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Travis Wells' Blog

May 21, 2010

July 12


Summer is flying by.  It's hard to believe that football season is less than a month away.  High schools start practice on August 2nd, while Tech, UVA, and the other local colleges will follow later that week.  And then it'll be time to crank up season number 27 of Friday Football Extra on August 27th.  

Before that, I'm pretty excited about the Greenbrier Classic at the end of the month.  Golf fans are in for a real treat with the PGA Tour's visit to West Virginia.  Should be a lot of fun.

It's been a cool summer so far.  Got to take quick trips to San Francisco and Myrtle Beach, and have a couple more in the coming weeks...one to Virginia Beach and another quick one to Miami.  But that's about if for time off until Christmas, with football coming fast.

Hope everyone has had a great summer...back to school is coming too!!!!


April 28

I know, I know...it takes another trip to Charlotte to get me blogging again.  Sorry for the hiatus.  Had a chance to talk with JJ Redick following the Orlando Magic's practice here in the Queen City on Monday.  The Magic then went out and spanked Charlotte to sweep their round one series, 4-0.  Redick is really excited to be making a contribution to a team that has serious NBA title aspirations.  He says he's learned a lot and been humbled over the last 3 and a half years, since leaving Duke as a first round pick.  Even Dwight Howard, aka Superman, talked about JJ's improvement, especially on defense.  Also said that the Magic wouldn't be where they are without the former Cave Spring star.  JJ's work ethic is unmatched--I can vouch for that--he stayed after practice for about 30 minutes and nailed about 100 extra jumpers.  I don't think most people realize that these are the greatest athletes in the world.  Don't get me wrong--they are ordinary people with some extraordinary talents.  One of JJ's talents is rap music.  He's expected to release his first single later this summer...and what a busy summer it will be.  Redick is also getting married and he'll be a free agent--no rest for the weary.

Be sure to watch WDBJ on Monday night for more on JJ as the Magic continues its playoff run.

I also got the chance to visit Quail Hollow Club today where Tiger Woods will play in the Wednesday pro am and then tee it up for the 2nd time since his return, on Thursday.  More on Tiger and Phil Mickelson Wednesday.  Today, photographer Lynn Eller and myself had a chance to catch up with Tim McNeely, the Tournament Director for the Greenbrier Classic which takes place later this summer in White Sulphur Springs, WV.  Tim is in Charlotte to see how the tournament is run, but primarily to try to gain some more commitments for the Greenbrier event, by talking to players and agents.  They are already off to a good start--Sergio Garcia, David Toms, Virginia Tech grad Johnson Wagner, Boo Weekley and Davis Love III are all in, and expect many more to add their names in the coming weeks.  It is going to be a great event with a solid field on a great golf course with a lot of history.  I can't wait.

I could have watched these guys on the practice tee all day.  They make the game of golf look so easy, which I know it's not.  But again, it's only after hours of practice that it becomes easy for the Tour pros.  And sometimes they even have bad days.  I think the biggest thing on Tour is this--nearly everybody out here can hit the ball a mile and move it the way they want to, but the difference in the contenders and pretenders each week, is that the contenders make way more putts than the other guys.  Like they say, drive for show and putt for dough.

That's about all I've got for now.  Another busy day at the course coming up..it'll be a circus with Tiger and Phil playing in the pro-am.  And oh, yeah, Fred Couples is playing with Michael Jordan.  I need to stockpile some more stuff for Greenbrier week.  Hope everyone's spring is going well, and when is it going to warm up for good??!!

January 20

Part II

One thing I forgot to mention with regard to the Hall of Fame, local race fans will be interested to know that there will be several artifacts in the museum from the late Wendell Scott, one of the pioneers in the sport.  The Hall's chairman Winston Kelley confirmed that last night.  There will probably be a helmet and some driving gloves among other things.

Now for today.  More than 300 media members turned out at Hendrick Motorsports to chat it up with 4 time defending Cup Champ Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the cast of characters.  JJ really seems to relish the role of being "The Man" in Nascar's Cup circuit--not in a cocky way, but just confident, yet I think he realizes how fortunate he's really been to this point in his career.  His teammate, Jeff Gordon will continue to push him though, I think, and if last year is any indication, so will Mark Martin, the ageless wonder who won five times in 2009.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. might be another story.  Jr. failed to win a race and finished 25th in points last year.  He really needs to turn it around this year and find some consistency with crew chief Lance Mcgrew.  Just my opinion, I think he'll have a big year.  He better.  Junior also talked about the fact that Danica Patrick will pilot his Nationwide Car in select races this year and he seemed very excited about it.

Dinner calls.  The tour wraps up tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to heading back to Virginia with that nasty weather that has been forecasted.

*******************

Part I

Back here in Charlotte where Tuesday was extremely busy.  We had a chance to visit with the Richard Petty Motorsports clan for awhile.  The group has basically absorbed the Robert Yates organization under one banner now.  That means that Elliott Sadler has come full circle now with Ford, as Petty makes the switch from Dodge to the blue oval.  Sadler is also preparing for a big life change in the next month when he will become a dad for the first time. Kasey Kahne was the only one of the group to make the Chase last year.  

Also caught up with two organizations who struggled mightily in 2009--Richard Childress Racing and Roush Racing.  At Childress, none of the drivers made the postseason a year ago.  Kevin Harvick is in the last year of his contract and the discussions with Childress were often contentious in the offseason.  Personally, it's all about performance for Harvick this year, and honestly, I don't expect him back here next year.  Meanwhile at Roush, Carl Edwards went winless in '09, Matt Kenseth won twice in the first two weeks of the season but zilch after that.  Jack Roush is too proud to have this group look bad again this year.  Edwards, too is about to become a dad for the first time.

Tuesday night we visited the new Nascar Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte.  With three months until the grand opening, the construction still has a long way to go.  But trust me when I say the building is palatial and will be something special.  Three of the exhibits were unveiled to us--one is a car driven by Louise Smith, one of the first women to race decades ago..another is a replica of the 1956 Chrysler driven by Tim Flock.  The car was restored by Greg Steadman and the Pettys so that half of it is strictly stock, the way anyone could buy it, while the other half is shown as it raced.  The differences are very subtle.  The last exhibit to be revealed was the Pontiac driven by Ricky Craven in the 2003 Darlington race where Craven went door to door with Kurt Busch and won by inches.  It was the last Pontiac to win on the circuit and will be a part of the Greatest Finishes Theater.

Getting ready to head over to Hendrick Motorsports to check in with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale, Jr., and Mark Martin.  More to come later.

January 19

Greetings from Concord, NC and the Nascar Media Tour.  Monday was a full day which included a visit with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, following a season that saw both of them make the Chase for the Cup.  Joe Gibbs Racing also announced a new multi year deal for Kyle Busch.

Monday night's dinner was with Roger Penske and his 3 drivers, Kurt Busch who finished 4th in the points a season ago, Sam Hornish, Jr., and newcomer Brad Keselowski.  This is the only full time Dodge team running this season in the Cup Series, but the drivers see that as a huge positive.  Hornish compared it to the fact that he was the youngest of several children in his family, so he got all the attention.  Dodge has focused all its efforts and attention on this team.  Hornish is also hoping to make some strides in his 3rd Cup season, similar to what Juan Pablo Montoya did in his 3rd year in 2009, after making the transition from the open wheeled ranks to stock cars.

Having breakfast with Carl Edwards and the folks from Aflac and Scott's here at the hotel.  Busy day on tap---Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Roush Racing, plus we'll have dinner later tonight in Uptown Charlotte at the new Nascar Hall of Fame which is scheduled to open in late May during the Coke 600 weekend.  I'll try to check back in a little later this evening.


July 9

Just checking in after a whirlwind couple of weeks.  My son Brayden got to celebrate his third birthday a couple of weeks ago and did it in style with the Hokie Bird on hand.  Don't shoot me UVA fans, but it helps to have a connection in the VT sports marketing department like your brother.  We had about 50 people at the house and it was a little crazy but much fun was had by all.  It's hard to believe that he is really 3. 

Also got to take my 7 and a half year old daughter, Meredith, to Tiger's tournament once again, the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club.  Followed Tiger and Cowboys QB Tony Romo for a few holes in the pro-am as well as former UVA golfer Steve Marino.  Did a story on Steve that you can catch at WDBJ7.com    He's a good kid who keeps knocking on the door for his first PGA Tour win, which can't be that far away.  The most impressive thing about the tournament was the opening ceremony in which Army paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, jumped onto the first tee with the golf balls for the ceremonial first tee shot.  Tiger stepped up and hit the first shot simultaneously with two wounded warriors.  Say what you want about Tiger, but he has done some quality things with his tournament, by honoring the troops in such a huge way and raising money for his foundation, with which he hopes to build a learning center in DC.  Sadly Tiger's event will have to move to Philly next year, so the USGA can alter Congressional in time for the 2011 US Open there.  But Tiger vowed to be back after that. 

Bought a new driver this week, the TaylorMade Burner, 07 model.  Hoping I can hit it.  We'll see this weekend at the River Course. 

Just trying to make it through the lazy days of summer here in the sports office, and counting the days until my vacation to Hawaii with my wife...which reminds me...our anniversary is this weekend....11 years...time flies when you're having fun I guess.    And when we get back from our trip you know what time it is......FOOTBALL.  High schools start practice on August 3rd and the Hokies & Hoos start later that week.  

Until next time, take care folks.

June 12

Just wanted to check in and give big ups to Coach Brian O'Connor and the Virginia baseball team on making it to the College World Series for the first time in school history.  O'Connor is a class guy who deserves a lot of credit, as do the players.  It's great for him to have a chance to go home to Omaha and coach this team in the CWS at Rosenblatt Stadium, where he pitched for Creighton in the 1991 World Series.  I have a funny story about Coach O'Connor.  I probably washed his jock at some point along the way.  You see, he played for a season in Martinsville with the Appy League's Martinsville Phillies in 1993.  My dad was the clubhouse manager in charge of cleaning up, providing deli meats and such for sandwiches and snacks, and doing the players laundry.  I was a college kid helping out at Hooker Field on the field crew, but I often helped Dad with the laundry, and often did it myself when he was out of town at the beach or basketball camp.  It wasn't necessarily easy work, we often didn't finish until 3 or 4 in the morning, but it was kinda cool to talk to all of those young guys that rolled through there.  Ricky Williams was there for one summer, and other guys who made it to the bigs like Mike Lieberthal and Ricky Botallico were there too.  So anyways, that's my way back story about Coach O'Connor.  We've both come a long way since then, huh?? 

Summer is here and the heat is on....football will be here before we know it, but first things first...next week the Roanoke Valley Horse Show returns to town, and the Commonwealth Games are just around the corner as well.    I'm headed out to the beach this weekend for a long weekend with the fam, a much needed one to recharge.  I've also got one more vacation this summer, to Hawaii, but that doesn't come until late July.  Can't wait, although I will miss the ACC Preseason Football Kickoff in Greensboro, which is always fun, golf included. 

That's about all I've got for now.  Best of luck to Pulaski's Jared King, Coach O'Connor, and the rest of the Wahoos this week in Omaha!

April 23

Ah....spring has sprung! Just returned from a little vacay with the family over the weekend. It was great. We went on a quick 3 day cruise to the Bahamas and then finished up with a one day Magic Kingdom visit in Orlando. The kids had a great time as did Mom and Dad. It's awesome to get away, but always nice to come home too!

The spring and summer months provide the sports department a chance to collectively catch our breath a little bit following the grind of football and basketball seasons. But there is still plenty going on, from spring football at all the local colleges, the Salem Sox are finally here, plus all the high school spring sports that are steamrolling towards the spring jubilee at Radford in June.

It's a big weekend for the NFL Draft hopefuls at both Tech and UVA. It's always interesting on Draft Day to see who ends up where. But I've never really understood all the hype surrounding the NFL Draft. You're just picking players, and sometimes the guys who go early, never pan out, while the undrafted free agent turns out to be a huge contributor. Just my two cents.

Next week is a pretty busy one. I've got a great opportunity to emcee the spring fundraising banquet for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the Salem Civic Center on Tuesday night. VMI Coach Sparky Woods will be there along with Kenny Lewis and Coach Mike O'Cain from Tech. Then Wednesday, the Roanoke College Maroons lacrosse team puts its number one national ranking on the line in the ODAC Tournament.

Until then, it appears that golf weather is finally here. Who knows when I'll actually have a chance to go play. Enjoy the weather and the weekend everbody.

March 26

It's been awile since I've posted, but it was really tough to find time during hoops season.  All of us in the sports office have had a chance to collect our breath over the last four to five days. 

Speaking of hoops, I had a great week in Richmond covering the high school state tournament.  While I'm not a fan of the VHSL's new format, there was some really good basketball at the Siegel Center.  Congratulations to both Cave Spring and Radford for bringing state trophies back to the area.  On another note, it was tough to hear about Brenda King's passing on the day before her Hidden Valley team took the floor in the semis.  I had the chance to talk to many people in Richmond that week who had nothing but great things to say about her.  I think more than anything, she loved basketball and coaching it, but she loved people more, and will be deeply missed. 

We also lost Hanging Rock director of golf Billy McBride this week.  It was another major shock.  Billy devoted his life to helping people as well.  He was a huge supporter of our Roy Stanley Memorial Golf Outing and Auction, and went above and beyond to make sure that thing was successful.  Godspeed to both Brenda and Billy.  I've been a bit reflective over the last day or so.  The best things in life aren't really things at all.  Hug somebody you love when you get a chance. 

Back to hoops now.  Grant Kittelson and I had the chance to cover my Radford Highlanders in Greensboro last week.  It was a great time for a hoops junkie like myself.  Watching all 8 teams practice at the Coliseum was a lot of fun.  Radford was completely outmanned against the Heels, but they had a great run this year, and welcome nearly everyone back next season.  The NCAA Tournament is one of the greatest events in all of sports and the theme of "One Shining Moment" fires me up everytime I hear it.  

The Hokies had a rather disappointing end to their season falling to Baylor in the NIT's 2nd round.  It's a shame, because Seth Greenberg's team really was just a few possessions away from doing something really special. 

The college coaching carousel always heats up this time of year as well.  In Greensboro, we got to hear from Tubby Smith, who claims that he's happy at Minnesota, but the fans in Charlottesville don't believe him.  For now, the Cavaliers' search seems to be focused on Tubby, Jeff Capel at Oklahoma, Sean Miller at Xavier, and maybe even LSU's Trent Johnson, VCU's Anthony Grant, or Fran McCaffrey from Siena, who goes way back with UVA AD Craig Littlepage.  Stay tuned. How 'bout this scenario---Billy Gillespie gets fired at Kentucky, Billy Donovan from Florida replaces him and Grant heads to Gainesville.....???? Just sayin'.  Or who knows, maybe John Calipari or Travis Ford go to Lexington.  And possibly, Rick Pitino makes a move to Arizona.....We'll see, Grant already has an offer in hand from Alabama.  Also today, former UNC player Scott Cherry has been hired to coach at High Point, replacing Galax native Bart Lundy.  Wake assistant Pat Kelsey and VT assistant Ryan Odom were also in the mix a bit from what I understand.  And my spies tell me that former Franklin County star Lewis Preston, now at Penn State with Ed Dechellis, is interviewing for the Elon job to replace Ernie Nestor.   Preston has served his time at VMI, where he played, and at Notre Dame and Florida.  The Lions still have some unfinished business in the NIT semis. 

That's all for now.  Enjoy the games this weekend.  I know there haven't been many upsets so far...that's because the NCAA committee showed some favor to the top seeds by allowing them to play so close to home on the first weekend.  Chalk may not be the norm in the second weekend though on the road to Detroit.  Until next time, take it easy....For us, it's on to spring football at Tech and UVA plus high school and college spring sports....   

January 21

Back here on the media tour in Charlotte.  Last night we had dinner at the Joe Gibbs Racing Shop in Huntersville, North Carolina.  It's an interesting time at Gibbs.  With the departure of Tony Stewart, the team's lineup consists of Denny Hamlin, the senior statesman at the age of 28, 23 year old Kyle Busch, and 18 year old rookie Joey Logano, aka Sliced Bread, as in the Greatest Thing Since...Among the drivers, there is some youth for sure, but Gibbs and his son JD have a wealth of experience in the sport, going back to 1991. 

Today, the tour stopped at Stewart's new home, Stewart--Haas Motorsports in Kannapolis.  Tony is slimmed down a bit since the end of last season, and seems to be adjusting to life as an owner just fine.  He's got Ryan Newman in the Army car as a teammate, plus Floyd County native and Virginia Tech grad Darian Grubb as a crew chief on his own Old Spice ride.  Darian had a busy offseason, which included watching the Hokies take down Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl as well as becoming a father for the first time. 

This afternoon we visited the three time defending Cup champ Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports, along with his teammates, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and new addition Mark Martin.  While Johnson embarks on a quest for 4 straight championships, Gordon is simply trying to find his way back to victory lane after going winless in 2008.  Jr. took the checkers once last season, but wants more.  He did top Johnson in one category--merchandise sales, but JJ's consistent run has him all the way up to second in that department over the last year.  Meanwhile, Hendrick coaxed Martin into a full time ride in the Kellog's car, at the age of 50.  We'll have to see how that works out, but Martin definitely sounds re-energized after racing part-time last season. 

That's all for now.  The tour wraps up Thursday and it's back to the 'Noke.

January 20

Greetings from snowy Charlotte and the Nascar Media Tour!  I'm here with more than 200 journalists from 19 states and 5 different countries as the 2009 racing season gets close.  We awoke on Tuesday to about 2 inches of snow on the ground here at the hotel.  Most of it has since melted.  It's been a good couple of days already.  Monday we talked with the folks from Penske as well as those from the new Richard Petty Motorsports, the merger of Petty Enterprises and Gilette-Evernham Motorsports.  It effectively ends the 50 year plus run of Petty Enterprises as an independent, family-owned company.  But it's good to see that the Petty name is still there.  Many teams have had to turn to investors and mergers to stay afloat in this ultra expensive racing business. 

We also had the chance to visit Richard Childress Racing where Casey Mears comes aboard as part of a 4th team.  Mears has struggled in his career to this point, but is excited about the new opportunity.  He takes over the 07 Jack Daniels ride of Clint Bowyer, who moves to the 33 entry sponsored by General Mills.  Mears inherits all of Bowyer's team, which you would think might lead to some hard feelings.  But Bowyer has seemed to handle the addition with class and grace.  But now he has to make the first five races by qualifying his way in.  His new team won't be in the the guaranteed top 35.  That could be a challenge. 

Jeff Burton was a great interview as always.  The South Boston native has embraced his role as a mouthpiece for the sport, and is extremely passionate about it.  One interesting thing he said was that the drivers really need to reach out to the fans in the coming season, doing appearances, etc, given the current economic situation. 

This morning, Bobby Labonte unveiled his new ride, the #96 Hall of Fame/Yates Racing entry, sponsored by ask.com.  Most Nascar fans I know use google as their search engine.  That might have to change now. 

Lastly, I got to sit down and interview my sister-in-law, Amber this afternoon for a story to run on News 7 this week.  Amber was one of the 155 passengers who survived the US Airways plane crash into the Hudson River last Thursday.  It was great to see her and hear her story!  She lives here in Charlotte where she works for Nascar, doing licensing, pr and the like for the new Nascar Hall of Fame that is being built in Uptown Charlotte.  She is very grateful and thankful for the way the events of last week unfolded. 

That's it for now...off to Joe Gibbs Racing tonight in Huntersville to chat with Joey Lagano, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin...

January 2

It was a quick night, with no sleep and an early flight, but man, is it worth it when the Hokies win like they did!  I thought it might be a long night after Cincinnati drove the field in just 6 plays and 2 minutes on the opening drive for a touchdown.  But after that, WOW!  Coach Foster's defense did the job, with four picks on the night, and Barquell Rivers, playing in the place of injured linebacker Brett Warren, made the play of the game, stacking up Tony Pike, the Cincinnati quarterback, on 4th and goal at the 1 late in the game.  With about 2 minutes left, that TD would have made the score 20-14 in favor of Tech and the Bearcats would have had the momentum.  And how about the poise of Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans.  Evans rushed for 153 yards and a TD, matching the Tech bowl rushing record for yardage in a game set by Kevin Jones against California a few years back in the Insight Bowl.  Not bad for a redshirt freshman, who made great strides since the beginning of the year.  And big props to Dustin Keys for setting the new single season record for field goals at 23, despite an early miss. 

Coach Beamer was downright giddy after the game, as he should be, along with the rest of the coaches we talked to.  As a former college basketball player, it was really fun to cover these guys this season, because they truly were a team.  They had no ego, weren't pretentious, and genuinely cared about each other.  It wasn't always pretty, but they got the job done through some adversity during the season, as well as Orange Bowl week with all the injuries.  Congratulations to the coaches plus all the seniors.  It should be a fun offseason.  Spring practice is about 3 months away, and the Alabama game in Atlanta will be here before ya know it.  Now it's on to hoops for us here at the Big 7.  Special thanks to Chris Miles, Mark Layman, and satellite truck operator Sam Doyle for all the hard work in South Florida.  And thank you too to the Orange Bowl folks who were great hosts throughout the week.  January's here and man is it cold!  I'm off to bed, if my kids will let me...

January 1

Back here in Florida where it has turned breezy on gameday, but nothing like the 30 degree temps and 20 degree wind chills last year. The Hokies walked thru yesterday at Dolphin Stadium, a place where they last played just 6 weeks ago against Miami.

Cincinnati walked thru as well, but spent most of the time taking pictures.

Kickoff in the 75th Orange Bowl isn't until 8-45pm, so both teams are killing time at their hotels. Both the Bearcats and Hokies switched hotels last night to avoid some of the distractions. In fact, P-Diddy and Jamie Foxx were both seen at the Bearcats' place this week celebrating New Year's.

Tonight's game should be fun. I'm not sure what to expect from Cincinnati in the school's first BCS game. But they do have an 11 and 2 record, with the only losses to Connecticut and Oklahoma. They've won 21 games over the past two years. I think Tyrod Taylor has to play well for the Hokies to win. And the Tech defense has to avoid giving up the big play.

That's all for now. Time to pack up and get one last look at the beach. It's gameday, and then off to catch a 6-30am flight with no sleep. But we'll be back in the 'Noke by 1030 Friday morning if all goes well. So long from South Florida.

December 31

I know, it takes a trip to Miami to get me blogging again. But the warm weather is funny like that. Temps have been in the 80's all week here in South Florida. The media hotel is the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, and it is first class all the way--on the beach. The Orange Bowl people have been great as well. We've had the chance to eat some really good food, but the best place we've been by far was a joint called the Knife, an Argentinian buffet, with all the grilled meat you can eat--pork, chicken, steak, the works.

As for the Hokies, they seem as focused and prepared as ever as they try to break a 2 game bowl losing skid against Cincinnati on Thursday night. Coach Beamer has been really involved and vocal during all the drills, especially the special teams ones. Big surprise...right?? The team hotel, the Westin Diplomat, is about 20 miles away from us in Hollywood. But the Hokies will change hotels tonight to try to avoid some of the distractions. Cincinnati is staying further south in Miami, at the Fontainebleau Resort, which they've shared this week with the likes of celebrities P-Diddy and Jamie Foxx. The Bearcats have certainly been wide eyed this week as they prepare to make their appearance in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl a memorable one. But I know from talking to them that everything surrounding South Beach has been an experience. It's their first trip to a BCS game, but we'll have to see if they play like it Thursday.

I would like to give a shout out to the guys I'm here with--Chris Miles, Sam Doyle, and Mark Layman. Coach Beamer talked today about the importance of relationships with the guys you work with, and I can certainly say that these guys are the best of the best. We've had some fun, but most folks don't realize what a lot of work goes into bowl trips. I've been fortunate to make a few and this one has been great, because of the efforts of these guys.

Just want to wish everyone back in the 'Noke a Happy New Year from the Sunshine State! I heard Brent's weather forecast last night following our live shot, and it sounds like cold times await us when we get back. I'll try to check in at least another time or two before Thursday's kickoff.

October 16

I just wanted to weigh in on the news that Hidden Valley girls basketball coach Brenda King is battling cancer.  I do mean "battling" in the truest sense of the word.  Brenda has always been a firece competitor, and if anyone can beat this, I know she can.  The school is planning several fundraisers to help defray her medical costs, and even though she has only been in Southwest Roanoke County for a few months, the community is really rallying around her right now.  The girls hoop team is selling bracelets that say, "Fight Like a King," and I know she is fighting hard through the chemo treatments and being there for her two kids.

All of us in the News 7 Sports office are thinking and praying for Brenda as I'm sure a lot of folks are right now.  Situations like this one really put things in perspective, especially where sports are concerned.  They're just games that we play and talk about.  But this is real life stuff that makes you appreciate everyday and those that you love.   Brenda is just 45 years old.

On a similar note, I had the chance to emcee an event a few weeks ago in Botetourt County to raise money for someone quite a bit younger, 7 year old Allyson McClellan, who is also battling cancer.  Allyson attends Cloverdale Elementary where my daughter, Meredith goes to school.  I don't know Allyson personally, but I know so much about her from Meredith, and her family members that I was fortunate to meet that day, as well as members of the Botetourt community.  I DO know this--she is one courageous little girl, not to mention beautiful.  To go through the chemo treatments and doctor's visits that she's been through, she's way tougher than I ever thought about being.  Allyson, get well soon, girl.  We are thinking of you and praying for you as well. 

Both of these situations are gut wrenching, but if there is anything good to come out of them, it's seeing how people in the Valley rally around others in need.  It says a lot about the folks here.  We live in a pretty special place.  Thinking about Brenda and Allyson here lately, has really caused me to be in a pensive, almost reflective sort of mood.  It's made me think about the things that are really important in life, where my priorities lie, and what I spend my time on.  Until next time, hug someone you love, and keep the faith for these two extraordinary young women.

September 21

O-K. So I know it's been a long time since I blogged. Please forgive me. I've been a little tied up with this sports director thing. The last two months have been hectic to say the least. But it's also been a blast, and everyone has been super supportive. That's the great thing about Your Hometown Station. There are a lot of awesome people here, who make life easy, keep things fun and aren't afraid to work hard along the way. I just feel really blessed and so fortunate to do what I do.

It's hard to believe that this week is week 6 of the high school football season. Pretty soon we'll be talking playoffs! In the words of Jim Mora....Playoffs???

As I type this, the Hokies are fresh off another nail biter, winning at North Carolina, and firmly planted in the driver's seat of the ACC's Coastal Division. Frank Beamer has to feel pretty good heading to Nebraska this week with a chance to restore a bit of shine to the ACC. It hasn't always been pretty, and certainly not aesthetically pleasing, but 3 and 1 ain't bad right now with that bunch of young'uns. As for Virginia, it's been a month to forget for the Cavaliers. Uva has a huge make or break type game at Duke this weekend.

Roanoke is a beautiful place this time of year. Until next time, as the leaves start to change and the temps get a little cooler, get out and enjoy it.


July 5

I know it's been a long time since I've written. Sorry about that. So let's catch up. I had the chance to go to the AT&T National Golf Tournament outside the nation's capital on Thursday. And wow, Congressional Country Club is an awesome venue. I can see why it was selected to host the US Open in 2011. I went with my in-laws and my 6 and a half year old daughter, Meredith. It was her first pro tour event and she racked up on the autographs. We got to see Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Stuart Appleby, defending champ K-J Choi, Fred Couples, Davis Love III, and tons of other name players, including Rocco Mediate, who had perhaps the biggest galleries thanks in part to his runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the US Open. Tiger isn't there obviously, because of his bum knee, but it was still a great day, with some great golf. We also caught up with Hokie golfer Drew Weaver and former Tech player Johnson Wagner, as well as Steve Marino, the first round leader who played his college golf at UVA, for all the Wahoos out there.

The tournament is first class, and I think it's great that Tiger and the AT&T  National staff honor the soldiers and veterans like they do, especially given that this is Fourth of July weekend. Men and women of the military have caddied for the pros this week during practice rounds and pro-ams, and they get to introduce the players on the first tee. Big props to all the members of our military this weekend, for doing what they do, to insure that we have freedoms that we often take for granted. I know that what I do for a living is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Doing s! ports i s fun and I love it, but it's not heart surgery or rocket science, let alone fighting for our country. I know we all have our sports heroes, but these people truly are heroes.

Speaking of heroes, Mike Stevens is certainly on my list. I haven't weighed in on the news of Mike's departure just yet, because I didn't really know how to react at first. Mike is THE REASON that I am working in television sports and THE REASON that I am working at WDBJ. He gave me a chance as an intern nearly 15 years ago, back when I was a naive kid who thought I had the world by the tail as a college basketball player at Radford University. Mike knew I had a lot of learning to do and a lot of growing up to do, but he gave me a chance anyway, and I'll be forever grateful for that. Mike has taught me so much more than just television sports--he's taught me the value of community, family, and relationships. Whatever you try to do in life, whether it's politics, coaching, tv, business or whatever, the success of that is directly impacted by the strength of your relationships. I consider Mike a great friend that will be sorely missed around the station. Grant and I are still trying to figure out what we'll do without him. But I can tell you this, it will be a great honor and challenge to try to carry on his legacy of local sports---one that we look forward to.

Our loss is Salem's gain, and I know that Mike will be great over there, so we wish him the best of luck. I've already told him that his cell number will be on speed dial, especially during those first few weeks and months.

Anyways, I didn't mean to ramble on forever. Hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend!

June 9

Hey, everybody.  Sorry it's been a few weeks since I've posted.  Just want to say big props to the Tech softball team and Angela Tincher for making it to the World Series.  It was a great run and a fantastic finish to Angela's career, which included her sewing up National Player of the Year Honors.  With that in the books, the spring jubilee is also history.

The Gretna softball girls and the Radford boys soccer team grabbed state titles this past weekend.  But that means that we're kind of hitting the doldrums for local sports, at least for a month or so.  Just means Mike, Grant, and I will have to beat the bushes a little bit harder.

It would help if the Avs and Hillcats would start playing a little better.  Just think, football practice is now less than two months away, and it will be here before we know it.   School is out and it's most definitely summertime.

The weather the past week has been just about brutal.  These temperatures in the upper 90's aren't supposed to be around for another few weeks.  Hopefully, they'll cool off soon, so I can actually get out and enjoy some golf.

Hope everyone has a great, safe vacation season.  I've got a couple of beach weeks coming up myself in July.  Until next time, take care everybody.

May 19, 2008

Just want to start by giving big props to the Virginia Tech softball team for getting out of the Knoxville regional and into the super regional round for the first time in school history.

Angela Tincher got it done again, going 3 and 1 for the weekend, beating Louisville once and Tennessee twice.  She got some help from her teammates too---Misty Hall and Caroline Stolle each hit big home runs, and several others got on base when they needed to, including Erin Ota and Jess Everhart.  Now it's on to Michigan to face the Wolverines this coming weekend with a berth in the College World Series on the line. 

The Scott Robertson Memorial wrapped up its 25th year at the Roanoke Country Club this weekend and the golf was stellar as usual.  I had a chance to watch a good bit of the second round on Saturday.  Congratulations to the winners, Victoria Tanco of Argentina, and Crawford Reeves from Greenville, South Carolina in the older divisions while Davis Womble of High Point and Laura Murray of Ohio won the younger groups.  These junior golfers really are the future of the PGA and LPGA Tours. 

I'm planning on going to Charlotte on Thursday night for pole night leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the year for the Sprint Cup Drivers.  Pole night is always fun.  The atmosphere is usually pretty festive, and watching the pole winner eat cobbler in victory lane is always a treat. 

By the way, I plan on talking to the folks here in the weather office about these cool temperatures and all the rain we've been having lately.  It's really not good for the golf game.  I'm really ready for some warm weather.  So Robin, Brent, Jay, and Leo, bring it on!

April 30, 2008

I had the chance to go down to Charlotte on Tuesday for the Wachovia Championship.  It was practice round day so, for the most part, the pros were pretty laid back.  I spent most of the morning with Ashley Plantation pro Chip Sullivan, who is playing in the event thanks to his win last summer at the PGA Pros National Championship in Oregon.  Chip is exempt for a total of 6 Tour events.  This is the fourth of those.  I really hope he plays well at Quail Hollow.

Making the cut would be huge, and I know that Chip wants to play well, because a large contingent of folks from the Roanoke Valley is heading down to the Queen City to cheer him on this week.  Good luck Chip!

He was having a lot of fun this week, goofing around on the practice tee with Tour regulars Jerry Kelly and Rich Beem, the former winner of the PGA Championship.  Chip also got to play his practice round with two UVA products, Steve Marino and James Driscoll.  Chip's father-in-law, Tom Hall, who is also his caddie, was wearing a Hokies pullover, and both Marino and Driscoll gave him a hard time about it. 

I had the chance to catch up with former Virginia Tech golfer Johnson Wagner, who is still on cloud nine, following his first PGA Tour win three weeks ago at the Shell Houston Open.  He really is a great guy.  Wagner talked about getting to play the Masters after his big win, and having Drew Weaver there along with Tech Coach Jay Hardwick.  I know he would love to play well this week, especially now that he is a Charlotte resident.   I had a blast on the course, because I am always so amazed at how well those guys hit the golf ball.  Sure, they hit it a long way, but it is uncanny how they are able to shape the ball, fading it or drawing it, precisely the way they want to.  And they make the most difficult putts look routine.

Thirty feet for me, and I'm just hoping to 2 putt, but they fully expect to make putts of that length.  I really was like the proverbial kid in a candy store, seeing the likes of Stewart Cink, Masters champs Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, Angel Cabrera, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry and a host of others.  

The crowds at Quail Hollow are always great, and the course is beautiful--a big reason why the players come back year after year.  This year Tiger isn't in the field because of his knee injury, but 15 of the top 20 players in the world are there.  And the houses driving into the course are simply phenomenal.  I'm sure that I would get lost in some of them--huge!   Golf season is definitely here, and I haven't been able to get out and play yet, but hope to soon.

Have a great week everybody!

April 25, 2008

Wow!  It's been a whirlwind couple of days for the Wells family.  In case you haven't heard, my Dad is now the new Head Basketball Coach at Hidden Valley High School.  He is leaving Martinsville after 28 seasons on the sidelines.  It is a little bit bittersweet, because my 3 brothers and I grew up in that community and a part of us will always be there.  We have a lot of memories there and met some really great people.

Dad's record has been well documented so I won't go into that.  That's not what is really important to him anyway.  But he has impacted hundreds and hundreds of kids in the past three decades, and that's what he is all about---working with young people.  I feel bad for the players at Martinsville, but they'll be fine and they should be very good next season.  Coach Jackson, Coach Holland, and Coach Hairston will do a great job.  

I know my Mom is thrilled that Dad won't have to drive an hour and fifteen minutes one way everyday.  And it will be nice to have him around a lot more in the summer and fall.  I can tell the folks at Hidden Valley that our family is extremely excited to be a part of the Titan family.  And I don't know if I could have said that a month ago, especially since the Titans beat the Bulldogs in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.  The Lord works in mysterious ways sometimes and there is plenty of irony in what has happened.  But it's not often that you get to take over a program that has been to the state semifinals two years running.  It is a great opportunity and a challenge that my Dad is really looking forward to. 

It should be a great sports weekend for folks locally.  I plan on coaching my daughter, Meredith, in her tee ball game on Saturday, and then probably taking in some softball at Virginia Tech, as Angela Tincher and the Hokies try to clinch the ACC title in a weekend series against North Carolina.

And then there's the NFL Draft.  UVA's Chris Long and Branden Albert expect to hear their names called fairly early in round one, while several Hokies will be waiting anxiously by the phone, including Brandon Flowers, Xavier Adibi, Duane Brown, Eddie Royal, and Vince Hall, among others.  And if the weather permits, it might be a good chance to get out and get the golf ball around a little bit, but that may have to wait until next week. 

Have a great weekend everybody.

April 18, 2008

This is my first venture into blogdom, so bear with me.  I just returned from a week in Puerto Rico with my wife, Chandra, where we celebrated our 10th anniversary.  We stayed two nights in San Juan, because I wanted to check out what the city was all about.

What I found out was that my Spanish needs lots of work, and driving is a nightmare.  The locals drive very aggressively and the roads aren't marked very well.  For example, driving down the interstate the lanes often go from 3 down to 2 with little or no warning.

But we did some fun stuff in San Juan, including spending a half day touring the forts, the San Cristobal Fort and the Fort El Morro.  These are the two main ones, that defended the Spanish settlers from invaders in the 17 and 18 hundreds. 

Toa Baja, the hometown of Virginia Tech hoopster A-D Vassallo is about 15 to 20 minutes outside of San Juan.  A-D will get to play in his homeland in November when the Hokies travel to San Juan for a tournament. 

Puerto Rican cuisine is pretty good.  We tried some fried plantains, which is a small green fruit that looks similar to a banana.  They were really bland, with not a lot of flavor.  But later we had them in a dish known as mofongoes.  They mash the plantains up and mix them with shrimp, chicken, or steak and put them all in a big bowl with a sauce of your choice--hot sauce, garlic, or butter.

They were much better this way.  And beans and rice are a Puerto Rican staple--very good.   We spent the last four days in the East Coast village of Fajardo at the El Conquistador Resort, which is set on three bluffs overlooking the ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  The views were absolutely amazing.  We have God's beauty here in the mountains, but it was a much different kind of beauty there, although just as spectacular. 

The food at the resort was very pricey, but awesome.  Chandra and I stayed busy the entire time from snorkeling in the ocean to hiking in the rainforest.  We also did a bio luminescent bay tour by kayak.  You kayak in the ocean and then wind back thru a canal of mangrove trees into this lagoon.  There are micro organisms in the water---dinoflagellates and plankton--that contain luciferous that cause them to light up and create a glow.  You do the tour at night and if the moonlight is not too overbearing, then it is a sight to see.  The entire kayak trip, out and back, was a little over a mile and a half, but it took Chandra and I awhile to get in sync paddling the boat.  There are only four bio bays in the world--two in Puerto Rico, one in the nearby island of Vieques, and another in the Bahamas.   The El Con has an unbelievable golf course that is very hilly.  I would have loved to play, but really time didn't allow for it, and the greens fees were 175 bucks.  

Now it's back to reality and the work world.  I had the chance to introduce Seth Greenberg on Thursday night at the annual fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Martinsville and Henry County.  It was a great opportunity to go back to the town where I grew up.  I got to see a lot of folks that I hadn't seen in a long time, and be a part of something that benefits the young people of that area, where the economy has been hard hit by a series of layoffs over the last several years. 

The spring months provide a chance for us to catch our breath a bit in the sports office, but it's still busy with spring football, the high school spring seasons that are in full swing, the Avalanche, and some golf tournaments.

Next week, Ashley Plantation Pro Chip Sullivan will play in his third PGA event of the season, the Wachovia Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.  We plan to be there early in the week to tag along.  The pros never cease to amaze me with their ability to hit the ball a really long ways with little effort, and the fact that they make the toughest, longest putts look routine.  Good luck Chip!

There's also some Nascar testing on the way in May followed by the All Star event and the Coca-Cola 600, so it should be a fun stretch headed into the summer!  Until next time...

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