What’s the drug that triggered Maria Sharapova’s positive drug test?

, USA TODAY Sports7:28 a.m. EST March 8, 2016

The banned drug that tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive for has been used by athletes in recent years, a 2015 study found.

Mildronate, also known as meldonium, was developed and manufactured in Latvia to treat ischemia — a lack of blood flow to an organ — and neurodegenerative disorders. The decades-old drug, which is not approved by the FDA, has long been thought to be used by athletes — especially in Eastern Europeand Russia — to boost endurance and aid in recovery.

A study last year verified those suspicions.

Mildronate was the target of a research project funded partially by the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC), which is backed by the U.S. Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the NFL. An analysis of 8,300 random urine samples revealed 182 (2.2%) contained mildronate.

“From an anti-doping perspective, the 2.2% rate in this study was concerning,” Larry Bowers, chairperson of the PCC Scientific Board, said in October. ”This figure represents more than twice the overall rate of laboratory findings for a single drug than any of the substances on the (WADA) prohibited list.”

The study showed that the use of mildronate wasn’t clustered in any particular sport and was “found in a wide range of samples.”

“The PCC is proud to have funded a research project last year that showed the prevalence of the use of mildronate for performance-enhancing effects,” PCC Executive Director Michael Pearlmutter told USA TODAY Sports in an email. “The research study results were shared with the WADA and this substance placed on the 2016 prohibited list. This is the goal of the PCC, to be able to provide a flexible research funding process for scientists where results can better inform the world anti-doping community and protect clean athletes.”

Sharapova told reporters Monday that she takes responsibility for the positive test. She said mildronate had been prescribed by a doctor and she was taking it for a magnesium deficiency.

After the press conference, Sharapova attorney, John Haggerty, said “a positive drug test could result in a ban of up to four years” from the International Tennis Federation. But he added that “mitigating circumstances can lead to the elimination of a ban altogether. … We’re still determining what we are going to request of them. I’ve asked them to have a cooperative process.”


The Unstoppable Warriors

Warriors continue to make history, set home win streak record

, USA TODAY Sports 2:28 a.m. EST March 8, 2016

OAKLAND – Considering the Golden State Warriorsplay in a building known as Oracle Arena, you’d think someone might have seen this coming.

But rest assured, no one – not even the great Apollo or the modern day version, the great Nate Silver – had a crystal ball that predicted anything like this.

The once-futile Warriors, who just four years ago missed the playoffs for the 17th time in a stretch of 18 seasons, set the NBA record for consecutive home regular season wins on Monday by way of a 119-113 decision over the Orlando Magic. It was their 45th consecutive regular season victory on their home floor, surpassing the previous mark of 44 set by the very same 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who hold the holy grail of regular season records (72-10) that the Warriors continue to chase.

The latest Warriors home win was like most of those that came before, with reigning MVP Stephen Curry dominating (41 points on 14 of 24 shooting overall, seven of 13 from three-point range) and the game one-sided for much of the night. The Magic made the locals nervous late, cutting the lead to two with 1:13 remaining before Klay Thompson buried a frantic three-pointer from the right corner to help Golden State pull away. It improved the Warriors to 56-6 overall, meaning they’re still on pace to catch those Bulls for the overall mark (they were 55-7 at this point back then).

“Remarkable by our players over these last two years,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “The effort and the consistency it takes to do that. Pretty amazing. There are so many games where the ball could bounce either way and we definitely had some of those during the streak. (They) could have lost several times last year and could have lost tonight very easily. We keep putting ourselves in position to win games and dominate our home floor and I’m really proud of our guys for that.”

Yet even if the Warriors had slipped up along the way, the indisputable reality is that they’re nearly impossible to beat at home. Consider the following…

  •  Their last home loss in the regular season came on Jan. 27, 2015 to the Chicago Bulls in overtime (113-111). Golden State had won 19 consecutive home games coming in, meaning they have now won 64 of their last 65 regular season games at home. During that same span, they have suffered 13 losses on the road (while winning 42).
  • Lest the Warriors even think about letting up, there’s this: the 53-10 San Antonio Spurs have won 39 consecutive games at the AT&T Center, with their next chance to extend the streak on Thursday against Chicago. What’s more, they host the Warriors on March 19 (and again on April 10).
  • The Warriors’ second longest regular season home winning streak is 19, set early in the 2014-15 campaign (it’s the 62nd longest overall, according to basketball-reference.com). The franchise’s third longest such streak is 15, set in the 1989-90 season (it’s the 122nd longest overall).

But this record hardly came easy, as there were a number of close calls for the Warriors along the way that nearly changed the course of hoops history.

  • Nov. 14, 2015 – The Warriors beat Brooklyn 107-99 in overtime, but only because the Nets’ Brook Lopes blew it in regulation. The big man missed a wide-open jumper late, and later said, “I don’t know what to say about that. (Nets teammate Joe Johnson) put it on a platter, and I just – I blew it.”
  • Jan. 2, 2016 – The Warriors beat Denver 111-108 in overtime, with Curry (who missed the previous two games with a lower left leg injury) sitting out the entire second half after re-injuring the leg. Warriors forward Draymond Green helps save the day with a 29-point, 17-rebound, 14-assist outing.
  • March 1, 2016 (last Tuesday, to be more specific) – The Warriors, playing without Curry yet again (left ankle) beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-105 in overtime. Warriors guard Klay Thompson was the high scorer for the game with 26 points, but he hit just 8 of 27 shots from the field.

For the sheer fun of it, here’s a look at a few things that were happening back when the Warriors last lost a regular season home game (again, that was Jan. 27, 2015).

  •  Riley Curry, the first of two daughters for Curry and his wife, Ayesha, was still some six months away from global fame (her repeated appearances in playoff postgame interviews were key on this front) and seven months away from her third birthday. She’ll be four in July.
  •  Recent Warriors addition Anderson Vareajo was not only still with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he was just one month into rehab for his torn Achilles tendon and more than eight months away from returning to the floor. He missed the entire Finals matchup between the Warriors and Cavs.
  •  Warriors reserve guard Ian Clark, then a member of the Utah Jazz, tallied an assist and two personal fouls in four minutes of playing time of a 127-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks.


Grizzlies Keep up and Win Even Though so Many Hurt

Grizzlies subs shock Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Tony Allen scored a season-high 26 points and the Memphis Grizzlies, despite playing without four injured starters, stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-103 on Monday night.Vince Carter made four free throws in the final 13.4 seconds to steal the upset by a Memphis team that had more coaches than players sitting on the bench.

Lance Stephenson added 17 points and JaMychal Green 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who forced the Cavs into a season-high 25 turnovers and never backed down against the Eastern Conference’s top team. Allen was back after missing eight games with a knee injury for Memphis, which only dressed eight players.

LeBron James scored 28 points and Kyrie Irving had 27 _ 14 in the fourth _ for the Cavaliers. James also moved passed Hall of Famer John Havlicek into 13th place on the NBA’s career scoring list.


Anti-Trump Groups Think He Might Be ‘Peaking’

They’re pouring money into key states 
By Newser Editors, Newser Staff Posted Mar 7, 2016 1:23 PM CST
 (NEWSER) – Ted Cruz’s relatively strong performance in Saturday’s GOP contests has raised a host of questions about the Republican race going forward, much of them centering on Donald Trump. Some highlights:
  • The New York Times details how anti-Trump groups are pouring millions into TV ads in key states amid “nascent signs that he may be peaking with voters.”
  • NBC News lays out why Trump’s lead of 87 delegates is weaker than it appears.
  • A post at Hot Air explains that a closer look at Saturday’s results shows that Trump didn’t under-perform at all; the key is that Cruz surged largely at the expense of Marco Rubio.
  • One thing for sure: Trump is scrambling an Electoral College map that has been stable over the past four presidential elections. Politico digs in.
  • On a similar note, the AP says that if Trump is the nominee, his path to a general election win “would be a GOP map unlike any in recent years.” Think working class, white voters in traditionally blue states.
  • Cruz says multiple media outlets have told him they’ve got big exposés ready on Trump, but don’t plan to run them until June or July, reports Talking Points Memo.
  • In the arena of Trump rivals, a Cruz super PAC is going after Rubio aggressively in the senator’s home state of Florida, hoping to secure a potentially campaign-crippling defeat, reports Politico.


Peyton retires

Emotional Peyton Manning officially retires after 18 seasons

Jeff Legwold ESPN Staff Writer 3/7/16

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Saying the time was right, an emotional Peyton Manning thanked family, friends and former teammates, coaches and opponents Monday as he ended his historic NFL career.

After taking a few moments to compose himself, Manning opened his remarks to a packed meeting room with a recollection of his first pass, first touchdown and first game as a pro. And he recalled meeting Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas during that rookie season.

“I had a chance to shake Johnny Unitas’ hand and he said, ‘Peyton, you stay at it,'” Manning said. “Well, I have stayed at it, I stayed at it for 18 years. And I hope old No. 19 is up there, with his flattop and maybe his black high-tops on and I hope he knows that I have stayed at it.

“There’s just something about 18 years; 18 is a good number, and today I retire from pro football.”

In just under 13 minutes, Manning also tried to thank two NFL cities and two franchises, as well as the University of Tennessee, and he tried to sum up his 18 seasons, five MVP awards, two Super Bowl wins and a pile of records.

And he even signed off with an “Omaha.”

Manning said he called each of his former coaches over the past few days — Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, Jim Caldwell and John Fox — and he spoke to Broncos coach Gary Kubiak. Manning said later he had called each of the coaches in the order in which he had played for them.

Manning also told a story about his daughter Mosley asking him if Super Bowl 50 was “the last game.”

“Yes, Mosley it’s the last game of the season,” Manning said. “Then she asked, ‘Daddy, is this the last game ever?’ And that’s just when I shook my head in amazement because I was thinking, ‘Mort and Adam Schefter had gotten to my 5-year-old daughter to cultivate a new source.'”

All in all, it was a celebration of Manning’s four years with the Broncos and 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, as well as an appreciation of his Hall of Fame career. Broncos CEO/team president Joe Ellis, executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway and Kubiak all spoke before Manning. A short tribute video was also shown in an invitation-only gathering in the team meeting room at the Broncos’ complex.

Ellis opened the event, calling it “an historic day” and said Manning had “made our team better, made our organization better and made our community better.” Ellis added he “looked forward” to Manning’s induction into the team’s Ring of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There is a five-year waiting period for both.

“I revere football, I love the game,” Manning said. “So, you don’t have to wonder if I’ll miss it. Absolutely, absolutely I will … there were players who were more talented, but there was no one who could out-prepare me.”

More than a dozen of Manning’s former teammates were in attendance — 13 posed for a picture with Manning — and several times there was applause during Manning’s remarks.

Manning closed the speech — which he said he had rehearsed only two or three times — with a reference to a scripture (2 Timothy 4:7).

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” Manning said. “Well, I fought the good fight, I’ve finished my football race and after 18 years, it’s time. God bless all of you and God bless football.”

Brother Eli wasn’t able to attend Monday’s news conference because he has been battling a stomach bug. In comments distributed by the Giants, he said he was “happy” for his brother.

“I am happy, obviously, for him winning a championship and getting to go out being happy about how the last season ended. You don’t get to have those feelings very often, to end your football career on a positive note. It is special. I am happy that he was able to kind of go out on his own terms.

“I know it was tough for him, but I’m proud of the way he handled today. I thought he did a great job up there in his speech. You could see that it’s going to be tough for him, but I think it is good timing and he’s getting out at the right time.”

Manning retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (539), passing yards (71,940) and quarterback wins (186, tied with Brett Favre). After he signed in Denver in 2012 as perhaps the greatest catch of the free-agency era, his four-year run with the Broncos resulted in four AFC West titles, 50 regular-season wins and two Super Bowl trips, including the Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers last month in Super Bowl 50.

Manning, who will turn 40 later this month, was a Super Bowl MVP, a 14-time Pro Bowl selection and a seven-time first-team All-Pro. His teams made the playoffs in 15 of his 18 seasons, and he reached the 4,000-yard passing mark in 14 seasons.

In the Broncos’ record-setting 2013 season, when they scored a single-season record 606 points — the first time in league history a team topped 600 — Manning set single-season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55). It was the second time Manning threw for at least 49 touchdowns (2004 was the first) — a mark reached only one other time in NFL history (Tom Brady in 2007).

Manning’s retirement follows what he has often said was the “most unique” season of his career. He missed seven starts with a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel. In November, Manning had a cast on his left foot. In December, he was running the scout team, and by January, Kubiak had put him back in the lineup for one more playoff run.

 At one point, Manning did address the lawsuit filed by a group of women alleging that the University of Tennessee violated Title IX regulations and created a “hostile sexual environment” with an attitude of indifference toward assaults by student-athletes.

The Tennessee lawsuit alleges that in 1996, when Manning was the Volunteers’ quarterback, he placed his genitals on the face of a female athletic trainer while she was examining him for an injury. Manning has denied that he assaulted the trainer, saying instead that he was “mooning” a teammate. Manning was never the subject of a police investigation in the incident.

“First off, this is a joyous day, nothing can overtake this day,” Manning said. “Sad that some people don’t understand the truth and the facts. I did not do what has been alleged. I am not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19 years old. And kind of like my dad used to say when I was in trouble, ‘I can’t say it any plainer than that.’ So this is a joyous day, it’s a special day and as Forrest Gump said, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.”’


Overton Park issue not settled yet, as players meet and questions remain

By Ryan Poe of The Commercial Appeal

Heading into a mediation meeting Tuesday, the Overton Park Conservancy was still unsure whether a City Council vote last week took away its management control of the park’s greensward.

The council voted 11-1 on March 1 to let the Memphis Zoo use the grassy area near Rainbow Lake for overflow parking, but conservancy chairman Ray Pohlman said in a statement Monday that there are “inconsistencies” in the resolution’s exhibits that raise “a number of practical and legal questions.”

Among the practical questions: Who mows the grass? Who schedules events on the greensward? Who pays to have the litter picked up?

But the legal question of who ultimately controls the greensward could mean that lawsuits filed by the zoo and conservancy will remain on ice for now — even though Worth Morgan and other council members said they voted for the resolution to resolve the lawsuits. The zoo filed a lawsuit in January seeking court affirmation that it controls the greensward, prompting the conservancy to countersue.

Those questions will be addressed in the first joint mediation meeting between the zoo and conservancy at 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Pohlman, who is also vice president at AutoZone.

“Right now, we have no intention of dropping our countersuit, and won’t until we see how the mediation goes,” he said.

The mediation is closed to the public and the discussion is meant to be confidential.

Zoo CEO Chuck Brady said the council’s resolution, as far as the zoo is concerned, settled the controversy over the greensward.

Meanwhile, zoo and conservancy board members are still working for a solution through back channels, including an unofficial meeting Saturday at the Starbucks on McLean.

The attendees were Gary Shorb, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare CEO and conservancy board member; retired Mid-America Apartment Communities CEO and founder George Cates who, with Shorb, helped found the conservancy and sits on the board; and zoo board member and Monogram Foods CEO Karl Schledwitz.

Schledwitz also discussed the parking Sunday with former city Chief Administrative Officer Jack Sammons, who married into the family of Diane Smith, co-chairwoman of the zoo board. Sammons said he is not involved in any official capacity.

In an email Monday, Shorb said the group had a “conversation about options” for zoo parking, “subject to a transparent process that will engage all parties.” Shorb didn’t immediately respond to a request for information on what options were discussed.

Tina Sullivan, Overton Park Conservancy executive director, said unofficial side meetings have gone on for “quite some time,” and that she encourages board members to keep their lines of communication open with the zoo board.

“It’s not the first meeting, and it probably won’t be the last,” she said.

Over the weekend, protesters lined McLean to direct people to other free parking options in surrounding neighborhoods. Brady said 10,000 people visited the zoo Saturday and another 7,200 visited Sunday, filling up the northern part of the greensward with vehicles.

A few protestors had a “sit-in” on the greensward, preventing some vehicles from parking there, Brady said. Some visitors reported being “harassed” by protestors, but he said no serious clashes were reported.

Meanwhile, Trinity United Methodist Church on Galloway announced it will open its parking lot for free to visitors on Saturdays. Also, the church will host a neighborhood meeting about the issue on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Pastor Jonathan Bratt Carle said he’s worried that the issue is becoming too heated, and is working to promote a more civil debate.

“This weekend was pivotal,” he said. “It took a shift. People started to really get angry.”



Erin Andrews awarded $55 million in civil case over nude video

and , sbarchenger@tennessean.com10:37 p.m. EST March 7, 2016

In a statement, Andrews thanked the jurors and Nashville for support.

The trial often had Andrews in tears and she looked jury members in the eye as they entered the courtroom a final time to deliver their decision after seven hours of deliberation. Minutes later, after the verdict was read, she wiped away tears as she hugged and thanked some of them individually. A court staffer brought her a fresh box of tissues while her parents embraced her legal team.

“The support I’ve received from the people of Nashville has been overwhelming,” Andrews said in a statement posted on her Twitter account shortly after the decision. “I would also like to thank my family, friends and legal team. I’ve been honored by all the support from victims around the world. Their outreach has helped me be able to stand up and hold accountable those whose job it is to protect everyone’s safety, security and privacy.”

Andrews filed the lawsuit about six years ago against Michael David Barrett, a man who secretly recorded her through an altered peephole in her room at Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University in September 2008, and the hotel owner and operator.

She also sued Marriott International, but Circuit Judge Hamilton Gayden dismissed claims against the hotel giant in late January, saying that, among other reasons, the franchisor was not responsible for security at a local hotel.

Jurors found Barrett 51 percent at fault in the case, which would mean he would have to pay 51 percent of the $55 million award. The jury said the hotel owner, West End Hotel Partners, and the hotel management company, Windsor Capital Group, also were at fault and were on the hook for the remaining 49 percent.

Mark Chalos, a Nashville attorney who has been analyzing the Andrews case for The Tennessean, said the decision showed “the jury realized that Ms. Andrews is the victim here and that Nashvillians recognize an injustice when they see it.”

Andrews had sought as much as $75 million in damages. But Chalos and another expert said the verdict represented a significant victory for Andrews, and a stern warning to the hotel industry.

Attorneys for the hotel argued at trial that Barrett alone was to blame for the videos. Andrews’ attorneys argued the hotel staff enabled Barrett by never verifying Barrett’s request for a room adjoining Andrews’ and by allowing Barrett to find her room.

Chris O’Brien, law professor and associate director of the advocacy institute at the University at Buffalo, said the verdict suggested that Andrews’ message resonated.

In an email, O’Brien said the verdict told hotels “that you have to change your procedures.”

“It is a very strong argument for people’s privacy, and it tells hotels that you have to change the type of information that you give out,” he said.

One juror reached by The Tennessean said Andrews’ emotional testimony during the trial was key in deciding the case and understanding the trauma the videos caused. But Terry Applegate, 62, also said jurors considered the message they could send to the hotel industry.

“I’m happy with the result,” Applegate said. “I think it’s important the hotel industry or any public institution that has patrons coming through their doors needs to be aware, and make their security and privacy of utmost concern.”

Hotel groups react

In statements released after the verdict, West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital Group said the safety of their guests was a top priority.

“These acts Mr. Barrett committed serve as a reminder to the hotel industry to review safety and security procedures that ensure a first-rate experience to all guests,” the statement from West End Hotel Partners read.

Patrick M. Nesbitt, CEO and chairman of Windsor Capital Group, apologized for “the unfortunate experience (Andrews) encountered while she stayed at the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt.”

He said the incident “should serve as a call to action for the entire hotel industry to be diligent in ensuring our guests’ safety and privacy.”

Some observers had criticized Dedman’s legal team for deciding to question Andrews on her explosive career success after the videos were leaked.

Dedman said it “was not our argument” that Andrews had benefited from the widely circulated videos. Rather, he said, they were seeking to show that Andrews had not suffered “a serious mental injury.”

“If you had in fact had a serious mental injury you wouldn’t expect a person to be able to maintain the level of performance that Ms. Andrews did,” Dedman said.

Dedman said he was disappointed with the result, but added that the team had not yet decided if they would appeal the verdict.

The trial

The trial began Feb. 22, and the jury heard seven days of testimony. They heard from hotel executives and front desk staff; from hotel safety experts and a social worker and a psychologist; from a former NFL player who worked with Andrews; from the stalker; and from Andrews and her parents.

Andrews described in two days of testimony how the videos going viral on the Internet in July 2009 turned her into a shell of her former self, and how she has devoted herself to her career as a way to cope and prove she is a professional, not the woman known for the peephole scandal.

Barrett tried to sell the videos to celebrity gossip website TMZ but was turned down. He then posted them online.

Andrews was unaware of the videos until July 2009, when they began spreading around the Internet like wildfire, and on the day she had been auditioning for “Dancing with the Stars.” She now works for Fox Sports and co-hosts the dance competition show on ABC.

According to trial testimony, in just six years the videos were watched more than 16.8 million times.

In a brief statement after the verdict, Bruce Broillet, a California attorney on Andrews’ legal team, said Andrews “has shown phenomenal courage in standing up for security, safety and privacy.”

“She is a true American hero, and I think we all know it and love her for it.”


Congrats to our friend Jen Andrews

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy names new director

Updated: Yesterday 3:27 p.m.   By Jennifer Pignolet of The Commercial Appeal

Jen Andrews had her heart set on graduate school when she started working at Shelby Farms after graduating from Rhodes College in 2006 to earn money to pay for her Ph.D. program.

She loved the park and her work so much that she stayed and, 10 years later, was named the executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, the park announced Monday.

“I think that the next phase of work at Shelby Farms Park is about delivering on all the promises we’ve made and the dreams that we’ve dreamed,” Andrews said.

Andrews, 32, is the director of development and communications for the conservancy. She was the first employee hired at the conservancy, then called the Shelby Farms Park Alliance, in 2006.

Her appointment comes as the 4,500-acre park in East Memphis is in the midst of a $52 million “Heart of the Park” project, including a new visitor’s center, expanded Patriot Lake, picnic pavilions, an events stage, boat house, restaurant and event center. Construction is expected to be completed late this summer.

Andrews was responsible for raising the money for the project, and will now oversee its completion and transition to what she labeled more as a business operations role. The park will have a larger capacity for major events like weddings, she said, along with boat and bike rentals and the restaurant.

She will also oversee a staff of about 30, who learned of Andrews’ appointment in a staff meeting Monday afternoon. Her appointment as executive director is effective March 21. She replaces Laura Morris, who announced her retirement last year but said she would stay on through the transition.

Tom Grimes, chairman of the conservancy’s board of directors, said in a statement the park “deserves a world-class executive director.”

“We are very pleased that the best candidate turned out to be the park’s own Jen Andrews,” Grimes said. “Her knowledge of the park is unrivaled, and her thoughtful, inclusive, and transparent leadership style is well-suited to lead Shelby Farms Park as the country’s next great urban park.”

An English major from Marianna, Arkansas, Andrews said she never realized until she moved to Memphis that some children don’t grow up with the wilderness in their backyard, or even a lawn. In her work at the park, Andrews said she’s “trying to instill a sense of ownership and pride to tell (children) that this is theirs.”

Her ambition was for doctorate studies in post-colonial literature. But she deferred graduate school for a year to earn money working for Shelby Farms.

“I loved it so much that after a year I called the program back and said I need one more year and then I’ll come,” she said.

The next year?

“I called and said I’m not coming. I found a new dream,” she said.

Andrews, who lives with her long-time partner, Marc in Cooper-Young, said she expects comments to be made about her appointment to an executive director position at such a young age.

“I’ve been at it hard for 10 years,” the self-proclaimed “old-soul” said. “I don’t feel particularly young.”


Cardinals sell Redbirds to New York businessman

Posted: Yesterday 3:44 p.m. By Phil Stukenborg of The Commercial Appeal

The St. Louis Cardinals sold a majority interest in their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, to New York businessman Peter B. Freund in a deal that was announced Monday by the Cardinals. The transaction requires Pacific Coast League approval, which could come early next month according to Redbirds officials.

Freund will be the team’s majority owner in partnership with the Cardinals, who bought the Redbirds in a 2014 deal that also included the city of Memphis taking ownership of AutoZone Park.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he met with Freund and Redbirds general manager Craig Unger Monday. Unger, the Redbirds general manager since April 2014, will be promoted to president and general manager as part of the transaction. Freund said Unger’s leadership the past two years has been “exemplary.”

“They stressed to me that they are committed to Memphis,” Strickland said. “We welcome Peter to our city and look forward to continued success with him as majority owner and Craig as president and general manager.”
No changes are expected to the team’s contract with the city, a Strickland spokesman said. The contract runs through 2030 with two five-year options to follow.

“I think to the average person, they are not going to notice a big difference,” Unger said. “The Memphis Redbirds will still be here. We will still be affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals. And you are still going to see the same great players coming through Memphis.”

Freund, president of Trinity Packaging Corporation, a privately held plastics manufacturer headquartered in Armonk, New York, has significant baseball connections. He’s a minor owner of the New York Yankees, principal owner of the Class A Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League and a co-owner of the Class A Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League.

Freund’s background in minor league baseball will benefit the Redbirds, Unger said.

“Peter brings a minor league baseball perspective to this,” Unger said. “We still have the Cardinals as our partners here, but bringing Peter in gives us a whole new perspective as someone who has operated in minor league baseball. He has a lot of ideas, lots of ideas for promotions and sharing in our vision to become better partners for the community and becoming more local.

“Over time, people are going to see there is going to be an even greater commitment to the community and to AutoZone Park.”

An infusion of ideas and energy could have a favorable impact on attendance. The Redbirds, who routinely finished second or third in the attendance in the 16-team league in the mid-2000s, ranked last in the PCL in 2015. They averaged 4,037 per game, despite significant renovation work at the facility before the 2015 season.

“We are bringing in new energy,” Unger said. “Our vision is to have more fun at the ballpark.”

Bill DeWitt Jr., chairman and CEO of the St. Louis Cardinals, said the major league franchise was not “actively looking to sell a stake in the team.”

“After meeting with Peter we immediately knew that partnering with him would strengthen the Memphis Redbirds and be a win for everyone involved.

“To have someone of Peter’s caliber and track record of success in minor league baseball willing to make this investment further solidifies … baseball in Memphis.”
Freund said he “immediately fell in love with the city of Memphis and the Redbirds” shortly after seeing AutoZone Park and meeting the club’s leadership team.

No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

The Redbirds open the season April 7 at home against Colorado. AutoZone Park will play host to the Triple A Championship Game Sept. 20.


Guest topics this week

This Week on Drake in the Morning

February 29 – March 4, 2016


Tuesday, Kyle Veazey talked about today’s council meeting with 1 issue dealing with regulating public commenting. On the fight between the Zoo and Overton Park, Strickland asked both parties to enter mediation but there has also been a court filing as it’s a battle between the verbiage of each of their contracts. Regarding Mud Island renovation, the RDC will choose and then at some point it will go to the city. He notes how transparent the MPD body cam issue is with the next step being a rollout date this month at 1 precinct. The budget is presented April 19, and he noted the mayor sends weekly newsletters for which the public can sign up. Kyle also discussed the budget in relation to hiring more police officers adding that PSTs will be returning.

Wednesday, Andrew Douglas talked about last night’s Shelby County Election Commission problems at some polling locations. He noted that some people waited 2 hours and some locations only had 2 machines, but “it has become a pattern in Memphis”. The state has been petitioned to take action as state leaders will ultimately have to make the final call. He noted the stories relating the huge number of issues Strickland has with the city needing $60 million regarding police radios and equipment, also PSTs, the parking in Overton Park, MATA, and other issues.

Shea Flinn discussed local issues and Super Tuesday. He explained why he thinks “we’re looking at a party realignment.” He noted Trump is the most liberal, but “it’s the rage that blinds him.” On the issue of parking issue with the Greensward and the Zoo, “had the council known what they were doing (in controlling the Greensward) when the Overton Park Conservancy was created, OPC would have never been created.” On yesterday’s council meeting, the Foote Homes issue (the amassed $30 million HUD grant that the city is supposed to match) was finalized in August although Flinn says the council was unaware until now. He explained different budgets and needs and again noted that the city is providing a level of service and not taxing at the needed rate.

Thursday, attorney Bill Jones gave legal advice while Bruce Van Wyngarden previewed The Flyer. His editorial was about Trump as an ” ‘entertainment-industrial’ complex”. The issue also includes an interview with the Executive Director of the Overton Park Conservancy regarding their parking controversy with the Zoo among other things. Jackson Baker writes about Mayor Luttrell and his upcoming plans, and the Viewpoint deals with Ronald Reagan  and the Republican party as it was then as opposed to now. The cover story deals with a new Memphis outfit “making” meat.

Friday, Reverend Whalum’s commentary was about Donald Trump and this summer’s GOP convention with regard to the intersection of many “roads”. He noted Trump’s antics and the name-calling by Romney and others.