Friday, April 27, 2007

Fist fights and running spikes

What makes you want to order the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight?

Maybe you order it. Maybe you don't. Maybe you're like a lot of people and you just think about it. But why?

Because they hate each other. Or they say they do. There's actual, publicized dislike between the two.

OK, that's enough free publicity for De La Hoya-Mayweather.

The front page of the Web site, the state's leading source for high school track and field information (it deserves the publicity), highlighted a figurative fight of its own this week.

In between photos of nationally reknowned Mission Prep sophomore Jordan Hasay and Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills senior Alex Kosinski, who will face off in the 1,600-meter race at Saturday's Sacramento Meet of Champions, was a graphic of a pair of boxing gloves.

The race is a high-profile showdown, and did well to promote it, but here's what I know from my expereince: Runners don't seem to hate each other in that way.

In the past, Hasay's only had the nicest things to say about her competitors.

Don't get me wrong, she wants to win perhaps more than anybody I've ever met. Try conducting an interview with Hasay after suggeting there might be the slightest outside chance that one out of 1 billion people thinks she might not win a race. Her past history, including state and national titles, commands ultimate respect.

But it's not like she wants to eat anyone's kids or gets into fistfights on the podium. It's not like she's likely to get intentionally tripped by a rival on the way to the finish line.

The race previews read about how one runner is close in time to another. They're not about how A-Rod charged the mound against Schilling. Or how T.O. spit in someone's face.

When runners don't win, they're more likely to blame themselves than point the finger at an opponent or an official.

High school runners don't hate each other. Nor should they. But that's also why it's not on pay-per-view.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SLO High Football


This blog has little to do with my thoughts on San Luis Obispo High football, per se. But just go with it.

I noticed that a previous blog got pirated off course by a couple of posters who saw an opening to bring up Tigers football. It seriously seems like that's all anyone is interested in.

And since I just came off a meeting with The Tribune's Managing Editor Tad Weber today where we talked about ways to make the blog a little more fresh, I figure put "SLO High Football" in the headline — and KABOOM — the hit count numbers will soar off the charts.

And that's exactly what I want to blog about: football versus spring sports.

I know football is king, not just locally, but nationally. Basketball and hockey playoffs have begun, baseball is back in full swing, but all anyone wants to talk about is NFL Draft.

I try to write a thoughtful blog on the Tigers boys volleyball program and the only two comments are about a prep football season that's four months away.

Incidentally, those were my first two comments since March. So either I'm really boring or spring sports are. Which is it? (After speaking at C.L. Smith Elementary in February, the fourth grade class will tell you it's me. So don't ask any of them.)

I'm not buying the idea that more kids play football, therefore more parents are interested. Talk to Jordan Hasay's dad, Joe. He'll tell you that track and field's numbers dwarf those of baseball. I'd bet they're pretty close to football, too. And have you checked out a track and field story recently? Many of the stars are the same boys who played football.

So what's the deal? Should I just change this blog to an all-football-all-the-time experience?

OK, I'm not asking that seriously, but here is a topic to discus: Why doesn't anyone seem to care much about spring sports?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Height helps in diving, or so it appears

Elizabeth Foran, Atascadero High's dynamic diver and the current Tribune Prep Athlete of the Week, talked this week about the toughest aspect of diving.

It wasn't the high dive or the cold wind, though those topics made it into the Prep Athlete of the Week story, but the subjective scoring system.

"The hardest thing about diving is how I do is really in somebody else’s hands," Foran said. "When I go out there, I have five judges giving me scores on what they think I did.

"It’s so hard because you have to please those judges."

I didn't tell her that in baseball you have people judging whether you got a hit or an error because, heck, she was on a roll. Journalism tip: Don't interrupt a teenager who's best quotes don't include "dude," "like" or "uhm."

And apparently, it isn't aways technique that pleases those dastardly judges, whomever they are. Common notion has judges liking taller divers, Foran said.

Foran, who's only 5-feet tall, said she has an advantage over longer opponents because she can "flip easier, flip faster and do more flips." She does have less body to flip.

But ...

"If you’re tall and long your dive looks cleaner," Foran said. "I can go out and do a dive and a tall girl can do the same dive, just not as good, but it’ll look better. When a girl is long, it just looks like she’s going in straighter and it just looks prettier, and it almost looks harder because she has just that much more to throw around."

She wasn't complaining about it. I just found the height topic intersting and continued asking about it.

It's not a foreign concept. I've heard similar things about equestrian judges when I covered the sport in college. They favor taller riders because they look more graceful or something to that effect. They probably like taller horses, too. It might up the degree of difficulty.

(Note to self: I wonder if the sports writer awards favor taller reporters. Remember to add "6 feet, 3 inches" under my byline.)

So yeah, judges, come off it. Stop the discrimination already. Foran, other diminutive divers and equestrians everywhere deserve equality.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What'll they do on senior ditch day?

Ready for a shocker? The San Luis Obispo boys volleyball team fields 12 seniors. Twelve!

Are your socks still on? Well, let me put it this way. Twelve 12th-graders are enough to field two separate lineups of seniors.

And it really gets put into perspective when written like this: With 15 players total, only a maximum of three will be returning next season — as long as none decides to go pro.

That “go pro” line would have been a joke if hadn’t already happened.

Would-be sophomore Hawk Hatcher isn’t back with the team after a standout freshman season last year. Word is he’s breaking into the pro beach volleyball circuit, but that’s for another blog.

Back to the seniors.

Imagine you’re a high school coach. (Maybe you ARE a high school coach. I wish I knew who read this stuff.) Now imagine replacing 80 percent of your team in one offseason.

Not just the starters, 80 percent of the whole team.

Sock check.

And it’s not as if high school athletics actually puts a premium on returning players or anything. Well actually, that’s exactly how it is.

Here’s a behind the scenes tidbit: I voted the Atascadero High football team No. 1 in every one of the Tribune’s Top 10 media polls this past season — from week 0 to week 10 — because, by my count, the Greyhounds had the most number of All-County players returning.

No, I’m not an A-town homer. Before moving to the Central Coast in February 2006, I’d only driven through SLO County a few times. I knew nothing about high school football tradition around here.

But who dominated the area? Atascadero. And it might have been because they had a lot of returning seniors.

So when I called San Luis Obispo volleyball coach Jon Hastings about naming his dominant hitter Curtis Abram the Athlete of the Week a couple weeks ago and found out he was losing all those seniors, I had to at least jokingly ask.

“Are you going to retire after this one, coach?”

He denied it. Laughed about it. Maybe thought about it?

Nah, and here’s why.

Two of those three players set to return are sophomores Julian Demalleville, a mini version of Abram, and 6-foot, 6-inch Shane Kennedy, tabbed a college volleyball prospect in the Tigers’ official program.

I’d like to see what the unofficial program says about him, but in a 3-0 win over Righetti Wednesday, Kennedy looked pretty good. He had a season-high seven kills. And Demalleville’s consistently been one of the team’s top three hitters all season.

San Luis Obispo looks like it’s on track to win its seventh straight league title, if it can get past Arroyo Grande on Tuesday and run the table.

The Tigers might have an uphill battle if they get a chance to go for No. 8, but all things 12 considered, it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Remember the time?

With a thrilling back and forth win in the Softball by the Beach Invitational, the Arroyo Grande softball team vaulted itself into the semifinal of the 13th annual edition of the tournament.

One of the questions I asked first-year coach Amber Derbidge after the game was asking for the last time an Eagles team won the tournament, to which she didn't have an answer.

But first-year coaches get occasional reprieves for this type of stuff, especially immediately after artery-stopping games like Friday's.

So I bring the question to you. When was the last time an Eagles softball team won it's own tournament? Has it ever?

I presented a similar question in an Arroyo Grande football story last season when Reade Lobdill ran for a ton of yards and nobody could remember the last time it had happened right after the game.

A couple of dilligent parents e-mailed in the next day with the appropriate answer. So get to it softball parents. Don't tell me the football moms are better historians than you are.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The cold capital of the universe

I'm not a San Luis Obispo County native, so stop me if I'm wrong, but is Sinsheimer Park not the coldest pocket of the Central Coast?

It's like a bermuda triangle of weather — where cold gets lost and can't find it's way out.

No matter if it's baseball, swimming or water polo. At every high school event I've covered at Sinsheimer, I've had a tough time deciding whether to cover the event or go into hibernation.

In addition to the pool and baseball stadium, there are also softball diamonds and a playground on the premesis. But if I had kids, I wouldn't let them play at Sinsheimer alone for fear the fog would roll in and carry them away.

The weather is generally great in San Luis Obispo, which is why I'm baffled by this entire phenomenon. No joke, It's even colder than Templeton's football stadium.

Is there some scientific explanation for this out there? Anybody got any theories? It's not like it's keeping me away from any good action, but I know when I'm headed there to break out the knit cap, jacket and homemade quilt.

Now you do, too.

Quarterback controversy

Looking ahead to this past fall's Atascadero-San Luis Obispo High football game, I billed it as a matchup of clashing quarterback styles in the newspaper preview.

Gunnar Jespersen versus Conner Reese. Machismo versus mechanics.

Though the Tigers' Reese put up big numbers in the game, Jespersen led his team to the win.

Well, the two met up again Friday — this time on the diamond.

With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth inning, the three-game series up for grabs and runners on first and second with no outs, San Luis Obispo brought in Reese to pitch out of a jam. He loaded the bases on a fielder's choice and guess who came up to bat?

Now there doesn't seem to be any personal rivalry between the two. They seem to have a mutual respect, zero animosity. Reese even looked puzzled when I shot him a comment about the moment after the game.

But come on — doesn't it sound juicy?

Senior quarterback versus senior quarterback, one more round for old time's sake.

After a first-pitch ball, Jespersen came up hacking, looking to make the big swing that would bury the Tigers. But Reese threw the next two pitches for strikes.

Jespersen fanned on the fourth offering, an outside pitch that sent him back to the dugout after swinging his bat in frustration.

So what does this all mean?

Nothing. It's baseball. Hitters get out seven out of 10 times and go to the hall of fame. But maybe next time Jespersen and Reese can face off in checkers — or armwrestling. I'd show up to watch them play Mille Bourne cards.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hard times in softball

You know how when you get older and you try to do the same kinds of athletic things you did when you were young?

Whether it's pickup basketball or some slow-pitch softball, you feel great while you're reliving the glory days, but the next morning, you ache in spots you never even knew had nerve endings.

My bet: Arroyo Grande High softball pitcher Chelsie Rodriguez is probably getting a good preview of what that's going to feel like right now.

In Thursday's 4-3 loss to Atascadero, Rodriguez got off to a roug start. She gave up a leadoff double and a bunt single to the first two batters she faced.

The Greyhounds' Brianna Smet drove in the two runners with a frozen rope — that lined right into Rodriguez's left hip and dribbled into right field.

She shrugged off any attention from the trainers, remained in the game and allowed just one hit to the next 19 batters she faced.

"It did hurt," Rodriguez said. "But I was so upset I didn't make the play that I didn't even notice it."

No, people, softballs really aren't all that soft. And maybe I'm just getting old, but I think she'll feel it in the morning.