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Florida Sports

Top prospect Wander Franco homers in MLB debut for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Wander Franco, a 20-year-old infielder considered the best prospect in the minor leagues, homered for the Tampa Bay Rays in his major league debut, connecting for a three-run drive against Boston on Tuesday night.
Called up from Triple-A earlier in the day, Franco’s first big league hit was a home run to left field against Eduardo Rodriguez in the fifth inning that tied the game at 5.
The rookie raised his right arm as he neared the plate and lifted both arms while crossing the plate to a roaring crowd at Tropicana Field.
Franco drew a nice ovation when he went on the field to run pregame, and got a partial standing ovation when the Rays’ lineup was announced over the public-address system.
Franco batted second and played third base. The salute grew to full standing ovation with fans in the left-field stands chanting “Wander Franco” as he walked to the plate to bat in the first.
After Franco walked on a 3-2 pitch the first time up, he hit a long fly to center in the third.
“It’s still hard to believe,” Franco said through an interpreter before the game. “I feel ready. I’ve waited a long time for this moment. I feel really good about it.”
Franco hit .315 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 39 games this season at Triple-A Durham.
“I want to give 100 percent of what I’ve got and just continue with the work I’ve been doing in hopes that it turns me into a superstar,” Franco said.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said Franco will also get playing at time at shortstop and second base.
“I think he’s kind of shown everybody he’s ready,” Cash said. “Conquered every level. In fairness, forced our hand.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora compared the anticipation in the baseball world of Franco’s debut to that of Toronto star Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
“He can do a lot of stuff in the field,” said Cora, who saw Franco play during spring training. “Very physical for his age. He’s very strong. The future is bright for this kid.”
Franco is wearing No. 5 out of respect for longtime star Albert Pujols, a fellow countryman from the Dominican Republic.
Pujols, now slugging for the Dodgers, made his major league debut one month and one day after Franco’s birth. Franco is the first major leaguer born in 2001.
Franco was 5 for 17 with a long home run in seven spring training games for Tampa Bay this year.
To make room on the active roster, right-hander Drew Rasmussen was optioned to Durham on Monday. A spot on the 40-man was cleared with infielder-outfielder Wyatt Mathisen being designated for assignment Tuesday.
Tampa Bay had lost six straight entering Tuesday, dropping a half-game back of the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.
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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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Florida Sports

Rays set to promote SS Wander Franco, MLB’s No. 1 prospect

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays infielder Wander Franco, considered the best prospect in the minors, is set to make his major league debut.
The Rays say they plan to promote the 20-year-old Franco from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday. Tampa Bay is off Monday and hosts the Red Sox on Tuesday night.
Franco is a .332 hitter with 145 RBIs in three minor league seasons.
Franco went 5 for 17 with a long home run in seven spring training games for Tampa Bay this year.
The Rays had the best record in the majors this year until their current six-game losing streak.
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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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Florida Sports

Gipson-Long, Sabato lead Mussels to 5-1 week

FORT MYERS – Sawyer Gipson-Long went five scoreless and Aaron Sabato drove in two to lead the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels to a 5-1 week against the Lakeland Flying Tigers at Hammond Stadium Sunday.
Sabato’s two-run double in the third inning proved to be the difference, as the Mighty Mussels (25-17) capped their big week with a 3-1 victory on Father’s Day. With two on and two out, Sabato laced a 3-2 pitch to the wall in left center at 101 miles per hour.
That followed a leadoff home run by Jeferson Morales, his team-leading fifth dinger of the season.
Gipson-Long and the Fort Myers bullpen did the rest, holding Lakeland (15-26) to two runs or less for the fourth time in six games. Gipson-Long scattered four hits and three walks, fanning six without allowing a run.
The Mussels’ used four relievers for one inning each to close out the series. Erik Manoah Jr. earned his second save of the series, stranding the tying run at home in the ninth.
Denny Bentley, Steven Cruz and John Wilson each worked a clean inning before Manoah Jr. Cruz struck out two, and Wilson made his Hammond Stadium debut.
The Mighty Mussels’ have started the month of June with a 14-4 record, pitching to a stingy 1.97 ERA while striking out 215 batters in 155.1 innings (12.5 K/9). Perhaps most impressively, they’ve walked the fewest batters (68) in the league this month.
Fort Myers will travel to Palm Beach on Tuesday to begin a six-game series with the Cardinals. All six games can be heard on the Cardinals Baseball Network.

Box Score: https://atmilb.com/3qc1sB7

— John Vittas

Categories
Florida Sports

Julien, Morales lead Mussels to doubleheader sweep

FORT MYERS – Edouard Julien and Jeferson Morales each enjoyed three-hit nights, as the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels swept the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Thursday’s doubleheader at Hammond Stadium.
Julien drove in three runs and scored three runs as the Mighty Mussels (22-17) ran away with a 9-4 win in Game 2. His solo home run in the fifth inning left the bat at 107.9 mph.
Fort Myers racked up 13 hits in just six offensive innings, bookending their night with a pair of three spots.
The Mussels wasted no time jumping on Lakeland (15-23) starter Joseph Salazar (0-2). In a scoreless game in the bottom of the first, Morales singled to right on the first pitch from Salazar. After a stolen base and a walk, Julien sliced a single to left to give Fort Myers a 1-0 lead. After a second run scored on a Yunior Severino ground out, Aaron Sabato singled up the middle to plate Julien and cap the inning at 3-0.
After a Kingston Liniak three-run homer pulled the Flying Tigers to within 5-4, Julien’s home run pushed the lead back to two.
The Mussels finished off the sweep in the seventh, rattling off six straight hits. The rally was highlighted by a 13-pitch at bat by Morales, who eventually lined a single to right.
Right-hander Erik Manoah Jr. struck out four over two scoreless innings of relief to earn his first save in the Twins’ organization.
In Game 1, Misael Urbina struck his first home run of the season – parking a two-run home run to left at 103.3 mph off the bat.
Charles Mack added an opposite field home run in the fourth, his third of the year.
Denny Bentley (3-1) went 3.1 hitless frames to earn the win, striking out five. Steven Cruz also logged 3.1 innings to notch the save, fanning five without walking a batter.
The Mighty Mussels will look to clinch at least a series split at 7 p.m.today. LHP Brent Headrick (2-2, 3.04) makes the start for Fort Myers, opposed by RHP Gio Arriera (1-3, 4.28) of the Flying Tigers. Mighty Mussels Pre-Game Live hits the air at 6:45 p.m.

— John Vittas

Game 1 Box Score: https://atmilb.com/3gAHNHI
Game 2 Box Score: https://atmilb.com/2SLH3GC

Categories
Florida Sports

Tigers down Mussels 2-1 in 11 innings

FORT MYERS  – The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels fell 2-1 to the Lakeland Flying Tigers in an 11-inning contest on Tuesday night at Hammond Stadium. The Mussels’ pitching staff combined for 15 strikeouts and held the Flying Tigers to just four hits.
Mussels (20-17) starter Louie Varland held Lakeland (15-21) scoreless and struck out seven through 5.2 innings. Matthew Swain and Osiris German combined for seven punchouts out of the bullpen through 4.1 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit.
The game remained scoreless until the 11th inning when Lakeland plated both of its runs. With a runner on first and one out, the Flying Tigers benefitted from a hit-by-pitch and two walks – the latter of which pushed in the first run of the game. Jimmy Kerr came up next for Lakeland and drove in the second run of the night with a sacrifice fly to left.
Fort Myers staged a rally in the bottom of the 11th when Yunior Severino moved Aaron Sabato to third base on a ground ball to first. Misael Urbina then poked a grounder into left field to score Sabato, but Urbina was thrown out at second base for the second out of the inning.
The Mussels’ rally ultimately fell short, and Fort Myers dropped the first game of the series 2-1.
RHP Sean Mooney (0-1, 0.57) will take the mound for the Mighty Mussels today against RHP Joseph Salazar (0-1, 6.20) of the Flying Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hammond Stadium.
Mighty Mussels Pre-Game Live will begin at 6:45 p.m.

— John Vittas

Box Score: https://atmilb.com/3gw8jks

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Florida Headlines

Officials: Body of man who tried to rescue 2 recovered

APOLLO BEACH (AP) — Florida deputies believe they found the body Monday of a good Samaritan who tried to rescue a father and son who drowned off a Tampa Bay area beach last week.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said during a news conference that he believes the body recovered off Apollo Beach is Kristoff Murray, though his office is awaiting confirmation from the medical examiner.
Chronister spoke directly to Murray’s family during the news conference, wishing them peace, comfort and closure, despite the horrible tragedy, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“Your husband, your brother – his actions were nothing less than heroic,” Chronister said. “He risked and ultimately gave his life for two complete strangers who were in need.”
Murray, 27, and his wife were at the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve on Friday when they saw Janosh Purackal, 37, and his 3-year-old son, Danial Purackal, struggling in a rip current, officials said. Murray went to help, and all three disappeared.
Rescue crews found Purackal and his son that evening. The father was pronounced dead at the scene, and the child died on the way to the hospital, officials said. Crews from the sheriff’s office, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission continued to search for Murray over the weekend.
Swimming is prohibited at the preserve, but it’s common for visitors to wade in the shallow water, officials said. The park remained closed Monday.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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Florida Headlines

Suit challenging new charter boat rules OK’d as class action

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Six captains and five companies from Florida and Louisiana can represent others in a lawsuit challenging new federal regulations for nearly 1,300 charter boats across the Gulf of Mexico, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan certified the suit early this month as a class action for the people who take small groups of anglers into the Gulf. She rejected an argument that some charter captains support the regulations.
“The claims and defenses of class representatives are typical of the claims of the class as a whole,” she wrote on June 2.
The lawsuit contends that privacy and other rights are violated by regulations which require permanently active tracking devices on the boats. The suit also challenges requirements to report information including the crew size, number of customers, the fee charged to each and the amount and price of fuel.
Although the regulations took effect in January, the government has not yet set a date for requiring the devices, said Judy Pino, spokeswoman for the nonprofit law firm New Civil Liberties Alliance, which represents the captains.
The captains consider the tracking device “the regulatory equivalent of an ‘ankle bracelet’ (or anchor bracelet!) that constantly monitors their businesses and personal lives,” the firm said in a news release Friday. The firm’s aim, according to its website, is “to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies.”
The devices amount to warrantless searches for information that could be turned over to law enforcement and other agencies, said the lawsuit filed in August against the National Marine Fisheries Service, also called NOAA Fisheries, and its parent agencies.
NOAA Fisheries did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the agency generally does not discuss pending litigation.
The trackers would keep tabs on their boats not just while they were used for fishing but on sightseeing trips and personal recreation and even dinners on board, the lawsuit said.
It was filed for captains Billy Wells, of River Ridge, Louisiana; Allen Alburn, Kraig Dafcik, Joey Dobin and Jim Rinckey, of Naples, Florida, and Frank Ventimiglia, of Fort Myers, Florida, and their companies.
“Mr. Walburn also operates boats in Alaska where the NOAA requirement is simply to have a paper logbook of locations where fishing occurs and fish is caught,î the lawsuit said. Since the customers also have to sign them, the logbooks are more reliable than electronic reports as well as being less intrusive and expensive, it said.
In addition to NOAA Fisheries; defendants are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Commerce Department, and each agency’s top administrator.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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Florida Headlines

Florida gets another legal challenge to new elections rules

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN
Associated Press
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Two more groups sued Florida over its new restrictive elections laws Monday, adding to a growing chorus of voter rights advocates who say the rules could keep some people from casting ballots.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee by the Fair Elections Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Head Count and the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters.
The suit argues that the new law foments distrust against civic organizations that work to register voters by suggesting that residents use the government’s website instead.
The lawsuit is designed to “protect our clients’ right to organize through voter registration activities, communicating their message that our democracy works better when all our voices are heard,” Michelle Kanter Cohen, policy director and senior counsel at Fair Elections Center, said in a statement.
“Voter registration organizations serve their communities by building trusted relationships with Floridians for whom voting and participation may not otherwise be accessible,” she added.
At the core of the complaint is a requirement under the law that third-party voter registration groups use specific language to tell all residents who work with them that they might not submit a voter’s application documents in a timely fashion.
The lawsuit contends that the groups are being forced to provide an “inaccurate warning” that is “self-denigrating, misleading, and contradictory” to the mission of the groups.
The law, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, places new restrictions on who can collect completed ballots and requires identifying information for once-routine registration transactions. It also mandates how voter-rights groups can operate in the state.
The changes are part of a national effort by Republicans to tighten voting laws in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud caused him to lose the 2020 election.

DeSantis urged donations to Trump’s legal fund contesting the election.
Florida is is already facing a raft of lawsuits filed by others.
On the same day the governor signed the bill, the League of Women Voters of Florida joined the Black Voters Matter Fund, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and others in assailing the new law in a federal suit. Another suit filed by the NAACP and Common Cause alleges the law targets people who are Black, Latino or disabled.
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued the state to overturn another elections laws that makes it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution. That law establishes a $3,000 limit on individual contributions to groups promoting ballot initiatives. The limit is imposed until a proposal is approved for the ballot.
Opponents argue that the law would have made it nearly impossible to get such issues as medical marijuana or minimum wage increases on the ballot. Republicans who backed the initiative argued it was needed to keep out-of-state special interest money from influencing the state constitution.
The broader elections law restricts when ballot drop boxes can be used and who can collect ballots — and how many. To protect against so-called ballot harvesting, an electoral Good Samaritan can only collect and return the ballots of immediate family and no more than two from unrelated people. Also under the new rules, drop boxes must be supervised and will only be available when elections offices and early voting sites are open.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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Florida Headlines

Justices rule against low-level crack cocaine offenders

By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that low-level crack cocaine offenders convicted more than a decade ago can’t take advantage of a 2018 federal law to seek reduced prison time. The justices affirmed the nearly 16-year prison term handed out to Tarahrick Terry of Florida, who was arrested with 3.9 grams of crack on him in 2008.

Terry’s case concerned the reach of the First Step Act, a bipartisan 2018 law signed by former President Donald Trump. Aimed at reducing racial disparities in sentencing, the law allows prisoners convicted of older crack crimes to seek reduced sentences.
But the law specifically addresses crack possession only above 5 grams for one category of possession and above 50 grams for another category.
That allowed crack cocaine kingpins to seek reduced sentences, but it left convicts like Terry in a legal limbo, with courts around the country coming to different conclusions.
In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court said Terry and those like him who were not subject to a mandatory prison term based on how much crack they possessed are out of luck.
“The question here is whether crack offenders who did not trigger a mandatory minimum qualify. They do not,” Thomas wrote.
Terry is in the final months of his prison term. And he apparently is serving his remaining time on home confinement, according to the Biden administration.
The outcome probably affects no more than a couple hundred prison inmates since most people convicted of possessing relatively little crack that long ago already have finished serving their sentences.
The 2018 law, like the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, was partly aimed at addressing disparities, which fell disproportionately hard on Black people, in the treatment of people convicted of crack and powder cocaine offenses.
The case only affects people whose crimes took place before August 2010 because the Fair Sentencing Act took effect then and covered crimes committed from that point forward.
The Trump administration had argued that Terry is not eligible to seek a sentence reduction, but the Biden administration changed course.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.

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Florida Sports

Scientists look for link between wastewater and algae in bay

TAMPA (AP) — Scientists are looking for any links to dreaded algae blooms and the pumping of 215 gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay from the site of an old fertilizer plant two months ago.
Scientists want to know whether the specific nutrients found in wastewater at the Piney Point plant match those being consumed by the organisms growing around the bay. They plan to use a kind of signature within different molecules to follow where nitrogen goes and how it gets used in the environment, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The wastewater was pumped into Tampa Bay in April after a leak developed in a reservoir at the Piney Point plant. The reservoir contained what are called phosphogypsum stacks, a leftover from the phosphate mined for fertilizer. The wastewater contained nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia and small amounts of radium and uranium, according to officials.
Algae called Lyngbya have blanketed waterways around Anna Maria Island in recent weeks, and red tide has been found at bloom levels near Port Manatee and off Pinellas County beaches. Dead fish have been reported at Sunset Beach, Madeira Beach and Indian Rocks Beach.
Health officials in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have issued advisories warning visitors they could experience mild respiratory issues when around a bloom.
Tampa Bay Estuary Program executive director Ed Sherwood said, it “doesn’t take much to put two and two together.”