Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Moving Day

Follow the Reds with me throughout the 2007 season at Pulse Weekly's web site.

Here's the link to my weekly columns and daily blog page:

Please adjust your links accordingly, if you so choose.


Jeff Wallner.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blogging elsewhere

The transition from Press Box View to my blog on the Downtowner Newspaper's web site is nearing completion.

For those who aren't aware, I've been covering the Reds since 1999 for the Downtowner, a free weekly newspaper distributed in Downtown Cincinnati, Mt. Lookout, Oakley, Hyde Park, Clifton, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere.

This, in addition to my work for the Enquirer,, Associated Press among others.

My season credential with the Reds has always read "The Downtowner", but until now our paper did not have a web presence, hence the birth of Press Box View.

In short, you are all invited, and urged, to follow me over to my Downtowner blog, where I'll be posting Reds game updates, news as it breaks and an interesting anecdote or two throughout the baseball season.

Here's the link:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy pre-Opening Day

Well, it's been a hectic, whirlwind of a weekend ... and it's not even Opening Day yet.

Dot, dot, dot ...

-Big surprise, Fifth Third Field in Dayton was sold out for Saturday's Reds/Marlins exhibition game. Early this season, the Dragons will reach 500 consecutive packed houses - that's more than seven straight seasons.

-Think being a sportswriter is a cushy existence? Perhaps it is, until a foul ball shatters the glass window inches above your head in the press box at Fifth Third Field in Dayton. At least Dragons media relations guru Mike Vander Wood was sympathetic. "Good thing it's shatter-proof glass," he told me.

-If you go to a Dayton Dragons game, Brixx Ice house has a solid beer selection located just steps from the ballpark.

-Sunday's pre-Opening Day workout at Great American Ball Park was a hectic day for me, especially since I was chasing news on both the Cubs and Reds for But, it was also a chance to reunite with a few people I hadn't seen in months:

Old pal Steve Stewart is still pounding the pavement for broadcasting gigs. Steve tells me was a finalist for a couple of TV and radio jobs, including one in San Diego he felt was a lock. For the time being, he's doing around 30 pre-game shows for FSN Ohio and working in the speaker bureau at Great American Ball Park.

Paula Faris is in town covering the Cubs for her NBC affiliate. The former 9Sports favorite is doing well in Chicago. In fact, Paula and her husband, John, are expecting their first child in August. They are living in a neighborhood a few miles north of Wrigley Field. Paula told me today she's still getting used to the Windy City's blistering pace.

Passed by Joe Nuxhall in the tunnel leading to the Reds clubhouse on Sunday. The 'Ol Left-hander said he's feeling "better". It'll be nice to hear his voice on radio on Opening Day.

-In regard to the team, Wayne Krivsky admitted to us on Sunday he's going to pull the trigger on a roster move prior to Monday's game. Will it be made within the organization? Trade? Stay tuned.

-I'm not a conspiracy theorist by nature, but lower back spasms come at an awful convenient time for the Reds and Eric Milton. Eric, take some time off, get things worked out, help us justify your salary. In the meantime, can we have your roster spot?

-Bobby Livingston for fifth starter. He's earned it.

-Josh Hamilton has impressed me on many fronts. First, he's restored his life from the darkest depths. In addition to his breadth of skills, did you know Hamilton could be the fastest player on the team? Met him formally for the first time Saturday in Dayton. He's personable, polite and relates well with his teammates. Hamilton spent more than a few minutes signing autographs following Sunday's workout. A beat writer told me Hamilton did the same thing at spring training.

Play ball!

Friday, March 30, 2007

The catcher(s) in the rye

Even if Chad Moeller comes north, do the Reds really have three catchers?

David Ross is the Reds' starting catcher. Moeller is an adequate back-up.

Javier Valentin is a catcher by trade, but in reality he's a back-up first baseman and the club's top pinch hitter leading them in pinch-hits (12), pinch-homers (4, one-shy of the club record) and RBI (12) last season.

Late-spring injuries forced the Reds' hand in this respect.

Besides, I think too much is made about which players make the Opening Day roster. The Reds roster in April likely will be barely a shadow of itself by August.

Gia Farrell to perform on Opening Day

I consider myself to be a knowledgeable music buff, but there are two genres I simply don't know much about. One is country. The other is the dance-pop-Christina Aguilera-Britney Spears ... well, you know the one.

While doing a little research for the festivities for Opening Day a question arose - who is Gia Farrell and why is she singing the National Anthem on our hallowed day at Great American Ball Park?

Turns out, Farrell is an 18-year old Atlanta Records recording artist from New York. Her song "Hit Me Up" reached No. 6 on the Australian charts and was featured in the animated film 'Happy Feet'.
Farrell is also a very lovely young lady, so gentleman keep your eyes on the flag.

Here it all starts ...

Our Downtowner Newspaper site ( and my subsequent blog remains a work in progress, so we'll keep Press Box View going for some time to come.

While the full-time Reds beat writers have already been going at it for a month or so, my work begins in earnest tomorrow with the start of a 72-hour marathon, of sorts.

I leave for Dayton at around 9 a.m. to cover the Reds/Marlins exhibition game.

On Sunday morning, it's off to Great American Ball Park to pen notebooks on both the Cubs and Reds from the pre-Opening Day workouts.

Then, it's an early rise on Monday to spin a story on the Findlay Market Parade and all of the festivities, pomp and circumstance surrounding Opening Day before settling in for the game itself.

I'll link the stories as they are posted at

I must say, I was, and continued to be, impressed by the participants in the Reds blogosphere during this past offseason.

You provide hope that beneath the sparse attendance figures at Great American Ball Park and perceived apathy, there exists a knowledgeable and passionate base of Reds fans which is hungry for a winner.

Play ball!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Big changes at small paper

The Cincinnati Downtowner Newspaper has been treading water for years as a free weekly paper distributed in the immediate downtown area. I've been serving as a sports columnist for the Downtowner since 1999, with Reds coverage being our bread and butter.

Well, big changes are afoot at our little weekly.

A managing editor and staff reporter have been hired, and the Downtowner announced this week that it is nearly tripling its editorial staff, expanding the paper with a new look, launching a web site and extending the distribution footprint beyond downtown into Northern Kentucky, Clifton and the eastern suburbs.

Since all Downtowner columnists will be maintaining blogs on the new web site, which will go live on March 28, Press Box View will ultimately vanish.

My new blog will be linked to my weekly Downtowner Newspaper column, which had no prior web exposure. I'll be adding live in-game reports and breaking news as it happens. Exciting stuff.

Here's the link to the new site (it'll be up in a week or so):

The timing of the new Downtowner Newspaper's introduction coincides with our Opening Day issue/Findlay Market Parade insert, annually our most popular edition.

Change is good. Once the new blog is up and running, I'll pass along a link to my loyal readers and bloggers, particularly those in Reds land.

For those of you who work or reside within the Downtowner's new distribution area, pick up a copy. I think you'll be pleased with the new design and format.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Right of center

Ok, it's official. When the opposing team's at bat this season, Ken Griffey Jr. will be standing a few steps to Ryan Freel's left.

I realize it's newsworthy that Griffey, in his prime considered one of the finest centerfielders of this era, is moving to right field.

But, it's not like Carson Palmer is being moved to wide receiver. Now, that'd be front page above the fold.

So, Reds manager Jerry Narron has spilled the beans. Now, Griffey will be probed and prodded to see if he's happy with the move. And, every time he sneezes in right field, the move will be documented and dissected to determine how well Griffey's adjusting to his new position.

Forget right field, can Griffey stay healthy enough to play a full season at any position?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Charlie "hustle"

This was a common argument early in the Pete Rose saga - if he bet "for" the Reds to win, it's ok.

Rose was a habitual gambler, probably still is. Those addicted to gambling don't bet to lose. If they do, their bookies, or other shadowy figures prominent in their lives, are eventually going to come calling for their payday. That spells real trouble.

It all breeds corruption and, if let unattended to, results in another Black Sox scandal, which would make steroids look like baby aspirin by comparison.

So, less than 24 hours after the Reds Hall of Fame opened an exhibit in his honor, Rose again succeeded in dishonoring himself, his city and his hometown team.

He's proclaimed his love for the Reds by admitting during an ESPN Radio interview that he bet on his team "every night".

Great. Good form Pete.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not a betting slip to be found

For once, there's a place where Pete Rose can be remembered for milestones achieved on the field and not his missteps off it.

The Rose exhibit at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum opens on Saturday and continues until 2008.

Covered the press conference and exclusive preview event for last evening.

Regardless of your feelings regarding Rose's reinstatement to baseball, Greg Rhodes and the entire staff at the Reds Hall of Fame deserve kudos for giving the playing career of baseball's all-time hits leader its just due.

Although, I'd like for Pete to get through a press conference without mentioning Las Vegas, dog tracks or horse racing, just once.

If Rose didn't have half a brain, he'd have half the hits.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Great American smoke out

Hal McCoy can chew on his trademark cigar, but not light it. The Ol' Left-hander will need to find a new pastime while lounging in the home dugout during BP. Reds fans can smoke 'em if they've got 'em, but they must do so prior to entering the ballpark.

Good thing this didn't come down while Jack McKeon was managing.

Great American Ball Park is smoke free:

Ohio's smoking ban is (in the process of) being enforced. The Reds are complying in the most efficient manner possible - a widespread, unconditional smoking ban applied throughout the facility.

With the notable exception of the Pepsi Power Stacks in centerfield, of course.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Xavier women punch first ticket

The men's and women's basketball teams at Xavier share more in common than uniforms adorned with a blue 'X' and a home court at Cintas Center.

They both are led by top transfers - Drew Lavender and Joei Clyburn.

They both have a strong core of seniors - Justin Doellman, Justin Cage, Brandon Cole for the men, and Michelle Miller, Suntana Granderson, Miranda Green, DeAnna Mason for the women.

They both have young head coaches - Sean Miller and Kevin McGuff - who were top assistants at Xavier and elsewhere.

In just a few days, they'll share something else - an NCAA Tournament berth.

Xavier's women got it done Monday night with a 65-59 victory over St. Joseph's in the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game at Cintas Center.

With XU beat reporter Dustin Dow swamped as he prepares for coverage of the men's A-10 Tournament which begins Wednesday in Atlantic City, I was pleased to fill in on covering the women's A-10 tourney semis and finals.

Link to my Enquirer story this morning:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

March madness, sadness for some

Just back from covering Xavier's womens hoops team in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament at Cintas Center for the Enquirer.

The Muskies overcame a 3-for-13 shooting performance from Amber Harris, their leading scorer and A-10 Rookie of the Year, and rallied to beat Temple 54-53.

Xavier will play St. Joseph's in Monday's championship game at 5 p.m. with the winner earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

St. Joseph's semifinal win today over George Washington, ranked No. 8 in the nation and on a 19-game winning streak, came as a surprise to most in attendance, including those close to the team. The upset loss left a Washington Post beat reporter and team officials scrambling to change flights and hotel arrangements.

As maligned as the A-10 has been among mens' basketball conferences, it's a pretty strong womens' league. In fact, if St. Joe's topples Xavier on Monday, the A-10 will likely get four teams into the NCAA Tournament - Xavier, GW, Temple, St. Joe's.

As for the Xavier mens' NCAA chances, these comments just in from ESPN:

Should be in: Xavier [23-7 (13-3), RPI: 32, SOS: 86] I've probably undersold Xavier in past editions of D65. Now that X is the co-champ of the A-10 after eight straight wins to close things out -- to go with nonconference wins over VCU, Villanova, Illinois and K-State -- the profile looks very solid for an at-large. The Musketeers need to avoid a quarterfinal A-10 flameout, but I like their chances a lot right now.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

No inductee? No problem

Aside from Cooperstown, New York's need for tourism dollars and Major League Baseball's own private initiatives, who's to say there has to be an induction ceremony at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum every summer?

Perhaps the Veterans Committee is sending the proper message but being overly stingy with its voting, failing to elect a single player in three consecutive votes.

Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark feels the committee's apparent lack of "cooperation" merits an investigation, of sorts.

"We are disappointed that no one has been elected in the three voting cycles," Forbes Clark said. "We will be evaluating this process and its trends at our next meeting ... and discussing whether there should be any changes."

What, like uncovering a new crop of more deserving candidates?

In my opinion, the National Baseball Hall of Fame was built for the likes of Ruth, Mays, Cobb and Aaron not Craig Biggio, who with his 3,000th hit this season will likely earn serious consideration.

The most unfortunate part of Forbes Clark's argument is ... she's right. The criteria for Hall of Fame candidacy has been diluted to the point where an argument can be made for virtually any player if you use the dreaded "if he's in, then he should be in" formula.

I, for one, would love to see former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo get his just due, based on the criteria the writers have set forth. Perhaps the veterans have other ideas.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Perez wins health battle, now back to baseball

How could I forget perhaps the best budding comeback story of spring camp - Miguel Perez.

Perez, an eloquent minor-league catcher and accomplished violinist, is trying to recover from a blood clot which required the removal of his right rib to relieve pressure on an artery. Shortly thereafter, Perez developed internal bleeding from an infection resulting from the surgery.

Perez, 23, is finally starting to concentrate on baseball again. The ever-articulate backstop says he's gained a new prespective on baseball and life as a result of his recent health issues.

"You're here today, but you don't know if you'll be here tomorrow," Perez said. "That's what I learned from this experience."

Best news of camp ... thus far

It's uncertain whether Paul Wilson will be a major contributor for the Reds this season, but just hearing some positive news in regard to the right-hander's progress will do for now.

It was sad to watch Wilson, one of the true gentleman in the game, become increasingly frustrated during his rollercoaster rehab last season.

I was among the throngs of media who ventured to Dayton to watch his encouraging rehab start with the Single-A Dragons only to see it all unravel for him soon after.

Wilson is a freak when it comes to physical conditioning. Not sure if there is a more physically-fit pitcher in the big-leagues, but even Wilson admits that he can overdo it at times.

Several observers at spring training camp in Sarasota say the early returns on Wilson are outstanding. But, live game-action still awaits as do many other hurdles and obstacles that will test Wilson's mettle.

One thing about this year's Reds, they have a laundry list of guys worth rooting for this spring. Among them are Wilson, Josh Hamilton, and Eddie Guardado who are trying to make comeback bids, and Homer Bailey who is looking to make his much-anticipated debut.

Plenty of storylines to go around.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nuxhall misses pitch to Hall

Well, I guess if you have spent 35 years broadcasting Kansas City Royals games, you deserve something.

Better luck next time, Ol' Lefty.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Columbus covers the Reds ... too

Beginning January 1, the Columbus Dispatch stopped charging a fee for access to its web site.

After being largely invisible to most area fans who could point and click to the Enquirer, Post and Dayton Daily News sites for free, the Dispatch is now a more easily-accessible outpost for Reds news and opinion.

The Dispatch's Jim Massie has been covering the Reds beat for many years, and he does one heck of a job. Massie fills in on the Ohio State womens basketball beat during the baseball offseason, but he'll be picking up full-time Reds coverage shortly.

If you have room in your links, I suggest you add the Dispatch prior to Opening Day.

What, no hot tub injury?

Unlike the Chicago Cubs' reckless right-hander Kerry Wood, the Reds' rumored-to-be right-fielder Ken Griffey Jr. maintains a rather mundane lifestyle off the field.

Speculation ran rampant about how he suffered a broken right hand this winter, but Griffey cleared the air for Reds beat writers yesterday in Sarasota.

Griffey's injury didn't occur in a barfight, during a 100-mph motorcycle romp or, like Wood, falling out of a hot tub. Griffey, 37, said he got into a wrestling match with a 13-year old ... and lost.

"I was wrestling with my kids, starting with the youngest (Tevin)," Griffey told Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News. "We were wrestling and the other two (Taryn, Trey) jumped on. The oldest (13-year old Trey) rolled over on me and I lost my balance. I used my wrist to try to avoid falling on the other two. Trey felt really bad about it."

Did I say "mundane" lifestyle? Griffey's injury occured on his yacht. Trust me, it ain't no bass boat.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

From hospital to Hall?

That's the hope for Joe Nuxhall.

Not there's ever a good time to be hospitalized, but for the Ol' Left-hander this couldn't have been worse timing - the first week of spring training and just days before the announcement of this year's Ford C. Frick Award winner.

Nuxhall, 78, is currently residing at Sarasota Memorial Hospital where he's being treated for a recurrence of lymphoma.

"The treatment is going well," said Nuxhall's son, Kim, yesterday. "He was up walking, which is good. The next thing are the spots on his leg, how they're going to treat those. If he has chemotherapy, he'll come back home, if they think that's best. If he has radiation, he'll stay (in Sarasota)."

Nuxhall is among the finalists for the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award given for broadcasting excellence. The winner will be announced on Thursday.

First things first, Joe. Get well. The Hall of Fame comes second.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yes, I cover girls basketball ...

When you're coaching girls basketball players who are more likely to become doctors, lawyers or corporate executives than play college hoops, all you can do is have fun.

Such is the case with Indian Hill High School head coach Don Ulmer.

"We get up and down the floor well," Ulmer says of his team. "And, sometimes we remember to take the ball with us."

For those not aware, kids at IHHS generally aren't lacking financially or intellectually.

But, last night Ulmer's Braves were outsmarted - go figure - by Western Brown head coach Jon Crall who drew up a new defense at halftime to help rally his team to a Division II sectional win:

Trust me, covering prep girls basketball can be entertaining at times, sans dunks and vertical leaps measured in feet, of course.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sir Albert the Citizen

Albert Pujols, who was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, became a U.S. citizen this past week.

The Cardinals slugger's new-found citizenship is an admirable achievement, but the means by which he attained the title is even more impressive.

Pujols aced the citizenship test in much the same manner in which he has bashed NL pitching for the past five seasons - with a perfect score. Yep, Pujols got 100-percent of the questions correct.

Sure, he was given the standard study guides, but it's still an impressive feat. Here's a copy of the test. Give it a try. Don't cheat.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Standing in line is sooo 2005

I remember how much fun it was to take the train to Wrigley Field and "camp" outside the ballpark for bleacher seats which were sold, not in advance, but day of game only.

Bleacher seats cost $2 then. A gallon of gas cost less. Some traditions die hard.

With increasing demand to buy online, the age-old custom of camping out to purchase seats for concerts or major sporting events is becoming, well, a thing of the past.

Innovations such as and ticket bundling marketing strategies have made standing in line and speed dial a passing fancy. Nowadays, all you need is a broadband connection and a credit card and you can snare any ticket you wish.

Last year, some fans camped out for a week for Opening Day tickets. Do the words "wind chill advisory" mean anything to you?

Anyway, the attached Enquirer story uncovers how the Reds are out to spoil your fun ... so to speak. Opening Day tickets are no guarantee, unless you're a season ticket holder.

So stay inside, before you catch a death of cold.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Arroyo: "The fans have embraced me here"

Last spring, Bronson Arroyo was anything but happy to be in a Reds uniform. He was in the process of building a house not far from Fenway Park when his beloved Red Sox traded him to Cincinnati in exchange for Wily Mo Pena and cash. Arroyo's bitterness still lingered when he joined the Reds in spring training.

But, after a stellar 2006 season in Cincinnati, Arroyo began to feel more at home. Today, the 30-year old right-hander signed a deal that will, in principle, keep him in the Queen City for several more years.

"I still have fond memories of Boston," Arroyo said. "But, the fans have embraced me here. Obviously, I wouldn't be signing a deal that keeps me here for another five years if I didn't enjoy myself. Locking up a deal like this is once in a lifetime."

For the Reds, who inked Aaron Harang to a long-term deal on Tuesday, it's more like twice in a week.

Dynamic duo inked through 2010

When the Reds acquired right-handed pitcher/musician Bronson Arroyo from the Red Sox last spring, comical reliever Kent Mercker said, "Well, our karaoke just got better."

The Reds starting rotation improved as well.

The Reds today rewarded Arroyo with a two-year contract extension through the 2010 season with a club option for 2011. On Tuesday, right-hander Aaron Harang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a four-year contract through the 2010 season with a club option for 2011.

Last season, Arroyo and Harang became the first duo in Reds history to produce at least 200 innings and 184 strikeouts each. They tied for the major-league lead in starts. Arroyo ranked first in the majors in innings pitched (240.2). Harang finished third in the NL in that category (234.1).

Arroyo, 30, last season was a National League All-Star and was voted by the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America the winner of both the Johnny Vander Meer Award as the club’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and the Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award.

On March 20, Arroyo was acquired from the Red Sox in exchange for Wily Mo Pena and cash.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thou shalt covet pitching

When it comes to right-hander Aaron Harang, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is one commandment the Reds have chosen to ignore.

The Reds yesterday signed Harang to a four-year contract worth more than $36 million. The new deal virtually assures he’ll be a Red through the 2010 season with a club option for 2011.

Harang went 16-11 last season with a 3.76 ERA with a NL-leading 216 strikeouts and six complete games, becoming the first Reds pitcher to lead the league in both victories and strikeouts since Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell did it in 1947.

Fans frustrated with the Reds’ inactivity in the free-agent pitching market can take some solace in the club’s decision to reach into the coffers to retain Harang. It’s a move for the future, not the quick-fix strategy we’ve seen all too often.

“We couldn’t be more excited about getting a deal done,” said GM Wayne Krivsky at Tuesday's press conference at Great American Ball Park. “This sends a heck of a message to our fans and our players. It shows a commitment by ownership to step up and keep Aaron here for the foreseeable future.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Did you hear the one about the ... Chargers?

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers strong safety Terrence Kiel was cited for urinating in public last month, his second run-in with the law in less than three months and the eighth by a San Diego player since April.

So, let's cue up the most popular Bengals jokes and make them applicable to the Chargers:

1. What do you call a drug ring in San Diego? A huddle.
2. Four San Diego Chargers in a car, who's driving? The police.
3. Why can't Terrence Kiel get into a huddle on the field anymore? It is a parole violation for him to associate with known felons.
4. Coach Marty Schottenheimer has adopted a new "Honor System" for his players - "Yes your Honor, No your Honor".
5. The Chargers knew they had to do something for their defense, but they couldn't get the defensive coordinator they really wanted: Johnny Cochran
6. How do the Chargers spend their first week at mini-camp? Studying the Miranda Rights.

Nice for a change, huh Bengals fans?

The young and the Mayo-less

NORTH COLLEGE HILL -- Things are back to normal at North College Hill High. Well, almost.

Like two roving marauders, O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker swept into and out of this sleepy village just north of Cincinnati, leaving in their wake two state titles, a wealth of national attention and a load of controversy.

The thousands of fans who watched Mayo, Walker and Co. play hoops in college-sized arenas the past two seasons have been reduced to a couple hundred well-wishers at the tiny but adequate gym adjacent to the high school.

Mayo is tooling up for USC at a high school in Huntington, WV. Walker is playing for Bob Huggins at Kansas State. Meanwhile, NCH is getting by without them.

Returning contributors Damon Butler, Nathaniel Glover and Alphonso McPherson are beginning to gel just in time to make a run at another state title. While in the category of a miracle, a third-straight crown won by the Trojans without the Big Two would be some story.

Got my first chance to see NCH play basketball with homegrown talent last night, and they weren't bad:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Triumph amid tragedy at Taft

WEST END -- "Anyone with a G.P.A above 2.7 in the house?" the PA announcer bellowed to the crowd at last night's boys' basketball game between Taft and visiting Hughes. Many students in the stands responded with cheers. "Anyone accepted to a Division I college in the house?", he asked. More cheers.

Taft High School was in the news recently when shots were fired on campus by a student. It's an all-too familiar scene in this inner-city neighborhood where drugs and violence have become a way of life for many residents.

Although security remained tight on Saturday, the atmosphere in Taft's gym was one of positive encouragement, spirit and teamwork.

My task was to cover the game for the Enquirer and submit a roughly 500-word story on deadline for this morning's edition. But, it didn't take long for me to realize that there's a much bigger story at Taft, and a much more important tale than the one I was assigned to write.

That senior Derius Hemphill hit two free throws to lift Hughes to a last-second victory is certainly noteworthy. The Big Red has had to deal with the death of their head coach, Greg Mills, who passed away last year and a couple of key players who decided to transfer.

But, important too is that amid all of the challenges facing them collectively, students, faculty, and spectators chose to forgo their Saturday night plans to gather in this rustic, steamy gym and celebrate school spirit and a sense of community.

Here's a link to my story. While a decent representation of the game (I hope), it doesn't even begin to tell the whole story of what's happening at Taft High.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't 'reference' Bengals players

When the concept of the 'role model' was first suggested in the 1950's, sociologists divided it into two distinctly different parts.

The 'role model' was someone who had assumed a position or "role" in life (doctor, fireman, professional athlete, astronaut) that you desired to assume yourself.

The 'reference model' was someone whose actions and behavior you chose to emulate.

So, in answer to the oft-asked question, "Are professional athletes role models?" the answer is yes. But, the concept of the role model has been grossly skewed by our generation.

Current Kenton County Jail resident Chris Henry is a role model to anyone who desires or dreams to one day play wide receiver in the NFL.

Henry is nowhere near being a reference model for your children, or anyone else for that matter. His character and conduct is clearly not something to be emulated.

If your son or daughter says Chris Henry is their favorite "player" on the Bengals, that's ok. But, we as adults and/or parents need to make that distinction clear.

If your child says Henry or (insert criminally-inclined Bengals player here) is their favorite "person" on the team, grab the nearest bar of soap.

I think Paul Daugherty's column from Tuesday summed it up best:

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Saarloos as a goose

The Reds this week acquired right-hander Kirk Saarloos (pronounced SAHR-lohs), the newest addition to my Microsoft Word dictionary.

Judging by his persona with the media, Saarloos seems to be a pretty cool customer. Here's a sampling of quotes.

On his various roles with the A's:

"That is cool. Save a game. End a game. Start a game. Win a game. What's next? Maybe I'll get an at-bat."

On a particularly rough day against the Detroit Tigers:

"When your day's (insert expletive), that's what happens. Even (good) pitches are hits."

On his new home, Great American Ball Park:

“It seems home runs don’t get hit into the first or second row. They always seem to go into that 23rd or 24th row. It seems like it’s built downhill."

His perspective on life and career:

"Whenever I catch myself feeling sorry for myself, I just think about all the other people in the world who have real hardships. Me? I'm in the big leagues. How bad can it be?"

Winter warm up

The Reds are inviting fans to attend tomorrow’s sendoff for the 2007 Reds Winter Caravan.

A pair of motorcades, one heading north and one heading south, will leave at 10 a.m. from Crosley Terrace on the front doorstep of Great American Ball Park. Fans attending will receive complimentary admission to the Hall of Fame.

GM Wayne Krivsky, manager Jerry Narron, pitcher Todd Coffey, outfielder Chris Dickerson, infielder Brandon Phillips, 2006 Minor League Player of the Year Homer Bailey, former pitcher Tom Browning, Chris Sabo, Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman and son Thom will be in attendance along with chief operating officer John Allen and VP business operations Phil Castellini.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Super Bowl tickets "never go on sale"

Want to know one reason why the Super Bowl isn't as exciting to watch as the World Series?

Here you go:

Face value for tickets to Super Bowl XLI is around $700. A lofty amount, but the saddest news is that few average citizens will ever get to sniff a Super stub at that price.

"The general public will never have legitimate access to Super Bowl tickets," said one ticket broker. "They never go on sale."

The tickets that aren't gobbled up by corporate sponsors will be held in lotteries for season ticket holders of the Miami Dolphins (it's their stadium), Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. The rest are divided up among NFL teams and league officials.

On the street or on the web, Super Bowl tickets will sell for several thousand dollars.

The mass majority of fans in Dolphins Stadium next week have no allegiance to the Colts or Bears. They are there to be seen, collect their duffle bag of Super Bowl goodies, show off their ticket stub in its laminated lanyard, and mingle with fellow "dignitaries".

So, in between your chips and dips, take a moment to listen to the crowd when a touchdown is scored in Super Bowl XLI.

The fans heard cheering are those who care. They will be far outnumbered.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vern Ruhle loses battle with cancer

The Reds released the following statement this morning:

It is with great sadness that the Cincinnati Reds announce the death of former pitching coach Vern Ruhle, who died at 11:00 p.m. last night at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston of complications from a donor stem cell transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Ruhle, 55, is survived by his wife Sue, daughter Rebecca and son Kenny.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Ruhle entered last season as the Reds’ Major League pitching coach, but during routine physical examinations in February he was diagnosed with cancer. He missed the entire season while receiving treatment for multiple myeloma.

For the 2007 season, Ruhle had been assigned to work as the organization’s pitching rehabilitation coordinator at its minor league complex in Sarasota, Florida.

“The baseball and Cincinnati Reds families mourn the loss of an excellent coach, wonderful husband and loving father,” the club said in a statement. “In his 35 years in professional and collegiate baseball, Vern touched many people inside and outside the game. We are privileged to have been a part of his life. He will be greatly missed.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bengals receiver in star-studded ad

Britney Spears won’t star in Chad Johnson’s Super Bowl commercial but Paris Hilton reportedly will.

The NFL Network is planning a spot featuring the Bengals receiver hosting several famous “friends” at his own private Super Bowl bash.

Among the celebs expected to join the party are L.L. Cool J, Rascal Flatts and Martha Stewart. Janet Reno and David Beckham are on the network’s “wish list”

Spears was politely told “no” when she offered to participate.

"She's too much of a train wreck," said an NFL insider. "Besides, we already have Paris Hilton."

Johnson’s commercial is shaping up to be a super hit.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ross catches Reds pitch

For more than five seasons, one thing was a certainty for the Reds - Jason LaRue behind the plate. With LaRue traded to the Royals, the Reds are handing the reins over to 29-year old David Ross.

Today Ross avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year deal through the 2008 season reportedly worth $4.5 million with a club option for '09.

Shortly after being acquired in a trade with the Padres during spring training, Ross quickly assumed the role of starting catcher batting .255 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI. He appeared in 90 games, catching 32 of Bronson Arroyo’s 35 starts.

"It'll be a different feel than I've ever had before," Ross told "Usually, I'm going to spring training battling for a job. It's nice to know I'll be able to go down there preparing to win."

Ross impressed many within the Reds organization with his professionalism and competitive spirit. If he can cure some of his fundamental struggles on defense, Ross has the potential to be mentioned among the finest catchers in the league this season.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A glimmer of hope

Ohio State receiver Anthony Gonzalez part of solution, not problem inherent in college athletics.
Well-done piece by Rob Oller in today's Columbus Dispatch:

Monday, January 08, 2007

Big Mac has my vote

Enquirer feature writer, and respected baseball buff, John Erardi approached me in the press box at Paul Brown Stadium recently to get my thoughts on Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame.

Erardi asked if I have a HOF vote. I do not, but I was more than happy to offer him my opinion.

It it were up to me, McGwire would be a Hall of Famer. Here's why:

I have no rock-solid evidence, scientific or otherwise, to prove that McGwire's accomplishments in the game were steroid-induced. None.

I have conjecture and opinion, much of which is akin to the Monty Python skit in which an angry mob agrees to burn a woman based on the conclusion that if she floats she's made of wood and thus a witch.

Even if it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, which it's clearly not, that McGwire took steroids, how can we accurately quantify the statistical impact of the drugs? Did they help him hit 100 more homers? 50? 30?

Who knows.

Besides, baseball had yet to institute a policy on performance-enhancing drugs. What McGwire reportedly did was not, technically anyway, against the rules.

Now, before you accuse me of being naive, I'm sure that McGwire was taking something, just as I'm sure that O.J. Simpson probably had something to do with his wife's murder.

But, I still believe in the concept of a fair trial. Without proven guilt, I must assume innocence until jurisprudence runs it's course.

If McGwire took steroids, what did he really do? He attempted to make himself bigger, stronger and better by using a technology readily available in this era.

Remember, if steroids didn't have health risks, they'd be perfectly legal and free for use by anyone who cared to.

The irony is that baseball writers/journalists are the ones doing the voting, the same writers who must type 'allegedly' in their stories until justice has been appropriately served.

In lieu of proper justice for steroid-era ballplayers, many baseball scribes have decided to annoint themselves judge and jury.

Not me. Mark McGwire would get my vote. If I had one.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Big Willie bringin' it

Got my first chance to review the tapes of Bengals post-game comments from Sunday. Willie Anderson's comments, some of which have already made it into print, are particularly notable.

It's not unusual for reporters to flock to Anderson's locker following games, but after Sunday's playoff hopes-imploding loss to Pittsburgh, it was soapbox central for the 13-year veteran offensive tackle.

The highlights:

"People should be embarrassed by the performance of our football team. I don’t have time to stay positive. Next year might be my last year. Who knows. Time’s running out for a lot of us. I started off with eight (wins) in my rookie year. It took me 10 years to get to 11 wins. Now, I’m back to eight. We keep fighting the same fight.”

“We have guys shooting shots in their arms, foots and their knees just to try and play. We do have those guys. It’s not a totally negative situation here. We have a group of veterans who stay late, meet on their own with the coaches, put in the time. We need more of them.”

“We’ll never get over the hump with selfishness. It isn’t all about talent. You need selfless players. The lack of that hurt us.”

“The coaches know what the problems are. We knew where they were last season. We just thought they’d go away. We need to shake things up. If people hate hearing the truth, I’m in the wrong business.”

"I want to use my words smartly, but when I think about the amount of time we use up practicing and meeting just to go 8-8 … that pisses me off.”

Good stuff.