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Kruk to replace Francona in ESPN Sunday booth

Kruk to replace Francona in ESPN Sunday booth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) John Kruk is following Bobby Valentine and Terry Francona into ESPN's Sunday night baseball booth.

Is he going to emulate them and wind up managing a major league team in 2014?

``I think that is why they are putting me in the booth,'' Kruk said before adding: ``Ain't no chance of that happening.''

A member of ESPN's studio team since 2004, the three-time All-Star was announced Monday as the new partner of Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser, giving ESPN a different trio for the third straight season after 21 consecutive years with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Buster Olney remains as the crew's reporter.

Shulman and Hershiser were in the Sunday night booth in 2011 along with Valentine, who left to become manager of the Red Sox and was replaced by Francona, Boston's manager from 2004-11. Francona departed ESPN in October to become Cleveland's manager.

Kruk has been working in the Bristol, Conn., studio about eight days a month and has filled in on game coverage. He expects his studio work to be roughly cut in half next season when he shifts to Sunday nights, ESPN's top baseball event because it has an exclusive window.

He never wanted to be a game analyst.

``I was always uncomfortable when former players came into your clubhouse, and I don't know why I felt that way,'' Kruk said.

He began to change his mind about game work when he accompanied Valentine on ESPN's bus tour of spring training sites.

``I got more carte blanche at ballparks than some of the other guys,'' he said Sunday. ``I was in the training room, talking to players. Bobby Valentine took me to some parts I wasn't supposed to be in. Wish he'd told me when I had to get out.''

Kruk then realized ``you get more information when you're there than just sitting in the studio.''

He hit .300 and had exactly 100 home runs during a big league career from 1986-95 with San Diego, Philadelphia and the Chicago White Sox. His most famous moment occurred during the 1993 All-Star game at Baltimore, when Randy Johnson's first pitch to him was a fastball that sailed way over Kruk's head.

Kruk pounded his heart in jest, flinched at a strike down the middle, flailed at two curveballs and then bowed to Johnson.

Part of the reason for his newfound comfort in the booth is that very few players remain from his time on the field.

``Unless Jamie Moyer comes back,'' Kruk said, laughing.

Actually, there are a few others, including Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Kruk thought he may have been part of Rivera's first game for the Yankees. Actually, it was the fifth appearance for Rivera, a Fourth of July game when he pitched shutout ball for the first time - eight scoreless innings. Kruk took a called third strike and walked twice in Chicago's 4-1 loss.

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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