Wednesday, May 31, 2006

UT-Tyler Baseball Players All-Region

This from a UT-Tyler Press release:

The University of Texas at Tyler baseball players Clay Copeland and Mario Gallizzi were named to the 2006 American Baseball Coaches Association NCAA Division III All-West Region team, the organization has announced.

Copeland, a junior outfielder from White Oak, Texas, hit .422 on the season with 26 RBIs. He scored a team-leading 43 runs and led the Patriots with 62 hits on the year. Copeland also stole 15 bases.

Gallizzi, a senior designated hitter from Grapevine, Texas, led the patriots with a .440 batting average. He added 31 RBIs. Gallizzi slugged .667 overall and had a on-base percentage of .500.

The Patriots finished the year 28-11 and 13-8 in ASC play. UT Tyler finished in second place in the ASC East, one game out of first.

Free Summer Youth Tennis Programs

I always laugh when I hear people say tennis is for rich people. The image of "Biff" and "Buffy" with cardigan sweaters draped over their shoulders, toting around tennis rackets is such hilarity!

OK, I'll give you golf as a country club sport (although there are free golf programs out there), but it takes ZERO money to play tennis. I'm assuming you already own tennis shoes. Almost every East Texas community has free, public tennis courts. The only possible expenses would be a racket (as cheap as $15), and balls (as cheap as $2). But, many area communities offer free summer tennis programs in which rackets and balls are provided.

The Longview Tennis Association is offering free tennis lesson camps at four locations throughout the area:

White Oak High School (June 12-16)
Kilgore High School (June 19-23)
The Third Street tennis courts in Longviw (June 26-30)
Longview High School (July 10-14).

There will be lessons for players of all skill levels, from 9am to noon each day. For more information, call (903) 663-2101.

Tyler is offering a similar free youth tennis program from June 5 through July 21 at five different sites throughout the city.

Monday: Pollard Park
Tuesday: Bergfeld Park
Wednesday: Fun Forest Park
Thursday: John Tyler High School
Friday: Faulkner Park

Times: 9am-10am, 6-8 years old, 10am-11am, 9-11 years old, and 11am-noon, 12-16 years old.

Tennis is one of those sports that can be played at any skill level and at any age. There are 80 year-old women out there who can play circles around me, but then again, that's not saying much!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Eric Williams On T.O.

If you haven't seen it yet, you should check out KLTV 7 NFL Analyst Eric Williams' new post on his Full Contact page. He talks about new Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens and the impact he will have in Dallas. It is very funny and insightful. Here's an excerpt:

Have you ever felt 10 feet tall and bullet proof? I know not literally, but just when things are hitting on all eight cylinders, the moon is in the seventh house, etc? Now imagine this: you're one of the best athletes in the world, you have a huge, thick wallet, complementary clothing, meals/drinks and very few rules that won't be bent, if not broken for your pleasure: "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges!"
So with all of the above said, why is it so surprising when a player takes a hard right to Prima Donna Town? In PD-town everyone, mostly subconsciously, wear a shirt that says, "Maybe you don't realize who I think I am."

Six Degrees of Pete Rose

KLTV 7 weatherman Morgan Palmer, who is a huge baseball fan, sent me this e-mail today:

I was driving out of town listening to Kevin Kennedy and Rob Dibble's afternoon show today on the XM baseball channel, Home Plate, and they had Pete Rose on for about half an hour about Bonds and other stuff.

Rose said the wife of the man who caught Bonds' 715th actually worked for Rose for quite a while at his sports bar or restaurant (can't remember which) in Florida. He called her by name and said she had called asking what Pete thought of what they should do with the ball. He said he told her "Sit on it. SIT on it!"

It's so ironic because Bonds had said that Rose should remain banned from the Hall.

I had been waiting to find this on news wires but can't. But I heard it, so there.

Fascinating irony.

Fishing In Your Backyard

I've always wanted my own private pond. I'd stock it full of largemouth bass and catfish, and feed them constantly. Then, I would catch them and break every record in the books. The problem is, you can buy fish tanks bigger than my back yard, and catching fish in a pond that size is almost like shooting them in a barrell. Where's the sport in that?

So, assuming you have a piece of land bigger than a 2nd grade classroom, then I've got something you might be interested in. Here's a flyer that was sent to me by Texas Parks & Wildlife on how to manage your private pond for fishing:

Recreational Pond Management Seminar
Tuesday, June 6 - 6:00 p.m.
Texas Parks And Wildlife Nature Center
(11942 F.M. 848 - Tyler)

Managing Ponds for Quality Fishing
Dr. Billy Higginbotham - Texas Cooperative Extension

Triploid Grass Carp for Vegetation Control
Dr. Richard Ott - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

~ Water samples for FREE pH and alkalinity testing
~ Pond weed samples for identification

TDA license holders will receive 2 hours General CEU credit.

Texas Cooperative Extension - Smith County
Texas Parks and Wildlife - Inland Fisheries
Call (903) 535 - 0885 by June 5th to RSVP and for directions.
Persons wishing to attend with special needs are asked to call in
advance, so that necessary accommodations can be made.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pujols Value Will Rise Above The Steroids Era

As a kid, I liked to collect baseball cards. One of my most prized possessions was always my 1986 Barry Bonds Topps rookie card. I was always so impressed with Bonds.

I was a high school baseball player in 1986, and was in awe of Bonds' rare combination of speed and power.

I knew, someday, that card was going to be worth a lot of money when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

But of course, I knew Bonds' card would pale in comparison to the value of my 1986 Jose Canseco Topps Rookie card.

As one half of the "Bash Brothers" with Mark McGwire, he was, quite possibly, the greatest player of his era.

He was the first player to ever hit at least 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season (Bonds did it 8 years later).

My brother and I always pretended to be McGwire and Canseco while whacking home runs during our Wiffle Ball games.

And speaking of McGwire, few of my cards meant more to me personally than my 1987 McGwire Topps card.

As a Cardinals fan, McGwire became a St. Louis legend in 1998 when he set the single season home run record with an astounding 70. He broke a record that had stood for 37 years, and we knew he'd hold the record forever.

As it turned out, he would hold the record for just three years, thanks to Bonds.

Sadly, the revelation that all three of these great players probably achieved a healthy portion of their success while on steroids, shattered the aura of my proud collection (not to mention the value!).

That' s where Albert Pujols comes in. The Cardinals slugger represents the anti-steroids era. The value of the 2001 Albert Pujols Topps rookie card is already higher than the Bonds, Canseco and McGwire cards combined. That's scary, considering Pujols is only in his sixth major league season. The 26-year-old has accomplished more in his first five seasons, then any player in major league history.

Extend those numbers over a 20 year career (Bonds has played 21 seasons, while Hank Aaron played 23 seasons), and the great Pujols would shatter nearly every record, including runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, and total bases. He would finish third in hits, but that's because Pete Rose and Ty Cobb both played 24 seasons (extend Pujols numbers over 24 seasons and he'd own that record as well!).

I know what you're thinking. It is unfair to all of those record holders to project Pujols' numbers over 20 years.

I say it's unfair to Pujols. First of all, Pujols' work ethic keeps him in great shape, and as helped him avoid any serious injuries. Second, who says Pujols will only play 20 years? And third, who says Pujols' numbers won't improve over the next 10 to 15 years? I mean, he's on pace this season to hit 79 home runs (a new record) and produce 203 RBI (a new record). He could end up being the greatest hitter of all time, bar none.

That kind of success would make my Bonds, Canseco and McGwire rookie cards absolutely worthless. Too bad I don't own Pujols' rookie card!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

There's been a lot of talk about the new "sportsmanship" rule implemented in the state of Connecticut. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school athletics, passed a new rule in April that states, if a football team wins by 50 or more points, their head coach will be suspended for the following weeks game.

Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford Courant wrote a really good article on the subject.

The new rule comes in the wake of a sportsmanship survey in which nearly one thousand Connecticut coaches, athletic directors, principals, superintendents and officials took part back in February. They overwhelmingly agreed to support sanctions for unsportsmanlike conduct.

I can see both sides of this argument.

Because of league, or district play, good teams are inevitably forced to play bad teams. As a result, the score can easily get out of hand. Even if a coach puts his second and third team players in the game, they are bound to find the endzone. What are you going to do, tell the backup not to try his hardest? No! So, in that respect, you'd be penalizing a coach because he was forced to play a bad team. You are also forcing that coach to send a bad message to his kids.

On the other hand, there are coaches out there who, unfortunately, try to run up the score. No matter the reason, that's wrong. No one gains anything positive from that. And even if you're not trying to run up the score, how big of a lead is enough? Isn't it safe to say, if you are leading by four touchdowns at halftime, the game is pretty much in hand? No? What about five touchdowns? Six? A six touchdown lead means you are leading by 42 points! Any coach with a conscience will tell you, 35 points is as big of a cushion as you need, and that's only if you are playing a good team. Do you really think a bad team who hasn't found the endzone by halftime, is really going to make a 28 to 35 point turnaround in the second half? No!

The way I see it, players and coaches who run up the score are going to run up the score whether there's a rule in place or not. Dealing with jerks is a part of life. It's the lessons the rest of us learn from them that are important. For every story I've heard about a coach who has run up the score, I've heard 10 about a coach who has gone out of his way to respect the kids on the field, regardless of what team they played for. The coaches doing the right thing are the ones we should be focusing our attention on.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Eric Williams' Football Camps

If you haven't checked it out yet, you need to read the weekly article on our sports page from our NFL analyst Eric Williams', called Full Contact. His first post this week gives great background into how he made it to the NFL, and eventually to East Texas. He has a very likeable, easy-to-read writing style that is very entertaining.

As you already know, especially if you've read the article, Eric had a very productive 10-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins. He was an integral part of the Redskins Super Bowl XXVI win over the Buffalo Bills. If you ever run into him, check his hand. He's got the ring to prove it!

He is eager to bring his wealth of experience and knowledge to East Texas football players. He's willing to team with area high schools to offer an Advanced Defensive Line Techniques Camp. This isn't a camp where he trots out and gives an inspirational opening speech, then turns it over to someone else. These are intense mini-camps that he approaches like he approached his own football development. They involve film study, weight lifting programs, hands-on techniques, and even how to attract the attention of college recruiters. If you are a parent, player or coach and are interested in finding out costs and available dates, give him a holler.

East Texas Dragster

I've got a good reason to become a fan of drag racing, if you aren't already. One of the top young drivers in the NHRA is from East Texas. Steve Torrence of Kilgore is the defending Top Alcohol National and South Central Division Champion, and rookie of the year. He's also well on his way to defending his titles. Through the first four division events, Torrence has two wins, another finals appearance, and a semifinals appearance. That's good enough to lead the division standings. He also has a finals appearance and two second round appearances in his three national events. That puts him atop the national point standings as well (you combine the division and national points to get the national standings).

I did a story on him last season. Torrence is a cancer survivor, who is making the most of his opportunities. He's a humble guy who is thankful to be in a position to be successful. He always has a smile on his face and is a good guy to root for.

East Texans wanting to see him in action can do so coming up June 16-18. The South Central Division makes a stop at the Cherokee County Motorsports Park in Rusk. He'll also be back in North East Texas for the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in Ennis, September 21-24.

He's racing in the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas this weekend. That's a national event that will be shown on ESPN2 Sunday, June 4th at 11am. It will be repeated on ESPN2 Sunday, June 11 at 2am.

Don't be surprised to see him racing with the big boys on the Top Fuel circuit next season.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brad Lidge Needs A Hug

Houston Astros relief pitcher Brad Lidge had a bad day today.

No, check that. He had a HORRIBLE day.

Lidge entered tonight's game against the Nationals in the 8th inning, with a runner on third and the score tied 1-1. He walked the first batter, gave up an RBI single, allowed a run to score on a wild pitch, gave up and RBI double, gave up another RBI single, then was yanked, all without recording an out. Because the tie breaking run was charged to Dan Wheeler, Lidge was not charged with the loss, or given a blown save.

Normally, you can chalk up a performance like that to a bad bowl of Cheerios, or pitching out of the wrong side of your brain. That is of course, if it wasn't for Albert Pujols.

It's hard to believe one swing of the bat could have such an impact on a pitcher's career, but it seems Albert Pujols' "Shot Heard Round The World" in last year's National League Championship Series has reduced Lidge to a shell of his former self.

Let's look at the facts. Prior to Pujols Game 5 winning walk-off home run, Lidge was a perfect three-for-three in posteason save chances. He had just completed a 2005 season in which he was nearly unhittable, with 103 strike outs in 71.2 innings, a 2.29 earned run average, 42 saves, and just 4 blown saves. That is lights out.

After Pujols home run? Not so good. In the World Series, Lidge had ZERO saves, a 4.91 ERA, and was responsible for two of the Astros' losses in the White Sox sweep.

This season, Lidge does have 12 saves, but he has already blown 3 saves (he blew just 4 in '05 and 4 in '04), he already has 2 losses, and sports a 6.53 ERA. Those aren't the numbers of a dominant closer.

Astros manager Phil Garner may need to hire a shaman, or a priest to exorcise the demons that now reside deep within Lidge's soul. Then again, Lidge may just need a hug.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mavericks Playoff History

Someone asked me the other day if the Mavericks had ever played for an NBA Championship. The answer is NO, but I thought I'd pass along how they've done over the last 26 years.

Dallas Mavericks Playoff History
By The Associated Press
2006 _ Beat Memphis 4-0; Beat San Antonio 4-3.
2005 _ Beat Houston 4-1; Lost to Phoenix 4-2.
2004 _ Lost to Sacramento 4-1.
2003 _ Beat Portland 4-3; Beat Sacramento 4-3; Lost to San Antonio 4-2.
2002 _ Beat Minnesota 3-0; Lost to Sacramento 4-1.
2001 _ Beat Utah 3-2; Lost to San Antonio 4-1.
1991-2000 _ Didn't make playoffs.
1990 _ Lost to Portland 3-0.
1989 _ Didn't make playoffs.
1988 _ Beat Houston 3-1; Beat Denver 4-2; Lost to L.A. Lakers 4-3.
1987 _ Lost to Seattle 3-1.
1986 _ Beat Utah 3-1; Lost to L.A. Lakers 4-2.
1985 _ Lost to Portland 3-1.
1984 _ Beat Seattle 3-2; Lost to L.A. Lakers 4-1.
1980-83 _ Didn't make playoffs.

Brook Hill Baseball Camp

There are lots of really good sports camps in East Texas this summer, and as I get information on them, I'll pass it along.

Brook Hill baseball coach Sean Collins is once again hosting some camps this summer. Collins is a former professional baseball player, who many of you may remember as a member of the old Tyler Wildcatters. His regular camp at Brook Hill is scheduled for June 5-8. He's also hosting a Young Ball Players Camp July 10-13. I've seen Collins in action with these kids, and know he does a great job. Click here for more information or to register.

Optional Workouts?

I've always got a kick out of the term "optional" workout. An optional workout, would lead you to believe that, as an athlete, you have a choice as to whether or not you want to attend that workout or practice. But who are we kidding? There's no such thing as "optional", not if you want to be an upstanding member of the team. And I'm not just talking about professional sports. The NCAA provides for "optional" workouts. And, anyone who has ever played high school sports, football in particular, knows all about the "optional" practices and workouts designated by the coaches. (By the way, while you physically can't see me do it, evertime I say the word "optional", I am putting my fingers in the air and making the quotations sign)

Let's be real here. If a player doesn't show up for the "optional" workouts, chances are pretty good he's not going to make the team, or at least won't see any playing time. So, let's call it what it really is. REQUIRED!

Monday, May 22, 2006

ETBU All-American

Stories like this one don't always make the air, but they're good to hear about. ETBU shortstop Christy Shipley has been named to the 2006 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-America team. She is one of just three players from the American Southwest Conference to make the squad.

The junior hit .404 with nine homers and 29 RBI this season. She was named to an at-large spot on the second-team. It's the second time in her career that the Longview native and former Pine Tree High School Lady Pirate has earned NFCA All-America honors, having been named to the 2004 team as a freshman.

The honor caps a record-setting year for Shipley, who earlier had been named ASC East Division Player of the Year for the second straight year and NFCA All-West Region for a third straight season. She set a new team record with 16 doubles this season and enters her senior year as the only player in Lady Tiger history with a career batting average of over .400.
Also this season, Shipley did not strike out in 163 official plate appearances and has a string of 177 straight trips to the plate without a strikeout dating back to April of 2005.
ASC champion Hardin-Simmons placed two players on the team, senior outfielder Nicole Cortez (first-team) and senior pitcher Arin Spence (second-team).

Information from this article was provided by ETBU.

Basketball Fight

A lot has been made out of an incident at an amateur basketball game Sunday night in Tyler. Police were called to the scene, and an assault charge was filed. It sounds pretty bad, right? I've heard it referred to as a "brawl". Well, anytime police are called to handle a situation and kids are involved, it's unfortunate. But, I don't want to lose sight of the big picture on this one. Yes, an incident happened, and yes, police are involved. But no, it wasn't a brawl. It was two boys allegedly fighting, with a third allegedly caught in the middle.

According to officer Donald Martin of the Tyler Police Department, the incident was reported as a large disturbance. The officers on the scene said it was "a few kids fighting." The parents of a 13-year-old from Athens, and a 13-year-old from Tyler decided to press charges against a 14-year-old from Shreveport, who allegedly started the incident. The 14-year-old is currently charged with assault. The case has been assigned to a juvenile detective, who Officer Martin said, could reduce the charge to disorderly conduct, if the case even goes forward at all.

The incident happened during the championship game of the boys 13-under division of the East Texas Shootout. It's an independent tournament not affiliated with TISD in any way, featuring boys and girls ranging in age from about 10 to 18. The suspect played for the Louisiana Roundballers, who registered for the tournament under the name Xtreme. The victims played for a team out of Athens called The East Texas All-Stars.

I talked with the tournament director, Dahlia McCain, today about the incident. She said it was unfortunate, and hopes it doesn't give a good tournament a bad name. She told me she has been hosting this tournament for 10 years as a way to help give kids, who otherwise may not be able to afford it, a way to develop their basketball skills. She told me there were over 200 games played this weekend at eight different sites, with no other incidents of violence. She said they are not affiliated with any national organization, and have to raise all the money to host this tournament themselves. She's hoping the split second poor judgment by a few teenagers doesn't undermine a decades worth of effort.