Luke's Mailbag 3

Q: In soccer, what are good ways to practice if you are the goalie? Kat from Utah
A: Good question Kat! Being a goalie, like any position, requires a lot of hard work and practice. Goalies need to be quick on their feet and have excellent reaction time to stop fast shots. They also need to be in great shape so they can make athletic saves for an entire game. Conditioning and a nutritious diet are very important to being your best on the field. When I want to improve my game, I find the best way to do it is to practice the skill I want to learn with a friend. For football I actually run routes and catch a buddy's passes to work on my receiving skills. You can try this with a friend too! Get in goal and have a friend take shots-see how many you can save!

Q: Is it easy to become a pro soccer player? Jayden from Michigan
A: Jayden, it's definitely not easy to become a pro at any sport, and soccer is no exception. As the Earn Your StripesTM Reporter, I've actually been lucky enough to meet some professional athletes and get some tips. While I haven't talked with any professional soccer players yet, (I'm keeping my fingers crossed!) I can tell you this: There is no magical way to become a pro. All the athletes I've spoken with got where they are today because they've worked exceptionally hard at their game. They put in the time on and off the field to be the best they can be. This means staying in great shape, listening to their coaches, eating right, maintaining a great attitude, and working hard in practice.

Q: On the front, top right-hand of some pro hockey jerseys, there is a capital "C". Does that stand for captain of the team? Ashley from Pennsylvania
A: Great question Ashley. I always wondered the same thing and actually had to ask our high school hockey coach about it! The "C" on the left side of a pro hockey jersey does in fact stand for "Captain," and the player wearing the "C" has been designated the captain of the team. You also might notice other players with an "A" on their jersey. This signifies that they are "Alternate Captains" of the team. Captains and Alternate Captains have been chosen by their teammates, coaches or management to represent the team. Usually it is to reward players for their hard work, great play and leadership skills.

Q: What is the greatest sports moment that you have experienced and why? Tim from Massachusetts
A: I'm a big-time Chicago White Sox fan, and watching them win the World Series in 2005 was awesome! It's great to root for your favorite team and see all the hard work they put in during the season pay off!

In baseball, what does ERA mean? Jessica from Idaho
A: Jessica, I've played a lot of baseball, so I know ERA stands for "earned run average." It's a statistic used to show the average number of runs a pitcher would give up during a nine-inning game. If you're a pitcher, the lower your ERA, the better! At the beginning of a season a pitcher's ERA can easily go up or down, but the more games played the tougher it is to lower an ERA. While ERA doesn't have any impact on how a player actually pitches, it's usually a good way to tell what kind of season someone's having.

Q: How does the umpire know if it is a strike or a ball? Rachel from Pennsylvania
A: Being an umpire is a tough job, can you imagine watching a Josh Beckett fastball and trying to call it a ball or a strike!? Those guys work really hard to stay at the top of their game! An umpire calls a pitch a ball or a strike based on what's called the "strike zone." Think of the strike zone as an imaginary box over home plate. The sides of the box are the two corners of the plate. The top of the box is at the midpoint between a batter's waist and shoulders, and the bottom of the box is just below the batter's kneecaps. If the ball enters the strike zone, the umpire will call it a strike. If it doesn't enter the strike zone, the umpire calls that pitch a ball. It has to be tough to call a slider, curveball or knuckleball! The strike zone varies depending on a player's batting stance, and each umpire calls it a bit differently.

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