Eagerness to Learn Leads Sale to Top of the Majors

By Liam Jones

Sale-1

CHICAGO – On June 1, White Sox ace Chris Sale concluded a complete-game two-hitter in front of more than 23,000 fans at US Cellular Field. Backtrack to 2009 and the Eagles’ star put on a similar performance against Stetson, with just 75 people in attendance.

It’s safe to say that the former FGCU ace has experienced a change in scenery.

“At first I had some nerves and a little anxiety just because I had never pitched in front of thousands of people before,” Sale said of his first appearance with the White Sox. “But I enjoyed it and learned how to handle it and try to not pay attention to everyone in the stands.”

But Sale’s dominance on the mound has stayed consistent, if not grown, over the years. Out of Lakeland High School, his heat caught the eye of the Colorado Rockies, and he was drafted in the 21st round. Instead, Sale chose to attend Florida Gulf Coast University.

“I felt like at the time it was just a better opportunity for me. Not only to mature as a baseball player but as a person. Coming out of high school, I was 18 years old and didn’t really have a good grasp on life,” Sale admitted recently while sitting in the White Sox dugout the afternoon following a one-run, 10-strikeout performance against the Tigers.

His time at FGCU paid off big time. Sale kept his ears peeled to the coaching staff’s instructions and he quickly soared into the national discussion.

“I evolved into the pitcher I was supposed to be,” Sale said. “I always had a little bit of something there, but once I got down to FGCU with the coaching staff – they really pounded away at me and tried to get the best out of me each and every year.”

Just as Sale developed a multitude of pitches (he now boasts a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, a changeup and slider) his approach to the game dramatically changed as well.

“For me, I had three different pitching coaches at FGCU. They each brought something different to the table in terms of pitching styles.” Sale surmised. “I got each aspect of the game and that really helped me out.”

His freshman season, the FGCU standout was guided by pitching coach Dan Roszel. “He was a mechanics guy,” Sale said.

Although scouts and media have criticized his sweeping, awkward-looking delivery, the 6-foot-6 southpaw perfected his own style at FGCU, to a point where it is now almost unhittable.

Pitching coach Derek Tate mentored Sale, predominantly on the “mental side,” during his sophomore year. He learned to “handle” the crowd and maintain a laser focus on just getting the next batter out.

And during his junior campaign in Fort Myers, Sale was under the guidance of Forrest Morgan, a “strength and conditioning guy.” Despite being tagged as susceptible to injury due to his unorthodox mechanics, his diligence has kept him relatively healthy.

“I spend a little more time doing forearm work with my elbow to strengthen the muscle around there,” Sale added. “But I wouldn’t say I do anything out of the ordinary.”

SaleAt FGCU, the culmination of Sale’s rapid development was put on display during his junior year, when he finished 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA en route to being named National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball. The Chicago White Sox called his name with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, making the gangly lefty the highest drafted player from FGCU’s program.

The matured Sale quickly worked his way through the Sox minor league teams, and received his big league call up in August, becoming the first 2010 draftee to be called up. Not only was he the first draftee to be called up, but Sale became the first player in 20 years to reach the majors the same year in which he was drafted and just the fifth in MLB history to accomplish that feat.

“It was a surreal experience,” Sale said. “It’s something you dream of your whole life and you get there and think ‘What do I do now?’”

With only a few months in the farm system, he was forced to pick up subtleties on the fly.

“In terms of where you sit on the team plane – one day, I sat it someone’s seat … all right, I’ll just wait for everyone to settle in. Shagging batting practice, standing where the older guys stand, just little things like that,” Sale said of the MLB adjustments.

“Coming up with the guys I did, having veteran guys to guide me in the right direction really helped me out throughout that first year,” he continued.

“I leaned on Matt Thornton a lot just because he was left handed and a reliever,” Sale, who didn’t transition to a starter for the White Sox until the 2012 season, commented. “He has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game for six or eight years now. I picked his brain and asked him how he goes about his business to be a professional and get guys out.”

After spending his first years in the bullpen, Sale’s excellence earned him a spot in the Sox starting rotation. In 2012, he finished 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA and was named an AL All-Star. Repeating his dominance in 2013, the former FGCU star was named to the All-Star Game for the second year in a row, and he earned his third straight All-Star nod in 2014.

“Looking back five years ago when I was in college, I never would have thought in a million years that all the things in between would have happened,” said Sale, whose 13 double-digit strikeout games stand tied for third all time in White Sox history.

Despite developing his craft in an ever-evolving game and striking out what seems to be the entire American League Central Division, Sale finds time to travel back and visit FGCU. He was featured at last year’s Night at the Nest and noticed the outstanding growth of the athletics department.

“The baseball team won their conference this year,” said Sale, who listed off the success of almost every FGCU team. “They have great things to look forward to … they are making strides and are very advanced for how young the school is.”

And the same is true of Chris Sale.

Attendance Ascension

By Michael Tolvo


FGCU v Mercer ASun Final 03/09/2014

FGCU men’s basketball’s run to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 drew national attention. In 2014, the squad known across the country as Dunk City is ecstatic with the attention garnered locally. For years, the Green and Blue’s men’s team was often out-drawn by the women’s team also occupying Alico Arena. Those days are in the past.

While the women’s team still dominates the Atlantic Sun Conference, they now share the attention of the community and students with their male counterparts.

In 2011-12, the men welcomed 24,845 fans to the confines of Alico Arena. The next season, 36,648 fans filed in to watchSherwood Brown and company as they launched the program to new heights. This past season, a mind-boggling 73,780 fans cheered on the Eagles in just 17 games. That total exceeds the entire home attendance of the previous two years combined by more than 12,000!

You can add attendance to the numerous categories FGCU led in the A-Sun. With an average attendance of 4,340, the Eagles absolutely rocketed past every other team in the conference.

The next closest A-Sun team in home attendance? ETSU at 2,550. A difference of nearly 2,000 fans.

Proof that student and community attendance would be elevated to a new stratosphere came in the home opener against Hartford. As part of ESPN’s 24 hours of basketball, the Eagles took on the Hawks in a 7 a.m. weekday tilt that was aired on ESPN2. Students showed their support and school spirit by tailgating the twilight event and packing The Nest. Afterwards, many students headed straight to their Tuesday classes in full-on Green and Blue attire.

FGCU coach Joe Dooley has recognized the outstanding support his crew receives on a nightly basis. “The student section has been absolutely tremendous,” said Dooley, who just completed his first year at the helm after serving 10 years as the top assistant at Kansas. “The area has really come to support the university. They’ve done a great job getting behind our school and been very supportive of our team and our program.”

Not only did FGCU make headlines in the A-Sun, but the Eagles’ faithful are also being recognized nationally. The Green and Blue is one of merely five teams to increase their home attendance average by more than 2,000 from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Among the other names on the list include powerhouse programs such as Syracuse, Virginia and Nebraska (read the full story at http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/big-ten-breaks-own-record-men%E2%80%99s-basketball-attendance?division=d1).

Nebraska 5067
Syracuse 3813
Virginia 2281
SMU 2210
FGCU 2050

This upcoming season, the Eagles are poised to make a return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. With incoming high-profile recruits and a bevy of well-rounded transfers, this year’s squad looks to be one the deepest and most talented ever. And if attendance is any indication, FGCU is heading in the right direction.

2014-15 men’s basketball season tickets are already selling quickly. Fans can renew and reserve their seat(s) by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets for more information.

 

ESPN Trick Shot Challenge

070311grandeurpoolESPN.com is scouring the nation to find the best trick shot artist around! Dunk City was all over ESPN during the magical run that saw the Eagles squad become the first 15 seed ever to reach the Sweet Sixteen!  Now all of you have the chance to represent the Green and Blue and get back on ESPN!  All you have to do is create the greatest trick shot video imaginable.

Rules: Entrants will create a video — maximum of 30 seconds — showing the most impressive basketball trick shot. To ensure fair competition, video must be new and cannot be altered or edited. Artists are welcome to preface/talk about their shot however they please, so long as it fits within the 30-second restriction.

Deadline: June 15, 11:59 PM

How to submit video: Please include artist’s name and title. Acceptable file formats include .mov (preferred), .mpg or .mp4. Since video files can be too large for a typical email, you can also submit them using the following method:

Go to https://www.relayit.net

To: sam.strong@espn.com

From: your email address

Subject: Trick shot video

Click button that says “Next: Go to Step 2”

Click button that says “Choose file” and browse to your video file.

Click button that says “Send File”

* If you are shooting video with a phone, please have the phone turned horizontally (landscape, rather than portrait).

The best videos will be chosen to compete in a fan vote to determine the ultimate trick shot champions.  This is your chance to show the world what Dunk City is made of!

FGCU Men’s Soccer Uses Its Hands For a Change

By Vanessa Mosquera

Contributors: Michael Tolvo

Soccer Service

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The FGCU men’s soccer team joined efforts with Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, Apr. 5, to give back to the community by helping restore a house in Lehigh Acres that will benefit a family in need.

The student-athletes displayed their teamwork off the soccer field as they worked on a house that had been infested with subterranean termites. The Eagles donated their time as they worked on closing walls with plywood, demolishing a deck and reframing interior walls and exterior windows.

Assistant coach Chris Gores accompanied the team and gave a detailed account of the renovations. “The house was open framed to start and we worked to close the walls with plywood, demolish a deck and reframe interior walls and exterior windows.” he said. “The house was infested with subterranean termites and was being rehabbed for a person in need.”
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Former FGCU Golf Standout Mazziotta Continues Push Toward PGA Tour

By: Christine Pinder

Contributors: Doug Johnson, Michael Tolvo

Mazziotta-4

Former Cypress High School and FGCU golfer Daniel Mazziotta continues to represent his alma mater well following a win at the Mundo Maya Open at the Yucatan Country Club in Mexico two weeks ago. The victory Mazziotta clinched on Apr. 6 with a winning total of 10-under 278 has put him one step closer to becoming the second FGCU player to participate in the PGA Tour.

Over four years at FGCU, Mazziotta – a 2011 FGCU graduate – helped set the standard for excellence in men’s golf. He became the first player in FGCU program history to be named to the Atlantic Sun All-Conference First Team. In his senior season, Mazziotta recorded a scoring average of 71.6, which still stands as the second best in program history. His career scoring average of 73.1 also ranks second all-time at FGCU. During his senior campaign, Mazziotta shattered the previous program record of 18 par-or-better rounds with 21 such rounds. Mazziotta also holds the program record for most birdies in a single season with 121.

Mazziotta is currently participating on the PGA’s NEC Series, a set of 16 tournaments in 10 countries throughout Latin America which is played in two halves: March-May and October-December. The top-five players on the money list at the end of the series will automatically receive Web.com Tour cards, which brings them one step closer to competing on the PGA Tour.  Mazziotta currently ranks second on the list after four events.

Mazziotta placed fourth in his first event at the Arturo Calle Colombian Open, winning him $5,655. He then failed to make the cut in his second event at the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open. The Fort Myers native then finished 39th at the Stella Artois Open, but his victory at the Mundo Maya Open was good for $27,000. Mazziotta has earned a total of $33,413 through four events this year, which puts him only $1,125 behind the first-place player, David Vanegas of Columbia ($34,538).

Unfortunately, Mazziotta’s time as a pro has not been all sunny, 75-degree weather. Since becoming pro immediately following his graduation from FGCU, Mazziotta had a difficult time financially supporting his pro lifestyle. The Green and Blue standout often had to pay all of his expenses to participate in events.  At times, his lack of funding forced him to s
kip a few events so that he could save up enough money to participate in more important events. At one point, Mazziotta had to make the humbling move back to Fort Myers to take a job at a local golf course.DanielMazziotta14Merida260

Fortunately, he met Ryan Nivakoff.  Nivakoff, an agent and manager with Parvus Rex Golf, LLC., had the opportunity to watch Mazziotta play a few rounds of golf.  Nivakoff’s Bonita Springs-based company decided to graciously cover all of Mazziotta’s expenses so that he could continue to compete on a professional level. All Mazziotta had to do to hold up his end of the deal was pay the company a percentage of his winnings. Since the initial agreement, Mazziotta has said he is free to go out and completely enjoy the game that he loves. He no longer worries about tournament fees or travel expenses.  The immense relief in stress has helped Mazziotta elevate his game.

With the end of the first half of the NEC Series tour season fast approaching, Mazziotta is looking to continue his great play on the PGA Tour Canada after May. He hopes the added rounds will keep him sharp as he prepares for NEC Series play, which resumes in October.

 

A Look Back at the Mayor of Dunk City

FielerBy Michael Tolvo

Chase Fieler will compete at the State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships at 9 p.m. (ET) tonight, Thursday, April 3.  The annual event that showcases some of the best student-athletes in college basketball is being hosted at SMU’s Moody Coliseum.  While the senior known around Fort Myers as the Golden Boy will be representing his fellow Eagles and all of Dunk City later tonight, let’s take a look back at some of the FGCU record holder’s most memorable slams.
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Hansen Leaving a Legacy On and Off the Court

Credit: Linwood Ferguson

Credit: Linwood Ferguson

By Michael Tolvo

The general consensus among the FGCU Women’s Basketball home game attendees is that Sarah Hansen is their favorite player.  One thing is for certain, it is not for how often she smiles during her games.

In fact, in a contest for who smiles less between Hansen and Men’s Basketball coach Joe Dooley, many might give the nod to the patented Hansen snarl.

Hansen has endeared herself to the hoard of local fans that regularly flock to Alico Arena for her unparalleled intensity.  From warm-ups to the final buzzer, the Eagles leader on and off the court is locked in.  Whether it be her signature pregame opening yell or her emphatically pumping up her teammates during one of her brief times off the court, the fifth-year senior is always completely invested in the game at hand.
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FGCU Leads All-Sports Race Heading Into Spring

Courtesy of Atlanticsun.org

Contributions by Michael Tolvo

Image

Regular season championships in men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball have Florida Gulf Coast University in the lead for the 2013-14 Atlantic Sun Conference All-Sports championship.

The Eagles are looking for their second straight Bill Bibb Trophy, which is awarded to the combined all sports champion. FGCU currently has recorded 164 points out of a possible 207 (.792). With its four team titles, FGCU tallied 75.5 men’s points and 88.5 women’s points to emerge as the leader with the conference’s spring sports remaining.
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From Coast to Claws

By Michael Tolvo

Athletics

On the heels of carrying his dunk-happy team to the Sweet Sixteen and playing the most inspired basketball of his life, Sherwood Brown was flying high, to say the least.  A feature on the front page of ESPN and shaking hands with NBA legend Reggie Miller were a few of the perks that went along with being the face of the first-ever 15 seed to win multiple NCAA Tournament

The magical run for the newly-minted Dunk City squad led by the high-lobbing Brett Comer, thunderous-slamming Chase Fieler, and cold-blooded Sherwood Brown didn’t end completely after a heartbreaking loss to upstate rival University of Florida.  Brown and Co. were invited to walk the red carpet at the ESPY’s in Los Angeles en route to winning the award for “Best Upset.”
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Service Through Softball

Softball Service

By Michael Tolvo

FGCU Softball prides itself in fielding a well-rounded team the can put the ball in play, cover ground on defense, run the bases, and…build houses?  While construction is not a skill usually found among the players on a softball field, that is exactly what the 2014 Eagles softball team was doing on January 11.

Twelfth-year head coach David Deiros hit a home run in guiding his squad to its fifth volunteering venture.  The girls most recently teamed up with Habitat for Humanity last September when they renovated a local home in desperate need of some remodeling.  Their hard work went towards upgrading the cabinets, installing new floor, and a glistening fresh coat of paint.
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