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The Fresh Life

Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.

In life, there exist all kinds of family.  Richard Bach wrote:

“the bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”

This passed Sunday, the sports world woke to the news of the heartbreaking passing of phenom Jose Fernandez in a tragic boating accident. JoFer was a special talent and an even better man who had his entire life and baseball career ahead of him. Jose Fernandez leaves behind a grieving mother, girlfriend, forthcoming child, and devastated group of Marlins’ teammates.  He was admired throughout the league for not only his talent; but moreover, his larger-than-life personality.

After cancelling Sunday’s ballgame, the Marlins took the field Monday for the first time since the passing of their beloved friend and brother.  In tonight's game, Jose’s dear friend (left-hand hitting) Dee Gordon paid tribute to Jose by wearing his old helmet and taking the first pitch from the right side of the plate.

Then, sports happened.

Dee hit a leadoff bomb (his first of the season) to right field. He was overcome with emotion as he ran the bases in honor of his late friend, teammate, and brother.  As he touched home plate and made his way to the dugout, his entire team embraced him in overwhelming support.

Gone, but never forgotten, Fernandez’s joy, youthful exuberance, and fiery competitiveness with live on in the hearts of his teammates and sports fan’s alike.

... Family.

RIP, Jose.







The Day the Sports Went Out.

Once again, the Darkness fell upon us. No, I am not talking about your best friend bailing on post-work beers to hunt Pokémon in the neighbourhood park. Nor am I addressing the fact that a band called Magic with a F#@*ing exclamation point in their name are singing about Funday Sunday and we continue to positively reinforce them enough to continue making music (I use the term music loosely). Rather, I speak about the sullen days after the MLB all-star game where the sports world sits relatively idle. Most of the pieces have fallen in NHL free agency; the 145 th playing of the Open at Royal Troon is on the horizon; and the Mid-summer break in the Bigs will resume on the weekend. It does; however, allow one to reflect on the first half of the season and ponder the outcome of the second half ahead.

This year’s All-Star festivities served as a friendly reminder to MLB pitchers as to why it is important to exercise extreme caution when hurling a ball towards home plate occupied by the slugger formerly known as Mike Stanton (Giancarlo). He flat out wounded balls to the tune of 61 deep flies in this year’s Home Run Derby. His accumulative distance on those blasts dwarf the output reading of my daily pedometer. My only accomplishment while in the San Diego area was successfully consuming 61 carne asada tacos from LaPlaya (Spanish for ‘the player?’) Interestingly enough, discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means ‘a whale’s vagina.’ Thankfully, only one national anthem was disgraced and the American league will again have home park advantage come the World Series.

Al East

What does the Toronto Blue Jays’ offense in the summer and me 15 minutes after an all-you-can- eat Indian buffet have in common? You guessed it…runs; all of the runs. The Jays offense has exploded (I had to) with the emergence of Edwing and sit only 2 games back of the Orioles. Things should further improve upon Bautflip returning from his foot injury / POUTTBD (Post Odor Uppercut to the Brain Disorder). Their pitching has

been affective and I envision them joining the Sox in the playoffs. These 2 teams meet in the final season series at the Rogers center in what I will label a ‘must view spectacle.’

Here’s hoping that the ageless wonder, Big Papi David Ortiz, can continue his first half tear and take the stockings back to the Promised Land.

Al Central

My eyes and ears are fixated on local legend Dustin Molleken who made his major-league pitching debut with the Detroit Tigers earlier this month. The former Toledo Mud Hen is the 9th Saskatchewan born player to make it to the majors. Early results indicate that he indeed belongs. In his last outing, @Providerofshelter (my proposed twitter handle for Molleken) went 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief while striking out the reigning MVP; Josh Donaldson (@Bringerofrain). One can’t help but feel jubilation for an athlete who gutted out a 13-year journey to finally achieve his ultimate goal. Finding Nemo was storming the theaters and Avril Lavigne was filling the airwaves when he first embarked on his journey…well done sir. The Tigers will have their hands full catching the Cleveland Indians who recently went on a league-leading 14 game winning streak. Their staff of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer, and Tomlin is as solid as any in the league.


Meanwhile in Chicago, fellow Canadian and assumed lover of Monster energy drinks, Brett Lawrie, maintains his reputation of having ‘the most interesting? look in pro sports.’

Al West

It pains me to live in a world where Mike Trout is rostered on the worst team in the division. Through 741 career games:

Yankees Micky Mantle - 306/.408/.550 152 HR & 37 SB

Angels Mike Trout - .306/.400/.560 157 HR & 128 SB

Unfortunately, the Angels have yet to capitalize on the prime years of a generational talent. While the Rangers have a current stranglehold on the division lead, the youthful Astros and powerful Mariners will ensure this race goes down to the wire. I still envision the Astros finding their way back to the post season.

NL East

The Montreal Expos of Washington are the national league team I expect to play deepest into the postseason. A 1-2 punch of Scherzer and Strasburg may prove to be too much for opponents to handle. I see them making a play at one of the Yankees bullpen closers and sending current close, Papelbum out to pasture. If the prodigy, Bryce Harper regains his early season form…look out. Jose Fernandez may be shut done early and thus hurt the Marlins’ chance of a playoff birth. The recent barrage of arm woes on the Mets youthful pitching staff has me concerned for their longevity. The NL East is the Nats to lose.

NL Central

Earlier this year, Illinoisans stocked up on canned goods and hoarded flats of bottled water upon hearing that their beloved Cubs were favored to win the World Series.

Surely, this prediction is a sign of the apocalypse. The Cubbies are primed to end their 107-year drought with their elite combination of strong pitching, sturdy defense, and juggernaut of an offense. Their entire infield was selected to start the All-star game for the National league. While I do think that both the pirates and Cardinals will linger in contention, I am all hands on deck for a late October Cubs run.

NL West

Lately, an even year signifies another banner being raised at AT&T Park in San Francisco. 2012, 2014, 2016? A retooled pitching staff including Cueto and Samardzija (aka alphabet soup) has the Giants again atop the NL West. Madbum and the boys looked primed to fend off the Dodger for another trip to the fall classic.

I am going to stick with my pre-season prediction of the Red Sox over the Nationals. I’d love to hear your predictions or take on first half stories of interest.  Play ball!

Get Fresh or die trying;

Riley Agopsowicz

Impossible is Nothing.

Impossible is Nothing.

This Friday, the world bids their final farewell to greatest athlete of all time.  How do I know that Ali was THEE greatest…because Wayne Gretzky said so.

As a young boy growing up in rural Saskatchewan, hockey was life.  After a long day of shinny on the backyard rink, our family would tune into Hockey Night in Canada to watch 99 electrify with his gift.  We’re talking about a man who boasts a career point total of 2,857.  For perspective, let’s entertain that Mcdavid musters up 20 straight seasons of 140 points…that would still be shy of the Great one’s impressive mark.  I could get on a Wangent, (Wayne tangent) but ain’t nobody got time for that.  So, by the transitive property, when the Great One calls Ali the greatest: Game, Set, Match.  While you are bound to find a more comprehensive read on his life and legacy elsewhere, I’d like to share a few snippets that resonated as the sports world reflected on his life.

Ali is widely regarded as the man who revolutionized the sport of boxing with his awe-inspiring combination of speed and power.  How do I know such facts?  Am I omnipresent?  Do I even know what omnipresent means?  The 3-time heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist was the youngest boxer to upset an incumbent champ when he defeated Liston in 1964.  It is difficult not to ponder the further extent of his boxing accolades had he not been imprisoned and suspended during the height of his career.  He claimed that he “ain’t got no quarrel with the VietCong.”  The champ was not afraid to fight, rather he saw no sense in participating in a seemingly senseless war.  They stripped him of his title and sentenced him to 5 year prison term.  Watching old footage of him this past weekend, it is hard not to smile and delight in his wit, showmanship, confidence, and trash talk.  While most people my age can recall his classic line “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” some other competition-fueled quotes that clung to me include:

“If you even dream of beating me, you better wake up and apologize”

“I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on”

“My only fault is that I don’t realize how great I really am”

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up”

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms.  Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”

With his unparalleled conviction and accompanying arming of expertise, it amazes me that anyone willingly decided to go 12 rounds with Muhammad.  Even in his later years he claimed that he was to “eat more raw meat and chop more trees” in preparation for what would be his final bout.

I am also utterly fascinated with the contributions he made in the field of music.  In 1963, Ali released a spoken word album called ‘I am the Greatest’ which included a cover of ‘Stand by Me’ that reached #61 on the charts.  He later received a Grammy nomination for the children’s pro dental hygiene novelty record entitled ‘The Adventures of Ali and his Gang vs. Tooth Decay.’  I $#!~ you not, imagine the legend dropping a dizzying audio assault about the dangers of gingivitis.  Historians maintain that if you were to play track 2 of the record backwards, you can actually hear what many claim to be the sound of Satan receiving a root canal.  Had I not ‘opted’ out of my Columbia House subscription after receiving the initial set of complimentary albums, I would have totally snagged this collection of hygiene hits. 

Akin to Jackie Robinson shattering baseball’s racial barrier in 1947, Ali is heralded as a transcendent American sports icon.  He was a vocal campaigner for civil rights and inspired countless with his commitment to human rights.  Having been the subject of 10 films, Ali is the only star on the wall and not on the sidewalk on Hollywood’s famous walk of fame.  I encourage you to further explore his glory as I leave you with a few other quotes that illuminate his greatness:

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”

“When it comes to love, compassion, and other feelings of the heart, I am rich.”

“If Ali says a mosquito can pull a plow, don’t ask how.  Hitch him up.”

Yours in Freshness,

Riley Agopsowicz

Lip Sweaters and Chin Music.

Fear the beard... or perhaps embrace it as I break down the starting line up of Beards in Baseball.

Pound for pound (or follicle for follicle), major leaguers are at the top wrung of the professional sports' ladder when it comes to donning facial hair. Admittedly, NHL'ers can give them a run for their money.  This is especially evident while in pursuit of Lord Stanley's cup come playoff time. Look no further than the Ice Yeti himself; Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. If you were to show his photo to random folks on the street, I'd wager that many would peg him for a riddle-slinging troll living by a swamp. You gotta love a Norris trophy candidate who embraces the gnar. 



While it's always important to pay homage to the pioneers of the craft (Eckersley, Fingers, etc.), join me in recognizing the league's studs and duds of facial foliage. 

Studs.

C/DH - Evan Gattis (Astros) - What the ManBear lacks in batting gloves, he more than makes up for in bristles. His growth is full and pungent like a backed-up urinal. 



1B - Mike Napoli (Indians) - Napster has one of those real thick, burly crumb catchers. It appears cozy and inviting.   The type that makes you want to sit cross-legged in and play a board game…Balderdash anyone?



2B - Robinson Cano (Mariners) – You have to wonder if the overwhelming urge to grow a flavor saver played any part in Cano’s departure from the Evil Empire. His immaculately smooth look is a mere extension of his seamless play at the 2-bag. 



SS - Danny Espinosa (Nationals) - Would you look at the arc on Danny's lip sweater...I mean...just look at it...it's glorious. Shear that sucker and knit me a cardigan. 



3B - Kris Bryant (Cubs) - Much like his career, Bryant's moss is full of promise. One might error in underestimating a youngster with such a well groomed, 'prettyboy' appearance. Might I remind you of the 477 foot moonshot he drilled off the scoreboard filled with his giant mug during last year's playoffs…kid can flat out BALL.



LF - Jayson Werth (Nationals) - A good friend of mine once coined him the mechanic. Does he lather his nose neighbor with 10W-30?...I couldn't tell you. Partnered up with his sick flow, Jayson's look is definitely Werthy of note. 



CF - Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) - Very few have cheek mulch as clutch as Cutch (say that 10X fast). Full facial coverage for the man who covers so much ground in the outfield...makes sense, right?

RF - Bryce Harper (Nationals) - The young phenom is blessed with raw power and an intimidating jaw lawn. The quaffed hair pairs well with his demeanor. Harper is a force of nature that can’t be stopped. 


SP - Dallas Keuchel // Jake Arrieta (Astros // Cubs). Last year's Cy Young recipients are both equally deserving of a roster spot. Arrieta kills it with the lumberjack tuft. He reminds me of a jet black version of Yukon Cornelius from the claymation Rudolf: “there’s gold in them hills!” Did I mention he threw a no hitter this past Thursday? Keuchel is also quite intimidating on the mound. He's sporting more of the bass player in Pantera type look. 



There you have it folks: the fanny duster all-stars. Any oversights or omissions? Anyone not worthy of a roster spot?...FIRE AWAY. 

Finally, the duds... Actually, my hope is that as a species, we humans are becoming more accepting in nature. So, with that in mind, let's leave it positive and embrace everyone's uniqueness.  Hold up, scratch that...Colby Rasmus....that s#!+ has got to go!  To steal a phrase from Weird Al, “we sell quilts at a discount price, living in an Amish paradise.”



Get fresh or die trying, 

Riley Agopsowicz

A belt exploding start to the MLB season.

Much like selection E12 on the vending machine at the office, a lot has changed over the years.  One comforting constant (Hawkins Cheezies at B6) is that with the calendar turning over into April, a new MLB season is on the immediate horizon. With the first couple of weeks already in the books, my early musings detail:

- A farewell tour for one of the league’s finest hitters and largest personalities;

- A fresh face off to a torrid pace;

- A flaxen-haired Norse prince inducing swings uglier than those found on a condemned playground.

Papi’s Swan Song – While I will admit a strong bias to my beloved Red Sox, how can you not tip your cap (or in Panda’s case – explode your belt) to the one and only David Ortiz?  A 20 year tenure for the 40-year-old Dominican native who in his final season looks like a man not willing to slip quietly into retired days assumingly filled with solving Sudoku’s and afternoon siestas.  Papi continues to treat baseballs with the same level of disrespect that my 4 year-old daughter treats my desire for a decent night’s rest.  During his final opening day at the Fens, Papi’s daughter surprised him with touching rendition of the national anthem.  Either he just finished dicing a Costco-sized bag of vadalia onions or the big man was quite moved by her loving gesture.  It’s funny to hear a perennial slugger with ice water in his veins admit that watching his daughter sing to a capacity crowd is the most nervous he has been in his entire life.  I have vintage Papi leading the Sox to a World Series title over the Nats…who y’all got?

 

The Trevor Ending StoryWhen asked for comment after his first week of play, Story noted ‘I’ve been seeing the ball pretty well...is 7 bombs in your first 5 games any good?  I dunno, I’ve never played in this league.’  Not only is it good, it’s hiSTORically good.  Not just for a shortstop, but for any player…EVER.  I recently tuned into a Rocks game to witness the madness and right on queue, Story parked a 400 footer on an inside fastball that should have sawed him off.  90 percent of the league flares a wounded pidgeon to the shortstop on that same pitch yet he goes Yahtzee.  We’re talking about a bonafide talent with power to all fields.  While he does strike out a disgusting amount and the pitchers will adjust to him, I’m convinced he’s not just a flash in the pan.  Does the team send him down if or when Reyes gets reinstated to play?...No Way Jose.  It may be too early to tell, but perhaps we have another name to add to a growing list of impressive young hitters including the likes of Trout, Harper, Arenado, Machado, Betts, Springer, Goldschmidt etc.  Color me intrigued.

Sit Down – Apparently Noah Syndergaard of the NY Mets missed the memo about cool spring temperatures being a disadvantage to pitchers.  The 6 foot 6 inch fireballer has looked untouchable in his first couple starts of the early season touching 95 mph on his slider...his flippin’ SLIDER!  The successive ‘aa’ in his last name is fitting in that he is making major league hitters look like they could use more seasoning down in AA ball.  Clearly, his success from last October has carried over into the 2016 season alongside that luscious head of arugula.  Noah was issued the nickname Thor by a long tenured Mets fan.  Despite the name being a play on Thor’s home planet of Asgard. an argument can be made that it more appropriately accounts for his resemblance to the hammer-wielding god associated with thunder and lightning.  Having Thor, Harvey, DeGrom, Matz, and Wheeler as your rotation seems a bit unfair.  Good luck with that NL EAST.  Ball is back and I couldn’t be any more thrilled.

Yours in Freshness,

Riley Agopsowicz     

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