Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hammel off to 3-0 start for Orioles

You could make an argument that Jason Hammel is pitching as good as anyone in baseball.

The South Kitsap grad improved to 3-0 for the Orioles on Wednesday, allowing just four hits over seven innings in a 3-0 win over Toronto. Hammel struck out seven, walked one and lowered his ERA to 1.73. He tied his career high with 10 strikeouts in his previous start.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander says he’s just pitching with a lot of confidence.

Here’s a video from Hammel’s latest gem.

Villopoto faces another knee surgery

Poulsbo’s Ryan Villopoto will miss the rest of the Supercrosss season and the outdoor Motocross season after sustaining a knee injury in his first-lap crash on Saturday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Kawasaki released a statement on Tuesday.

The two-time Supercross champion had surgery on  the same left knee previously. He also missed the last half of the 2010 Supercross and Motocross seasons after breaking his leg in a race.

Here’s the full story, as reported by USA Today.

Another surprise for Cunningham at Safeco Field

When Aaron Cunningham emerged from the Cleveland Indians clubhouse prior to Tuesday’s game against the Mariners at Safeco Field, he was surprised to see his dad and sister leaning on the rail next to the Tribe’s dugout.

Chuck and Emily Cunningham — a softball at Bellevue CC — arranged to be part of the Mariners’ grounds crew for Tuesday’s game. Aaron didn’t know anything about it.

It was the second surprise in two days for the South Kitsap grad. Since Monday was an off day, Cunningham headed to  his parents’ home in Port Orchard. When he got there, there was a surprise birthday party waiting for him. He turns 26 on April 24.

Cunningham’s the fourth outfielder for the Indians. He’s not getting a lot of time in the early season, and the Indians just signed 38-year-old Johnny Damon. There’s been speculation that Cunningham or former Mariner Jose Lopez, a backup infielder, could be let go when Damon joins the Indians. Cunningham’s take on all of this is pretty interesting. The former Everett CC star, a sixth-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, is thankful for being in the big leagues. He’s started one game and has just 9 at bats, but he is not making any excuses.

Look for my story later tonight or read it in the print edition on Wednesday.


Dawgs practice April 21 at Memorial Stadium; spring game April 28 at Clink

Itching to get a look at the Washington Huskies football team?

Because of the construction going on at Husky Stadium, spring practices haven’t been open to the fans as in Steve Sarkisian’s previous years.

But coach Sarkisian will welcome fans for an April 21 open practice at 11 a.m. at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium and for the annual spring game, which will be played April 28 at CenturyLink, where the Dawgs will play home game this year.  The spring game will start at 1 p.m. Both are free to the public.

Here’s the 2012 schedule with times to be announced at a later date:

09/01/12 vs. San Diego State CenturyLink Field TBA
09/08/12 at LSU Baton Rouge, La. TBA
09/15/12 vs. Portland State CenturyLink Field TBA
09/27/12 vs. Stanford * CenturyLink Field TBA
10/06/12 at Oregon * Eugene, Ore. TBA
10/13/12 vs. USC CenturyLink Field TBA
10/20/12 at Arizona Tucson, Ariz. TBA
10/27/12 vs. Oregon State * CenturyLink Field TBA
11/02/12 at California Berkeley, Calif. TBA
11/10/12 vs. Utah * CenturyLink Field TBA
11/17/12 at Colorado * Boulder, Colo. TBA
11/23/12 at Washington State * Pullman, Wash. TB



Message to M’s fans: Be patient

Patience, grasshopper.

That’s the only way I know how to put it to all of you who are twisting and turning on every pitch, every game, every move, every story, every blog post, every talk-radio  segment when it comes to the  Mariners.

Just sit back and enjoy game. Don’t dwell on every strikeout, popup, or loss. Don’t over-analyze. There’s more important things to worry about.

There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions, and most of them are wrong. Don’t let the masses suck you in.

Let the season play out, at least for a month or so, before y0u make any judgements about the Mariners. Who knows, they might be the 2012 version of last year’s Arizona Diamondbacks — an over-over-achieving club that won the NL West after being picked to finish last.

The Diamondbacks are off to a 4-1 start this year, mostly because they play every game like its the seventh inning of the World Series.

If the Mariners can figure out how to do that, they’ve got a chance to win more games than anybody ever imagined.

Trailing 3-1 going into the top of the ninth against the mighty Texas Rangers, how many of you gave the Mariners a chance on Wednesday night? The Mariners rallied to beat the Rangers 4-3 on Wednesday. The M’s are off to a 4-3 start and a half-game back of first-place Texas.

Closer Joe Nathan blew the save for the Rangers. How many more will he blow? When it comes to closers, there’s no sure thing. One of the most difficult things in sports is to stay on top.

Albert Pujols is hitting .222 and the powerful Angels (2-3) are last in the AL West. Will  the Angles end up in last place? Probably not, but you never know. There’s a chance Pujols becomes just another player in the American League. The Angels signed Pujols and lefty C.J. Wilson, but it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t perform. Big-name players with big, guaranteed contracts have been known to become big-time flops.

The so-called experts have already put the Angels and Rangers into the post-season, but there are no sure things in sports.

“That’s why,” as Herman Edwards so eloquently put it a few years back, “they play the games.”

Everyone has opinions, and you can make educated guesses, but nobody knows for sure how this baseball season will turn out.

I chuckle when I hear people dissecting the M’s seven games into the season.

“Why are the M’s playing Chone Figgins?”

“Justin Smoak looks like the same player we saw a year ago. He’s swinging at bad pitches and not driving the ball when he’s hitting good pitches.”

“Miguel Olivo is a passed-ball machine, one of the  worst catchers in baseball. And he can’t hit. He’s got a horrible on-base percentage. The guy should be gone.”

“Jesus Montero will never be a full-time big-league catcher.”

“Eric Wedge isn’t the manager I thought he was going to be. Coming from Cleveland I thought he’d be more progressive.”

Truth is we don’t  know how good — or bad — these Mariners are going to be. Some have suggested 80 wins would be a huge achievement based on recent seasons.

Why not 85-90 wins? Stranger things have happened.

The M’s might might get blown out on Thursday afternoon in Texas, and you can say “I told you so,” when Figgins goes 0 for 4.

But what if they win? What if they roll into Safeco Field with a 5-3 record after a split in Texas?

At the same time, don’t get too excited if they get off to a decent start. Remember last year’s 17-game losing streak?

All I’m saying is let them play a months worth of games before you decide that Figgins is washed up. There is a chance he’ll become the player we all thought he was when the M’s signed him to that disgustingly large contract three years ago. He’s been an above-average player in the past and who are we to say that he can’t do it again?

Maybe the M’s are showcasing Figgins and Olivio? If they show they can still play at a decent level, maybe they will be able to trade them. We can guess, but we don’t know what management is thinking?

Even if management is going cheap, even if they’re tightening the belt so they can sell the franchise,  there’s still a chance the M’s could defy the odds and put together a winning season.

The Mariners, I repeat, are seven games into a 162-game season.

It’s way too early to be sure about how this season will turn out. Perhaps it’s simplistic but don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Last year doesn’t count.

I’m tired of ready and listening to all of the so-called  experts and wanna-be experts who have all of the answers seven games into the season.

Sit back and observe. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Be patient, grasshopper.







Poulsbo’s Villopoto hottest thing going on two wheels

Poulsbo’s Ryan Villopoto is the Michael Jordan of his sport.

Villopoto, like Jordan, even has shoes named after him (by Vans).

Like Jordan, he’s capable of the spectacular, but he usually makes it look easy.

Because of the sustained success he’s achieved over the last two years, Villopoto’s become the biggest thing in Supercross (stadium) and motorcross (outdoor)  racing since Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael.

BJ Smith of talked to Villopoto recently and the Kawaski rider reiterated that he’s likely not going to hang around just to break records. A year ago before the race at CenturyLink in Seattle, he told me the same thing. He said people have no idea about the physical pounding your body takes in his sport. I compared it to what an NFL running back goes through.

I asked about his career goals and RV2 said he’s not out to break records or go down in history as the greatest ever or anything like that.

“It’s just to race and try to have as much fun as I can,” he said. “And also make a career out of it to where when I’m done, when I retire at 26 or 27 or whenever I decide to, I won’t have to work anymore.”

Villopoto’s 23 now, and he’s probably already achieved that goal of not having to work anymore. He’s won eight of the first 13 Supercross races (23 of 61 overall in his four years on the 450cc bikes), clinching the title for a second straight year with four races left. Nobody’s ever clinched that early. Villopoto’s already practicing and making plans to defend his outdoor moorcross title.

I don’t know if there’s been a more dominating professional athlete from Kitsap County than Ryan Villopoto. He’s got homes in Florida and California but most of his family remains in Kitsap County. Villopoto still slips in and out of the area without a lot of fanfare.

Villopoto races in New Orleans this week, returns to Seattle for the April 21 race, and closes the Supercross season with races at Salt Lake City (April 28) and Las Vegas (May 5).

Villopoto enjoyed a million dollar payday in Vegas last October when he won the first Monster Energy Cup, winning all three races handily over a hybrid Supercross/motocross course.


If you’re a John Grisham fan, his latest novel — Calico Joe — is about baseball. It’ll be released next month.

Joe Posnanski writes about the No. 18, the holy grail when it comes to golf. That’s how many major championships Jack Nicklaus won.

Outside of Chone Figgins’ two-game revival,  the biggest story of the young baseball season to date? For me, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks, taking off where they left off a year ago. The D-backs made five errors and were six runs behind, but still managed to come back to beat the Giants 7-6 on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep. They beat two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on Friday, pounded talented lefty Madison Bumgarner on Saturday and got to Matt Cain for five earned runs in six innings on Sunday. The Giants are favored to win the NL West, but they’ve now lost eight straight to Arizona.

Say hey, Willie B. goes deep one more time with young fan watching

Willie Bloomquist, leading off and playing shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks, got his regular season off to a good start on Friday night, leading off the first inning with a single off San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum and scoring on a Chris Young home run. Bloomquist added another hit in Arizona’s 5-4 win over the Giants.

But it was Wednesday’s final spring training game that made the hair stand up on Willie’s arms. Abe Chase, the 12-year-old fan who called a home run by Bloomquist in a game against the Giants last June, was in the stands at Chase Field and the South Kitsap grad and Port Orchard native responded with another homer — his first of the spring. “I might have to buy you season tickets if this continues,” Bloomquist texted Chase.Read the story here.

In case you missed the original story, here it is.

Other updates on Kitsap’s baseball pros:

Aaron Cunningham (South Kitsap) entered the game as a pinch-runner and was 0 for 2 for the Indians in a 7-4, 16-inning loss to Toronto.

Jason Hammel (South Kitsap) opens the year as the No. 3 starter in Baltimore’s rotation. He’ll make  his first start on Sunday. Look for a story on Monday as The Sun  has contracted with a freelance writer to cover Hammel’s debut.

Drew Vettleson (Central Kitsap) is 3 for 7 with two walks and an RBI in his first two games with the Bowling Green (Ky.) Hot Rods, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Class A team in the Midwest League. The outfielder is hitting No. 2 in the order.

Jared Prince (North Kitsap) of the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders was 1 for 3 with a double against the parent Texas Rangers in an exhibition on Wednesday. He faced Yu Darvish in his first at bat, popping up to second. Prince, playing right field and batting  No. 5 in the order is 0 for 8 after two regular-season games.

Todd Linden (Central Kitsap) started at first base and was at No. 4 in the batting order in the first two games for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, a San Francisco affiliate. Linden, a former first-round pick by the Giants, is trying to resurrect his career. He’s 1 for 9 after two games. Linden and Grizzlies come to Tacoma for a four-game series, April 21-22-23-24.

Motivational speaker Lou Tice dies

Scores of local athletes and coaches were influenced by motivational guru Lou Tice, a former high school football coach at Kennedy High who was at the very top of his professional. His clients were the who’s who of college and professional sports.

Over 40 years ago, while playing junior varsity basketball at Olympic College, I remember coaches Larry Sampson and Wayne Gibson brought Tice in to speak to our team. It might have been his first or second year in the business.

Tice died Sunday. He was 76. Here’s a story from the Seattle Times about the inspirational man who was a mentor to so many.


New low for Leaf: two arrests in four days

I remember that November day in 1995 when Ryan Leaf, a brash freshman from Washington State, nearly led the Cougars to an upset victory over Washington at Husky Stadium. Leaf threw for 291 yards in a 33-30 loss and, at the time, I wondered if he might go down in history as the greatest athlete to ever come out of Montana.

Seventeen years later, he’s proving me right. But the former NFL bust — he was the No. 2 pick behind Peyton Manning — has become famous for all of the wrong reasons. Leaf was arrested again on Monday in his hometown of Great Falls, Mont. That’s two arrests in four days.

Montana’s greatest athletes? It’s got to be Dave McNally, the former Baltimore Orioles lefty, or Dan Mortenson, one of the greatest rodeo competitors of all time. Both are from Billings. Greatest showman? Butte’s Evel Knievel.

As sad as Leaf’s tale is, here’s hoping the 35-year-old gets his life turned around at some point.