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Monday, August 21, 2006
Hey! Derek digs grapefruit

By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

The Little League World Series is one of the highlights on the sports calendar because it stresses fun and the joy of the game above all else. And nothing illustrates that more than the tidbits of lighthearted, personal information about the players that are sprinkled throughout the broadcasts.

What their hobbies are. Their favorite TV shows. What they want to be when they grow up. Their lucky charm.

Viewers are just as likely to find out a player's favorite food as they are the score of the game.

And I like it that way. In fact, I wish the networks shared that type of personal information during major league broadcasts, too. Why should we know more about the likes and dislikes of some random Little Leaguer than we do about those of famous professionals like Alex Rodriguez or Curt Schilling? It makes no sense.

But we can remedy this starting today. Just minutes after this article appears online, the final game of the Red Sox-Yankees series will begin on ESPN2. In hopes of making the broadcast more interesting, I've taken the liberty of guessing how Yankees and Red Sox players might answer the traditional Little League questions. Now, I can't promise this is exactly what the players would say -- as I didn't actually poll them -- but I'd be surprised if anything below is incorrect.

I just hope my humble suggestion is noted and that the following makes it on air.

Favorite Singer/Musical Artist:
Johnny Damon: "Was Bronson Arroyo. Now it's Bernie Williams."
Curt Schilling: "John Ashcroft."
Gary Sheffield: "Pretty much anyone but R. Kelly."
Manny Ramirez: "The Wiggles."

Hobby:
Bobby Abreu: "Googling all of my girlfriends."
Josh Beckett: "Signing undeserved contract extensions."
Johnny Damon: "Reliving puberty by experimenting with facial hair."

When I grow up, I want to:
Sal Fasano: "Own and operate a leather bar."
Carl Pavano: "Have a surgical procedure named after me like Tommy John."
Keith Foulke: "Be Jonathan Papelbon."

Lucky charm:
Jason Giambi: "I had one, but my attorney says I shouldn't talk about it."
Alex Rodriguez: "I don't have one, but 'lucky charms' happens to be my safe word."
Manny Ramirez: "I eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. Marshmallows are yummy."

Favorite TV show:
Curt Schilling: "Pretty much anything on Fox News."
David Ortiz: "'SportsCenter.' They show every home run I hit."
Alex Rodriguez: "'The Modern Girl's Guide To Life' on the Style Network."

Favorite food:
Sidney Ponson: "Everything."
David Wells: "Anything."
Jason Giambi: "Anything that covers the medicine-y taste of oral steroi ... er, pizza. I'll go with pizza."
Brian Cashman: "I can't remember because I haven't been allowed to eat anything but gruel ever since we lost the 2001 World Series."
Cory Lidle: "Ice cream."
Derek Jeter: "Chilled grapefruit. Because along with clean oak moss and spice, it combines to make the scent of my new cologne: Driven by Derek Jeter."
Manny Ramirez: "Paste. And my boogers."

Person I would like to meet:
Theo Epstein: "The Josh Beckett who pitched for the Marlins."
Coco Crisp: "Johnny Damon. Everyone who boos me says I need to be more like him."
Curt Schilling: "I wish it was possible to meet myself because I bet it's totally awesome to meet me."

Headlines ...

Tiger Woods' latest major title disappoints hard-core Walter Hagen fans

Junior Seau surprised how much the NFL has changed since he retired

Holyfield, Barbaro to fight to the death

Reds making run at NL Central lead with red-hot 5-5 stretch

LLWS team looking to acquire a pitcher; not a belly-itcher, as previously reported

Three Things I Thought I Thought While Secretly Putting EPO in Marion Jones' Blood ...

1. The Yankees really blew it this weekend. Sure, they won four straight over Boston at Fenway Park to increase their lead in the AL East to a seemingly insurmountable 5½ games, but everyone knows that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. All the Yankees did by knocking the Red Sox starters out early in the first three games of the series was give the Boston rotation more time to rest for the stretch run. Real swift, Joe Torre. You were out-managed. Again.

2. As great as the Little League World Series is, it's not real Little League baseball. Every kid in the tournament can run, throw, hit and catch -- meaning the players are missing out on the true Little League experience the rest of us had. Give all these teams a right fielder who is more likely to flee from balls hit in his direction than run toward them. Throw in an infielder who cries every time he gets up to bat for fear of getting plunked by a 38-mph fastball. And add a fat kid who can't run to first without dropping to his knees due to an exercise-induced asthma attack. Now that's a real Little League team. (It's also, coincidentally, a pretty strong National League wild-card contender.)

3. The surgeon who operated on Barbaro's broken leg is leaving the Kentucky Derby champion's side to operate on a polar bear from the Erie (Pa.) Zoo that recently broke its leg -- which means I suppose for the sake of consistency I have to start writing a bunch of "get well" letters to this bear just like I did to Barbaro. But I'm kind of conflicted about it, to be honest. First of all, I'm not sure this bear deserves my compassion. Has he ever won a race on television, cheered on by rich ladies in big hats? I doubt it. I've never heard of a bear race, let alone one that was televised. Plus, Barbaro still hasn't responded to any of the letters I sent him, which makes me kind of apprehensive to spill my heart out to an animal again and risk getting nothing in return. (Barbaro, if you're by chance reading, know that you've hurt me. You've hurt me to my soul.) And then there's the sneaking suspicion I have that polar bears can't even read.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He is also a regular contributor to ESPN the Magazine and Fantasy Sports Monthly, and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- will be in stores soon.