Red Sox minor leaguer starts fundraiser for Sandy victims

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Red Sox minor leaguer starts fundraiser for Sandy victims

When the power finally came back on, five days after Hurricane Sandy battered a huge swath of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and he was able to get outside and see the devastation wrought on his hometown, Jayson Hernandez was overwhelmed. He knew he had to do something.

All of last week we had no power, said Hernandez, the Red Sox minor league catcher who grew up in Jackson, NJ.

It really gives you a lot of time to think. Just hearing the stories and seeing in my neighborhood alone, the kind of damage that was done, it really got to me and my girlfriend who was with me. We started thinking, What can we do? Late Friday night we were all hanging out, my family, my girlfriend, and I, and we thought maybe wed try to get some money together and we can donate it to the Red Cross or something.

The brainchild of that desire is Grand Slam for Sandy, christened by Hernandezs girlfriend. On Saturday, they had collected about 500. So far, with the help of some other Red Sox minor leaguers, along with fellow New Jersey natives Ryan Kalish and Andrew Bailey, that amount is over 3,000.

Hernandez, who split 2012 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, was drafted in the 41st round of the 2010 draft out of Rutgers. He went to high school at St. Rose in Belmar, NJ, where one of his teammates and closest friends was Anthony Ranaudo, the right-hander who was the Sox third pick in the first round (39th overall) in 2010. Ranaudo and right-hander Pat Light, the Sox third pick in the first round (37th overall), immediately joined Hernandez to help raise money.

This is my home, Light said. I grew up here. Ill continue to be here. Ive always thought I would raise a family here. Its extremely important to me to help rebuild my home. And any help that we can get will be extremely appreciated.

But, it will be a long time before the New Jersey they know returns.

Its pretty tough right now, Hernandez said. I was lucky to get power back after only a week. But I know theres a lot of people still without power. A lot of people lost everything. Anthony and I both went to high school in Belmar, NJ, two blocks from the beach. I had a chance to go down to Belmar on Sunday and Monday and get down to the shoreline, to the boardwalk where we practically grew up. And its gone. Everything is gone. The boardwalk is completely gone. Theres houses that are completely gone. Sand from the beach is five block up. And, honestly, its just an unbelievable sight.

Being down there those two days and driving through the streets, my girlfriend and I were dead silent. We couldnt even say a word because the amount of damage was unbelievable. But the upside of it was it was incredible to see how many people were in the streets helping out, whether it was just raking mud out of the way, helping somebody pump some water out of their house. It was unbelievable to see the kind of response that New Jersey has generated. I think a lot of people, especially local people down here, even if they did lose everything, a lot of people have a sense of pride of taking care of their own and taking care of their community. So thats very humbling and its amazing to see that.

Light considers himself fortunate that his house is still standing.

Its been rough, he said. I just got power back Tuesday night. So it was about nine days without power. It was quite cold in my house. Id go to bed and wake up in the morning freezing because it was about 32 degrees in the house. Its been tough. But the power came on last night just in time for this other storm that we got here now. Its been a tough week and a half. But well make it.

Its that sense of resiliency, along with whatever funds they can raise, that will help them rebuild.

I think the message is us as a whole and us as a country, when we work together and really do things out of the goodness of our hearts great things can come out of that, Hernandez said. And I think its showing right now.

After this tragedy it really shows the character of the people down here. And it shows that there are a lot of good people out there and a lot of people that are willing to donate stuff and give money and give time, even when they dont have that money and even when they dont have that time.

The Portland Sea Dogs are donating 1 from every ticket they sell from Wednesday through Friday to Hernandezs fundraising effort.

Jayson was such a huge presence in the Portland community last year, said Sea Dogs assistant general manager Chris Cameron. He didnt play a lot but he volunteered for everything whether it was clinics, going to schools, he did everything. And when we saw that he was leading this fundraising effort we wanted to help out him and his community. So we decided wed donate a portion of ticket sales over the next few days and try to help them out.

Hernandez has established several ways to donate to Grand Slam for Sandy:

By mail, makes check payable to Grand Slam for Sandy and mail to:

Grand Slam for Sandy
PO Box 589
Jackson, NJ 08527

By PayPal, use: jayhernan24@gmail.com
By FacebookGrandSlam4Sandy, use the Donate button (which should be active soon, if it isnt yet).

Hernandez is also looking for someone who can help set up and maintain a web page. Contact him by email at jayhernan24@live.com, if you can help.

Help. Thats all hes asking.

First impressions: Mitchell sees season-high in targets with Gronkowski out

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First impressions: Mitchell sees season-high in targets with Gronkowski out

FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hit impressions from Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Rams . . . 

* How will the Patriots offense look without Rob Gronkowski? With a week to prepare for life post-Gronk, the Patriots leaned heavily on their three-receiver sets. That meant plenty of work for rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who saw a season-high in targets with 10. Tom Brady seemed more than happy to throw to Mitchell at the line of scrimmage with the Rams playing off-coverage, leading to relatively short-but-productive gains. 

* Brady seemed to take exception with something he saw from Mitchell during a drive mid-way through the fourth quarter. On the sideline, Brady looked heated while looking over pictures of the drive with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Brady was later caught on the Fox broadcast speaking to Mitchell on the bench. As well as Brady's young lockermate has performed, it was a moment that indicated he isn't doing everything perfectly just yet. 

* McDaniels got creative early with Gronkowski gone. He used the two-back pony set to start the game and handed off to Dion Lewis for four yards. He also found success with LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots running game, using four running plays on the first five snaps of the game. McDaniels then had his offense go five-wide and he sent Julian Edelman in motion. On the subsequent drive, McDaniels turned to the screen game to try to catch Los Angeles' aggressive front off-guard. 

* The Patriots offense stalled at points thanks in part to the Rams' front: Aaron Donald blew up a run play in the second quarter and on the same drive Brady was pressured on back-to-back snaps, leading to a punt. It wasn't an immaculate day from the Patriots offense, but against a talented defensive line, and without their most dynamic offensive player, they'll take it. 

* The Patriots locked things down defensively in what was an all-around dominant performance. Malcolm Butler bounced back after a difficult game versus the Jets, allowing just two catches for 12 yards on five targets until allowing a 66-yarder to Kenny Britt. He broke up two passes and picked off a gift when tight end Lance Kendricks let a pass bounce off of his hands and into the air. Devin McCourty was sound in coverage, breaking up two passes to Britt, a fellow Rutgers product. Britt later got him back for a one-yard garbage-time touchdown. Eric Rowe appeared to play well until suffering a hamstring injury that knocked him from the game. 

* Up front, Alan Branch played with abandon fresh off of finding out that he will not be suspended four games this weekend. He had three hurries, a quarterback hit and a stuffed run to continue his strong season. Rob Ninkovich (two hurries, a hit and a sack), Trey Flowers (four hurries and a hit) and Chris Long (one hurry, three hits and a sack) were pains for rookie quarterback Jared Goff. 

* Stephen Gostkowski was a perfect four-for-four on his field goals, knocking down a 48-yarder and a 45-yarder from the right hash mark and a 45-yarder from the left hash on consecutive drives. He also made both of his extra-point attempts. 

* Some special teams notes . . . Cyrus Jones muffed a punt from "weapon," as Bill Belichick called him this week, Johnny Hekker. The punt-return job was Danny Amendola's until Amendola suffered an ankle injury that knocked him from the game. That could be a critical injury to the Patriots in the kicking game. Amendola has also been a key part of the offense on third downs and in red-zone situations. Jonathan Jones was flagged twice on special teams.