I Dig Sports
MOORESVILLE, N.C. – The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and NASCAR Technical Institute are stepping up to help abused and neglected children across the state after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 32nd annual Stocks For Tots holiday event and fundraiser.
Both organizations will be accepting new toys and cash donations at their Mooresville, N.C., locations to offset lost revenue and toy donations that usually come through Stocks for Tots, when racing fans gather annually at the NASCAR Technical Institute to meet legends of the sport.
All money raised will support the Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to helping children, supporting parents and improving the community. Stocks for Tots started in 1989 and has raised more than $1 million and collected more than 70,000 toys to aid in raising awareness of child abuse in North Carolina.
Don Miller, chairman of the Stocks For Tots Foundation and the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, has been noted for his humanitarian efforts and is a recipient of the inaugural NASCAR Humanitarian Award. He says Stocks For Tots is his favorite program.
“We are sad that after 30 years we had to cancel our event, but we are not giving up,” said Miller. “We are still in the game and these children are still very, very special to all of us. Please give and make 2020 a Christmas they will fondly remember.”
John Dodson, a member of the Board of Directors at the Hall of Fame and VP of NASCAR at NASCAR Technical Institute, echoes Miller’s thoughts.
“This pandemic has delivered a ton of obstacles for everyone, especially the less fortunate,” said Dodson. ” Just because we have to cancel this year’s Stocks for Tots event doesn’t mean we can’t deliver a better holiday season for these children. Here at NASCAR Tech we are ready to accept toys and donations, along with the N.C. Auto Racing Hall of Fame. 2020 hasn’t been a kind year, but we can make it better by doing our part.”
Both facilities will begin accepting donations and new toys of any value on Tuesday, Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continuing through the end of the month. Please make donations by check to the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame and earmark them to Stocks for Tots.
The North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame is located at 119 Knob Hill Road in Mooresville, N.C. The phone number is 704-663-5331.
The NASCAR Technical Institute is located at 220 Byers Creek Road in Mooresville, NC 28117. Their phone number is 704-658-1950.
Brittany Lincicome has withdrawn from this week’s Volunteers of America Classic after testing positive for COVID-19.
Lincicome made an announcement on Instagram last week, saying:
“Although I have been very cautious, unfortunately I have tested positive for COVID-19. My husband and baby girl are both negative. I am now self-isolating and working on contract tracing with all those I have been in contact with. I have mild symptoms but am very disappointed to have to withdraw from the Volunteers of America Classic. I will be isolating at home until it is safe to resume my schedule. I wish everyone the best of luck and look forward to when I can return to playing on Tour.”
Lincicome, a two-time major champion, anticipates being cleared to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open, Dec. 10-13 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, according to Golfweek.
Pakistan may have had four Test captains in just over three years, but the PCB CEO Wasim Khan is convinced the chopping and changing is over for now. Babar Azam, who replaced Azhar Ali as the captain earlier this month will "remain captain until Ehsan Mani and myself are here," according to Khan.
Speaking to YouTube channel Cricket Baaz, Khan said Azam had been appointed captain " because he is our best batsman, young and mentally very strong and he himself wanted to take on the responsibility for all three formats. He has a good future. That's why when the time came we felt that Azhar Ali had done his best but now was the time to start grooming Babar and make him Test captain as well."
The declaration from Khan comes as something of a departure from the PCB's policy on captaincy. Sarfaraz Ahmed was given the role on a series-by-series basis for much of his tenure, while Ali never received long-term guarantees in the manner Azam looks to have secured before he takes charge in his first Test match.
Azam was appointed white-ball captain last year when Ahmed was removed as all-format skipper, while Ali took over Test match duties. But with Ali struggling to recover from a loss of personal form and Azam's star continuing to rise, the temptation to settle the captaincy question for potentially a significant period of time became too tempting for the PCB to ignore.
Khan's commitment to keep Azam at the helm until this administration is in charge lends further credence to the idea Pakistan wished to put an end to questions about the man at the helm.
The Pakistan team is currently observing quarantine in New Zealand before a three-match T20I series and a two-match Test series from December 18 to January 5th. Seven members of the squad tested positive upon arrival in New Zealand, with the team copping a rebuke from New Zealand's director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield for not observing quarantine regulations. After that, New Zealand said the players' compliance had improved significantly.
Kandy Tuskers 196 for 5 (Taylor 51*) beat Galle Gladiators 171 for 7 (Gunathilaka 82) by 25 runs
How the match played out
Kandy Tuskers had no standout players, but for the first time in the tournament, pulled together as one to put up a solid total and defend it, despite an outstanding solo effort from Galle Gladiators' opener Danushka Gunathilaka.
Gunathilaka's 82 off 53 balls was easily the best individual performance of the night, with only one other batsman passing 50, and no bowlers delivering standout spells. But the Tuskers had many significant contributors. Batting first, Kusal Mendis and Kusal Perera put on 75 for the second wicket off 49 balls, with Mendis going on to hit 49 off 30, striking four sixes and two fours. Brendan Taylor, playing his first innings of the tournament, made the Tuskers' only half-century, with an unbeaten 51 off 35. Along the way, Perera made 27 off 24 and Kamindu Mendis struck 28 off 16 in a 65-run stand with Taylor.
The Tuskers eventually made 196 for 5, but perhaps might have had a tougher road had the Gladiators captain Shahid Afridi used all the bowling resources at his disposal - the fingerspin of Malinda Siriwardana and Shehan Jayasuriya not being called upon at all. Instead, Mohamed Shiraz (who had bowled a good over in the five-over game on Saturday) had a modest outing, left to deliver all four of his overs, which went for 52. Akila Dananjaya and Lakshan Sandakan were also expensive, but both picked up important wickets, Sandakan accounting for Perera and Mendis.
In response, Gunathilaka was the Gladiators' only serious force, but his partners could never stay with him. No other Gladiators batsman breached 20. Gunathilaka struck 13 fours and a six, but because his team were losing frequent wickets, they never seemed to have the measure of the chase. Offspinner Dilruwan Perera and all-sorts slow bowler Asela Gunaratne delivered tight spells, with Nuwan Pradeep and and Naveen-ul-Haq contributing competent seam-bowling. The Gladiators fell 25 runs short, and now remain the only side in the tournament who have not yet won a match.
Stars of the day
Gunathilaka had boundaries everywhere, but he was especially good at using the pace of the ball, hitting 47 of his runs behind the wicket, including nine of his 13 fours. He was excellent right through the innings, and he was batting so well that despite a lack of support from his team-mates, the Gladiators had a sliver of a chance right until he was run out by a direct hit from the deep from Gunaratne, in the 18th over.
Where the teams stand
Kandy have finally got themselves on the points scoreboard, but that is not that much of a surprise, as they had pushed both Colombo Kings and Dambulla Viikings in narrow defeats. The Gladiators, meanwhile, have now comfortably lost all three matches, and perhaps have a little soul-searching to do about their best combination. Their next match is on Thursday.
The Denver Broncos had no new positive coronavirus tests coming out of Sunday testing, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The Broncos were without their entire quarterback depth chart for Sunday's loss to the Saints due to the positive test of backup quarterback Jeff Driskel and the fact that the team's three other QBs (Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles) were all deemed to be high-risk contacts.
Lock, the team's starting quarterback, issued an apology on social media before Sunday's game acknowledging that the quarterbacks had erred in not strictly adhering to mask policies with one another.
In their place, Denver started Kendall Hinton, a wide receiver on the Broncos' practice squad who had some experience playing quarterback while at Wake Forest.
Hinton finished 1-of-9 passing for 13 yards with two interceptions as Denver gained just 112 yards overall in a 31-3 loss.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy challenged the team to "wake up" and "have some personal pride" in the wake of Sunday's disastrous 41-25 prime-time loss to the Green Bay Packers.
"I know this: We better wake our tails up," Nagy said on a Monday Zoom call. "Every freaking coach on the staff, every player, better wake up and start understanding where we're at. Have some personal pride. Have a freaking sense of urgency. Know where we're at. Have some pride into who we're playing for and why we do this and then go find a way to win as a team. That's my challenge to every single person in that building this week is that.
"Yesterday was flat-out embarrassing, and our guys know it. I'm not telling you something they don't know. They know it. But we're going to step up and all coaches, all players, and we've got five games left. For us, it's our own personal challenge as to where we're at and how we're going to do this thing. But that performance yesterday is ridiculous and can't happen, and obviously that starts with me."
The Bears, losers of five straight, suffered through their worst defensive game of the year. The usually reliable Chicago defense failed to register a single sack or quarterback hit versus Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who finished the night 21-of-29 for 211 yards and four touchdowns (132.3 passer rating). At one point in the second quarter, Green Bay's offense had already picked up 15 first downs and gone 5-for-5 on third-down conversions.
"That's not who our defense is," Nagy said. "And our guys, they need to understand where we're coming from with that and how we feed off of them as a defense. They've done a hell of a job all year long but yesterday was not where we need to be."
Chicago's offense fared no better.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who returned to the starting lineup in place of injured Nick Foles (hip), committed three costly turnovers, including a lost fumble that Green Bay scooped up and returned for a touchdown.
Trubisky went 26-of-46 for 242 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, with most of the numbers coming in garbage time.
Nagy hinted that Trubisky is likely to start again Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions (4-7), but it hardly sounded like a ringing endorsement of the second pick of the 2017 draft.
"I don't see why not," Nagy said.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have a new home, at least for their next two games.
As had been expected since Santa Clara County announced on Saturday new COVID-19-related restrictions that prevent contact sports in the county for at least the next three weeks, the Niners announced Monday morning that they will hold their next two games at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
That, of course, is the home of the Cardinals, who have no day-of-game scheduling conflicts with the Niners moving forward.
"The Cardinals organization, State Farm Stadium and League officials have been supportive and accommodating as we work through the many logistical issues involved in relocating NFL games," the 49ers said in a statement.
Monday's announcement means the Niners will "host" the Buffalo Bills for Monday Night Football on Dec. 7 and the Washington Football Team on Dec. 13 in Arizona. The Niners' other game in that three-week time frame is set for Dec. 20 in Dallas against the Cowboys.
A league source told ESPN after Santa Clara County's announcement on Saturday that the NFL and the 49ers had been working through contingencies since before the season began.
At the time, it was unclear whether the county would approve the Niners to even begin training camp at Levi's Stadium and the team facilities. Arizona was considered the top option then for the Niners if they had to relocate games because of relative proximity and the lack of schedule conflicts with the Cardinals.
Over the past few days, the league and the Niners also considered temporary homes in Dallas -- the Cowboys also have no schedule conflicts with the 49ers -- and San Diego. San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer's office reached out to the Niners soon after the announcement to see if his city could be a landing spot, according to Niners CEO Jed York.
I also want to thank @SDMayorsOffice for immediately reaching out to see if San Diego could help @49ers during our search for a home. While we wish we could keep our players at / close to home with their families during the holidays, that is currently not viable. #OneDayAtATime— Jed York (@JedYork) November 30, 2020
The 49ers are still working through where they will practice for the next few weeks. Their preference is to stay in the Bay Area for practice and fly to Arizona for games, but that might not be feasible logistically, in part because Santa Clara County has recommended a 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling 150-plus miles and returning to the county.
If those arrangements can't be worked out, the Niners would likely set up a sort of bubble in Arizona, where they could practice and stay between games.
It remains to be seen where the 49ers will close out the regular season. They're scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on Jan. 3, but that will depend on whether Santa Clara County extends the three-week ban on contact sports.
Soccer practice was dragging one morning last spring when Vanderbilt assistant coach Kelly Keelan tried something different to break up the monotony. While the rest of the team practiced on the football field in the indoor facility, she gathered goalkeepers Sarah Fuller and Sophie Guilmette near the end zone.
"Today," Keelan told them, "we're going to do long-range distribution."
She placed a ball near the 10-yard line and instructed Fuller and Guilmette to take aim at the large curtain hanging from the rafters near the back edge of the end zone. They were going to have a contest to see who could kick a soccer ball into the football team's makeshift field goal target. With every made kick, they'd step back another 5 yards and try again.
Keelan, who gave it a go herself, was eliminated from competition early.
Then Guilmette missed and stepped aside.
Fuller kept going. The senior from Wylie, Texas, wound up stepping all the way back to the 45-yard line, where she sent the ball soaring into the sheet.
Thinking back on it all these months later, Fuller laughed. Who knew then what that moment would portend? "It was pretty cool," she said.
Six days after she wore a Vanderbilt soccer kit for the final time, and with the Commodores down a number of specialists because of COVID-19 testing and in need, Fuller put on a Vanderbilt football jersey and spoke to the media as the team's starting place-kicker. She'd become the first woman to participate in a Power 5 football game. The "Today" show and "Good Morning America" wanted to interview her.
Fuller kept things light as she attempted to make sense of this sudden star turn no one saw coming. She wasn't nervous as she made her debut; it was just another form of competition, she said. But all that came with it was, in fact, very different. Her phone was blowing up to the point that she had to mute her notifications to stay focused. She left it to her boyfriend to tell her which famous people had mentioned her online.
"Honestly," she said, "I haven't taken a second to soak it all in."
Her new teammates cheered her on, saying how impressed they were by her confidence and ability. She didn't attempt any field goals or extra points, but she booted a successful squib kick to open the second half. Coach Derek Mason said of Fuller, "A champ is a champ," nodding to her having helped the soccer team to an SEC championship. (After being fired amid an 0-8 season on Sunday, Mason in a statement said it had been his honor to coach "hundreds of Vanderbilt young men and one courageous female.")
Vanderbilt soccer coach Darren Ambrose was happy to hear Mason's comments. He caught all the photos the TV broadcast showed of Fuller hoisting the championship trophy and how they made note of her having a league-best 0.97 goals-against average this season.
It was terrific promotion for his program, but Ambrose couldn't shake the feeling that there was something missing from the presentation. It was too ... perfect. Too glossy. Too made-for-TV. Without knocking anyone for it, he said it felt like a skin-deep portrait of his former player.
Even the anecdote about practice fell short as Ambrose chuckled and pointed out how their spring exhibition season was canceled because of COVID-19. Despite being a senior, Fuller needed the experience. She had hardly seen the field thanks to three serious injuries. So she dutifully rode the bench as redshirt freshman Guilmette was named the starter in September.
That didn't exactly fit the storybook narrative out there of the star soccer player-turned-place-kicker, but that was the good stuff, Ambrose said. The real stuff. The disappointment and the pain and the broken bones and the tears that came before the triumph. One needed to look closely to notice the grit beneath her nails as she held up a trophy in one sport and then made history in another.
The world would remember Sarah Fuller's name no matter what. But people needed to know who she really was.
For someone unaccustomed to the spotlight, Fuller handled it well before and after the game against Missouri on Saturday. She smiled for the cameras, laughed at all the right moments and gave credit where she said credit was due -- to her teammates, coaches and everyone who supported her.
It was clear she understood the scope of what she had done.
That's why she chose to wear a sticker with the words "Play Like a Girl" on the back of her helmet. She had learned about the nonprofit organization in college and wanted to support its mission of encouraging girls to play sports and gain access to educational STEM programs.
It would take time for this all to sink in, but in the meantime, she wanted little girls to know something important.
"All I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there because there were times I struggled in sports, but I'm so thankful that I stuck with it and it's given me so many opportunities and I've met so many amazing people through sports," she said. "And I just want to say that literally you can do anything you set your mind to."
When Ambrose heard her say that, the hair on his arms stood up. He got a chill as a flood of memories hit him, from the early days of recruiting Fuller back in Texas all the way through her final game at the SEC championship in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Nothing was given to Sarah Fuller.
The summer before her freshman year, she broke her foot and had to sit out the season. Adjusting to life without soccer and the rigors of college courses, she said she grew depressed.
Then, as a sophomore, the toll of playing goalkeeper and throwing her body to the ground over and over again finally caught up with her, as she suffered a back injury. She slipped a disk and missed the entire season while recovering.
And then, after sitting patiently behind two talented goalkeepers, COVID hit in the spring. Five exhibition games were canceled and she didn't get the opportunity to prove herself to her coaches. This summer, she felt something wrong with her other foot. As it turns out, running had caused a stress fracture. In the fall, she failed a fitness test, which she'd done several times before.
That event prompted one of many tough and sometimes tearful conversations Ambrose has had with Fuller through the years, whether it was about injuries or playing time or realistic expectations. She could have easily quit at any point. She could have let her bad luck get the best of her and "cashed it in and went through the motions," Ambrose said.
She didn't. She'd call her mom or dad and cry, and then she'd go back to work.
She went through the fitness test again and passed. And when she didn't win the starting job, she kept on supporting her teammates, kept on training and eventually got her opportunity.
She took over as a starter four games into the season and never looked back. Guilmette didn't have any ill will for being benched. She said there were three ways she could describe her teammate: "Confident, resilient and hardworking."
Before the championship game against Arkansas on Nov. 22, Ambrose gathered his team to deliver a message. He told them that there wasn't anything more they needed from him -- no tricks, no tactical advantages. "All you need," he said, "is courage."
"Courage," he added, "is all about putting yourself out there in a difficult situation."
He might as well have been talking directly to Fuller, because for the better part of four years, she put herself out there with no reward in sight. It wasn't until that game and later the opportunity to break the barrier of becoming the first woman to play Power 5 football that her efforts truly paid off.
"That was the thing I admired about her," Ambrose said. "Because that could have gone a lot of ways, the decision she made on Monday. Who knows if she had the chance to make an extra point and missed it, what would be the comments made then? That's the piece about her -- the tenacity and the determination and the grit she's shown to get to where she did."
And that's the lesson Ambrose wants little girls and boys to know -- the lesson Fuller hinted at in her postgame comments and then reiterated Sunday with a small group of reporters.
"I just want to make it really clear this was never easy, this was never an easy path whatsoever," she said. "But the fact that I didn't stop and I didn't give up, I think it's huge."
Fuller will soon graduate and transfer closer to home to the University of North Texas, where she'll begin work on a master's degree in hospital administration and continue playing soccer. Ambrose, who is fully supportive of Fuller's decision, said, "North Texas has a tornado coming their way."
Katie Hnida and April Goss were on a Zoom video conference for the entirety of the game on Saturday. As they watched and waited for Fuller to get her shot, they found themselves reflecting on their own stories.
In 2002, Hnida became the first woman to play football at the FBS level at New Mexico. And 10 years later, Goss became the second woman when she played at Kent State.
They were proud of Fuller and the challenge she took on. When Fuller got the call Monday that Vanderbilt was in need of a kicker, she didn't blink. She was at the practice facility within the hour and was traveling with the team to Missouri that Friday.
Hnida and Goss are hopeful that more women like Fuller are coming. As a matter of fact, Vanderbilt incoming freshman goalkeeper Sara Wojdelko played football in high school in Michigan.
Both Hnida and Goss mentioned how profound it is that this country elected its first woman vice president in Kamala Harris. But as both women listened to Fuller's comments after the game, the brief mention of her injuries and perseverance brought back their own memories and it all hit home.
All three women are about much more than the moments for which they're remembered.
Goss said her name is associated with one snap she took at Kent State. Never mind the two years she played in high school or the yearlong wait in college to try out. Never mind that she played four years at Kent State, going through countless 6 a.m. practices and workouts and wondering the entire time, is this worth it?
She held her breath through a coaching change and didn't know whether the new staff would embrace her. She had a teammate die in his sleep.
"The world saw this one moment in time, but the journey to get to that moment is oftentimes lost," she said. "It's what I know I'll always remember. That kick, while it was incredible to me, isn't my favorite. It's the little interactions to get to that point."
Hnida found herself feeling those same sentiments, but for different reasons. After she became the first woman to score points in an FBS football game at New Mexico in 2003, she alleged a year later that she was sexually harassed and raped by a teammate at the University of Colorado in 2000. (She left Colorado in 2001 and transferred to UNM a year later.)
"It was really miserable," she said. "And I really hated that I felt like my name was more recognizable because of what happened at CU versus the fact that I was an athlete that worked really hard to go out and make history."
The work, Hnida said, is what people should remember. Learning of Fuller's backstory and how she struggled to get to this point had Hnida excited.
"I think that's a tremendously important thing, especially when you're talking about people being pioneers," she said. "We all are in that boat that stuff happens in life and it's really important that we don't just gloss over and go to the pretty stuff."
Hnida thought of an article she read after Fuller's game on Saturday. It was about a girl in Texas whose missed extra point nearly cost her team a playoff game. The girl was down on herself after her mistake but had to shake it off because with time expiring she was called on to attempt a 19-yard field goal. The kick won the game.
Hnida got flashbacks to her own experience of having an extra point blocked in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl. That was devastating, she said, because she was so intent on making history and came up just short.
Eight months later, she kicked two successful extra points against Texas State.
It's something she brings up talking to young people today.
"It's so important to tell people that we all fall," she said. "That's a part of life. That's a part of our athletic careers. It's about getting back up no matter how many times you fall."
Whatever happens from here, Fuller might be remembered for making one kickoff on a chilly afternoon in November. But her story in getting there, and beyond, is what defines her.
It's that time of year, when executives are checking the waiver wires and looking to make moves to improve their teams. But in this case, the front-office gurus in question are baseball players themselves and their teams consist of football players.
For many baseball players, fantasy football is their offseason vice -- that and a round of golf. In both cases, the players come for the trash talk and stay for the competition.
"We're so competitive by nature," free-agent pitcher Adam Wainwright said. "We'll compete on who can eat their cereal the fastest. Fantasy football has provided baseball players with a fun outlet. It brings clubhouses together. Trades, trash talking, checking scores -- and it keeps players close in the offseason."
Through his charitable foundation Big League Impact, Wainwright took things to another level this fall. He commissioned a "Players Only League" that benefits not only his own foundation but 31 other charities. Each participant, 32 MLB players in all, played for the charity of his choice. The league, which conducted drafts every week with teams having $50,000 to spend on players, had two-week running matchups and is down to the final four: Wainwright is taking on Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray in one semifinal, while former big leaguer Matt Holliday faces off against Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed in the other.
And while the competition has been fierce, the passion comes in earning money for charitable causes. Each round resulted in more money for the winning players' charity of choice. High point totals and a "second chance" bracket provided extra ways to earn.
"That's one of the coolest parts about it," Gray said. "And if you're out early, there are still ways to make money for your charity."
Gray has raised about $15,000 so far for Project One Four, a charity created by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price to help youth organizations. Golf tournaments, celebrity cook-offs, black-tie affairs and many other fundraisers have been canceled by the pandemic, so creativity has been needed to raise money for worthy causes. Enter Wainwright and Big League Impact, which matched each player's $5,000 entry fee in contributing to the pool for the charities.
"We're starting to catch some notoriety among the players," Wainwright said. "They know we're going to have fun and do some cool things to help out their charities. That's my goal. To empower players around the league, who have huge platforms but don't know how to use those platforms just yet."
It's the perfect mix of passions for Wainwright, who might have a fantasy football "addiction," according to those who know him. They were only half-kidding, as Wainwright is in five leagues this year.
"Let's see, there's my Triple-A team from 2005," he said. "My home league with my best friends. The clubhouse league with the Cardinals. That's A-1 priority because you're looking at those guys in the face every day."
"He's always been more concerned with his fantasy football teams than just about anything else," Holliday, a former teammate, said of Wainwright. "He's Mr. Tough Guy on game days [when he's pitching], not talking to anyone, but if you have a good trade, you can talk to him about fantasy football."
Holliday is playing for his own foundation, Homers for Health, which has raised nearly $3 million for Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis.
You might think Wainwright, as a free agent, would be more concerned with where he'll play baseball next season after spending the last 15 years with the Cardinals. But a recent 40-minute phone call produced very little baseball talk. His interest, besides fantasy football, is in helping people. After hanging up, he texted back, not about who he's starting at quarterback this week, but to emphasize the best part of the whole tournament.
"The coolest thing about everything we do is knowing that there are people around the globe who have clean water that didn't," Wainwright wrote. "That have a feeding program that were hungry. That have access to doctors and medicine that had no hope of help before. That have a roof over their head for the first time. And that are free from the bondage of trafficking. All because of a bunch of baseball players working together to make a difference."
That same sentiment was echoed by the other final four participants. The baseball players have a passion for helping, while at the same time enjoying some competition against each other. The combination wasn't lost on Holliday, a good friend of Wainwright's, who is hopeful they meet in the final. Holliday also openly wondered how the commissioner of the league made it to the semifinals.
"I question it," Holliday said with a laugh. "He's in charge of this deal, but he always finds his way into the finals. If I didn't know him so well, and his character, I would question some of the shadiness."
That's just a taste of the trash talking that goes hand-in-hand with fantasy football. Wainwright beat Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer in the previous round and made sure to let him know about it.
"Max is a great trash talker," Wainwright said. "No doubt about it. We've had battles on the baseball field, pre- and postgame. This was big for me. It's not as important as baseball, but it's pretty close as far as bragging rights go.
"He's really ticked off about it. I won a side bet off of him, too."
While Wainwright, Gray and Holliday are talking some trash, Ahmed, the fourth semifinalist, wants to be known as the "quiet assassin," though he did question why he was the 30th seed going into the tournament. Ahmed has raised $12,000 so far for Compassion International, which sponsors children in the world's poorest countries.
"I have to take that up with Waino," Ahmed said of being the 30th seed. "What's that all about?"
The Diamondbacks star might feel like he's playing with house money after beating Clayton Kershaw in the last round.
"[Kershaw] has beaten me so many times on the field, it's hard to count them so it feels good to get that little revenge," Ahmed said. "I didn't know the format at first. First couple of weeks, I went over budget every time. I had to re-edit and adjust my lineup."
Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson was eliminated from the main bracket in Round 1, losing to former teammate Jason Castro. Gibson has continued on in the second-chance bracket as he's making a difference for his charitable organization, Help One Now, which is building a high school in the Haitian village of Ferrier.
"It's really cool to see the charities impacted," Gibson said.
Asked who the best trash talker is, Gibson picked another player eliminated in Round 1.
"Lance Lynn likes to talk," Gibson said. "When he wins, he definitely lets you hear about it. He's not doing very well in the Rangers' league either, so it'll be a little quieter in the clubhouse."
So who does he like in to win it all and make $50,000 for his charity? (The charity of the runner-up gets $25,000.)
"[Wainwright] took out Scherzer," Gibson said. "He was on fire all year. Waino has found his groove. I'll go with my guy. He set [the league] up and had a big year."
Several players kidded about the issue of Commissioner Wainwright making it to the semifinals.
"Man, it's always a little sketchy when the host makes a deep run," Gray said, enjoying the chance to sting his semifinal opponent. "This is the best thing to be able to trash talk about. Baseball is your career, everyone is doing their own thing and competing. But this is a different level."
Wainwright had plenty to say on the subject of winning his own tournament, suggesting his dedication to the competition, rather than his being commissioner, has been the key.
"I don't know how good it looks to win your own event, but I'm going to try to do it," he said. "I don't care about the optics because it will help our charities do a lot of great things in this world. ... I won our clubhouse league last year and that's what everyone said. 'Oh, he sets his own rules. He does whatever he wants to win.'"
Mentioning the Cardinals' clubhouse league gave Wainwright an opening for a shot across the bow there, too.
"I'm all over [teammate] Tommy Edman right now because he has one good player, Patrick Mahomes," Wainwright said. "Everyone else is the worst player times eight."
Wainwright's secret is simple. He'll bother you until he gets what he wants.
"I'm relentless on trades," he explained. "If I want a player and the guy says, 'No, I'm not trading him,' by the fourth week in a row of asking, I might wear him down."
Players find the trash talk comes much easier in fantasy football than in baseball, where livelihoods are at stake. Wainwright said there have been many times when he has faced a hitter on the same Sunday he was playing him in fantasy football, and the fantasy matchup gets much more attention. Gray loves it because nothing is off limits.
"Oh, for sure," he said. "Everything comes up when you're running around out there. It'll be talked about. This is a big matchup."
It also gives the players a bit of an understanding what baseball fans go through when they play fantasy baseball.
"I don't take any offense to it," Gray said. "A lot of times, baseball fantasy owners are very accurate in their statements."
Trash talking while earning money for charity is about as good as it gets for these players. The back and forth could go on and on, but the semifinals are underway. Two weeks from now, the players-only league will be down to just two.
"This is just a great way to raise awareness and money," Ahmed said.
And what of that 30th seed?
"It's giving me a little added motivation to win the whole thing," he said with a laugh. "We miss that competitive outlet in the offseason, so this is good. I'm enjoying it and want to do it for years to come."
And that's Wainwright's goal as well, to grow the league and earn as much money as possible, not just for his own charity but for many around baseball. If he wins his own tournament, so be it.
"It's happened a lot over the years," he said. "I have five leagues I play in."
And beating Wainwright will make it that much more special for his competitors.
"That's why you play, to beat the host, right?" Gray said. "He has the home-field advantage. And I already know it's all over his mind, so that makes it even more fun. I'll sit back and watch Project One Four fantasy points roll up. He knows he's going to have to bring it."
VALENCIA, Spain – Mahindra Racing has announced its commitment to the Gen3 era of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, becoming the first automotive manufacturer to sign up for the generation that begins with the 2022/23 season.
As Formula E begins its first season as an FIA World Championship, Indian manufacturer Mahindra has reaffirmed long-term relationship by committing to the Formula E Gen3 era, starting in 2022. The Mahindra Group aims to put half a million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2025 and believes in Formula E’s ongoing role as an essential proving ground for future race-to-road electric vehicle and sustainable mobility technologies.
One of Formula E’s founding teams – and the only Indian manufacturer – Mahindra Racing has claimed four E-Prix victories, 18 podiums, and 690 championship points. Mahindra Racing was the first Formula E team to be awarded the FIA Environmental Accreditation Three-Star rating, demonstrating excellence in sustainability practices.
“By committing early to Gen3 Mahindra Racing is continuing its journey, which it started by becoming the first OEM to sign up to the championship back in 2013,” said Dilbagh Gill, CEO and team principal of Mahindra Racing. “As the greenest team in motorsport, Formula E is the perfect home for us; a place where we can demonstrate our performance and sustainability credentials both on and off the track. Our future focus is on race winning performances that we can all be proud of and some exciting new projects in the engineering services space. In short, we’re here for the long run; we are not building something for today, we’re building something for tomorrow.”
Gen3 marks a new era of performance and efficiency benefits including more powerful, lighter cars, faster charging and cost controls, all with the aim of increasing the intense and unpredictable racing Formula E has become known for.