Capitals

Column: Painful losses endure for Kaepernicks

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Column: Painful losses endure for Kaepernicks

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Lance Kaepernick was 23 days old when he died.

He seemed normal when his parents brought him home. Then everything, suddenly, went tragically wrong. Two open-heart surgeries couldn't save the tiny baby Rick and Teresa Kaepernick had so joyfully welcomed into their lives.

Their next son never made it out of the hospital. Kent Kaepernick was 4 days old when he died, also of a heart defect.

``You're 25, 26 and you have two sons buried,'' Rick Kaepernick said. ``You grow up in a hurry.''

A daughter, Devon, would follow, joining their healthy, first-born son, Kyle. By then, though, the Kaepernicks were done taking chances and doctors warned them against trying for another pregnancy.

``Maybe the kids would have lived today with all the advances that have been made,'' Rick said. ``But it just wasn't to be.''

But the yearning didn't stop, and one day Teresa told her husband she was ready for another baby.

Their new son was 5 weeks old when they first held him at the Lutheran Social Services office in Appleton, Wis. He was healthy, vibrant, and full of life.

On Sunday he'll be behind center, trying to win a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers.

``He's ready to roll,'' Rick Kaepernick said this week from his hotel room in this party town. ``He's pretty focused.''

If the story of Colin Kaepernick's meteoric rise from obscurity to superstar in the making is a remarkable one, the story of his life bears some telling, too. Born to a teenager in Wisconsin a quarter century ago, the only memories he has of his early life are with the couple who adopted him.

He doesn't like to talk about it, and has declined chances to meet with his birth mother. For their part, the Kaepernicks particularly dislike it when people refer to their son as adopted.

Of course, they couldn't have imagined when they began the process that the offspring of a blonde, athletic mother and an African-American father who was out of the picture before he was born would be a star quarterback.

``At the end of the day he's just our son,'' Rick said.

The Kaepernicks will be in the stands at the Superdome on Sunday rooting for him. So will about 15 family members, who have cheered him on since he began dominating games - almost from the minute he was old enough to throw a ball.

The Colin Kaepernick the public knows is cool and collected, not the least bit nervous about the stage he will be on or the job he has to do. Despite the intense efforts of the media to tease out more sound bites during Super Bowl week, he remains a man of very few words.

``What you're seeing is the way he's always been. He's not one to talk a lot about himself,'' his dad said. ``He doesn't care who gets the headlines or the credit and I think you see that in your interviews. He's just not full of himself.''

That was evident Thursday during Colin Kaepernick's last media appearance before the big game. He dutifully answered questions without elaborating, never veering off task before it was finally over and he could return to practice.

``It's not that I'm not comfortable with it,'' he said. ``To me, I'm here to play football. That's what I want to do.''

That's the quality former Nevada coach Chris Ault saw when his starting quarterback went down and he turned to the redshirt freshman. Kaepernick threw for five touchdowns. It's what Jim Harbaugh saw when the backup electrified a national audience with a Monday Night Football rout of the Chicago Bears in November. Starter Alex Smith was on the bench the rest of the season.

It's the same quality his parents have seen almost from the time he first began to talk in complete sentences.

``I'm a parent, but I would say if you sat in the stands and watched him as a kid you could see he had something,'' Rick Kaepernick said. ``He has that `it' factor, whatever that `it' is. In basketball, when it came time to take a 3-pointer to tie or win he wanted the ball. He was never the nervous Nellie, it was like `Give me the ball.' You could see that at a young age.''

That the Kaepernicks are proud parents goes without saying. Every parent who has taken their child to Little League or Pop Warner entertains dreams of someday watching them play in a World Series or Super Bowl.

They're just as proud, though, of how he honors his brothers who never made it. Colin quietly donated part of his first game check to Camp Taylor, a California charity his parents are involved in for children with heart defects, and last July he visited the camp with them.

He showed off his many tattoos while swimming with the kids, letting them climb on his back as he paddled about. He sat on the floor with them and listened as they told him about their different heart conditions, joined them in crafts and ate dinner with them.

When it was time to go, the kids hid his car keys, knowing that if you lose something at Camp Taylor you have to sing to get it back.

And so, the quarterback towered over them and was joined by his parents for a chorus of ``This Little Light of Mine,'' a song he learned in Sunday school.

``He just loves kids, and he ended up spending six or seven hours there,'' his father said, ``It's such a great thing for kids and we want that to be successful. We know how hard it is for parents. So we're pleased he is doing that.''

While their son has been the definition of coolness under pressure in games and in front of cameras and microphones this week, Rick Kaepernick admits to feelings of anxiety and excitement heading into Sunday. He and Teresa have been watching their son compete all his life but this, obviously, is on a different level.

And while they savor this moment, they'll also be thinking of two little guys who never got to live a full life.

``There's not a day that goes by we don't think of the kids,'' Rick said. ``Everybody grieves differently and you try to get through it. But you never forget.''

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Right call, bad rule: Ovechkin's disallowed goal shows the ridiculous standard of goalie interference

Right call, bad rule: Ovechkin's disallowed goal shows the ridiculous standard of goalie interference

Alex Ovechkin thought he had tied Game 6 in the third period as he came streaking in trying to poke a loose puck into the net. As the puck crossed the goal line and Ovechkin celebrated with his teammates, the referee paused a moment, surrounded by Carolina Hurricanes players, then waved his arms. No goal.

The call proved to be one of the pivotal moments of Washington’s Game 6 loss and the Caps never recovered. Instead of tying the game at 3 and stealing momentum away from the Hurricanes, the Caps allowed two more goals to Carolina for the exclamation as the Hurricanes forced Game 7.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated past the net with the puck, put on the brakes and tried to curl the puck back into the net to catch Mrazek off-guard. Mrazek had the puck between his pads and turned, but Ovechkin saw a loose puck, came in and pushed it into the net. The referee waved it off almost immediately.

“We make a push, we scored a goal – I think it was clear,” Ovechkin said, “But again, it's on referee decisions and they made decisions.”

The play was a frustrating one not just because of its importance, but because the Caps were not exactly sure why the goal was disallowed in the first place.

“It’s kind of unclear for me as well right now,” Todd Reirden told the media after the game. 
“As playoffs go on there’s not a lot of communication between the refs and the coaches as there is during the regular season. They made their decision and it really wasn’t up for debate. They don’t have to come and give you a reason why and they did not come to the bench and tell me why.”

The problem is that Ovechkin caught the pad of Mrazek while going for the puck resulting in incidental contact. That was enough to disallow the goal. The Caps challenged, but the call was upheld.

The NHL released the following explanation of the call:

At 10:34 of third period in the Capitals/Hurricanes game, Washington requested a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room confirmed that Alex Ovechkin interfered with Petr Mrazek by pushing his pad, which caused the puck to enter the net. According to Rule 69.3, “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.”

Therefore, the original call is upheld – no goal Washington Capitals.

By the letter of the law, this is the correct call. Mrazek was in the crease and you cannot argue Ovechkin did not make contact with Mrazek’s pad. While he was clearly going for the puck and not attempting to push Mrazek, it is irrelevant as the rule states even incidental contact will result in a no goal call.

Here’s the problem: This is a dumb rule. To say any contact with a goalie in the crease will result in a disallowed goal is a ridiculously strict standard that does not take into account battles over loose pucks that literally happen multiple times in every game.

“I saw the puck,” Ovechkin said. “He didn't get it in control. He didn't see that, so I don't know what the referee saw or what the explanation was.”

“From our angle from the bench it looked like the puck was loose,” Reirden said. “We talked with our video staff and they felt like it was worth a challenge in that situation. That’s not how the league or the referees saw it and that’s a decision they made. But for us, we thought the puck was loose. It was still a puck that was in play.”

But if even incidental contact can result in no goal, there is almost no way for a player to battle for a loose puck in the crease because he almost certainly will make contact with the goalie.

That puck was loose. It was in between Mrazek’s pads and it was loose. Ovechkin should be allowed to battle for the puck, but he can’t.

"If he has it covered, you can't push him in,” Brooks Orpik said, “But we didn't think he had it covered and if he doesn't have it covered usually you can get in there and it is fair game and it is kind of like a rebound.”

Rebounds are a part of hockey. Battles for loose pucks are a part of hockey. Pretending like this never happens in the crease is absurd.

If the rule stated that you cannot make intentional contact with a goalie within the crease, that is understandable. If the debate was over whether or not Ovechkin was going for the puck or intentionally pushing Mrazek’s pads, that is understandable. The fact that this goal was disallowed because Ovechkin is not able to battle for a puck that was clearly loose is an insane standard.

The Caps were upset after Game 6 over the disallowed goal and they should be. But it wasn’t a bad call that screwed them, it was a bad rule.

"What I can say?” Ovechkin said. “They make a call. It's on them, so it's over."

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For the third time this season, the Orioles have put a position player on the mound

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For the third time this season, the Orioles have put a position player on the mound

It is rarely a good situation when a team has a position player take the mound. Usually, it's because one team is losing by plenty of runs, and don't want to waste a bullpen arm on a game that has already been decided.

For the Orioles, a lot more has gone wrong than right thus far in 2019. They are 1-10 at home, and only two teams in all of baseball have a worse overall record.

On Monday, Baltimore was blown out by the Chicago White Sox, 12-2, behind three different four-run innings. With the game well in hand, the Orioles put catcher Jesus Sucre on the mound to pitch the ninth.

It's the third time Baltimore has used a position player to pitch this season. It's the second time in three days, as Chris Davis took the mound for the Orioles on Saturday. The 2019 season is just barely over three weeks old.

No matter how bad Baltimore was expected to be, this situation is never ideal.

Sucre did pitch a scoreless ninth, however. The next time the Orioles are in a lopsided game, don't be surprised if he takes the mound again.

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