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Thinking Out Loud: Success widespread for RI youth baseball teams 08.19.16 at 9:06 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jack Hamilton.

— It must be the water, right? Or, maybe the coaching has caught on. Whatever it is, Rhode Island Little League Baseball has had an unprecedented run of success, spread over multiple cities and organizations. Warwick North’s appearance in the LLWS marks the third straight year for the Rhode Island champion to win the New England Regional in Bristol, Connecticut, and advance to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

— Since 1980, Cranston (Western), Cumberland (American), Lincoln and Pawtucket (Darlington American) have represented Rhode Island and the New England Region at the World Series.

— Having once coached in the Rhode Island Little League ranks (20 years in the East Bay District 2, in Rumford), I have long thought that for every coach/dad who favors his star/son on one team, or pushes kids past their normal limitations, there are dozens of other supportive parents and coach/dads who try to do things a different way and have success.

— Success is relative, anyway. You don’t need to have coached a team that reaches a World Series to know you’ve made a difference in the life of a young athlete.

— Everyone makes mistakes. The truly successful coaches are the people who learn from those mistakes. There have been, and still are, some really good coaches in Lil’ Rhody.

— And let us not forget the Washington Park Cal Ripken team from Providence, which advanced to the Ripken Major/60 World Series in Ocala, Florida. The Rhode Islanders ended the tournament tied for third overall.

— Not to be left out, the American Legion team from Lincoln, Rhode Island (Upper Deck Post 86/14) reached the American Legion World Series held in North Carolina. The UD team was the first from Rhode Island to win the Northeast Regional and earn a Series berth since 1980, and finished its season with a 34-6 record.

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Thinking Out Loud: Yankees made right move forcing out Alex Rodriguez 08.12.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … and wishing every day was like Victory Day in Rhode Island.

— Curt Schilling wants to run for office, maybe even president? Just a guess, but I don’t think he’ll carry the three electoral votes from Rhode Island. You?

— A-Fraud’s forced retirement by the Yankees, even though they still have to pay him another $27 million, was the right thing to do. And I’m not a Yankees fan by any means. It’s also why baseball players have it all over their NFL brethren — guaranteed contracts.

— Still, Alex Rodriguez leaves the game with 29 career home runs at Fenway — only four players had more as a visitor. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew and Al Kaline are serious company.

— Tweet of the Week, from @mooretosay: Someone explain to me why the playing/benching of a washed up guy who hasn’t played all year is all of a sudden interesting. He can’t play.

— Red Sox bats sleeping at inopportune moments is a real problem as the stretch run nears. The bullpen’s sudden urge to allow baserunners to score is another. But rookie Andrew Benintendi has so far proven to be a silver lining in the dark storm clouds gathering over Fenway. His fielding blunder(s) aside, let’s not retire his number to right field just yet, though, shall we?

— David Price makes me tired. And anxious, at the same time. That is all.

— The PC police were at work again this week, over the sudden ditching of David Ortiz bobblehead dolls. Were they racially insensitive? Perhaps, but just about everyone missed the bigger picture here — how did the Red Sox organization let this get as far as it did?

— Having worked for pro sports teams in my past, I can tell you there has always been a chain of command to follow, and someone in charge of quality control for things like this. That Sam Kennedy saw the dolls for the first time just hours before they were to be given away is a joke, really. Someone dropped the ball, or someone has poor judgment. Maybe both. Ortiz had an unprintable response to the dolls’ “look,” which is all anyone needs to know.

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Read More: alex rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi,
Thinking Out Loud: Invasion of visiting teams’ fans at Fenway a sign of times 08.05.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … and does anyone know where one-time Patriots linemen go after football?

— Has anyone else noticed the emergence of — gasp! – fans of other teams showing up at Fenway Park this season? This has long been a trademark of Red Sox fans at other stadiums across the country (right, Tampa? Baltimore? Toronto?), but for some reason, Sox rivals are returning the favor this year in surprising numbers.

— The recent San Francisco Giants series at Fenway was a perfect example of this phenomenon, with the stands crowded in Orange and Black jerseys and T-shirts. Even one fan sitting down from me wearing an orange wig, and I tolerated it, somehow. Now I ask you, if the Sox hadn’t been a last-place team the past two seasons, would any of this be happening?

— Of course not. True Sox fans would snap these tickets up in a, well, in a New York minute. Let this be a lesson, Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner, whenever you decide to go “on the cheap” in your hiring and firing. Spend it, to make it. Just sayin’.

— Like everyone else, there was mild disappointment in not being able to swing a trade deadline deal for Chris Sale, but I’ll wager the discussion over bringing him to Boston picks up again in the offseason. As for the one deadline deal done, hard to say right now that it wasn’t Abad one. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.

— Andrew Benintendi got his anticipated call-up, becoming the first player in the history of the High-A Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Carolina League) to advance to the majors in the same year he started in Salem. Of course, Salem only started playing ball in 2009, but hey, it’s still a significant move up.

— He’s also the first Red Sox player to get the call up straight from Double-A (Portland Sea Dogs) to the big leagues since Boston did that with Josh Reddick in ’09.

— But will he be a good major league player? How often do young players make a two-class jump and succeed right away? Like, never? Dealer Dave Dombrowski said early last month that Benintendi probably could handle fielding and baserunning in the bigs, but that his offense wasn’t quite major league ready — although Benintendi picked up his first two hits Wednesday night. Major league pitching will continue to be an awakening for him, only a little more than a year removed from facing collegiate pitching.

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Read More: Andrew Benintendi, David Price, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Linebackers Patriots’ strongest position — for now 07.29.16 at 5:45 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Antowain Smith.

— Happy New Year! Well, it’s what we’ve been waiting for since, oh, last January, right? Football is back, but with a few twists and turns along the way to always keep things interesting.

— Attendance on opening day of Patriots training camp: 12,393. More than Tampa Bay can draw for most Rays baseball games. Twenty states and at least four foreign countries represented among the fandom. Nope, nothing to see here.

— There’s the always-alarming physically unable to perform (PUP) list, which really means guys like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola will be OK — but the team is taking little chance to get them injured before playing in games that actually mean something. Injuries kept NE from a possible fifth Lombardi Trophy more than anything else last winter.

— And for the first time in 15 years, New England will head into a regular season preparing to start someone at quarterback not named Tom Brady. Brady’s falling on the sword in taking the four-game suspension from the NFL means Jimmy Garoppolo gets the spotlight, the attention and a lot of reps over the next month. It’s his chance to shine and to set himself up — if not in New England, certainly somewhere else — for a solid career.

— Evaluating the Pats’ strongest position heading into camp, there’s a lot of depth along the defensive front. Even with Chandler Jones’ departure for Arizona, there’s size in the middle and potentially more speed on the ends.

— But for pure talent? I’ll take the linebacking one-two punch of Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. Both can be free agents after this year, so expect new contracts to be part of their storylines until deals get done. Or not. Collins wasn’t present for opening day Thursday, but CSNNE’s Tom Curran says it wasn’t contract-related. Bill Belichick says he was excused.

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Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Big 12 expansion unlikely to include UConn 07.22.16 at 5:51 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Burt Ward.

— As Gotham’s Dark Knight, Batman, once said, “Storm’s comin’.” The Big 12 football media days wrapped up this week in Dallas, and the final item on the agenda involved the dreaded “E” word — expansion. The league has all but decided that expanding back to 12 teams (from the present 10) is the way to go — and don’t be surprised if the conference eventually moves to 14 teams.

— Why? The Big 12 seemed relatively happy with the 10-team setup, and with newest partners West Virginia and TCU now cut in on full league shares (the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow), no school was eager to cut into their slice of the pie. Until mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money came into the picture. In clear color.

— That’s right. Several studies, one notably by CBSSports.com, have indicated mo’ money for all teams by raising membership and conducting a conference football championship game once again, which the league will reintroduce by 2017. And there’s another catch.

Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the lure of added TV money from the existing Big 12 media partners requiring the current carriers to pay league market value for each additional member is a big reason for potential expansion. The networks have to pay new schools like they pay everyone else. Now, the new schools could agree to partial shares (like TCU and West Virginia did) and work their way into full shares. In the interim, it’s a short-term money grab (there’s that word again) for everyone else.

— Big 12 members made more than $30 million each after disbursing revenue earned for this past year. Those are numbers that make schools like Brigham Young (an independent in football), UConn, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and South Florida all shake in their shoes. Presently, these schools earn in the range of $2 million-$4 million. Per year. The difference is palpable.

— The American Athletic Conference — the remnants of the former Big East, based in Providence — is under siege once again. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says he hopes a decision on expansion is reached prior to the 2017 football season kickoff. For my money, I’m taking BYU and Houston as the lead horses in this race, with Cincinnati in the lead pack of contenders.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady leaves Patriots fans feeling deflated 07.15.16 at 9:12 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if Pikachu, Squirtle or Charizard might be lurking around the corner.

— Well, then. That’s it? What do we have to complain about now?

— Eighteen months after the torturous tale began, Tom Brady has decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, effectively ending Deflategate. And my initial reaction is a deflated one, like the way I felt after watching “The Sopranos” finale. That’s it?

— All along, the smarter Kool-Aid drinkers (and I’m still one of them) believed TB12’s best chance at playing in September was through a stay granted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg, if we are to believe in her precedents, generally has sided with labor over management in labor-related causes.

— However, the burden of proof was on Brady’s team to show this case traveled well beyond a simple football spat between a player and a commissioner. Ultimately, based on case precedent, the odds weren’t on TB12’s side. And we know how he loves to win. So let’s strike up the band and climb aboard the Jimmy Garoppolo bandwagon.

— Perhaps the recent public display of “dislike” for presidential candidate Donald Trump could have caused a problem with Justice Ginsburg’s consideration of TB12’s case – especially with Brady as a Trump “friend”? You’d like to think not. You’d like to think our Supreme Court justices can be impartial, even though they are human. But impartial enough to keep TB12 in the fight? Nope. You have to think his legal team suggested as much.

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Read More: Deflategate, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Kevin Durant’s flirtation with Boston not rooted in reality 07.08.16 at 5:41 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Keith Foulke.

— For me, Kevin Durant’s flirtation with Boston was a fantasy. Pure fiction conjured up only to get the fans and media riled up and make a little news. It’s great that the Celtics brought Tom Brady into the mix for a recruiting pitch, and I’m sure KD thought it was cool. It’s also cool to see Julian Edelman, David Ortiz and other noteworthy New England sports superstars tout Boston’s attributes. But there’s only one thing that drives decisions like these, and that is money. Big money.

— Oh. And winning. It’s also about winning, and Golden State now stands to be an overwhelming favorite for next season, when you add Durant to the Warriors’ mix. Nothing different here than when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach — KD simply decided against producing a (bleep) show, made-for-TV event to announce it.

— If Durant was really smart, though, he’d see that he could be setting himself up for a big-time flop. This team won a record 73 games during the season and didn’t win the title. Should we just fast-forward to June of 2017 now and get this over with? Talk about your meaningless regular seasons.

— And what does Durant’s departure for rich, Western pastures mean for former Friar Billy Donovan as Oklahoma City’s coach? Next year figured to be a transitional year without KD, of course. But with his other star Russell Westbrook also on the edge of leaving town (a year left on his deal), could Billy the Kid consider the college game again?

— Crazy rumor already being floated: Donovan to replace mentor Rick Pitino in Louisville. Hmmm. Makes sense (and cents?), doesn’t it?

— Speaking of making cents, congrats to Kris Dunn, now signed, sealed and delivered to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dunn stands to make almost $4 million this year, just for playing basketball. He’ll make much more than that, you know, by being a solid citizen and great corporate spokesperson. We’ll say we knew him when.

— Al Horford’s addition to the Celtics is a good move. Not a great move, but a good move. Horford will bring toughness, rebounding ability and attitude — all three are good things contending teams must have. But shooting? Where is the shooter? Did I miss another memo on needing a shooter?

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Read More: Billy Donovan, Kevin Durant,
Thinking Out Loud: Frozen Fenway a fun take, but novelty has worn off 07.01.16 at 5:43 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering why we don’t have birthday cake on the Fourth of July.

— OK, so it’s summertime. I’ve only been to the beach a couple of times, and we’re already talking hockey? But it was cool — and somewhat timely — to get the announcement this week that the Providence Friars would get the chance to skate again at Fenway Park (aka Frozen Fenway) next season against Boston College.

— PC first took part in the outdoor rink phenomenon that launched at Fenway in 2014, in a 1-1 tie with Hockey East rival Merrimack. Next year, there will be two weekends of outdoor doubleheaders at the Fens, with Jan. 7 featuring the Friars and Eagles along with BU facing UMass. The following Saturday (Jan. 14) will have Maine-UConn and UNH-Northeastern games.

— Great exposure for Hockey East perhaps, and maybe fun for hockey krishnas. If you like freezing. Personally, I’m a little past the novelty and nostalgia of staged pond hockey, whether it’s at Fenway or not. Just sayin’.

— A total of four future and current Friars were selected in the recently completed NHL draft. Vincent Desharnais, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore, was picked in the seventh round by Edmonton, while Friars-to-be Kasper Bjorkqvist (Finland), Brandon Duhaime (Florida) and Jake Ryczek (Ludlow, Mass.) were taken by Pittsburgh (2nd round), Minnesota (4th round) and Chicago (7th round).

— Not for nuthin’, but it’s the first time since 2000 that PC has had as many as four players selected in a single NHL draft — they had five picked back in ’00. Providence should have plenty of talent on the roster this fall, with seven NHL draft picks ready to suit up.

— Congrats to PC grad Ryan Breen, who is joining the scouting staff of the New Jersey Devils. Breen was director of hockey operations for PC, and followed that up with a scouting role for the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder, and a hockey ops/video coordinator position with the Providence Bruins before earning the NHL gig.

— In case you missed it, former Friar Bryce Cotton has been added to the Atlanta Hawks’ roster for the Las Vegas Summer League. Cotton appeared in eight games for Phoenix and Memphis last season, and spent the majority of his year with the D-League’s Austin Toros. The Hawks are looking for shooting, and Cotton is a career 45 percent shooter from 3 in the NBADL.

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Thinking Out Loud: Celtics draft pick Ben Bentil should have stayed at Providence another year 06.24.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Sam Bowie.

— Kris Dunn’s night in the NBA draft spotlight very nearly had a local lean to it, except for Danny Ainge’s crazy idea that Jaylen Brown might actually be a serviceable player right away. More on that in a sec — but for Dunn, it was the culmination of what could best be described as a beautiful struggle.

— If you know Dunn’s story (and if you don’t, Google it), you know this is a fairy tale ending. Or beginning. Minnesota has a piece now that could turn a 29-53 Timberwolves team into a playoff contender. From the PC point of view, Dunn is the first first-rounder selected since Marshon Brooks in 2011 (25th to Boston), and the highest pick (at No. 5 overall) since Marvin Barnes was taken at No. 2 in 1974. He’s also the fourth Friar all-time to be selected in the top five of the draft (Barnes, Jimmy Walker, Ernie DiGregorio), and also the 11th all-time to be taken in the first round.

— The last NBA draft top-10 pick for Providence? Otis Thorpe at No. 9 (by Kansas City, now Sacramento) in 1984. Forty-three Friars have been NBA draft picks, all-time.

— Andrew Wiggins. Karl Anthony Townes. The last two NBA Rookies of the Year reside in T-wolves Land. Good company for Dunn. Ricky Rubio. Zach LaVine. Highlight reel alley-oops are on the revamped dinner menu.

— One other note worth mentioning here — Dunn may be the first person in recorded history to put J.C. Penney and Gucci in the same sentence. Dunn already has a sponsorship deal with J.C. Penney for clothing, as his draft night suit was created by the clothing store giant. His Gucci shoes were glittering to the point he was asked about them by ESPN’s Lisa Salters.

— Tallying the draft score college conference-wise, the Big East had four players drafted in the two rounds (Marquette’s Henry Ellenson No. 18 to Detroit, Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead No. 42 to Utah, then traded to Brooklyn), including PC’s Dunn and Ben Bentil.

— If you’re keeping score at home, the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each had six picks, while the ACC led the way with nine players selected. Only one other league had multiple picks (the WCC, with two) and 12 conferences were represented overall, including the Atlantic-10 (St. Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry, 21st to Atlanta) and the American (UConn’s Daniel Hamilton 56th to Oklahoma City).

— Bentil’s wait until the second round and the 51st pick overall was not a surprise in these eyes. Great that Boston selected him, and he’ll get the chance to compete for a Celtics roster spot. Dunn and Bentil now make it 10 times PC has had multiple NBA draft picks in the same year.

— But anyone who really believes Bentil made the right “basketball” move by leaving Providence early is wrong.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Kris Dunn,
Thinking Out Loud: Celtics should lock in on Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield 06.17.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to O.J.’s iconic white Ford Bronco.

— The Celtics recently worked out the guy I’d actually like to see them take at No. 3 in next week’s NBA draft, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. Dead-eye shooter. Mature player. Nice kid. He’s about as complete as you can be coming from college. But if not Hield, Boston should take that pick and a few others and deal them away for an established player/star.

— Not sure that Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, the former Marquette star, is that guy. Reportedly, the Celtics want him, but at what cost? I’m in the Kevin Durant-or-nothing corner. The Bulls are presently coveting a shot at Kris Dunn somewhere in that 3-5 range in the first round, according to several sources.

— Friars fans are gathering to see just where Dunn and Ben Bentil land on Thursday night at G Pub in downtown Providence, starting at 7:30 p.m. Should Bentil sneak into the first round, it will be the first time in PC’s 89-year basketball history that the team will have two first-round selections in the same year.

— The last time the Friars had two players taken in the same NBA draft? In 1997, when Austin Croshere was selected 12th in the first round (by Indiana) and God Shammgod was taken with the 45th pick in the second round (by Washington). Having multiple draftees has been much harder to accomplish over the past 27 years — in 1989, the draft was reduced to two rounds, down from 10 rounds in 1974 to 1985. Unbelievably, the league used to draft until there was literally no one left in the ’60s, up to an astounding 21 rounds.

— In ’85 the draft was shortened to seven rounds, before cutting it down to the present two-round affair in ’89. I’d be in favor of adding another round to the selection process, as most second-round selections are cast off to the D-League or stashed away on a foreign team anyway. Even a “territorial” pick, like what used to occur in the ’40s and into the ’60s with teams preselecting players from nearby schools, could help bring back local interest in a big way.

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