<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Mon, 01 Sep 2014 09:38:08 -0400 Mon, 01 Sep 2014 09:38:08 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[49ers' Ray McDonald Arrested]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 22:44:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/221*120/MCDONALD_leaves_jail.jpg

The San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence overnight, San Jose police confirmed.

San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said the 29-year-old was taken into custody early Sunday after officers responded to a domestic violence incident at a home in an upscale neighborhood at the 2500 block of Bentley Ridge Drive, SJPD said in a release.

McDonald was taken into custody without incident and booked into Santa Clara County Jail on felony domestic violence charges, according to the release. He has posted $25,000 bail and has been released from jail, police said.

So far, McDonald is not saying much about the incident.

"It's a crazy situation," said McDonald, as he walked out of the jail less than 10 hours after his arrest.

McDonald's alleged victim may have been pregnant, sources told NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo.

He was apparently involved in an altercation with his fiancee, who had bruises on her arms and neck, according to the Sacramento Bee. 49ers teammates Vernon Davis and Demarcus Dobbs were also reportedly present, the Bee reported.

But McDonald maintained his innocence.

"The truth will come out," he said. "Everybody knows what kind of person I am."

The 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement Sunday that the organization is "aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously. As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment.”

McDonald, who has been playing for the 49ers since 2007, was arrested on the same street where 49ers' outside linebacker Aldon Smith was busted for a DUI last September, sources told NBC Bay Area.

The NFL has suspended Smith on Friday for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.

McDonald's arrest comes after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a tougher domestic abuse policy on Thursday. NFL players will be subject to a six-week game suspension for a first domestic violence offense and banishment from the league for a second, according to the new rules.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Begins New Season]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 19:52:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/181*120/UConnBYU+-+28.jpg UConn took on BYU in its season opener at Rentschler Field on Friday, Aug. 29.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[49ers' Aldon Smith Out for 9 Games]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 21:24:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/aldon-smith-preason-2014.jpg

The San Francisco 49ers will play more than half the season without the team’s best defensive player.

The NFL has suspended outside linebacker Aldon Smith for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.

Smith's suspension is without pay, the league announced Friday.

Smith will be eligible to return to the 49ers’ active roster on Monday, Nov. 10, following the team’s Nov. 9 game against the New Orleans Saints, the NFL announced. He'll likely be back on the field when the Niners play the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 16.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement following the league's announcement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

Smith will not be able to appeal the suspension as the appeals process has already run its course, CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported.

The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL's top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.

Just before training camp began last month, the 24-year-old Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.

He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith's menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith's house.

Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.

Read more from CSN Bay Area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Samuelson, Collier, Boykin Win 3x3 Tourney]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:17:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-pat-summitt.jpg

It won't be long before Geno Auriemma and his 2014-15 squad begin the process of defending their national title. Given the strength of this roster -- starting with junior Breanna Stewart -- and it's incoming freshman class, it's reasonable to expect a third straight championship, which would be Auriemma's 10th.

The scary news, at least for everybody else, is that the 2015-16 Huskies could be better than this year's version. Stewart will be a senior, and UConn will welcome -- on paper, anyway -- an even better freshman class. Three of those players -- De’Janae Boykin, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson -- just wrapped up a gold-medal-winning effort in the 3×3 competition at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China. USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan was asked about Boykin, Collier and Samuelson:

“What’s interesting is this was Napheesa’s first summer, but De’Janae and Lou have been with us for several summers,’’ Callan said, according to the Connecticut News' Rich Elliott. “So to call them veterans is with a smile on my face. But, yet, that’s what it feels like. To talk a little bit further on what Geno talks about in terms of culture, De’Janae and Lou were on a team last year as well as this year and sometimes we beat teams by a lot and we start to get a little full of ourselves. And yet at the World U-17 Championships this summer we only won the gold medal by two points (77-75 vs. Spain). So that all of sudden makes a player grow up quite a bit.

“And what’s interesting about all of them, and Napheesa as well, they’ve played now multiple years on 3-on-3. So they’ve expanded their game not only from 5-on-5 but to 3-on-3 and the growth is amazing and they all still have a year of high school remaining in front of them. So I think there’s a maturity. And I think maybe what the maturity does more than anything is under pressure there’s a calm that I’ve noticed in them that when we’re in a game where we’re down in the fourth quarter and we only win by two there was a calmness to Lou and D that was very apparent and I think it’s because they have so much experience with us. Napheesa has a motor that just doesn’t stop. She’s not content to just shoot the ball. She then wants to get the rebound. And so I think Connecticut fans will have a lot to be happy here in a couple years when they get on campus.’’ The 2015 recruiting class includes the nation's best player in Samuelson, and Collier and Boykin are both top-10 players. There's also Kia Nurse, a member of the Canadian national team, and Georgetown transfer (and 2013-14 Big East freshman of the year) Natalie Butler.

<![CDATA[UConn Women Finalize 2014-15 Schedule]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:18:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP290728914291.jpg

The two-time defending national champion UConn women's basketball team finalized the dates for its 2014-15 schedule Thursday. The Huskies will play 30 games, including a home-and-home series with seven American Athletic Conference teams -- Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, SMU, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, and USF, -- and one game at UCF and at home against Houston.

Earlier this month, the Huskies announced their tough non-conference schedule.

More details via the news release:

2014-15 Schedule Notes
- 30 total games
- 13 home games, 12 road contests and five at neutral sites
- 12 nationally-televised contests, nine on the ESPN family of networks and two on CBS Sports Network
- four games against teams in last year's RPI top-10
- four games against teams that won a conference championship
- Four games against teams that advanced to the 2013 NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal
- Two games against teams that advanced to the 2013 NCAA Tournament Regional Final

2014-15 Non-conference Schedule Notes
- 12 total games
- Four home games, three road contests and five at neutral sites
- Four games against teams in last year's RPI top-10
- Four games against teams that won a conference championship in 2013-14
- Four games against teams that advanced to the 2014 NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal
- Two games against teams that advanced to the 2014 NCAA Tournament Regional Final

The 14-game non-conference slate includes seven opponents that qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament and four opponents that finished the season rated in the top-six of the RPI," the school said in an announcement. "In addition to the 14-game non-conference schedule, the Huskies will also play a pair of exhibition contests."

The second annual AAC Tournament will be March 6-9 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Men Release AAC Schedule]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:27:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

The defending national champion UConn men's basketball team announced its 2014-15 American Athletic Conference schedule Thursday.

It will include six games against teams that reached the NCAA Tournament a season ago, and every game will be televised. No fewer than 11 games will be shown on ESPN or ESPN2, with six on CBS Sports Network, five on SNY, and the remainder on the ESPN family of networks.

The breakdown of the Huskies' home venues, as well as game times will be announced at a later date.

Details via the news release:

"UConn will open its conference season on Dec. 31, playing host to Temple at a time to be determined. The Huskies will travel to new AAC member Tulsa on Jan. 13, to Tulane on Feb. 7, and to East Carolina on Feb. 25. Tulsa visits UConn on Feb. 12, Tulane is at UConn on Feb. 22, and East Carolina comes on Feb. 4."

The Huskies unveiled their non-conference schedule two weeks ago. You can see that here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Auriemma on US Team, Stewart]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:52:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/breanna-stewart-nd-finals.png

Unlike the rest of the world, where national teams train together ahead of international competitions, players for the U.S. squad train with their respective WNBA teams. It's a slight disadvantage, though you wouldn't know it by the results.

"We unfortunately don't have the ability to do that [train together]," U.S. coach Geno Auriemma said Tuesday, via the Hartford Courant. "We understand the issues and we deal with them."

The United States will compete in the FIBA World Championship in Turkey from Sept. 27-Oct. 5. Auriemma said that 10 of the 12 players who helped win the gold in the London Olympics in 2012 will be on this squad. One new face with a chance to earn a roster spot: Breanna Stewart, the rising UConn junior who has a good case for the best player -- male or female -- in college basketball.

"Breanna Stewart has always competed above her age level. That's been her history with USA Basketball," Auriemma said. "I know I am biased because I see her every day. But when [USA Basketball] trained in Las Vegas last fall [before the start of the 2013-14 college season] you would have been hard pressed to find someone who played better or was more productive during the camp than Breanna.

"If someone asked you to pick out the college player among the professionals, you would not have been able to say it was Breanna. Now, is she going to make the team? That remains to be seen. But is she comfortable competing and being successful against those players? Absolutely.

"She has a lot to improve on, don't get me wrong, but I would venture to say that players like Breanna, Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner, if you try to project into the future, are three of the players who may be next in line when we talk about those who could win three or four gold medals."

Stewart, who was the Final Four MVP in 2013 and the Associated Press Player of the Year in 2013-14, has helped lead the Huskies to national titles in her first two collegiate seasons.

<![CDATA[Danny Kanell Weighs in on Huskies]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:47:25 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

Former Florida St. quarterback Danny Kanell now makes his living as a color commentator for ESPN. He'll be in the booth Friday night when UConn opens its season against BYU, and Kannell can't wait to see what the Huskies look like under first-year coach Bob Diaco.

"I'm excited to see this weekend, to see the turnaround with Bob Diaco and see what he's implemented," Kanell told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. "I think they're going to have their hands full with a BYU team that's extremely talented and has a quarterback who might be a dark-horse contender, in Taysom Hill, for the Heisman Trophy. But I think it's going to be a process. It's going to take some time for Bob Diaco to get his guys in there to start recruiting the type of players that he wants."

Like everybody else on the planet, Kanell knows this is an important season for the Huskies, who have gone 13-23 the last three years.

"I think it's a pivotal time for UConn, and for them as a program," he said. "You look at the way football is dividing and the Power Five are starting to separate themselves, and UConn is trying to make a case to maybe even play into one of those conferences if there are any spots available. And one way they can make themselves attractive is to step up their football program."

Ah, yes, the haves (the Power Five) and the have nots (everybody else). UConn and the American Athletic Conference are familiar with the distinction, but if they want to change the perception they need to win -- a lot.

"I think it's going to be challenging for anybody outside of the Power Five to steal guys from within the Power Five," Kanell continued. "But UConn hasn't been exactly going after those types of guys, anyway. I think there is plenty of talent within this part of the country which it can draw from, and it's just maximizing the talent around here and developing players once he gets them on campus."

The fun officially starts Friday night.

<![CDATA[Weist Waiting for Next Opportunity]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:45:53 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tj-weist-uconn.jpg

A year ago, T.J. Weist was supposed to be the guy who was going to save UConn's offense from George DeLeone. Instead, Weist, originally hired as the offensive coordinator after the 2012 season, found himself as the interim head coach after Paul Pasquloni was fired after an 0-4 start.

Things got worse before they got better -- the Huskies were 0-9 before winning their final three games -- and when it was over, the university decided to find Pasqualoni's full-time replacement from outside, hiring Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and parting ways with Weist after less than a year.

But after a quarter-century of coaching in some capacity, Weist, who lives in Michigan, is taking a break this fall.

"I'm taking the season off for a couple of reasons," Weist told the Hartford Courant. "I really enjoyed being a head coach and I obviously I prefer to be a head coach again. We also have some family issues. I've been coaching for 25 years and I haven't lived around our family. With a 6-year-old son we wanted to get him around [his grandparents] with the time we have left.

"I didn't know how I'd feel, how I'd react, not being in camp, not being with the team. The biggest thing I miss is the players. Football is football. Relationships mean everything."

Even though Weist left UConn under less-than-ideal circumstances, he spoke glowingly of his time in Storrs.

"UConn was a great experience for us," Weist said. "I really hope you emphasize that. We lived a block off-campus in a great house. My wife could walk to work. I enjoyed the staff and the character of the group, and for me it was important to work for a head coach who put an emphasis on family and relationships. I can't thank Warde [Manuel], Susan Herbst and UConn people enough for how they treated us.

"As offensive coordinator, going into the season I felt a responsibility to really produce. We knew we were under pressure. We knew there was a situation with Coach Pasqualoni. It was a very emotional time for me. Tell it like it is, 0-4. That's my offense. That's my responsibility."

It eventually cost Weist his job, but only for the time being. Now it's Diaco's team, though Weist hopes to return to coaching when the time is right.

"I want to make sure my friends in the profession know that even though I'm not coaching this fall, I still want to coach," Weist said. "Nobody knows what jobs, head, coordinator, assistant, come open really until December. I'm not going to sit back and wait. I'm also going to study all my head coaching and coordinator playbooks, notebooks and plans, compare them to other teams, be ready for everything. I'm using the time to get a different perspective."

<![CDATA[Tim Wright Has High Upside]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 10:36:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tim-wright-patriots.jpg

Not a lot was known about Tim Wright when he was named as the other player in the trade that sent offensive guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay. In exchange, the Pats got Wright, the undrafted second-year tight end out of Rutgers, along with a 2015 fourth-round pick.

But Wright could prove to be the name remembered when looking back on this deal. As a rookie, he had 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns -- and that was in a very bad Bucs' offense. Now he'll work with Tom Brady in New England's precision offense that has a history of featuring playmaking tight ends.

TheMMQB.com's Andy Benoit thinks Wright can be a "full-fledged star in (the Pats') system," adding: "The Patriots now have two resources they can use to re-install the Aaron Hernandez role: Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright.

Two New England players know Wright from previous stops -- Darrelle Revis in Tampa and Duron Harmon at Rutgers -- and both had only laudatory things to say about the young tight end.

"He's great," Revis said, via ESPN.com. "He started for us down in Tampa, when I was there last year. And we are getting a solid player who can catch and who can run routes. ... He was a wide receiver coming in, then they switched him to tight end. He has a lot of speed at the tight end position.

"He comes from Rutgers, so he has that instilled in him -- of being a hard worker," Revis continued. "And he makes plays. He is a playmaker. Him teaming up with our system and what we do on offense, I think he will fit in well."

Harmon agreed: "He is a good player. It shows last year when he got a little more comfortable in his position. He made some plays for Tampa Bay. So he is definitely a good player."

Wright's versatility, which extends beyond the field, is also a plus.

Tim, he's good (as a barber)," Harmon said. "He kept me fresh in college."

<![CDATA[USC Player Suspended for Lie]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 03:21:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/USC+Josh+Shaw.jpg

A USC football player and co-captain admitted on Wednesday that he lied when he said he hurt his ankles while jumping off a second-floor balcony to save his drowning nephew from a pool, the player said in a statement from his attorney.

Senior cornerback Josh Shaw first told USC's Ripsit Blog that he jumped off the balcony on Aug. 23, landed on the concrete and crawled into the pool to rescue the child, suffering the sprains as a result of the jump.

But on Wednesday, Shaw admitted that the story was "made up," and school officials called it "a complete fabrication."

"On Saturday August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall. I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth," Shaw said Wednesday in statement from his lawyer. "I apologize to USC for this action on my part."

"My USC coaches, the USC Athletic Department, and espcially coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful," the statement continued.

The Ripsit blog has since deleted its initial story about the rescue. Shaw has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities, school officials said.

"We are extremely disappointed in Josh," USC head football coach Steve Sarkisian said in a school statement."He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story."Sarkisian said earlier Wednesday that the campus was looking into phone calls that disputed Shaw's account of what happened.

"I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized," Sarkisian said in the statement Wednesday. "Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him."

The football player's sister, Asia Shaw, shared her reaction with NBC4: "I support him with whatever he does 100 percent – 110 percent."

Carmen Trutanich, who represented USC football players before serving as Los Angeles city attorney, says Shaw may have felt pressured to lie.

"It was a kid afraid of telling the coach, 'Hey coach I got hurt doing something stupid,'" Trutanich said. Trutanich is not representing Shaw.

Students were surprised to hear their fellow Trojan lied.

"I'm shocked," one student said. "I didn't think he'd be capable of doing something like that."

"I think that's just really disappointing, because we all thought he was a hero," another student said.

On Tuesday, Sarkisian defended Shaw and said he had "no reason, no history to not believe Josh."

Los Angeles police told NBC4 on Tuesday they had not had any contact with Shaw, but they did take a burglary report Aug. 23, the same night of his fall, in which the victim named Shaw as her boyfriend.

"He is not listed as a suspect, and police had no contact with him," LAPD Officer Sara Faden told NBC4. "His name is just listed in the body of a police report."

Officers responded to the call about 11 p.m., Faden said. While officers were speaking with people outside, a resident returned and spoke to police.

They asked her about her roommates and "people in her life," and she mentioned Shaw as her boyfriend, Faden said.

Conan Nolan and Robert Kovacik contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: USC Athletics]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Trade Mankins to Buccaneers]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:40:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/logan-mankins-traded.jpg

Offensive guard Logan Mankins arrived in New England in 2005 and has been a starter ever since. Up until Tuesday, anyway, when the Patriots shipped him to Tampa Bay for a 2015 fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright.

If it seems like an inglorious end to a very good career in New England just know this: Coach Bill Belichick is much more likely to get rid of a good player a year too early instead of a year too late. We've seen it before with Ty Law, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and now Mankins.

That doesn't mean Belichick wasn't appreciative of what Mankins accomplished in his nine seasons, just that football is a bottom-line business. And the bottom line is that the coach felt the team was better off shipping Mankins out of town.

“Logan Mankins is everything we would ever want in a football player," Belichick said in a statement released by the team. "It is hard to imagine a better player at his position, a tougher competitor or a person to represent our program. He is one of the all-time great Patriots and the best guard I ever coached. Logan brought a quiet but unmistakable presence and leadership that will be impossible to duplicate. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when difficult decisions have to be made -- and this is one of the most difficult we will ever make -- but like every other decision, it was made for what we feel is in the best interests of the team.”

Mankins, 32, struggled in pass protection last season but he's been one of the NFL's best blockers for virtually his entire career. So who replaces him in New England's lineup? Options include Josh Kline, Jordan Devey, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon and Ryan Wendell, though none compare to Mankins, both in skill and salary (he'll make $6.25 million, which played a role in the team's decision to trade him).

If there's any question about what Mankins meant to his teammates, special teams captain Matthew Slater spoke glowingly of the offensive lineman.

"Man, what an awesome guy. What an awesome player. So honored to play with that guy. So honored to get to know him and his family," he said, via ESPN.com. "I can't say enough good things about him. Him and his family, he has great morals, great ethics, a great work ethic. He's a tremendous guy and is going to be great wherever he goes. So for the Patriots, we move on, as sad as that is. It's exciting, too, we move on to the thrills of the season."

Meanwhile, Mankins immediately upgrades a Tampa Bay offensive line that has struggled for much of the preseason.

"We feel very fortunate," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said on Tuesday. "Logan is a very good player. [I'm] a firsthand witness of what he means to the locker room as well. I was with him for three years.

"Our director of player personnel, Jon Robinson, has been with him his entire career. His play on the field speaks for itself. He's a great person. He's going to be great for that room. He's going to be great for that locker room."

<![CDATA[Soccer Star to Play Last Game With Team at Rentschler]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:49:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_landondonovan.jpg

Soccer star Landon Donovan will make his final appearance with the U.S. Men's National Team at Rentschler Field in October.

Over the course of 15 years, Donovan has become the most accomplished player in team history and holds several team records, including the most goals and most assists.

Donovan, four-time U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year, announced his retirement in August.

"Playing for the U.S. National Team has been a huge part of my career and I'm ecstatic to have the opportunity to play for my country one last time," Donovan said in a statement. "I'm so grateful to all the fans that have supported me and this game will give me the chance to say thank you to all of them. I look forward to a great evening and I'm thankful to U.S. Soccer for making this happen."

He’ll take the field for the last time before his retirement on Oct. 10, when the team goes up against Ecuador in East Hartford. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.

"For 15 years, Landon has thrilled us with his amazing abilities on the field and impressed us with his gracious approach off the field," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, in a statement Tuesday. "We are looking forward to celebrating his legacy during our next home National Team match and allowing fans the opportunity to thank him for all the memories he's provided over the years."

Donovan was cut from the 2014 World Cup roster and said he initially rooted against Team USA in the tournament.

Tickets to the game at Rentschler are available online, by phone at 1-877-522-8499 and at the XL Center ticket office.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rookie Garoppolo to Start for Pats Thursday]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:27:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/jimmy-garoppolo-ryan-mallett.jpg

Rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo has been a pleasant surprise this preseason. So much so that there has been speculation that should the Patriots keep two quarterbacks, former third-round pick Ryan Mallet would be the odd man out.

For now, Garoppolo, Mallet and future Hall of Famer Tom Brady are all on the roster with Brady, 37, firmly entrenched as the starter for the foreseeable future. Once the regular season starts anyway. Because on Thursday, in the Pats' final preseason game, Garoppolo will make his first start for New England.

"It's just an experience that he needs to go through -- to feel like he’s going to start the game [and] he’s going to be in the game for every situation -- second down, third down, goal-line, red area, two-minute, whatever it is, he has to be prepared for everything and handle whatever it is that comes up,“ coach Bill Belichick said Monday during an appearance on Boston's WEEI, via ESPN.com.

“This is also a week that he’ll have to deal with the media, deal with the production meeting before the game, I’m sure the fans will have plenty of insults for him when he walks out on the field. It’s an away game. It’s all the things that a quarterback eventually will do as a starting quarterback. Whenever that happens, I have no idea, but whenever it does happen, at least he will have done it once before. I think there is something to be learned here. Ryan [Mallett] has been here three-and-a-half years and Tom’s done it a couple hundred times. This is an opportunity for Jimmy to get that experience and I’m sure he’ll learn from it.”

And Garoppolo's performance could go a long way in determining who will be Brady's backup moving forward.

"Even with Jimmy Garoppolo starting Thursday night, Patriots have not yet decided who will be their No. 2 QB," ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday.

But Garoppolo heads into the preseason finale brimming with confidence after a promising performance against the Redskins where he played the entire second half and completed 9 of 13 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.

“That was definitely a big building block, going from there,” Garoppolo said Monday. “It’s one of those things, you’re going to have your ups and downs as a rookie, that’s just part of the game. You have to just keep gradually improving day in and day out. If you keep doing that, as a rookie, that’s all you can ask for.”

<![CDATA[Hernandez Evidence to Be Tossed]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:41:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP296842589971.jpg

A Massachusetts judge has allowed some evidence to be suppressed in the murder trial of Aaron Hernandez, court documents show.

The former star Patriots tight end had asked the court to suppress the evidence — an iPhone, a Blackberry, an iPad and two iPad minis — which was obtained when his home was searched last June after the killing of Odin Lloyd.

Defense lawyers argued that that evidence was not part of the original search warrant and that a state trooper did not have the proper paperwork when he entered Hernandez's home.

Tuesday, the Bristol County Superior Court granted that motion, allowing that evidence to be thrown out.

Earlier this month, the court denied Hernandez's motion to exclude a digital video recorder, a hard drive and Hernandez's cell phone.

The hard drive allegedly contains files showing Hernandez holding the murder weapon and his movements around the time of the murder. The phone, according to prosecutors, had text messages Hernandez sent to Lloyd, as well as the former NFL star's alleged right hand man, Ernest Wallace, on the night of the killing.

Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the 2013 death of Lloyd. He is also charged with the murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston in 2012.

The Bristol County District Attorney's Office told NECN Tuesday afternoon that it cannot comment on the case, due to an ongoing gag order.

NECN will have more as this story develops.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cochran Says BYU Will be a Challenge]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:55:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/casey082614.jpg UConn QB Casey Cochran talks about this week's opponent BYU.]]> <![CDATA[Diaco Looking for Focus in Opener]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:04:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

Four days and counting until the Bob Diaco era officially begins. BYU is coming to Rentschler Field Friday and the hope is that these Huskies, who have gone just 13-21 the last three seasons, can show signs of a program that played in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season.

“I want to see a team that is focused, resolute, I want to see aggressive, intense, tough team that gives great effort,” Diaco said during his Monday press conference about what he wants to see from his team Friday night (via SNY.com's John Silver). “I don’t want to see a rigid, stuffy, decelerating group. I want to see animation, I WANT to HEAR animation. I want to see an energy coming off individual players and as a unit. GREAT joy in what they are doing. Four quarters of celebration…I will be disappointed if I don’t see that.“

Two seasons ago, UConn had one of the best defenses in the Big East, but after Sio Moore, Tevardo Williams, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz left for the NFL, the unit struggled in 2013. And now, against the Cougars' high-powered offense, the Huskies will have their work cut out for them.

“Everyone in the team has been waiting for this game since we started winter workouts,” linebacker Graham Stewart said. “It’s here. I think you should always want to go after the big dog. Have a big game. That’s why you play the game, for that raw emotion and the crowd. It’s very exciting.”

<![CDATA[Huskies' Nnamdi Amilo Awarded Scholarship]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:01:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/483304481.jpg

On Monday, coach Kevin Ollie announced that junior Nnamdi Amilo, who spent last season as a walk-on, has been awarded a scholarship.

“Nnamdi is a terrific young man who we’re proud to have as part of our family,” Ollie said in a statement released by the university. “He’s a hard worker on the court, doing whatever we need him to do to make his teammates better, he’s an outstanding student in the classroom, and he’s a young man of the highest character. I’m very happy to be able to give him a scholarship.”

Amilio appeared in two games last season, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds. The 6-3, 225-pound forward from New Fairfield is a molecular cell biology major with plans to pursue a career in medicine. Amilio brings the scholarship total for the 2014-15 Huskies to 12.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco Looking to DeLorenzo for Leadership]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:59:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/max-delorenzo-2013.jpg

Ready or not, the season is upon us and the Huskies are about to find out exactly where they stand after three seasons of mediocrity. And ready or not, junior running back Max DeLorenzo, a backup since he arrived in Storrs, will be asked to carry the load, not only in the backfield, but as a team leader. Lucky for first-year coach Bob Diaco, DeLorenzo appears up to the challenge -- and then some.

"Max does all the jobs good," Diaco said, according to the Hartford Courant. "He's a leader. The players on the team respect him. He blocks. He has good, soft hands. He runs the ball hard. At this point, he's the most complete back of the four guys."

A young team with a new coach can never have enough leaders, but DeLorenzo will be counted on to carry the ball -- and do it well.

"Everyone seems to think I don't have speed, that I don't have any quickness," DeLorenzo said. "I can shock the defense that way."

The plan heading into the season opener against BYU Friday, is to feed DeLorenzo 10 times or so, and then spread the carries among the three other backs -- Josh Marriner, Ron Johnson and Arkeel Newsome -- none of whom have run the ball for the Huskies.

 "If a guy becomes hard to tackle, we'll just keep giving it to him," Diaco said. "If a guy is not having the production, obviously we'll stop at that point. But we're going to give them all a good chance."

 "Ron is a bigger type guy and has speed, too," DeLorenzo explained of his backfield mates. "Josh has a combo of speed and people might think he's not powerful because he's shorter, but he's one of the strongest guys pound for pound in the weight room. Arkeel brings that speed and elusiveness. I haven't seen one defender yet get a clean hit on him. He's slippery."

Diaco will need contributions from everybody if the Huskies are going to be successful this season. It starts with quarterback Casey Cochran, but a sound, consistent running game will go a long way in making Cochran's job that much easier.

<![CDATA[Diaco Talks About Expectations]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:58:10 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/diacopic082514.jpg UConn head coach Bob Diaco was even-keeled during his weekly news conference until some of his players walked in. Then Diaco was asked what he wanted from the Huskies.]]> <![CDATA[Tapping Out for a Cause]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:36:18 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/216*120/jitsu082514.jpg Jon Thomas is the founder and CEO of Tap Out Cancer, a non-profit organization that is using the sport of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu to eradicate the deadly disease. Born from personal tragedy, it is a concept that is making a difference.]]> <![CDATA[Pats' Gostkowski Nails 60-yard vs. Panthers]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:25:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/stephen-gostkowski-panthers.jpg

There was plenty to like in New England's 30-7 victory over the Panthers Friday night. Tom Brady looked like, well, Tom Brady, tossing two touchdowns, the defense didn't allow a point for 58 minutes, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski striped a 60-yard field goal as the Pats cruised in their penultimate preseason game.

Gostkowski's kick came at the end of the second half and had it come during the regular season it would have been a team record. The current mark is 57 yards, courtesy of Adam Vinatieri back in 2002 in a game against the Bears.

"The thing about trying a long field goal like that is there are no expectations. You go out there and it's really a win-win situation. Nobody expects you to make it, so it really puts your mind at ease," Gostkowski said, via ESPN.com.

"We hit a pretty good kick, and we got out there a little late, the play clock was running down, so I didn't really get to aim. I just kind of kicked it, and luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there."

Gostkowski's regular-season record is 54 yards, which came on Oct. 13, 2013. But the 60-yarder he converted Friday wasn't lost on his teammates, even if it's not officially a record.

"Incredible kick," quarterback Tom Brady said. "That's a long ways away, so it gives everybody a lot of confidence that if you get the ball to the 42-yard line, you've got a chance at three points."

Gostkowski's kick capped off a near-perfect two-minute offense. The Pats began the drive with 1:47 left in the half and the ball on their own 9-yard line.

"I think it really visually now gives our offense as clear of a picture as they could possibly have of where we need to get to, how much a couple extra yards means in that situation," coach Bill Belichick said. "Hopefully we can make those kicks when [we] get in the regular season."

Brady added: ''The days are winding down until these games count, so it gets pretty exciting here in a few weeks but you've still got to try to use these days to make as many improvements as we can.''

<![CDATA[Whitmer: 'I Will Be Ready When They Call My Number']]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:23:03 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/whitmer_michigan.jpg

For the last two seasons, Chandler Whitmer began the season as the Huskies' starting quarterback. Now under new coach Bob Diaco, the redshirt senior is a backup behind Casey Cochran. But the new system and the promise of playing time has Whitmer in a good place after two up and down years in Storrs.

“He has made it more of a stress free environment,” Whitmer said of Diaco, according to SNY.com. “It’s a lot more fun relax and we are out there making plays. A bad play happens? It’s going to happen. You move on to the next play. In the past, it was so crucial every mistake that was ever made. He’s not condoning mistakes, but he knows we are going to learn and move on.”

Cochran may be listed at the No. 1 quarterback but Diaco has made it known that Whitmer will play, too, including in the season opener.

“Yes, you can only play only one quarterback at a time, but anything can happen,” Whitmer said. “In this situation, we are going to use the both of our talents. It’s an interesting aspect. When you name a starter, he’s a starter and (the backup) won’t play unless the starter gets hurt or is not getting it done. This, it’s a different situation. It’s good for both of us. We’ve talked how we both are going to work together and make it so it isn’t about us, it’s about the offense and moving the ball down the field. ...

“All I know I will be ready when they call my number,” Whitmer continued. “Coach Diaco said we will know the Thursday before game. Whether it is a certain situation, a certain time. Whatever it may be we won’t know until the Thursday of the game. We won’t be sitting on the sidelines anxious when we are going to go in. It can change week-to-week and game to game. Casey’s the starter, the coaches say I will see the field.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Players Embrace Cochran's Mullet]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:20:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/cochran-mullet-casey.jpg

The Huskies' 2014 season begins in earnest Friday when BYU comes to Rentschler Field and quarterback Casey Cochran will be under center when the offense takes the field for the first time. Check that: Casey Cochran and his mullet and his pencil-thin mustache will be under center.

Not surprisingly, Cochran's choice of hairstyle and facial hair hasn't gone unnoticed. We mentioned it last week and Cochran's teammates have even been asked about it.

"Oh, yeah," senior cornerback Byron Jones said via the Hartford Courant. "It's impressive. We all love that mullet. He has got that little mustache, too, and I'm not sure you guys have caught on to that. It's very skinny and small."

"The mullet is something unique to Casey," junior linebacker Marquise Vann added. "Rally around it? You know what, I think we can."

And senior wideout Geremy Davis said, "He's telling me I should braid my hair into a mullet deal, too. I just don't think it's my style."

Cochran, meanwhile, says his look is a combination of the looks his parents sported back in the day.

"I didn't really put too much thought in it," Cochran said. "I wasn't trying to get in what came out of it. My hair grows pretty slowly so it's been probably eight months or so for it to come in.

"My mom [Shannon] had one in the '80s. My dad had an Afro when he was in high school, so I may have just blended it."

Luckily, coach Bob Diaco didn't put much stock in appearances when he settled on a starter.

"Casey is intangibly gifted, a top-flight leader, almost a natural-born leader," the first-year coach said. "He has got it in his DNA. I didn't watch him when he was 8, but he probably took over whatever Pop Warner club he was driving."

And now he's been given the keys to the Huskies' offense.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut]]>
<![CDATA[Diaco: Can't Wave Magic Wand for Huskies]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:05:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/rentschler-field-2012-umass-uconn.jpg

When Bob Diaco was hired last December he inherited a team that went 3-9 in 2013 -- including nine straight losses to begin the season -- and was a combined 10-12 in the two seasons before that under Paul Pasqualoni.

Ideally, a new coach brings a new philosophy and with it a renewed commitment to winning. The reality is that programs are rarely turned around in just a few months, something Diaco fully understands as the Huskies prepare for their season opener Friday against BYU.

"You can't wave a magic wand and turn the team into something before it's ready to," Diaco said, via the Hartford Courant. "Things take time. ...

""So, you get a defense called and you learn where you're supposed to stand, not only your horizontal alignment but your vertical alignment, and you learn what your key is and you learn what your assignment is," Diaco continued. "That would be somewhere between remedial and 100 level; 100 level is they're going to run and they're going to pass the ball and you know your assignment and you don't take a false step on the key to do your assignment. Now you know you're operating at 100 level, but there's so much more that you need to do as you become a better, more productive player."

Then there's the 200 level -- "Make that change without the coaches doing it for you; you did it yourself. We call it our toolbox. That's a 200 level." Followed by the the 300 level -- "All I'm waiting for is my key to move so I can get into the play that I already know it's going to be. That's 300 level."

And once the player has all that down, they've reached the 400 level.

"I've got it all. I've used my toolbox. I've seen the formation. I know the three or four plays it's going to be," the coach said. "As soon as my key moves, I'm going to run into the play. ... Ball is snapped, key moves, I'm already on my way there. That's how you make a lot of plays. That's when you're operating at a 400 level."

Diaco knows that the Huskies have a long way to go after several years of mediocrity. And we'll all found out together just where this team is starting Friday night.

<![CDATA[Ledecky Sets World Record in 1,500 Freestyle]]> Sun, 24 Aug 2014 05:48:35 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP973055938873%281%29.jpg

U.S. teenager Katie Ledecky sliced almost six seconds off her own world mark in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle on Sunday, winning in 15 minutes, 28.36 seconds to post her second world record in as many nights at the Pan Pacific championships.

The 17-year-old Ledecky improved her record in the 400 freestyle on Saturday. She collected her fifth gold medal of the meet in convincing fashion in cool but clear conditions on the last night of competition.

It was the third time in 13 months she's set the mark in the 1,500, and the second in three months since her 15:34.23 at Shenandoah on June 19.

Ledecky holds world records in the 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyle events.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dan Marino Returning to Dolphins]]> Sun, 24 Aug 2014 18:26:56 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DanMarino14.jpg

Dan Marino is coming back to the Miami Dolphins. The Hall of Fame quarterback has agreed to accept a position with the team.

The Dolphins released a statement Sunday from team owner Stephen Ross and Marino confirming the story, which NBC 6 broke Saturday night.

“Dan is and will always be an important part of the Miami Dolphins and we are excited to get him involved in a more formal way,” Ross said. “Dan is unquestionably one of the greatest players in NFL history and his enthusiasm and passion for the Dolphins is inspiring to everyone here."

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve in this role. I have always considered myself a Dolphin for life and I look forward to supporting the organization anyway I can,” Marino added. “Stephen Ross is a passionate guy who is committed to building a first-class, winning organization. I'm excited about the future of the team and where the organization is headed.”

Marino will serve as a special advisor to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and C.E.O. Tom Garfinkel. The team says Marino will work with the organization in a variety of different capacities. Marino has been more visible at Dolphins camp lately, watching practice Thursday as well as being in Davie for the ALS ice bucket challenge the week before. For 17 years, Marino was the face of the franchise and both the team and the 52-year-old have had mutual interest in finding a role for him within the organization.

In his career with the Dolphins, Marino played in 242 games (240 starts) and was 4,967-8,358 (59.4 percent) for 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns and 252 interceptions for an 86.4 passing efficiency rating. Marino holds 31 Dolphins regular season team records (43 overall, including playoffs) and is tied for three others (seven, including playoffs). Marino also holds five NFL regular season records and is tied for six others. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on February 5, 2005 and enshrined on August 7, 2005. Marino’s No. 13 jersey became the second Dolphins uniform number to be retired, on Sunday, September 17, 2000, at halftime of the Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens game at Sun Life Stadium, where he was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll. He was also a charter inductee in the Dolphins Walk of Fame on December 4, 2011.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Beats Las Vegas in LLWS]]> Sun, 24 Aug 2014 10:56:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/245*120/jrw+win+us+title.jpg

Chicago's Jackie Robinson West All-Stars took the U.S. title in the Little League World Series with a 7-5 win over Las Vegas' Mountain Ridge Saturday.

The team started off strong, matching Nevada's three-run start and taking the lead in the second inning. The team maintained their one-point lead, keeping Nevada from scoring in the second, third, and fourth innings.

Nevada regained their lead following a home run in the fifth inning, but Jackie Robinson West tied the score with a hit from Joshua Houston. Chicago then scored again later in the fifth inning, bringing the score to 7-5, which ultimately brought them to victory.

“Throughout the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West has played with enthusiasm, energy and a whole lot of heart," Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement. "While they have already won the hearts of fans across the country now they are officially the U.S. Champions."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the players for becoming only the third team ever from Illinois to reach the championship game of the Little League World Series.

"The City of Chicago could not be prouder of them," Emanuel said in a statement. "Their positive attitude and success on the field has rallied people from every neighborhood to support these kids and they continue to demonstrate why they are the pride of Chicago. What a comeback. What a win!"

Supporters, including Emanuel and Quinn, gathered Saturday at an official watch party for the team, held at the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, located at 1250 W. 119th St.

Chicago's Chance the Rapper also came to cheer on the team.

Despite rain, fans also gathered on State Street, in front of the Chicago Theater, between Randolph and Lake Streets, to watch the game live on a big screen.

Two more watch parties are scheduled for 2 p.m. at both locations for Sunday's game.

The little league team from the South Side faced off against Philadelphia Thursday, winning 6-5 against the team that made national headlines for their star female pitcher Mo'ne Davis.

The team continued its historic run with Saturday's rematch against Las Vegas. The West champions beat JRW in four innings in a mercy-rule game last Sunday behind five homers.

Chicago now moves on to the World Series Championship game against South Korea Sunday. Saturday's losing teams will play in a consolation game Sunday morning.

The success of Jackie Robinson West, comprised of all black players, marks the team's first appearance in the Little League World Series in 31 years.

Their popularity has continued to grow throughout their journey, sparking support from Major League Baseball players and even Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

After Thursday's game, Emanuel said win or lose, the city will hold a parade for the team.

"No matter what happens these kids are champs," Emanuel said. "We will have a parade respectful of them because they are winners whatever the score is."

<![CDATA[Boy With 1 Arm Is Golf Prodigy]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 17:48:26 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/one+arm+3+year+old+tommy+morrisey.jpg

Summertime for 3-year-old golf prodigy Tommy Morrissey means days spent hitting 100-yard drives over lakes at an Atlantic County country club. He steps up to the tee, lines up his driver, hesitates for just a moment, and cracks the golf ball over the water…all with one arm.

Tommy was born missing his right hand and part of his right arm below the elbow.

As he grew up in his hometown of Juniper, Fla., Tommy would watch golf on television with his father Joe and mother Marcia Lee. When he was about 18 months old, Tommy’s parents noticed that he was very interested in the sport, standing in front of the television and mimicking the golfer’s swings.

They gave him a set of plastic golf clubs, brought him out on the range, and saw he was a natural from his first perfect contact.

“His true ability is to look and learn,” Joe said. “I have given him very little instruction.”

When he was a little over 2-years-old, Tommy began using an iPad to look up golf tutorial videos on his own.

“I walked in, I asked what he’s doing, and he said, ‘Daddy, I’m taking a golf lesson’,” Joe said.

At night, teddy bears would not accompany Tommy to bed. Instead, he was tucked in with an array of at least 7 clubs.

“One time he refused to go to bed, and [I] finally got him to go to sleep and he insisted on this club or that club,” Joe said. “I put him down, and my wife and I heard him yelling, ‘Mommy, Daddy, you forgot my putter!’”

Tommy has since switched to real clubs, having torn apart multiple sets of his old plastic ones. The weight of the clubs is a challenge for him, but Jeff LeFevre, Golf Director for the Linwood Country Club where Tommy and his father play during their summers at the Jersey Shore, says that difficulty does not hold the prodigy back.

“It’s such a difficult game with two hands, two arms,” LeFevre said. “And here we are, a 3-year-old with one arm with absolutely great rhythym, great set-up…truly, truly a golf prodigy.”

Tommy doesn't see himself as different than other children his age. He simply calls his shorter arm “Nemo” after the fish with one small fin in Finding Nemo.

In addition to his love of golf, Tommy plays many other sports, punting a football or hitting a baseball out of the park.

Joe and his wife say that while having one arm has been a challenge for Tommy, in the end it is also a gift.

“He has been able to bring grown men to tears on the driving range. . .In his short life, he has been able to inspire many, make people second guess their own capabilities,” Joe said. “…He is doing it with probably one of the most powerful tools, and that is the innocence of a child.”

In the end, Tommy is just a kid wanting to have fun playing the sport that he loves.

“He does like to hit the ball in the water, but that’s ‘cause he’s 3,” Joe said. “He doesn’t understand that’s bad yet.”

<![CDATA[Red Sox Sign Cuban OF Rusney Castillo]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 19:32:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Rusney.jpg

The Boston Red Sox have officially signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo through 2020, the team confirmed Saturday.

Roc Nation, the agency founded by rapper Jay-Z, tweeted a photo of Castillo signing the deal with Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington, calling it a six-year deal worth $72.5 million.

Alex Speeir of WEEI reports that the deal includes a $5.4 million signing bonus and just $100,000 in salary for the rest of 2014. According to Speeir, Castillo will earn $10.5 million annually between 2015 and 2017 and $11 million in 2018 and 2019.

Speeir reports that 2020, the final year of Castillo's deal, is a player's option worth $13.5 million.

The 27-year-old center fielder was at Fenway Park before Saturday's game, meeting with manager John Farrell and his new teammates, as Jimmy Toscano of Comcast SportsNet New England reports.

According to the Red Sox, Castillo played 360 games over five seasons with Serie Nacional, batting .319/.383/.516 with 51 homers and 76 stolen bases.

While statistics in Cuban baseball do not correlate directly to those in the majors, his counting stats would extrapolate rougly to 23 and 34 steals over a full 162-game season.

Thursday night, it had been reported by ESPN Boston that the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers appeared to be the frontrunners for the prized international free agent. Castillo had worked out privately for eight teams, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

The reported value of the deal trumps those of other recent signings for Cuban bats, including Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers (seven years for $42 million) and Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox (six years for $68 million). Both of those hitters have had strong impacts on their teams - Puig has hit .314/.391/.521 with 32 homers in the past two seasons while Abreu has batted .303/.361/.594 with 32 homers since April.

Yoenis Cespedes, for whom the Red Sox traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, signed with the Oakland Athletics in 2012 for three years and $36 million after his defection from Cuba.

The Red Sox previously committed $103 million to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka - his contract was for $52 million and the team posted $51 million fee for the opportunity to negotiate exclusively with the Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher.

A video featuring highlights of Castillo's showcase for scouts was posted on Jay Z's YouTube page:

The video lists Castillo's height at 5'9 and weight at 205 pounds.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Browner Surprised by Increased Flags]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:38:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20131028-Seattle-Seahawks-St-Louis-Rams2.jpg

Coach Bill Belichick hopes to answer some questions about his team in the Patriots' third preseason game game on Friday night against the Panthers. But one issue the coach has no control over is the sudden increase in penalty flags resulting from the league's crackdown on illegal contact and defensive holding. It's led to a a substantial increase in flags thrown and it's left defensive backs wondering exactly how they're going to make it through the regular season.

That includes Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner, who arrived this offseason from Seattle, one of the NFL's best and most physical defenses.

"It was surprising how many flags they actually did throw," he said, via ESPN.com. "Some, I think, could be ticky-tack; there’s a lot of hand-fighting going on down the field with receivers and DBs all the time. They said they were going to do it and they did it. ... It’s just a part of the game. As a cornerback, it will have me more focused and in-tune with hand position and things like that, to tighten up my craft.”

Browner doesn't think the new emphasis on the old rules is a reaction to the Seahawks' defense manhandling of the Broncos' offense in last February's Super Bowl.

"I think every year they say that’s the emphasis. Last year, I know that’s what they told us going into the year," he said. "It will be interesting to see how lenient or how tough they’ll be on those calls once the regular season starts. ... Hopefully, in the regular season they don't call as many, but if they do, we just have to take emphasis on getting our hands right and the placement. Try to reduce the penalties, because those things can cost you a big game somewhere along in the season."

Browner also can't imagine that officials will continue to call penalties at the same rate during the regular season.

“I think it’s only a three-hour slot and window to play a football game, or else 'The Simpsons' are going to cut in, and the game might just cut off in the third quarter," Browner joked.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[UConn Adds Series With Ohio St., Arizona]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:35:23 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin-ollie-2014.jpg

UConn announced this week that its men's basketball team will have home-and-home series against Ohio State and the University of Arizona which will take place over the next four seasons.

The series with the Buckeyes will begin in the 2015-16 season in Connecticut, and the Huskies will visit Columbus in 2016-17. Both games are expected to be played in December.

UConn will travel to Tuscon in 2017-18 and the Wildcats will come to Storrs the following year. These games will also be in December.

More details via the news release:

"UConn is 2-3 all-time against Ohio State, but has not played the Buckeyes since its 64-58 victory on March 27, 1999, in the NCAA National Semifinals in St. Petersburg, Fla., as the Huskies went on to win their first National Championship. UConn’s other victory over Ohio State was also in a national tournament, a 72-67 triumph on March 30, 1988, in Madison Square Garden to capture the NIT Championship. UConn’s three losses to Ohio State came in 1983-84 in Columbus, in 1984-85 at the Hartford Civic Center, and in 1991-92 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Cincinnati.

"The Huskies are a perfect 5-0 all-time against Arizona, the most recent game a 65-63 thriller on March 26, 2011, in the NCAA West Regional Championship in Anaheim, Calif., advancing UConn to the Final Four in Houston, where the Huskies won their third national title."

<![CDATA[Maya Moore Named WNBA MVP]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:32:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/184006367.jpg

Before there was Breanna Stewart there was Maya Moore, the best player in college basketball who was the WNBA's first-overall pick in 2011. Now she's been named the league's most valuable player for 2014.

Details via the press release.

"For Moore, the reigning MVP of the WNBA Finals presented by Boost Mobile and the league’s 2011 Rookie of the Year, this is the first regular-season MVP honor of her career. The University of Connecticut product and two-time WNBA champion finished as the runner-up to Candace Parker in MVP voting a year ago and finished fourth behind winner Tina Charles in 2012.

"Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (Editor's note: also a former UConn standout) finished second in the voting with 242 points (two first-place votes). ... This season, Moore guided the Lynx to a 25-9 record and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs, despite the club being without injured All-Stars Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus for 23 and nine games, respectively.

"For the regular season, Moore played in all 34 games and paced the league in scoring (23.9 ppg), the third-highest average in WNBA history behind the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg by Diana Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

"(Moore) became the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points. She finished the season ranked atop the WNBA in made field goals (295) and was second in minutes (34.7 mpg) and free throws made (160). Moore placed eighth in rebounding (8.1 rpg), tied for third in three-point field goals made (62), fourth in free throw percentage (.884, 160-of-181), tied for fourth in steals (1.88 spg), sixth in double-doubles (10), and 20th in assists (3.4 apg). In addition to leading her club in scoring, Moore placed second on the Lynx in rebounding and assists, and third in blocks (0.82 bpg)."

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<![CDATA[QB Coach Talks Cochran, Whitmer]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:05:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Casey+Cochran+1200.jpg

The Huskies' opener is a week away, and then the team takes the field for the first time under Bob Diaco to face BYU next Friday, redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran will be under center.

This Thursday, quarterbacks coach Don Patterson talked about what he expects from Cochran and senior backup Chandler Whitmer.

"The players will tell you that they have great confidence in both of those guys," Patterson told the New Haven Register's Jim Fuller. "I think Chandler and Casey, it has been a very good competition, it has been a very smooth competition. I think they understand, because we talk about it, but we as a group of quarterbacks we are a team within a team and our job to make sure that this team has great quarterback play regardless of injury which means they all have to be able to play and all have to fulfill their role. If you happen to be third team then your mentality has to be that you are two plays away and stranger things have happened. You have to get ready for the game, that is the hard thing to do if you are a second or third team quarterback, because there is a lot of preparation and yet you may not get on the field.

"I think it is not secret because I know Bob mentioned that Chandler is going to play against BYU so there is no doubt about it. How much, we don't know, it depends on game situations. We obviously had a lot of confidence in him and even more important than what we think, I think the players have a lot of confidence in him. I know there are fans who wonder if he deserves (to play) but he has to be able to take snaps to be able to play better than he played for us in the past and I am confident in saying 'yes, I am confident that he will play better than he played in the past.'"

For Patterson, the quarterbacks's job, while not necessarily easy is pretty straightforward.

"The first thing you have to do is not beat yourself. It sounds simple but the University of Alabama always has a quarterback that doesn't get Alabama beat and that is the first thing we have to do is not beat ourselves," he said. "Every ball we ever throw in practice is charted, they can tell you but they have thrown 15 picks out of 852 passes here in camp, that is pretty good. One interception every 60 snaps."

We'll find out shortly if the Huskies can carry that practice performance over to the games.