If you have ever dreamed of playing big-league baseball, chances are the dream started to fade sometime in high school.
It gradually becomes clear: You won't be starting in Game 7 of the World Series, and tipping your cap after hitting a walk-off homer. So at some point you go from player to fan — watching others chase greatness on the diamond.
But not every baseball dreamer is willing to give up so early. And in Bradenton, Fla., there's a place that lies somewhere between the Little League field and Yankee Stadium.
The U.S. Women's National Soccer Team is home from the Olympics with gold medals. They got redemption by winning the final over Japan, after losing to Japan in last year's World Cup. But the women's team comes home to an uncertain future. The U.S. Women's Professional Soccer League folded earlier this year, which means there's no top-level league where they can play.
Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, has persuaded his owners and the players to add an extra wild-card team to the playoffs, so now five teams per league will qualify.
Not only is this terrific for the fans, but Selig also wisely managed to make it so that the wild-card teams engage in a one-game showdown for the privilege of being the team that joins the three division winners in the battle for the league championship.
I have just the old-fashioned word for this newfangled development: nifty.
Hundreds gathered in Flint, Mich., Tuesday, to celebrate the return home of Olympian Claressa Shields. At 17, Shields became the first U.S. woman ever — and the only American this summer — to win a gold medal in boxing.
In a rare moment of joy, Flint greeted the high school student with a marching band and a motorcycle escort.
Hours after the Olympic torch was extinguished in London, came news of the first medalist to be stripped of a medal for doping. The shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk, of Belarus, was stripped of her gold medal after she tested positive for an anabolic steroid. Earlier this month, another athlete from Belarus - a world champion hammer thrower - was sent home after a retest of his samples from the 2004 Olympics yielded a positive result.
As a kid, Nancy Hogshead-Makar wanted to be the best swimmer in the world. At 14, she got her wish when she was ranked number one in the world for 200-meter butterfly at age 14. Four years later, she was part of U.S. team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics, and at 22, she swam in five Olympic finals at the 1984 Los Angeles games, winning three gold medals and one silver medal.
"I knew that the 1984 Olympics were really going to be my swan song," she tells NPR's Lynn Neary. She retired after those games and went to finish out a year and a half at Duke University.
It's time to extinguish The Torch, and end NPR's three-week marathon of Olympic coverage. From the London Games' opening ceremony through 302 medal events, these Summer Olympics have fed fans a rich diet of history and spectacle. I only wish I'd been able to eat it all — but part of the Olympics' allure is that its smorgasbord is over-stuffed with intense competition.