Tag Archives: US sports


New Yorks rookie head coach isnt concerned about Odell Beckhams pre-game jaunt to Miami. What matters is what his players do at work and its succeeding

Ben McAdoo, the son of a western Pennsylvania coal miner and now the head coach of the surging New York Giants, launched his coaching career two decades ago by joining the staff as an deputy at Homer-Center high school, where “hes having” graduated only a year earlier.

McAdoo had been a defensive tackle for the Homer-Center Wildcats, but he knew he was too small to be a starring, even at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he was a student. But he did know he wanted to be a coach, so he dived in at the ripe old age of 19.

In the 20 football seasons between the time he coached at Homer-Center and when he was named last January to replace the illustrious Tom Coughlin as the Giants head coach, McAdoo held 10 different jobs with nine teams, including the Green Bay Packers.

McAdoo is merely 39, but he has been around the block. So when his superstar receiver, Odell Beckham Jr, flew to Miami after a game Sunday to expend an off-day Monday on a barge with three team-mates and Justin Bieber, McAdoo did not seem so concerned.

What he is concerned about is what his players do at work. And it is succeeding.

On a conference call with reporters on Monday, McAdoo said: Players are off until tomorrow morning. We will see them tomorrow morning and theyll get their workout in, and well get ready for Green Bay.

Yes, the Giant, wins of nine of their last 11 games, are to tangle with the Packers in a first-round playoff game on Sunday in Wisconsin, which will probably be a little colder than Miami. The Giants lost a regular-season game on 9 October at Green Bay, 23 -1 6.

That loss sank the Giants record to 2-3, but they have rebounded under McAdoo. Their finest moment came when they snapped the Dallas Cowboys 11 -game winning streak on 11 December by defeating them for the second time this season, but the Giants prevented Washington from inducing the playoffs by posting a 19 -1 0 road victory Sunday in a meaningless game for them.

The Giant finished with an 11 -5 record and constructed the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season, which ended with the Giant toppling New England in Super Bowl XLVI. It was the Giants second Super Bowl victory under the fusty Coughlin, who retired after last season.

Because it is so hard to imagine any Giants player skipping off to Miami on a lark under Coughlin, McAdoo appeared to be lenient in comparison even a pushover, especially as a rookie head coach-and-four. To wander off six days before a playoff game is not standard procedure.

The flip side, of course, is that he trusts his players and the process, and they have responded to him.

Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas told of the Miami trip( on which he was not invited ): It merely sucks. Those guys get so much attention for negative things, and I dont see nothing wrong with it. They didnt break any rules.

After falling to Washington on 20 November, the Packers have won their last six games. Green Bay is a five-point favourite Sunday, so the Giants are facing a formidable challenge. They have enough to worry about besides the possible ramifications of the Miami caper.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who turned 36 on Tuesday, even joked about it, telling of the photos of the Miami boat excursion: I guess as a team we kind of always pride ourselves on being well prepared, so when I saw some of the pictures I was a little disappointed, only because obviously they didnt pack accordingly. They didnt have any shirts plainly, all long gasps , no shorts , no flip-flops or anything. So I am only disillusioned on their packing and not being prepared for that situation.

Pressed for a serious answer, Manning told: I dont really get into what guys do on their off days. It is their off-day, and they can do what they want.

Asked if he had off-days like that, Manning replied: I havent had many of those. But hey, its different. On my off-day I am always in here get prepared, talking with the coaches a little bit about strategies and different things we can do. But that is kind of what a quarterback has to do. If guys want to get away for a day, I think they were a little low on their Vitamin D and went to get some sunshine to get the Vitamin D up to make sure that they are staying healthy for the cold weather in Green Bay.

Manning answered four more the issue of the Miami excursion; he said he figured he would be asked about it by reporters Tuesday after hed found out about it.

He playfully discounted some memes that had been created of him joining his team-mates on the barge, saying: No, I was telling people that I was the one who took the picture because they wouldnt let me in with my shirt off, so they induced me take it.

Besides, McAdoo had not been so dismissive of Beckhams flamboyant behavior earlier this season, because it already had hurt the team. After Beckham received a taunting penalty in a dismal loss to Minnesota on 3 October, McAdoo pointed out that criminal penalties “ve killed a” promising drive.

Two weeks later, the Giants objective a three-game losing streak by beating Baltimore at home, with Beckham accounting for 222 yards, but McAdoo did not appreciate how Beckham had pretended to propose to a kicking net on the sideline. Beckham hit the net in a 25 September loss to Washington in frustration and the net appeared to hit him back.

McAdoo said he had told Beckham to focus on the game to not be a distraction.

It would seem as if the journey to Miami would be more of Beckham being the same except, in McAdoos eyes, it wasnt. It arrived on time off. When the Giant reported for a workout Tuesday, Beckham and his three team-mates were there.

I handle my business, Beckham told ESPN. Im a grown human. I do what I am supposed to be doing. Im in the building when Im supposed to be in the building. I dont miss squad meetings , none of that.

Maybe he is not as much of a glum stickler as his predecessor, but McAdoo has his rules and enforces them in his route. Late Sunday afternoon, we will see if he can move the Giant deeper into January.

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Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas won the womens 400 m final with a diving finish, preventing American Allyson Felix from capturing a fifth Olympic gold medal

With the finish line approaching and an Olympic gold so close she could almost touch it, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dived. She sprawled across the hard, blue Olympic Stadium track without genuinely knowing why she had said and done. Her intellect was blank. Her body was cut, with skin torn away merely below her right ribcage, her right elbow and three places on her legs. But she didnt feel them. Her body was numb. She couldnt move.

All she knew was that she had run the race of their own lives, the 400 m at a shine, beautiful pace and now she was staring at the stadium illuminates unsure what to think, only wanting lie of the cool wet way because she had no energy left. Then she heard her mom screaming from the stands. Get up! Get up! And this was how Shaunae Miller learned she had won Olympic gold. Later, there would be time for the details.

She would learn she had beaten American track legend Allyson Felix by the length of her lunging limb, or 0.07 seconds. But at that moment she couldnt digest her success, her dream achieved. I was believing, Oh my gosh, I am lying on the ground right now, she said. And yet neither her moms pleas nor a gold medal would pull her to her feet. She had plunged onto the stadium floor to win an Olympic race and it was there she wanted to stay.

An hour after her victory she still seemed perplexed as to why she hurled herself across the finish line in the first Olympic medal race of her life. It was instinct, a reaction, a response to seeing Felix in her peripheral vision. But, hey, I got a medal out of it, she said.

When she finally stood up, several minutes after the race, she found her body had cooled. This is when she took account of the injuries from her diving, the bloody spots on her torso, elbows and knees. She felt them all. Oh gosh did I cut myself up? she asked. Somehow she didnt intellect.

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The Dallas Cowboys veteran is merely called into action around seven days a game. But he has yet to make an error after a dozen seasons in the league

Imagine an NFL player who has been perfect for virtually 12 seasons; a human who has been true every moment of his career never once sliding in the dirt or stumbling to catch his feet or suffering a bad day. It seems impossible. Even machines occasionally break down and humans err.

Dallas Cowboys long snapper LP Ladouceur does not.

You may have never heard of Ladouceur though he has played for more than a decade on one of the worlds most famous teams. Chances are you wouldnt recognise him without his helmet since the majority of his television appearances are closeups of his backside in the instant before he flicks a football between his legs. You have, undoubtedly, watched his work in the form of a decades worth of precise snaps whistling true to Dallas punters or flying toward the hands of holders on extra points and field goals. It is highly unlikely you took a moment to marvel at his reliability.

Long snappers live to be ignored because if they are noticed, it usually entails a cataclysm has resulted. A snap has been botched and the ball is flying over the punters head or rolling helplessly toward the holder on a field goal, throwing video games most anonymous player under the glare of the television lens. Abruptly everybody knows the long snapper and theres no place to hide. For Ladouceur, his perfection is silence.

I think the more you play this game, you start to realize that mentally you have to be sharp, he says by phone following a recent practise. The physical component is kind of a given. The guys who last long know that.

Long snappers are often everybodys joke; the guy at the bottom of the roster who has little to do with the outcomes of the game. They are mocked for their lack of impact, unappreciated by fans who have no idea the mental toll of waiting alone until the time comes to snap the ball. A few years ago, the Madden video game ranked Washington long snapper Ethan Albright as the leagues worst player , as if they knew something about him. He was a snapper and snappers have failed at more demanding postures, the believing goes.

Nobody understands the importance of a long snapper until something happens, which is the damning thing about precision at the position. Last Sunday the Philadelphia Eagles lost their long snapper, Jon Dorenbos, to a season-ending wrist injury. Then Brent Celek, the only other Eagle who could long snap, injured his neck and couldnt play. This left Philadelphia without a snapper.They couldnt punt or kick field goals, until late in video games when, in desperation, they brought out tight end Trey Burton, who was able to complete an ugly, awkward snap on a go-ahead field goal. Two weeks later, they signed a real snapper to replace Dorenbos.

At least the Cowboys understand the value of a reliable snapper. They have bestowed on Ladouceur two, five-year contracts over the years which is almost unheard of for a NFL player. His career earnings approach $10 m and he has carved a life for himself in the Fort Worth suburb of Aledo that no football-loving child from Montreal could have dreamed of living. All for roughly seven snaps a game.

But if you think any of this is easy, “its not”. Technique is important and while fans may scoff, long snappers put in long hours of practise on top of gym sessions and team meetings. Ladouceur says he works with the kickers and punters for large chunks of each Cowboys workout constantly bending over and snapping. Again and again and again until he has it right.

Basically[ a snapper has] to be a linebacker, but backward, be able to snap the ball backward like the quarterback throws, Cowboys special squads coach Rich Bisaccia once told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram .

But its hard to be a linebacker who isnt truly a linebacker. In college, Ladoceur was a defensive lineman and he still keeps the defensive players longing to run downfield and make someone. He has seven career tackles but rarely gets to attain contact on punts or kicks. He lives in a strange dynamic inside the Cowboys locker room, playing a position that should give him a bond with offensive linemen but knowing he can never live in that shut society, while remaining an outsider as well to the defensive linemen who would normally be his peer group. He is friends with players in both groups but he is a special teams player, a designation that puts him in a different realm.

LP LaDouceur: The physical component is various kinds of a devoted. The guys who last long know that. Photo: Icon Sports Wire/ Corbis via Getty Images

Still, he has played long enough to build a certain respect and has plenty of friends on the team. He has lived more Cowboys history than almost any other active player other than quarterback Tony Romo, who dropped a perfect snap from Ladouceur on what should have been a game-winning field goal in a 2007 playoff game against Seattle.

Logic says Ladouceur shouldnt be here. Children from French-speaking Canada rarely find their way to the NFL. But Ladouceur loved football and he was a relentless linebacker and defensive lineman at Notre Dame High School in Montreal, then later at nearby John Abbot College. He depicted scholarship offers from several American colleges including Syracuse, California and Michigan State, choice Cal after falling in love with the school on his official visit. He imagined a career as a predominate defensive lineman, but after a knee trauma and a coaching change, he fell out of the defensive line rotation.

There was, however, an opportunity for a long snapper. And at some phase he realized that any hope of playing professionally rested with his ability to snap efficiently on kickings. After graduating with a certain degree in ground and planetary sciences he was sighed by the New Orleans Saint who maintained him through training camp, cutting him just before the final preseason game. He left New Orleans on one of the last flights before Hurricane Katrina arrived, returning to California where he waited in Sacramento for another shot at the NFL.

It came a few a few weeks later in the most surprising of ways. Because of a scheduling oddity, the Cowboys had games in San Francisco and Oakland on consecutive weekends and decided to spend the days in-between practicing in nearby San Jose. During the journey, they released their snapper and started looking for a new one. A Dallas player who shared the same agent as Ladouceur alerted the agent who put in a call. An invitation was extended and Ladouceur drove that night to the team hotel. The next morning he stepped into a team van headed to practice merely to find the teams omnipotent coach Bill Parcells and proprietor Jerry Jones a row in front of him.

I was a Cal guy, I had long, blond hair Ladouceur remembers with a laugh.

We know about you, Parcells said to him that day.

And all Ladouceur could think was: What have I gotten myself into?

But he survived. He nailed his snaps in that first game and then the others that followed. After the season, the Cowboys gave him a one-year contract and then another and soon he was the player whose roster place was never questioned. Its definitely been a boon, says Ladouceur. Every day I think about Coach Parcells saying yes. I find him a couple years ago at the hallway of fame game and I thanked him

Parcells devoted way to Wade Phillips who gave route to Jason Garrett and still Ladouceur remained. Theres never a need for a good long snapper until you need him.

He built a life in Dallas. He got married and started a family. He and a friend went into business as contractors constructing new homes. He loved the idea of putting families in homes. He became something of a name in an area where the Cowboys are the most powerful cultural institution. The long snapper who never made a mistake. When he retires he wants to teach French at his neighborhood high school.

I feel like Ive cemented myself, he says. Before his thoughts turn towards teaching: I feel I can do something great there.

And yet there are few guaranties when you are the last player on the roster. Perfection has kept him with the Cowboys for all these years but somebody is always watching: waiting for clues of complacency, waiting to see if there will be failure.

On the very afternoon Ladouceur talked with the Guardian about his life as a snapper, a coach-and-four had observed Ladouceur in practice , noticed one snap was somewhat off and noted the moment.

A little high on the first one, the coach-and-four said at the end of the workout.

A little high? After 12 years of perfection ?

Ladoueur chuckles. You cant get too comfy, he says.

Nobody sleeps on perfect.

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The Yankees are the greatest hype machine of all time, but the 23 -year-old Sanchez is doing legendary things. Plus Yasiel Puig, Bartolo Colon, and the reaction to Tim Tebows baseball workout

There was Kevin Maas and Shayne Spencer. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Hideki Irabu. Shelley Duncan and Greg Bird. The Yankees can boast the most championships in major league history and also that the franchise is the greatest of all-time at producing overhyped prospects.

Any Yankees minor-leaguer who arrives in the Bronx with a bit of pedigree or touch of early success is unavoidably elevated to future legend status. Maas was the next Lou Gehrig when he made 21 home run in half a season in 1990. He merely hit 44 more home run with the Yankees over the next three seasons, becoming more the next Steve Balboni than Gehrig. So its easy to eye-roll whenever a Yankees rookie starts grabbing headlines. The natural reaction is to ignore it and wait for the inevitable breakdown to come.

But if youre doing that this year youre missing a Yankees rookie that actually happens to be worth watching. Gary Sanchez, called up to the big club in early August as the Yankees embarked on their youth movement, is doing legendary things. Its hard to find a hitting record the 23 -year old catcher doesnt hold for the first month of a career. Hes the first player to reach 11 home runs in his first 23 games, has the highest OPS in history through a players first 100 plate appearances, is leading baseball in WAR since the start of August and is the first American League player to win three consecutive player of the week honors since Albert Belle in 1998. Theres no over-hyping total predominance. You can say weve considered it before with a Yankees call-up, but baseball hasnt find anything quite like this in history.

Sanchez is playing so well that hes helped the Yankees stay on the fringe of the wildcard race more than a month after the front office entirely gave up on the season. And while his production at the plate describes all the attention, his play behind the plate is outstanding compared to most 23 -year olds at the position. He can hold a place in the majors on that alone even when he stops making major league pitching like hes a 6ft 2in kid in the Little League World Series. The Yankees undoubtedly have their catcher of the future and they may even have a guy who can develop the leadership and intangibles that induced Derek Jeters name holy terms in the Bronx.

Gary Sanchez (@ ElGarySanchez) August 27, 2016

New Yorkers never quit. Neither will we @Yankees. Please keep coming out to support. Thank you. #YankeesDontQuit #IamGary

He is Gary. He is not just the most recent Yankees hype creation.

Video of the week

Joon Lee (@ iamjoonlee) August 30, 2016

was watching some video and came across this steven wright pitching from a few nights ago.

holy crap. l6ZEc46n9Z

Seeing a Steven Wright knuckleball move like that is hard to comprehend. Its nearly as mystify as the issues to from the old Steven Wright joke: OK, so whats the velocity of darknes?

Quote of the week

I would give him the same advice I would be asking for right now. I would sit with him face-to-face and then tell him the things that he has been doing wrong, the things he should do better to be a better teammate and stay in the big leagues.

Yasiel Puig , Dodgers minor leaguer, on what he would tell his younger self if he could

Good for Puig if he feels like he has matured and become more professional since get demoted to Oklahoma City. But its fiction that he was sent to the minors because he was a bad teammate. He had a. 706 OPS with the Dodgers this year before he was demoted. He wasnt playing good baseball, so they sent him to play baseball somewhere else. In his rookie year of 2013 his teammate skills were no better, but his OPS was. 925. If Puig ever gets to speak to his younger ego, he should tell Young Puig to stay really good at baseball because then he can behave however he wants to.

Whos closer to victory: Donald Trump or the Cubs?

Hillary Clintons unfavorable numbers are way up again after her latest email dispute, forcing the world to again responding to the truly frightening prospect of a President Trump. The Cubs keep rolling along, but theyll have to get through a postseason tournament that includes nine other very good teams. Trump only has to beat one Hillary Clinton to win it all. Thats like the Cubs merely having to get past the Twins to win the World Series. This weeks advantage goes to Trump.

How did the kids piss off Goose Gossage this week?

Three minor league players, two in the Pirates system and one with the Tigers, got in an altercation at a bar in Toledo, Ohio, the coming week when a bartender reportedly dumped out the drink of Indianapolis infielder Gift Ngoepe at last bellow. No one can speak for Goose Gossage here speaking for someone is likely against a code but I think we can all agree that a bartender dumping out a patrons drink unprovoked is incorrect. The three players ultimately were arrested and charged with assault, but at the least they will never be charged with transgressing the unwritten rules of going to a bar.

Nine thoughts in order

1. Tim Tebow held his( much-anticipated ?) baseball workout on Tuesday in Los Angeles. One National League scout said off-the-record that he sucked, while another NL scout said he hit some bombs, simply bombs. Talk about exit speed off the at-bat. It was astonishing. No one knows where Tebows career will take him next, but we can be sure that no matter what he does, exactly half the people will think hes great and the other half will insist hes the worst ever.

2. A pitcher in the KBO named Lim Chang-yong came up with a great new style to hold athletes on the base without requiring fielders to cover the purse: just hurl the baseball at the baserunners head.

Dan (@ MyKBO) August 29, 2016

KIA’s Lim Chang-yong’s been suspended for 3 games& required to complete 120 hours of community service for this ‘pick-off’ VXRx1P 6sVK

A three-game suspension for innovation? Outrageous. Geniuses are so rarely appreciated in their time.

3. Max Scherzer has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning nine times now since joining the Nationals last season. As baseball continues to search for ways to speed up the game, this fact presents a fairly obvious one: in all Max Scherzer games, only skip the first 5 half-innings in which he would pitch. Thats 30 minutes saved right there. Youre greeting, baseball.

4. Bartolo Colon had two makes in his last start to become the second-oldest Mets player in history to get two hittings in a single game. Colon will break Julio Francos record during the 2021 season when he is 48 and reaches two triples. Then maybe people will finally believe me that Bartolo is the greatest athlete in the sport.

5. The Rangers are now 30 -8 in one-run games this season, putting them on pace to best the 2012 Orioles for the best winning percentage in one-run games in baseball history. Impressive. But that Baltimore team didnt make it out of the first round of the playoffs. And despite having the best record in the American League and the second-best mark in all of baseball, the Rangers are merely tied for 13 th in run differential at plus-9. Run differential is the stat that tells if a team is truly dominant the Cubs are plus-2 21, for example while winning one-run games is often a function of luck. The Rangers are going to make the playoffs, but theyre going to need a lot of luck to do anything there. For a squad that has never once had even a hint of postseason luck, thats a daunting fate.

6. Carlos Beltran expended the last two and a half seasons with the Yankees before getting traded to the Rangers at the deadline. The Yankees have long had strict requirements about player hair; the Rangers clearly dont have any such policy.

Kenny Ducey (@ KennyDucey) August 28, 2016

BARBER: what’ll it be?

CARLOS BELTRAN: Lather it up with some engine sludge

BARBER: Say no more aFJBPEHhYS

You dont have to like the Yankees. But the organization cant be all bad if it avoided catastrophes like Beltrans paint hair from resulting.

7. The Mets took the first two games of their series this week with Marlins to stay right in the thick of the wildcard race, but pitcher Noah Syndergaard did not appreciate watch fans do the wave.

Noah Syndergaard (@ Noahsyndergaard) August 31, 2016

Very happy we won….but I want the name and address of the person who started the “Wave” tonight. #banthewave #resisttheurge

This is a losing battle for Syndergaard. Most fans like the wave. There are only a few, the brave, who sit while all those around them stand. Like this Blue Jays fan.

Scott Johnson (@ _scottjohnson) August 28, 2016

it’s not lighted. Yc7ck1kVCu

8. Major league rosters expand today, devoting squads the option to grow from 25 players to 40. Its an odd day as contending squads suddenly have their playoff fates tied to lesser players who days ago were toiling away in forgotten towns. Or maybe its not that odd. MLB lets the Twins and Braves and Reds have an impact on World Series homefield via the All-Star Game, so why not spread such an approach out over an entire month.

9. Colin Kaepernicks refusal to stand for the national anthem is likely the biggest sports-related anthem disagreement since Roseanne Barr screeched the anthem punctuating the performance with a crotch grab and spit before a San Diego Padres game in 1990.

It was so bad that then-president George HW Bush called it disgraceful. But it wasnt without its positive qualities. For example, Roseanne had the courtesy to sing the anthem that style before the invention of Facebook, so no one had to deal with their aunt angrily posting about it four times a day for a week.

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Nick Kyrgios has let his racquet do the talking to cyclone into the second round of the US Open in New York

Nick Kyrgios let his racquet do the talking to cyclone into the second round of the US Open, a day after pointing out tennis players are allowed to smoking marijuana on tour in a Q& A with his Twitter followers.

Kyrgios overcame a troublesome hip and an early showdown with the chair umpire to blast past Britains Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in less than two hours on Tuesday night.

The 14 th seeds routine win came after officials said he would not be sanctioned for his latest headline-grabbing moment on the eve of the seasons final grand slam event. Kyrgios offered up a simple yep when asked by one of his Twitter adherents: are you allowed to smoke weed on tour?

And he is correct, with a Wada spokesman confirming that while marijuana is a prohibited substance for in-competition testing, it has never been prohibited out-of-competition. In consequence, that means players are OK to smoke marijuanas while not competing at tournaments.

During the same snap, two-minute Q& A, Kyrgios also teased that he would walk away from tennis at just 21 if he won the US Open on Sunday week. If I won the US open now u[ sic] would never find me again, he replied to a fan ahead of his opener against British No3 Bedene.

After sitting out the Rio Olympics following his running battle with Australias chef de mission Kitty Chiller, Kyrgios also seemed to have a laugh at the Australian squad boss.

Asked who inspired him the most over the Olympics, he replied: kitty. But, as his wont, the two-time grand slam quarter-finalist backed up his pre-tournament banter with an impressive opening to his campaign.

Kyrgios fired down 14 superstars and thumped 43 wins in booking a second-round date on Thursday with Argentine Horacio Zeballos.

His victory wasnt entirely incident-free, though, with Kyrgios receiving a code violation in the first game of the match for aggressively hitting a ball, after a rally that the umpire deemed came dangerously close to a linesman.

Youre giving me a code violation for reaching the ball too hard. Ive heard it all now, Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios match with Bedene was the fourth of the working day on the old Grandstand court all of which featured Australians.

Sam Stosur joined Kyrgios in victory after she won through to the second round for an eighth hour at Flushing Meadows following a tough workout against Camila Giorgi.

Australias 2011 champion overcome three service breakings and some relentless pressure to emerge with a 7-5, 6-7( 4-7 ), 6-1 victory over the free-hitting Italian. Stosur, the 16 th seed this year, next plays Zhang Shuai, who crushed Australian wildcard Ellen Perez 6-1, 6-1 in her opening match.

Daria Gavrilovas campaign has ended in tears with a shattering straight-sets first-round loss to Lucie Safarova. The Australian No2 was unable to hide her letdown after falling 6-4, 6-4 to the 2015 French Open finalist.

And Bernard Tomic also crashed out, losing 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6( 7-0) to Bosnias Damir Dumhur while also making headlines for a lewd statement he made to a fan in the stands.

Rounding off a busy day for Australians in New York, in-form John Millman fell short of pulling off the first big surprise of the tournament. Millman led Dominic Thiem two decides to one before succumbing 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 to the eighth-seeded Austrian.

It was a tough draw for Millman, who regained his place in the worlds top 70 on Monday following his charge to a career-first ATP semi-final last week in Winston-Salem.

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Bryan Armen Graham: The Omaha fighter tabbed to succeed Mayweather as Americas next big thing readies for his Madison Square Garden debut

The next big thing in American boxing descended the narrow staircase of the Mendez Boxing Gym on Wednesday afternoon clad smartly in a black sweatsuit, blue Creighton knit cap and pair of white Kobe Xs. He fielded boilerplate queries from the modest gaggle of media, orbited by the dozen or so family members who trail him everywhere, before climbing into the ring and skipping rope absent-mindedly, a wrinkled glob of Doublemint dangling from his gap-toothed smile. Just another day at the office.

Terence Crawford, the almost famous junior welterweight champ of the world, was typically cool ahead of Saturdays title fight at Madison Square Garden, breezing through a light workout amid the blur of activity in the subterranean Flatiron gym. The easy tenor was a stark contrast from only minutes earlier when the challenger, a South Philadelphia boxer-puncher named Hank Lundy, had filled the room with blustery promises of Crawfords demise Hes all nervous energy! Ive got him right where I want him ! before vanishing into the gray downpour outside.

In his assessment Lundy is practically alone. He wasnt the first or third or even fifth option for Crawford, who is unbeaten in 27 professional bouts and widely regarded as presumptive successor to Floyd Mayweather as Americas next pay-per-view superstar. An entire platoon of the 140 lb divisions uppermost names passed on the invitation to face him, among them WBC titleholder Viktor Postol, Ruslan Provodnikov, Lucas Matthysse, Mauricio Herrera and even Manny Pacquiao, who opted for known quantity Timothy Bradley over the young lion from his own promotional stable. Oddsmakers have priced Lundy as a 10 -1 longshot, lending the occasion of the champions New York City debut the subdued feel of a stay-busy battle. Not that it concerns the Omaha native.

Im a fighter, he said. Im not a promoter and Im not a director so I leave that up to my director and my promoter and I only fight.

And how. The slight, sinewy Crawford is a highly intelligent and complete operator, dependent on no one attribute. The tactical aptitude and mental dexterity that sets him apart a preternatural sense of timing and distance, an uncanny ability to adjust to an opponent throughout a fight and create or change his game plan as needed might not evoke the primal anxiety of a Gennady Golovkin or a Sergey Kovalev, other popular claimants to Mayweathers vacancy atop boxings pound-for-pound pecking order. But a scalpel can finish you just as decisively as a hammer.

Crawfords adaptability includes the capacity to change between southpaw and orthodox postures during the course of its battles. He delivers with equally formidable power and precision from either side, a ability he developed when he fractured his right hand in local schools oppose as an 11 th-grader and persisted at the gym despite the cast. That switch-hitting ability inordinately rare in upper-class prizefighters was the difference-maker in Crawfords signature knockout of the gifted Cuban defector Yuriorkis Gamboa, where he floored the Olympic gold medalist immediately after switching postures in the fifth round and thrice more before aiming it in nine. The wildly entertaining scrap was the second of three wins during Crawfords breakthrough 2014, when he burst from oblivion to capture fighter of the year honors, shortlisting himself among the worlds best regardless of weight class.

A crowd-pleasing stoppage of Yuriorkis Gamboa demonstrated Crawford at his tactical best

The 32 -year-old Lundy, more of a gatekeeper than bona fide contender after losses in four of his last eight, has flashed his Philly credentials to cast the champ as a farm boy out of his depth, but Crawfords formative experiences elude the cornfed stereotypes of flyover country. He survived a gunshot to the head while sitting in his automobile after a dice game in September 2008. The slug connected behind his right ear, their own lives spared merely because the closed rear window altered the bullets trajectory. The sangfroid thats served him so well between the ropes immediately kicked in: he drove himself to the emergency room while calling his family along the way to let them know what happened.

The near miss, which expensed him a fight that would have been his television debut, inspired his withdrawal from the Omaha streets and a wholesale recommitment to his craft thats paid off handsomely. Now one of HBOs most prized assets, he will earn a career-high handbag of $1.21 m for Saturdays bout.( Lundy will collect $150,000.)

Crawfords growth has inspired largesse both at home and abroad, only widening his scope as his profile has risen. He opened the B& B Boxing Academy in his hometown to help keep at-risk children off the street and has embarked on charitable missions to Uganda and Rwanda with a former elementary-school teacher. Hes also brought championship boxing back to his hometown, drawing near-capacity mob in three title fightings at Omahas 18,320 -seat CenturyLink Center, where native son Warren Buffett has become a gallery regular.

The tempered degree of difficulty underpinning Saturdays fight might not move Crawford any closer to the crossover stardom he seems bind for, but it could be the last chance to watch one of the athletics very best without plunking down $60 for the privilege.

Im looking forward to putting on a great performance, he said. Its always special to fight.

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Dwyane Wade is a Chicago Bull, leaving the Miami Heat after 13 -years. But like LeBron James decision to head home in 2014, it did not have to end this way

Successful eras come and go in athletics, and with the promise of free agency riches, rising salary caps and the clash of egos when it comes to contracts, dynasties are harder than ever to preserve.

With the shock deviation of franchise cornerstone Dwyane Wade, who has agreed a two-year deal with his hometown Chicago Bulls, Miamis fabled Big Three of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has been reduced to one, with serious doubts over whether the latter will ever play professionally again.

Four consecutive finals trip-ups and two titles were not enough to keep LeBron James, but they perhaps should have been. The chance to see out his glorious career and secure a legacy as a one-club human wasnt enough for Dwyane Wade either, but theres without doubt it should have been.

So what went wrong?

Unfortunately, Miami will find it hard to blame anyone but itself for the dismantling of this championship empire well before its time.

Wades decision to turn his back on the team that drafted him after a glittering 13 year career yielding all three of the Heats titles is no snap decision; it is the culmination of multiple years of free agency friction and unrequited sacrifice.

It was Wade, who agreed to lightened his wallet to bring LeBron James to Miami in the first place, who did more than anyone to broker the deal with his friend. He was the lowest paid is part of that Big Three.

When James high-tailed back to Cleveland, Wade again dedicated ground to accommodate the retention of Chris Bosh and the recruitment necessary to keep Miami competitive.

This summer, as tempestuous, immature and still largely unproven centres Hassan Whiteside walked away with a four-year, $98 m max contract, Wade was asked to do it again, all while Miami fixed to cast him aside in its damaging, Hail Mary pursuit of Kevin Durant.

However, in a free bureau period gratuitously inflated following a salary cap rise, the man whod never topped the Heats salary chart wanted his market value. He wanted Miami to finally make good on the years assurances hed be appeared after.

What he got was an insulting offer of $10 m for the 2016 -1 7 season( via the Vertical ), a 50% pay cut, during a week when players in his position scored unfathomably huge deals. Portland paid Evan Turner $ 70 m over four years and Evan Fournier received $85 m over five years from Orlando. Meanwhile, rival Dirk Nowitzki, three years older than Wade, nabbed two years and $40 m to finish out his career where he belonged, in Dallas.

After it was dismissed by Durant, Miami upped its offer leaving little discrepancies between it and the $48 m, two-year wage hell receive in Chicago( when Florida tax benefits are factored) but by this point it was too late. The injury had been done. Wade, seemingly grossly offended, was going back to his home state just like LeBron.

A 13 -year relationship, which watched Wade become the teams record holder for games played, points, field goals, free-throws, assists and steals, was over in unnecessarily acrimonious fashion.

Speaking to the Miami Heralds Dan LeBatard, all Pat Riley could muster was a text message read: SADDDDDDD !!!! SO saddddddd !

Wade himself, admitted on Thursday he was still numb at leaving a franchise and city where hes bona fide royalty.

Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do.

DWade (@ DwyaneWade) July 7, 2016

I wanna tell THANK YOU to #HeatNation … I’ve read and felt you guys love from afar. thank you for appreciating my 13 years. #FamilyAlways

Riley, the Heats so-called Godfather, of course, is more obsessed with snaring whales than Captain Ahab. However, for the second time in three years, Riley has overcast his line. As such, the two best players in franchise history have swum away to much cooler waters.

It was Riley who practically dared LeBron to leave in the aftermath of the 2014 finals dismantling at the hands of San Antonio.

This stuff is hard. And you got to stay together, if youve got the guts, he said in a memorable news conference that June. And you dont find the first door and run out of it.

Although there were other factors in play, this is known to have irked James, who is now a championship richer, his achievements in Miami now over shadowed by finally snapping the Cleveland hoodoo, while coming from 3-1 down against that Warriors team in arguably the greatest finals performance in NBA history.

Back than Riley was blindsided by LeBrons decision, just as he is reportedly surprised by Wades.

However, according to the Miami Herald, 13 years of service did not merit a call during the recruitment process. Instead, Riley left it to owned Mickey Arison, who was on one of his cruise ship shortly after the meeting with Wade.

Ethan J. Skolnick (@ EthanJSkolnick) July 7, 2016

While you’re watching Kelly Ripa, one more nugget: Pat Riley never called Dwyane Wade during the entire process.

Ethan J. Skolnick (@ EthanJSkolnick) July 7, 2016

The meeting between Dwyane Wade and Micky Arison was an attempted relationship patch. This was too far gone this time.

Many Heat fans have argued Wade should have received the Kobe deal; the last big pay-out, partly as a reward for what is unquestionably the finest career in south Florida sports history, partially to make good on his years of sacrifice and also because he was just, you know, worth it.

While Kobe picked up $48 m in two years of hobbling around in a legacy diminishing farewell tour, Wade still had the advantage of being Miamis best player, performing at a genuine All-Star level.

Seemingly beyond the injury fears of recent years after revamping his diet and workout regimen, he missed merely eight games of the 2015 -1 6 season, averaging 19 phases while carrying an injury-hit Heat to within one game of the Eastern Conference finals and a mouth-watering shot at LeBron a nation was hoping for.

Wades move may end up benefitting Miami on the court as it gears up for another run at a stacked free agent class in 2017 containing Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Kevin Durant and perhaps Blake Griffin. Riley gets another shot at those whales he covets so dearly.

However, like Kobe Bryant, Wade was worth far more to the Miami Heat franchise than wins and loss on the basketball court. For an entire generation of fans, who grew up watching him and that fabled Euro-step and step-back angled jump shot, Wade was the Miami Heat.

Without# 3 in Miami-Wade County, the Heat and a crestfallen fanbase has lost its identity, leaving a void genuinely impossible to fill.

As a squad that has often labelled itself as a family, that placed Wade front and centre of a defiant #HeatLifer marketing campaign after LeBron left, its a blow to the teams reputation and its chances of recruiting future big name free agent.

But what of Chris Bosh, the last surviving member of the Big Three era? Well that doesnt appear good either. Issues related to blood clots have ended the forwards last two seasons at the All Star Break.

His relationship with his team is also strained, to put it kindly. Bosh and the Heat clashed last season over his desire to return for the play-offs. Miami stood firm in denying it.

Amid distrusts he may be forced into retirement, Bosh will be paid $23.5 m by Miami next season. Medical retirement is a scenario the Heat front office may not be adverse to, given the three years remaining on his deal and the requisite salary cap hittings moving forward.

The Heats looming demise in the aftermath of the Big Three era is perhaps a cautionary narrative for the prospective dynasty that threatens to construct Miamis four-year finals streak look like a mere blip.

For the Golden State Warriors, freshly acquired mega-star Kevin Durant will be a free agent again next summertime, alongside two-time league MVP Steph Curry and franchise mainstay Andre Iguodala. Can both be retained with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also on big money?

Perhaps the Warriors softer approach will be successful where Pat Rileys challenges and bravado failed? Or maybe todays sacrifices will once again manifest themselves as tomorrows brooding resentment? The rest of the NBA will likely be hoping for the latter. In fact, it looks like their only hope.

For the Miami Heat, an uncertain future awaits without not one , not two

Well, you know the rest.

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The American is the only person to have won an individual swimming gold past the age of 31. Perseverance, fund and freakish talent have helped

Age 31 isnt over the hill in most endeavors. Baseball players routinely play into their 40 s, Phillip Dutton just won an equestrian medal at age 52, and writers often peak in their 50 s or 60 s( we hope ).

But what Michael Phelps has done in the pond is unusual. The list of individual medalists( excluding relays) in swimming whove passed their 30 th birthday is a short one counts 15( add relays, and the list expands to 23 ). Of that group, only Dara Torres was older than Phelps today when shewon multiple individual medals in one Olympics, taking three bronzes in 2000.

Individual gold medalists age 31 and up? None. Not until Phelps did it Tuesday night in the 200 m butterfly. That was his 12 th gold medal in an individual event, sending historians back to Greek antique for a comparable antecedent.

How is Phelps able to do what swimmers of the past have not?

Sheer persistence helps. Mark Spitz won two medals as a teen phenom in 1968 and seven golds in his standard-setting streak in 1972. Then he retired, apart from a short-lived comeback endeavor years later.

One reason Phelps has chosen a different career path is simple: the life of an Olympic star is no longer one of monastic poverty, thanks to a series of changes internationally and domestically through the 1970 s. Were no longer talking about Jim Thorpe being stripped of his 1912 medals because he accepted a pittance for playing a totally different sport. Today, Thorpe would win cash only qualifying for the US team.

And swimmers such as Phelps get paid, with prize money at the World Aquatic Championships now up over$ 5m and a steady creek of sponsorship money available. Even swimmers who arent anywhere close to Phelps level can earn a healthy $3,000 monthly stipend.

Financial comfort is important because swimming is such a demanding sport. Not that most Olympic events are for weekend warriors, but swimming including with regard to requires a lot of pool period and the occasional dry workout. At 35 hours a week, its not the kind of thing you can do with a full-time task. And the money helps swimmers take in staggering amounts of food to refuel. No wonder the U.S. Olympic swim squad is skewing older these days. Male swimmers average in 1988 was 20.9. In 2012, 25.8.

Yet those changes have also revved up the level of competition in the Games. The Olympics are no longer just for college student, the independently wealthy and state-funded machines. Phelps has stuck around, but so have Ryan Lochte, Laszlo Cseh and many other legitimate challengers.

And Phelps is still outdistancing not just the previous generations of Olympic athletes but his peers as well. This summer, 2012 Olympic champion and multiple world medalist Tyler Clary retired after failing to stimulate the US team in multiple events. Hes merely 27.

The ageless Dara Torres notwithstanding, females have had a more difficult time sticking around in the athletic. Natalie Coughlin has 12 medals from the last three Olympics, but at age 33, she was unable to attain the US team for Rio. Kate Ziegler was the Katie Ledecky of the mid-2 000 s, winning world titles and setting records in distance races in her teens, but she didnt make an Olympic final in 2012 and didnt make the team at age 28 this time around. Katie Hoff swept the individual medley world titles in 2005 and 2007, took a couple of individual medals in 2008 while still in her teens, then faded and eventually retired due to persisting issues such as blood clots.

Other swimmers eventually break down. Lochte has dealt with traumata, including a freak run-in with a fan that wrecked his knee. Most of those injuries took place outside the pool, but even in calm, cool water, overuse injuries can pile up over time.

Phelps has likely performed over 10 m arm strokes and 7m dolphin kicks in his career, wrote swimming expert Gary Mullen. This volume increases his danger of shoulder impingement and low back disc degeneration, two of the more common traumata in the sport.

Phelps has been able to stay healthy, and his physique surely doesnt hurt. Even in a pond full of perfectly tapered torsos, Phelps has always stood out with his long limbs and big feet.

The last part of the perfect blizzard that built Phelps the perfect swimmer is coaching. Phelps satisfied Bob Bowman at age 11, and the coach has stuck with him through a successful yet often tempestuous relationship.

Phelps has slackened a little. He scratched from the 100 m and 200 m freestyle at the Olympic trials this summer , no longer willing or able to attempt the daunting eight-event program he swept in Beijing eight years ago. But his times in individual events are comparable to his times in the past 12 years, excluding the two-year techsuit era that led to faster days for everyone in 2008 and 2009. Compare the 200 m butterfly, Phelps first individual gold medal of these Games. He won the 2011 world championship in that event in 1:53.34. His time in Rio? 1:53.36.

Phelps, Bowman and his entourage have a few other tactics that may also have come into play. Maybe the cupping therapy that leaves big hickeys all over his torso is improving his endurance in ways yet to be explained. Perhaps Phelpss retirement after the 2012 Games stimulated him come back rejuvenated and hungry.

But much of Phelps success is readily apparent. Hes a physically gifted swimmer who learned picture-perfect strokes, his body has not failed him in any major route, and his support system has helped him preserve those gifts longer than most.

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The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has earned close to $100 m for being OK at his undertaking. He should be smiling his route back to training camp

The luckiest man in the world was angry.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford reportedly had not returned phone calls from his team in weeks, ever since it became clear the Eagles planned to draft a quarterback with the No2 overall pick in last months draft. Its odd, as surely Bradford can afford a phone. In fact, he can no doubt afford to pay a full staff of switchboard operators to man his phone line and provide them with a generous benefits package. Bradford has constructed $78 m in his six-year NFL career in exchange for achieving almost nothing, with at the least another $22 m ensure on the way with the same zero strings attached. The Eagles will likely be on the hook for another $14 m if he simply shows up for work through next season. Yet somehow the most fortunate human in football was very upset. And despite indicating up to the teams facility on Monday for a workout, undoubtedly still is.

Im excited to be back on the field today with my team-mates and coaches, Bradford said in a statement. The business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and endeavours are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season. The statement continued on, but at this point its likely best to hold for laugh.

Tom Brady is the quarterback many say lives the most charmed life in football thanks to his four Super Bowl rings and supermodel spouse. Russell Wilson might get some voting in favour of similar reasons. But both Brady and Wilson have to take the field week after week, get hit, vie, face criticism and in the case of the newly-suspended Patriot regularly fight cheating accusations. Meanwhile, Bradford has attained more money than Brady did through his first 10 NFL seasons( and three rings ), all while never winning more than seven games in a season and playing the bulk of his career in the pressure-free football oblivion of St Louis, a city that now doesnt even have a squad.

When Wilson plays through his huge four-year, $87.5 m contract extension after the 2019 season, hell still be nowhere near Bradfords career earnings. So much for the idea that God is on Wilsons side. Brady and Wilson are expected to put their squads in position to win a Super Bowl ever year. The only expectations Bradford faces is that hell miss hour due to injury and throw interceptions in the end zone.

Even Justin Verlander, baseballs most fortunate player thanks to a contract that will pay him $28 m a year through 2019 despite his long-depleted abilities, still remains to toe the rubber every five days and get humbled in public. The Eagles arent even expecting Bradford to play, save for maybe a few games at the start of the 2016 season while Carson Wentz learns the NFL game and overcomes the inevitable North Dakota-to-Philly culture shock. Then the expectation for Bradford is that he merely stay where you are and hold a clipboard, free from any possible injury or criticism, stress or expectation, while his bank account fills with regular six-figure deposits. How can he be upset by such good fortune? How could he refuse contact with the organization that is continuing to provide him with the American Dreaming: getting paid a ton of fund to do absolutely nothing?

You can tag him as a competitor who merely wants to play, money be damned, but the Eagles insist they were clear with Bradford all along about their plans to draft a quarterback and that his new job responsibilities included mentoring his replacing. Maybe Bradford needs a refresher as to why he may be the most fortunate player in NFL history. A reminder about why his tantrum was an illogical response to the ultimate first-world( yet second-string) problem.

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement set a cap on rookie wages. This cap is often referred to as the Sam Bradford Rule, as Bradford was the last No1 overall selection before the rules changed and he benefited with an absurd six-year, $78 m initial deal with $50 m assure. A year later, under the new system, No1 pick Cam Newton was inked to a four-year, $22 m deal, including $ 0 in bonuses for dancing.

Bradford was fortunate to even go No1 overall and get that big pre-CBA money. He missed all but one game of his 2009 season at Oklahoma to injury, merely to be lucky enough to declare for the draft in a woefully weak class at QB. After Bradford went No1, the next quarterbacks to come off the board were Tim Tebow at No25, Jimmy Clausen at No48 and Colt McCoy at No85. Mike Kafka, John Skelton and Tony Pike went subsequently. With these sorts of competition, Bradford became the clear choice for the quarterback-desperate Rams.

The financial good fortune then continued once he stepped on the field in NFL( and hobbled off ). Bradford was mediocre at best in St Louis, posting a 79.3 quarterback rating and winning just 36% of his starts. The Rams had every reason to cut him, move on and be on the hook for only the $50 m guaranteed. Merely Bradford got hurt so often missing 25 games in five seasons that St Louis repeatedly persuaded themselves they needed to wait it out and see if he could turn things around when healthy. By 2015, after Bradford missed the entire 2014 season due to a second torn ACL, his time being paid big-time fund was surely over … only football genius/ madman Chip Kelly agreed to bring Bradford to Philadelphia in a trade and happily paid the final year of Bradfords rookie deal.

In Kellys quarterback-friendly offense, Bradford had a career-year in 2015. Or at least the Eagles apparently think he did, extending him for two years and $36 m on 1 March. Yet while Bradford managed to stay healthy for 14 games, match his career-high win total with seven and hurl for a career-best 3,725 yards, he was 26 th in the NFL in passer rating and 31 st in Total QBR. And for that hes getting at least $22 m more in his new deal, which will push his career earnings over $100 m. Bradford has induced so much undeserved fund that he should be named an honorary Kardashian.

Although he was right when he said on Monday that the business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. Perhaps he finally considered that the business of Sam Bradford is quite good. Perhaps he realized that to be paid like a star QB despite not playing like one since beating up Big 12 foes as a college sophomore in 2008 is a pretty solid gig. Maybe he figured out that having to take some snaps for a team with zero expectations of winning in exchange for tens of millions of dollars is not worth a tantrum. If anything, its worth a heartfelt thank you. He was an injury-prone quarterback in a bad draft class that fell in the last year of rookie funny money. Everything has gone right for him to the tune of $100 m. How is he pouting? Why is he not saying blessed more than Tebow and Wilson combined?

Bradford is ultimately back at the Eagles facility. When he returns tomorrow and the next day and every day left on his absurd contract, he should do so with a huge smile on his face. A smile befitting the luckiest human in NFL history.

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If not for a bench coach who assured perfection where no one else did, Ichiro Suzuki might never have become the most prolific hitter in baseball history

On a chilly October night in 2003, Kenichiro Kawamura sat in the sofa of a hotel in Kobe, talking about the time he saved Ichiro Suzukis swaying. It was tale he rarely recurred, even though he was a known reaching coach in Japan and Ichiro an American sensation as the right fielder for the Seattle Mariners. Few, if any, in Major League Baseball had heard the tale , not even Ichiros US agent. But that was Ichiro in those days: private, guarded and resentful of inquiries about his past. In many styles, he still is, even after recording his 3,000 th major league reached against the Rockies on Sunday.

In the early 1990 s, Kawamura was the batting coach for the minor league squad of the Orix Blue Wave in Japans top-flight Nippon Baseball League. Ichiro was a decent high school pitcher in Japan, producing surprising velocity from his lithe 5ft 9in, 170 lb body. The Blue Wave used a middle-round draft pick on the 19 -year-old Ichiro in 1992 because of his pitching. But Ichiros father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, had drilled his son for years on the art of reaching baseballs, constructing his child a painfully awkward-looking swaying that nonetheless produced effective results. When Ichiro reported to the Blue Wave, based in Kobe, he told squad officials he didnt want to be a pitcher, he was going to be an outfielder.

Their manager, Shozo Doi, did not insure Ichiro as an outfielder. Doi had been a second baseman for the Yomiuri Giant back when thet were the Yankees of Japanese baseball and was not impressed with Ichiros spinning, almost lunging swaying. Ichiro was a pitcher, he told. Ichiro told no. He wished to play outfield. Ultimately, Doi relented sending Ichiro to Kawamura.

Years afterward, in the hotel sofa, Kawamura could still remember the terse order Doi devoted him.

He told: Fix his swing, Kawamura told me through an interpreter who sat with us at the table.

They were an odd match, Kawamura and Ichiro. The reaching coach was big and robust, a gregarious baseball human, while Ichiro was tiny and limber. But the first time Kawamura watched Ichiro reached he was amazed. The lunge, reaching, left-handed swing that almost spun Ichiro in a half-circle was not ugly. It was one of the most beautiful swings he had ever seen.

I observed his center of gravity was very strong, Kawamura said for a tale I wrote in the Seattle Times . He makes a perfect triangle with his body, which makes a perfect center of gravity. His head always sits on the top of the triangle. He looks like he goes forward, but he doesnt. It appeared awkward, but when he makes the ball it becomes the perfect form.

Kawamura defied Dois demand. He knew he was watching magnificence when he saw Ichiro swing. And because Ichiro was very fast, he would get hits even when he didnt hit the ball well. Dedicated the route Ichiro also threw from the outfield, his heaves low and hard and straight, Kawamura was sure Ichiro was right. The player was an outfielder , not a pitcher.

He devoted Ichiro a workout program to strengthen his legs and said he would induce him a top hitter in Japans major league within two seasons. Ichiro stormed through the workout program and when the season started he was the minor league team best hitter. Even Doi took notice, calling Ichiro up to the major league squad in June. The promotion was too early. Against the major league pitchers, the still-teenage Ichiro appeared ordinary, reaching merely. 253 in 40 games. Doi sent Ichiro back to Kawamura again demanding that Kawamura change his swing. Once more, Kawamura refused.

I was so confident he would be a good batter if he gained his strength, Kawamura told. He hadnt observed his potential yet. I protected Ichiro. Going to the majors was too quick for him.

Still, Doi insisted that Kawamura remake Ichiros swaying. The more Kawamura told no the angrier Doi grew. They argued regularly about Ichiro with Kawamura telling Doi that destroying Ichiros swaying would ruin a player destined to be one of Japans greats. All Ichiro required, Kawamura kept telling, was time to let his body matured. Doi was unmoved. His order remained the same.

Change the swing.

In the hotel sofa Kawamuras face reddened as he recalled those arguments. He jabbed his stubby fingers into the table before him. I would quit! I would quit! I would quit! he told, rather than alter what he considered to be the best swaying he had ever seen. Eventually, he won. After the 1993 season Doi was fired and replaced by Akira Ohgi, who accepted the swing of Ichiro, who was then 21 and stronger. In 1994, his first full season with Orix, Ichiro reached. 385 and became one of Japans biggest stars. Seven years later, he joined the Mariners where again another league of baseball people questioned his swing and wondered if a player so small could be successful.

That was 3,000 makes ago.

None of which would have come without the persistence of a minor league reaching coach who assured perfection when no one else did.

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