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Play ball! 614NOW’s preview of Indians and Reds opening day

Philip Emilio Palma

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Opening Day should be a national holiday…Seriously. People take off work, and kids cut school just to attend Opening Day. It’s that special. I prefer it to Christmas, Thanksgiving, and virtually any other holiday there is.

However, because we are halfway between Cleveland and Cincinnati, and the Cap City is more focused on the OSU Spring Game, the Blue Jackets, and the Crew, baseball gets overshadowed. This frustrates me. Especially, because the Columbus Clippers (who are the Triple-A affiliate for the Cleveland Indians), are one of the premier teams in the International League (not to mention an outing at Huntington Park is one of the best (and affordable) ways to spend a warm late spring or summer evening downtown).

Aside from that, it’s an easy drive up 71 North to the Jake (you most likely know it as Progressive Field, but it will always be the Jake to me) and equally as easy to bomb down 71, and Head to the Great American Ballpark. I’m sure someone else is covering the Spring Game etc., and that’s cool…that’s cool – but it’s not baseball.

Ohio has a rich history of baseball, from Branch Rickey, who was a catcher at Ohio Wesleyan decades before he would be essential to breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947, with the great Jackie Robinson; to the Cincinnati Reds being one of the original teams of the National League (they’ve been in the NL since its inception in 1890). For those of you that love baseball as much as I do, here is my outlook for the Tribe and the Reds, this year:

The Cleveland Indians: 2018 AL Central Champs

Yet again, The Tribe has one of the deepest and most potent starting rotations in all of baseball, including Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and Shane Bieber. Terry Francona, the Tribe’s skipper, will be laser-focused on returning to the Fall Classic, and along the way, should easily capture the team’s fourth straight division title.

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However, despite their stellar rotation and offensive firepower of their two MVP candidates Francisco Lindor (who will miss opening day due to an injury), and Jose Ramirez atop their lineup, The Indians’ fate might be the same as last season. Cruise through the regular season, and then hit a wall in the playoffs, where they will most likely have to deal with perennial postseason juggernauts the New York Yankees, the defending champion Boston Red Sox, as well as 2017 champs, the Houston Astros.

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Seeing the Cavs finally win a title, and damn-near winning one in 2016, themselves, the Tribe is chomping at the bit for that World Series title the City of Cleveland has been clamoring for since 1948. However, because their formidable pitching staff tends to crumble when it matters most (the postseason) Tribe fans might want to hold off on that ticker tape parade…at least for this season.

The Tribe opens their season against the Minnesota Twins, at Target Field, in Minneapolis. Corey Kluber takes the hill for the Tribe. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET/3:10 p.m. CT on Thursday. The game will be televised on both Fox Sports North and SportsTime Ohio, along with MLB.TV, and there will be radio broadcasts on the Treasure Island Baseball Network and the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.

The Cincinnati Reds: Finished dead last in the NL Central in 2018

When the Reds and Pirates square off for Opening Day at Great American Ball Park, both teams will be looking to establish their legitimacy in the National League Central division race, which is a herculean effort considering they share the division with perennial playoff favorites in The Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. However, the Reds believe they belong in that conversation, and for the first time in a long time, they’re not wrong.

The Reds had an incredibly productive offseason, acquiring Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, and, in my opinion, the most exciting player in all of baseball, Yasiel Puig.

The Reds also have new blood in the dugout/clubhouse, in the person of first-time Major League manager David Bell and a virtually brand-new coaching staff. The Reds also made key moves in their pitching rotation, which coupled with their huge outfield acquisitions, has fans fired up. The additions of Puig and Kemp should add much-needed firepower to a lineup that lacked the big bats. Puig will be especially exciting to watch, because unlike his platoon work he did in Los Angeles, Puig will be the everyday right fielder for the Reds.

Adding the bats of Puig and Kemp to a lineup which already has the team’s best on-base threat in all-around class-act, leader, and future Hall of Famer, Joey Votto, should set off all of the fireworks at Great American Ballpark this season.

Luis Castillo takes the hill for the Reds, when they face for the 29th straight year against the Pittsburgh Pirates, at the Great American Ballpark, in Cincinnati. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m. ET. The Reds’ broadcasts are on Fox Sports Ohio and WLW-AM while the Pirates’ broadcasts are on AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh and KDKA-FM. The game can also be seen live on MLB.TV.

Spring Training is over, folks. The 2019 season is here…Play Ball!

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Twitter Reacts: CBJ sweep Lightning in historic win

Mike Thomas

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Last night, the Columbus Bluejackets finished their perfect sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with an emphatic game four win in Nationwide arena. It was without question the single biggest win in franchise history, sending the Jackets to the second round of the playoffs for the first time ever. But of course, you already knew that.

For your consideration (and to soothe your post-celebration hangover/exhaustion) here’s a roundup of some of the spiciest memes and reactions to the Jackets big win!

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We Are The Champions: Ohio History Center exhibit pays homage to sports

Kevin J. Elliott

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Established in 1974, the National Women’s Football League was a perfect reflection of the times, a groundbreaking movement that mirrored the social landscape. At the height of women’s liberation, the N.O.W., and Billie Jean King’s “Battle of the Sexes,” the full-contact contests held by the NWFL promoted that same statement of equality for women in sports—and in Ohio, the Toledo Troopers won seven consecutive championships in the league, which have to this day, made them the winningest franchise in all of professional football. That the Troopers hold such a coveted record and tell a story of gender politics mostly unheard, is a common theme that runs through Ohio—Champion of Sports, the new exhibit at the Ohio History Center. 

At first, the title of the exhibit is a seemingly audacious, and very Ohioan, statement to make. Champion of (all) sports? Though Ohio natives are as passionate about their teams as any other state in the country, the exhibit gives an almost inherent right to the claim. Our traditions run deep. Our superstars— from Bobby Rahal to Lebron James—have achieved the highest pinnacle of glory. But throughout the museum there are a multitude of stories, like that of the Troopers, that shape that narrative beyond championships.

“Telling the national story of sports can be tough without including Ohio in there,” says the Ohio History Center’s curator Eric Feingold. “Whether you’re talking about the birth of the National Football League or the All-American Soapbox Derby in Akron, to some of the more prominent stories, such as Ohio State football, Ohio has really contributed to this story in major ways.”

The fully-interactive exhibit is divided into six thematic zones—including Character, Adversity, Innovation, Identity, Tradition, and Victory—where each attribute is shown through the lens of Ohio sports. The “Victory” wing, for example, is anchored by the triumph of local boxer Buster Douglas’ unlikely defeat of Mike Tyson, while “Innovation” highlights Ohio’s role in the evolution of the soapbox “gravity racers” used in derbys. “Identity,” by comparison, challenges the shameful use of the Cleveland Indians’ longtime mascot Chief Wahoo, while “Adversity” tells the tale of Youngstown pitcher Dave Dravecky’s World Series dream shattered by cancer. 

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Even the diehard Ohio sports fan will find something they may have never known. While it’s common knowledge that Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati dominated the NCAA men’s basketball tourneys of the early ‘60s, there are stories like that of the UC Bearcats being the first team to start four African-American players, illuminating how these teams and athletes were breaking barriers as well as records and stats. Or even the hidden minutiae of small-town Hiram College becoming the first basketball team to bring home an Olympic gold for the United States. 

“The exhibit is a new approach,” says Feingold of the non-traditional way in which Champion of Sports was designed. “Generally museums are object-driven, but in this case, we’ve worked with athletes, coaches, and fans to collect their oral histories. It’s this idea that you want to try to acquire objects as you’re going along and getting these stories from the people involved.” 

Still, there are over 200 objects procured from the museum’s permanent collection, other museums, like the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton,  and from private collections, that bring to life these stories—spotlighted are Lebron James autographed rookie jersey and a full-scale Airstream, that “may or may not have” instigated the first examples of traditional “tailgating.” 

As a intentional gesture, the exhibit is not just static with the objects; there are displays of videos that show those oral histories, and fun kiosks to record your own victory dances, but it’s those objects that look forward that have the most pull. Some of Feingold’s favorite pieces in the exhibit come from just a few years back and the creation of Ohio Roller Derby. In that, the museum aims to battle preconceived notions about the strategy of the sport, showing how it’s not a gimmick, but instead a compelling labor of love for the dedicated athletes who participate.

“This is an exhibit more about the human experience and the human condition,” says Feingold. “These objects highlight the intersection of sports and larger issues. Sports is just the entryway into a lot of larger themes.”

Ohio—Champion of Sports is now open at the Ohio History Center. Visit ohiohistory.org for hours and more information.

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Machine breaks down: Lacrosse leaving Columbus

Mike Thomas

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Sorry, Gear-Heads. It looks like the dream of major league Lacrosse in Columbus has come to an end.

According to a statement released yesterday, Major League Lacrosse has announced that the league would be reducing the number of teams from nine to six for the upcoming 2019 season.  The Ohio Machine was one of the teams to be eliminated by the contraction.

“This announcement comes as a terrible surprise to all of us at the Machine,” the official statement posted to the team website reads. “We share in the incredible disappointment in this upsetting news with all those that have supported us over the years. As shocking as this news is, it should not be seen as a reflection of the tremendous success that the Machine, and the game of lacrosse in Ohio, has experienced in recent years.”

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The announcement states that business partners and ticket holders for the 2019 season will be contacted and issued full refunds.

The news comes as some surprise in light of the team’s many accomplishments in recent years. The Machine appeared in four straight playoff berths under head coach Bear Davis, including back-to-back appearances in the MLL Championship game, and a championship win in 2017.

The dissolution of The Machine leaves the future of the team’s stadium in question, as well. Fortress Obetz was the nation’s first purpose-built professional lacrosse stadium, and also served as home to the now-defunct Fashion Meets Music Festival.

So long, Machine. You join the ranks of such bygone Columbus-based teams as The Chill and The Destroyers (though the latter is soon to be revived). Please share your fondest memories of Ohio’s first pro lacrosse team in the comments.

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