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Sunday Sports Mailbag

Blair County missed message

February 3, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
I question some of the comments made about Darryl Strawberry in last Saturday’s Mirror.

We have enough hate and prejudice in this world, and my opinion is that the Altoona Mirror has perpetuated the Hot Stove dinner controversy regarding Darryl Strawberry and the threatening and racist e-mails received by Chuck Navasky.

We have all made mistakes, and I don’t think Strawberry should be condemned. I had the opportunity to be with Darryl last week. I found him to be a wonderful person. He spoke openly about his drug use and abuse and his two bouts with cancer.

I wish the people in Blair County could have heard him speak. He talked about being a changed man and actually brought tears to your eyes when he talked about being transformed.

He is now a loving and caring person who has a passion and purpose in life, especially when it comes to his foundation for helping autistic children and helping the Navasky Foundation find a cure for cancer. It took a little town like Philipsburg to bring this big message to light.

Jaye and Chuck Navasky put on a wonderful dinner. The program also included Mickey Rivers, former New York Mets and Yankees outfielder, Mike Rozier, Heisman Trophy winner at Nebraska and former Houston Oiler, and Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the late Pittsburgh Pirate legend.

All of the guests took the time to talk to anyone in the room and posed for pictures and signed autographs both before and after the affair was over.

The answer to the question, ‘‘Who needs Darryl Strawberry?’’

We all do. Especially the new and improved Darryl Strawberry.

Donald E. Witherspoon

President, Blair County chapter


Curve making imprint

I looked across the basketball floor at the Summit Tennis & Athletic Center and there they were, two major league pitchers playing a game of HORSE with some local kids.

A few minutes later I was playing with them. Cool.

The next night, I go to the Altoona Curve Hot Stove banquet, and I get in to a silent (and friendly) bidding war for an autographed picture of Nolan Ryan with Pittsburgh Pirate starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny. Cool.

The next day I’m sitting in a coaches clinic at the Blair County Convention Center asking Pirate third base coach Tony Beasley about tips on how I can be a become a better third base coach for my team. Very cool.

So what’s my point? When I was a kid, the closest I ever got to a major league baseball player was the nose-bleed section of Three Rivers Stadium or my shoebox full of my favorite players’ baseball cards.

Times have certainly changed, and it’s all because the people at the Altoona Curve, starting with Todd Parnell, care about our community. They look for ways to give back to our community, and thanks to their unending efforts, those of us who love baseball are getting treated almost on a daily basis to what used to be just a baseball fairy tale.

I knew when we got a Double-A team in Altoona that it would be good for our area. I just didn’t know it would be this good. Wins or losses, truthfully, don’t really matter to me. The Curve are my favorite hometown team because of what they do off the field.

Oh, and by the way, Gorzelanny won the bidding war!

Mark Helsel


PSU ship sinking?

Penn State seems to be getting light years further away from what Big Ten presidents and their athletic directors are doing to better their football and men’s basketball programs.

We are on a par with Northwestern, as small as it is in enrollment. I don’t know if Graham Spanier and Tim Curley are simply afraid of Joe Paterno or does he have something over them?

What do they do with Ed DeChellis and Troy Sunderlund? Maybe it is case of finances. The university simply does not want to spend money to get better, more high-profile coaches to replace DeChellis, Sunderlund and even a replacement for Joe.

Les Hart


Florida State is no example

Florida State is the university where the booster club can fire football coaches [ie: offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden].

Now we are being asked to admire the succession plan recently entered into with coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher. And where will assistants Chuck Amato, Mickey Andrews, Rick Trickett, Jody Allen, Lawrence Dawsey, Odell Haggins, John Lilly, Dexter Carter and Todd Stroud be when (or before) Fisher becomes the head coach? They’ll be gone.

What kind of a transition plan is this? And what will Fisher do about his $2.5 million buyout agreement if he wishes to leave Florida State before he is named head coach? That’s easy, he will shred it and walk out the door in the middle of the night.

This follows the precedent set by the new head coach at the University of Michigan.

It would seem to me that what’s going on at Florida State is not worth knowing about.

Lou Miller


A view from within ‘Ridge’

I am writing this in response to Nate Cobler’s fairy tale “view from the Ridge” printed in last Sunday’s Mailbag.

With freedom of speech, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I believe if you are going to state facts, they should be correct.

First of all, Chestnut Ridge did not return an experienced team from last year unless you consider one returning starter a lot of experience. They also have two returning players with minimal playing time.

Earning a varsity letter at the end of blowout games against the other teams’ jayvee players, I would not call gaining valued varsity experience. Last year’s team had a .500 record and did make the playoffs, a feat that this year’s team can do as well.

Experience does not come with how old you are but how much valued playing time is seen, and this year’s coach started with very little.

Yes, Chestnut Ridge does have a young team that consists of three freshmen, one sophomore, one junior and two seniors of its top seven players that have played very competitively against some very good teams the second half of the season so far.

I attend all of the games, and, yes, I am a parent of one of those young ladies that works hard to win.

I have seen this team make strides from the beginning of the year to present, and that is a credit to the current coach.

Personal issues should not use twisted facts as an excuse for displeasure. As a coach, you can never make everyone happy so you just keep working hard and moving forward to improve yourself and the team as the year progresses.

I have seen improvement, and that is what I look for during the season, going forward and not backwards.

That is how a coach should be graded not on how many people they made happy during the season, and this coach has displayed these qualities with this team.

Larry B. Weyant

Alum Bank

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