Tag Archives: Extol Sports

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Arizona Dreaming

Drew Ellis is in sunny Scottsdale right now, on a journey to make a major league baseball team.

There are no guarantees. He’s not asking for any.screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-39-17-am

By Steve Kaufman | Photos by Tony Bennett

In February, Drew Ellis of Jeffersonville,

Indiana, got on a plane to Arizona, along with

thousands of other people escaping winter snows.

It was the warmer weather and sunshine

drawing him there. But he wasn’t going to sit

around a resort pool. He was going there to

work. He has a job in Scottsdale, which started

in February, with April not far behind.

For the next couple of months, Ellis would

be running and exercising, swinging a bat and

scooping up infield grounders, throwing and

catching. What he really hoped to catch was

someone’s attention.

Ellis works for baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks,

who had their best season last year since the team

of Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and Luis Gonzalez

won the 2001 major league championship. The

Diamondbacks won 93 games in 2017, third-best

in the entire National League, before succumbing

to their division rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the

post-season.

Ellis wasn’t in Phoenix while all this was going

on. He was in Hillsboro, Oregon, playing for the

Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League, Arizona’s

affiliate in what is called Short Season A. Only the

Rookie League is a lower designation.

Hillsboro did the parent club one better, winning

its league pennant, beating out the Eugene (Ore.)

Emeralds, a Chicago Cubs affiliate; the Boise

(Idaho) Hawks, a Colorado Rockies affiliate; and

the Salem-Keizer (Ore.) Volcanoes, a San Francisco

Giants affiliate, in the league’s South Division.

Ellis was the Hops’ starting third baseman once

he got to Hillsboro, hitting what for him was a

disappointing .227, but getting eight home runs

and driving in 23 runs in his 41 games.

“I played really well for the first 30 or so games,

then struggled a bit,” he said. “My power numbers

were good, but my average wasn’t where I wanted

it to be. Probably good to have those struggles

early in my career, though, so I know what it takes

to overcome them, how to work out of them.”

And now it’s on to spring training camp.

Hillsboro is far from Phoenix, and not just on a

line drawn on a map. It’s the lowest rung on a very

high ladder going up through four more minor

league levels in the Diamondback organization,

all the way to Reno, Nevada, the team’s Triple A

affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

The highest rung on the ladder, of course, is

the ultimate goal – an Arizona uniform. A seat in

the D-backs’ dugout. Hearing your name called:

“Batting fifth and playing third base, Drew Ellis!”

But first…

For this summer, the Jeffersonville youngster

has set his sights on an assignment to the Visalia

Rawhide of the Advanced A California League.

It would be a promotion, all part of the climb.

It’s a slog. And a numbers game. Most of the

ballplayers in the Short Season League will likely

never get to the majors. Ellis knows that.

His short season was shorter than most. He

wasn’t drafted until June, in the second round

of Major League Baseball’s 2017 draft, the 44th

overall pick. That spring, he had been a key cog in

the University of Louisville’s march to the College

World Series. So, he’s now 22, a mere baby in most

professions but a late starter in professional sports.

On the other hand, a good thing about playing

sports is that your performance is out there on

the field. If you’re good, you’re good.

Ellis was good at the University of Louisville.

He hit .367 with 20 home runs and earned All-

American honors on the team that won 53 of 65

games, all the way to Omaha, beating Texas A&M

before back-to-back losses to Florida and TCU

cancelled the dream.screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-40-37-am

“It was a super-special year,” he recalled. “The

most fun I’ve had playing baseball – not just

because we were winning, but because of the

way we were winning.”

He also said “the atmosphere on campus was

great. One reason I chose Louisville was because

of the fan support. They showed up even when

it was cold out.”

It was a close team, too, and Ellis spent much

of the off-season working out at the UofL athletic

facilities with ex-teammates like Brendan McKay,

Colby Fitch and Devin Hairston, three of several

Cardinals who were also drafted by big-league

teams.

McKay was a first-round pick of the Tampa Bay

Rays. He spent the season in Wappinger Falls, N.Y.,

with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New

York-Pennsylvania League. A versatile athlete

who played first base and pitched in college, he

hit .232 and won his only pitching decision.

Shortstop Hairston was drafted in the fourth

round and spent 2017 in Appleton, Wisconsin,

with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a Milwaukee

Brewers property in the Class A Midwest League.

He hit .210 and made 10 errors in 44 games.

Fitch, the Cards’ catcher, was drafted in the 13th

round by the Philadelphia Phillies. He split the

summer between the Lakewood (N.J.) Blue Claws

of the South Atlantic League and Williamsport

(Pa.) Crosscutters of the New York-Pennsylvania

League. Fitch hit only .217 at Lakewood, but .350

in Williamsport.

The point is, it’s a long haul for almost everybody,

even the best college players. But it’s all part of

the dream, a dream so many young athletes have

growing up.

Ellis recalled first dreaming the dream at

Jeffersonville High School, when he saw other

local players getting scouted by pro teams. “I

remember thinking, ‘I’m as good as these guys,

but I’m not getting any attention.’ So I changed

my thinking, and started working my butt off.”

He had been a shortstop in high school, but

Louisville coach Dan McDonnell moved him to

third in college because the Cardinals already had

slick-fielding Hairston. That makes Ellis’ prospects

on the Diamondbacks somewhat problematic.

They already have a third baseman. Jake Lamb

hit 30 home runs and drove in 105 runs last year.

And he’s only 26.

A scouting report on Ellis said defense is his

biggest question mark – “lack of range” – and that

maybe first base is a better option. But the D-backs

also have a first baseman. Paul Goldschmidt hit

.297 last year, with 36 home runs and 120 RBIs. He

was third in the National League’s Most Valuable

Player voting.

Still, Ellis knows major league rosters are fluid.

Free agency makes everything unpredictable.

Who knows where Lamb or Goldschmidt will

be in two years?

More important, Ellis knows he can only worry

about Ellis. The rest will follow. “They haven’t

talked to me much yet about where I’ll be,” he

said. “Wherever I play, my expectation is to play

as well as I can play. They’ll put me where they put

me. I’ve just got to do what I’ve always done, by

preparing the way I prepare. Do the little things I

need to do, to make sure I’m on top of my game.”

There’s a level-headedness there about an

outcome Ellis can’t control except to prepare for

the best so he can expect the best. Partly, that’s

a work ethic first drilled into him by his high

school coach, Derek Ellis, who also happens to

be his father.

And partly, it’s the result of a faith he acquired

while in high school, when he was baptized by

his friend, “one of best decisions of my life, to

follow Jesus.”

He said he struggled a little bit as a high school

freshman, as so many freshmen do, not knowing

which crowd to follow. But since his baptism, he

said, “I know who my Lord and Savior is. And

life is easier when you have someone to rely on.

When times are hard or going well, through ups

and downs and struggles, it’s been good for me

to rely on my faith to get through those.”

He said he’s seen teammates make some choices

he wouldn’t have made, “not necessarily because

they’re bad people but because they haven’t had

a faith to help them out.”

There will be ups and downs in Ellis’ baseball

career, just because there are ups and downs in

that life for everybody. He seems well-equipped

to handle both.

And it’s not just because he can hit the fastball.

1

Louisville City: Get on The Bandwagon Now

1By Kevin Kernen | Photo by Christian Watson

In a city and a state divided along

college lines, Louisville City FC has become a

confluence of local fans, red and blue alike. Having

started their 2018 season in March, LouCity is on

the campaign to defend the laurels of the most

fruitful season to date, when the team collected

their conference regular season and playoff titles

en route to winning the league last November.

If you’ve been living under a rock since 2015,

LouCity has quickly branded itself as the most

exciting sports experience in the area. The vocal

support has created a pressure cooker of a home

advantage at Louisville Slugger Field, a reputation

that precedes the team across the league.

The league that “The Boys in Purple” makes their

home in is the United Soccer League (USL), which

occupies the second division of American soccer,

second only to Major League Soccer (MLS). The

USL counts cities such as San Antonio, Las Vegas,

Cincinnati, Phoenix and Indianapolis among their

markets and continues to add franchises each

season. The league has grown threefold since 2012,

and LouCity has kept pace with the exploding

number of competitive teams joining the fray.

The team brings an exciting roster to Slugger,

managed by the scrupulous Irishman James

O’Connor.

O’Connor imparts a pragmatic, yet positive

playing style on the international collection

of players. LouCity’s squad features members

from eight countries, a wealth of domestic and

international experience, as well as a number of

players with local ties, like Richard Ballard. The

Louisville native attended Manual High School and

Indiana University for four years before signing his

first professional contract last season for LouCity.

He cemented his reputation as an exciting young

player who played a part in eight goals.

From further afield, London, England, natives

Paco Craig and Cameron Lancaster have both

had a palpable impact on the club. Entering his

fourth season for the club, Lancaster scored the

decisive goal in last November’s USL Cup Final

for LouCity. On the opposite end of the field,

central Craig made headlines last season as the

only LouCity player to feature in the USL Team

of the Season, the leader of a defensive unit that

O’Connor hangs his hat on. From top to bottom,

the roster is full of talented players, all of whom are

upstanding people in addition to being successful

on the field.

Off of the field, Louisville City is also no stranger

to success. Last October, Louisville’s Metro Council

voted 20-4 to allocate some $30 million of public

money toward a 37-acre site in the Butchertown

neighborhood that is to become the home for a

bespoke 10,000 seat stadium for the team. With

plans for seating to be expandable to 20,000 and

inclusion of retail and hotel space, the project

is sure to transform the area, which is currently

occupied by an auto salvage yard and a storage

facility, among other things. There are a few other

hurdles for the project to clear before ground can

be broken. The team targets a 2020 deadline set by

the USL for all teams to play in their own stadium.

The team is also part of a number of media

agreements, entering their second year of hosting

game broadcasts on the local iHeartRadio network

of stations, chiefly on News Radio 840 WHAS.

New for this season, local radio personality Tony

Vanetti hosts a weekly Coach’s Show with James

O’Connor, along with select players on News Radio

840 WHAS at 8 p.m. Monday nights. Rounding out

the radio programming is the revamped Soccer

City Radio show (find more details on the Thursday

night program below). LouCity games are also live

streamed on YouTube and on TV locally across

WDRB, WMYO and WBNA.

All of those outlets are useful, but nothing quite

compares to the experience of attending a game.

If you haven’t been to a LouCity match before,

ask someone who has. If you don’t know anyone

who’s attended a match, I’ll give a brief synopsis

of what a typical match day looks like to an ardent

supporter. Firstly, matches typically kickoff at 7:30

on a Saturday evening, which means tailgating

begins in the early afternoon, maybe in the late

morning if it’s an important match. Libations and

food are aplenty as the purple loyal find their way

to the tailgate, the largest of which takes place in

the parking lot situated across Preston Street from

Louisville Slugger Field. While the doors open 90

minutes prior to kickoff, the majority of supporters

don’t leave the tailgate until about 30 minutes

before kick and are usually well lubricated by then.

Led by the talented Coopers drum corps, named

the Groove Machine, the fans parade around the

ground, singing their LouCity-centric songs all the

way to their reserved section behind one of the

goals. Once there, they stand and sing all match

long, breaking from their repertoire only for the

tradition of singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” If

a goal is scored, purple and yellow smoke billows

from the supporters’ section, and the fans rejoice.

Ninety minutes later, the fans cheer the players

off the pitch – win, lose or draw. The players

exchange high-fives with the crowd en route to

the locker room, where they mingle with fans

after the game as well. In all, it’s a thoroughly

exciting experience, with multiple levels to

engage on. For people looking for a more subtle

experience, a sideline seat is more appropriate.

With a better sightline on the proceedings, this

section gives an ideal vantage for absorbing

the percussive atmosphere while following the

match’s progression.

The outlook for the season at hand is a positive

one. City returned 15 players from last season’s

squad that won the USL Cup- something unheard

of at this level of the game. The team brought on an

important combination of youth and experience for

the 2018 campaign. Headlining the new signings

is the return of fan favorite Magnus Rasmussen

and MLS veteran Shaun Francis. MagRam, as he

is affectionately called by the supporters, was

part of the purple team in the 2015 and 2016

seasons before returning to his native Denmark

for last season. The midfield dynamo faces some

competition to make the starting lineup, but he

is certain to get some good minutes this season.

Francis, a versatile wing player, who’s represented

his native Jamaica on the international stage over

a dozen times, played in nearly a century of MLS

matches over a 7-year foray into the league.

The pair join an already stacked LouCity cadre

of players who are separated from retaining their

trophy by a grueling season, their path paved with

opponents and flanked by supporters. Soccer is

happening in a big way here, the only question

is, will you join them?


Soccer City Radio

New for this seas on, Extol writer Kevin

Kernen is taking to the airwaves on

Soccer City Radio show. Kevin appears

alongside longtime co-host La nce

McGarvey, the voice of Louisville City. Join

the duo on the hour-long weekly show

that covers all forms of soccer, from

Louisville City to local colleges to the US

National teams. Tune in to 1080 WKSK 7 p.m.

Thursday and on the iHeart Radio app.

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

Sports: The Mirror of Life

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

By Jim Biery

If you’re a sports fan already, you will completely

understand what I’m about to write. If you know

nothing about sports, please read on and maybe

I can explain why grown men wear other grown

men’s uniforms and jerseys during the big game.

I will admit that I don’t understand why wearing

your favorite player’s jersey with your last name

somehow gets you closer to the team and the

player you are cheering for. You may be a successful

business man, a well-respected lawyer, even a

project manager for a construction company. (That

being said has anyone seen an athlete showing

up at your office wearing a doctor’s uniform or

a hard hat? Point is, you should be proud and

confident of your last name and your abilities

in your chosen field and maybe realize that you

possess special talents that the best quarterback

or basketball superstar does not.)

Enough of the fashion part of this column.

What drives men and women to paint their

faces, wear lucky team sweatshirts and holler

profanities at a TV screen in hopes the referee

can hear them disagreeing with the holding call?

Sports offer a temporary escape from life’s

daily grind and ups and downs. It’s that simple.

For a couple of hours, you join other sports fans

watching and waiting for that one play, that one

shot that brings you to your feet, jumping and

cheering loudly. During this timeframe, people

are united for one cause: a team victory.

Regardless of your age, size, gender, religious

affiliation, and political views – nothing

else matters.

Many become one for a single cause.

Imagine if we could adopt this team mindset

and apply it to all the worthy causes and rallies

that lead off every newsfeed you watch nowadays.

(That’s enough of that also. If there is any

conversation I look to avoid, it would include

religion and politics.)

Another aspect of sports that is so special is that

nothing can be scripted. There are no re-runs,

and you can never know what the outcome will

be. Sometimes, it seems like everything else we

watch is predictable or repeated. Reality shows

basically follow the same script every year: Throw

strangers together in a somewhat cramped space,

add alcohol and Rednecks or steroid-loving males

with a few fiery females with daddy issues or “I’m

a Princess” mindset, and “suddenly” you have

every season of every reality show that has been

produced in the past 10 years.

Sporting events have the ability to take

you back to a certain place in time and the exact

location you witnessed something so special that

the stories of that event and that one unbelievable

play or catch comes up in conversations not only

between friends but has the ability to connect

generations.

For instance, on Feb. 3, 2008, I was at a lifelong

friend’s house watching my beloved New York

football Giants play the New England Patriots

in the Super Bowl. Late in the fourth quarter,

Eli Manning pulled off an escape from what

looked like a certain sack to throw a completion

to David Tyree, a little-known wide receiver from

Syracuse University.

That famous catch is considered by many to

be the greatest play in Super Bowl history. It was

one moment in time that I was lucky enough not

only to see live but also to experience with many

special friends. That reception lead to a miracle

victory over the previously undefeated Patriots,

who were looking to create history as being the

first team ever to go 19-0.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s view on

whether they like sports or not. Trust me, if any

of you readers would like to discuss cooking

techniques, gardening tips, or whether or not

you have ever spotted an Eastern Towhee (that’s

a bird, by the way), I am your man.

What I hope you take away from this column is

that what really matters in life – and sports – are

the moments you can’t script or even explain.

Those are the moments that you can recall and

lead to a shake of your head at how it happened or

maybe even a tear in your eye when you remember

where you were and who you were with.

Experiences like those are why I love sports

so much and appreciate the ongoing unwritten

drama that only a live sporting event can provide.

So, if want to spend your afternoons watching

“Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” I can’t stop

you. However, (spoiler alert ahead), I can tell you

the next episode will feature characters with low

self-esteem and high bank accounts who are willing

to convince you that their life is better than yours.

(Spoiler alert: Don’t believe them.)

1

UofL Hosts TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet

1The University of Louisville Swim and Dive Team hosts the

third annual TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet April 26 to 28. The

weekend will consist of a Drowning Prevention Clinic at Ralph

Wright Natatorium, a silent auction and dinner and the meet

itself. The emcee for the event this year is 6-time Olympic gold

medalist and 39-time World Champion Ryan Lochte.

On April 26, the UofL swimmers will host a Drowning

Prevention Clinic at Ralph Wright Natatorium from 4 to 5:30

p.m. On April 27, there will be a dinner and a silent and live

auction at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with

the pro athletes for sponsors and fans to attend. On April 28,

from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Lochte will host a swim clinic and

teach champion performance techniques, including water

instruction on strokes, starts, turns and streamline. After

the clinic, Lochte will host an autograph session and photo

session. The meet itself will start at 4:30 p.m. April 28 at Ralph

Wright Natatorium.

Tickets can be purchased at www.derbyproswim.com.

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2018 Imagine Awards

The Kula Center Opens, Welcomes Everyone

One-stop shop for holistic medicine and wellness opens in New Albany

By Lisa Hornung | Photos by Christian Watson

New Albany now has its own one-stop shop

for holistic medicine and wellness in The Kula

Center, 802 E. Market St.

Kula – which means community, clan or tribe – is

a fitting name for the center, which creates a tribe

of businesses serving the New Albany community.

Owner Carrie Klaus has owned and operated

Inner Spring Yoga in New Albany and Jeffersonville

for five years, and now she and her husband Rob

have opened this new space.

The couple live just a few blocks from the center,

and when they were out walking one evening,

Rob said to Carrie, “That would be a great place

for a yoga studio.” The two wanted to buy a place

instead of renting so they could gain some equity.

They moved Inner Spring’s New Albany location

to the Kula Center and opened up the center to

other businesses in the holistic health industry.

Businesses in the center include Dailey Wellness

and Massage, which offers massage, reiki, cupping,

kinesio tape and more; Integrating Healthy Habits,

a nutrition coaching service; and the Sukhino

Float Center, which will offer floatation in saltwater

pods. Sukhino will open in June. Inner Spring Jeffersonville is still open at 335 Spring St.

The Kula Center came about because Carrie

Klaus wanted to create an opportunity for people

who are interested in health and wellness and

work in the same location. “We’ve all kind of

got that same energy and that same vibe, and

we’re all working toward that same goal with our

businesses at the Kula Center.”

Carrie Klaus is also running for the New Albany

Township Advisory Board. After the 2016 election,

she began to get more politically involved and

started paying attention to ways to be more active.

“This kind of fit me because what I would be able

to do on the advisory board is offer assistance to

our lower-income community members,” Carrie

Klaus said, “and that really ties in with the mission

of Inner Spring yoga and with the ultimate goal

of the Kula Center, which is to make sure that the

Kula Center is open and welcoming to everyone

in the community.”

Carrie Klaus has been a yoga instructor for 12

years and opened Inner Spring about five years

ago. She mentioned one day to her husband that

she might like to open her own place. “And my

husband is one of those great kind of husbands

who like to make dreams come true,” she said,

“and he came home one day and said I rented

you a space to open up a yoga studio.”

She ran the business for a couple of years while

homeschooling her children. Now their daughters,

ages 14 and 11, are in school, and she runs both

Inner Spring and the Kula Center. “He has a fulltime

job and two part-time jobs,” she said of Rob

Klaus, who manages all the finances and payroll

of the businesses on top of his full-time job.

Carrie Klaus said she wants the Kula Center to

be a hub where everyone can have their health

and wellness needs met.

“We do realize that cost can be an issue for

some people in taking advantage of some of those

health and wellness practices,” she said.

Health insurance doesn’t cover holistic and

preventive care, such as yoga and acupuncture.

So, visitors have to pay out of pocket.

“We realize that’s just not possible for some

people in our community,” said Carrie Klaus.

“So, our ultimate goal is for each person in our

community to be served in some way by us.”

For more information on the Kula Center and

its businesses, visit www.thekulacenter.com.

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Louisville Hosts Red-White Baseball Scrimmage

Photos by Christian Watson

Feb. 9

The University of Louisville baseball team opened its final

weekend of preseason work with a Red-White scrimmage

Feb. at Jim Patterson Stadium. Gates opened at 1 p.m. for

batting practice and admission was free for the scrimmage.

Louisville opened the 2018 season on Feb. 16 at against

Richmond in the first of three games at the Charleston Crab

House Challenge in Charleston, South Carolina. The Cardinals

also played The Citadel on Feb. 17 and George Mason on

Feb. 18. The 2018 home-opener at Jim Patterson Stadium

occurred Feb. 21 against Eastern Kentucky.

Fans can follow Louisville baseball on Twitter (@

UofLBaseball) and on Facebook (@ulbaseball).

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Off the Page with Extol | Bliss Travel

  1.  complete happiness | enjoying eternal bliss in heaven | marital bliss | the sheer bliss of an afternoon at the spa

  2.   paradiseheaven

When your name is Mark Bliss, being a travel agent and calling your business Bliss Travel just makes sense. On this episode of Off the Page with Extol, we talk with Mark and ask the question: What can a travel agent do for you that you cannot do on your own?  We also speak with a fabulous couple that backs up what he says.

The Podcast Kidd’s honeymoon video:

 

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“So Sharp” Premiere Party Pics

If you weren’t at last week’s party premiere of So Sharp on Lifetime at The Sports & Social Club featuring Southern Indiana’s own Todd Sharp, here’s what you missed. Watch Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime. #SoSharp

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Off The Page with Extol | March Sports: Bad Call?

Off the Page with Extol takes a timeout to talk to our March Sports cover referee, Eric Ballenger.  During the NCAA Basketball tournament, the refs took a beating.  How does our favorite ref see the call?

There’s always more to the story. Find out more when you listen to Off The Page with Extol Magazine.
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