Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament partnership with Flutie Foundation a Success

The Puzzle Cup Hockey Tournament took place this past weekend, with 100% of net proceeds going to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. I attended the event on its second of three days, Saturday, July 30, and I was able to announce live at the event as an honorary captain and learn about the backstory behind it.

When I arrived, I met Mike “Pitbull” Palelli of the Power Play Hockey League, the primary organizer of the tournament. He generously gave me and the other honorary captains free Puzzle Cup gear. As a member of the Coast Guard, he also gave us his official Coast Guard poker chips, reserved for people he cares deeply about. He even included an extra poker chip and hat for my grandpa, a retired Army National Guard Colonel. One of Mike’s best friends from the military has a son with autism. Since then, autism acceptance has been an important cause to Mike and it inspired him to dedicate this tournament to the autism community.

Flutie Fellow and Special Olympic golfer Tyler Lagasse was among the honorary captains. This was my first time seeing Tyler since I watched him win his first gold medal at the 2022 USA Games. Tyler has always been a hockey fan as well as a fan of the cause. In addition to a ceremonial puck drop, Tyler had prepared a speech to give to players in the locker room.

Many other honorary captains took part in the opening ceremonies. Spectrum of Sound, the Flutie Foundation’s choir, came to sing the national anthem, and several others had the chance to participate in ceremonial puck drops. Fellow aspiring sports reporter Josh Stanbrook and I were able to announce it all, and I stuck around for some play by play.

After going on the ice, we were all pretty hungry and thirsty. I had a burger fresh off the grill with some fries and my favorite sports drink, BodyArmor. BodyArmor, a partner of the Power Play Hockey League, was sponsoring the entire tournament. I took the opportunity to thank BodyArmor, because it not only kept me hydrated in the Orlando heat when I covered the Special Olympics, but also was directly supporting the autism community through this event.

Before I left, I had the chance to catch up with a couple players and a referee as they got off the ice for the day. I also had some more time to talk to Mike and hear about his deep care for this cause. It warmed my heart to hear that Mike, who I had just met, already saw me and the other honorary captains as members of his own family. I’d like to thank Mike Palelli for his immediate support as soon as we met. He is one of many great people I have met through the Foundation.

I also had to say my goodbyes to my other friends from the Foundation, as this was the last event I would be attending before heading off to college for the semester. However, this is far from the end of my involvement with the Foundation. I will always be a proud member of the Flutie Foundation family, and when I return home, I hope to attend and cover more Flutie Foundation events, including next year’s Puzzle Cup. Hopefully, like Mike said, next year’s tournament will include an expanded field of teams and raise even more money for the Flutie Foundation.

Ready for Special Olympics, Park Scholar Program after Graduation

CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OLYMPIC COVERAGE

After a busy 4 years at Algonquin Regional High School, I will be graduating this Sunday, June 5.

Right after graduation, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Florida to cover the Special Olympics USA Games for the second consecutive time to follow the story of 3-time silver medalist golfer and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. You’ll be able to follow my coverage on this page.

Once I return, I will be preparing for my next four years as a sports media major in the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. In case you have not heard, I was recently selected into the Park Scholar Program, Ithaca College’s full-ride scholarship program centered around service in the communications industry. I’d like to thank the entire Park Scholar Selection Committee for choosing to bring me on board for these next four years.

Check out this video of my official announcement from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism’s 26.2 Can Do Fest before the Boston Marathon. I was there alongside football legend and Foundation co-founder Doug Flutie and voice of the New England Patriots Bob Socci, who have been a tremendous help with my goal to become a professional sports journalist.

I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my journey!

2022 Boston Sports Mania Apparel Fundraiser

For the second year in a row, Boston Sports Mania apparel is being sold for a limited period of time. All profits will go to the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. The Flutie Foundation is an organization who helps people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.

I also want to give a special thanks to Spectrum Designs, a business that helps individuals with autism lead full and productive lives through the world of work. They produced the apparel and donated the ordering website.

The best part of this campaign is that every dollar raised will benefit the autism community in some way, because the Flutie Foundation helps people and families affected by autism and Spectrum Designs employs people with autism.

Apparel can be purchased until May 3, 2022. We’ll also have a chance for everyone to see the apparel in person on that day.

Come attend an in-person event on May 3rd from 5:30PM to 9:30PM at Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, MA (21 Apex Drive) to support the Flutie Foundation for Autism and conclude the Autism Acceptance month online apparel fundraiser.

  • The May 3rd event is an in-person fundraiser and people are invited to come at any time between 5:30 PM and 9:00 PM EST to have fun with colleagues, family, and friends
    • Everyone who visits the host table at the entrance will receive a 30-minute Apex game card valued between $10 and $15
    • Additional Option for more free games: Anyone who donates to the Flutie Foundation for Autism in any of the following ways will receive an additional Apex attraction voucher valued between $10 and $15:
      • Bring proof of donation at the Boston Sports Mania Apparel sales site here
      • At the event, donate with a credit card at the check-in table 
      • Purchase Boston Sports Mania apparel (see below) with a credit card at the check-in table

Purchase your apparel and/or make a donation to support the Flutie Foundation by clicking HERE.

Fundraiser: 2021 Flutie Foundation Fantasy Football League

The second year of the Flutie Foundation Fantasy Football League is underway! While we compete for the belt TrophySmack generously donated as pictured above, we are all raising money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism through Facebook fundraisers.

You can learn more about the fundraiser by watching this video from The Adam Jones Show on November 16.

Click here to donate and help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest

Featured in best of SNO: Xu runs Boston Marathon to support autism community

Enchee Xu, a member of my graduating class at Algonquin Regional High School, recently ran the Boston Marathon with his mom, Connie Cao to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

I wrote about them for my school newspaper, the Algonquin Harbinger, and it was featured in Best of School Newspapers Online (SNO)!

I would like to thank the Harbinger staff for asking me to do this story, thank the Harbinger adviser, Lindsay Coppens, for forwarding this article along to Best of SNO, and thank Best of SNO for choosing this article. I’d also like to thank Connie Cao, Enchee Xu, and Mike Palmer for allowing me to interview them. Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Flutie Foundation for their continued support of me and the rest of the autism community.

WooSox host Fidrych Foundation, Challenger players take the field

On August 21, 2021, Challenger League players had the chance to live in the shoes of a WooSox player as they took the field at Polar Park as part of a Mark Fidrych Foundation event.

This was an awesome opportunity for the players, who were kids of a variety of ages with special needs. It’s all thanks to the WooSox partnership with the Fidrych Foundation.

A longtime partnership

Even back in Pawtucket, the Red Sox AAA affiliate has always given back to the community around them and made their ballpark accessible to all audiences. As part of this, they have longtime partnerships with both the Challenger League, a baseball league for those with physical and developmental disabilities, and the Mark Fidrych Foundation, an organization that enhances the lives of those with special needs through sports and sports education. The Fidrych Foundation was started by the family of Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych after he died in a tractor accident back in 2009. Fidrych, a former MLB pitcher who spent time with the AAA Red Sox, was highly involved in the community of his hometown of Northborough, MA prior to his death and his family wanted to continue his legacy.

When the team moved to Worcester and became the WooSox, it was the perfect opportunity to bring their Fidrych Foundation and Challenger partnerships together, as the Foundation supports Challenger teams in many nearby towns.

I caught up with Ann and Jessica Fidrych from the Foundation as well as Joe Bradlee, the WooSox Vice President of Baseball Operations and Community Relations, who spoke about the partnership.

Challenger League comes to bat

To begin the day, Challenger League players and their buddies were welcomed onto the field and each player got the chance to bat and run the bases.

As players came up to bat, their names were announced, just like the real WooSox players.

Bradlee pitched to the players and multiple coaches and WooSox staff members, including former Red Sox catcher and current WooSox hitting coach Rich Gedman, played the field.

I caught up with Gedman after the game. Gedman is a Worcester native and is proud to be involved not only with the WooSox but also in giving back to the Worcester community.

I also spoke with several long time Challenger League players: Krish from Shrewsbury, Tobin from Southborough, and Jay from Framingham. All three of them had nice hits off of Bradlee, and Krish had one of the biggest hits of the day as he drilled the ball down the third base line. Krish said it was a result of him continuing to work on his swing.

Parents were able to watch their kids from the berm. I spoke with the parents of Ryan Love, a longtime Shrewsbury Challenger League player. They were ecstatic about Ryan having the opportunity to take an at bat at Polar Park.

Outstanding volunteers honored

After the players finished batting and running, the Fidrych Foundation announced the honorees of their annual Citizenship Award. The award was given to four individuals who have volunteered as buddies in Fidrych Foundation programs. According to the Foundation’s website, the Citizenship Award is for “young men and women who have actively participated in and advocated for special needs athletic involvement within their surrounding communities.” This year’s winners were Kyle Daunais, Gianni Colonero, Michael Warwick, and Chase Collins.

Kyle and Gianni, both longtime Challenger League buddies, were in attendance. I had the chance to speak with both of them after they received their awards. They were glad the Foundation was so appreciative of their volunteer efforts and were happy to take part in this welcoming community.

Ken’s Foods welcomes Challenger League back

Thanks to Ken’s Foods, all the Challenger League players, buddies, and their families were welcomed back to Polar Park later that day for the game against the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Fidrych Foundation was honored as part of the pregame ceremony. This topped off a fun day for everyone involved in this evolving partnership.

The Fidrych Foundation not only improves the lives of the players, but also gives teenagers in the area a chance to make a difference in their community. I have several friends who have gotten involved either as players or volunteers, and when I played in the Northborough Challenger League for its first five years, I truly saw how much the Foundation did to make the Challenger players feel special.

The WooSox have continued to welcome people from all backgrounds to the ballpark with open arms, and I think it’s amazing that they’re supporting an organization like the Fidrych Foundation.

Thank You to all apparel fundraiser donors

I want to thank everyone who contributed to my Boston Sports Mania apparel fundraiser. Your help led to me raising $3,108.11 for the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, and that money will help the Foundation in their mission to help people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest.

Check out this video for more (please note that after this video was produced, John Hancock Financial contributed $500 to the fundraiser to match a generous donation made by Ruth Webb of Northborough that brought the total funds raised over $3,100).

Celebrating 7 Years of Boston Sports Mania

Today marks 7 years since I took a book out of the library and decided to start this blog, posting an MLB 2014 Preview. That’s pretty fitting considering my sports fandom began with baseball.

Just like I did in 2014 and have done in every year since, I’ll be posting my MLB season predictions before the season begins. For the second year in a row, I collaborated on these predictions with my cousin Michael. I made an appearance on his podcast, The Master Plan. I’ll have a post up about those this weekend. In the meantime, I have some special announcements to make.

I designed this new logo in commemoration of this 7 year blog anniversary as well as the upcoming Autism Acceptance Month this April:

When I was first diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, my parents were told I may never speak. I have made lots of progress since then, from learning to talk, read, and write, to discovering my passion for sports, to starting this blog. After starting this blog, I realized I wanted to become a professional sports journalist, and I have been lucky enough to have some experiences in the industry thanks to connections I’ve made through this blog.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive communities that helped me along the way. That’s why I’ve launched a apparel fundraising campaign featuring this new logo to help give back to the autism community this April.

Click here or watch the video below for more information on this campaign:

I’m excited to be celebrating 7 years of Boston Sports Mania and Autism Acceptance Month with this campaign, and I look forward to keeping this website active for many years to come.

Ranking the Top 20 Boston Athletes of the Decade

Over the last 10 days, I’ve been on vacation in Florida, visiting my family and spending a few days at Disney World. During that time, I haven’t been very active on here (my apologies for that), though I have provided my Week 16 & 17 NFL Picks and some additional sports insights on my Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). After a 2 week hiatus on this blog, 2019 has almost ended.

I’ve done some New Year’s articles in the past, but this isn’t just the start of a year. As we kick off the new year, we also start a new decade.

The 2010s were a very memorable decade for me. This was the decade when I really got into sports. This was the decade when I started this blog, and this blog has led to many great experiences for me. So, I’m going to celebrate by looking back on some of Boston’s best athletes of the decade.

In this article, I’ll be writing about my Top 20 Boston athletes of the decade as we head into the 2020s. These rankings include athletes on all four major Boston teams (Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins). I favored players who consistently contributed to Boston teams over big names who were here for a year or two, but there is still a mix of different kinds of athletes in these rankings.

Let’s get this countdown started:

20. Dustin Pedroia

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: 2nd Base (2B)

Despite facing injuries along the way that have caused a significant decline, Pedroia has stuck with the team for the entirety of the decade. Prior to the beginning of the serious injury problems in 2018, Pedroia batted right around .300 on an annual basis, while collecting three Gold Gloves as one of the MLB’s best second basemen of the early 2010s. Pedroia averaged a .386 OBP from 2010-2017, and he was a significant factor when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. For most of the decade, he’s been a consistent hitter you can trust to get on base and a strong defender. Until injury problems got serious, he rarely sat out of the lineup, determined to play every day. I just hope we can see him return to form in 2020 as he attempts to return from his knee injury one more time.

19. Kevin Garnett

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Power Forward/Center (PF/C)

Garnett’s six season stint with the Celtics began in 2007 when he helped lead the Celtics to their 17th championship alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. His final three seasons with the Celtics were in the 2010s. In these seasons, Garnett was still a starter and a significant contributor for the Celtics. He averaged right around 15-16 PPG and 8-9 RPG, which was a slight decline from his 2007-08 stats but still pretty good. He’s also one of the team’s best defensive players of the 21st century. But when the Celtics began to rebuild, he was traded alongside Pierce, D.J. White and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a handful of lower tier players draft picks. These picks have resulted in the Celtics drafting young stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who could determine the future of this team.

18. Al Horford

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2016-2019

Position: Center (C)

Horford is alongside Garnett as one of the best Celtics defensive players of the 21st century. In the 2016 off-season, the Celtics signed Horford on a 4 year, $113 million deal with a player option after his third season. Horford averaged 13-14 PPG while making a huge impact defensively in his three years with the Celtics. Horford played in a variety of roles with the team. He was a veteran frontcourt leader in 2016-17, while contributing to a more star-studded lineup in his final two seasons with the team. He played alongside Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in those last two years. The chemistry issues with the team were clear, but the Celtics still had one of the best starting fives in the league last season, and Horford was an important part of it. Since Horford left for the 76ers this off-season, the Celtics have relied on a variety of players at center, and Horford’s defensive presence has been missed.

17. Tyler Seguin

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Center (C)

Seguin started his NHL career in 2010 with the Bruins. Though his best years have come with the Dallas Stars since he left Boston in 2013, he scored 56 goals and contributed 65 assists with the Bruins. He also contributed to a 2011 Stanley Cup victory and a 2013 Eastern Conference victory. Seguin played alongside many other young, talented players that have stuck with the Bruins longer than he did. Brad Marchand, one of these players, is still on the team now. But Seguin showed a lot of promise in these early years of the 2010s with the Bruins.

16. Dont’a Hightower

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2012-2019

Position: Linebacker (LB)

Hightower has dealt with injury issues over the years, but he has been a pretty consistent key piece to this defense for most of his career and most of this decade. Hightower has collected 25.5 sacks over 8 seasons (5.5 of which came in 2019), as well as 42 tackles for a loss and 63 total QB hits. He has also recovered 5 fumbles during his Pats career. He’s no superstar, but when healthy, he’s a leader on the Patriots defense and a factor in both the pass rush and the run defense.

15. Paul Pierce

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2013

Position: Small Forward (SF)

This Celtics legend finished his Boston career in the 2010s alongside Garnett. Pierce averaged right around 19 PPG on an annual basis in his last few years with the Celtics, and ended up falling off significantly after leaving the team. In his early 2000s prime, Pierce was averaging as much as 27 PPG and 7 RPG, but he was still a leader and a significant offensive factor on this team in the 2010s. Pierce led the Celtics to a playoff appearance in each of his three seasons this decade with the team, including one Eastern Conference Finals run in which the Celtics lost to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

14. Rob Ninkovich

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2016

Position: Defensive End/Linebacker (DE/LB)

Ninkovich is arguably New England’s best edge rusher of the decade. Ninkovich joined the Patriots in the 2009 season. Over 8 years with the Patriots, he put up 46 sacks and back to back to back 8 sack seasons from 2012 to 2014. He also posted 55 tackles for a loss and forced 12 fumbles during his Patriots career. Ninkovich retired after the 2016 season. Though it would have been nice to see him stay with the Patriots a little longer, a slight decline in 2016 may have been a factor in convincing the 33-year old to call it a career.

13. Xander Bogaerts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2013-2019

Position: Shortstop (SS)

Before Bogaerts, it had been a long time since the Red Sox had a reliable shortstop. You could argue Bogaerts is the best Red Sox shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004. Bogaerts debuted at 20 years old in September 2013 as the Red Sox prepared for a playoff run. Bogey was instantly a factor, playing 18 regular season games while batting .250. He was also a regular starter during the World Series run. It took a while for Bogaerts to emerge as a star. But prior to his breakout year in 2019, he was still a factor in the Red Sox lineup, a strong defender, and one of a few five tool players on the team. After signing an 8 year extension prior to 2019, he batted .304 with a .939 OPS, hit 33 home runs, and put up 117 RBI. Bogaerts has been one of my favorite players on the Red Sox since his debut, and is my favorite since David Ortiz retired. At 27 with 7 years left on his new contract, Bogaerts is here to stay, and despite his slow emergence, he should be a leader on this team for years to come. He’s already won three Silver Slugger awards (2015, 2016, and 2019), and I think there’s much more to come.

12. Milan Lucic

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2015

Position: Left Wing (LW)

Lucic was a consistent top contributor for the Bruins throughout the early 2010s. Lucic joined the Bruins as a rookie in 2007 and stayed with the team until 2015. The 2010-11 season was a breakout year for Lucic in which he put up 62 points. He nearly matched that in 2011-12 (61) and 2013-14 (59). He also put up 27 points in the shortened 2012-13 season. Lucic fell off a bit in the 2014-15 season, scoring just 18 goals with 26 assists. The Bruins also disappointed as a team, just barely missing the playoffs. As a result, Lucic was traded to the Los Angeles Kings as the Bruins began a miniature rebuild. However, for the first few years of the decade, Lucic was a rising star for the Bruins, and one of their best players.

11. Isaiah Thomas

Team: Boston Celtics

Years Played: 2015-2017

Position: Point Guard (PG)

Thomas only played 2.5 seasons with the Celtics. He was traded from the Phoenix Suns at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline, and he was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the famous 2017 Kyrie Irving trade. He’s also one of the shortest players in the NBA, standing at 5’9″. However, IT was in his prime with the Celtics, posting his only two 20+ PPG seasons with the C’s. He shattered his personal record with 28.9 PPG in the 2016-17 season and averaged 5.9 APG that same season. Thomas injured his hip in the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and he hasn’t quite been the same since then. But he was a superstar with this team, leading the Celtics to a deep playoff run in 2017 and helping them return to the playoffs in 2015 and 2016 after a brief rebuild. He is easily the best Celtics player of the decade, as Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving played even less in Boston this decade, while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weren’t really superstars until this season.

10. Stephon Gilmore

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2017-2019

Position: Cornerback (CB)

Gilmore emerged as one of the best corners in the league in his first three years with the Patriots. In his first season, he picked up 2 interceptions and excelled at breaking up passes, but struggled with penalties more than most Patriots players. He cleaned up his act in 2018, and continued to emerge as an elite corner, defending a total of 20 passes compared to 9 in 2017. But 2019 took things to another level. He picked up 6 interceptions (led the league), and matched his 20 PD total from 2018 (also led the league this year). He has made a clear case for himself as the Defensive Player of the Year, and in three years with the Patriots, Gilmore has made a bigger impact this decade than some Pats players who have been here much longer.

9. Zdeno Chara

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Defense (D)

Chara, the long time Bruins player and captain, is one of the best defensive players in Bruins history. Chara joined the Bruins from Ottawa in 2006, and has stuck with the Bruins since. Despite playing for both the Islanders and Senators early in his career, Chara has spent more than half his career with the Bruins. Most (but not all) of this stint has been in the 2010s. In addition to his defensive success, Chara has one of the longest slap shots in the league. In 2011-12, he set a personal best with 52 points. He has declined since that year, but at the age of 42, Chara is still a key piece for the Bruins, and plays in the 1st or 2nd defensive pairing each game. Chara will go down as a Bruins legend.

8. Devin McCourty

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Cornerback/Safety (CB/S)

McCourty’s entire career so far has taken place in this decade with the Pats. He was drafted by the Patriots in 2010 and has stuck with the team. In the last two years, Devin has played alongside his twin brother Jason in the Patriots secondary.  Devin began his NFL career as a cornerback like Jason, but switched to safety in 2013.  As a corner in his first three seasons, Devin collected a total of 14 interceptions.  After six straight years without more than 2 interceptions, he had 5 in 2019.  Devin was one of our best defensive players in his first few years with the team.  He had begun to decline with age and after moving to safety.  But he has reemerged as an elite safety this season, and he has been a quality starter for the Patriots in all 10 years of this decade, something not many Patriots players have been able to acheive.

7. Julian Edelman

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played this Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Wide Receiver (WR)

Edelman, an undersized QB from Kent State was drafted in Round 7 by the Patriots and converted to wide receiver.  He went from a no-name to a Top 10-15 wide receiver in this league.  I consider Edelman (aside from Tom Brady) one of the biggest surprise breakout players in NFL history.  Edelman contributed minimally in his first few seasons with the team.  2012 was when he first started to show promise, as he caught 21 balls for 235 yards.  In the 2012-13 off-season, WRs Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd left New England for the Broncos.  The Pats signed Danny Amendola to help fill the gap.  But in the end, Edelman made a bigger impact, breaking out for 1056 receiving yards.  Since then, Edelman has been Brady’s reliable slot receiver, usually the #2 or #3 target on the team.  In TE Rob Gronkowski’s absence, Edelman has even emerged as Brady’s favorite target.  He took things to another level starting in 2016, collecting 1106 yards that year and making an unbelievable catch in Super Bowl LI to help the Patriots come back from a 28-3 deficit.  Edelman has continued to improve as the decade progresses, and he has been on the Patriots from the very beginning of the 2010s.

6. Brad Marchand

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Left Wing

Marchand made his debut at the beginning of the decade, and he was quick to make an impact.  Marchand put up 41 points in his first full season with the team (2010-11) as the left wing of the 2nd line.  He has continued to improve throughout the decade, and took things to another level when he joined the first line in Milan Lucic’s absence.  Marchand scored 61 points in 2015-16, followed by back to back 85 point seasons and an 100 point season.  In each of those four seasons, Marchand scored 30+ goals to contribute to those point totals.  Marchand stands just 5’9″, but he makes up for it with his aggressive play style.  He has gotten into many fights, resulting in harsher punishments for fights in recent years.  But it has become part of his playing style, and Marchand did clean up his act a bit in 2018-19 as the Bruins made a run at the Stanley Cup.  Marchand started the decade as the latest young talent to join the team.  Now, he’s a 1st line superstar.

I met and interviewed Marchand back in 2015: Bruins Treat Me to Greatest Sports Experience of my Life

5. Mookie Betts

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played in Decade: 2014-2019

Position: Outfield (OF)

I attended Betts’ debut, and I clearly remember his immediate impact.  In his first game, he showed off his speed with an infield double and helped the Red Sox come back to win 5-4.  He finished the 2014 season batting .291 with an .812 OPS.  Betts has remained a valuable five-tool player for the Red Sox throughout the rest of decade, and he took things to another level in 2016 and 2018.  In 2018, Betts won MVP, batting .346 (led league) with a .640 slugging percentage (led league) and 32 home runs.  Betts had 31 dingers back in 2016 as well as a .318 batting average.  Betts is a bit inconsistent.  Some years, he looks more like a slightly above average five-tool player (not quite a superstar), and other years, he looks like an MVP candidate.  I hope he stays with this team for at least 2020, as he is one of Boston’s best athletes this decade.  But they need to be careful not to overpay Betts.

4. Patrice Bergeron

Team: Boston Bruins

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Center (C)

Bergeron is a true leader on this team, as he has been throughout the decade.  Bergeron has been a career Bruin, debuting in the 2003-04 season.  At the age of 34, he is still improving.  Last season, Bergeron set a personal record with 79 points, and he is on pace to come close to that again this year.  Bergeron is also on pace to post his third straight 30+ goal season.  Bergeron has been a consistent offensive contributor throughout the decade, and this is in addition to strong defense.  Bergeron and Marchand are very different players, but they are easily the two best Bruins players of the decade.

3. Rob Gronkowski

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2018

Position: Tight End (TE)

Gronkowski’s career was cut short by injury issues that occurred throughout the decade.  But when healthy, Gronk was the decade’s best tight end and Tom Brady’s most reliable weapon.  Gronk posted four 1000+ yard seasons in his nine year career despite many injuries.  In addition to that, he is arguably as good a blocker as he is a pass catcher.  Gronk and Aaron Hernandez were drafted to split TE reps for the Pats in 2010.  Gronk contributed in 2010, but his true breakout and best season came in 2011.  Gronk had 1327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns that year, helping Brady lead the Pats to an AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.  In 115 games, Gronk scored 79 touchdowns and posted 7861 receiving yards.  Gronkowski is one of the best tight ends in NFL history, and was Brady’s right hand man in the second uprising of the Patriots dynasty.  This decade, Brady and Gronk helped lead the Pats to eight straight AFC title games and three Super Bowls.  It’s a shame Gronk retired so early, but it was in his best interest.

2. David Ortiz

Team: Boston Red Sox

Years Played: 2010-2016

Position: Designated Hitter (DH)

Known as Big Papi, Ortiz really owned the title of designated hitter.  Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003, and he broke out with the team.  From 2003-2016, Big Papi was one of Boston’s best hitters.  In the 2010s, he was arguably Boston’s very best hitter.  Ortiz finished his career with 541 home runs, as he hit the 500 HR mark in 2015.  In this decade, he has made five All Star Games and won three Silver Sluggers.  In this decade, Ortiz averaged 32 home runs per season.  Most of all, Ortiz helped lift the city of Boston out of a terrorist attack, the Boston Marathon Bombings, with his famous “This is Our City” speech that I witnessed live.  After this speech, Ortiz led the Sox to a 2013 World Series victory, the third World Series victory of his career.  He will go down as a Boston legend, and there is only one man more deserving of the title of “Best Boston Athlete of the Decade.”

That man is…

1. Tom Brady

Team: New England Patriots

Years Played in Decade: 2010-2019

Position: Quarterback (QB)

Tom Brady is the greatest NFL player of all time without a doubt.  He most definitely deserves the #1 spot in these rankings.  At the age of 42, Brady is still playing.  He might not quite be as good as he used to be, but he’s still playing.  One of his best seasons came in 2017 at the age of 40, when he led the NFL in passing yards.  He has also had very strong seasons in 2010 (led league in TDs), 2011 (broke 5000 passing yards), and 2015 (led league and TDs.)  Even though his individual performance has made him an elite QB for most of the decade and allowed him to fight for all time passing records, what really makes this decade special for Brady is that he led the Pats to three more Super Bowl victories this decade.  He broke the record for most Super Bowl rings by a player (6) and now hopes to lead the Patriots to break the team record (Steelers are tied with them at 6).  He’s not only Boston’s best athlete of the decade.  You could argue he’s Boston’s best athlete yet.  If not, he’s up there with Larry Bird and Bobby Orr at the very least.

 

That’s all for these rankings.  Stay tuned for more articles in 2020, including my NFL Playoff Predictions.  Happy New Year!