Nationals

Adams gives back to rough hometown

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Adams gives back to rough hometown

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Mike Adams remembers feeling the pit in his stomach when, instead of going to the supermarket, his mom, his aunt and a few of his six siblings walked around the corner to the church to pick up Thanksgiving dinner.

The volunteers put the cranberry sauce, the turkey, the mashed potatoes and the rest into a shopping cart and little Mike, not even 10 at the time, followed everyone back home to get ready for the holiday.

``I was embarrassed,'' Adams said. ``I think about it now and it was like, damn, we really didn't have much.''

That was life growing up poor in Paterson, N.J. - a life the Broncos safety has left behind but has by no means forgotten.

Yes, there are hundreds of NFL players doing all kinds of charity work this Thanksgiving - and every week. Adams and his charity, the Rising Stars Foundation, have taken on an even more special meaning this year because his community, in addition to having a poverty rate about 11 percent over the national average, has been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well.

``It was a tough place to grow up, and a tough place to live,'' Adams said.

This year, instead of giving away food, Rising Stars' main Thanksgiving project is a coat giveaway. Adams wants to find at least 100 kids who don't have coats and make sure they aren't shivering during their trips from home to school. He runs a football camp in the summer, a back-to-school drive in the fall where he gives out book bags and free haircuts for boys and hair-dos for girls. After Sandy hit, he sent a $100,000 check to his foundation to help ease some of the suffering back home.

``It's a whole lot of things I try to do so people there can see a different side of me and see me as much as possible,'' Adams said. ``I want them to know that regardless of the circumstances, the environment, all the things you see, you can still find a way out of that.''

Though his inspiring NFL story - undrafted rookie makes a team, then spends nine years in the league - is not unheard of, it takes on extra weight when he's telling it to the hundreds of kids who make up his audience when he runs the camps, or heads home for other charity events.

``I beat the odds,'' he said. ``When I go back home, kids see that and know I wasn't drafted. They know there's more than one chance, and that's all you need, is an opportunity. It's why I always wanted to give, give, give. Take every paycheck as a blessing. Every down.''

Adams started his career in San Francisco, picked up by the Niners as a college free agent out of Delaware. In 2007, he signed with the Browns, where he played five seasons. Last offseason, the Broncos signed him. He has started all 10 games in Denver, broken up eight passes, recovered two fumbles, made one sack for a safety and has been a steady, veteran presence on a defense ranked sixth in the league in yards allowed.

The real stats, in the safety's book, are the number of kids he can influence back home.

Adams started the foundation in 2006 with another Paterson native, Gerald Hayes, who was playing linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals at the time.

Adams, 31, has a daughter, Maya, and says he can't imagine not being a presence in her life. But he knows it's not something to take for granted.

He was raised by his mother and grandmother in Paterson, about 20 miles from downtown Manhattan, where ``the liquor stores stay open `til 2:30, 3 in the morning, everybody's outside, hustling drugs.

``You see so much and are exposed to so much as a kid that you really shouldn't see,'' he said.

He concedes he got caught up in some bad stuff, as well.

``You kind of don't know any better,'' he said. ``It's hard to find role models around there.''

The first time Adams met his father was five years ago at a funeral. A friend of his pointed across the room to a man Adams had never seen. That man, the friend said, was his dad.

``Weird. Awkward,'' Adams called his first, and only, meeting with his dad.

But also a key moment for him.

``It strengthened me to do more in the community,'' he said. ``My mother and my grandmother raised me. The kids around there, they don't see a lot of positives. My goal, as I see it, is to try to give them something new to see.''

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Online:http://www.rising-starsfoundation.org/index.php

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

WASHINGTON -- If any bump was coming from a return home or Mike Rizzo’s public pregame words or simply being out of New York, it was not apparent Friday.

Three errors committed in the first four innings. The first reliever into the game, Joe Ross, allowed three earned runs before recording a second out. Starter Kyle McGowin barely made it through the fourth inning of an eventual and desperately needed 12-10 win.

The rally kept the Nationals from creeping toward of new level of dubiousness in this muck-filled season. They pushed 2 ½ games in front of the Marlins for the National League’s worst record. Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Matt Adams followed with a solo homer. Sean Doolittle had trouble, but closed the game. Those efforts kept this from being another story about the bullpen (five more runs allowed Friday).

So, here’s a different question to ponder (there are a million or none, depending on point of view) after Friday night: How did the Nationals end up with 27-year-old McGowin starting a surprisingly pivotal game?

The nuts-and-bolts version is because of injuries. Both Anibal Sanchez -- who threw a simulation game Friday -- and Jeremy Hellickson are on the injured list. The deeper answer comes from looking at the recent erosion of pitchers in Washington’s minor-league system.

McGowin made his second career start Friday because there is no one else. No hot minor-league prospect, no early-round pick who has been up and down and received another shot, no veteran stashed in the minor leagues for such situations.

Looming behind all of this is the 2016 trade of three pitching prospects to acquire Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were all sent to Chicago for Eaton’s advanced-stats and cost-friendly contract. The departure of three starting pitchers in one shot reverberated Friday when the Nationals were forced to use McGowin in a spot start as the seventh starter of the season.

This is more a volume than quality issue. Neither Lopez or Giolito were effective in limited chances at the major-league level with Washington before being traded. Once in Chicago, Giolito became arguably the worst pitcher in baseball in 2018. No one allowed more earned runs or walks that season. Lopez had a quality season, finishing with 3.1 WAR.

The two have reversed outcomes in 2019. Giolito has rediscovered his velocity. After throwing 100 mph in the 2015 Futures Game, his velocity caved. Giolito was down to 92-93 mph with the Nationals and, initially, Chicago. Thursday, he hit 97 mph in the ninth inning of a shutout against Houston. The outing drove his ERA down to 2.77.

Lopez is struggling. His 5.14 ERA is venturing toward Giolito’s status of a year ago. His walk total -- always the concern -- is up, as are his homers allowed.

But what Giolito and Lopez have, at age 24 and 25, respectively, is potential. Giolito, who often fussed with his mechanics in Washington, has discovered a delivery to expedite his fastball and an approach to boost the effectiveness of his changeup. Lopez’s 2018 showed he can be a solid back-end rotation member. They were expected to follow behind Erick Fedde and Joe Ross in establishing a future rotation. But, those two are in Chicago, Ross is in the bullpen, where he gave up three runs Friday, and Fedde just returned to the rotation after being moved to the bullpen.

So, it was McGowin on the mound Friday. Four innings, six hits, five runs, one walk, two strikeouts, two home runs allowed. Why? No better choice is available.

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

The Nationals welcomed 10-year-old cancer patient Parker Staples as the newest addition to their team on Friday, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

While battling lymphoma, Staples learned he would receive a wish and didn’t hesitate about what he wanted to choose. After being sidelined for two years during treatment, Parker couldn’t wait to celebrate his remission by becoming part of his favorite baseball team. 

Staples was introduced to his new teammates and got signed autographs from Matt Adams, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Yan Gomes. He also got to spend time hitting and playing catch with his new teammates, as well as being interviewed as the newest member of the team. It gets even better than that, Staples threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park leading up to the Marlins-Nationals game Staples 

"My favorite moment was throwing the first pitch. It was really cool," Staples said.

"Probably the biggest day of my life."

The Nationals are hosted the Miami Marlins in the series opener Friday.

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