Play Ball!

Play Ball!

Friday, April 2, 2010
9:30AM

Being a sports fanatic has its good times and bad, and I for one have probably had more lows than highs, but I dont know if there is any better time than Opening Day in Major League Baseball. Ive often wondered if I would feel the same way if I lived in say, southern California. Part of the allure of the beginning of the baseball season is that it tells us that the long winter is over. Im not sure if the long winter endured by the inhabitants of Los Angeles has them longing for re-birth. That endless string of seventy degree days must be a grind! But in the Midwest, and the east coast where I was born, the beginning of the season has more significance and meaning. Opening Day is a starters gun that signifies that its time to go back outside again. Being cooped up in the house can drive you nuts. (Especially if youve been watching too many Bulls games!) The arrival of the boys of summer means that it cant be too far behind.

People always ask me which sport is my favorite. If theyre asking about the four majors and golf, I dont know if I could say that I care for one a whole lot more than the others. I have an affinity for each one. They all bring up different memories and connections. Baseball though, has probably been around the longest. It for me, as well as just about everyone else, is a memory of childhood. Being as old as I am, I did not grow up (some say still havent) with ipods, Wiis and computers. (Did have the Atari Pong though!) What we did in my neighborhood was play sports outside at the park down the street from the time we got up until we were forced to come in. When we started playing baseball, it meant two things: It was nice out and school was almost over! (Go figure I loved it so much!) As I got older, I was able to play in little league. Getting my first uniform is something I remember to this day. ( No. 3? Dad-Same as Babe Ruth. Me- Whos that?) The parade at the beginning of the season was the social event of the year for any kid under twelve. The league I played in had announcers for every game and a scoreboard that electronically showed balls and strikes. That was known as state-of-the-art for the late sixties. Not to mention the concession stand had the best hot dogs and french fries I ever remember. Mom always loved the mustard stains on the uniform pants. Those times to me were like a Rockwell painting, forging the foundation of my love for the game, on every level.

The thrill of Opening Day has never waned. More than any sport, the beginning of baseball signifies more than a season to be played. Its about the summer to come and the summers that have passed. Its more than games. Its the sounds, the smells and the feel. No matter how many times the team that I love breaks my heart, (sound familiar?) I cant wait to come back for more. To be able to watch on TV, go to a game or to just follow my rotisserie team with a zeal that borders on psychotic, is all I need. Baseball is that friend that will be there everyday, with so many stories to tell, some good, some bad, but all worth knowing. Baseball will be the soundtrack of my summer, the background noise of my life for the next six months and if Im lucky, a little longer than that.

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

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USA TODAY

Janarion Grant will return to Rutgers for fifth season in 2017

One of the most explosive players in the Big Ten will be back for the 2017 season.

Rutgers announced Tuesday that do-it-all man Janarion Grant will be back on the field for the Scarlet Knights this fall. Grant suffered a leg injury in the team's fourth game of the season and missed the last eight games of the campaign.

"Fifth year, here I come! I'm excited about what I have been able to accomplish so far, but I look forward to getting out there and competing with my teammates again," Grant said in the announcement. "I thank coach (Chris) Ash and the staff as well as my family for their support through this process. Let's make this season special. Go Knights!"

Grant is tied for the all-time NCAA lead in kick-return touchdowns with eight. He's got five kickoff-return touchdowns and three punt-return touchdowns.

This past season, Grant got off to a lightning-quick start, scoring six total touchdowns. In just four games, he totaled 210 receiving yards, 195 kickoff-return yards and a kickoff-return touchdown, 138 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, 21 passing yards and a passing touchdown and 112 punt-return yards and a punt-return touchdown.

Grant is Rutgers' all-time leader in kickoff-return yards with 2,606, and he ranks fourth in program history in all-purpose yards with 4,251.

The Knights were offensively challenged in Ash's first season as head coach, dead last in the conference with an average of 15.7 points per game and 283.2 yards per game. Former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was hired earlier this offseason as the team's new offensive coordinator.

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

Bears challenged to replace coaches involved in three all-rookie selections

As a sign of good things to come, three Bears were selected to the NFL's all-rookie teams. But there's a negative thread running through the honors of linebacker Leonard Floyd being named to the rookie defensive team, and the selections of center Cody Whitehair and running back Jordan Howard to the rookie offensive team.
 
The concern lies not in the players or the personnel department under GM Ryan Pace that designated them for drafting. It is in the fact that the position coaches for all three rookie standouts are all gone from the staff of coach John Fox.
 
Finding talent is difficult enough. Developing it is the crucial next step in the football process, and what was evident in the rookie years of Floyd, Whitehair and Howard was that each developed into NFL-grade players with some very solid coaching.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
 
Offensive line coach Dave Magazu was not brought back, reportedly in favor of former Miami Dolphins assistant offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn, as reported by Sirius XM radio and Sporting News.
 
Stan Drayton, who coached Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State, then Howard this year, left for the University of Texas.

Outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt appeared to be exiting for the New York Jets, although sources report that the deal may not go through.
 
Coaches can't create talent but they can certainly foster and maximize it. Replacing the mentors of their three top rookies from arguably the best draft class since 2004 (Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Bernard Berrian, Nathan Vasher) now becomes a talent search in its own right.