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Beyond the Scoreboard: Ripken Baseball and Wide World of Sports

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USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the Scoreboard: Ripken Baseball and Wide World of Sports

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

  • Ripken Baseball and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex announce a partnership that will bring elite youth baseball tournaments to Walt Disney World Resort beginning in 2020. The Ripken Experience at Walt Disney World Resort, according to SportsBusiness Daily, will include a “dazzling” opening ceremony for participants, whose ages will range from 6-18. Games will be played on 11 ballfields, six youth-sized fields equipped with lights for night games and five professional-sized fields, including The Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which hosted MLB Spring Training games for more than two decades. Players will have free time in the Disney parks to experience new attractions. Said Cal Ripken Jr., “Here at Disney, we might even have greater resources to bring the big-league experience to the kids…We quickly realized that most of the kids are not going to play big-league baseball, so we want to bring a big-league experience down to them.” Ripken, founder and chairman of Ripken Baseball, as well as a Sport Business Handbook contributor, added that the partnership is a multiyear deal. 
  • ISC has announced that COO Joie Chitwood III has resigned from his post, effective November 25, the first major departure amid ISC’s acquisition by NASCAR. Chitwood, noted SportsBusiness Daily, has been with ISC for a decade, having served as President of Daytona International Speedway during its $400 million renovation before stepping into the COO role, where he has overseen the operations of ISC’s 13 tracks. Chitwood is one of ISC executives identified in public filings as having substantial stock in the company, which should provide a windfall after NASCAR’s $2 billion acquisition of ISC closes, which is expected by year’s end. Sources have been anticipating departures from ISC’s leadership in the coming months; SportsBusiness Journal last month reported that ISC President John Saunders has also been mentioned as someone who could leave the company after the acquisition closes. After the acquisition is complete, NASCAR’s leadership is expected to have greater oversight of track operations under the newly combined company.
  • MLB FoodFest returns for a second helping. MLB FoodFest presented by Budweiser returned to New York September 21-22 on Fifth Avenue near Bryant Park. The event’s second installment on the East Coast – it also took place in Los Angeles earlier this year – provides all 30 teams an opportunity to designate one food item to represent their team and community. Each ticket grants access to the space for a designated two-hour block and can only be secured online prior to arrival at the venue. Among the most popular food items are the Mariners’ toasted grasshoppers, the Pirates’ pulled pork pierogi hoagie, the Red Sox’ hot lobster rolls, and for dessert, the D-backs’ Churro Dogs. Most of last week’s menu featured concoctions new to the New York event, including the local team and ballpark representatives with the Mets Bases Loaded Dog and the Yankees Shrimp Po’Boy. This time around, attendees also had access to new interactive elements, such as a Home Run Derby Virtual Reality experience and an MLB FoodFest merchandise shop.

Pitcher: Life 'destroyed' by slayings of wife, son, in-law

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NBC Sports

Pitcher: Life 'destroyed' by slayings of wife, son, in-law

KEELING, Va. (AP) -- Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Blake Bivens said his "heart was turned to ash" when his wife, 1-year-old son and mother-in-law were slain this week.

"My life as I knew it is destroyed," the 24-year-old pitcher wrote Thursday night in an Instagram post, his first public statement since the slayings. "The pain my family and I feel is unbearable and cannot be put into words. I shake and tremble at the thought of our future without them."

Bivens flew from a road trip back to southern Virginia when he learned of Tuesday's tragedy. He was accompanied by Montgomery Biscuits manager Morgan Ensberg.

"It was awful," Ensberg said. "Blake is an incredibly strong man. He's an incredibly strong man, and he went through just a rotation of tearing up, and then he would shake and then he would just stare.

"I didn't let him out of my sight."

The 18-year-old brother of Bivens' wife has been charged with first-degree murder in the slayings, which have shocked his coaches, teammates and the community where his family lived.

"You don't wish this on any community, any family," Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said. "We're a small community. It affects us all."

Bivens posted a series of photos of his wife Emily, 14-month-old son Cullen and mother-in-law Joan Bernard.

"Emily, my sweetheart, you are the best wife and mother this world has ever seen," he wrote. "You made me into the man I am today and you loved me with all of my flaws. You brought our precious baby boy into this world and made our family complete. Your love and kindness changed countless lives, including mine."

Of Cullen, Bivens wrote "I can't breathe without you here" and "I finally understood what love was when you were born and I would have done anything for you."

Court documents released Thursday revealed new details in the slayings but did not explain what could have driven 18-year-old Matthew Bernard to allegedly kill his sister, nephew and mother.

In Montgomery, the Biscuits -- a Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays -- painted "BIV" on the ground behind home plate before a game against Pensacola. They were to hold a moment of silence before the game, with another planned before the Rays' home game Friday against the Cleveland Indians.

"Nobody's thinking about baseball," Ensberg said.

Montgomery pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein remembers pregame moments when Bivens would walk over to see his wife and hold Cullen.

Biscuits pitcher Ryan Thompson said Bivens' family was on his mind "all the time."

"His family was everything to him," said an emotional Thompson, who described Bivens as a close friend with a "hilarious" sense of humor.

"He never lets the game get in the way of who he is as a human being. He's such a great guy, and something like this couldn't happen to a better human being," Thompson said.

According to the complaint filed against Bernard, the teenager's rampage began Tuesday morning at a neighbor's house. Bernard punched the neighbor in the arm and then ran away, police said.

The neighbor then heard gunshots at the house next door, police said. The neighbor drove to the house and found a woman's body in the driveway. Inside, she found the other two bodies.

Officers found two victims with gunshot wounds to the head and rifle shell casings near all three bodies.

A rifle was found in a wooded area behind the house and a sledgehammer with blood was found in the garage, the court documents said.

The criminal complaint did not offer any motive for the killings, and authorities have declined to comment.

After the bodies were discovered, a manhunt brought as many as 100 officers to Keeling, a tiny community near the North Carolina border.

Bernard emerged naked from the woods about four hours later, running past TV cameras to a church parking lot, where he was recorded trying to choke a church caretaker.

An officer used pepper spray and struck Bernard with a baton before he was captured, officials said.

Bernard banged his head against the cage in a police vehicle after being taken into custody and was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said. He was released and was in jail Thursday, where he was being held without bail and kept on suicide watch, police said.

A "celebration of life" service for the slain family members is planned for Saturday.

A vigil was held at The River Church in Danville, Virginia, Wednesday night. Senior pastor Jackie Poe led those in attendance in prayer for the Bivens and Bernard families.

Avery Stevens, pastor of Keeling Baptist Church, said he was in his office where he also works as an insurance agent when he saw the television coverage of Bernard's capture near his church.

"This is a small, rural community, pretty quiet most of the time like most small, rural communities. But the fact of the matter is, it can happen anywhere, and right there at the doorstep," he said.

"Pray for the family," he said. "Praying for the community. Praying for healing."

Beyond the Scoreboard: New LPGA Tour event coming to Boca Raton, Florida in Jan. 2020

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USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the Scoreboard: New LPGA Tour event coming to Boca Raton, Florida in Jan. 2020

By Rick Horrow

Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

  • The LPGA and Group1001 announce a new official LPGA Tour event coming to Boca Raton, Florida in January, 2020. The first edition of the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio will be held January 20-26 at Boca Rio Golf Club. The event will feature a 108-player field competing for a $2 million purse over 72 holes of stroke play. Boca Rio Golf Club, founded in 1967 and designed by Robert von Hagge, is situated four miles from the Atlantic Ocean on 200 acres of native Florida wilderness with no developed real estate. “We are thrilled to support women’s professional golf and to provide a platform for the sport’s best to compete and showcase their talents,” said Dan Towriss, Group1001 CEO. The new event will be one of two LPGA Tour tournaments held in Florida in January. The year will kick off with the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions January 15-19 in Lake Buena Vista, one week prior to the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
  • It’s back to school time, and in Washington DC, Monumental and EVERFI support STEM. As students across the nation are returning to the classroom, Monumental Sports & Entertainment Founder and Chairman Ted Leonsis is "spearheading a multipronged effort to improve schools and fuel economic growth in the impoverished neighborhoods” around Entertainment & Sports Arena in DC’s Ward 8. According to the Washington Times, the initiative, called “Forward8,” includes “pushing for the expansion of advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics” programs in DC schools. Monumental’s Beltway neighbor, education technology leader EVERFI, is likewise proactive in community engagement, empowering more teachers, citizens, and students to get involved with game-based, incentive driven online education that fosters greater comprehension, retention, and behavior change. By bringing together the public and private sectors to change the way education is delivered, EVERFI is equipping today’s learners across the nation with the skills they need to become tomorrow’s leaders, while Monumental is leading the way toward helping improve education, the workforce of tomorrow, and the community in their own backyard.
  • Formula One has recorded a modest year-on-year rise in revenues for the second financial quarter of 2019, going from $585 million in 2018 to $620 million in its latest financial filing. Operating income rose from $14 million to $26 million over the same period, according to SportsPro. The global motor sport series’ ten teams also saw an increase in their combined payments between April and June from $307 million to $335 million, with the figure directly linked to the overall revenue increase. Formula One’s owners Liberty Media in a statement further explained the overall change in revenues: “Broadcast revenue increased primarily due to contractual rate increases. Advertising and sponsorship revenue increased due to revenue from new sponsorship agreements entered into beginning in the second half of 2018. Other Formula One revenue decreased in the second quarter primarily due to the mix of races, which resulted in lower TV production and Paddock Club revenue.” Formula One CEO Chase Carey also told investors that Liberty Media is making “good headway” in its moves to add a second race in the U.S. Miami and Las Vegas remain the two potential landing cities.