The Evster and Enrico head over to the Frozen Four

The Evster and Enrico head over to the Frozen Four

Late Thursday afternoon, Enrico scored two free tickets to the Frozen Four at the Wells Fargo Center. Knowing I'm a huge hockey fan -- and have literally never had plans on a weeknight -- he asked me to tag along. The following is a minute by minute report of what took place.

Pregame: We are coming at you LIVE from the Wells Fargo Center -- or at least Enrico is -- I am currently hopping on the subway at 5:05pm because I'm an actual person with an actual job and not some laissez-faire blogger who can just take off in the middle of the day to watch a hockey game. Seriously, who starts a game at 5pm? Joining me on the subway platform are a whole lotta white people dressed in their favorite schools' sweaters as well as one ticket scalper who is wearing a black and gold Adidas track jacket and matching black and gold shell tops. He is BY FAR the coolest person waiting at this subway station and is also really, really drunk.

Tonight's first matchup features five-time national champion Boston College, winners of three of the last five NCAA tournaments, and alma-mater of the world's biggest dorfburger, Sammy Davis Enrico Campitelli Jr. Other notable alums include: Mike Mamula, John Kerry and Elisabeth Hasslebeck's husband. Their opponent tonight: the Union College Union, an actual school that I'm not making up. Union is located in action-packed Schenectady, New York, has a student body of 2,100 big ones and offers a major in Post-It notes. Notable alums include Chester A. Arthur (who you may know as the 21st President of THE UNITED STATES), my wife's Aunt Lena, and no one else ever. Clearly I'm pulling for them to beat big bad BC.

1st Period: I finally arrive at the arena just as the first period is ending and meet Enrico in the concourse to get the scoop on what I've missed. BC is up 1-0 thanks to a goal by South Jersey's own, Johnny Gaudreau, who Enrico tells me is nicknamed Johnny Hockey. I have no idea if Enrico's messing with me or not, but I will obviously be calling him Johnny Hockey for the duration of this post.

Tiring of listening to Enrico talk about the various cold and sinus medications he's currently taking, I approach a Union fan wearing a "Bodie" jersey to ask who the hell Bodie is. I figured it had to be his son because why else would a grown man wear a college kid's jersey, but the kind, older gentleman tells me that Bodie's his favorite player and an absolute "dynamo" on the ice. This piques my interest so Enrico and I hurry back to our seats for the start of the 2nd period.

19:57 left in the 2nd -- Three seconds into the game, a BC player falls while trying to skate backwards. I'm beginning to think that this might be the shittiest sporting event I've ever attended.

19:06 left in the 2nd -- Bodie gets the puck for the first time, shimmies by one defender and lets rip the lamest, sorriest wrist shot I've ever seen. The BC goalie catches it without hardly moving, the closest thing I've seen to Cliff Lee's basket catch in that World Series vs. the Yankees. I'm honestly embarrassed for that old man.

17:21 left in the 2nd -- GOAL! Ohhhhhh baby! Union ties it up as my main man Bodie Miller blasts one into the net! Holy Boldie! After almost two minutes of end to end action, Grandpa's favorite player lets fly an absolute rocket that the BC goalie didn't even see. We're all tied now, 1-1, and Enrico is not happy! The public address announcer then tells us that Bodie's first name is MATT, something that I was not expecting, nor will I be calling him.

15:54 left in the 2nd -- As the game goes back and forth, I ask Enrico if he played college hockey, would he wear a caged mask or a see-through visor? Enrico  says he doesn't know, which I find to be a totally unacceptable answer, so I keep probing him and say, "Duuuude, stop being such a Boston College bro and answer the question," and finally Enrico says "the see-through ones because they look cooler," proving that Enrico has no idea how cool cages are. I then tell Enrico that I'd worry about the see through ones getting all fogged up but before I can finish my sentence I notice that he's checking Instagram and not even coming close to paying attention to me. I pray for 16 more Union goals before the next intermission.

12:10 left in the 2nd -- Enrico tells me that Johnny Hockey leads all college players in points this year and is "probably gonna win the Hobey Baker award, that's the trophy they give to the top college player." So I tell Enrico, "I know what the goddamn Hobey Baker award is," and he quickly responds by telling me to, "Go F yourself."

A quick google search reveals that Hobey Baker was born in BALA CYNWYD, PENNSYLVANIA -- bet ya didn't know THAT! -- the same hometown as the dopest blogger on The 700 Level. We also learn that Baker died in an airplane crash during World War I, at the way too young age of 26. This makes us sad, but not that sad because we got free tickets to a hockey game and that makes us better than other people.

10:30 left in the 2nd -- Ohhhhhhh, Johnny! Johnny Hockeyballs shimmies his way past two defenders but then gets too cute as he tries to give it up on a 2 v. 1. This leads me to think about Johnny guest starring on Too Cute: Kittens!, my wife's favorite show on Animal Planet, and one that I highly recommend watching. They're too cute!

9:15 left in the 2nd -- DO NOT BLINK FOLKS 'CUZ YOU JUST MIGHT MISS SOMETHIN. And just like that Union is BACK IN COMMAND. A guy named Daniel Champion or something makes it 2-1, Union. Unfortunately, I did blink and missed the whole thing. Actually, I was watching kids dance on the jumbotron, but whatever, if it's any consolation, Enrico missed it too, once again checking out pictures of chicks on Instagram.

4:07 left in the 2nd -- BOOM BABY! GOAL BC, 2-2! This time it's a defenseman, #6 to be exact, but I have no idea what his name is because this is literally the first college hockey game I have ever been to.

When in doubt, Rico, what do you do? "Put it on net," my blogging editor says, because we are the two smartest hockey fans in the world. What a ballgame!

Hockey game!

2nd Intermission -- All knotted at 2, it's time to take a stroll around the WFC and buy a $7 slice of pizza from Lorenzo's. As we walk around, I try to take secret snappers of a bunch of unsuspecting fans.

Here are some of my best:

Bjugstad??? That can't be a real name. Also that visor is incredible. I have no idea what Mr. and Mrs. Bjugstad were looking at by the way. I think it was a funnel cake stand.

Not sure if you can tell, but these grown men are wearing eagle hats with beaks on them. The dude on the left, who is also wearing a flag cape totally caught me taking a secret snapper and was like, "Heyyyyyyyy," but I just kept walking away really fast and I don't think he really cared anyway I mean he was wearing a hat with a beak on it.

 

This is just a dorf I saw earlier in the day outside City Hall.

Start of the 3rd period -- Deadlocked at 2 apiece, Enrico and I settled back into our seats for the final session. Enrico was a nervous wreck at this point, living and dying with every shift despite the fact that he had not seen one BC hockey game in the last four years.

17:15 left in the 3rd -- Okay, a guy just got blasted in the head and I was the only person who started screaming. He seems to be fine, he's currently trying to smash another guy's brain into the boards, but if I were him I would go straight to the bench and call my mother.

15:00 left in the 3rd -- Penalty on somebody! I have never understood what is legal in this sport and what is not, but the referee is putting his wrists together in an X formation and signaling that something just happened. I think it was probably Boarding, but Enrico disagrees and thinks it's Cross Checking. I tell him that's ridiculous and he agrees and changes his guess to Interference. He's correct! Two minutes for Interference on BC.

13:29 left in the 3rd -- GOAL FOR UNION! 3-2 in favor of the underdogs! The goal was scored by the same guy as the last one and the Union fans are going crazy. MANY of them are also wearing visors and they keep chanting, "Let's go U! Let's go U! Let's go U" which sounds a lot like Michigan's "Let's go blue!" chant. Whatever, these guys deserve to go bonkers. This is literally the only good thing that has ever come out of Schencekedeitdy besides A GODDAMN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and Aunt Lena's potato latkes.

13:11 left in the 3rd -- OH NOW WE'VE GOT SOME BOARDING. Some guy on Union just smashed a guy into the boards and the BC player is DOWN on the ice. A nearby Union fan screams, "Get up you faker!" and I am not making that up. Enrico is calling for a 5-minute major and the PA announcer comes over the loud speaker and tells us there's a game misconduct! Wowzers! Plus a 5-minute power play for the Eagles!

E-A-G-L-wait I'm rooting for Union.

9:08 left in the 3rd -- Three minutes into the power play and BC cannot get it going. Plus, I now realize that their big guy, #12, a guy who I've been calling "Bates" aka "Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey" all game long is actually named "Hayes."

8:07 left in the 3rd -- GOAL, UNION! Holey moley, only five seconds after they killed off the power play, some dude on Union goes one on one with the keeper, gets stoned, then his teammate puts back the rebound to put them up 4-2! Enrico is devastated! BC calls timeout! The Union fans are going berserker as "Party rock is in the housssse tonighttttttttttt" blasts from the loud speakers. This song is so stupid/amazing. This could be the best night of my life.

4:14 left in the 3rd -- It's looking bleak for BC. The Union crowd continue to dominate the Wells Fargo Center. This is like a home game for Union, like UCONN at the Garden, but nothing like that because the arena is half empty and Shabazz Napier is not STRAIGHT OKIE DOAKIN' FOOLS ALL NIGHT.

2:12 left in the 3rd -- BC has pulled their goalie and Bodie is talking trash to all of the BC players during a stoppage. He kinda seems like a major prick. Plus, all of the lovable Union fans are starting to get really annoying with this "Let's go U!" stuff. I'm pretty much ready to start pulling for BC.

1:45 left in the 3rd -- GOAL, BC! "We ain't dead yet!" screams my trusty editor, right after some dude shoots a laser into the top shelf netting part of the net where the shelf would be if they decided to build a shelf in that net. 4-3 Union. Do you believe in Miracle Whip?!

1:09 left in the 3rd -- It's a GOALNADO, folks! This time, Union pop one in, off of an easy rebound into an open net. You can kiss the Eagles goodbye, it's 5-3 and Enrico looks salty.

:17 left in the 3rd -- OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. Another goal, this time for BC and we're back to a one-goal game. 5-4. Could turn out to be meaningless, but it was another top shelf wristaroo.

HORNNNNNNNNNN!!

It's all over! It. Is. All. Over.

Despite a last second shot on net, Union College -- an actual place -- pulls off the major upset over the Boston College Campitellis. They will now advance to play the winner of the Minnesota-North Dakota game, which will get going in a half hour, and I will no way in hell be blogging about.

Three long hours later -- Game 2 was a total snooze fest, but did feature a GOPHER ON ICE and SPINNING CHEERLEADERS.

No goals were scored until 4 minutes left in the final period, but then Minnesota scored two come-from-behind goals including a LEGIT BUZZER BEATER to send them into the finals. In all my years of watching college hockey, I have never seen a more incredible ending to a game.

Even more incredible because now I can go home and go to sleep.

Prediction for the Final -- Minnesota 18, Union 3, Enrico 0.

Follow The Evster @TVMWW.

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

Thinking man's pitcher, Phillies prospect Cole Irvin enjoying time with Clearwater

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Clearwater Threshers pitcher Cole Irvin is a student of baseball, but maybe the word “student” – simply stated and in its base meaning – describes the young left-hander best.

A graduate of the University of Oregon who completed his undergraduate degree in sociology in just 3½ years, Irvin has applied a studious, methodical approach to his work on the mound, where he starred as a freshman and senior for the Ducks as a regular Friday night starter.

His 2014 collegiate season was marred by Tommy John surgery, but he reflects on it now as being an important part of him staying in college and obtaining his degree. He remained in Eugene another semester after getting drafted by Pittsburgh in the 32nd round, his second time getting selected.

“I look at it as a positive. I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree at Oregon if I didn’t have the surgery,” said Irvin, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Phillies last June.

“Sociology covers so many topics. It’s a great degree to have. My studies varied from the population of salmon affecting society to the study of social media. There was so much I learned in so many diverse topics. I like interacting because everyone’s opinion mattered.”

The sociological background also easily translates to the diamond for the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Irvin.

“It’s the same in baseball. The more information you have about the opposing team, our team, if we’re doing the shift and other things… now you have all that collected information. Now you just go do your thing. I think I apply (sociology) to so many different aspects of what I do,” he said.

Sociology aside, Clearwater pitching coach Aaron Fultz has been impressed with the mental approach Irvin has displayed.

“Very (much so),” replied Fultz when asked if the southpaw is the quintessential cerebral pitcher. “He’s a no frills guy and he’s here to work.”

Fultz broke in to MLB and played three seasons with the San Francisco Giants – 2000 to 2002 – and the former big leaguer said Irvin reminds him from a work ethic standpoint of a Bay Area teammate of his.

“He kind of reminds me of Jeff Kent. He comes here and he wants to work and get better,” said Fultz of Irvin, who also bears a slight resemblance to the five-time all-star and 2000 NL MVP of the Giants.

That industrious attitude worked well for Irvin in his first spring training camp in the Grapefruit League in February. He broke camp by bypassing Low A Lakewood and joining the Threshers. Then he proceeded to overwhelm hitters in the Florida State League.

Irvin, 23, was 3-1 in four starts in April, posting a 1.04 ERA. In 26 innings, he allowed 22 hits, struck out 20 and walked just three. His WHIP stood at 0.96.

“His first four or five starts, I thought he was the best pitcher in the league,” Fultz said. “Since then, we’ve had a little hiccup here and there about location and just giving up some hits. He’s had some bad luck, too.

“But I love the way he goes about his business. He gets the ball and he’s ready to pitch. He has a very good idea and is a smart kid. He doesn’t throw 95, but he’s left-handed – that helps – and he has a really good change-up. His stuff is better than average, but his tenacity and the way he goes after hitters is a really good selling point for him.”

Irvin said he tries not read what is written about him or the multitude of numbers baseball produces.

“The past three outings haven’t gone the way I’ve anticipated, especially after the first five starts of the year,” said Irvin, who is 3-5 with a 3.20 ERA after four straight losses starting on May 4 against Jupiter.

He will try to break that winless skid on Tuesday when he faces Florida back in Clearwater.

Of his standout first pro season at short-season Williamsport last year (5-1, 1.97 in 10 games), Irvin admitted he doesn’t look at the stats, saying, “Honestly, I don’t know the numbers. I don’t get ahead of myself and look at stats. Every once in a while, I’ll look at media stuff, but I try not to follow that stuff.

“Once it gets in your head, you start to get anxious about moving up and thinking about things you’re not supposed to be thinking about. I’m supposed to be thinking right now, ‘What can I do to get better and get to the big leagues?’ It’s not about being in the minor leagues; it’s about being in the big leagues.”

Irvin has enjoyed his season so far and, like a good sociology student, is harvesting his own data.

“There’s a lot to build off of. It’s my first full season, so it’s exciting to spend a whole year playing baseball and doing something you love and is fun. It’s something I’ve dreamed of as a kid,” he said.

“I never thought I’d be here this quick, so I’m taking it one day at a time. I can only focus on this day, and tomorrow will come tomorrow.”
 
Three questions with Cole Irvin

You throw a one-seam fastball. What does it do?

“It’s literally across one seam, holding it with one finger. It depends on the wrist. If it’s on the side of the ball, it’s going to fade (versus righty batters). But if your wrist is more on the inside toward your body, it’s going to cut. I only use it as a strikeout pitch. [Laughing] I’d say it’s a wipe-out pitch, but I don’t have wipe-out stuff like most of the guys on this team. It’s an effect pitch, where there’s a little uncertainty where it’ll go.”

You’re from Yorba Linda, CA, the birthplace of Richard Nixon and home of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Have any good Nixon stories?

“Actually, I do. When I was 12, I had to do community service for the high school I was going to go to. I had to have so many hours. The library was looking for someone to clean the helicopter – Air Force One helicopter or whatever it was called. Every Sunday morning I’d show up at 5:30 a.m. to clean that helicopter. I had to go through the Secret Service back door and security checks. I was 12, so there wasn’t much information on me. I spent four or five Sundays cleaning that helicopter. It was so much fun.”

As an Oregon Duck, you were able to play in the Civil War against the Oregon State Beavers and New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. Any success?

“My senior year was the first time we’ve ever gone to Goss Stadium and won a series at Oregon State. I pitched against Conforto and also played with him on the Team USA collegiate team that had (Chicago Cubs star Kyle) Schwarber. Honestly, Michael’s one of the great guys to know and talk to. He’s just a world-class, awesome guy.”

Now on Phillies' bench, Ty Kelly looks back fondly on Team Israel experience

Now on Phillies' bench, Ty Kelly looks back fondly on Team Israel experience

Ty Kelly is currently the 25th man on the Phillies' roster, a utility man who has all of two starts with the club this year.

But two and a half months ago, he was one of the headlining players on the Cinderella squad of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Kelly was the starting third baseman for Team Israel, which made a surprising run to the second round with a perfect run through Pool A. The team began the WBC with an upset over host South Korea before wins over Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands. Israel beat Cuba in the next round in Japan but fell to Japan and the Netherlands handily.

Unlike most MLB players who spent their spring in Florida, Kelly got to experience two major Asian cities -- Seoul and Tokyo -- while getting his preseason at-bats.

"It was a great experience, trying the food and all that and seeing all the sights," Kelly said.

However, he wasn't too adventurous with trying the local cuisine compared to his teammates.

"Some of the guys were really trying to seek out the native food," Kelly said. "I wanted to do that as much as I could, but at the same time, you're still trying to get ready for baseball games in a tournament, so you've got to do what's best for your body.

"Chicken sandwiches for me were the way to go for the most part," he added with a laugh.

Kelly's participation with the squad began in the middle of 2016, when Peter Kurz, the President of the Israel Association of Baseball, emailed him and asked if he had a Jewish grandparent. Kelly's mother's side of the family is Jewish, making Kelly eligible.

Last year was also the end of Kelly's long road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2009 out of UC Davis, Kelly was traded multiple times, once straight up for current Brewers slugger Eric Thames before Thames went to Korea and back. Kelly wound up with the Mets and finally made his MLB debut two months shy of his 28th birthday. He played 39 games for the Mets at six different positions and got a hit in his only postseason at-bat, which came vs. Madison Bumgarner no less.

Kelly still had to make the Mets this spring, which could have made joining the WBC a tough decision. However, the organization was on board with Kelly playing in the tournament.

"It made it difficult, but I talked to the Mets about it and they were all for me going over there and still playing and getting experience," he said. "People were still watching, so once I got the go-ahead from them, it was an easy decision."

Kelly made the Mets out of the spring but had just one at-bat before he put on waivers and was claimed by the Blue Jays. Eight days later, he was traded to the Phillies. He has four hits (three doubles) in 19 at-bats with the Phillies and had the game-winning RBI single two weeks ago in the front end of the Phils' doubleheader with the Nationals.

He's the only player from Team Israel to have played in the majors this season. Ryan Lavarnway and former Mets 1B Ike Davis are in Triple A while the roster also included former MLBers Nate Freiman, Sam Fuld and Jason Marquis.

While none of his WBC teammates have parlayed Team Israel's run into MLB time, Kelly still thinks the team caught the eye of people in the game.

"There was definitely a lot of fandom around our team," Kelly said. "A lot of people rallied around us, including people in front offices I think. Of Jewish descent or not, I think a lot of people liked what we did.

"Being a part of that definitely looks good for me, which is just an added bonus."