Orlando

Sometimes I dress up like Santa Claus

I tried like hell to hold back tears the first time I dressed up as Santa Claus to entertain kids at an income-restricted apartment community in Orlando.

A little girl told me, while sitting on my lap as I was dressed for the part, that all she wanted for Christmas were shoes for her little brother. A young boy said he just wanted for his mom to be happy while another boy asked to receive nothing at all.

Similar requests were made in between the typical interactions of kids asking Santa for toys and gadgets they’ll lose interest in by February.

It was the looks in the eyes of parents and grandparents that made my heart ache most as they soaked up whatever joy these kids were experiencing.

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Brazilian icons Kaká and Oscar Schmidt share Orlando City moment

SANFORD, Fla. – When it comes to sports in Brazil there’s no bigger name in soccer than Ricardo Kaká and no bigger basketball icon than Oscar Schmidt.

On Tuesday at the Orlando City Soccer Club’s training facility the two friends took a moment to chat while Schmidt was in town with family just as Kaká was preparing to head out for a U.S. Open Cup match in Chicago.

Kaká presented the Naismith Memorial Basketball and FIBA hall of famer with a personalized No. 14 OCSC jersey before the two shared stories of how they met many years ago.

( – Click here for J.C.’s story on Orlando City SC for Orlando Sentinel – )

Kaká, a former FIFA World Player of the Year, is in his first season in Major League Soccer. He’ll captain the MLS All-Stars against Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur next Wednesday.

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Will NBA free agents flee Western Conference for easy road in East?

With the NBA Draft in our rearview mirrors the focus for basketball fans throughout the remainder of the summer turns to the dealings of free agency.

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders joined Carnahan Chronicles on AM 740 The Game to discuss a handful of topics from around the National Basketball Association.

Among those is a story he wrote about marque players choosing to leave the Wester Conference in favor of teams in the East in hopes of an easier path to the NBA Finals.

“I think it’s very possible that we’ll see players that are out West coming to the Eastern Conference, or free agents that are in the Eastern Conference staying out East, because players understand that the Western Conference is brutal right now. It’s hard to make a Finals run. You can be on a loaded team in the West and still miss the playoffs,” Kennedy said.

( – Click here for J.C.’s interview with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders – )

Kennedy touches on a handful of NBA topics throughout the segment with a focus on players and teams from both central Florida and northeast Ohio.

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New soccer-specific stadium plans fire up Orlando City SC faithful

( – The following is a story I wrote for the June 15, 2015 edition of Lions Roar, the gameday magazine of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club, touching on the excitement surrounding new plans for a soccer-specific stadium – )

There has been plenty of excitement to go around locally throughout the first three months of the Major League Soccer season. But not even wins, losses or draws have sparked such passion from Orlando City SC supporters as that of the status of a new soccer stadium.

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No matter the forum, there remains a lingering sense of anticipation and excitement renewed each time an update is provided on the Orlando City Soccer Club’s new venue.

Club officials made quite the splash at a press conference on May 29 by proclaiming the development of a soccer-specific stadium in Orlando’s Parramore area ready for liftoff.

That the club will privately fund its new stadium not only assures fans the project will indeed get off the ground, but also serves as a reminder of just how close the dream is to becoming reality.

This much is certain, no matter the details from here on out, there will be no more worrying about the specifics for the Orlando City faithful.

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MLS fans flocking to Citrus Bowl to catch Orlando City Soccer Club

( The following is a story I wrote for the May 30, 2015 edition of Lions Roar, the gameday magazine of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club, exploring the continued support of a legion of loyal soccer fans throughout Central Florida )

You need only to cruise the pavement of Central Florida and tally the number of OCSC magnets adorning vehicles for proof. Or stroll the sidewalks of downtown Orlando wearing the club’s trademark purple and keep tabs on the responses you receive.

It’s as though lifelong relationships are being made by the thousands in 2015.

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Whether it’s the club’s work in the community or the inviting presence of its leaders around town, purple pride is spreading throughout the state at an uncontainable rate.

“I remember when we first started going to games and there was maybe a couple thousand people in the stands,” said Randy Badilo, a season ticket holder in section 110 who has supported the club since its inception. “Then at the start of this year we sell out the entire Citrus Bowl for the first game, and it’s been incredible ever since.”

Boosted by home crowds of 62,510 in the club’s MLS debut against New York City FC on March 8 and 40,122 against the defending champion LA Galaxy a little more than two months later, Orlando City is averaging 37,446 fans at home this season compared to an average of just over 20,000 for the league as a whole.

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Bernard Morris morphing into Arena Football League Ironman

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bernard Morris is evolving into a throwback for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators.

In a league that once placed value on “Ironman” football – players who excelled offensively and defensively – the Jones High School product is willing to line up anywhere on the field.

The starting quarterback in Orlando last season, Morris won’t be behind center Saturday when the Predators (3-2) host the Cleveland Gladiators (3-2) at Amway Center at 7 p.m.

The Preds lost 56-46 at Cleveland in the American Conference title game in August, the outcome ultimately decided when Morris fumbled for the second time as Orlando trailed by nine points with nearly a minute left. It was his third-straight conference final loss after spending the previous two seasons with the Jacksonville Sharks.

(Click here to read revised story on Bernard Morris at Orlando Sentinel)

Morris will contribute in different ways in the rematch as former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback Randy Hippeard gets the starting nod again for the sixth time this season.

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National No. 1 Olympia High School turns in unbeaten regular season

ORLANDO, Fla. – A come-from-behind win on the final day of the regular season kept Orlando’s Olympia High School atop the MaxPreps national high school baseball rankings this week.

The No. 1 Titans became just the second team in Central Florida history to make it through the regular season without a blemish on its record. But it’s an elusive trip to the state final four that would be most satisfying as playoff qualifiers get underway this week.

The Titans face Ocoee on Wednesday in their Class 8A, District 3 opener, just four days after local rival Dr. Phillips had their backs against the wall late in the season finale.

Olympia scored seven runs in the final three innings to win 9-5 (in eight innings) and improve to 100-12-1 since 2012, which happens to be the last time Olympia went unbeaten before losing in the region title game to finish 29-1.

(Read more about Olympia’s win over Dr. Phillips at Orlando Sentinel)

“They just believe they’re going to win,” Olympia coach Chuck Schall said. “Even at the end there when we’re down, there’s not a guy on that bench that doesn’t think we’re going to come back.”

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Orlando Sentinel prep editor talks rise of Montverde Academy basketball & No. 1 Olympia baseball

Buddy Collings of the Orlando Sentinel joined me Saturday to talk about the emergence of Montverde Academy as a national high school basketball powerhouse and the odds of Orlando’s Olympia High School, the No. 1 baseball team in the nation, at winning the state title this year.

Montverde Academy, led by LSU commit Ben Simmons, won its third national title in a row on Saturday. Collings also talked about how Simmons, named national player of the year by numerous organizations, lost out on the Mr. Basketball award in Florida to fellow LSU commit Antonio Blakeney of Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School.

( – Click here to listen to Buddy Collings of Orlando Sentinel on Carnahan Chronicles – )

Top high school baseball team in nation remains unbeaten

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – When you’re the No. 1 high school baseball team in the nation, in both the USA Today and MaxPreps rankings, each game feels like so much is on the line.

Olympia baseball

Olympia won the Florida League High School Invitational on Saturday to improve to 17-0-1.

Orlando’s Olympia High School improved to 17-0-1 on the season Saturday while defending its Florida League High School Invitational title with a 2-0 win over Pembroke Pines Charter at Lake Brantley High School.

The national attention will continue to follow the Titans as they near postseason play.

“We try not to focus on that,” Olympia coach Chuck Schall said. “The rankings and all that, it’s always there, but we try not to let those expectations dictate how we play.

“Every time we win these close ballgames it just makes us tougher.”

Olympia is winning close games thanks to a stable of quality pitchers and equally impressive efforts defensively.

(Read more about Olympia’s recent win at Orlando Sentinel and 740 The Game)

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Kaká free kick helps Orlando City Soccer Club draw New York City FC in inaugural MLS meeting

ORLANDO – Fans rose to their feet each time Kaká touched the ball during the Major League Soccer debuts for both the Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City FC.

But it took a little more than the length of the match for locals to get what they came to see at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Kaká delivered a crucial goal, thanks to a lucky bounce, that evened the match after NYCFC took the lead in the 76th minute. Spain’s David Villa set up U.S. national team member Mix Diskerud for a score from the top of the box that put the visitors in front and seemingly ruined the day for the Lions.

But the Brazilian legend tied the match on a free kick in the 91st minute by deflecting a shot off of defender Jeb Brovsky, who provided an otherwise fiery presence throughout the match.

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Carnahan Coverage: Tim Mitchell has rebounded in major way since high school basketball days

Tim Mitchell didn’t survive roster cuts his junior year at Orlando’s University High School. The following year he played a major role though in a successful season for the Cougars, setting the stage for where he is today. I had a chance to cover Mitchell during my time at the East Orlando Sun newspaper during the 2007-08 season. Below is an edited version of a story I wrote about him for the January 3, 2008 edition.

Tim Mitchell_EOSunBut first an update: Mitchell is currently finishing out his senior season at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida after helping lead the program to its first trip to the NAIA Division II tournament a year ago. Southeastern entered the postseason unseeded but finished third in the country after earning wins over No. 16 Huntington (Ind.), No. 1 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) and No. 9 Davenport (Mich.), before falling to the eventual champions, No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan, in the semis.

Mitchell led all tournament players with nine blocked shots and averaged 10 points and 10.3 rebounds in four games for a team that finished 27-7 overall. During the 2013-14 season Mitchell blocked 67 shots and shot 58 percent from the floor while averaging 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Southeastern is currently 15-11 overall and 9-8 in The Sun Conference.

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Tim Mitchell was unable to secure a roster spot at University High School before the start of his junior year, he had all but given up on his prep playing career.

It seemed as though the closest he’d get to a varsity basketball game would be while watching from the stands. That’s about the time reality set in for the 6-foot-7 post player as he began accounting for his own actions, or lack thereof.

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Carnahan Coverage: No. 22 UCF baseball pushing for first postseason trip since 2012

The UCF baseball team reached a regional championship game in 2012, capping a back-to-back run in the postseason with one of the strongest squads in recent memory.

A year ago the Knights lineup featured a majority of players new to the program, yet they barely missed out on being selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Entering this season UCF has just five players on roster from that 2012 team. But the experience this group garnered a year ago has them ranked No. 22 in the Baseball America preseason rankings.

I spoke with senior JoMarcos Woods and head coach Terry Rooney for the Orlando Sentinel this week about how valuable that experience will be this year. The Knights will face five teams this season that open ranked in the Top 25.

Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Super Bowl Sunday trouble, new football league, angry high school soccer dad and National Signing Day hype

I found myself caught up in a couple of crazy circumstances a week ago and decided to share those stories on the show this past Saturday.

For starters, my carelessness while running late to a Super Bowl party resulted in banging up the car of Mike Bianchi, columnist at the Orlando Sentinel and host of AM 740 The Game’s “Open Mike,” while in the parking lot at Ker’s WingHouse. We capped the opening segment by also talking about a new football league forming in 2016 that’s looking to bring yet another minor league team to Orlando next spring.

Then on Friday, while on assignment to cover a prep soccer game at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, I was nearly attacked by an angry Warriors dad in the press box. We finished the show talking about that wild encounter while giving props to the local high school state tournament teams and touching on the disturbing hype that surrounds National Signing Day on a yearly basis.

Enjoy.

Carnahan Coverage: Temple routs UCF in men’s basketball

ORLANDO, Fla. – Will Cummings has been hampered by a leg injury over the past few weeks, but in his return to the Sunshine State on Wednesday he helped Temple terrorize UCF to the tune of 86-62.

Family and friends made the trip from Jacksonville to see Cummings in action and he did not disappoint, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Read more about the game in a story I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

Carnahan Coverage: Linebacker Withney Simon still awaiting first scholarship offer

ORLANDO, Fla. – He’s done all that’s been asked of him yet Orlando Jones High School’s Withney Simon, the No. 2-rated linebacker in Central Florida, is unsure of his football future.

I caught up with Simon following the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl earlier this month at the Florida Citrus Bowl and asked him about his college options. He said that although he’s got the grades to qualify for football at the next level, he’s a bit surprised at how little interest he’s garnered from college programs.

( – Click here to read J.C.’s feature on Withney Simon for Orlando Sentinel – )

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