Pete Alonso Ready for This Year’s Home Run Derby

Pete Alonso is ready to take a swing at the title…

The 26-year-old Spanish-American New York Mets slugger is in for this year’s Home Run Derby at hitter-friendly Coors Field.

Pete Alonso

Alonso won the contest the last time it was held, in 2019, edging fellow rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at Cleveland’s Progressive Field for his first derby title.

“I’m all-in,” Alonso said Thursday afternoon from Wrigley Field, where the Mets finish up a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs. “I’m ready. If I get invited, I’d love to do it. I’d love to defend my title.”

Last year’s Home Run Derby was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 edition will take place July 12 at Colorado’s Coors Field after Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game and related festivities from Atlanta.

Alonso committed to the derby the day after hitting a monster home run that landed on the street beyond the left-center-field bleachers at Wrigley Field. It was measured at 429 feet.

“I’m very happy that ball went far,” Alonso said. “I think Statcast kind of stumped me. I think that ball did not go [only] 429 feet, but that’s what the computer says, and I think the computer is wrong.”

Alonso’s longest home run of his career was measured at 485 feet. He thinks Wednesday’s long ball was closer to that figure than 429 feet.

“If that ball went 429 feet, that’s the shortest ball that’s ever left this stadium,” Alonso said. “I’ve hit plenty of balls here that have gone 430 feet, but if a ball leaves the stadium, there’s no way that ball went only 429 feet.”

Alonso has three home runs this season entering Thursday night’s game against the Cubs. He led the majors with 53 in 2019, his rookie year.

He enjoyed Wednesday’s homer as much as any he has hit.

“That was one of my favorite home runs I’ve hit,” he said. “That’s top five for me.”

Banda MS Announces Return to Touring with U.S. Leg of “Banda MS Positivo Tour”

Banda MS is ready to hit the road again…

After a tumultuous year, The Mexican band has announced its return to touring with the U.S. leg of their Banda MS Positivo tour.

Banda-MS

Banda MS de Sergio Lizárraga promises a packed concert with banda sinaloense, acoustic, and norteño music, to name a few.

Banda MS Positivo tour, at the helm of CMN Entertainment, will kick off on September 3 at New York’s Madison Square Garden and run until November 6 at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

They will make pit stops in D.C., Orlando, and Memphis, and other cities.

“We gave the industry a needed infusion,” Henry Cárdenas, CEO of Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN), previously told Billboard. “It’s good for the market, and we’re ready to go.”

Producing arena concerts during the coronavirus pandemic is ambitious, but Cárdenas has a contingency plan that’s still built on the assumption that concerts will take place. He noted: “We can’t keep on postponing tours.”

Tickets for Banda MS Positivo will go on sale at 10:00 am on Friday, April 9, via Ticketmaster.com and WellsFargoCenterPhilly.com for the Philadelphia show.

Here are the full dates:

September 3, 2021 – New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
September 4, 2021 – Philadelphia, PA – Wells Fargo Center
September 5, 2021 – Washington, D.C. – Capital One Arena
September 24, 2021- Fort Myers, FL – Hertz Arena
September 26, 2021 – Orlando, FL – Amway Center
November 5, 2021 – Memphis, TN – FedEx Forum
November 6, 2021 – Indianapolis, IN – Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire Defeats Emmanuel Sanchez to Defend Bellator Featherweight Title

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire proves once again why he’s considered the best fighter in Bellator

The 33-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and two-division champion, perhaps the top featherweight in all of MMA, handed Emmanuel Sanchez his first stoppage loss with a technical submission by guillotine choke in Round 1 to successfully defend his 145-pound title in the main event of Bellator 255 in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Patricio "Pitbull" Freire

The fight, which took place at Mohegan Sun Arena in front of no fans because of the coronavirus pandemic, was a semifinal in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.

Freire (32-4), who also reigns at lightweight, will take on unbeaten A.J. McKee in the final on a date to be determined.

Freire has won seven straight fights and has 20 wins overall in Bellator, the most ever in the promotion. He is one of only two fighters to become a Bellator double champion, along with heavyweight champ Ryan Bader, who used to also reign at light heavyweight. Freire is No. 4 in the ESPN men’s featherweight rankings.

Rosie Perez Appears in WarnerMedia’s COVID-19 Vaccine PSAs

Rosie Perez is helping to raise awareness about the COVD-19 vaccine…

WarnerMedia is debuting a number of coronavirus vaccine PSAs featuring stars from their series, including the 56-year-old Puerto Rican actress, choreographer and community activist.

Rosie Perez

The public service announcements were created in partnership with the Ad Council, in support of their ongoing COVID-19 Vaccine Education campaigns.

The “It’s Up To You” campaign will air across all WarnerMedia and AT&T-owned cable, digital, streaming and social platforms starting next week.

Meanwhile, the Ad Council will be sharing the PSAs across their own network of distribution platforms.

The PSAs were written and directed by the internal creative team at Warner Media’s 10th Street Studios, which previously created the “Mask Up America” campaign.

In support of COVID-19 safety precautions, each of the campaign’s videos, which include Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Daveed Diggs, was produced remotely.

“WarnerMedia is proud to work with the Ad Council to continue to grow awareness and drive vaccine adoption,” said Dennis Williams, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, WarnerMedia. “Having Sanjay, Rosie, and Daveed help us create and build a conversation around getting vaccinated will not only inspire action, but also save lives.”

“We continue to be so grateful to the WarnerMedia team for their commitment to educating Americans on protecting themselves and their families from COVID-19,” added Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Development Officer, Ad Council. “We know that many Americans have questions about the vaccine, and are so thankful to Sanjay, Rosie, and Daveed for helping educate and inspire Americans to get the answers to their questions so they can make an informed choice about vaccination for themselves and for their families.”

Eduardo Rodríguez Named Opening Day Starting Pitcher for Boston Red Sox

Eduardo Rodríguez is getting a second chance to make a first pitch…

A year after a battle with COVID-19 denied him a chance to be the Boston Red Sox‘s Opening Day starter, the 27-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball pitcher is getting a do-over.

Eduardo Rodríguez

Manager Alex Cora made the announcement this week following Boston’s 9-1 spring training win over the Minnesota Twins.

Rodríguez threw an efficient 55 pitches, striking out six and giving up two hits and one earned run over five innings.

“Indeed, it’s going to be Eduardo. He’s one of the best out there,” Cora said of the left-hander. “He had a great season in ’19. Last year, he wasn’t able to pitch for obvious reasons. What he’s shown now, he’s healthy and he’s ready to go. … It was just a matter of time.”

Boston opens its schedule April 1 against the Baltimore Orioles.

Rodríguez went 13-5 for the Boston team that won a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series in 2018. He went into the next year at the bottom of the rotation behind Chris SaleDavid PriceRick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.

But Rodríguez had the best season of the group, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA to finish sixth in American League Cy Young voting. He made his major-league-leading 34th start on the final day of the season with a chance at 20 wins but did not figure in the decision. Still, he finished with career bests in wins, ERA, starts, innings (203⅓) and strikeouts (213).

With Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery, Rodríguez was in line to start on Opening Day in 2020 before testing positive for the coronavirus and being diagnosed with inflammation in his heart muscles. He said he couldn’t even complete a 25-pitch workout without feeling tired; on Aug. 1, just one week into the season, he was shut down for the year.

After putting the extended rest and recovery time to good use, he said he’s ready to take advantage of a chance he has yet to have during his five major league seasons.

Speaking prior to Cora naming him the starter, Rodríguez told reporters he would be honored to get the ball in the opener.

“If given the opportunity, I’m going to be so happy to do it because that’s something that everybody wants to do one time in their career,” he said. “If I have the opportunity this year, I’m going to really appreciate it. I’m going to love it.”

Maikel Franco Agrees to One-Year Deal with Baltimore Orioles

Maikel Franco is flying high…

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball infielder has agreed to an $800,000, one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Maikel Franco

Franco hit .278 with 16 doubles, eight homers and a team-high 38 RBIs for the Kansas City Royals during last year’s coronavirus pandemic-shortened season.

Franco would get a $200,000 performance bonus if he reaches 400 plate appearances. He would get a $250,000 assignment bonus if traded.

He earned $1,092,593 in prorated pay from a $2.95 million salary.

Franco has a .253 average with 110 homers and 381 RBI in seven major league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2014-19) and the Royals.

He was originally signed for the Phillies by Koby Perez, now Baltimore’s senior director of international scouting.

Demi Lovato Helps Launch “Pro-Vaxxer” Campaign to Fight Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccine

Demi Lovato is making a phenomenal effort to the spread of coronavirus vaccine misinformation…

The 28-year-old half-Mexican American singer/actress has joined forces with Phenomenal and Higher Heights for America to help launch the “Pro-Vaxxer” campaign to help fight misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Demi Lovato

Lovato proudly showed off her new “Pro-Vaxxer” crewneck sweatshirt on her social media accounts on Wednesday (March 10), and 100% of its net proceeds support the cause in partnership with Higher Heights, a nonprofit organization that seeks to elevate Black women’s voices to shape and advance progressive policies and politics. Phenomenal is a female-powered lifestyle brand and media company founded by Meena Harris that uses fashion to make a statement on social issues and celebrate people’s identities.

“I’m proud to join @phenomenal and @higherheights4 in launching their PRO-VAXXER campaign to help fight misinformation around the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine,” the pop star wrote. “All net proceeds from this sweatshirt will support grassroots mobilization and education efforts in partnership with Higher Heights to disseminate trusted information and ensure accessibility and equitability in vaccine distribution, particularly in communities of color.”

Harris also shared the news on Twitter with a link to Lovato’s sweatshirt. The Pro-Vaxxer collection also includes a Dr. Fauci coffee mug.

“Demi is a fierce advocate for many causes, and importantly, she embraces an intersectional approach because she understands that a lot of the issues she cares about are deeply and systemically connected. She is a passionate advocate for mental health, racial justice, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate justice, justice for immigrants, and she consistently uses her voice in a meaningful way,” Harris told The Hollywood Reporter. “Seeing the spread of misinformation about the vaccine online, Demi wanted to use her platform to share truthful, easily accessible information about vaccine safety and also raise funds to help Black and brown communities, which have been hardest hit by COVID-19. When Demi and I learned that we had a shared interest in building a campaign on this topic, it felt like a natural fit to partner together.”

Joan Laporta Elected New President of FC Barcelona

Joan Laporta is returning to Camp Nou

The 58-year-old Spanish lawyer has been elected the new president of FC Barcelona, returning to the post he previously held from 2003 to 2010.

Joan Laporta

Barca members voted Laporta into power on Sunday ahead of rival candidates Victor Font and Toni Freixa. The club called the election on Sunday night, with Laporta winning with 30,184 votes and Font coming in second and Freixa third with 16,679 and 4,769 votes, respectively.

Barca said 51,765 out of 109,531 eligible members had voted in the election, which was postponed from January due to coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia.

Among those to vote were first-team players Lionel MessiSergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as the club’s former coach and current Spain boss Luis Enrique.

“I want to thank all the members for coming out to vote what has been the most important election in the club’s history due to [the effects of] the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed our lives,” Laporta said in a brief speech.

“I want to thank the members that have supported our campaign. This has been a celebration of democracy and of Barcelona. I also want to pay special thanks to Johan Cruyff, who’s no longer with us. I am sure he’s helped us.

“Barcelona is a huge family, and we will overcome the difficulties together. We will achieve the objectives that we have set out.”

Laporta takes over at a critical moment in the club’s history. Gross debt has risen to €1.2 billion during the coronavirus pandemic, with players forced to accept pay cuts, and star player Messi is out of contract in June and will walk away for free if new terms cannot be agreed upon.

Laporta said the fact that Messi voted on Sunday was “significant.”

“Today, 20 years ago, Messi made his debut for Barca’s youth teams,” he added. “To see the best player in the world, the player in the history of football, coming to vote, is a sign of what we have said throughout the campaign: that Messi loves Barca.

“The best player in the world loves Barca, and that is very significant. We’re going to encourage him to continue with the club, which is what we all want.”

Chris Gutierrez to Fight Andrew Ewell in UFC’s Upcoming UFC 258 Event

Chris Gutierrez is stepping up, and stepping in…

The 29-year-old Guatemalan and Colombian American mixed martial artist will face off against Andrew Ewell in UFC’s UFC 258.

Chris Gutierrez

Gutierrez and Ewell were called up after a the UFC cancelled a scheduled bantamweight contender bout on Saturday between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera due to a coronavirus-related issue, the UFC announced.

Sources said the promotion is attempting to rebook the matchup as soon as later this month.

In its place, Gutierrez and Ewell will meet in a 140-pound catchweight bout. Ewell was pulled from last Saturday’s UFC Fight Night due to a positive COVID-19 test that he said was a false positive.

Gutierrez has a 15-4-2 mixed martial arts record, including a draw in his last fight in August 2020 against Cody Durden.

Leslie Grace Teams Up with Meek Mill for Bacardi’s Remake of Gloria Estefan’s Iconic Song “Conga”

Leslie Grace is letting her body do the conga…

The 26-year-old Dominican American singer-songwriter has joined voiced with rapper Meek Mill to release a reimagining of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s smash hit single “Conga.”

Leslie Grace & Meek Mill

The new version, which gives the ‘80s party banger a rhythmic-pop-urban twist, is part of Bacardi‘s “Conga Feat. You” campaign that launched in November.

“Bacardi presented this amazing plan, where they wanted me to recreate ‘Conga,’” Leslie Grace tells Billboard. “I couldn’t believe it was possible but they assured me that both Gloria and Emilio [Estefan] were on board. They wanted to entrust me with this project and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.”

Calling the process “innovative,” Grace explained that the project originally began at the end of 2019 but was put on pause because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“I went into the studio pre-Covid with Boi-1da. We immediately hit it off. I had written the first verse and the pre onto a loop he had sent me,” she notes. “Everything else was basically done remotely. Meek Mill jumped on the track later on after listening to the structure we built.”

The Estefans were also part of the process “every step of the way.”

Grace adds: “Everyone was really focused on maintaining the essence of this iconic track. Having their support and suggestions was beautiful. They approved every single thing on the project. This was really a labor of love and really intentional every step of the way with the original creators involved.”

“Conga” was the first Billboard Hot 100 hit for Gloria and Miami Sound Machine, peaking at No. 10 in February 1986. The song also hit No. 1 on Dance Singles Sales for one week in November 1985, and No. 7 on Dance Club Songs. The new version, at the helm of Grace, Mill, and Boi-1da, marks the first and only official remake of the original Latin dance classic in over 30 years.

“I’m a nineties baby, my generation grew up with ‘Conga’ and I grew up listening and dancing to the song in my living room,” Grace recounts. “Gloria is an inspiration to me. She’s one of the first artists I saw singing in both languages. I feel so honored and blessed to do this with Boi-1da and Meek Mill.”