The Pony League World Series, which has called Washington home for the most of the last six decades, has a new name. Today, the logo for the new “Dick’s Sporting Goods Pony League World Series” was unveiled as Dick’s becomes the title sponsor for this Washington County tradition. Abe Key is the President of PONY Baseball and Softball, Inc, “The Pony League World Series has been here 54 out of the last 64 years, and to have somebody like Dick’s Sporting Goods step up to the plate and be the title sponsor of the Pony League World Series gives an exceptional amount of credibility to the event.” Maureen Hester is the Community Marketing Manager for Dick’s Sporting Goods, “At Dick’s Sporting Goods we really truly believe that sports matter and to have an event like this that has so much history that’s in our back yard we feel just incredible about the relationship that we now have with the Pony League World Series.”
Today in New York City, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pleaded his case against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Brady arrived at NFL offices on Park Avenue this morning. He went in through a side door, but was still greeted by a throng of reporters, photographers and fans. INside the day-long appeal, there were reportedly about 40 people. Brady’s lawyers don’t believe the commssioner has the authority to impose discipline under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. They also say the violation doesn’t support a four-game suspension, and that it’s inconsistent with previous punishments, and they’ll argue that the discipline based on the Wells Report is inaccurate and contradictory. A letter sent to the league by the NFLPA says Brady wouldn’t be satisfied with a reduced suspension. It says Brady wants to be fully exonerated and not suspended at all, feeling he has done nothing wrong.
Steelers minicamp wrapped up today. That’s it for the 2015 offseason workouts. We won’t see the Steelers again until training camp at Saint Vincent College. They’ll have to report by 4pm on Saturday, July 25th, and head coach Mike Tomlin says he’s looking forward to it, “I love camp. I love the environment, where you get the opportunity to get singularly focused on football, and live together and dine together and be secluded if you will, and it’s just a good environment for team building.” Because of the Hall of Fame game on August 9th, the Steelers can report to camp early, and enjoy an extra week at Saint Vincent. Receiver Antonio Brown is also looking forward to getting back to Latrobe, “you gotta embrace it. You gotta enjoy it, and you gotta prepare for it. I mean, it’s football time, so it’s time to have fun being around your brothers, and get the team reaffirmed and get ready to go for 2015.”
The Steelers will conclude minicamp tomorrow, and today we got word that the bumble bee uniforms will be back in 2015. The Steelers announced that they’ll wear their 1934 throwback jerseys in the eighth week against the Cincinnati Bengals. I talked to several Steelers today, including Cam Heyward, and he’s a big believer in the magic of the bumble bees, “I’m undefeated in it. I think when we get those jerseys on, it looks like we’re a swarm of bees, you know we’re pretty successful in it.”
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers will hold their mandatory minicamp this coming week, but Ben was on the field today. Roethlisberger hosted his 8th annual youth football camp. As part of the camp, he throws a pass to every child that participates. That’s a few hundred throws. After his session, Roethlisberger talked about what his rookie teammates will be facing in minicamp, and beyond, “you go straight from college, playing a season, training for the draft, right to an NFL season, you get worn out. That’s why they say you hit the rookie wall. So they’re in for a rude awakening because they all think they’re ready to go. It’s not easy, so I think, it’s (minicamp) just for guys on offense and defense trying to learn the plays, learn what they’re supposed to be doing and trying to find a spot.” Minicamp gets underway on Tuesday at the South Side complex.
Former Steelers assistant coach Russ Grimm was in town this weekend for a football camp at West Allegheny High School, and we caught up with him to get his thoughts on Jerome Bettis’s upcoming Hall of Fame induction (almost exactly two months away). Grimm know all about the Hall of Fame. He was inducted in Canton five years ago. He offered some advice for the Bus, “they told me before I was going in, you can’t prepare for that. You might think, ‘yeah, okay,’ I want to make sure I told my family. I said, ‘I’m not looking at you.’ They say that’s the one thing to do. You can thank your family. Your can thank your parents, but don’t look at them. If you look at them, you’ll break down.”
The six western Pennsylvania Hall of Fame quarterbacks were honored at the Gridiron Gold event tonight. This is an event that didn’t happen easily or by accident. It took more than two years of planning and intense coordination to be able to pull off a banquet with Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in attendance, as well as the families of the late Johnny Unitas and George Blanda. It was a studded night if there ever was one, and even Marino was struck by how rare it was to gather this group, “Just to be on stage with Montana and Kelly and Namath and Blanda and Johnny Unitas’s son. I mean, I got to know all of those guys. I’ve met them all before. They’re great people, just good to be part of it.”
The Steelers will be working out for much of the next month (OTAs and minicamp), but today was an off day before their second week of Organized Team Activities begins. Head Coach Mike Tomlin was at Nevillewood, where he served as a celebrity host for the 18th annual Extra Mile Education Foundation golf outing. I had the chance to talk to the coach about a “new era” for the Steelers, and although he didn’t want to look too far ahead, Tomlin knows he’ll be missing a long list of impact players from his first eight years, “it’s really two different things, you know, on a personal note, the men themselves, it’s very difficult, and because they are special people and you know what they do, and you know what they’re willing to do, and you have a lot of love and respect for that. Professionally, the wheels turn. Change is a part of football, especially the professional level, and I embrace that.”
The Steelers signed running back DeAngelo Williams to create some depth at running back. But Williams is prepared to give them a whole lot more. He’s 32-years-old, and the leading rusher in Carolina Panthers history with nearly 6500 yards and 46 touchdowns. With Le’Veon Bell facing a three-game suspension to start next season, Williams could be the key, and he’s ready and able to fill the void. “Let me make sure we get this straight,” Williams told reporters on the first day of OTAs, “cause all the Le’Veon questions and me, if I’m able to fill the role or if I’m not, and all this. I came from Carolina, where I started for most of my career, okay? So that’s not a heavy work load at all, it won’t be any problems or questions of me answering those questions. You all just sit back, take a seat and relax and just enjoy the show.”
As the Steelers began their first week of OTAs, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was front and center. After the Steelers morning workout, Roethlisberger was surrounded by reporters, and he talked, for the first time, about Tom Brady and Deflategate, and even about the air pressure in the gameday footballs he uses, “All of our guys are awesome, I don’t even know what our PSI is, people ask me all the time, I have no idea whatever they put it at. I go play.” Reporter question: “You don’t have any preference for it as a quarterback?” Ben: “Not me, I never have, I’m not even one that messes with the balls before the game to see which ones I like. I just go play.”