The Stark Truth

Former Kitsap Sun sports editor Chuck Stark shares insight, laughter, news, views and analysis of Kitsap sports and beyond.
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Archive for April, 2011

Kelly shoots 65 in Monday qualifier, plays in Georgia Nationwide event this week

Monday, April 25th, 2011

They say surviving a Monday qualifying round to get into a PGA or Nationwide Tour event is one of the toughest things in golf. Troy Kelly fired a 7-under 65 during Monday’s qualifying round for the Nationwide Tour’s South Georgia Classic. It’s the second straight Nationwide event the Central Kitsap grad has Monday qualified for. He also qualified for the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open earlier this year.

This is the fifth Nationwide event of the season. Kelly doesn’t currently have any guaranteed status this year after leaving the 2010 tour early in order to have hip replacement surgery. If he can finish in the top 25, he’ll be exempt for the next tournament.

 Two weeks ago in California, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice was in the Nationwide field. This week, former Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz has an exemption. Rice was DQ-d from a Nationwide event in 2010 when his caddie used a range-finding scope to check yardages. The disqualification in Mill Spring, N.C. came a day after Rice shot a 92, the highest round ever since the BMW Charity Pro-Am began in 1992.

Kelly, now living in LaQuinta, Calif., earned his 2009 PGA Tour card at Q-school, but didn’t play well enough to keep it the following year.  The PGA Tour has proposed a change that would basically eliminate Q-School as we know it the future. The Nationwide Tour would become the primary feeder of players to the big circuit. The Players’ Advisory reviewed the proposal last week at Hilton Head, S.C.


Quick hits: Draft overload and who said you can’t hit at Safeco Field?

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

The sample size is small, but the signing of free-agent Adam Kennedy in the offseason looks pretty good right now.  Kennedy’s batting .367 with three runs, two doubles, two home runs and four RBI in nine games at Safeco Field this season. And, with Justin Smoak out of town because of his father’s death, Kennedy’s looked pretty good defensively at first base, too. He’s not the ideal 3-4-5 hitter, but manager Eric Wedge doesn’t have a lot of options and so far, give Kennedy credit. The veteran’s earning his dough.

If Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck had made himself eligible for the draft, he would have been the No. 1 overall pick. Carolina takes him in a New York second. No debate. Instead, nobody can agree on who will be the next great NFL quarterback out of this class. Depending on the day and the talking head, you might be led to believe that Cam Newton will be out of the league in four years. Some think Washington’s Jake Locker’s the next Michael Vick. Plus his character and work ethic are off the charts. Others have their doubts. You’re accurate or you’re not, and he’s not, critics expound. Blaine Gabbert of Missouri might be the best QB in the draft. No, wait, Florida State’s Christian Ponder has the best upside. Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett has the strongest arm, but has been dogged by off-field issues. I heard one guy last week say that TCU’s Andy Dalton is the guy he’d want running his team. To their credit, Dalton and Newton are the ones with the best pedigree when it comes to winning football games. That’s got to count for something.

I’m just glad that the draft’s finally here (it will be televised in prime time on Thursday and finishes up Friday and Saturday). Enough, enough already. The NFL draft will have had a zillion mock drafts before they start calling names. We’ve been deluged with so much information on these professional collegians who will finally start playing for money that I think my head’s going to brust. Between the draft, the royal wedding (on, wait, The Royal Wedding) and the infactuation of some with our president’s birth certificate, it’s amazing we’re able to function on this planet. It’s such a nice day that I’m going to get away from it all and take my dog for a walk. Wait, my dog’s not going. She’s mad at me because I changed her name to “Mel Kiper.” I told her it was only a nightmare, but she doesn’t believe me.

What a pleasant voice from the past. Don’t know about you, but I’d vote to keep Ken Wilson, Dave Niehaus’ original sideback, on as the permanent radio voice of the Mariners. I forgot how good he was. And, yes, that’s the same Ken Wilson who is the president of the West Coast League, the summer wood-bat college circuit that the Kitsap BlueJackets play in.

I didn’t know it was humanly possible to feel as beat up as I do after playing my first round of golf in over a year. I knew I was out of shape, but this is ridiculous. Golf’s suppose to be a walk in the park. Of course, I did take more swings than the average golfer and I probably walked more yards than most as I zig-zagged the course to follow my wayward shots. But I hit a couple good ones. And, as they say, that’s enough to keep you coming back.

Gotta go. Can’t waste this sunshine.


Betcha didn’t know …

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Friday night is Franklin Gutierrez Flyswatter Night at the ball park in Seattle. Steve Rudman of sportspressnw.com has an interesting take on it in that site’s weekly Weekend Picks for the Casual Fan.

Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., was the youngest winner of the U.S. Boys Junior Championship in tournament history. He was 14 when it won it a year ago, and he’ll be in Bremerton to defend the title, July 18-23, on the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Club. Lie and the rest of the participants will be at the USS John Stennis for the players’ dinner on July 17.

Taiwan Jones, the speedy running back from Eastern Washington, might be the highest player selected in the NFL draft from our state not named Jake Locker. His stock has been on the rise.

The M’s aren’t the only team suffering from a lack of attendance. The Indians are 12-5 and have played games with crowds of 10,000 or less. Check out this story about MLB attendance.


Video of Bree’s historic 4-women bobsled run

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Bremerton bobsledder Bree Schaaf was the driver on the first U.S. women’s four-man bobsled team to make a full pass. Check out the video of the April 5 run at Lake Placid, N.Y.

//www.youtube.com/user/abirdbobsled?feature=mhum


Quick Hits: Let’s go back to a Final Four format

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

THE MORE I think about the WIAA and it’s decision to go with a Final Eight format in basketball, the more I think they ought to just go back to a Final Four format for all classifications, like they did back in the days when I was wearing Navy bellbottom jeans and pocket T-shirts to school on most days (hey, that was the style). Instead of playing eight loser-out, winner-to-state “regional” games, hold four, four-team regionals at various locations around the state. The winners at each regional move on to the Final Four. If you wanted, you could play the 4A/3A/2A Final Fours all under the same roof. It would make for some high-level, exciting basketball and I think it would put some fans in the stands, which seems to be the WIAA’s biggest concern.

HAS A  University of Washington athlete, or any athlete from the state for that matter, gotten more media attention than Jake Locker? If you want more, tune in to ESPN tonight at 5 p.m. for a documentary on the Husky quarterback.

SPEAKING OF UW football, did you know that former Central Kitsap tight end Cameron Salley is on the Husky roster. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Salley is a sophomore walkon after playing as a freshman at the University of Puget Sound. Look for a story on Salley this week. I’m hoping to get a comment from coach Steve Sarkisian or someone on staff about him and the walk-on program before I publish the story.

BREMERTON BOBSLEDDER Bree Schaaf was the pilot of a man-boblsed (with three other women) that took a run down the course in Lake Placid at the end of the season. It was reportedly the first time four American women had ever done that. The women currently compete in a two-man sled, but Schaaf’s leading the charge to make the four-man event a staple for women, too.


Update on Kitsap’s baseball pros

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

It’s amazing how many nice things people will write about you when you’re hitting over .300 and second in the league in steals. Port Orchard’s Willie Bloomquist started the first five games at shortstop and has become, for now, the Arizona Diamondbacks’  starting left fielder. The Rodney Dangerfield of MLB opened the season with an eight-game hitting streak and D-backs’ GM Kevin Towers went so far as to say that Willie’s base-running instincts remind him of Rickey Henderson.

Read about it in this story about the Willie.

Jason Hammel, another South Kitsap grad, pitched well enough to keep the Rockies in the game, but it wasn’t good enough.

North Kitsap grad Jared Prince is off to a tough start. The right fielder is 2 for 33 (that’s an .061 average) for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Class A Carolina League.

Aaron Cunningham’s hitting .220 with two home runs for the Triple-A Tucson Padres. The South Kitsap grad will be in Tacoma with the Padres on May 2-5 to play the Rainiers.

Central Kitsap grad Drew Vettleson is still in Florida after being assigned to the Tampa Rays extended spring training. Josh Sales from Blanchet High in Seattle, the Rays other first-rounder from Washington, is in the same camp. Vettleson was the 42nd overall pick last June; Sales the 17th pick. Marc Topkins of the St. Petersburg Times wrote: “Wonder if 2010 top draft picks Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson will feel whatever extra money they got by holding out is worth it as they spend the next two months in extended spring training in Port Charlotte rather than playing A ball?”


Rodeo: Clint Corey’s protege, Bobby Mote, passes him by

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Oregon cowboy Bobby Mote, who just broke the PRCA record for career earnings by a bareback rider, gives Silverdale native Clint Corey, his mentor, a lot of credit for his success. Here’s the PRCA story after Mote, a regular at the Kitsap Stampede, won at Red Bluff, Calif., on Sunday:
RED BLUFF, Calif. – Bobby Mote’s 84-point ride on Growney Brothers’ Beaver Fever April 17 allowed him to tie fellow Oregonian Steven Peebles for the Red Bluff Round-Up title and break the PRCA record for career earnings by a bareback rider.
The $4,852 Mote banked in this Wrangler Million Dollar Tour event, presented by Justin Boots, boosted the four-time world champion’s career total to $1,877,065 and moved him past his friend and mentor Clint Corey into 19th on the career earnings list.
“I didn’t know I’d passed him,” Mote said. “That’s something I’m pretty proud of, because there’s no better bareback rider than Clint Corey.”
And there are very few people whom he holds in higher regard. When he was just getting started more than a decade ago, and winning “a little bit here and there,” Mote figured if he was ever going to pull it all together and become a champion, he had to learn from the best.
Corey, who won the 1991 world championship and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 18 times – one shy of Bruce Ford’s record – was that guy for Mote.
“I had no idea how to win or even how to rodeo,” Mote said. “I went to a couple of Clint’s schools early, which is how I got to know him in the first place. Early in my career, I had traveled with a few different guys, but I wasn’t having any success. What I started to see in rodeo is that the winners were all hanging out together and traveling together. So I called him and asked if I could travel with him.
“It was a pretty bold thing to do at the time. I dang sure wasn’t making any waves in the sport. That was really my first big break. I learned so much about bareback riding – and about winning – just by watching and imitating everything Clint did. I got so much out of just sitting in the truck talking with him during those all-night drives to the next rodeo.”
After first joking that he might have to “crack back out” to get his record back, Corey said he is happy to see the mark fall because it reflects the progress of the sport.
“The money guys can win continues to get better,” Corey said, “and that’s a great thing for ProRodeo and the contestants. I was lucky to have been able to compete for as long as I did and win as much as I did. I wasn’t forced to retire because of injuries. Rodeo was good to me when I was going. I was making money then, and it’s just gotten better.”
It seemed only right that Mote went past Corey with a win at a major rodeo and that he had to do it under pressure.
With Peebles holding the lead going into the final day of the rodeo, Mote knew what was required to win a big check, and just three months removed from surgery to repair a sports hernia, he was up to the challenge on the final ride of competition.
“Beaver Fever is just a really good Growney horse,” Mote said. “I’d never had a chance to get on her before, but when I saw the draw, I knew I’d have an opportunity to win a check. She just jumped and kicked straight down the arena.
“I’ve seen them win first on her at a lot of rodeos, so I didn’t have to do any research when I saw the draw.”
Because he competed in the team roping, Mote was also the Red Bluff all-around champion, edging Cody DeMoss and Trevor Brazile.


Trade Felix? Get ready for more of that talk

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Felix Hernandez is off to another slow start and the so-called baseball experts, in this case Buster Olney of ESPN.com, is citing sources who say the Mariners ace looks distracted.

And just like that, everybody’s wondering whether the M’s ought to trade the player they signed to a five-year, $78 million extension in January of 2010, or keep him.

The Mariners lost 101 games a year ago and, while it’s still early, don’t appear to be a whole lot better this season. The lineup’s so weak that free-agent signee Adam Kennedy has been used at No. 4 and No. 5 in the batting order. That tells you all you need to know about the Mariners’ offense.

But back to Felix, who was Cy Young-like in his first start and so-so in his next three.

All of a sudden, the debate begins. Do you swap the 25-year-old ace for five or six prospects to jump-start a quick rebuilding process, or do you keep him?

Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik has gone on record since he arrived in 2009 that Felix isn’t going anywhere — not even for a load of prospects.

“That ain’t happening,” he said in spring training this year. “We’ve got (pitcher Michael Pineda  coming, we’ve got some other pieces … he’s staying right here.”

What do you think they should do? Be patient and count on Felix and Pineda becoming the dominant 1-2 pitching punch in baseball.

Or do you trade Felix for some four or five quality players that you can put on your roster right now and get this thing turned around in a hurry.

Here’s what Buster Olney had to say on ESPN’s Mike & Mike Show today:

<a href="http://espn.go.com/espnradio/player?rd=1#/podcenter/?callsign=ESPNRADIO&autoplay=1&id=6380730">http://espn.go.com/espnradio/player?rd=1#/podcenter/?callsign=ESPNRADIO&autoplay=1&id=6380730</a>


Following Poulsbo’s RV2 at Qwest Field

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

I’ve covered a lot of sporting events over the years, but this is my first supercross race.

Qwest Field’s not sold out but there’s got to be around 50,000 fans in the stands, many of them pulling for Ryan Villopoto, the Poulsbo rider who leads the series. Villopoto’s won five of the 15 previous rounds and holds a 5-point lead over defending champion Ryan Dungey. Chad Reed and James Stewart lurk right behind as it’s become a four-man race for the championship. After Seattle, the tour heads to Salt Lake City in two weeks and then finishes in Las Vegas the week after that.

The 250cc class just finished its heat races and the 450 guys are in the starting gate. There’s two 8-lap heat reaces with the top nine advancing to the main event, which will start at 9:30 p.m. The rest of the guys will get another shot at the main event by racing in the last-chance race for the final two spots. Villopoto, or RV2 (his Kawasaki is No. 2) rides in the second heat race.

You can watch all of this unfold live on SPEED.

I have to admit I feel a bit like a fish out of water. The press box at Qwest is filled with VIPS and others who spent big money to get in the box. There’s section in the corner for the working media, which I somehow missed. So I’m elbow to elbow with the masses. Interesting, to say the lease. So much for not cheering in the press box. There’s a lot of oohs and ahs and I’m trying to keep up. Like a lot of sports, it’s sometimes easier to follow on televison than it is to watch live.

Of course, the reason I’m here is because of Villopoto’s local connection. He said he came up with about 60 tickets for family and friends. Here’s a story I wrote about Villopoto earlier in the week.

First heat: James Stewart rode his Yamaha to a dominant win. He posted the fast lap of 50.78 seconds. Afterward he said he was headed back to the trailor for a cup of coffee and to stay warm. When Stewart doesn’t crash, he usually wins. The only rider to beat him when he didn’t crash? Villopoto, who did it here in 2009 when he won his first 450cc supercross race.

Second heat: Kevin Windham took an early lead and held it. Villopoto was second and Ryan Dungey third. RV and Dungey gave the fans some nice side-by-side racing at times and swapped second and third two or three times. RV’s fast lap: 53.030.

My supercross expertise is limited (OK, I have no expertise), but the track seems a little gnarly, particularly a series of nine rolling speed bumps. Riders in the 250 and 450 heat races have been crashing during that rhythm section. There’s also whoops (that’s when the riders get b ig air) and triples (three larger hills right in a row). They never duplicate a track while building it, so the riders have to adjust every week.

Villopoto talked about the pounding riders take and you can see why it’s a young man’s sport. Windham, at 33, is the old man of supercross.

FYI: They dumped 1.5 million tons onto the floor of Qwest Field for the race.


Willie B’s getting some love; and well-deserved, too

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The most maligned player in all of major league baseball might be Port Orchard’s very own Willie Bloomquist. The Willie haters almost choke on their distaste for the player they like to call a scrapper or a gamer, as if those were dirty words.

His career numbers aren’t that great, and the stat geeks don’t care about the intangibles and all of those things you can’t really measure.

I don’t think I’m homer when it comes to Willie. Sure, he’s a local guy who has done good. But I just like the way he plays. Always have. If he’d gotten a break earlier in his career he would have been another David Eckstein, a former World Series MVP and an everyday shortstop who doesn’t measure up to Bloomquist when it comes to athletic ability. But both are similar in how they go about their business.

Some of you might have noticed that the super utility player is off to a super start. Willie’s currently among the top-10 hitters in the National League and he leads that circuit in stolen bases. He’s hit in eight straight games while batting leadoff for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Others are starting to notice, too.

Even the fantasy guys are excited about Willie right now. He gets a lot of love in this Yahoo! Sports story.

The top waiver wire pickup? Yep, Willie Bloomquist.


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