Vision quest: New ASU baseball coach Bloomquist has high expectations for program

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By Catie Cheshire
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Even though he grew up in Washington, Willie Bloomquist’s connection to Arizona runs deep.

From playing at Arizona State to spending eight seasons with the Diamondbacks as a player and then special assistant to President & CEO Derrick Hall, Bloomquist has made the state his home, even though he grew up outside Seattle and played for the Mariners for nine of his 16 years in Major League Baseball.

“I love Arizona State,” said Bloomquist, who was named ASU’s baseball coach in June. “I view Arizona State as one of the best programs in the country and, for me, I want people to feel that way when they come here and understand that this place is special.” Continue reading “Vision quest: New ASU baseball coach Bloomquist has high expectations for program”

Environmental remediation costs present challenge for Coyotes’ proposed Tempe stadium site

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By Henry Greenstein
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – It’s a short declarative phrase in the city of Tempe’s request for proposal, published July 22: “Finally, it will be respondent’s financial responsibility to remediate the land.”

But taken together with a $70 million cost estimate presented in June, it represents a considerable fiscal and logistical burden for the Arizona Coyotes if they seek to develop a new stadium in the East Valley.

The process of environmental remediation – removing contaminants from water and soil – for the 46-acre site northeast of Priest Drive and Rio Salado Parkway on the Salt River will be multifaceted. Judith Grant Long, a professor of sport management and urban planning at the University of Michigan, said she has seen reports of land costs become much more detailed during her time studying sports venues. But she added that the public might not have a desire to know the intricacies of these estimates. Continue reading “Environmental remediation costs present challenge for Coyotes’ proposed Tempe stadium site”

Former Arizona Wranglers preach patience, stability for new USFL

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By Henry Greenstein
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The United States Football League of the mid-1980s brought sports fans a three-season whirlwind of front-office intrigue, roster turnover and eventually litigation, occasionally interrupted by some decent spring football.

Before imploding in spectacular fashion in 1986 amid a failed move to the fall, the league, broadcast on a fledgling ESPN, introduced future stars like Steve Young and Herschel Walker to fans nationwide.

It also gave untapped markets like Jacksonville, Memphis and of course Arizona an early taste of professional football – even if it wasn’t always of the highest quality. Continue reading “Former Arizona Wranglers preach patience, stability for new USFL”

‘Hold tight’: Highly touted Diamondbacks prospect Alek Thomas excited for future

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By Catie Cheshire

PHOENIX – At just 21, Alek Thomas has already played in two MLB Futures Games.

The Diamondbacks prospect is with the Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles and, along with All Star Eduardo Escobar, was one of two representatives from the organization at this year’s All-Star festivities at Coors Field.

After playing in the 2019 Futures Game, Thomas wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to play in it again. Continue reading “‘Hold tight’: Highly touted Diamondbacks prospect Alek Thomas excited for future”

A Dreamer’s dream: DACA status almost tripped NAU runner’s Olympic hopes

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By Kaylee Connors and Joey Serrano
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Luis Grijalva could see the finish line. He just wasn’t sure he could reach it.

That changed Monday when the former Northern Arizona runner, who had qualified for the Olympics in July, learned he had been approved to travel to Tokyo in time for the preliminary 5,000-meter race Aug. 3. Because DACA recipients who leave the country typically aren’t allowed to return, the Guatemala native wasn’t sure he could participate.

“He is extremely deserving and is one of the most special people we’ve ever had the chance to work with,” said Jarred Cornfield, NAU’s assistant track and field and cross country coach. Continue reading “A Dreamer’s dream: DACA status almost tripped NAU runner’s Olympic hopes”

Legislation to change Native American team names lacks momentum in Arizona

  • Slug: Sports- Native American Mascots, 1,225 words
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By Henry Greenstein
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – For opponents of Native American mascots in the Southwest, 2021 has been a banner year.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill on June 4 prohibiting the use of “racially discriminatory imagery” in any school’s “name, logo, mascot, song or other identifier.” His Colorado counterpart, Gov. Jared Polis, followed suit at the end of the month by authorizing a ban on Native American mascots in schools that don’t have a relationship with a tribe.

The broader national climate shifted as well on Friday: Following in the footsteps of the Washington Football Team, MLB’s Cleveland Indians adopted a new name – the Guardians – after lengthy public debate. Continue reading “Legislation to change Native American team names lacks momentum in Arizona”

Suns’ naming rights deal with Footprint provides chance to increase fans’ environmental awareness

  • Slug: Sports-Sustainability Name Rights, 1,064 words.
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By Henry Greenstein
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – For Phoenix Suns fans immersed in the high drama of the NBA Finals, the decision might have come as a surprise. The team announced on July 16 its intention to rename the downtown arena to Footprint Center, after local plant-based packaging company Footprint.

For experts on sports business, and its intersection with environmental issues? Not quite as shocking.

“When you (a team) add some type of sustainability component or climate component, it gives you an opportunity to say that you’re actually sending a very positive message,” said Rich Brand, a sports lawyer at Arent Fox who frequently negotiates naming rights deals, “at the same time that, you know, admittedly, you’re getting paid a little bit of money here and there – or a lot of money here and there.” Continue reading “Suns’ naming rights deal with Footprint provides chance to increase fans’ environmental awareness”

Once the ‘smaller guy,’ ASU Josh’s Doan embraces invitation to World Juniors showcase

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By Taiwo Adeshigbin
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Since he was 2, Josh Doan’s Christmas tradition involved watching the World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, an annual event held in late December. This year could look a little different for him.

Doan, 19, was recently going about his day, preparing to leave his house when he received a random call, which he thought might be a scammer.

“Fortunately for me, it was someone important from USA Hockey,” he said. Continue reading “Once the ‘smaller guy,’ ASU Josh’s Doan embraces invitation to World Juniors showcase”

Arizonans in Tokyo: Athletes with local ties to watch in the Tokyo Olympics

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By Emily Carman
Cronkite News

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are underway. The opening ceremonies kicked off at 4 a.m. (MST) Friday, signifying the official start of the much delayed, much anticipated event.

The United States is sending over 600 athletes to Tokyo to compete across 41 different sports. Of that group, 19 are Arizona natives, either born or raised in the state. Continue reading “Arizonans in Tokyo: Athletes with local ties to watch in the Tokyo Olympics”

Skateboarding, Arizona’s Jagger Eaton make Olympic debut

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By Catie Cheshire
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – In the inaugural Olympic skateboarding competition, Arizona will have two representatives: Jagger Eaton and Alana Smith.

For Eaton, going to the Olympics is in his blood. His grandfather, Stormy Eaton, started Desert Devils Gymnastics in Mesa with the goal of coaching young women at the Olympic level. His father, Geoff Eaton, followed suit. Neither reached that goal.

Arizona is sending its first Olympic gymnasts, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner, to Tokyo this year. Neither train at Desert Devils. Continue reading “Skateboarding, Arizona’s Jagger Eaton make Olympic debut”

Promise, the world: ASU’s Amukamara takes international stage with Nigeria in Olympics

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By Kaylee Connors
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – With Opening Ceremonies set for Friday, one Arizona State graduate is closer to making history. Promise Amukamara will represent Team Nigeria this year in Tokyo and is the first ASU women’s basketball player to make an Olympic team

“I’m just so grateful and blessed to be able to have played here at ASU, and then carry on with my career in the professional and being able to be called up for the Nigerian National team and play for them,” Amukamara said. “It’s crazy and I’m just in shock that everything has happened. I’m in shock and it’s been a dream come true.”

Amukamara played for Nigeria’s World Cup Team in 2018 and 2019. She also was on the 2019 FIBA African Championship Gold Medal team and participated in the Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Continue reading “Promise, the world: ASU’s Amukamara takes international stage with Nigeria in Olympics”

Now what? Uncertainty of Paul, others leave big questions about Suns’ future

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By Joey Serrano
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years. They revealed the foundation of a championship team, but uncertainty looms as key players are headed to free agency, leaving more questions than answers for the near future.

The biggest question? Chris Paul, who has a player option for $44.2 million next season. If he declines it he will become an unrestricted free agent, allowing any team to make a pitch for the future Hall of Famer to join their team.

“ I mean, it will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality, get back to work. I ain’t retiring,” Paul said. “Right now we’re going to process this and figure this out. I think everything else will take care of itself.” Continue reading “Now what? Uncertainty of Paul, others leave big questions about Suns’ future”

En route to fifth Olympics, Tucson’s Abdi Abdirahman, 44, outraces Father Time

  • Slug: Sports-Phoenix Suns Future, 616 words.
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By Taiwo Adeshigbin
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – At 44, Abdihakim ‘Abdi’ Abdirahman has defied all odds to become the oldest U.S. runner ever to make an Olympic team. He will compete in the marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo thanks to minor tweaks to his training regimen and a honed awareness of his body’s needs.

“At the end of the day, we have to realize we are human beings,” the Tucson resident said. “If you’re doing something and you’re not feeling well, not enjoying it, and feeling fatigued, you have to give your body time to recover.”

Minor injuries have come during crucial points of Abdirahman’s career, with the most devastating occurring during the 2012 Olympics. Although he felt he was in the best shape of his life, he had to drop out of the race with a knee injury. Yet he’s continued to move forward, competing in his fifth Olympics. Continue reading “En route to fifth Olympics, Tucson’s Abdi Abdirahman, 44, outraces Father Time”

As Suns’ Deandre Ayton thrives in postseason, Bahamian community celebrates

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By Joey Serrano
Cronkite News

Three years have passed since the Phoenix Suns selected Bahamian big man Deandre Ayton as the first overall pick in the NBA Draft. His standout play throughout this postseason has helped bring a national spotlight to his home country.

“Everybody here is watching,” said Petra Haven, the executive director of the Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission. “We love basketball and to be able to see one of our own represent the country so well is definitely amazing.”

Ayton is thriving in his first ever playoffs for a Suns team that takes on the Milwaukee Buck tonight in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. He is averaging 16 points and 12.1 rebounds in the postseason and has had 17- and 19-rebound games in the finals. Continue reading “As Suns’ Deandre Ayton thrives in postseason, Bahamian community celebrates”

An accident, a loss, an alley-oop: Suns playoff run helps fan persevere after painful year

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By Catie Cheshire
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – When Deandre Ayton slammed down his now legendary “Valley-oop” in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, the dunk instantly became one of the most electrifying moments of the Phoenix Suns’ playoff run this season. For one fan, it holds an even greater meaning.

“Since April 15, I’ve had an hour of no pain and half of that time is because of Deandre Ayton,” David Boothe said.

No one knows the healing power of sports better than Boothe, who has found comfort in recent months watching the Suns, who face the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight. Continue reading “An accident, a loss, an alley-oop: Suns playoff run helps fan persevere after painful year”

‘Nuestro equipo’: Diamondbacks’ City Connect jerseys showcase community of Hispanic fans

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By Catie Cheshire
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – “Nuestra ciudad. Nuestro estado. Nuestro equipo. Our city. Our state. Our team.”

Felipe Garcia’s voice rings strong, announcing the new Diamondbacks Nike City Connect jerseys. Featuring “Serpientes” across the chest, a snake curled around a red sun and the Arizona flag, the Sonoran-sand-colored jerseys pay homage to the Hispanic community in Arizona.

To loyal fans like Brenden Cabral, who scored one of the City Connect jerseys before the initial stock sold out, the Diamondbacks celebrating their Hispanic fans through the new jerseys is one half of an important symbiotic relationship: The Hispanic community features some of the most avid Diamondbacks fans, and the Diamondbacks purposefully include them in promotions and other activities. Continue reading “‘Nuestro equipo’: Diamondbacks’ City Connect jerseys showcase community of Hispanic fans”

Two Arizona runners go the distance, from altitude training in Flagstaff to representing U.S. in Tokyo

  • Slug: Sports-Arizona Olympic Distance Runners, 950 words.
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By Catie Cheshire
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – During a heat wave in Oregon, two runners who are used to scorching temperatures secured their spots in the Olympics.

Rachel Schneider, who qualified in the 5,000 meters and Emily Sisson, who qualified in the 10,000 meters, both live and train in Arizona.

Schneider moved to Flagstaff full-time five years ago after falling in love with the city when she went there to train in high altitude. Flagstaff is a highly sought after altitude training destination for runners. Sisson travels there for long stretches each year for that purpose. Continue reading “Two Arizona runners go the distance, from altitude training in Flagstaff to representing U.S. in Tokyo”

Cha-ching: Suns’ playoff run boost for local businesses, city image

  • Slug: Sports-Suns Local Business, 721 words.
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By Kaylee Connors
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Local businesses impacted by COVID-19 call the Phoenix Suns’ playoff run a shining light emerging from the dark tunnel of a pandemic.

Willie’s Taco Joint, which sits between Phoenix Suns Arena and Chase Field, has weathered recent economic challenges in part because its landlords, the Diamondbacks and Suns, paid half its rent during the worst parts of the pandemic, owner Eric Stoltz said. Now the restaurant is receiving a boost from a team that started playing in the postseason May 23 and will host the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Saturday night.

“It was going really well, and then of course last year we had the pandemic which was absolutely brutal but we got through it. And now this year it’s starting to go really well again,” Stoltz said about the restaurant that opened in December of 2016. Continue reading “Cha-ching: Suns’ playoff run boost for local businesses, city image”

Experts skeptical Suns’ statement condemning violence will curb disorderly fan behavior

  • Slug: Sports-Suns Fan Violence, 850 words.
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By Henry Greenstein
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Two official statements, separated by three weeks. Both issued by the Phoenix Suns, both decrying fighting at Phoenix Suns Arena. Yet neither one was about the “Suns in four” guy, Nick McKellar, who became a viral sensation after pummeling Nuggets fans during the Western Conference Semifinals, highlighting the thin line between condemnation and celebration.

No, the Suns’ June 21 statement was in response to a brawl between Suns and Clippers fans early in the Conference Finals (not the only fight that took place during that series). And on Monday the team denounced violence on Twitter yet again after yet another fight, this time in the stands at the Road Game Rally for Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.

“Cheer loudly. Wear your gear proudly,” the most recent statement reads. “And show respect for your fellow NBA fans no matter who they rep.” Continue reading “Experts skeptical Suns’ statement condemning violence will curb disorderly fan behavior”

Even with loss, Suns fans embrace experience of Road Game Rally in arena

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By Taiwo Adeshigbin
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – No one would have guessed the Suns had just lost Game 3 of the NBA Finals with the many fans rooting inside and outside Phoenix Suns Arena Sunday.

Ernesto Gastelum was loudly chanting, “Suns in five, Suns in five” while enjoying a piggyback ride from a family member outside the main entrance, and then followed with another mantra:  “We bend, but we don’t break.”

“We believe in our boys, and it is all good if we lose one,” Gastelum said. “We’re going to bring it to Phoenix, and we’re going to win this ship in our hometown.”

Continue reading “Even with loss, Suns fans embrace experience of Road Game Rally in arena”