Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jack Hamilton.
— It must be the water, right? Or, maybe the coaching has caught on. Whatever it is, Rhode Island Little League Baseball has had an unprecedented run of success, spread over multiple cities and organizations. Warwick North’s appearance in the LLWS marks the third straight year for the Rhode Island champion to win the New England Regional in Bristol, Connecticut, and advance to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
— Since 1980, Cranston (Western), Cumberland (American), Lincoln and Pawtucket (Darlington American) have represented Rhode Island and the New England Region at the World Series.
— Having once coached in the Rhode Island Little League ranks (20 years in the East Bay District 2, in Rumford), I have long thought that for every coach/dad who favors his star/son on one team, or pushes kids past their normal limitations, there are dozens of other supportive parents and coach/dads who try to do things a different way and have success.
— Success is relative, anyway. You don’t need to have coached a team that reaches a World Series to know you’ve made a difference in the life of a young athlete.
— Everyone makes mistakes. The truly successful coaches are the people who learn from those mistakes. There have been, and still are, some really good coaches in Lil’ Rhody.
— And let us not forget the Washington Park Cal Ripken team from Providence, which advanced to the Ripken Major/60 World Series in Ocala, Florida. The Rhode Islanders ended the tournament tied for third overall.
— Not to be left out, the American Legion team from Lincoln, Rhode Island (Upper Deck Post 86/14) reached the American Legion World Series held in North Carolina. The UD team was the first from Rhode Island to win the Northeast Regional and earn a Series berth since 1980, and finished its season with a 34-6 record.
— Not for nuthin’, but if you’re an undrafted free agent (UFA), you’ve got a decent chance to make the New England Patriots roster. The franchise has had a recent history of success with UFAs, to the point where at least one has made the team each of the past 23 years.
— You’ve got to go all the way back to 1992 — pre-Bill Parcells, pre-Kraft ownership — to find a year when an undrafted rookie failed to make the team. Kinda goes hand-in-hand with the long-held thought that the Patriots love and embrace the underdog role, or before they started winning, holding the title of “the Real America’s Team.”
— This year’s candidate(s) to come from out of nowhere? I have my sights set on two UFA defensive backs. Jonathan Jones from Auburn and Cre’von LeBlanc from Florida Atlantic both have had their moments during training camp, but LeBlanc has shown a knack for playmaking. One or the other — or both — could be standing at the final cut-down Sept. 3.
— Is it just me, or is there still a potential problem within the offensive line? What LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney and Brandon Bolden (before he fumbled) gained Thursday night against Chicago wasn’t because there were gaping holes to run through. And better those defensive holding calls happen now than three weeks from now. Because those are killers.
— We probably shouldn’t worry, because it is the preseason. But not seeing Rob Gronkowski, Jabaal Sheard or Dion Lewis around practices the last week or so is a bit concerning. Rob Ninkovich, Malcolm Mitchell and even Danny Amendola have been on the field with their teammates — so what’s the deal with the other guys?
— Wait a minute. What happened here? So, ESPN, the Patriots were your No. 1-rated NFL team coming out of the draft, and you said the TB12 suspension didn’t change anyone’s way of thinking, but you still dropped the Pats three spots to No. 4 overall? Credible, much?
— Ever heard the sound of one hand clapping? Go re-watch the TV debut of the Los Angeles Rams into the NFL against the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Coliseum was half-full for the kickoff, and while the attendance did eventually get to an NFL (United States exhibition) record 89,000-plus fans, they cheered more loudly for the Cowboys at the start. Umm, hello SoCal? You actually have a real team now, or do you still not care?
— Many of those early Cowboys cheers had to be for Dallas wide receiver Lucky Whitehead, who once played his college football at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, before moving on to Florida Atlantic. Whitehead returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for the game’s first score.
— You know you’ve arrived. Ivy football will get a ton of TV coverage this fall, with 21 games broadcast over five networks. Three Brown games make the schedule, with the home opener against Harvard on One World Sports, as well as the Bears’ game at Dartmouth. Brown’s home game with Cornell on Oct. 22 will be televised by Fox College Sports.
— And don’t ask me. I have no idea what One World Sports is, or where to find it on my channel listings, either.
— URI’s game at Harvard on Sept. 16 will be televised as a part of the Ivy package, with the American Sports Network supplying the coverage.
— Bryant football, a preseason pick for fourth in the Northeast Conference this season, opens its season Sept. 3 at home against Merrimack.
— Twenty — count ’em, 20 — schools have been mentioned as potential expansion targets for the Big 12. The latest to throw a hat into this three-ring circus? The Rice Owls, Houston’s “other” school. Rice was a member of the old Southwest Conference, and obviously would relish the opportunity to reschedule and play Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor every year.
— If Houston gets an invitation and Rice also is considered, it certainly would turn the nation’s 10th-largest TV market toward the Big 12, after having the SEC make huge gains with Texas A&M alumni in the area. Don’t sell this possibility short. The Owls have been in Conference USA since 2005, and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) before that. Academically, Rice is as strong as they come. Athletically, the football team is bowl-worthy — at least as much as, say, UConn.
— While it’s doubtful that USF’s recent academic problems in men’s basketball will make it a prime candidate for the Big 12, the school certainly didn’t help itself out with promotional material made public that included a misspelling (is it “reasearch” or “research”?) in its opening statement. Stupid is as stupid does.
— College Court Report.com listed its top 100 players for the 2016-17 season, and PC’s Rodney Bullock shows up at No. 46 in the poll — ahead of Creighton’s Marcus Foster (53) and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson (49). Butler’s Kelan Martin (43), Villanova’s Kris Jenkins (39) and Mikal Bridges (35), Creighton’s Maurice Watson (30), Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett (18) and Edmond Sumner (10), and Nova’s Josh Hart (4) also rep the Big East.
— That would be a pretty good preseason All-Big East first and second team, if you ask me. Not sure yet about the love for Bridges and Foster — especially since Foster is a transfer from Kansas State who hasn’t yet played for the Blue Jays. But strikingly, no Georgetown Hoyas in that top 100? Or Seton Hall Pirates? G’town’s L.J. Peak and SHU’s Angel Delgado belong on any list of the league’s best players.
— Junior 6-foot-8 forward Paul White is transferring from Georgetown. No word yet on where he’s headed, or even why he’s leaving after missing all but seven games with an abdominal injury a year ago. As a freshman he looked like a potential All-Big East candidate. Best guess — sophomores-to-be Marcus Derrickson and Kaleb Johnson will be gobbling up the minutes, if they haven’t already.
— St. John’s has Syracuse back on the basketball schedule this season, as the Orange confirmed a Dec. 21 date with the Red Storm this week. Curious as to exactly why they did this, though. St. John’s has won the last two games between the teams, with inferior talent. This year, it’s in the Carrier Dome. But the Johnnies should be improved.
— Excuse me, but I’m not yet sold on the Red Sox reaching this postseason. The current road trip notwithstanding, this team still has glaring needs on the pitching staff (see: bullpen). True, the Sox have managed to piecemeal things, thanks to their booming bats (or is it Betts?).
— Biggest difference that I can tell, between this current run of success and when they’ve stunk it up, is the sudden ability to not leave men on base. Just sayin’.
— Speaking of Mookie Betts, as crazy as it might seem, he should be a prime candidate for the American League MVP. Just because he’s come from straight outta nowhere doesn’t mean he’s not deserving.
— Last I checked, any player who ranks in the top 10 (top five?) of the Triple Crown categories (batting average, home runs, RBIs) always is a candidate. Betts’ numbers there are better than Mike Trout’s or Jose Altuve’s.
— Jonathan Papelbon, Part II (if it happens), shouldn’t keep anyone awake at night. Could he help this relief staff? Maybe. But could he accept a lesser role than what he used to have in Boston? I’ll believe that when I see that.
— A week ago, I railed against NBC’s disdain for apparently not covering the Ryan Lochte held-up-at-gunpoint story, thinking the network was potentially protecting its investment (or the ransom it paid) with the International Olympic Committee. Gotta give credit where it is due, however. The peacock network got off the deck and covered this potential fiasco as it should have from the start. Better late than never.
— As it turns out, the No. LochMess tale was the non-event story of the Games.
— The fact the network covered the story at all was bad news for those swimmers, because TV ferreted out the truth. As for Lochte and his band of merry men caught in their, um, embellishments — fellas, where there’s smoke, there’s usually a fire. When your stories weren’t in sync with each other, that’s a huge red flag. That you needed to have a story to cover your apparent actions at a gas station is what should be derided as childish, at best. Or criminal, at worst.
— Childish behavior? Sure. Until you realize Ryan Lochte is 32 years old.
— Did the swimmers’ story unfairly stereotype a “lawless” country in search of world credibility (if not sympathy) through holding these Olympic Games? Maybe. Until you realize there are still more than 60,000 unsolved murders in Brazil over the past decade. And a British athlete was an actual robbery victim after the U.S. swimming story unraveled. Where is this being covered?
— Olympic highlights you might have missed: Athlete with the most buzz? Not Michael Phelps. Not Katie Ledecky. Not Simone Biles. Adweek says it is Needham, Massachusetts, gymnast Aly Raisman, who now is the most-decorated Olympic gymnast ever for Team USA.
— Brazil is on pace to become the worst-performing host nation ever in an Olympics. In 1968, Mexico won 1.7 percent of the total medal haul. As of midweek this week, Brazil had won just 1.3 percent of the total medals awarded.
— Excepting the 2004 team that “won” a bronze medal, NBA players on Team USA have never played three straight games in which they won by 10 points or less.
— And speaking of blowouts, taking away the boycotted Games of 1980 (by the U.S.) and 1984 (by the then-Soviet Union), Team USA is on pace for the biggest overall medal rout since the 1948 Olympics.
— Did You Know, Part I: 168 current college athletes took part in Rio, including 118 international athletes.
— Did You Know, Part II: 1,108 total Olympians count some allegiance to U.S. colleges (10 percent of all athletes), and 56 countries were represented by these college athletes (about 25 percent of all countries represented).
— Did You Know, Part III: Saving the best for last. No state has produced more Summer Olympians this year than California, with 124 athletes representing the U.S. But taking state populations into consideration, based on the most recent census data, Rhode Island is the state with the highest rate of Olympic residents — with 3.8 out of 1 million residents. Four Rhode Islanders made the Olympic team, out of a total population just north of 1 million residents.
— We’re No. 1 — in something positive!
— Speaking of miracles, my buddy Statbeast sez a miracle just occurred in his household — he actually “won” an argument with his wife. As is their nature in disagreements, each is fairly stubborn in admitting fault. So Mrs. Statbeast, to her credit, finally said after the latest stalemate, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll admit I’m wrong if you’ll admit I’m right.” Sensing his potential moment of truth, the Statbeast looked his wife right in the eyes, and said, “Fine.” Mrs. ‘Beast uttered the golden words: “I’m wrong.” To which my man gladly replied, “You’re right.”
— Should we be bothered by the new Farmer’s Almanac, telling us that winter 2017 will be “wicked cool”? Or, more specifically, colder than last winter and snowier in the North? I ask only because the Almanac said the same thing last year — while the weather guys (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) said El Nino would pay us a visit. Which it did, resulting in less total snowfall. This year, the NOAA says La Nina — El Nino’s wicked cousin — will pay us a visit, meaning colder weather could make a comeback.
— Dang weathermen. Just when you want to hug ’em, you hate ’em.
— It was 39 years ago this week that former Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton threw a pitch and changed history in Boston, and perhaps in all of baseball. After a trade from the New York Mets to California, Hamilton was in the midst of his best season in the big leagues when he drilled the Red Sox’ Tony Conigliaro on the left cheekbone Aug. 18, 1967. The pitch was a turning point for both players. While Tony C, who had hit 100 major league home runs at the tender age of 22, was never the same again — the same can be said of Hamilton as well. In two more seasons with the Angels, then the Indians and finally the White Sox, Hamilton went just 3-11 in 77 appearances. He retired from baseball after the 1969 season and has spent much of his post-baseball career living in Branson, Missouri, and working in the restaurant business.
— Kevin from East Taunton, Massachusetts, posted on Facebook this week, referring to our item from last week on Boston College’s current campaign to win back some fans — or any fans, at all: Gene DeFilippo backstabbed the Big East, yet he fired Coach Jags [former football coach Jeff Jagodzinski] for looking at other jobs. His successor, Brad Bates, has been equally unimpressive. PC, on the other hand, is very lucky to have great leadership in the AD — people that connect with the fan base. Kevin: Agree completely with your points. Perhaps one school has been, “Do as I say, not as I do,” while the other has been more, “Do as I do. Not just as I say”?
— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ’em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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