Editor's note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for our print readers.

In the first week of the all-Phoenix Cactus League, 40 games in five days (with optimum weather), the ticket inventory was too much for the fan base.

With an average of 82,500 available tickets each day, Cactus League games, Monday through Friday, drew 179,805 from the total of 412,500 tickets. That's 43 percent capacity.

That was the unspoken negative to the consolidation of 15 teams in the greater Phoenix area. Ultimately, the Royals, Mariners, Brewers, A's, Indians and Reds are going to be relatively ignored as spring training fans spend to watch the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Giants.

Last week, the A's drew 1,631 for a game against Cincinnati. The Reds drew 2,037 for a White Sox game. The Padres had a small gathering of 2,119 for the Mariners. And so on.

If there is any chance for Tucson to return to the Cactus League, it will be driven by the lack of attention/revenue gained by small-market franchises in Phoenix.

The Brewers, for example, drew successive crowds of 2,274, 3,548 and 2,488 on idyllic spring afternoons last week in Maryvale. Milwaukee is committed to the Maryvale facility through 2012, but is seeking - big surprise - ballpark improvements.

Something is bound to give in the Cactus League over the next two or three years, but at this point I'd suspect Florida municipalities would be more aggressive than Tucson and Pima County in pursuing the next shift of spring training relocations.

Amphi receives a gift

Amphi grad to purchase rings for state champions

In its 73-year history, Amphitheater High School has struggled at the highest level of state competition. The Panthers have won just eight state titles, and it took them 36 years to win the first one, the 1975 state football championship. (The last one was girls track and field in 1991).

So when coach Ben Hurley's team won the boys 4A-II state basketball title last week, it was a moment to cherish.

Because Amphi is located in a lower-economic district, purchasing about 20 state championship rings for varsity players and staff members wasn't going to be easy. But early last week, 2003 Amphi basketball letterman Fernando Ayala announced he would take care of all expenses.

Ayala is a mortgage officer at Nova Home Loans. He was an honorable mention All-Southern Arizona player for the Panthers in 2003.

"It just means so much," Hurley said. "Fernando's gift helped so many of the boys and allows them to have something to remember for the rest of their lives."

Hurley, who produced an 84-12 record over the last three seasons, celebrated the way Super Bowl MVPs do. "I'm going to Disneyland," he said with a laugh. After school Friday, Hurley, his wife, Patricia, and 2-year-old daughter, Caitlin, drove to Orange County for a rare weekend off.

Don't be surprised if the Panthers, led by Tim Derksen, repeat as state champs next year.


Ex-Cougar, Pima infielder selected for Big 12 honor

As Texas Tech rolled to an 20-0 start in softball, junior shortstop Logan Hall has become a serious All-America contender. The Sahuaro and Pima College standout (she was a first-team JC All-American at Pima in 2009) was the Big 12's Player of the Week and was batting .509 with an NCAA-leading 37 RBIs through Saturday. Think the Wildcats could use her? … CDO grad Erica Carlson is leading NCAA Division II in blocked shots this year at Dixie (Utah) State. The 6-foot 4-inch Carlson blocks 4.1 shots per game as the Red Storm has gone 24-3, winning the PacWest championship. Carlson's team, ranked No. 12 nationally, enters NCAA play this week. … Former UA, Pima and Pueblo baseball star George Arias has been named director of instruction for the Centerfield Baseball and Softball Academy in Tucson. Arias played third base for the Padres and Angels, and in Japan, before retiring in 2006. He was a 1993 All-American at Arizona. … A year after he led Santa Rita to the state 4A-II championship, Terrell Stoglin is on a streak in which he has scored 25, 25, 17, 28 and 20 points in five of his last six games for Maryland. The lefty point guard has won the last two ACC rookie of the week awards. In that five-game stretch, Stoglin has made 8 of 15 three-pointers and has an assist/turnover ratio of 27-13. Think the Wildcats could use him? ... Continuing his national excellence, Oro Valley's Robert Seby won the singles and doubles titles in the USTA Boys 14-U National Open last week in Claremont, Calif. Tucsonan Maddie Pothoff was No. 2 in the singles finals.


New UA secondary coach, 25, at home in film room

Josh Pastner became a full-time assistant basketball coach at Arizona when he was 24. So when the UA hired 25-year-old Ryan Walters as its secondary coach last week, it wasn't unprecedented. Walters is a former safety at Colorado whose father, Marc Walters, now an attorney in Denver, was a CU quarterback in the late 1980s. Before he arrived at Arizona, Walters declined a chance to be a graduate assistant coach at CU for Dan Hawkins, who has since been fired. Here's what ex-UA secondary coach Greg Brown said of Walters during his senior year at CU in 2008: "Ryan will get the players together, on his own, and say, 'let's meet.' And he'll teach 'em. He's a guy one day down the road you can easily see as a coach. He's always in the film room." … Ironwood Ridge running back/safety Mitch Fischer was a guest of the UA football program at "Junior Day" during Saturday's UA-Oregon basketball game. He is also being recruited by Army coach Rich Ellerson. Fischer, who rushed for 1,520 yards, won't be the last Nighthawk recruited by Pac-12 schools. Junior-to-be Tyler Williams, who caught 30 passes during his sophomore year, is already on the radar of Arizona and others in the league. … Salpointe Catholic High third baseman Joseph Serrano, who has signed a letter of intent to play at Arkansas, is off to a blazing start in his senior year for coach Danny Preble's Lancers. Serrano is hitting .512 and already has seven extra-base hits in six games for the 6-0 Lancers. In the championship game of the Cowboy Up Tournament, Serrano hit for the cycle, as did junior outfielder Kevin Brice. In fact, Brice's home run landed on Serrano's car behind the outfield fence. Brice is hitting .533. The Boston Red Sox already have requested medical-release forms on Serrano, a procedure common to draft-eligible prospects.

Cats' Reed shows speed, may go as OLB in draft

Back in Tucson after an impressive performance at the NFL Combine, Sabino grad Brooks Reed is preparing for Saturday's pro timing day on the UA campus. At the combine, the UA senior ran faster in 10 yards than 16 of the 34 running backs timed, and had the fastest 10- and 20-yard splits of any defensive end. Reed is likely to be drafted as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme; he was measured at 6 feet 2 inches and 263 pounds. … At Cal, senior basketball guard Rachelle Federico, a Flowing Wells grad, has become a starter. She has blossomed. Federico had a career-high 15 points against Oregon State a week ago, and came back Thursday against Stanford, in her second career start, and re-established a career high, with 16 in a 36-minute performance. Federico could be matched against the UA in the Pac-10 tournament this week. … The Seattle Times reported last week that the Pac-10 has dismissed 11 football referees and hired 16 new ones, mostly from the WAC and Mountain West, for the 2011 season. Could anyone have been more elated at that news than Mike Stoops? The league's football officiating had become awkwardly weak over the last few seasons, and no one was more visible than Stoops in confronting the problem. … Retired Tucson educational administrator Katie Frey, a former UA gymnast, has written a definitive work on the history of UA women's athletics. Her book, "From Wildkittens to Wildcats," also chronicles the history of the school and the UA men's sports programs. Frey is participating in the Tucson Festival of Books next Sunday. She is donating proceeds from the sale of her book to the Women's Sports Fund and to the A-Club Endowment to help fund its Finish Line Scholarship. … In the days since the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship left Dove Mountain, speculation has increased about relocating the event in Palm Springs, Calif., or at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C. Once Match Play leaves, it's going to be difficult to find a corporate sponsor willing to pay the PGA Tour at least $7 million annually. The tour's venerable Heritage Classic, at Harbour Town, is without a sponsor and says it needs $7.6 million to survive another year. The financial reality is this: When Accenture leaves, most likely after the 2012 event, pro golf in Tucson will be in serious trouble.


Reason for return of D-backs, Sox to Tucson gives game real meaning

A crowd of about 6,500 is expected Monday when former Tucson tenants the Diamondbacks and White Sox meet in a spring training game at the Kino Sports Complex. This is anything but a make-more-money-and-get-out-of-town endeavor.

The Diamondbacks have created a pink keepsake pin in the memory of Christina-Taylor Green. It will be available at the park Monday. All proceeds will go to the memorial fund in her name.

"Neither the D-backs nor the White Sox will receive any money from the tickets or concessions; they covered all of their own expenses," said Mike Feder, general manager of the Tucson Padres, who is promoting the game. "The Diamondbacks have been adamant about that."

It will be a baseball game in March that actually has some meaning to it.