Teen baseball player dies after collision at second base

BATH, Mich. — A teenage baseball player has died nearly two weeks after he was knocked unconscious during a collision at second base.

Cooper Gardner, a junior at Bath High School, died Sunday at home, the Lansing State Journal reported.

“I never would have thought it would lead to this,” said junior varsity coach Michael Collins.

The school said on Facebook that Cooper suffered a brain injury on April 21 during a game between Bath and Portland St. Patrick.

Cooper was trying to catch the ball and tag a runner at second base when he was struck in the head in a collision, Collins said.

A GoFundMe page described it as a “freak accident.”

“I’ve never witnessed something like that,” Collins said. “You just always read about things going wrong, but you never think it’s going to be one of your kids.”

Browns sign veteran DT Damion Square, formerly with Chargers

CLEVELAND — The Browns bulked up their defensive line Tuesday, signing veteran tackle Damion Square.

Square spent the past seven seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. The 32-year-old hasn’t missed a game the past four years.

Cleveland’s interior was getting thin following the departure of Larry Ogunjobi as a free agent and Sheldon Richardson’s release in a salary-cap move. 

But general manager Andrew Berry addressed the inside depth by signing free agent Malik Jackson, drafting Ohio State’s Tommy Togiai in the fourth round and now signing Square.

On Monday, the team signed former Florida State standout Marvin Wilson as well as Malik McDowell, the No. 35 overall selection in 2017 by Seattle whose career has been sidetracked by serious legal trouble that included serving jail time.

After going undrafted out of Alabama, Square began his NFL career in 2013 with Philadelphia. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie and bounced between the Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs for the first half of 2014 before joining the Chargers.

In 2018, Square had three sacks and started a career-high 11 games.

Square’s signing brings the Browns roster to 90 players.

Ravens sign free agent OT Villanueva away from Steelers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have signed two-time Pro Bowl tackle Alejandro Villanueva to a two-year deal on Tuesday.

The long-time starter for the division-rival Steelers, Villanueva was not re-signed by Pittsburgh.

A graduate of West Point, Villanueva spent six seasons with the Steelers, playing in 96 games with 90 starts. He has the second-longest active streak among NFL tackles with 96 consecutive games players and has started every game over the past five seasons.

The Ravens also took Ben Cleveland in the third round last week in the draft as they look to improve their offensive line.

Baylor names WNBA’s Collen to replace Mulkey for Lady Bears

WACO, Texas — WNBA coach Nicki Collen has been hired as the new Baylor women’s coach, taking over a program that has won three national championships and the last 11 Big 12 regular season titles.

Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades made the announcement Monday night. Collen, who had coached the Atlanta Dream the past three seasons, replaces Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey and will be formally introduced Wednesday on the Waco campus.

“Nicki is a passionate leader of young women and an elite basketball mind and teacher of the game,” Rhoades said. “She is a great mission fit who shares in our vision of Preparing Champions for Life by commanding excellence both on and off the court. Nicki’s professional experience will be invaluable to developing players for the next level. Her addition sustains our commitment to the women’s basketball program at the highest level.”

Mulkey left Baylor last month after 21 seasons to return to her home state to take over at LSU. The SEC campus is only about 50 miles from Tickfaw, Louisiana, where Mulkey grew up.

Collen was the 2018 WNBA coach of the year in her first season with the Dream, when they went 23-11 and made it to the league semifinals. She was 38-52 overall in Atlanta, after two seasons as an assistant for the WNBA’s Connecticut franchise.

Capitals’ Wilson fined $5K for roughing Rangers’ Buchnevich

Washington’s Tom Wilson was fined but not suspended for his actions during a post-whistle scrum in New York, an outcome the Capitals are ready to move on from and the Rangers feel isn’t sufficient punishment for one of hockey’s most polarizing players.

The NHL fined Wilson $5,000 Tuesday for roughing Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich during the second period of a game Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

The fine is the maximum allowable for the incident under the collective bargaining agreement, and Wilson was not disciplined for throwing Artemi Panarin to the ice moments later.

New York’s Ryan Strome called it a “joke” and said he thought “the league missed one here big time.” The team’s statement was even stronger, calling Wilson’s behavior a “horrifying act of violence” and targeting NHL senior vice president of player safety George Parros for his inaction.

“Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely,” the Rangers said.

“Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL Head of Player Safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.”

Wilson was given a double-minor penalty for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. The fine represents 0.12% of Wilson’s $4.1 million salary for this season.

Jimmie Johnson to make Indy 500 debut - for NBC Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmie Johnson will make his first Indianapolis 500 start this year after all — with the television crew, not on the racetrack.

NBC Sports said Tuesday it will use Johnson for studio coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on both race day and qualifying weekend.

The seven-time NASCAR champion is now an IndyCar rookie running only the road and street courses, a decision that has sidelined Johnson for the four ovals on the schedule including the Indianapolis 500. He’s never before attended an Indy 500.

“To say I am excited for May in Indianapolis is an understatement,” Johnson said. “I absolutely cannot wait to take it all in.”

Johnson made his IndyCar debut last month in Alabama and has completed two races on the schedule. He races the road course at Indianapolis on May 15 and then will transition into a television analyst for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Johnson will work from the “Peacock Pit Box” alongside NBC Sports analyst Steve Letarte, who also will be making his Indy 500 debut. Letarte primarily works on NBC’s NASCAR coverage and earlier this season returned to his old job as Cup crew chief for one race with Spire Motorsports.

Man City ousts PSG to reach first Champions League final

MANCHESTER, England — Riyad Mahrez scored twice to complete Manchester City’s journey to a first Champions League final with a 2-0 victory eliminating Paris Saint-Germain 4-1 on aggregate on Tuesday.

After beginning City’s fightback in Paris last week, Mahrez took only 11 minutes to score in the semifinal second leg when he put the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Keylor Navas on a field covered in the remnants of a spring hailstorm.

The Paris-born forward completed a counterattack in the 63rd that began with a surging run with Phil Foden and combination with Kevin De Bruyne.

PSG lost its cool and composure, finishing the game with 10 men just like in the first leg after Angel Di Maria was sent off with 20 minutes to go for kicking at Fernandinho.

PSG missed out on a second shot at lifting a first European Cup after losing last season’s final to Bayern Munich. City could contest an all-English final if Chelsea overcomes Real Madrid on Wednesday after drawing the first leg 1-1.

Fox gains US English-language rights to Copa América

LOS ANGELES — This June’s Copa América will be televised in the United States on Fox’s networks.

The network said Tuesday it had reached a six-year agreement with the South American governing body CONMEBOL for English-language U.S. rights that include this year’s tournament in Colombia and Argentina from June 13 to July 10 and the 2024 tournament, likely to be played in Ecuador.

ESPN+ had U.S. English-language rights to the Copa América in Brazil.

Univision holds U.S. Spanish-language rights to this year’s Copa América.

NFL draft ratings nearly even compared to 2 years ago

CLEVELAND — NFL draft ratings were flat compared to 2019, but it was still enough to make it the third- most-watched draft on record.

The April 29-May 1 draft in Cleveland averaged 6.1 million viewers on television and digital sources according to the NFL and Nielsen. That is nearly even compared to the 2019 draft, which was held in Nashville with an average of 6.2 million.

Last year’s draft remains the most watched, averaging 8.3 million.

The digital average of 261,000 is up 36% compared to two years ago (192,000).

Mets fire hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater

NEW YORK — Less than five weeks into the season, the New York Mets are making significant changes.

The scuffling Mets fired hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant Tom Slater on Monday night following a 6-5 loss in St. Louis that dropped them to 11-12.

New York has struggled badly with runners in scoring position (.207 batting average, .582 OPS), a trouble area last year as well when the popular Davis worked remotely from his Arizona home because of coronavirus concerns. Several accomplished hitters are off to slow starts — including $341 million newcomer Francisco Lindor, who is batting .163 and mired in an 0-for-21 slump. He has two extra-base hits, three RBIs and a measly .494 OPS.

The team has also lacked power at the plate, a big surprise for a lineup that features Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith. The Mets rank last in the majors in runs and homers, and 27th in slugging percentage.

“It was a difficult decision to make,” acting general manager Zack Scott said. “It’s not about 23 games of results.

“We just felt like the players needed a different level of support and maybe some different skills brought into the mix.”

Minor league director of hitting development Hugh Quattlebaum becomes the new hitting coach, and director of player development Kevin Howard takes over as assistant hitting coach under second-year manager Luis Rojas.

Revitalized Thiem cruises into 3rd round at Madrid Open

MADRID — Looking fresh again after taking a few weeks off, U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem cruised into the third round of the Madrid Open with a comfortable 6-1, 6-3 win over American Marcos Giron on Tuesday.

Thiem was in control from the start at the “Magic Box” center court in what was his first match since March. The fourth-ranked Austrian was coming off early round losses in Doha and Dubai and felt like he needed a break.

“For my game, I need 100% intensity and 100% energy,” the 27-year-old Thiem said. “I’m not the guy who can serve through a match or who can play with a little bit intensity and is still winning. I need 100% in every aspect of my game. I was just not able to put that on court like in Doha, Dubai or towards the end of the Australian Open, so that’s why it was better to take a break.”

Thiem, the third seed in Madrid, hasn’t won a tournament since breaking through with his first grand slam title at the U.S. Open in September.

Former top-ranked doubles player Barbora Strycova retires

PRAGUE — Barbora Strycova, a former top-ranked doubles player and Wimbledon singles semifinalist, announced her retirement on Tuesday.

“Until now, tennis was the only world I knew,” Strycova said in a statement. “I have always had enormous love for this amazing sport. Even though all the pain, tears, renunciation and sweat, all the great moment(s) and victories were worth it.”

The 35-year-old Czech player previously announced her pregnancy. She is due in September and doesn’t plan to return after giving birth.

“I never planned to end my career during a pandemic,” she said. “However, some moments in life just can’t be planned and I am super excited for my next life role as a mom.”

Strycova won two WTA singles titles and 31 in doubles.

She was at her best at Wimbledon in 2019, when she won the women’s doubles with Hsieh Su-wei to become No. 1 and reached the singles semifinals, losing to Serena Williams. Her career-high in singles was No. 16.

In 2016, she teamed up with Lucie Safarova to win the bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Belmont Stakes to have at least 11,000 fans

The Belmont Stakes will limit attendance to 11,000 spectators for the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown series.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday for the race on June 5.

The New York Racing Association says it will offer advance pre-sale options on Wednesday to people who bought tickets for last year’s Belmont Stakes, which was held without fans because of the global pandemic.

NYRA says that required mandatory seating and social distancing will limit tickets to reserved seats and hospitality areas. No general admission tickets are available at this time. If capacity limits increase before the race, more tickets would be made available.

All fans must submit proof of completed vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to get in.

The Preakness Stakes on May 15 is limiting attendance to 10,000. The Kentucky Derby had attendance of 51,838 last weekend.

Another of horse racing’s major events will have spectators, too. Tickets for the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar will go on sale July 16.

Organizers say fans will be welcomed back for the Nov. 5-6 event at the track north of San Diego, although they did not specify whether attendance would be limited. They said attendance would be dictated by state and local health and safety guidelines.

Last year’s event at Keeneland in Kentucky also was held without fans because of the global pandemic.

Italy to vaccinate its athletes for Tokyo Olympics

ROME — The Italian Olympic Committee is making arrangements to vaccinate its entire team for the Tokyo Games.

About two-thirds of the Italians qualified for the games have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are affiliated with the military. The remaining athletes, as well as coaches and staff members — and even athletes still attempting to qualify — will begin receiving vaccines on Friday, CONI said.

As of Tuesday, 237 Italians had qualified for the Olympics, which open on July 23.

Australia also recently announced plans to vaccinate its Olympians.

Athletes traveling to Japan for the Tokyo Olympics will be required to stay within a “bubble” consisting of the official accommodation, venues and training areas and will be tested for the coronavirus before and during their stay, but there is no requirement to be vaccinated ahead of competition.

Indian Premier League suspended after more COVID-19 cases

NEW DELHI — The Indian Premier League, cricket’s richest and most glitzy competition, was suspended indefinitely after players or staff at three teams tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday amid a surge in nationwide infections.

Many of the world’s best players compete in the Twenty20 tournament and were scrambling to find ways to get back to their native countries. Australia, for example, has temporarily barred travelers from India.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India decided to postpone the IPL, which started on April 9, after two staffers at Chennai Super Kings and a player for Sunrisers Hyderabad returned positive tests for COVID-19.

On Monday, the first cases involving players inside the IPL’s biosecure bubble forced a game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore to be postponed.

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