john clark

Little league vibes in MLB? Aaron Nola ready to do something he hasn't since age 13

Little league vibes in MLB? Aaron Nola ready to do something he hasn't since age 13

Aaron Nola isn't preparing for his seventh or eighth start of the season like he would've been in a normal year, but he's been a busy guy lately between workouts, a little travel and his new initiative to help bar and restaurant workers affected by the shutdown. 

Nola, who says he's worn shorts and sandals all but two days during the quarantine, had stayed back in Clearwater for much of the last two months but recently took a trip back home to Baton Rouge, where he is now.

This week, Nola and Yuengling launched "Cheers PA," a virtual celebrity fundraiser to benefit the Hospital Assistance Response of Pennsylvania and the hundreds of thousands of PA hospitality workers, bartenders and waitstaff financially affected by COVID-19. 

The fundraiser runs through June 19 and includes unique prizes like a pitching clinic in the bullpen with Nola, a visit from Nola to your Little League team, a dinner with Larry Bowa, a tour of America's oldest brewery and much more from Philly athletes.

Nola is a low-key, grounded dude. He recognizes, two weeks before his 27th birthday, that this isn't just about baseball. There are millions personally affected by coronavirus, and the country's unemployment rate is more than four times higher than it was in January.

"We wanted to try to help them out, try to get some jobs back," Nola said of the service industry that Cheers PA aims to assist. "We don't know how long this virus is gonna last, when a cure is gonna be (found). It's out of our hands. We want to do something helpful for them and want a lot of people to get involved."

When will Nola himself get to go back to work? That's the $5 billion question right now and nobody has a concrete answer. The owners and players' association are locked in a battle over the financial feasibility of paying players their prorated salaries while playing a half-season without fans in stands. 

The players were under the impression that the March agreement guaranteed them their prorated salary based on the number of games played. 

The league has countered that the language in the initial deal made clear that a renegotiation would be necessary if games could not take place in front of fans.

Nola is unsure whether there will be a season in 2020. 

"I don't know. I have confidence in the [players' association] and the league office to do us right," he told NBC10's John Clark Wednesday. "It's all gonna work out how it should. Our job, the only thing we can do is stay ready. We don't know for sure when the season's gonna start.

"It's a weird time. ... What we've all talked about and my mentality is it's better to be overprepared than underprepared going into the season this year. When they do set that date, it's probably gonna be a few weeks out until opening day."

And when they do, a host of new social distancing rules and guidelines will be put into place to try to make the season as safe as possible. The scope of MLB's 67-page report of guidelines is daunting, and it seems unlikely that everything can be enforced, but the league has to try.

One of those guidelines is showing up to the ballpark in uniform and showering back home or at the hotel. Basically, the more you can control the environment, the better this summer.

"I don't think I've done it since I was 13-14 years old maybe, driving with my dad to the ballpark in uniform," Nola said. "It's obviously gonna be weird, but if that's the safety of it, that's the safety of it. 

"It's gonna be tough not licking your fingers on the mound when it's chilly out to grip the ball. Not giving your buddies handshakes in the dugout, not being in the dugout with your teammates when the game is going on. It'll be strange."

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Eagles are making sure they have their “Nick Foles" with Jalen Hurts just in case

Eagles are making sure they have their “Nick Foles" with Jalen Hurts just in case

The Eagles needed to make sure they have “Nick Foles.”

The Eagles have made the playoffs three straight years. But they haven’t had their biggest investment and most important player on the field for their biggest postseason games.

Carson Wentz is a great human being and can play at an MVP level. The Eagles have made it clear they are not concerned about his long-term health. We all hope he can be on the field and lead the Eagles to the next Super Bowl. But the Eagles needed to know they have the most important position in sports covered. Without their “Nick Foles,” the Eagles are still searching for their FIRST Super Bowl. Would they have beaten the Seahawks at the Linc in January with a better backup? The defense only gave up 17 points. The offense only scored three field goals. 0-3 in the redzone.

40-year-old Josh McCown played his heart out through a torn hamstring, but if the Eagles had their “Nick Foles,” they could have possibly won, Carson could have returned for the NFC divisional game, maybe they would have won and been in the NFC championship game.

“It's just the insurance policy. No one in the league, no team knows the value of an insurance policy at quarterback more than we do after what we went through in the 2017 season and what we experienced. It's adding a good football player, and we're excited for Jalen Hurts to be here,” Eagles VP of player personnel Andy Weidl said.

Maybe the Eagles don't draft Jalen Hurts in the second round if Carson Wentz was healthy for these last three playoffs. But the Eagles have always tried to upgrade at backup QB. They upgraded from Chase Daniel to Nick Foles before the Super Bowl season. Boy did that pay off.

You can tell the Eagles are enamored and wowed by Jalen Hurts' skillset. The Eagles see where the NFL is going with a dual threat quarterback who can run and throw on the run. See Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, DeShaun Watson, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson.

I think this was the perfect storm with a dual threat type of quarterback the Eagles see as the future of the league and know they can have him as a backup under a rookie contract for the next 4 years, hopefully develop him into a starting caliber quarterback, and right away utilize him with Taysom Hill type packages and add a new dimension to their offense.

Last June, the Eagles new passing game coordinator Press Taylor said this:

“I do think at some point one of the big things is having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball. I think that’s something [you’ll see] going forward. You’ve seen kind of the Philly Special, all the different versions of double passes, things like that. I think at some point something like that I could see coming into play."

If Jalen Hurts, who plays the most important position in sports, is one of or your highest rated player on your board at 53, what do you do?

I get that a lot of Eagles fans wanted a player at 53 that can contribute right away. I did too. But if the Eagles had signed Jalen Hurts as a free agent and not drafted him in the second round, would you feel differently?

If the Eagles had drafted linebacker Davion Taylor or safety K’Von Wallace in the second round and then drafted Jalen in the third or fourth round, would you feel differently?

Is it the right move? The future will tell if the Eagles correctly valued or overvalued Jalen Hurts in the second round. Is what Nick Foles did for the Eagles worth a second round pick?

There is a shock to this. It is stunning. After investing over $100 million in Carson Wentz less than a year ago.

“When I was hired back in 2016, we were always going to make a point of emphasis to look at the quarterback position and try the best we can to draft quarterbacks and develop quarterbacks. It protects that position. And I've always said to you guys that we're trying to develop depth and competition. I've always told you guys that the quarterback position is never immune to that,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

“I think when you talk about what the ideal situation is, that's obviously winning Super Bowls with our starting quarterback (Carson), getting this kid (Jalen) up to speed, showing what kind of talent that we think he has, and that's a great situation for the Philadelphia Eagles, and that's certainly worth more than the pick that we took him at right now,” Eagles VP Howie Roseman said.

Carson Wentz was probably surprised by this. He watched Nick Foles win a Super Bowl and grew from that and has handled everything in the most professional way. I’m sure this will add even more motivation. The hope is for Carson Wentz to be the starter till the end of his contract and beyond and lead the Eagles to the playoffs and hopefully another Super Bowl. But the Eagles are making sure, just in case, they have their “Nick Foles.”

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Nick Foles leaned on Doug Pederson, other Eagles during tough year in Jacksonville

Nick Foles leaned on Doug Pederson, other Eagles during tough year in Jacksonville

Whenever Nick Foles gets an opportunity to speak at companies or churches, people always want him to end with the Super Bowl. 

There’s just one problem. 

“While that was a blessing and that was a mountaintop experience, I always like to say,” Foles told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark in a lengthy Zoom interview on Monday, “I’m still actually in this game and this was probably one of the most challenging years of my career, if not the most challenging.” 

After signing a four-year, $88 million contract to join the Jaguars after the 2018 season, Foles lasted just one year in Jacksonville. In Week 1, he broke his collarbone and needed to get a plate put in. He eventually returned but in Week 13 was benched at halftime against the Buccaneers and was traded in March. It was a tough year professional and personally for Foles. He and his wife also lost a child through miscarriage in May. 

But Tori and Nick are expecting again and Foles is now with the Bears in Chicago, where he will be reunited with former Eagles QBs coach John DeFilippo. 

Foles said a reporter during his exit interviews in Jacksonville asked him about the last time he was in a similar situation, leaving St. Louis, when Foles seriously considered retirement. Foles understood the question but this time is different. Foles said he’s “extremely excited” to continue playing after the last rough stretch. 

And his former Eagles teammates and coaches were always there to help get him through it. 

I think there’s a brotherhood,” Foles said. “There were times where I reached out to Doug (Pederson) because Doug’s someone who’s a mentor. It was nothing to do with football. He’s someone that we’ve been through it, he’s been through it. There’s times where we need advice, we just need to seek good advice.

In addition to Pederson, Foles also mentioned Eagles backup Nate Sudfeld, who is like a little brother to him. And former safety Chris Maragos; Foles and Maragos are actually working on a podcast together that will come out before next season. 

In true Foles fashion, he said last year will end up being one of his favorite seasons because of everything he went through. Foles has spoken before about highlight reels on social media and how they’re not real. Everything Foles experienced last season was real, from personal loss to injury to on-field struggles. 

“Against Tampa Bay, had a rough couple quarters and ultimately was benched and booed out of the stadium,” Foles said. “I remember those feelings and I feel every one of those emotions. But at the end of the day, I realized what was on my heart at that time was, ‘man, God, this isn’t fun, I don’t enjoy this.’ 

“Selfishly, you hope it doesn’t happen. But I’m like, you know what, this is for a purpose and I learn through it and i’ll have to endure through it. There’s no other choice but to put one foot in front of the other and endure through it to the glory of God."

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