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The SportsTalk Shop: Charlie Manuel & Eagles Preview

August 27, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment


Charlie Manuel & Eagles Preview

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

– A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Probably the greatest opening line in literature, the start of one of my favorite novels. It’s a phrase I sometimes ponder during the more hectic times of my professional year.

It is a wonderful time right now. There’s excitement over the new football season. The MLB pennant races are kicking in. The NBA and NHL seasons are right around the corner. All of the fall college and high school sports are kicking in. So much to talk about and cover. It seems there just isn’t enough time to do all the sports justice. This was especially the case this past Thursday, coming on the heels of Charlie Manuel ‘s dismissal as the Phillies manager. In addition, there was all that we had to discuss with the local Eagles/Phillies beat writers on our RCN Sports Talk show, not to mention squeezing in a few high school football comments as well.

Because of all the great expertise of Mike LoRe and Brad Wilson, the hour flew by. Time only permitted a few minutes on many different topics that needed to be addressed. Here’s a clip of just a few of the items discussed (to catch the entire program, it will be available on RCN On-Demand for the next several weeks), as well as some bits of information that the men shared this us off-air that we didn’t have time for.

Other Eagles / Phillies notes:

• The Eagles are still approximately $20 million under the cap and they CAN defer that money to next year.

• For the first time, perhaps ever — Joe Craig (our resident Eagles Homer) is not optimistic for Chip Kelly’s first year and has his Birds predicted to win less games than I do (I’m going with 9 and a playoff berth).

• Our panelist seems to hope that Rich Dubee doesn’t return as the Phillies pitching coach next year, with multiple examples of former/current players that have had poor experiences with Dubee and much more positive results with current bullpen coach Rod Nichols. Brad also doubted that Dubee’s possible departure would sway Roy Halladay in his decision to return in 2014.

• I tried to limit our panelists’ “Phillies Wish List” for improvement for 2014 to three items, but they all agreed it’s going to take more than just three ‘significant’ free agent signings to make this team a serious playoff contender. I don’t see how they can make many trades to add big time talent, with only Jonathon Papelbon as a legitimate big trade bullet. How much they could get in return for him hinges on how well he rebounds on the mound this September.

What are your Eagles’ predictions? Your thoughts on Charlie Manuel and expectations for this fall? Post a comment below and tune in each week to talk sports on Thursdays with us.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

The SportsTalk Shop: Evan Turner

August 19, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

Kudos to the RCN Marketing Department for staging a coup for us!

They arranged for an exclusive one-on-one interview with the 76ers’  staring forward and the former 2nd-overall draft pick Evan Turner  for us, and the interview came on the heels of the Sixers announcement that they FINALLY named a head coach! (Watch Evan’s reaction below when I ask him about the long process).

Before we talk about the on-the-court issues, I asked Evan about (and give him credit for not ducking those questions — including the one on his own future with the team as he’s in his last year of his contract), a quick word about Mr. Turner and his camp. I’ve been to a number of camps with pro and former pro athletes, and I was very impressed with the way that Evan conducted himself with the youngsters. He genuinely seemed interested in the kids and spent TONS of time talking with them (one youngster must’ve had his ear for at least 25 minutes). He never blew anyone off, answered everyone’s questions, and never once—even briefly—acted like he did not want to be there.

He spent time working on drills with his staff (his supporting coaches also really seemed to do a great job), and had some fun with them during individual drills (the kids, of course, loved it when he dunked). It was very nice to see an NBA star be very humble and very accommodating to his fan base. Over the last few years, we’ve gotten a number of people who say they no longer have interest in the NBA. We’ve had more than one viewer call it a “thug league,” based on some of the athletes who bring guns into locker rooms and wear gangsta clothing while on team trips, et al. I myself have never had an issue with a 76er player or a member of their organization (I covered them regularly for four years), and was happy to see that Evan did nothing to divert that opinion.

As far as the interview, we listed a few of the questions below, with the rest of the interview to be show on this Thursday’s “SportsTalk” show at 6 pm and on RCN On Demand for your viewing pleasure.

What do you think of the 76ers off-season moves, the hiring of Brett Brown as head coach, and Evan’s future with the team? Do you think he’ll ‘step-up’ with the new regime, or should the team “tank” for a higher draft pick? Post a comment below and email us at and we’ll address your comment/questions on our next program (our Aug. 22nd show will also include beat writers discussing the Eagles/NFL issues, the Phillies & Charlie Manuel’s departure, and high school sports preview features).


The SportsTalk Shop: Paul Bunyan Lumberjacks

August 13, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment


“Paul Bunyan Lumberjacks”

I must admit–when I was a kid, I always thought it would be fun to work at a fair.

Going to the Allentown Fair and other local carnivals always seemed like a fun place to hang out, and I thought it would be neat to travel around the country to new locations for a week, meet new people, host games or do some shows for several days, and then move on and do it again in another new area.

When I was first asked several years ago to do our live “RCN SportsTalk” show from the Farmerama Stage, I didn’t know how a live, local call-in show would work at this venue, especially since the Fair occurs at the absolute WORST time of year to do a show with sports celebrities—both local and national. While it’s certainly no bed of roses to plan and prepare for our three shows from the Fair, preparation actually starts in late winter. I think after a few years of putting it together (and being blessed with some wonderful guests), I begin to look forward to these programs. Aside from working hard trying to coordinate and ensure that we have the best possible shows, I’ve actually learned to have some fun myself.

In recent years, we’ve had former NFL players Chuck Bednarik, Artie Owens & Bo Orlando on our show, race car drivers and experts from Grandview Speedway racing, and awesome performances by local cheering squads to name just a few. However, I never had an experience like we had in 2012, when I had the honor of hosting our show featuring Lee LeCaptain and the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show. It was completely unrehearsed (HONESTLY!). I really didn’t know what to expect and had great anxiety—especially when I went to do an on-the-spot interview, on live television, with a man I knew was going to make me throw an ax in front of a large crowd.

I was happy with the result (the clip is below) and the RCN-TV crew (which is not an easy group to impress), actually was shocked that I hit the target while not striking any innocent bystanders in the throwing process (which is what I thought would happen).

We are honored to have Lee and his crew back for an expanded role on this year’s “SportsTalk” show at the Allentown Fair, featuring a new live demonstration along with an interview with Lee. Lee truly impresses me with his conversations and vast experience from performing all around the world, in addition to his team. We’re also pleased to have Randy Kane, Mike Feltenberger and race car drivers (and their cars!) back with us again, plus more cheerleading groups and other special shows at the Farmerama for our “SportsTalk” shows on August 27th, 28th and 29th starting at 6pm.

We hope to see you out at the fair! Please post comments below on what you would like to see Joe Craig perform for this year’s demonstrations (you’ll notice on the clip, that he claimed a ‘hip injury’ to stay on stage and steer clear of my throwing lane, which we’ll not accept for this year’s events).

The SportsTalk Shop: Eastern PA Leaders

August 5, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment


Eastern PA Leaders
There are some wonderful people in the RCN viewing area who quietly do work that often goes unnoticed, and as much as possible, I’d like to try to identify their efforts as much as possible on this blog and on our “RCN SportsTalk” program.

The first one—and I can prove that I’m not trying to suck-up here—is my son’s T-Ball coach, Dave Fries.

Actually, and I’m optimistically saying you could probably insert the name of hundreds of names here who silently do work for our young people with any recognition or financial rewards, but I want to give Coach Fries some attention.


For anyone that has spent time around three-, four-, five- and six-year olds, trying to keep them on the field (forget being focused on the game itself) is a major chore. Kids that age can have the attention span of a gnat and trying to teach them the finer points of America’s pastime can be more than trying. Add the complete lack of pay and working a full-time job, a family, mortgage, et. al, the extra burden of youth coaching may not seem worth it. But Coach Fries was extremely patient with the kids and did his best to give instructions throughout the season—even if most kids seemed more intrigued by playing in the dirt behind second base.


I purposely waited until his season was over, and got word that he has officially retired from t-ball coaching before I wrote this post to avoid any bias. Truly, he had the patience of a saint, and I think he’ll be very hard to replace when my son goes out for the team next year.

Speaking of identifying unsung heroes in our community, former sports writer Joe DeVivo is running a very special golf tournament for the second straight summer—an event in which he turned a tragic event in his family’s life, into a fun outing that’s used to help out local students.

The second annual Joseph J. DeVivo Memorial Golf Tournament, which pays tribute to Joe’s dad, who was abducted from his home in the Poconos and murdered in 2012, was held on Sunday, July 21 at Country Club of the Poconos in Marshalls Creek (because of a technical issue, we weren’t able to post this prior to the event). Last fall, thanks to the generosity of individual and corporate donors, we established the Joseph J. DeVivo Memorial Scholarship Fund and were able to raise $9,000 for Ashley Kennedy, a graduating senior at East Stroudsburg North High School.

Last year, they gave out 135 prizes, so practically everybody got something. Most won 3 or 4 prizes and one woman won nine. They have a large number of very good raffle prizes again including tickets to the Aug 4 NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway, baseball tickets for the regional minor league teams, greens fees to a variety of golf courses in Northampton County and the Poconos, “Day at the Races” packages and numerous restaurant gift cards in the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos. More information is available on its new website (click on the tourney’s name above for the link).

Who are some other community leaders and coordinators who deserve some notice? Post your suggestions below as we try to salute people who very quietly do wonderful work in our area.


The SportsTalk Shop: Trade Deadline ’13 Thoughts

July 29, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment


Trade Deadline ’13 Thoughts

With everyone calling for the Phillies to “sell” and begging Ruben Amaro Jr. to call up nearly every significant prospect in the Phillies farm system (I had one viewer e-mail me the Phillies starting lineup that he’d like to see for 2014—and it included only two names on the current MLB roster!), let’s take a breath and take a realistic view of the players who COULD be in the majors at some point.

Of these two players, Cody Asche is by far having the best Triple-A season among the “prospects,” and probably the most realistic shot at starting opening day with the Phillies a year from now. However, while everyone I’ve spoken with loves his glove, he looks to be—at best—an “average” hitter, with very little power (a little more than Ben Revere, a smart base runner, but with average speed.

As for Tyson Gillies, Amaro spoke VOLUMES when the Phillies desperately needed someone to replace Revere—and later Dominic Brown—and he responded by keeping three catchers, and re-calling light-hitting Michael Martinez and journeyman Steve Susdorf ahead of him. It may not be unreasonable to think that Gillies, Phillippe Aumount, and J. C. Ramerez—the three players acquired for Cliff Lee back in 2009—all might be out of the Phils’ organization by the end of the 2014, instead of leading their re-building process.

Darin Ruf was another player I’ve often been asked about. I saw quite a bit in Triple-A and, at times, looked like a competent Major League bat. He would work the count many times, but also got frustrated when teams tried to pitch around him. I don’t know if he’s the left fielder of the future the Phillies need him to be — although with Ryan Howard’s tenuous injury status, he might be a guy that has a long career with the Phillies as an extra man, providing pop off the bench.

Adam Morgan and Greg Smith were the pitchers that impressed me the most so far this summer, although the latter may not have the velocity it takes to be a steady Major League starter.

Honestly, from what I’ve seen and from what I’m hearing, I don’t know if there’s much minor league help on the near-horizon, with the exception of Double-A third baseman Maikel Franco and southpaw Jesse Biddle, and Amaro’s insistence on not trading away these few precious commodities support that theory. (I’m not including Freddie Galvis with these names as he clearly was sent down to the minors to get some at-bats and be ready with whatever hole they’ll need him to fill next). With inherent raises in store for some returning Phillies players (and significant upgrades for an arbitration guy like Kyle Kendrick), I don’t know if the team will have much financial flexibility to acquire very many new names—certainly not enough to solve all the team’s current question marks?

What players currently in the organization do you like and/or want to see more of? What direction should the Phillies head next? Among our guests on the August 22nd edition of “SportsTalk” (live at 6 pm on RCN-TV) will be Phillies Beat Writer Brad Wilson, who will talk about the Phillies, Eagles and other local and national sports issues. Send your comments to and we can read and respond to your comments on that program.

The SportsTalk Shop: Connie Mack Baseball

July 10, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment


Connie Mack Baseball

It was our pleasure for RCN SportsTalk videographer Mike Kingsley and myself to attend the Connie Mack All-Star Game at Limeport Stadium. This year was a little extra special due to the league’s season-long anniversary celebration for its 60th year of existence. It gives young athletes a place to play under-the-lights (which is still a big deal to many 14 to 16 year-olds) and to play in this special venue. While the score itself is not important, it definitely had more-than-the-normal number of highlights—both offensively, defensively, and on the mound—in addition to some unique experiences. A few of them include:

* Lehigh Township’s Matt Miller coming through with multiple hits in clutch situations to give the “Green Team” a lead it would not relinquish.

* Pen Argyl’s Zach Luke striking out the side in his one inning of work (to allow for more pitchers getting into the game, pitchers were limited to just one inning).

* The “bull-rush” of players who stormed the pizza guy when it arrived later in the evening. I gave a heads-up to stay out of the players’ way when it was delivered, and quickly realized the warnings were on-the-mark when the entire dugout of 27 players (per side) emptied on-mass to gobble down the complimentary meal.

* The “thank you’s” we received for coming to this event were not necessary, but very much appreciated. We’d love to spend more time at community events and try to cover as many local organizations as possible. It was our pleasure to showcase the kids who work so hard at this wonderful game of baseball

We’re going to have more highlights and be talking in much more detail about Connie Mack’s 60th Anniversary season on the July 25th edition of “RCN SportsTalk” (which will be live from 6-7 pm on RCN-TV). It would be great if fans of this organization would contact us with their support for the league and thoughts on Connie Mack’s past, present, and future. Below is a sample of the video we shot and comments from the “winning” All-Star Team members:

Feel free to post a comment or question on Connie Mack baseball and send us an email at Tune in on July 25th at 6pm on RCN-TV as we’ll be reading and responding to your comments, as well as talking more about America’s Pastime and this special youth organization.

The SportsTalk Shop: Blue Mountain League Thoughts

July 2, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

SportsTalk Shop: Blue Mountain League Thoughts

It’s always good to sit down and chat with the people of Blue Mountain League, as we had President Bob Varju, Secretary/Treasurer Tim Fisher and Orioles Player/Manager Dave Stoudt on our most recent “RCN SportsTalk” show. In addition to talking about the first half of the season, their charity All-Star event and previewing what looks to be a certain horse race for the top four playoff spots this summer, we had to spend some time talking about the man the league was dedicating this season to, the legendary Ron Punkin Miller, and how much he meant to the league and to this area:

The entire show is available on RCN’s Video-on-Demand for free for the next several weeks.

A few other items we discussed during the program and in-between segments during our commercial breaks (when Fisher wasn’t chopping me to bits:)

 • If you haven’t been following along, this is one of the most competitive BML seasons in recent memory; as recently as this past Tuesday, there were four teams tied for first, and two more teams no more than a game-and-a-half back.

• Although rain has been a major issue and most team are very backed-up with numerous games left to be played with less than a month left in their season, pitching on most nights as been very solid. We had a nice 2-1 pitchers’ duel last Tuesday on RCN’s “Game of the Week” and there have been a bunch of young pitchers stepping up and performing well.

• Speaking of youth, how about all the major contributions of the rookies and one- and two-year players this season! It used to be rare for more than one rookie on a team to earn even a regular starting role, but the talent of the league this year has really been on the rise with multiple rookies per team making significant contributions. This should make for some great careers to come for individuals and for the league.

• Northampton Giants’ first baseman Dave Gulick has been making bats, not just for the BML, but also for local teams, minor league teams, and even bats that were used in the World Baseball Classic. If you want a good deal, get in contact with him.

What are your memories of Punkin? What BML teams have impressed you so far this season, and which squads are most likely to make the playoffs? Post a comment or email them to

The SportsTalk Shop: 2013 Phillies Judgement Day

June 24, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

The Day of Reckoning is Coming … Soon!

The time for evaluating the current Philadelphia Phillies ball club is nearly over. There are very few games left for any one player to try to disprove what he actually has shown in his ability through the first 74 games of the regular season. The now pseudo-trade deadline — and with so many teams still in the hunt for the extra wild card spot (can you believe the Padres are actually ahead of the Phils?) — is a month away, and some very long, hard decisions will have to be made regarding some of the longest tenured, and most beloved Phillies ball players of all-time.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can kiss Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins & Philly fan favorites good-bye over the next 30 days. However, decisions will have to be made to realistically pursue offers to trade these athletes that will go down as the greatest players in club history at their respective position. Names like Utley and Rollins will be given serious consideration someday for baseball’s most precious honor — the Hall of Fame. But that is — or at least — SHOULD BE IRRELEVENT NOW. This Phillies team is NOT going to win a World Series as is. They are not “a player or two” away, nor is one more player returning from the disabled list going to put this team over the top. They cannot wait any longer — they have to change the dynamics of these teams, and unfortunately, they are being buoyed by players that are practically UNTRADEABLE due to their weighty contracts.

Consider these facts about the Phightin’ Phils that are indisputable, and are contributing directly to the team’s current status (as of this writing) of four games under the 500-mark and an ebbing eight-game back of the division-leading Braves:

• The fact that Cole Hamels has accumulated 11 losses before the second day of summer is UNACCEPTABLE. The Phillies pour the majority of their “free agent monies” into Hamels’ pocketbook and pretty much denied the team from trying to add any type of significant offensive has — at least for this season — proven to be a major mistake. Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson and J. R. Richards in their prime would have difficulty pitching to a .500-record with this offense behind him, and the fact that King Cole has had lapses in concentration even when given a lead cannot be tolerated when so much was riding on this season (in particular, his pitching arm).

• The fact that Ryan Howard (while riding his current $125-million contract) is battling an injury does not excuse his poor approach in the batters’ box. If he cannot base his back foot and launch mammoth home runs to even the deepest ball parks, as he has done in the past, then he has to change his approach and find a way to drive in balls via other avenues (i.e., hitting the ball the other way, working the count late in games when the team is down by more than one with no one on base, et al). The fact that his batting average dropped 15-points when Dom Brown was moved behind him for “protection” while Brown went on one of the most torrid offensive tears this team has seen in decades is proof that Howard’s lack of ANY significant offensive production (he took TWO ‘golden sombreros’ over the last several weeks) does not have, or worse yet, no longer has, the ability to carry this team means this team has to make some major changes over the next month.

These are the team’s leaders. They have not been on the disabled list nor have any other acceptable excuses, and they have not lived up to the trust the Phillies’ front office put upon them — rightly or wrongly — this past winter. The players they have around them are simply not good enough to overcome these glaring shortcomings.

What other major problems are contributing to the Phillies dismal record through the first three months of the season, and what SHOULD the Phillies do before the “trading deadline?” Post a comment with your thoughts on this team’s future and what moves you think need to occur this summer.


The SportsTalk Shop: A Game of Community Spirit

June 13, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

The SportsTalk Shop: “A Game of Community Spirit”

One of the responsibilities in my role as an on-air presence in the media is that I am privileged to be asked to speak at banquets and in classrooms, to emcee programs and to be asked to participate in special events. One of my favorite activities I continue to be asked to participate in is the Sacred Heart Celebrity Basketball game, played each year at the famed Rockne Hall in Allentown.
It’s not the biggest event of the year, nor does it warrant a healthy admission fee. However, it is a very special occurrence that the students, faculty and staff of the Archdiocese look forward to every year. It is the climax of a special week of activities in the school district. The basketball game is the brainchild of Morning Call writer and Sacred Heart Middle School Principal Jim Krupka … truly one of the very special school leaders in the community. Jim not only works tirelessly with the students in his building, but you frequently see him out in the community at Central Catholic events. He’s always there to support his kids in their endeavors, whether it be football, basketball, a school play or just about any activity a Viking student is involved in.
After a busy week of many diverse activities, the “celebrity” game features a team of politicians, community leaders, past and/or present standout Central Catholic players and others (that’s me) who take on the Sacred Heart students, faculty and staff members on the other squad.

The statistics from the game are of no importance (I went 5-7 from the floor, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO and an embarrassingly badly missed wide-open layup). Truth be told, our objective each year is to have a lead late in the game to try to make us feel good about ourselves and our ..uh, ahem … athletic ability. We only “let” the other team win so that the kids also feel good about themselves (some years it’s MUCH easier to lose than others), which is a much more important goal.

The real gem of this activity is the bonding and school-spirit that is evident each year among the student body. In an age where you don’t go too many days without seeing a negative report on the news regarding schools and an adverse student-faculty relationship (there have been 3 ominous news events to this effect in the Lehigh Valley in just the last month), it is refreshing to see the bond the people at Sacred Heart have with each other. This event includes administration, teachers, students, parents, family and friends all coming together and cheering one another on. There’s no razzing, taunting, nor ever a negative comment said during this event. Each year I take a moment and absorb the good-feelings exchange exhibited by the teachers and students at this event. I’m truly impressed and admire the respect that these two groups show for each other at this time.

I remember one student vs. faculty game when I was in high school (before buses were invented, of course). There was shouting and heckling of the teachers and non-playing teachers were getting on students. The students who weren’t skipping school at that point could really care less what was happening on the court and were just thrilled to get out of their final classes for the week. It wasn’t necessarily a “bad” event, but it never really was a “fun”, school-spirited event. We certainly didn’t feel “unified” at this one-time game.

That’s not the case at this annual event. Several of the school leaders say a few words before the game, usually invoking a feeling of thankfulness of what we do have, and compassion for people who may not have the good fortune or the ability to participate in everyday duties we sometimes take for granted. With all the talk of anti-private schools in the community (see some of our other blog posts), this event helps the students rally around a feeling of pride for their school community. For this event, there are no thoughts of school politics, nor even a care about the final score.

A big thrill for me is to have played on the same court over the years with some of the all-time great Vikings and Vikettes basketball players — a few of them have gone on to be major starts on the collegiate level. This year I was honored to call Central Catholic current standout athletes Mike Kammerer and Jim Vaughn my teammates. It was interesting after having announced their games for RCN over the last several years and seeing them develop into wonderfully gifted adults. The players I face on the Sacred Heart team each spring include athletes that I’ll see a couple years from now playing for the varsity teams. Hopefully, they might even be writing their names in the Central Catholic history books! A recent player I played “against” in this game was current Viking star Jean-Lee Baez, who you could tell in 8th grade was going to be a great talent on the Lehigh Valley basketball scene.

Overall, it’s a fun day for everyone involved and I’m truly honored to have been able to play in most of the 18 games that have been held each spring. If only other school districts could come together and celebrate people’s unique talents, while at the same time bonding together for a common goal — even if it’s just to pummel a bunch of (mostly) out-of-shape and past their prime “celebrities” (that’s me again) in a game of hoops.

The SportsTalk Shop: Mike & Brian Schneider

June 4, 2013 By Chris Michael Leave a Comment

Keith Groller is one of my heroes.


Let me explain…

I was covering Philadelphia pro sports teams in the early 90s and would frequently chat with him at the old Spectrum when he had the 76ers beat for the Morning Call. As many sports fans know, the Sixers’ squads during this time period were some of the worst teams in modern day Philly sports. I was still thrilled to be covering pro sports teams for local radio stations, and thought I had a healthy jump on the “normal path to success” as a sportscaster by covering a pro team in a major market—even if the team was pathetic and the players were less-than-exhilarated to be interviewed each night on the new ways that they had discovered to LOSE games. Quite frankly, many players I interviewed showed little desire to play basketball—let alone deal with the same media members night in and night out.

Long story short. Keith did the unthinkable and committed what I thought at that time was career suicide by giving up his pro sports beat and instead, focused his work on high school sports. Once I got married and started to raise a family, I realized that Keith might actually be onto something, and that there were actually rewards to NOT covering pro sports. One of those advantages was the chance to deal with people who actually ASK a writer or broadcaster coming to their events. Subsequently, I found out that covering local sports gives you an opportunity to get to know and understand athletes on a much better level than the abrasive “stick-a-microphone-in-their-face” style of interviewing that is conducted with most major leaguers.

Enter the Schneiders.

Mike was…is…and may forever be one of the most helpful people on the planet. In numerous ways over the years, he’s helped myself, as well as other media members, in ways too many to mention in one blog post. One of his many gifts was that of a coach and an educator, and one of his greatest “products” was his nephew, Brian, who this January retired from Major League baseball after an 18-year professional baseball career that included stops in New York, Washington, and even for his hometown Phillies. Ironically, he was also one of the first high school stars I had the good fortune to cover in my role as a ‘non-pro sports’ media guy, only to have him become one of the greatest MLB players who grew up here in Northampton County.

Through his experiences, which included playing for Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, being the catcher for Barry Bonds’ record-breaking home run, playing in the World Baseball Classic, catching the greatest Phillies pitching rotation of all time, et al, he has continued to remain classy and speaks of great pride when he discusses his hometown of Northampton. He has continued to reach out to the community, donate his time to local charities and, as I learned from speaking with him, finds great rewards in trying to help young catchers and potential major league players by sharing his baseball wisdom. In a way, I felt like I had come full circle by having the pleasure of him being on our show to discuss his career, both on-and-off the field. Here’s a clip of our “SportsTalk” show in which he discusses what it was like to catch the first ball thrown out by then-President George Bush at the first-ever Washington Nationals home baseball game:

Brian Schneider and President Bush

Brian also has developed a close relationship with one of the greatest players in Phillies history, Chase Utley. Ironically, Brian was in the locker room (as a visitor) and talked with Utley about his recent injury, just a few hours before Brian appeared on our show. We asked Brian about Chase’s injured oblique, the truth about his sometimes “distant” persona with the media and whether Utley—a free agent after this season—would return to Philadelphia next year:

Brian Schneider Discusses Chase Utley

Thanks (AGAIN!) to Mike for helping us in setting up the interview (the entire show is available on RCN’s video-on-demand for free for several weeks). Because of people like Mike and Brian Schneider and the professional way they conduct themselves as individuals, it can rejuvenate ‘local’ sports fans, in more ways than they can probably imagine.

Feel free to post comments about your memories of Brian as a amateur athlete from the Valley, and as a Major League ballplayer, and let us know if there’s other “home grown” athletes you’d like to mention that “made it big.”

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