Venezuela hunts for kidnapped MLB player

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Venezuela hunts for kidnapped MLB player

From Comcast SportsNet
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan authorities said Friday they are confident they can quickly solve the kidnapping of Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. The abduction on Wednesday was the first known kidnapping of a major leaguer in a country that has scores of players on big league rosters, and it has brought a renewed focus on rising violent crime in Venezuela. Deputy Justice Minister Edwin Rojas said investigators are making progress in gathering evidence and have physical descriptions of the kidnappers based on the accounts of relatives. "We have faith in the quick resolution of this case," Rojas told state television. He said President Hugo Chavez's government "is working 24 hours a day to solve this case." Armed men seized Ramos at gunpoint Wednesday outside his home in a working-class neighborhood in the city of Valencia. Authorities said Thursday that they had found a stolen SUV used by the kidnappers abandoned in a nearby town. Neighbors held a candlelight vigil outside his home and prayed for Ramos, as did fans at a baseball game in Valencia on Thursday. At games in three Venezuelan stadiums Thursday night, players and fans observed a minute of silence in support of Ramos. Some held signs reading: "Free Wilson Ramos!" Teams added green to their uniforms, some sporting a green ribbon on one shoulder, others a green "W" for Wilson embroidered on their jerseys. Security has increasingly become a concern for Venezuelan players and their families as a rising wave of kidnappings has hit the wealthy as well as the middle class. Venezuelan police said 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. In 1998, when Chavez was elected, just 52 kidnappings were reported. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings today is much higher because many cases aren't reported to authorities.

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

In July, when asked how contract talks were going with star forward Artemi Panarin, general manager Stan Bowman said he wouldn’t negotiate through the media.

He reiterated that on Tuesday.

“Obviously Artemi's a big part of our team. We're excited for the season he had. We're looking forward to him building on that as well. Then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself,” I respect Tom [Lynn, Panarin’s agent]. He's a very knowledgeable guy, and Artemi put a lot of faith in him. And Tom and I will work to get something done.”

Panarin is entering the final year of his current contract and is coming off a monster rookie season in which he recorded 77 points and took home the Calder Trophy. Panarin took home plenty of bonus money thanks to that season, too.

The 24-year-old could certainly command a hefty price, which would once again be a major concern to the cash-strapped Blackhawks. The salary cap is at $73 million for this season, a small increase from 2015-16 ($71.4 million). Factor in another likely small increase next season and the large contracts the Blackhawks are already doling out – Brent Seabrook’s eight-year deal with a cap hit of $6.875 kicks in this season – and could Panarin be another one that gets away?

But Bowman remains optimistic.

“We're always confident,” he said. “You go into a negotiation expecting to get a deal done. That's the way I've been in the past and that's the way I am now.”

Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

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Northwestern to play home basketball games at Allstate Arena in 2017-18

While Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a complete facelift, the Wildcats needed somewhere to play during the 2017-18 season.

That home location was announced Tuesday. Northwestern will play its home schedule at Allstate Arena in Rosemont during the 2017-18 campaign.

The previously announced renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017 and finish up in the fall of 2018, ready for the 2018-19 season.

“We are excited to partner with Allstate Arena to host Northwestern men’s basketball games during the 2017-18 season while Welsh-Ryan Arena is undergoing its renovation,” Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips said in the announcement. “The venue has a rich college basketball tradition in the Chicagoland area. I know that our fans will enjoy cheering on our team at Allstate Arena during what will be an exciting season.”

Certainly Allstate Arena is no stranger to college hoops. It's served as the home court for DePaul for decades and famously hosted the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional in 2005, when Illinois scored a remarkable win over Arizona to advance to the Final Four.

The renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena promises a radically transformed venue for Northwestern hoops. Announced back in June, the renovation's details include new chair-back seating throughout the arena, new locker rooms and offices for the men's and women's basketball teams, new restrooms and concession areas for fans, as well as an expanded concourse, a new ticket office, an expanded lobby and an expansion of the N-Club, plus the retention of the recently installed video boards.