Monday, April 02, 2007

FSI Running Diary No. 3: NCAA hoops title game

Your're now looking live at a blog from the living room of my one bedroom apartment in Fond du Lac where tonight I will watch the NCAA championship game and share my thoughts with the fellow Fondy Sports Insider readers, whether they like it or not.

In case you aren't sure how a running diary usually works, the premise is simple. As the night develops, I time stamp and witty and/or sarcastic comments that pop into my head for all to enjoy. If you want to read some old ones, check here and here.

If you came to this blog in search of Brewers updates, just scroll down a bit. I'll have more on the Crew later tonight, but for the next few hours, my focus is squarely on Ohio State, Florida and the brown spots on Billy Packer's scalp.

You'll find that most of my jokes are lifted directly from Bill Simmons or I don't care. It's funny. I'll be sure to give credit for those jokes where credit is due.

Enjoy the game, and the running diary.

8:01 p.m.: We're already off to a bad start. The intro for the pregame featured the band and cheerleaders from both Florida and Ohio State talking trash about one another. This was the best CBS could do? Isn't it someone's job to develop something that makes everyone foam at the mouth? I think an "Our Country" commerical would fire up the troops more than that garbage.

8:09 p.m.: CBS is showing Bill Donvan's pregame speech. Good stuff. I think Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart just added another $300,000 to the lure-Donovan-away-from-Florida contract offer.

8:11 p.m.: Why does Clark Kellog look like he's being electrocuted when he talks?

8:13 p.m.: I wonder if anyone has told Billy Packer that Bill Donovan is pronounced Billy Don-o-van, not Billy Don-u-vun.

8:18 p.m.: Who let Jim Nantz on the PA? The man is thirsty for power. It's bad enough he's done the Super Bowl this year. He has to take away this gig from superb PA announcer Gene Honda, who, by the way, does White Sox and DePaul games.

8:22 p.m.: Billy Packer just said the first possession for each team is important because we'll be able to tell what defense each team is playing. Apparently Packer is unaware that each team can change up defenses as it goes along.

8:26: Billy Packer still thinks its Don-u-vun.

8:41 p.m.: I think I accidentaly dozed off for a few minutes. Not because the game is boring, but moreso because Jim Nantz has such a soothing voice. That, and I was up early this morning to head down to Miller Park. It's rare for me to be up during the morning, much less early, which makes that feat rather impressive.

8:45 p.m.: I love it when Jim Nantz makes a comment and mentions Billy by name, but Billy doesn't respond either because he's deliberately trying to ignore him, or because Billy Packer is talking himself, only Nantz is holding down his cough button and Packer doesn't know it.

8:47 p.m.: Greg Oden is starting to assert himself. It's good to see 34-year-olds play with the passion of teenagers.

8:50 p.m.: I think the most important player for Ohio State is Mike Conley Jr. They look completely out of sync without him on the floor. You take Oden away, and they are all right. You take Conley away, and they lose their identity. All right, that's the last of the actual basketball observations. Back to wondering if the Terwilliger that plays for Ohio State is of any relation to Sideshow Bob.

8:57 p.m.: I really enjoyed this interaction. JIM: Tonight, Dave's bringing his 'A' game to the Late Show, with... stupid human tricks! BILLY: Well Jim, we're not seeing stupid human tricks right now, what we're seeing is Dun-u-vun is trying to get Richards in a situation (blah, blah blah). They're not the best in the business for nothing, folks.

9:09 p.m.: Florida leads Ohio State, 40-29, at halftime and appears on its way to defending its national title. I think the Brewer kid from Florida is a little underrated... in fact, he's kind of like Noah in the fact that he's a terrific college player that has no real future in the NBA. Still, I like watching him play. Ohio State has to be concerned that it is down by 11 even though Oden played most of the first half. The reason? Conley. They are a much different team when he's not in there. I'm just going to repeat myself, because if you do it often, you'll sound like you know what you are talking about.

9:23 p.m.: Oh, Dick Enberg. I think 50 years in broadcasting was one too many.

9:27 p.m.: I'm making buffalo chicken tenders and forgot when I put them in the oven. This should be interesting.

9:44 p.m.: I'm trying to find things to blog about from this game, but it's so vanilla, I don't know where to begin. I think part of the problem is the producer is passed out on the floor. Where are the shots of the dance team? The parents? I want to see Tito Horford wearing a basketball jersey with nothing underneath it. I want to see Yannick Noah looking like Jar Jar Binks. Where's Mike Conley? They are just showing... the game. What a concept.

9:47 p.m.: BILLY PACKER: Nice comeback here by Ohio State. They are really showing they are solid. (Good commentary. The lead is down from 11 to 7. Not exactly miraculous stuff here).

9:53 p.m.: Our first comment from either announcer that we aren't seeing a normal game from Mike Conley. Ya think? Greg Oden can't win this game by himself. He's having a monster game and OSU is down by 10. Conley is trying to take over, but Florida isn't letting him.

10:02 p.m.: Did you know Florida's Lee Humphrey is the all-time leading 3-point shooter in the NCAA tournament? Because I don't think I've heard either announcer mention it. That's something they should talk about more often, like every time he shoots the ball.

10:13 p.m.: It's pretty obvious that Florida isn't going to let Ohio State make this a game. And that's a shame. On paper, this was one of the most exciting Final Fours in years. However, it's been kind of a dud. Two of the games (including this one) weren't exactly blowouts, but the eventual winning team was in control the whole way. And, in today's game, Billy Packer didn't say anything too idiotic. There's still time.

10:16 p.m.: Spongebob Nopants. Genius.

10:18 p.m.: Well, here's something that will keep me entertained. What corny phrase will Jim Nantz say when the game's over? I like, "Well Billy, Billy's boys have done it again!" Of course, it could also be: "Gator Done? Gator Did!" or "The sun shines on the sunshine state again!" Either way, there will be puns and exclamation points galore.

10:20 p.m.: Apparently Billy Packer thinks Ohio State is tired. It's about all he's said in the last 30 minutes. This used to be his calling card back in the day. He used to say the team that was most tired was the team grabbing its shorts at the free throw line. He used that one from 1991-98. But now he just calls it whenever he wants. He's all grown up.

10:29 p.m.: JIM NANTZ: "Florida takes its place in history. Back to back, and unforgettable!" I guess there was an exclamation point there, but not much else. Sigh.

10:32 p.m.: Disappointing game all around. The issue was never really in doubt, Greg Oden played well, but was far from dominant. The best player on the court was Corey Brewer. Lee Humphrey hit some big shots. But that was it. The announcers were dull, even by Jim Nantz and Billy Packer standards. Someone gave Tito Horford an undershirt. Yannick Noah actually looked somewhat normal.

Oh well, you know what they say when things don't go your way in the title game?

There's always next year.

That's all for now, come back later tonight

For some reason, the heat is turned on in the press box, making it comparable to a sauna. All the Milwaukee media members are complaining, while the Los Angeles crowd is wondering what all the fuss is about.

I'm about to hit the trail back to Fond du Lac. Be sure to check back later tonight for more updates, as well as the running diary from the national championship game. And we'll have more coverage in tomorrow's Reporter, so be sure to pick up a copy or check it out online at

Bill Hall postgame quotes

ON ALMOST ROBBING KENT'S HOME RUN: I didn’t get one of those in spring training, so I never really had a (practice) chance at it. I just looked at the wall and said, ‘OK, I think I have a shot at it.’ I think I was up a little early. I think if I timed it a little bit better I catch it. My glove was right where the ball finally hit. Maybe a little better timing and I’d save a home run for Benny.

ON WINNING ON OPENING DAY: Everyone knows we have high expectations coming in. To get off on the right foot is important, it takes a lot of pressure off us to go out there and play the way we’re supposed to play. It’s a great feeling in that clubhouse right now. Even though we know the expectations, we have to see it for ourselves some times. We showed it today and everyone just feeds off each other, hopefully we can turn in victories like this all year long.

ON THE TEAM'S ATTITUDE: Our attitude right now is to win. That’s it. We don’t care about everything else. We want to win every game and win every series. That’s our attitude. We want to be jumping up and down at the end of the World Series.

Ben Sheets postgame quotes

OVERALL THOUGHTS: My stuff had some good finish today. I thought I had a good fastball. My curveball wasn’t necessarily great, but everything was good. My defense was outstanding. They made it way easy on me.

ON THE STANDING OVATION WHEN HE CAME UP TO BAT IN THE 8TH: Don’t mention the batters box. (Sheets went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts).

ON HIM HUGGING CATCHER JOHNNY ESTRADA AFTER THE GAME: I always appreciate my catcher. Especially when I don’t shake (him off) that much. It helps to get in the flow and the rhythm. And when catchers are on the same page with you, that’s what makes those innings go by so quick.

ON THE EMOTIONS OF THE GAME: The first inning there were a lot of emotions out there. In (Jeff) Kent’s at bat, I tried to bring myself down and he got me. I was trying to find that groove. You can’t pitch on that emotion the whole game. Once he got me, that kind of helped me settle down. Not the home run, but just in that at bat I was trying to settle down.

EMOTIONS, PART II: I had a Sumo wrestler wrestling in my belly. There’s some good energy that you can feed off of, but that was too much.

OVATION WHILE BATTING, PART II: It feels good. I’d love to go 0-for-4 every game and get my strikeouts in. Set the record.

ON THE OFFENSE: I thought it was nice we got the guys over, got the guys in. they all talk about Billy Hall got the guy in and showed the capability to do that and manufacture runs. I think we’re going to hit some long balls. I think our offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Some Ned Yost postgame quotes

OVERALL THOUGHTS: It was just a very, very well-played game. I told the kids after the game that this could very well literally be the best game that I’ve ever had the opportunity as manager to watch a team play.

ON SHEETS: It made me a little nervous in the ninth inning after Brady (Clark) got the base hit was that this was the first time Benny was in the stretch all day long. It was one out in the ninth before he got in the stretch. But he finished it up and nailed it down.

ON SHEETS' PITCH COUNT: I told Johnny (Estrada) that we could go to 105 (pitches) if we needed to. I wasn’t going to go much over that the first time out. Benny felt strong and felt good and was ready to go back out there in the ninth inning.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING OPENING DAY: If we would have lost I would have said not too important. Really, in all honesty, its one of 162 games. It’s excitement because everyone has been waiting all winter for this game and there’s nothing like it to come in and win Opening Day. But the world doesn’t end if we don’t. We started 5-0 last year, and … you know. It’s really nice to go ahead and get the win today, but it’s one win out of 162 games. That’s all that it means.

ON WHAT HE'S MOST HAPPY WITH: I’m really happy about the way the kids played the ballgame today. I’m happy with our baserunning. I thought we ran the bases extremely smart and aggressively. I’m happy with our defense. And I’m happy, finally, hopefully that I don’t have to answer questions about Ben Sheets’ health.

Postgame tidbits from the Brewers' Opening Day victory

Here are a few nuggets of information, courtesy of the Brewers' media relations staff.

*Ben Sheets recorded his 12th career complete game.

*Sheets retired 22 consecutive batters after allowing a solo home run in the second.

*The Brewers extended their Opening Day winning streak to four games. The Dodgers have lost four straight.

*The Opening Day attendance at Miller Park was 45,341. It was the second-largest crowd in Miller Park history. The only other Brewers game at Miller Park to draw more fans was Sept. 6, 2003, when the Brewers played the Cubs (46,218).

*The teams meet again at 7:05 tomorrow night on FSN. Chris Capuano gets the start for the Brewers, while former Phillies southpaw Randy Wolf will take the hill for the Dodgers.

Brewers win, 7-1

Ben Sheets gave up a one-out double to former teammate Brady Clark in the ninth but it didn't matter. He still got the complete game victory.

I'll post some postgame reaction after I get back from the clubhouse. Also, come back to the blog later tonight for my running diary of the NCAA championship game between Florida and Ohio State. Should be a good time. At least for me. It may put you to sleep.

Sheets is cruising, still no action in the bullpen

It looks like Ned Yost might let Ben Sheets go the distance in this one.

Since allowing a home run to Jeff Kent to lead off the second inning, Sheets has retired 21 straight. He's batting for himself in the eighth, which means Yost will let him try and seal the deal.

He's coming to the plate now, and the crowd of 45,341 is giving him a standing ovation.

This is the Ben Sheets the Brewers hope to see 30-35 times this year, not the one that spends several weeks on the disabled list.

By the way, Sheets' previous low-hit complete game came on May 16, 2004, when he struck out 18 batters.

If Sheets is able to complete this game, it will be the Brewers' first complete game on Opening Day since Don August did it on April 3, 1989 at Cleveland. That was a 2-1 loss. The last complete game victory on Opening Day was Mike Caldwell on April 5, 1979, a 5-1 victory at the Yankees.

Brewers chase Lowe from the game early

The Brewers are hitting Dodgers' starting pitcher Derek Lowe hard.

Through the first four innings, the Brewers scored six runs on eight hits. Everyone but Bill Hall, Craig Counsell and Ben Sheets have hits, although I should point out that Counsell and Hall both drove runs in.

Lowe has historically dominated the Brewers. Coming into the game, Lowe was 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts against Milwaukee, including a gem last September in which he allowed one earned run and three hits in eight innings of work. A sinkerball pitcher, Lowe is a master at forcing ground ball outs.

It hasn't happened yet. The Brewers are smoking the ball and smacking lots of line drives. With his pitch count in the 80s, Lowe just left the game in favor of left-hander Mark Hendrickson. The Brewers have three pure lefties in the starting lineup... maybe we'll see Kevin Mench or Tony Graffanino get in the game here.

Also, Brady Clark has come into the game on the double-switch with Andre Either. Brewers lead 6-1 in the bottom of the 5th.

Hall looking at home in center field

So far, so good for Bill Hall's transition to center field.

Hall just made a diving catch to rob Dodgers shortstop Ramon Martinez of a sure-fire double. Earlier in the game, he nearly made a spectacular grab on Jeff Kent's home run. While close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, the fact Hall even had a chance for that ball was remarkable.

And during the inning break, Rob just asked Ashley to marry him on the jumbotron. I'll be honest when I say I don't know the ladies too well, but I can't imagine anyone finding that romantic. Am I wrong?

It's the first game for us writers, too

I don't cover too many Brewers games — probably less than 20. But I'd like to think that I am somewhat smooth when it comes to interviewing the players.

Well, it took me a little bit to get going today. I asked a pretty stupid question to infielder Craig Counsell. I basically wanted to find out what he thought his role on the team was. Granted, he's going to be a solid contributor to the squad, but when people think of the team, they don't really consider him among the top players. However, Counsell won two World Series rings and knows what it takes, therefore making him a valuable commodity for the younger players on the team.

Rather than blabber something that winded, I just blurted out, "Is the best thing that you can do for this team is teach the young guys how to win?"

I'm fortunate Counsell didn't smack me in the face with his cleats. Instead, he thought better of that and said: "The best thing I can do is play good. They know what they are doing. We all watch each other so it’s every body’s job to go about it the right way and set a good example."

For more on Counsell, be sure to read tomorrow's Reporter for more of my awkward interview with the Whitefish Bay native.

By the way, the Brewers lead 2-1. This blog isn't going to be heavy on the actual updates, considering there are so many other outlets for you to get that information.

Brewers manufacture early run

It's a far cry from how Harvey's Wallbangers did it back in 1982, but the Brewers are up 1-0 after the first inning because of astute baserunning and moving runners over.

Ricky Weeks led off the inning by beating out an infield single, and advanced to third on a broken-bat blooper by J.J. Hardy. Weeks scored on a ground-out by Bill Hall.

Of course, a pessimist could look at the fact the Brewers had runners on second and third with nobody out and the heart of the order coming up and only had one run to show for it.

Still, if Ben Sheets is locked in all game as he was in the first, it may be all the Crew needs.

Nice ovation for Clark

One of the cool things about Opening Day is that both teams are introduced. Everyone. Not just the starters. Each lines up down the base lines for their introduction.

It was good to see Brady Clark get a warm reception from the crowd. The Brewers recently traded Clark to the Dodgers for relief pitcher Elmer Dessens.

And why shouldn't he be greeted with a friendly hello?

Clark was always a gamer for the Brewers. His best season came in 2005, when he hit .306 with 31 doubles and 94 runs scored. His numbers took a dip last year, he lost his leadoff spot and eventually the centerfield job when the Brewers shifted Bill Hall from third to center. That made him expendable.

Big Guy hats guy in da house

It's not a big sporting event in Wisconsin until a photographer gets a shot of Fond du Lac's Jeff Kahlow and one of his "Big Guy Hats" creations. Kahlow, shown here with wife, Sandy, is sporting the standard Brewers hat while it appears his wife is rocking one specially made for the occasion.
For more on Kahlow and his company, check out his Web site here.

Lots of media here today

There's normally a crush of media present for Opening Day.

Television stations from across the state make their way down to get sound bites they can use for the first week of the season. It has to be an inconvenience to the regular everyday reporters that need to get their regular everyday stuff.

Even the players notice.

Two mentioned the crush in the clubhouse, which is open to reporters before the game, except no cameras are allowed. That's why I try to get all my pregame quotes where it is nice and quiet.

Estrada makes a bold prediction

New Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada made a bold prediction a few moments ago in the clubhouse.

"I think someone is going to homer today in their first at-bat," he said.

We'll see. It could very well be Estrada. He's hitting fifth. Stay tuned.

Melvin shares in fans' optimism

Without a doubt, expectations haven't been this high for a Brewers team since the early 1990s.

With a starting rotation expected to be one of the best in the major leagues and solid young talent, Milwaukee is a legit playoff contender.

Count Brewers GM Doug Melvin as one that shares in that excitement.

"This is the most talented team we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here," Melvin said this morning. "We've seen and heard from a lot of the fans ... they feel there’s a sense of optimism and hope. There’s some national magazines that have high expectations for us. I said that’s better than the opposite of no expectations for us. We’re excited about that and we’re up to the challenge."

The Brewers, of course, haven't had a winning season since 1992 and haven't made the postseason since 1982.

Greetings from Miller Park

You're looking live at a blog from Miller Park, where in a couple of hours the Milwaukee Brewers will begin the 2007 season by playing host to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Check back for updates and insight throughout the day. The game can be seen on FSN beginning at 1:05 p.m. If you're stuck at work, you can follow the game action at I'll add what I can using info behind the scenes and my view from the third row of the press box.

If you want to fill out your scorecard, here are today's starting lineups:

LOS ANGELES: Juan Pierre cf; Russell Martin c; Nomar Garciaparra 1b; Jeff Kent 2b; Luis Gonzalez lf; Wilson Betemit 3b; Andre Ethier rf; Ramon Martinez ss; Derek Lowe p.

MILWAUKEE: Rickie Weeks 2b; J.J. Hardy ss; Prince Fielder 1b; Bill Hall cf; Johnny Estrada c; Geoff Jenkins lf; Corey Hart rf; Craig Counsell 3b; Ben Sheets p.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Scott Gillespie going to Ripon College

Scott Gillespie will play basketball for his father, Bob, at Ripon College, the school announced today.

Gillespie, a fourth team AP all-state pick and two-time East Central Flyway player of the year, started all four seasons at Ripon High School. He had interest from several Division I schools and could have played at the Division II level, but chose to stay home and play for Ripon College.

Gillespie is the all-time leading scorer in Ripon High School history.

We'll have more on this story later in the weekend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

FSI Baseball Preview '07

It's been far too long since my last post, so I figured I'd dive head first into the upcoming baseball season with the first-ever Fondy Sports Insider Baseball Preview.

Why should this preview stand out from any other? No reason. But I do have HDTV and am watching a Mets-Braves preseason game and the picture is so good, I can see into Bobby Cox's soul.

ANYWAYS, without further ado, here are the teams, players and storylines to watch as the season unfolds.

WORLD SERIES PREDICTION: I don't mess around when it comes to predictions. I get the big one out of the way first. I should forewarn you that I have worse record of picking champions than Sports Illustrated; my recent Super Bowl prediction was the Dolphins over the Redskins. So when I pick the Red Sox to beat the Dodgers, maybe it's not a good thing for fans of those two teams. But Boston's pitching staff, if it remains healthy, is tops in the game and the Dodgers have boatloads of young talent.

DIVISION WINNERS: AL East (Yankees), AL Central (Twins), AL West (Angels), AL Wild Card (Red Sox); NL East (Phillies), NL Central (Brewers), NL West (Dodgers), NL Wild Card (Padres).

DID YOU JUST PREDICT THE BREWERS TO WIN THE NL CENTRAL: Yes, I did. When you look at it, they should have won the division last year. The Cardinals won the division with 83 wins, and if Sheets and Tomo Ohka remained healthy, the Brewers easily could have reached that number. I'm guessing it'll take 85-87 wins to get it done this year, and if the Crew can avoid the massive injuries that beseiged it in '06, that is a reachable number.

AWARD WINNERS: NL MVP (Ryan Howard); NL Cy Young (Carlos Zambrano); AL MVP (Alex Rodriguez); AL Cy Young (Dice-K).

TEAM THAT EVERYONE WILL GET WAY TO EXCITED ABOUT IN JUNE, ONLY TO WATCH THAT TEAM GO ON AN EXTENDED LOSING STREAK AND FINISH BELOW .500: Kansas City Royals. This team is just set up for a big run early only to flame out majestically as the season goes on partly because they won't add talent in the middle of the season and because they have a bunch of guys that aren't used to playing full-time now faced with the challenge of a long, grueling season. Alex Gordon is a bona fide superstar and while they overpaid for Gil Meche, he should provide stability to the rotation. But they don't have the depth to carry it the full season.

THE REASON THE YANKEES DON'T GO TO THE WORLD SERIES: Pitching. The rotation is a mess, especially with Chein-Ming Wang on the DL to open the season. If they can outbid the Red Sox and Astros to get Roger Clemens, they may have a shot in the playoffs. Otherwise, a hot pitching staff, say the Twins, could take care of the Yankees in a short playoff series.

TEAM THAT WILL DISAPPOINT EVERYONE, INCLUDING THEIR MOTHERS: Rangers. This team has underacheived for years, and now that they want Sammy Sosa to bat cleanup, the failure will continue.