Monday, July 31, 2017

For the Love of Baseball

Story and photo by Ashley Burroughs

SYRACUSE, N.Y. –  The Akadema Prospects were in the stands as the Syracuse Chiefs came from behind to top the Louisville Bats on a walk-off three run home run by Alejandro De Aza at NBT Bank Stadium Thursday night.

They watched with excitement from behind home plate, wearing their uniforms and joining other fans in a frenzy at the end of the game. And, no doubt, hoping for a similar ending to the reason they came Syracuse in the first place.

Traveling team

The Akadema Prospects play in the 14-year-old traveling baseball division and they came all the way from Long Island, N.Y. to Syracuse because that's where this summer's big tournament was and the opening event was a visit by all the competing teams to the Chiefs game. 

Prospects head coach Dan Padrazo said he put his team through a vigorous schedule preparing for this year's tournament. 

“A lot of practice, games, and a little bit of discipline,” Padrazo said. The tournament consists of three games and if the Prospects were to win all three the team could play for the championship. The first opponent the Syracuse Sports Zone on Friday.

However, Thursday night was all about the team having fun and bonding over a sport they all love and admire.

Opportunity and respect

“Baseball is my life. I grew up playing as a kid," Padrazo said. "I got an opportunity to play in college and I have the opportunity to coach these young men.” 

Padrazo is in his second year as head coach and he says the hopes his players continue to learn and understand the great game of baseball.

One of his players, Ryan Bertsch, 14, said he found his love for baseball at a young age by playing and watching games. While playing for Padrazo he gained valuable lessons about the game. 

"I learned to have a lot of respect for other teams, a lot of fundamental work, and not to do stupid things because you never know who is watching,” Bertsch said.

His ultimate goal is to play baseball in college and one day compete at the professional level. Bertsch found his inspiration about this sport from his coach. 

“He knows a lot about the game, he has taught me a lot, and he is a great guy,” Bertsch said.

Opportunity Knocked, Catalon Answered

Andrew Catalon, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications '01 Grad

Opportunity Knocked, Catalon Answered  

Story by Erin Fish 
Photo from Andrew Catalon's Twitter

SYRACUSE, N.Y. Working the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics changed Andrew Catalon’s life as a sports broadcaster, he says.

At the time Catalon was working as a local TV sports reporter for the NBC affiliate in Albany, N.Y. He says he loved his job there. The people were pleasant, he was gaining knowledge of the industry, and he also worked along side his wife, news personality, Jessica Layton. It seems he had it all. But Catalon had other aspirations. He wanted to do play-by-play.

By phone from Burlington, Vermont where he was attending a wedding, Catalon described the road that led him to his goal.

A push from a mentor

Working for an NBC affiliate, Catalon had covered the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. In 2010, he was asked to cover the Vancouver Winter Olympics. While in Vancouver, he went to dinner with his mentor and fellow sports anchor, Fred Roggin, a veteran sports anchor for the KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. At dinner they discussed Catalon’s potential in the play-by-play business.

“He just told me, ya know look, you're really good at doing play-by-play and you should pursue this full time," Catalon said. "He said there's not as many opportunities anchoring maybe as there would be in play-by-play and if you're scared, don't be.” 

Catalon says the advice from Roggin was some of the best he has ever received in this business and the conversation gave him the confidence and the push he needed to move forward with play-by-play.

Never pass on an opportunity

From that moment on, Catalon says he has taken every opportunity that has come his way. He says he believes that no opportunity is a wasted opportunity. He has worked in sports that he knew very little about such as curling, luge and equestrian. These jobs have led him to meet great people and some have even led him to other job opportunities such as play-by-play for the NCAA Division I Men’s College Basketball Tournament and the NFL.

Catalon is now working for CBS sports as a play-by-play announcer. He says he still works with great people, he is still learning, and his wife Jessica now works at WCBS-TV in New York, and they live in New Jersey together with their son CJ.

When asked what advice he would give to someone in the shoes he was once in, Catalon passionately replied to never say no to an opportunity.

“It might seem ridiculous, it might be a far drive, it might not be worth a lot of money, and it might be worth no money," he says. "But you just never know where that could potentially lead you.”

Tyler Dunne's Passion for Sports

Story by Tyler Dudley
Photo by Tyler Dunne / Twitter: @TyDunne

Syracuse, N.Y. - People dream of moving up the ladder in the sports industry until they are working with a major news network such as ESPN or Fox Sports, Tyler Dunne is not one of them. 

Dunne has found his passion as an NFL Features Writer for Bleacher Report.

"I love writing about sports because sports is so often not about sports, it's about life and death," Dunne said. "It's about what makes somebody tick," 

Early on in his career, he was a beat reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covering the Green Bay Packers for four years before becoming a beat reporter for the Buffalo Bills for a year. It was there that Dunne's writing was first noticed by Bleacher Report.

After writing a story for his editor he tells me by phone how much he enjoys working from home. 

Dunne said since he works at home, during the off-season, once he's had his morning call with his editor, he spends most of his time making phone calls or waiting for returned calls to get a story.

However, once football is in season, Dunne said he is in a different place every other week, sometimes every week.

Dunne said traveling from city to city to track down stories makes his job much more enjoyable than sitting in an office.

Although, he said being a beat writer does come with its challenges. For Dunne, one of those challenges is competing with other beat writers.

"You’re kind of parachuting into these new environments constantly and that’s the challenge," Dunne said. "But I love that chase of trying to find stories that other people don’t have."

He says while he loves sports in general, he favors football because there are fewer games and more of the other stuff.

When looking for stories, Dunne looks back on players' history dating back to when they were in high school. He said whether you talk to their old coaches, family members, or even their friends, there's a story there.

Dunne mentioned how beneficial doing research is to find stories.

He had the opportunity to spend a few days in Cincinnati covering a story about Levantus Burke and how, as a kid, he almost died four times.

Dunne plainly enjoys sharing stories about football that are outside of the game. Interviewing people about their families and backgrounds make for good stories, he said.

Dunne has interviewed Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Levantus Burke, and Le'Veon Bell, to name a few. 

He said the job is not monotonous, it is quite the opposite and that is what he likes about it. 

Despite growing up going to Green Bay Packers games with his dad, being in the locker room with the media and the players strips away all the fandom he had going in.

Dunne said while the industry is changing constantly, sports fans are always wanting to be in the know about their favorite teams and players. 

"They demand what you demand, it's like you're a drug dealer," Dunne said. 

He said sports writers are the ones feeding fans their 'addiction' through writing, social media posts, videos and all other media outlets. 

While he said he is biased about Bleacher Report, he says the industry's reputation has improved drastically since he was a student at Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, graduating in 2010.

Dunne credits a lot of his work ethic to his time spent working at the university's student run newspaper, The Daily Orange. 

Dunne said the job changes from day to day, but being able to find and chase original stories that other people don't yet have keeps him going. 

He said it is difficult at times because people are consuming news in real time, but writing features allows him to "get into people's worlds and see what really makes them tick." 

Dunne acknowledges the changes other sports media outlets are making, but plans to stay with Bleacher Report. 

"Definitely the plan is to stay here as long as they value feature stories and I get to kind of do those stories I really enjoy doing," Dunne said. "I’ll do this forever. The passion is there. The love for what I do is there."

To listen to the interview click here or read the full Q&A below

Dudley: So I was just wondering, how did you get into Bleacher Report to begin with? 
Dunne: So I, let’s see, the first related job I had after college was covering the Packers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for four years, four seasons.  And that’s really where I cut my teeth on the NFL beat. Every type of story really. A lot of analysis, umm everything to live tweeting a press conference to what I really like to get into, long-form writing. I mean a lot of features. I went down to Mississippi and spent some time with Brett Favre and did a thing with Bart Star in his hometown. It really kind of hit me then that the long form story telling is what I wanted to do. I wanted to write features and get into people’s worlds and see what really makes them tick. I think people still enjoy a reading. Even though we’re on this 2017 climate where everything’s kind of snackable. People are consuming news in real time. I think the metrics also show that people will sit down on their phones and read an article whether its online, they’ll read longer stories. That’s kind of where it hit me that I wanted to focus on primarily on long form. But then I had the opportunity to come back to the Buffalo news and covered the Bills for a season, did some more long form, more features, in addition to the daily beat duties in Buffalo. Buffalo gave me a chance to come back home, I actually live with my brother here, closer to family about an hour south. It’s been great, but then Bleacher Report reached out a year into that job and asked if I’d wanna write features for them and only features. So all NFL, can live in Buffalo, travel and it’s been great. I absolutely love it. I get to try to find original stories, it can be difficult because there’s beat writers in every city, there’s already reporters on the ground in every city so you’re kind of parachuting into these new environments constantly and that’s the challenge. But I love that chase of trying to find stories that other people don’t have.

Dudley: And how exactly do you go about finding stories?
Dunne: Yeah it’s difficult. There’s a few different ways to go about it. When you’re on a beat and you’re covering one team, the players get to know you. You’re making small talk with them regularly. Talking about their personal lives just off the record. Talking about the NBA, music, whatever. One thing kind of leads to another and that’s kind of how I found some of my better stories on the beat whether it was covering the Packers or the Bills. So, I don’t have that now. Covering the NFL at large, when you’re just kind of popping into different cities, you can’t build those relationships. So one thing I did right off the bat was lean on those relationships I did cultivate those 4 years in Green Bay and 1 year in Buffalo. I have a lot of numbers in my phone and built up some relationships that were kind of able to last. So that led to a few stories, I guess one example would be last year I did a story on Aaron Rodgers. You know, he wasn’t playing well, people were wondering why, so people kind of dove into what kind of leader is he and I knew some people close to Aaron Rodgers himself who really offered the details up on how estranged he was from his family and it’s really sad. From him shipping Christmas presents back to his folks to not going to his grandfather’s funeral. I think it was a lot deeper than people realize so I guess the relationships from covering the Packers helped pay off for more of a national story. And then another way to find stories you know is just research. I try to constantly read all the time old stories back to these guys’ lives and careers when they were in high school and college. Like Levantus Burke, linebacker for the Bengals, he almost died like 4 times as a kid and it was barely written about. So I went down to Cincinnati and spent some time with him talking about it. So that’s another way to find stories. Trends are always big. Like what… I think that you can find trends in different ways like in a conversation or research but just conversational. You’re at a bar with somebody, what are people taking about in football, and into the playoffs a lot of people were talking about LeVeon Bell running style. It was so different, he would just stop at the line. So I talked to him about that and whether or not that’s a trend that’s going to continue for all running backs. So yeah there are different ways to go about it even though you’re not in one place every single day.

Dudley: How often would you say you are coming up with stories?
Dunne: I try to you know definitely at least once a week once the season gets going. Just constantly pitch stories to my editor and then from there we have a conversation. There’s something you will like and some that he doesn’t like. Maybe some that can be tweaked and massaged and kind of veered into a different direction. It’s a really good conversation we have.

Dudley: Would you say, was it difficult going from working here at Syracuse and working with collegiate athletics to professional?
Dunne: I think it was a great adjustment because when you’re covering the teams here at Syracuse there’s a lot of road blocks you might not face in the NFL. They’re kind of propped up as student athletes and directors there on campus, don’t get me wrong there were some really good SAD’s I liked to work with, but you can’t just get one on one interviews all the time after practices, after games in college. It’s tougher to kind of get that access. It makes you work harder. It makes you work a lot harder to find stories. I remember talking to players just on campus or talking to friends of players on campus to dig up something on a situation, on a player, on a game, on whatever. And then that can kind of lead to one thing which can lead to the next. It just makes you work harder when there’s more word blocks so that when you do get to the pro level, or anything else know beyond college, it could be covering high schools or whatever after you graduate. You kind of already have that work ethic engrained. Plus writing for the Daily Orange, I owe everything to the DO. It was, God, pouring in hours every day and into 3-4 a.m., got that kind of work ethic that everyone who has been through that system would still credit it to this day.

Dudley: Now, how involved would you say you were on campus, while you were here at Newhouse?
Dunne: Definitely involved, I kind of joke with my parents, I mean they really helped me financially go to Syracuse and obviously every class you sign up for, you’re paying for and it’s not cheap. But I don’t know if I can tell you one thing I learned I think in Ancient Greece or Christianity or Statistics to be honest, but I did what I had to do to get by in my classes. I put all of my energy and focus into my Newhouse classes and everything going on there. But like I mentioned, the Daily Orange, we really looked at it as a full time job. A daily newspaper coming up as an editor through there, eventually becoming a managing editor, which seems, it felt like you were already employed even if it was not much for much pay at all. You’re sweating, you’re grinding, you’re working and realizing where you want to take your career and if this is the career you want. There are people who worked at the DO who left the business, they didn’t like it. So I really credit them probably for hell, maybe even 99% of why I’ve been able to kind of to get to where I want to right now in my career.

Dudley: And how experienced were you coming into Newhouse? Do you have a lot of experience as far as sports reporting or were you really fresh?
Dunne: I tried to get as much experience as I could early on like in high school. You know every since I remember I wanted to be a sports writer so that kind of helped. I wasn’t really vacillating between careers. And you know as soon as I was like 13 / 14 years old it’s what I wanted to do. So I interned at my daily newspaper near my hometown the Times Herald which was an amazing experience. Chuck Pollock the sports editor, one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. There’s been a lot of people to come through the Times Herald who have learned so much from him. He gave me the chance to write, to cover high school games, to work the desk. I wrote some columns, some of which probably weren’t that good but you learn it on the fly, that helped. And once I got into college, interning somewhere every summer kind of helped. I covered the Packers a couple summers just for a couple of random, different publications out there. The Packer Report and then ending at the Buffalo News as well. You learn by doing, you can, you can read information about it in a book, you can listen to a professional, journalism, anything media related, you just learn by doing it.

Dudley: Would you say it was difficult for you to find a job in the industry after graduating?
Dunne: You know, not really. Everybody is going to try to scare you out of the business and maybe they’re right. It is brutal, moving around. You know, where there are places laying people off. ESPN has laid people off, Fox Sports axed their entire department pretty much and they just do video now. It is tough but I feel like if you build it, they will come. I mean there’s a ton of hope everywhere you look. Subscription based websites are on the rise in sports, the Athletic, I believe it’s called, they have markets in Chicago and Cleveland kind of all over. I think people are reading news and want to follow their favorite teams now more than ever. The interest is there, there’ll be a job, there will be a place to write. Monetizing that is obviously a challenge, but I believe it’ll work itself out. Information, insight, analysis, long form, all of that is just way too valuable that you know, people will pay for it. People pay for music, whether its Spotify, Pandora, ITunes. TV subscriptions, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go. I think people will pay for information on their favorite teams. The market will kind of work itself out. Maybe I’m blindly optimistic, but that’s the hope.

Dudley: I noticed that you do post quite a lot on social media. How important would you say your social media presence is as far as working professionally in the sports industry?
Dunne: Definitely very important. Probably more so when I was covering one team specifically. You know when I was covering the Packers and then the Bills, you want to bring those specific fans right to the sideline of training camp telling them who is looking good, who is not looking good, who can get cut, who can make the team, to being in the locker room after a game, who said what that is going to go viral instantly on Twitter, when you’re in that locker room. I mean you’re interviewing a guy in a group probably with a recorder in one hand and a phone in the other ready to tweet that out. You want to bring the fans to wherever you are and that’s the beauty of where we are in sports media today. You can do that, so it was SUPER prevalent covering a team. More so now, because I just write long form features, I’m not on there quite as much, when I have a story that drops I’ll promote it there and respond to people about it. But definitely, if you’re covering a specific team, it’s gold.

Dudley: Why would you say you chose to cover football over any other sport?
Dunne: I like football because there are less games and more other stuff. If you’re covering baseball there’s a game every day, every single day. You’re kind of chronically in the highs and the lows of the season in a game setting. I really like the NFL and football in general because there’s the draft, there’s free agency, there’s more chances to kind of write stories outside of the game. I mean I love writing about sports because sports is so often not about sports. It’s about life and death. It’s about what makes somebody tick. It’s all of these other factors that go into it that you can really dive into covering football because there’s not a game every day. Basically, you got 16 games.

Dudley: What would you say is a typical day in the office?
Dunne: I actually work from home which is awesome. I work here, I’ll be in touch with my editor first thing in the morning. We’ll kind of touch base on stories I’m pursuing, calls I’m gonna make, stories we might have to trash because that just aren’t going anywhere. From there once we kind of have like 4 or 5 set that I’m pursing to figure out what’s the most eminent story, then you go somewhere. I’ve got the freedom to travel which is great. During the year I’m usually somewhere every other week, if not every week, driving or flying. Spending 3 – 4 days talking to players, talking to their family members, friends, teammates, then trying to turn that story around in that following week. So it’s definitely, it’s not a 9-5 job, which I like. There’s gonna be somedays that I’m up until 12 or 1am working on a story, somedays that are slower where you’re waiting for people to call you back. Really, the changes that are in the day to day schedule are what I like about the job. It’s not monotonous at all, it’s the exact opposite.

Dudley: Would you say it was difficult from being a fan to a professional in the industry? Keeping your personal interests out of your work
Dunne: It really wasn’t difficult for me. It could’ve been because I had a baptism by fire on all of that. I grew up a huge Packers fan, I would go to games with my dad every year even though we lived in Buffalo and I followed every snapper from about 1994 on. I knew I wanted to be a sports  writer and journalism would be the back bone for everything I do professionally. I was able to strip that all away and it helped because I had those two internships covering two training camps right in Green Bay. One summer in which Brett Favre tried to come back after he retired, so it was just madness. Aaron Rodgers’ locker was just flooded with reporters, there were national reporters and working that everyday, you just completely use all fandom. Every fan inside you just kind of leaves the system and at the same time I can understand the passion my readers had. I knew where they were coming from and the moments that they cherished throughout the years. And I think that did help me still at times, knowing my base and really fans and readers, they’re your boss just as much as your editor. They demand what they demand, it’s like you’re a drug dealer, to use a bad metaphor. You’re giving that addiction everyday. You’re constantly feeding that addiction through blog posts, through analysis, through stories, through tweets, through videos, through podcasts, there is a certain satisfaction that comes out of that. You know that they are your boss. Knowing where they came from on the Packers beat that helped me out a lot.

Dudley: Would you say it’s hard to compete with like bigger names, such as ESPN, Fox, CBS. Or is it kind of not as bad as you would think?
Dunne: Umm, I don’t think it’s as bad as I would think. I think Bleacher Report’s reputation has definitely improved drastically through the years. When I was in college not many people knew what it was. And it became well its an aggregator, its slideshows, you know all this stuff. They cleansed a lot of that out, they rehired a lot of people from those other outlets that you mentioned and from some of the top newspapers. That’s really what caught my eye. And a conversation just kind of started from there. So I do say Bleacher Report is a number one spot for a lot of people. I know I’m absolutely biased because that’s who I work for. You do have those eyeballs, they know how people consume news. It’s on Facebook, it’s on Twitter, it’s on Snapchat, it’s on Instagram. And they go to where people are. So when a story drops its going to spread, you hope, like wildfire and it can be competitive because there are a lot of good writers out there but that’s part of the fun.

Dudley: To kind of tie everything up, would you say that you plan on staying with Bleacher Report or would you ever consider working with a different media outlet?
Dunne: Definitely the plan is to stay here as long as they value feature stories and I get to kind of do those stories I really enjoy doing. I’ll do this forever. The passion is there. The love for what I do is there. I don’t think it’s going to die down or change anytime soon.

Eric Dungey looks to bounce back

Story by Peyton Zeigler
Photos by Peyton Zeigler and Jonathan Singh

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Junior quarterback Eric Dungey is coming off a season that ended with an injury. 

“We’re just trying to go out there and win some games," Dungey said Sunday at a media event before the first preseason practice session.

"I’m not saying ‘no more mister nice guy,’ but it’s just kinda of put your head down and get to work.” 

Dungey, the top recruit out of the state of Oregon, has yet to finish a complete season. He sustained a hit to the shoulder and neck during last year's Clemson game that knocked him out for the rest of the year. He says being healthy starts with making smart decisions and not taking any unnecessary hits.

The line is the key

It also starts with the offensive line. Several offensive linemen were injured last season, but all five starters were scheduled to return until guard Aaron Roberts suffered a knee injury. He says a healthy line will make all of the difference.  

"I think the offensive line just needs to stay together as one. The best chemistry is the offensive line."

When the line comes together, the rest of the offense will follow. Dungey has a few weapons such as junior running back Dontae Strickland, but he said more than one receiver is going to need to be a weapon.

"If the offense is going to function at the rate that we need it to, everybody's got to step up."

Experience counts

This year Dungey has a better understanding of the offense and has put on 15 more pounds. In 2016 he averaged 297.7 passing yards per game and 330.2 average yards of total offense per game, which were both SU single-season records, in only nine games. Furthermore, this is the first time he has played in the same offense as the year before. Head coach Dino Babers says this year he is more calm and aware of his surroundings.

"He has a peace about him. . . he's coming back into this thing and he can foresee some things before they're going to happen," Babers said.

Babers and Dungey would both be happy to see Dungey rewarded for his work. He is one of 30 quarterbacks nominated for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. The off-field accolades for Dungey would indicate on-field success for the Orange in 2017.

After a  4-8 season, the Orange is preparing for another tough schedule including Clemson at home and games at LSU, Miami, and Florida State. Dungey said he is excited to see what the veterans and the new guys can do to contribute. The goal for training camp is to be together and accountable for each other. He says the team is more confident and competitive for spots in this second year under Babers.

"When we have fun, that's when we have the most success," Dungey said.

The season begins at the Carrier Dome on Friday night, September 1st against Central Connecticut State.

Franklin Makes Time to Improve

Story and photos by Frank DeLuca

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Zaire Franklin is entering his third season as the captain of the Syracuse football team, but that doesn't mean he has nothing left to learn.

Franklin speaks to the media about the upcoming season.
The senior linebacker totaled over 100 tackles last year, but he says he is still trying to take his game to another level.

"I'm just trying to take an extreme mental edge to my game," Franklin said during a media session Sunday afternoon before the first preseason practice.

Franklin added that it's easier to find the time to better himself as a player than when he was new to college football.

"When you come as a freshman, so many things are going on,"  Franklin said. "You don't really understand how to manage your time. Going into my fourth time in it, I'm really able to dictate how the day is going to go.

"I don't need to take that two hour break or something because I'm not sleepy because I'm used to doing these things. So rather than going home to go to sleep for two and a half hours and coming back, let's get in the training room, let's watch more film, maybe go out to practice a little bit early."

The Syracuse defense returns a linebacking core, coming off a very productive season statistically. Senior outside linebacker Parris Bennett led the team with 110 tackles last year; he and Franklin became the first pair of Syracuse players to amass over 100 tackles since 2003. Jonathan Thomas, senior outside linebacker on the other side, was fifth on the team with 55 tackles.

Franklin said their success on the field has a lot to do with their bond off the field.

"It's always fun when you're playing and you got your two closest friends right next to you. Me, J.T., and Parris have been playing together since we got here. It's just a lot of unspoken chemistry between us three," Franklin said.

Franklin (4) stretches on the practice field as camp begins.
While many are looking ahead to the challenging schedule SU will have to endure, Franklin said he is taking it one day at a time.

"I'm just excited for today. I can't really see past training camp. I can't really see past this helmet practice today."

Training camp will run through August, and Syracuse's season opens up against Central Connecticut State on Friday night Sept. 1 at the Carrier Dome.