Sunday, June 21, 2015

Re-Opening Day Reignites Memories in Sports History

By Lauren Winfrey


Re-Opening Day for the Syracuse Chiefs at NBT Bank Stadium
With the temperature in the 70-degrees  range, nearly nine-thousand fans found their way to NBT Bank Stadium on Thursday. April 16 for Opening Day, the biggest Opening Day crowd since 2001. In a 10-2 victory, the Chiefs trounced the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre RailRiders giving them their largest win margin in a home opener in 30 years.

Saturday marked the official Re-Opening day for the Chiefs, and although there was a bit of rain and the final score didn’t favor the boys in white this time around, more than 4,700 fans came out on the warm and muggy last official day of spring. Temperatures dropped gradually throughout the evening making for an overall comfortably cool night.

On the field the Chiefs were clipped by the Buffalo Bisons, 5-3, in the 11th inning, but on the concourse, fans stood in line for the autographs of former MLB All-Stars Lenny Dykstra and Dwight “Doc” Gooden, who were teammates on the 1986 New York Mets World Series champions.  

“I think anytime I come to New York… it’s a special thing,” said Dykstra, whose son Cutter was with the Chiefs until last week when he was sent to Double-A Harrisburg. “I was lucky to play in New York and win a World Series. When the fans come, they really truly sincerely want the autograph. I like to look them in the eyes and tell them how much I really appreciate them showing up. I actually enjoy it. It’s good to be with people that sincerely want the autograph.”

Now in its second year, Re-opening Day is meant to emulate the momentum of opening day. The Chiefs' manager of community relations and social media Jeffery Irizarry credits General Manager Jason Smorol with the idea. 

“[Smorol] realized Opening Day is fantastic… but why not do it again [and] relive the moment,” Irizarry said. “Not everyone can get out on a Thursday two o’clock game, so why not have [re-opening day] on a Saturday when the kids just got out of school so everybody can attend and enjoy the experience of opening day?”

The smiles and handshakes exchanged between the fans and the former baseball stars served as the highlight of the night. Moments of nostalgia surfaced as New York baseball aficionados stood in line with varied Mets memorabilia eager to meet the men who helped create sports history.

The Chiefs and the Bisons meet again Sunday at NBT Bank Stadium to play the final game of a three-game series. The first pitch is slated for 1:05pm.

Syracuse Chiefs 2015 Re-Opening Day  -Photos

Photos by Lauren Winfrey 

Syracuse, N.Y. -  The Syracuse Chiefs celebrated "Re-opening Day" with help from two former New York baseball All-Stars, Lenny Dykstra and Dwight "Doc" Gooden... click on any photo to start slideshow.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Youth Lacrosse Fills Fields at ULA Opening Weekend

By Lauren Winfrey

CORTLAND, N.Y. -  Young lacrosse players took over the fields at SUNY Cortland this weekend. The Upstate Lacrosse Association's (ULA)Shane Lynch Memorial Opening Weekend is considered one of the biggest lacrosse events in the country. Named for the LeMoyne College coach from Liverpool who died of cancer at 28, the weekend provides a large platform for lacrosse players to experience playing teams in the region that are new to them. 

Nike Team/ LIDS Team Sports serves as one of the many partners of the ULA and the Opening Weekend. Nike Team/ LIDS Team Sports representative Patricia Mussi credits Onondaga Nation for introducing the sport of lacrosse to the Central New York area.
Central Square v. Dryden 3rd and 4th graders

“Onondaga Nation is where it all began. A lot of the reservations are the ones that brought lacrosse into this region, and [the sport] has expanded across the country because of them,” Mussi said.

Mussi also finds the ULA’s incorporation of all athletes, despite their skill set, pertinent to the organization’s ability to develop young talent.

“[The ULA] prepares these kids for school... [the organization] incorporates everybody and I think that's key, Mussi said. "Whether the players are lower level or higher level, they all play together." 

The organization's overall all goal is to help produce the collegiate and professional lacrosse players of tomorrow. The effort to produce tomorrow's best, starts with training today's beginners. Central Square ULA Coordinator Pat Wallace is very familiar with this process. In addition to serving as a ULA coordinator, Wallace also assists with coaching the Central Square 3rd and 4th grade team. 

"[The kids] like coming down here and playing on these fields. This is a great way to start the season," Wallace said. This is a big atmosphere for these kids, it's a lot bigger than just a normal game at school grounds."  

Wallace agrees the exposure to other athletes and varied skill sets really works to the advantage of his young players. 

"From now on we'll be able to build off this [experience] and progress through the rest of the season," Wallace said. "We'll be able to go back to practice and fix some of the problems we had during the game, and exploit some of our strengths." 

Wallace's coaching philosophy echoes the ULA's longstanding premise of lacrosse: play hard, play fair, respect others, and honor the game.

Video report:

Pat Wallace interview:

2015 Shane Lynch Memorial Opening Weekend  -Photos

Photos by Lauren Winfrey 

Cortland, N.Y. - Friday and Saturday marked the Upstate Lacrosse Association's 2015 Shane Lynch Memorial Opening Weekend at SUNY Cortland ... click on any photo to start slideshow.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Family Night for Speedway Owner Wight, Every Night

By Lauren Winfrey
Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux presents family autograph night.


Billy Whittaker Cars & Trux presented family autograph night Friday at Brewerton Speedway, but there are familial ties at Brewerton all the time.

John Wight is the owner of both Brewerton and Fulton Speedways. His son, Larry Wight, 22, is a speedway driver who’s spent the last eight years dirt car racing.

“I’ve been coming to the races since I was about four-years-old, and my parents sponsored a couple guys when I was younger, Larry Wight said. "Once I got old enough, we ended up getting a car and I started racing myself.”

A driver for the Gypsum Racing team, Wight races big block modified number 99. He has 88 total featured wins under his belt, and was the 2008 358 Modified Rookie of the Year.

Friday night’s race was a part of the weekly race series hosted at Brewerton.

“We run for points throughout the year, and whoever has the most amount of points—best finishes—gets the points championship,” Wight said.

In the first heat of the night for the Tracey Road Equipment Modifieds, the group in which Wight races, Wight started last and finished third overall. He took the title for best lap time with 14.461 seconds in lap five going 82.981 MPH. Billy Decker for the Gypsum Racing team finished first in the second heat. He too completed his race with the best lap time at 14.121 in lap two with a speed of 84.979.

Wight started 17th for the 35-Lap Tracey Road Equipment Modified feature, and finished 22nd completing only one lap due to a multi-car collision in which four other racers were also involved. Teammate Billy Decker, completing all 35 laps, took first place.  

Win or lose, owner John Wight remains proud.

“[Having my son involved] is a character builder. It teaches him how to run a race team… the family is deeply involved in racing,” he said.

The Pro Race Cars Mod Lites 20 laps race was rescheduled due to rain along with the Hilton’s Automotive Four-Cylinders race.

Next up for Wight and his crew is Saturday night’s race when A-Verdi Storage Containers & Penn Commercial Vehicle Solutions presents A-Verdi Sprint Series at Fulton Speedway.

Brewerton Speedway Race Series -Photos

Photos by Lauren Winfrey 

Syracuse, N.Y. - Friday night Billy Whittaker Cars and Trux presented family autograph night at Brewerton Speedway during the Friday night race series. Sure enough, it was a family affair... click on any photo to start slideshow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rain? What Rain?

Photos by Lauren Winfrey 

Onondaga, N.Y. - The 12th seeded Sauquoit Valley Indians continued their winning streak Monday night with another shutout win to take the Section III Class C baseball title 7-0 over Pulaski at Onondaga Community College. The game was played in rain and mist but Indians' fans endured it along with the team and everybody went home happy. Click on an photo to start slide show.