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FROM OKLAHOMA TO POLAND
June 3, 2023
WARSAW - Kyle Foster ended his college baseball career last year at East Central University in his native Oklahoma. But he didn't want that to be the very end of his playing career - so he checked out baseballjobsoverseas.com.

"Annually our players and coaches sign over 300 contracts around the world. There are a variety of levels overseas that present opportunities for both college graduates and established professionals," according to that website.

Foster, from the tiny town of Rush Springs, is part of that global reach. Baseball Jobs Overseas helped him land a spot with an adult baseball league in Poland and his team is based in the northern part of the country, near the Baltic Sea.

Between games of a doubleheader near Warsaw on Saturday, he told me his team plays in a Polish league and also in a Baltic league. Games are played on the weekend and his Polish teammates, most of them in their 20s, have jobs during the week. Foster said many of them didn't begin playing baseball until their late teens or early 20s.

Foster is the only American on his team though at least one teammate has spent time in the USA. There is very little time for practice, so Foster has been writing about experiences when is not at practice or games. He started at first base in both games of a doubleheader on the road against the Warsaw Dragons. The right-handed hitter, who has pitched some this spring, had several run-scoring hits and made a nice scoop of a ball in the grass (the field is normally used for soccer) as his team won by scores of 21-4 and 12-1.

Foster is slated to return to Oklahoma in July and hopes to put his degree in Mass Communications to use; there is also the chance, perhaps, to be an assistant high school football coach.

LITHUANIA: SMALL WORLD IN TOURISM
May 29, 2023
KLAIPEDA, LITHUANIA - At 11 a.m. this morning, my wife and I were sitting in a cafe in the capital of Vilnius. There was a family of four next to us speaking Spanish, with a couple about our age and another couple about the age of our daughters.

We left soon after for a drive west to visit one of our MCC colleagues. We made a stop at a beautiful tourist spot with a castle from the 1400s situated in the middle of a lake in central Lithuania.

We then finished the drive to here in Klaipeda - about 3.5 hours west of the capital - and quickly checked into our hotel. With only a few minutes before our scheduled time to meet our colleague, we quickly walked down the streets of Klaipeda - and walked right past the four Spanish-speaking tourists we saw in the cafe earlier this morning about 180 miles away.

It was a total coincidence - and don't think they recognized us.

PS And the next morning, Tuesday, we ran into the same family at another coffee shop, this time in Klaipeda.

TRANQUIL SLICE OF RURAL POLAND
May 27, 2023
AUGUSTOW, POLAND - In this slice of rural northeast Poland, just a few miles from the border of Belarus to the east, Lithuania to the north, and a sliver of Russia to the northwest, the early-morning quiet is punctuated by birds chirping.

This is the Lake District of Poland, about three hours northeast of Warsaw by car. A beautiful canal runs through Augustow, and we found a very nice bed and breakfast north of the town for Friday night.

There were about 10 rooms and most of the other guests were from Poland, though there was a family from Austria. We had a wonderful meal Friday night at the restaurant on site and breakfast as well on Saturday morning - while it appeared the staff was getting ready to host a wedding. (There is a lot that we miss since our Polish is very limited). After checking out, we hiked a few miles at a nearby national park and enjoyed seeing several small lakes, one filled with thousands of tadpoles.

FROM VIRGINIA TO POLAND
May 25, 2023
WARSAW - Since leaving Blacksburg, former Virginia Tech basketball standout Justin Bibbs has played in the G-League, had 10-day contracts with the Celtics and Clippers, and made his first trip overseas to New Zealand to continue his hoop career.

Now the product of Dayton, Ohio is in the championship round of the top men's league in Poland. But that doesn't make things easier for Bibbs. "It takes a lot to get used to - the language, the culture. This is my second year (in Poland) and I still don't know Polish," Bibbs, 27, told me tonight.

Bibbs helped his team, Slask in southwestern Poland, post the best record in regular-season play. His team won the first two games of the finals series against Legia, but the team from Warsaw staved off elimination with a 78-55 win here on Thursday.

After the first quarter, Bibbs and Slask trailed 30-8. They spent the rest of the night trying to make it close, but Legia and its rabid home fans were too much to overcome. "We should feel embarrassed as a team," Jeremiah Martin, a teammate with Bibbs, said after the game in the Polish capital. "They protected the homecourt like we did" in the first two games of the best-of-five series.

Bibbs played in Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia after his college career; he is the nephew of football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes. Bibbs played in high school in Florida and ended his Va. Tech career in 2018.

Martin, a guard, played in college for his hometown Memphis. His college career ended in 2019 and since then his pro stops have included Germany.

Game 4 of the finals is Saturday in Warsaw with a possible game 5 next week in southwest Poland.

HOOP TITLE IN POLAND
May 21, 2023
WARSAW - Last spring, Marcus Azor wound up his college basketball career by scoring a team-best 17.5 points per game as he started all 31 contests for Division III UMass-Dartmouth.

His team was 26-5 and ended the season with a loss in Virginia to host Randolph-Macon, which went on to win the Division III national title. Nearly one year later, Azor of Brockton, Mass., ended his first year as a pro hoopster by helping his team win the title in Liga 1 in the second-best league in Poland. Playing at home on Saturday night, Dziki of Warsaw beat Gornik of southwest Poland 66-62 to sweep the series 3-0.

"It feels great," said 6-foot-2 guard Azor, standing on the court during the post-game celebration in the northwest corner of Warsaw. "I can't describe how I am feeling right now. My first year (as a pro) to win a championship, it is amazing. I just want to be a sign to all of the D3 hoopers back home to just keep working and make your dreams come true."

The title was even more special as his brother and sister surprised him by attending the game. They arrived in Warsaw around 1 a.m. Saturday after a flight from Boston via London.

His sister had been in Poland earlier in the season it was the first trip for his brother, Irving. Azor came off the bench Saturday and made a big 3-pointer in the second quarter as Gornik trimmed a large lead by the Razorbacks. A few minutes later, Azor made a layup to stave off the rally by the visitors.

He had seven points, two rebounds, and one assist while Arinze Chidom, the only American for Gornik, had nine points and 10 rebounds. He played in college at Cal-Riverside and is from the Oakland area.

A TRIP TO JORDAN
May 18, 2023
WADI RUM, JORDAN - The Arabian desert of Wadi Rum in the southern part of Jordan is easily the most amazing landscape I have ever seen. No, it's not in Europe, but some recent work meetings in the Middle East allowed my wife and me the opportunity to spend two nights under the stars in a modern tent that protected us from the wind and some 85-degree days.

We had a wonderful local guide who took four of us Americans in his pickup truck for a pair of three-hour trips between mountains that are out of this world. Our last session one evening this week ended as we watched the sunset while our guide brought us local tea he warmed up with a small fire with very little growing in an area frequented by camels and their handlers.

Wadi Rum was one of the places used in the filming in 1961-62 of "Lawrence of Arabia," considered one of the greatest movies of all time. More recently, the desert landscape - with Saudia Arabia just a few miles away to the east and south - was also a backdrop for "The Martian," which starred Matt Damon.

Also on our trip to Jordan, we swam in the Dead Sea and saw the ancient city of Petra, one sight used for the filming of the movie "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade." You can google "Movies filmed in Jordan" and find at least 10 of them. We stayed at the Wadi Rum Quiet Village Camp for two nights and it was wonderful as we mingled among other guests - a few from the USA and most from Western Europe - and looked at the stars. Interesting that a flight path from northwest to southeast had jets going over our heads at night - about 30,000 feet up and they could barely be heard, with no other sounds in the land.

SHENANDOAH POEM
I wrote this 30 years ago and never let anyone else see it - until now:
There may be taller mountains,
there may be larger trees.
But take me home to the Shenandoah,
take me back, Lord, one time, please.

Towns roll on like rivers,
with names like Woodstock, Staunton, and Rawley Springs.
Take me home to the Shenandoah,
take me back, Lord, one time, please.

Sometimes people are called sheltered,
and maybe even small.
But isn't there a place to call home for one and all?

Sure, there are higher mountains
and there are taller trees
But take me home to the Shenandoah,
Take me back, Lord, one time more, please.

SPRING IN POLAND
April 30, 2023
WARSAW - The weather has been great this weekend in the Polish capital - and it was a good weekend for sports. My wife and I attended our first big Polish league football/soccer match, with host Legia winning 1-0 at home Friday night. We sat near our new English friend, who has season tickets, and he introduced us to his friends from France and California, as well as Warsaw, who are also fans of Legia. The French fan still doesn't understand why Americans changed the name of his favorite game from football to soccer.

On Saturday, we were able to catch a playoff basketball game in the second-best men's league in Poland. A new rule this year allows one foreigner per team (in the past none were allowed) and each team has an American. Marcus Azor, from Brockton, Mass. and D3 UMass-Dartmouth, had seven points and seven assists to lead host Dziki to a comeback 80-74 win over Radom, which was paced by Kaheem Ransom with 21 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Ransom is from Wichita and played at Sam Houston State.

To cap the weekend, we did a hike of about six miles today with an American friend. She told us about a national park northwest of downtown Warsaw and we were able to get there via the metro and a bus ride of about 20 minutes. There are several trials and this area of Poland is very flat, so it was a fairly easy hike.

POLISH BASEBALL: COMEDIAN MOE
April 27, 2023
WARSAW - The National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan, according to its website, honors athletes of Polish descent. Baseball players who have been recognized include former Major League stars such as Stan Musial, Phil Niekro, Bill Mazerowski, and Carl Yastrzemski.
All of them are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown - but none of them were born in Poland. The only four MLB players born in Poland were pitcher Moe Drabowsky (who played 1956-72), outfielder Nap Kloza (1931-32), third baseman Henry Peploski (1929), and infielder Johnny Reder (1932). Skel Roach, who played in one Major League game, was born in Gdansk when it was part of Germany - the city is now in Poland, on the northern Baltic coast.
Drabowsky, by far, was the best of the four natives. He was one of the first pitchers to be effective solely out of the bullpen, and he won 88 games with 54 saves. The native of Ozanna, Poland had the biggest moment of his career in Game 1 of the 1966 for the Baltimore Orioles against the Dodgers. He came on in the third inning for struggling starter Dave McNally; Moe struck out 11 batters to set a World Series mark for relievers, the Orioles won the game and swept the series.
Drabowsky also played for the Orioles in 1970, when the Birds again won the Fall Classic. He was a coach after his playing career and in 1987, along with Musial, he put on a baseball clinic in Kutno, not far from his birthplace. Drabowsky was inducted into the Polish-American Hall in Michigan in 1999.
“We lived on a farm,” Moe recalled in a 1966 interview, according to the Society of American Baseball Research. “I remember a stream I fished in. I remember a barn and some of the animals.”
One of his best pranks came with the Orioles in 1966.
"During this season, Moe pulled off one of his best-known pranks. On May 27, in the second inning of a game against his former teammates in Kansas City, Drabowsky called the Athletics bullpen, imitated KC manager Alvin Dark, and ordered that Lew Krausse begin warming up. A few minutes later, Drabowsky called again and ordered Krausse to sit down again. Finally, on the third call, Drabowsky’s voice was recognized," according to SABR.
He was born in 1935 and as Hitler began to annex Poland, his family left in 1938 and they eventually settled in Connecticut. Drabowsky died in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2006.
Here is my all-Polish roots team:
Outfield: Stan Musial, Greg Luzinski, Carl Yastrzemski
Infield: Ted Kluszewski, Tony Kubek, Bill Mazeroski, Whitey Kurowski
Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski
Pitchers: Phil and Joe Niekro, Ron Perranoski, Moe Drabowsky, Mark Gubicza

AMERICAN TV, POLISH TIES
April 25, 2023
Actor George Peppard, who later starred on The A-Team, played the lead role in "Banacek," a USA TV series that lasted just from 1972-74. The Peppard character in Banacek was a Polish-American free-lance investigator who took on cases in the Boston area, usually for insurance companies. It was a rare mystery series in the 1970s that didn't involve murder on a weekly basis.

One feature of the show was Polish proverbs, which the Peppard character delivered at just the right time with just the right touch. Actor Murray Matheson, who also appeared in Perry Mason, Banacek, and many other shows, died on this day in 1985 in California at the age of 72; he was born in Australia. Another regular on Banacek was Christine Belford, who was born on Long Island and went to college at Hofstra.

OAKLAND TO POLAND
April 22, 2023
WARSAW - Arinze Chidom stood just outside the hallway leading to the dressing room at a basketball arena here Thursday night, having just scored 14 points as his team clinched a first-round playoff series win over host Polonia. A 6-foot-9 forward from Oakland, Chidom played in college at Washington State and UC Riverside after a prep career at Bishop O'Dowd in his hometown. After trying to catch on with the G-League, he began his pro career earlier this season in Eastern Europe. "I didn't even know where Poland was," he told me. Despite challenges on and off the court, the California native was named MVP in the second-best league in Poland. He is averaging about 15 points and 7 rebounds per game as his team, based in southwest Poland near the Czech border, will advance to the next round of the playoffs as the top seed.

SOMBER DAY IN WARSAW
April 19, 2023
WARSAW - There were many people wearing yellow daffodils on the streets and in the Metro today in and around Warsaw. It was the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, as the Jewish community took up arms against German occupiers on this day in 1943. Leaders of Poland, Germany, and Israel were on hand in Warsaw while, according to reports, 450,000 paper daffodils were handed out by volunteers in several cities across Poland. When we first moved to Warsaw a few weeks ago, our apartment was just a block from one of the last standing pieces of the Ghetto wall near the main train station.

THE PRIDE OF PARMA
April 17, 2023
PARMA, ITALY - Parma, a city of about 322,000 people in northern Italy, claims composer Verdi has one of its own. He grew up about 20 miles from the city, was known for his operas and he died in 1901. The city is also known for its architecture, art, and culinary skills - a lunch here today confirmed that a little off the tourist track. I had a wonderful insalata di Pollo (chicken salad) while Liz had some of the famous pasta known well in the region.

But Parma is also home to fact and fiction in the sports world. It was the setting for "Playing For Pizza," a novel by American bestseller John Grisham that came out in 2007. The storyline is of an American football quarterback who can't get a job in the NFL and is forced to head to Italy to play for a team there.

Parma, a true story, is home to one of the top baseball clubs and stadiums in the country. Parma and nearby Bologna host many top baseball games for the Italian national team, and Italy will be in a pool with England in the Euro championships in the Czech Republic in late September. We saw one smaller baseball field on our trip here today - the biggest one in Parma is named after Ned Cavalli. It can hold about 3,000 fans and it opened in 2009. Not sure if Ned is related to Cade Cavalli, the pitcher for the Washington Nationals.

BASKETBALL IN BOLOGNA
April 16, 2023
BOLOGNA, ITALY - The highlight of our quick trip to northern Italy was the hike up several hundred feet to a Basilica in the hills north of the city. Once there, the view of 360 degrees was stunning - including a look to the north and some snow-capped mountains in the direction of Austria. During a break, we watched an elderly couple walk out of their mansion (which made me think of Beverly Hillbillies) and wait for a taxi. One could imagine the husband was once a famous movie producer or something, or maybe his wife was a screen star.

The hills were just north of the Bologna football stadium, home of a club that was founded in 1909. Also on the trip, we saw Virtus play a home men's basketball game at a temporary arena that sits about 9700. The home team won with several former USA college stars, including Daniel Hackett. The visiting team included Darion Atkins, who is from Maryland and was the Defensive Player of the Year in the ACC while at the University of Virginia. Hackett played at the University of Southern California.

If the NBA is the Major Leagues (it is), I would rate Italy's Serie league at the Triple-A level. It was high-level basketball with some passionate fans who watched the action on the court and not on their phones.

GOOD READING WEATHER
April 14, 2023
WARSAW - The long Polish winters do have an upside: the chance to be indoors and do some serious reading. Here are some of the books I was able to finish in the past few weeks:
* "Ukraine: What Everyone Needs To Know," by Serhy Yekelchyk, Professor of History and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria; came out before Feb. 24, 2022, but it was like he had a crystal ball for what could - and did - happen.
* "The Essential Guide To Being Polish: 50 Facts and Facets of Nationhood," written by two women born in Poland, raised in the USA, and moved back to Poland as working professional adults.
* "The Terra-Cotta Dog," a murder mystery, the best kind, set in Italy. Think Peter Sellers but with an Italian accent.
* "Death at La Fenice," a murder mystery, also set in Italy, but by a different author - Donna Leon. A German conductor dies during intermission and his Hungarian wife - I hate when this happens - is a prime suspect.
* "Lessons From the Edge: A Memoir," by Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine; a fascinating read, no matter your political bent - my first look into the world of the State Department from someone that lived it in several countries.
* "In War Time: Stories From Ukraine," by Tim Judah; he was there in 2014 and 2015.
* "Hotel Pastis," by Peter Mayle; the novel has autobiographical elements as the lead character is a British guy who gives up the riches of a high-intensity PR firm in England to buy a hotel in the south of France. He didn't count on a muck-racking journalist and some second-rate robbers to be among his potential clients.
*My Mercedes Is (Not) For Sale," by Jeroen Van Bergeijk; a Dutch writer who drives his car from Europe through several countries on the west coast of Africa, looking for the right price before he looks to sell it.
*The Snow Queen, by Michael Cunningham; life, death, and relationships, both traditional and non, in a novel set in the sometimes trendy world of early 21st century Brooklyn, with the supernatural, drugs, and Manhattan never too far from the surface.
* "Give Unto Others," by Donna Leon. The 31st in the series of the Brunetti Mysteries set in Venice, Italy; Leon comes through again - one of the best series of its kind ever, per sources, and she makes a mystery work without a dead body. Was it personal or professional? Brunetti takes on a case from a childhood friend that ends up with corruption and some injured animals - and hurt family feelings.
* "Hot Money," another classic by Dick Francis. The former British jockey became one of the best novelists in his genre, and this mystery includes a rich man who had been married five times and has plenty of family issues to deal with - along with murder attempts.
* "The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared," by Jonas Jonasson. The title says it all, I think. Took me less than 72 hours to read this novel of 385 pages - one of the funniest books I ever read.

ANOTHER CHALLENGING LANGUAGE
April 12, 2023
WARSAW - We have now lived in two European countries that just happen to have a very challenging language to learn as a foreigner: the countries are Hungary and now Poland. My first class, basic Polish, began yesterday and my class consisted of five other students in person and two more checking in online. The class lasts for 1.5 hours per session and there are two lessons per week. There were two other Americans in the class; one of those online was in The Netherlands, but he said he will be back in Warsaw next week to attend in person.

My goals for the class are not very lofty: would love to just be able to count to 10 in Polish, know the days of the week, and be able to say hello, goodbye, and thank you. Anything after that would be a bonus!

EASTER IN POLAND
April 9, 2023
WARSAW - The percentage of the Polish population that identifies as Catholic, according to various websites, runs around 90 percent. So it was no surprise to see plenty of Easter baskets on the street Saturday. And to show the reach of the Church, nearly every store was closed in Warsaw today - and that includes McDonald's and Starbucks, staples of Western culture and influence.

We enjoyed services at an English-language church and then spent the afternoon with some American folks who are also living in Warsaw.

USA HEROES IN WARSAW
April 8, 2023
WARSAW, POLAND - On the west side of the Vistula River, there is a plaque dedicated to World War II American military leader General George Patton. A boulevard dedication to Patton took place here in 2017 with U.S. embassy personnel taking part. Patton, according to one website, remarked in the 1940s that Polish troops were very professional and "superior to American or British military" at that time. No wonder there is a plaque that honors Patton in the Polish capital.

At least one other American leader is recognized in another part of Warsaw: a statue of former President Reagan is just off a main boulevard several miles south of Patton Boulevard, in an area of the city that is home to many embassies.

AMERICANS IN WARSAW
April 2, 2023
WARSAW, POLAND - After the 1Liga basketball game was over here Sunday night, a group of three American players huddled courtside and compared mental notes on life overseas. Ajay Sanders and Artur Labinowicz, North Carolina natives and former teammates at Coastal Carolina, are teammates this season with a team in northwest Poland. After a win here in Warsaw, they chatted with Phoenix native Sammy Barnes-Thompkins - the only American on his pro team based in the capital.

Sanders had 17 points and seven rebounds as Koszalin beat Polonia 87-75. The game was typical in that it showed what American ballers have to deal with overseas: Labinowicz, a Charlotte native with Polish roots, was ejected; his second transgression came when he was called for flopping, a soccer term, after he pretended to be fouled while driving to the basket with the ball. Barnes-Thompkins had a foul called on him in the first half in which it appeared he never touched the player he was guarding. Welcome to Europe, guys.

HOMETOWN HERO IN POLAND
April 2, 2023
TORUN, POLAND - It was just over 550 years ago that a star was born here in central Poland. But these days, the city that is about 2.5 hours northwest of Warsaw is a haven for indoor track and field. Copernicus, who came up with the heliocentric view of the solar system, was born here in February 1573. We toured the museum here this weekend where he may or may not have been born. The interactive museum is very well done and won an award last year from the European Union for making the most out of a limited budget and staff.

On the way back to Warsaw by train, we met several track and field master athletes from around the world who competed this week in an annual event in Torun. Next year the master championships will be held outdoors, in Sweden. Torun also happens to have pro basketball and Kirby Burkholder, the daughter of my first cousin, played hoops here a few seasons ago. She played at Turner Ashby High and at JMU, in Virginia.

VOLLEYBALL IN WARSAW
March 27, 2023
WARSAW - Pro volleyball for men is a big deal in Poland. We went on Sunday night - the match began at 8:30 p.m. - to see a match between host Warsaw and a team from a small city about 200 miles southwest of Warsaw. Cheerleaders, energetic fans, and a five-set win by the hosts provided for a fun time. They even played "Country Roads" by John Denver during one timeout and nearly every fan sang along.

COFFEE SHOPS IN POLAND
March 26, 2023
WARSAW - The coffee shop culture in Warsaw is alive but it seems to be the big chains that dominate the market.
It is harder to find the smaller, non-corporate ones in a city of more than one million people.
Hungary, where we lived for three years, seems to have more non-chain coffee shops than Poland. That was true during a recent visit to Budapest and certainly was the case in Szeged, a city of fewer than 200,000 people near the Serbian border.

PRO HOOPS IN WARSAW
March 24, 2023
WARSAW - It cost us $13.76 for two tickets to see a pro basketball game in the top Polish men's league on a Friday night about a 30-minute metro ride north of downtown Warsaw.

That allowed us seats just 30 feet from a baseline in an arena that holds about 2,000 fans. There were several American players for both teams with natives from Baltimore - Cleveland Melvin of visiting Lublin - and North Carolina. Host Legia won as it scored 108 points in a rare high-scoring game in the Euro leagues.

SUNDAY IN THE PARK IN BUDAPEST
March 19, 2023
BUDAPEST - This was the first nice weather weekend in central Europe after a winter in which, while devoid of major snow, still had the annual grey skies that are more common north of Hungary.

So on this Sunday afternoon, as I visited with a spokesman for the Hungarian Basketball Federation at a museum coffee shop, many strollers took to the park near the Budapest Zoo and enjoyed the nice weather.

MIDDLE EAST
Feb. 7, 2023
BEIRUT - Never in a million years thought I would ever come to Lebanon - but some meetings with colleagues brought us to this beautiful country with a checkered past. After a few days here, it on to Jordan to meet other colleagues.

UR SPIDERS AT GEORGE MASON
Dec. 27, 2022
WASHINGTON - The Atlantic 10 Conference schedule begins with a good in-state battle on Saturday as George Mason hosts Richmond in Fairfax at 2 p.m. The Patriots won easily at home Friday over Coppin State, which faces Richmond on Wednesday.

VIRGINIA BASEBALL - COACHES HALL OF FAME
Dec. 4, 2022
WASHINGTON - The Virginia Baseball Coaches Association will honor its first Hall of Fame class of former high school and college coaches on Friday night, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Fairfax Marriott. The 10-member group includes two with ties to Northern Virginia: Bill Brown, who recently retired from George Mason University, and Ron Tugwell, the former coach at West Springfield High. Other college coaches to be honored include the late Chuck Hartman from Va. Tech; the late Paul Keyes, who was at VCU; Marty Miller, from Norfolk State; and Ron Atkins, who was at J.R. Tucker High and at the University of Richmond.

High school coaches to be noted will be Jim Cutler of Bedford, Va.; Tom Harding from Honaker, Va.; Mack Shupe, who won eight Va. prep state titles; and Norbie Wilson, from First Colonial in Va. Beach.

VIRGINIA HOOPS - SCANNING THE DIAL
Dec. 3, 2022
WASHINGTON - Today was a good one for Virginia hoops on TV. At one point, it was possible to watch VCU, George Mason, and Virginia all playing at the same time on various stations.

George Mason won at home over Toledo, the Cavs won in ACC play in Charlottesville against Florida State while VCU lost on the road at Temple - the same Temple team that looked pretty awful in a loss in Brooklyn last week to Richmond.

TERPS KNOCK OFF ILLINOIS
Dec. 3, 2022
WASHINGTON - There was a lot of excitement in nearby College Park last night, as host Maryland improved to 8-0 this year with a 71-66 win over Illinois.

"I thought the crowd was off the charts, the student section was off the charts. I thought that was a big difference for us," Maryland coach Kevin Willard told reporters after the game. The Terps are ranked No. 22 in the country.

BIG NIGHT IN COLLEGE PARK
Dec. 2, 2022
WASHINGTON - Tonight should be a great atmosphere in nearby College Park as the Terps host Illinois in college hoops.

As per Maryland sports information, first-year coach Kevin Willard has won his first seven games - all by at least 15 points. And the fanbase is in a frenzy with conference play right around the corner.

A GOOD NIGHT FOR GEORGES
Dec. 1, 2022
WASHINGTON - It was a good day on Wednesday for the Atlantic 10 Conference schools in the D.C. area. George Mason won at home in overtime against Hofstra while George Washington, a few miles away, destroyed Power 5 school South Carolina 79-55 in Foggy Bottom. It was the first visit from a Power 5 school to GW in five years. South Carolina shot just 32 percent from the floor while the Colonials used balancing scoring in the win.

In Fairfax, former CAA school Mason knocked off current CAA member Hofstra; I enjoyed catching the end of the game on TV, and the broadcast team of Bill Rohland and Craig Esherick, the former Georgetown coach, did a great job explaining the wild ending as the top player for the Pride dealt with an ankle injury in the final minutes of play.

JMU FOOTBALL ENDS HISTORIC YEAR
Nov. 26, 2022
HARRISONBURG, Va. - They converged just outside of the stadium on the east side of JMU's home field - parents, fans, and players still in pads and uniforms.

The Dukes of JMU had just crushed Coastal Carolina - which began the day ranked No. 23 in the nation - by a score of 47-7 in the Sun Belt Conference showdown Saturday.

JMU had been ranked in the top 25 earlier in the season and on a glorious fall day in the Shenandoah Valley had the rare chance to host a ranked team at the highest level of the college game. The Dukes rolled on offense with quick scores - JMU had the ball for less than 20 minutes of the game clock Saturday.

The Dukes, while moving up a level, are not eligible for post-season play so JMU treated the game against Coastal Carolina as a personal playoff contest. And it showed.

Veteran safety Sam Kidd, who was injured in October against Marshall and was in street clothes Saturday, saw his JMU career come to an end after he played key roles through the years. He went to James Madison High in Vienna.

RICHMOND WITH THE BIG BOYS
Nov. 22, 2022
BROOKLYN - The University of Richmond got an early start for the Atlantic 10 Conference tourney when the Spiders played two games here at the Barclays Center in the Empire Classic. The Spiders lost in overtime to Syracuse on Monday, then had a 15-0 run late in the first half and disposed of Temple tonight.

"We didn't treat it like a consolation game," Richmond coach Chris Mooney, standing outside of the team lockerroom, told me after the win over the Owls.

Mooney noted it was good to be part of a two-day event with three storied programs - the other team in the field was St. John's, which knocked off Syracuse in the title game. Richmond won the Atlantic 10 tourney in D.C. back in March and the 2023 event will be back in Brooklyn.

TERPS FACE PASSING FANCY
Nov. 18, 2022
COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - Maryland is 3-0 under new coach Kevin Willard and will face a big test on Saturday in Connecticut against Saint Louis out of the Atlantic 10.
The point guard for the Billikens is Yuri Collins, who has 36 assists in his first three games this season.
"He's such a willing passer," Willard, speaking to local media here on Thursday, said of Collins, leading the nation at 12.0 assists per contest. "He reads picks and rolls extremely well. He's just controlling the game; he's an old-school player - he really enjoys passing the ball."

CAPUTO OFF TO FAST START
Nov. 14, 2022
WASHINGTON - The George Washington men are at Hofstra tonight in the first road game under Chris Caputo. The Colonials won their first two games at home, downing Va. State and Howard by 10 points on Friday.

April 1, 2022
WASHINGTON - Several outlets are reporting that Chris Caputo will be the new coach at George Washington. He would replace Virginia native Jamion Christian, who was let go after three years. I guessed that GW would not be able to attract a current head coach since GW has sent the past two coaches packing after just three years. Caputo is the long-time assistant at Miami and was a key part of the staff at George Mason as the Patriots made a Final Four run in 2006. Now he will be facing Mason as a rival in the Atlantic 10.

CAVS KEEP PLAYING
March 21, 2022
WASHINGTON - About 10 days ago, St. Bonaventure was knocked out of the Atlantic 10 Conference tourney here in the nation's capital by Saint Louis. The Bonnies will be back in the DMV on Tuesday as they play at Virginia in the NIT. The game is at 7 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville.

The VCU women are on the road today playing at Princeton in the WNIT. And at the Division III level, the Randolph-Macon men won a national title for the first time on Saturday over Elmhurst in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

ROUGH DAY FOR HOKIES
March 19, 2022
WASHINGTON - It is unique when both basketball programs from the same school make the NCAA tournament. It is crushing when both lose on the same day, as the Virginia Tech clubs both lost on Friday.

The women, led by Waynesboro, Virginia native Kenny Brooks, fell at the nearby University of Maryland to a 3-point barrage by upstart Florida Gulf Coast. The Va. Tech men fell to Texas 81-73 in Milwaukee. The Maryland women, who knocked off CAA champ Delaware, will face Florida Gulf Coast on its home floor Sunday. The Delaware men lost to Villanova.

ROUGH WEEKEND FOR COACHES
March 15, 2022
WASHINGTON - The Atlantic 10 Conference wasn't kind to coaches. Three of the coaches in the 14-team league, for now, coached their last game with their 2022 team in the tourney - David Cox of Rhode Island, Jamion Christian of George Washington, and Mike McCall of UMass.

Cox is from Landover, Maryland, and is a former Georgetown assistant while Christian is the former head man at Mount St. Mary's and is from southeast Virginia. Cox and Christian were both let go in the days that their team was eliminated while UMass announced earlier this month that McCall wouldn't return.

HOKIES, SPIDERS ADVANCE
March 12, 2022
WASHINGTON - Virginia Tech and Richmond will play today after knocking off traditional powers in their respective leagues. Playing here at the Capital One Arena in D.C. the Spiders beat city rival VCU 75-64 late Friday and will face Dayton today in the semifinals. Va. Tech knocked off UNC and will face Duke today in Brooklyn in the ACC title event.

In other Atlantic 10 news, Rhode Island fired coach David Cox. A former Georgetown assistant, Cox grew up in Landover, Maryland, and played in college at William & Mary. The Rams lost Thursday in D.C. in the conference event.

FORGETTABLE DAY
March 11, 2022
WASHINGTON - At least Richmond and Va. Tech won. It was a rough day for the DMV on Thursday, as Maryland, Virginia, George Mason and George Washington all lost in college basketball tournaments.

Richmond knocked off Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tourney here in D.C. and will face rival VCU in the last of four games today. The Hokies beat Notre Dame to improve its NCAA shot and will face North Carolina today after the Tar Heels crushed the Cavaliers at the ACC tourney in New York.

The season ended for Mason and GW at the Atlantic 10 event on Thursday.

DELAWARE WILL DANCE
March 9, 2022
WASHINGTON - The winning culture at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville has made its way to Newark, Delaware.

The No. 5 seed Blue Hens upset No. 2 seed UNC Wilmington last night in D.C. to win the CAA title for the second time and for the first time since 2014 when Delaware won in Baltimore.

DeMatha product Ryan Allen had 10 points for the Blue Hens while Reggie Gardner, also from the Hyattsville school, played less than a minute. An assistant coach for Delaware is Corey McRae, who played and coached at DeMatha and played in college at Fordham.

ALLEN AIMS FOR TITLE
March 8, 2022
WASHINGTON - Delaware fifth-year guard Ryan Allen was teammates at DeMatha Catholic High with Markelle Fultz, the top pick of the 2017 NBA draft. And tonight Allen can head to March Madness - just a few minutes from his home in Bowie, Maryland.

The No. 5 seed Blue Hens will face No. 2 UNC Wilmington here in Washington in the CAA title contest. Allen is averaging 11.8 points per contest though he has come off the bench in the first two games of the tourney.

"He is a competitor, he wants the ball in his hands. I know he is excited in this last go-round to get back to D.C. in his hometown, where he played in the bright lights in high school and was part of a great tradition at DeMatha. He wants to go down there and play for a championship,” Delaware Coach Martin Ingelsby told me last week about Allen before the CAA event.

Allen was one of several players who decided to come back for another year, just for the very chance the Blue Hens have tonight in D.C.

WATCH OUT FOR CHARLESTON
March 7, 2022
WASHINGTON - The College of Charleston, which plays tonight in the CAA semifinals, certainly didn't look like a No. 6 seed Sunday.

"We lost a lot of close games," said an ardent fan of the Cougars, sitting across from the Hofstra bench in the quarterfinals Sunday.

Indeed, Charleston lost twice to Hofstra by a total of eight points in regular-season action. Some other losses by the Cougars came by two, two (OT), two, one, one, and three points this season.

So perhaps No. 2 seed UNC Wilmington isn't a lock to win over the Cougars tonight here in Washington in a game slated to start at about 8:30 p.m.
In the first game, No. 1 seed Towson will face No. 5 Delaware at 6 p.m.

John Meeks of Charleston had 22 of his 31 points in the first half Sunday as the Cougars ran up 55 points in the first stanza.

“John willed us to the win. John was sensational tonight,” Coach Pat Kelsey said. “I am glad we don’t have to see them again.”

The attendance for the game against Hofstra was 1,578 in southeast Washington at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, the home of the Mystics and the G-League team of the Wizards.

Former NBA star Speedy Claxton, the Hofstra coach, said toughness was the key for the Cougars. “This generation tends to relax when you beat a team twice; he is a tough guard,” Claxton said of Meeks. “They

Bio

David Driver is a native of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and played baseball at Turner Ashby High and Eastern Mennonite College (now University). He graduated from EMC in 1985 with a degree in English and a minor in journalism. He lived in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly 25 years and was the first sports editor of the daily Baltimore Examiner and for nearly 10 years was also the sports editor of Laurel (Md.) Leader, now part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He wrote two books on sports in 2022, and in 2023 began living in Poland with his wife to work with Mennonite Central Committee dealing with humanitarian issues in Ukraine. He covered the Nationals in the World Series year of 2019 for The Washington Times and covered the team for five years for The Sports Exchange. Read more

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From Tidewater To The Shenandoah: Snapshots From Virginia's Rich Baseball Legacy

by David Driver and Lacy Lusk

See all books

This unique book is a look at the past, present, and future of baseball in Virginia, a state which has produced five Hall of Famers and several World Series stars. It also looks at the history of minor league baseball in the big cities of Norfolk and Richmond, as well as smaller cities such as Lynchburg, Salem, and Fredericksburg. In addition, the book looks at what makes Virginia unique with amateur leagues that have been around for decades, including the Valley Baseball League and the Rockingham County Baseball League, which began in 1924.

Coastal Carolina alums find home in Poland

April 8, 2023

By David Driver
Used with permission

Former Coastal Carolina basketball star Ajay Sanders warms up before a game in Warsaw, Poland in April of 2023. Photo by David Driver WARSAW, Poland – Ajay Sanders, a key starter this season in the Polish 1Liga, was taking a break on the bench midway through the second quarter here in early April.

During a stop in play, the former Coastal Carolina basketball standout motioned to one of his teammates who had just dribbled through traffic underneath the basket.

Sanders shouted in a controlled manner that his teammate had an open shot and should have tried to convert the field goal instead of passing to another member of the squad who was adequately guarded.

A 6-foot-5 swingman, North Carolina native Sanders says being a supportive teammate and offering positive feedback is part of his duties as one of just two Americans on his team with Koszalin, a city of about 100,000 people just south of the Baltic Sea in northwest Poland.

“I feel like as an American, they expect you to do it all,” says Sanders, 27, standing on the court after scoring 17 points with seven rebounds to aid a road victory over Polonia. That came after teammate Artur Labinowicz was ejected after picking up two technical fouls.

“Winning or losing, it is going to be back on me. He got kicked out of the game, so I wanted to rally our team since we needed this win. I knew if we played together, we could get this win,” notes Sanders. Read more


Prince George’s County’s Danny Agbelese Chases His Basketball Dreams on a Uncertain Path Overseas

October 29, 2021

By David Driver
For the Washington Citypaper
Used with permission

Basketball has taken Prince George’s County native Danny Agbelese all over the world. He’s played for pro teams in Iran, Uruguay, Greece, Italy, France, and now Spain, where he has competed for several clubs in four seasons. But it is a place near to his D.C. roots where the 31-year-old, 6-foot-8 post player with a penchant for blocking shots, honed his skills that have lasted nearly a decade on the uncertain path of an American playing pro basketball overseas. Basketball has taken Prince George’s County native Danny Agbelese all over the world. He’s played for pro teams in Iran, Uruguay, Greece, Italy, France, and now Spain, where he has competed for several clubs in four seasons. But it is a place near to his D.C. roots where the 31-year-old, 6-foot-8 post player with a penchant for blocking shots, honed his skills that have lasted nearly a decade on the uncertain path of an American playing pro basketball overseas.

Agbelese, who has many relatives still living in the District, was a frequent visitor to the courts at Barry Farms in Ward 8. In bruising games against older players, he developed his post moves and the ability to challenge opponents at the rim. Among the players he faced at Barry Farms was David Hawkins, a D.C. native who played at Archbishop Carroll and Temple University, followed by several years in Europe.

“It’s amazing. You have to be built for it,” Agbelese says of those Barry Farms encounters. “The trash-talking, the intensity. It really is what bred us Maryland, D.C., Virginia players, guys that are so close. You learn the physicality, you learn the tricks. You learn things playing there.”

Agbelese played high school ball at DuVal in Lanham through 2008 and two years at a junior college in Texas. He then headed to Hampton University, a Division I school in Virginia, where he averaged 4.0 points and 3.1 blocks as a junior and 5.8 points and 2.5 blocks as a senior during the 2011-12 season.

Keith Coutreyer, the former associate head coach at Howard, helped recruit Agbelese to Hampton as an assistant. Coutreyer left the year before Agbelese arrived, then faced him in the MEAC.

“Danny was the defensive anchor on those Hampton teams,” says Coutreyer, who is now back at Hampton as an assistant. “He allowed the guards and wings to be aggressive and apply pressure upfront knowing that he was holding down the backline.” Read more