On The Road Again (Leah Secondo Diary #5)

Leah Secondo is in her sixth season as the Radio Analyst for the Connecticut Sun. Throughout the season, Leah checks-in with her Sun travel stories.

Travel Day to Indianapolis July 10: For all the flying that I do, I am worried that our trip to Indy would be bumpy due to afternoon storms across the country. I’m not a good flier when it starts to get bumpy. I’m not a big fan of amusement rides and I have been on one too many flights, which have given me that rollercoaster feeling. Fortunately, this one was not one of them. We got into town early enough to have a relaxing dinner at P.F. Changs (eggplant and minced chicken) and then proceeded to walk it off including a stop at Victory Field home of minor league baseball. Ottawa 10-1 was crushing the Indianapolis team in the 8th inning so the security guard let us come into the park. Super field! You can stand along the outfield area where there is a grass knoll and restaurants if you are looking for that picnic type feeling or every seat has that cozy feeling of an unobstructed view.

Game Day at Indiana July 11: The team did not have a shoot around due to the early start time. They had breakfast and reviewed the Fever by reviewing game video.

I really feel that this game is the table setter for the entire road trip. It would give the Sun an edge in head-to-head competition against Indiana plus put the team on a roll going into a swing of three road games against Western Conference teams.

Based on the two previous meetings with Indy, this one had all the makings of another hair crazy finish. The fans evidently think so because, I thought the crowd was a little weak given the history between the two teams plus it is always a homecoming for Katie Douglas and the game was a 5 p.m. CST start.

The 2004 WNBA motto held true…no lead is safe. Indiana scored 13 unanswered points late in the game however Lindsay Whalen, not once but twice took over with back breaking hoops leading the Sun to a 65-61 win. CT is back on track.

Travel Day to Minneapolis July 12: I’m still on east coast time up wide-eyed at 5:30 CST so I decided to go for a walk on the canal walk.

Gosh I really miss my dog Bailey! I came across a woman walking her four-month-old puppy black lab, Sadie. What a good pup. He sat and gave me his paw. I wanted to cry. I know …I’m weak…but Bailey is like my kid and I miss him a lot.

Anyway, back to the Canal Walk. It is beautiful. The canal wraps around the city going through residential and light commercial areas including the NCAA offices. There are also several memorials. There was one monument commemorating the men and women who were on the USS Indianapolis, a battleship that was sunk while on a mission during WW II. It was traveling with an Atomic Bomb headed to the Island of Tinian when fatally struck by a torpedo. The government did their homework in developing this area to make it people friendly. I felt very safe plus it was educational along the way.

I got back in time for a quick shower and the 10:15 am bus. The bus took us to the airport for an 11:40 am flight. Our only stress for the day, a lengthy line at security that is part of life and the reason why we get to the airport with plenty of cushion to make our flights.

Once in Minneapolis, Lindsay Whalen was whisked away by her agent for the beginning of a crazy afternoon. Lindsay spent two hours at a card store signing autographs, and then appeared on a sports radio talk show followed the next morning as a special guest at the opening of a bank. She was on the morning front page of the newspaper. Lindsay Whalen means everything to Minneapolis. I would compare it to the fondness that UConn fans have for the women’s program but condense it to focus on Lindsay. I think she was relieved to get away from the hustle and bustle of being dragged around everywhere and be able to get back to work on the court. Tuesday’s practice was held at the Timberwolve’s practice facility because there was a concert in the Target Center. A solid two-hour workout left everyone ready for bed.

Minnesota Game July 14: A Minnesota franchise record crowd of 16,227 come out to see their homegrown girl return. Someone forgot to tell the Lynx to throw out the welcome mate. Namely Nicole Ohlde, the rookie out of Kansas State scored a career high 21 points. Minnesota holds on for a 66-63 victory.

Lindsay’s college coach Pam Borton joined us for a conversation at halftime. Some of you might remember Pam as the longtime assistant under Cathy Inglese at Boston College. She told us that Lindsay looked at her during a timeout and said that on the next possession she was going to take it to the hoop and score…she did just that.

The mess continued for the Sun off the court after the game. Northwest Airlines had computer problems so we rebooked on Continental however the problem was that it was scheduled to leave two hour prior to our original flight so we were hauling butt to get back to the hotel pack and make the bus. I have never packed so quick in five minutes.

We got to the hotel in San Antonio at 11 pm. Bob Huessler and I decided to go for a walk. Bob was hoping to get some chow. The only place that was supposed to be open had a sign on the window, “closing early for pest control”. I think his appetite went right out the door.

San Antonio Game July 15: I did some shopping at my favorite road little silver jewelry store just off Commerce Street. I got some great deals.

I went back to the hotel to do a little more preparation and then it was time to catch the 5 p.m. bus to the arena.

Pee Wee Johnson against her former teammates the headline for the game. It marked the first time that pretty much everyone on the team got a chance to see Pee Wee. When the trade went down the majority of the Connecticut players were not in the state. You definitely become a family being around any team (for Pee Wee and the majority of this group you have six years of memories). They were all tight on and off the court …you don’t just forget that because you have been traded.

I was able to get some quality time with my former broadcast partner of seven years, Andrew Monaco. Drew and his family moved to San Antonio two years ago. We did radio and television work together for Sunshine Network and for the Miracle Radio Network in Orlando.

The Sun trailed from the tip to the buzzer. They didn’t look like they were in sync. I was impressed with Silver Stars rookie two guard Agnieszka Bibrzycka, who had a career high night with 19 points. She is the perfect compliment to Margo Dydek. The Sun looked like two different teams took the court in the first and second half. Connecticut trailed at intermission by nine points only to watch San Antonio go on a 20-6 run to open the final 20 minutes.

We had Pee Wee on the post game show after wards. I have seen many sides to Shannon in the time that I have known her but she got me on this day. She was visibly humbled by the day and had a tough time expressing what it meant to her. It was a very difficult interview for all of us. Pee Wee wanted to make sure that the fans in Connecticut knew just how much she enjoyed playing their and that she was really looking forward to coming back on July 24.

Travel to Houston July 16: Our first bus trip of the year. I never thought that I would get on a bus with this team again after the 16-hour extravaganza last season from Cleveland. Three hours was a piece of cake. Chris Sienko, the General Manager of the team picked out the movie “Along Came Polly” …I give it three stars. It was a perfect length…funny and not full of swears.

We stopped in Littleton to stretch and then it took another 35 minutes to get to the hotel where the players where given an hour to change and be back on the bus for practice.

We practiced on the Rockets court. It was like a training camp practice. Running…running and more running. Some of the players had made plans to come to the Astros’ game with Bob and me later in the evening however that quickly changed for the chance to go to bed.

We returned to the hotel at 6 p.m. and met back downstairs at 6:45 p.m. Chris, Brooke Wyckoff, Bill Tavares, Georgia Fischer, Bob and I went to the Houston-San Diego baseball game.

Minute Maid Park is neat. The roof was closed due the chance of rain however in the 8th inning they opening the roof (the ball is livelier when the roof is off and the home team trailed at that point by 4 runs). The park was built on an old railroad station site so keeping with the theme they have a large re-life train on the top of the outfield wall. Each time a Houston player hits a home run the train moves across the wall into the station on the other side. The Astros didn’t hit any homers on this night so it never moved but it looked pretty cool loaded with big huge Minute Maid oranges.

I didn’t see it but was told that Bob and Bill made the Jumbo tron during the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”... I believe them…they wouldn’t lie about that and by the way the Padres won 5 to 1.

Houston Game July 17: Shoot around in the morning and a pretty quiet afternoon leading up to the 5 p.m. bus.

Brooke sat next to me on the bus. She filled in for Rebecca Lobo on the television broadcast. She asked for broadcast advice so I just told her to have fun with it and make believe that she and Mike Gorman, her broadcast partner were out to eat chatting about hoop. Enjoy the game as if she was watching it on TV. She did fine which is not the same that I can say about the Sun. After going on a 9-1 run early, Houston woke up to take a 19-11 lead. Once again the Sun could not get moving in the second half. They only scored 18 points and were held at a season low point total on the night in a 72-56 loss to the Comets.

Consecutive Day’s Off: The Sun had Sunday off. Some went shopping, others caught up on sleep and some went to the Astros game. There was a team dinner Sunday night and Monday the team got back on the floor for practice. It led up to Tuesday’s flight to Detroit. We got in at 3:45 p.m. and thankfully the bus driver knew where we were going unlike our last trip to the Motor City. We pulled into the hotel at 5:20 and had to be back on the bus by 6:20 for practice at the Palace lasting until 8. We were back at the hotel by 8:30.

The storyline of the night came at Papa Vino’s Restaurant. Bob ordered the full portion Chicken Parm dinner (consisting of three ½ inch thick four inches long breaded pieces of chicken perfectly situated on a pound of pasta soaked in sauce). Our server said that he wouldn’t be able finish it and suggested the smaller portion to which Bob’s comment was and I quote, “Bring It On”. Well, by the time our meals came, our waitress had come back by to tell us that they were all betting that he could not finish it. A couple of the employee’s actually came over to wish him good luck. It was hysterical. Bob blew all of their minds by cleaning the plate. NO ONE had ever eaten the entire Chicken Parm meal until our boy Bobby from Connecticut.

Detroit Game July 21: The team had a 7:45 am breakfast and review of Detroit’s personnel. A 9:45 am bus to the Palace.

What a huge win for the Sun who finish the road trip with a 2-3 record. Kesh had the hot hand early scoring 13 of her 16 points in the first half as the Sun held a 46-39 lead. Kesh has some incredible moves and makes plenty of circus shots that you just can’t teach. The Sun had one last possession leading into halftime. Kesh hoisted the ball from her hip area and got enough air on it to make it go over at least three defenders. It was on target… perfect...swish right through all net and that really silenced the seven thousand little kids taking in the game on Camp Day.

The bench was also key to the victory. The Sun bench outscored Detroit 20-9. Rookie Le’Coe Willingham scored a career high 12. No one for Detroit could stop her down low. It was great to watch her have success. Willingham has a few great teachers to learn from Taj, who scored 17 points and Wendy Palmer who added nine points and 11 rebounds.

The Sun have now beaten three Eastern Conference teams three times this season to hold the advantage against Indiana, Washington and Detroit in head-to-head play come the playoffs. The final 78-68.

We left immediately after the game for the airport and a direct flight home to Connecticut. We got into Bradley Airport at 6:45 p.m. and Aunt Rose had breaded eggplant on the table by 7:30 p.m. It doesn’t get any better than that!

I’ll catch up again with you after the two home games July 22 and July 24.