👋 Good morning! Today marks 50 days until the start of the NFL season.
This morning's word count: 1,510 (~6 mins).
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
In 2016, multiple studies found that youth athletes who specialized in one sport and played it year round (as opposed to being multi-sport athletes) were at significantly higher risk of suffering an overuse injury.
Why it matters: This has become an increasingly alarming issue since those studies were released — particularly when it comes to basketball, the most popular youth sport in America.
"They have more miles at a younger age and then, when they get to the NBA, they're less mature structurally and physically. Even though they look like giants, they just can't tolerate as much."— UNC sports science expert Darin Padua, via ESPN
The big picture: Kids who play basketball consistently between ages 7 and 19 could play more than 1,000 organized games, according to estimates. For reference, 29-year-old James Harden has played 881 games in his NBA career — and that includes the playoffs.
A potential solution: Three years ago, the NBA and USA Basketball released their first-ever guidelines for youth basketball. One of their main recommendations: delaying specialization until at least age 14.
The bottom line: While basketball presents the most striking case, specialization can lead to heightened injury risk across all sports.
While MLB is on pace to set a strikeout record for the 14th consecutive season, the rate of pitches actually thrown in the strike zone continues to plummet. Weird, right?
By the numbers:
What's happening: With hitters increasingly swinging for the fences, pitchers are deliberately throwing outside the zone to avoid giving up home runs.
Meanwhile, pitchers have simply gotten better at enticing hitters to chase balls thanks to things like analytics and "pitch tunneling."
Royal Portrush Golf Club. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile via Getty Images
After 68 years, Royal Portrush Golf Club will make its return to the global spotlight when the 148th Open Championship gets underway tomorrow.
Why it matters: Even with the world's best golfers in attendance, the course itself — and the stunning landscape that surrounds it — could be the story of the week.
The bottom line: A remote, seaside town of about 7,000 people is expected to draw an Open-record 215,000 fans this week, making this an Open unlike any other.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The Arena Football League is in the middle of a major capital raise, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: This comes on the heels of the AFL switching to a single-entity structure, which makes it a more attractive investment opportunity (investing in a league rather than a single team).
Details: The AFL, which has been around since 1987, is currently backed by a group of investors that includes Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the owners of the Washington Wizards and Capitals.
Current standings: The top four teams advance to the playoffs, which begin July 26. Each series will be played in a home-and-home format.
What's next: Moving forward, the goal is to add two franchises per year for three years with an emphasis on markets with legal sports betting or pending legislation, sources tell Axios.
🏀 NBA: Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is dying. Take some time to read this heartfelt piece by the Salt Lake Tribune's Gordon Monson.
🏒 NHL: Hall of Famer Ron Francis will serve as the first general manager of Seattle's new franchise, the Seattle Times reports.
🏀 WNBA: The NBA wanted to put a WNBA team in Boston when the league launched, but the Celtics balked. 22 years later, the league has still never made its way to Beantown. Why? Interesting read (subscription) from The Athletic's Steve Buckley.
⚾️ MLB: Jimmy Fallon had MLB players secretly slip bizarre phrases into their interviews over the All-Star break. My favorite one from Pete Alonso (which totally duped reporters, who thought it was a real quote): "It doesn't matter how much jelly you have in the jar, it's about how you spread it on your English muffin." Pretty hilarious.
78 years ago today, Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio's hit streak ended at 56 games after he went 0-3 against the Cleveland Indians.
Fun fact: Heinz promised DiMaggio a $10,000 sponsorship if his hit streak could match the 57 number on their ketchup bottles. He missed out.
"I'm not happy ... I guess relieved would be a better word. Although I haven't been under much strain, there always was a little pressure until I got a hit."— Joe DiMaggio (via ESPN)
MLB's longest hitting streaks:
Go deeper: Sports' most unbreakable records (ESPN)
Saquon Barkley is one of three rookie running backs in the Super Bowl era to record 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns.
Answer at the bottom.
Germany's Hossein Ensan, 55, defeated Italy's Dario Sammartino, 32, to win the 2019 World Series of Poker main event title in Las Vegas last night.
Watch: The dramatic final hand.
On Monday, I asked you to share a memory that illustrates the power of sports. For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing your stories.
Similar moments shared by readers:
See you tomorrow,
Kendall "Hump Dayyyy" Baker
Trivia answer: Eric Dickerson (1983) and Edgerrin James (1999)