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New pro sports team on the rise in Phoenix

James FitzGerald (far left) and Jessica Phillips (far right) of the Phoenix Rise pose with KTAR's Bob McClay and Becky Lynn during an appearance Saturday on KTAR's "Arizona's Morning News Weekend" show. (Photo/KTAR)

PHOENIX -- A new pro sports team is rising in the Valley.

The Phoenix Rise of the new National Pro Grid League (NPGL) will open play August 23 at Arena in Glendale.

It's one of eight teams that will be playing the sport known as "Grid."

It consists of races that include things like weightlifting, gymnastics, and running.

"Grid is a co-ed combination of races that happen against two teams that race 11 times in a match against one another," said James Fitzgerald, co-owner, head coach and one of the players. "They're pretty trying to do exercises to compete against one another in those races in a match."

Each of the eight teams in the league will have 10 players, including five men and five women. At least one of the players on each team must be at least 40 years old.

Fitzgerald, who was the winner of the 2007 CrossFit Games and is considered a pioneer in the sport, said Grid is a new way to cheer on the players as they are working out.

"You can imagine taking walking and bicep curls for a certain period of time. Imagine 20 people trying to do that as fast as possible to get a score. That's pretty much what it's gone to," said Fitzgerald.

Jessica Phillips, 23, and her 31-year-old husband Brandon are two of the other players on the team.

During an appearance Saturday on KTAR's "Arizona's Morning News Weekend" show, Phillips said that she's thrilled to be on the team.

"My husband and I planned on Phoenix because they have the best coaches, all-around athletes and vision for the sport," said Phillips.

She and her husband packed up, left their home in Georgia, and came to Phoenix about two weeks after the Rise chose them in the NPGL draft in Miami.

Coming to Phoenix is just the latest event in what's been a wild year for Phillips. In the past 12 months, she's married Brandon, opened her own gym in Georgia, signed with the Rise and had a baby.

The other seven teams in the league are the New York Rhinos, the Los Angeles Reign, the Miami Surge, the D.C. Brawlers, the San Francisco Fire, the Philadelphia Founders and the Boston Iron. The Rise's first game is against the Brawlers.

Some of the league's games will be nationally televised on NBC. The regular season leads up to the NPGL's championship tournament. That will happen Oct. 1 - Oct. 3 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

For tickets and more information go to Phoenix Rise's website.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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