By Mike Tenney
Fall Ball has been going strong on both West University and Bellaire diamonds. The West University Little League is currently playing out its fall ball schedule every Sunday afternoon and early evening. The league is much smaller than its spring counterpart with no playoffs following the end of the regular season schedule.
Teams in the PeeWee 7, PeeWee8, A, AA, Majors and Intermediate League play once a week, and there are some slight changes in how the players are divided up. The A League is for 9-year-olds and Class AA for 10-year-olds while all of the 11 and 12-year-olds play in the Majors divisions with no Triple A League. In the spring, the Intermediate League is for 12 and 13-year-olds but the fall Intermediate League in West University is comprised of 13 and 14-year-olds.
Everybody plays one game a week and practices once a week if they choose to with all the games on Sundays. The last scheduled day of the 2022 WULL fall ball season is set for the week before Thanksgiving on Nov. 20…
With more than 400 young ball players signed up, the Bellaire Little League plays its games Monday through Thursdays each week until the middle of November at the various Little League parks around town with the last games scheduled for Nov. 16.
Teams in five different age groups for players 12-and-under are currently playing and practicing with games taking place in the T-Ball, Rookie, Texas, American League and National League divisions for the league’s oldest players.
They also downsize somewhat in the fall as it is all about the development of players and having them continue to play the game with no League playoffs or All-Star players announced at the end. Teams in the Bellaire Little League do not play on the weekends…
Bellaire resident and former Episcopal HS graduate/standout offensive lineman Donovan Jackson is currently a starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who are favored to win the Big Ten Championship and expected by many to be in the college football playoffs in late December. The five-star recruit who shined for the Knights before choosing to continue his playing career and education in Columbus, Ohio, has been the team’s starting left guard since the year began. After a freshman season in 2021 in which he appeared in all 13 games, Jackson, a true sophomore, was elevated to the first team when spring training began in March. After being with the first team throughout the entire spring, he has since parlayed that part-time role into a full-time position this year and he has three years of eligibility left.
Jackson, who was an OSU Scholar-Athlete last year as a freshman and is majoring in sport industry, had the most experience of all the non-starters returning this year after he played in exactly 100 plays on offense last year for the Buckeyes. Donovan, who was recruited by all the major colleges across the country, is the son of Melanie and Todd Jackson of Bellaire…
Episcopal High School recently welcomed back one of their own when former sports standout Lukas Forsythe joined the Knights’ athletic department as the school’s new sports performance coach. Coach Forsythe’s new job will involve putting together and implementing workouts for students and teams that will be available each day in the fitness center of the Hildebrand Athletic Center.
Forsythe, a 2010 EHS graduate, was a star on both the basketball and baseball teams. He was a starter on the baseball team that won the first of five consecutive Southwest Preparatory conference championships in 2010. After completing high school, he attended West Virginia University where he played for the NCAA Division I Mountaineers’ baseball team in Morgantown for
two seasons. Forsythe graduated from the University of Texas in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health and has worked as a sports performance trainer at Redline athletics, the downtown club, and most recently the Fit Athletic Club in Houston.
He’s the son of Sylvia Forsythe, longtime marketing director of Saks Fifth Avenue, and the late Steve Forsythe, well known in the Bellaire-West University business communities when he worked in marketing and sales for the Examiner Newspaper Group.
St. John’s School graduate Stefan Gustafson is currently in his freshman season on the Rice University football team. The 5-foot-11, 264-pound offensive lineman was competing every day in practice for playing time with the Owls after an excellent high school career with the Mavericks.
Gustafson was a first-team Padilla Poll All-State player as a senior at St John’s, where he did not allow a quarterback sack or pressure and gave up just one sack in three years as a starter for the red-and-white. He was also a first-team All-Southwest Preparatory Conference player his final two years in high school and last year as a senior, he was the Mavericks team captain for head coach Kevin Veltri…
Offensive lineman Tyler Vrabel, the son of Jen and Mike Vrabel, the Tennessee Titans coach who lived in the neighborhood when he was an assistant coach with the Houston Texans, is now a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons after making the team out of training camp.
Whether or not Vrabel, who lists Bellaire as his hometown, will actually get to play this year was up in the air as he was placed on the practice squad injured reserve list last month on Sept. 12. The designation means that Vrabel is on a list for players who have suffered a football injury that makes them immediately unavailable to the team and he must wait at least four weeks before he will be put back on the practice squad or be elevated to 47-man active roster.
Vrabel, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons on July 31 to be a member of their practice squad, was a first-team All-State player at St. Pius X High School his senior year before signing with Boston College. He redshirted in 2018, his freshman season, and then played in 35 games over the next three seasons for the Eagles with starts in 33 of those. He was also an all-ACC honorable mention from 2019 to 2021 and started at both the left and right tackle positions for Boston College.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder is also currently projected to be used at offensive tackle for the Falcons when he returns from the injured reserve list. Vrabel was not selected this past April in the NFL draft but the NFL Network scouts deemed him a priority undrafted free agent who definitely needed to be signed before the season began and the Falcons were his selection…
Tyler Duffey didn’t make it to the New York Yankees active postseason roster after he was released in July by the Minnesota Twins following seven years with the only organization he has ever known.
The Twins, who drafted Duffey out of Rice University in 2012, designated him for assignment on August 5, and Duffey decided to take his release and sign with another organization. And he did just that, inking a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. But after nearly two weeks with their AAA affiliate Round Rock where he made four relief appearances, Duffey opted out of the contract with the Rangers and was promptly signed by the Yankees, who signed him to a minor-league contract and promptly sent him to their AAA team.
Duffey made his major league debut with the Twins in July of 2015 and was primarily a starter that year and in 2016, before he was sent to the bullpen in 2017. The 6-foot-3 right-hander was outstanding in 2019 and the shortened 2020 season, compiling a 2.31 Earned Run Average in nearly 82 innings of work, with a 34.2 strikeout percentage and a low 6.1 walk rate.
But Duffey struggled this year with his 92.3 mph average fastball velocity the lowest since he became a full-time reliever and his 21.1 strikeout percentage rate the lowest of his career since 2018. Also after throwing a first-pitch strike at a nearly 70 percent rate, this year his first pitch strike rate was at 60 percent, the lowest of his career, prompting the Twins to make a decision on his playing career with them after the organization acquired three relievers from other teams just before the MLB trading deadline. He had a 2-4 record with 39 strikeouts in 40 appearances and exactly 44 innings of work this season with the Twins before he was released.
During his time with the Twins, Duffey had a win-loss record of 29-27 with a 4.57 ERA. In 295 games that included 37 starts, Duffy threw exactly 475 innings and had six saves with 466 strikeouts…