While bidding farewell to his celebrated baseball career Boston Red Sox slugger David Oritz paid former Smyrna and Vanderbilt pitcher Sonny Gray a huge compliment.
Oritz, a 10-time All-Star, announced his retirement on his 40th birthday last November on The Players’ Tribute web site and used that forum recently to praise the best pitchers he faced in his 20-year major league career.
Oritz, a designated hitter with a lifetime batting average of .286, included Gray in a blog on the site titled The Five Toughest Pitchers I’ve Ever Faced.
That’s pretty impressive considering the other four were Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Carter Capps.
Gray, 26, the youngest of the five pitchers, gave Oritz more trouble during the latter part of his career than any other.
“This kid’s stuff is legit,” Oritz wrote. “Normally, I don’t really look at the pitcher on the mound. I mean, I see him standing there, but what I’m paying attention to is his delivery and the way the ball comes out of his hand. The reason is because you want to look at everybody the same. If you see these big guys and you’re thinking about how nasty they are, you’re already out before you take a swing.”
Gray is not big. While he did also play football at Smyrna, he was a quarterback.
“The first time I see this Gray kid on the mound, I can’t help but notice he’s 5-foot-10 and skinny,” Oritz wrote. ”He looks like the guy who fixes my computer at the Apple Store. I’m thinking, ‘Here we go. This is gonna be fun.’ Then he took me for a ride, man. Fastball. Sinker. Slider. Curve … Whap. Whap. Whap. You have no idea what this kid is going to throw. He drives me crazy.”
Oritz compared Gray, who led Vanderbilt to its first College World Series appearance in 2011, to Martinez
“I go back to what I said about Pedro: As a hitter, you always want to simplify things. When a guy only has two good pitches, your job is pretty easy. ‘Okay, I’m going to sit back and wait for this breaking ball.’ When a guy like Gray has three or four pitches, hitting ain’t simple. I’ve seen him about 15 times, and I haven’t been able to figure out what pitch is coming. That’s a sign that he’s going to be something special in this game.”
Gray appears to have recovered after being placed on the disabled list for almost seven weeks with a forearm strain.
He returned to action Wednesday night against the Angels in a short start and threw 18 pitches with 13 strikes. .
Gray finished the season 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA,
“I felt like everything was coming out really good,” Gray told reporters after the 8-6 loss. “This whole process, I got to hone in my mechanics a lot. I got to watch and compare this and that. I tried to get back to my normal mechanics and it definitely felt better, stronger.”
Former coach shaping up
Hall of fame high school wrestling coach Doug Newman is doing well after undergoing gastric bypass surgery on Tuesday.
Newman, who coached at Goodlettsville, Hunters Lane, Stratford, HIllwood and Cheatham County, had reached 375 pounds, but lost 25 prior to the surgery.
He is now down to 316 pounds.
Now that he’s lighter Newman is looking forward to increasing his exercise so that when he gets to 240 pounds he will be able to have hip replacement surgery.
UT, Austin Peay players semifinalists for Campbell Trophy
Tennessee center Dylan Wiesman has been named a semifinalist on the FBS level and Austin Peay tight end Trey Salisbury from Smith County on the FCS level for the William V. Campbell Trophy presented by the National Football Foundation & College Football Hall of Fame.
The award recognizes players on each level who are deemed the absolute best football scholar-athletes in the nation.
The 12-14 finalists will be announced on Nov. 1, and each will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
The overall winner will be named at the NFF Awards Dinner in New York on Dec. 6, and his scholarship will be increased to $25,000.
Bradds named mid-major player of year
Belmont senior Evan Bradds was named the preseason mid-major basketball player of the year by College Sports Madness.
Bradds, a 6-foot-7 forward who has led the nation in field percentage the last two seasons, also made the preseason All-Mid-Major first team.
MTSU-Belmont among nation’s best match-ups
CBS Sports ranks the Dec. 14 Middle Tennessee State at Belmont basketball game 35th on its top 50 non-conference games for the 2016-17 season.
:”Not every game has to be two major-conference teams clashing skulls. Middle Tennessee was the 15 seed that shocked Michigan State in the first round last year. Belmont, always fun and usually among the best mid-majors year in and year out, has under-the-radar efficiency aficionado Evan Bradds.” according to CBS Sports writer Matt Norlander.
A special reunion for Marine vets
Fifty years ago longtime Metro football coach Doug Mullican, a graduate of old Madison High, was on the front line of the Vietnam War manning a bunker and living in an outpost with two other Marines.
They have not seen each other since, but plan to get together this week for a reunion in Nashville.
“Most of the time when they put you in an outpost they put you with somebody that’s been there for awhile,” Mullican said. “But there were so many Marines getting shot and wounded there was three of us rookies that ended up together. That’s where we became friends. We went through everything together.”
The other Marines were Tim McKinney from Chicago and Frank Haak from Washington.
Between the three of them they ended up receiving a total of five Purple Heart medals. Each also received the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and Presidential Unit Citations.
Until this past week they had not even spoken to each other since they were in Vietnam.
Circle M Therapeutic Farms in Portland is picking up the tab for much of the reunion including McKinney and Haak’s travel and lodging expenses.
Circle M also secured three VIP passes for the Grand Ole Opry. The trio also plans to spend a few days in Gatlinburg,
Meriwether speaking at Martin this week
Former major league umpire Chuck Meriwether will be the guest speaker at the Martin Methodist Redhawk athletic luncheon Wednesday.
Meriwether, who attended Father Ryan, graduated from Martin when it was a junior college in 1976.
He was a major league umpire from 1993-2009 and currently serves as MLB’s Supervisor of Umpires.
The luncheon is open to the public at Hickory House restaurant in Pulaski. The cost is $5.
Former TSU star joins Seahawks practice squad
The Seattle Seahawks signed former LaVergne High and Tennessee State offensive guard Robert “Snacks” Myers to their practice squad this week.
Myers was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft who spent time on the Indianapolis and Baltimore practice squads before signing to Denver’s active roster in time to join the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The Broncos cut Myers on Sept. 2..
Auburn AD was in Franklin after big win
Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs was in Franklin on Monday, just two days after the Tigers beat LSU 18-13 in dramatic fashion at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Jacobs joined former Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton and several other speakers at the Leverage seminar at the Little Brick Theater At The Factory.
The one-day forum focused maximizing non-profit fundraising efforts.
Hamilton, who lives in Nashville, is executive director of Show Hope, a non-profit ministry dedicated to orphan care and adoption issues.
Former UT assistant A.D. Chip Bryant, now interim vice chancellor for alumni affairs and development, also spoke.
Longtime local high school and college referee dies
Former Vanderbilt basketball manager Oakley Christian, who went on to become a TSSAA, OVC and SEC football official, died on Sept. 24. He was 80.
Christian was owner of C.O. Christian & Sons, Inc. electrical construction company and on the YMCA Membership Board.
UT-Gonzaga tickets for Bridgestone Area game on sale
Tickets for the “Battle on Broadway” between the Tennessee and Gonzaga men’s basketball teams at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 18 are on sale.
Prices range from $15-$40 and tickets and are available at Tickemaster outlets and at Ticketmaster.com.
The Vols are hope to avenge last season’s 86-79 loss to Gonzaga at KeyArena in Seattle.
Court named in honor of longtime teacher
The court at Eakin Elementary School was named in honor of longtime physical education teacher and former local high school tennis star Hilary Strickland last week
Strickland attended Harpeth Hall where she was the Nashville Interscholastic League Tennis Player of the Year in 1981. She went on to play at Alabama.
She started working at Eakin in 1986 where she coaches the tennis and basketball teams.
If you have an item for Midstate Chatter contact Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
SPORTS ON NASHVILLE TV
The top 5 local sporting events television ratings for Sept. 19-25.
1. NFL:Titans-Raiders 20.0 rating
2. College football: Tennessee-Florida 19.8 rating
3. NFL: Steelers-Eagles 15.9 rating
4. NFL: Bears-Cowboys 13.5 rating
5. NFL: Texans-Patriots 11.9 rating
Each rating point is equal to 10,116 Nashville households.
Source: Mark Binda, WTVF-5 program & research director
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