Sunday, April 26, 2009

Final Edition

Hey there sports fans and welcome to tonight's final edition of the Wide World of Wildcats. Over the course of the semester, I have had the pleasure of posting about various sports topics whether it be athlete profiles, my experiences or game highlights. Every week, I have looked forward to my next post and have loved having the opportunity to pick a sports related topic that everyone would enjoy and want to read. I have learned a significant amount about blogging and have come to love it. Blogging is something that is so easy to do and it is the quickest way to get out what you want to say. It is easily accessible to anyone and everyone and it is so simple to use. I would highly recommend blogging to anyone who enjoys writing.

One of the most useful tools I picked up by my blog is how to effectively write about sports. Before this, I hadn't done much sports writing at all, but this blog gave me the opportunity to practice each week. I'm glad I was able to cover a variety of sports and tell about my experiences. I truly have a passion and fascination for all sports and this blog further proved that a career in sports needs to be in my future. 

I appreciate everyone who took the time to check in each week and read what I had going on. It has been a good ride for the past four months and I could not have asked for a better class assignment. From sunny Tucson, Arizona, thanks for the support and until next time, Bear Down!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stefanos Michael, International Track Star

      Stefanos Michael competing in long jump

Good afternoon sports fans and welcome to this weeks edition of Wide World of Wildcats. I hope you all are enjoying your weekend and the NBA playoffs which are now underway. To get things started, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to one of UA's international athletes, Stefanos Michael, who I will later be doing a more in-depth story on. Here's a preview of his life and his journey to the U.S. and the UA.

Stefanos grew up in Cyprus, an island not too far from Greece, with a population about the size of Tucson. Growing up, he loved to play basketball, but when he was 13-years-old, he started practicing the long jump. When he was 16, he was the third best jumper in all of Cyprus. At 17, he was the best in Cyprus. He then became the fourth best in all of Greece and Cyprus and in 2003, he qualified for the Youth World Champion
ship in Canada. 

After high school and lyceum, Stefanos, served in the military, a requirement in Cyprus. Due to a bad coaching experience, Stefanos stopped jumping and stopped competing. It wasn't until after his time in the military when he started practicing again.

"It's hard to be an athlete and a student in Cyprus," Stefanos said. "They don't care about athletes there."

After a year of studying at the University of Cyprus, Stefanos decided he wanted to come to the United States.

"I came here to have a better future in sports and school."

He decided on the University of Arizona because it's a "good school, has good weather and a good team in track."
      Stefanos in competition

Being an international athlete, the initial adjustment to the U.S. was challenging, but he was able to adjust quickly.

"The hard part is missing your family," said Stefanos, who only sees his family twice a year, but talks to them on the phone twice a week. "The hard thing for me is the language."

Although English is taught at school back in Cyprus, Stefanos admits that he never paid attention. It wasn't until the military when he started to learn it. Greek is his first language.

Today, Stefanos could not be happier about his decision to come to UA where he is a sophomore majoring in Electrical Engineering. 

"This is a good environment for athletes," Stefanos said. "Everyone is helping and supporting here."

Stefanos hopes to attend graduate school after completing his undergrad at UA. He also hopes to continue competing in the long jump.

"I look to jump good so I can show my appreciation. That's the thing I want to do," Stefanos said. "I want to thank my coach, Sheldon Blockburger, head coach, Coach Fred Harvey and manager Francesca Green for their support for everything they do for me and the team."

For more on Stefanos, please visit the Arizona Athletics website and in a few weeks, check out

That wraps up this weeks edition. Tune in next week for a final farewell of the Wide World of Wildcats. Until then, Bear Down!
      Stefanos (in blue) taking a break during competition

Saturday, April 11, 2009

FC Barcelona and Camp Nou

     FC Barcelona "More than a club"

Hey there sports fans and welcome to this weeks edition of Wide World of Wildcats. I am currently home in Sacramento, relaxing and enjoying some quality time with my family. When I arrived home, my parents had saved an article about me from our local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, about FC Barcelona, specifically their stadium, Camp Nou. Last semester (Fall 2008), I had the opportunity to study abroad in Barcelona. It was by far the best time of my life and I loved every second of it, especially when it came to soccer. With that said, FC Barcelona (the city's soccer team) is one of the best teams in the world and they have been through a lot to get to where they are today. The article I read said that you have not truly experienced Barcelona unless you have been to a FC Barcelona game at Camp Nou. While abroad, I was lucky enough to not only attend an FC Barcelona game, but I was also able to take a tour of Camp Nou. Here's what I have for you.
     VIP seats in Camp Nou

The first stadium FC Barcelona played in was Les Corts in 1922. The s
tadium held only 20,000 people and it was quickly decided they needed more room. In 1957, Camp Nou was opened and is still the home of FC Bar
celona. Camp Nou holds over 98,000 people and is the largest stadium in Europe.
    Goal and part of Camp Nou

FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 and FC Barcelona stands for Futbol Club Barcelona. Their slogan is "Mes que un club" which translates to "More than a club." Their colors are scarlet and blue. Each jersey has UNICEF printed on it as  each year FC Barcelona donates $1.9 million to the charity. They have won numerous championships and are one of the most successful futbol clubs in Europe. Their biggest rival is Real Madrid and every year they face-off in El Clasico. Today, FC Barcelona's best and most notable players in the world is Argentian-born Lionel Messi who is only 21 years old. 

    Locker room

Game Experience
Walking into Camp Nou was one of the coolest yet most overwhelming experiences. It was packed with people all sporting their Barca jerseys. I was worried about hooligans, but luckily I didn't encounter any. Most people in the United States stereotype futbol games as being out of control and dangerous because of the fans, but that is only in extreme cases. My seats were in the last row of the stadium, but there are no bad seats in Camp Nou. One thing most people are surprised to hear is that they do not sell alcoholic beverages at the stadium, only non-alcoholic beer. The food is also not a hot commodity like it is in the U.S. I had some sort of hotdog soaked in mustard and I was the only one at the concession stand. The game in itself was very exciting. Goal after goal and of course, Barca won. It was unbelievable just to be part of the game and the futbol experience. When we left, the metro (the subway) was crowded with people shouting their favorite FC Barcelona cheers and drinking the 1 Euro Estrella's they bought on the streets. I agree with the author of the article-you can not truly experience Barcelona unless you attend a futbol game.

     Press room

That wraps up this weeks edition. Hope you enjoyed learning about FC Barcelona and Camp Nou. Tune in next week and until next time, Bear Down!

     Part of trophy case

Sunday, April 5, 2009

UA Track and Field Meet

On Saturday afternoon I attended my first college track and field meet, the annual Jim Click Shootout. I went to meet the subject of my next story, Stefanos Michael, a 6-2 sophomore from Greece who competes in the long jump. When I arrived, I was greeted by my friend Jeremy who walked me to the long jump event and introduced me to Stefanos. He was very nice and his accent wasn't too thick. He was about to compete so I wished him good luck and took my place right in front of the sand pit. I watched three rounds of the long jump, each jump more impressive than the next. It was awesome being right in the action. I stood and took pictures which was a difficult challenge at first, but once I got the hang out if I was able to take some really cool pictures. 

All around me people were competing in different events. At times, it was hard to stay focused on the long jump because there was so much going on. There was pole vaulting, the shot put and 100-meter dashes. I was surprised the stands were not more crowded considering this was a good competition. In fact, it was so good that 26 athletes set personal records and the team earned 16 NCAA West Regional Qualifications. 

There are currently 80 people on the track and field roster, 39 men and 41 women. Of those, six of the men and three of the women are from outside of the
 United States, making this a truly international team.
Jeremy told me that besides the Wildcat, I was the most media the team had ever had. That surprised me because Arizona has a great track and field program that often times goes unnoticed. I was fascinated by the number of athletes who were competing and at the intensity level they were competing at. I believe the school should do more to promote and market the events because they are close to campus and they are really fun and entertaining to watch. Plus, it is impossible to get bored since there is so much going on.

All in all, I really enjoyed my first track and field experience. I wish I would have gone to more meets, but at least I can finally say I have been to one. For anyone who has never attended a meet, I would highly recommend going and seeing what all the hype is about.

That wraps up this weeks edition of the Wide World of Wildcats. Tune in next week for another juicy sports update. Until next time, Bear Down!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Japan Defends Title, Winning WBC Again

Japan celebrating their victory over Korea, 5-3. Photo from the New York Times.

Good evening sports fans and welcome to this weeks edition of the Wide World of Wildcats. The World Baseball Classic came to an end last Monday as Japan took the title of World Champions once again it what was a remarkable game. Let's get to it, shall we?

Unlike the rest of the tournament, the championship game was just that-one game that determined who would become this years world champions. The game, held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, was between rivals Korea and the defending champions, Japan. This game was the fifth meeting for the two teams, with their series tied at 2-2. 

Japan was ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th as it looked like the game was over, but Korea came back to tie it 3-3, sending the game to extra innings. In the top of the 10th inning, Seattle Mariner and Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run single, putting Japan back on top 5-3. Korea was unable to answer back which led Japan to the 5-3 win.

Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka of Japan, who plays for the Boston Red Sox, was named MVP for the second consecutive WBC. It's been a huge few years for Daisuke who is now a two-time WBC champion, a two-time WBC MVP and he won the World Series with the Red Sox in 2007.
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching for Japan. Photograph from

Japan earned the prize winnings of $2.7 million for wining the tourney with a bonus of $400,000 for winning the first round. Korea still came up big, earning $1.7 million for the runner-up position and an additional $300,000 for winning the first round.

The game was played in front of a record breaking crowd of 54,846. This years WBC drew in bigger numbers and more fans than the previous tournament. Attendance for the tournaments 39 games rose from 737,112 to an astounding 801,408. Television viewership also increased, raising 30 percent in the U.S. With numbers like this, the tournament will continue to be a huge success in its 2013 return.

Looking far ahead to the future, many are hoping that due to the success of the WBC, baseball will be added to the Summer Olympics in 2016. It may seem far fetched, but Major League Baseball and International officials have already begun lobbying for the return of America's favorite pastime to the Olympics. Only time will tell...

For a great photo slideshow of Japan done by the New York Times, click here.

That concludes this weeks edition, but I'll be back next week, same time, same place. Until next time, Bear Down!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mexico Eliminated from WBC

Hey there sports fans and welcome to this weeks edition of the Wide World of Wildcats. Great week for Wildcat fans here in Tucson as the team is now in the sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, but a sad week for Mexico as they were eliminated from the World Baseball Classic. Let's recap their time in the tourney.

In Round 1 in Mexico City, Mexico, the team went 2-2, beating South Africa and Australia and losing to Australia and Cuba. They were however, able to advance to the second round, playing back-to-back games at Petco Park in San Diego, California. 

In their first second round game, Mexico took on Korea losing 8-2. Shortstop Augie Ojeda of Mexico had 2 RBIs, giving Mexico the little hope they had in this game, but unfortunately it was not enough. In game 2, Mexico played Cuba who had previously destroyed them 16-4 in a first round game so now it was Mexico's chance to get revenge. Even with 7 hits, including 1 homerun by third baseman Jorge Cantu, Mexico was unable to seek their revenge, losing 7-4. Double elimination put Mexico out of the tournament, but the team is still holding their heads high and looking to come back bigger and better than ever in the 2013 WBC.
Tonight will be the championship game will be held at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California at 6 p.m. MST. The defending champs Japan will take on Korea in the teams fifth meeting in this series. The series between the two is an even 2-2, so this game is really up for grabs. Make sure to tune in tonight on ESPN or ESPN Deportes in which should be one for the books. 

Congrats to the WBC for another exciting tournament. I look forward to seeing what the 2013 tournament brings and hope it is even more successful than this one. From Tucson, this concludes this edition, but make sure to tune in next time. Until then, Bear Down! 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

World Baseball Classic Kicks Off

Hey there sports fans and welcome to another (early) edition of the Wide World of Wildcats. Big week for sports as the World Baseball Classic is officially underway. For the next few weeks, I will be giving you a play-by-play of Team Mexico and their status in the WBC. Let's get started.

Despite playing at home at Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico, Team Mexico started out a little rough in their first game on Sunday, March 8th against Australia, losing 17-7. Mexico started out strong, leading 5-3 at the bottom of the first inning, but it didn't take long for Australia to gain momentum. Designated Hitter Jorge Vasquez had a big game for Mexico with a home run in the first and four RBIs. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to pull off the win.

Mexico dominated in game two against South Africa, coming up big 14-3. The game was relatively slow, but Mexico picked up the pace towards the end, scoring a combined total of 11 runs in the last three innings. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez had two homeruns, one in the third and one in the eighth, and 6 RBIs. 
The third game took place Wednesday, March 11th and Mexico was able to get their revenge on Australia. This time, they turned the tables around beating Australia 16-1. Mexico pitcher Rodrigo Lopez was unstoppable, pitching 11 strikes and only four balls and holding Mexico to only six hits the entire game. Mexico produced big numbers with 16 runs, 13 hits and 15 RBIs. 

Mexico's final game in round 1 was tonight against the undefeated Cuba. Mexico was up for the challenge, but they were not able to pull through in the end losing 16-4.  The game was all tied up until the fourth inning where Cuba had five runners score. From there it was down hill as Cuba scored 9 runs in the seventh inning and didn't look back.

Mexico will be advancing to round two which will take place at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Their first game will be against Korea who has yet to lose a game in the WBC and is coming off three huge wins. The game will be held on Sunday at 8 p.m. MST and will be aired on the MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.

Well, that concludes this weeks edition. I'm off to sunny Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for a relaxing spring break. Thanks for tuning in and until next time, Bear Down!