If you’ve been following closely, I’m guessing over the last few weeks many of you may have noticed a bit of a trend here at Aaron Torres Sports. The trend? Mainly that most my tweets, Instagram updates and commentary have had a decidedly West Coast feel to them. Just since the beginning of August I’ve tweeted pictures from Vegas, USC’s Heritage Hall (home of O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy, of course!) and mentioned a “big life change” in a previous article, so you know something’s got to give, right?
Well, by now you’ve probably put two and two together and realize that I am now living out West. I’ll spare you the boring details and just promise two things: No, I am not on the run from the cops back East, and yes mom, I’m eating well. Truthfully, the move out here basically came down to the fact that I’m young, and I needed a change of scenery for a while. No different than a million other people my age.
At the same time it doesn’t hurt (especially in regards to what it means for this site) that the sports scene out here is, umm, simply epic. Given what I eventually want to do in life (be a national sports columnist, covering the biggest stories and games) there isn’t a better place in America to be right now than the Los Angeles.
Just in the last calendar year, think about all the things that have happened in and around the LA sports scene. In no particular order: Chris Paul got traded to the Clippers (and technically, the Lakers too); Albert Pujols signed with the Angels; the Dodgers were bought by Magic Johnson; the Dodgers also traded for Hanley Ramirez; Matt Barkley decided to come back to USC for his senior year, making the Trojans the preseason favorites to win the BCS National Championship; Jim Mora was hired by UCLA for football, at the very least making them more interesting than they’ve been in years; the top high school basketball recruit in the country, Shabazz Muhammad decided to come to UCLA too; the Kings won the Stanley Cup; Mike Trout has emerged as quite possibly the single greatest rookie in the history of Major League Baseball; oh and by the way, in my first full week here… Dwight Howard got traded to the Lakers!! Name me a city that has had that much action in the last year? You simply can’t and hopefully it kinda makes sense as to why I’ve shifted locations for a little while.
But beyond the mainstream stuff, what makes this city so special is that there are a million other little events going on all the time as well that not as many people know about but are equally interesting none the less. And I’m thankful to say that in my first full weekend in the city, I was able to attend one of them: Baron Davis’ Charity All-Star Kickball game.
Yes, you read that correctly. For the last three summers, Baron Davis has hosted a Celebrity Kickball event, with the benefits going to his charity Rising Stars of America. This year, the kickball game was a culmination of a week’s worth of events around Los Angeles, with the big announcement coming earlier in the week that Davis had opened up the Baron Davis Reading and Learning Center in South Los Angeles. Regardless of what you think of Davis the basketball player, there’s little doubt that the man does a lot of great charity work in the local Los Angeles community.
Now to the good stuff, and if you’re wondering exactly what an All-Star Kickball event is like, well, honestly it’s about what you’d expect. Essentially what it boiled down to was a bunch of athletes and entertainers (many of which you might have heard of, and some you might not have) getting together and goofing off for a few hours… all for a good cause. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, huh?
Since this is mostly a sports website, I’m sure most of you are interested to know which athletes were in attendance, and along with Davis, here were the most prominent ones (many regulars were missing due to the Olympics, by the way): DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers); Chase Budinger (Minnesota Timberwolves); Nick Young (Philadelphia 76ers); J.R. Smith (New York Knicks); Dorrell Wright (Philadelphia 76ers) and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets). Of the celebrities, the most recognizable (at least to me) was Donald Faison, of Clueless fame, and an actor who might be better known where I come from as “My sister’s elementary school crush.” You better believe that when I texted her a picture of Faison, I could practically feel her melting through the phone.
(On a different note, I’m sorry to report that I disappointed all of Kentucky and Big Blue Nation, when I passed on an opportunity to interview Kentucky native Josh Hopkins, of Cougar Town fame. My buddy Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio tipped me off after the fact that Hopkins is a huge UK fan and friend of KSR, meaning I missed a golden opportunity at an easy interview, which I would’ve enjoyed immensely.
So why didn’t I interview Hopkins? Well, to be blunt, I knew who he was, but had no idea that he had any affiliation with Kentucky or with my good friends at KSR. I’m sorry Big Blue Nation. Please forgive me.
And to Drew personally, all I can say is I’m a little disappointed. If you had just let me borrow Season 2 of Cougar Town on DVD like you promised me months ago, maybe all of this embarrassment could’ve been avoided. I’m blaming you.)
Anyway, let’s move on and talk a little bit about the event itself. It actually opened with a pretty cool “red carpet” type thing, where everyone there basically had access to any of the celebrities they wanted to speak with. Obviously most asked the standard questions about the Rising Stars Foundation, helping out in the community and even a little bit on kick ball in general.
Which is great, it really is. Unfortunately, that’s just not me.
Nope, for anyone who knows me, you know that I decided to ask some slightly off-beat and different questions. After all, this is sports and it’s supposed to be fun.
Regardless, here are some of my favorite responses:
When I asked Chase Budinger (a San Diego native who played college basketball in Arizona and has likely never seen a snow flake in his life) what his trade to Minnesota will be like, he started out answering the question diplomatically saying “Everybody says it’s a great city.” He then followed up and added how excited he is to be a part of the Timberwolves organization. You know, the standard stuff.
Of course when I refused to take that as an acceptable answer and pressed him about the cold again, he laughed and said, “Yeah, I need to get myself a big old coat!”
I asked Kenneth Faried about the trade that brought Andre Iguodala to Denver. He too started out answering diplomatically, talking about the role Al Harrington played in mentoring him and how much he will be missed. Which is great, but not totally the answer I was looking for.
So when I again asked him about Iguodala specifically, Faried giggled and said, “Yeah… he’s gonna fit in perfect!” Yeah, that might be the understatement of the century, huh?
DeAndre Jordan on other hand didn’t want to talk basketball and instead was excited to show off his kickball skills.
“My goal is to hit an inside the park home run,” he said.
Hmm, interesting and definitely not the answer I was expecting. I followed up by asking him if the reason he was shooting for an inside the park home run instead of a regular one was so that he wouldn’t embarrass the pitcher.
“Yeah, and I don’t want to make anyone chase the ball over the fence,” he said. “That doesn’t seem right.” What a good guy, huh?
Dorrell Wright was also focused on showing off his kickball skills, telling me that in elementary school “that was my game,” and that he even won a “Golden Boot” award when he was younger.
Naturally I questioned the “Golden Boot” thing, and when I called Wright out on it, he said, “Naw, seriously. Go Google it man!” So far my results have come up empty.
Unfortunately, two of the athletes that I never had a chance to track down were two that I was most looking forward to speaking to, J.R. Smith of the Knicks and the 76ers Nick Young. Smith spent most of his free time on the phone (a conversation for which I would’ve paid any amount of money to hear the other end of, by the way) and as for Young, I was just never able to track him down one-on-one. What I can promise you though, is that as always, his swag was through the roof.
Once the actual game got started, well, as you can imagine it was a little sloppy. Most of the participants admittedly hadn’t played kickball in years, and with 15-20 people per team all on the field at once, there weren’t many gaps to kick the ball into. Meanwhile, because the whole afternoon itself was more “event” than “game” the actual on the field action had constant interruptions, most, for the best reasons possible. My personal favorite was when Matt Barnes’ kids decided to have their own dance-off at home plate. Again, the event was supposed to be fun, and that’s exactly what it was.
On the field, Young was the star of the game, winning the day’s Golden Boot award, much to the disappointment of Wright I’m sure. Speaking of disappointment, I’m sad to report that DeAndre Jordan never did get his inside the park home run.
In the end though Saturday wasn’t about kickball, but instead about giving back to the community. It was something that was accomplished, and something Davis couldn’t have been more grateful for.
“It’s great to do something like this and bring people together, especially people you’ve known for a long time and grew up with,” Davis said. “And to come together for a great cause and to benefit kids throughout the greater Los Angeles community, is a testament to all the people here, all the volunteers.”
It certainly was, and certainly was a fun way to spend my first full Saturday in Los Angeles.
My only hope?
That I get invited back next year.
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