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ESPN The Magazine 04.28.14

ESPN The Magazine is for the NEXT generation of sports fans who want to stay on top of the athletes, teams, topics and upcoming events in their own sports world. The Magazine celebrates not only sports, but the cultures and lifestyles that are an integral part of them - all with ESPN's unique personality and authority.

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patrick filosa

Born with a rare bone disease, Filosa had six surgeries to correct for his left leg being shorter than his right before choosing to amputate last August. But the 25-year-old looked on the bright side: “If I had to get a new leg, why not make it a Mets leg?” The Brooklyn native went with pinstripes as a nod to the champion 1986 Mets and a Shea Stadium memorial patch to honor his first game with his father at age 6. “My dad got laid off as an electrician, and the company gave all the people it let go tickets to a game,” says Filosa, who was there for Robin Ventura’s grand slam single in the 1999 NLCS, his favorite Mets moment. He snagged three autographs on Opening Day at…

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[ united they stand ]

Before Curt Flood unsuccessfully challenged baseball’s reserve clause in 1970, before players finally won the right to become free agents in 1975, owners, along with many Hall of Famers, agreed that reforming the system would doom the game. Then-Braves executive Paul Richards referred to the idea of free agency as “the end of baseball as we know it.” But the world didn’t collapse because Reggie Jackson switched teams, and it won’t collapse if Mike Trout commands $400 million by 2021. Baseball today is an $8 billion industry, and no group has become wealthier than the owners. Free agency, forced on them by an outside arbitrator, has fueled that growth; big-ticket signings generate fan excitement, and player mobility drives competitive balance. Which is why most baseball historians agree that MLB’s costliest mistake…

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[ feeling it ]

On April 1, Stephen Curry hit a 16-foot jumper to give the Warriors the lead over the Mavericks with 1:42 left in overtime. Moments later, with the score tied, he dribbled out the final 11 seconds of OT and calmly drained a 21-footer to win the game. It was one of those fantastic finishes in which Curry seemed to demonstrate why, when he’s feeling hot, he’s the deadliest shooter in the NBA. But for most statisticians, the idea that Curry was particularly hot might as well have been an April Fools’ joke. Researchers have argued for nearly 30 years that there’s no such thing as a “hot hand” in sports, no matter how many athletes insist they get into grooves. In a pioneering paper published in 1985, Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallone…

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For the Marlins, Opening Day meant fresh uniforms, renewed hope—and two new shields for their 450-gallon fish tanks behind home plate. The windows of last year’s aquariums had been scuffed by the elements and foul balls. The new, bullet-resistant polycarbonate shields were installed over two days by Living Color Aquariums at Marlins Park. (That’s Eric Drechsel vacuuming the dirt off the steel channel where a new shield will sit.) These shields can withstand baseballs going as fast as 250 mph. And, oh yeah, they also hold in all the fish—nearly 80 of them, from 15 different species. Not among them? Marlins. You have to look to the field for those. 12 Number of new fish added to the aquariums every year before the season opener. 84 Speed, in mph, of balls thrown…

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It took the Florida State Seminoles 60 minutes to beat Auburn for the final BCS national championship. It took 92 more days for them to get their jewelry. In March, workers at Jostens started a 13-step process—from waxing and casting to engraving and inspection—to make 242 rings for players, coaches and key athletic administrators. Here, a ring goes through the 10th step: the setting of the stones, during which team member Hortencia Angeles places 102 jewels onto the ring at the Jostens plant in Denton, Texas. After breaking from practice on April 8, the Seminoles finally received their prize. Consider it the unofficial 14th step: the mass flashing of the rings. 39 Team members required to handcraft each ring. 24,684 Cubic zirconia stones applied to all rings, which NCAA rules state can’t…

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back in black

There’s a word in San Antonio that is verboten, a term so antithetical to the Spurs’ culture that it might as well be an expletive. If you work for the team, you don’t seek “credit.” You run from it. You hide from it. Needless to say, San Antonio functions unlike any other organization in basketball; its mind-numbing consistency (17 straight playoff appearances) is a byproduct of stability at every level, from owner Peter Holt, GM R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich to star players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. And that group is always searching for the next innovative edge to lengthen this improbable run. Says an Eastern Conference GM, “The Spurs are always adapting. Everyone who has left San Antonio is trying to re-create their model. But…