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.