Oregon Sports News

The Full Contact Fight Federation is feeling new all over again

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FCFF

The Full Contact Fight Federation is feeling new all over again

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As the doors closed following Rumble at the Roseland 93 last Saturday at the Roseland Theater, one thing was clear: The Full Contact Fight Federation (FCFF) had delivered a near perfect show and the fighters loved it. Saturday night’s fight card was the first time in 13 events that the FCFF had a professional fight on the line up, the first time in 7 events that women squared off in the cage, and it was the first time they had ever held a post fight press conference to close the show. Individually these milestones don’t necessarily mean a lot but when the sum of all parts met at this event, it was truly inspiring. From start to finish, there was something different about the show on Saturday night.

The crowd seemed especially excitable. Fans of headliner Cris “Sunshine” Williams held up cardboard cutouts of the young fighter’s face adhered to popsicle sticks and cheered loudly as fight after fight ended without going to the score cards. Some of the region’s top amateur prospects were on the card so it is no wonder that 13 of 16 fights ended with a finish. The exciting fights definitely added to the exuberant nature of the crowd and in a place like the Roseland Theater, the energy makes the room come alive. If you have never been to a fight at the Roseland, you are missing out on an interesting experience. The close quarters make it feel as if you are sitting right on top of the cage and the better the fight card, the louder it gets, making a room of a few hundred feel like a few thousand in an instant.

Even with all the great fights that night, there was something electric in the air that was hard to put a finger on. However, as each fight was announced, it started to become clear. FCFF owner Kevin Keeney was truly in his element this night. As he introduced each fighter, donning his signature cowboy hat, his voice came alive more than usual. Keeney sold the show and the crowd loved it. His energy seemed to feed off the energy of the fighters and fans. By the end of the night, he had announced that the post fight press conference would be open to the public, giving the fighters another moment to shine in front of the packed house.

The fighters all seemed to enjoy the press conference experience, cracking jokes and basking in the spotlight. Fernando “FDOT” Alvarado seemed especially excited to get his hands on the microphone as he reversed roles to ask a question of his own,

“How you doing tonight Rose City?! You have a good time?! Make some noise if you had a good time! Give it up to Kevin Keeney, Kevin Keeney puts on a good show, man.”

Beyond that, there was some mouthy banter between Cris Williams and local up and comer Keaneo Moyer. Worlds apart in weight and experience, the two still can’t seem to get enough of jawing back and forth. Aside from that, respect was shown between most everyone on stage. The time to sell the fights had finished and this was a much looser room than the press conference the week prior. With Chael Sonnen off in the background soaking it all in and the packed bar cheering as their friends, teammates, and loved ones were asked questions it was clear that the team at the FCFF had found a way to dust off its coat and make one of the longest running MMA promotions in the country feel brand new all over again.

Kyle Lewis – Seattle Mariners’ lone rep. on mid-season Top 100 Prospects List

Kyle Lewis – Seattle Mariners’ lone rep. on mid-season Top 100 Prospects List

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Personally, one of my favorite things about the Major League Baseball All-Star break is the aftermath that always includes an updated Top 100 Prospects List from MLBPipeline.com. This year was no different, as I was curious to see what Mariners – if any – would make the list, especially after trading No. 2 organizational prospect Tyler O’Neill to the St. Louis Cardinals last week.

Single-A Advanced outfielder Kyle Lewis came in at No. 47 overall as the lone representative for the Mariners on the prestigious list. O’Neill, meanwhile, slipped to No. 100 on the list after being ranked much higher during spring training.

WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT LEWIS?

It’s a small sample size due to a knee injury that set the 22-year old’s development back a bit this season, but in 19 at bats through six games for Modesto, he is showing both power and his ability to hit to contact. Lewis has a .368 batting average and three home runs with seven RBI.

Again, very small sample size, but that’s what Lewis has been up to so far this season for at least a somewhat competitive level of the minor leagues. He also played 11 games in the Arizona League, but analyzing Class-A Advanced is as low in the minors as I will go to evaluate a player’s major-league promise. If I start evaluating short-season, single-A players I apparently have nothing to do in my free time.

Anyways, the Mariners like Lewis. If he didn’t start the season injured, I would have expected him to be in Double-A by now, but I would assume that’s where he will begin 2018 with a projected major-league debut in 2019.

By then, the 24-year old outfielder will be ready to make an impact – assuming he doesn’t get traded at the deadline next year like O’Neill was this year.

WHY DID THE M’S TRADE O’NEILL?

The trade with the Cardinals for SP/RP Marco Gonzales was a bit of a head scratcher for me at least.  I know the Mariners need relief pitching and the 25-year old Gonzales gives you some flexibility with the ability to start as well. At least general manager Jerry Dipoto realized the trade for Miami Marlins pitcher David Phelps was NOT going to solve the bullpen issues independently (Unfortunately, that is old news at this point, so ranting about how much I dislike David Phelps wouldn’t be relevant.)

Anyways, I am guessing that the numbers O’Neill put up at Triple-A this year were underwhelming for the Seattle brass. It’s a pretty healthy sample size – 349 at-bats in 93 games for Tacoma, but the 22-year old hit only .244 in a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He did add 19 home runs and 56 RBI with nine steals, and I’m not sure how he is defensively, but Dipoto must have seen a red flag somewhere.

I really don’t know, but I am trying to justify it for him.

Gonzales, meanwhile, has some major-league experience this year. It might be an experience he wants to forget though – lasting 3.1 innings, giving up five earned runs and three home run balls when he pitched for the Cardinals. At triple-A, however, he pitched well this year, going 6-4 in 11 starts with a 2.90 ERA for Memphis. In his one start for Tacoma, he went six innings and gave up three runs.

I get it that the Mariners need pitching depth and Gonzales can start or come out of the bullpen, I just don’t know if trading a power hitter who is three years younger for Gonzales was the best move. It will end up being one of those ‘wait and see’ trades, I guess. Until we see how it turns out, I am proceeding with skepticism.

Keep in mind the Cardinals system produces outfield talent so quickly, they resemble a Chinese manufacturing plant. This year alone, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and most recently Harrison Bader, who doubled and scored the walk-off run Tuesday night, have all come from the Cardinals minor-league system. There’s also former Cardinals outfielders Colby Rasmus and that Albert Pujols guy – who came up at as a third baseman but started his career in the outfield.

Tyler O’Neill will be next… I’m not saying Gonzales won’t be worth it – just saying O’Neill will be better.

BACK TO KYLE LEWIS

Sorry, I got super distracted. I have been pretty hot about the O’Neill trade, so I needed to get that out of my system.

Anyways, Lewis will be a fun one to watch over the next two years in the minor leagues. The bottom line is he will need to stay healthy and will the knee injury hinder his speed at all? That could be a huge factor.

The former Golden Spikes award winner in 2016 was drafted 11th overall by the Mariners and immediately jumped to the top of their organizational top prospects list. The Golden Spikes Award is given to the top, amateur baseball player in the country, so winning it in 2016 is nothing to scoff at.

Lewis is the real deal (when healthy).

To put it into perspective, other recent winners of this prestigious award include Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox (2015), A.J. Reed of Houston (2014) and highly-touted Brendan McKay out of Louisville in 2017.

Lewis a big presence at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Since he’s only 22-years old he will likely fill out that frame and add some muscle. He can hit for power and he can hit for average.

The big question remains: How is the rebuilt ACL going to heal and will that set back his development further? We shall see.

FINAL WORD

The Mariners’ farm system is fairly weak – to be polite, making not only Kyle Lewis more valuable to the team than most No. 1 organizational prospects, but it also limits what kind of pitching additions the M’s can make before Monday’s trade deadline.

Taking the first two games against Boston has been refreshing and maybe Seattle can make a playoff push without landing a top-level, pitching talent.

Enjoy the rest of your week, readers. Go Mariners!

Michael “The Count” Bisping strength and speed workout

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USA Today Sports Images

Michael “The Count” Bisping strength and speed workout

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Michael “The Count” Bisping is a world-renowned MMA fighter. His workouts are legendary. He is also slated to do battle with Georges Saint-Pierre in the later part of 2017. Here is his strength and speed workout. Enjoy.

Trap bar jumps

5 sets of 3 reps

How to do it

Using a trap bar (substitute in a dumb-bell in each hand if your gym doesn’t have one) set up like you’re about to perform a deadlift. As you begin the lift, push the floor as hard as you can and explode upwards in a jump. Do not tuck in your knees: keep your legs straight and try to push away from the floor as much as possible. The weight should reach around thigh level. Reset after every rep.

Swiss bar bench presses with six chains

5 sets of 3 reps

How to do it

Set up for a bench press but using a Swiss bar, which allows a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and thus lowers strain on the shoulders. Each rep is performed as explosively as possible, then lowered slowly and under control. “We also add six chains to the bar, so the weight increases as Mike lifts,” says Keefe. “The initial load is about 50% of his one rep max.” The downside of this move is that fellow gym-goers may think you’re re-enacting medieval torture. If you don’t have a Swiss bar or chains just use a regular bar-bell.

Swiss bar bench presses with four chains

3 sets of 3 reps

How to do it

Perform the same move as the previous slide, but increase your load and decrease the chains to switch the focus to boosting maximal strength. Again, the chains and Swiss bar aren’t absolutely necessary – just use ‘em if you got ‘em.

Chin-ups

3 sets of 3 reps plus 1 no-added-weight set

How to do it

Without any rest after your bench presses, start some chin-ups with added loading via the use of chains (or hold weights between your legs). Increase the weight every set. Scream in pain – then finish with a body-weight only set.

Prowler rope pull-ins and push-backs

3 sets of one rep

How to do it

Hand-over-hand rope pull in a Prowler for around 15 meters, then push it out on the low handles for approximately 5 meters. These guys have the right idea. “The focus is on upper-body work for the pulling phases then onto the legs for the pushing phase,” says Keefe. If you haven’t got access to a Prowler – or the space to push it around – substitute in a hardcore upper-body exercise and superset it with a taxing legs move.

Lateral raises with neck isolation

3 sets of 10 reps

How to do it

Taking no rest after the previous exercise, loop a resistance band around your forehead and attach it to a solid object. Pull back to create tension in your neck muscles. Then grab some dumb-bells and perform regular lateral raises (lift the dumb-bells from your side to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight at all times). Maintain tension in your neck musculature throughout.

Dragon flys

3 sets of 6-8 reps.

How to do it

Finish up with a Rocky favorite. Lie down on a bench and grab onto it with your hands behind your head. From here, kick your legs up into a vertical position and bring them down slowly with your feet first. Try not to touch the bench with your feet – just move up and down for the required number of reps.

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

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Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

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With the loss in the second round of the 2017 WHL playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks went to work and have been keeping busy during the offseason. The Hawks saw overage captain from this past season, Keegan Iverson, sign an amateur tryout with the AHL Ontario Reign. The Reign, which is the farm team for the Los Angeles Kings, were impressed enough with Iverson to sign him to a regular contract for the 2017-18 season. The Hawks also saw assistant coach Oliver David, who had signed with the Hawks this past season from the Dubuque Fighting Saints where he was their assistant coach, make a deal with the Saints to return there, this time as their head coach.

The Hawks also saw a departure in the front office with Community Events Coordinator Lesley Dawson leaving the team after several successful seasons with the team. Coming in is Lesley Pfau, who is the current Director of Marketing for the Winterhawks as she takes on a larger portfolio.

The season for the Canadian Hockey League ended with the Memorial Cup. The Seattle Thunderbirds, who ended up winning the WHL Championship, had a very rough outing in the cup tournament, losing three straight games, with two being blowouts to end their season. The host team Windsor Spitfires ended up winning the Cup and once again bringing up concerns on how the cup favors host teams especially those which bow out early in the playoffs. Most would agree that the real trophy is their home league championship and that the Memorial Cup is more to be considered akin to an All-Star Game where the skill players play and those teams playing in it have loaded their teams with older players. Those teams which will dismantle the team the following year with so many overage players, lead into the “cycling system” with the team needing a couple of years to redevelop. The Portland Winterhawks have been the anomaly since 2011, with their teams not only situating well in the playoff race, but also competing close to the championship and an appearance in the Memorial Cup Tournament. The exception was the 2015-16 team which was swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Due to their strength in developing players, the Hawks have been courting those in university hockey and potential draft eligible players and landing a few. Recently, Kieffer Bellows left Boston University for the Hawks as a 19-year-old. Bellows, son of NHL great Brian Bellows, was drafted by the New York Islanders last year and the move is to strongly develop his stock. There may be others coming especially with the most recent NHL draft.

First off, four players from the current roster were picked by NHL teams. Cody Glass, projected to be a high first round selection, was selected by the new expansion team Las Vegas Golden Knights as the sixth overall selection. Later on in the first round, Henri Jokiharju who was looked at as a late first round selection by pundits, was selected at spot 29 by the Chicago Blackhawks, who had traded down the draft to get him. The sixth-round saw Brendan DeJong get called by the Columbus Blue Jackets at spot 166 and the Winnipeg Jets finished the Hawks selections with pick 198 and Skyler McKenzie.

The draft also saw a few players who were drafted in the CHL draft in previous years by the Winterhawks get drafted by NHL teams this year. Ryan Poehling (18) a Winterhawks list player, drafted by Montreal and Jake Oettinger (19) by Dallas in the first round and by the Winterhawks in the ninth round of the 2013 CHL draft have possibilities of being talked to about looking into the Winterhawks organization by their draft teams, Scott Reedy was picked by San Jose in the fourth round and Cole Guttman by Tampa Bay in the sixth round. Both Reedy and Guttman who are eighteen, have committed to their Universities for the coming season, Poeling and Oettinger ended their freshman years this season. It could be an interesting camp for the Hawks this season.

The NHL schedule has been released, meaning the WHL schedule isn’t far behind. Originally thought to be mid-June, the timeline looks to be within the next week. Teams have already leaked some details with season openers starting September 23 and 24. The preseason schedule has been released and the Hawks will once again play in the Everett Holiday Classic and the Tri-City tournament which start Labor Day weekend and conclude the following weekend. The Hawks have not announced any preseason games in Portland and have yet to announce the training camp location and dates, though a safe bet would be August 24 through 27 and with the success of last year’s run at the Memorial Coliseum, it’s a likelihood that this will continue. Space concerns at the Winterhawks skating center as well as safety issues with so many people wanting to go led the Hawks to moving the event to the Coliseum.

With the nice weather happening now, it must mean it’s time for the annual Winterhawks Golf Tournament. Monday, July 24 at The Reserve in Aloha will be the site of the one day charity fundraiser. Shotgun begins at 1:30 with check in one hour earlier.

Rates include a cart, on course refreshments and a dinner where Winterhawks GM/ Coach Mike Johnston will speak about the team and the charity which is the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. Contact Kyle Gustafson kyleg@winterhawks.com or Paul Doherty (503) 899-7203 or email hawksgolf@winterhawks.com for more information on this always highly anticipated event.

Bellator 180 Looking To Steal The Show This Summer

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Bellator 180 Looking To Steal The Show This Summer

BY: DAVID GOLDEN

On June 24th at Madison Square Garden, Bellator MMA will make their return to pay-per-view (PPV) with Bellator 180: Sonnen vs Silva. This will be the first time the company has put a product on PPV since Scott Coker took over as president and they are certainly putting their best foot forward. The card boasts three title-fights along with a co-main and main-event that feature some of the most talked about fighters in the history of mixed marital arts. This fight card has the chance to be the best MMA PPV of the summer and it just so happens to have two of Oregon’s finest on the main card.  The full card is listed below:

Main Card — PPV

  • Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva
  • Heavyweight: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione
  • Welterweight Title Fight: Douglas Lima(c) vs. Lorenz Larkin
  • Lightweight Title Fight: Michael Chandler (c) vs. Brent Primus
  • Lightweight: Aaron Pico vs. Zach Freeman

Preliminary Card — Spike TV

  • Light Heavyweight Title Fight: Phil Davis (c) vs. Ryan Bader
  • Featherweight: James Gallagher vs. Chinzo Machida
  • Welterweight: Neiman Gracie vs. Dave Marfone
  • Flyweight: Heather Hardy vs. Alice Yauger

Early On-line Prelims — Bellator.com

  • Welterweight: Ryan Couture vs. Haim Gozali
  • Lightweight: Jerome Mickle vs. Anthony Giacchina
  • Catchweight: John Salgado vs. Hugh McKenna
  • Cathweight: Matt Rizzo vs. Sergio da Silva
  • Lightweight: Nate Grebb vs. Bradley Desir

***As always, card subject to change

With 14 total fights there really is something for everyone on this card. Let’s break down what to watch for at Bellator 180.

Title Fights, Title Fights, Title Fights

There are three titles on the line at Bellator 180, and all three bring with them interesting matchups and fresh faces. First up, Ryan Bader will make his promotional debut for Bellator when he takes on Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis. These two UFC cast offs are both 8-2 in their last 10 fights with Davis currently riding a 4-fight win streak and Bader having won his last 2. What makes this fight such an intriguing matchup is that these two have fought before and in fact Bader was the last man to hand Davis a loss. The fight was very close and won on a split decision. Davis will certainly be looking to wipe that loss off his record and Bader will be looking to make a huge splash in his promotional debut.

Next up, Michael Chandler will put his lightweight title on the line against Oregon’s own, Brent Primus. This fight is a huge step up for Primus and a major risk for Chandler. With Primus having so few fights, there isn’t nearly the footage available for Chandler to study while Primus has a good-sized library to watch on the champion. This fight pits the one time fresh face, Chandler, against the hot young upstart, Primus. This matchup really mirrors Chandler’s first title shot and could be the beginning of a new regime in the lightweight division. For more on this matchup, please see my recent article on this fight here.

Lastly, Douglas Lima will put his welterweight title up for grabs when he faces the recently signed Lorenz Larkin. Larkin comes to Bellator from the UFC riding a 3-fight win streak and looking more dominant than ever after dropping to welterweight from 185 lbs. His explosive striking and fast pace matches up perfectly with Lima, who has a very similar style. Lima has only lost twice in his last 18 fights and both were in championship bouts. In his last fight, Lima recaptured the welterweight title with an emphatic win over Andrey Koreshkov proving that he will not have problems facing larger welterweights like Larkin. This fight is going to be a barnburner and is my pick for fight of the night. Don’t blink this one might be quick.

Sonnen and Silva Finally Settle the Score

Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva have a beef that spans nearly a half a decade since the moment it was announced that they would coach opposite one another on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil. Some argue that this animosity on the show was fabricated; others say the editing made things look worse than it was in person. No matter how you slice it, there is video of Sonnen and Silva fighting on set during the filming of the show and since that time, people have wanted to see this fight. For Sonnen, this is a must win fight after losing his Bellator debut to Tito Ortiz. For Silva, this marks his return from a “lifetime” ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and his first chance at redemption. These two fighters are legends in the sport that hardcore fans adore. This fight is a must watch for the old school MMA fans of the world.

Wonder women of Oregon make NCAA Track And Field history

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USA Today

Wonder women of Oregon make NCAA Track And Field history

The women’s collegiate track and field championship took place this past weekend at Hayward Field and the trophy won’t be traveling far to its home. Oregon has a special place in history when it comes to its women’s Track and Field team having won a Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor NCAA Championship. They’re the first team to ever do so.  A 4×4 relay that was pure pandemonium clinched the championship for the Lady Ducks.

Anyone familiar with the even kill demeanor of head coach Robert Johnson would know an uproar of emotions after the race was an indicator of the magnitude and thrill. Afterwards he added “It should have never ever come down to that… but what a champion’s heart to see her soldier back in a very short period of time to run a hell of a leg in the 4×400… Just a lion’s effort by those girls today.” per Beth Maiman of NCAA.com Oregon and Georgia went back and forth throughout the meet with contrasting styles. Each point scored by Oregon was done on the track and Georgia’s was scored in the field.  In the end, it was the Lady Ducks who had more athletes that qualified for the meet prevailed.

While the Lady Ducks didn’t score in the field, they had numerous contributions scoring in six events. The scoring kicked off in the 100m where Deajah Stevens took 2nd and Ariana Washington took 4th. That same pair made the 200m final as well. Washington took 2nd and Steven looked to be on her way to winning the race before a fall in the last 20 meters didn’t allow her to finish. Elexis Guster chipped in with a 6th place finish in the 400m. Finally, in the 100m hurdles Alaysha Johnson took 4th and Sasha Wallace grabbed the 6th spot.

The real star of this meet was Raevyn Rogers. The Houston native won her 5th NCAA title in the 800m. She pulled her teammate Brooke Feldmeier through who finished 3rd.  This capped a season for Rogers in which she was never beaten in an 800. She was the anchor of the 4×4 team that broke the collegiate record that was set by Texas in 2004. Her 49.77s split to run down fellow PAC 12 rival USC was worthy of a trophy itself. Fitting for The Bowerman trophy finalist.

Tacoma to host Triple-A All-Star Game, but will any Rainiers get voted in?

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Tacoma Rainiers

Tacoma to host Triple-A All-Star Game, but will any Rainiers get voted in?

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While doing my mundane, weekly perusing of minor league baseball player stats a few weeks ago, I discovered the Triple-A All-star game will be hosted by the Tacoma Rainiers on the weekend of July 12 this year. That’s kind of cool for Seattle Mariners and baseball fans alike! The Pacific Coast League and the Independent League on the east coast are always loaded with prospects and promising players, but this year might be one of the best from an overall talent perspective.

While many of the minor league’s best – including Chicago White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada (current leading vote-getter), Oakland shortstop Franklin Barreto and New York Mets shortstop Ahmed Rosario will likely be there, what about the host team? Who from Tacoma has a chance to represent the Mariners?

WHY THIS IS A ‘SPECIAL” YEAR FOR THE RAINIERS

For those of you who haven’t voted for the Triple-A All-stars yet (don’t everyone raise their hands at once), the ballot includes a fair share of players from Tacoma – including Christian Bergman, Sam Gaviglio, Boog Powell, Tyler Smith and Ben Gamel.

If that list of names looks suspicious, it’s because they are all currently on the Mariners team, and contributing on a regular basis (for now…hopefully). I have no idea what the rules are as far as MLB service time and eligibility for the all-star game, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would word it as follows:

Any player currently on a major-league roster at the time of the Triple-A All-Star break will not be eligible to participate in the all-star weekend festivities. If a player was briefly called up or has ‘x-amount’ of innings pitched or fewer at the major-league level or ‘x-amount’ of at bats or fewer at the major league level this season and are currently assigned to the organization’s Triple-A team, then they are eligible to participate in the all-star game.

That’s not even remotely direct from a rule book. I just made that up, but I needed to establish a baseline for the rest of this column.

THE VOTING CONUNDRUM

When I filled out my ballot a couple weeks ago, I was very conflicted with some of my PCL choices. I wanted to vote for Bergman and Caviglio, but I didn’t because they are up with the Mariners. Tuffy Gosewich, however, I didn’t feel compelled to vote for, nor did not voting for him make me upset. (Sorry Tuffers)

I was able to vote for Dan Vogelbach, who was with the Mariners briefly, but not enough to warrant not earning a vote. I also went with Tyler O’Neil – despite his .219 average. He does have 25 RBIs to go with six home runs and five steals.

Gamel, however, did not get my vote either. He might not see Triple-A again, but once the Mariners get healthy, who knows? It can make voting hard – especially if fans don’t know the guidelines.

For example, Cody Bellinger is on the ballot for first basemen. Last I knew he is the current favorite for National League rookie of the year and playing almost every day in L.A. Dodger fans would be pretentious enough to vote for him on the Triple-A ballot anyway. (Zing!)

OTHER PROSPECTS TO WATCH

There should be plenty of talent in Tacoma, even if some of the big-name guys get called up permanently within the next month. Aside from the three I already mentioned – Moncada, Barreto and Rosario – top prospect in Milwaukie’s system, outfielder Lewis Brinson, is putting together a strong season for the Colorado Sky Sox.

Derek Fisher in the Astros system seems to be leading the next wave of prospects to come out of the Houston pipeline. He is expected to make the trip to Tacoma along with Iowa’s catcher Victor Caratini to lead the PCL squad.

On the Independent League side, I don’t know if a lot of Canadians are voting or what’s going on, but barely behind the White Sox multi-million-dollar Cuban superstar investment Moncada in voting is the Buffalo Bisons’ (Blue Jays affiliate) Jake Elmore. Elmore, a second baseman, is hitting a mild .219, with zero home runs, 22 RBIs and eight steals. There are better second basemen to choose from – including Braves top prospect Ozzie Albies – hitting .262 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 15 steals.

What are the Canadian voters doing to the Independent League voting? At least Rainiers fans have an excuse – all of their players are in the majors.

On a more serious note, if Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies doesn’t get called up soon, he will be a monster to watch in Tacoma in July as a first basemen representing the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (I just wanted to say Iron Pigs).

FINAL THOUGHT

Good luck trying to vote for your all-stars, Tacoma and Seattle fans. Regardless of who gets in for the Rainiers (Gosewich will not), it will be a fun game to watch. Sometimes Triple-A games can be filled with aging players, trying to hang onto a career (Leonys Martin), or simply players who are better suited for the minor leagues than the big leagues (Gordon Beckham), but there is a good side to watching minor league baseball.

I drove to Buffalo back in the day to watch Stephen Strasburg’s Triple-A debut and it was arguably the best game I’ve ever been to. It had a World Series feel to it – seriously. I’ve been to both events, and seeing 99 on the ‘not-so-big screen’ to a packed house of maybe 20,000 cheering on the opponent’s pitcher was pretty awesome.

There will be plenty of star power on display in Tacoma. You might have to cheer for players from other teams this year, but think of it as you are simply enjoying the sport of baseball in an exhibition setting. It certainly doesn’t get much better than that.

The Mariners are winning again, so that’s good. The weather will get crappy-ish again, so that’s not as good, but enjoy your weekend anyway. If you get super bored, feel free to vote in the Triple-A All-Star game by visiting this link.

NFL passes new rules that could impact the upcoming season

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USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES

NFL passes new rules that could impact the upcoming season

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Every year, NFL owners like Paul Allen meet to discuss different ways to improve to the league and different marketing techniques that will continue to grow the brand.

This year, owners gathered and made some major decisions, most notably being the approval of the Raiders relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas. Those weren’t all the changes made this year, however. Team owners recently decided to vote on some rule changes that they believe would not only speed the game up, but improve player safety by trying to solve the NFL’s concussion problem as well.

Let’s take a look at the approved changes that will be in effect for the upcoming 2017 football season.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The NFL is trying hard to bring back a little fun to sport. As a matter of fact, the league announced on Tuesday, May 23, that it was loosening its strict rules about on-field celebrations. This means that celebrations that include “using the football as a prop” after a touchdown are now permitted. Other celebrations that include ground demonstrations, or dancing with cheerleaders and teammates are also permitted to a certain extent, of course.

Offensive celebrations that are prolonged and delay the game for any reason will result in a player being penalized and face a possible fine along with a 1-2 week suspension. For the most part, however, it’s open season for celebration.

Stronger Enforcement on Illegal Hits

At the annual league meeting back in March, NFL clubs voted on making additional rule changes to the way football games are officiated in order to help improve the health and safety of players.

These changes were proposed by the NFL club members and the NFL competition committee, a group that has met over several times since the conclusion of the 2016 season to discuss player safety with physicians, safety experts, and other experts. By enforcing these rules, committees are hoping they can minimize injuries like concussions, knee injuries, and temporomandibular joint pain; a joint that’s located on the side of the skill and if not treated, could cause locking of the jaw.

Here are some of the approved health and safety related 2017 playing rules proposals:

  • Giving a receiver that’s running a pass route defenseless player protection.
  • Prohibiting crack back blocks by a backfield player who’s in motion.
  • Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt during field goals and extra point plays.

These rules aren’t designed to penalize players. Instead, they were created with the intent of making the game of football safer by encouraging healthy behavior traits both on and off the field.

Technology: Centralized Replay Review

Each week, millions of people watch NFL games on their television screens or in person. Increasingly, they also follow the action on a second and, in some cases, third screen. Smartphones, computers, and tablets make it all possible for fans to witness the action live. That being said, instant replay is being used now more than ever in the NFL. As a matter of fact, only 17 percent of games were played without a replay in 2013.

How does it work?

Well, state-of-the-art technology powers the command center that the league uses to help monitor games and evaluate the officials who operate the instant replay system. As of this year, referees will no longer be expected to go hide under the “hood” to review plays. Instead, the final say on replay reviews and challenges will come from Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino and his crew, who will work from the league’s command office stationed in New York.

Don’t worry; referees will still be able to communicate their opinions on the decisions through a wireless headset and video tablet. The committee believes that with quicker review time, the game will go by faster by at least 1.5 minutes per game.

Technology instant replay also helps team physicians increase their knowledge of a patient’s condition after an injury. In other words, during a play, it’s hard to determine how a player got injured with 21 other men running around the field colliding into one another. With instant replay, however, officials can zone in on the injured player before the ball was snapped to see what happened. This helps doctors determine how players got injured and what part of the body suffered the biggest impact.

So, who’s ready for football season to start?

The road to Omaha goes through Corvallis, again

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Karl Maasdam/Oregon State Athletics

The road to Omaha goes through Corvallis, again

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There’s 3 things you can count on as an Oregon sports fan: too many uniform combinations from the University of Oregon, the Blazers scoring 100 points at home, and Oregon State’s baseball team being pretty damn good. The Beavers were snubbed out of the tournament last year, but bounced back in a major way this season. They head into the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship tournament as the #1 overall seed for the second time since 2014.

Looking at the consistency of this program can be perplexing when you consider the in-conference rivals and one of the largest factors in baseball, the weather. Most players would elect for the sunshine of Arizona, UCLA, or USC. However, Oregon State has been able to overcome these obstacles under Pat Casey to go on a run of success and consistency. Since 2005 the program has only missed the NCAA Tournament twice. Within that same timeframe they’ve had 16 All-Americans. Impressive for a state that has rain through the month of May.

Words like scorching, red hot, peaking, and dominant are a few words to describe the team riding a 16 game winning streak. Start by looking at the team’s 1.84 earned run average. Luke Heimlich leads the staff with what looks like a video game .81 ERA stat. Pitching always carries teams in the postseason. This should be a good omen for Beaver Nation. If chicks dig the long ball, this team might not be their set of dream guys. But isn’t there some love for the guys who hit for average? In that case we’ve found a group to swipe right for. Nick Madrigal easily has the most attractive stat line for a team hitting a combined .289. The best part is he’s a sophomore.

The Beavers will host Holy Cross at home and if everything goes as planned they’ll see Nebraska right after. Things will get interesting in the Super Regional where they’ll possibly face Vanderbilt or Clemson. Two of college baseball’s more storied programs that have had years that yielded #1 and #2 seeds.

Portland’s Journey Newson to fight for CageSport Bantamweight Title

Portland’s Journey Newson to fight for CageSport Bantamweight Title

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On July 15th, Portland’s own Journey Newson will square off against Anthony Zender for the CageSport Bantamweight title at the Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino in Tacoma, Washington. The two fought this past December with Newson coming out victorious and snapping the 6-fight win streak of Zender. Zender will undoubtedly be looking to exact some revenge on Newson while walking away with the belt. For Newson, this will be the first title shot of his professional career, and he aims to make a successful one by securing another stoppage victory over his veteran opponent.

Journey Newson has been on a very successful run since suffering his first loss this past October. Since the loss, he has secured back-to-back submission wins under the CageSport banner and most recently won his match at Submission Underground 4 by heal hook in regulation. His skills on the mat have evolved a great deal over the last two years and training with the team at Impact Jiu-Jitsu has made him one of the most competitive purple belts on the local scene. I had a chance to talk to Newson about his upcoming title fight and how he sees it playing out. For Newson, anything less than a finish is unacceptable.

“I am looking to finish this fight, and finish it a lot faster than the last time. The last fight he won the first round, I devastated him with ground and pound in the second round, and then in the third he shot in and I caught him with the guillotine. This time I just want to get the finish faster.”

With his recent string of submission victories, Newson also wanted to be clear that he isn’t just going in there hunting for the submission, he wants to show off his striking too.

“I really want to get in there and work some standup in this fight. You know, I had my last two fights finished with the sub. Then I took some time off from boxing to prepare for Submission Underground. I really want to show some hands in this fight, definitely show some boxing.”

More than anything, Newson just wants to fight and he knows that his opportunities at bantamweight might be limited, even with the belt around his waist. He expressed to me that he isn’t sure whom he would face next at 135lbs should he win the belt. Two things are certain though: he is perfectly fine with moving up to fight at 145lbs if he has to, and fighting at 125lbs is not going to happen. To use his own words, “Cutting to 125 would suck.”

Winning this title fight would put Newson in a new position in his professional career. There would be a huge target on his back and he wants nothing more than to keep that target squarely between his shoulders. He plans on heading north to Seattle to try and train with UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson, then head down south to train with Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. He is clearly ready for the pressure of being a champion and he expects that journey to begin on July 15th.