IT WAS sometime in the 1980s and a Braves relief pitcher was sitting in the visitor's bullpen at Veterans Stadium when all of the sudden a young woman began calling out to him. If you remember, there used to be a railing where fans could look down at the players.

Anyway, this woman quizzically gestures the numbers "six, zero, one" with her hands.

After some back and forth between the two, the mystery is solved when she tosses a hotel room key down at the player.

Now we're not saying that such activity is what you'll see this weekend, but the MLB Network's new show "The Pen" does sound intriguing.

A crew from MLB productions has chosen to focus on the ups and downs of the Phillies bullpen from spring training to the All-Star break. From J.C. Romero's return from suspension to Ryan Madson's recent elevation to closer, there will be plenty of topics to cover. The six-show series debuts Sunday at 8 and continues each Sunday - except July 5 - through July 26.

Tour de Con

French prison officials are trying a new approach to prepare inmates for a return to society. Nearly 200 convicts - from nickel thieves to murderers - are participating in a 1,370-mile cycling event throughout France named the Tour de France Penitentiaire.

Guards not only ride alongside the prisoners, they are also teammates. It's not a competition per se, rather a risky and exhausting exercise that tries to restore righteousness to the cons.

"I can't think of a better way to strip down a person to their basic human nature," said British cyclist David Millar.

Andrew Coyle, professor of prison studies at King's College in London, understands the skepticism. "But if we're serious about helping prisoners to re-enter and to reintegrate [into society], then we need to find opportunities to give them positive experiences."

Wonder if the best rider gets an orange jersey. *

-Ed Barkowitz

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