Here is the latest Mid-America sports news from The Associated Press
UNDATED (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central and advanced to the league championship series last season before falling to the Washington Nationals. They return the bulk of their lineup, along with their rotation and one of the game's best relief corps. But they also reside in one of the most difficult divisions in the game. The Cubs and Brewers also have won the Central in recent years, and the Reds are trending up after making some big offseason moves.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals head into spring training with a new outlook. The team was sold in the offseason to Kansas City businessman John Sherman and Mike Matheny was hired to replace retired manager Ned Yost. The moves come after the Royals lost more than 100 games for the second consecutive year. The Royals spent last season trying to usher the first wave of young players to the big leagues. Their development will be a major focus this season. So will the growth of the young pitchers still in the minors. Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona on Feb. 12.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City Chiefs fan says he took a "professional NFL hit" when he slammed into a parking meter while trying to catch a pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the team's Super Bowl victory parade. Forty-three-year-old LaRue Bell told The Kansas City Star that the pass was intended for him but that the parking meter denied him the opportunity Wednesday. Millions have watched the video on social media. Even Mahomes checked in on Twitter, asking "Yo is the dude who hit the parking meter okay." Bell says he is sore, noting that the pole "was not forgiving at all."
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Knowing its season begins less than a week after one of the biggest betting events in America, the new XFL is embracing sports betting in a major way. The league owned by wrestling impresario Vince McMahon will appeal to fans accustomed to betting on football who suddenly have nothing to bet on. Its first games come six days after the NFL's Super Bowl. From inviting sport book operators to a mini-camp to meeting with gambling companies, putting point spreads on the TV screen, and giving teams the option of seeking different numbers of points after a score, the XFL is baking sports betting into its operations.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The XFL's greatest contribution to football the first time around was the skycam. The league's focus when it returns Saturday will be on bringing fans further inside the game. ABC, ESPN and Fox will have access to the coach-player communication systems and can go live with the audio at anytime. The networks will also be able to go into the replay booth as plays are being reviewed. Fox analyst Joel Klatt says fans can understand the philosophy of a team and its coach when fans are able to hear play calls.
WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor is suspending 14 baseball players for two games each over an unspecified hazing incident that occurred a year ago. The school says the number of suspensions requires them to be staggered over the first three weeks of the season. The Bears open at home against Nebraska on Feb. 14. Athletic administrators became aware of the incident last May. An investigation by Baylor's general counsel office and Division of Student Life followed. Coach Steve Rodriguez says he's "very disappointed with this incident."
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Brice Calip and Alexa Willard scored 13 points each, and No. 24 Missouri State handed Northern Iowa its first home loss of the season 66-55. Jasmine Franklin added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears, who won their fifth straight. Missouri State took the lead for good with nine straight points capped at 44-35 by Willard's jumper with 5:55 left in the third quarter. The Panthers cut the deficit to three with a pair of 3-pointers but that was as close as they would get. Karli Rucker had 13 points and Cynthia Wolf added 10 for Northern Iowa.