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Former Yankees star Derek Jeter, wife welcome first child 

Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was called “The Captain” during his major-league career.

>> Read more trending news

Now he can be called a dad.

Jeter’s wife Hannah gave birth to a girl, Bella Raine Jeter, on Thursday, according to the verified Twitter account of The Players’ Tribune, which was founded by Jeter in 2014.

The Jeters were married in July 2016, and Hannah Jeter announced her pregnancy via a February essay in The Players’ Tribune, Newsday reported.

Jeter, 43, retired from the Yankees in 2014 after a 20-year career. He finished with a franchise-record 3,465 hits and a .310 batting average while leading the Yankees to seven World Series and five titles.

Pitt softball adds Amanda Buchholz to staff

The ex-Husker is known as a defensive and recruiting specialist

Pitt head softball coach Holly Aprile announced on Tuesday that Amanda Buchholz, who most recently served on Ohio State’s coaching staff, will be joining the Panthers as an assistant coach for the 2018 season, according to a press release from the university.

“She brings a wealth of experience in both recruiting and in the day-to-day operations of a Power Five softball program,” Aprile said. “Amanda has a track record for developing top-notch defensive teams and strategies. Without a doubt, she has the experience and expertise to help us continue to build a consistent winning program.”

Buchholz’s defensive prowess goes back to her days as a standout shortstop at Nebraska, during which she led the Cornhuskers to a College World Series appearance in 2002 and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. She eventually became an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), where her team set a program record with a .975 fielding percentage in 2010.

She achieved similar results at Ohio State, as her Buckeyes put up a .969 fielding percentage in 2017 and a .974 fielding percentage in 2016. For comparison, Pitt’s fielding percentage was .975 in 2017, which ranked 16th in the nation. So this addition should allow the Panthers to stay the course in that respect.

With that said, this move doesn’t address two of the more glaring areas of need for the Panthers, such as their .261 team batting average, which ranked an abysmal 201st in the NCAA in 2017, and their 4.11 ERA, which ranked 191st.

If the goal is to catch up to ACC rivals like Florida State (which batted .329 in 2017 with a 1.47 ERA) or even Syracuse (.307 batting average, 3.07 ERA), then the Panthers are going to have to do more to step up their performance at the plate and on the mound.

However, as Aprile noted, where Buchholz could really make a difference is on the recruiting trail, and that’s of vital importance to Pitt.

The Panthers attracted a solid recruiting class after a stellar 37-21 season in 2015, but they quickly regressed. While that 2016 class ranked 14th in the nation, according to FloSoftball, Pitt followed that up with a class that didn’t rank among the top 70 in 2017.

Since then, Aprile has shown improvement by assembling a 51st-ranked 2018 class and a 42nd-ranked 2019 class. But considering conference rivals like Notre Dame, Florida State and Boston College have consistently ranked above Pitt in recruiting, the program still needs to strive for better results.

During Buchholz’s tenure, Ohio State regularly reeled in impressive recruiting classes that ranked among the best in the nation. Its 2018 class is currently ranked 29th by FloSoftball, and 2017’s ranked 33rd.

While recruiting student-athletes at Pitt is traditionally more difficult than it is at Ohio State, if Buchholz can provide the Panthers with even a modest boost in their recruiting efforts, it could give them a leg up on teams like Syracuse and Louisville that haven’t excelled in recruiting lately but have bested Pitt in conference play over the past two seasons.

And with Pitt finishing 10th out of 11 ACC teams in 2017 despite having the seventh-best overall record in the conference, gaining ground on beatable conference opponents should be the goal heading into 2018.

That alone could be the difference between finishing one game above .500 and posting a 30-win season — which is another thing teams coached by Buchholz have a knack for.

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S3 Ep1)

Corey and Jim wrap up the entire summer of Pitt news before football season starts

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett wrap up the entire summer of Pitt news including the NFL Draft, Pitt Football suspensions, the Cam Johnson transfer saga, the NBA Draft, and Heather Lyke's tenure.

We apologize for some brief technical glitches in the opening.

Report: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers in 2018

The idea of LeBron James departing Cleveland again is slowly resembling a possible reality.

>> Read more trending news

NBA reporter Chris Sheridan, who said James was returning to the Cavaliers two days before the announcement, reports James will wear a new uniform for the 2018-19 NBA season.

Kevin O’Connor and Bill Simmons of The Ringer first reported James’ interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers next summer as a free agent. Speculation has taken off since.

James referred to Los Angeles as “home” in a recent tweet, further tossing fuel on the fire. James’ business is based in Burbank.

The consensus best player in the NBA isn’t a stranger to using social media as a medium to convey his feelings. The firing of general manager David Griffin and Kyrie Irving trade request have made the Cavaliers organization look in disarray, correctly or not.

Owner Dan Gilbert and James have reportedly not seen eye-to-eye. Since Gilbert’s letter criticizing James for joining the Heat in 2010, despite James’ return, there’s been a lack of trust between the two, reportedly.

James delivered his promised title to Ohio, but perhaps that gives him an avenue to close out his career elsewhere. But there’s another NBA season to be played, and a lot can change in a year. 

Pitt’s receiving corps begins to take shape

A pecking order appears to be forming among Pitt’s wide receivers

On Wednesday, Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi was asked which wide receivers stood out behind presumed starters Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson, and his answer provided some long-awaited clarity on the situation.

Earlier in camp, freshman Dontavius Butler-Jenkins was a player that was standing out. Only two weeks ago he was being heralded as a player that was ‘going to really help’ the team this year, according to Narduzzi. But now, others have risen to the top, it seems.

“You look at (Rafael) Araujo-Lopes, he has done a great job. He works his tail off. He’s been very consistent, maybe the most consistent of all,” Narduzzi said, according to a press release from the university. “Maurice Ffrench has done a nice job. Those are the guys that stand out to me and are probably the top four at this point.”

This section of the depth chart has been something of a question mark since Tre Tipton went down with a season-ending knee injury in July. Until then, Tipton, who amassed 142 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches last season, was presumed to be Pitt’s No. 3 receiver, leaving only the No. 4 spot in question at that point.

Ffrench seemed to be in the mix for one of the jobs as of last Friday. That day, Narduzzi was asked if the receiver would play a bigger role in the offense with Tipton out, and his answer was fairly unambiguous.

“No question about it,” he said. “Maurice is a great player offensively and defensively, and anytime a guy goes down, it’s that next-guy-up mentality. Whether Maurice beats out Tre Tipton in camp or Tre is not there and the job is there for the taking, Maurice is going to hopefully have a major part in this offense.”

Ffrench also earned himself some praise from Henderson, who described him as “electric” and “another explosive player that you should watch out for this year.”

With that said, it was somewhat surprising that Araujo-Lopes’ name was the first one out of Narduzzi’s mouth Wednesday, since so little had been mentioned about him to that point.

Araujo-Lopes was only involved in nine plays on offense last season in addition to three kick returns. Of course, he also happened to excel in everything he did, averaging 32.7 yards per return, 12 yards per reception and 5.3 yards per carry, so it’s unsurprising that one of his many talents caught Narduzzi’s eye.

Still, considering Narduzzi said on Tuesday that the depth chart had yet to be finalized and this revelation came after the 14th day of training camp, there may be more movement to come. But for now, it’s good to see a few receivers pulling away from the pack with the season opener less than three weeks away.

Ric Flair’s fiancee Wendy Barlow says he is still in critical condition, report says

WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair is in critical condition at an Atlanta-area hospital and has “multiple organ problems,” according to his fiancee, Wendy Barlow.

TMZ Sports reported that Barlow made a post on her personal Facebook page Wednesday saying she took Flair to the hospital Friday and that he had “severe abdominal pain.”

>> Read more trending news

“From that moment on it all seems like a nightmare ... multiple organ problems. Not to go into too many details (but) I want everyone to know he still needs prayers as he is still in critical condition.”

Barlow said she has been by Flair’s side since Friday and will “continue to make sure he is getting the best care possible,” according to a screenshot of the post obtained by TMZ.

Related: WWE legend Ric Flair in medically induced coma

ESPN picked up the report, adding that the update comes after a WWE rep confirmed Tuesday that Flair was in a medically-induced coma as he awaited surgery.

Melinda Morris Zanoni, CEO of Legacy Talent and Entertainment, has not posted any other updates on Flair since tweeting that he underwent successful surgery Monday.

BET founder’s daughter suspended from equestrian competition after Walmart gaffe

A man’s mistake at a Florida Walmart has resulted in a one-year suspension from an equestrian competition for Paige Johnson, the daughter of billionaire BET co-founder Robert L. Johnson.

>> Read more trending news

Johnson will miss the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington because of a failed drug test for her horse. A talented rider, Johnson became the first black American to win a major grand prix in 2015.

Johnson’s horse, Luke Skywalker 46, tested positive for Pramoxine in January at the Winter Equestrian Festival. The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) announced the positive test result for the banned substance in April and Johnson was suspended indefinitely until a final verdict, which was this month.

READ: Johnson first black American to win major grand prix

Sergio Molinero, Johnson’s long-time groom -- the word used to describe a person employed to take care of horses -- went to the store to grab an antibiotic cream to treat small cuts on the horse but accidentally grabbed the one that contained the banned substance, according to an FEI report.

Johnson’s competition includes Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of singer Bruce Springsteen; Georgina Bloomberg, whose father is former New York major Michael R. Bloomberg; Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer; Destry Spielberg, the daughter of director Steven Spielberg; and Eve Jobs, daughter of the late Steve Jobs.

Molinero said he has been Johnson’s groom for the past 15 years and has been working with the horse since they bought it in 2015.

“I was buying the same triple antibiotic we always buy, which is OK under the anti-doping rules,” he said in the report. “I now realize after Paige was able to find my receipt for the purchase that I made a mistake and pulled the wrong tube off the shelf because it looked so much like the one we always use.”

Pramoxine is an anesthetic that is designed to relieve pain and itching and is on the FEI’s banned substances list.

READ: The stunning Jessica Springsteen attends a Wellington fundraiser

Veterinarian John Nolan told the FEI that Johnson is very careful about the treatment of her horses. He said Johnson is “the most careful and ethical rider with whom he had ever worked,” the report said.

Johnson, 31, must also pay a fine of 2,000 Swiss Francs and an additional 3,000 Swiss Francs to cover legal costs. A Swiss Franc is worth just a bit more than one American dollar.

Her suspension will be up in April 2018.

Johnson has been a competitive equestrian rider since she was a child, competing all over the world.

Pitt Softball: Q&A With McKayla Taylor

August is an exciting month if you’re a fan of America’s past time. Is there anything that captivates even the most casual of sports fans more than the Little League World Series, which ramps up at the end of the week?

At the professional level, some teams are jockeying for position in their respective divisions after last months trade deadline. Others will be calling up promising young prospects over the next month or so in hopes of getting a glimpse into their future.

While the Women’s College World Series ended over two months ago, the Pittsburgh Panthers are already gearing up for next spring. I had the opportunity to ask senior shortstop McKayla Taylor a few questions about what we can expect from Pitt in 2018.

Q1: What are you currently doing in the offseason to prepare for your senior season?

“This offseason I have been doing whatever needs to be done in order to put myself in the best position to get better for the team. Whether it's taking ground ball reps or consistently going through the drills Coach Holly individually gave us to help improve our offensive and defensive game. Along with the drills on the field, I have made sure I kept up with our lifting and conditioning schedule that we were given because I feel that is a very important factor in order to excel on the field.”

“Aside from the physical aspect, I have been reflecting a lot on the mental and leadership aspect of my game. Just taking the time to figure out what areas I need to improve on and how I can come out this season a better leader and teammate.”

Q2: As a senior, are you looking to add more facets to your game or at this point is it just polishing the skills you have?

“Even though I am a senior, I feel there is always room for growth. With that being said, I have the mindset of going out to work every day to improve every aspect of my game. I will be ready to do whatever is needed of me that is best for the team.”

Q3: As a shortstop but also a consistent hitter, would you rather go 0-4 in a game or commit an error in the field?

“While both of these sound like a very unproductive game, throughout the years I have come to learn that an 0-4 day at the plate or committing an error at shortstop doesn't always mean you didn't contribute that game or didn't improve either. Even if you go 0-4, it doesn't mean you didn't have productive at-bats or have a quality at-bats as we like to call them. We are taught to not look at how many errors we commit or our batting average for that game. As long as you are failing forward and learning from these mistakes.”

Q4: What can we expect from the Panthers this upcoming season?

“This upcoming season the Panthers are ready to build on the things that didn't quite go our way last season and just come out ready to compete at our full potential. Expect us to be work hard day in and day out in order to reach our goals that we talk about together as a team and work to figure out how we can achieve them. We know what we need to do to get things done moving forward and I am excited for what this season has in store for us.”

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author @Stephen_Gertz

WWE legend Ric Flair in medically induced coma

Following news that wrestling legend and two-time WWE hall of famer Ric Flair is “dealing with some tough medical issues,” ESPN reported that he is now in a medically induced coma, as confirmed by a WWE representative.

>> Read more trending news

On Sunday, Melinda Morris Zanoni, the CEO of Legacy Talent LLC, Flair’s talent agency, asked for prayers on Twitter.

On Saturday, Zanoni said Flair was in the hospital for routine monitoring.

“No reason 2 (sic) panic,” she tweeted.

Flair was taken to an intensive care unit  near his Atlanta home over the weekend

The coma was induced as Fair awaits surgery. 

The “Nature Boy,” 68, was hospitalized for heart-related issues.

Seahawks' Michael Bennett sits during anthem: 'It's about being a human being'

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett on Sunday said he sat Saturday as the national anthem played before his team’s preseason game against the Chargers in Los Angeles because he wanted to use his platform to stand against injustice.

>> Read more trending news

Bennett told reporters he sat to send a message about racial inequality and that the deadly clashes between protesters and counterprotesters Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, played a role in his decision.

“I just want to see people have the equality that they deserve, and I want to use this platform to continuously push the message of that,” he said. “It’s more about being a human being at this point.”

Bennett sat on the bench with a towel over his head Sunday while the rest of the Seahawks locked arms during the anthem — as they did all of last season — ESPN reported.

The Seahawks were in Los Angeles on Saturday, taking on the Chargers in both teams’ preseason opener.

>> Related: Trump condemns KKK, white supremacists days after deadly Charlottesville attack

Bennett’s former Seahawks teammate, current Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, did not stand on Saturday when the national anthem played before the Raiders took on the Arizona Cardinals.

After that game, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio told reporters that he had spoken to Lynch about not standing.

>> Related: Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch sits during national anthem

“He said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself.’ I said, ‘So you understand how I feel. I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem. But I’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing; we’ll do ours.’ So, that’s a nonissue for me.”

>> Related: This is not my Charlottesville. Hate doesn't win in my hometown.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first to draw attention for his failure to stand for the anthem, although the first time he did so, last preseason, it didn’t get much notice.

Later in the 2016 preseason, he told NFL Media that he was “not going to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he told NFL Media. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

>> Related: Who is James Alex Fields Jr., suspect in deadly Charlottesville car attack?

Bennett refused to stand one day after protesters clashed in Charlottesville. Police said 20-year-old James Alex Fields, described by a former teacher as a fan of Adolf Hitler, slammed a car into two stopped vehicles and protesters opposing a white nationalist rally on Saturday. The attack killed one woman, identified by police as 32-year-old Heather Heyer, and injured 19 others.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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