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Angels of Anaheim on a Skid

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By Jon D. Gaede, BVN Staff –

Mike Soscia’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, don’t resemble themselves these days. Champions of little ball and good pitching, these 2011 Angels have neither of late.

At the start of the season, the club expected a rehabilitated Kendry Morales and the addition of proven hitter Vernon Wells, to round out their offensive attack. In reality, Kendry’s earliest return looks like sometime in May. He is sorely missed.

Veteran Vernon Wells was obtained in an off season move with Toronto. The career .280 hitter who normally averages 28 homers and 90 RBI was hitting below the Mendoza line (under .200) and is still recovering from an early season hamstring injury.

Team captain Torii Hunter’s bat has also gone cold as well as their usual team strength, starting pitching.

Starter Scott Kazmir had so many horrible outings this year, that the Angels sent him down to Salt Lake. Kazmir’s ERA is 17.02 in five starts.

In exchange for Kazmir, 21 year old rookie, Tyler Chatwood (Redlands East Valley) has been the new addition to the rotation.

Soscia has been patient with him. Chatwood has a nifty 95 mph fastball and a 12 to 6 curve ball. Although he has struggled with his control, Chatwood is 3-3 on the season and is gaining valuable experience.

Sure hitting Howey Kendrick has returned from injury and has a .350 average over the last seven games.

The Angel season can be summed up by missed opportunities, an inordinate number of double plays and a general lack of run support.

Ace pitcher Jerod Weaver led the American League out of the gate with a 6-0 mark.

Then the Angels stopped hitting, Weaver lost his next four with an average of 2 runs or less. He is currently 7-4.

When their pitching is sound and the Angel bats produce 4 runs or more per game, they are capable of winning every series, to include the mighty Yankees. The club was 3-7 during the previous 10 when hit the road to Seattle. The Angels beat the Mariners twice in two games.

With all their troubles, the Angels are only 5 games out of first in the West. They have won two of two on their road trip thus far in Seattle. Maybe this is the start of a mini run toward the All Star break in July.

Fan watch - New York Yankee Derek Jeter was six hits shy of 3,000 on Monday. Due to an unusual calf injury, the Yankee captain will be sidelined for ten days.

L.A. Sparks Kick Off Fifteenth Season

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Sparks run down Lynx in star studded season opener

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

The Los Angeles Sparks tipped off the 15th season of WNBA professional basketball last Friday evening with a 82-74 win over the Minnesota Lynx and the leagues number one draft pick Maya Moore in front of an announced crowd of 13,589 fans.

Los Angeles, one of the League’s most successful franchises and one of only two teams located in a major media market serves as a fitting place for the season opener showcasing their newest and brightest league stars.

Moore, the women’s collegiate player of the year, three time winner of the Wade Trophy and winner of two national championships as a Connecticut Huskies, joins an already talented Lynx squad with Lindsey Whalen, Simone Augustus, Candace Wiggins, Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston all college superstars.

The league’s newly hired president Laurel Richie made her debut and held pregame locker room meetings with each of the teams. “I wanted to let them know that the league is healthy, thanks to them and how important each of them was to the league,” said Ritchie.

“We have incredibly talented young ladies in this league and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them.”

Ritchie, a marketing and finance professional, has the immediate challenge of securing sponsorship and growing league revenues in one of the most competitive sports markets ever. Ritchie has an abundance of young stars to work with. At no time in its history has the WNBA had more young stars than it does today.

“I was amazed, she new every player in the locker-room by name,” said Sparks Head Coach Jennifer.

After moving the game time back an extra hour to deliver the game to a national television audience, the WNBA’s 15th season got underway with a very unusual rousing ovation for the visiting team’s best player, Maya Moore.

With all of the excitement over Maya, the Sparks had to feel a little overshadowed. Led now by Candace Parker, the Sparks are re-establishing their identity. Parker is joined by veterans DeLisha Milton- Jones, Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro and Noelle Quinn in the starting lineup.

Moore scored 21 points to lead all scorers in her first professional game, but the Lynx couldn’t hold off a late rally by the Sparks. The Lynx have lost eight straight games to the Sparks and have not beaten them since 2009.

After giving up a 10-point early lead, the Lynx lead 43-37 at the end of the first half. Los Angeles took a slim lead in third outscoring the Lynx 24- 14 during the period. The fourth quarter belonged to the Los Angeles. Lead by the hot shooting of Noelle Quinn, the Sparks outscored the Lynx 23- 17 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

Sparks leading Scorer Candace Parker had 19 points and 10 rebounds. The WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Tina Thompson had 15 points.

Noelle Quinn had 11 points and DeLisha Milton added 8 points.

“I thought we came out defensive minded in the second half and that was the difference in the game. I have been trying to get that though to them for two weeks. We know we can score but we have to be able to stop people,” said Coach Gilliam.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

Basketball World Pays Homage After Shaq Quits

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(Reuters) - Shaquille O'Neal, one of the most successful and recognizable players in professional basketball, announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a career that spanned almost two decades and helped increase the popularity of the sport outside the United States.

A giant of a man who wore size 23 shoes but endeared himself to millions of people around the globe both through his performances on the court and his sometimes wacky sense of humor, he typically chose an unusual way of delivering his news, posting a video on a social media website.

"We did it. Nineteen years baby. I want to thank you very much, that's why I'm telling you first, I'm about to retire. Thank you, talk to you soon," he said in the message.

The 39-year-old, who has been struggling with an Achilles injury, later told ESPN during a brief telephone interview that he hadn't really wanted to retire but his body and age had dictated he quit.

"I'm going to miss the competition. I'm going to miss the chase for the ring. I'm actually going to miss everything," he said.

O'Neal, who was popularly known as "The Shaq," said he planned to hold a formal news conference at his home in Florida on Friday to reflect on his career as the basketball world began paying tribute to his outstanding accomplishments.

"For 19 seasons, Shaquille O'Neal was literally and figuratively an NBA giant," the NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

"On behalf of the NBA, its teams, and his millions of fans around the world, I want to thank Shaq for everything he has meant to the league and to the sport of basketball, both on and off the court."

Jerry Buss, the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, where O'Neal won the first three of his four championship rings, also heaped praise on the center, who seems destined to be inducted into the NBA's Hall of Fame.

"Shaq had a long and amazing career, with a huge impact both on and off the court," Buss said.

"His contributions were significant to the entire NBA, but we specifically appreciate what he did with and what he meant to the Lakers during his eight years with us.

"We have three championships that we wouldn't have won without him, and we will forever be grateful for his significant contributions to those teams."

ALL-STAR

O'Neal was a physically imposing man with an infectious smile. He stood seven feet one inches tall and weighed 325 pounds (147 kilograms), and was a force under the basket.

He scored 28,596 points in the NBA, the fifth highest total, and was 12th overall in rebounds and seventh in blocked shots.

He averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, was named in 15 All-Star teams and was a member of the United States team that won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"What a career for Shaq Diesel!!" tweeted LeBron James, who briefly played alongside O'Neal at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"The most dominating force to ever play the game. Great person to be around as well. Comedy all the time!!"

O'Neal always seemed destined for greatness after enjoying a stellar career at Louisiana State University and he was selected by the Orlando Magic as the number one pick at the 1992 NBA Draft.

In 1996, he joined the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, teaming up with a young Kobe Bryant in a brilliant team that won three successive NBA titles from the 1999-2000 season.

O'Neal was named as the Most Valuable Player in each of those three finals series and in 2000 he was named MVP of the entire NBA, but he left the Lakers after a fallout with Bryant.

He moved to the Miami Heat in 2004 and joined forces with another young gun, Dwyane Wade, winning a fourth championship two years later.

O'Neal also played with the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers before finishing off his career with the Boston Celtics, but the injuries were starting to take a toll and his averages and game time started to fall.

O'Neal earned almost $300 million salary over his career as well as another fortune in endorsements as he transcended both the sporting and entertainment worlds, giving himself a range of nicknames, including 'The Big Daddy', 'Superman' and 'The Diesel'.

He released four rap albums, appeared in films and starred in his own television reality shows, and has university degrees in arts and business, and was smart enough to know when to walk away.

"Father Time has caught up with Shaquille O'Neal," he said.

Top IE Athletes Qualify for CIF Masters Track & Field

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The annual pilgrimage of top flight CIF-SS track & field athletes traveled down the 91 Fwy to compete at Cerritos College.

This year’s contingency was well represented by the Inland Empire. In all divisions and in nearly every event, local athletes made their mark.

For the athletes, the goal is the same, to make the CIF Master’s meet in Sacramento.

In order to accomplish that, each must compete against 36 other top competitors from all four CIF divisions. Only the top nine go on.

For the knowledgeable track and field observers at Cerritos, some must have thought it was the day of the Stewart’s. Carter High School’s Shanice Stewart (New Mexico) and AB Millers’s Devonte Stewart (USC).

Shanice Stewart of Carter competed in the 4 x 100 m, the high jump, long jump and the 100m hurdles. She took first in the long jump with a leap of 18’03” and placed second in a blazing 100m hurdle race to Ayala’s Brea Buchanan in 14.25. Stewart will compete in both events in Sacramento.

USC bound Devonte Stewart was the speed demon of the boys divisions. Devonte posted one of lowest times in many years as he broke the 200m tape in 20.89. For an encore, he won the D- 1 100 m as well.

Cajon’s Ayana Gales qualified for the Masters in the triple jump and the girls 4 x 100 in a time of 47.58. Her teammates include, Janesha Anthony, Gabby Bell and Haley Sanner.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Jordie Munford ran two sensational hurdle races as she finished second in the 300 m hurdles in 42.12 and posted a nifty 14.06 in the D-1 100m hurdles.

Check local listings for Fox Sports West coverage of the CIF Masters meet from Sacramento, this weekend.

Look for Inland Empire athletes to do well.

Dream Comes True for Local Football Star

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Wright drafted to San Diego Chargers

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

“This is the happiest day of my life. I can’t imagine anytime I have ever been any happier than I am right now” said former Colton High and USC star Shereece Wright. ‘I have worked so hard and waited so long for this day”.

Wright uttered those words short ly after receiving a telephone call confirming that he would soon be taking the short trip down I-15 to sign an employment contract with the San Diego Chargers. The team had just chosen him in the third round as the 89th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Surrounded by as many as 100 family members and friends at his pre-draft celebration in Ontario Mills, Wright answered his cell phone and the room erupted in cheers. After a brief 5-10 minute phone conversation with Chargers’ team officials the announcement was broadcast on ESPN and the room erupted all over again. This time with hugs cheers and screams that continued for the next 20 minutes until they were muted only to allow Shareece to hear the many congratulatory calls that starting pouring in from friends and loved ones who could not be present.

“This could not have happened to a better young man,” said long time friend Ricardo Martinez a retired city worker whose wife has known Wright since his Pop Warner days. “I was playing cards when my wife called and said I had to come home.” She said:

“Shareece is having a draft party and he wants’ us to be there.” All of the attendees were either family members or lifelong friends from Wright’s Colton neighbor and each had their own funny stories to share about Wright.

Shareece starred at Colton High School before accepting a scholarship to USC. Former Trojan Head Coach Pete Carroll once said that Wright was the best cover corner he had ever seen. A huge compliment coming from someone with Carroll’s breadth of experience. But sports can be a tough road at times and the game of football can be extremely cruel, as Wright would discover during the next five years.

After solid contributions at cornerback during his freshman and sophomore seasons Wright was prepared to take over the staring duties in his junior season when he suffered a neck injury after only two games and was forced to miss the entire season.

After recovering from injury and ready to return to the starting lineup Wright encountered eligibility issues and was forced to miss additional playing time.

Through all of the setbacks and injuries, Wright maintained his intense desire and determination.

Finally, returning to the starting lineup in 2010 for his senior campaign under a new head coach, a new system and to top it off the program had been sacked by the NCAA prevent ing them from post-season play. Pete Carroll had departed and Lane Kiffin was the new head coach.

As the most experienced player in the defensive secondary Wright was called upon to be the catalyst, keeping things together on a defensive unit that routinely challenged.

Through it all Wright has stayed humble, focused and grounded. He maintained his congeniality with the media and has always been generous with his time. He and fellow Colton and USC teammate Allen Bradford make routine trips back to neighborhood schools to talk to kids and attend football games when possible.

Shareece’s advice to young players is simple. “It’s hard. Nothing comes easy. You have to always be aware of your actions and then be prepared to take responsibility for them. I ignore negativism and unwarranted criticism and just move on. I don’t even read it. I know who I am and they don’t.”

It’s obvious that Wright garners many of his virtues from his strong bond with his family and friends. Joined by his Brother Shamon, Mother Lavette, Grandfather, Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins to share in the joy of this once in a lifetime special day.

Even before inking a contract, Wright has developed a vision for his soon to be youth foundation to help underprivileged kids that he plans to start after he joins the Chargers. Wright’s signing will likely provide much needed help to an undermanned Chargers’ secondary that struggled badly last season.

Amazingly, Colton High had three members of its 2005 Championship team drafted in the 2011 NFL draft. Jimmy Smith was drafted as the 27th pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round. Allen Bradford was drafted as the 187th overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Shareece by the Chargers.

G.Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

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