Why I love baseball – bat boys

I love that baseball has bat boys. Whatever sport allows a youngster to be so close to the action. Yes, there are water boys and ball boys in other sports but you’re not as consistently close to the action.

I also have great memories of being a bat boy on older brother’s baseball teams when I was a young kid. My brother is three years older and he played on some good teams when we were growing up in Japan. And, there was that one special memory created when the team was one player short at the beginning of the game. So, they let me pinch-hit – and I drew a walk. What a thrill at that time.

And, of course, who can ever forget the classic time that Dusty Baker’s (the manager) young son was a bat boy and headed toward the plate when there was a play at home plate? Fortunately, a Giant, I believe JT Snow, scooped him away and he avoided getting hit and hurt.

Bat boys – what a great tradition. And, another reason that I love baseball.

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why I Love Baseball – Friendships

One of the most enjoyable things about having a baseball team in town is attending the games with your friends.  Ever since the Nationals came to DC, my friends and I have been season ticket holders.  81 games is a lot of games – and it can get expensive – so we wisely share amongst a core group of friends.

I share the Nats with a group of very good friends — Kurt, Ross, “Breezy” and Todd.  Kurt, one of my closest friends, is by far are most ambitious and ardent supporter of the Nats.   When he doesn’t use our tickets, he goes to additional games.  He must attend 35 – 40 games a year – plus he goes to support the Class A team in Potomac, VA.

After not having a MLB team in town for so long, it’s great to have MLB here at least 81 games a year.  And, I honestly don’t care who they’re playing — I’m just happy to have baseball in town.  I can watch any team play the Nats and I’m content.  More importantly, it’s wonderful to go to games with your good friends.  The game has its own pace — and we certainly have our routings — maybe getting a burger from Shake Shack, chili cheese dogs from Ben’s Chili Bowl, nachos from Hard Times Cafe, etc.  And, there’s not many better things than a very cold beer on a hot and humid day.

In addition to attending games with good friends, I also regularly take mentees and / or students to games.  It’s a great way to watch the game but also to talk about life, career, hobbies, etc.   And, it’s also fun to teach the younger generation about the game of baseball.  There’s strategy that goes into every pitch.  Some complain that the game is boring or slow-paced – but that’s because they don’t understand what is happening with every single pitch.

It’s also a lot of fun to attend games with friends in various cities.  There’s nothing like the passion and intensity of the baseball fans in NY, Boston and Philly.   St Louis probably is the best baseball city in the US – and the fans are the nicest people.   The LA Dodgers scene is always entertaining and interesting.  And, it was a great thrill to attend my first-ever game at the history Wrigley Field last summer with another one of my close friends, TK.

Thank you, baseball, for being in our lives.  My friends are grateful.  Oh, and it’s good when your favorite team is in 1st place.  Let’s go, Nats!

 

 

Published in: on July 13, 2014 at 10:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Why I Love Baseball – Cal Ripken

As noted in yesterday’s blog, those of us in Washington, DC didn’t have our own MLB team for over 30 years.  But, many of us became fans of the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s played the game the right way, or as they called it – “the Orioles way.”  I had lots of Orioles players I liked but my two all-time favorites are Cal Ripken, Jr and Eddie Murray.  I will focus this piece on Cal since he made such a huge impact on the game of baseball.

My first memories of Cal are of a tall, skinny shortstop who’s father was one of the O’s coaches and looked like a honored Marine veteran.  He often threw the ball sidearm from shortstop.  And, the line drives screamed off his bat.  And, the most vivid memory was of Cal catching the line drive that clinched the O’s beating the Phillies in the ’83 World Series.   Those were the glory years.

Of course, Cal went on to break one of the all-time greatest records in sports history – the consecutive games streak that had previously been held by the legendary “Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig.

What stands out to me is that Cal always seemed to play the game the right way.   He respected the game.  He was not all flash and dash — like some NFL players who do crazy celebrations after making a mere first down in a meaningless game.  When I think of current players, I think of guys like Derek Jeter and Jason Werth — who play the game with tradition and honor.

My all-time favorite memory of Cal took place in Sept ’95.  At that time, AOL Sports was in its first year.  Internet sports sites were new and we were looking for innovative ways to bring sports programming to the internet.  One of the new things we did that summer was lug our laptop in the broadcasters booth — interact with AOL members via live chat rooms — run Instant Polling so fans can vote on plays — and relay questions from fans to the broadcasters, who would answer them directly on-air.  Mel Proctor was the play-by-play announcer and he did a great job.  Jody Shapiro and Bill Brown were running the network, Home Team Sports, and they welcomed us with open arms.

They allowed us to be in the broadcasters booth the night that Cal Ripken broke the consecutive games streak.  I remember it was already an electric night since a historic record was going to be broken.  But, President Clinton also happened to be there, which added to the electricity.   I remember typing away as fast I could as my colleagues, Randy Dean and Anne Levy, and I type the ongoing action on the field as well as fielded questions from fans.

Once the game was official in the 5th inning, the special, unscripted celebration started – where Cal spontaneously jogged around the entire field – shaking and slapping hands with fans.  I stopped typing and went to the broadcast booth to watch the celebration.  Tears were streaming down my face — I had goose bumps.  It was a moment I’ll never forget.

Many people probably don’t recall or realize the baseball was broken – they had gone on an ugly strike the year before.  But, the one player who stood out — who shook hands with fans and signed autographs for hours was Cal Ripken, Jr.  He helped start the healing process.  And, I’m sure the outpouring of affection from fans that special night in Sept ’95 was because he so instrumental to helping resurrect the popularity of the national pastime.

Thank you, Cal Ripken, for being such an important player — and person.  You respected the game.  And, you are one of our national heroes.

 

Published in: on July 12, 2014 at 6:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Why I Love Baseball – Fathers and Sons

I stopped blogging a while ago but a couple of former students asked me to start back up. So here’s my first blog since last Fall. A few years ago I blogged for nearly 30 days straight about one subject – why I love Washington, DC. I think I’ll try the same thing – but this time I’ll focus on baseball.

Why I love baseball? Because it’s the best sport for “fathers and sons.” Back in the 70’s, the Washington Senators moved to Texas. That meant there was no professional baseball team in DC, a great sports city, for over 30 years. It wasn’t until the Washington Nationals came into existence in ’05 that the Nation’s Capital once again had a MLB team.

But, in a more personal manner, here’s a story about me and my father. We lived in Japan for most of my youth — and moved to the Washington, DC area when I was 16 years. My father, brother and I were huge sports fans — the Redskins, Bullets, Capitals, Hoyas, Terps, etc. But, there was no baseball team here for us to root for or to attend games in person.

I remember when I was 14 years old, our family was visiting friends in Texas when we attended a Rangers game. In about the 7th inning, when I went to get a “grand slam hot dog,” there a was a foul ball hit into the stands. The ball was headed toward my father and brother. Unfortunately, they didn’t catch the ball and it spun away to another fan.

As a kid, catching a foul ball is a dream.

So, after we moved back to DC, there were no baseball games to attend. And, that dream might not ever come true.

Then, in ’05, the Nats came into existence and played their games at RFK Stadium. In August of that season, my father, brother and I went to a Saturday afternoon game between the Nationals and the Cardinals (my brother’s favorite team).

At that time, my father’s health had started to decline. But, he was still excited to attend the game. In the 3rd inning, although it was a day game, my father nodded off during the game.  I said to my brother – let’s try to stay till until at least the 5th inning (since this a wonderful experience to be able to attend a live ball game in DC with our father in DC after not having a team for over 30 years).

The game was played at a brisk pace and my father woke up from his short nap. A couple of innings later, a foul ball was hit back behind home plate into the upper deck area. Our seats were behind home plate in the lower section. As the ball was hit, my brother mentioned we might have a shot at it. But, I didn’t think so it was hit into the upper deck. But, miraculously, just as it had done in Texas way back then, the ball spun out of the deck back into the lower deck — where my father caught the ball against his chest.  And he raised his right arm with the ball and couldn’t stop smiling.   The fans sitting around us applauded my father.

I thought to myself — wow, this is incredible. We finally have a baseball team in DC; and we get to attend the game with our father.  I knew right then and there that this was a lifetime memory being created — one that I’ll always cherish.

Then, a couple of years later, in the Spring ’08, I delivered the eulogy at my father’s memorial service at Ft Myer, VA. As I was writing the speech, I thought of three specific memories that stood out — attending the “Three Tenors” concert with my father (he loved opera music), going to Paris with my father and brother, especially to a great night at a wonderful jazz joint in Saint Germain (he loved jazz music), and then the baseball game.

I had the ball in my suit pocket as I delivered the eulogy.

So, on the saddest and most difficult day of my life, it was these memories that helped keep me strong (along with the great support from family and friends).

This is why I love baseball. It’s about “fathers and sons.”

Published in: on July 11, 2014 at 7:14 am  Comments (1)  

Mentees and Students: Thank you

Thanksgiving Day is always my favorite holiday of the year.  Yes, I like Christmas, Fourth of July, Martin Luther King Day and all of the other holidays too.  But, this is my favorite holiday since it’s a day of personal reflection.  Each year, I blog about the people that are important to me — my family (here in the US and in Japan) and friends know how much they mean to me.  I try to express my sentiments regularly to them.  But, this year, my Thanksgiving blog is dedicated to my mentees and students.

For those that know me, they understand that mentoring, community service, “giving back” and “paying it forward” are important principles in my life.   I have been fortunate to learn from mentors, wonderful people such as Ted Leonsis and Mario Morino, about the importance of helping others.  Both are first-generation college graduates who went on to achieve great successes in life.  And, they’ve clearly shown me the way in “paying it forward.”

I frequently post on my social networking platforms pictures and words about my mentees and students.  The primary reason I do that is because it helps raise the visibility of giving back and it hopefully encourages others to also get involved in community service and mentoring.

I won’t try to list all of my mentees since the list is long — and I don’t want to leave out any names.  But, they know who they are.  Some of the names you see on my FB, Twitter and Instagram feeds.  But, this list goes back to about ’93 or ’94.

I’m now also in my 9th year of teaching at Georgetown University.  So, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years — and a number of them are also mentees.  I’m so very proud of them.  They humble me with their selfless dedication and desire to help others.  I’ve gotten even more deeply involved in the past two years — with a focus on first-generation college students and / or students of color (African-American, Latino and Asian) — at Georgetown.  I love the interaction with the students.  In particular, it’s terrific to meet them as freshman and sophomores and to see them flourish and grow.  One of my favorites days of the year is Graduation Day — especially meeting their parents and siblings.

Lastly, a couple of people have asked me recently if I’ve achieved everything I’ve wanted to in life.  My honest answer is the one hole in my life is I have not yet had my own children.  But, I’ve filled that hole in a big way — by mentoring dozens and dozens of outstanding young men and women.  I know in my heart that I’m able to positively impact and influence the lives of others — to help them get to college, graduate from college and start working in a career where they will be able to achieve success.   If I had my own children, I would not have as much time to dedicate to the mentees.

Mentoring is not a one-way street.  It’s not the mentees that are the only ones that benefit.  This is a two-way street — the mentor receives so much in return.  In fact, I make the argument that I’m getting back more than I’m giving.  And, I try to pass on this important message to others — to get involved in one capacity or other to help those that may need the help or just a little nudge to back on the right track.  So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m forever grateful to my mentees and students.  You all give me great pride and you inspire every single day of the year.  I am grateful 365 days a year for my family of students and mentees.  So, on this day of thanks, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such an important and integral part of my life.

Published in: on November 28, 2013 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

“Paying It Forward”

I spoke to a group of undergraduate students at Georgetown University earlier this week about “Personal Branding.”  During my discussion, I talked about the importance of mentoring and “giving back.”  Well, I’ve received a number of outstanding emails from these students — I know we’ve made a strong connection.  And, I believe my list of mentees will continue to increase.  But, that’s good — it’s all about “Paying It Forward.”  A couple of students asked about what drives me to help others.  It made me think of an interview I did with Asian Fortune Magazine back in ’09.  The article is over 4 years old — and there are numerous updates but I believe the article captures what influences me and why it’s important to mentor and “to give back.”  So, I’m going to post this article on my blog and social media feeds.  (As an fyi, I left AOL in ’09; I have a strategic advisory business focused on Sports; and I’m now in my 9th year of teaching at Georgetown).  

Jimmy Lynn, Leading AOL’s Diversity Partnerships 

By: Jennie L. Ilustre 

 

Jimmy Lynn’s title is Vice-President for Diversity Partnerships and Strategic Relationships at AOL, where he manages employee affinity networks and non-profit partnerships.

Jimmy, whose late father was Irish-American father and whose mother is of Japanese descent, is aware through his work and civic activities that diversity brings strength to a nation. He also noted an interesting trend in the country.

He said: “There’s a major shift occurring demographically in the US. The Asian, Hispanic and African-American demographic groups are continuing to grow in size. There are more and more people now from mixed ethnic backgrounds. And many of our leaders and role models, such as President Obama and Tiger Woods, are of multi-ethnic backgrounds.”

Those who know Jimmy describe him as a leader and role model. Remarked Opus8 Inc. Chief Executive Officer S. Tien Wong: “Jimmy is passionate about doing the very best job he can, whether it’s negotiating a multi-million dollar marquee sports contract for AOL, or mentoring an underprivileged child. His great love of people contributes to his passion.”

He has worked with Jimmy for seven years on philanthropic causes. “He’s not doing this kind of work for glory or fame, or ego purposes. He does it because for him, giving back is the right thing to do.”

“Jimmy is very active in the philanthropic world, especially toward helping low-income children in D.C.,” said Ban Tran, VP-Senior Financial Advisor, PIA Program Portfolio and manager, Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. “He spends time with the children–mentoring them and monitoring their progress until they become a contributing member in the community.”

At a recent Asian Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund community reception, Jimmy pointed out, “A person can do any of four things in terms of giving back–donate time, donate money, donate time and money, or do nothing.”

In philanthropy, mentoring and community service, he said he was “blessed to have two incredible mentors–Ted Leonsis, Vice-Chair Emeritus for AOL and the Capitals majority owner, and Mario Morino, founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners and the person regarded as the ‘Godfather of Philanthropy’ in the D.C. region.”

Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund Founder & President Susie Kay said Jimmy’s work with them as a board director “is the perfect embodiment of this work.” Jimmy connects people, introducing successful people to his students, his work with them, and their struggles to improve themselves though education, life skills and networking.

She added: “He is truly a social entrepreneur. His passions come out with the groups he commits himself to ‘head and heart first’–and he also sees the corporate value in positioning this work so his business can show this impact. It is why America Online has been such a wonderfully engaged corporate citizen in the Washington, D.C. area.”

 

AOL Executive

Jimmy has a B.A. in Communications and an MBA in Marketing from American University in Washington, D.C. In 1995, he started at AOL as a manager, working in business development and account management for its Sports Channel. He became a director, then served as Vice-President for AOL Sports from 1995-2006.

From September 2006 to May last year, Jimmy was the Executive Sponsor for AOL’s “Asian Interest Group,” with some 250 to 300 AOL employees as members. His main task was to mentor and advise the group’s leadership team.

As VP for AOL Sports, he led a team in managing strategic sports partnerships for AOL. Among these are such major names as the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, MLB, NHL, NFLPA, WNBA, Sports Illustrated, ABC Sports, HBO Sports and Turner Sports.

As a child growing up in military bases ((his father was lieutenant colonel in the Army), Jimmy played baseball, basketball and football. He was born at Ft. Belvoir’s DeWitt Army Hospital. His family moved to Japan, where Jimmy lived till he returned to Metro D.C. at age 16.

Working in Sports and Entertainment, he has partial or full season tickets to the Capitals, Nationals, Wizards and Hoyas. He has been to over 10 Super Bowls as well as a number of NBA All-Star Games and NBA Finals, World Series and MLB All-Star Games, Daytona 500, NHL Stanley Cup Finals and Olympics and World Cup matches.

His childhood baseball idols were Al Kaline, who was a star for the Detroit Tigers, and Fred Lynn. He’s a huge fan of Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles. His current favorite player right now is Ichiro Suzuki (he loves his passion and all-around game).

He has met Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Cal Ripken, Alex Ovechkin, among others. He has been an Internet mentor to several professional athletes and Olympic athletes, and has become friends with them.

Aside from sports, Jimmy’s other passion is education. He’s in his fourth year of teaching Sports Marketing Strategy at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He’s the Chair of the advisory board for the university’s School of Continuing Education’s “Sports Industry Management” program. He’s also on the Leadership Council of George Washington University’s Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, and served on the advisory board of San Diego State University’s Sports MBA program.

Non-profits

Jimmy works with up to 14 non-profit organizations in diverse roles: as a member of the board of directors or advisory board, mentor, connector, volunteer or fundraiser. Many of these groups focus on helping children from lower-income families pursue college education or getting started with their career.

Among these groups are Venture Philanthropy Partners, Hoop Dreams Scholarship Foundation, Asian-American LEAD, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Year Up, Posse Foundation, Super Leaders, Giving Back Fund, America’s Promise, Case Foundation, Greater DC Cares, and Capitol Movement Project.

Jimmy has been recognized for his civic work over the years. These include the Andrew Heiskell award, Time Warner’s most prestigious community service award; Year Up’s Urban Empowerment award; City Year’s “Idealists of the Year,” and Greater DC Cares’ “2008 Class of Change,” honoring the District’s 10 rising leaders in philanthropy. He said, “The best thing about being recognized for these awards is that it allows me to continue to spread the message to others in the community about importance of ‘giving back,’ especially in these difficult economic times.”

Q & A Excerpts

What challenges did you overcome in your life? One of the challenges I had in life while growing up was being bi-racial. My mother is Japanese and my father was Irish-American. Growing up in Tokyo, I was in the minority since I was half-Caucasian. When I moved to Metro D.C. when I was 16, I was in the minority in high school and college, being I’m half-Asian. So, from time to time, I encountered some prejudice.

But when I was a junior in college, one of my classmates told me she thought I was extremely fortunate since I come from two distinct cultural backgrounds. Ever since then, I’ve embraced being both Asian and American.

Who are your role models, and why? I’ve had three primary role models in my life– my father, my Uncle Art, and my best friend’s father, Gen. Jack Guthrie. My father was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, my uncle a colonel in the Air Force, and General Guthrie is a retired four-star Army general. Unfortunately, both my father and uncle passed away in the past 18 months. They’re both buried in Arlington National Cemetery, less than three miles from my home in Rosslyn. I’m committed to carrying on the lessons they instilled in me on the importance of treating people equally, maintaining a high level of integrity and caring about others, as well as having fun in life.

 

Published in: on October 17, 2013 at 7:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Montreal – Ville-Marie

I haven’t taken a vacation-only trip yet this summer.  Most of my trips are a combination of business / vacation.  But, I want to travel somewhere for a few days of R & R before the fall semester starts at Georgetown (this year it will start in late Aug, not the usual start in Sept).  It’s fairly easy to fly to Europe from the east coast but I’ve decided to head to one of my favorite cities in the world, Montreal, for a few days right before the fall semester.

Why did I decide to visit Montreal?  So many reasons (in no particular order):

- it’s so easy to fly to Montreal from DC.  It’s only a 75-minute flight (unless we get the usual travel delays due to summer thunderstorms).

- the people.  I love my friends in Montreal.  The people are nice, cool, eclectic, fashionable, interesting, hip and fun.  There’s also a good mixture of ethnicities and backgrounds, somewhat like what one finds in Brazil.

- it’s like you’re in Europe – but it’s so close to home.  Most of the people in Montreal speak both French and English, but if you venture outside Montreal, it’s much more heavily leaning towards French.  But, walking through the streets of “Old Montreal,” one definitely feels like you’re in Europe.

- Old Montreal: what a fantastic place … so many great streets filled with excellent restaurants and bars, excellent art galleries, cool little souvenir shops, scenic hotel rooftop venues, etc.  Also, my favorite sandwich shop, Olive et Gourmando, is located in this funky part of Montreal.

- Restaurants.  Montreal has a wide array of terrific eating establishments.  Fortunately, a couple of my friends are foodies and always recommend the best places to go eat.  I do like the nice restaurants but I also love the bistro’s where you can chill, read and have a nice meal while sitting at an outside table on the sidewalk.

- Poutine: this is a silly one but this is a dish so near and dear to Canadians.  It’s like getting a slice of pizza in NYC, a cheesesteak in Philly, crab cakes in Baltimore, ramen in Tokyo, acai in Rio de Janeiro, etc.  It’s a popular Canadian dish that is made up of french fries, brown gravy and cheese curds.  And, often, it’s eaten late night.  It’s a favorite of the locals.

- Underground.  Montreal’s “Underground City” is fantastic.  There’s over 20 miles of the city connected underneath – so many tunnels, shops, restaurants, etc.  It’s an entire city built in the underground.  Why?  I assume because of the very cold winter weather.

- The nighttime scene.  Montreal has a very vibrant and active club and lounge scene.  There’s always something going on.  I don’t go to out the clubs as much as in the past – but I do like the more chill lounges.  Also, I love jazz music and Montreal offers a world-class jazz scene.

- Lastly, Montreal will always hold a special place in my heart — specifically June ’08.  I lost my father in ’08.  I spent a great deal of time preparing for the memorial service, delivering the eulogy, coordinating the interment at Arlington Cemetery, hosting the reception, etc.  My friends encouraged me to “get away” and get some “alone time” to grieve in peace and to recharge.  So I spent a few days in Montreal right after my father’s service.  I took a long walks in Old Montreal and along the waterways there.  I read books at the small cafe’s and bistro’s.  It really did help me with the healing process.  So, I will forever cherish this city in my heart.

I’m looking forward to visiting this wonderful city next month.  Cheers.

Published in: on July 28, 2013 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Soccer: the rise in popularity in the US

Soccer will continue to rise in popularity in the US.  Although the game of soccer is the most popular sport on a global basis, it’s ranked well behind football, baseball and basketball in the US but you can definitely see the rise in popularity.  There are many factors for this — here’s a few of my thoughts why the game is on the rise:

- for the past two decades, the game of soccer has been played in so many youth leagues throughout the country.  It’s inevitable that this will translate into more popularity for the game.

- due to the various serious issues of head injuries and concussions in football, more and more parents will not let their kids play football.  Instead, I believe that participation in both soccer and lacrosse will increase significantly.  Yes, there are injuries in these sports too but not as many as in football.

- the global soccer teams have smartly been targeting the USA – which is still the most powerful sports market in the world.  Many of the top clubs are smart in playing games in the US during their off-seasons.  ManU, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Tottenham, Liverpool, etc  have all done a good job of creating a bigger fan base in the US.

- the EPL deal on NBC Sports will also have an impact on the rise of soccer in the US. NBC will air every EPL game — across its broadcast, cable and digital networks.  I love this deal — for both the EPL and NBC.

- Brazil.  This country has the most popular national soccer team in the world.  And, with the World Cup being played in Brazil next year and then again in the Olympics in Brazil in ’16, this will surge the popularity of soccer as well as all things Brazilian (soccer, fashion, music, arts, etc).

- the MLS continues to grow in popularity.  Cynics complain it’s not on the par of the European leagues but the MLS has been very smart and diligent about controlling expenses.  The massive popularity in the NW — Seattle, Portland and Vancouver — is also helping increase attendance and TV ratings figures.

- the game is played in 2 hours.  Unlike football games – which can last up to 3.5 hours — and baseball games (especially AL games) which now can take 3 to 3.5 hours to play, the average soccer game is played in a tight, 2-hour timeframe.

- lastly, the US National team.  They’re on a hot streak now.  Yes, they’re not at the level of Brazil, Germany, Spain, etc.  But if they can win a few games in next year’s World Cup — maybe even advance to the quarterfinals — this will have a positive impact on the popularity of soccer in the US.

I could go on but those are just a few thoughts on why soccer will continue to rise in popularity in the US.

Published in: on July 27, 2013 at 8:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Washington, DC Sports Scene – IMHO

Washington, DC Sports team updates.  This is just my personal opinion – I’m certainly no expert but here’s thoughts on the various pro teams in DC.

- Nationals: although they were picked by many “experts” to win the NL, it’s been a bit of a struggle.  They’re playing a little bit over .500 ball and trailing the Braves by 6 games.  But, I still very much like the foundation they have built — excellent pitching staff (starters and relievers), very good defense and well-balanced offensive line-up.  The latter is the key point. The pitching and defense will continue to excel in the 2nd half of the season.  But, the hitting needs to pick up.  I’m an optimist – and I very much like balance in the Nats line-up.  Also, it’s a good balance of veteran hitters mixed with outstanding youngsters (gotta love having Harper and Rendon for the next decade).  It’s great to have baseball back in DC and it’s fun to attend games at the terrific Nats Park.

- Redskins: this team continues to be the most popular sports team in DC — and even more so now with RG III at QB.  It looks like Coach Shanahan and the GM, Bruce Allen, have done a good job of restructuring the team — particular with more players of good character.  But, talent prevails in the NFL.  The offense will be very good again this year … the special teams should be good too … it’s up to the defense to see if the team can defend the NFC East title and make the play-offs again.  The front 7 should again be very solid.  It’s the defensive backfield that could make or break this season.  If the youngsters they’ve drafted step up, it could make a big difference.   Can’t wait for the NFL season — there’s nothing better than the first weekend that features college football on Saturdays and NFL on Sundays.  HTTR.

- Wizards: love the Wiz drafting Otto Porter from Georgetown.  He’s a great fit with Wall and Beal.  This should be a terrific nucleus that will help the Wizards become a regular play-off team through the rest of this decade.  It’s been a long road … and Wiz fans are clamoring for a good team.  This is the year … I strongly believe we’ll see the Wizards in the playoffs now on a regular basis.  I Tweeted back in Dec that once J-Wall comes back, the Wiz will play .500 ball in the 2nd half of the season.  They did accomplish — and will build on it for this upcoming season.

- Capitals: a great finish to the season … a frustrating 7th game loss in the playoff series.  But, they’ve made a great hire in Adam Oates as head coach.  An extremely intelligent head coach.  It took a while for the players to understand his system but now they have a better grasp of it, we’ll see the improvements in Oates’ second season at the helm.  Yes, the Caps have not made major changes … and they will play in a tougher division … but they will continue to improve … and will make a deep run in the NHL playoffs next Spring.

- Kastles: what a joy to watch this 3-time defending World Team Tennis champion.  It’s a great form of entertainment … excellent tennis, music, cheerleaders, buzz.  Plus, the Kastles play at a great location … right off Maine Ave and the Washington Channel.  This is great summer entertainment.

- Mystics: I haven’t made it to a game yet this season but the team is playing much better under veteran head coach, Mike Thibault.  I still have plenty of friends that don’t like women’s professional sports, but as the terrific ESPN’s “Nine for IX” illustrates, it’s important for women’s and girl’s sports to continue to flourish.  I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of women’s and girl’s sports.  I’ve been a long-time supporter of the WNBA and I hope it continues to grow and prosper.

- DC United: this has been a tough season for our local soccer team.  I like the choice of Ben Olsen as the head coach.  My hope is that they start to jell and play better in the 2nd half of the season.  They’re putting together a good foundation of young players, who will hopefully get better and better.  The MLS is a long season – so there’s plenty of time for them to improve.  DC is a great soccer market and enthusiastically supports DC United.  It is a fun experience attending games at RFK — let’s hope they get back soon to their winning ways.

Published in: on July 12, 2013 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Education – the greatest birthday gift of all

Although today is my birthday, I feel like I’ve been celebrating it for the past week.  Why?  It’s because of the three wonderful gifts from last Wed – Sat.  What are the gifts?  The gifts are all related to connecting with young, smart high school students who are determined and want to pursue education to make a difference.  I will detail the three.

1) I mentor an outstanding young man named Gabriel Jimenez, who is a rising junior at Georgetown Univ.  He’s from the Compton section of LA, a first-generation college student and a graduate of the Cristo Rey HS program in LA.  He graciously invited me to address a group of 44 students last Wed afternoon on the Georgetown campus.  The group was comprised of Cristo Rey – http://www.cristoreynetwork.org – and KIPP – http://www.kipp.org – students.  A vast majority of the students are from low-income families, minority students and first ones in their family  to attend college.  I connected with them during my presentation, which was focused on Mentoring, Networking and Paying It Forward (I told them how my mentor, Ted Leonsis, was mentored by the legendary Father Durkin when he was a student at Georgetown — so in essence these students are the 5th generation of our Pay It Forward program — from Father Durkin to Ted L to me to Gabriel J and then to these HS students who are here at Georgetown for the summer program).  I spoke to them on Wednesday afternoon and then I took the entire group to the Nationals game on Friday night.  What a group of dynamic, ambitious, smart and wonderful youngsters.  I promised a number of the students that I would stay in contact and also try to help them with scholarship funds.  Meeting these remarkable youngsters is a true gift.

2. I then met a group of approximately 110 students who were part of the Georgetown Sports Industry Management High School Week.  I delivered a 90-minute presentation — focused on Emerging Technology trends, Mentoring, Networking, Philanthropy, Diversity and Globalization.  I was blown away by the numerous outstanding questions from these youngsters.  And, in just three days, I’ve received over 20 emails from these students — the emails are so well-written.  And, most importantly, they seem to “get it” when I stressed the importance of being mentored, mentoring others and giving back.  In fact, one remarkable young man told me he donated the money from his bar mitzvah to help rebuild a school in Haiti.  He wrote to me that my premise “to do business while giving back” is something we should all learn from.  As I told them, I’m simply passing on valuable life lessons from my mentor, Ted Leonsis.  Meeting these outstanding young men and women is also a gift.

3. On early Saturday morning, I drove my mentee, Da-Zhi Yu, to College Park for his orientation to the Univ of Maryland’s outstanding AAP program, which is a wonderful 6-week program to prepare first-generation college students for the rigor of college life.   I’ve been Da-Zhi and his younger sister for 4+ years.  I’ve promised their parents I will do my best to ensure they attend and graduate from college.  This includes paying for tuition, books and living expenses (not covered by scholarships and grants).  Since I’m single and don’t have children, I may have been robbed of sharing this wonderful experience of bringing a child to college orientation.  But, because I’m a mentor / guardian, I am now getting to share this life experience.   So, as I’ve noted often, mentoring is indeed a two-way experience – both the mentor and mentee benefit.  This day at College Park was indeed a true gift.

In summary, I honestly don’t really care about material gifts anymore for birthdays and holidays.  At this stage, to me, it’s more about giving back and making a difference.  In the past week, I’ve met over 150 high school students — a number of whom I’ll stay in contact with them and hopefully make a positive difference in their lives.  These emails they’ve sent me are so powerful and emotional.  Each one illustrates clearly to me why it’s so important to offer to mentor, advise and give back.   So, I want to thank everyone — from the Cristo Rey students to the KIPP students to the Georgetown undergrads who are serving as mentors to the SIM High School students to Da-Zhi and his fellow AAP students at the Univ of Maryland for giving me the greatest birthday gift of all … the eagerness and determination to learn, grow and to want to make a positive difference.  Cheers.

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Published in: on July 8, 2013 at 9:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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