John Ingram, Ja Morant, And More Announced As Tennessee Sports Hall Of Fame Class Of 2022 Honorees

Nashville SC owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant. Photos: Courtesy of Nashville SC and the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame has announced the honorees for its 2022 Achievement Awards, with Nashville SC principal owner John Ingram and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant topping the list as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame 2022 Tennessean of the Year.

Other top honors include a celebration of the 50 anniversary of Title IX, Memphis Grizzlies, Middle Tennessee State Head Track & Field Coach Dean HayesCandace Parker (Chicago Sky), Jack Leiter (Vanderbilt Baseball), Rachel Heck (Stanford Golf), East Tennessee State Football, and Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer.

These honorees will be recognized for their achievements this past year alongside the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022 inductees Sharrieffa Barksdale, RA Dickey, the late Harry Galbreath, Artis Hicks, Jevon Kearse, Randy Lambert, David Legwand, Nikki McCray-Penson, David Suddeth, Tony White, the late David Williams II and Toby Wilt.

Ingram has led Nashville SC from its USL origins to be one of the most successful MLS teams these past two seasons. In May, Nashville SC opened GEODIS park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the U.S. and Canada, in front of a sold out crowd of over 30,000 fans.

Morant has been one of the best players the NBA for the 2021-22 season, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to the second round of the NBA Playoffs and has been named as Male Professional Athlete of the Year. After sustaining an injury last season, he was awarded the NBA Comeback Player of the Year averaging 27.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game and 6.7 assists per game. The Grizzlies have been named Professional Team of the Year after having one of their best seasons in almost a decade finishing second in the Western Conference winning 56 games.

Candace Parker has been named Female Professional Athlete of the Year. Parker, a former Tennessee Lady Vol, joined the Chicago Sky in 2021. The regular season ended with Parker and the Sky earning the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. They won two single-elimination games, followed by an upset of Connecticut in the semifinals, before beating the Phoenix Mercury to win the 2021 WNBA Finals. Parker averaged 16.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on the way to her second World Championship.

Vanderbilt’s Leiter was one of five consensus first-team All-Americans nationally. He named a first-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA). He was also the SEC Newcomer of the Year. He was selected by the Texas Rangers with the second overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. He has been named the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.

Female Amateur Athlete of the Year is being awarded to Stanford golfer Rachel Heck. She is a native of Memphis, and a graduate of St. Agnes Academy in Memphis. She is a five-time AJGA All American, two-time USA Today High School Golfer of the Year, a four-time individual state champion, and winner of many events through the course of her prep career. Now, as a sophomore at Stanford, she is already tied for third most victories in school history.

Other honorees include Title IX 50th Anniversary for the David Williams Significant Historical Achievement Award, MTSU Track & Field coach Dean Hayes for the Pat Summitt Lifetime Achievement Award, the Tennessee Southern Women’s Soccer for the Female Amateur Team of the Year, and the ETSU football team for the Male Amateur Team of the Year.

The honors will be formally presented as part of the hall’s 2022 Banquet, presented by the Tennessee Titans on July 23 at the Omni Nashville Downtown. Tickets for the banquet ceremony can be purchased through the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame website.

World Series Champion Dave Stewart Joins Music City Baseball Ownership Group

Dave Stewart. Photo: Courtesy of Music City Baseball LLC

Three-time World Series Champion Dave Stewart is joining Music City Baseball LLC’s ownership group, leading its Diverse Equity Ownership Initiative.

Stewart will identify a collective of high-net-worth investors for joint ownership, prioritizing minority investors. He brings more than 40 years of experience in the MLB as a player, coach, agent, and front office executive. He has won three World Series titles as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, and Toronto Blue Jays, and since 2019 has served as an active board member and Baseball Advisor to Music City Baseball.

“The time has come for Black ownership in Major League Baseball. Now, more than ever, we need to change the dynamics and unlock access to ownership for minorities,” says Stewart. “We are creating a historic opportunity with the Nashville Stars, and I’m proud to lead our efforts to secure an ownership group that is aligned with our core mission, values, and legacy.”

There are currently no Black principal owners in MLB. While the league has not made any decisions regarding expansion or relocation to Nashville, the effort to focus on a diverse ownership structure mirrors MLB’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The proposed team name, the Nashville Stars, pays homage to the Negro Leagues teams that played in Nashville in the 1940s and 1950s. Stewart, in his search for owners, will honor that legacy and continue the ongoing partnership with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

“We’ve added an ace to our pitching staff in this important effort to bring Major League Baseball to Nashville,” says Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and a Board member for Music City Baseball. “In this new role, he will break down barriers in MLB ownership and create a better, more equitable future for the sport. Dave embodies the true spirit of the Negro Leagues, not only in how he played the game, but also in the way he’s helped grow our game through his contributions as a coach, agent and executive–all reasons we inducted him into our Hall of Game in 2019.”

In addition to honoring the past, this initiative will help build the future of the game in a fast-growing region. The city of Nashville had the largest economic growth rate in 2021 of large U.S. metro areas according to Stessa, a data and analytics firm.

Adding Stewart to the group is a strong step to bringing an expansion team or relocated MLB team to Nashville which may not be for another five or more years.

Hall Family Donates $5.5 Million to Vandy United Campaign

Pictured (L-R): Vanderbilt vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director Candice Storey Lee; Chairman & CEO of Hall Capital Fred Hall; Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier.

Fred and Karen Hall, along with their daughter Allie Hall have made a massive donation of $5.5 million to the Vandy United campaign to help support the success of the Commodores baseball program.

The Hall family’s gift will go towards improvements in both the student-athlete and fan experience at Hawkins Field. The donation will help fund the new lighting system for the playing field, as well as a new sound system, new seats and graphics for the facility.

Their past support helped build the indoor practice and multipurpose facility that has helped Vanderbilt student-athletes realize their potential for the past decade.

“We are grateful to the Hall family for this generous gift and their steadfast support through the years,” says Candice Lee, vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director. “Vandy United is our vision for the future of Vanderbilt Athletics. We want student-athletes to grow into champions. We know our blueprint works because we watched the VandyBoys make Hawkins Field the center of the college baseball world across two national championships and five College World Series appearances in 10 seasons. With their gift, the Halls ensure that the VandyBoys and our fans continue to enjoy college baseball’s best home-field advantage.”

An ardent VandyBoys fan who travels the country with former classmates and fraternity brothers to support the team, Hall is a member of the Campaign Cabinet for Athletics. The Halls, for whom the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center video board is named, are longstanding donors to the Gridiron Club and Champions’ Circle.

“I just want to help both Vanderbilt and Tim Corbin achieve. With that winning tradition, it made it easy,” says Hall, BA’74, chairman and CEO of Hall Capital.

Ranked as one of the 15 best college baseball stadiums by StadiumJourney.com in 2019, Hawkins Field recently benefited from the addition of new premium seating options for the 2022 season.

“Fred Hall and his family have been tremendous supporters of our program for a long time,” says baseball head coach Tim Corbin. “His friendship and emotion for our players, staff and VandyBoys program are at the very top. We are all very grateful for the Halls’ generosity and Fred’s affinity for our university and baseball program.”

Vanderbilt is 523-177-1 at Hawkins Field since the facility opened in 2002. A home base for two national championships and five College World Series appearances, the Commodores have won 67 of 82 three-game series at The Hawk since 2011.

“The Vandy United campaign reimagines and refocuses our university community’s core commitment to help student-athletes grow and achieve at the highest levels,” says Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. “Coach Tim Corbin and the VandyBoys exemplify what it is possible to achieve when we strive for unequaled excellence, and this wonderful gift by the Hall Family serves as further proof that our alumni and devoted donors share our bold vision for the future.”

Nashville Represented Across Major League Baseball On Opening Day

Former Vanderbilt Commodore Dansby Swanson. Photo: Courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

Though Nashville may not have an MLB team, there are ton of Nashville locals, as well as Vanderbilt and Belmont graduates gearing up for Opening Day on Thursday and Friday.

Tennessee’s Davidson and the surrounding counties will be on full display as players such as Robbie Ray, Mookie Betts, Sony Gray and David Price take the field for their respective teams.

Ray is coming off an incredible comeback season winning the American League Cy Young award for his performance on the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021. The Brentwood High School alumni, finished his season with a 13–7 record, leading the AL in ERA (2.84), strikeouts (248), innings pitched (193.1), and WHIP (1.04).

Robbie Ray. Photo: Courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays

In November of 2021, Ray signed a five-year, $115 million contract with the Seattle Mariners.

While at Brentwood High School, Ray faced current Los Angeles Dodger Mookie Betts while he was attending John Overton High School in Nashville. Betts is a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover, four-time Silver Slugger, 2018 AL MVP and a two-time World Series champion both with the Red Sox (2018) and the Dodgers (2020). He will definitely be in the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Opening Day.

Gray and Price are both homegrown stars as well as Vanderbilt alumni. Gray a two-time All Star and Smyrna High School  is heading into his fourth season with the Cincinnati Reds after posting an ERA of 4.19 and striking out 155 in 26 starts.

Price, a graduate of Blackman High School, is a five-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner and a 2018 World Series champion with the Red Sox.

Along with Price and Gray, other Vanderbilt standouts will also be on team’s Opening Day rosters and lineups.

Kyle Wright. Photo: Courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

Dansby Swanson and Kyle Wright are both set to play another season with the Atlanta Braves after winning the World Series with the club in 2021.

Swanson played in 160 regular season games last season and posted a .248 batting average, a .311 on base percentage and 88 RBI’s–a career high. He won the College World Series with Vandy in 2014 and was named Wold Series Most Outstanding Player.

Wright spent most of the 2021 season with the Braves minor league affiliate but was added to the club’s postseason roster. He had a huge outing in Game 4 of the World Series where he pitched 4.5 innings to help secure the Braves win.

Other Vanderbilt standouts in the majors include Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler, Athletics second baseman Tony Kemp and Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski.

Buehler won the World Series with the Dodgers in 2020 and was named to the All-Star team in 2021 posting an ERA of 2.47 in 33 games pitched, both the most of his career. Kemp played in 131 games, the most of his career thus far. Last season for Oakland he posted a. 279 batting average, .382 on base percentage and .418 slugging percentage.

Matt Beaty. Photo: Courtesy of Belmont Athletics

Yastrzemski finished his third season in the major league in 2021 playing in 139 games and hitting 71 RBI’s and 25 home runs. His defense will be a major part of San Fransisco’s success this season.

Vanderbilt isn’t the only school that has a major leaguer. Belmont 2015 graduate Matt Beaty spent three years with the Dodgers and was an important bench player for the club, playing first base, third base and all three outfield positions. In 2021, he played in 120 games and had a batting average of. 270 and on base percentage of .363.

Beaty was traded to the San Diego Padres in March and was recently named to their Opening Day roster.

Sounds Beat Durham Bulls In 5-4 Opening Day, Walk-Off Win

Photo: Courtesy of the Nashville Sounds

The Nashville Sounds started their 2022 season with a 5-4 walk-off win over the Durham Bulls and a strong pitching performance from Ethan Small.

Tuesday night’s hero was centerfielder Corey Ray who made two huge defensive plays in the sixth inning and hit the walk-off RBI in the bottom of the ninth in front of 6,136 fans.

Small made his first career start on Opening Day, going 4.1 innings and giving up two hits and two runs, none of which were earned. The Milwaukee Brewers No. 7 prospect threw 82 pitching in his debut outing and struck out six batters.

The Sounds got things started offensively in the second inning when Jon Singleton hit a solo home run deep to center field to put Nashville up 1-0 early on. This home run came off of Singleton’s first at-bat in an affiliated baseball league since 2017.

Later in the fourth inning, Sounds second baseman Jamie Westbrooks hit a one out single. Brewers No. 4 prospect Brice Turang came to the plate and drove a triple to deep center, scoring Westbrook. A few pitches later, Turang came in to score on a Bulls wild pitch. The Sounds took a 3-0 lead. 

In the top of the fifth, Small gave up his first hit of the day after retiring seven straight batters. Later, Bulls third baseman Vidal Burjon got to first on a fielder’s choice and a Sounds error on third base. Then Miles Mastrobuoni hit an RBI single.

Nashville relief pitcher Connor Sadzeck replaced Small and proceeded to throw a wild pitch, allowing Burjan to score from third. He would work his way out of the inning but not before Durham cut the Sounds lead to 3-2.

For the next three innings, Nashville relief pitchers Sadzeck, Hobie Harris, Trevor Kelly and Angel Perdomo combined to throw 3.1 scoreless innings. The Sounds added one more run off of a Mario Feliciano RBI single in the seventh inning, giving the Sounds a 4-2 lead heading into the final inning.

Things did not go well in the top of the ninth for Nashville as right-handed pitcher Luke Barker gave up three hits and a walk against the first four batters he faced. The Bulls tied it up off of an RBI single and a sacrifice fly out to right field.

Just as everything went wrong in the top of the ninth for the Sounds, everything went right in the bottom of the inning.

Westbrook started things off with a leadoff single followed by a Turang walk. Feliciano also reached first on a walk, loading up the bases for Ray with only one out. Ray would hit a hard grounder up to first, forcing the first baseman, Jonathan Aranda, to overthrow to home.

Westbrook came in to score and the Sounds won in extremely exciting fashion.

The Sounds and Bulls play the rest of the six-game series through Sunday. Nashville’s Caleb Boushley will take the mound while Durham has yet to announce their starter. Both teams will drop their lineups later today.

Sounds Announce Opening Day Festivities, Tentative Roster

Photo: Courtesy of the Nashville Sounds

The Nashville Sounds baseball season is finally here and Opening Day is jam packed with events before the Sounds play the Durham Bulls.

Things will kickoff with a block party on Junior Gilliam Way from 4-6 p.m. The block party is free to attend and will feature live music by Evan James Smith, Rebecca Lee Daniels and Josh Davidson; face painting; balloon artists; hair braiding and a photo booth with Booster.

Fans can shop for Nashville Sounds apparel at a pop-up shop and enjoy local food trucks Sweet T’s BBQ and Lilly’s Hot Chicken. In addition to the two food trucks, domestic canned beer will also be available for purchase.

First Horizon Park is completely cashless, including for ticketing purchases, concessions and the team store.

Gates to First Horizon Park open at 5:30 p.m. with the first 1,000 fans in attendance taking home the 2022 Schedule Cling Giveaway presented by FOX 17 News. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.

Opening Day coincides with “Tito’s Tail Waggin’ Tuesday,” meaning fans can bring their four-legged friend to the game. Tickets start at $30 ($25 for owners; $5 for dog) with all dog ticket proceeds benefitting Agape Animal Rescue. Special access for dogs and their humans have been setup at the Vanderbilt Health group area located in right field.

Along with the Opening Day festivities, the club has announced the tentative Opening Day roster led by manager Rick Sweet whose 2021 team finished 70-58.

The roster is highlighted by five players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Milwaukee prospects, 17 players with Major League experience and 18 players who spent time with Nashville in 2021.

Players listed in the Brewers Top 30 prospects include shortstop Brice Turang, left-handed pitcher Ethan Small, catcher Mario Feliciano, and right-handed pitchers Alec Bettinger and Dylan File.

Small, the 2019 SEC Pitcher of the Year out of Mississippi State University, was born in Lexington, Tennessee and resides in nearby Spring Hill.

Pitcher Rex Brothers, a Major League veteran, was born in Murfreesboro and attended Shelbyville High School before starring at Lipscomb University.

In addition to Brothers, other pitchers with Major League experience include Trevor Kelley, Josh Lindblom, Angel Perdomo and Connor Sadzeck. All aside from Kelley pitched for the Sounds in 2021.

A slew of returners litter the roster, including 2021 Team MVP Weston Wilson, Team USA Silver Medalist Jamie Westbrook and Triple-A East postseason All-Star Team member Luke Barker. Other players that spent time with Nashville in 2021 include pitchers Zack Brown, Thomas Jankins and Peter Strzelecki.

Head to the Sounds website for the full 2022 roster.

Tennessee Sweeps Vanderbilt Behind Dominant Pitching Performances

Drew Beam. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt baseball has consistently been the best baseball program in the state of Tennessee for nearly a decade. But this past weekend, the University of Tennessee completed a sweep of the Vandy Boys in a performance that was nothing short of dominance.

This was the first time Vanderbilt has been swept in back-to-back SEC series since 2018, and the first time the team was swept by Tennessee since 2009, which was also played at Hawkins Field.

“I think we’re a well-rounded team and that’s been a work in progress for the last few years,” said Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello. “I feel like we had it last year but maybe this year they’re just a little better.”

The Volunteers are ranked No. 1 nationally and have the best ERA among all DI baseball teams as well as the most home runs. This was on full display all weekend as Tennessee outscored Vanderbilt 16-4 behind excellent pitching from Chase Burns, Chase Dollander and Drew Beam. Beam was near perfect on Sunday’s series closer as he threw a complete game, allowing only two hits in 110 pitches thrown.

“You really just got to congratulate Tennessee,” said Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin postgame. “They were the better team in every way. It’s a good team, a really good team.”

Tennessee started things off on Friday’s series opener, winning 6-2 behind at-bats from Trey Lipscomb and Jordan Beck.

Jordan Beck. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

Vandy pitcher Chris McElvain struck out the first two Volunteer batters in the first inning until Beck took McElvain deep. In a crazy turn of events, the umpires inspected Beck’s bat and determined that it was not an official bat allowed by the NCAA, forcing him to be called out and cancelling out the home run.

This wouldn’t mean much later on when Luc Lipcius hit a 2-run home run in the second inning. The Commodores scored once more in the fifth inning on an RBI fielder’s choice, but a four-run fifth inning for the Vols behind a 2-run RBI double from Beck solidified its dominant series opener. Throughout Friday night’s game, the Commodores outfield had trouble locating fly balls in the new stadium lights.

Saturday was a similar story as the Vols took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Lipscomb set the tone for Tennessee’s offense, going 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. Beck also notched a multi-hit effort, going 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Vols pitcher Chase Dollander pitched a strong eight innings giving up only three hits and two runs–another amazing performance from the Volunteers pitching staff.

Sunday’s matinee was a bit closer for the first few innings as Commodore pitcher Patrick Reilly went five innings, only giving up a solo home run to Drew Gilbert in the fourth inning. Christian Little and Thomas Shultz gave up an additional four runs in the last three innings.

The star of the show was Drew Beam, who put on a pitching clinic. He only gave up two hits the entire game, both of which came before the fifth inning. He retired 16 straight batters between the fifth and ninth inning.

His performance earned him a SEC Pitcher of the Week and SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

Next up, Tennessee will host Lipscomb in Knoxville on Tuesday, April 5 and Missouri over the weekend on April 8-10.

Vanderbilt will look to bounce back after the frustrating series as they face Austin Peay on Tuesday before heading to Auburn for a weekend series against Auburn University.

Nashville Sounds To Become Vihuelas De Nashville To Celebrate Latino Community This June

The Nashville Sounds will be changing its name to Vihuelas de Nashville from June 24-26 to celebrate the culture and heritage of Music City’s Latino community.

This is part of a Minor League Baseball series called Copa de la Diversión which allows each minor league team to honor hispanic communities in their regions. The Hispanic fan engagement initiative was created in 2017.

Through the success of the Copa program, now in its fifth season, MiLB has solidified its commitment to the long-term growth of its U.S. Latino communities and its diversity and inclusion efforts across the country.

At the end of the season, MiLB’s Latino Leadership and Community Growth Council, comprised of industry experts and civic leaders, will recognize the top-performing teams in several categories, including ballpark experience, community engagement, and philanthropic impact. One team will be named the overall Copa de la Diversión champion with previous winners including the Mariachis de Nuevo México (2018, 2019) and the Wepas de Worcester (2021).

“The continued growth of the Copa de la Diversión initiative reinforces the importance of connecting with our Latino fans and the Latino community nationwide,” says Kurt Hunzeker, MLB’s Vice President of Minor League Business Operations. “Our teams continue to authentically connect with the Latino population in their communities, leading to a deeper and more meaningful fan experience.”

Vihuelas de Nashville was chosen as the Nashville Sounds’ name due to its musical connection. A vihuela is a classic Mexican guitar that can be heard in many traditional and pop Latin music. The lettering and details in the Vihuelas de Nashville logo are popular in Latin countries and mimic a style of woodcarving made famous in Mexico.

The Vihuelas de Nashville will debut new green jerseys at First Horizon Park on Saturday, June 25, and will also wear them on Sunday, June 26. They will also play as the Vihuelas in three road games this season: April 13 at Gwinnett, July 7 at Columbus and September 20 at Louisville.

As part of the Vihuelas’ Copa de la Diversión weekend, the team will be auctioning their game-worn jerseys on Friday, June 24. The auction will benefit Conexión Americas and will go from June 20-27. Fans can bid on the game-worn jerseys through the MiLB auction platform online.

New Vihuelas hats, jerseys, and merchandise will be available at the Sounds Pro Shop or online.