Browsing articles in "Other Features"

Casey McGehee Ressurects His Baseball Career in Japan

Apr 10, 2015   //   by admin   //   Other Features  //  1 Comment

51830_148526294As Casey McGehee walks to the plate, Rakuten Golden Eagles fans begin a personalized chant for their beloved third baseman. They are waving signs depicting McGehee’s likeness, holding up three fingers for his uniform number and letting their voices be heard. “Ganbatte,” Japanese for “do your best,” and “Casey McGehee” are the only terms he recognizes as he steps into the box.

Japan isn’t exactly the place major league baseball players go to resurrect their careers. Ask a number of former major leaguers who excelled in Japan but could never manage to make it back. Take Matt Murton, for example, who played for the Cubs and a few others teams between 2005 and 2009. Playing for the Hanshin Tigers in 2010, Murton broke Ichiro Suzuki’s single-season hit record and has batted better than .310 in four the past five seasons, yet he remains in Japan.

Andruw Jones played in the majors for 17 years and was a five-time All-Star. To date, he, too, has not been able to recapture his spot in the league.

McGehee, however, turned in an excellent 2013 season with the Golden Eagles, effectively playing his way back into the big leagues. He followed it up with a successful 2014 campaign with the Miami Marlins and now heads into 2015 as Pablo Sandoval’s replacement at third base with the San Francisco Giants. Just 32, McGehee may still have a handful of productive years as a starting third baseman in his future.

“Obviously, McGehee showed last season he could do that (contribute) in his return from Japan,” Ray Flowers, a Fantasy Baseball host on Sirius Satellite Radio told OZY. “I think that the Giants certainly would hope he’d hit more than a handful of home runs, but if he could replicate the batting average, on-base percentage and the RBI total of last season, I’m sure they’d be really happy with that level of production.” He will also have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs in the middle of the Giants lineup, according to Flowers.

A few years ago, McGehee couldn’t have expected to be where he is now. After a career-best 2010, in which the Santa Cruz, Calif., native drove in 104 runs for the Brewers, he started to decline rapidly the following season. In 2011, McGehee’s slugging percentage dropped 118 points and his batting average dwindled to .223. By the subsequent season, he was contributing so little that the Pirates shipped him midseason to the Yankees, where he played even worse. His major-league career was on life support. Read more >>

Baseball Pioneer Jake Wood Continues to Grow Sport

Feb 6, 2014   //   by admin   //   Other Features  //  No Comments

SteeleyGrinFormer Detroit Tigers second baseman Jake Wood never quite hung up his cleats. Now 76, he plays for a Senior Softball team based out of Pensacola, Fla.

Wood had zero idea that one of his former Tigers teammates was also playing Senior Softball until he came across Terry Fox at a tournament in Lafayette, La., around nine years ago. Someone told Wood that he wasn’t the only former baseball player at the tournament; shortly after, the chance encounter happened.

“We saw each other, and I said, ‘Wow, that’s Terry,’” recalls Wood. “And we’ve been in contact with one another through the game ever since then.”

Fox, who is two years older than Wood, spent six seasons with him in Detroit from 1961-66. Save for Fox’s five outings with the Milwaukee Braves in 1960, the guys essentially started their big league careers together in Detroit and quite remarkably more than 50 years later, still grace the same field as each other approximately twice each year.

As a 23-year-old from Elizabeth, N.J., Wood made his major league debut for the Tigers in 1961. From his second base position, he remembers watching Roger Maris’ home runs soar over his head during that record-setting season – the year that Maris topped Babe Ruth’s longstanding single-season home run record. In fact, Maris hit eight home runs against the ‘61 Tigers, with all eight landing beyond the right-field fence. The last of those, Maris’ 58th of the season, was a game-winner against Fox that broke a 4-4, 12th-inning tie.

That same year, Whitey Ford won 25 games and Mickey Mantle was, well, Mickey Mantle, striking 54 dingers while batting .317. Read more >>

Donny Robinson's Dire Dilemma

Nov 14, 2013   //   by admin   //   Other Features  //  No Comments

Concussions Threaten BMX Racer's Career

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 12.47.40 AMDonny Robinson has been racing BMX for 24 years and has suffered, by his estimation, at least 25 concussions over that span. That’s nearly one concussion for each of the thirty years he’s been alive.

“Part of BMX racing is the crashing,” Robinson told ATLX. “We try not to do it, but ultimately it’s going to happen because it’s a contact sport.”

At 6 years old, Robinson began racing. In that initial year, he suffered his first concussion, which he describes as a “full knockout.” He recalls riding around a parking lot without a helmet that day.

Early on, Donny quickly became known for three things. “I would be the smallest guy out there, I’d be the smallest guy trying to jump the big jumps, and I had some pretty gnarly crashes, as well.”

And he’s still the smallest guy out there as a pro, measuring in around 5-foot-4 and 150 pounds.

As a teenager, as Robinson accumulated more and more BMX experience and his talent began to coalesce, the hits started coming fast and furiously. It was between the ages of 14 and 17 that he distinctly remembers “crashing a ton.” Read more >>

Jon Sutherland Can't Stop Running

Aug 16, 2013   //   by admin   //   Other Features  //  No Comments

JS1Jon Sutherland boasts the longest active running streak in the United States, dating back to May 26, 1969. He has an amazing memory, but the detailed records he keeps are even more impressive.

On Oct. 10, 1972, Sutherland was “reading a lot of Nietzche” in Philosophy class, had just gotten tickets to see David Bowie, and of course ran a great deal. In the morning, he ran with his dog, Kumere. In the evening, his cross country coach, Laszlo Tabori, ran the team all over the grass track. Somehow, Sutherland did the entire workout barefoot. His daily mileage totaled 20.

The 62-year-old keeps a three-inch binder for every year dating back to 1968. “If you called me up and asked me, ‘Hey Jon. What’d you do on June 2, 1976?’ it would only take me about a minute,” said Sutherland.

There are two journals: an all-inclusive life journal and a running-specific one that looks more like a grid. According to Sutherland, he can fit an entire month on each page.

The running grows more difficult by the year. As Sutherland noted in his Aug. 11, 2013 entry, “I have a lot of physical issues now that have come on in the past couple of years.” After listing all his current ailments, Sutherland ultimately concludes, “Still I keep running, because I love it dammit!”

On Aug. 11, four miles with his dog, Puck, was all he could muster. At one point, a young mother flew past them in a baby jogger. “Has it really come to that?” Sutherland rhetorically asked in his journal. Read more >>

Los Angeles Lacrosse

Apr 13, 2013   //   by admin   //   Other Features  //  No Comments

MundayLacrosseEasterners Move West to Grow the Game

Los Angeles lacrosse.

Besides the alluring alliteration of the words when put together, the two ideas couldn’t have been more detached from each other throughout the 20th century.

Over the last decade, however, lacrosse has slowly, but steadily, found a home in the City of Angels, where dedicated members of the community, continue to build and expand youth and high school programs.

Even the University of Southern California has caught lacrosse fever.

When USC named Lindsey Munday, 28, the head coach for its inaugural season of Division I women’s lacrosse, she instantly brought lacrosse credibility to Southern California. On the sidelines, the dark-brown-haired coach with an athletic build can typically be spotted wearing sunglasses and clutching a notebook or clipboard.

“My life is lacrosse,” said Munday. “I still thank my lucky stars every single day that I get to do what I do, because it’s just really fun to work with these girls.” Read more >>

LA Artists Look To Crowdfunding Sites For Help

Dec 10, 2012   //   by admin   //   Multimedia, Other Features  //  No Comments

Crowdfunding refers to the “the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations,” according to research conducted by Lucia Miceli and her associates for the Journal of Service Management.

Kickstarter, which was launched April 28, 2009, is currently the most visited crowdfunding website and has been named by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of 2010” and “Best Websites of 2011.” Indiegogo is a popular alternative.

These websites allows campaigns of many different varieties, but music campaigns tend to be especially common.

Lynette Skynyrd, a four-woman group that claims to be the “world’s one and only all-female Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band,” decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund its debut album. “Lynette Skynyrd has a strong Facebook presence,” said the group’s lead singer, Laurie Es. “We get dozens of requests for recorded material (on there).”

Independent Musician Stays Ahead Of Digital Curve

Oct 15, 2012   //   by admin   //   Multimedia, Other Features  //  No Comments

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 1.31.57 AM

On Jan. 15, 2008, a 22-year-old man with curly hair, a musical gift and a barista gig at Starbucks, quit his job and never looked back. More than four and a half years later, Ari Herstand continues to support himself as a full-time independent musician in Los Angeles.

The musician, who is best known for his innovative live looping technique (the technique live records, loops and layers multiple instruments on the spot), has built and maintained a wide and prominent online presence. Herstand has his own website, Youtube and Tumblr pages, a Facebook profile and fan page, an online store and that’s just scratching the surface. Of course, he’s on Twitter with his music available on iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, Band Camp and Amazon.


USC Unveils The $70-Million, 110,000-Square-Foot John McKay Center

Aug 22, 2012   //   by admin   //   Multimedia, Other Features  //  No Comments

Screen Shot 2012-12-27 at 9.02.48 PMThe University of Southern California’s brand new $70-million, 110,000-square-foot athletic facility was unveiled to the media Sunday afternoon, and the John McKay Center certainly did not disappoint as associate senior athletic director Mark Jackson led the extensive tour.

Located directly west of Heritage Hall, the new building is a secured facility strictly designed for the use of student-athletes and USC athletics personnel. Each student-athlete has been finger- and thumb-printed, so that the front computer will recognize his/her hand and grant access to the facility.

Upon entry, one is immediately greeted by beautiful pictures of USC’s student-athletes posing together on Malibu’s picturesque El Matador Beach. Star quarterback Matt Barkley is shown, but so are 20 other USC student-athletes, each representing a different USC team. Although football undoubtedly reigns supreme at USC, Jackson emphasized that the facility was designed for all of the teams to enjoy and is most certainly “not a football building.” Read more >>

LAUSD’s Academic Growth Over Time

May 4, 2012   //   by admin   //   Multimedia, Other Features  //  No Comments

When one searches “Aloria Magee” on Google, the second result is an LA Times page showing Magee’s “Los Angeles Teacher Ratings.”

The page says nothing about Magee’s teaching style, nor her intense passion for the profession. But two large graphs appear, showing Magee’s “Math effectiveness” and “English effectiveness.”

Magee’s Math and English scores are both listed as below average, but a funny thing happens when the reader clicks on “See how this teacher would change under different statistical formulas.” Suddenly, Magee’s English score jumps to well above average when Model 1 is employed (one of four models shown on the graph).

Virtually no one except the LA Times wanted these scores released, including the superintendent, teachers, the teacher’s union and countless other stakeholders in education. Not only would it be a potential embarrassment to teachers and the district, but there was no guarantee that the scores would be reliable.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is now using a different, but similar type of model. AGT is a type of value-added model that aims to measure a teachers’ effectiveness, while controlling for various factors, such as socio-economic factors and starting student ability, factors that could otherwise compromise the results.

Although the initiative is still in its pilot phase, slightly more than half of the district’s teachers currently receive their scores every year, according to LAUSD’s Director of Performance Management, Noah Bookman.

The district is working with the University of Wisconsin, to develop their measures for AGT. The school received a $2 million grant to help the district craft a formula for teacher effectiveness.

“Academic Growth Over Time is a measure of how a teacher or a school contributes to student outcomes,” explained Bookman. “Different how from how we usually measure student outcomes, which is we measure how kids do against a specific standard like the percent of students who are proficient, Academic Growth Over Time allows us to compare teachers or schools to another in terms of how they do in taking students from Point A to Point B.” Read more >>

Matt Kemp Powers Dodgers to Best Start in Baseball

Apr 17, 2012   //   by admin   //   Article, Other Features  //  No Comments

The Los Angeles Dodgers boast Major League Baseball’s best record and have matched their best start since 1981 thanks in large part to Matt Kemp’s offensive dominance.

After finishing a close second place in last year’s NL MVP voting behind Ryan Braun, the 27-year-old outfielder is tearing up the league. He leads the league in essentially every offensive category through the Dodgers’ first 10 games of the season. It’s pretty wild. Kemp leads the MLB in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, RBIs, runs, hits and we won’t even go into the advanced statistics.

Two particular statistics illustrate Kemp’s early command at the plate: batting average and slugging percentage. Kemp’s SLG% of 1.026 easily beats Chris Young, Corey Hart and Omar Infante, who boast slugging percentages of .892, .857, and .829, respectively. In other words, the Dodgers center fielder leads the second-best player in that department by more than 130 points. Not close. Not at all. Read more >>



Aaron Fischman is a 25-year-old sports writer and editor, who currently writes and edits for ESPN's True Hoop Network and SLAM Magazine. Previously, he wrote and edited feature stories for the ATLX Channel, a sports and fitness start-up. In May 2013, he received a master’s degree in print and online journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Read more.