Thursday, September 22, 2016

Future Big 12 Or Major Conference Candidates?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Whenever I hear of expansion in any sport, I become very intrigued.

Expansion to me means growth, increase of revenues and adding of new markets.

One person who I follow on Facebook is former NFL Running Back Craig James. He decided to ask his followers what would be good markets that the Big 12 Conference could add. It was interesting to hear some of his responses.

It's inevitable that in Major College Football we're approaching a new era with Super Conferences.

Right now, we have The Power Five which leads toward selection of The Final Four and decides match-ups for Major Bowl Games.

What I've decided to do in this story is to make a case for some of the finalists which could eventually be members of the Big 12, or for that matter if they're bypassed, that could land in another Major Conference.

My numerical order doesn't reflect how I rank the teams.

1. Air Force--This military academy has had a good football tradition. Being an Independent has always allowed Air Force to schedule whatever opponents are available. Air Force used to have some entertaining games with Notre Dame. Is the Air Force ready to see top caliber competition year in and year out? I have my doubts.

2. BYU--This school has won a National Championship, plus has produced a pair of  Super Bowl Winning QB's in Steve Young and Jim McMahon. BYU has also developed a pretty good reputation in basketball. Current Boston Celtics Executive Danny Ainge played for the Cougars and also played on NBA Title Teams in Boston. I like BYU's chances of landing in a major conference.

3. University of Central Florida (UCF)--Former Coach George O'Leary lost his job at Notre Dame because of an inaccurate resume. But he built a good enough resume for the Knights by compiling an 81-68 record in 11 seasons. UCF is honoring him with a statue outside their Football Stadium.

I like UCF's chances of landing in a Major Conference. There is a conference that will want a presence in a Major Florida City. Orlando is an excellent Sunshine State possibility. It hosts two bowl games every year.

On September 10, 2016, UCF faced the Michigan Wolverines at The Big House and did lose 51-14, but got some good exposure. It hired former Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost as O'Leary's successor. I'm sure this University would do well in basketball.

4. Cincinnati--The Bearcats have produced good football and basketball teams. From a territorial standpoint, there is a good recruiting base in Ohio and Kentucky. But there are too many markets I would choose over them.

5. Colorado State--This would be my sleeper pick. Once upon a time Colorado used to be in The Big 12 before bolting to the Pac 12. The Big 12 would be wise to add Colorado State to recapture the Denver Market. I told this to James and he liked the idea. Thumbs up for the Rams.

6. U-Conn--Because of travel, I don't see The Huskies getting into The Big 12. Their basketball programs are championship caliber. However, their football program is still building. The only chance of a Major Conference would be the Big 10. The Huskies former Athletic Director Warde Manuel was recently hired by Michigan. I don't see U-Conn changing conferences anytime soon.

7. Houston--The advantages of adding U-H to the Big 12 is a large TV Market and continue to have a strong presence in Texas. With that said, Houston's college team still takes a backseat behind the NFL's Texans, although Miami, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay fare well. There is competition for the entertainment dollar behind the Texans, MLB's Astros and NBA's Rockets. It's hard to overlook that Houston has defeated Florida State and Oklahoma recently and that enhances their credibility should the Big 12 invite.

Nonetheless, I have my doubts with Houston due to the fact that there are better options. However, if the Big 12 wants to have another team in Texas, this would be the logical choice which would bolster recruiting.

Jim Harbaugh was preparing for a Satellite Camp in Texas with Baylor Bears Coach Art Briles, but those plans came to a halt with his firing because of a Sex Scandal.

8. Rice--It's another Texas school but because of it's lack of history in major sports, the Owls are better off competing in a Mid-Major Conference. I could see Rice in the bottom of the standings in these Major Conferences. I think Rice has No Chance of getting into a Power-Five Conference.

9. SMU--The Mustangs have a solid sports history and being in Dallas is a Big TV Market. But as was the case with Houston, does the Big 12 want to expand further into Texas. I could see another Power Five Conference taking a shot here to expand their recruiting base. One thing to take note is the SMU Sports has had a checkered past by getting into trouble with the NCAA in football and basketball. At one point SMU was hit with the Death Penalty and the Football Program was shut down.

10. Tulane--The New Orleans market would be an intriguing addition to any conference. A new football stadium was built on campus. Two Bowl Games are held at The Superdome every year. The population base is strong and Tulane is in LSU's backyard. I think Tulane lands somewhere with a Power Five Conference.

11. South Florida--My Alma-Mater is at the top of my list to land somewhere. I'm not being biased because of being a Proud Bull. The Tampa Bay Area has an excellent High School Football Tradition as I found out working with the Tampa Tribune from 1984-86. It's a large TV Market. The Bulls play at Raymond James Stadium with the Bucs.

Landing marquee teams won't be a problem. There is an annual New Year's Bowl Game held on New Year's which is The Outback that has a rich history.

Coach Willie Taggart is on the verge of turning USF into a winning program. Basketball has a good on campus facility in The Sun Dome.

The Bulls have played Michigan State and Wisconsin recently. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh held a Spring Practice 90 minutes south at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL on March 4 where an estimated crowd of 5,000 attended. The Wolverines spent approximately $350,000 for their spring excursion.

For a conference to have this big of a presence in a Major Market would be hitting a Home Run. Florida is a big recruiting ground around the country.

I have a gut feeling that if USF gets bypassed by The Big 12, then The Big 10 will snap up the Bulls, much to the dismay of the SEC where these coaches criticized Harbaugh's Satellite Camps figuring he was a threat to recruiting in their backyard.

The Big 10 recently expanded its brand to Maryland and Rutgers (New York Market) in an attempt to grab East Coast exposure. It's time to have a team in Florida whether it's going to be USF or UCF.

So now you have it.

As the landscape of college sports changes over the next so many years, it will be interesting to look at a USA Map and watch schools play in different time zones for the almighty dollar with dreams of competing for National Championships.

I can also visualize that if the Big 10 lands a school in Florida, Harbaugh will add more Satellite Camps while SEC Network Reporter Paul Finebaum will continue to whine louder and louder. This clown must get paid good money by the SEC Network to complain about Harbaugh!

I wonder how much it would irritate Finebaum if a Big 10 school plays six games in SEC Territory. I am amused at how much Harbaugh does aggravate Finebaum and makes Paul look like a complete idiot.

Nonetheless, I expect UCF and USF to land somewhere and there will be a bigger Big 10 or Big 12 presence like never before.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I'll also be curious to see how close My Projections turn out.

Stay Tuned.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Patriotic NFL Moments

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
JACKSONVILLE, FL

I have covered an NFL Game on Veterans Day on Monday Night, November 11, 1996 when the San Diego Chargers hosted the Detroit Lions, and it was an incredible experience.

San Diego won the contest 27-21 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Considering that the game was held in a Military Town like San Diego, this made it even more special with all the festivities.

On September 11, 2016, at EverBankField, this marked the 15th anniversary of this infamous day.

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?

I lived in Chandler, AZ and was travelling to My Lawyer Harry Cawood's Office as I had a meeting pertaining to a divorce.

Cawood asked me if I heard about the attacks. I told him no and he said do you watch the news?

I said, I normally do but not when I'm driving as was the case to his office in Mesa, AZ.

Now it's time to fast forward the clock to this football game.

From the moment Candice Ebling and I drove to this game, there were American Flags all over the parking lots inside and outside EverBankField.

There was a lot of emotion on this day.

Everybody has their opinions about San Francisco 49'ers QB Colin Kaepernick's protest by sitting and kneeling during the National Anthem.

Personally, I have a problem with what Kaepernick is doing and all the other people that are following him. He seems to be drawing attention to himself.

But that's for another day for me to discuss more extensively.

What stood out at the Green Bay Packers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Game?

It was a 90 degree day. The temperature on the field was a 110 degrees and the humidity was 55%.

Ebling must have sweat off a few pounds and worked diligently to prevent herself from dehydration as she roamed the sidelines taking pictures for us.

But watching The American Flag Cover The Football Field was an unforgettable sight and brought chills down my spine.

Going into the contest, the Jaguars were 2-0 on September 11, but that changed with Green Bay winning a thrilling 27-23 decision which was capped by a huge Packers defensive play with 23 seconds left in regulation time.

What also stood out were the feelings of Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy and Jacksonville's Gus Bradley.

McCarthy described the pregame ceremony as "It was as emotional anthem I have seen in a long time. I thought the tribute was phenomenal just to see public safety, and the military, and everybody locking arms. I thought it was special, unique and obviously should be the focus of what today is all about."

During the Jaguars post-game press conference, when I asked Bradley what kind of emotions was the team playing on the anniversary of September 11, his body language and voice inflections said it all.

"Well I think it hits you when you're standing there at The National Anthem, " he said. "We brought it up, we talked about it during the week, and just how special the game is because you take the time to remember what so many people have done for us to have these freedoms.

"It's unbelievable and this is a Military City, those too, it was an unbelievable environment."

McCarthy and Bradley are leaders of men.

But I'm sure they'll tell you that their jobs don't compare to all the Commanding Officers and Generals which lead our country on the Battlefields, as they protect our freedom.

Back on October 24, 1971, I watched the only player in NFL history to die on the field at Tiger Stadium in Detroit as Lions Wide Receiver Chuck Hughes suffered a fatal heart attack against the Chicago Bears. He was 28 years old and I was only eight at the time and had nightmares that night. This was my first experience with death.

I would later find out that future friends and colleagues George Eichorn and Gus Pantelides were at this game on an autumn afternoon where the crowd was silent for the duration of the contest.

Why did I bring Hughes name up?

We have one player that passed away, where there have been countless of military people that have lost their lives.

Don't think every coach on the planet especially in College and NFL Football remind their players to appreciate their freedom so they can enjoy the game. For college players, they get to pursue their NFL dream whereas with NFL Players, they get paid quite well for the game they love.

We know McCarthy and Bradley delivered this passionate message to their squads.

I'm glad that I've attended games in a pair of Military Cities, where the colors, Red, White and Blue, in addition to the Stars and Stripes, had POWERFUL MEANINGS.

Nothing I've experienced in 38 years in Sports Media will top covering four Super Bowls, including one in Jacksonville.

However, two games on Veterans Day and September 11, rank up there as Incredible Memories.

How ironic is it that both of My Games Occurred on the 11th day of the month, nearly 20-years apart.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Battle Of Lions Opponents

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
JACKSONVILLE, FL

After watching the Green Bay Packers at the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 11, 2016, at Ever Bank Field, the Lions will be in for tough challenges with these teams.

Let's start with the Packers, who had their hands full with Jacksonville.

Green Bay defeated Jacksonville 27-23 in 90 degree temperatures and it was 110 degrees on the field. The Packers had to wear their dark green uniforms which absorbed more heat with the humidity 55%.

The Jags put a canvas to protect their players.

Meanwhile, Green Bay used a portable AC Unit to pump air into Aaron Rodgers uniform, who in this photo is calling plays from the line of scrimmage.

Rodgers threw for 199 yards, rushed for a touchdown and passed for two more.

But Rodgers had a familiar target on the field, who missed the entire 2015 season. Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson returned and his presence was evident. In this photo to the left Nelson broke to the outside on a pass play from Rodgers.

He caught six passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

With an additional 57 yards from Randall Cobb, in addition to 50 yards and one touchdown by Devonte Adams, Green Bay's three-headed receiving monster returned.

Add running back Eddie Lacy's 61 yards, plus 17 yards receiving, Lacy as you'll see in the photo made an incredible play going airborne.

The Packers figure to give opposing defenses, and defensive coordinators many sleepless nights.

Jaguars Coach Gus Bradley had high praise for Aaron Rodgers and Nelson.

"The Quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) is a great player and made some plays for them," Bradley said. "They ended up making more plays than we did."

As for Jordy Nelson, "I know they look to him. We kind of had an idea that they are a really good combination. There is a lot of trust that goes on between those two (Rodgers & Nelson). They know each other real well, where they're going to be on certain routes and Aaron (Rodgers) trusts him.

"Whenever you have that type of combination, that's what all teams are trying to build and they are both elite players."

As for the Jags, there are many prognosticators which predicted them to win the AFC South.

Going into this game, Jacksonville was 11-10 in openers, 2-0 on September 11 and Green Bay led the all-time series 3-2. Jacksonville's loss to Green Bay turned out to be its fifth straight opening day defeat.

A missed fourth-and-one from the Packers 14-yard line with 23-seconds left to play in the game, changed all of the above numbers as the crowd of 63,179 became quiet.

When the Lions face Jacksonville on November 20 at Ford Field, they'll face potential All-Pro QB in Blake Bortles, who in this photo on the right is throwing a pass downfield.

Against Green Bay, he was 24-39, 320 yards and one touchdown.

He has a good running back in T.J Yeldon, who had 39 yards and one touchdown. The former Alabama running back also caught four passes for 30 yards.

Like Rodgers, Bortles also has no shortage of targets.

Former Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep Star and Detroit native Allen Robinson  (wide receiver) was targeted 15 times, amassed six receptions for 72 yards.

Tight-End Julius Thomas caught five passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Wide-Receiver Allen Hurns caught four passes for 75 yards.

When the contest was over, Robinson knew the Jaguars had a real good opportunity to get a "W."

"It was frustrating to lose this game," Robinson said. "We had chances down the stretch. Me personally, I have to strain to be able to make some of the tougher plays. I've got to make more plays."

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy in the photo was relieved to depart Ever BankField with a tough triumph.

"I would classify that as a very good adversity win for our football team," McCarthy said. "We knew when the football schedule came out that this was going to be a challenge playing Jacksonville, an excellent football team.

"Gus (Bradley) does a good job and you see how these guys keep getting better each year. To play down here in this heat, it was challenging for both teams.

"It was a game of long drives. I was proud of how our guys kept fighting. The game came down to the last drive and the good pursuit and play of our defense."

Rodgers expected the Jags to be a tough opponent prior to the game, and that came to fruition. He added there was another extreme challenge to deal with.

"The heat was tough. It was hot for both teams," Rodgers said. "We were moving there with some tempo, both sides were dying.

"It's tough to win in this league, and it's tough to win on the road. After a few of us didn't play a lot in the pre-season, we went out there and battled against some heat. Thanks to our defense for finishing things off."

Rodgers was happy that he had a familiar weapon back.

"It feels great having Jordy (Nelson) back," Rodgers added. "He does so many things well out there. He had a great second and third reaction on the TD Catch."

Unfortunately for Jacksonville in Week 2, their trip to San Diego wasn't a kind one.

The Chargers hammered them 38-14 and Jacksonville dropped to 0-2.

Jacksonville is 0-2 for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Jaguars return to action at home as they face The Baltimore Ravens on Sunday September 25 at 1 pm, seeking to get their first win of the season. It remains to be seen if the heat will be a factor.

But the heat will be on the Jags to get on track and get into contention for the AFC South which figures to be a wide open race this season.

The Packers (1-1) remained on the road in Week 2 as they lost 17-14 Sunday Night to the Minnesota Vikings in the first game at U.S Bank Stadium.

Green Bay's home opener will be against the Detroit Lions on September 25. Detroit will be looking for it's second straight win at Lambeau Field and is coming off a devastating home opening 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans in which the Lions had three TD's called back because of penalties.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a Member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Memories at Miller Park

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
MILWAUKEE, WI

Prior to this past weekend, the only times I've been to Miller Park was when I attended a game with family, and went to Friday's to eat meals with family.

Three years ago, I had My 51st Birthday Party at Friday's with family and it was a blast.

But at long last, on Saturday August 27, and Sunday August 28, I finally had my first opportunity to cover a couple games at Miller Park, which is now in its' 15th year of operation, replacing the Demolished County Stadium. I also saw the Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers games at the old venue.

The Brewers faced the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in the two games we attended, the end result wasn't a good one for the home team.

On Saturday Night, the Pirates defeated the Brewers 9-6 in front of 35,295 fans.

Former Tiger Hernan Perez had a big night for the Brewers. He had his first multi-homer game of his career as he had a pair of blasts that went 405 and 412 feet respectively.

This series featured other former Tigers.

Milwaukee's hitting coach is former Tigers player and coach Darnell Coles, while for Pittsburgh, outfielder Matt Joyce and hurler Neftali Feliz play for the ball club located in Western Pennsylvania.

During Saturday's game, we had a chance to see the contest with the roof open, then closed as rain started to fall. When the rain stopped, the roof was opened once again.  An interesting fact, the roof open/closed has to be the same for both teams for equality, meaning it can only be changed after an inning.

On Sunday, Perez had another hit and made a sensational catch at the right-centerfield wall as you'll see in the photo we've posted.

Brewers first baseman Chris Carter made a nice defensive play as you'll see in the photo.

The Brewers lost the Sunday contest 3-1 with the paid attendance being 37,583 on Northwestern Mutual Insurance Day at the Ballpark.

As I looked at the banners throughout the stadium, The Brewers only World Series Appearance took place in 1982 when they were in the American League.

They retired Robin Yount's No.19, Paul Molitor's No.4, Rollie Fingers No.34 and Hank Aaron's No.44. Yount, Molitor and Fingers were headaches for The Tigers when they were in The American League Eastern Division.

Other numbers retired include Founding Owner and Former Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig No.1 and Jackie Robinson's No.42 is retired by Major League Baseball.

When Selig was Baseball Commissioner, he had two offices. One was in New York while the other was in Milwaukee.

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Uecker was honored for 50 years In Baseball in the photo below.

There is no question that I miss seeing Detroit and Milwaukee face each other every year.

The Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings are in the NFC North.

It would be great if the Tigers had the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Brewers in the American League Central.

The Tigers own an all-time record of  222-199 against the Brewers. Last season, Milwaukee won two of three versus Detroit.

In 2009, the Tigers swept a three-game series versus the Brewers.

In 2007, the Tigers won two of three games against Milwaukee, but the big moment in this series was when Detroit Pitcher Justin Verlander tossed a no-hitter on June 12, striking out 12 and throwing a fastball which went 102 mph.

Also, The Tigers own one of the top home crowds in Brewers history as 54,630 showed up on July 6, 1979 for a Cushion Night Promotion at County Stadium.

In recent years, Detroit signed Prince Fielder, from the Brewers, to a hefty nine-year $214 Million Free Agent contract on January 26, 2012. Fielder would later be dealt to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Fielder retired last month from the Rangers due to a neck injury.

During the 2015 off-season, the Brewers (57-76) sent closer Francisco Rodriguez to Detroit in a trade. The acquisition of Rodriguez has Detroit (72-61) in playoff contention.

But I do understand why the Brewers are in the National League.

They rekindled a rivalry with the Atlanta Braves, formerly the Milwaukee Braves.

There is the battle of the Beer Cities when the Brewers face the St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee lost to the Cardinals in the 1982 World Series in seven games.

Just an hour and 38 minutes/ 90 miles apart on I-94, The Brewers Biggest Rival is the Northside Chicago Cubs.

For fans that can't get tickets at Wrigley Field, Miller Park is a good alternative. The same holds true for Chicago Bulls sellouts. Those fans make the trek to the Bradley Center.

From an overall standpoint, I'm very impressed with Miller Park. The capacity is 41,900 and the size of the site is 265 acres.

While I haven't been to The Selig Experience yet, in addition to an obstructive seat/statue of the icon, which sells for $1 in Section 422 Honoring Hall of Fame Broadcaster Bob Uecker, The Milwaukee Braves Memorial adjacent to Helfaer Field which is for youth baseball, are must sees for a baseball fan.

Helfaer Field cost $3.1 Million to build, seats up to 722 fans, and is built on the infield of County Stadium and retains the old foul polls from that field. Along the left-field concourse, there is a marker to designate where the County Stadium home plate was.

The City of Milwaukee and The Brewers got this right as it tied old tradition by connecting Helfaer Field to Miller Park.

Meanwhile, I look forward to adding more good times in this building.

With all the newer ballparks being built, there is no doubt this is a good model to follow.

They also did a nice job in the Press Area.

But I can only imagine that when the Brewers complete their rebuilding of the team, there is no doubt that this is a good baseball town waiting to erupt.

In the two days we were there, it was nice to see the passionate fan base. This is a fan base that embraced outfielder Ryan Braun after he served a suspension due to PED's and gave him a second chance.

The only thing missing this weekend was seeing former Tigers Director of Public Relations Tyler Barnes, who is currently the Vice President of Communications for the Brewers. Perhaps, another time.

In all my years of dealing with Public Relations People, Brewers Senior Manager of Media Relations Ken Spindler will go down as one of the nicest people I've worked with.

Ken treated us so nicely that I felt like I was a member of the local media and there is no question that I'm looking forward to working with him on future projects. He treated us with respect and made us feel at home.

We did enjoy an enlightening moment as Candice was at a major height disadvantage in the Brewers photo well. She's only 5-4 and the photo well is over four feet deep as she had to use a ladder to get to her spot.

Spindler credentialed us for Sunday and informed her of other places where she can take pictures and as you see above, His cooperation paid off tremendously.

On Sunday, Darnell and I spoke before the game. It's hard to believe that Coles and I met 30 years ago in Lakeland, FL, when he was a player with the Tigers, and we remain real good friends.

Stay tuned for a future story on Coles.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Catching Up With The Catcher

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When Milwaukee Brewers Catcher Jonathan Lucroy decided to put the Detroit Tigers on one of his eight teams list he'd veto a trade, I doubt that GM Al Avila was losing any sleep over this.

First of all, Avila would have to deal prospects to get a guy that would last a year and a half before hitting free agency, thus this would risk mortgaging the future.

Is current Tigers Catcher James McCann an All-Star back stopper?

If you judge his offensive stats the answer would be no.

The Santa Barbara, CA native has a career average of .244 with 14 HR and 68 RBI. In 2016, he's hitting .204 with eight HR and 31 RBI.

On Sunday, the 6-2, 210, 26-year-old belted a grand slam to lead the Tigers to an 11-0 thrashing over the Houston Astros at Comerica Park.

But defensively, McCann, is rock solid and he's well respected by his pitchers.

When the Tigers faced the Miami Marlins in South Florida during their opening series, I had the chance to catch up with the catcher and we had a nice conversation.

Q: What did you learn from your first season that will carry over to your second campaign?

A: The one thing that you can't replace at this level is experience. You can play as much as you want in the Minor Leagues, get as much reps as you want, but it's really the stuff at the big league level that counts, and definitely helps, plus more of a comfort level. You understand how long the season is and not fret over the little things. That goes a long way as experience.

Q: Let's talk about the pitching staff. What was your first year like handling one at the big league level?

A: I've learned a lot more about them. We have a great pitching staff and great guys. They like to talk baseball and it makes it easier to get to know the guys. You get to know what they like to do. I've enjoyed getting to know the new guys on the staff.

Q: What's it like catching Justin Verlander (11-6)?

A: He's a great guy. He works his tail off. He leaves nothing uncovered. He's always looking at the scouting reports on every little thing that he can uncover to get an edge. He's a guy you can learn from.

Q: The Tigers found their closer in Francisco Rodriguez (29 saves). How much did you like that acquisition?

A: It was good. I've  been watching him as a kid. His success on the field speaks for itself. He knows the game like nobody else. He's extremely good at what he does.

Q: Finally, your Manager Brad Ausmus was a former catcher. What have you learned from him?

A: Brad Ausmus has had a lot to offer. He played the position 18 years in the big leagues and gives me a lot of great information.

As the trade deadline approaches, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Tigers bolster their pitching staff as long as it doesn't cost them an elite prospect.

The team will get a boost when Jordan Zimmermann (9-4) returns to the starting rotation.

J.D Martinez (.286, 12 HR and 39 RBI) should be a welcome addition to the Tigers, who are now 57-48 and are in playoff contention.

Meanwhile, thanks to Lucroy, the Tigers best decision is the one they may not have to make and that's sticking with McCann for the rest of the year.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and he's a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tribute To Mr. Hockey

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING (MARK HOWE)

If September 11, 2001 and December 7, 1941 are dates that are unforgettable dates in American History, then June 10, 2016 is a day in sports that will not likely be forgotten.

This is the day that Muhammad Ali's Funeral took place as "The Greatest Of All Time" was laid to rest.

When I read on Facebook that My Childhood Idol Gordie Howe died at 9:35 AM, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. But when I heard it on Mike and Mike In The Morning at 9:52 AM that Howe passed away, then the news stung even more.

Mike and Mike rarely talk about Hockey, but ESPN 2's producers did a good job compiling as much information in a 90 second time frame.

It's amazing that Ali and Howe, who are on My Mt. Rushmore of Idols would be memorialized on June 10, 2016.

During the past week, The Sports World has been hit by The Death Bug.

We've seen the losses of Philadelphia 76'ers Assistant Coach and former NBA Player Sean Rooks, Kimbo Slice of Mixed Martial Arts along with legendary Michigan State Hockey Coach Ron Mason pass away.

Obviously, Howe's death hits me real hard.

I went to school with his son Murray at McIntyre Elementary School in Southfield, MI. My Cousin Robin Leshman went to school with Howe's daughter Cathy.

It would be easy to write this tribute with all of Howe's records, but there wouldn't be enough storage space or memory on the website.

Every Hockey Fan knows about The Gordie Howe Hat Trick consisting of a Goal, Assist and a Fight.

In Howe's 26 NHL Seasons, he played in 1,767 games, amassed 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,685 penalty minutes.

He won four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies and was inducted into The Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1972. He also played in 23 All-Star Games.

Howe is the only player to have ever played Professional Hockey in six decades.

The statistics I've mentioned don't even include the time Mr. Hockey spent playing for the United States Hockey League's Omaha Knights, The World Hockey Association's (WHA's) Houston Aeros, and New England/Hartford Whalers, in addition to the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League, which played at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Hartford Whalers played in the NHL.

According to Murray Howe, the only city that Mr. Hockey was ever booed in was Cleveland, Ohio when Gordie played in the WHA.

Howe is described as the No.1 All-Time player by legendary Red Wings Hall of Fame Coach Scotty Bowman.

Name me a North American athlete that will have a bridge in his honor connecting two countries, the United States and Canada.

A bridge over the Detroit River connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario., will be named "The Gordie Howe International Bridge" is set for completion in 2020. At least Mr. Hockey was alive to see this honor named after him.

Like Ali, there was no shortage of memories with Mr. Hockey.

I saw him play in an All-Star Game on February 5, 1980 at The Joe Louis Arena (JLA).

I remember seeing him play at The Olympia Stadium as a child back in the late 1960's--1971. I would keep a small radio next to my bed in Southfield, MI., listening to play-by-play announcer Bruce Martyn describing every play, goal, hit and fight, etc...

Howe made his rounds around the Metro-Detroit Sports Scene.

We took a picture at the Pontiac Silverdome in the dining area, My shoulder was in a sling due to a torn rotator cuff, but I enjoyed being "Elbowed" by Mr. Hockey as Lions legendary Announcer Bob Reynolds looked on.

On the ice, Howe's opponents took many of these elbows all over their body and head; and they must have hurt.

Ali was known for "Fists To The Jaw"  and Howe specialized in "Elbows." Howe always said that Hockey is a Mans Game.

My pictures with both of these icons are worth more than a 1000 words.

During my time as a resident of Metro-Detroit, I got to know Howe's publicity people. They were kind enough to send me two autographed photos of Howe which are in My Office in Deerfield Beach, FL.

My path crossed again with Mr. Hockey in 2011 when we took a couple photos together. We talked about Hockey for a few minutes, and he remembered me writing mentions of him in Stories for The Detroit Monitor, then shook hands as he signed autographs for a Sports Memorabilia Store in Coral Springs, FL.

Gordie seemed like he was in decent health at the time.

Yet, as we get older, our bodies do break down, and Howe was diagnosed with dementia and suffered strokes.

Mrs. Hockey Colleen Howe passed away in 2009 at the age of 76 after a long battle with Pick's Disease.

Yet. Mr. Hockey had an Iron Ticker and despite these medical issues, he would continue to fight tougher than his rivals on the ice.

Howe had Stem Cell Surgery in Tijuana, Mexico., and continued to battle to the end.

I spoke with his Son Mark Howe (pictured with me at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL) while I was covering a Florida Panthers game, and he marveled at his dad's will to
maximize his days in his later years.

But to realize what an incredible family he had, Mark, Marty and Cathy would all take turns caring for their father around the country.

Without the Stem Cell Treatments in Mexico, we should have been paying tribute to Howe during the past 18 months. We owe an assist to the Mexican doctors for keeping our icon longer than we expected too.

I admire Murray for not donating Gordie's brain for research. His father lived until he was 88-years old and there is no reason to add another reason about his death. Closure is a good thing.

I wish I could have been at JLA for Howe's Public Visitation. JLA has housed four Stanley Cups, an All-Star Game and now this event as we head into the stadiums' final year.

But at least I have This Platform to pay My Respects.

I have four great photos as well as the ability to communicate with My Followers and Friends on Facebook and Twitter.

And a whole lot more memories.

Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky said he felt that Howe is "The Greatest Hockey Player of All-Time." I agree with Wayne.

I also believe that if Gretzky was playing in Howe's Era, he wouldn't have broken as many as Mr. Hockey's records. He would have gotten battered around during The "Original Six" ERA. Gretzky probably would have amassed more penalty minutes and had a few more fights to protect himself.

But that topic will be discussed at a later date.

If the NHL retired Gretzky's No.99 throughout the league, then the league should do the same with No.9. I'm glad that Gretzky is pushing the NHL to do this and I have a feeling it will get done.

The Red Wings New Stadium should have Howe's name attached to it.

But I can't see that happening in this commercial age.

I hope Red Wings Owner Mike Illitch proves me wrong because after the Ernie Harwell firing controversy years ago by previous ownership, he allowed this broadcasting icon to retire on his own terms. Illitch cleaned up a major public relations mess!

It was unfortunate that Howe died during the Stanley Cup Finals.

I hope all NHL teams find a way to make the 2016-17 Season a Tribute Year for Mr. Hockey.

We shall see.

But I'll say about Gordie Howe the same thing that I said about Muhammad Ali.

I Love You Mr. Hockey and Rest In Peace rejoining your lovely Wife Colleen.

Thanks for giving me some Unforgettable Memories that I've enjoyed and will last during the rest of My Lifetime!

I'll never forget you and nor will fans in Metro-Detroit, a place that I'm very proud to call My Hometown.

You were and always will be a legendary giant, icon and there will never be enough words in Webster's Dictionary to describe the impact on us you created.

If it weren't for You Mr. Hockey and the Red Wings 25-year consecutive playoff run, it would be tough to call Detroit "Hockeytown."

There is no doubt of the legendary sports figures in Detroit and Gordie Howe is at the top of my list.

My Top 10 includes: 1. Howe 2. Al Kaline (Mr. Tiger) 3. Ty Cobb 4. Barry Sanders 5. Isiah Thomas 6. Steve Yzerman 7. Hank Greenberg  8. Joe Louis 9. Dave Bing 10. Miguel Cabrera.

God bless in Heaven, Mr. Hockey and once again, thanks for the memories! You'll be missed forever!

But The Hockey and Sports World will Celebrate Your Death!

You and Muhammad Ali are legends and now are linked to June 10, 2016.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tigers Prospect Wynton Bernard

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
LAKELAND, FL

Throughout My 37-years in Sports Media, I've interviewed some of the most unbelievable and interesting personalities.

Some of the ones I've enjoyed are Minor League Baseball Players dating back to My start with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1982.

Another one crossed my path during Spring Training when we covered the Detroit Tigers versus the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday March 12 at Joker Marchant Stadium.

His name is Wynton Bernard. His smile reminds me of Magic Johnson and Torii Hunter. At age 25, the native of San Diego, CA, is one of the most pleasant people I've ever spoken to. Through the years, I've spoken to thousands.

But Bernard is not only a nice kid, he's one of the Tigers top prospects. He spent most of Spring Training with the Tigers gaining a great deal of exposure.

In five minor league seasons, Bernard has a lifetime .292 average with 112 stolen bases.

This season he started at AAA Toledo. With The Toledo Mud Hens, he hit .235 with 10 stolen bases in 45 games.

As of late, Bernard was sent down to AA Erie and has struggled with a .105 average (2-for-19) with one strikeout in five games.

Despite the setback, if he can get regain his confidence, Bernard could benefit from the struggles of former Tiger Anthony Gose, who was demoted to Toledo on May 16, 2016 .

Gose was hitting .209 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 30 games for Detroit. Unfortunately, for Gose, things have gotten worse as he's hitting. 190 in 25 games with one stolen base.

Gose's struggles could benefit Bernard's road to Detroit if once again, Bernard turns things around at the plate.

Cameron Maybin is currently the regular center fielder.

Maybin, 29, has appeared in 25 games and has a .372 average, six stolen bases, 10 walks, 17 runs, 35 hits with 94 at bats for the 32-31 Tigers. He missed time at the beginning of the season due to a wrist injury.

We'll see if Bernard is in a Tigers uniform during the September call ups when rosters are expanded, or whether he'll he be dealt by August 1, 2016 if Detroit is looking to make a trade at the non-waiver deadline.

During Spring Training, we had a great conversation and here is a Q &A Interview with Bernard.

Q: How do you like what you've experienced in your baseball career?

A: It's been kind of up and down actually. I was with the San Diego Padres in 2012 & 2013 and they unfortunately released me. So I was at a point where I had to find another job. I ended up going to an open tryout and I signed with the Tigers. I was one out of 100 guys. Since I've been with the Tigers, they've let me play everyday and it's been awesome. I started at Class A in West Michigan and won an MVP Award there and last year in AA Erie. I led all AA in hits, triples and stolen bases. It was a great experience.

Q: So should you find your way to Comerica Park, do you like the fact that a guy with your speed, and your ability to get doubles and triples is something that can benefit you in that particular environment?

A: Oh, yes, definitely! Comerica Park is so big that anytime I hit the ball in the gaps, I want to get the extra base hit for my teammates. There is nothing better than being on base with guys on second and third. Going up as a hitter, I just have to go up and give this guy a hand. It makes the game a lot easier. Doing things like that and using my speed to my ability will definitely help at Comerica Park.

Q: What have you learned from the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor and J.D. Martinez, etc... knowing you've had a chance to be on the 40-Man Roster being around these guys on a daily basis in Spring Training?


A: I like watching and I'm big on observing. Even like during the games now, I like watching other teams. I like to observe the guys concentration on all those levels. It seems like every time they go to the plate, they're locked in. And that's something I try to take to my game to. I like to be locked into every single pitch and not taking a pitch off. I just like to observe and look to see out if they're locked in and always focused.

Q: Is there any particular player in the Major Leagues growing up that you idolize or look at that you pattern yourself a little bit and duplicate?

A: There are guys I loved growing up obviously, Ken Griffey Jr, because he was a center fielder, who chased down balls in the gap. I like speed guys like Kenny Lofton. It's a good combination. I'm not a left-handed hitter, but they played center field, and Kenny stole some bases. So those are the kind of guys I looked up to that would always get on base, hit balls in the gap and that's the exciting part of baseball.

Q: What are some of the things you've gained during Spring Training?

A: It's been a combination. I was in Big League Camp last year and it's my second Big League Camp so I'm obviously more comfortable. Talking to the guys and everybody is always giving each other advice. Even if its not a Major Leaguer or two such as a guy who is younger. Major Leaguers who have been in the game are giving advice to everybody. So even when they're talking, I'm trying to pick up on their conversations, such as hitting and base running. The game doesn't change, but there is always something to learn. As long as I keep a willingness to learn, and stay confident in my abilities, I'll be fine.


Q: How would you describe the power aspect of your game?

A: I like to hit balls in the gap and that's probably where my power comes from. I try to use my legs. My legs are my power and like I said, if I hit a double to left-center field, then I'm going to try to get to third. If I hit to right-center field, I'm trying to get to third base. That's about it.

Q: Is there anything you want the Detroit fans to know about Wynton Bernard?

A: I can promise the fans that no matter what is they'll see a smile on my face. I might strike out and it doesn't mean that I'm not mad because I have a lot to be thankful for. My parents raised me to be a Happy Person. You'll always see me smiling at all times. When you see a Million Dollar Smile, that's Wynton Bernard!

Indeed, Bernard is a nice guy. I just hope he has the chance to play for the Tigers or gets a chance to play elsewhere. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for Bernard in the next 90 days.

Speed is a valuable skill to possess and it reminds me of a left-handed pitcher. These players get longer looks because when you find a good player with these characteristics, they're a good commodity to have. They're always in demand.

Bernard is a hard guy not to root for. I've always enjoyed rooting for underdogs and Bernard is one.

Hopefully in the near future, his numbers will improve and the Tigers will have another asset to use in some way shape or form.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tribute To The Greatest Of All-Time

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

On Friday June 10, 2016, Muhammad Ali was laid to rest in his hometown of Louisville, KY at The Cave Hill Cemetery.

The "Greatest of All Time" will Rest In Peace with Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

On Saturday June 4, 2016, the day after Ali died, I posted My Memorable 1982 photo with The Champ on Facebook.

I was touched, overwhelmed, and appreciative to My 90 Plus Facebook Friends with their acknowledgement of this incredible memory with Ali.

I feel extremely lucky to have spent two days with Ali as he trained for a charity fight at the Allen Park Gym in North Miami Beach, FL., in 1982. My Editor Dan Bluesten of The Hallandale Digest came up with a neat headline for my story "Is Ali On The Comeback Trail."

I had some great assignments with the Digest, but my time with Ali was No. 1.

I took this photo with him and also took My Aunt Pearl Cullen to visit "The Champ." Ali gave her a hug she'd never forget.

On June 4, 2016, My Cousin and Pearl's daughter Cindy Cullen Spyke called me to see if I was doing ok following Ali's death. She knew that Ali meant a lot to me.

As I look back at my time with Ali, when we talked, he began to develop slurred speech as Parkinson's Disease symptoms began to appear. Although Ali didn't have as many words, this photo was worth a 1000 words.

But to me, just being with "The Champ" overshadowed any speech issues.

However, when I asked Muhammad about his win over Heavyweight Champion George Foreman on October 30, 1974, he didn't mince words about what transpired of what happened in "The Rumble In The Jungle" when he described his famous "Rope A Dope" Strategy.

"I new George Foreman never went deep into fights so I just wanted him to punch himself out," Ali said. "There was no filler station for him to gas up."

Indeed, there wasn't and there would never be a rematch. Ali sent Foreman to a depressed state where George had a taste of humble pie.

The person behind my meeting Ali was his Trainer Angelo Dundee pictured with Ali below.

I used to cover a lot of boxing for The Digest. The events were held at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida and The War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale.

I became great friends with Dundee as well as his brother Chris Dundee and boxing historian Hank Kaplan.

Dundee contacted me when Sugar Ray Leonard came to town and I wrote a story on him as well.

To even have the platform to be able to talk about Ali is incredible!

I have no desire to ever get into any political discussions about his viewpoints.

Ali was a True World Champion because he fought in London, England, The Philippines, and South Africa.

He never avoided a top opponent because everyone deserved a shot at the title.

I truly respect his decision to not want to fight in The Vietnam War because this conflict should have never happened in the first place.

I often wonder what the pay-per-view costs would be with his three fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

If Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Floyd Mayweather would get $50 for a fight, Ali's events could be worth up to $100.

Ali was an Albert Einstein in the ring because he out classed and out smarted his opponents. Boxing was a Chess Match for Ali because he could mix knockouts with going the distance if he had to. Before the Foreman fight, Angelo Dundee never knew about his "Rope A Dope" Strategy, as he had the ropes loosened before the fight. It's hard to not respect a person like this.

Leonard used to do the same and that's why he won World Championships.

When I hear stories that Ali never refused autographs to fans, and always took pictures when he could, this was incredible!

Ali was a great promoter of his fights and his Actions Spoke Louder Than His Words. He actually could be considered an inventor of "Trash Talking" because of his ability to play mind games with his opponents.

While it's sad to see Ali is no longer with us, at least he can now rest in peace. In recent years, Ali experienced numerous health issues. Now there is no more suffering.

Back in 2002, I did have a chance to see Ali again after a Phoenix Suns contest versus the Detroit Pistons at the America West Arena in Arizona.

I walked up to Ali, he smiled and shook my hand. There would be no photo opportunities in the Suns locker room to avoid a potential violation of Media Rules listed on the back of our credentials.

Nonetheless, it was still an incredible feeling because the first time I met him, I was just 2 1/2 years into My Media Career and was 19-years old.

During our second meeting in Phoenix, I was in my 23rd year in The Media, more filled out at the age of 39. By this time, Ali's speech was much worse and he was trembling. But I didn't care because it was great seeing him again.

During the past 10 days on Facebook, I was pleased to be able to see some of My Friends share their photos and stories with "The Greatest."

It was the thrill of a lifetime to have met such an iconic person.

My mother posted a touching comment on Facebook telling me how proud she was of me as a Sports Writer, and she has My Ali photo at her home.

But for all of the World Championships he won, in addition to the 1960 Olympic Gold Medal, seeing Ali light the 1996 Olympic Torch in Atlanta was truly breath taking.

Ali's legacy and passing should be viewed as a Celebration that should bring young and old generations together. With Google and You-Tube, we're always a click away from learning about a person or watching their great accomplishments.

I must have watched the Ali-Foreman fight a few times the day after he died.

All I can say is I'm thankful that I had the chance to see him on two occasions.

Being in Sports Media for 37-years, has allowed me to meet tons of incredible people.

I often wonder how many other photos I'd have if I had a camera phone early in my career.

Thankfully, I still have great photos that I'm thankful for, in addition to many great interviews on tape for those that are interested.

I may not be a wealthy man financially, but I'm rich in memories and experiences with plenty of stories.

There is no question that Ali is at the top of My List of people I've ever met.

All I can say Muhammad is that I Love You Very Much and Thanks for All The Memories We Spent Together.

Rest In Peace Champ Because You are The Greatest of All Time!!

When I come to Louisville, KY., I will be visiting You at The Cave Hill Cemetery!!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tigers Real MVP, Kevin Rand

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

In all sports, there is an award for Coach or Manager of The Year.

There are MVP and other individual awards as well as accolades for executives.

But there is one position which tends to get overlooked or is considered unheralded in the public's eyes.

Being a trainer may not involve throwing, hitting, etc... however, these individuals are the Hidden Gems of a team's success.

Former Pistons Trainer Mike Abdenour was an intricate part to Detroit's three championships.

The man in charge of keeping the Detroit Tigers healthy is a person that I've known since 1982 when he worked with the Florida State League's Fort Lauderdale Yankees.

His name is Kevin Rand.

Rand began as a minor league trainer for the New York Yankees from 1982-1992.

He's in his 35th season in Professional Baseball, 24th at the MLB Level and is in his 14th year with the Tigers.

His year round residence is Lakeland FL. He is married and has four sons.

During his tenure with Detroit, he's witnessed the highs and the lows. His efforts have been instrumental in two Tigers World Series Appearances.

During Spring Training at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I had the opportunity to interview My Long Time Buddy as we discussed many topics.

Q: What was the 2015 Season like for you?

A: Last year was a real weird year. It seemed as though we had a tag team of injuries. We would get one guy back, then lose another. We lost Justin Verlander early in the year, then Alex Avila, lost Victor Martinez early, then Miguel Cabrera got hurt. We lost a couple of starting pitchers. Overall, it was just a strange year in that way.

Q: Was this one of the most difficult years you've ever had to deal with through the years as a trainer?

A: Yes, absolutely! We take pride in ourselves. We actually had the lowest number of man games lost the past five years, but last season we lost a lot of quality players that were getting hurt, and didn't have enough depth to cover that.

Q: One area that got saddled last year was your pitching. It started off badly at the beginning with Verlander going down at the end of Spring Training, and the list goes on and on. What was that like for your staff?

A: You're not going to replace Justin Verlander, who got hurt early that easily. We had difficulty there. Once we got him back later in the season, we lost Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris. They were two guys out of our rotation later in the year. It was definitely a challenging year for us in that regard.

Q: How tough is it for a trainer where you have players in and out of the room all the time?

A: Our job is to get everybody out each and every day. Unfortunately, last year that didn't work that well for us as it had in previous years for us. Every team is going to have their injuries, but at the end of the day, the team that's more successful is the team that has the depth to handle the injuries they have. Last year, we weren't that club.

Injuries to our pitching staff meant that we didn't have enough depth to cover those losses. We had injuries to Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, and you're not going to replace those players easily. They're above and beyond some of the other players. It was a tough year.

Q: We talk a lot about depth. Do you like a lot of the moves that were made in the off-season?

A: Yes, absolutely! I think Al (Avila, General Manager) and Brad (Ausmus) did a tremendous job addressing the needs of our club. We've improved in starting pitching with Jordan Zimmermann. The trades that were made at the end of last summer, we brought in some good young arms with Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, and Michael Fullmer. We have depth there now.

We improved our offense with Justin Upton. Most importantly, we improved our bullpen which was a tough spot for us last year with Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson working the back end of the bullpen. I think we're going to be a solid club.

Our problem last year is we had guys that were put in situations that they weren't accustomed and capable to being in because of injuries. That's where you run into issues.

Q: It seemed like a lot of your pitchers weren't ready to play in the major leagues in 2015. Do you agree that because of circumstances and lack of depth, that they were thrown into the fire?

A: That's definitely accurate because of our depth. This year if one of our starters goes down, we have those young kids. We're definitely more covered than we were a year ago.

Q: How much better is Verlander this year? Is he much better physically than he was a year ago?

A: Oh yes, without a doubt. He was having a great spring last year before he got hurt at the tail end. Right before the season started that hurt us pretty well. But he's in great shape, he's having a great spring and so all are all those guys. Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera also look good. Just having those guys back along with the depth is a good sign.

Q: Is Verlander capable of throwing in the high 90's on a regular basis or do you think he might have to go ahead and slightly alter himself. I'm not talking about re-inventing himself to become a more crafty hurler like former Tiger Frank Tanana.

A: I'm not worried about velocity. I'm worried about guys pitching and making the pitches. You can throw as hard as you want, but if you don't have location, these are professional hitters and they'll hit you hard. Good pitchers understand this. Justin Verlander will make his adjustment as he needs to.  If he's going to throw in the high 90's, that's great. It's more about location and making his pitches.

Q: I know the Jordan Zimmermann signing was a huge acquisition. Everybody seemed excited about it. What was your reaction when he became a Detroit Tiger?

A: It was outstanding because Zimmermann is a proven veteran, a good pitcher, a pitcher who historically takes the ball every fifth day and competes. He's one of the elite pitchers in the game.

Q: Last year, there was unjust criticism of Brad Ausmus. Do you think a lot of people were out of line because of the numerous injuries Detroit sustained? The 2015 Tigers looked like a MASH Unit.

A: Absolutely, no question. To me, any criticism directed his way was totally unfounded. I look at it the other way. He did a tremendous job with the group of players that he had. He withstood everything and maintained his composure the entire way. You know what, we couldn't put the product on the field. The players on the field played for him, and once again, he did a tremendous job.

We didn't put the parts and pieces to compete in our bullpen. He made it work the best he possibly could. I'm excited for him and if you give him a good team this year, and we're able to keep guys on the field, then we'll be fine.

Q: I don't care how experienced you are as a manager, we've been around baseball way too long and know that no manager could have worked this way through all of last years adversity. Do you agree?

A: Yes. Managers are only as good as the players you give them. At the end of the day, you can look at all the great success stories throughout the years, and if those managers didn't have great and healthy players, they weren't very good managers.

Brad did a tremendous job with what he had. We have a better club this year so hopefully we can keep everybody out there.

There will be tough stretches where we lose some games and there are peaks and valleys. There will be no need to panic if this happens. We have a better offense and a better bullpen. But when it's all said and done, we'll be in contention the whole season.

Q: Do you have enough pitching depth to make it through 2016?

A: This year, if we have a pitcher that misses a start, goes on the disabled list for an extended period of time, we have guys that can compete. I don't think we had that last year. We're in a much better position this year.

Q: What are your thoughts about Justin Upton?

A: He's a great kid. He has lots of talent and a guy that plays everyday. I'm real excited to see him play this season.

Q: Is the middle of the Tigers lineup with JD Martinez, Victor Martinez, Justin Upton and Miguel Cabrera going to be scary for opposing pitchers throughout the course of a 162 game season? We all know that there will be slumps along the way.

A: It's a pretty good offense if I say so myself. We'll be a factor to be reckoned with.

Q: Finally, what should Tigers fans expect to see from this squad in 2016? We know it will be a long season and that's the great thing about baseball, where it's a marathon and not a sprint.

A: You're right about that. I think the fans will see a team that will compete and come to play every night. We're in a real good division with (World Champions) Kansas City, and Chicago has made some moves. Cleveland has improved themselves a lot. We're in a real good division and it will be a dog fight. I think it will be a fun year to be honest with you.

So far, the early returns on Zimmermann have be really good. He was named American League Pitcher of The Month For April as he went 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA in 33 innings.

Zimmermann lost a tough 3-2 decision to the Washington Nationals and his record dropped to 5-2 with a 1.50 ERA. He's 0-2 in May thus far.

Detroit's record is 15-18.

On this night, former Tiger Max Scherzer tied an MLB record with 20 strikeouts and improved his record to 4-2 for the Washington Nationals.

Fullmer was the winning pitcher in Tuesday night's 5-4 triumph. He's 2-1, and gained a much needed win for the Tigers enabling Detroit to snap a seven-game losing streak.

For those looking to see Ausmus get fired, that move would be way too premature at this point.

As Rand and I talked about, it's a long season.

Tigers fans hope that during the course of the 2016 season that Rand is Detroit's Real MVP.

They have to hope he'll continue to use his 35 years in Professional Baseball to make sure his staff presses the right buttons to keep the players on the field.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Florida Spring Training Travels 2016

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Although Spring Training is over, it's always great to see different or return to ballparks every year.

This year our Florida Travels took us to Kissimmee, Lakeland, Bradenton and Fort Myers.

On Friday, March 11, the Detroit Tigers faced the Houston Astros. Last month, I wrote a story on The Memories of Osceola County Stadium so I won't get into much detail in this post.

To re-summarize the experience, My first visit to this facility was in 1985 for the Florida State League (FSL) All-Star Weekend. This was the first year this venue was open.

The bugs weren't worked out as I had difficulty transmitting the two stories to the Tampa Tribune, thus, I wound up dictating them to My Desk Editor Rick Nelson. Thankfully, that bit of distress became an incredible learning experience for years to come.

My return on this day was much easier and there would be no technical problems and the Astros had a newer clubhouse compared to the one they used in 1985.

Next year, they're supposed to relocate to a new stadium with the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach, FL.

On Saturday, March 12, I enjoyed taking an annual trip to Lakeland to see the Tigers versus their inter-league rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I had the opportunity to see old friends like Tom Gage, Ron Myers, who runs the Lakeland Operation for Detroit and oversees the Advanced Class-A Flying Tigers, and interviewed prospect Wynton Bernard. There will be a future story on Bernard in the coming weeks as he continues his quest to make Comerica Park his future home.

What was interesting about this trip to Joker Marchant Stadium is this was the last time I'd see the venue in its' current state as you can tell by the construction in right field.

In October 2014, the Lakeland City Commission announced that as part of a new agreement with the Detroit Tigers, a $41 Million Renovation and upgrade of the 50-year-old stadium has started.

Funding will be provided in part by the Detroit Tigers, The City of Lakeland and Polk County.

The Lakeland Flying Tigers of the FSL are playing at Historic Henley Field, which is located 1 1/2 miles from Marchant Stadium for the 2016 Season.

On Sunday, March 13, we went from I-4 West to I-75 South and followed the Tigers to see the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.

I caught up with Tigers Trainer and long-time Friend Kevin Rand, and spoke with Tigers General Manager Al Avila before the game. I was surprised at the amount of South Florida baseball connections that Avila and I had.

McKechnie Field is a very unique facility.

When the Pirates play their Regular Season Games at PNC Park, home runs that leave the park wind up landing in the Allegheny River, as boats scoop the balls up.

Here in Bradenton, it's a much different situation as foul balls fly outside the park and onto the street with on-coming traffic.

I wouldn't dare to take a guess how many foul balls lead to broken windshields or dents which damage automobiles. But you can rest assure that those who go to Bradenton are accustomed to this because in addition to Spring Training, the Pirates have an FSL team play during the summer.

But overall, this is a nice building that been renovated through the years, and the Pittsburgh Pirates staff treated us great. There were lots of palm trees in the outfield.

A few miles down the road, Pittsburgh's Main Headquarters is Pirates City and the entire complex is completely first class.

Finally, the Best Spring Training Ballpark I've ever seen to date is in Fort Myers!

On Easter Sunday March 27, we took the trip on I-75 North/Alligator Alley, and saw the Boston Red Sox face the Philadelphia Phillies at JetBlue Park at Fenway South.

Ground was broken on March 4, 2011 and it opened on March 3, 2012. The capacity is 10,823 and the Field Size is the same as Fenway Park. It's amazing that this venue has a replica of the famed "Green Monster."

When I was speaking to the Red Sox PR Department and New England Media, I told them this park should be renamed Jet Jewel Park, because that's how amazing this place is.

Due to a non-compete clause with The City of Fort Myers and Minnesota Twins, who play at nearby Hammond Stadium, Boston can't field an FSL team.

Instead, the Rookie Short Season Gulf Coast League Red Sox play during the summer months.

There were many things which stood out about our experience.

First, this was the second to last game for Red Sox Legend David Ortiz in Fort Myers. The slugger is retiring at the end of the 2016 season.

Second, I had the opportunity to see an old friend of mind from our days with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in the early 1980's. I rarely hug athletes, but Red Sox Coach Brian Butterfield was the exception to the rule.

In the coming weeks, there will be a Question & Answer Story with Butterfield so stay tuned.

The cost to build JetBlue Park was $77.9 Million, but this is a "Complete Masterpiece."

The Detroit Tigers have trained in Lakeland for 80 years which is incredible.

If the Red Sox are at JetBlue Park another 80 years, I'll be age 153 buried someplace.

Fenway Park in Boston is on My Bucket List before I die, but at least on this Easter Sunday, we both got a taste of it, thus wetting our appetite for a future trip to Massachusetts.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a Member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's Crunch Time For The Red Wings!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
SUNRISE, FL


When we saw the Detroit Red Wings defeat the Florida Panthers on March 19, 2016, 5-3, it appeared that a win in South Florida could be a sign that they would be on their way to a 25th straight playoff appearance.

On this night, the Red Wings would overcome a 3-1 deficit and defeat Panthers star goaltender Roberto Luongo. He was out dueled by Red Wings netminder, Jimmy Howard, who won his second straight game.

The atmosphere at the BB&T Center was Electric as a Panthers Record 20,817 fans showed up against a team which does pack this arena.

There was a Red Wings flavor before the game as an Octopus hit the ice in Sunrise, FL.

Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwell returned to the Red Wings line-up. Red Wings Announcer Paul Woods mentioned to me before the game that Detroit was 6-7-1 without Kronwell in the line-up.

The Panthers fans got their first look at Red Wings rookie right wing Anthony Mantha (6-5, 214), age 21 1/2 years old. He was playing his third NHL Game.

The Red Wings had their fair share of challenges during the game as Florida was 33-5-6 when scoring the first goal of the game. Tack on another loss for the Panthers.

Florida was 15-6-4 when tied after the first period. Once again, add another loss for the Panthers.

The Panthers were 15-6-1 against the Atlantic Division, and the Red Wings defeat gave Florida a seventh loss.

This win earned the Red Wings a day off to spend time on the Fort Lauderdale beaches as it had time to get ready for a huge showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning three nights later.

Red Wings Head Coach Jeff Blashill came away pleased with the offensive effort by his team.

"I thought we did a good job for the 60 minutes," Blashill said. "That was our biggest focus; we've talked about it a lot. Making sure we play 60 minutes and making sure we're resilient. And when you get scored on, just keep going.

"The one thing with the offense was we got to the net and we're going to continue to get to the net to be successful here. That's the only way you're going to score in this league over, and over and over again and we found a way to do it."

The BB&T Center may not be Joe Louis Arena, but it had a Red and White Flavor to it.

Blashill described the atmosphere as, "When we play here, there's a lot of fans who spend winters here. When we come, there's always a good crowd here; a good mix of both fans."

I've covered a lot of games between these two squads and I would estimate that at least 45% are Detroit fans and they're quite vocal.

Since the Red Wings important win versus Florida, Detroit has gone 2-3 in that stretch. Tampa Bay blew out Detroit 6-2. In these five games, Detroit has allowed 22 goals. This isn't the time for the goaltending to go South for the Spring and to end their long playoff streak.

The Philadelphia Flyers (38-25-13, 89 points) hold the Final Wild Card Spot. They have a game in hand over Detroit having played 76. In 77 games, Detroit is 38-28-11 with 87 points.

Even if the Red Wings were to overtake the Flyers, I can't imagine Detroit winning s series against the Washington Capitals, who are 54-16-6 with a 114 points.

Detroit's best chance of making the playoffs may actually be overtaking the Boston Bruins, who have also played 77 games. The Bruins are 40-29-8 with 88 points in the Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division.

If Detroit surpasses Boston, there potential match ups could include Tampa Bay or Florida. I can only imagine what the crowds will be at the BB&T Center if this occurs.

Detroit does face the Philadelphia Flyers in one of its remaining five games.

For whatever it's worth, if the Red Wings were in the Western Conference, 87 points gets them into the playoffs. The first team out as of this post is the Colorado Avalanche with 82 points in 77 games.

But GM Ken Holland would have to log some extra miles in the Western Conference. But we'll never know now.

So it will be interesting to see if this playoff streak is extended. Expect the next five games to be the most intense hockey that Red Wings fans will watch in a long time.

The Red Wings host the Minnesota Wild on Friday at the Joe Louis Arena. Then, three of the final four games are on the road. They'll face former Head Coach Mike Babcock in Toronto, Philadelphia at home then wrap-up the season on the road against Boston and the New York Rangers Finale on April 9th.

It doesn't get any tougher than this!

Nothing like controlling their own destiny and pile up as many points as possible. No need to scoreboard watch or no motivational speeches needed!

We'll see if Detroit enters it's Final Season in Joe Louis Arena with 25 consecutive post-season appearances.

If the Red Wings playoff streak comes to an end, it won't be the only steak that ends.

There will be no Canadian based teams in this year's tournament. It will be be the first time since 1970, a span of 46 years that this didn't happen.

So now, "It's Crunch Time For The Red Wings!"

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Memories at Osceola County Stadium

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
KISSIMMEE, FL

On March 23, 2016, the Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 in what appeared to be their last game at Osceola County Stadium. If everything goes according to plan, Houston and the Washington Nationals will move into a new ballpark in West Palm Beach, FL in 2017.

On March 11, 2016, the Detroit Tigers faced the Astros and this stadium brought back some nostalgic memories as I returned here for the first time since 1985.

Back then, I was a Sports Writer for the Tampa Tribune.

I was covering the Florida State League (FSL) All-Star Weekend during the stadium's first year of operation. That weekend, I had the good fortune to meet Hall of Fame Pitcher Sandy Koufax.

This was the first year of Spring Training for the Houston Astros and their Class A Advanced Team the Osceola Astros.

What stood out about this game wasn't the score of the Old-Timers Game or The All-Star Game.

Instead, it's what happened in the Press Box.

For the weekend, I used a Tampa Tribune Computer which had "Rotary Phone Cuffs" where you stick the phone in and transmit the story through the land line. Ah yes, the technology of "Yesteryear."

After the game, I had both my stories done and attempted to send two articles. I repeat, I attempted to send two articles.

Needless to say, after six attempts, I was unable to get them to the Tampa Tribune.

Luckily, My Desk Editor Rick Nelson was able to extend my deadline to 12:30 AM with the cooperation of production.

I dictated the two stories to Rick for 25 minutes and when I saw it in print, Nelson did an outstanding job when I returned to Tampa and saw it in the paper. These stories are framed in My Office at home.

As I reminisced with my longtime friend Lynn Henning (in the photo) of the Detroit News, he said, "that had to be traumatic for you."

I told him I was the oldest 22-year old that night in a building which was working out the bugs after being open for just four months. There wasn't any gray hair and I was MUCH THINNER back then, weighing in at a whopping 135 pounds.

Before and during the game, I was sharing this experience with Astros PR Guy Chris Peixoto (25) as well as the Tigers PR tandem of Aileen Villarreal and Michele Wysocki. Like Peixoto, Wysocki wasn't even born. Villarreal, Wysocki and Peixoto actually gleamed as I was talking about this experience.

Their version of technology is far different than what many of us "old school" media types had to work with.

During my years of covering Spring Training, I've rarely attended a game with a clear cut story idea. But as we drove 2 1/2 hours North up the Florida Turnpike, and weeks leading up to this, this was an obvious story idea.

Besides, on the road, you never know what players will travel with the club and will be available.

On this day, the Detroit Tigers sent familiar names to Osceola County Stadium.

Alan Trammell was throwing batting practice, GM Al Avila was around, in addition to Miguel Cabrera, Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose, JD Martinez, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon along with top prospects JaCoby Jones and Steven Moya.

Prior to the game, I had a chance to ask Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus about his thoughts and memories at Osceola County Stadium.

Ausmus, 46, is seven years younger than I am. He played for Houston from 1997-98, and again from 2001-2008.

"I had a lot of memories having been here 10 years," Ausmus said. "There were some good restaurants. There were some good and tough times."

"One thing that stood out was moving into a new facility after it was renovated. We really had a small and old major league clubhouse. When it was renovated, we really had a small and old major league clubhouse. When it was renovated, and we moved into this new building, it was a major upgrade."

On Monday, March 7, 2016, The Tampa Tribune printed out it's last paper in it's downtown 202 S. Parker Street facility off The Riverfront. The Tribune will be joining forces with the Tampa Bay Times with the production operation being relocated to St.Petersburg, FL. The editorial staff moves out in May into another Tampa Office.

My old stomping grounds will be torn down for a new apartment complex.

I worked at The Tampa Tribune  from 1984-1986. I had the pleasure of working with some of the best colleagues during my development as a Sports Writer.

My All-Star line-up includes late Sports Editor Tom McEwen, Joey Johnston, Chris Harry, Mike O'Keefe, Jim Henry, Herb Branham, Nick Pugliese, Roy Cummings, Executive Sports Editor Joe DiSalvo and Nelson.

Johnston gave me a strong recommendation to get the FSL beat, and DiSalvo gave me the free reign to do whatever I wanted to keep it interesting.

Nelson helped me get a free lance writing job with RedsVue Magazine in Cincinnati. He edited my stories for both the Tribune and RedsVue as I covered the Reds Class A Advanced League FSL Tampa Tarpons, plus all the Reds Fantasy and Spring Training assignments.

But on this 1985 FSL All-Star Game, it was A Night to Forget and a Night to Remember.

I got an on the job training lesson that you won't get majoring in a Mass Communications Curriculum in college. Boy did I ever!

Yet, when I think about the advances in technology, the words internet, wireless, net books, laptop computers, tablets and smart phones have turned technology upside down.

It's great to tell stories about the Wonderful World of Yesteryear and for the Tigers vs Astros contest, I even had the opportunity to sit in My Old Seat in the Press Box at Osceola County Stadium with the only difference being that I weighed 260 pounds, sporting gray hair and facial hair.

To this day, the best job I had in college was working at The Tampa Tribune.

On March 11, 2016, it seemed like June of 1985 all over again, only without the deadline pressure, but the technology was working as I prepared this story.

Nelson taught me to be composed under pressure and I've used that into my adult years in every situation imaginable for the most part. We all have our moments of extreme frustration, but mine are much less as they were before. Yet, once again, I'm very proud of what Nelson and I accomplished in June of 1985.

As for the Tigers vs Astros game, Cabrera hit the most exciting fly ball to not leave the stadium in front of 4,237 fans. Meanwhile, Moya hit his third home run of the spring.

When we saw the Astros last spring on Sunday March 8, 2015 at Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium, Houston hammered Detroit 14-9. The Astros would reach the playoffs and defeated the New York Yankees in the first round.

With the Tigers numerous off-season moves, it will be interesting to see how this season plays out.

But as I look at Osceola County Stadium 31 years later, it's a beautiful ballpark and it's cozy 5,300 capacity is the smallest in Spring Training.

Yet, The City of Kissimmee, FL has done an outstanding job taking care of this venue.

It looked even better on this 81 degree sunny afternoon in Central Florida, watching the "Boys of Summer" reminiscing about "Memory Lane" for those that wanted to hear me at the FSL All-Star Weekend that I can now laugh about.

The Tigers lost to the Astros on this day 10-4, but that was a mere after thought.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

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