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Notes, quotes and anecdotes: ‘Sho-Time’ has been outstanding this season

The biggest story of this year’s MLB season has to be the performance of Los Angeles Angel slugger/pitcher Shoei Ohtani, known as “Sho-Time” in the American League parks he performs.

Ohtani came to America from his native Japan in 2018 with high marks in both hitting and pitching. However skeptics quickly pronounced that while he was able to produce outstanding stats in pitching and batting in Japan, such a feat would be highly unlikely in American baseball.

Those same skeptics are now shaking their collective heads as Ohtani’s 3.04 ERA and 100 strikeouts rank near the top of the American League’s pitching stats.

He relies on two basic pitches — a 101 mph fastball that freezes opposing hitters, and an 88 mph off-speed splitter that causes hitters to jump out of their shoes in an attempt to barrel the slower pitch.

With the bat in his hands “Sho-Time” may be even more impressive, as he currently leads MLB with 37 home runs and is second in RBIs with 82. Some of his titantic blasts actually leave the ballparks and land in the streets and parking lots beyond the stadiums. He was both the starting pitcher and leadoff batter in the recent MLB All-Star game, one day after hitting 28 homers in the Home Run Derby.

A veteran American League scout recently remarked, “I have observed thousands of baseball players over the past 40 years, and I can truthfully say that Shoei Ohtani is the absolute best player I have ever seen play the game. You can’t make up the things he does on a baseball field, it’s almost fictionary.”

• Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with longtime Mill Hall resident and former Bald Eagle Nittany teacher, coach and KCSD school board member Tom Shafer. Any conversation with the well-respected Mill Hall resident inevitably turns to the topic of football, specifically the importance of line play.

Shafer is a firm believer that all football games, regardless of the level — high school, college, NFL — are won or lost at the initial point of attack. That being the line of scrimmage. He believes that if strong, quick, highly-conditioned, low-blocking offensive linemen can open gaping holes for speedy running backs, and those same linemen can plug holes on the defensive side of the ball stopping the opponent’s backs, you will win many more games than you lose.

Shafer’s theory is simply to pound, pound, pound at the opponent’s line and sooner or later, the door will open. Shafer’s line play pedigree comes naturally from his experience as a lineman at St. Mary’s High School in Elk County during the late 1950s, a period when the Dutch were undefeated over a three-year span. In fact, a check of Elk County football records reveals that Shafer helped anchor the St. Mary’s line in the most highly-anticipated high school football game in Elk County history: the 1957 showdown between the Dutch and bitter rival Johnsonburg Rams for the Elk County championship.

Over 4,000 fans crammed into every nook and cranny of Johnsonburg’s cozy Memorial Field that night as the ground-oriented St. Mary’s squad rolled to a 36-14 victory. Of course Shafer was also a key coaching staff member of some outstanding BEN Panther football teams during his long tenure as a teacher at the school.

There were no state football playoffs back then, but Shafer believes that some of the Panther squads of the 1960s through 1980s would match up very evenly with today’s small school teams that advance deep into the state playoffs.

• The big news out of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics has focused on four-time Olympic women’s gold medalist Simone Biles who voluntarily withdrew from both team and individual gymnastic events.

Fan-favorite Biles experienced a case of the twisties during her opening exercises and consequently opted to sit out the remainder of the events. Twisties are basically described as spatial disorientation or, in layman terms, not knowing whether you are up or down while performing competition on either the mats or various beams or bars. Incredibly some detractors suggested Biles had quit on her American teammates and succumbed to Olympic pressure.

Coaches and trainers who know the sport rebuffed such an allegation, noting that if a gymnast is twisting, turning, and somersaulting while 10-15 feet in the air and has no idea if their feet are up or down, the most prudent move is to step back and re-evaluate the situation.

In Biles’ case, she felt her confidence and edge had dipped a bit and the thought of experiencing another case of the twisties and landing on her head instead of her feet was not worth the risk. This corner backs that decision 100%. After stepping back and resetting some routines, she regained her moxie and came back to win a bronze medal in the beam event on Tuesday.

• Did you ever wonder if busy athletic coaches ever have any time to watch television during the season?

Surprisingly some of them find time to watch something other than game film on the screen.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban makes it a point to watch Weather World every day of the Tide’s football season saying, “The one thing I have never been able to control in my coaching career is the weather. However, if I know what is coming, I sure as heck can prepare for it.”

Meanwhile, up north, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh regularly tunes in to Judge Judy, noting that, “Judge Judy conducts her courtroom with tight organization, tolerates no nonsense, is crystal clear with her expectations, and holds all accountable for their actions. This is exactly how a football team should be managed.”

• I’ll conclude with a thought from perhaps the most oft quoted baseball player who ever lived, the late Yankee great, Yogi Berra. When once asked if he watches baseball games on television, he remarked, “No, I’d rather listen to them on the radio, the games go faster there.”

Until next time, be a sport!

Mike Rendos is a former Keystone Central School District counselor,a current Central Mountain High School assistant athletic director and a longtime PIAA sports official.

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