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.

Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game

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Mitchell, Hogan reportedly good to go for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- The Patriots haven't had all of their receivers simultaneously healthy and in uniform since they acquired Michael Floyd on waivers last month. That appears as though it could change Sunday. 

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, wideouts Malcolm Mitchell (knee) and Chris Hogan (thigh) are expected to play in the AFC title game. Tight end Martellus Bennett (knee) is also expected to play, per Schefter. All three were listed as questionable on the team's injury report. 

Mitchell has not seen game action since injuring his knee mid-way through the third quarter against the Jets in Week 16. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans last week, left the game in the third quarter and did not return. 

Patriots receiver Danny Amendola was also listed on this week's injury report with an ankle issue. Last week, he played in his first game since Week 13.

If Mitchell, Hogan and Amendola are all healthy enough to play, the Patriots will have their choice of five wideouts against the Steelers since Julian Edelman and Floyd are also physically able to suit up. 

Will they all be in uniform? That remains to be seen. The Patriots haven't taken five receivers on their 46-man game-day roster yet this season. However, because all five bring something different to the Patriots offense, perhaps Bill Belichick and his staff will find it valuable enough to activate all five.

If the Patriots opt to take the receiver-heavy route, they'll have to go lighter elsewhere -- perhaps de-activating a core special teamer -- in order to make room.

Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

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Bell's style, and unique talents, present challenges to Patriots defense

FOXBORO -- There are plenty of damn good running backs in the NFL but there is only one Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers star shuffles, darts and then dashes, often with bodies crashing all around him, many of them intent on doing serious bodily harm . . . but often failing.

“He’s very unique,” said linebacker Shea McClellin. “I don’t think anyone else runs quite like he does, but it’s efficient and it works.”

Defensive end Chris Long concurred: “His style is so unique, his patience, what he’s able to do with his vision. And as far as breaking tackles, being a complete player, catching the ball, he can do all that stuff.”

Now don’t get it twisted. The Pats respect the hell out of Bell, but they’d prefer they weren’t in charge of corralling him Sunday because everyone has failed during Pittsburgh’s nine-game winning streak. Bell, who played in eight of those games, has piled up over 1,500 yards from the line of scrimmage during that stretch -- 1,172 yards rushing, 336 yards receiving -- while scoring 9 touchdowns. 

“He’s really fun to watch unless you’re getting ready to play him,” said Long.

The respect Bell commands in Foxboro is evident when talking to the Pats running backs, who spoke glowingly about the former first-rounder and in LeGarrette Blount’s case, former teammate.

“No one can do what he does,” Blount told me. “They can try, but it won’t work.”

“That’s his style,” added Dion Lewis, himself a shifty fella. “You can’t try to do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the only guy that can do that.”

So how do the Pats accomplish something no one has been able to do over the last two-plus months? How do they slow Bell down, as they did back in Week 7, limiting him to 81 yards rushing (only 3.9 yards per carry)? 

“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles. [He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps.”

“If there’s space or if there’s a gap in the defense or if there’s an edge in the defense, he’s quick to take advantage of that,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told us during a conference call earlier this week. “He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really -- I don’t think you want to sit there and guess.”

If the Pats defenders, especially at the linebacker level, do that -- guess and attack a gap aggressively in attempt to make a splash play -- they may fill one gap but open two others. And that’s where a four-yard gain can turn into 40.

“Everyone on the field, it’s their job to get to him, gang tackle and be aggressive,” said Rob Ninkovich. “It can’t be just one time but every time you’re on the field.”

“There’s no one guy that can stop him,” added Belichick. “You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”

The Pats are a terrific tackling team, and haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season (actually, not since November of 2015), but the red-hot Bell will put recent history to the test.