Play it forward: July 26-Aug. 1 on your sports calendar

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Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

MONDAY

Tennis: ATP Farmers Classic, UCLA Tennis Center, first round matches, noon and 7 p.m.:

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The plan is that Saturday’s John McEnroe-Andre Agassi exhibition won’t be what this event is remembered for months from now. Thousand Oaks favorite Sam Querrey, with his “Sam’s Club” fans, can’t afford to miss this one — he’s the defending champ, and winner of three ATP events this season, including the Wimbledon tuneup at Queen’s Club when he beat good friend Mardy Fish. This year’s field includes a new No. 1 seed, Andy Murray, who replaces Novak Djokovic. Querrey is seeded second, with Fish (who won the ATP event in Atlanta on Sunday), James Blake, Robby Ginepri and Marcos Baghdatis in the field. At tonight’s opening night, Jim Courier will be introduced as tournament honoree. We’ve seen him play. He can still bring it. Even by courier.

MLB: Angels vs. Boston, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

The Red Sox’s only visit to Anaheim this year. Bummar. There are conflicting reports that the Angels may start newly-acquired Dan Haren in this game.

TUESDAY

MLB: Dodgers at San Diego, 7 p.m., Channel 9:

Let’s revisit the NL West for a moment: The Padres haven’t collapsed yet, and the Dodgers haven’t made enough of an effort to overtake them. Thus, a standoff, and seven of their next 10 games will be against each other. Maybe the Dodgers can actually climb into second place by the time the series ends.

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MLB: Angels vs. Boston, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

John Lackey returns to the hill in Anaheim for the first time since leaving to throw against Jeff Weaver. Lackey, who beat the Angels back in Boston, 3-1, on May 5, took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Thursday’s start at Seattle before having it broken up with a two-out single. Then he got a no decision.

Soccer: Galaxy vs. Puerto Rico, CONCACAF, Home Depot Center, 7 p.m.:

You think the Galaxy are happy about playing this one so close to the MLS All Star game less than 24 hours after this one ends, in Houston? Read below.

WEDNESDAY

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Soccer: MLS All Stars vs. Manchester United, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, 5 p.m., ESPN2:

Bruce Arena, the Galaxy coach in charge of the MLS All Star team that will include his own shooting stars Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, defender Omar Gonzalez and goalie Donovan Ricketts, isn’t all the pleased this game is scheduled in the middle of the CONCACAF Champions League, which disallows players from Seattle (who are playing in it today), while both the Galaxy and Toronto FC played the previous night. “We have five players playing on Tuesday, and we don’t know the outcome of the games Tuesday on the players, physically,” Arena told MLSSoccer.com “Therefore, they’d be an unknown Wednesday in trying to piece together at the last minute the First XI and also the roles of the reserves … At the end of the day, the bottom line is we want to win this game.” Case closed. And any other cliche you may want to add.

MLB: Angels vs. Boston, Angel Stadium, 12:35 p.m., FSW:

The Red Sox’s Josh Beckett may make it to this one, but considering his start last Friday at Seattle (98 pitches, 5 2/3 innings, 1 ER, 3 BBs, 5 Ks in a 2-1 victory, where he got no decision) was his first since May 18, and he’s been on the DL with a bad back, there could be an alternation to those plans. Against the Angels since 2007, he’s just 1-3 with a 4.46 ERA, and 0-2 in Anaheim with a 5.14 ERA. If Dan Haren doesn’t pitch in Monday’s opener, his first appearance for the Angels could be here. Haren, who started the 2007 All-Star Game for the American League in San Francisco when he was Oakland’s ace, was 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA in 141 innings with Arizona.

MLB: Dodgers at San Diego, 7 p.m., Prime:

Until tonight, the Dodgers haven’t seen 6-foot-5, 240-pound Padres lefthander Clayton Richard, who had won three in a row before losing 8-0 to Atlanta on Thursday. His ERA in the month of June is north of 7.00. Too bad the Dodgers don’t have Clayton Kershaw on call to pitch against him here.

THURSDAY

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The 16th Summer X Games, Coliseum and L.A. Live, 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., ESPN:

The Moto X freestyle and Skateboard Big Air final cracks open the opener of the four-day festivities, asking the Coliseum to stay relevant with the kids who’ll see a massive ramp built inside where skaters can decide if they want to launch themselves over a gap of 50 or 70 feet to get over to the 27-food quarterpipe. At the event deck at L.A. Live, there’s more BMX and skateboarding. ESPN also debuts the latest “30 for 30″ documentary project called “Birth of Big Air,” which chronicles BMX legend Mat Hoffman and his quest to conquer do what other kids only dream about on his giant quarterpipe in a remote field in Oklahoma City nearly 20 years ago. Tony Hawk and Evel Knievel also make appearances. In the movie, not the X Games.

MLB: Dodgers at San Diego, 3:30 p.m., Channel 9:

They close this important series, with the trade deadline nearing, by roasting in the afternoon sun and seeking some off-track wagering information from Del Mar. Vicente Padilla is scheduled to face Kevin Correia.

FRIDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at San Francisco, 7:15 p.m., Prime:

Now what do you think of this Gerald “Buster” Demp Posey III as a vital part of the Giants regular nine? Since he was installed as the starting catcher on June 30 in a game against the Dodgers — the Giants traded Bengie Molina to Texas — Posey has hardly been a poser. He extended a 12-game hitting streak to 15 by going 4-for-13 in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium last week. He extended the streak to 18 in the Giants’ four-game sweep over Arizona last weekend, going 4-for-5 with an RBI in Sunday’s finale. He’s hitting .371 this season (66 hits in 48 games, with 8 HRs and 33 RBIs and a .986 OPS). The Giants start Tim Lincecum in the three-game series opener today, while the Dodgers, unless they made a trade for a starting pitcher, may have to throw Carlos Monasterios again. Get ready, Kenley Jansen.

MLB: Angels vs. Texas, Angel Stadium, 7 p.m., FSW:

After sweating out a four-game series against each other last week, where the Rangers won three of four and extended their AL West lead, the two have three more to finish here. So in a round-about way, they keep the rivalry fresh.

The 16th Summer X Games, Staples Center and Nokia Theatre, 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., ESPN:

Staples Center clears out any references to the Lakers, Kings or Sparks by hosting something called the Moto X Best Whip and Best Trick final. The stage at the Nokia Theatre, where they now hold the Academy Awards and the ESPYS, will be transformed into a platform for the Skate Vert Final and Skateboard Vert Best Trick. How tricky.

WNBA: Sparks at New York, 4:30 p.m.:

Some of the latest stats to come out of the NBA’s league office on WNBA matters: Through 10 games on ESPN2, the league has upped its ratings by 20 percent. That’s a 0.24 mark versus 0.20 a year ago. And they’ve got four times as many Facebook fans and 15 times more Twitter followers than last year.

SATURDAY

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The 16th Summer X Games, Coliseum and L.A. Live, 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., ESPN:

Ever want to drive your car up the peristyle entrance at the Coliseum? Watch it happen as the Rally Car SuperRally returns for a trip. More skateboarding and BMX stuff at the L.A. Live event deck.

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MLB: Angels vs. Texas, Angel Stadium, 6 p.m., FSW:

Four words: Rally Monkey Soap Dispenser. But only given away to kids 18 and under. Dang. And we still are looking for our Angels Garden Gnome. It’s trading deadline day: Can we swap a clean monkey for a dirty gnome?

MLB: Dodgers at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Channel 11:

Barry Zito, whose team gave him nothing to work with when he faced the Dodgers last week at Dodger Stadium, has a 109-6 record when his team has given him four or more runs to work with in his career with Oakland and San Francisco. That’s just one run every other inning, guys. Too much to ask? Clayton Kershaw, coming off his eight shutout innings against the Mets, returns for the Dodgers.

SUNDAY

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MLB: Dodgers at San Francisco, 5 p.m., ESPN:

Chad Billingsley, who threw the complete-game shutout against the Giants last week, gets a national stage for his re-appearance.

The 16th Summer X Games, Staples Center and L.A. Live, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., ESPN2:

The Moto X Speed & Style final returns to the X Games, and it’ll be indoors at Staples Center. A crazy way to end this thing.

MLB: Angels vs. Texas, Angel Stadium, 12:35 p.m., FSW:

They still have seven more games against each other, during the last two weeks of the regular season — including the final four at Texas. This isn’t over yet. Right?

Tennis: ATP Farmers Classic, UCLA Tennis Center, doubles final, noon; singles final, 2 p.m., ESPN2:

Five-time tournament doubles champion Mike and Bob Bryan are tied for the Open Era record with 61 titles. You could see history made today. And then the musically-minded Camarillo twins, who last Sunday played at a benefit in Venice and were scheduled to play at Molly Malones in L.A. on Monday, could break out in song afterward.

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Coming Sunday: Amusement at the museum

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Above: “Wrestlers,” 1899, by Thomas Eakins, oil on canvas, 48 3/8 by 60 inches, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Cecile C. Bartman and The Cecile and Fred Bartman Foundation.

A dual exhibit that opens Sunday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art called “Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins,” next to “Figure And Landscape” by Catherine Opie caught our attention and lured us over for the opening earlier this week.

Put it this way: If the LACMA is trying to shake the foundation of how one can interpret the beauty and power of a sports image, especially with a Southern California flair for the dramatic, it has succeeded in the most unlikely of places for a sports consumer, or connoisseur, to ever venture.

With Eakins’ work on 19th Century rowing, sailing, boxing, wrestling, swimming and even one on baseball, it’s the kind of sports art you’d expect to see on the walls of the L.A. Athletic Club or the clubhouse at the Bel-Air Country Club – an homage to past athleticism, painted at a time when the modern Olympics were just being revived in Greece.

With Opie, it’s a focus through her camera lens on high school football and surfing — the manly pursuits of athletes from today’s world.

Read more about it on Sunday …

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Right: “Dusty, 2007,” by Catherine Opie, chromogenic print, 30 x 22 1/4 inches, from the collection of Gerry Rich.

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The Media Learning Curve: July 16-23

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Jack Craig, who wrote the first newspaper media columns for the Boston Globe more than 40 years ago until his retirement in 1996, died last week at 81 after a fall at his home.

“The first TV sports event I ever reviewed for the Globe was an NFL playoff game on Dec. 31, 1967, for a story that appeared Jan. 2, 1968,” he wrote in his farewell column nearly 14 years ago. “How could I or anyone else watching that New Year’s Eve afternoon know that it would be the most memorable football game we would ever see on TV? It was the Ice Bowl: Packers 21, Cowboys 17.

“I limited myself to several paragraphs, in part because I did not know what to write beyond nitpicking broadcasters and wondering why certain things were ignored. Having more questions than answers betrayed my naivete.”

How did we miss Craig’s obit? Were we not paying attention? Was it on TV?

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Frank Deford, in an National Public Radio commentary Wednesday (linked here), cut us some slack, pointing out that George Steinbrenner news drowned out a lot of other things the last week or so.

Said Deford:

“(Jack Craig’s assignment to cover sports TV) was the ultimate certification that the presentation of sports as entertainment was as important as comedy and drama in our culture. Incredibly, though, even as more people watched sports on TV and talked about sports on TV and even made Howard Cosell the pre-eminent voice of the land, other print outlets were slow to follow in Craig’s path. …

“Today, of course, in most major newspapers, the sports TV beat is as obligatory as the betting line. In fact, often the best writer in the sport section is the TV writer. Unlike the legendary columnist, who has to work stadiums and arenas, spend hours in press boxes, and then trudge down to the locker room and try to squeeze an unintelligible quote out of a surly naked athlete, the sports TV guy can just sit on his couch with a clicker in his hand and a disc on his roof, and watch stuff right there in his own man-cave.

“Readers relate to TV sports guys, too, because they’re really just like them — so the sports television writer is invariably popular, unlike other critics who are looked upon as crabby sourpusses.

“It seems impossible to believe that there was ever a time before Jack Craig. It might even be possible to say that sports television is more important than sports. When George Steinbrenner died, the Yankees franchise that he had purchased was estimated to be worth $1.6 billion. The Yankees television network that he started hardly eight years ago was estimated to be worth twice that — $3 billion.”

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In the Boston Globe’s obit about Craig, Don Skwar, the former Globe sports editor and current senior news editor for ESPN called Craig “the trailblazer for sports TV critics” with his SporTView column.

“Arguably, you could say Jack had as much if not more influence than any of our columnists because he covered the entire spectrum of sports,” said Globe writer John Powers, who worked with Craig. “As more and more people got their news about sports from TV, Jack’s influence just increased dramatically. …

“Literally, he had to invent the form. No one knew what was interesting, what was not, what was important.”

I’ve been doing this media-column thing now since 1989 — more than 20 years, but I’m not really counting. Larry Stewart of the L.A. Times, who recently retired, was the only media columnist I knew about growing up in Southern California, but I knew the other papers in town also had them, and I’d seek them out on Fridays at the newstand (the Daily News, for some reason, had theirs come out on Thursdays).

Then one by one, the newspapers started to drop them, or give them less of importance. Editors who saw them as a way to publicize the competition, and were already grouchy over the way TV and radio were pulling away readers, thought them to be sort of silly. But reader demands seem to keep us coming back.

With consolidation, retirements and other changes, it seems that I’m still doing this for the Daily News (following Phil Rosenthal, John Weisman and Paola Boivin), Daily Breeze (succeeding Dan McLean), Long Beach Press-Telegram (after a long, glorious run by Bob Keisser, who also did it for a very long stretch at the L.A. Herald-Examiner), San Gabriel Valley Tribune and San Bernardino Sun. The Times has used the late Mike Penner and now Diane Pucin on the beat, but seemingly not with as much gusto as in the past. The Orange County Register has dropped it all together — Michael Lev and Steve Fryer once did it. I’m not sure what the Riverside Press Enterprise did. And the San Diego Union-Tribune had Fritz Quindt and now, the esteemed Jay Posner, whom I consider one of my bestest co-conspiriators left.

By the way, Powers also noted that Craig wasn’t power-hungry in his role.

“Jack was very, very low-key, a gentleman, and almost modest beyond what you would think a guy with that influence would be,” Powers said. “He was covering a medium where there are very few bashful people, and yet he did not emulate them. Many columnists feel the world is waiting for their every word. Jack didn’t feel that way.”

That’s something a columnist, blogger or Internet writer — in any department — should remember.

After today’s media column on new USC basketball play-by-play man Chris Fisher (linked here), we have these other notes:

== The whole column that ESPN.com ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer did on the network’s coverage of that hour-long “Decision” by LeBron James (linked here). And thanks, Don, for mentioning me. Not that I needed the ego stroke, but recognition is cool.

== HBO confirmed this week that the second season of “Eastbound & Down,” with Danny McBride as broken-down and glory-seeking former relief pitcher Kenny Powers, will debut on Sunday, Sept. 26 at 10:30 p.m.

== CBS has the wrapup of the Tour de France to cover on Sunday on tape (10 a.m., Channel 2), including a story on Lance Armstrong’s final appearance. Craig Hummer hosts the show.

== As the ESPN X Games in L.A. come closer — next Thursday through Sunday — NBC has the Dew Tour live in Chicago this weekend featuring the top BMX freestyle cyclists, Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 p.m. USA Network has coverage Saturday from 9-to-10 p.m. Jamie Bestwick and Dave Mirra join as analysts with Todd Harris, analyst Todd Richards and correspondent Tiffany Simons .

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== ESPN has the last 17 (with three going to ABC) of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, starting with the Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway (10 a.m., Sunday). Included in that stretch is the Oct. 10 race at Fontana. Marty Reid is joined by analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. On a conference call with reporters earlier this week, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions, Julie Sobieski was asked about realignment in the upcoming schedule that could see the L.A. market lose one of its two annual stops.

“I think those are really NASCAR and track decisions when it comes to the ratings of the events themselves,” she said. “There are a few tracks that see a dramatic or significant ratings increase, and we know what those are with Daytona and the Brickyard itself, Talladega being some of the biggest there.

“Outside of a few tracks that see a big increase, the remainder of the tracks all offer something different for the fans. Each racetrack delivers something different week in and week out, and ultimately those decisions on which tracks are in and which tracks are out rest with NASCAR and the tracks themselves.”

== Meanwhile, Versus has the last seven IRL races, starting with Sunday’s event in Edmonton (2 p.m.), with qualifying on Saturday (3 p.m.)

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== Lon McEachern and Norman Chad return to keep us abreast on the new season of the World Series of Poker, with the first event on two hours Tuesday (5 p.m., ESPN).

== Chris McGee and Dain Blanton call the AVP Long Beach event live, with the men’s final at 1 p.m. on ABC, and the women’s final at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

== ESPN announced its 2010 college football schedule, which this fall has more than 400 games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com, plus ESPN 3D. Of course, the switch of the entire Bowl Championship Series is included, starting with the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl, the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl and the Jan. 10 BCS National title game in Tempe, Ariz. ESPN and its family will carry 31 bowls. The season starts on Monday, Aug. 23.

== The producers of an ESPN “30 For 30″ documentary on Colombia’s 1994 World Cup team called “The Two Escobars” have been accused of deceiving the family of slain Columbian player Andres Escobar, and a Columbian TV network last week said it would not air the movie.

The Associated Press reported recently that the Escobar family member were never told by producers Michael and Jeff Zimbalist that they intented to pair the story of the soccer player with that of Pablo Escobar, the late drug lord who was said to have funded much of the country’s sport with cocaine sale profits.

The two Escobars were unrelated.

Santiago Escobar told The Associated Press that the Zimbalist brothers “deceived my family and also deceived the memory of Andres Escobar” and that relatives and friends of his brother “feel assaulted in our good faith by the makers of this documentary, who sought our testimony to make a report in homage to the footballer. They never told us that it would be parallel with the drug trafficker Pablo
Escobar.”

The Zimbalist brothers, who wrote and directed the film, told the AP by telephone from the United States that the family’s statement was a misrepresentation of their behavior.

“We have a lot of respect for Andres Escobar and for his family and it’s always been
our intention to be as sensitive as possible,” said Jeff Zimbalist.

Andres Escobar, the 27-year-old national team captain, was killed 10 days after his own-goal against the United States in a game at the Rose Bowl eliminated Colombia
from the tournament. ESPN aired the film on June 21.

== AND FINALLY:

Dude Perfect vs. Ricardo in long-range pop-a-shot:

== AND FINALLY (FOR REAL):

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== As for Jon Miller’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame broadcaster’s wing on Sunday, Duane Kiper, who works on the Giants’ TV broadcast, told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins (linked here) about the master impersonator:

“He does Vin Scully . . . and then he does a profane Vin Scully, which is just priceless, because nobody’s ever heard Vin or Jon utter a swear word. I’ve seen people drop to their knees when they heard that, they were laughing so hard.”

Scully, by the way, had some advice for Miller when he has to get up to make his acceptance speech. Miller was in L.A. earlier this week with the Giants facing the Dodgers.

Wrote Chris Haft on MLB.com (linked here):

Scully reminded Miller that listeners on Sunday will expect much from him. Players who become Hall of Fame inductees, Scully pointed out, don’t have to be eloquent. After all, they were players, not wordsmiths.

“But a professional broadcaster has to get it just right,” Miller said, relating Scully’s message.

Not to put too much pressure on yourself or anything.

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Pete Rose’s historial bat: What’s it worth to you?

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The Associated Press

The black Mizuno bat that Pete Rose used to get his final hit has been auctioned for $158,776, less than expected for the 32 ounces of baseball history.

Rose used the bat for hit No. 4,256, a single off San Francisco’s Greg Minton on Aug. 14, 1986. His final hit stands as the major league record.

Lelands.com auctioned the 34-inch, 32-ounce bat online this month. Seven bids were received.

Lelands.com president Mike Heffner expected the bat to fetch a bigger price. He thinks the tough economy and Rose’s controversies — he’s got a lifetime ban for betting on baseball — held down the price.

“I think Pete Rose memorabilia in general — you either love it or you hate it,” Heffner said in a phone interview Thursday. “There’s not a whole lot in-between. I love Pete Rose, but there are people out there who won’t touch it because of the problems he had. It does affect the prices that the items sell for.”

Rose broke Ty Cobb’s record with his 4,192nd hit on Sept. 11, 1985, when he was the Cincinnati Reds player-manager. He played for one more season, batting .219 in 52 games. He had 72 hits in 1986, including that final one off Minton.

Rose was banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games involving the Reds. He displayed the bat used for his final hit at his restaurant in Boca Raton, Fla. It was eventually bought by Richard C. Angrist, a prominent collector of sports memorabilia. Angrist put some of his items up for auction through Lelands.com.

The Angrist collection included the bat that George Sisler used to get his record 257th hit during the 1920 season. That bat drew 31 bids and went for $152,647.

“It sold for almost as much as the Pete Rose bat, which was well beyond our expectations,” Heffner said. “It went for almost six times what we thought it would go for. Auctions are very strange. All it takes is two guys who really want that item.”

The record for an auctioned bat is $1.3 million, paid for one that Babe Ruth used to hit his first homer at Yankee Stadium.

And, for another story on another Pete Rose bat, click here.

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Update: Reds’ Dickerson keeps pushing his green initiative for baseball

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AP Photo/Andy King
Minnesota Twins baseball fans walk from the light rail stop, left, to Target Field in Minneapolis. Target Field attracts fans who ride bikes to the baseball park as well as riding light rail, which drops fans next to the ballpark.

—————————

As a followup to the April, 2009 story we did on the Cincinnati Reds’ Chris Dickerson, the former Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks outfielder who started the WePlayGreen.org campaign (linked here) that has since been renamed PlayersForThePlanet.org, we update his activities via an Associated Press story:

By Dave Campbell
The Associated Press

Chris Dickerson remembered cringing as he looked at the excess of empty, discarded plastic bottles by his Triple-A teammates in Louisville.

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“One guy uses eight bottles a day, whether it’s Gatorade or water or juice,” he said, “and all of this stuff is being thrown in the trash cans.”

The sight of all that waste a couple of years ago was the tipping point for the Cincinnati Reds outfielder.

“Multiply that by a week, by a year, by the 15 teams in that league. You’re looking at a tremendous amount,” said Dickerson.

In 2008, he helped found the nonprofit organization Players for the Planet to encourage pro athletes to be environmental ambassadors in their communities, proving the possibility that jocks and treehuggers can coexist.

As a Minnesota-based sports marketing agency is banking on, professional franchises — like any profit-driven businesses — are finding more ways to go green and make money at the same time.

There is a certain insular, indulgent culture in the sports world that can create hurdles for social causes like this to take hold. Sometimes, they’re masked as mere symbolic gestures and goodwill-generating promotions for teams. The sheer enormity of stadiums makes it difficult to keep carbon footprints small. Players can get caught up in the big-league lifestyle.

“It’s hard to get just any athlete and even then, they’re like, ‘I love what you’re doing, but I can’t really endorse it because I’m driving a big truck and I have a huge house,’” Dickerson said. “So some of the things these athletes do aren’t necessarily a green lifestyle. They like the idea, but they’re not necessarily that green. I think that’s why a lot of them are hesitant to be part of it.”

Dickerson praised the use of solar power at Fenway Park in Boston and Progressive Field in Cleveland as progressive ideas he’d like to see replicated more throughout the majors. He pointed to supportive e-mails and letters he has received as examples of momentum. He also insisted real change can be accomplished in easy steps.

“That’s the message we’re trying to get across: It doesn’t have to be a huge shift in your daily lifestyle,” Dickerson said. “It’s little things like getting a recycle bin, turning off all the lights when you leave your house, trying to cut down on your air conditioning, using compact fluorescent light bulbs.”

Dickerson even has a sign above his locker that says, “Trees are for hugging.”

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