Side with Gaston Collins in this one

Indeed, my blog has been neglected for the better part of three months since I left The Sanford Herald as sports editor and moved on to a media relations position with Fayetteville State University athletics. Sorry about that. It is my hope to keep it updated when I feel it is necessary.

And after seeing Sunday’s article in The Herald regarding Gaston Collins, now it is necessary.

I don’t have any problem with the story, the fact that it was written or the balance of it, etc. Good story, and well done by Alexa Milan. All the bases were covered (I’ll get to that in a minute).

And when a parent comes forth with an accusation or a problem, working those concerns into a balanced article is what good reporters do. Done and done. No problem.

It’s just that I’ve been burned by one of the sources in the story in the past, so I happen to be a little leery.

But it’s more than that.

A lot more.

Because Gaston Collins doesn’t deserve this.

The crux of the story is that Collins, the Southern Lee basketball coach, has been requiring his players to attend church services on Sundays as a team, and if they did not do this, there would be repercussions. And honestly, if that were indeed the case, I think I would have a problem with that as well.

But I don’t have a problem with what Coach Collins is doing. And it’s because I’ve literally heard Collins speak to his team following a practice about this proposed team-building exercise. And the actual quote I remember is, “This is not required, but requested.”

Now, granted, maybe I dropped the ball on a potential story when I heard Collins say this and bring up the idea with his team. I do remember being taken aback by it, because it was something I had not heard of a coach doing. And on their surface, perhaps Collins’ words could be construed to imply potential repercussions if players didn’t consent to attending church.

That’s until you consider the source, which is important in this matter — on a couple of levels.

Go ahead, find someone else who would disparage Gaston Collins in any way. Go ahead and try. Speak to former coaches at Southern Lee. I’ve spoken to three of them in the last two days — coaches who have left the area and would face no repercussion for any sort of statements. Go ahead and see if any of them have any problems with Gaston Collins.

They don’t. They won’t. And it’s because of the widespread respect they each have for Collins not as a teacher, or a basketball coach — but as a man.

Personally, I wish I was half the man and person Gaston Collins is. And so is just about everybody else who has met him or dealt with him for any significant time. Knowing what I knew about Collins as a person, I knew that his words — “not required, but requested” — simply meant what they mean. That’s why I didn’t have a story when I heard them. Gaston Collins, lie? Not on your life. As for futher background, consider how much more community service Southern Lee basketball does compared to any other team in the Lee County area.

A couple more things: I am thrilled that Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeff Moss commented to The Herald about this matter. Considering how rarely LCS comments on  potential controversies surrounding varsity athletics, this should tell you everything you need to know. Also, kudos to LCS for allowing Collins to defend himself and comment in the story. This is clearly not always the case, either.

Clearly, Collins should face no sanction against these accusations. Let him continue to teach and coach kids in Lee County. He’s one of the best role models our area has.

And if someone can’t see that, then he must have an agenda of his own.

It wouldn’t be the first time.


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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, The Sanford Herald

Donnie Baseball is back in my life — again

I have this poster, too. Of course I do. It's my favorite of all time.

It’s official. I’m officially a partial L.A. Dodgers fan now.

The Dodgers announced Friday that Joe Torre would be stepping down and Don Mattingly would be taking over, finally ascending to a managerial job he seemed destined for in New York three years ago.

It didn’t happen then, but it’s happening now, and, as I was then, I’m torn. I wrote about this three years ago. Here it that column, from October 2007.


I’m torn.

Oh man, am I torn.

I always had a feeling something like this would happen, and now it appears as if it may.

Hey, I like and respect Joe Torre. And anybody who has read my blog knows that I think the guy got about as raw a deal from George Steinbrenner and the Yankees’ brass as anybody in The Boss’ blustery tenure.

But now it looks like the leading candidate to replace Torre is Don Mattingly.

And for me, that’s great.

And terrible.

Every kid who grows up playing baseball has a favorite ballplayer. But for every kid who thinks working on game-time situations in baseball practice is the greatest thing since the annual arrival of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, well, having a favorite ballplayer is something different entirely.

It’s the root of fanaticism. Of hero worship. Of idolatry.

And for me, the diminutive middle infielder who could barely hit his weight but could bunt his butt off, my guy was Donald Arthur Mattingly, New York Yankees first baseman. No. 23 in pinstripes, No. 1 in my heart.

I was that kid. In my room growing up, two of my walls were dedicated to Donnie Baseball. Posters, Beckett Baseball Card magazines. Newspaper clippings. Cards. T-shirts. Anything and everything Mattingly, it went up on the walls.

I can’t explain this. Honestly, I can’t. It should have been Ryne Sandberg. It could have been Mark Grace. I’m a Cubs fan, one in a generation that was brought up on WGN and Harry Caray and 2 p.m. summer baseball games on 24-channel cable systems. That was me.

But it was Mattingly who did it for me.

Guts. Grit. No complaining. Just play ball, and dammit, play it well.

I can try to explain it, but I don’t ever get very far. I didn’t play first, though I did always play infield as a kid. But I was right-handed, and I sure as heck didn’t hit with the kind of thunder the Hit Man did before a back injury brought both him and me to tears. And I was never big enough to wear No. 23 on my back, not with little league jerseys being sized according to number.

But I did hit left-handed. That came from my dad, who, after a rather ignominious senior year of high school baseball at the plate, turned lefty for the first time in a playoff doubleheader and started clobbering the ball, even belting a home run.

His coach told him never to bat right-handed again, and when I came along, dad was foresighted enough to teach me the game from the left side. With a whiffle tee ball set, dad made sure I batted from the left side from the time I was 3, knowing that once kids started to throw curve balls, the ball would break into the strike zone to me. Not only wouldn’t I be scared, I’d be able to hit. This actually worked for a time and helped me onto a couple of all-star teams.

The stance -- and crouch -- that made him who he was at the dish. It also wrecked his career -- and prolonged mine.

And I can remember one time in high school, struggling badly with the bat, eschewing my stand-up batting stance for one like Mattingly’s low crouch, the one that eventually wrecked his lower back and derailed his rocket ride to Cooperstown. Leaning back into that crouch, moving my left shoulder back and down toward the catcher, I saw the ball a split-second longer and actually started making contact again.

Donnie Baseball was there for me, all along.

And now, more than 15 years later, he’s back in my life. He was the bench coach for Torre last season after serving as the Yankees’ hitting coach for three years. But in those roles, the pressure wasn’t ever on my guy, and the Yankees’ success or lack thereof didn’t necessarily have anything to do with him.

The Yankees are the Evil Empire now, though, which they weren’t when Mattingly was playing there. They are the towering symbol of all that is wrong with baseball’s economic structure. They are the franchise that accepts winning and nothing else. While that always sounds good on paper, it translates to a sour climate that has no real joy, only frustration at anything short of a championship and mere relief when it all comes together. What fun is in that? Who wants to be a part of that?

His time. My worry.

Except Mattingly may soon be the focal point of that monster. Should he get the job, every single little thing he says and every single little move he makes will be debated, dissected and, possibly, destroyed.

While Mattingly may be willing and able to take that kind of incessant heat, I’m not sure I can, and I’m not even a fan of the Yankees. It’s something deeper, really, something a shrink could probably have fun with.

Donnie Baseball.

What it comes down to is that I don’t want my favorite player to look bad. Not ever. It doesn’t matter that Mattingly is just a ballplayer, a guy I’ve never met who, for all I know, might in reality be the biggest jerk the world has ever known (although that’s unlikely, what with Barry Bonds still around). Why I should care about Don Mattingly’s legacy or reputation, I don’t know. I just know that I do. I imagine Mickey Mantle fans, cognizant now of Mantle’s alcoholism and his womanizing, feel the same way. Something you held dear from your childroom gets shaken, and when you look back, it all feels so phony, like such a colossal waste of time.

With Donnie Baseball at the helm, I realize that it would be his best shot at getting that elusive ring, and knowing my luck, it would come against the Cubs. But while it could mean undeniable glory for my main man, I also understand that the Yankees could destroy him, and that would get to me.

At the same time, I realize that I could never truly root against the Yankees.

At least not until they ran my guy out of town on a rail like they did Torre.

And then I would hate them, hate them like I’ve never hated anything in my life, and that would include the St. Louis Cardinals.

And so you could say I’m torn.

After all, I’m the guy who, at 23 years old, named his beagle puppy Mattingly in 1999.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, L.A. Dodgers, Major League Baseball, New York Yankees, Sports, Sports columns

The ESPN Nerds commercial

I love this commercial. Love it.

I bet Keith Law, Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan, et al, do, too. As they should.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, ESPN, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns

Stop the presses! For me, anyway

I'll miss you.

Nine years old. 1984. It’s been a big summer for my new favorite team. After moving to central South Carolina, my family got this thing called cable. There is a box that is actually connected to a long cable, or wire, and it has about 30 buttons on it. This thing changes channels.

One summer day a year before, I went through all of them, starting with 2 and going up.

I stopped at 9. Baseball was on. I love baseball. It was here my love affair with the Chicago Cubs began.

A year later, I’m getting ready for school. It’s morning, and it’s September. The Cubs are in a pennant race, and I’ve got to know.

No internet. No web. Heck, no time for ESPN.

Thank goodness for the newspaper.

Cubs win. Right there in black and white.

Middle School. Seventh grade. An avid sports page reader, I clip articles about all of my favorite athletes and post them on my bedrom wall. Don Mattingly. Ryne Sandberg. Kirby Puckett. Larry Bird. Art Monk.

I already know what I want to do with my life. The middle school doesn’t have a school paper. I ask if we could start one. One teacher, Mrs. Satterwhite, says we can use her planning period and classroom to get it up and running.

Myself and three other students join in. One of them is the one girl every 7th-grader wishes would just talk to him, much less hang onto him at the school dance. Way out of our league. Turns out she’s just a normal kid, and kind of a dork, like the rest of us. Interesting. Anyway, the L-E Post is born (for Lugoff-Elgin Middle School). It’s more newsletter than newspaper, for sure.

But it’s ours.

I’m hooked.

Senior in high school. 1993. My third year on the school paper. No other Pinecrest student had ever done that before. Maybe nobody wanted to. The teacher, Mrs. Boyer, had to get a special exemption to make it happen, since there was no Journalism III class.

But it was my year to be a Co-Editor, after being the Sports Editor my junior year. Paula B wasn’t going to take that away from me.

A friend has a fantastic idea. James Moore has been the girls’ basketball coach at Pinecrest for eons and has a couple of state championships in his hip pocket. Beautiful man. Pinecrest’s gym isn’t named for anyone, but it should be.

I agree. I write a back page column, “The Senior Voice.” Coach Moore doesn’t want any fuss, won’t comment.

But Felton Capel will. He goes to the Moore County School Board and the ball is rolling. You don’t turn down Felton Capel. Not in Moore County. His presentation includes my column.

A year later, I come home from Chapel Hill for “James H. Moore Day” at Pinecrest. I sit on the dais and even get a moment to speak. Coach Moore’s name adorns the gym’s wall now.

It wasn’t necessarily my idea. Credit my buddy Neil Oakley.

But I had the pen and the keyboard.

The future is now.

A part of freshmen orientation at Chapel Hill. Parents are invited, and we go to a discussion catered to our prospective major. Naturally, we’re in the Journalism and Mass Communication hall.

After a brief presentation, we mingle with professors and such. My dad and I strike up a conversation with one. We talk about the future. The man says one day we’ll all be able to have newspapers in our hands on small electronic devices. There may not even be paper involved anymore.

This is 16 years ago.

I go cold.

"Shoe," patterned after, "Shu."

Summer school after sophomore year. Done with my general college requirements, I jump into more J-School stuff. Who do I draw for Newswriting? Of course. Jim Shumaker.

“Shu,” the inspiration to the comic strip “Shoe,” is about 4,372 years old. He cuts an intimidating figure still. But it’s his sandpaper voice and fierce red pen that get you. Day 1, he tells us nobody will get an A in the class. “I’ve done this 50 years,” he growls. “There’s nothing you 20-year-olds can do that I can’t find fault with.”

There are 20 of us. One day he asks the room, “How many of you want to do TV?” Half the hands go up. “Uh-huh. And how many of you want to go into PR?” The other half go up. “Jesus H. Christ. Anybody here still want to go into newspapers?” My solitary hand goes up. “G-dammit, at least there’s one of you.”

Wish he was still vertical.

Shu gets me two summer jobs at Chapel Hill newspapers over the next two years. Not internships. Jobs. He gets the papers to pay me as a correspondent.

Newswriting with Shu. The proudest A-minus of my life.

The good ol' days, I bet.

I’m gonna marry this girl. She’s amazing. I’m young, but I don’t care. God, she’s the one. No semblance of doubt.

But it would be nice to have a job.

The Daily Courier in Forest City, N.C., obliges. Of course they do. I have a pulse. Football season is 15 days away and they need somebody. The football preview edition has to be done in 13 days.

But I’m enthusiastic. And it’s a sports job. Not bored of education, or cops and courts, or general assignment. And as a one-man sports department, it even comes with a Sports Editor title. Done deal.

I arrive with eight days to get the preview section done. Eight pages. Three high schools. Terror sets in.

Somehow I get through it, and the next six years.

That great woman has given me a wonderful little girl. We’re looking at bigger houses. One night at work, the past managing editor asks if I had checked the job sites lately.

The Sanford Herald has an opening for a sports editor. That’s half an hour from my hometown. And mom has been sick.

And it’s a two-man sports department.


The news.

It’s been a helluva ride for the last six years. To say that I’ve loved every single minute of it would be something less than the full truth, but when I look back on this time down the road, I’m sure I’ll view it exactly that way.

About a week after I got to Forest City straight out of college, a spectator at a football game told me I had big shoes to fill to match my predecessor, who had been there 11 years. I had hoped when it was time for me to leave The Courier, someone might say the same thing about me.

I’ve heard that happened, but I don’t know if it was true. Hard to believe my buddy Fisher sometimes. And, I will admit, fully aware how selfish it is, that I do hope someone may say something close to that again now.

More News.

Because I am leaving The Sanford Herald.

And, for now at least, and maybe forever, newspapers.

I’m not sure what Shu would think. Then again, he had to realize one day that teaching was the right avenue for him to take. And so that’s what he did in the last years of his life, until the retort, “Still vertical” could no longer be the answer to the question, “How are you, Shu?”

But I am staying in media, just in another capacity. I’ve accepted the position of Assistant Sports Information Director at Fayetteville State University, and I am thrilled about the opportunity to serve that proud institution.

There are too many people to thank personally for fear of leaving someone out, but they range from Mrs. Satterwhite to Paula Boyer to Jim Shumaker to Wister Jackson and Jim Brown at The Courier to Bill Horner III at The Herald. But to every person who has ever said something to me — good or bad, agree or disagree — about something I wrote, I owe you all the most precious and heartfelt of thank yous.

There is something about newsprint. Thumb through a newspaper, and the newsprint’s coal-like sheen will effortlessly cover your fingertips.

But it takes soap, water and some scrubbing to wash it off.

If only it were really that easy for me.

Alex Podlogar has been The Herald’s sports editor for six years and five days, since Aug. 16, 2004. Continue to read his blog at and follow him on Twitter @alexpodlogar. The Herald will continue to publish a periodical column by Podlogar.


Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

The PODcast, prep football preview edition″

In Part I, we break down the upcoming seasons for Lee County and Southern Lee.″

In Part II, there are brief previews for Northwood, Western Harnett, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews, Overhills, and Union Pines.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Chatham Central, Designated Hitter, Lee County High School, Northwood, Overhills Jaguars, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Podcast, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, Union Pines, Western Harnett

Cubs/Cardinals — and Facebook/Twitter

Normally after a Cubs/Cards series, this is me. Or any other Cubs game for that matter.

In the event you are not “friends” with me on Facebook or don’t follow me on Twitter (and really, what’s the hold-up, people?), I found that attending a three-game series between my beloved (and terrible) Chicago Cubs and the hated (and damn good) St. Louis Cardinals is even more fun when you involve social media.

So then, here are my Facebook statii and/or Tweets from the weekend series from Aug. 13-15, in which the Cubs improbably took two out of three from the Cards (and beat Chris Carpenter in the process) at Busch Stadium. They are in order from when I posted them, so you can relive the games as I did (only without the giant nachos and beer).

Game 1, Cardinals 6, Cubs 3

4:30 leave for the airport. 6:30 board plane. Chance to see cubs win in st. Lou? Unlikely.

Leaving Chicago Midway for St. Louis. Got great tshirts though. Go Cubs, or something.

Why do I even bother buying a metro ticket? Nobody ever checks em. I want my 4 bucks back St. Lou. If Cubs somehow win, don’t worry abt it.

All hope is not lost for baseball. Long conversation on train abt cubs-cards with young black man. Are u listening Bud Selig?

Pujols just hit the first of his three bombs tonight. Its officially a cubs-cards game: I’ve seen pujols homer.

Cards fans know their baseball. Standing O for Yadi Molina in 1st AB at home since the brawl. Chills. Well deserved. Helluva ballplayer.

Game 2, Cubs 3, Cards 2

Kinda psyched to see a no-hitter today. Good chance with Carpenter vs. The Cubs.

Let carpenters no-hitter begin.

Busch stadium applauds the cloud that hides the sun for 30 seconds. 98 degrees with a heat index of 412.

La Russa justed bunted Rasmus in the 8th. Why doesn’t he trust the kid?

What’s it called when the Cubs finish a game with more runs than the other team? Oh yeah, a “rarity.” Still, overjoyed to be a spoiler for a day and beat Carp.

Game 3, Cubs 9, Cards 7

Game 3 today. Two out of three is waaaaaay too much to ask, right?

Great seats for cheap. Kyle Lohse pitching. Cmon Cubs. Maybe we got a shot after all.

I bring out the best in Albert Pujols. Seven games in three years: six home runs. And he’s got four more ABs today.

In busch. Line to restroom. Cubs fan leaves, sees the Santo jersey, motions for me to take open slot. Brothers in bathrooms.

Bathroom again. Cards fan gives me hell for Santo jesery. Other cards fan says: “give him a break. Santo is their mike shannon.” Shook that guys hand. Well played

What’s with all the empty seats busch? 8 2 got u down? Go Reds.

Hey, Mateo, try a strike.

AAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHH! Only the Cubs could blow this.

Whew. Marmol. Win.


Dempster such a gamer. Love him. Thanks cubs.


Loved my time with the Lee-Piersons and the Cubs. But really, really miss my girls and ready to get home.

Home sweet home. For so many reasons, the two of which are obvious. (Three, if you add Barkley.)

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Chicago Cubs, Designated Hitter, Major League Baseball, Sports, Sports columns, St. Louis Cardinals, The Sanford Herald

Floyd Little’s Hall of Fame speech

This is a must-see.

And a must-read. Here is the text for Little’s inspirational Hall of Fame speech.

Jerry Rice, sit down. You too, Emmitt Smith.

This is a speech.


Thank you. Thank you. I am still standing. And I give all the glory to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I am truly blessed to be standing here on this day to celebrate my journey as a person and as an athlete.

I only wish my mom and dad were here to celebrate with me. I know my mom is looking down on me today and she’s saying, Floyd, I’m proud of you, you done good. I also miss my two brothers. Fred, known as Ranger, and Charles, known as Gitty. Gitty was the real hero. He served two terms in Vietnam and was a war hero. I miss my two brothers.

Floyd Little

But God continues to bless me with three living sisters, Betty Jackson, Rosalie Johnson and Priscilla Goodson. These three ladies have been my biggest fans since I first put on a football helmet at Troop Junior High School. You have been my rock and strength on this journey. I could not have made it without your prayer and your support. Thank you for always being there for me.

I also have three very special and talented kids. You’ve already met my son Marc. He was my presenter. Marc is not like a regular son. He’s also my lawyer, my advisor, and my best friend. Life would be real different for me if Marc wasn’t around. I love you, man.

My daughter Christy who has blessed me with four grandkids, A.J., Skye, Blaze and Hayes. Christy is a proud mommy in training and has created a career teaching other mommies to be better mommies and I’m so proud of her for that. Christy, I am so proud of all the things you do because when I look at you I see all the things you do for our family. We are a close family because of you. I have been truly blessed to have you as my daughter. I love you, Christy.

My daughter Kyra. I have watched you perform on Broadway and on stages across this country. I have not seen anyone with more talent than you. You truly are a triple threat with abilities that make me proud to stick my chest out and say, That is my daughter. I love you, Kyra.

To Joyce Davis, the mother of my two daughters. Joyce, you did a great job as a mother. Thank you for your support during those early and challenging years as a Denver Bronco. Thank you for your support.

To my beautiful wife DeBorah, my friend, my partner and everything a husband can want. You stand shoulder to shoulder with me. You never wavered in your steadfast resolve, always willing to go to battle on my behalf, always ready to help me finish the fight. Thank you for always being by my side. You are my Hall of Famer and I love you.

No one travels this road alone. I can never have imagined the impact of a phone call I got from Tom Mackie’s wife Emily. She called asking if I would consider meeting Tom for his 40th birthday because I was Tom’s hero. Not only did Tom and I meet, but he became the co-author of my first book, Tales from the Bronco Sideline. My biggest advocate for my Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. Now Tom is my hero. Thank you, Tom Mackie, for all you’ve done. I truly appreciate it.

Lastly I want to thank my biggest friend and supporter, Jim Gray. Thank you, Jim Gray, for all you’ve done that contributed to my moment of being here today. I’m truly grateful, Jim, for all you’ve done.

The list of those that’s had an impact on my life and career is long, but I must give thanks to Ernie Davis, to Jim Brown, to John Mackie, to Hal Williams, to Ernie Barnes, to Billy Thompson, and my coaches Dan Casey, Al Verdel, Jay Lou, Ben Swartzwalder, Lou Saban, John Ralston. A special thanks to the Hall of Fame committee, Jeff Legwold, Jim Saccomano, and my Syracuse family, Dr. Nancy Carter and Dr. Daryl Gross and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden. To all my classmates, all my teammates from Hillhouse High School, Bordentown Military, Syracuse University, and the Denver Broncos. To Pat Bowlen and the entire Bronco organization, and to all the Bronco fans around the world. To all my friends and family who are here, and those who could not be here, thank you for your loyalty and your support over all these years. I am truly, truly grateful.

There’s no words to describe the joy of experiencing this final sports chapter in my life. This is obviously the highest honor any football player can garner. I stand here today celebrating my athletic life journey, and I understand significant. Everything else pales in comparison. Every player wakes up wishing to have this honor. I encourage you all to continue to dream for this moment. I have been favored by God and by those who have had a say in what happens to me.

But the road was not always so easy and clear. I remember being a strong but angry young man in school. I used my strength in ways that became my weakness. After being kicked out of school, I had reached an impasse in my life. Everything was done. My hopes were shattered and done. And then I had a vision from my late father that came to me and said, Floyd, I’ve chosen you to take my place, to do what I could not do, and to finish what I could not finish.

I came to myself. With the help of those who saw the good in me, I was re-enrolled back in school with determination. Not only did I become the president of my class, but I started my journey as a leader in everything that I did, and I never looked back.

Because of those that encouraged me in those early years, I am here today. So I want to encourage you, every student, every athlete, every person who will hear my voice, don’t listen to the naysayer. I had plenty of those. Don’t listen to those that will judge you for your rough edges. Don’t focus on your weakness so you won’t become a victim. Find the goodness in you that says, Yes, I can be a good student. Yes, I can be a good son and daughter. Yes, I can be a positive role model. Yes, I can, because the good in you is better than the worst in most. The choice is yours. Be the best that you can be.

I truly believe that none of us is anything until the least of us is something. The great writer James Baldwin said, Naked I came into this world and naked I shall leave. We are bound to leave everything we accomplished in this lifetime behind, passing it on. So leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud.

I’ve given you the best that I’ve got. And I’m a better person for it. Thank you for being here with me and for me. I thank God for His favor today, and may God bless us all. Thank you so much.

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Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Hall of Fame, NFL, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald