like Toronto is as innocent as people make them out to be? They can burn stores and riot, but Philadelphia becomes frowned upon when a former Phillie in Chase Utley makes a hustle play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the postseason.

The trade to send Utley to the Dodgers this season broke several thousand hearts in the Philadelphia area, considering he was a fan favorite. The Dodgers added the veteran for his postseason experience and boy did it payoff. Utley’s completely legal slide knocked out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS. The Mets are currently in the World Series, but cannot escape the controversy. 

The video went viral as it made headlines across the country. You are the umpire in that situation, was the slide legal? Talk shows and experts examined how the play was dirty, despite Utley’s hustle to break-up the play. 

Just another reason to bash Philadelphia, since Utley played the majority of his career in a city that desperately wants to win at all cost. It is a tough crowd to win over, but the all-star stole the hearts of fans in this city. Fans loved his hustle by running out ground balls and putting his body on the line. He also did manage to help bring home a World Series in 2008 as well. However people around the league do think differently. 

Players need to feel protected. Even though I feel that Utley’s actions were legal, there are plenty of people who disagree. They believe that the intent was clearly to hurt Tejada. Several MLB players have been injured over the past decade from collisions at home to plate to being struck in the face by a fastball. A violent collision at home plate ended San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey’s season a few years ago, creating a recent rule change. The rules changed so that any base-runner could not deliberately initiate contact with the catcher. It’s shocking that this not Philadelphia’s fault too. 

Utley’s slide was placed in the spotlight, placing the league in a big predicament. The league is leaning toward no contact all the way around, tolerating less and less from players on the field. This displays the type of society we live in, but that is not necessarily a positive. Fans want to see action. Utley was embraced by this style of play in the “City of Brotherly Love.” 

Remember, there are always to be consequences to your actions. Toronto must learn from their mistakes and move on. The media must recognize that this is a significant story, even if it does not transpire in Philadelphia. Major League Baseball needs to place an emphasis on cleaning up the game off the field as well as on it. Philadelphia sports fans cannot be blamed for everything when something goes wrong. Toronto’s antics over the past decade are just as bad as the city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus. 

Controversy Equals Ratings for MLB

“America’s Pastime” or more formerly known as Major League Baseball has quickly managed to plunge itself down the toilet in regards to television ratings over the past decade.

Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivered in the clutch, giving baseball the spark it was looking for to turn the tide. Utley’s completely LEGAL slide knocked out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS. The video went viral as it made headlines across the country. You are the umpire in the situation, was the slide legal? 

Was the slide legal or not? Utley was handed a 2 game suspension for his actions against Tejada, but the former Phillie appealed the suspension believing his slide was just. Regardless, the slide is one of the major reasons why there has been a dramatic increase in the ratings. The Nielsen indicated that it is the highest it has been since 2010 with 3.74 million viewers as of Monday. Additionally, ratings have increased 9% from last season. 

Though controversial, the takeout slide at second base brought drama, passion, and most importantly viewers to a sport that desperately needed it. Despite breaking Tejada’s fibula on the play, fans want to see players put their bodies on the line even if it means putting themselves at risk for injury. 

Player safety is an afterthought, even though the health of the players should be a number one priority. People pay to watch their team fight for every inch, even if it means broken bones. Baseball wants to the capture that intensity and drama when it pertains to the postseason. 

People today are calling the game of baseball too long, boring, and my personal favorite a snooze-fest. New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made several attempts to attract viewers, but the product on the field is not doing the job. Competing with the likes of the National Football League is an uphill battle when it comes to the months of September and October. Football provides the highlight reel touchdowns and hits that Sports Center wants to air.

Baseball is a different breed. In a winning at all cost society, the younger generations will be the ones who suffer the most from the consequences. Here are my four takeaways on what fans must recognize: 

1. Player safety can’t be ignored any longer. Players need to feel protected. Even though I feel that Utley’s actions were legal, there are plenty of people who disagree. They believe that the intent was to clearly hurt Tejada. Several MLB players have been injured over the past decade from collisions at home to plate to being struck in the face by a fastball. Despite the attempt of creating new rules such as eliminating collisions at home plate, there needs to be enforced before these plays actually occur. 

Utley’s slide was placed in the spotlight, placing the league in a big predicament. The league is leaning toward no contact all the way around, tolerating less and less from players on the field. This displays the type of society we live in, but that is not necessarily a positive. Fans want to see action. Players need to reflect upon the types of injuries that occur and why it is a big deal to the general public. Professional athletes are not the only individuals going through this. People of all ages need to speak up.

2. Scary thought that horrific actions by fans are still being tolerated. A controversial call in the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays game brought beer cans to the field in the seventh inning. Fans elected to voice their displeasure by throwing beer onto the field. In what world is this acceptable?

If this happened in Philadelphia for example, the media would have been talking about how much of a disgrace the Philadelphia fan base truly is for weeks. Instead, the actions are an afterthought in Toronto. Is this the type of exposure that the league wants? Are these the type of values that Toronto fans want to teach the younger generation? I know it was only a small proportion of people, yet it is a significant issue that needs to be addressed. The safety of the fans, players, and the media must be acknowledged as well in these circumstances. 

3. This is NOT the way the MLB wants to promote toward younger generations. The postseason is where heroes are made. Children idolize specific players, especially when the game is on the line. They will imitate their actions, whether they are right or wrong. What is going to happen next spring when a 10 year old decides to takeout a shortstop because he saw Chase Utley do it? Coaches preach fundamentals, but there are only so many things a coach can do. 

What about a son for example throwing a beer can on the field because he saw his father do it? Then the benches clearing brawl in the Toronto game. It never ends. These are not the types of publicity the league wants to endorse. Teaching the younger generations the correct way to play and act are a necessity. Major League Baseball ratings are jumping in the right direction, but at the cost of turning the game into a circus. These are serious issues to address. Just because it makes the game more entertaining, does not make it politically correct. Save the game that once was loved by so many. Showcase to the younger ages that professionals are adults that play the game the RIGHT way. 

4. Sportsmanship is a requirement, not an option. Is it really that hard to showcase sportsmanship? Shaking hands or following the rules have been transpiring since little league. Recently, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays administered behavior that caught the attention of the media. Bautista blasted a home run against the Texas Rangers that essentially sealed the victory for Toronto. During the home run swing, Bautista flipped his bat while staring down the opposing pitcher. This was a big NO-NO in the unwritten rules of the game. These types of actions can be described as “in the moment,” but was it the right choice with millions of people at home watching? 

There were two types of responses on the action. Those who loved the flip as it provided emotion to a game that desperately needed it. On the flip side, it can be interpreted as disrespect for the opposing team. Either way, it is up for interpretation. Sadly, there are always negative responses. The next thing you know, little league players will be flipping their bats in celebration and causing a ruckus. Remember, there are always to be consequences to your actions. Despite the recent popularity toward the postseason, Major League Baseball needs to place an emphasis on the aftereffects being placed on the children around the country. Baseball can only blame them self if something wrong occurs down the line. 

Hidden Gems in the 2015 NBA Draft

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Championship caliber teams are never built overnight as the NBA Finals tips off tonight. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the luxury of a superstar in LeBron James, but it is the “role players” who must contribute in order to bring home that Championship Trophy.

Will Matthew Dellavedova come up clutch?

Matthew Dellavedova went undrafted out of Saint Mary’s College of California , yet he plays a prominent part at guard for the Cavaliers. Dellavedova is not a household name around the league, but his contributions on defense and behind the arc make him an essential member on the squad. 

Additionally, Golden States’ Draymond Green might be the difference-maker in the series as he will be the primary defender on James. People forget that Green was a second round pick in 2012 after playing four years at Michigan State for Tom Izzo who preaches defense.

Behind the “Splash Brothers” in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Green is the most important member on the squad. His leadership on the court is invaluable, while also instilling a toughness that showcases his heart and hustle.

Green was robbed by not being  named the NBA’s defensive player of the year

Identifying these types of players are difficult, especially in the NBA Draft where everything is based on potential or athleticism. Countless players go through the process every year waiting to hear whether or not their name will be called.

Statistics are not on the players’ side as it reveals that only 1.3% of college athletes make the jump from the collegiate level to the pros. This can be beneficial for some players as it places a chip on their shoulder, in addition to proving everyone wrong.

In three short weeks the 2015 NBA Draft will be underway and the Philadelphia 76ers currently hold five second round picks. GM Sam Hinkie believes in the “process,” which consists of dumping anyone of high salary cap and rebuilding through the draft.

Coach Brown came from San Antonio with a skill-set in player development, but has struggled considering that Hinkie has traded away young players such as Michael Carter-Williams or K.J. McDaniels before they can develop.

Listed below are a pair of players to keep your eye on come draft night. These are possible diamonds in the ruff.

1) Jordan Mickey, PF/C, LSU

Jordan Mickey is a player to keep your eye on

The Sixers need another big man like a hole in the head, but Hinkie covets big men. If there’s one thing I’ve learned… it is that you can’t teach size.

Mickey adds additional depth to the front-court, in case injuries were to occur to Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. He’s another shot-blocker around the rim who can run.

Provides a quick breather or if someone were to get into foul trouble. Could work his way into the lineup with the right work ethic. Interested to see how the chemistry between Mickey and Dario Šarić would pan out the following year.

Brown can work with the 20 year old, making him another project with high upside. He’s similar to Noel in that he has great length at 6’8″ with over a 7′ wingspan , but needs to add weight and improve his offensive game. Can be a lock-down defender, which makes him attractive to multiple teams at the end of the first round.

Last season: 15.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, & 1.3 APG

2) R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State 

It’s not a secret that the Sixers’ struggled to put the ball in the basket and Hunter falling to No. 35 may be too good to be true.

Hunter’s draft stock has hoovered around late first round according to sources. His shooting ability is an attribute that any team in the league could use, hitting on 29.8% from downtown. His size is an added bonus by being 6’6″ with experience after this run in the NCAA tournament.

If the Sixers take Russell with the third overall pick, the backcourt would be set as both individuals would be able to spread the court with their shooting.

Hunter can be a 3 point shooter that teams must recognize

This would open up options all over the court, especially in pick & roll opportunities. If defenders leave to go help, then Hunter can spot up in the corner.

Don’t assume he will have the ball in his hands to create, since he’s strictly a shooter. The offense should be based on throwing it in the post and kicking it out. 

He’s more of spot-up shooter who can run off screens in order to get open. Expect Noel and Embiid to have some fun if that’s the case.

Every team needs a guy who threatens the opposition with his range. Hunter would be instantly inserted into the starting lineup… Not saying much, but is a great fit. 

Last season: 19.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, & 3.5 APG

Other notable second round draft picks include DeAndre Jordan (08), Kyle Korver (03), Marc Gasol (07), and Manu Ginobili (99).

Is D’Angelo Russell the Answer?

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania –  This Tuesday means election day for most individuals in the Philadelphia area, but for Sixers’ fans it is the date that has been circled all season.

The future hangs in the balance for several teams

Ping-pong balls will determine the NBA landscape for years to come as the lottery is crucial for teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and even the highly decorated Los Angeles Lakers.

Luckily, the Cleveland Cavaliers are denied the first overall pick this year as LeBron James returned home to be the hero once again.

For the Sixers sake, they are hoping that Nerlens Noel brings them good fortune as he will be representing the squad on lottery night in New York City.The future hangs in the balance as 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie has made the NBA draft the focal point of the rebuilding process.

Right now the Sixers have the best odds to land the third overall pick with a 15.56 percent chance, while the Timberwolves and Knicks are ahead of them.

Pay special attention as there are restrictions in regards to several of the picks, in addition to a plethora of second round picks that Hinkie can stash away.

The Lakers pick is top-five protected, which seriously hurts their odds at obtaining the pick this year. It is more likely the benefits of the Michael Carter-Williams trade will occur in 2016. Miami’s selection is top-10 protected and unless some miracle occurs the Sixers will have to wait another year for this pick as well. Lastly, the Oklahoma Thunder pick is already locked-up at No. 14 and Philadelphia will yet again wait til next season.

Basically the Sixers will be left with their own pick, but there is talent at the top of this 2015 draft class.

Is there a better fit for the Philadelphia Sixers than D’Angelo Russell? The Ohio State product can be the guard coach Brown has been seeking as Russell can do it all.

Is D’Angelo Russell the best fit for the Sixers ?

The 6’5″ silky smooth guard will be the first back-court player taken off the board, especially in a guard driven league. Stopping Russell from potentially being the top pick are a pair of franchise changing centers in Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns.

In desperate need of a guard, Russell seems like the perfect match for the Sixers. Fans would instantly fall in love with his ability to get buckets.

During his one season at Ohio State, Russell averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 boards, and 5 assists for the Buckeyes in a tough Big 10 conference. 

The combo guard has unbelievable vision on the court, in addition to his leadership as a floor general. An additional bonus is Russell’s length at the guard position as it causes havoc for the opposition by being able to get his hands into the passing lanes. This could be a match-up nightmare as his versatility can help out on both ends of the court.

Russell can be the play-maker the crowd can get behind as he will find Joel Embiid and Noel for open looks. 

Between these pair of big-men, there is a highly probability that the offense will run through pick-and-rolls. Noel will have the luxury of diving to the hoop, while I imagine Embiid will spot-up for his jumper. Spacing is essential, considering the offensive troubles the team had this season. Russell will be in complete control, while enjoying the twin towers controlling the paint.

Would you rather have the guard or big men?

Granted, the roster is still a work in progress. There were a few nice surprises this season, including Robert Covington who averaged 13.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. The small forward’s ability to stretch the floor has landed him a roster position as he shot 37.4% from downtown. It is crucial to have another threat from the outside, especially on kick-outs from the paint.

The backcourt of Russell and Tony Wroten would be an interesting combination as the two players are extremely young. Wroten only played in 30 games last season, but showed vast improvement with 16.9 points and 5 assists per game. This would allow Russell to bounce between the point and shooting guard, since Wroten could show him the ropes and see where he feels most comfortable. 

Transitioning to the NBA game can be difficult, but nobody is expecting the Sixers to contend next season. There will be growing pains.

Russell can be a fan favorite who can draw a crowd in Philadelphia at the age of 19! 

Taking Russell makes all the sense in the world, but it will all depend on Hinkie and the ping-pong balls. 

Be sure to tune into the NBA lottery on Tuesday night. 

MN’s Chris Kirsch Journey to the Show

David DiPasqua, Jr., Monday, February 9th, 2015

Marple Newtown alum Chris Kirsch took full advantage of his opportunities during his senior year of high school in 2010, showcasing his talents on the mound and at the plate.

The southpaw became a force to be reckoned with in the Central League, dominating the opposition while attracting scouts’ attention at the collegiate and professional level.

One specific game that remains with Kirsch today was the showdown with Conestoga, delivering a phenomenal performance where he belted a home run and shutdown the Pioneers’ on the mound to propel the Tigers to a 12-2 victory.

Kirsch’s senior year at MN was one to remember. Image is courtesy of Chris Kirsch’s Facebook page.

Kirsch emphasized the importance Coach Balk played in his development. “Without him I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. He guided me through my senior season.”

Once his high school career concluded, Kirsch was fortunate enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round, officially selected 387th overall.

Even though he decided not to sign the contract with Pittsburgh, Kirsch holds this experience as a cherished memory as it was his introduction to the major league draft.

Instead Kirsch headed to Lackawanna, a junior college located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

During his first season with the Falcons, it was made clear that he had much to learn at the next level. 

The lefty elected to stay in school for one more season and pass up being drafted once again. This time it was the St. Louis Cardinals who selected him in the 21st round (650th overall). 

Originally this was not the plan coming out of high school. Kirsch pointed out that he “went in there with a mindset, I’m there for a year and I’m out.” Later he came to the realization that he needed more than one year to mature and learn the ins and outs. 

Heading into his sophomore campaign, expectations were high for both Kirsch and his team. Their goal was set on the World Series.

Staying the extra season proved to be a wise decision as both goals were achieved in the 2012 season.

Kirsch tore up the league, earning the Region’s Player of the Year while also obtaining First Team honors. The statistics speak for themselves, as the Lackawanna website showcases Kirsch’s success, finishing with a 10-1 record, 107 strikeouts in 75 innings, and a minuscule 1.92 ERA.

Other than Kirsch’s individual success, the Falcons’ reached their goal of attending the NJCAA Division II World Series.

He views both as accomplishments because it was the first time in school history that the team made it that far in the postseason.

From this point, it was down between going professional or attending Virginia Commonwealth University to prolong his collegiate career. 

Kirsch’s two year stint at Lackawanna allowed him to develop.  Image is courtesy of Chris Kirsch’s Facebook page.

Being selected in a third consecutive draft, Kirsch elected to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays who took him in the 14th round, winding up 452nd overall.

Coach Pensak played a significant role in his development over the two years as well, recalling how “he instilled a work ethic in me and gave me that drive I carry with me now.”

This was the moment where Kirsch realized he was ready to play pro ball. 

Collegiate athletics were now in the rear view mirror, it was time to go be a professional. 

Continuing to learn the game and adapt is a major concept that has allowed Kirsch to improve his game as a starting pitcher in the farm system. Back at Marple Newtown he was the pitcher with a big arm that threw past batters, consistently hitting between 86-88 miles per hour on the radar.

There was a learning curve, but over time Kirsch adjusted and now has a variety of different pitches in his arsenal.

Throwing heat is simply not enough for the big southpaw, so in addition to a fastball that ranges from 90-95 on the gun he has incorporated a split change-up, a slider, and a curve to keep hitters off-balance.

Injuries are a part of the game too, as he looked to bounce back after rookie ball and hip surgery in order to “put it all together.” 

One of the most challenging responsibilities of being an athlete is the lifestyle and pressure that comes along with the profession. 

This lifestyle shapes the persona of a player with diets, workouts, and baseball workouts that occur on a daily basis.

For the most part, baseball season ends in the middle of September for players. There is a three or four week layoff that provides these athletes with time to relax, before returning back to the grind for the next season.

“The most challenging thing I have to deal with is the pressure of the game. There’s so much mentally that goes in a player’s head that no fan knows, unless they are out there with you playing the game. When you are on that that mound, you control the game and you are responsible for what happens. But through my career so far, I have been able to deal with it just fine,” Kirsch remarked. 

Kirsch heads to spring training in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization. Image is courtesy of Chris Kirsch’s Facebook page.

There are plenty of advantages to playing the game as well, “traveling the world playing the game you love.” Being able to see countless venues is certainly something to remember, witnessing different atmospheres around the country.

His personal favorite was Bowling Green, Kentucky where he recently played last season compared to his least preferred location in Beloit, Wisconsin due to the minimal amount of things to do or see.

The Marple Newtown grad reflects on his unique experiences.

“In the past five years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about the game of baseball and I will continue too as I go. The whole journey through minor league baseball has been a dream come true. Playing baseball for a living comes along with so many different life lessons that most people never get to experience.”

Whether it is his ritual of arriving two hours early to the stadium before game time or off-season training, Kirsch stressed the importance of working hard and never giving up on a dream.

Through everything he has faced in his life, Chris’ biggest fans are his parents. At every level he has played, his parents have traveled to various stadiums and showed their support to help him succeed.

Currently, Chris Kirsch is preparing for spring training in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization after completing last season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class A) in Kentucky.

The future appears to be bright for the 23-year-old native from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Jahlil Okafor is a Must for Sixers

David DiPasqua, Jr., Sunday, January 25th, 2015

In a year revolved around rebuilding and second round draft picks, the Philadelphia 76ers are in need of a “superstar” player. The NBA today is currently surrounded by talented players, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry.

For the Sixers, the upcoming NBA Draft lottery is going to determine how the future of basketball in Philadelphia will unfold. Freshman phenom, Jahlil Okafor is a can’t miss project who will most likely be selected as the first overall pick in the draft. Do you know the last time the Sixers had the first overall pick? Well, it was in 1996 when the Philadelphia 76ers took Allen Iverson out of Georgetown University (Safe to say that panned out). 

In a league dominated by talented guards, the recipe for success remains in the paint with skilled big-men. When was the last time the Sixers had a true center… Mutombo? (Finger wag…No-No-No) 

Okafor is a must for the Sixers’ franchise to turn around

Okafor can be the next skilled post player that can control the paint, alongside Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. His ability to hit the open man is uncanny, spreading the floor for a team that desperately needs help in that department. Watching his games for Duke, Okafor’s size and skill-set showcases a “NBA Ready” candidate.

He easily palms the ball without any issues , in addition to a variety of low post moves in his arsenal. There are rarely any mistakes with him, which makes coach Krzyzewski very happy. One scary thought is that he is still growing into his body, gaining experience with every game he participates in for Duke.

The majority of my planning assumes that Embiid will be healthy for training camp next season. Embiid’s style of play can help spread the floor, since his game is more finesse. His jump shot can compliment Okafor in the post, allowing him to work down low. Embiid is better facing the bucket, compared to Okafor who is a back to the basket type of player. Noel on the other hand needs to improve his offensive skill-set, but his defensive presence is already starting to make a presence. Everyone on the roster can help each other grow, learning together in Brown’s system.

Defensively, the three players of Okafor (6’11”), Noel (6’11”), and Embiid (7′) would be a nightmare for opponents. The size and athleticism forces the opposition to be able to shoot from the outside. Realistically, the trio would not see the floor at the same time. 

Adding Okafor to this young nucleus can make an impact in the Eastern Conference (L-R: Embiid, Noel, MCW)

The combination of Okafor and Embiid would start, allowing Noel to be the sixth man in case of foul trouble. Depth plays a significant role in a long 82 game season, especially for big men.

The race for Okafor has begun, since the New York Knicks have altered their plans by trading away J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. After the all-star break, it will be a race to the finish between a handful of teams with aspirations to select the Duke product.

The average age of the Sixers is currently 23.5 years old, which is skewed due to Jason Richardson (34) still being on the roster even though he has barely played in the past two seasons.

For coach Brown, Okafor could be the key ingredient in turning this franchise around. There has been a learning curve for both the players and coaching staff, but one player can be the difference in the NBA.

In addition to Okafor, the Sixers are in desperate need of perimeter shooting. As previously mentioned, Okafor has tremendous vision to find open players, especially coming out of double-teams. Acquiring shooters should be on the to-do list.

Looking ahead to the 2015 Free Agent class, here are five names that the Sixers should take a look at acquiring with about $20 million dollars in salary cap space. 

1. Jimmy Butler (Restricted)

  • Tough and physical shooting guard, who is only 25 years old
  • Shooting about 35% from behind the arc
  • Significant upgrade to help Michael Carter-Williams’ development
  • Won’t have to force shots, currently averaging 20.5 PPG this season
  • My strategy: Out bid the Bulls, due to their cap restrictions

2. Danny Green (Unrestricted)

  • Shooting 40% from downtown
  • Helps stretch the floor
  • Championship mentality
  • Strategy: Possible Brown connection to lure him away

3. Draymond Green (Restricted)

  • Defensive presence
  • Improves roster, with a high IQ
  • Golden State will have to let someone go

4. Kawhi Leonard (Restricted)

  • Most likely won’t happen
  • Provides a face of the franchise, along with a winning attitude
  • Hope there is a Brown connection
  • Strategy: Outrageously outbid teams to acquire the young star

5. Wesley Matthews (Unrestricted)

  • 16.5 PPG for the Trail Blazers
  • Sharpshooter, 40% from 3pt range
  • Possible to acquire for the right price