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Jackie Robinson's son joins Red Sox to celebrate his late father's birthday

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 31, 2013 06:29 PM

On what would have been Jackie Robinson's 94th birthday, his son, David, joined the Red Sox Thursday in celebrating the life of the man who broke baseball's color barrier, appearing at a pair of Boston middle schools to help teach students his father's inspirational story of strong character and values.

It was the 11th consecutive year the Sox have held such an event, but it was the first time David Robinson participated in the effort, which visited Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park and McCormack Middle School in Dorchester. Red Sox hall of famer Tommy Harper, local broadcast legend Dick Flavin, Robinson scholar Dr. Steve Schlein, and team officials also took part.

“When our new ownership arrived in 2002, they knew they were inheriting a franchise with a past that was in some ways glorious, and in some ways ignominious,” said Dr. Charles A. Steinberg, the Red Sox’ Senior Advisor to the President/CEO. Robinson had a tryout with the Red Sox before signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but was allegedly besieged by racial slurs during the workout; it wasn't until 1959 that the Sox became the last major league team to integrate their roster.

“They charged us with confronting the past and ushering in a new day," Steinberg continued. "We believe that Boston children should learn the story of Robinson, what he endured, and how his character led him to succeed in what many consider the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Children are free to dream of any career, and to pursue those dreams and careers, thanks in part to Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. It’s an important story to tell. Hollywood will do so in grand style this April, and we are doing so in our intimate, grass roots style (Thursday).”

Harrison Ford will play Rickey, and Chadwick Boseman will play Robinson, in a major motion picture due to be released on April 12, three days before the 66th anniversary of Robinson becoming the first African American to play in the major leagues. Its title is "42," which was Robinson's number, and which has been retired across Major League Baseball since 1997.

Prior to his son's involvement Thursday, the Red Sox have brought in other "primary sources" for the event, including Robinson's daughter, Sharon; Negro League star Buck O'Neil; author Roger Kahn; and players, coaches, and scholars who were beneficiaries of Robinson's efforts.


Photos courtesy of Elevate Communications

tags Red Sox

If you've got nine friends and a free night in April, Fenway has room for all of you

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 30, 2013 07:02 AM

Fenway 2012

If you and nine friends are looking for a place to hang this April, Fenway Park -- site of the longest sellout streak in major American professional sports, both active and all-time -- would love to have you. And don't worry. You can all sit together.

Sunday afternoon the Red Sox ticket office sent an email to prospective buyers, touting the new inventory available for purchase. "Tickets are on sale now for most 2013 Red Sox home games," it said. "The majority of summer games were made available yesterday along with the April, May and September dates which have been on sale since December. Get yours today!"

Get yours today if you like, but based on what's still available more than a month after those colder-weather contests went on sale, there doesn't appear to be all that much of a rush.

Opening Day ducats are available as part of a Sox Pax that includes tickets to three other games throughout the year, so there's no way to get a sense via's online ticketing system how many seats remain unsold for that marquee event. Though it's a different story for Game 2.

As of Tuesday night, for that April 10 tilt against Baltimore you could buy 10 consecutive seats at 11 of Fenway's 13 standard price levels -- and we only stopped at 10 in a row because that's the maximum number allowed per person. The only places you couldn't get that many successive seats were in the $52 right field lower box seats (where you could still get four in a row) and the $99 loge box (where you could still get six in a row).

There appears to be plenty of tickets available, and available for folks operating on any type of budget. Big spenders can get the premium experience by splurging for 10 seats together in the Pavilion Club, for $170 a pop, while thrifty fans can get the same stretch of tickets in the upper bleachers for $12 each -- and the rest can pretty much get what they're seeking at any pricing tier in between.

It's not as though April 10 is the outlier, either. The Sox play 22 home games (more than a quarter of their Fenway schedule) prior to May 11, and for every one of them except the opener you can still get 10 seats together. They're decent seats, too, each with a face value of at least $52.

And they're also for decent games. That first series is against the 93-win Orioles. April 15 is the ever-popular Patriots' Day matinee, against a good Tampa Bay team, but you can currently get 10 third-row seats together in the pricey Pavilion Club. The AL West champion Athletics come to town April 22-24, with kid-friendly start times of 6:30, 6:30 and 4:05 -- yet clumps of tickets priced at kid-friendly rates remain unsold.

It's not until an afternoon game against the restocked Blue Jays on May 11 that the best-available tickets for a group of 10 are standing room only -- though seats don't exactly become hard to come by from there, either. Terry Francona makes his return with the Indians on May 23, Jonathan Papelbon comes to Fenway with the Phillies on May 27, the Rangers arrive on June 4, then the super-talented Angels are in Boston on June 7, yet in spite of those sexy storylines there are swaths of the grandstands still unsold.

The secondary market suggests a lack of demand, too. At StubHub, baseball's official fan-to-fan reseller, Sox fans could get into every home game between Opening Day and June 8 for less than $38. At Ace Ticket, which is a partner of the Red Sox, the opener is the only day that tickets presently start higher than $39 until May 25. Those prices are down from most of the past decade.

By comparison, Ace's least expensive ticket to see the Broadway tour of "The Book of Mormon" at the Opera House during its three-week April run is $199. And that's a single seat. In the balcony.

Wednesday the Red Sox announced that registration had opened for those who want the chance to buy tickets to Opening Day, to see the Yankees, to sit atop the Green Monster, or to sit at a table on the Budweiser Roof Deck. So perhaps fans who had been holding out for those premier opportunities will defer to their second and third choice of dates if that doesn't work out, and many of these early season tickets will subsequently be sold.

Otherwise it looks as though a December comment by Red Sox Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy may eventually be proven right. In the middle of an offseason during which the club extended even partial season ticket holders the opportunity to take batting practice at Fenway, offered them 50 percent off at the team store, and gave them a chance to participate in a conference call with new manager John Farrell, the Worcester Telegram reported that Kennedy told a Becker College crowd that the end of Fenway's 793-game sellout streak may be imminent.

“I think there’s a good chance it may end in 2013,” he admitted then.

Now there seems a good chance it doesn't even make it to game 795.

tags Red Sox

Andruzzi has 'more than 100,000 reasons' to thank Tom Brady and National Grid

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 29, 2013 09:00 AM

Before he heads to Bethesda, Md., to watch the Super Bowl with the wounded veterans being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center, former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi penned a guest post to give an update -- and publicly give thanks -- after totaling up the donations made to his foundation's Touchdown by Tom campaign this season.

By Joe Andruzzi

Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady is always in the spotlight for his performance, particularly as the season winds down and fans become increasingly obsessed with the Super Bowl. We’re obviously bummed to not be in the big game this year, but we here at the Joe Andruzzi Foundation still have a lot to celebrate right now – more than 100,000 reasons!

See, as my former teammate and friend Tom Brady threw for touchdowns this season, he did a lot more than put points on the board. He put real dollars in the pockets of New England families fighting cancer – families struggling to pay their rents and mortgages, car payments and heat bills while loved ones undergo treatment. And for that, Tom is our hero.

Every time Tom threw a touchdown pass last fall, National Grid donated $700 to our Foundation’s Touchdowns by Tom campaign, which benefited our Patient Touchdown Program. This program specifically helps patients and families who appeal directly to our Foundation for aid, through emails, phone calls and letters. Due to our amazing partnerships with local cancer treatment facilities, many of our grant requests now come through dedicated hospital social workers and patient advocates. But because we’re a grassroots organization, it’s important we remain accessible and responsive to the broader community. Our Patient Touchdown Program ensures we’ll keep helping those who come directly to us, many in desperate need of financial assistance.

As I pack for my annual trip to watch the Super Bowl with wounded veterans at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland this weekend, I’ll be thinking back on Tom’s awesome passes this season. They were especially sweet for me, knowing each touchdown meant financial relief for our grant recipients! Remember his 83-yard lob to Shane Vereen in our Thanksgiving smackdown of the Jets? His four devastating touchdown passes against the Rams in London? And the four touchdown throws that took Houston down on Monday Night Football?

I am immensely grateful for Tom’s superhuman throwing arm, and National Grid’s generosity. This is our first partnership with the local power company, and what an impressive commitment. In total, Touchdowns by Tom raised more than $100,000, and my wife Jen and I are still overwhelmed with gratitude.

In addition, CBS Radio Boston/98.5 The Sports Hub also promoted the campaign, airing promotional spots voiced by Tom, and sponsoring and recognizing our patients at home games. I know our Foundation’s grant recipients got a huge thrill out of watching the Pats play at Gillette this season, and hearing their names blasted across the Patriots Radio Network. For those folks, these memories will last a lifetime.

As a former Patriot and a huge fan, the end of this season is bittersweet. But as we watch the final show this weekend, we at the Joe Andruzzi Foundation will thank Tom Brady for his quiet, consistent and unbelievably generous support. His humility, loyalty and genuine caring for families in need have racked up more points this season than any scoreboard could tally.

For more information on the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, visit

tags Patriots

Celtics' Sullinger to meet, pose with, sign for Goodwill donors on Tuesday night

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 29, 2013 12:26 AM

For those with some extra clothes and a desire to de-clutter, the opportunity to meet one of the Celtics is just a good deed away.

Boston rookie Jared Sullinger will be at the Morgan Memorial Goodwill location at 1010 Harrison Ave. in Boston from 5:30-7 on Tuesday night, and during that time every person who brings at least seven gently used items of clothing will receive an autograph, a picture with the power forward, and a chance to win a VIP experience at an upcoming Celtics game.

Additionally, the person who donates the most during that time period -- determined by weight -- will receive a private clinic with Sullinger for up to 15 youths. They'll also receive two tickets to the C's game against the Warriors on March 1.

Donors are reminded to make sure their items are securely bagged and in wearable condition.

Kobe, RG III among athletes expressing sympathies for Rondo via Twitter

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 28, 2013 10:15 AM

Sunday afternoon an efficient Kobe Bryant came up a rebound shy of a triple-double in leading the Lakers to the biggest win of their season, a 105-96 triumph over the Thunder. But soon after his 21-point, 14-assist, 9-rebound performance, his thoughts turned to one of his "fav players in the world."

Kobe wasn't the only athlete who took to Twitter to express his sympathies and offer encouraging word to Rajon Rondo, the Celtics guard who learned earlier Sunday that surgery to repair a torn ACL would end his season. Here's a sampling of those, sent by friends, foes, and even guys from other sports:

tags Celtics

Saturday's free Fenway event to feature PS3 tournament and Middlebrooks

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 24, 2013 12:00 PM

If you want to someday see your kid play baseball at Fenway Park, Saturday could be your chance.

The field itself will be covered, and it'll be way too cold anyhow, but that morning the Red Sox will transform the ballpark's suites into an arcade of sorts and stage a video-game baseball tournament -- featuring Sony's "MLB 12: The Show" and PlayStation Move -- as part of the Kid Nation Winterfest event running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Competitors have until the close of business Friday to register for the competition, which will feature three divisions: 10-and-under, 16-and-under, and open. Division winners will receive a prize -- plus they'll have the opportunity to take the experience of playing in a real major-league stadium to the next level by playing against a real major-league player. That'd be Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Sox outfielder Daniel Nava will join Middlebrooks in welcoming children to the festivities, which will also include opportunities to hit baseballs in the batting cages and to hang out in the Wally’s World neighborhood, where the Green Monster himself will offer a variety of games and activities.

While all that's going on, the team will simultaneously be having open auditions for the vacant Fenway Park public address announcer position, and screening potential performers of the national anthem.

Maybe best of all, the event is free, and open to fans of all ages.

tags Red Sox

Red Sox brave the cold to tour city, pass out tickets and doughnuts

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 23, 2013 11:26 AM

It's 12 degrees in Boston, with a wind chill dipping below zero -- and that's almost balmy compared to the even-colder readings city thermometers were reporting nearer to daybreak. These are the sort of conditions that make for the type of morning when you're wishing you could stay under the covers, when you're praying the car will start, and when you're trying to get where you're going as quickly as possible.

But that didn't stop a few of the Red Sox from taking to the streets this morning to spread some cheer, and perhaps warm up their fans with thoughts of spring. Starting in Copley Square at 8 a.m., holdovers Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava joined Boston newcomers Jonny Gomes and David Ross, as well as Wally the Green Monster and club officials, in a tour of the city that gave the players a chance to chat with and reward some of those fans who were braving the bitter cold.

Until 9, the players were stationed at Copley, where they gave out Dunkin' Donuts doughnuts and hot chocolate, as well as actual game tickets and vouchers redeemable for tickets. From there they jumped on a trolley and headed to Charlestown, where they became Junior Park Rangers at the Bunker Hill Monument and boarded the U.S.S. Constitution. (Check out photos of the Sox aboard Old Ironsides here, at her Facebook page.)

From there they got back on the trolley and followed the Freedom Trail to Faneuil Hall, where they passed out more free stuff, posed for pictures. They were supposed to hop on the Green Line after that, and head back to Kenmore Square, but according to the Globe's Nick Cafardo that was canceled when life interfered.

Tonight the four players will serve with team executives on a panel of judges as private auditions for the job of Fenway Park's public address announcer are held. There'll be public auditions Saturday, during Red Sox Kid Nation Winterfest.

It was the first trip to Boston for Gomes and Ross since they signed with the Sox earlier this offseason, and could be their last before returning prior to the April 8 home opener. They can only hope it's much warmer then.

Courtesy of the Red Sox official Twitter account, here are a few photos of the tour.

tags Red Sox

Welker's wife wants everyone to be aware of Ray Lewis' back story

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 21, 2013 11:05 AM

Another Patriots playoff loss. Another wife of a Patriots star making news in the aftermath.

Almost a year after Gisele Bundchen angrily told a group of harassing Giants fans that her beloved Tom Brady "cannot (bleeping) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time," in reference to passes dropped by Pats receivers in Super Bowl XLVI, Wes Welker's wife turned to Facebook in the wake of New England's loss in Sunday's AFC Championship game.

According to The Big Lead, which posted a screenshot, Anna Burns Welker wasn't accusatory or critical of the Patriots. Sarcastic, maybe, but she simply wanted her friends to make themselves aware of Ray Lewis' personal history -- and the details that are likely to be underplayed amid all the love he receives over the next two weeks.

Proud of my husband and the Pats. By the way, if anyone is bored, please go to Ray Lewis' Wikipedia page. 6 kids, 4 wives. Acquitted for murder. Paid a family off. Yay! What a hall of fame player! A true role model!

(In the interest of accuracy, we'll point out that the murder charge against Lewis was dismissed in a plea deal, and he was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice.)

UPDATE (1/22/13): Anna Burns Welker has apologized for her comments.

tags Patriots

5 questions and a chance to watch the AFC Championship game with Matt Light

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 16, 2013 03:30 PM

During a decorated, 11-year career in New England, left tackle Matt Light played in six AFC Championship games. He won't be protecting Tom Brady's blindside when the Patriots play their seventh conference title tilt in 12 seasons on Sunday -- but he could be sitting with you.

With a bit of help from one of its founder's former teammates, The Matt Light Foundation is currently raffling off a prize package that includes two hotel rooms in the Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel, dinner at Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, parking, four club-level tickets for the Patriots-Ravens game (donated by Rob Gronkowski), and passes to the field-level area where players meet their families after the game.

And perhaps the best part?

"I'm going to be with them the whole time," Light said, "though they can definitely opt out of having me if they don't want a large mammal traveling around with their crew."

Chances to win are just $2 each -- you must buy a minimum of five -- and are available at or through The winner will be drawn Friday afternoon, so chances must be purchased by 2 p.m. that day.

In the meantime, here are five questions with the tackle-turned-ESPN analyst who brings the perspective of having played in so many of these big games -- and in so many games against the Ravens.

Q: In the moment it's hard to think about it, or reflect, but with another AFC title game in Foxboro, do you look back at your career now and gain even more of an appreciation for the things this team did while you were here and what your team accomplished?

A: I think you always appreciate it more when you're out of it, and that goes for anybody in any position -- but even as a player in the middle of my career, going through an injury and not being part of the team, even at that those times you kind of think about it and you appreciate it more than when you're playing. Being completely removed from the game now, there's definitely this sense -- especially during these playoffs -- that I was fortunate, and I was part of something that will forever leave its mark.

These kids that grow up in the New England area, that go to school with my kids in the Foxboro school system, they have no idea what pain some of these other people went through because their entire lives the Patriots have just been at the top of the top of the list. When I think back on it, it's definitely rewarding to know that I was a part of that, and just how special it is.

I send that out to some of these guys that are playing now: You do everything you can to take advantage of this opportunity in so many ways. All the little things, details, more time, more film study, more everything. But at the end of the day you also have to tell yourself you've done everything you can to prepare and go out there and enjoy it.

Q: A month ago, at Matt Light Night, you said that as much as anything you miss "competing for something most people don't compete for." Does that sense of missing the game reach a whole other level right now, as your ex-teammates play for a trip to the Super Bowl?

A: Yeah, 100 percent. I think everybody can realize that as a football player that's gone into retirement, I'm never going to miss feeling beat up and all that stuff. But I truly don't have a longing to be out there and competing -- until I see this. Until I see these guys going out there and it's the real deal where you have to perform at a level most people can't comprehend. That's not a slight to anyone out there in the real world, it's just, literally, unless you're in that position you just can't realize what these guys go through and how many sacrifices they've made to get to this position.

The part of me that's very envious and wishing I could have that back, because it is very, very hard to find outside of that football realm. In any industry there's always the people at the top, then the rest of the group; that's what I miss. I miss being able to do things at a level most people can't. When you're back in the real world and your feet are back on the ground, it's hard to find in a lot of cases.

Q: Are the Ravens as tough a team to play against as they appear to be from my view, and as their reputation suggests?

A: Look, they're very consistent in what they do. They've got veteran leaders and there's a lot of reasons why they've had success. They were in this position last year and they've been very, very competitive in every phase of the game. If it wasn't enough for them to go into Denver and be on the road and battle back from what looked like a sure loss, you look at their players and tell yourself it's going to be a definite dog fight, just like it was last year.

It's always physical. They pride themselves on that. They wear that on their sleeve. It's not a matter of 'will it be a physical game,' it's a question of 'how much more physical can it get.' At this time of year, that physical style of play is what helps you win games because not a lot of teams can carry it through all the way to this point.

Q: What did you make of Brendon Ayanbadejo's comments about the Patriots offense being a 'gimmick' and the hurry-up attack being a strategy that he doesn't respect? (Light said he hadn't seen the Tweets himself, so we told him what the Ravens' linebacker had written.)

A: It's like anything else. When I was a little kid and I was battling somebody at some video game, I always accused them of having the codes or knowing some special move that they won't tell me. The truth of the matter is, like anything else, when you can't figure out how to beat something, you just start blaming. That works for some. It makes you feel better inside, for some people, and I'm sure he feels a lot better to get that off his chest.

Q: On a radio interview this morning, you referred to Sunday as 'Ray Lewis's retirement party.' How do you expect the game to go?

A: Never having that crystal ball thing work out for me, I'll just say it's going to be everything it should be. It's going to be two teams that come in very well prepared. I know Josh, and Josh, and Ivan, and Dante, and all these guys on the offense -- and Bill -- all these guys are spending every second of every day leading up to this thing, and they're going to have a gameplan that's incredible. I think defensively the same thing. They're going to take advantage of their strengths against the Ravens' weaknesses, and it's going to be a really, really, really, really interesting start to this AFC championship game. Then, as they start showing their hand, and the cards are dealt, it's going to be who has the better adjustments.

Really what it all boils down to is who's going to execute better, and I think there's a lot of things that can go in the Pats' favor. But you've got a team that can win on the road, and has a lot of confidence, and they're playing for the Ray effect and everything else. We'll see. I think we'll figure it out pretty early who's got the juice, so to speak, and I've got a good feeling that'll be our Pats. As long as they can maintain that, and make the adjustments, and keep executing, they'll pull it out and we'll be heading to New Orleans.

We'll give Ray a good send off. He's been a hell of a player for a long time.

tags Patriots

Ravens' Ayanbadejo gets the title game trash talking started early

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 13, 2013 09:41 PM

After the Ravens beat the Patriots in a September game that ended with a sequence of controversial calls, it was Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and a few teammates who lit up Twitter with their takes on the replacement referees.

But, with the same two teams now set to meet in the AFC championship game, it was Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo lighting a firestorm in the land of social media. And he didn't even wait until the rematch was official.

While the Patriots were in the process of securing a 41-28 divisional win over the Texans, Ayanbadejo was busy sharing a series of opinions with his 32,000-plus followers -- most of which are sure to rile up Patriot Nation. If we thought there was any realistic chance of New England's players firing back, we'd say this is the start of an interesting back-and-forth leading up to another meeting between two familiar rivals. Instead, it's more likely that the Patriots don't bother talking until the whistle blows next Sunday.

tags Patriots

Happy anniversary, Jeff Green

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 9, 2013 08:56 PM

A year after undergoing urgent surgery to repair the damage of an aortic root aneurysm, and awaking unable to move, Jeff Green Tweeted the above photo of himself with a breathing tube running down his throat, three drainage tubes in his chest, and three IVs pumping into his body. Then he took the floor as his Celtics faced the Phoenix Suns.

The Celtics went on to win the game, thanks in no small part to Green's team-high 14 points and plus-16.

Happy anniversary, indeed.

tags Celtics

Hanrahan takes over Red Sox' Twitter account

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 9, 2013 12:19 PM

Apparently with a promise that he'll again be sporting the 'do pictured above by Opening Day, new Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan was handed the reins of the club's Twitter account on Wednesday. A day after taking a tour of Fenway Park, and meeting the Boston media for the first time, he spent the morning greeting kids at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, then -- in case you needed a reminder that this was ultimately a marketing and PR exercise -- made his way to the souvenir store on Yawkey Way, a few Fenway offices, Jerry Remy's restaurant, and NESN before heading to the Celtics game.

A day after predicting that he's "going to say some stupid things. People are going to go crazy on Twitter with it," Hanrahan was well-behaved while operating under his new employer's banner. Here are a few of the highlights:

(In case you're curious, here's the tune, courtesy of YouTube.)

tags Red Sox

Swiss paper says Seguin was a slob

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 9, 2013 10:06 AM

In the 29 games he played for Switzerland's EHC Biel during the NHL lockout, Tyler Seguin scored 25 goals and totaled 40 points. Suffice it to say, he left an impression. And, according to a Swiss newspaper, he also left a mess.

After speaking with the cleaners who were hired to tidy up the apartment the Bruins' forward had rented,, Switzerland's most-read news site, labeled Seguin a "compulsive hoarder" in an article that was written in German and presented complete with a terrible -- yet at the same time awesome -- Photoshopped depiction of what the dwelling might have looked like.

"The Local," which delivers Switzerland's news in English, provides the details of what the cleaning crew allegedly discovered during a visit made while Seguin returned to North America during a Swiss A League break back in November:

“The parquet floor was littered with coins worth 220 francs,” Blick reported.

Coca-cola bottles, garbage and dirty linen lay scattered across the floor, while rotten bananas were left on a table, the newspaper said.

The bathroom was a shambles and the cleaning company spent a full day tidying the apartment.

In December, when Seguin returned to America, the staff were met with a similar stiff challenge.

Blick said the hockey player was “not versed in appliances” and as a result tried to wash his clothes in the dryer.

“He also did not know how to operate the dishwasher . . . when he ran out of clean plates, glasses and cutlery, he bought plastic tableware.”

Marc Lüpold, the managing director of the cleaning company, was diplomatic about the revelations.

“You could tell it was the first time a young, single man had an apartment,” Lüpold told Blick.

Hey, 20-year-olds do as 20-year-olds do.

(h/t Deadspin)

tags Bruins

Revs join MLS, U.S. National Team greats for 'Soccer Night in Newtown'

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 8, 2013 07:27 PM

In a town that suffered through unimaginable sorrow only 24 days earlier, Matt Reis found himself with a sole mission Monday night: Make kids smile.

He was manning a photo booth set up inside of the Newtown Youth Academy, an athletic facility in Newtown, Conn., the community where a gunman killed 26 innocent people at an elementary school last month -- and where the longtime Revolution goalkeeper joined some of the biggest names in American soccer in hopes of bringing some small semblance of healing.

At Reis' station that meant striking silly poses, while elsewhere amid the activity there were faces being painted, autographs being signed, questions being answered, soccer balls being kicked.

And, true to the mission, distracted smiles being stretched from ear to ear.

"Seeing the kids' faces when we were playing soccer with them, just kicking balls, they were carefree," Reis relayed in a phone conversation Tuesday. "Once the ball's rolled out, everything else just melts away."

The brainchild of Houston Dynamo President Chris Canetti, who hails from nearby Guilford, Conn., “Soccer Night in Newtown” was born of a desire to give the children of town a chance to forget about the tragedy at Sandy Hook for a few hours – and his sport heard the call for action.

They event came together quickly, though it was enough time to attract some of the biggest names in American soccer over the past two decades. The list of participants included legends like Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Alexi Lalas, Cobi Jones, and Landon Donovan, who was among the contingent of current players that featured a representative from every Major League Soccer club.

No team was better represented than the Revolution, which sent a seven-member delegation that included Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, Hunter Freeman, Ryan Guy, Bobby Shuttleworth, Clyde Simms and Chris Tierney in addition to Reis.

“I think it speaks volumes. I think it's huge for every team to be represented; for all these guys, in the offseason, to put this together within a couple weeks; for the league to have everybody out there,” Reis said.

“It just speaks to the personality and the makeup of what the American soccer player is. It's somebody that wants to help, and it's definitely someone that cares about the community and the people that are in it.”

Soccer is a big part of the youth sports culture in Newtown, and the night attracted nearly 1,500 people – including some who had attended Sandy Hook Elementary School -- and despite the fact it was an event open only to Newtown residents, the crowd would’ve been even bigger if the indoor facility could’ve accommodated more. With that in mind, Canetti told his league’s website that they plan to hold another event in the spring, when the weather is better and they can sprawl across outdoor fields, and the expectation is that the players will be eager to help again.

Even on short notice, this time around organizers were turning away willing volunteers after the available spots filled up fast. And when others hear Reis talk about the value of the experience, or better yet see the pictures from his photo booth, there are sure to be plenty more excited to undertake the mission.

“It's extremely rewarding,” the keeper said. “When both sides feel rewarded it was a great event, and everyone was just so gracious. The thank you that we got, the high-fives, they were definitely very, very thankful for us to be down there, and we were very, very thankful for the opportunity to go down there.

“It was just a chance for parents to see smiles back on their kids' faces again.”

(Photo courtesy of @chriscanetti)

Foster may be Patriots' enemy, but NFL's 'most interesting man' is difficult to dislike

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 8, 2013 07:41 AM

As if his 40 touches in Houston's wild-card win didn't designate him as a focal point of Sunday's divisional playoff between the Texans and Patriots, Arian Foster on Monday thrust himself in front of whatever faction of New England's football consciousness wasn't already thinking about him. After apparently reading a Dan Shaughnessy piece that asked of the Patriots' path to the AFC championship game, "Could this get any easier?" the Houston running back cut out the column's lede and pasted it into his Twitter avatar -- effectively inviting onto himself all the pressure his Texans face as they attempt to pull off an upset few foresee, and thereby making himself something of a public enemy in these parts.

Though, based on what we know about him beyond the gridiron, Foster is someone Patriots fans might find difficult to dislike.

His on-field story is admirable enough, having risen from the ranks of the undrafted, and a rookie year spent primarily on the practice squad, to gain 4,264 yards and score 41 touchdowns en route to a trio of Pro Bowl appearances over his first three full seasons. But off the field the "Most Interesting Man in the NFL," as dubbed by The Sporting News, may be just as impressive.

A philosophy major at the University of Tennessee, one need only scan the timeline of his much-ballyhooed Twitter account to get a sense of how thoughtful he is as "an aspiring human being" -- and that's not the only place he puts his thoughts into writing. Foster also fancies himself a poet, posting some of his impressive work at his personal website, and keeping the rest handwritten, in spiral-bound notebooks. That was a detail noted in a story by the Washington Post, which featured him while he romped his way to the NFL rushing title in 2010, adding that he also writes songs and has an interest in writing children's books.

"They can't stereotype me. I'm not a jock who does this, this and this. I'm kind of a free spirit in the way I live my life," he told the Post. "I always stray away from fitting into the football player mold."

Even his touchdown celebrations are a reminder of that. When he scores, Foster stands in the end zone with his hands together at chest height, and offers a "namaste" bow that's reflective of his interest in and dedication to yoga. Two weeks ago, in fact, that was the celebration he brought to a banner touting the "#chuckstrong" mantra at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium -- in homage to Colts Coach Chuck Pagano, who was making his return to the sideline that day after he missed much of the season while fighting leukemia.

Foster has studied yoga, studied the teachings of Hinduism, studied the merits of becoming a vegan -- and even adopted that as his diet this past summer, though he makes an exception for meat every now and again. In a league full of macho, muscle-bound carnivores that decision brought headlines, but it's hardly the only way in which Foster is different.

It's doubtful many of them were thinking what it might sound like to hear Lou Holtz read a Shakespeare sonnet as the BCS Championship game approached on Monday night, just as its doubtful many of the others were quoting astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson just two days before a playoff game. It's doubtful, too, that many of the others would feature the work of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat as their Twitter avatar -- yet that's one of the images he used before Shaughnessy's words occupied the spot.

Sunday his Texans will try to make Shaughnessy eat those words, and if they can do that it's almost certain that Foster will be a big part of it. In that case, there's a good chance he'll leave Foxboro loathed by much New England, if only for his success. Even if he says he's not entirely sure of what success is, according to this excerpt from The Sporting News.

He explains this by telling a story about a talk he gave to eighth-graders in San Diego, where he spent his last two years of high school. “I asked them, ‘What is success to you guys?’ One of them said, ‘A lot of money.’ One of them said, ‘Big house.’ Another one said, ‘A whole bunch of girls.’ They were trying to make their friends laugh, but that’s really what some of them think. To me, that’s not what success is. Success to me is providing a stable, emotionally and financially, home for my daughter and my kids to grow up in. To be the best husband I can be. To be the best father I can be. To be the best man I can be.”
tags Patriots

Patriots' Chung aiming to change children's lives with new charity

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 7, 2013 03:20 PM

Tuesday morning, his Patriots will be back on the practice field as they ramp things up in preparation for their looming divisional-round clash with the Texans. Monday night, though, Patrick Chung will have his mind on things other than football.

Bigger than football, really.

Monday night at Mercedes-Benz of Westwood (Mass.), the Patriots' safety will celebrate the launch of "Chung Changing Lives," a foundation he and his wife have started with the stated intention of seizing on the idea that "each person has the ability and power to give a helping hand to a child in need."

It's a cause backed by WilmerHale LLP, Prime Motor Group, Sovereign Bank-Santander, Pitching in for Kids, as well as UMass-Boston, and Monday's event will be a chance to the Chungs to thank those sponsors in addition to the friends who have helped them establish the organization. That includes teammates, some of whom, like Vince Wilfork, have already lent financial support.

"It was important to get my teammates involved," Chung told's Playbook. "He (Wilfork) didn't ask for anything. He was just: 'I got you, man.' It's like a brotherhood almost in the locker room. If they need something and I can help, I'm going to do it. If I need something and they can help, they're going to help. It's kind of a family."

Chung has been an active member of the community since being drafted by the Patriots in 2009, including work as a spokesman for the Sports Museum's Boston vs. Bullies program and various efforts on behalf of other children-related groups. Recently, though, he and his wife, Cecilia, decided to start a foundation of their own, and through it the safety "seeks to increase opportunities for children by providing access to athletic instruction, art & music lessons and instruction, and tutoring & life skills training. The goal of Chung Changing Lives is to cultivate healthy lifestyles and active civic participation for children."

The son of Jamaican reggae singer Sophie George, Chung sang during a performance with the Boston Children's Chorus in November, so although he is a hard-hitter on the field his own interests go beyond the gridiron and extend into other parts of life. That's what he intends for his charity, too. A father himself, he simply wants to give opportunities to kids.

"Music is a hobby. It helps me blank my mind when I get an hour to relax. (With the foundation), that's exactly what we want to do," he told "If you want to do music and can't, we'll have the connections to make it happen and make those dreams come true. If you want to learn sports, play football, we'll help you out."

Wilfork helps Toys for Tots collect more than 10,000 donations

Posted by David D'Onofrio January 7, 2013 03:01 PM

His fellow members of the Patriots' front seven have long been able to vouch for the idea that it's good to be aligned with Vince Wilfork.

Now the Toys for Tots program can, too.

The defensive lineman teamed with Eastern Bank over the just-finished holiday season to lead a campaign that generated the donation of more than 10,000 toys to the Marine Corps' initiative. The final total, which includes contributions from Eastern customers, employees, and the general public made at the bank's 99 retail offices, was revealed Monday.

“My family and I could not be more pleased with the response from the ‘Eastern Bank Toys for Tots Toy Drive,’ ” Wilfork said in a press release. “I have to thank my fans and followers for helping make the season bright for over 10,000 children. It was great being able to see the tweets from fans dropping off their toys and images of the overflowing donation drop boxes. This once again proves that New England has the best fans in the country!

“These moments are what truly makes putting on my uniform and representing this region so special. Thank you to (Eastern Bank CEOO Richard E. Holbrook), all the employees at Eastern Bank, The U.S. Marine Corps, and all of New England for helping us make a difference.”

Oh, and speaking of his own family, the latest episodes of "At Home With the Wilforks" can be seen here.

About the author

Dave D'Onofrio follows Boston's pro players away from the field, court or ice, covering their interests and activities in the community and beyond. A Massachusetts native, once his dreams of More »

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