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This Homer Will Go Down In Washington Nationals History

I normally don’t make a big deal out of only one hit, but the one hit Kyle Schwarber recorded Friday night to walk off the game and give the Washington Nationals a 1-0 win is going to end up somewhere in Nationals folklore as the longest distance a baseball has ever travelled in the most powerful city in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, that ball was smashed. It looked like the scene from the movie Bull Durham, where Nuke LaLoosh tells Crash Davis "he hit that like he knew it was coming" and Crash tells him "he did. I told him." When Bob Uecker in the movie Major League talked about a ball being crushed toward South America, he was talking about the ball Schwarber hit.

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Something's Happening Here, What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear

Have you noticed what’s going on at Texas A&M these days?

Before we go any further, this is not a story to bash former Hokie Coach Buzz Williams. It’s also not a story to suggest any of these players mentioned are coming to Blacksburg.

But a few things have happened that seem interesting. At least to me they are. 

One is Jamie McNeilly reportedly leaving the Texas A&M staff to take a similar position under new head coach Ben Johnson at Minnesota. McNeilly was with the Hokies as an assistant under Williams for five years in Blacksburg, and was the backbone of Williams’ Canada connection. He was the key assistant in getting future NBA player  Nickeil Alexander-Walker to come to Virginia Tech.

McNeilly then went with Williams to Texas A&M and has continued that connection to top Canadian players. All told, McNeilly was with Buzz for 13 years including his time on Williams’ staff at Marquette.  But now after all that time together, he’s making a lateral move to Minnesota.

I’d have thought when they broke up the band between them, McNeilly would be leaving for a head coaching job.

At roughly the same time, the two players on the Aggies’ roster who are from Canada – Emmanuel Miller and Cashius McNeilly – both entered the transfer portal. Both have slight ties to Virginia Tech as Miller – who was Texas A&M’s leading scorer last season – signed with Virginia Tech while Williams was still the coach in Blacksburg. He asked for and was granted his release, then he followed Williams to the Lone Star State.

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Hokies Add Size, Depth With Signing Of 6-8 Jalen Haynes

You have to hand it to Mike Young and the Hokies: They sure are good at keeping their interest in a player close to the vest.

Virginia Tech sort of surprised everyone late this afternoon when they announced the signing of incoming freshman Jalen Haynes. He’s 6-8, 215 pounds, from Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, FL and comes to the Hokies after playing a post-scholastic year at Montverde Academy last season. He’s been reclassified as a class of 2021 recruit, so he will be a freshman this fall.

"Jalen possesses the type of skill and size we are looking for in our program," Young said in a press release. "He reminds me of a lot of good players I have had the privilege of coaching in the past and we are excited to bring him to Virginia Tech. Jalen comes from a very good high school program and he has a great understanding of the game of basketball. We are excited for his future as a Hokie."

The signing continues Young’s remarkable string of signing players that seem to be exactly what the Hokies need to take the next step. Needing more scoring at the point, Young got Storm Murphy to transfer from Wofford and provide just that; needing a true center, the Hokies also picked up 7-foot transfer Michael Durr.

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I'd Be OK If They Removed April 16 From The Calendar

Tomorrow is April 16, and for me, if anyone wanted to start a campaign to remove the date from the calendar, I’d be all for it. Every April 16, I wake up and hear the same two phrases and can't get them out of my mind.

The first involves two words I heard on a police scanner on the morning of April 16, 2007: “31 Black.”

It was a Monday, and I was the general manager of a local radio station called WAGE in Leesburg. Immediately that morning, phone calls started coming in from parents who had children at Virginia Tech, asking “what is going on in Blacksburg?”

We were clueless. There was nothing on the news yet, but the frequency of the calls and the nervousness in the voices indicated something big was going on. We all started making calls and soon word came out that there had been a shooting at the Ambler-Johnston dorm. One dead, shooter on the loose.

Thanks to a suggestion from friends in Blacksburg, we soon figured out how to listen in on police band transmissions at Virginia Tech. I connected with it on one computer and turned the sound up as loud as it would go. I then grabbed another computer and was able to pick up streaming video from a Roanoke television station so we might be able to hear or see things as they were happening.

While monitoring these, I selectively listened to each for a few moments at a time. I’d walk back and forth between there and the studio to see if they heard anything, and just as I came back to my desk, I heard the end of a transmission with a voice saying “31 black.” Nobody at the station knew what it meant. All we knew was police were only reporting one fatality.

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This Would Seem To Indicate Bede Isn't Coming Back

It’s never really been said specifically if Virginia Tech guard Wabissa Bede is coming back for the extra year the NCAA is allowing all players due to the COVID pandemic.

But this graphic Virginia Tech Men's Basketball sent out about Storm Davis today would seem to confirm he is not.

Storm coming to Virginia Tech is old news, and I wrote about it several weeks ago. But look closely at the jersey he’s wearing in the graphic. It’s No. 3. Bede’s number.

Now I suppose Bede could still come back and wear a different number. But there’s an old rule of thumb in sports: when they give your number to someone else, it’s a strong hint that you may not be a priority in the team’s plans for next season.

I think Bede still has a lot to offer and would be an excellent graduate assistant on the sidelines next season. He knows the offense, knows the player, and seems to still have a fire inside him for the game.

But as for suiting up and playing? When they give your number away, you’re probably not.

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ACC Getting Closer To Telling Us What We Already Know

I’m not sure what the ACC is trying to accomplish, but they sure seem to be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in regards to when Virginia Tech is going to play its season opener against North Carolina.

A month ago, the schedules were released for all the ACC Schools, but the time and date for the UNC-VT game was left intentionally vague. It was going to be either on Thursday September 2 or Friday September 3, and there was no time or what channel it would be televised on.

“It’s going to be a Friday game, probably at 8 PM on one of the ESPNs, probably the main one,” I thought.

Today the league confirmed at least the game would be played on Friday, Sept. 3, but still no word of a time or who is televising it. They did at least say it would be in prime time, again, something obvious. You don’t play a game at 1 PM in late-summer heat on a day people have to go to work.

I say it will probably be on one of the ESPNs because the only other option would be the ACC Network, which would mean ESPN – which owns the ACC Network – would be competing with itself. Plus the only other games scheduled for Sept. 3 are Old Dominion at Wake Forest, St. Francis at Eastern Michigan, and Northern Colorado at Colorado.

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Basketball's Plan I Understand; Football? Not So Much

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he mentioned I sure seemed more interested in Virginia Tech basketball these days than football.

I hadn't really thought about it that way, but I guess I am.

It’s certainly not a matter of disliking a coach, players or anything like that. Upon reflection, I'd say I've just gotten to a point where with basketball, I understand what’s going on. I can watch a game, see what Mike Young is trying to do, understand that it’s not just 5 guys out on the floor freelancing, and they are running sets, motion and plays specifically designed to counter the strength of the other team.

It doesn’t always work, and sometimes it blows up in Virginia Tech’s face, but I at least see the plan. More importantly, when I see something that doesn’t work, I tend to see in the next game a strategy designed at making sure that doesn’t happen again. No coach is ever going to have all the answers, and for every great win, there’s going to probably be a bad loss somewhere in there.

But after those bad losses, I look to see if the coach pushes buttons to address that. If the buttons he pushes work, it shows a control of his team and a respect from player to coach that both trust each other.

I also see in the basketball team a strategy that calls for certain types of players, and each year, it seems I can understand what Young thinks he needs. This offseason it looks like he needs a point guard who can score. BOOM. He gets one. He needs a legitimate center to free his talented forwards playing out of position in the lane and BOOM. He gets one.

It’s not a matter of me liking or not liking the moves, either. But the understanding of where the team is going, seeing the progress toward the strategy that seems apparent, and watching the entire group buy into this gives me confidence. And thus makes me more and more interested in every detail.

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Virginia Tech's Aluma Testing The Waters With The NBA

Last night, Keve Aluma, Virginia Tech’s leading scorer this past season, tweeted he was putting his name in the NBA hat to see what interest pro teams may have in him.

“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my options and enter my name for the 2021 NBA draft while still maintaining my eligibility as a Hokie,” Aluma tweeted. “Can’t wait to see what God has in store for me and go Hokies.”

I think it’s a good move, as he can see what the response is from the NBA and still return to college with no penalty. Plus I don’t think you have to worry about Keve not wearing orange and maroon next season either.

What Aluma is doing is no different than interviewing for a job you have a slim chance at. If you get it, fantastic. But more than likely in those situations, they tell you why you won’t be considered, tell you the skills and experience the eventual winner will have that you don’t have at the time, and allows you to go back home, develop a game plan, and put yourself in a situation to be ready to take that job a year or two later.

I like Keve doing this because he appears to be a goal-oriented hard worker. The player he was at Wofford – where he played in 68 games and averaged seven points and seven rebounds a game – is not the same player he was at Virginia Tech that averaged 15.2 points per game and 7.9 rebounds. It is clear he spent his red-shirt year working hard on his game, spent a lot of time in the weight room, and had a goal in mind of the player he and Mike Young wanted him to be.

It’s why he reminded me of an old saying about “I worked hard for years to become an overnight sensation” when announcers seemed to wonder where he came from. And I believe he knows he still has work to do if he wants to play in the league that pays you millions.

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Hokies Add The 7-Footer They've Both Wanted And Needed

At first, the story of Virginia Tech’s off-season was more about the players leaving the basketball team via the transfer portal.

Now, Hokie fans are starting to see who is going to take their place.

Not soon after the season ended, Jalen Cone and Joe Bamisile entered the portal, with Cone landing at Northern Arizona University and Bamisile going to George Washington. Today, the portal went the other way as the Hokies got a commitment from the big man they’ve both wanted and sorely needed, 7-foot, 250-pound Michael Durr.

Durr is a transfer from the University of South Florida, the same place the Hokies acquired Zach LeDay back when Buzz Williams was coaching. He was a 3-star out of high school, and in three seasons with USF, averaged 5.7 points and 6.2 rebounds his freshman year, 6.7 points and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore, and last season had 8.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

He is a true center, which Virginia Tech hasn’t had in a long time. Keve Aluma has played the center position, but his style of play is more suited for the 4 position, which this commitment frees Aluma to move to. Both Aluma and Justyn Mutts have been very effective scoring under the basket, but the Hokies haven’t had a true rim protector who mixes it up underneath. This fills that need.

After Virginia Tech lost in the first round of the NCAA’s, many – including me – have pointed out that the team seriously needed two things: a point guard who could score and a true big man. The Hokies have gotten a commitment from Storm Murphy to address the guard situation, as the 6-foot 180-pound guard who averaged 17.8 points per game last season for Wofford now joins proven scorers Hunter Cattoor, Naheim Alleyne and Tyrece Radford to give Virginia Tech quite a backcourt punch.

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The Story Of Jack Hemingway and "Fact Man"...

Ernest Hemingway seems to be trending these days due to the Ken Burns series running this week on PBS. On Twitter, my friend Rick Snider (@Snide_Remarks) described the series as “both brilliant and boring and both things can be true” and at least for me, that’s a perfect description of the man himself.

Burns has done a great job in capturing Hemingway, but one of my greater memories in life is having a front row seat of Hemingway’s life with someone who knew the subject better than anyone: his oldest son.

At the time back in the mid-1990s, Jack Hemingway (who passed away in Dec. of 2000 at the age of 77) and his family decided they wanted to license a furniture collection based on the works of his father. They came to my company, Thomasville Furniture, and as it turned out, we had a collection already designed that we were debating what to do with. It was an eclectic mix of materials and styles from factories in the Phillipines, Viet Nam, China and other places in Southeast Asia, and a story could easily be woven about Hemingway from these pieces.

Thomasville said yes, and a few days later, the president of the company (who loved Hemingway) came to my office with a big box of books. “Listen, I’ll be honest,” he started off in a tone that suggested I wasn’t going to like what I was about to hear. “You’re a writer and you read a lot. Someone has to go through and read everything Hemingway has written so we can develop stories around each individual piece. Nobody else will do this right. So until this is done, this is your job, and I’ll get you anything you need.”

We had a huge showroom built into our offices, so invoking the “anything I need” clause, I went there, picked out the softest leather sofa I could find, a couple of nice pillows and had them moved to my office. Then for the next month, I sat on that sofa with my feet up and read the works of Hemingway. People would walk past my door and think I was taking a nap at times, but I didn’t care. The boss said become a Hemingway expert.

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Nats' Opener: It Was Real. And It Was Spectacular.

Man, that felt normal.

Tuesday’s season-opening 6-5 win over the Atlanta Braves wasn’t so much about the dramatic walk-off RBI by Juan Soto – although that didn’t hurt at all – but was more about how it didn’t feel a single bit like those 60 games last season.

In comparison, those contests were plastic. Today was fine Corinthian leather. Last year felt like spring training games that didn’t count, while today – from the minute Max Scherzer gave up the first of four solo home runs – it felt real. There was a tension, an excitement, a feeling that whatever happened today counted.

Most of it was having live fans in the stands, as you can tell yourself piped-in crowd noise is almost as good as the real thing until the cows come home. But it’s not until you hear the murmuring and crescendos of sound made by living, caring human beings, sitting in a stadium eating overpriced food and beverage, that you realize the difference.

The vibe extended to everyone. You could hear it in the voices of Bob Carpenter, FP Santangelo and Dan Kolko as they broadcast the game. They were as excited as we were, like kids opening their Christmas presents a few days late, but still just as giddy when Trea Turner hit a two-run homer to tie the game at 4-4.

For the first time since the World Series of 2019, you could also feel the rivalry. Last year each game was between two teams respecting each other’s social distance, worried more about both teams leaving the field as healthy as they entered. Today, that old feeling of “I really don’t like these guys” made a comeback, and it added an intensity that led grown men to moan “C’mon Suero, don’t throw the ball down the middle like that again” in the privacy of their own homes.

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They Finally Did It...

They Did It

After a long and bumpy road, The Washington Nationals finally won the World Series. And made an old man in Ashburn cry...

Never Grow Old...

Never Grow Old

A trip to Spring Training reminded me we're all still kids at heart, and no matter how old, you keep playing until they get you out.

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