Keeping Score: When one Edsall isn’t enough

Friday, June 29, 2018

Good morning!

Interesting happenings in Connecticut, where Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz is being raked by the press for helping UConn football coach Randy Edsall skirt the state’s nepotism law.

There are parallels between Edsall and UMass coach Mark Whipple. Both coached their respective schools to prominence and then left for greener pastures, and both have returned for a second go-round.

Edsall’s encore began on Dec. 28, 2016, when he signed an offer sheet of $1 million per year for five years. Shortly afterward, the school was flagged by the state ethics board for Edsall’s hiring of his 24-year-old son Corey.

Edsall sued the board and refused to sign his contract, enabling his son to have his $95,000-a-year job coaching the tight ends.

Using the offer sheet as a contract was like putting temporary plates on a new car, and something had to give. Enter Aresimowicz, who coaches the Berlin High School football team and according to The Hartford Courant was seen chatting with Edsall at a postseason banquet. 

The encounter has become the gridiron version of Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch standing on the tarmac. Christine Stuart of ctnewsjunkie.com reported that last month,  Aresimowicz attached an amendment to HB5517 that will allow both Edsalls to be on the sideline. It was a classic bit of maneuvering by the savvy pol, who found a bill regarding data privacy issues that was neither controversial nor interesting enough for anyone to bother giving a proofread. 

Just to be sure, Aresimowicz inserted his one paragraph “rat” as they’re called near the end of the 11-page document. Its vague lawyerly jargon uses words like “constituent units” to say, essentially, that a coach can put his kid on the state payroll.

“Not many people, including the Office of State ethics, were aware it was signed into law,” Stuart reported.

That was the point, and the end-around wasn’t received well by the Courant’s editorial board which chided: “Mr. Aresimowicz has done a disservice to a state still trying to shed its Correpticut image.”

After Mark Whipple was named UMass coach in 2014, he too hired his son Spencer to be the tight ends coach. Young Whip is now the team’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach. According to state payroll records, he was paid $84,799 in 2017.

Whipple’s hire made it through the crucible of state law regarding nepotism. UConn hosts UMass at Rentschler Field on October 27, and just to be safe, Whipple should ask Edsall to slip him a copy of HB5517 before kickoff. 

Donald Hall died at his home near Lake Sunapee on June 23. The 89-year-old Hall was educated at Exeter, Bates, Harvard and Oxford, and was the U.S. poet laureate from 2006-07.

Mike Pride touched on Hall’s love for baseball in his over-the-fold tribute that appeared in Monday’s Concord Monitor (where he is editor emeritus) and Manchester Union Leader.  “By the time Hall moved to New Hampshire, he had reported on the world champion 1968 Detroit Tigers in Sports Illustrated and joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for a spring training lark,” wrote Pride, who ended his piece with a poem Hall wrote about the game’s enduring legacy:

Old man remembers to old man

How bat struck ball upon this plain

Seventy years ago, before

The batter’s box washed out in rain.

Last week in Tampa Bay, Yankees announcer John Sterling referred to the noise in Tropicana Field as “ersatz”— arificial, fake, false, simulated; not real or genuine. Such sounds permeate venues where management types fear the sport can’t sell itself, including McGuirk Stadium in Amherst.

At Tropicana Field, baseball’s quiet ambience was disrupted by bugle calls, hip hop music, cowbells and casino sound effects. “The noise level at the Trop is unbelievably loud and there's no justification for it to be that way,” said Shelburne native Skip Smith, who’s a TV cameraman at Rays games. “All the out-of-town announcers complain about it, and the scoreboard people mix up names and post the wrong inning. Throw in the noise and I understand the complaints.”

BASEBALL NOTES: Three Arkansas players let a pop fly drop between them that would’ve won the College World Series on Tuesday. Oregon State scored three runs to win 5-3, then won the next night for their third CWS title. As for Arkansas, who throws out the first pitch in Fayetteville next season, Bill Buckner? … Fenway Park remains the only AL ballpark where Mike Trout hasn’t hit a home run. Trout was 2-for-10 (both singles) this week in Boston. As manager Mike  Scosia told ESPN, one MikeTrout isn’t enough. “We need another Mike Trout hitting behind him.” … MLB’s top three attendance leaders hail from the Senior Circuit— the Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals. … The Red Sox are off 1,136 per game from last season. Blame it on the weather.

My longtime friend and colleague Gary Sanderson has retired as the Recorder’s sports’ editor. His “On the Trail” column was aptly named for a man who painstakingly carved out his own path in his profession. 

You stacked wood in the newsroom, Bags, now it’s time to stack it outdoors. Happy 65th birthday, or is it 66? Heah.

Sanderson’s departure leaves Jay Butynski to anchor the sports desk with veteran staffer Jeff Lajoie. Both have covered Franklin County sports for decades and know the value of local reporting. Better to cover a dog fight in Denver, they say, than a war in Europe.

Good luck and let the games begin.

It doesn’t get any better than being in America on the Fourth of July, so let’s play two.

The Red Sox - Nationals game starts at 11 a.m. on Wednesday for the same reason the Patriots Day game starts at 11 in Boston. A Reddit blogger named Jester put it best: “There’s basically a moment on the Fourth where you either have to get the bleep away from D.C. or stay until after midnight.”

Further up the road — 230 miles along I-95 over the GW Bridge into the Bronx, the Yankees will play the Braves at 1 p.m. An hour earlier on Coney Island, Joey Chestnut will try to retain the Mustard Belt when he takes on all gorgers at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

SQUIBBERS: According to MLB.com, two of the five slowest pitchers in baseball are David Price (27.4 seconds between pitches) and Eduardo Rodriguez (26.1). … Memo to the NFL: Just keep the teams in the locker room until after the national anthem. Just move on from it, okay? … Mike Trout could pass for a South Deerfield kid off to go haying. … With Gary Sanchez on the DL, the Yankees called up Kyle Higashioka, revealing their lack of depth at the position. The 28-year-old catcher is a career minor leaguer who is hitless in his only 20 big league at-bats. … Overheard over a plate of hash browns inside the Hartland, Vt., Diner: “We had Commander Cody at White River. (pause) Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. He came out with a walker, but then he played for two hours.” … Baker Mayfield’s backup at quarterback at Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, was drafted ninth overall by MLB’s Oakland Athletics, and signed a $5 million deal, but only after the A’s promised he could quarterback the Sooners this season. …  A  9-year-old English bulldog named Zsa Zsa won the world’s ugliest dog contest last week. The long, protruding tongue is what won it. … TV reporter Greg Murphy reporting the Cardinals’ ghostly happenings: “At the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Carlos Martinez and Marcell Ozuna both thought they saw ghosts in their room and wound up having an impromptu sleepover party with six players.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.