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Devin Smeltzer, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect who battled cancer, reunites with Chase Utley

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Every baseball player has a story of what made them fall in love with the game, a player that was their favorite as a kid and the struggle it took to reach the professional level. The story of Los Angeles Dodgers pitching prospect Devin Smeltzer is a bit more unique than most.

Diagnosed with cancer at age 9, the New Jersey native said that as he recovered, playing baseball was one of the few things that gave him a sense of normalcy. That passion for baseball led to him being a part of a meet-and-greet with members of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006 when he was 10 years old.

Among the stars he got to meet was then-Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who also signed an autograph for Smeltzer on that day, and a picture was snapped of that moment.

“The picture of me and Chase has been in the living room for a long time,” said the 22-year-old Smeltzer, who is now cancer free. “When I go back home it’s always very humbling to see that picture because of where I’m at today.”

Where he’s at today is the Dodgers organization, the same one that employs Utley. During spring training, the team organized a reunion with the two that caught the veteran infielder off guard.

“It’s a pretty special and unique story with Devin,” Utley said after the two were reunited in the middle of the team’s clubhouse. “I had the opportunity to meet him when he was 10 years old, battling cancer. I can’t even imagine what he was going through, what his parents were going through. And to see him beat cancer, to see … his ability take over and allow him to play baseball for a living.”

Selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft by the Dodgers, the left-handed Smeltzer went 7-7 with a 4.17 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 142⅓ innings last season, which he split between the team’s Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes affiliates.

“He’s in the Dodgers farm system, and from what I hear he’s got a lot of upside,” Utley said. “Hopefully at some point he’ll be pitching here at Dodger Stadium.”

Smeltzer, who said former Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels also was a big influence on him as a kid, admitted it was “humbling” to address the Dodgers clubhouse and show what kind of impact players can have beyond the diamond.

“A lot of these guys, they’re living the dream, and just showing them that there’s more to life than just baseball,” Smeltzer said. “Everybody’s struggles are different and just being able to use their platform to give back and help anybody, whether it’s my type of situation or anything else.”



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Yankees tie franchise record with 12th straight win vs. Red Sox

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BOSTON — The New York YankeesBoston Red Sox rivalry is considered one of the greatest in all sports.

But in the past two years, it has certainly turned into a one-sided affair.

The Yankees pummeled the Red Sox 8-0 on Saturday night for their 12th consecutive victory over their AL East rivals, tying a franchise record. The Yankees have won 12 straight games vs. Boston and 17 of the last 18 games between the clubs since July 28, 2019.

“It’s probably a little bit fluky, a little aberration,” said manager Aaron Boone when addressing the franchise’s record-tying streak. “Obviously, [the Red Sox] haven’t quite been the same team this year with some of the guys they’ve lost and some of the guys in their pitching staff that they’ve lost due to injury.

“And this year I know we’ve played them at some times when we’ve been playing really well. We’ve stolen a couple wins from them, like late last night. Last year, we caught them at a good time at the end of the year. Look, it’s always fun beating those guys. We obviously respect who they are and all the great games we’ve had to play against them, but … enjoy it while it lasts.”

The Yankees’ current win streak against Boston is their longest since winning 12 straight from Aug. 16, 1952 to April 23, 1953. It’s only the third time in franchise history that the Yankees have won 12 straight games against the Red Sox (also May 27-Aug 23, 1936).

J.A. Happ, who worked eight scoreless innings to earn his second win of the season, said the Yankees were mindful of the winning streak and hoped to set a new record on Sunday when they play their last game of the season at Fenway Park.

“I know we have a good team and we’re playing well,” Happ said. “We are aware of that number [12 straight], excited to get out there tomorrow and try to take the nod [set the record] there. We recognized it tonight that we could tie it.”

“We’re focused on trying to put ourselves in a really good position for the playoffs, and winning [Sunday] would set the record — and that’s going to be really cool thing if we do,” added outfielder Clint Frazier, who went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs.

The Yankees have now won a season-high 10 straight games, matching their longest winning streak since June 2012. During their current streak, the Bronx Bombers have hit 29 home runs and have outscored opponents 85-25.

At 31-21, the Yankees clinched their 28th consecutive winning record since 1993, the second-longest stretch in MLB history behind only their own streak of 39 straight winning seasons from 1926-64. The Yankees’ “magic number” to clinch a postseason berth currently stands at one.

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Minnesota Twins’ Josh Donaldson says MLB umps have ‘no accountability’

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Two days after his ejection at home plate, Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson lashed out at Major League Baseball’s umpires, saying there’s “no accountability” with the group and that the umps “don’t care.”

“[If] the umpire consistently isn’t doing [his] job correctly, that’s affecting our careers, that’s affecting our success,” Donaldson told reporters on Saturday in a video call, according to a transcription by the Star Tribune. “At the end of the day, there’s no reprimand, no accountability for the guys that are making the decision. As a matter of fact, they don’t care. They don’t care at all, most of them. They just want to get the game over with, for the most part, and it’s pretty sad because guys are making six figures a year and there’s no accountability.”

Donaldson barked at plate umpire Dan Bellino for the second time Thursday in the sixth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. With Minnesota trailing 3-2, Bellino called a strike when the 2015 American League MVP checked his swing on a 2-0 pitch from Reynaldo Lopez.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went out to speak with Bellino, and Donaldson homered down the left-field line on the next offering. After rounding the bases, Donaldson kicked dirt at home plate as he crossed it.

Bellino ejected him immediately, and Donaldson, realizing he had missed home plate, returned to the plate to touch it and then argued as he kicked more dirt on it.

Donaldson also had argued with Bellino on a 1-1 breaking ball in the first inning that appeared to be high but was called a strike, leading to a strikeout.

“It doesn’t matter to them,” Donaldson told reporters on Saturday. “They don’t realize we’re playing for our families, we’re playing for our livelihood.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Longtime baseball pro scout Gary Hughes dies at 79

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SAN FRANCISCO — Gary Hughes, a beloved professional scout for numerous big league organizations during a 54-year career, has died in Northern California after a battle with cancer. He was 79.

Hughes was a regular at Bay Area ballparks in recent years working for the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. Arizona announced his death in a statement Saturday, saying he passed earlier in the day.

“Gary Hughes was the quintessential baseball man,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “He coached at various levels. He scouted. He developed players. And he helped put together major league rosters.”

Hughes had lived for years in the scenic coastal city of Santa Cruz.

“Gary’s impact on the game of baseball was exceeded only by the number of friends he made throughout it,” the Diamondbacks said. “He was a member of the Giants, Mariners, Mets, Yankees, Expos, Marlins, Rockies, Reds, Cubs and Red Sox organizations before joining the D-backs and it was an honor to have a legend like him be part of our family for two seasons.”

A member of the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame, Hughes always was a popular figure when he turned up before games with a briefcase and a big grin, ready to work or share his baseball knowledge with genuine care and love for the game.

“He scouted me in high school, I’ve known Gary for that long,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said immediately after a win against the San Francisco Giants when told of Hughes’ death. “I consider him a friend, a good friend. I knew he was struggling some, I knew he went into hospice. It’s awful.”

During his years with the Cubs, Hughes was Jim Hendry’s right-hand man assisting in many matters — even handling media duties at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, in December 2006 when Hendry was rushed to the hospital.

Hughes was thrilled to share tales of his days scouting baseball players who became NFL stars: John Elway and John Lynch before they picked football instead.

“They threw away the mold after Gary,” longtime executive Tony Siegle said. “He was always at the right place at the right time. Gary set a standard for helping to make teams win. There will never be another like him.”

Hughes worked as the Expos’ scouting director and Marlins assistant general manager. In Montreal, he helped acquire catcher Jerry Goff from Seattle in 1990. Jerry is father to star Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Hughes was thrilled when Jared Goff reached the Super Bowl in February 2019.

“More than anything, he was a tremendous person, a great storyteller and a friend to everyone whose path he crossed,” the Diamondbacks said. “He will be missed by so many and our thoughts are with his family including his sons, Sam and (Michael) `Rock,’ who carry on his legacy in the game.”

On Aug. 21, 2017, Hughes made sure to get down to the field to greet Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell on the Brewers’ manager’s birthday. Hughes’ son, Michael “Rock” Hughes, longtime Marlins visiting clubhouse manager, is married to Counsell’s sister.

Another son, Sam, is the Yankees’ national crosschecker.

“Gary was one of the game’s great personalities and became one of the all-time greats in the world of scouting,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He started with the Yankees in 1978, his first full-time scouting job for nine years. He had a heavy hand in multiple world championships for many teams but most importantly he was an amazing person and a tremendous father. He will be dearly missed.”

Hughes was born on Feb. 2, 1941.

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