Rockies prospect, alleged Parkland shooter rode bus together for 3 years

Rockies prospect, alleged Parkland shooter rode bus together for 3 years

All 30 MLB teams honored the victims of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., by donning caps bearing the “SD” logo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s baseball team.

But Rockies prospect Colton Welker had an incredible perspective no other player could match: He says he rode the school bus for three years with the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

“I went to middle school with him, I rode the bus with him for three years,” Welker said (via the Denver Post). “It was a complete shock.”

The minor league third baseman is a 2016 graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School, where he played on a state championship team in 2016.

“You read about it on the news and think, ‘Oh that’s miserable, that’s terrible.’ And it breaks your heart,” Welker told the Post. “But when it happens in your hometown, I was really thrown back. I was in shock. Total disbelief.”

Welker says he knew several of the 17 victims in the shooting, including Aaron Feis, the football coach who has been hailed as a hero for saving students, and athletic director Chris Hixon.

The 20-year-old Welker, considered the No. 8 third base prospect in baseball by MLB.com, said he couldn’t believe the news when someone texted him. His family, which still lives nearby, has been keeping him up to date on events.

“The town is quiet, my mom told me. People are still affected by it,” Welker said. “It will get back to normal soon, hopefully.”

Other alumni of the suburban Miami high school in spring training are Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Athletics minor league pitcher Jesus Luzardo.

Among the nicest tributes to shooting victims and survivors Friday in spring training, the Miami Marlins invited members of Stoneman Douglas High School’s baseball and softball teams to camp.

Day 15 recap: The Miracurl on Ice, history for Ledecka, Kenworthy's latest furry friend

Day 15 recap: The Miracurl on Ice, history for Ledecka, Kenworthy's latest furry friend

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Miracurl on ice! The U.S. men won gold in curling, snowboarder Kyle Mack grabbed silver and Gus Kenworthy found a new best friend. Here’s what you missed from Day 15 of the Pyeongchang Games.

Curling

Curling became America’s favorite pastime overnight as Team Shuster defeated Sweden 10-7 to clinch the United States’ first gold medal in the sport. Gangneung Curling Center felt unusually tense for the first seven ends, as the Swedes and Americans went stone for stone, deadlocked at 5-5. Then, in the eighth end, the Americans blew the game wide-open by scoring five in one go to clinch a shocking victory over the world’s No. 2 team. They weren’t the only ones surprised by the win. After the medal ceremony, Team Shuster realized that their new gold medals weren’t actually theirs.

They got the right ones eventually … we think. Back home, everyone from NFL quarterbacks to Mr. T went crazy.

Snowboard Big Air

Two days after Jamie Anderson grabbed a silver for Team USA in women’s big air snowboarding, Kyle Mack got himself one to match in the men’s final by landing one of the most stylish runs of these Olympics. Before Saturday, he had never landed a frontside double cork 1440 with a double tail grab (also known as a Bloody Dracula, which might just be the coolest term in sports). But Mack realized he needed to take a risk to become one of the first-ever medalists in big air, the Winter Olympics’ newest event.

“I was at the top [of the jump] contemplating whether I should do the bloody 14 or just do a tail grab,” he said. “But bringing style into snowboarding is the thing I’ve always worked on. Big air has always been one of the most progressive events for snowboarding, but I wish it was more about style and grabs and the technical stuff. That’s something I want to keep fighting for. Before I dropped in for my second run, I was like, I’m doing this for snowboarding.”

It worked. Mack joined Canada’s Sebastien Toutant (gold) and Great Britain’s Billy Morgan on the podium and added a seventh snowboarding medal to Team USA’s count. That’s almost a third of the total haul.

Parallel Giant Slalom Snowboarding

So, is Ester Ledecka a skier who snowboards, or a snowboarder who skis? Looks like both. A week after beating Lindsey Vonn to the gold medal in alpine super-G, the Czech snow superstar added another gold in snowboarding, her “actual” sport. She became the first woman to win gold in two sports at the same Winter Olympics, further confusing everyone wondering whether to call her a skier or a snowboarder. Two-time Olympic gold medalist should do.

In other news …

For the second consecutive Winter Olympics, freeski superstar Gus Kenworthy is going home with a pet from the host country. After adopting a family of stray dogs in Sochi four years ago, Kenworthy visited a dog farm in South Korea on Saturday and left with a new puppy, whom he named Beemo. The dog farm itself was bought out by Humane Society International, and all 90 dogs will be brought to the U.S. for adoption.

Cubs field veteran lineup vs. Rangers

Cubs field veteran lineup vs. Rangers

The Cubs will field a veteran lineup Saturday when they open the home portion of their exhibition season against the Rangers at Sloan Park.

Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Javier Baez will make their spring debuts.

Albert Almora Jr. will bat leadoff.

For the second consecutive game, the Cubs will wear Stoneman Douglas High School caps to honor the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school attended by Rizzo.

Here are the lineups:

CUBS

  • Almora Jr. CF
  • Bryant 3B
  • Rizzo 1B
  • Conteras C
  • Heyward RF
  • Russell SS
  • Baez 2B
  • Gimenez DH
  • Bourjos LF
  • Butler P

RANGERS

  • DeShields CF
  • Odor DH
  • Profar SS
  • Mazara RF
  • Guzman 1B
  • Robinson LF
  • Nicholas C
  • Lopez 3B
  • Alberto 2B
  • Blackburn P

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Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber looks lean ahead of spring training

Chicago Cubs' Kyle Schwarber looks lean ahead of spring training

Feb. 24 (UPI) — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber appears to be in great shape heading into the 2018 season.

The outfielder is listed at 6-foot, 235 pounds on Baseball Reference, but reports emerged all offseason about Schwarber working on his conditioning. ESPN reported that Schwarber lost up to 20 pounds during the offseason.

He was listed at 240 pounds when he played at Indiana University.

The Cubs posted a video of the slugger Thursday on social media. He looks extremely lean and muscular while making great contact with a baseball. The Cubs included some bomb emojis for good measure on the post.

Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber hits an RBI-single off Atlanta Braves’ Mike Foltynewicz in the third inning on September 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. File photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI

Boston Red Sox‘s Sam Travis — Schwarber’s former college teammate — told MassLive that Schwarber was on a “really strict diet.”

Industry sources told ESPN that he was on a mission to “transform” his body this offseason.

Schwarber, 24, hit .211 last season with 30 home runs and 59 RBI in 129 games. He also hit four home runs and had nine RBI, while hitting .343, in 11 minor league appearances. He is pre-arbitration eligible in 2018.

He went 0-for-1 in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss Friday to the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, Ariz. Schwarber had a walk and a strikeout in the spring training appearance.

U.S. gymnasts say the sport is rife with abuse

U.S. gymnasts say the sport is rife with abuse

They were little girls with dreams of Olympic gold when they started in gymnastics. Now they’re women with lifelong injuries, suffocating anxiety and debilitating eating disorders.

They are the other victims of USA Gymnastics.

Thirteen former U.S. gymnasts and three coaches interviewed by The Associated Press described a win-at-all-cost culture rife with verbal and emotional abuse in which girls were forced to train on broken bones and other injuries. That culture was tacitly endorsed by the sport’s governing body and institutionalized by Bela and Martha Karolyi, the husband-and-wife duo who coached America’s top female gymnasts for three decades.

The gymnasts agreed to speak to AP, some for the first time, after the recent courtroom revelations about USA Gymnastics’ former team doctor, Larry Nassar, who recently was sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting young athletes for years under the guise of medical treatment.

The Karolyis’ oppressive style created a toxic environment in which a predator like Nassar was able to thrive, according to witness statements in Nassar’s criminal case and a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, the Karolyis and others. Girls were afraid to challenge authority, Nassar was able to prey on vulnerable girls and, at the same time, he didn’t challenge the couple’s harsh training methods.

“He was their little puppet,” Jeanette Antolin, a former member of the U.S. national team who trained with the Karolyis, said. “He let us train on injuries. They got what they wanted. He got what he wanted.”

Young girls were virtually starved, constantly body shamed and forced to train with broken bones or other injuries, according to interviews and the lawsuit. Their meager diets and extreme training often delayed puberty, which some coaches believed was such a detriment that they ridiculed girls who started their menstrual cycles.

USA Gymnastics declined to answer questions for this story, and the Karolyis didn’t reply to requests for comment. The Karolyis’ Houston attorney, Gary Jewell, said the Karolyis didn’t abuse anyone.

Some female gymnasts in the U.S. were subjected to abusive training methods before the Karolyis defected from their native Romania in 1981. But other coaches and former gymnasts say the Karolyis’ early successes — starting with Romania’s Nadia Comaneci becoming the first woman gymnast awarded a perfect score in competition — validated the cutthroat attitudes that fostered widespread mistreatment of American athletes at the highest levels of women’s gymnastics.

The Karolyis, who helped USA Gymnastics win 41 Olympic medals, including 13 gold over three decades, trained hundreds of gymnasts at their complex in rural Huntsville, Texas, known as “the ranch.” They selected gymnasts for the national team and earned millions from USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics said in January that the organization would no longer be affiliated with the Karolyi Ranch.

A congressional committee investigating the gymnastics scandal said in Feb. 8 letters to the Karolyis, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee that they were all “at the center of many of these failures” that allowed Nassar’s sexual abuse to persist for more than two decades.

It’s unclear what the Karolyis knew about Nassar’s sexual abuse and whether they took any action to stop it.

Martha Karolyi, in a deposition given last year as part of the lawsuit against the Karolyis and numerous others, acknowledged that “in or around June 2015” she received a phone call from the then-head of the national gymnastics organization, Steve Penny, informing her that the organization had received a complaint that Nassar had “molested a national team gymnast at the ranch.”

The deposition was included in a Feb. 14 letter to two U.S. senators from John Manly, an attorney representing Nassar victims in a lawsuit that seeks monetary damages and court oversight of USA Gymnastics.

Manly cited the deposition in accusing the sport’s governing body of lying to Congress.

In a timeline submitted to a congressional committee investigating the scandal, the organization said it was told in mid-June of an athlete “uncomfortable” with Nassar’s treatment, but that it was not until late July 2015 that it decided to notify law enforcement “with concerns of potential sexual misconduct.”

Penny, the former USA Gymnastics chief, said in a statement that Martha Karolyi was mistaken about the timing of his call.

Texas has one of the strongest child abuse reporting laws in the nation, requiring anyone who has reason to believe abuse has occurred to immediately alert authorities. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a fine.

In the deposition, Martha Karolyi said she did not discuss what she learned about Nassar with anyone but her husband, her lawyers and the USA Gymnastics official who called her.

Jewell, the Karolyis’ attorney, said the couple didn’t know about any sexual assault complaints involving Nassar until Martha Karolyi was contacted by a USA Gymnastics official in the summer of 2015.