Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Yankees Hat says farewell to 2014

The New Year is a great time for reflecting and starting over. We get a clean slate. A new beginning. It's also a time to take a stroll down memory lane. And for some of us it’s a time to make changes for the next year to come. 2014 was a great year for me but I’m excited to get 2015 going. Here were some epic Yankees Hat moments and memories from 2014...

The first part of 2014 was pretty amazing. The Yankees Hat was found upon my head every morning at 6:30am when I would go to my brothers house to help take care of his newborn son. My Nephew, Christian Aaron Varga was born on December 9th, 2013 so it made 2014 very exciting.
After he was born, my sister in law Amy, was dealing with some health issues and my brother had to go back to work, so for the first few months of 2014, my Mother and I took 24 hour shifts helping my brother and his wife with the baby. It was a blessing but also exhausting. I don't have kids of my own so this was quite an experience. I have never felt so much love in my heart for a human being as I did for my nephew. I can only imagine if I had my own. To all the parents out there - I tip my Yankees Hat to you! This little boy is the light of my life and of course...he’s a Yankees fan!
What a job to be a parent! Everyone needs to thank and appreciate the person who raised them. Thank you to my Mom and Dad. I appreciate you more now than ever. It's the greatest joy but the toughest responsibility you will ever have. I remember the late night bottle feedings, the round the clock crazy schedules, no sleep, complete exhaustionand later on, waking up at 6am every morning to drive over to my brother’s house to watch my nephew while he and his wife went back to work. Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT a morning person so it was a struggle. But family is everything to me and it had to be done. I would literally roll out of bed half asleep, throw on some sweats and a shirt and put my Yankees Hat on and walk out the door. Christian got so use to seeing the Hat on my head that he would look at me funny if it was ever off. He loves the Yankees by the way. We start ‘em young in the Varga family. We're hoping he will wear the pinstripe uniform one day and who knows, maybe even be the next Derek Jeter.
Moving on to the spring of 2014. Life got really busy for me in my career. I was working on set a lot. There wasn't a day that my Yankees Hat was left behind. I was hosting, modeling, created my own sports show, and even landed a starring role in a pilot for a TV series. I was constantly working on Beyond The Offseason and had some great athletes and guests who inspired and motivated me to keep building the series. 
I want to thank every Athlete who was a part of the project and I especially want to thank young boy and his family for sharing his story. This special person is thirteen year old Liam Traynor. Liam was featured in one of the episodes and had quite an impact on my life and everyone who watched.
So far it’s been a great ride with Beyond The Offseason and 2015 should be even more exciting. We're working on some new features with athletes who have stories that will touch your heart. At the moment, I put the project on the shelf until after the New Year because there was too much going on and I wanted to dedicate quality time to family for the holidays. But in 2015 we are back in action with more great stories. You can visit our website to watch episodes and learn more about Beyond The Offseason at www.beyondtheoffseason.com  

In 2014 I had the honor and privilege of going to my first Yankees game at the new Yankee Stadium. It was glorious! I went to a lot of Yankees games in the past at the original stadium, but this was my first time in their new home. It was a night to remember and the Yankees had an epic win to top it off. I also got to see Derek Jeter play one of his last games as a Yankee so it's a memory that will last a lifetime.
In the summer of 2014, I was doing some promos for my skincare product in Boston and not only did I wear my Yankees Hat with pride around town without getting beat up, I even made some new friends. The Hat and I made an appearance at Mark Wahlbergs restaurant, Wahlburgers, which was to die for by the way. It’s the best burger I’ve ever had. I must admit, I had a great time in Boston and although every Yankees fan hates the Red Sox because of the rivalry, it's a nice city with some pretty cool people.
On a not so happy note, I got a serious concussion in the summer of 2014 that changed my life and made me appreciate things a lot more. It was time to reevaluate some things and make some changes. It took me two months to recover and I got to discover who I really was and more important, who I wanted to be. It was a difficult time for me but I grew from the experience. In a strange kind of way, I’m glad it happened. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. One day I'll write a book. For those of you who know me, you know the story of my concussion and to those of you who helped me get through it, I am forever grateful. I am also happy to say I can name 5 fruits now. Inside joke. Moving on...

In the fall, the Yankees Hat was spotted on the campus of Notre Dame for quite a few tailgates. There were some good times with good friends and we had a lot of fun.

The Hat was also spotted on campus with the beautiful and talented actress, AnnaLynne McCord. She’s super cool with a heart of gold and on a mission to be a voice for those who need to be heard concerning sexual assault. Check out her work sometime. I'm proud to say I know her. Well done AnneLynne, I tip my Yankees Hat to you as well.
For Halloween 2014, the Yankees Hat and I went trick or treating with my new nephew Christian. It was his first Halloween and he was adorable. It was so cold it actually snowed that day, but this little cutie warmed my heart and his first Halloween was a big success.
Thanksgiving was great and Christmas was great. My entire family was together and it was the most fun I've had in years. We laughed, we cried and we reminisced about old times when we were growing up. It also made me realize that no matter what happens in my life, no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how much money I have or how successful I am, my family loves me for me and not for the material things I have to offerThey will always be there for me and it's a great feeling to know that there are people in your life who simply love you for you and don't want anything in return.

New Year's Eve is upon us and I'm keeping it simple this year. No big plans, just a look back at all the wonderful people in my life and all of the amazing things that have happened. I’ll be spending it with my family and I will also be recovering from a minor medical procedure to treat some early signs of skin cancerKind of scary but I’m not too worried. After everything that happened with my brother Shane, nothing phases me. However, I’m not taking any chances. The bottom line is if you have your health, you need to be grateful. Cancer can happen to anyone and illness can happen to anyone. If you don't have your health you're in trouble. So count your blessings and be sure to stay on top of things. If you think something is wrong, have it checked out. We all have a purpose in life but we need to take care of ourselves so we can live long enough to make it happen.

Almost everything I've done over the past year has been with my family or for my family. As I'm writing this blog, I'm realizing more and more where my heart is…with family. 2015 is going to be very different for me. After the New Year, I’ll be moving. It will be the first time in 5 years that I'll be away from my family. Sure I’ve lived in LA for half of my life and had a good run in Florida and New York, but I moved back home in 2009 to be close to my family when my brother Shane found out he had cancer. stood by his side until it was gone and after 3 years of chemo, radiation and a stem cell transplant, I'm happy to say he has a clean bill of health and is cancer free! The best decision I ever made was to move back home and it was a time I will never forget
2015 will be the year of change for me. I look forward to a new chapter in my life and I look forward to the journey. Who knows what the New Year has in store, all I can say is that I'm ready for it, so bring it on!
I have a great life and I am thankful and blessed! God has been so good to me and to my family. My brother is alive and healthy, I have a new nephew I adore, I love my career, I have great friends and I have a family that loves me. What more could anyone want.

On a sports note, Hockey was a big part of 2014 for me. I went to so many games this past year and love it not only because it's a great game, but because hockey players are the best guys around. I made some remarkable friends in 2014 and contrary to the reputation they have for being tough guys, these are some of the nicest guys you will ever meet. They are giving, kind and hold a special place in my heart. And because I’m a Yankees fan, when chose my favorite hockey team I had to go with the New York Rangers.
Speaking of New York, it’s obvious that baseball is my other favorite sport. My love for the Yankees and baseball will always be strong. I’m loyal. I wouldn't be writing a blog about this Yankees Hat if it wasn't for my favorite team. I don't get to write that often because of my hectic schedule, but when I do, I usually have something important to say and it’s a fun place to share my experiences. This past year has been a blast. The Yankees Hat and I have seen some amazing things and been to some amazing places and met some amazing people. I’m not sure if I will continue writing a blog next year but it’s been fun. Who knows what will take place in 2015. Check back to see if the Yankees Hat makes a return.
Thank you for reading my stories and for being a part of my life in 2014. I hope you were entertained and got something out of it. Happy New Year everyoneWishing you all a very healthy, happy and prosperous 2015. Hats off to 2014!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude. Appreciate life and the ones you love.

Today is Thanksgiving and I wanted to take a few minutes to share some of the things that I’m thankful for. Aside from sports and the Yankees, there are many people in my life who have touched my heart and made me smile. To you, I say Thank you.
This has been quite a year for me. I’ve been traveling and working like crazy and of course the Yankees Hat has been with me on every trip. I just got back from Florida, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago but I’m in the Midwest now spending the holidays with my family, which is what I’m most thankful for.

I love my family and I thank God every day for them, especially for my brother Shane who has battled cancer twice, underwent a sternotomy and a stem cell transplant and won his fight. It’s a true gift to see him sitting across from me at the dinner table.
When a loved one gets sick it gives you a whole new perspective on life. It makes you appreciate things more and you begin to value relationships more. I put my life on hold for five years to be with my family through the tough times and it was the best decision I ever made. Our family got stronger and my brother got healthier. In a way, the whole experience saved my life. And I’m grateful for that.
Going through trials makes you stronger and wiser. It also makes you cherish the holidays more. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow so let’s live each day like it’s our last. Don’t sweat the small stuff, forgive others, and fill your lives with love, compassion, understanding and joy. And no matter how good or bad you have it, be thankful for your life because someone else may be fighting for theirs.

Something exciting happened to our family this year. My brother Shane and his wife Amy had a baby! He’s a little miracle and has turned years of affliction into joy. Children change everything and they sure do brighten up the holidays. He is the love of my life and brings happiness to everyone around him. Not only do I get to spend Thanksgiving with him, but I’ll be there for his first birthday, Christmas and New Years too! You should have seen how cute he was on Halloween. Yes…that’s me with the Yankees hat.
I’m also thankful for the great friends in my life. This past year I’ve met some incredible new friends as well who hold a very special place in my heart. I’m a very private person and I respect the privacy of others so I won’t name names, but you know who you are. Thank you for your love, support, and the always entertaining and anticipated phone calls and text messages. You make my life complete. Hope to see you soon.
I’m also thankful for my career. I get to work with so many talented people and have the most exciting life. I get to travel, meet new people, and do something I love. I feel fortunate and I don’t take anything for granted.

I want to leave you with an image. Although this day is joyous and many of us will be spending it with loved ones eating great food and watching football games, remember that some people have not eaten today. And they won’t eat tomorrow or the next day or the next.
That photo was not to depress you but to make you aware of just how blessed you are. When I first saw that image, it made me cry. It broke my heart to see this woman and her child suffering and in need. I looked at the little boy and thought what if that was my nephew. And what if that was his mother. Sometimes when I need a reminder to stay humble and serve others, I get out this picture. It’s not to ruin your Thanksgiving or make you sad, it’s to remind you of how thankful you should be today and every day. And if you have the opportunity to help someone, do it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and cherish the time you get to spend with family and friends. I cherish each and every one of you and I’m sending you lots of love today. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again soon.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Meet AnnaLynne McCord, Actress and activist beautiful inside and out.

Although baseball season is over, the Yankees Hat is still traveling and this time it went from one extreme to the other. I started off in sunny Florida where the temperature was 80 degrees, the sun was shining and I spent most of my time on the beach. I was covering a charity event with some Miami Dolphins legends 

and then two days later, I ended up in South Bend Indiana with a massive snowstorm experiencing the wrath of Mother Nature and the polar vortex. 

I hate the snow and cold but it ended up being a great trip because I had the opportunity to meet an amazing actress and activist, AnnaLynne McCord who spoke about a very powerful topic.

I had just arrived in South Bend from Florida. I was back in town for the Notre Dame Football game and also visiting some friends and family. I had a lot on my agenda but as I was reading through my emails, I came across an invitation to a campus event with AnnaLynne McCord. She was talking about her personal experience with sexual assault and forgiveness.
You all know her as a beautiful model and actress but I got to know her as a beautiful human being. She was funny, witty, charismatic and full of life. She was an incredible speaker and her words were powerful. She was not only honest, down to earth and real, but she is by far one of the nicest people you will ever meet. She had you laughing one minute and thinking about serious issues and life the next. She stayed afterwards to meet all of her fans and was there for over an hour talking and listening to everyone with a smile the entire time. I was truly impressed. I give her so much credit for being so cordial and generous and for not being afraid to speak about what happened. She is the voice for so many people who don’t have one. 

When I met her I told her what an impact she had on my life and thanked her for sharing her experience so that others could learn, grow and heal from it. She was thoughtful and attentive. A true beauty on the inside and out. She genuinely listened to what everyone had to say and made eye contact throughout each conversation. She gave lots of hugs to every person that came up to her and it was obvious that she truly cares about people. 

I was so glad I had the chance to meet her in person and hear her speak. I will support all of her efforts down the road and encourage you to do the same and learn more about her. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak at an event you will love it. She’s a strong woman who didn’t let what happened to her take over her life. I admire her for being so brave and opening up so that others could learn from her.  
As I was trudging through the snow on my way back to my car, I had to ask myself why in the world was I even out in this cold. I knew the answer. I was meant to hear AnnaLynne’s message tonight and now I’m sharing it with you. I passed the Golden Dome which was covered in snow and the campus began to look different to me. I’m not a fan of the outdoors especially in the winter, but this particular night was actually quite breathtaking. 

There was a purity to it...which is the word that entered my mind. The message I got from tonight was about becoming pure again. There is a bible verse about becoming white as snow. We can all become pure again and find our purity through forgiveness, redemption and healing. It was a symbolic night with the snow. One I will never forget.

Thank you AnnaLynne McCord. You inspired me to share this story and to think about my own life and struggles and to remember that no matter what happens in life, we all have the power and ability to free ourselves and learn from adversity instead of letting it take over our life and rob us of true happiness.

That's me in the snow. Life is good. Enjoy it to the fullest! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What we should learn from the Michael Del Zotto situation

I wasn't sure if I was going to write again in my blog until next season, but after an unfortunate turn of events, I feel compelled to share some thoughts.

I recently filmed an episode for a sports series I’m working on called Beyond The Offseason. I wrote about it in my blog a few months ago. It’s a show about athletes giving back and making a difference. It was created to put athletes in a positive light since there are so many negative things happening in the sports world today. This particular episode featured a 12 year old boy with cerebral palsy and his best buddy, an NHL athlete. It was a beautiful story of friendship and hope. The athlete was Michael Del Zotto. Ironically, Michael was recently involved in a situation that not only hurt his reputation, but it also affected his career and personal life which in return, had an impact on Beyond The Offseason.

The reason I’m writing about this situation is because I have gotten emails, phone calls, tweets and messages from random people about the episode we did with Michael and Liam since the incident happened. Some were kind, but a lot of them were not so kind which is heartbreaking because the show was pure and innocent. There were people involved who were hurt so I felt the need to stand up for the integrity of the show and everyone involved in it. You would think people would have the decency to leave a young boy, his family and a project with heart out of this mess, but unfortunately that is not the case.

I won’t get into to details but all of this drama and pain was caused by a woman in the adult entertainment industry who made claims about the athlete and sent out numerous humiliating tweets about Del Zotto in a twitter blast over something very juvenile. It ended up destroying lives.

I had to ask myself “why”? Why would anyone do something like this? What kind of person is this woman? She accused the athlete of something so trivial. Did he really deserve public humiliation over this? Does anyone really deserve this? There were better ways to handle this situation.

My question to this woman who started everything is…Did you ever think for one second how many lives this would effect and how many people this would hurt?
Did you think for one second that it might damage his career? His family life? His friends? And most importantly, his friendship with a 12 year old boy living with cerebral palsy?

I decided to watch the video again of the episode we did with Michael and Liam to make sure that everything I saw and experienced that day was true. I found myself in tears. I saw a young NHL hockey player who truly cared about a little boy who had many struggles in his life. There was nothing phony about it. I was there. I saw the friendship between the two and also between the entire family with Michael, which is why it’s so heartbreaking to watch everything unfold and to watch this misunderstood athlete be on public display for humiliation and ridicule. He has been mocked, scorned, laughed at, made fun of and has been treated so unkind it makes my heart ache. I know a lot of athletes who have done much worse – they just chose to do it with people who weren't vindictive.

I was in tears because this beautiful story had been tarnished by a woman who did not care about anyone but herself the day she decided to get revenge. There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Del Zotto is a great person. The little boy with cerebral palsy agrees and so do his parents. It was a very special day and as I got to know Michael and Liam better, I saw their friendship blossom and it touched my life and soul because this athlete meant every word he said and was one hundred percent genuine in everything he did.

But people don’t care. They just like to see the bad things in life. What a disappointing world we live in.

Del Zotto might have made a careless mistake, but it doesn't change his heart which is full of kindness and compassion. I think the biggest mistake he made was trusting a porn star to be his friend. I think we can all admit we've done some stupid things in our life, and we've all made bad choices, but if we learn and grow from them it makes us better people. No one is perfect. We have all done something we’re ashamed of or wish we could take back. Michael Del Zotto is a 24 year old NHL hockey player who started his career at a young age in New York City. I’m sure the spotlight and lifestyle got the best of him…it does to a lot of athletes. The difference is that he got involved with someone who chose to hurt him instead of help him. 

A lot of young athletes today need help and guidance. It’s a big adjustment to play sports professionally. Many careers have been ruined from not being able to handle the fame, money and power. You know what would have been a better solution from this woman… to simply care about this young athlete and have some empathy instead of being the woman scorned. Maybe say to him “I think you need some help. Let me be a friend and help you figure out why you're doing this”. Not “I’m annoyed and I’m gonna throw you to the wolves”. But it sounds like she may have some problems of her own. We all do. I just don’t understand why people have to be so hateful. I think it all stems from loneliness and pain. I feel sorry for this woman and I feel sorry for what she did to Del Zotto. This incident should have never happened.

I hope we can all learn something from this. To all the men out there…please stop looking at women as objects. I know it’s tough to avoid when people in the adult entertainment industry like this woman prey on the lonely and make a living at being an object, and every add, TV show and magazine focuses on beauty, sex and scandal, but you have to know that there are some decent women out there who are more than just a pretty face or hot body. And girls, don’t lose your class and dignity. Don’t be so desperate for love and attention that you sacrifice your integrity or beliefs. It’s hard to keep up with the fantasy world that has been created in society, but just be yourself and love who you are and in return, the right person will love you back.

There’s more to life than just a pretty face, fame or money. We need to stop hurting each other and start loving and respecting each other more. Let this be a lesson to all of us. 

Men…you need to have more respect for women. And women…you need to have more respect for yourselves.

And to anyone making negative comments to me about the episode, the little boy and his family or Michael, please stop. The goal at Beyond The Offseason was to tell an inspirational story with heart and that was accomplished

No matter what is being said, Michael Del Zotto is still a good guy and Liam is a brave young boy who has many hopes and dreams and this is his friend. Lets not be hateful or hurtful to anyone involved. Here’s the video. It speaks for itself...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Derek Jeter's final at bat

There are moments in sports history that we will never forget. Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate for his last time at Fenway park and leaves his legacy behind with a base hit RBI...and I missed it all.

As a die hard Yankees fan and an even more die hard Derek Jeter fan, you would think that I wouldn't miss this game for anything. But I did. I'll tell you why in a minute. I now understand more than ever why it was time for Derek Jeter to retire. He has sacrificed so much and given everything he has to baseball and I can only imagine the things he missed out on. It's time for him to enjoy life and make up for all of those moments that have passed him by. After giving us two decades of excellence and dedication, Derek Jeter will finally get the opportunity to live his life outside of baseball. And I'm sure it will be just as epic as his career with the Yankees. 

The reason I missed the game is because I was working. For those of you who don't know, I'm an actress. I have the starring role in a pilot for a TV series called Alexis Ronan, so it's not like I could have called in sick. The series revolves around my character so I had to be there. It was so hard knowing that I was missing my favorite player's last game, but just like Jeter, I knew I had a job to do and I did it well. It was probably one of the most powerful scenes I have ever shot in my career and I had the director and producer in tears after they watched the edit that the director surprised us with the next day. It was such a great feeling to do your job so well that others take notice and your confidence and ability begins to soar. 

But I took notes from Jeter and I have to remember to stay humble and focused because you don't know how long your career will last and not everything in life is about your job. 

I've been in this business for the same amount of time that Jeter has been with the Yankees so I can relate to the years of commitment he has given and the events he has missed while focusing on his career. I have the starring role in this project and like Jeter, I am the "Captain". My cast and crew depend on me to carry the show and give my best at all times. Missing a day on set is not an option. It's my responsibility to show up every day and give the best performance I can when I'm on set. The hours are long, the days are many, and I have given up everything to be a part of this show. But also like Jeter, I love what I do so the sacrifices are just part of the job.  

I'm not retiring by any means. As a matter of fact my career is just taking off. But I'm happy for The Captain that he gets to enjoy his life now in a different way and experience the things that you and I could only dream of. For as many years that Derek Jeter has put in and given to his fans and his team, he deserves this time to just simply be Derek Jeter. 

I could talk about how Jeter's final time at bat was a base hit RBI at Fenway. The fact that the last game he played was against the Red Sox. Or how much he has given to all of us over the years and to the game of baseball. But you know what, I just wanted to talk about Derek Jeter the man. I wanted to say thank you to him for all he has done not only on the field but off the field. The joy he gave my brother Shane as he was battling cancer giving us quality time together watching him play, taking our mind off our troubles. The smiles that Jeter put on so many faces throughout his career and through his charity organization called the Turn 2 foundation is endless. Derek Jeter is not just a baseball player, he's a man with heart, integrity and passion. And I can't wait to see what he does next! So Farewell Captain, we all love you and will miss you. If I ever run into you in my travels, I'd love to buy you a drink or a meal and just say hi to Derek Jeter. Welcome to your new life my friend. Enjoy it! You've earned it. 

The quote of the day... "Farewell Captain" 

Oh, and yes, I recorded the game so I'll be watching it on my next day off. And thanks to social media, I was able to watch the video of Derek Jeter's last time at bat so thank you to everyone who posted.