MLB Hall of Famer passes away at age 57

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MLB Hall of Famer passes away at age 57

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- In a rough-and-tumble clubhouse filled with dark secrets and constant conflict, there was always one sunny stall. Those New York Mets could count on Gary Carter to deliver -- a smile, a spark and ultimately a championship. The effervescent Hall of Fame catcher whose single for the Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday. The Kid was 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area. "Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played," Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said. Carter's bubbly personality and eagerness to excel on a ballfield made him a joy to watch at the plate and behind it. Even his Hall of Fame bronze plaque at Cooperstown shows him with a toothy grin and bears his boyish nickname -- the "Kid" forever. "I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m.," Carter's daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family website. "This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know." Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 Series helped the Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them. With curly, blond locks flaring out from beneath his helmet, and a rigid, upright batting stance, Carter was immediately recognizable. And anyone who watched Carter recognized his zest. After Carter's diagnosis, the Mets began playing a highlight reel of his accomplishments on the video board during games at Citi Field and posted this message: "Our thoughts are with you Gary. From your millions of fans and the New York Mets." "His nickname The Kid' captured how Gary approached life," the Mets said Thursday in a statement. "He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field. His smile was infectious. ... He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did." Carter played nearly two decades with the Mets, Montreal, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the Expos to their only playoff berth and was the first player enshrined in Cooperstown wearing an Expos cap. "Gary was one of the happiest guys in the world every day," Mets teammate Mookie Wilson once said. Carter was known as much for his engaging personality as his talents. He drew his nickname as an eager teen in his first major league camp and the label stuck for the rest of his career, and beyond. "An exuberant on-field general with a signature smile who was known for clutch hitting and rock-solid defense over 19 seasons," reads his Hall plaque. He was especially pumped during the biggest moment of his career. The 86 Mets were a team with big stars, giant egos and huge expectations. They had a reputation for fighting on the field -- and sometimes among themselves -- and partying hard late into the night. Drug problems derailed the careers of two gifted teammates, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Despite all their talent, the Mets were down to their last chance in the World Series when Carter stepped up with two outs. No one was on base, and New York was trailing Boston 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6. Carter said he had just one thought in mind: "I wasn't going to make the last out of the World Series." True to his word, he delivered a clean single to left field off Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi. Kevin Mitchell followed with a single, and when Ray Knight also singled, Carter scampered home from second base. As Carter crossed the plate, he clapped his hands, pointed at Wilson on deck and clapped again. Moments later, Bill Buckner's error scored Knight for an amazing 6-5 win. Carter rushed from the dugout to join the celebration at home plate, catcher's gear already on. Overshadowed by the rally was the fact that Carter had tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Then in Game 7, Carter drove in the tying run in the sixth inning, and the Mets went on to win their most recent championship. "What he added to the team was character. His approach to the game was contagious. It spread to the rest of us. He helped each of us understand what it took to win," Strawberry said. Carter homered twice over the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Game 4 and totaled nine RBIs in that Series. Since then, only two players have gotten more in a World Series (Mike Napoli for Texas in 2011 and Sandy Alomar Jr. for Cleveland in 1997 each had 10). Overall, Carter hit .262 with 324 home runs and 1,225 RBIs with the Expos, Mets, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He set the major league record for putouts by a catcher, a testament to his durability despite nine knee operations. "Driven by a remarkable enthusiasm for the game, Gary Carter became one of the elite catchers of all-time," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Like all baseball fans, I will always remember his leadership for the 86 Mets and his pivotal role in one of the greatest World Series ever played." Carter twice was the MVP of the All-Star game. He won the award in 1981 by homering twice in baseball's first game after a players' strike that lasted two months. He remains the lone player to have a two-homer performance in an All-Star game and a World Series game. Carter also set the NL record for games caught. "I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound, including location, what pitch to throw and when. Even when I didn't have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field," Gooden said. Carter, however, spent his first full season in the majors primarily as Montreal's right fielder. His first All-Star appearance came that year, in 1975, as a defensive replacement in left field for Pete Rose. Later, Carter was recognized for his contributions off the field when he was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award. Carter hit his first major league homer in September 1974 off future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton as a 20-year-old rookie -- Carter homered 11 times against the ace lefty, his top victim. Carter spent his first 11 years with the Expos and was part of a solid core that put them into the 1981 playoffs. They beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in a new first round created after the strike split the season into two halves, but lost to the Dodgers in the NL championship series. "Learning of Gary's passing feels as if I just lost a family member," former Expos pitcher Steve Rogers said. "Gary and I grew up together in the game, and during our time with the Expos we were as close as brothers, if not closer. Gary was a champion. He was a gamer' in every sense of the word -- on the field and in life. He made everyone else around him better, and he made me a better pitcher." A perennial fan favorite, Carter returned to Montreal in 1992 for one final season. His last swing was a memorable one -- he hit an RBI double in the seventh inning at Olympic Stadium, left for a pinch-runner to a huge ovation from the home crowd and walked away after that 1-0 win over the Cubs. Carter was elected to the Hall in 2003 on his sixth try. He had joked that he wanted his Cooperstown cap to be a half-and-halfer, split between the Expos and Mets. The Hall makes the ultimate call on the logo. Carter pleased Canadian fans by delivering part of his induction speech in French. Born and raised in California, he took a Berlitz course to help him learn the language after the Expos drafted him. "It's nice to know that even though my body feels like an old man now, I will always be a kid at heart," Carter said on his election. The Expos traded him to the Mets after the 1984 season for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. Carter turned out to be one of the last missing pieces on a New York team that already had the likes of Strawberry, Gooden and Keith Hernandez. He made an immediate impression -- it just took a little extra time to get it right in his Mets debut in 1985. In the season opener at Shea Stadium, Carter took strike three, had a passed ball that gave St. Louis a run and watched Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar steal a base against him. But in the bottom of the 10th inning, Carter hit a home run that won the game and drew a standing ovation plus chants of "Gary! Gary! Gary!" "What a way to start," Carter said with a grin afterward. "Hit by a pitch, strike out looking, a stolen base, a passed ball and then the home run." "There's not enough words to describe what it feels like," he said. "I'll certainly remember this the rest of my life." It wasn't the only time he bounced back from a rugged start. Slumping badly in the 1986 NL championship series, Carter hit a winning single in the bottom of the 12th to beat Houston in Game 5, putting the Mets within one win of the World Series. "Nobody loved life in a bigger way than Gary," said former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who now has the same job with the Washington Nationals. "Gary's brave battle has ended, but his from-the-gut laughter will be heard and his vitality and spirit will be felt forever. I loved him very much, and I know he is finally at peace." A two-sport athlete as a boy, Carter won the 7-year-old national division of the NFL's first Punt, Pass & Kick skills competition in 1961. He was a pitcher and shortstop in Little League and switched to catching in high school after a scout suggested it was the fastest path to the big leagues, turning down a chance to play football at UCLA. Carter stayed in baseball after his playing days ended. He became a broadcaster for the Florida Marlins, coached and managed for the Mets in the minors, managed two independent minor league teams and coached in college. Carter made it to opening day for Palm Beach Atlantic University on Feb. 2, shaking hands with each player on the team. He watched about three innings and received a standing ovation from the crowd. The Mets had invited him to spring training, which opens Wednesday. The only hint of negative publicity Carter drew came a few years ago when he appeared to be campaigning for the Mets' managing job though it was already filled. Carter, however, always had a winning touch. At the ballpark or away, he greeted fans with a hearty handshake -- many marveling at how his big right hand had swallowed up theirs. Current Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese played under Carter in 2005 and 2006. "The one thing Gary stressed to us was team. He said individual goals were meaningless," Niese said. "He said the name on the front of the uniform was more important than the name on the back. That's what I'll take from my two years with him."

Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

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Report: Patriots sign LB Jonathan Freeny to two-year extension

The Patriots have signed linebacker and special teamer Jonathan Freeny to a two-year contract extension through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Freeney, 27, was originally signed by the Patriots to a one-year free-agent deal in March 2015 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. He then earned a one-year extension last September and played 13 games, seven starts, with 50 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. 

 

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing. 

49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

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49ers' Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for national anthem ignites controversy

Colin Kaepernick was already a noteable NFL player as the one-time, and now apparently former, face of the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback likely will gain even more notoriety for his stance on refusing to stand for the national anthem at a preseason game on Friday:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

In a statement released Saturday, the NFL said players "are encouraged but not required to" stand for the anthem.

More here from Mike Florio of NBCSports.com's Pro Football Talk on Kaepernick and Florio on the NFL's statement in response.