Game of Shadows

After reading Game of Shadows, I learned a lot about Barry Bonds and steroid use in general. I never knew about his maligned relationships with girlfriends, players and managers. I also learned a lot about how players used steroids and how they got away with it.

One of the first things I noticed in this book is how much it refers to Bonds getting free passes. “Most high school baseball players have to work hard for playing time. They must show up early to practice, perform all the drills and run all the sprint the coach assigns, cheer and give high-fives when somebody scores. Barry Bonds didn’t have to do any of that because of his talent, and because of who he was.” Even while he was at Arizona State, it says a different set of rules was made for Bonds. When it was clear that Bonds’s physical appearance was changing in San Francisco, the book says the Giants chose not to confront him about it in order to not alienate their star slugger, also because he was their star attraction in opening their new ballpark.

The first modern-day case of this that comes to mind is with LeBron James. For seven years, the Cavaliers gave James every perk around Quicken Loans Arena and allowed him to do anything he wanted. This included, of course, allowing his friends to walk around the arena like they owned the place. James has also been accused of being a jerk to ball boys and other team employees throughout his career, but in every instance, he got away with it because of who he was. When James was dunked on by a college player from Xavier, the tapes were destroyed. But despite all the evidence that James was an asshole, it took his departure from Cleveland for everyone to finally realize it.

This is also shown in Bonds’s plight with Dusty Baker. Former Pirates All-Star Al Oliver said, “If you can’t play for Dusty Baker, you can’t play for anyone.” But that is the type of player Bonds was. He wanted it to be his team, not Dusty’s. It was the same situation with James. When thinking about the Cavaliers teams during the Mike Brown era, it is clear that James had more control of the team than Brown did. With Brown now in Los Angeles, it will be interesting to see if the same situation occurs with Kobe Bryant.

To me, the most ironic part of the book comes within the first five chapters. After a number of disappointing seasons in the mid 1990s, Bonds realized that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had become bigger stars than himself. Despite a lifetime batting average of .265, poor defense and poor base running, McGwire was hailed as the savior of baseball. As a onetime 40-40 player, the book says that Bonds disliked that McGwire was so popular. But despite resenting the player McGwire was, that was the player he was about to become. In the two years prior to 1999, Bonds stole 65 bases, but in the remaining nine years of his career, Bonds stole only 69 more. Bonds’ time in the field as well as his putouts also decreased over those nine seasons and after winning his eighth Gold Glove in 1998, Bonds would not win another.  Had Bonds retired following the 1998 season, he would have finished with three MVPs, eight All-Star appearances, eight Gold Gloves, and seven Silver Sluggers and would likely be in the Hall of Fame. However Bonds instead became the player he so much despised. Despite all of McGwire’s home runs in 1998 and 1999, his most remarkable season may have been in 2001 when he batted an abysmal .187 yet still hit 29 home runs.

Throughout the book it is apparent that Bonds, and other steroid users were always one step ahead of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball. Bonds started out by using a substance that could be easily detected, but because there were no drug tests, it did not matter. Bonds then moved to substances such as The Cream and The Clear, which were much harder to detect. Even now that MLB does have mandatory drug tests, there are drugs that do not show up in those tests. In order to stay ahead in the game, baseball should hire someone like Victor Conte or a company similar to BALCO to help detect drug users and new substances.

The thing that amazes me the most in this book is the master public relations work done by Bonds and his crew during the 2001 home run chase. As an 11-year old baseball fan at the time, I had no idea of how much of an asshole Bonds was because it was rarely reported on during that season. I kept up on sports news every day but still never caught on. I feel like the media was afraid of Bonds and therefore did not ask him about steroids or his personal life. It is amazing that so few people questioned this sudden surge of power. Even Skip Bayless, one of the most cynical journalists I know of said Bonds’s transformation came “by purifying his diet, supplementing with over-the-counter muscle builders … and lifting till he cried.” No matter how bad someone’s character is, people are willing to look past it as long as you are producing on the field – especially if you are producing at the level Bonds was in 2001.

While the public and the media may have been oblivious to steroid use in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I have trouble believing MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and other baseball executives knew nothing about it, rather that they just turned a blind eye. It is no secret that the players strike of 1994 left baseball in a poor state. But the home run chases of the late 1990s and early 2000s brought popularity back to the game. Exposing the steroid-using players would only give baseball another black eye and further remove the sport from popularity. While they may not have known how widespread the use of performance-enhancing drugs was, I do believe they had to have some knowledge of their use. Even as late as 2005, the Giants persisted that there was no reason to believe Bonds had used performance enhancers despite all the evidence to the contrary. “ ‘ They’ve got their heads buried so deeply in the sand,’ explained one person familiar with the front-office mentality. “They’re trying to hold their noses and get to 715 and then to 755.’ ” ESPN’s Peter Gammons put is best when he said it was the sport’s “dirty little secret.” Now in order to make up for what it had done earlier, Major League Baseball has gotten tough against steroids and enlisted its three- strike policy. Baseball is just now finally beginning to distance itself from the steroid era, but had it not turned a blind-eye in the first place, this all could have been avoided.

It is funny to me how many people insist on going after the messenger rather than the culprit. The book states that the San Francisco Chronicle received many angry emails proclaiming that they had fabricated stories about Bonds’s steroid use. This is common today as well. When stories broke about Ohio State football players selling gear for cash or items, many people attacked The Lantern for outing its own players. It was not until after many read this book until they finally realized what the paper had reported was correct. If anything, the Chronicle should have been criticized for not reporting Bonds’s use of banned substances sooner.

The coolest thing about this book is how much detail it goes into about the personal lives of these players. The book reveals so much information that no one knew about and gives the reader the sense that the authors were standing in the room when it all happened. The in-depth detail reminds me of the book Moneyball. Some of the scenes in the book use so much detail that I am sure Bonds himself probably does not remember that much. If nothing else, the book is a great example of investigative journalism in sports.

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Bobcat goes to mound with beats

As college and professional baseball players stroll to home plate for an at-bat, a particular song often is played in line with that player’s personality. But Ohio pitcher Shane Cole’s music came from his head before it ever emitted from the loud speakers of Bob Wren Stadium.

Cole, or “Colzie,” as he is known, has the distinction of being the only player on the team to walk up to a song he wrote.

The day that we had the sign-up list for what walk-up song we wanted, when I looked at my name someone had already written ‘Colzie, “Get That,” ’ ” Cole said.  “I was thinking about doing it myself, but I guess I had no choice.”

A native of Ontario, Canada, Cole is beginning to make a name for himself not only as a baseball player but as a hip-hop artist, as well.

Although he has been playing baseball for years, Cole said his musical career only recently took off.

“I started in high school. I used to freestyle at parties and have fun with it, but people started liking it and said I should take it seriously,” Cole said. “We recorded a couple songs, and it just went from there.”

After spending two years at Texarkana College in Texas, Cole came to Ohio at the suggestion of current teammate Wes O’Neill, who is also from Cole’s hometown.

Since coming to Athens,Cole has pushed his recording total to more than 30 songs and has made a handful of live appearances — nearly matching his six appearances on the mound for the Bobcats.

Along with recording his music, Cole recently produced a music video for his song “Get That,” which pays tribute to the college atmosphere in Athens.

Incorporated in the video are many of Cole’s teammates including Emody, outfielder Doug Holmes, and pitchers Ben Trimbur and Matt Robin.

While he is still trying to gain publicity for his music, Cole said his teammates are some of his biggest supporters.

“A lot of guys on the team love it,” Cole said. “We joke around and laugh about it, but they’re always there for my shows.”

Along with the backing he receives from his teammates, Cole said coach Joe Carbone has given his approval as well.

“He might not like my music, but he definitely supports it,” Cole said. “The other day when I went in for grade sheets, he said, ‘Shane Colzie Cole,’ and I started laughing.”

Carbone said he is behind his pitcher as long as Cole stays within team rules.

“I don’t understand it, but from what I saw, I thought he was pretty good,” Carbone said. “I’m glad that my guys have other talents and interests outside of baseball.”

Cole said anytime he thinks a performance may conflict with team rules, he checks with Carbone to make sure it is OK.

“He’s been very good about letting me know about what’s going on, and if there’s a gray area he calls me,” Carbone said. “I know when you’re an entertainer you’ve got to stay up late, but if we’ve got a game on Saturday at 3 p.m., he’s got to get to bed.”

One of Cole’s biggest supporters is his roommate and fellow relief pitcher Shane Dedig.

“It’s not everyday you see a Canadian rapper, so it’s fun to joke around about it, but once you hear his stuff you realize he’s actually pretty good,” Dedig said.

Dedig said Cole usually spends at least an hour or two working on his music every day.

While Cole could not say whether he thought he was a better baseball player or musician, he did say he hopes for a future in the music industry.

“Right now, it’s looking pretty good. My name’s been spreading pretty fast,” Cole said. “I’ve got a lot going on back home in Toronto as well. Hopefully, it clicks and blows up from there.”

With Carbone set to enter his final season as Ohio’s baseball coach next year, he too hinted at a future in hip-hop.

“Maybe I could be his assistant. I can get the old crowd in there,” Carbone said. “He could teach me a few moves, and I could become a retiree’s rap singer. I might get some lessons from him.”

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‘Cats jump on Flyers early, ride lead to victory

The hits just kept coming.

The Bobcats twice batted around and scored eight runs in the first two innings en route to a 10-3 win against Dayton Tuesday night at Bob Wren Stadium.

“Our batters were patient at the plate and got ahead in the counts. We forced Dayton’s pitchers to make pitches,” Ohio coach Joe Carbone said. “Its always good when you can jump out in front early because everyone’s more relaxed.”

In the first two innings alone, Ohio batters recorded eight hits and two walks as 18 batters came to the plate.  Dayton (26-22) also hit a batter and added three errors in the opening two innings.

The Bobcats (23-25) chased Flyers’ starting pitcher Bryce Lahrman from the game after just two-thirds of an inning.

Many of the hits were ground balls that found their way through the infield dirt and into the outfield grass for a base hit.

“We hit some balls hard and found the holes,” Carbone said. “We had the same type of hits at Buffalo that turned into five double plays.”

Right fielder Adam Gecewich had four hits and was the beneficiary of some ground balls that found the holes.

“That’s just how baseball is,” Gecewich said. “Sometimes you’ll hit it on the ground four times and get four hits and other times you’ll get four outs, we just got lucky tonight.”

Designated hitter Seth Streich also recorded three hits as well as three RBIs.

“Hitting is contagious,” Gecewich said. “If one guy gets on, everyone is excited and wants to get a hit as well. It just piles on.”

While Ohio batters were making it look easy at the plate, starting pitcher Ben Trimbur made it look easy on the mound.

In his first career start for the Bobcats, Trimber threw three innings allowing only one hit and no runs while striking out two.

“He threw strikes and his fastball had good movement on it,” Carbone said. “He had them off-balanced and they didn’t know what he was throwing. The hitters were at his mercy.”

With the win, Trimber’s record moves to 4-2. Lahrman (2-2) was saddled with the loss.

Despite the good start from Trimber, Carbone pulled him in order to get other pitchers some work.

In all, Carbone used seven different pitchers, many of which don’t normally get much playing time during Mid-American Conference games.

Carbone was so adamant about getting a lot of pitchers in the game that he pulled pitcher Shane Cole from the game with just one out remaining and no one on base in the ninth.

Despite two-out runs in the fifth and sixth innings, Carbone said he was generally pleased with the performances of his pitchers.

“Having such a big lead like that makes the pitchers more comfortable and allows them not to have to be so fine with their pitches,” Carbone said.  “It also allows the pitchers to throw to the bigger part of the plate.”

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Dettwiller dominates as Meigs holds off Athens

Meigs’ pitcher Heath Dettwiller dominated on the mound and at the plate as the Marauders defeated Athens 4-1 and claimed the Tri-Valley Conference championship at Rannow field in Athens on Monday night.

Dettwiller pitched six scoreless innings and held off a late surge by the Bulldogs (10-6, 6-2 TVC) in the bottom of the seventh to earn the win over the two-time defending TVC champions.

“That was two really well-pitched games by both starting pitchers,” Athens coach Fred Gibson said. “They both battled like crazy. They made some plays and we had a few miscues that were at crucial times and they took advantage.”

With the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth inning, Dettwiller drilled a single to left field to score the first run in what would become a four-run inning for the Marauders (14-1, 9-1 TVC).

An inning and a half later, the same situation occurred, but this time Dettwiller was on the mound trying to preserve the four-run lead.

Two infield flies and a strikeout later, Dettwiller got out of the jam with only one run allowed.

“With bases loaded and no one out they got four runs, we only got one run,” Gibson said. “That was the difference in the game.”

Dettwiller was aided by the help of his defense, especially freshman third baseman Taylor Rowe, who made two diving stops for outs.

“The defense was incredible,” Dettwiller said. “I can’t say enough about it. We had guys making diving catches on all sides of the field.”

The first time these teams play, an infield fly was dropped, allowing the winnings runs to score as Athens defeated Meigs 6-3 for Dettwiller’s and the Marauders’ only loss of the season.

This time however, Meigs first baseman Colton Stewart made sure the same situation would not occur.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Athens’ shortstop Casey Grimm hit an infield fly. Right as it appeared the ball was going to drop, Stewart dove over Rowe, and in dramatic fashion, caught the final out of the game.

“I saw it leave the bat, but when I looked up, I lost it,” Dettwiller said. “Colton (Stewart) told me before the game, ‘Heath, I swear I’m going to catch that ball in the infield if that happens again so just get out of the way.’ It was a great play to end the game.”

Athens also had runners on second and third with no outs in the first inning but was unable to capitalize on that opportunity as well.

Dettwiller delivered back-to-back strikeouts followed by a routine pop fly to short to end the threat.

“Not being able to score on that chance in the first inning was huge,” Gibson said. “We still have a chance to be second in the league but second place sucks, especially after winning the league two years in a row.”

After the game, Meigs’ bench erupted in celebration.

“It feels great. You can’t compare it to anything,” Dettwiller said. “We lost down there and we knew what we had to do. We knew that if we won, we would be TVC champs.”

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Bobcats Clip Falcons

On the first play from scrimmage, Bowling Green forced an Ohio fumble and returned the ball to the Bobcat three yard line. But the Falcon’s good fortune would end there.

Ohio’s defense stopped Bowling Green on fourth and inches on the ensuing drive and didn’t look back as the Bobcats dominated all facets of the game and defeated the Falcons 49-25.

Whether on the ground or through the air, Bowling Green had no answer for Ohio’s pair of quarterbacks as the two combined for 323 yards of total offense.

Ohio quarterback Phil Bates led all rushers with 114 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns including a 62-yard touchdown scamper in which Bates eluded two defenders in the backfield, cut towards the sideline and then followed a block back towards the center of the field.

“I beat the defender to the outside, then I got some great blocks,” Bates said. “They were moving people down and I just happened to run past them.”

Click the link to hear Bates speak about his long run:

Despite his big day on the ground, Bates gave most of the credit to the offensive line.

“Those were truck holes,” he said. “They did an outstanding job. They studied and knew what they needed to do and they executed.”

Boo Jackson took the majority of snaps under center and completed nine of 14 passing attempts for 76 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson also added 56 yards on the ground.

Bowling Green opened the scoring with a 22-yard field goal with 9:22 remaining in the first quarter. But the Bobcats would quickly answer.

A 49-yard return on the kickoff from Julian Posey led to a seven-play, 51-yard drive that ended with Jackson finding receiver Terrence McCrae open in the end zone for a five-yard touchdown.

The score was the 14th of McCrae’s career, putting him in second place on the Bobcats’ all-time touchdown receptions list.

A Bowling Green fumble on the ensuing drive again set the Bobcat offense up with good field position.

Running back Vince Davidson capped off a five-play, 26-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run to extend Ohio’s lead to 14-3.

With a bus-load of friends and family members in the stands, Ohio sophomore tight end Jordan Thompson caught his first career touchdown pass on a ball that was not even intended for him.

“It’s been a time coming, it was a little unconventional on how I scored, it just fell into my hands, I just saw the end zone and tried to get it,” Thompson said. “I think there’s a hundred of them out there from back home, to be able have all those people from back home and to score, it was a pretty neat feeling.”

But Thompson wasn’t done. With 11 seconds remaining in the first half, Jackson again connected with Thompson, this time for a six-yard score.

The Bobcat defense also dominated.

Bowling Green had first and goal from inside the six on each of their first two drives but came up with only three points.

“It was huge. As an offense you never want to go down 7-0,” Bates said. “It was a big stop in the red zone. It was a momentum swinger.”

The Bobcats also won the turnover battle for the second straight week.

“We gave up too many points so we’re going to go back to drawing board with that, but it was good to get the turnovers,” safety Donovan Fletcher said.

On the first drive of the third quarter, Fletcher intercepted a Matt Schilz pass and returned it 55 yards for Ohio’s first defensive touchdown of the year.

“With the offense rolling like that, we had to make sure we didn’t let them down,” Fletcher said. “Both the offense and special teams had it going so we just need to make sure we keep getting better.”

Head coach Frank Solich was pleased with his team’s effort.

“The defense did a great job to set the tone and offensively we just made big plays,” Solich said after the game. “The two-quarterback system we’re using seems to play out well for us. We’re still improving and we’re getting better week by week.”

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NCAA Football Upset Alert

Which highly ranked teams could be upset on Saturday?

Georgia at No. 2 Auburn: This is a trap game for the Tigers. With a big game against Alabama on the horizon, Auburn could look past unranked Georgia. The Tigers’ secondary is the team’s weak link, and the Bulldogs have the best wide receiver in the game in A.J. Green. Not to mention the controversy surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. This one could be closer than the experts think.

No. 10 Oklahoma State at Texas: The Longhorns are having a down year by anyone’s standards, but it’s never easy to go into Texas and hook the Horns in Austin. Can OSU handle the pressure of a top-ten ranking and a shot at the Big XII title?

No. 13 Iowa at Northwestern: The Hawkeyes must win if they have absolutely any chance of earning a share of the Big Ten title. But the Wildcats are no pushover, as they took Michigan State to the brink only a couple of weeks ago. Iowa gains nothing by winning this game, but they have everything to lose if they were to trip up in Evanston.


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Trimble Season Review

In 2009, Trimble dropped four of their first five games before reeling off five consecutive victories and narrowly missing the playoffs.

2010 began the same way for the Tomcats as a 1-3 start to the year left no room for error.

But Trimble once again showed their resiliency by winning their final six games and grabbing the last playoff spot in Division VI, Region 23.

“We played a lot tougher competition at the beginning of the year. All three of the teams we lost to were playoff teams,” Trimble coach Phil Faires said. ”Two of them were real close games that we just happened to lose, but that prepares you for the second half.”

Outside a week two 14-6 loss to division-newcomer Wahama, Trimble dominated the TVC-Hocking, outscoring its division opponents 276-52.

“We have a good program all the way up,” Faires said. “Our kids take pride in their program and they expect to win.”

Entering the season, the Tomcats returned 12 starters, including 2009 All-Ohio running back Tyler Dyla.

Dyla again led the charge for Trimble in 2010, rushing for more than 1500 yards and adding 22 touchdowns in sometimes limited playing because of late-season blowouts.

The return of quarterback Charles Kish and receiver Austin North, as well as defenders Noah Guthrie and Johnny Stobart only raised expectations heading into the season.

“Johnny Stobart and Tyler Dyla are both guys that have started for us since they were sophomores and Charles Kish started on defense for us his freshman year,” Faires said. “We’ve really been able to rely on our upperclassmen.”

Despite the loss of many key seniors, Faires said he is confident his team can return to their place of dominance in 2011.

“We’ve got a good mixture of kids with varsity experience coming back that we can plug in,” Faires said.

As the eighth seed in the playoffs, Trimble had the task of facing number one-seeded Shadyside in the first round.

The Tomcats were overmatched, but Faires’ squad was able to hang with the Tigers for much of the first half, before falling by a respectable score of 36-20.

“We had a chance to win that game. Had we not had fumbled and given up those quick scores, it would have been a different game,” Faires said. “But that shows us what we need to get there. I’m very proud of the way our guys performed all year.”

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