Tuesday, December 31, 2019

What Does 2020 Hold In Store for Local Athletes?

Sondra Duncan, the editor of the famed Farmers’ Almanac, was interviewed recently on NPR to highlight its 2020 edition, now on bookshelves (and probably online, too). She corrected the NPR interviewer when mention to the start of a new decade was upon us.

“Actually, decades begin on January 1 of a year that ends with a one,” Duncan said. “That’s means the new decade begins January first of 2021.”

That’s the way the Almanac has arranged its calendars since the first publication in 1818. They are the standard when it comes to stuff like that.

Okay. So, how will the 2010’s end here in Elk Grove? Or should we call these last ten years the “20-teens?”

The Almanac predicts: “Winter will be cooler than normal. Rainfall will be below normal in the north and above normal in the south, with below-normal mountain snows.” It also claims Northern California’s 2020 summer will be cooler than normal.

So much for global warming.

Now, to more prognostication.

Elk Grove High School may, by the end of the coming baseball season, have seven of its alumni playing Major League Baseball. Right now on MLB rosters are J.D. Davis (Mets), David Freitas (Brewers), Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays), Dom Nunez (Rockies) and Derek Hill (Tigers). But on the doorstep of the big leagues are Nick Madrigal (White Sox) and Dylan Carlson (Cardinals). Sportswriters in those communities are already pushing for both to start the year on the MLB roster after terrific 2019 minor league seasons. Likely, they’ll be in Triple-A baseball come April.

David Hernandez was released late last season by the Reds after spending ten seasons throwing for the Orioles, Diamondbacks, Angels, Braves and Phillies. It’s uncertain whether he’ll pitch in the Bigs again. By the way, his younger brother Raymond, is an up-and-coming managerial star in the Astros organization, managing in the Quad Cities last summer.

Not to forget, former Sheldon baseball and basketball star Matt Manning will go to Spring Training with the Tigers in February with nothing but promise written all over him. He has added a killer curveball and change-up to go with this 95 mph fastball. Scribes in Detroit also think he’ll be in the starting rotation this summer.

In motor racing, Kyle Larson, who attended Pleasant Grove High School, looks ready to challenge for a season championship in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup circuit. In 2019 he made the Round of 8 in the MEC playoffs, his best finish yet. Larson is primed to be NASCAR’s biggest free agent driver for his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing expires at the end of the year.

After making the NBA All-Rookie team in 2016-2017 with the Phoenix Suns, Marquese Chriss – another former Pleasant Grove Eagle – is with his fifth club, the Golden State Warriors. He had just about played himself out of the league until the Warriors gave him a chance last summer. Now, he’s been a pleasant and welcoming surprise to an otherwise terrible year in San Francisco for the Warriors. 

As Justin Fried of “Golden Gate Sports” recently penned: “He’s found ways to harness his athletic ability on both sides of the court becoming a smarter, more reactionary player in the process. Chriss has improved as a pick-and-roll defender becoming more patient and reacting rather than being aggressive with a false first step.”

Another former P.G. Eagle, Arik Armstead, is having a great – and to this point, an injury-free year – with the San Francisco 49ers. At one point this season he led the NFL in sacks. He’s part of a very good Niner defense that could lead them to the Super Bowl. And, Armstead is primed to earn a nice new contract this summer, too.

Kenny Wiggins, who played his high school football at Elk Grove, seems to have found a home in Detroit as an offensive guard. He started ten games in 2018 and three games this season for the Lions, but two weeks ago was placed on injured reserve. At 31, he has plenty of years left to continue playing, especially with his great personality which is a hit in the locker room.

Turning to our City – 

When will the Sports Park – highly touted acquisition by the City in 2016 – ever be developed? Elk Grove has always needed and deserved a real baseball stadium/facility. That parcel of land at Grantline and Waterman would be a perfect place for 500-1,000 seat baseball stadium that could be used by the high schools and other amateur teams. 

Imagine hosting the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Imagine hosting anything that would bring revenue to our City’s hotels and restaurants. It’s an election year and our local politicians would win some votes if they aggressively moved to develop this parcel for not just baseball but soccer, too.

CSD has done a great job in operating and maintaining Emerald Lakes Golf Club. But, with lots of empty land on our south side real consideration to develop an 18-hole golf course should be taken. The golfing community in our City would back it particularly if the design would rival that of other great municipal layouts such as WildHawk in South Sacramento and Timber Creek in Roseville.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

It's easy like Saturday morning ....

Just like the Lionel Ritchie song "Easy" (except he sang about Sunday mornings - which isn't always easy because we're getting ready for church - my wife is the pastor), I'm enjoying an easy Saturday.

It's the only day where I get to sleep in. I typically feed the dog (Rudy, a 14-year-old dachshund) then feed myself. This morning it is a three-egg omelet with fresh eggs supplied by teaching colleague Mary Osteen. Add in cheese and it is outstanding. (Mary's cousin is Joel Osteen, the famous pastor from Houston). Toast a couple pieces of whole-grain bread and layer on the Jif, in honor of my grandfather John Ihrig who loved peanut butter on his toast.

It is also the morning I catch up on Twitter, for since retiring from sportswriting a little more than a year ago that's about the only social media I stay active in for there are so many of our local sports people who I covered in youth and high school sports in Elk Grove that are doing well. I watch a vdieo which shows Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez teeing off at Augusta National for the Women's U.S. Amateur. Both still have great swings. I will be showing that video to the Burbank H.S. golf team, stressing extension of the arms, fluidity of the swing and nice transfer of weight forward.

I posted on Twitter a photo of one of my beginners (all the players on the LBHS golf team are beginners), Ilaisa Batimala. On Thursday in a match against Kennedy he fired a 54 on the back nine at Bing Maloney Golf Club. That was his lifetime best. Also, worth mentioning is Xao Thao. He shot a 56 - his lifetime best. Great to see this kind of improvement.
Xao Thao, a senior at Luther Burbank H.S. working on
his golf swing

Kennedy is one of the region's best teams with their top five guys fully able to shoot par golf. It is evident Coach Dean Ogasaki has these boys working hard daily on their game. Dylan Van Ostram is a name to remember. He was easily driving 300 yards, right down the middle of the fairway every hole - well, except for the first hole. He topped his shot and it scooted about 50 yards down the fairway. Yet, he finished with an even-par 36

I have found it normal to be following the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays on the MLB app just to watch the progress of former Elk Grove High School teammates J.D. Davis (Mets 3rd baseman) and Rowdy Tellez (Blue Jays' 1st baseman). Both are starting the season a little slow, but each have contributed in key parts to their teams' first week.

David Hernandez (Reds) is closing out games in Cincinnati. He hinted earlier this year on Twitter that this may be his final season.

Worth following are other EG-based minor leaguers Nick Madrigal (White Sox), Derek Hill (Tigers) and Matt Manning (Tigers) - these two are teammates right now in the minors - Dylan Carlson (Cardinals), Dom Nunez (Rockies) and David Freitas (Mariners). The MiLB app is a good tool to do that.

Then there are the tweets that remind me I work in Sacramento City Unified School District and we are in a big uproar. I likely will go on strike Thursday, something I have never done in my 48 years of working for pay. To support my teaching colleagues I will walk the picket lines for the scheduled one-day protest. But, I will look forward to returning on Friday to the classroom. All we are asking the school district to do is honor an agreement made in November, 2017, which was brokered by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

What is interesting is that teacher unions in cities such as Oakland, Denver and Los Angeles, which recently went out on strike, are watching our tussle because this is an example of a District agreeing to a contract with its teachers then backing out on the deal. These other unions say if Sacramento gets away with it, their local Districts may have the precedent to do the same thing.

Then, the tweets that wonder if SCUSD will be taken over by the State. Financial mis-management has led to a $35 million deficit. A balanced budget is needed to be submitted to the Sacramento County Office of Education by June or else.

I recently talked to my area Board of Education trustee, telling her my concern about a real plan to cover this deficit. The most logical is to make an even, equitable reduction in expenses. EVERYONE takes, say, a three percent cut in pay. No one loses their jobs, no programs are eliminated, just an across the board reduction in expenses.

I guess that idea is too simple. We'll see.