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Two Deals for Alex Rodriguez: One for Ball, One for Bonus

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Alex Rodriguez's 3000th hit, caught by Zach Hample. (Zach Hample, via Associated Press)

Alex Rodriguez’s 3000th hit, caught by Zach Hample. (Zach Hample, via Associated Press)

Jay Schreiber and Seth Berkman, THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (The New York Times) — Alex Rodriguez had his own personal doubleheader Friday, first with an agreement that gave him possession of the baseball he smacked for his 3,000th hit and then with a deal that resolved his longstanding dispute with the Yankees over a $6 million home run bonus. In both cases, the biggest beneficiaries will be designated charities.

First, the baseball. About 90 minutes before Friday night’s game in the Bronx against the Tampa Bay Rays, Zack Hample, the fan who grabbed the ball from Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit after it soared into the right-field stands for a home run at Yankee Stadium on June 19, pulled the ball, secured in a Ziploc bag, from a black backpack and handed it to Rodriguez, who said he would give it to his daughters.

In exchange, the Yankees assured Hample, who has achieved some fame for snaring baseballs hit into the stands, that they would donate $150,000 to a charity, Pitch In for Baseball, that aims to distribute baseball equipment to deprived areas in the United States and abroad. The Yankees said Hample had supported the charity for years.

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#NNPA BlackPress

Jack Nicklaus Once Again Surprises Military Veterans with a Golf Lesson in Honor of Veterans Day and the PGA National Day of HOPE

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The PGA of America reaches out to Veterans, they reach out to all different people,” explained Jack Nicklaus, who is the only sportsman and just the fourth person in history to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005), the Congressional Gold Medal (2015) and the Lincoln Medal (2018). “It is a great organization. PGA HOPE is impactful on its own, but they also collaborate with other organizations, such as partnering with Folds of Honor for Patriot Golf Days.

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Jack Nicklaus coaches PGA HOPE Veteran, Homer Watts, during the Jack Nicklaus PGA HOPE Veterans Lessons at the Bear’s Club on November 7, 2022 in Jupiter, FL. (Photo by Sarah Kenney/PGA of America)
Jack Nicklaus coaches PGA HOPE Veteran, Homer Watts, during the Jack Nicklaus PGA HOPE Veterans Lessons at the Bear’s Club on November 7, 2022 in Jupiter, FL. (Photo by Sarah Kenney/PGA of America)

Special to NNPA Newswire

Imagine being invited to play a round of golf at Jack Nicklaus’ Florida home club and getting a surprise lesson from none other than the 18-time major champion himself.

For the third straight year, Nicklaus gave some hometown military heroes who participate in the South Florida PGA Section PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program a memory for a lifetime at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida.

In celebration of both Veterans Day and the PGA National Day of HOPE, Nicklaus thanked the playing group of Veterans for their service and shared instructional tips, before inviting them out as his guests for a day on the championship golf course that he designed and is played regularly by up to 30 PGA TOUR pros who are members.

As the military pillar of PGA REACH, PGA HOPE is designed to introduce golf to Veterans and Active-Duty Military to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.

PGA REACH and PGA HOPE aspire to create a physically and emotionally healthier Veteran community through a six- to eight-week curriculum led by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency.

U.S. Army Veteran First Lt. (Ret.) Robert Truckenmiller received a Purple Heart after being shot in the Vietnam War.

Other than hearing from other Veterans from time to time, he said that when he got a call from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inviting him to take part in the PGA HOPE program, it was the first real “welcome home” feeling he ever received for his service.

“The PGA of America reaches out to Veterans, they reach out to all different people,” explained Nicklaus, who is the only sportsman and just the fourth person in history to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005), the Congressional Gold Medal (2015) and the Lincoln Medal (2018).

“It is a great organization. PGA HOPE is impactful on its own, but they also collaborate with other organizations, such as partnering with Folds of Honor for Patriot Golf Days.

“I have great admiration and respect for the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country’s freedom, and try to get behind efforts to help our Veterans, as well as their families. For me to do my little part—even to a small group—I am delighted to do so, especially for the PGA HOPE program.”

PGA HOPE has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the VA, which enables Recreational Therapists to refer Veterans to PGA HOPE as a form of therapy.

Truckenmiller was quite surprised when Nicklaus stepped out on the driving range.

“I’m a little bit awestruck,” said Truckenmiller.

“He’s probably the best golfer ever, and he was most gracious. He helped me with my putting, on lining my ball up, and to stop moving my head. He told me to stare at it when I hit it.

“I lost my wife of 54 years three months ago. This is a remedy for some of the loneliness.”

U.S. Air Force Sgt. (Ret.) Pamela Carter, of Wellington, Florida, lost her brother, Bruce, in the Vietnam War. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, and the VA Medical Center in Miami is named after him.

When Nicklaus approached Pamela and gave her a lesson, she quickly reached in her pocket and handed him a challenge coin with her brother’s photo on it.

“I was just shocked he was here,” said Carter. “I stumbled on PGA HOPE and signed up for it. Meeting true war heroes who are now being respected puts a new spin on it. PGA HOPE reaches out and makes us feel welcome.”

U.S. Army/Air Force Reserves Sgt. (Ret.) Homer Watts Jr. had the thrill of a lifetime.

“Oh my goodness,” Watts said. “He’s a legend. It was a total shock. I was very surprised. PGA HOPE is such an amazing program. It gets people out of the hospital and into other activities. You meet great instructors who take their time with you. It’s almost like family. Actually, it’s just like family.”

Joining them for instruction and the round of golf was 2022 South Florida PGA Section Patriot Award recipient Jerry Impellittiere, PGA Director of Instruction at Monarch Country Club in Palm City.

Impellittiere originally learned the game from PGA Professionals at West Point Golf Course and now pays it forward by teaching two PGA HOPE Programs.

He is known as “The Collector,” as he collects donated golf clubs to give to Veterans for them to learn and play the game. Ironically, Impellittiere once played in a grouping with Nicklaus and Dave Stockton at the B.C. Open, two players renowned for their putting.

“I didn’t make the cut, but I led the PGA TOUR in putting stats that year,” said Impellittiere.

Nicklaus has a long-held fondness for the nation’s military and the incredible sacrifices made by service members.

“These people have earned the help of all Americans,” said Nicklaus. “I enjoy doing this. I want to be a part of it, especially if it makes a difference. I am very honored.”

This year, PGA HOPE aims to impact the lives of over 7,500 Veterans through its transformational program led by PGA Professionals, and has set a goal of 36,000 annually by 2026.

In its sixth year, PGA National Day of HOPE is a month-long campaign running through Veterans Day. The campaign celebrates our nation’s heroes who protect our freedom, while raising awareness and support for PGA HOPE.

To support the 2022 National Day of HOPE Campaign, please visit the Official Fundraising Page.

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#NNPA BlackPress

United Travel Credits Giving HBCU Golf Programs Wings, Expanding Range of Traditionally Underfunded Teams

NNPA NEWSWIRE — On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open. Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

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Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
Mesha Levister (second from left) was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

By Helen Ross, PGA Tour, Special to NNPA Newswire

James Levister thought it would be a phase.

Sure, he was an avid golfer. A 4 handicap at his best, in fact.

But when he started his 3-year-old daughter, Mesha, playing golf, he figured she would eventually get tired of the game.

He was wrong, though. His daughter loved playing with her dad on weekends — she finally beat him when she was 16 and never lost again — and she thrived on the challenge of the game.

“It was our thing,” Mesha said. “I liked that it was hard, and I continued to play because it was hard. But for me, when I was small, it was about being with him and doing something different.”

She played four years of varsity golf and basketball at her Florida high school, got scholarship offers in both sports, and wanted to turn pro. Eventually, she had to choose between the two.

“I told my dad I would rather play golf because there are fewer people that look like me playing golf,” said Levister, who is African American. “I wanted to be a trendsetter…I felt like I had something to give in the game. I didn’t realize what it was back then as a little 17-year-old.”

On Wednesday, some 23 years later, and on her 41st birthday, no less, Levister was at Memorial Park Golf Course to watch three of the players she coaches at Prairie View A&M University play in the pro-am at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.

Christian Latham, who is working on his master’s degree in architecture, and seniors Rondarius Walters and Taylor Harvey, a member of the women’s team, would play with Phil Griffith, who is a vice president of operations for United Airlines’ Houston hub, and PGA TOUR pros Stewart Cink and Matthew NeSmith.

“I hope that they get an out-of-this-world experience that they may not have ever gotten — ever,” Levister said. “Or that it opens up their eyes to the maximum potential and drives them to be whatever they want to be.”

The pairing with Griffith is no accident. United Airlines, in partnership with the PGA TOUR, has earmarked more than $500,000 in grants to 55 golf teams at HBCUs like Prairie View.

Each school gets $10,000 in travel credits to bolster travel and recruiting budgets and potentially help more than 250 student-athletes compete in places that may have been out of reach.

United and the TOUR recently announced a multi-year extension of their official marketing relationship, extending the annual commitment to HBCUs through 2025.

Griffith also attended a clinic earlier this week in which golfers from another Houston-area HBCU, Texas Southern, worked with youngsters from the First Tee. He’s excited about the impact the grants are having.

“I’m very impressed with these kids and when I look at where I was back then, if you don’t know that something exists, yeah, it’s kind of hard for you to aspire for,” Griffith said. “And a lot of the things that these kids are doing today, I had no aspirations for because I just didn’t know.

“I think as we continue this program,” he added, “just opening their eyes and showing them valuable and effective ways of getting there, it’s going to be a lot of fun over the years. That’s what I’m hoping.”

All in it together

Levister coaches the men’s and women’s teams at Prairie View A&M, which is the second-oldest public university in Texas.

She’s also done double duty at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), as well as at Lincoln University in Jefferson, Missouri.

“It’s interesting to see the dynamic and be able to create a culture here of togetherness and make sure that everybody roots for everybody because we’re all one team,” Levister said.

Forging something of a non-traditional path is second nature to Levister. When the women’s team at her college in Florida disbanded, she was recruited by NCCU to play on its men’s team.

She played No.1 and was the team’s most valuable player as a freshman, also earning Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors.

After 9/11, Levister left school and went home to Wash., D.C. She was the first African American to win the 2004 Virginia Women’s Amateur and was named the state’s female golfer of the year. She turned pro in 2006 and joined the Symetra Tour in 2010.

Life on the road could be lonely, though, particularly for a young woman who was often the only African American entered in an event.

“I’m still a golfer, regardless,” Levister said firmly. And she can’t shake the memory of being pulled over by a policeman in New York.

“The cop came over and asked the other tour player that was in the car, who was a white female, instead of asking the normal stuff, he asked the young lady that was in the passenger seat, ‘Are you OK?’” Levister said.

“So, for me that was a little bit of a traumatic experience…But he let me go. So, he really pulled me over just to check on the person in the car.”

After Levister’s father died in 2014, she decided to quit the tour.

She still competed, winning the 2015 EP Pro Women’s Championship, but began to focus on teaching. She joined the staff at NCCU in 2020 and helped start the women’s program before heading to Prairie View A&M.

She’s only been there about a month, but she already feels accepted by her players, who share her goal of returning the Panthers to dominance in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

And she wants to make it easier for others to follow her path.

“I am definitely all about how I take on life now,” Levister said. “I just want to be a good person, do the right thing and break glass ceilings for the next people behind me so they don’t have it as hard as I did.”

Keeping the program alive

When Prairie View A&M lost its golf coach last fall, Latham had just graduated magna cum laude, finishing his architecture degree in three years, and started working on his master’s.

But the team needed a coach, and Latham stepped up in a big way. “He really held the fort down last year for both of the teams,” Levister said.

Like Levister, Latham was a multi-sport athlete who started playing golf because of his dad. But his favorite sport was baseball — his grandfather Cliff Johnson played 20 years in the major leagues, including two World Series with the New York Yankees.

By the time Latham got to high school, though, he had become disillusioned with baseball. He endured racist taunts, many times from the adults and coaches who flat-out lied to him.

“I lost my passion for baseball,” he said. “I didn’t even want to play anymore. So that’s what really got me stuck into golf because it’s like at the end of the day, no one can else say anything about me as long as I’m shooting a score I need to shoot.

“So that’s how I really got into it. And I just focus on golf only now. That’s what brought me.”

The summer before he entered high school in Katy, Texas, a Houston suburb, Latham spent every day at the golf course.

He shot 111 in his first tournament, but by the end of the summer, he broke 80 for the first time.

With continued improvement, he began to think about playing in college and verbally committed to Prairie View A&M after his sophomore year.

In addition to studying for his master’s, where he’s designing a practice facility for the golf team as a class project, and hitting balls on the range, Latham is getting hands-on experience by working at an architecture firm several days a week.

He also has a 14-month-old son named Kai — who is full of “joy and happiness,” Latham said — half the week.

“He’s like my little twin,” Latham said. “So now I got him a plastic set of golf clubs and seeing him wanting to play with that is pretty cool.”

Just because he’s working on his master’s degree doesn’t mean Latham is giving up on his dream to play golf professionally, though.

He’s already played in one APGA event and hopes to play well enough this year to finish in the top five of its collegiate rankings, which would give him scholarship access to the tour’s events through the remainder of the 2023 season.

“I’m not going to just stop that goal and stop that dream,” he said.

“I’m going to still work hard this semester to try to get to that level or continue to just add on to where I should be.”

Giving players wings

With the travel credits provided by United, schools like Prairie View A&M will be able to compete in higher profile events that might otherwise seem out of reach — quite literally.

Levister, who once rode 11 hours from Durham, N.C. to Port St. Lucie, Florida, for a college tournament, has already started putting those credits to work.

“Even in the short time that I’ve been here, it’s saved us a tremendous amount of time and money just to be able to have access to go over to Houston Airport and to fly,” she said.

“Just to reduce costs of travel helps tremendously because now we can use those funds to give them a better experience as a student-athlete and a college golfer.”

Latham remembers a 15-hour bus ride from Houston to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where the Panthers played in — and won — the 2021 PGA Works Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

With two travel days each way and the tournament itself, the Black Panthers were gone nine days.

That’s why on Wednesday Latham planned to thank Griffith for United’s support. That United and organizations like the PGA TOUR are seeing value in HBCU golf has been a big help.

“I want to say it makes us feel more comfortable when we’re not having to travel,” Latham said, “cramped up for 14 hours, 16 hours, when we could just make a two-hour plane ride. And it makes an impact on the team.”

“I mean, we’ve had times to where people didn’t even have enough seats on the bus,” he continued, “and we’re just kind of all locked up or having to make multiple trips to get somewhere because we don’t have enough room to bring everybody.”

“So, it means a lot. Gives us the opportunity to try to feel more like a sports program because we see other sports programs get to travel like that. And we never necessarily got to.”

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Bay Area

Kaplan to WNBA: Bring New Team Here!

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

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@PaulCobbOakland @NNPA_BlackPress @BlackPressUSA @Kaplan4Oakland @WNBA
Ray Bobbitt, President of African American Sports and Entertainment Group, who purchased the Coliseum as part of its East Oakland Development Plan, thanks Rebecca Kaplan for providing the City Council leadership in 2021 for the AASEG to bring a WNBA Franchise along with jobs, housing, businesses and sports enterprises to Oakland. Photo by Jonathan “Fitness” Jones.

By Post Staff

Oakland Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan will introduce a resolution on Sept. 20, 1:30 p.m. to the Oakland City Council urging the Women’s National Basketball Association (“WNBA”) to approve the City of Oakland as the home for a new WNBA Team.

The WNBA has discussed plans to expand the number of WNBA teams on its roster for the past number of years. Kaplan said, “the City of Oakland must make it clear that not only are we supportive of bringing a WNBA Team to Oakland but are excited to be partners and collaborators with the WNBA during the expansion. This resolution, therefore, extends our strong support towards this effort and urges the WNBA to make Oakland the home for a WNBA team.”

When asked by the Post whether she had heard that San Francisco might be a potential WNBA competitor, even though Oakland started first with its bid, Kaplan said, “Oakland is ideally suited for a WNBA team because of our fervent and rooted fanbase, existing arena space and shared core values with the WNBA. The Bay Area has the fourth-highest number of WNBA fans among U.S. markets without a WNBA team — 418,816 WNBA fans, higher than eight current markets with a WNBA team. More than a half million Bay Area market adults play basketball, and the Bay Area ranks in the top 30 markets in household delivery for the WNBA Regular Season.”

In October of 2021, it was announced that WNBA Champion and four-time WNBA All-Star Alana Beard, who spent 15 years playing the WNBA and earned back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Attorney Jade Smith-Williams, of the law firm Baily & Glasser, LLP, a local Oakland women’s basketball legend and who played professionally overseas, would join in the leading efforts by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (“AASEG”) to have an Oakland Black and Women WNBA Team ownership process.

In addition to a strong fan base, Oakland already has a world-class arena at the center of a multimodal corridor ready to house a WNBA team. The Oakland Arena is easily accessible by both highway and public transportation, complete with a pedestrian bridge that allows fans direct access from the Coliseum BART station. The arena sits on 132 acres with 10,000 on-site parking spaces. It is also airport accessible, and a stone’s throw away from the Capitol Corridor rail line. This multimodal connectivity will allow not only Oaklanders to conveniently attend games but also fans from across California. From former Monarchs supporters to women’s basketball enthusiasts, Oakland will draw fans from the Bay Area megaregion and beyond.

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

Kaplan states, “Oakland is a community that values social justice, equality, and women’s rights. These principles align with those of the WNBA, and we are ready to move forward as a partner in advancing those goals as the home for a new WNBA team.”

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