Braves sign former NFL player to Minor League deal

Sanders Commings has played defensive back for the University of Georgia and the Kansas City Chiefs since last playing baseball. But the Braves were intrigued enough by his athleticism to sign him to a Minor League deal.

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“We feel this is a tremendous athlete and an even better person,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “Our mantra has always been to leave no stone unturned. What’s the downside here?”

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Commings has not played baseball since his success at Westlake High School, located in Augusta, Ga., led the D-backs to select him in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

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The 26-year-old athlete’s decision to begin playing the sport again after a long layoff mirrors the one recently made by Tim Tebow, who was pursued by the Braves before he signed a Minor League deal with the Mets in September.

After being selected by the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Commings played just two games. He fractured his collarbone during his rookie season and then broke his right ankle during training camp in 2014. He was waived by the Chiefs before the start of the 2015 season.

While training for the NFL Combine, Commings developed a friendship with longtime Major Leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr. As the two were playing pickup basketball during this past offseason, Commings expressed his interest in attempting to play professional baseball with MLB jerseys.

Hairston invited Commings to the batting cage at his home and spent the past few months working with the former defensive back.
“He’s strong, he’s got pop, he’s just a tremendous athlete — you just don’t find that,” Hairston told MLB.com‘s Jesse Sanchez earlier this month. “You never know how a guy will react in Double-A or Triple-A. But he is worth the gamble, I can tell you that about cheap soccer jerseys.”

Hairston opined Commings has the athleticism necessary to play center field.

“I’m out there having a great time with a new team,” Brinson said. “Just trying to come back and do it right, just kind of show them what they missed out on. I wanted to go deep, but three hits will work better with china jerseys. It was fun seeing all those guys again, seeing the old faces. Having a good game makes it even sweeter.”

Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra jersey, who was the club’s PItcher of the Year in 2016, made his first start of the spring and pitched a scoreless inning. Guerra gave up a one-out double in the first to Shin-Soo Choo but struck out Rougned Odor and Mike Napoli.

Royals #25 Kendrys Morales White New Cool Base 2015 World Series Champions Gold Program Stitched MLB JerseyRangers knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa made his first start and pitched two scoreless despite allowing five baserunners. Brinson led off the game with a double and Gamboa picked him off second. Gamboa also got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Michael Reed and getting Ivan DeJesus to fly out.

“It has been awhile, it was fun to get my feet wet and get back out there,” Gamboa said. “It’s competing, when you get between the lines, you’ve got to strap it on and get after it.”

“Everything here, it’s like, how could you not want to come see this?” Blyleven said. “From the virtual reality to watching the IMAX to going back in time to see how the game evolved. This is a traveling exhibition of baseball. It’s beautiful.”

New to the Hall of Fame Tour this year is MLBAM’s state-of-the-art virtual reality video game, “Home Run Derby.” Released in December 2016, the VR game is the first of its kind developed by any professional sports league, and allows fans to compete in a Major League Home Run Derby within the unparalleled 3D environment of one of eight iconic ballparks.

In addition, those attending the Hall of Fame Tour will have access to up-close and personal VR experiences from the 2016 postseason. Fans will be able to relive the dramatic highlights from the Wild Card Games all the way through the final out of the Cubs’ historic World Series win — and even the championship parade through Chicago.

Special interactive sessions with prominent figures in baseball and entertainment, including Hall of Famers, are also on tap for the 2017 Hall of Fame Tour. For one hour, a limited number of visitors can participate in a Town Hall-style conversation with dignitaries, who will be announced at a later date.

Manuel inducted into Philly Sports Hall of Fame

Charlie Manuel had a flashback or two late Wednesday night as rain started to fall during Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

It looked a little like Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.

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That game between the Phillies and Rays had to be postponed. The series resumed two days later and the Phillies won, making Manuel one of just two managers in Phillies history to win a World Series. His success during arguably the greatest era in franchise history is why he was inducted Thursday night into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

The Phillies hope to return to the World Series in the near future, although they will need some of their young talents to live up to their potential to make it happen. Manuel, who is a senior advisor to general manager Matt Klentak, shared a few thoughts on some of the Phillies’ top young players before his induction ceremony at Hilton City Avenue.

“I’ll say definitely, within the next two or three years, we’ve got a chance to have a real good hitting ballclub in the Major Leagues,” Manuel said. “And not only that, we’re going to have guys that are talented enough to play defense, run the bases and all of those things.”

Manuel looks at third baseman Maikel Franco and sees a hitter that should have 100-plus RBIs at the end of the season. Franco, 24, hit .255 with 25 home runs, 88 RBIs and a .733 OPS in his first full big league campaign.

“I think Matt [Stairs] is going to help him,” Manuel said about the Phillies’ new hitting coach. “I think when [Franco] gets going and hitting real good and feeling real good, he gets caught up in it. I’d see Jim Thome smoking balls in BP out of the yard. I told him, ‘Hey, Thome, don’t be doing that, man. Hit the ball low. Hit it through the fence.’ Because he’d get in the game, overswing and strike out four times.

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Kendrick hit .255 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs and a .691 OPS last season. He posted a combined .758 OPS the previous five seasons with the Angels and Dodgers, which was 14 percent above league average. The Phils believe Kendrick can return to prior form with regular playing time, something he lacked this season with the Dodgers.

“We believe Howie Kendrick is definitely a candidate to have a bounceback year,” Klentak said. “A lot of the underlying more advanced statistics would suggest he got a bit unlucky last year.”

Kendrick had a .301 BABIP last season, compared to a .342 BABIP in 2015, .347 in ’14 and .340 in ’13.

Kendrick was attractive to the Phillies, not only because they believe he can provide a much needed veteran presence in the lineup and clubhouse, but because he can play multiple positions and because he is in the final year of a two-year, $20 million contract. He will make $10 million next season.

Kendrick’s ability to play multiple positions is important because the Phils plan to place several players on the 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Some of those players might not reach the big leagues next year, which means the team will have less flexibility with its 25-man roster. Having an everyday player like Kendrick who can play multiple positions could come in handy.

“That’s something — just in terms of general roster management — that is going to be very important to our China jerseys this year,” Klentak said. “The versatility that the [trade] brings to our team is a huge benefit.”

But could Kendrick also be insurance if they trade Cesar Hernandez jersey?

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“We are not looking to trade Cesar Hernandez,” Klentak said.

Men's Pittsburgh Pirates Nike Gray Cooperstown Collection Hybrid Pullover Hoodie“In this market, he’s probably the foremost young, under-30 pitcher on the market,” Boras told reporters. “He had a 3.70 ERA in Philadelphia, which in case you didn’t know is a little bit of an offensive ballpark. He’s done very, very well. He’s got a fresh arm. He has the highest spin rate on his breaking ball. He has a lot of components that tell you why he’s successful — command, changeup, breaking ball — that are creating a lot of interest for a lot of teams.

“Then in a marketplace where MLB jerseys of the free-agent market is very short on starting pitching, it’s really advantageous for him.”

Hellickson, 29, is expected to reject the Phillies’ offer. He said in September he prefers a multi-year contract and he will likely get one. Hellickson is one of the top pitchers available in a weak starting-pitching market. He went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA, a career-high 32 starts and a career-high-tying 189 innings.

If Hellickson rejects the Phillies’ offer, any team that signs him will lose its highest unprotected Draft pick. That could be an issue if teams question Hellickson’s health or ability to replicate his 2016 success over several seasons. He posted a combined 4.86 ERA in 72 games (71 starts) with the Rays and D-backs from 2013-15.

“A qualifying offer is a good thing and a bad thing,” Boras said. “Maybe the only good thing about it is you’re identified as one of the special talents in the free-agent market. In the pitching market, there aren’t many starting pitchers that achieve that, that are in that realm.”

Moncada shows off skills at White Sox camp

If fans were allowed into the White Sox hitters’ minicamp, taking place through Thursday at Camelback Ranch, then Yoan Moncada probably would have received the first standing ovation as part of his new team.

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It only wound up as a Tuesday batting practice session, but even this workout looked impressive for the 21-year-old switch-hitter from Cuba built like an NFL defensive back. Hitting left-handed, Moncada laced a couple of pitches into left field. He followed with a blast over the center-field fence on a back field at the team’s complex, which will host Spring Training in a little over five weeks.

“I would describe myself as a power hitter because I have more power now,” Moncada told MLB.com through translator Billy Russo after Tuesday’s workout. “I really like to hit the ball to the whole field.”

“He’s obviously very strong,” said White Sox director of player development Chris Getz, who is getting in-person looks at Moncada this week. “He’s built like a powerful athlete. Him being a switch-hitter, having power, having ability to hit, it seems like there’s unlimited potential there.”

Those words become music to White Sox fans ears.

His acquisition from Boston, who originally brought him aboard with a record-setting $31.5 million bonus, stunned the White Sox faithful even as part of a trade for one of the American League’s top starting pitchers in Chris Sale. Now, the multi-talented infielder holds the unofficial lofty perch as the centerpiece of the club’s rebuild.

This minicamp allows Moncada a chance to interact with some of his new teammates after finding out about his trade in the middle of an offseason trip.

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“That was unexpected. I thought I would stay with [Boston] for a long time due to MLB jerseys from China,” Moncada said. “But that’s when you realize this is a business and I have the opportunity to play with this team now, and to be great for this team.”

“Conversations with him are very good. He’s a very mature young man,” manager Rick Renteria said of Moncada. “He has a sense about him. You can see he’s got physical skill, no question about that. Our expectations obviously, the whole organization, is that this is a young man who will be a big part of the future for the White Sox.”

Although he hasn’t swung for a little bit, Renteria has been impressed by Moncada’s approach. Moncada hit .211 over 20 plate appearances with the Red Sox last season, after posting a .294 average with 15 homers, 31 doubles, six triples, 62 RBIs and 45 stolen bases over two Minor League stops.

Considering how much firepower Boston has offensively, Moreland and Sandoval don’t need to put up gaudy numbers. More than anything, reliability is the expectation here.

In three of the past four years, Moreland has hit 22 or 23 homers. And last year, he added a Rawlings Gold Glove Award to his wholesale jerseys and resume.

“I always believed that kid could be special,” David Ortiz said of Moreland last month. “It all depends on how much they play him.”

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At the very least, Moreland should start at first base against righties. Depending on how well he can tailor his left-handed swing for Fenway Park, it could develop into more playing time. In 2016, Moreland performed better against lefties.

“We’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers,” manager John Farrell said of Moreland. “Last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career. With Mitch getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley [Ramirez] moving to the DH spot alignment, we also have the ability against quality left-handers that Hanley would go back to first base.”

Red Sox #41 Chris Sale Navy Blue New Cool Base Stitched MLB JerseyRamirez performed surprisingly well last season in his transition to first base. He will get at least some playing time there. But the fact that Ramirez can rest his legs should mean good things for his durability and production.

As for Sandoval, you are likely to do a double take the first few times you see him this spring. He might even need a new nickname. Panda, as he has been called throughout the years, has slimmed down considerably. This much is apparent from the several photos of authentic MLB jerseys cheap of his that have been posted on social media.

Coming off an unproductive first year with the Red Sox, Sandoval lost his job last Spring Training to Travis Shaw and then lost his season due to a left shoulder injury that required surgery. To Sandoval’s credit, he turned a negative into a positive, using the downtime as an opportunity to reshape his body. But he will still have to prove he can be productive again.

“I’m going to help him as much as I can,” said Anderson, who was at the same event Thursday morning with Renteria, Moncada and Lucas Giolito. “I’m sure he’s going to help me. We’ll get each other better up the middle. It’s someone I’m going to work with for a while, so I have to know him real well.”

White Sox director of player development Chris Getz went no further at the mini-camp than stating Moncada will be in big league camp and they will go from there. With Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino jersey and Carlos Sanchez on the depth chart at second, Moncada certainly won’t be rushed, and he figures to open the season at Triple-A Charlotte.

Moncada is the White Sox future, but he has the confidence to make that future begin almost immediately.

“I feel I can handle that situation very well,” Moncada said. “I feel very comfortable about myself. I know what kind of player I am. I don’t feel any pressure. I feel pressure because I know what I can do, not because what other people think I can do.”

Francona: ‘We’re the team that got him going’

Thanks to the designated hitter being available, the Cubs were able to put slugger Kyle Schwarber back in their lineup for Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday night. Seeing Schwarber in Cleveland is nothing new for the Indians.

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Over the past two years, Chicago’s lineup has featured Schwarber in all six of its games in Cleveland, dating back to his debut in June 2015 and including this World Series. Indians manager Terry Francona quipped Tuesday that it was the Tribe that got Schwarber’s bat hot in the first place.

“I think we’re the team that got him going,” Francona said with a laugh. “They called him up, and they were going to send him back [to the Minors]. He did so well with cheap MLB jerseys here that they couldn’t. So I feel semi-responsible. If he goes to arbitration, he can take me with him.”

During the June 16-18 Interleague series in the 2015 season, Schwarber came up from the Minors and went 6-for-10, with a homer, a triple and four RBIs in three games at Progressive Field. In Games 1-2 of this Fall Classic, which marked Schwarber’s first game action after a long comeback from a left knee injury, he combined to go 3-for-7, with a double, two walks and two RBIs.

Schwarber hit fifth in the first two games of the World Series, but he was moved up to the No. 2 spot for Tuesday’s game, with Indians righty Josh Tomlin jersey on the mound.

“It just gives them, kind of like we talk about, some more balance and another guy that can do some damage,” Francona said. “Whether they hit him two or five, he’s still a very dangerous hitter. You can be willing to bet that if [leadoff man Dexter] Fowler gets on, they’re not going to bunt him over. I hope they do, though.”

“The energy in this town is at an all-time high,” said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians’ longtime senior vice president of public affairs. “Only in Cleveland would it happen that we didn’t win in 50-something years and then we win two of them within six months of each other.”

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The time is now, and you could sense the pent-up emotions in the fans who walked out of the ballpark following a disappointing 9-3 loss to the Cubs in Game 6 on Tuesday. The Indians had a 3-1 series lead after taking Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley Field, but this one is going the distance. If you asked the departing fans, they would tell you that the pitching advantage is with the Tribe.

“I’ve been waiting 44 years for this — my whole life,” said Jason Todd of Lima, Ohio. He was at the game with his wife, Robin. “I hoped it wouldn’t get to this, but it is very fitting that these teams would play seven with wholesale jerseys. I hope we didn’t put all our eggs in one basket with Corey Kluber, but he’s definitely been our man.”
Kluber will make his third start of the Series. He is 2-0 with only one run allowed over 12 innings, and 15 strikeouts against only one walk. He would be a strong World Series Most Valuable Player candidate if he can get the ball to Andrew Miller and Cody Allen in a similar fashion.

“It was a crazy environment, wish we could have won it, but we have Kluber and Miller tomorrow. And Allen. Our three best pitchers tomorrow,” said Chris Kelley of Columbus, Ohio.

Kelley was sitting in Section 165 on the third-base side for Game 6, and he brought along his father, who had not been to an Indians home game since 1997, another season that saw the club reach the World Series. For Game 7, they will move to the bleacher seats. They just have to be somewhere in the park for a shot at history.

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“Can’t miss this,” Kelley said. “Game 7 is going to be crazy.”

While Kelley was sitting alone at the top of the field box section a good 15 to 20 minutes after the Cubs’ victory, his father was somewhere behind the visitors’ dugout. Why?

Indians #10 Edwin Encarnacion Cream Flexbase Authentic Collection Stitched MLB Jersey“He’s down there putting voodoo down on the Cubs by the dugout,” Chris said. “He’s waving his red towel at them. I’ve been waiting 15 minutes for him.”

John Guzzi and Mindy Brown bought tickets online and traveled from Phoenix for Game 6. They will stay around to watch Game 7 in the area.

The Cubs stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first five innings. They were robbed of another on a breathtaking defensive play by Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor in the ninth.

There were four errors. There were 36 players used, including eight relievers. The Cubs finally took the lead for good in the top of the 10th, when World Series Most Valuable Player Award winner Ben Zobrist drove in a run with a double down the left-field line. Miguel Montero’s cheap MLB jerseys from China followed with another run-scoring hit.

“This one about made me pass out,” Zobrist said. “It was just an epic battle. We’ve been listening to Rocky’s soundtrack the last three games. We’ve got our own Italian Stallion, Anthony Rizzo, that’s been putting that on. It was like a heavyweight fight, man. Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out.”

The Indians punched back in the bottom of the 10th to score a run and leave a runner on base when Maddon’s fourth reliever, Mike Montgomery, got Michael Martinez jersey to ground out to third to end it.

“It could not have been a more entertaining, difficult series to win,” Maddon said. “I believe this is good for our game moving forward, that we’re attempting to seize young fans and not just to play the game, but to be fans of the game. You cannot be more entertained than you were over these last seven games.”

Steelers’ offense primed for playoff run pending Big Ben’s health

Ben Roethlisberger hobbled up to the dais Sunday afternoon, a bulky walking boot changing the tenor of a day that had seemed to encapsulate the vision the Pittsburgh Steelers have for their offense and their playoff potential.

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Roethlisberger said he was hurt on the Steelers’ final offensive play of their 30-12 wild-card victory over the Miami Dolphins before the kneeldown that ended the game, when Cameron Wake fell on his right ankle on a third-down pass attempt. That Roethlisberger was still in the game at that point — with 4:34 remaining in a game that the Steelers were leading by 18 points — will be fodder for questioning Mike Tomlin if Roethlisberger’s play is compromised next Sunday in Kansas City for the Divisional Round. That Roethlisberger had a reputation early in his career of injury-related drama will probably encourage a week of wondering if this is anything more than a routine sputter for an otherwise high-performance offense. Still, on a day when everything was working the way offensive coordinator Todd Haley has long imagined it, an injury to Roethlisberger, however minor it might turn out to be, provided sobering ballast to the soaring expectations that the Steelers could be primed for a run through the AFC field.

“We don’t know anything yet, but we’ll find out soon enough,” Roethlisberger said. “You’re always worried about being hurt, but I’ll be out there next week.”

For good measure, Roethlisberger said his right shoulder was fine, too, after he was spotted flexing his arm late in the game. Although head coach Mike Tomlin, without getting into specifics, described the team’s injuries as “nothing of extreme significance.” It was a long way from a summer morning at the Steelers’ training camp at St. Vincent College a few years ago, when Haley sat on a bench with NFL jerseys from China and said he thought his offense could score 30 points per game. That kind of offense hasn’t been spotted in the playoffs in Pittsburgh, mostly because the roster was never intact, addled by injuries to so many of the critical principles.

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This was the first time running back Le’Veon Bell jersey and wide receiver Antonio Brown jersey were healthy and available for the playoffs together. In fact, the Steelers had been able to rest them and Roethlisberger in last week’s regular-season finale — and the impact was immediate against the overmatched Dolphins. The Steelers opened with a passing attack that took advantage of the Dolphins’ injury-decimated secondary, as Brown took short passes for long runs and touchdowns on the two opening drives. That forced the defense back, and the Steelers followed with a 1970s flashback drive of 10 plays, 10 runs and a touchdown. It was a brutal show of force, with the Steelers’ offensive line shoving the Dolphins’ defensive line, including defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, backward as if they were riding skateboards, to give Bell the time to read his blocks and wholesale NFL jerseys — so patient that his coaches were telling him to hurry up — and burst through the massive holes.

In a somewhat-ugly 18-16 divisional-round win over the Chiefs, Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell owned the scoreboard with six successful kicks off as many attempts.

Boswell’s heroics vaulted the Steelers into next week’s AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, while also tugging Pittsburgh into the history books.

As NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo noted Sunday, the Steelers became just the sixth team in league history to win a playoff game without scoring a touchdown. The last occurrence came a decade ago when the 2006 Colts knocked off the Ravens 15-6 in a divisional-round “thriller” before eventually winning Super Bowl XLI.

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Roethlisberger began the second half with an interception and tossed another wayward ball that was picked before the third quarter ended.

Nike Steelers #7 Ben Roethlisberger White Men's Stitched NFL Limited Salute to Service JerseyWith the Steelers trailing by 10 points to open the fourth quarter, Big Ben went to work. He found Antonio Brown over the middle, Eli Rogers and Jesse James down the seam, Le’Veon Bell in the flat.

“We just went into attack mode,” Roethlisberger said. “We went all no-huddle and we were throwing it and just making things happen. You know, guys made plays, and I just threw it to the right guys.”

After getting down 20-10, the Steelers scored on back-to-back drives of 75 yards and 60 yards, respectively, to take the lead. After Pittsburgh’s defense had surrendered a long Ravens march to retake the lead, Roethlisberger was masterful. The Steelers’ signal-caller led a flawless 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with Antonio Brown jersey reaching the ball over the goal line for the win with 0:09 remaining on the clock.

“It’s pretty special the way we won it,” Roethlisberger said. “Especially after feeling the way I felt at a certain point in that game and feeling like you let guys down and you blew it. So to come back and win it is pretty special.”

It was Roethlisberger’s 39th career game-winning drive (including playoffs), the most of any QB since 2004.

Sharks Set to Honor 50th Anniversary of Seals

The San Jose Sharks have announced plans to celebrate, honor and recognize the 50th anniversary of the California Golden Seals and the National Hockey League coming to the Bay Area on Sat., Jan. 7 when the Sharks host the Detroit Red Wings.

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Several prominent Seals alumni are slated to appear at the game to be recognized, including the Seals’ all-time games-played leader Bert Marshall, leading goal scorer Dennis Maruk, and the all-time winningest goalie in franchise history, Gilles Meloche. Norm Ferguson, who played in 279 games with the Seals from 1968-72 and Ernie Hicke, a veteran of 146 games with the Seals from 1970-72, along with goaltender Gary “Cobra” Simmons (74 games) will also be in attendance. Furthermore, former Seals radio play-by-play announcers Tim Ryan and Joe Starkey, and long-time team public relations staffer Len Shapiro will also be on-hand.

All six Seals alumni will sign autographs for fans pre-game on SAP Center’s North Concourse between 6-7 p.m. The North Concourse will also feature a “pop-up” museum of Seals memorabilia, photos and mementos. Additional recognition of the Seals history will take place pre-game and throughout the evening. All fans attending the game will receive a “throwback” Seals commemorative T-shirt.

As part of the NHL’s first expansion, the league doubled in size for the 1967-68 season with wholesale jerseys, expanding to 12 teams by adding the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and the California Seals. Previously, the NHL, since the 1942-43 season, had played as an “Original Six” league, with teams in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York and Toronto.

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During their tenure in the Bay Area, the Seals played under a variety of monikers, including; the California Seals (1967-68), Oakland Seals (1968-70) and most prominently, the California Golden Seals (1970-1976). In addition, the team was referred to as the Bay Area Seals for a two-month period in the 1970-71 season but the NHL persuaded owner Charlie Finley to revert back to the Golden Seals.

In nine NHL seasons (1967-1976), the Seals posted a 182-401-115 record in 698 games, playing their home games at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena.

While the Seals struggled on and off the ice to establish a foothold in the Bay Area, the heritage of that franchise eventually came full circle into what today is the San Jose Sharks jerseys, regarded as one of the most successful expansion franchises in NHL history.

In 1974, Finley sold the team to the NHL and the following year, the NHL transferred the franchise to a Bay Area-based ownership group, which included minority partners George and Gordon Gund. When the group could not successfully get a San Francisco-based arena approved, the team relocated to Ohio following the 1975-76 season as the Cleveland Barons. Two seasons later, the Barons relocated again, merging into the existing Minnesota North Stars club under the sole ownership of the Gunds.

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He also was a Norris Trophy finalist, finishing third in voting after scoring 27 goals and 75 points in 82 games. Burns is on a better offensive pace this season with 17 goals and 27 assists (44 points) through 42 games. That’s why a poll of 12 NHL.com writers has Burns as the favorite to win the Norris Trophy as the League’s top defenseman at midseason.

Sharks #39 Logan Couture White 2016 Stanley Cup Final Patch Stitched NHL JerseyBurns, 31, has been so valuable to the Sharks that on Nov. 23 they signed him to an eight-year, $64 million contract which runs through the 2024-25 season.

“To see that size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and that skill set and that type of shot … there’s not many players like that who can create offense from the back end, [and] he also defends well,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said after the signing.

Burns leads defensemen in scoring and the NHL in shots on goal (166). He plays in all situations, is averaging almost 25 minutes of ice time per game, and is a big reason the Sharks are tied for first place for NHL jerseys from China in the Pacific Division.

“I honestly do feel he is just coming into his prime, and he puts those expectations on himself, but I think they are very realistic that he continues to grow as a player,” Wilson said.

Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning came in second among the panel of 12 voters and was the only player other than Burns to receive multiple first-place votes (seven, two). Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens edged Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators for third place. They, along with reigning Norris winner Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, each received one first-place vote.

“Watson is an extremely effective defenseman because he keeps the game so simple. He’s a defensive-minded defenseman that doesn’t provide a lot of offensive upside, but he is exceptional at winning pucks in the defensive zone and then making a strong first pass to help his team get the puck out of the zone while maintaining possession.” – Chris Dilks, SBNCollegeHockey.com

Currently on the year, Watson has 1 goal, 7 assists and a +8 rating in 24 games played for the Huskies. But what really stands out this season are his blocked shots. With 46 blocks, Watson finds himself in the top 10 in the NCAA in that category.

“He loves the tough stuff and excels at clearing the crease, even with bigger forwards in his midst.” – Hockey’s Future.

The Sharks drafted Watson in the 6th round (168th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. You’ll remember that as the draft where the Sharks also picked up Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, Daniel O’Regan jersey and Joakim Ryan.

With his size, leadership skills, intelligence and toughness Watson checks off every box you look for in a defensive defenseman. And with the Sharks’ luck in that draft, maybe Watson will be making an impact in San Jose and discount sports jerseys in the near future.

Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia continues to rack up votes

A week ago, when Zaza Pachulia popped up second among Western Conference frontcourt players in the initial fan-balloting returns to determine starters for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, it looked like another round of Internet goofing off.

Last winter, Pachulia nearly snagged a starting spot courtesy of some ballot-box stuffing, whether by legit fans of the veteran center from his native Republic of Georgia or by folks messing with the NBA’s rather open system.

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Then the second returns were released Thursday. And there Pachulia was again – his hold on second place increasing.

Pachulia’s latest total of 823,476 votes is 192,610 more than San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, in third place with 630,766. That’s almost double the lead of 98,435 votes Pachulia had over Leonard a week ago.

None of the players in the top 10 among West frontcourt players had changed position from last week. But Pachulia’s vote total had increased by 87.3 percent over Week 1. And that ranked fourth in terms of acceleration, behind only No. 5 Draymond Green’s 96.5 percent, No. 8 LaMarcus Aldridge’s 89.5 percent and No. 6 DeMarcus Cousin’s 87.4 percent.

Fan balloting concludes on Monday at 11;59 p.m. ET. The All-Star starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 19, with the game itself set for New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center on Sunday, Feb. 19. The seven backup spots on each All-Star roster will be selected, as in the past, by the conference coaches.

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No one seems too worried this time about Pachulia – who is averaging 5.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 18.4 minutes – taking a starting spot away from a more deserving West center or forward. Last year, the 11-year journeyman finished fourth, just 14,227 votes behind Leonard. But this year, the NBA broadened its process for selecting starters to include players and selected media members.

Voting for fans, players and media will conclude on Monday, Jan. 16 at 11:59 p.m. ET, and starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 19 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com at 7 p.m. ET. The Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, will be announced the following week on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 26.

In the second fan returns, James totaled 1,066,147 votes to maintain the top spot among all players and increase his lead in the East frontcourt over the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (963,110). Cleveland’s Kevin Love (473,328) edges the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (457,300) by 16,028 votes for third place in the East frontcourt. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (971,362) and the Chicago Bulls’ Dwyane Wade (514,866) continue to set the pace among East guards, while the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan (453,538) remains in third place.

In the West, Curry (990,390) has pulled ahead of teammate Kevin Durant (987,479) as the conference’s leading vote-getter. Curry and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (961,685) remain the front-runners at guard, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (899,024). Durant, Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia (823,376) and the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (630,766) continue to lead the frontcourt, with the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (567,201) in fourth place.

“And then after last year, Jesse Murmuys, he called me out of the blue. Once he decided he was going (from the Raptors905) to the Lakers, he was like, ‘Stack, you should take China jerseys. I feel like’ – and these are his exact words ‘I’m 10 times a better coach than before I took the job.’ Once those guys were in my ear about it, I was like, ‘OK, maybe this is a good opportunity to get authentic NBA jerseys.’ ”

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Warriors #30 Stephen Curry Royal Stretch Crossover Stitched NBA JerseyBy the start of 2016-17, the NBA had hired 73 former D-League coaches or assistants. Some (Pelicans general manager Dell Demps) went from the bench to the front office. Others (Sioux Falls SkyForce coach Dan Craig to Miami Heat assistant) earned their own kind of promotion to the parent club. Still more (Nick Van Exel from Texas Legends coach to Memphis Grizzlies assistant) were hired by other franchises. But all had accomplished the same goal players hoped for in going to the D-League.

And, the list of former NBA players on a D-League bench has grown to 15 this season: Karl, Martin, Stackhouse and Walters as coaches and assistants Derrick Alston (Westchester), Joseph Blair (Rio Grande Valley), Anthony Carter (Sioux Falls), Corsley Edwards (Greensboro), Melvin Ely (Canton), Dion Glover (Grand Rapids), Anthony Goldwire (Erie), Ryan Gomes (Long Island), A.J. Guyton (Windy City), Zendon Hamilton (Texas) and Kasib Powell (Sioux Falls).

“I wanted to do this to learn as much as I could about this game,” said Walters, who played seven seasons with the Nets, 76ers and Heat. “I’ve been a head coach for 10 seasons – two at FAU, eight at USF – and I was obviously excited about the opportunity when Stan offered me the job. You’re coaching so many more possessions. I wanted to learn as much as I could from cheap jerseys and [Pistons coach] Stan [Van Gundy], even though I’m not under him directly. I just thought I was going to become so much better as a coach with all the situations. I wanted to try to get more into the process of being the best coach I can as opposed to thinking about cheap jerseys of the next job.”

Walters will be in Mississauga this week, along with the other NBA players now part of D-League staffs, coaches all as Showcase opens.

Coaches all, whether they can believe it or not.

No place like home: World Series drought will end

One of the beautiful things about this year’s postseason is that it’s going to end in an oasis.

Three teams whose fan bases have been wandering the baseball desert, parched and longing for that elusive World Series title, will be rewarded with a long, tall, cool drink of championship water that will last all winter.

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Cubs Nation might get the most ink because its local nine hasn’t won it all since 1908, but the Indians haven’t given Cleveland a World Series ring since ’48 and the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t done it since ’88. They’re all long droughts, and one of them is going to end.

It’s the Dodgers’ version of the more standard “Play ball!” normally heard throughout ballparks prior to first pitch. On Thursday, before an 8-4 Cubs victory in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers added a very special, surprising twist to this daily ritual, one that the fans didn’t know was coming.

Steve Garvey, who, along with Eric Karros, had just thrown the ceremonial first pitch, instead said, “You have been the 10th player, the wind beneath the wings of this franchise all through the decades.” He and Karros then sent a salute high to a Dodgers suite, where Scully himself recited the famous line — “It’s time for Dodger Baseball!”

It was a fitting way to begin the final NLCS game the Dodgers will host with cheap jerseys in 2016. Garvey, a 10-time All-Star, appeared in five postseasons during a career that spanned nearly two decades. Karros, the 1992 NL Rookie of the Year, set the Los Angeles-era franchise record for home runs with 270.

And Scully, who called his final game on Oct. 2, ended a broadcasting career that spanned six decades, during which he became known as the greatest baseball announcer of all time.

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It was another day at Chavez Ravine packed with star power. Earlier, Garvey reminisced about his own playing career, one that included a hit that has still not been forgotten among Cubs fans.

While playing for the Padres in Game 4 of the 1984 NLCS, Garvey hit a game-winning home run off Cubs closer Lee Smith, forcing a decisive Game 5. The Padres won it, 6-3, to send them to their first World Series in franchise history. It also gave Cubs fans a full offseason to grouse about curses, billy goats and, likely, indigestion.

Dodgers #22 Clayton Kershaw Black Fashion Flexbase Authentic Collection Stitched MLB JerseyThat year also marked the last time Garvey could walk the streets of Chicago for a while without being chided, however good-naturedly, by passersby.

“I’ve been a tongue-in-cheek villain there,” Garvey said. “If we were to walk Michigan Avenue, you’d see where people would come out of the stores — ‘Garvey, you killed us! You seemed like a nice guy!’ I’d say, ‘Hey, the ball hit my bat.'”

Garvey understood the angst of Cubs fans back then, and he still gets it today. The current NLCS features two teams that have had long droughts since their last World Series appearances: 28 years for the Dodgers and 71 for the Cubs (and 108 years since they last won it).

Garvey, who played for the Dodgers from 1969-82 and the Padres from 1983-87, is hoping the Dodgers end up with the pennant. But he acknowledged whoever wins it will be satisfying a very deserving fan base.

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Every win for Los Angeles this postseason has come on either a Kershaw start or a Hill start. The Cubs starters are formidable in their own right, with this season’s ERA champion in Kyle Hendricks for Game 6 and last season’s NL Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta, but the Dodgers have already shown they can beat both this series.

“This team is more than capable of winning two games in a row,” infielder/outfielder Kiké Hernandez said. “In Game 6, we have the best pitcher on the mound, and then in Game 7, we have Rich, who looked pretty good against them. The last time we lost two in a row, we came back and won two in a row against Washington, so I don’t see why we’re out of this. We’re still pretty confident we can come back and win a series.”

Confidence is really all the Dodgers can project after two sloppy games at Dodger Stadium that cost them a 2-1 series lead. While Kershaw, Hill and Jansen have combined for 16 1/3 shutout innings this series, the rest of the pitching staff has allowed 21 earned runs in 27 2/3 innings.

The good news is that those three top pitchers could easily throw the vast majority of the team’s innings from here on out. When asked if the Dodgers having to fall back on Kershaw for a win was beginning to sound like a broken record, all shortstop Corey Seager could do was smile and shoot back, “I like that record.”

Indeed, the team is well aware of what’s on the line for Kershaw as he takes the mound in Wrigley Field.

“He wants it more than anybody. We want him to have it,” right-hander Joe Blanton said. “He’s going to go out and do what he does best. Whatever the results that happen, everybody is going to be 100 percent into the game and ready to go. If we’re fortunate enough to go on with wholesale MLB jerseys, we’ll do the same thing the next day.”

Penguins Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid to face off

The NHL scoring race will be a certain headline when two of the League’s marquee centers, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, play against each other at Rogers Place on Friday (9 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNW, ROOT, NHL.TV).

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McDavid leads the NHL with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists). Crosby is tied for second with 70 points (League-leading 34 goals, 36 assists).

The game also creates a focus on what’s to come.

Crosby, 29, is looking to add to an impressive resume that includes 137 points in 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games and two Cup wins. The defending champion Penguins are tied for second with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points.

The Oilers have 78 points, two behind the Anaheim Ducks for second in the Pacific Division, and are on course to make the playoffs for the first time with NHL jerseys since 2006.

McDavid, 20, is on track to play his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game in his second NHL season, just as Crosby did in 2006-07.

“It was totally different,” Crosby said Thursday, referring to his first playoff game, April 11, 2007, against the Ottawa Senators. “A totally different level. Even the guys we were playing in that first playoff series, looking back I can’t believe all those guys were on the same team, when I think about (Anton) Volchenkov and (Chris) Phillips and (Wade) Redden, (Dany) Heatley, (Jason) Spezza, (Daniel) Alfredsson.”

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Crosby’s memory was that his first playoff experience was beyond formidable.

“Thinking back … there was a level of desperation, physicality, everything was different,” he said. “I don’t think until you go through it you can really prepare for that. So I think there’s a learning curve there as far as the guys you’re playing against and how physical it is. I was 19 …and it was a big jump playing against guys like that in a playoff.”

The Penguins lost that Eastern Conference First Round series to Ottawa in five games and Crosby suggested McDavid, while he may be going into uncharted territory with no playoff experience, may catch a break.

“He’s lucky he doesn’t have Volchenkov and Redden and guys like that all on the same team, whoever he’s playing,” Crosby said. “Hopefully he can ease into it a little better.”

The chapter on McDavid in the playoffs has yet to be written but the Oilers think their captain will be well-prepared for the challenge.

“It’s more complicated,” Sullivan told the Penguins website after practice. “I wouldn’t say he’s day to day at this point, but we’re hopeful that it’s nothing long-term.”

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Letang, who has missed four games and didn’t practice Saturday, has 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 41 games. He will not play Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres jerseys at PPG Paints Arena (5 p.m. ET; NHLN, ROOT, MSG-G, NHL.TV).

Penguins #30 Matt Murray Gold 2017 Stadium Series Stitched NHL JerseyDefenseman Brian Dumoulin left in the third period of a 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday with an undisclosed injury but was able to practice.

Pittsburgh, which is without defensemen Trevor Daley (knee) and Olli Maatta (hand), traded for defensemen Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday.

Malkin has 11 goals in his past 15 games; he missed seven games during that stretch with a lower-body injury.

The Lightning (29-26-8) are five points behind the New York Islanders for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from China NHL jerseys of the Eastern Conference.

Budaj, who stopped 60 of 62 shots winning two starts for wholesale NHL jerseys and the Los Angeles Kings against the Penguins this season, made 30 saves in his Lightning debut. He was acquired in a trade with Los Angeles on Feb. 26.

“I felt good. I made some good saves,” Budaj said. “We gave up a power play and they have a really strong power play. They scored three power-play goals and made plays. … Communication with the [defense], it’s a new team so it was a little bit lacking. But overall I felt pretty good out there.”

Matt Murray made 27 saves for the Penguins and is 7-2-2 in his past 11 games.

National pride resonates for Dominican squad

When the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico to capture the World Baseball Classic four years ago, it was wandering reliever Octavio Dotel who perfectly captured the joy that Dominicans experience playing baseball.

“We’ve got the game in our hearts, and we cannot hold it in,” said Dotel, who played for 13 Major League teams, none of which he loved like his national team.

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Dotel has since retired, and is watching along with the rest of the Dominican Republic as manager Tony Pena and seven holdovers from 2013 try to defend its title. Based on the noise from drums, boomsticks (shaped like the plantain that Fernando Rodney waved after saves in the 2013 WBC) and other noisemakers on Thursday night at Marlins Park, it’s clear winning will never get old for these guys.

The Dominican team pounded Ryan Dempster and Team Canada, 9-2, in the first game of Pool C play, and will anxiously await a Saturday night date with the United States at 6:30 p.m. ET on MLB.TV and MLB Network. These two countries have never met in the Classic and the atmosphere figures to be absolutely electrifying.

Attendance for the opener was 27,388, but you would have sworn it was a full house when Quisqueyanos Valientes, the national anthem of the Dominican Republic, was played. Pena sang along as enthusiastically as anyone in the stands.

“It was great energy from our fans, from our people,” said Jose Bautista, who was 3-for-4, including a three-run homer. “When you play for your country, it cannot be compared to many things. So we felt very good on the field, they transferred that positive energy to us and we with were able to perform.”

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While top players from the United States regularly skip the World Baseball Classic, the best Dominican players do what they can to be a part of this baseball festival. It’s a beautiful thing.

The Rangers third baseman, almost certain to be a Hall of Famer when he retires, suffered a serious calf strain on Feb. 14, almost immediately after reporting to Spring Training. He was expected to be sidelined three weeks, but found a way to get back on the field last weekend and somehow persuaded team management to let him travel to Miami with wholesale jerseys to serve as a DH in a lineup that includes Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Gregory Polanco.

Mitchell And Ness 1968 White Sox #11 Luis Aparicio Blue Throwback Stitched MLB JerseyYou get zero complaints from Dominican players about the event being held in the middle of Spring Training. If anything, they embrace the chance to jumpstart their seasons by traveling the world with many of their best friends in baseball.

“I like to get away from Spring Training for a little bit,” Cano said. “But it’s always fun to come and represent your country. … We love our country and we would love to do it, no matter when they [hold] it.”

There’s a bittersweet element to the quest that Cano and his teammates undertake this time around. That was evident when Carlos Martinez scratched out the numbers 30 and 18 in the dirt on the pitcher’s mound before the game’s first pitch.
Those were the numbers worn by Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who were killed in car wrecks in the Dominican Republic. They were popular members of MLB jerseys wholesale of the fraternity, gone way too soon, and the Dominican team plans to keep their jerseys in the dugout throughout the Classic.
Those jerseys carry a lot of meaning.

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“Whenever we put a uniform on that says Dominicana in front, it means a lot to us,” said Pena, the former catcher who is now the Yankees’ first-base coach. “We are not only representing ourself but we have a country that we need to represent. And everybody is counting on us.”

Pena and his players feed off the passion in the stands, but are keenly aware of the support they have in Santo Domingo and throughout their homeland.

“From what I’ve been told, in the Dominican Republic when the game starts, it’s like a curfew,” Pena said. “Everybody’s home watching the game, and seeing what’s going to happen.”

The Dominican Republic hasn’t lost a game in the Classic since 2009, when a throwing error by reliever Carlos Marmol allowed the Netherlands to beat them in 11 innings in an elimination game played in Puerto Rico with cheap jerseys. How long ago was that?
Kenley Jansen, who this winter signed an $80 million contract as the Dodgers’ closer, was the starting catcher for the Dutch team. That’s a long time ago.

“They obviously have a very strong team — good pitching, play good defense and they have a lot of swagger,” Canadian starter Ryan Dempster said. “Rightfully so, they’re the defending champs. [But] they’re beatable. You just have to go out there and out-execute them.”

Given its own All-Star lineup, Team USA has a shot to do that. March baseball doesn’t get better than this.