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Rays Minor League Baseball Road Trip: A guide to North Carolina — Game 3

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Rays Minor League Baseball Road Trip: A guide to North Carolina — Game 3

In my initial DRaysBay Blog post titled “Rays Minor League Baseball Road Trip: A guide to North Carolina,” I outlined a plan for Tampa Bay Rays and Durham Bulls fans to see a large number of the Rays’ MLB Top 30 Prospects in action on the field by attending a series of games in North Carolina.

I have been doing that road trip and documenting my baseball travel and the games with additional posts on DRaysBay.

In earlier posts on that blog, I introduced the Tampa Bay Rays top prospects, team offense leaders, and game highlights of the Rays High-A class affiliate, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, in an away game against the Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, NC and an away game of their Low-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs, versus the Kannapolis Cotton Ballers in Kannapolis, NC at Atrium Health Ballpark. My last stop planned for that trip was a Durham Bulls home game.

The Durham Bulls have been the triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays for each of the twenty-three seasons since 1999. Also, Durham, North Carolina is a legendary historic Minor League baseball destination and has been the home of a professional baseball team named the Durham Bulls during ninety-four of the one hundred twenty-two baseball season since 1900. Moreover, the Bulls stadium Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which is better known as the DBAP, is one of the top ranked Minor League ballparks in the country.

The photo above shows the view of the ball field from the seats behind home plate. Looking close at the top of the ballparks high Blue Monster left field wall, you will see one of the most unique attractions found at any Minor League stadium—the Durham Bull’s infamous snorting bull.

This Bull’s origin is from a prop that was added to the Bull’s old ballpark, Durham Athletic Park, for the filming of the movie Bull Durham. When a Bulls player hits a home run, this Bull’s large red eyes blink, tail wags, and puffs of smoke stream out from its nostrils. It also puts on that show after each Durham Bulls home victory.

On Tuesday June 29th, the Bulls started a six game home stand against the Atlanta Braves AAA affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers. On that day the Durham Bull’s record was 31W:16L and they ranked number 1 among the seven teams in the SouthEast Division of the Triple-A East League.

On their other hand, that day, the Gwinnett Stripers, who are also a member of the SouthEast Division, were 22W:25L and ranked #4. I attended game three of that series on Thursday July 1st. With this post, I complete the review of my road trip travels with a Durham Bulls home game at the DBAP.

Durham Bulls—Tampa Bay Rays MLB Top 30 Prospects

Similar to my findings prior to attending the Bowling Green Hot Rods and Charleston RiverDogs away games, there had been a number of changes to the Tampa Bay Rays MLB Top 30 Prospects on the Durham Bulls roster.

In my original DRaysBay post, which outlined the Tampa Bay Rays North Carolina Minor League baseball road trip, I identified eight players, four pitchers and four field players, who were members of the Bulls roster and ranked among the Rays top 30.

The table above lists the top 30 ranked players on the Bulls roster on the date of the game I attended. That list has just seven players and includes four pitchers and three field players. The changes that took place were that right hand pitcher Shane Baz, (#5 prospect) was promoted to the Bulls from the Rays AA team in the Southern League, the Montgomery Biscuits, on June 15th and then Durham’s #1 prospect, shortstop Wander Franco was promoted to the majors on June 22nd.

Last, left hand pitcher Brendan McKay, who had been on the injured list, was recently assigned to the FCL Rays (Florida Complex League, Rk class) for a rehabilitation stint. Therefore, he could return to the Durham Bulls shortly, if there are no set backs in his recovery. I should also note a number of the remaining members of the list have moved up one notch in their rank: center fielder Josh Lowe to #10, right hand pitcher Joe Ryan to #11, RHP Brent Honeywell to #17, RHP Drew Strotman to #18, and third baseman Kevin Padlo to #21.

Note that the Bulls list includes three of the Rays top 10 prospects. However, now they are second bases/shortstop Vidal Brujan (#2 — and recently promoted), right hand pitcher Shane Baz (#5), and center fielder Josh Lowe (#10).

Three of those field players were in the Bulls starting lineup in the game that I attended: Vidal Brujan started at second base and batted leadoff, Josh Lowe played center field and hit third, Kevin Padlo played third and hit cleanup. However, #17 prospect, right hander Brent Honeywell also made a late innings relief pitching appearance. Finally, two of the current top 30 ranked players, Brent Honeywell and Kevin Padlo, had already made their Major League debut with the Tampa Bay Rays prior to my visit.

Drew Strotman is currently the leader of the Durham Bull’s starting rotation. Strotman pitched for Saint Mary’s College of California prior to entering the 2017 draft. He was selected in the fourth round of that draft by the Tampa Bay Ray; signed to a contract; and that year began his pro career at the short-season class with the Hudson Valley Renegades (New York-Penn League).

For the start of the 2021 season, he made the jump from advanced A class ball (Charlotte Stone Crabs, Florida State League) to the AAA class with the Bulls. At the start of the series with the Gwinnett Stripers, Strotman’s record was 5W:2L in eight starts and he led all members of Durham’s starting rotation in wins, innings pitched, and starts.

Durham Bulls—Team Offense Leaders

The table here lists the leader of the Durham Bulls offense in each of the twelve standard statistic categories listed on the team’s official website prior to the date of game one of their home series against the Gwinnett Stripers on Tuesday, June 29th.

Each of the three field players identified as a team leader in the table is a member of the Tampa Bay Rays MLB Top 30 Prospect, but only second baseman Vidal Brujan (#2 prospect) and center fielder Josh Lowe (#10) are currently members of the Bulls roster. Note from the table that as of the start of the series with the Stripers, Vidal Brujan and Josh Lowe ranked number 1 on the team in four and two stat categories, respectively and were tied for #1 in one of them—home runs. But, the earlier season leader of the Bulls offense was clearly the Tampa Bay Rays #1 prospect switch hitting shortstop Wander Franco.

Franco is an International player from the Dominican Republic that was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays in July of 2017 at the age of sixteen. He came stateside in 2018 and made his professional baseball debut at the rookie class with the Princeton Rays in the Appalachian League. For the start of the 2018 season, Franco was promoted to the Rays’ full-season A class team in the Midwest League, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, but after the mid-season all-star break was promoted to their advance A class team in the Florida State League—the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

In 2021, Wander Franco made the jump to the AAA class. On opening day of the new season, he was the Durham Bulls starting shortstop and hit in the number 2 slot in their batting order. He continued to fill those roles for the Bulls until being called up by the Tampa Bay Rays on June 22nd.

When Franco departed, he had already made 177 plate appearances. That should secure him to qualify as a team/leader for AVE, OBP, SLG, or OPS through approximately game 57 of the Triple-A East League season.

In fact, the table shows that on June 29th Wander Franco ranked #1 on the team in seven of those twelve offense statistic categories: hits (51), triples (6), runs batted in (35), batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.586), and on-base plus slugging percentage (.954). The photo here shows Franco at the plate. On that swing in the inning 1 of a Bulls game versus the Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox) on May 18th, he doubled and later scored run 2 of a 4 run rally. The Durham Bulls won that game by a score of 7-2.

On July 22nd, Wander Franco made his Major League debut in the Tampa Bay Rays uniform. That day, in a Tampa home game at Tropicana Field versus the Boston Red Sox, he started at third base and batted second in the Rays lineup.

Meeting expectations, he had an excellent start at the Major League level. Franco had 2 hits in 4 official at bats and walked in a fifth trip to the plate. In fact, he walked in this first at bat and later in the first inning crossed the plate to score the Rays second run of the inning. Next, in his third trip to the plate he hit a three-run homer to tie the score at 5-all. Then, in his fourth at bat, Franco doubled. But the game remained tied 5-5; went to extra innings, and Tampa lost 9-5 in eleven innings.

On the bright side, in that game Wander Franco’s got his first home run, double, walk, run scored, and run batted in at the Major League level. The next day he moved to shortstop when Tampa’s regular starter at the position, Taylor Walls, went on the 10-day injured list.

Game 3 Highlights

As mentioned earlier, I attended game 3 of the Durham Bull’s six game series at the DBAP versus the Gwinnett Stripers on July 1st. In that game, the Bull’s sent left hander Dietrich Enns to the mounds as their starter. Enns had already made his Major League debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2017 and this year is pitching his first season in the Tampa Bay Rays Minor League organization with the Bulls. That game was his seventh start in ten pitching appearances and prior to that game his record was 2W:1L. Right hander Kyle Wright took the hill for the Stripers and entered the game with a 1W:2L record in eight starts. Wright had already played briefly in the majors for the Braves each season since 2017.

Brett Sullivan

The Durham Bulls got on the scoreboard first. In the bottom of the third innings, they rallied for 3 runs and then in the 4th added a solo run to take a 4-0 lead. With one out in the third, number 8 hitter, shortstop Tristan Gray walked and then moved up to second on a wild pitch.

With two down, the Bulls leadoff hitter, second baseman Vidal Brujan (Tampa’s #2 prospect) walked to put runners on first and second base. That brought Durham’s number 2 hitter, left fielder Brett Sullivan to the plate. He connected on the first pitch delivered by Wright and drove it over the left field wall for a three-run homer. The photo of above shows Sullivan’s swing on which he connected with that home run pitch.

Then, in the bottom of the 4th Durham’s number five batter, first baseman Mike Ford lead off and walked; moved to second base on a ground out, and crossed the plate with run 4 of the game on a two out double by Tristan Gray.

Dietrich Enns

Meanwhile, Dietrich Enns was having an outstanding start. He threw five complete innings of shutout ball. In fact, he pitched 1, 2, 3 first, second, and fifth inning. Overall he allowed just four base runners on three hits and one walk and no runner reached third base. Even more exceptional is that Enns recorded twelve of the fifteen outs over his five inning stretch via the strikeout. When he departed the Durham Bulls had a 4 runs to 0 lead over Gwinnett.

Durham added two insurance runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to extend their lead to 6-0. In that inning, the Bulls number seven hitter, DH Deivy Grullon led off and hit a solo home run over the center field wall. Then, with one down, #9 hitter, catcher Joseph Odom walked; moved to second on a groundout; and later scored run 2 of the inning on an RBI single to right field by #3 hitter, center fielder Josh Lowe (Rays #10 prospect).

Over the last four innings, three Durham Bull’s relievers continued to shut down the Gwinnett Stripers offence. Right hander Louis Head, who took over for Enns in the top of the 6th, threw two scoreless innings and allowed just one base runner, while striking out two Stripers batters. Then, righty reliever Phoenix Sanders threw a 1, 2, 3 eight.

Finally, Tampa Bay Rays #17 prospect Brent Honeywell Jr. came in to close out the game. However, the first batter he face Gwinnett’s #3 hitter Johan Carnargo hit his 3 ball, 2 strike pitch over the right center field wall for a home run. But, then Honeywell shut down the Stripers offense for a Durham Bulls 6-1 victory.

The Bulls star of the day was starting pitcher Dietrich Enns. As highlighted earlier, he threw five shutout innings. His overall pitching line for the day was IP(5), R(0), H(3), BB(1), and SO(12), Enns got the win to increase his record to 3W:1L.

Fashion

The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

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The young designers shattering stereotypes around Indian fashion

In a country of 1.3 billion, diversity in dress is a given. Still, perceptions of Indian fashion — both within and beyond the country’s borders — remain bound by stale visions of saris in blinding hues, traditional clothing and elephant, peacock and tiger motifs. These lazy assumptions are compounded by the fact that some of the largest players in the luxury fashion industry quietly contract thousands of the country’s artisans to embroider eyewateringly-expensive products in factories that fail to meet basic safety standards, as reported by GFN. And while outside of India, members of the diaspora such as Supriya Lele, Kaushik Velendra, Priya Ahluwalia, and Ashish Gupta are among the names known for helping to dismantle stereotypes attached to ‘Indian dress’, it’s time for the fashion world to acknowledge the young, India-based designers doing so, too.

These non-conformist minds deliberately refrain from dipping their feet into the nation’s lucrative $50 billion wedding market (in India nuptials are typically extravagant affairs spread over multiple days, and the quest for the perfect bridal outfit stokes high demand for full-time couturiers). By refusing to jump on the bandwagon and taking the path less trodden, the designers behind AKHL Studio, Bloni, Bodice and Aroka are consciously bypassing staid exoticist perceptions of India to celebrate how far we’ve come. Rooted in tradition but not restricted by it, their clothes are proudly ‘Made in India’ but globally relevant.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

AKHL Studio

“We need to stop turning our craft into clichés just because we feel like the West will lap it up”, is Akhil Nagpal’s immediate response when asked to explain the premise of his Delhi-based avant-garde label. At first glance, AKHL Studio’s iridescent, sculptural silhouettes may not seem like an average Indian fashion consumer’s cup of chai (tea), but that’s precisely the point – the CSM alum’s driving motivation is to rewrite the narrative of what the global fashion community expects from the country’s fashion designers; to “push the envelope with what can be achieved with the Indian hand”.

With its metallic tulle dresses spliced with vivid lurex tapes, gradient-dyed silk organza tops and robust bustiers embellished with hand-embroidered glass yarn fringes, AKHL Studio’s latest collection, ‘Reflektor’, embodies this vision. A clue for what makes the collection so appealing is right there in its title. “The key garments in this collection have first been handwoven on the loom and then interlaced with upcycled yarn to achieve interesting shapes. Some of the biodegradable materials used such as thermoplastic polyurethane are light-sensitive and thus the title Reflektor seemed apt”, Akhil reveals.

A model wearing a look by AKHL Studio

Image courtesy of AKHL Studio

The designer’s desire to create multidimensional pieces of wearable art was further consolidated by the support of his atelier, a group of weavers and artisans from villages across India, who shared a similar zeal for delivering the unexpected. “Our artisans can execute modern patterns and styles, however, it’s up to designers to push them in that direction and lead the way in contemporising Indian craft”, he says. What makes his practice yet more impressive is that he’s able to do that without succumbing to the “hamster wheel” of the seasonal fashion calendar. Instead, Akhil has opted to preserve the value of slow, ethical Indian craft which his tight-knit community cherishes. An important guiding principle for the designer is “creating something new and letting it find its people”, he notes.  It’s safe to say that AKHL Studio found theirs.

A model wearing a vinly outfit from Bloni

Image courtesy of Bloni

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Bloni

While boys his age spent their days playing gully (street) cricket and football, Akshat Bansal pored over yards and yards of intricately printed fabrics in the back of his father’s sari store. He wasn’t just a mesmerised kid in a sartorial candy shop, however. Instead, the interest in textiles he demonstrated back then was an indication of things to come.

After completing a formal fashion education at National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Mumbai, before heading on to Central Saint Martins, he then landed a coveted apprenticeship at Cad & the Dandy on Savile Row. It was there that he received a year-long fastidious schooling in tailoring, learning to appreciate the importance of consistency, discipline and the accuracy of every stitch. Akshat then flew back to India only to realise the absence of homegrown brands catering to something other than the country’s booming wedding and occasion-wear market.

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And so, in Delhi in 2017, Bloni was born – a demi-couture brand that questions fashion’s norms through free-spirited storytelling and futuristic, genderless designs. “It’s all about cross-pollination and fluidity right now. Thanks to social media, we are all hybrids of sorts who aren’t limited by borders – our wardrobe needs to reflect that too,” Akshat says. A quick look at the brand’s previous collections – think jet black leather finished satin saris, flouncy skirts, fun tie-and-dye and cutout bodysuits made with nylon from ocean waste –is all it takes to confirm that.

If you’re after further proof of the brand’s sustainability credentials, step into Bloni’s flagship store in Delhi’s Dhan Mill compound. While you’ll find plenty of peppy clothing on the rails, these aren’t pieces you can pick up at whim. Be it their fluorescent tie-dye overcoats (hand-dyed by Akshat himself) or sequinned hoodie dresses, every garment is made-to-measure, and fitted to the body like a second skin. “I think the future of fashion comes down to this – if it’s more personal, it’s more sustainable,” he says. “If it feels special to you, then you want to cherish it regardless of the trend cycle.”

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Bodice

“If I knew as much as I know today, there’s no chance I would have started Bodice back in 2011. It takes a certain naivety to plunge into a completely new space”, Delhi-based designer Ruchika Sachdeva admits. With the aim of challenging externally imposed distinctions between Indian and Western fashion, the London College of Fashion alum drew up the blueprint for her textile-driven contemporary label within a year of graduating. This line of thought may not be perceived as radical today, but it certainly was 10 years ago when Ruchika arrived back home to find a lack of options that celebrated India’s wealth of craftsmanship without succumbing to conventions of flamboyance, colours and bling galore.

Armed with enthusiasm for offering minimalist ensembles for the modern Indian woman, Ruchika built Bodice to highlight the nuances of Indian fashion that often get buried beneath all the glitz. “It might look pared down on the outside, but there’s so much going on inside – the seams, the cut and the fall need to come together perfectly so that a dress is tucked in just the right places and highlights a woman’s curves”, she says.

Just as crucial to Ruchika as the construction of her garments is minimising the environmental impact involved in making them and forming long-lasting relationships with artisans in different corners of the country. Bodice’s garments are made exclusively using locally procured natural fibres such as recycled cotton from Kolkata, silk and wool directly sourced from Bhutti weavers in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh, all in a bid to support India’s fibre producers. “Being in Delhi, the air you breathe is a constant reminder of the fact that you’ve got to be conscious and do your bit – if not now, then when?”, Ruchika says. Keeping in mind that India’s capital tops the list in having the worst air quality in the world and recently went into lockdown, not because of coronavirus, but because of the toxic smog that engulfed the city – it’s imperative for brands, now more than ever, to be mindful about the environment.

A model wearing an outfit by Bodice

Image courtesy of Bodice

Apart from having a strong focus on sustainability and versatility, there’s another defining feature of Bodice’s trans-seasonal apparel – pleats. Giving fluid silhouettes a “powerful” structure, she says, her yen for the technique was a reactionary result to her daily environment. “Being born and brought up in India, I’m used to an overload of sensory experiences; there’s a million things happening and it’s so chaotic. Sometimes I think my love for pleating stems as an innate response to that, almost like a need to streamline things and indulge in some sort of repetitive practice.”

Despite it being a time-consuming technique that requires mathematical precision, Ruchika relishes the challenge. What helps? Visualising the woman she designs for: “I like the fact that my customer is me – in her early 30s, independent and finally able to put her foot down. At Bodice, we are always striving to help this woman occupy space quietly but with a steadfast attitude. I believe that clothes are the first conversation you have with anybody without even opening your mouth; it’s a form of art that’s the closest to your body”, she says. Who knew pleats could be the new pillar of power-dressing?

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Aroka

Āroka’s (a Sanskrit word that translates to light shining through woven threads) debut collection of vibrant pieces interspersed with traditional silhouettes like the lehenga and sari played it safe and won hearts.  However, it wasn’t close to the paradigm shift that its co-founders Karan Ahuja and Shweta Aggarwal wanted to accomplish. The duo yearned to cut through the existing noise and experiment with Indian textiles to present them in a globally relevant light. Despite the looming risk of losing its existing customer base and entering uncharted territory, they decided to push ahead with a complete revamp of Āroka’s design philosophy in 2019.

“I enjoy challenging the usual use of local fabrics. For example, we have re-introduced handwoven muslin with ruching techniques to create slinky halter necks and crop tops. India is well-known for its khadi (handloom cotton), but I give it a textural treatment by incorporating raw, frayed edges”, says Shweta, an Instituto Marangoni graduate who is also Āroka’s creative director. The Mumbai-based label’s repository now consists of understated jewel-toned slip dresses, funky asymmetrical outerwear they tag as ‘half and half jackets’, sultry bandeau tops and easy-breezy kaftans that gained a cult following which continued to grow even during the pandemic.

A model wearing an outfit by Aroka

Image courtesy of Aroka

Shedding light on social issues that plague today’s society is the foundation upon which they built their proposal. Inducing conversations around sustainability, fair trade and mental health, where Āroka’s garments do all the talking, is pivotal to its DNA. Notice the subtle yet hopeful messaging embroidered onto the sleeves of its linen tops, belts and bomber jackets such as ‘This too shall pass’, ‘Still, I rise’, and ‘It’s okay to not be okay’.

When the nation was hit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic in April earlier this year, Āroka launched ‘Quote Your Price’, an initiative to recognize the unwavering efforts of its artisanal community. “Our karigars (artisans) can create something no one else can anywhere in the world. Yet, most of them are severely underpaid, exploited by middlemen and subjected to unethical working conditions – even more so during the pandemic. Through this initiative, we wanted consumers to become conscious of the handiwork and attention to detail our artisans pour into the making of each garment and then quote the amount they wished to pay for the same”, the duo explains. Proceeds from those sales were donated to Dastkar – a non-profit organization supporting Indian craftspeople.

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Fashion

Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

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Ducks: the future of the fashion industry

A typical day in the life of UO sophomore Christopher Kiyota consists of checking his Instagram direct messages for new orders to his sneaker resale business, going through his inventory list and making a trip to the post office for new shipments — all between classes and study sessions. This is the ordinary routine of a young college business owner living out his dream with ambitions of taking his passion to new heights.

Running and managing a business is no easy feat as a full-time college student, but these four UO students have channeled their love for fashion into self-made brands and career ventures. They each hope to express their creativity and inspire others by making an impact on the world through their own fashion outlet.

The vintage connoisseur: Alexandra Webster

@approachvintage

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and UO’s track season was cancelled, student athlete Alexandra Webster had a lot of free time on her hands. Already known by friends and family for her unique curation of vintage outfits, she started developing her skill for thrifting and personal styling.

“I started to get motivated because you don’t have anything else to do,” Webster said. “I started getting into fashion and clothing to try to keep myself busy.”

Noticing her newfound interest in fashion and thrifting, her mom suggested the idea of turning what was a quarantine hobby into a monetary opportunity by opening her own store. With thrifting rising in popularity amid the pandemic, Webster realized her knack for hand selecting thrifted items could become her own business that could help others with their style too.






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Alexa talks about how she eventually wants to bringing Approach Vintage online one day. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Ali Watson/Emerald)


She took the leap and opened up her own clothing store: Approach Vintage.

A resale store of unique vintage pieces and popular trendy items, Approach Vintage is located at The Woodlands Mall in her hometown of Houston, Texas, serving as a way to share her love of fashion with others. The store offers all kinds of original pieces, such as oversized jeans, bomber jackets, graphic tees, bucket hats and more. In the nearly two years since the start of her business, Webster has already seen massive success and growth, reaching six figures in sales within her first year of opening the store, she said.

Webster described how truly blessed she was to have that opportunity fall in her lap and be able to get her vintage store started right down the street from where she lived.

“People have been so supportive,” Webster said. “All my friends are always walking by, showing me when they’re at the store; they’ll take a photo and tell me that they’re there. It’s amazing.”

As a new small business owner, it can be difficult to promote your business and gain a wider customer base. Starting out, Approach Vintage was no exception to those challenges.

“The hardest thing was getting my name out there, because I’ve never really known what to do with marketing and promoting myself and a small business that just started out,” Webster said. “But once people started hearing about it, I saw that people love it, and they’re posting about it.”

In the future, Webster wants to expand her brand and branch out into other lines and chains under the same name, broadening her product line as well as her customer base. She plans to start Approach Athletics, a new business with a focus on athletic wear, in the near future.

“I like the idea of not being afraid to do something,” Webster said. “Life’s pretty short, so just do it.”

The ultimate sneaker plug: Christopher Kiyota

@whasiankicks

Christopher Kiyota started out with $180 in his pocket and one pair of used shoes to scrub, clean and resell. Then, one pair turned into two. With consistency, dedication and curiosity about the sneaker resale business, the UO sophomore built his business, WhasianKicks, from the ground up, figuring out how to run and manage a reselling business all on his own.

“I feel like for once I was able to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself,” Kiyota said. “Growing up in San Diego, you don’t really see a lot of opportunities to grow as something different than just a student or an athlete.”






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Christopher built his successful business all on his own from the ground up. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Kiyota)


In the fashion world, nothing can quite compare to the competitive demand and almost religious reverence some people have for sneakers. Entrepreneurs like Kiyota have taken advantage of the thriving culture of sneaker reselling, which allows sneakerheads to make a profit from buying and reselling high-demand or rare sneakers.

With over 18,000 followers on Instagram, Kiyota has taken his love for sneakers to new heights by becoming an in-demand sneaker reseller and supplier in Eugene. Drawing in hundreds of customers per day through his social media, Kiyota said he has sold sneakers to countless customers, including fellow UO students and some major names and athletes as well, such as Deebo Samuel and Noah Beck.

His sneakers are kept in a storage unit where customers can set up a reservation to shop in person, but high customer demand can make it overwhelming to manage, he said.

“As it got bigger and bigger, it started to get harder to maintain these people,” Kiyota said. “When you’re getting 120 DM requests per day about shopping, you get so flooded.”

Kiyota plans to open a storefront for WhasianKicks in the downtown Eugene area by January so he can reach more people and provide better customer service.

“I want to have an optimistic influence on people and make sure I create an atmosphere surrounding my business of happiness and memories,” Kiyota said. “Just something along the lines of you’re going to remember it for years to come. It’s not going to be like you remember my name just because of the shoes I sold you, but you remember it because of how it made you feel.”

The bling buff: Emily Roberts

BlackCatsSparkle on etsy

Emily Roberts grew up in the tiny town of Big Bear, California, and spent most of her life there. She moved up to Oregon during the peak of the pandemic, which was a somewhat difficult experience, she said. She had a hard time finding a job in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as well as making friends during a completely remote first year at the university. Soon enough, Roberts began making jewelry.

She decided to make some earrings with her friend one day for her birthday, and that friend was quick to suggest Roberts start her own Etsy shop with original jewelry pieces. Despite the immediate support for this potential small business venture, she was originally skeptical of the idea.






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Emily has been making artistic pieces since a young age. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started.(Photo courtesy of Emily Roberts.)


“Slowly over time, my family and my friends here and everyone I knew were basically pressuring me to open an Etsy, and I was just like ‘It’s not going to do well guys,’” Roberts said. “But I opened it anyway, and it’s been doing better than I thought.”

Pursuing creative projects and making artsy pieces since she was young, the UO sophomore has used her artistic roots to create her own small business of handcrafted crystal jewelry. She primarily sells her pieces from her online shop on Etsy, BlackCatsSparkle, but also recently began setting up her own stand to sell her creations in person in Salem.

Crafting everything from earrings and bracelets to necklaces and even wreaths, she has seen success with her business in the UO community. She caters to students with fun crystal, skull and mushroom designs, keeps prices inexpensive and delivers to local customers. She has even reached beyond her Etsy shop and sold some of her pieces in the Halicuna Bay Mall in Salem, selling over $60 worth of products on her first day.

“I just really love seeing people wearing my product,” Roberts said. “I adore seeing people around campus and my friends wearing my stuff in their photos. It’s just really rewarding and makes me really happy.”

Her goal is to inspire students and all people to shop locally and from small businesses, a more sustainable, cheaper option that supports good people with good causes.

“If I can make jewelry forever as like a secondary job, that would be fantastic,” Roberts said. “It’s really nice to have that creative outlet; it’s something I can see myself doing for a long time.”

The game day aficionado: Noah Gould

@boxenautzen

A typical Oregon Duck football game is electrified with the energy of thousands of die-hard Duck fans. If you’ve been to a home game recently, especially in the student section, you might have noticed the word Autzen in a green, Supreme-like box logo plastered on the shirts, hoodies and beanies of many students and other fans. If so, you have witnessed the work of UO 2019 graduate Noah Gould and his revitalized game day clothing brand BoxenAutzen.

With a focus on providing gear for football games, Gould was inspired to create his brand when he noticed the large price margin of common game day gear while studying abroad in Italy in the fall of 2017. Being the first time he had interacted with game day outside of Eugene, he had an epiphany.

“Something I noticed quickly was that everyone was wearing the same things,” Gould said. “It was pretty much Nike jerseys and a couple beat tees sprinkled here and there. You’re looking at a beat tee, which they’re giving out for free, and you look at a Nike jersey and they retail for $150.”

Gould realized the majority of game day attire fell on either end of this cost spectrum with no real middle ground. That was the moment he was inspired to fill this gap.

After his time in Italy, his newfound inspiration led him to design some shirts intended to only be worn by his friends. Through the fall of 2018, the orders simply kept coming in, eventually passing 500, Gould said. It was not long before he received backlash from the university’s brand management, claiming he was making a profit by infringing on their word: Autzen. By early 2019, Gould said he received a cease and desist letter from the university to stop his business, and he did.






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Noah Gould, a UO graduate, sports gameday apparel from his Autzen-inspired clothing brand, BoxenAutzen. Students with style: UO students discuss their fashion businesses and why they got started. (Photo courtesy of Henry Ammann)


With a dwindling sense of spirit for the university amid this legal turmoil, he eventually connected with a local manufacturer that had an existing pipeline to get products licensed and to work directly with the university.

“I figured out a way to get my products through this licensing funnel where I can sell products and the university can make royalties off of them,” Gould said.

By the middle of 2020, he finally had UO’s support to sell his product and was receiving sales orders from the Duck Store. Designing from his home in Los Angeles with his production and shipping teams based in Eugene, his business came back in full swing, and Gould has been amazed by the success he’s seen for this season.

“Going into Autzen the night of Nov. 13, I was blown away at how much BoxenAutzen I saw around the stadium,” Gould said. “It’s really rewarding to see it where it’s supposed to be seen — in its natural habitat on a Saturday.”

With plans to grow the business and reach beyond a football focus and branch out into gear for all sports all year round, Gould said he wants his brand to be something that will stick around in five to 10 years. Being immersed in such a large market of Duck fans pouring in year after year motivates him to want to make a bigger impact on UO culture and future generations to come.

“I want to share my love for the Ducks with the world,” Gould said. “I want to make you feel or at least remember what it was to be a student and to be in Autzen with all your best friends on a Saturday.”

A creative spirit, a consistent dedication and a passion for their craft is what set these students apart as individuals who have been making waves in their community and establishing their mark on the world one sale at a time.

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What We Learned From Week 12 in the N.F.L.

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What We Learned From Week 12 in the N.F.L.

Here we go again.

As long as Tom Brady is eating his avocado ice cream and throwing a football, his team will be peaking heading into December.

It did not look as if that would be the case this year, though, as the Buccaneers were ravaged by injuries to their secondary — making Tampa Bay one of the worst defenses against the pass — and among Brady’s favorite targets, tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Antonio Brown.

Losses to the Trevor Siemian-led New Orleans Saints in Week 8 and the Taylor Heinicke-led Washington Football Team in Week 10 sandwiched a bye week in which the team might have recuperated. Instead, in those two games and a win over the Giants in Week 11, Tampa Bay relied on Brady’s passing to compete.

But at 44 years old, Brady’s shot at winning his eighth Super Bowl can’t depend on him carrying the Bucs on his shoulders. A thrilling, 38-31, win over the Indianapolis Colts supplied the takeaway that the football world expects this time of year.

Tampa Bay needed a jolt last year, too.

In Week 12 of the 2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs raced to a 27-10 lead at Tampa Bay with wide receiver Tyreek Hill dropping peace signs and infamously telling Bucs fans “help is on the way.” The Buccaneers’ defense, however, then forced three punts and fought to a 27-24 loss that perhaps gave Tampa Bay a Super Bowl game plan.

The Buccaneers did not lose again that season.

On Sunday, the Colts also appeared set to rout Tampa Bay. When Indianapolis Coach Frank Reich opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 with 22 seconds left in the first half, quarterback Carson Wentz rolled right and found T.Y. Hilton for a 4-yard touchdown that gave the Colts a commanding 24-14 halftime lead. Wentz crackled with 197 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Brady sat on his bench, speechless.

The Colts got the ball to start the second half and drove all the way to Tampa Bay’s 20-yard line. Then, the Bucs turned it on.

Edge rusher Shaq Barrett sacked Wentz, forced a fumble and recovered the ball to end that drive. Six plays later, Tampa Bay cut its deficit to 3 on a Leonard Fournette 4-yard touchdown run, his third score of the game.

The next possession, Wentz’s deep heave to the Bucs’ 5-yard line was intercepted by cornerback Antoine Winfield Jr. In a breathtaking duel, the 5-foot-9 Winfield somehow out-positioned and out-muscled the ball away from the 6-foot-4 wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

Seven plays later, running back Ronald Jones scored on a 1-yard touchdown rush to give the Bucs a 28-24 lead.

Tampa Bay’s run defense, and Reich’s play-calling, mostly kept Jonathan Taylor in check. Taylor, the sizzling Colts running back who scored five touchdowns last week, finished with 83 yards on 16 carries, his longest for 15 yards. He never got into a rhythm against a defense allowed an N.F.L.-low 81 rushing yards per game.

Colts returner Nyheim Hines muffed a fair catch on a punt early in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers recovered the ball and had a field goal drive to take a 31-24 lead.

And when the Colts tied the game at 31-31, on Taylor’s only touchdown score of the day, Brady did what he’s done 50 times in his career: steered yet another game-winning drive. Only he didn’t need to do too much heavy lifting.

Brady meticulously picked away at the Colts for four completions on the eight-play, 75-yard drive. The key play came on a jet sweep by receiver Chris Godwin. His three yards on second-and-2 kept the clock running and, the next play, Fournette blasted upfield for a 28-yard touchdown.

Granted, the Buccaneers (8-3) needed to survive a 72-yard kick return before the buzzer, but Coach Bruce Arians has to love how his team is rounding into form.

Again.

The bruising Fournette’s physicality was a problem all game for the Colts, as he finished with 131 total yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively, Barrett, Lavonte David, Devin White and Ndamukong Suh are all peaking again. After such a breezy first half, Wentz was a totally different quarterback with the Buccaneers’ relentless pressure getting him off his spot in the second half. They hit Wentz seven times in all.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. These Buccaneers are doing just fine as the playoffs near.

As the rest of the A.F.C. stole the spotlight in November, the Cincinnati Bengals quietly got healthier. After getting thrashed by the Cleveland Browns at home in Week 9, the Bengals had a bye week to heal up. The other three teams in the jumbled A.F.C. North showed their warts, while Cincinnati rebounded with a low-key win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

On Sunday, the Bengals absolutely rocked the division’s perennial bully, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 41-10, making realistic their dream of winning the division for the first time since 2015.

The Bengals are good.

Every team with a quarterback on a rookie contract should be capable of going full Lloyd Christmas with its money to produce a winner. Yet, as franchises like the Giants continue to prove, that’s not always a simple proposition. The Bengals’ front office, which historically had botched roster builds, turned the franchise around by targeting the right skill-position players at the top of the draft to surround quarterback Joe Burrow, and spent on the right players in free agency.

After Burrow tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in the 2020 season and the team finished 4-11-1, the Bengals spent like crazy and it’s paying off with a team that is peaking at the perfect time.

Up front, right tackle Riley Reiff (one year, $7.5 million) helped stop the bleeding on the offensive line. Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (three years, $21.75 million) and Mike Hilton (four years, $24 million) both injected a young defense with needed experience, and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (one year, $6.2 million) has been a steal.

When it was still somewhat of a game on Sunday, with the Bengals leading, 24-3, at the end of the first half, the ex-Steeler Hilton undercut a Ben Roethlisberger floater and took it back for a touchdown.

And the team’s top prize in free agency, defensive end Trey Hendrickson (four years, $60 million) effectively ended the game eight minutes, 30 seconds into the third quarter with a sack-fumble of Roethlisberger. He’s up to 10.5 sacks on the season.

As sublime as Burrow’s connection through the air was early this season with the 2021 draft pick Ja’Marr Chase, this Bengals offense runs best through running back Joe Mixon, who wore the Steelers down Sunday.

Mixon had 19 carries in the first half alone. The only other back to have that many in the last five years was Derrick Henry (2018). Mixon finished with 165 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns, his fourth consecutive game with at least two scores.

What a weird sight it was, the Bengals convincingly, joyfully smashing the Steelers. After Mixon’s final score, he danced with his offensive line in some Temptations-themed choreography. Their win put Cincinnati a half-game back of the Ravens, turning up the volume on Baltimore’s prime time game matchup against the Cleveland Browns.

With a tornado of trades in the last three years, the Los Angeles Rams went all-in on a Super Bowl run this season. The team traded draft picks to add cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2019, to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford this summer and to pick up edge rusher Von Miller during the season, essentially balling up any assets for building for the future and burning them to stay warm this winter.

Ten days after trading for Miller, Los Angeles signed receiver Odell Beckham Jr., only further cementing the team’s one expectation: Playing in the Super Bowl in its home stadium at the end of this season.

After the Rams lost to the Green Bay Packers, 36-28, Sunday, taking their third consecutive loss, General Manager Les Snead and Coach Sean McVay have to be wondering what happens next.

Stafford’s highlights Sunday were rendered null with one backbreaking miscue — a pick-six at the end of the third quarter. With the Rams trailing, 30-17, Stafford’s pass was intercepted by cornerback Rasul Douglas, who returned it 33 yards for a touchdown, and the Rams were never able to catch up.

As in his 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Stafford provided hope before reverting to making the mistakes that have defined his career in the absence of a signature postseason win. He threw for 302 yards and three touchdowns, but the gap between Green Bay and Los Angeles still remained painfully obvious Sunday.

The Rams’ 2020 season ended with a loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field in the divisional playoff round and, if anything, it was Green Bay’s offense that has improved since, thanks to the emergence of the second-year running back A.J. Dillon. Dillon, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, finished with 90 hard-earned total yards and a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers was efficient again in throwing for 307 yards on 28 of 45 passing with a pair of scores.

Dolphins 33, Panthers 10: Cam Newton’s second start with the Panthers (5-7) could not have gone any worse after his 1-yard touchdown run tied it, 7-7, in the first quarter. By the fourth, Newton had a 5.8 passer rating while completing only 5 of 21 passes, and the Panthers benched him for P.J. Walker, who promptly threw a pick. Miami’s defense held Carolina to 198 total yards, and Tua Tagovailoa threw for 230 yards and a touchdown as the Dolphins (5-7) won their fourth straight.

49ers 34, Vikings 26: Don’t look now but the San Francisco 49ers (6-5) are healthy and, at least on offense, looking like the team that steamrollered its way to an N.F.C. Championship two seasons ago. Elijah Mitchell and Deebo Samuel combined for 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Vikings not only dropped to 5-6 but also saw their star running back, Dalvin Cook, carted off with a shoulder injury.

Broncos 28, Chargers 13: The Denver Broncos blistered the Chargers with a steady diet of Melvin Gordon (83 yards) and Javonte Williams (54 yards and a touchdown) on the ground with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater attempting only 18 passes. Defensively, rookie Patrick Surtain Jr. had two picks and took one of them back for a touchdown. Is it time to take the 6-5 Broncos seriously? Possibly.

Patriots 36, Titans 13: On the opening drive of the second half, Mac Jones threw a bad ball deep in Titans (8-4) territory that should’ve been intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The ball was dropped, the Patriots kicked a field goal to go up, 19-13, and the rout was on. The Patriots (8-4) rolled to their sixth straight win to set up a massive A.F.C. East showdown at Buffalo next Monday night.

Jets 21, Texans 14: The rookie quarterback Zach Wilson dodgeball-tossed an interception off running back Ty Johnson’s back. That blooper aside, Wilson put his team ahead of the Texans (2-9) in the third quarter with a nifty cut inside on a 4-yard touchdown run as the Jets (3-8) scored the game’s final 18 points.

Giants 13, Eagles 7: So much for any building momentum in Philadelphia. The Eagles (5-7) ran for 208 yards and still lost to the Giants (5-7) because quarterback Jalen Hurts threw three interceptions.

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14: Cordarrelle Patterson’s career renaissance continues. The longtime receiver/returner rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns as the Falcons (5-6) put down the Jaguars (2-9).

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