Brazil’s 16-year-old Baseball Wonder Turning MLB Heads

A prospect with a 94 mph fastball gets a lot of attention, no matter where he is pitching — even when that prospect is a diminutive 16-year-old from a country with little baseball tradition.

Eric Pardinho’s blazing fastball has brought scouts to this city 50 miles west of Sao Paulo in soccer mad Brazil. The 5-foot, 8-inch tall right-hander could get a lot more attention July 2, when Major League Baseball teams can begin signing international players. Pardinho is No. 5 on MLB.com’s list of 30 world prospects to watch.  

 

Pretty impressive for a kid who was introduced to baseball almost by accident.

“I am only here because at 6 years of age I was playing paddleball on the beach and my uncle thought my control could be good for baseball back in Bastos,” he said.

Also throws change, slider

Bastos is a small town outside of Sao Paulo with a sizeable Japanese population. The Japanese began bringing their love of baseball and sushi to Brazil in the early 1900s.

Pardinho, whose mother’s parents are Japanese, started gaining attention last year when he struck out 12 in a win over the powerhouse Dominican Republic at the under-16 Pan Am Games. In September he got two outs against Pakistan — both strikeouts — in a qualifier for the World Baseball Classic, a 10-0 win played in New York City.

The young Brazilian’s changeup and slider have also earned praise from local coaches, who already see at him as a potential national star for baseball’s return to the Olympics in 2020 at Tokyo. At the moment Brazil has only one player in MLB, the Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes.

Since January, more and more visitors have come to watch Pardinho workout at a new MLB-sponsored training center in Ibiuna, another city influenced by baseball-loving Japanese immigrants.

Eager to sign

Pardinho is eager to sign with a team and move to the United States.

“There is a lot that I will only learn when I go,” said Pardinho.

 

The pitcher said his height should not be an issue, though his family members still hope that he will grow more in the next year.

“Some time ago there was an issue with shorter players, but now there are teams that don’t care. It matters more that I have a safe fastball and two more good options, including a curveball that I control well,” he said.

‘He destroys them all’

Other MLB hopefuls agree: facing Pardinho is a huge challenge.

“Pardinho’s curveball is amazing, he is more than fast. His height doesn’t matter because his arm can do wonders,” said third baseman Victor Coutinho, also 16.  

 

Also a pitcher, Heitor Tokar practices with Pardinho every day and believes in his friend’s future in the sport.

“Pardinho doesn’t feel any difference when he throws against players taller than him, he destroys them all,” Tokar said.

Even Pardinho’s coach, Mitsuyoshi Sato, knows the teen is headed for bigger challenges, and protects his arm. Sato pitches the soon-to-be pro no more than two innings at weekend tournaments.  

Room for improvement

 

Pardinho’s father Evandro makes the hour-plus drive from Bastos to check on his son, and Sato makes sure Pardinho is a priority for Yakult training center medics. Pardinho has the support of an orthopedist, a physiotherapist and a fitness trainer. He also has a technical trainer.

“He still has to improve physically and mentally. I don’t want him to do too many fastballs now because I worry about a possible injury,” said Sato. “No arm is prepared to pitch that fast, much less the arm of a kid.”  

 

Sato believes Pardinho has room for improvement in the control of his changeup so he can spare his arm and shoulder.

Pardinho thinks if he has success, he could change baseball in Brazil.

“If I do well, maybe more and more Brazilians, not only those of Japanese heritage, will think of playing on a diamond, too.”

 

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Tsetse Fly’s Weakness May Be Its Symbiotic Bacteria

The fly that carries African sleeping sickness may carry the seeds of its own destruction, according to new research.

Scientists have detailed the unique relationship between the tsetse fly and bacteria in its gut the fly can’t live without.

The tsetse fly spreads African sleeping sickness to humans from wild animals and has caused several major epidemics in the past.

The parasite responsible for sleeping sickness is one of the few pathogens able to pass from the blood into the brain. It disrupts the sleep cycle and leads to mood changes, confusion, tremors and ultimately organ failure.

Researchers have long hoped to take advantage of a number of the fly’s unusual properties. Like mammals, the tsetse fly lactates and gives birth to live young.

The tsetse milk contains bacteria called Wigglesworthia that the mother passes on to its young. Despite having one of the smallest known genomes, Wigglesworthia is a big deal for the tsetse fly. Without it, the fly becomes infertile.

In the report published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the University of Pavia in Italy described a number of ways that the tsetse fly depends on Wigglesworthia. The bacteria supply B vitamins that the fly can’t produce on its own and doesn’t get from blood, its only food source. Without B vitamins, the fly can’t properly nourish its young, and they starve.

Proteins’ roles

The scientists also examined the tissue that houses the bacteria. The fly produces a special protein that guides the bacteria where they are needed. Another protein hides the bacteria from the fly’s immune system.

This leaves the researchers with several attack strategies as they move forward. They could try to produce drugs that target Wigglesworthia directly, or unleash the flies’ immune system on the bacteria, or block one of the several pathways that the bacteria use to support the fly.

“There’s a lot of potential places you could throw a wrench into the works,” study co-author and entomologist Geoffrey Attardo told VOA.  “It’s just finding a place that’s optimal.”

Recent efforts to stem the spread of sleeping sickness have been largely successful. According to the World Health Organization, the number of reported cases fell from almost 40,000 in 1998 to just 2,804 in 2015.

But researchers say it is still important to develop new control methods that are cheaper, easier to deploy and more effective.

“During epidemics, the political will to address this is there, but then when the disease goes away, the control efforts stop,” said Attardo. “Then flies come back in from wild areas, and the cycle starts again. And 20 or 30 years later, you have another epidemic.”

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Chilean Scientists Produce Biodiesel From Microalgae

Biodiesel made from microalgae could power buses and trucks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent, Chilean scientists said, possibly curbing pollution in contaminated cities like Santiago.

Experts from the department of Chemical Engineering and Bioprocesses at Chile’s Catholic University said they had grown enough algae to fragment it and extract the oil which, after removing moisture and debris, can be converted into biofuel.

“What is new about our process is the intent to produce this fuel from microalgae, which are microorganisms,” researcher Carlos Saez told Reuters.

Most of the world’s biodiesel, which reduces dependence on petroleum, is derived from soybean oil. It can also be made from animal fat, canola or palm oil.

Saez said a main challenge going forward would be to produce a sufficient volume of microalgae. A wide variety of fresh and salt water algaes are found in Chile, a South American nation with a long Pacific coast.

The scientists are trying to improve algae growing technology to ramp up production at a low cost using limited energy, Saez said.

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Tennis Star Venus Williams Sued in Fatal Car Crash

Tennis star Venus Williams is being sued by the family of a man who died in a car crash in which she was involved.

Court officials in Palm Beach County, Florida, confirmed that the family of Jerome Barson, 78, filed the lawsuit against Williams on Friday.

A police report released Thursday described Williams as being “at fault” in the incident, which took place this month. Police have not charged Williams with an offense.

An attorney for Barson’s wife, Linda, who was driving at the time of the crash, accuses Williams of running a red light as well as inattentive and negligent driving.

The attorney, Michael Steinger, said he thought there might be video of the crash that was captured by surveillance cameras at the guard houses protecting Williams’ neighborhood.

An attorney for Williams, Malcolm Cunningham, said she entered a six-lane intersection on a green light but got stuck in traffic while trying to turn. The light then turned red while Williams was still making her turn, he said.

Williams said she didn’t see the Barsons’ car before she crossed into their lane. Jerome Barson spent two weeks in a hospital with a fractured spine and internal injuries before he died.

Williams is in England preparing to play in the Wimbledon championships, where she has won the women’s singles title five times. Her younger sister, Serena Williams, the world’s fourth-ranked women’s tennis player, is not playing in the tournament because she is pregnant.

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Trump Revives National Space Council, to Be Led by Pence

President Donald Trump is forming a National Space Council to be led by Vice President Mike Pence.

 

The president signed an executive order Friday to revive a council last in place in 1993.

 

Trump says the announcement sends a clear signal to the world about the United States’ leadership in space. He says space exploration would help the economy and national security.

 

Members of the council are to include the secretaries of state, defense, commerce, transportation and homeland security, as well as the head of NASA, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence.

The council will also draw on insights from scientists and business leaders.

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McCartney, Sony/ATV Settle Dispute Over Rights to Beatles’ Songs

Paul McCartney has reached a confidential settlement of his lawsuit against Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC in which he sought to reclaim copyrights to songs by the Beatles.

The accord disclosed Thursday in filings with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ends McCartney’s pre-emptive effort to ensure that the copyrights, once owned by Michael Jackson, would go to him starting in October 2018.

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos signed an order dismissing the case, but agreed to revisit it if a dispute arose.

The dismissal request had been made by Michael Jacobs, a lawyer for McCartney, on behalf of the singer and Sony/ATV.

It was unclear how the accord affects McCartney’s copyright claims. The singer’s representatives could not immediately be reached Friday for comment.

McCartney, 75, had sued on January 18 for a declaration that he could reclaim more than 260 copyrights, including for songs credited to him and John Lennon such as I Want to Hold Your Hand, Yesterday and Hey Jude.

The registrations at issue also covered Maybe I’m Amazed and several other songs McCartney recorded as a solo artist. They even covered such titles as Scrambled Egg, which is close to the working lyric Scrambled Eggs that McCartney once used for the song that became Yesterday.

McCartney had been outbid by Jackson in 1985 for the Beatles’ song rights, which were later rolled into Sony/ATV, a joint venture with Sony Corp. The pop star’s estate sold its stake in that venture to Sony for $750 million last year.

McCartney sued a month and a half after a British court said the pop group Duran Duran could not reclaim rights to its songs, in its case against Sony/ATV’s Gloucester Place Music unit.

Changes made in 1976 to U.S. copyright law let authors like McCartney reclaim song rights after periods of time elapsed.

In his lawsuit, McCartney said he could begin exercising his rights on Beatles songs, starting with Love Me Do, on October 5, 2018.

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