BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOWCASE OF THE QUEEN CITY
BEST HOPE FOR MLS PRO SOCCER IN CINCY
In early April, the United Soccer League’s newest team, FC Cincinnati, will take the field for its first home game at the University of Cincinnati’s recently renovated Nippert Stadium. The 24-team United Soccer League currently serves as the third tier of soccer leagues in the USA, behind only Major League Soccer and the North American Soccer League. With funding backed by Carl Lindner III and president/GM duties being handled by the well-connected Jeff Berding (recent Bengals director of sales and public affairs/former Cincinnati City Councilman), this new franchise is for real. Nippert will be configured to seat up to 10,000 for FC Cincinnati matches, and the new local club will have opportunities to compete against MLS clubs (the team actually won its first-ever contest against an MLS Team, the NYCFC, in February). Don’t be surprised to see FC Cincinnati knocking on the door of MLS sooner rather than later. FC Cincinnati, fccincinnati.com.
BEST PHENOM WHO DEY ALL-PRO HELPING OTHERS
BEST BEARCAT BASEBALL PLAYER ABOUT TO BUST UP THE REDS
Ian Happ was a highly touted high school baseball recruit, earning all the accolades one would expect of a Division I collegiate ballplayer. And he didn’t disappoint when he joined the University of Cincinnati Bearcats — the youngster hit .322 during his freshman year in 2013, adding six home runs, 36 RBI and 25 stolen bases. Happ’s sophomore season saw similar results, but it was his junior year that propelled him to first-round-pick status when he hit .369 with 14 home runs, 44 RBI and 12 stolen bases on his way to multiple first-team All-American honors and a Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger award. Taken with the ninth overall pick by the Chicago Cubs last June, Happ is well on his way to following in the footsteps of fellow UC baseball alumni Kevin Youkilis and Josh Harrison, which means he should be tearing up the Reds in due time.
BEST EPIC MELTDOWN IN THE PLAYOFFS
BEST XAVIER WOMEN’S HOOPS HOMECOMING
Raeshaun Gaffney was one of the country’s most highly touted women’s basketball recruits after her 2012 season at Fairfield High School — the now-5-foot-8 Xavier guard was rated the No. 35 women’s college basketball prospect by Blue Star Basketball back then after averaging 26.7 points and 10 rebounds per game her senior year. After earning a McDonald’s All-American nomination, Gaffney took her talents to the University of Virginia, but after sitting out as a freshman on a medical redshirt year and putting together a decent sophomore season, she decided to transfer back home. UVA’s loss has been X’s gain: Gaffney co-led the Musketeers in scoring this year while leading the team in rebounds. Gaffney and co. will look to improve on the Muskees’ 17-13 regular season record during her senior season this fall. Cintas Center, 1624 Herald Ave., Evanston, 513-745-3900, goxavier.com.
BEST BASEBALL PLAYERS WHOSE NAMES WE'LL LEARN THIS SUMMER
BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO HELP KEEP THE WEST END REDS PLAYING BALL
The West End Reds Knothole youth baseball teams were founded in 2002, and throughout the years they have not been immune to the nationwide decline in youth baseball funding. However, last year, Cincinnati residents, businesses and coaches came together to raise $10,000 to help keep the teams — the Reds’ 5-12-year-old teams and T.S. Bulls’ 13-14-year-old team — equipped with gear and fees needed to play ball. The West End Reds offer more than 100 youngsters the ability to learn life skills and a great way to stay engaged throughout the summer. This year, the program has added a girls’ softball team to its franchise. Help them out — no matter how much or how little you’re able to. Someone will buy you a beer the next time you’re at the bar. That’s how karma works! gofundme.com/westendreds2016.
BEST XAVIER HOOPS TEAM THAT MIGHT GET EVEN BETTER
BEST HIGH SCHOOL WHOSE COACHES KEEP WINNING THE FLYING PIG
BEST BEARCAT RIM-ROCKER TO JOIN THE UC SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Not too long ago, before an evil university president banished coach Bob Huggins and put the men’s basketball program into a tailspin from which it is still climbing out, the University of Cincinnati was a national powerhouse with a bad-boy “hate it or love it” reputation. One of the most dominant players of this era, Danny Fortson, last year joined five other former Bearcats as part of the 2015 class enshrined in UC’s Hall of Fame. As a Bearcat, Fortson became the program’s second all-time leading scorer (now fifth), earned first-team All-American honors and put together a stellar season in 1996-1997 in which he averaged 21.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Fortson went on to enjoy a 10-year NBA career and left UC fans today wishing for the good old days of Bearcat excellence. University of Cincinnati, 2600 Clifton Ave., Clifton, 513-556-4603, gobearcats.com.
BEST SEND-OFF FOR A LEGENDARY REDS EMPLOYEE
BEST BACK-TO-BACK STATE FOOTBALL TITLES
BEST BOOS THAT WOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN
It was a bit embarrassing for the city and Andy Dalton when the Bengals quarterback was booed when introduced at the All-Star Game celebrity softball exhibition. Dalton got his revenge by helping to lead the Bengals to one of the team’s best regular seasons ever, and those “boos” were brought up by TV announcers during seemingly every game. Dalton’s not-boo worthiness was further shown when his broken thumb and unavailability to play the last four games of the season helped keep the Bengals from getting past the first round of the playoffs for seemingly the 100th year in a row. Paul Brown Stadium, 1 Paul Brown Stadium, Downtown, 513-455-4800, bengals.com.
BEST LOCAL GUYS IN THE SUPER BOWL
The Bengals might have watched their Super Bowl dreams slowly drip down the drain against Pittsburgh in January, but two local kids competed on the game’s biggest stage anyway. St. X grad Luke Kuechly and Anderson High School graduate Andrew Norwell were members of a Carolina Panthers team that went 15-1 and entered Super Bowl 50 as a heavy favorite to beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Unfortunately for the local dudes, the Panthers slipped up, and Denver’s vaunted defense helped the nearly geriatric Manning win the title. Here’s to Kuechly and Norwell getting back to Super Bowl 51 if the Bengals can’t do it themselves.
BEST LEGACY OF A LOCAL HERO GONE TOO SOON
BEST WEEKEND TO HONOR THE HIT KING
Pete Rose’s banishment from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is a thorny issue for many baseball fans, especially locals. Now that new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has said he will uphold Pete’s banishment from the Hall, the Reds will go ahead and enshrine him in their version. In what should be an electrifying weekend down at GABP this summer, Pete Rose Weekend June 24-26 will include Rose’s enshrinement in the Reds Hall of Fame, the retiring of his No. 14 jersey and a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the 1976 World Series champion Reds. You should probably get tickets soon, before all three games sell out and you’re sitting at home wondering why you didn’t listen to your genius friends at CityBeat. Great American Ball Park, 100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown, 513-381-7337, reds.com.
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