Monthly Archives: December 2008

Five Things: From WSU Recruits to Marvin’s Mohawk

1. Gino Simone, the top-ranked recruit among high school seniors in our state, is going to Washington State. The receiver from Skyline delivered the news to Washington State football coach Paul Wulff on Christmas Day. You can find Howie Stalwick’s story online. He’s some of what he you’ll find:

Simone is the 17th high school senior known to have made a verbal commitment to WSU, according to Scout.com. Two junior college players have announced they will transfer to WSU in January.
When Wulff was hired last December, the Cougars had three verbal commitments.

2. All the Sonics ever wanted for Christmas was a victory, but they never got it.

According Wallyboywilliamson of the Tacoma News Tribune, the Sonics played 11 times on Christmas day during their 41 seasons. And they lost ‘em all. You can read Wallyboy’s Post-Sonics Watch blog item here.

3. Let the griping begin. OK, it’s already started. The Yankees latest free-agent haul — slugger Mark Teixtera, and pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett — doesn’t sit well with a lot of people. It’s just another case of the rich getting rich.

Not so fast. Yeah, the Yankees payroll will be over $200 million again, but that didn’t translate into a postseason berth last year. Big-dollar payrolls don’t guarantee success. Need I remind you about the Mariners, who got 101 losses out of a $117 million payroll in 2008.

Tracy Ringolsby makes the argument better than I can. Read his closing statement in his weekly notes column here.

And John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune does it even better than Ringolsby. Some people think salary caps are the answer, but not McGrath. Read his column here.

4. Scouts and coaches don’t always get it right. We all know kids who got cut in high school (Michael Jordan for example) who shouldn’t have. A lot of times it’s about being in the right place at the right time. A lot of times its simply about getting an opportunity.

Just ask Matt Cassel, the New England Patriots quarterback who went from Matt Who? to star when Tom Brady blew out his knee in the first week of the NFL season. Cassel never started a college game, serving as the backup to former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart at USC. Leinart has been relegated to the bench in Arizona, where he’s a backup to 135-year-old Kurt Warner.

5. Bremerton’s Marvin Williams, who is kind of an old-school player, is sporting a new-school look: the Atlanta Hawks’ forward has a mohawk hairdo. They seem to be the rage right now, especially in college. Marvin’s mohawk isn’t all spiked-up; just stylish, I guess. Maybe it’s time for a name change: The Atlanta Mohawks.

Some Memorable Quotes From 2008

It’s the end of the year, and a time for reflection on what happened over the past 12 months. We’re in the process of putting together a list of the Top 10 local sports stories of 2008. You can find it online and in our printed editions next week. In the meantime, here’s a few quotes to chew on:

 

“It’s shocking. Out of 27 kids in one small town club team, there’s going to be three Olympians (Tara Kirk, Dana Kirk, Nathan Adrian) and one dumb Polack.”

Gabe Mazurkiewicz, former club swimming coach in Bremerton who remained blown away by the success of the Bremerton swimmers he helped develop. Mazurkiewicz, now coaching in Roseburg, Ore., was interviewed prior to the U.S. Olympic Trials in July. Adrian would go on to win a gold medal as part of the 400 medley relay and Bainbridge’s Emily Silver would win a silver medal in Beijing as part of the 400 freestyle relay.

 

 

“When I announced my retirement (March 27) I didn’t cry like some guys do even thought I wanted to. On Opening Day when the planes start flying overhead and that ball’s kicked off and I’m actually sitting in the stands and not on the field, which is where I’ve been the last 20 years, it’s going to be emotional for me for sure.

“All that hard work that it takes to be out there, I’m not going to miss. But all that hard work was for one reason – it was to be out there on game day, performing and getting the job done and I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss the games.”

Benji Olson, former South Kitsap star and UW All-American offensive guard who started and ended his 10-year NFL career with the Tennessee Titans. We caught up with Olson in June at the Detlef Schremf Celebrity Golf Classic at McCormick Woods.

 

He’s destined to be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Although it’s his last year and there’s a little uncertainty about next year, it’s a real treat. I can’t wait to get into the season. He’s really a special coach. He just has this aura. I’ve sat down at the table with some high-powered football coaches, but there’s something about the guy. You walk in staff meetings and everybody’s on edge, not just me.”

Seahawks first-year running backs coach Kasey Dunn, former North Kitsap great, on Mike Holmgren. Dunn was interviewed at a Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable meeting before the start of fall camp.

 

“She’s an inspiration to a lot of people in the community and in our church. She’s touched a lot of lives, including mine. I call her a hero. She says a hero is somebody who runs into a burning building and saves a life. She says she has no choice in this matter.

“But that’s not the way the public and people who know her feel. She’s a pretty amazing person.”

 

Mark Smaha, the former Washington State University athletic trainer, on his wife, Jackie, a survivor of ovarian cancer. Jackie spoke at the sixth annual Kitsap Cancer Services Celebrity Golf Benefit at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club, a fund-raising event started by the Smahas, who live in Poulsbo.

 

“You never feel like you’ve made it until you get out on that huge level you see everybody playing on. Hopefully, I’ll be out there someday. I know there’s a lot of good players, but I feel I’m still getting better. I’ve still got dreams.”

Golfer Troy Kelly, on his goal of earning his PGA Tour card. The Central Kitsap grad was in Modesto, Calif., preparing for a mini-tour event in mid-April at the time.

 

“I really have no idea where I’ll be playing next. I’ll find out. I’m just happy. I’ve been doing this for so long. It’s your goal and to finally get to do it, it’s nice. It might not all sink in until later. It’s happened so fast and there’s so much stuff going on.

“I’ll tell you this, it’s a great feeling. I’ve worked so hard to get here. It’s not like I didn’t put my time in.”

Kelly, shortly after earning his PGA Tour card by tying for 11th in at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., on Dec. 8. His first tournament will be the Jan. 12-18 Sony Open in Honolulu, which kicks off the 2009 PGA season. 

 

“It’s a lot like life. I used to tell my players, the game is a series of problem-solving opportunities. You solve one, there’s immediately another one to solve.”

Cliff McCrath, former Seattle Pacific coach, on soccer. The Hall of Famer conducted an Olympic College Soccer Camp at The Zone Sportsplex in April.

 

“If in fact I have played my last game there, I’m thankful for what I did in Seattle. I’m thankful for six years in the big leagues. It was a great place to get my feet wet and a chance to play at home in front of family and friends.

“That being said, I hit my ceiling in Seattle. They view me as a utility guy, a backup guy. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m still not satisfied with that. Whether I get an opportunity to play more or not, I’ll wake up every day and keep working. I’ve never been satisfied. The day I’m satisfied, I’ll take my spikes off. Inside of me, I feel I haven’t scratched the surface of what I can do in my career.”

 

Willie Bloomquist, during a mid-November interview. The native of Port Orchard is still available on baseball’s free-agent market.

Do Blazers, Roy Satisfy Your NBA Jones? Do You Care About NBA?

The Sonics are gone, and I’m not sure if they’re missed or not.

Personally, I don’t miss them, but from time to time I do miss the NBA. It’s so easy to get mesmerized by the athletes. And, no, I don’t buy the argument that they don’t play defense in the NBA. These guys are just that good.

So for the die-hard hoops fans out there, how many of you have become fans of the Portland Trail Blazers? Coach Nate McMillan, the former Sonic player and coach, has the Blazers rolling. And Brandon Roy’s turned into one of the elite players in the league. I caught Roy’s 52-point game against Phoenix on television last Friday. The Seattle native and former Husky guard from Garfield High put on a show. Here’s a column from the Columbian about Roy.

The next night Jamal Crawford, another Seattle native, went for 50 points for the Warriors in a game against Charlotte. Here’s a story about Crawford that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle.

With Bremerton’s Marvin Williams playing well for Atlanta and Seattle’s Nate Robinson (Rainier Beach/UW) healthy and contributing for the improved Knicks, at least Seattle still has a presence in the NBA. And Jason Terry (Franklin/Dallas) remains a solid NBA player, second-year center Steve Hawes (Mercer Island/UW) has been coming on for the Sacramento Kings and Martell Webster (Seattle Prep) is a key player off the bench in Portland.

Crawford, who has a career high of 52, became just the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 50 with three different teams. Wilt Chamberlain, Bernard King and Moses Malone were the others, so that puts Crawford, a Rainier Beach product, in some pretty elite company.

Still, the questions begs to be asked. Does anybody care about the NBA anymore now that the Sonics are gone? Following the franchise’s relocation to Oklahoma City, we have reduced our NBA coverage in our print editions and nobody has complained. On days when space has been really tight, there’s been a couple days when we didn’t even run NBA summaries on our Scoreboard page. I guess I take that as a sign that readers are sick and tired of the NBA right now.

Is that really the case?

 

Sunday Morning Links

All of this cold weather and snow can be a pain in the you know what, but it sure is pretty. I’m looking outside my window and it’s like a postcard. If you’re not quite ready to shovel the snow off your sidewalk, here’s a few links to check out.

Here’s a column by Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune about Gonzaga’s Steven Gray. He took the same angle I did in his column about the former Bainbridge star, who scored a career-high 23 points in the overtime loss to Connecticut on Saturday.

Here’s a story Bud Withers of the Seattle Times wrote about Gray that published before the UConn game.

Gray, like Bremerton’s Marvin Williams, has a maturity about him that sets him apart. Williams, now in his fourth NBA season, has turned into a go-to guy for those covering the Atlanta Hawks. You can almost always find a Marvin quote in game stories. Here’s what the 6-foot-9 forward had to say after scoring 22 points in a 115-99 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

Here’s another story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Marvin evolving into one of the top 3-point shooters in the NBA. Marvin ranked No. 9 in the league in 3-point shooting at the time. He’scurrently shooting .495 from the arc (24 for 62).

Ryan Villopoto, the Poulsbo native who has turned into one of the major stars in motocross, is featured in a new DVD: No Fear’s “The Great Outdoor” Series. If you’re into motocross and are looking for the pefect gift, you might want to check this out. Villopoto will be riding a Team Kawasaki 450 in 2009 as he moves up in class.

Just for kicks, here’s a look at Troy Kelly’s scorecards from the 2005 U.S. Open. That was the year he shot 83-67 at Pinehurst, N.C. Kelly recently earned his PGA Tour card, tying for 11th at Q-school.  The Central Kitsap grad is currently home for the holidays.

Update on Bloomquist

Port Orchard native Willie Bloomquist told Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune that he’s talked with teams, but the free-agent infielder who has spent his entire career with the Mariners hasn’t had any offers yet. Here’s the story.

And in case you missed it, here’s a Q&A that I wrote about Bloomquist that appeared in our Sunday editions.

I still think the Diamondbacks, Cubs and Nationals are likely spots for Willie to land. Why? Because Bob Melvin manages the D’backs, Lou Piniella manages the Cubs, and Jim Riggleman is now employed by the Nationals. All three managed Bloomquist and appreciate what he brings to the table.

Ten Books I Can’t Throw Away

My wife’s been after me to clean out the shelves of books in my basement for years, but I can’t do it. Don’t know why I hang on to all that stuff. I haven’t read some of them.

But here’s 10 books I did read, and I won’t be throwing any of them away. If you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift, I don’t think you can go wrong with this list. These are some of the best sports books I’ve ever read.

The Boys of Summer — Roger Kahn, 1971: Even a Yankee fan can appreciate Kahn’s classic about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Ebbets Field. Kahn follows the Dodgers through their 1955 World Series victory, and then he tracks down the players later in their lives.

Friday Night Lights — H.G. Bissinger, 1990: You get an inside look at Texas high school football. There’s nothing like it.

Semi-Tough — Dan Jenkins, 1972: Really a fun read. This novel about a pro football team was later made into a movie staring Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburn.

The Breaks of the Game — David Halberstam, 1976: An inside look at Bill Walton and the Portland TrailBlazers. Especially interesting to me because I was covering the Sonics at the time and Halberstam spent some time on the road with the Sonics during the ’75 season while researching the book.

The Fight — Norman Mailer, 1975: This is a classic about the Ali-Foreman fight in Africa. Mailer puts you inside the heads of both fighters.

Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book — Harvey Penick with Bud Shrake, 1992: I keep this next to my bed. I’m really not much of a golfer, but I keep saying I’m going to devote some time and learn how to play. This book inspires me.

The Science of Hitting — Ted WIlliams and John Underwood, 1970: Growing up, I was mesmerized by hitting a baseball. Nobody did it better than Ted Williams. If you’re a young baseball player or the parent of a young baseball player, you need to get hold of this book.

Heaven Is a Playground — Rick Telander, 1976: About inner-city hoops in New York city. Don’t know if I’d like it as much now, but was it was fascinating stuff when I first read it.

October 1964 — David Halberstam, 1995: One of the best baseball books I’ve read. Centers on the World Series between the Cardinals and the Yankees.

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America — Joe Posnanski, 2005: I’ve saved the best for last. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s about the late legendary Negro League baseball player Buck O’Neil, who played for the love of the game. Posnanski weaves a wonderful story about a wonderful man whose love of baseball, jazz and humanity made him special human being.


Stocking Stuffers … Keeping It Local

Here’s a few gift ideas for those inclined to support something in the community:

Pumas Tickets
The United Soccer Leagues formally announced Wednesday that the Kitsap Pumas will be part of the Premier Development League. There wasn’t anything new in their press release that hasn’t been reported before, other than the fact that Bremerton houses the “massive Bremerton Memorial Shipyard.”
I don’t think the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard has undergone a name change.
At any rate, the Pumas have officially arrived. The team is selling tickets and the next step is to hire a coach and put together a roster. For ticket information, call (360) 377-6008 or go to kitsapsoccerclub.com.

BlueJackets Tickets
The Kitsap BlueJackets of the West Coast League (formerly West Coast Collegiate Baseball League) will be fighting for some of the same fans as the Pumas. For $175, you can get season tickets to watch the BlueJackets, who operate their franchise like a minor-league team.
Half-season packages are available for $100. There’s plenty of other options, too. Call (360) 479-0123 for information. The WCL has expanded its league schedule to 42 games.
Caleb Brown, a freshman at the University of Washington, is reportedly set to play for the BlueJackets this summer. Matt Acker, head coach at Green River, will return to manager the team. OC coach Ryan Parker will be back as an assistant coach.

Victory Park
If you haven’t checked out Victory Park at Bremerton Memorial Stadium, you need to. Especially if you’re a Bremerton grad or a veteran.
The Chuck Semancik Foundation has put together something the community can be proud of. You can purchase a personalized tile for $50 or $100 and your donation is tax deductible.
The foundation’s also selling chairs that can be used at Bremerton High School events in the gym. The back of a chair will have a personalized plaque placed on it. Cost is $125 and all proceeds go toward Semancik Scholarships. For more information, call (360) 479-1189 or e-mail dowells@wavecable.com.

Youth Sports

Write a check to your favorite youth group. You know they can use it. Costs are going up for everything. Somebody told me the other day that the local basketball officials organization now uses 3-man crews for all basketball games, even for the youngest levels. That doesn’t seem right, but it’s evidently now the practice.

Anyway, the pee wees, youth soccer and baseball, Special Olympics — a donation to any of those organizations or organizations like them will make you feel good.

A Week of Rodeo and Golf

I took a few days of R&R last week, but found time to do a little work, too.

While in Las Vegas, I hung around with some of Kitsap’s rodeo contingent and took in some of the behind-the-scene stuff that goes on at the National Finals Rodeo. I was pretty easy to spot. Everybody was in Wranglers and boots, and I was geeking around in my sneakers and shorts, but the cowboy crowd still made me feel welcome.

The awards banquet was a highlight. The Kitsap Stampede lost out in its bid for Rodeo of the Year in the medium category, but came away with the very prestigious Remuda Award for its commitment to having the best stock contractors and rough stock in the business. It’s a special award that’s only been won in the past by the big-dollar rodeos at Houston and San Antonio.

I took in the first round at the NFR. I’ve been there before, but it was better than I remembered. These guys know how to throw a rodeo. From the grand entrance to the last bull ride, it’s non-stop action. Good stuff. And Randy Corley, the voice of the Stampede, made me feel right at home … just like he always does.

I also took in the stock auction show that took place one morning. The South Point Hotel and Casino, new headquarters for the rodeo, has an arena on site and getting an up-close  look at this part of the industry was pretty cool.  I also had a brief conversation with the new CEO of the PRCA, Karl Stressman, at a hospitality suite one night. At the time, I didn’t know he was the Big Hoss, but I’m sure he’ll thank me later for all of my sage advice on how the rodeo can do a better job of marketing itself. Stressman’s the man responsible for putting Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brett Favre in Wrangler jeans.

After three days of cowboying-up, my buddy J.C. and I drove to Palm Springs, Calif., and took in three days of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying Tournament, better known as Q-school. We grinded along with Troy Kelly for his final three days, watching him earn his Tour Card. Kelly was born in Tacoma, but raised in Silverdale. He now lives in La Quinta, Calif., where the Q-school tourney was held, but we still claim him as one of our own. His proud dad, Bob Kelly, is a popular teaching pro in the area.

The tension in the gallery on Monday’s last round was noticeable to everybody, I think, but Troy. He hit a couple bad shots — but who doesn’t? — but never came close to imploding. His rounds of 66-68-70-70-69-69 speak volumes, especially considering the courses he played on.

In case you missed it, here’s my story that appeared in Tuesday’s editions. One thing I neglected to mention is that Troy won $25,000 by securing his card. Now, he’s got an opportunity to win a lot more. I’ve been told Troy’s first tournament will be the Sony Open in Hawaii. The tournament runs Jan. 12-18 at the Waialae Country Club. The next tour stop is the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Jan. 19-25, at PGA West, Bermuda Dunes. I’d think Troy would also have a good chance to get into that event.

Seven days of rodeo and golf and few things (OK, a lot of things) in between.  I think I’m ready for another vacation.