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Saturday
Jun092018

The DoD Warrior Games

When we started this site years ago, without expectations of where it would take us, I never could have dreamed of the opportunities it would present for us. Since we started I have covered events put on by the NFL stocked full of Hall of Famers, covered every level of baseball from elite High School to the MLB and in over a dozen ballparks. I have been in the press box and locker rooms of the NHL and will be on the pitch of multiple USL teams along with covering pro rugby, rodeo, and lacrosse coming in the near future. This is not meant as a pat on the back, but instead to create perspective as to what I am about to share. Saturday I had the privilege of covering the most awe inspiring sporting event I have ever experienced, the DoD Warrior Games.

From 2010 to 2014 the Warrior Games were exclusively in Colorado Springs as it was put on by the US Olympic Committee in partnership with the DoD (Department of Defense). In 2015, the DoD took over the games and began moving it to new locations each year, always hosted by a branch of the military. The Marines hosted in 2015 in Quantico, followed by a trip to West Point hosted by the Army in 2016 and the Navy welcomed the Warrior Games to Chicago in 2017. In 2018 the games returned to their roots and took place at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

There were athletes representing eight “teams” at the 2018 games, with those being the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, SOCOM (Special Operations Command), United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence System, and the Canadian Armed Forces. They competed in 11 Paralympic style events over nine days with gold, silver, and bronze medals handed out for each event. The events featured wounded, ill, and injured service members who enrolled with their service’s wounded warrior programs and then qualifying for the games. The featured events are archery, cycling, time trial cycling, field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, sitting volleyball (a great watch, look it up), swimming, track, and wheelchair basketball.

On the grounds they held exhibits to show able bodies and non-abled alike what it is like to participate in adaptive sports and that people of all physical conditions can compete and play together.

I was at the Bronze Medal Game between the Navy and Marines and Gold Medal game between the Army and host Air Force. The Navy beat the Marines rather handily to take home bronze, while the Army took home the gold over Air Force.

In the end, the results didn’t matter (although you couldn’t tell based on the incredible competitiveness on display on the court) but it was the conversations had with these athletes and support that could be seen that was truly incredible. There were dozens of emotional support and service dogs in the building that assist many of the athletes with PTSD and other mental health struggles. Also in attendance were combat canines who are suffering from PTSD themselves.

This is Tisha Knickerbocker’s dog and a couple of Tisha, a Marine. She was a small scrappy point guard who was quick all over the court and not afraid to mix it up and get physical when needed. In the event’s program it lists her injuries as PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, and Loss of motion in left ankle. In the event you were wondering, there is plenty of chairs that collide, people flip over (as you can see as it is Tisha’s chair flipped over below) and the collisions are loud. You get a whole new appreciation for these people as athletes when sitting just feet away from the basket and seeing the effort put in.

 

Cassidy Busch was hit by the force of an explosion that blew out her entire lower back, but she found normalcy again in sport where she not only competed in wheelchair basketball, but also cycling, field, and swimming.

Alan Thomas’ injuries weren’t disclosed, but he is missing his right leg below the knee. That didn’t stop him from competing in basketball along with powerlifting, sitting volleyball, and track.

 

Kristen Morris represented the Air Force in wheelchair basketball on Saturday, but also participated in cycling, field, sitting volleyball, swimming, and track. Her injuries? Left and right hip reconstruction and a total right hip replacement.

These were just some of the incredible athletes I had the honor of meeting on this day. Many others competed, which represents only a fraction of those currently rehabbing. Do yourself a favor, if you are near a city that will be hosting the Warrior Games, go. If you are unable to experience this first hand, donate to one of the many charities that help our service men and women injured in the line of duty, or simply shake the hand of a vet to thank them for their service. Sports has a unique ability to bring people of all backgrounds and beliefs together. It was an incredible experience to see those who gave so much to allow us that freedom use sports to regain normalcy in their ever-changed lives.

Sunday
Jun032018

Shaun's MLB Mock Draft

First Round Team Pick
1 Tigers Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
2 Giants Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech
3 Phillies Nick Madrigal, MIF, Oregon State
4 White Sox Matt Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge HS (AZ)
5 Reds Alec Bohm, 1B, Wichita State
6 Mets Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
7 Padres Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (FL)
8 Braves Jonathan India, 3B, Florida
9 A's Cole Winn, RHP, Orange HS (CA)
10 Pirates Nolan Gorman, 3B, Sandra Day O'Connor HS (AZ)
11 Orioles Jared Kelenic, Waukesha West HS (WI)
12 Blue Jays Trevor Larnach, OF, Oregon State
13 Marlins Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
14 Mariners Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
15 Rangers Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto HS (TN)
16 Rays Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss
17 Angels Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
18 Royals Ethan Hankins, RHP, Forsyth Central HS (GA)
19 Cardinals Connor Scott, OF, Plant HS (FL)
20 Twins Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
21 Brewers Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Clemson
22 Rockies Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Central Heights HS (TX)
23 Yankees Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (CA)
24 Cubs Kumar Rocker, RHP, North Oconee HS (GA)
25 D-backs Noah Naylor, C, St. Joan of Arc Catholic HS (CAN)
26 Red Sox Tristan Casas, 1B, American Heritage HS (FL)
27 Nationals Mason Denaburg, RHP, Merritt Island HS (FL)
28 Astros Jake McCarthy, OF, Virginia
29 Indians Cole Wilcox, RHP, Heritage HS (GA)
30 Dodgers Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State
Supplemental First Round    
31 Rays Steele Walker, OF, Oklahoma
32 Rays Anthony Siegler, C, Cartersville HS (GA)
33 Royals Nico Hoerner, SS, Stanford
34 Royals Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
35 Indians Jameson Hannah, OF, Dallas Baptist
Competitive Balance A    
36 Pirates J.T. Ginn, RHP, Brandon HS (MS)
37 Orioles Adam Kloffenstein, RHP, Magnolia HS (TX)
38 Padres Parker Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA)
39 D-backs Nick Schnell, OF, Roncalli HS (IN)
40 Royals Jordyn Adams, OF, Green Hope HS (NC)
41 Indians Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford
42 Rockies Kyler Murray, OF, Oklahoma
43 Cardinals Jordan Groshans, SS/3B, Magnolia HS (TX)
Second Round    
44 Tigers Xavier Edwards, SS, North Broward Prep (FL)
45 Giants Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas
46 White Sox Lenny Torres Jr., Beacon HS (NY)
47 Reds Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky
48 Mets Alek Thomas, OF, Mt. Carmel HS (IL)
49 Braves Jeremiah Jackson, SS, St. Lukes (AL)
50 A's Greyson Jenista, OF/1B, Wichita State
51 Pirates Cadyn Grenier, SS, Oregon State
52 Blue Jays Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (GA)
53 Marlins Mike Siani, OF, William Pen Charter (PA)
54 Mariners Daniel Lynch, LHP, Virginia
55 Rangers Aaron Hernandez, RHP, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi
56 Rays Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, Fivay HS (NC)
57 Angels Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State
58 Royals Matt McClain, MIF, Beckam HS (CA)
59 Twins Kyle Isbel, OF, UNLV
60 Brewers Jonathan Ornelas, SS, Kellis HS (AZ)
61 Yankees Griffin Conine, OF, Duke
62 Cubs Grant Little, SS, Texas Tech
63 D-backs Colton Eastman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
64 Red Sox Owen White, RHP, Jesse C. Carson HS (NC)
65 Nationals Durbin Feltman, RHP, TCU
66 Astros Trey Riley, RHP, Logan (IL) JC
67 Indians Griffin Roberts, RHP, Wake Forest
68 Dodgers Joe Gray Jr., OF, Hattiesburg HS (MS)
Competitive Balance B    
69 Marlins Nick Decker, OF, Seneca HS (NJ)
70 A's Tyler Frank, MIF, Florida Atlantic
71 Rays Zach Watson, OF, LSU
72 Reds Cole Sands, RHP, Florida State
73 Brewers Ryder Green, OF, Karns HS (TN)
74 Padres Tim Cate, LHP, Uconn
Supplemental Second Round    
75 Cardinals Terrin Vavra, SS, Minnesota
76 Rockies Cal Raleigh, C, Florida State
77 Cubs Osiris Johnson, SS, Encinal HS (GA)
78 Cubs Zack Hess, RHP, LSU
Thursday
Apr262018

Shaun's NFL Mock Draft

Never fails, I get my mock draft finalized with enough time to either post it and let it breathe, or explain my reasoning and go right up to the start of the draft and have nobody read it. So here it is with no explination other than what the Browns and Giants will do at picks 1 and 2 will make or break every mock draft out there.

 

Pick #

NFL team

Player

Pos.

College

1

Cleveland Browns

 Josh Allen

QB

Wyoming

2

New York Giants

 Sam Darnold

QB

USC

3

New York Jets

 Josh Rosen

QB

UCLA

4

Cleveland Browns

 Saquon Barkley

RB

Penn State

5

Denver Broncos

 Bradley Chubb

Edge

NC State

6

Indianapolis Colts

 Quinton Nelson

G

Notre Dame

7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 Minkah Fitzpatrick

DB

Alabama

8

Chicago Bears

 Denzel Ward

CB

Ohio State

9

San Francisco 49ers

 Roquan Smith

LB

Georgia

10

Oakland Raiders

 Tremaine Edmunds

LB

Virginia Tech

11

Miami Dolphins

 Baker Mayfield

QB

Oklahoma

12

Buffalo Bills

 Mike McGlinchey

OT

Notre Dame

13

Washington Redskins

 Vita Vea

DT

Washington

14

Green Bay Packers

 Josh Jackson

CB

Iowa

15

Arizona Cardinals

 Lamar Jackson

QB

Louisville

16

Baltimore Ravens

 Marcus Davenport

Edge

UTSA

17

Los Angeles Chargers

 Derwin James

S

Florida State

18

Seattle Seahawks

 Harold Landry

Edge

Boston College

19

Dallas Cowboys

 Calvin Ridley

WR

Alabama

20

Detroit Lions

 Derrius Guice

RB

LSU

21

Cincinnati Bengals

 Will Hernandez

OG

UTEP

22

Buffalo Bills

 DJ Moore

WR

Maryland

23

New England Patriots

 Kolton Miller

OT

UCLA

24

Carolina Panthers

 Mike Hughes

CB

UCF

25

Tennessee Titans

 Rashaad Evans

LB

Alabama

26

Atlanta Falcons

 Javen Bryan

DT

Florida

27

New Orleans Saints

 Hayden Hurst

TE

South Carolina

28

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jaire Alexander

CB

Louisville

29

Jacksonville Jaguars

 Christian Kirk

WR

Texas A&M

30

Minnesota Vikings

Connor Williams

OL

Texas

31

New England Patriots

Isaiah Oliver

CB

Colorado

32

Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Goedert

TE

South Dakota St.

Wednesday
Mar282018

Predicting the 2018 MLB Season

Courtesy of Aaron Whelan

AL East

New York Yankees – The Yankees have the potential to put out the most impressive lineup we have seen in years, focused mainly around Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. That said, Stanton is always an injury risk and Judge is a strikeout risk every trip to the plate. Gary Sanchez is as good an offensive catcher as there is in baseball, and may have the strongest arm too, but his receiving ability it downright poor. Drury is a good addition, but Tyler Wade is not a long-term answer at second and Greg Bird is out nearly two months. Having Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar ready to come up and contribute will be huge, but they are 21 and 23 respectively, so they are no sure thing to they will be reliable from the start. The bullpen might be the best in baseball, but the starting rotation is overrated. In the end, the hype train that is the Yankees will still win the division, but I don’t see a deep run in October and I think there will be a real race with the Red Sox for the division title.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians – Francisco Lindor is a legitimate super star quality player at short and they brought in power hitting Edwin Encarnacion to add pop to the lineup. Yonder Alonso is currently tabbed to play first which is a downgrade from Carlos Santana somewhat similar to the upgrade at DH with Encarnacion. They have a strong rotation and really good bullpen, but the loss of Bryan Shaw may hurt. In the end, I just don’t feel the Twins have quite enough to knock off the Indians at the top of the division.

AL West

Houston Astros – The defending World Series champions have only gotten better, if for no other reason than their incredibly young nucleus is a year older. George Springer-Alex Bregman-Jose Altuve-Carlos Correa is as good a top four as any lineup in baseball, and they all play solid to better defense to go with it. They also get a full year of Justin Verlander and have added Gerrit Cole who is currently slated to be their fourth starter, yes, fourth starter. They have a strong bullpen but another arm or two at the deadline wouldn’t hurt. The big thing that stood out this Spring was how long Kyle Tucker stuck around with the big league club. It looks like the 21-year old will start in AA, but he could be up late in the year and be a difference maker in left field.

AL Wild Card

Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox will come up just shy in the division but will win the Wild Card game. J.D. Martinez brings much needed pop to a lineup that simply couldn’t hit home runs last year. The outfield is as athletic as any in baseball, and Mookie Betts is a real MVP candidate. Blake Swihart looks to be an unusual super utility man that can also catch, which will be an interesting dynamic. They still have Kimbrel at the back of the bullpen and have Carson Smith to start the season this year. The top of the rotation is as good as any in baseball with Chris Sale and David Price to go with a solid number three in Rick Porcello. Opening Day will be a question for Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodgriquez, while Steven Wright opens the year on the DL before serving a 15 game domestic violence suspension. There is not a real need in the lineup for the Red Sox despite Dustin Pedroia opening the year on the DL, and Michael Chavis just may be able to provide the team with a big boost late in the year.

Los Angeles Angels – They have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, and they brought in the most talked about player this off-season, Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani will be interesting to see how he works out as people may forget he is only 23 and is trying to be the first full time pitcher and position player in decades. He struggled this Spring, and anything he does with the bat is a bonus, but they really need his arm in the rotation. Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs at the top of the rotation is not exactly the best 1-2 punch in baseball, so the Angels still need starters and their bullpen isn’t great. In fact, a Rule 5 pick just may end being the closer at some point this season (check out more on Luke Bard on my post at Minor League Ball today). The lineup is much improved around Trout, bringing in Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton along with Zach Cozart. They still feel like they are a few players shy from being real contenders, and their farm system is improved but not enough to make a blockbuster deal, but there really isn’t a good fifth team in the American League.

NL East

Washington Nationals – The East is a much-improved division this year which may be the only reason the Nationals don’t end up with the best record in the NL, but Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper are big enough pieces in themselves to make the Nats a contender. They still have Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, and a full season of Sean Doolittle as their closer. Adam Eaton is back after tearing his ACL early in 2017 and the rest of the team is largely intact. The Nationals will simply be a force to be reckoned with this season.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs – No Jake Arrieta, add Yu Darvish, no Wade Davis, ok that may hurt. Ian Happ led baseball this Spring in leadoff home runs earning him the nod at the top of the lineup with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo being massive bats behind him. Kyle Schwarber is looking to bounce back from a rough 2017, and Albert Almora Jr. will try to earn a starter’s volume of playing time while splitting time in the OF with Schwarber, Jason Heyward, and Ben Zobrist. Unlike years past, the Cubs don’t have the options in the minors to make the big impact like Schwarber, Addison Russell, and Happ did, Mark Zagunis is a decent bat should the outfield not produce, but there isn’t much depth in the pitching pipeline. The gap between them and the Brewers will shrink, but not enough to knock the Cubs off the top.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers – Yeah, the division winners is pretty much stock, but that is because the top teams in each division is pretty clear. The Dodgers lose Yu Darvish, but he lost most faith from the Dodger fans in the World Series, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is far from the worst fifth starter in baseball. Clayton Kershaw is still as good as anyone to ever toe the rubber and Kenley Jansen is one of the top closers in baseball. The broken wrist for Justin Turner will hurt to start the year, forcing Logan Forsythe into a starting role, but there is depth on the team with Kyle Farmer being and Austin Barnes both being rare catchers that can also play infield. Alex Verdugo will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on as he will likely find himself in LA at some point this season, but will the power play enough in the big leagues? Walker Beuhler is as good a power arm as there is in the minors, but does his pitch mix work best as a starter or reliver? The Dodgers have all the pieces to make another deep run.

NL Wild Card

Milwaukee Brewers – Unlike the American League, the National League has plenty of good teams that will battle for the Wild Card. I had the New York Mets here at one point, I gave the Philadelphia Phillies a look, the San Francisco Giants are improved, can you really sleep on the St. Louis Cardinals? In the end I give the Brewers the nod not only as a Wild Card team, but I think they win the Wild Card Game. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are fantastic additions, and Yelich plays a fantastic Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.

 

 

Orlando Arcia is an underrated shortstop while the additions of Yelich and Cain have made Eric Thames and Domingo Santana one of the best platoons in baseball. I have long been a fan of Jimmy Nelson, and if he returns to full health around the mid-point of the season, that could be a great addition while Chase Anderson has turned into a solid pitcher at the top of their rotation. Corey Knebel was once a guy I had tabbed as a fantasy monster about a year too early, but he has become an incredibly reliable closer for the Brew Crew. Brett Phillips is a solid outfield prospect, but with the depth already at the position at the big league level, don’t be surprised to see him moved for pitching help during the season.

Arizona Diamondbacks – The Zach Grienke velocity concerns are troubling, but the team is very good. The loss of J.D. Martinez will hurt, and there are few higher on Brandon Drury than me, who is now wearing pinstripes. They have shown faith in the man stepping in for Drury, giving Ketel Marte a 5-year extension, and they also brought in Jarrod Dyson and Alex Avila. None of those moves will make up for the power lost when J.D. moved to Boston, but they are solid pieces. Patrick Corbin is rounding back to form for at the top of the rotation, Robbie Ray is solid, and Taijuan Walker is still one of the more intriguing starters for me. Add that to new closer Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley settling in as a high leverage reliever, and the pitching staff should be able to overcome the regression from Grienke.

World Series

Houston Astros over the Washington Nationals – The Astros repeat as they are one of the more improved teams despite being defending champions. They get past the Yankees in the ALCS as the Yankees just don’t have the starting pitching to keep up. The Nationals get payback on the Dodgers in the NLCS, but still fall short in six games against the Astros.

Sunday
Mar182018

The Good, Bad, and Confusing of NFL Moves

We aren’t even a week into the new league year, but already there have been a ton of moves that will help shape the 2018 NFL season. Here is a quick take on the teams I feel have gotten better, worse, and completely confused.

Better

Chicago Bears – They have parted ways with Mike Glennon after giving the reigns over to Mitch Trubisky and brought in two solid backups. I feel like the idea of Chase Daniel is better than the quarterback Chase Daniel, but he is now in Chicago to be the primary backup and will land high on many people’s lists of top backups in the league. Time will tell if Tyler Bray will make the team, but he is another backup with experience.  The Bears are where highly thought of college receivers go to die, so it is about time they sign a big time receiver, and Allen Robinson gives Trubisky a real number one target. Add Prince Amukamara, Aaron Lyncch, Sam Acho,  and resign Kyle Fuller, and the defense gets a boost as well.

Green Bay Packers – Getting DeShone Kizer as the new backup to Aaron Rodgers is an upgrade, Muhammad Wilkerson for just $5M is all upside, and Jimmy Graham gives Rodgers a scary weapon at tight end. Will be interesting to see how the loss of Jody Nelson will impact the team.

Kansas City Chiefs – They dealt away Alex Smith to make room for Patrick Mahomes and brought in a stud receiver for him in Sammy Watkins. Kendall Fuller will take the place of the departed headache in Marcus Peters, while they also add linebacker Anthony Hitchens to an already solid defense.

Los Angeles Rams – Speaking of Marcus Peters, he is now in LA with the Rams, along with new acquisition Aqib Talib improve the Rams secondary, although they did lose talent up front.

Oakland Raiders – Goodbye Michael Crabtree, make room for Jordy Nelson. In addition to adding a reliable receiver, they are taking their chances on former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin.

San Francisco 49ers – There won’t be a move that goes further under the radar than the 49ers signing Weston Richburg. He takes over as center along side two underperforming first round guards in Laken Tomlinson and Josh Garnett, making the raw talent in front of Jimmy Garappolo something that could become elite. They replace the departed Carlos Hyde with Jerick McKinnon and were the winners in the rush to get Richard Sherman after he was released.

Tennessee Titans – The Titans had DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, two backs that run very similarly, but now part ways with Murray and bring in Dion Lewis who will serve as an excellent change of pace back and easy underneath target for Marcus Mariota. They also spend the money get Malcolm Butler as corner, and word is they will allow him to play.

Worse

Dallas Cowboys – Ready for the list of new players the Cowboys have brought in this season? Ok, here it goes:

 

Did you miss it? Yeah, they haven’t brought in anyone of note, their big signing has been the re-signing of their long snapper. Meanwhile they have said goodbye to Anthony Hitchens, Keith Smith will no longer be in at fullback, and Orland Scandrick has been released. Not a good sign for the Cowboys.

New England Patriots – Ok, maybe my fandom is getting in the way here, but I am not one to say “they always lose talent and somehow win the division”. I am one to say “you just traded Jimmy G for practically nothing after sending off Jacoby Brissett in the preseason, who is gonna be the QB of the future?” Add to that the departure of Julian Edelman (I don’t care if he didn’t play last year, he is still the best receiver the team had) and replace him with the always underwhelming Cordarrelle Patterson? Oh, and we already touched on the fact that Dion Lewis and Malcom Butler are gone.

Confused

Arizona Cardinals – Let’s face it, this tweet perfectly sums up the signing of Sam Braford.

 

But they also sign Mike Glennon, one who we at The Stain have long been fans of. You also bring back Larry Fitzgerald but lose the Brown brothers, John and Jaron (not really brothers).

Cleveland Browns – Ok, you have picks one and four in the draft and seem to be debating between quarterback and running back…so you trade for Tyrod Taylor and sign Carlos Hyde? I am confused. You trade for Jarvis Landry, a very good WR, but you are going to have to give him a very large contract as he is currently under the franchise tag.

New York Jets – The Jets resigned Josh McCown and went out and brought in Teddy Bridgewater, which would be a solid QB room for a team who just might be a few good pieces away from being respectable…so they go out and trade away their 6th overall pick along with picks 37 and 49 and a second next year to jump up to three where they will no doubt add a QB? What a mess.