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Martin Fennelly, Times Sports Columnist

Martin Fennelly

Martin Fennelly is a sports columnist for the Tampa Bay Times. He was born in New York City, raised on Long Island and was sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, minding his own business, when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one night to beat the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Prior to joining the Times, he worked as a columnist for the Tampa Tribune, St. Louis Sun and Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Martin graduated from the University of Albany, where he studied history, and attended the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Lutz with his wife, Siobhan, their children, Conor and Norah, and, at present, five cats.

Phone: (727) 893-8495

  1. Rays' Blake Snell kept a pledge, can he fulfill his promise?

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE — He was in eighth grade and his grandmother was dying. Arlene Snell told her grandson that she believed he could be a pitcher in the major leagues.

    "And I told her I would get there," Blake Snell said.

    He made a pledge.

    And he kept it.

    Last season, he made his major league debut — at Yankee Stadium. Big crowd. Five innings, two hits, one run. Quite the arrival. Snell finished his rookie season with a 6-8 record and a 3.54 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 89 innings....

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) in the bullpen during the game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Saturday, March 4, 2017.
  2. Fennelly: So much for the Lightning being dead and buried


    Hey, has anybody seen that clown who said the Lightning was dead and buried?

    Let me know when you see him.

    I'll shut up now.

    Give it up for the Lightning. And give up trying to figure it out.

    It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a 6-3 win at Boston on Thursday night.

    Put a toe tag on the team, and they start tap dancing.

    Just like that, with a win in a city where they never win, the Lightning is three points back of the eighth-place...

    Nikita Kucherov, left, hugging Victor Hedman, had a hat trick Thursday to again remind us that this franchise has a rising superstar on its hands.
  3. Pondering Stu Sternberg's great 'unknown at this point'

    The Heater

    PORT CHARLOTTE —- Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg made a spring training appearance Thursday before his club played the Yankees.

    All of Tampa Bay (well, some of it, anyway) awaits the day when Sternberg is smiling for cameras, wearing a construction hard hat and holding a shovel, surrounded by politicians and civic leaders to start at the big dig: the groundbreaking for a new Rays stadium....

    Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg talks with reporters before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
  4. Fennelly: Welcome to Tampa, Brian Gregory: Make USF basketball interesting (w/ video)


    TAMPA — Congratulate me.

    I'm pretty sure Wednesday was the fifth new USF men's basketball coach news conference I have attended.

    Seth Greenberg, Robert McCullum, Stan Heath, Orlando Antigua and now Brian Gregory.

    The boxed set.

    Shouldn't I get a prize?

    A set of steak knives?

    A winning program?

    Brian Gregory was introduced Wednesday at the Sun Dome. Like the men before him, he said the right things. He said them quite well, in fact. He comes from the Tom Izzo coaching tree, as good a tree as there is....

    “There’s no reason” USF shouldn’t be making the NCAA Tournament every 3-4 years, new coach Brian Gregory says.
  5. Fennelly: Lightning didn't truly join this season until it was over

    Lightning Strikes

    Coyote ugly.

    That's it, boys.

    Say good night and draw the sheet over your heads.

    Ten games remain in this dreary Lightning season, but it didn't feel like it Tuesday night.

    It felt like the end.

    It's all over but the tee times and who to protect in the expansion draft.

    With a telling thud, the Lightning lost to Arizona, the second worst team in the NHL, which was playing the back end of a back-to-back, a third game in four nights (after losing its first two) and starting its back-up goaltender, who has a losing record....

    Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) calls for a penalty as Vladislav Namestnikov (90) is tripped up by the Coyotes during the third period. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  6. Why this Lightning season could be the most disappointing in Tampa Bay history

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The Lightning trails in the race for the final wild card. It has made a commendable late charge, despite more injuries and employing a patchwork lineup.

    But there is the current two-game losing streak. Tonight's game at Amalie Arena against Arizona, the second worst team in the league, qualifies as "must win."

    Arizona. Must win. Desperate hockey.

    The Lightning is trying to save some face. It's about the greater fight, a pitched battle to stave off infamy:...

    Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) maintains his focus during a break in play during the second period of Saturday's (3/18/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  7. Fennelly: Erratic FSU is capable of anything in the NCAA Tournament


    ORLANDO — They out-dunked Dunk City.

    Let's start there when it comes to Leonard Hamilton's young, talented and uneven Florida State basketball team.

    It was FSU nine dunks to two, by my count.

    Also by my count, No. 3 seed FSU can win some more games in this NCAA Tournament.

    The Seminoles opened by beating Florida Gulf Coast University, those adorable dream weavers, 86-80 in the first round Thursday....

    Florida State's Terance Mann celebrates as he dunks against Florida Gulf Coast during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday, March 16, 2017. Florida State advanced, 86-80. [Stephen M. Dowell | Orlando Sentinel/TNS]
  8. Fennelly: Dear USF, aim higher than Flunk City


    TAMPA — There's a Country Bear Basketball Jamboree in Orlando today — the NCAA Tournament, with Florida present, with Florida State present. And with the little school from Fort Myers everyone loves and nobody slams — Florida Gulf Coast University.

    They've got Dunk City.

    We've got Gunk City.

    Brian Gregory, the new men's basketball hire at USF, is charged with changing that. I hope he does. I wish him luck....

    USF guard Michael Bibby (10) passes the ball.
  9. Fennelly: The Lightning season we gave up for dead is still alive

    Lightning Strikes

    It's not make believe. No illusion.

    The Lightning is a hunter.

    It went into Madison Square Garden and said as much Monday night.

    It beat the Rangers, 3-2, to pull within a point of Toronto for the final wild card.

    This is for real.

    The Lightning is charging. For real.

    The Bolts are at it again in Ottawa tonight. No rest.

    With two goals from 21st-birthday boy Brayden Point, with back-up goalie Peter Budaj coming up with some big saves for his first Tampa Bay win, the Lightning continue to try and turn a feel-bad season into a feel-good one. Give them credit....

    Lightning center Brayden Point (21) celebrates with teammates Victor Hedman (77), Nikita Kucherov (86) and Jake Dotchin (59) after scoring a goal during the third period Monday against the Rangers. [AP photo]
  10. The other amazing athlete who raised Florida's Canyon Barry


    GAINESVILLE — The story is as old as higher education and detergent.

    Two parents doing their college kid's laundry.

    It doesn't matter that you've hit the genetic Powerball with your only child, that he's a 23-year-old basketball star for the NCAA Tournament-bound University of Florida, that he's a 6-foot-6 swingman with a scoring touch. That he's a brain, too, carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA in pursuit of a graduate degree in nuclear engineering....

    Guard Canyon Barry, shown playing for College of Charleston last season, transferred to Florida. The son of Hall of Famer Rick Barry averaged 19.7 points per game before a shoulder injury ended his season. [Associated Press]
  11. Fennelly: Vive la St. Pete: Sebastien Bourdais passes Publix test so he's a local

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — He's one of us.

    Drives faster, but he's one of us.

    St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon. He won it going away, a remarkable performance since he started last. He finished first. His tears followed.

    "To win here in front of family and friends," Bourdais said.

    He was born in a racing mecca — Le Mans, France but this is home now, too....

    Sebastien Bourdais drives in the Grand Prix … or is he making a run to the 38th Avenue Publix?
  12. Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Running on empty brings drivers, fans together

    Auto racing

    ST. PETERSBURG — Running on empty last May, Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500. He made it.

    Running on empty last month, Chase Elliott lost the Daytona 500. He didn't make it.

    Brothers, we've been there, done that. Sort of.

    Running out of gas while going for it is as American as it gets. True, race car dudes are going for greater glory, trophies and cash prizes. The rest of us? Just get us to exit 342 and the Wawa....

    Ah, the red container of life many of us have desperately needed on occasion. The rest of you? Where’s your sense of adventure?
  13. Fennelly: Bryson DeChambeau having great week on, off course


    PALM HARBOR — Bryson DeChambeau is having a great week at the Valspar Champion­ship. And it was a great week even before play began. Yes, the 23-year-old Californian is 5 under and in contention through two rounds on Innisbrook's Copperhead course.

    But it wasn't that.

    "He actually got a kidney two days ago, so everything is awesome," DeChambeau said. "It was a dream come true."...

    Bryson DeChambeau drives at hole one while playing in the second round of the Valspar Golf Championship, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Palm Harbor, Fla. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP) FLPET120
  14. Fennelly: Rays' Corey Dickerson slims down in chase for bigger production

    The Heater


    Corey Dickerson is half the man he used to be.

    We don't mean it how you think, and not half, anyway. But Dickerson did shave 25 pounds from his 6-1 frame and reported to spring training a svelte — you heard me, svelte — 200 pounds. Hey, bud, can you still hit home runs? Just asking.

    "Of course," Dickerson said.

    Dickerson, 27, owns one of those bats the Rays will need to produce to have any chance at winning many more games than the 68 they brought in last season....

    Corey Dickerson’s Rays career got off to a rough start, but he recovered with a .326 average over his last 24 games.
  15. Sorry, Chris Carter, scorned Rays look like the better choice

    The Heater

    TAMPA — The Rays wanted to sign slugging 1B/DH Chris Carter this winter, but he didn't want them, opting to join the Yankees instead.

    Carter said Tuesday he picked the Yankees because he felt their signing of Logan Morrison would have limited his opportunities for at-bats in Tampa Bay.

    "It was going back and forth but then they ended up signing Morrison and that pretty much was the main factor," Carter said. "I liked the situation here better. After they signed Morrison I didn't really see the same opportunity I'd have here."...

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames (27), center, is congratulate by coach Tom Foley, left, as teammate Tampa Bay Rays catcher Michael McKenry (9) looks on after Adames hit a solo homer in the fifth inning of a spring training game against the New York Yankees Tuesday, March 07, 2017 in Tampa.