Friday’s stories from the sporting world include a very meaningful Congressional Baseball game, the ending of eras in San Diego and Pittsburgh, and a top Division I men’s basketball program’s National Championship hanging in the balance.
Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper made his presence felt early to the Citi Field crowd Thursday night, obliterating a fastball from Mets’ starter Robert Gsellman to give Washington an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The ball traveled a projected 406 feet down the right-field line and cleared the fence in an estimated 3.8 seconds. What’s even more impressive is the exit velocity of 116.3 mph; it was Harper’s hardest hit ball of the Statcast Era (since 2015).
The Congressional Game kicked off with 60 members of Congress from both political parties gathered at second base to kneel in prayer. The game ended with the Democrats winning 11-2 and giving the Congressional baseball trophy to the Republicans with instructions to put it in House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s office as he recovers from bullet wounds suffered a day earlier. MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre delivered the game ball to special agent David Bailey, who was hit in the ankle as he charged the suspect. It was Bailey who threw out the first pitch.
Cleveland Browns’ rookie defensive end and No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft Myles Garrett is “fine” after sustaining a left foot injury during Wednesday’s minicamp session, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Garrett was seen limping off the field under his own power on Wednesday without a trainer. The setback is worth monitoring, but Garrett does have more than a month to rest and recover in order to prepare for his first NFL training camp.
Yesterday’s end to minicamp officially marked the end of the Chargers’ tenure in San Diego. Although the move to Los Angeles was announced five months ago, the team still held offseason workouts in their San Diego facility. The last man off the field Thursday? Philip Rivers. Rivers has called San Diego home since 2004; it’s the only professional home he’s known. However, Rivers is looking forward to the new scenery, noting that all things “come to an end at some point”. Training camp for the Chargers will be held in Costa Mesa; dates in late July have yet to be announced.
Indiana Pacers’ forward Paul George provided clarity on his short term plan to stay with the Pacers next season. George intends to play for Indiana during the final year of his contract. That answer may satisfy Pacers’ fans in the short run although the bigger questions looms: Where will George be in 2018-2019? If George’s pen doesn’t spill ink on the max contract promised by former president of basketball operations Larry Bird before July 2018, George will become one of the most coveted free agents in the NBA next summer.
The NBA and Turner announced yesterday that Bill Russell will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the first-ever NBA Awards show. Russell has received many accolades throughout his career; to name a few, Russell is a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, and an 11-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics.
The Buffalo Sabres have filled their head coaching vacancy with the hiring of Hall of Fame defenseman Phil Housley on Thursday. Housley, who served as an assistant coach with Nashville for the past four seasons, will return to the city where his NHL career began. Thursday was also his 32nd wedding anniversary, and while he did admit to forgetting to get his wife a card, he gave her the gift of returning to the city they lived in for eight years and had two children.
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury walked into the Penguins locker room on Thursday for what could very well be the final time. Starting goalie Matt Murray spoke with the media as Fleury stood off to the side before being embraced with a hug from defenseman Olli Maatta. As Fleury waited for Murray and forward Matt Cullen to finish with the media, he fought back tears. According to reports on Wednesday, Fleury waived his no-movement clause before the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline so the Penguins could protect Murray in the NHL Expansion Draft. Teams are allowed to protect one goalie from the expansion draft and players with no-movement clauses must be protected unless they opt to waive them. Fleury was part of three Stanley Cup Championship teams in Pittsburgh and his teammates offered their kind words about him on Thursday.
Buffalo Sabres’ forward Kyle Okposo will likely be on the ice for training camp in September after an undisclosed illness caused him to miss the final six games of the season. Okposo was reportedly hospitalized for less than a week after being admitted on April 2nd.
No Division I men’s basketball title has ever been vacated. However, that could change with Louisville after the NCAA came down with their sanctions on the university. Louisville plans to appeal its own NCAA sanctions, hoping to keep their 2013 National Championship. Among the numerous sanctions handed down, the NCAA wants any game vacated that involved an ineligible student-athlete from December 2010 to July 2014. Chuck Smrt, the handler of Louisville’s defense of the allegations, says that 108 regular-season games and 15 NCAA Tournament games are in question, including the 2013 National Championship game.