Since he managed the 2006 Tucson Sidewinders to a record 98 victories and championships in the Pacific Coast League and in the Triple-A baseball playoffs, Tucsonan Chip Hale has bounced from the Diamondbacks to the Mets and now to the nutty and surprising Oakland A's.
In his first season as Bob Melvin's bench coach, Hale remains part of a fascinating odyssey of that record-setting Tucson PCL team. Over the course of that '06 season, Hale utilized 51 players.
Ten of them played in the big leagues this year: infielder Alberto Callaspo, Angels; outfielder Carlos Quentin, Padres; shortstop Stephen Drew, A's; outfielder Scott Hairston, Mets; outfielder Chris Young, D-backs; catcher Miguel Montero, D-backs; closer Jose Valverde, Tigers; pitcher Edgar Gonzalez, Astros; pitcher Micah Owings, Padres; and pitcher Randy Choate, Dodgers.
The other 41 have scattered to every conceivable part of the map. For example:
• Infielder Brian Barden, part of the 2008 USA Olympic team, played for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan.
• Outfielder Jon Weber played this season for the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association of Independent Pro Baseball league.
• Pitcher Dustin Nippert spent the year with the Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball League.
• Catcher Robby Hammock was an assistant coach for the D-backs' rookie league summer team in Phoenix.
• Infielder Matt Erickson managed the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
• First baseman Chris Carter played for the Saitama Seibu Lions in Japan.
• Pitcher Casey Daigle, who married former UA softball star Jennie Finch, is working his farm/ranch in Louisiana.
• Pitcher Mike Bacsik, who yielded Barry Bonds' record-setting 756th home run, opened the year pitching for the independent league Fort Worth Cats and later became an analyst for TCU baseball broadcasts.
At 47, Hale remains upwardly mobile in baseball; he has been mentioned frequently as a possible successor to departed Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. But first he will try to help the A's to the World Series.
Note to viewers: Today's A's-Tigers playoff opener will be broadcast only on the MLB Network, a subscriber-only cable network unprecedented in the baseball postseason.
Let's hope this doesn't turn into another DirecTV-Pac-12 fiasco.
'Blessed' ex-Cat Blair donates shoes to Tucson foundation
Before Joseph Blair became a four-year starting center for Lute Olson (1993-96), including the 1994 Final Four, he grew up in Houston in a single-parent household, struggling financially.
"When I was 16 and in high school, the only nice tennis shoes I had were the ones they gave us for playing on my basketball team," he posted on his Facebook page last week. "I was constantly scolded by the church for wearing my tennis shoes to church."
What the church didn't know was that Blair's "dress shoes" were size 12 and his foot size had grown to 15. He couldn't afford go-to-meeting shoes.
"One day as I sat in one of the back pews, a member of the church told me to come with him," Blair wrote. "He took me to a shoe store and bought me a new pair of shoes."
Last week, Blair gave back. He donated shoes to the Educational Enrichment Foundation of Tucson. He tagged his entry "pay it forward" and "blessed."
After leaving the UA, Blair, a second-round pick of the Seattle Sonics, chose to play in Europe. He spent 13 years overseas, playing in Russia, France, Italy, Turkey and Greece and was twice all-Euroleague.
Now, back in Tucson, Blair has started the Blair Charity Group and has become a model of what a successful basketball player can be after his playing days end.
Former UA linebacker Briggs headed for Pro Football Hall
Sunnyside and Pima College grad Stefen Romero capped a season in which he hit .352 by being selected the Seattle Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year last week. Romero, who played at Class A High Desert, Calif., and Class AA Jackson, Tenn., hit 23 homers and drove in 101 runs as a second baseman. He will play in the Arizona Fall League as he bids to make the Mariners' 40-man roster for spring training. … As former UA linebacker Lance Briggs was rumbling down the field with a 74-yard interception return for a touchdown Monday night, helping the Chicago Bears rout the Dallas Cowboys, it became clear that he is also on a route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his 10th season as a Bears linebacker, Briggs has made seven Pro Bowl squads and appears to be at the top of his game. Briggs turns 32 in November. … 1980 Arizona All-American Terry Francona bought a house near La Paloma this year and continues to commute from Tucson to ESPN assignments. On Saturday, he was named the manager of the Cleveland Indians. Francona's engaging personality has aided his prominence in baseball and it was on view Friday during his visit with Indians front office personnel. Cleveland news outlets reported that Francona spent part of that visit watching the team's employee softball game, mixing with the rank and file. I saw him one day this summer, sitting alone at a La Encantada restaurant, reading a book, pausing to chat with those who recognized him.
More short stuff
City to name park's field after Dawson
Former Tucson High, Arizona and NFL defensive lineman Mike Dawson, who died of a heart attack four years ago, will be honored Saturday at 3 p.m. at Bristol Park, 1720 S. Bristol Ave., off East Aviation Parkway and west of South Country Club Road. The city will dedicate and unveil a sign naming the park's football field "Mike Dawson Field." The public is invited. … Pima College assistant women's basketball coach Chris Klassen coached the Tucson Rattlers (4-0) to the title of the USJN Elite Oktoberfest Classic last week in Garden Grove, Calif. It was a showcase held for about 40 college basketball coaches. Klassen's unbeaten team included CDO's Hailey Jones and Brittany West; Catalina Foothills' Julie Cooper; Mountain View's Melody McLaughlin; Palo Verde's Sydni Stallworth; Sahuaro's Taylor McNamara; Flowing Wells' Shalise Fernander; Pusch Ridge's Gabby Courtney; and Cienega's Gabby Banales. … PCC coach Todd Holthaus and Ironwood Ridge coach Brian Peabody will stage the first Girls Basketball Showcase Oct. 21 at Pima College for girls in grades 7-12. Info: justhoops.com … Arizona is ranked No. 5 by the Women's College Golf Coaches and No. 3 by Golfweek. Coach Laura Ianello's team is a remarkable 12-0 against Top 10 teams and 28-0 overall. The Cats will get another chance to move to No. 1 in both polls at the difficult Stanford Invitational that begins Friday. UA's Manon Gidali has a stroke average of 71.02; Kendall Prince is at 71.50 and Janie Jackson at 71.62. Impressive.
Cats begin fall practice after tuneup vs. Angels
UA baseball coach Andy Lopez wrote out a lineup Thursday night for the first time since Arizona's College World Series championship against South Carolina. Playing against the Los Angeles Angels' Fall Instructional League team in Tempe, he did not start any freshmen. His starters included JC transfer Sam Parris at first and Lopez's son, Sabino grad David Lopez, at second, while moving 2012 freshman star Trent Gilbert to shortstop. Reliever Stephen Manthei was the starting pitcher. The UA begins full-scale fall practice Monday, at which time a touted recruiting class will attempt to break into Lopez's lineup. … Outfielder Robert Refsnyder, Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series, has been in the New York Yankees' Fall Instructional League camp in Tampa, Fla., learning how to play second base. Good work if you can get it, huh? … Sierra Vista's Luis Robles, who played at the Tucson Soccer Academy, made his MLS debut last week as the starting goal-keeper in the New York Red Bulls' 4-1 victory over Toronto. Robles was also in goal Saturday for New York's nationally televised (NBC) match against Chicago. … Sabino grad Jason Nottingham, a three-year offensive line starter at Adams (Colo.) State, is a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Nottingham, who has started 36 games, has a 3.36 GPA as a math major; he plans to attend graduate school in electrical engineering. … UA softball coach Mike Candrea opens fall competition today at Hillenbrand Stadium, but he already got his feel-good moment of the preseason last week when ex-All-Pac-10 outfielder Nicole Giordino Stoll returned to campus and took her husband and two small children to Candrea's office at McKale Center. She then posted an image of Candrea and her family on Facebook and referred to Candrea as "my hero." That's worth more than almost any victory, isn't it?
My two cents
Because he gets it, Dykes reaches top of list of potential hires
When Sonny Dykes was Arizona's offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2009, it didn't take long for some inside observers to whisper that Dykes seemed more like a head coach than Mike Stoops.
Now in his third season as Louisiana Tech's head coach, Dykes has predictably moved to the top of the "most eligible head coaching hires" list for this offseason.
Before Saturday's game against UNLV, Dykes' team was undefeated, averaging 52 points and 499 yards.
When asked by reporters last week what he learned from his dad, former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, Sonny said:
"Most of the stuff I learned from him was how to deal with people and how to try to run a football team, things that are really important but aren't necessarily X's and O's type things.
"Being a head coach is really about managing people, figuring out what buttons to push and trying to pay attention to the stuff that matters and not worry about the stuff that doesn't matter."
Bingo. At Arizona, Dykes was 180 degrees different from Stoops, who had difficulty connecting and relating to people and players. Dykes was a voice of reason in an oft-chaotic program lacking direction and maturity.
No wonder he has succeeded so early at Louisiana Tech. He gets it.