MESA, Ariz. (AP) _ Joel Smith thought his career as a replacement player for the California Angels might come to an abrupt end when he was told to catch off a pitching machine _ while blindfolded.

``I thought they were getting ready to kill me,'' he said Sunday.

Catching instructor Bill Lachemann started the prank by tying a towel around Smith's face and telling him to get the feel of a ball in his glove and the motion of throwing it without looking.

``OK, now keep the blindfold on and catch a few,'' Lachemann said.

``Off the machine!?'' Smith shrieked.

While Smith took his position, coaches pointed the machine into the air.

``Listen for the ball so you know when it's coming,'' Lachemann said.

The machine zinged a ball high into the air, Smith flinched, and Lachemann tossed a ball into Smith's glove from a few feet away.

``We did that last year to a kid we were converting into a catcher,'' Angels coach John McNamara, ``and he was dumb enough to think he was really catching that ball blindfolded off the machine.''

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) _ President Clinton has invited Youngstown State's NCAA Division I-AA champion football team to the White House.

``It's a great feeling when your athletics programs are recognized by others for their successes both on and off the field,'' coach Jim Tressel said Sunday. ``But for the president of the United States to recognize our team, our institution and our community, it makes it all the more special.''

Tressel said the team will meet Clinton on March 6.

The Penguins beat Boise State 28-14 on Dec. 17 to capture their second consecutive I-AA title and their third in four seasons.

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PLANT CITY, Fla. (AP) _ Cincinnati Reds manager Davey Johnson hauled out his rod, headed for a pond behind the outfield wall at Plant City Stadium and hooked a small bass before practice Sunday morning.

Johnson was in uniform when he strolled out of his office Sunday about 20 minutes before practice and headed for the pond with rod in hand.

He poked his head into the coaches' office and said, ``If you guys need me, I'll be out there.''

It took him only about 10 minutes to hook a 6-inch bass using a plastic worm. Johnson tossed it back.

``He's not a keeper,'' Johnson said. ``We know there's bigger bass in there because that was a baby.''

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SYDNEY, Nova Scotia (AP) _ The teenager who plays Slick, the coyote mascot of the Cape Breton Oilers of the American Hockey League, has been sidelined with a concussion after four or five teens attacked him in a schoolground.

Matthew MacGillivray, 14, is one of three victims in a series of beatings in recent days. Charges are expected, city police Cst. Graham Thompson said.

Bill MacGillivray, manager of the Centre 200 arena where the Oilers play, said about 15 other youths watched while four or five attacked his son, kicking him in the head and body.