Saturday, June 28, 2008

Not So Quiet Anymore

Not that a blog would suddenly become the hot spot for conversation, but this blog has gotten a little attention since the post a week ago regarding former Claremont High School baseball coach Mike Lee. The Quiet in Claremont column is generating a bit of a conversation. This wasn't intended to encourage a bitch-fest.

In the past week, this column has been picked up by the popular blog the Claremont Insider and referenced in the Los Angeles Times. Most recently, the Claremont Courier published the news, complete with quotes.
In truth by now, the story should have run its course.

I guess things don't stay quiet in Claremont for that long after all.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The Latin words meaning "swifter, higher, stronger" signal the Olympics are just about here. Forty-one days to be exact, before the 29th Summer Games open in Beijing on Aug. 8. Before they travel to China, some of the greatest athletes in the world will be on display at what will certainly be the best track meet in the United States this year.

The U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials open today in Eugene, Ore., and run through July 6.
It was 24 years ago that Los Angeles hosted the track and field trials just before the 1984 Olympics. I had just finished graduate school at USC, and I was fortunate to work as an intern for Track and Field News during the trials and the Olympic Games. And I got to bring along my friends.

Grant Warhurst and I still look back on the men's 100-meter final as one of the greatest ever. No world records, and Carl Lewis' winning time was "only" 10.06. On his way to four gold medals at the Olympics, Lewis probably had his toughest challenge in the trials, running away from Sam Graddy, Ron Brown (who later played in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams) and Calvin Smith, the world record-holder at the time. Track gurus called it the finest 100-meter field ever. Nobody remembers the others in the race -- Kirk Baptiste, Emmit King, Harvey Glance and Mel Lattany, and the star runners like Steve Riddick, Steve Williams and James Sanford who didn't even qualify for the final. Lewis started his celebration with 10 meters left to go. Running into a headwind, the timing experts at Swiss Timing later estimated his time would have been 9.84 in windless conditions.

Besides Lewis' domination in the 100, 200 and long jump, it was an incredible eight days. Steve Scott, who is now my son Sid's track coach at Cal State San Marcos, kicked a little early in the 1,500 and finished second to Jim Spivey. Greg Foster outran Tonie Campbell and Roger Kingdom in the 110 hurdles.

The great Edwin Moses won the 400 hurdles -- his 89th consecutive finals win. That race was particularly memorable, because of all of the anticipation watching a guy who had won 88 in a row. The L.A. Memorial Coliseum was silent before the gun went off, and you could feel the tension. But Moses left little doubt, easily holding off young Danny Harris.

Dwight Stones set an American record in the high jump, going over at 7-8. In the pole vault, Mike Tully cleared 19 feet to win. I was especially disappointed in Billy Olson, who just a few months prior had battled Sergi Bubka of the Soviet Union at the Times Indoor Games at the Forum. Both vaulters kept going late into the night, each clearing 19 feet, marking the first time that two vaulters had done that at the same indoor meet. I don't remember who eventually won the indoor event, but it left me with high hopes for Olson, who ended up seventh at the Olympic Trials. Even Dave Kenworthy jumped higher.

My Claremont High School classmate Kelly Gordien's brother Marcus finished fifth in the discus, failing to live up to the standards set by their father, former Olympian and world-record holder Fortune Gordien. Kelly was a great high jumper in high school, clearing 7 feet, but never world class.

On the women's side, the sprinters left memories -- Evelyn Ashford, Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Chandra Cheesebrough. The big upset was Mary Decker finishing second in the 1,500 to Ruth Wysocki, a year after Decker swept the 1,500 and 3,000 at the World Championships in Helsinki. She ended up winning the 3,000 at the trials, but went on to greater fame when she clipped heals with Zola Budd in the Olympics and left the race in tears.

The other things I remember about the 1984 event was seeing Wilt Chamberlain walking around the Coliseum as coach of a women's track team (of course he coached women). And a heptathlete from USC named Sharon Hatfield who I knew a little when I was in school there. She didn't do much at the trials, finishing 19th.

When it was all over, the guys from Track and Field News all said "we'll see you in a month." We'd just seen an incredible track meet, but the big one was still ahead.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Alumni Club

Colleges, universities and high schools all have alumni associations to stay connected with their graduates. The organizations give the former students an avenue in which they can find out about the latest news from their old schools. Even if they never go back for a reunion or other function, the alumni can stay in tune with their old campus, favorite professors and former classmates.

The benefit to the schools, of course, is that they have a built-in group to tap for fund-raising and advocacy purposes. Who better to tap than people who already have a vested interest in your institution?

So why don't other organizations create alumni groups? We've all had jobs where we left (on our own terms) and we still have old friends and an interest in the well-being of the company. And most companies are in the business of friend-raising -- finding a few people to speak on their behalf at the local city council meeting or with other groups. And every non-profit organization is certainly looking for more "financial prospects" to cultivate.

Why not start at home? No, I don't think former employees are especially anxious to be hit up for money by their former employer, but if the workers left on good terms and a good experience, then it makes sense for companies to keep the bridge intact. When somebody leaves a company, they clearly have a different view than they did when they worked there. Perhaps that input can be valuable.

Of course, this approach doesn't work for everybody, but it still makes sense. Several years ago the Los Angeles Dodgers held a reunion for former and retired employees. Former owner Peter O'Malley hosted the event at Blair Field in Long Beach at a Long Beach Armada baseball game. The team plays in the independent Golden Baseball League, but nobody really cared about the action on the field. The fun was in visiting with former co-workers. The setting was different, but it was much like going back to a high school reunion. Former front office personnel traded stories with ex-players and coaches, just like the walls seem to come down between the high school band geeks and cheerleaders at their reunions. It was a great way to bring people back.

No, the Dodgers don't have an alumni association for former employees, but they do have one for former players. They go to reunions and things like that, and some of them are part of the team's speakers' bureau (at least they used to be a couple of ownerships ago).

I'd love to see the same thing at Fairplex. I'd go to the reunions and speak on behalf of the organization. And if it was done right, I'd likely give a few bucks, too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Funeral for a Friend

I went to a funeral this week.

Funerals are actually good things. But the reasons for having them are bad.

Dennis Fee, the longtime security chief at Fairplex, died on June 14. He was only 55. He wasn't one of those guys I ever hung out with much when I worked at Fairplex, but he was always somebody I'd say was my friend. He was soft-spoken and level-headed, and he always seemed have a pretty good grasp on what was important. I hadn't talked with Dennis since last September at one of the concerts at last year's Los Angeles County Fair, but it was always great to visit and share a laugh.

Back in the days when I worked there, I'd always have baseball caps made for the news media with the Fair logo and the word "media" stitched on the front. I'd stash a few extras away, and save one for Dennis and his brother Tom, who both started collections of the caps from every year. Most of the media people probably tossed their caps -- or threw them into a closet somewhere -- but at least somebody appreciated them.

Aside from the obvious of saying goodbye to someone who's already gone, the worst part of funerals is talking to the family and seeing their sadness. It's hard to tell them how bad you feel, but they already know. Tom was pretty good about making people feel at least somewhat comfortable when they shook his hand on Monday. He had smiles for everyone.

And for the most part, the people at funerals do smile. It's the excuse we all have to see our old friends from past seasons in our lives. We need an excuse to get together with some of those pals and share great memories. Unfortunately, usually somebody has to die to make that happen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One of the Elite

One of the reasons I started writing a blog was because I was reading other blogs and skimming through news stories, and figured this was the best way to offer my two cents or to pass along news about people I know. Among my friends, nobody is making bigger news than Danny Brehaut's son Richard, and that figures to only get bigger, as he gets ready for his senior year at Los Osos High on the way to playing quarterback at UCLA in a little more than a year from now. On Saturday, June 21, Richard hit the recruiting headlines again with a big performance at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Las Vegas.

Recruiting Web site reports that Richard dominated the competition, which featured many of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation, with the exception of Mater Dei's Matt Barkley, who has given a verbal commitment to USC. With his performance, Brehaut earned a spot in the final Elite 11 championship competition in July. That event is truly THE event, and those who are chosen are considered the best in the country. The July competition will be televised on ESPN... The Rivals story about the camp basically called Brehaut the No. 2 high school QB (class of 2009) in California behind Barkley, and that he was easily the best choice for UCLA...

Here is the account of Saturday's camp... Oh yeah, I think Richard might resemble his dad a bit (see the photo above)...

June 21, 2008

Brehaut dominates Elite 11 qualifer
Jeremy Crabtree
Recruiting Editor

LAS VEGAS – More than 70 of the nation's top quarterbacks were in Las Vegas Saturday for the final chance to qualify for the prestigious EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp.

It was no surprise several of the nation's top-ranked signal-callers stole the show, this included four quarterbacks ranked by as top 250 national prospects.

Kevin Newsome of Chesapeake (Va.) Western Branch, AJ McCarron of Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's, Richard Brehaut of Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos and Josh Nunes of Upland, Calif., were the headliners at the event and each one of them had their moments in the 2-hour workout held at UNLV's football practice fields.

There were even some talented 2010 passers that were just as good as the quarterbacks in the current class. Juniors-to-be Tyler Brosius of Waynesville (N.C.) Tuscola Senior, Tyler Shreve of Redlands (Calif.) East Valley and Peter Thomas of El Cajon (Calif.) Valhalla all showed strong arms, accuracy and good fundamentals and were easily as talented as the older signal-callers.

UCLA commit Richard Brehaut was the top quarterback at Saturday's event.

There's been much debate as to who the No. 2 passer in California is behind Matt Barkley, who is the nation's top player. After a strong day Saturday it's easy to say it's Brehaut. The 6-foot-2, 206-pounder was flawless in everything he did and was simply in a league of his own.

UCLA's coaches thought long and hard between Nunes and Brehaut, before deciding to offer Brehaut. It was an offer Brehaut jumped on, turning down scholarship offers from Utah, Washington State, Boise State, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Oregon State and others.

After seeing him again Saturday after an impressive outing earlier this spring at the NIKE Training Camp, it's easy to say the Bruins definitely made the right call by extending an offer to Brehaut.

"I think it was my consistency and my accuracy that really helped me today," Brehaut said. "I also have been to one of these camps before, so I kind of know the ropes. I know what coach (Bob) Johnson wants and expects."

Brehaut had a hard time putting into words how much an invitation to the Elite 11 would mean to him.

"Ever since I came to the camp at Cal last year that's been my dream to make the Elite 11," he said. "It would be such a big honor. It's kind of hard to even imagine my dream coming true, but I worked hard today and felt like I did about as good of a job I can do. I laid it all out there today, and I hope the coaches were impressed."

Since he committed to UCLA on May 26, Brehaut has gone from the hunted to the hunter. He's no longer fielding calls from schools all over the country and is now making calls trying to help the Bruins build a better class.

"It's cool to help UCLA get a bunch of guys and make it a great class," he said. "I'm just getting guys' numbers that I know have an interest in UCLA. I'm getting in contact with them, seeing how they feel about UCLA. I'm trying to get some big boys up front and receivers to help. I'm the only offensive recruit so far, so I'm trying to pull in all the offensive guys now.

"I've been in a lot of contact with Dasarte Yarnway. I know he's coming down this weekend to camp. I've talked to Shaquelle Evans, too. It'd be awesome to bring him in, too, and Ricky Marvray. I loved throwing to him the other day. He's had three great camps in a row."
The article went on to say that outside of Brehaut, two other QBs had big days. Those players were from Alabama and North Carolina, but none of the bigger names that had previously been touted at the top of the recruiting lists.

I'll try to include more of these as they unfold. It's just pretty interesting to see how the recruiting game is played.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy 25th

Happy anniversary to Andi and Jim Moore, who celebrated 25 years on June 17. And to mark the occasion in style, daughters Megan and Karli pulled off a surprise party for their parents Friday at our house. This was one surprise party that seemed to work -- neither Jim or Andi confessed to knowing a thing. It was a good party, with plenty of their family and friends in attendance, including Mary Tracey and Kathy (Shacklett) Miller, who traveled from Cincinnati and Oregon, respectively, to be there, as well as Andi's sister Regina, who made the trip from Davis two weeks in a row to attend parties in Upland (last week was Karli's graduation party). The girls did a great job of organizing the event, and big thanks to the Bells and both Seligman families for their incredibly generous help with the beverages and food.... Jim and Andi were due to fly to Paris today by way of Zurich. Happy 25!

Check out the photos from the party.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quiet in Claremont

It's somewhat surprising that nothing has appeared in the local newspapers or even the blogs about former Claremont High School baseball coach Mike Lee, who was not retained as the school's baseball coach for 2008-2009.

With all of the attention that came with hi
s arrival, and a bit more in the local blogs during the season, it's a surprise the Claremont Courier or Inland Valley Daily Bulletin haven't even mentioned it. The news has evaded the likes of the prep columns in the L.A. Times and the prep bloggers...

It's probably good that they aren't making a big deal about it, because nobody needs to be put on display in front of the world when things don't go well. Let's hope it stays somewhat calm until the new coach arrives.
The impression I get is that CHS and CUSD administrators are already looking for a replacement, but that they will publicly post the position and go through the search process. No word on when they hope to have a new coach on board, and it's unclear if they are looking for a baseball coach who will also be a teacher or coach in the school district. Lee coached PE and is reportedly returning to that role for one more year.

I hope the new coach will continue Lee's concept of assembling a real baseball program from top to bottom, and will bring together players and coaches from the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams not only for practice, but to teach fundamentals and team goals. The thing that was missing -- and apparently has been missing for several years and can only be established over time -- is a program that focuses on developing players through the ranks. For example, players at the freshman and junior varsity levels should get the kind of instruction that prepares them for what the coaches want to see at the varsity level. Practices need to be instructional and productive. That was certainly lacking at the freshman level this year. The team was successful, and won the Baseline League title, and the coach was a nice guy and a decent game manager, but the team's practices were not productive and the players didn't learn and develop the way they should. Aside from a handful of players who play for good coaches in the offseason, the freshman team was lacking in fundamental instruction. That's primarily because there simply wasn't enough staff to run the type of practices they needed. When the coach got extra help from some volunteers, the players were able to make more progress.

The overall program should be paying attention to players all the way down the line, so those kids will be ready to play at a higher level. All of the coaches throughout the program need to be on the same page with the same goals. My observation is that, while the players worked out together at the start of the year, that's where the common teaching techniques ended. There is a great coach in place at the JV level, and I hope Bob Smith stays on in that role. He's doing a good job with the summer American Legion program, and he brings a lot to the CHS teams.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Random Thoughts

I keep waiting for all those comments to these posts to keep pouring in... I suppose if I updated this blog on a daily basis, I'd see more. But I did change the settings so you don't have to register to comment, so maybe that will help. Anyway, just some ramblings...
  • Happy Father's Day to all us dads out there...
  • Congratulations to all of the new graduates. Nephew Kevin will pick up his diploma from Claremont High tonight before heading over to the Epicenter to pitch in the Inland Valley All-Star Game, and then back to the all-night grad night festivities. Karli Moore was among the many who graduated from Upland High last night. Congratulations to her and to Sid's many friends in the Upland High graduating class, including Josh, Josh, Wes, Stu and the rest. And also cheers to young Graham Bell, who graduated from St. Marks School and is headed to Damien next year...
  • Cal State San Bernardino will hold its graduation this weekend, too, so I'll be hanging out on campus on Saturday...
  • With other college grads quickly flooding the job market, I'm glad Sid found some summer work teaching swim lessons over at the Claremont Club. He's a hard worker, when he wants to be...
  • Sam finishes his freshman year at Claremont High today, and the move to CHS has been great. He loves it there, and he has made many great friends. He had a strong season on the freshman baseball team, and he's enjoying playing on the Claremont American Legion team. It really is a good fit. I've loved re-connecting with my hometown more, too. It's been a good year. Today Sam plans on having a couple dozen Claremont kids over for an end-of-school party. It's kind of nice they'll make the journey over to Upland...
  • Claremont High administrators will have some tough decisions to make regarding a new varsity baseball coach, since Mike Lee's contract was not renewed. Mike did a lot of good for the program, but it was a losing proposition for him from the start. In the long run, it probably wasn't a good fit for either side. He's a good guy and a decent coach, but probably better suited for a different situation where the expectations -- and personalities -- are different...
  • Upland National Little League, like programs around the country, are in their championship weeks this week. The Braves have played in the championship game in each of the past eight years, having won five of those. This is also their 10th straight year in the playoffs, which is pretty remarkable. Good luck to Manager Dick Chapman and crew as the Braves try to make it nine years in a row in the title game...
  • I get too frustrated and stressed watching the Lakers, but you can bet I'll be paying attention as much as I can. Go Lakers!...
  • I wish the Dodgers would start hitting with consistency. It's been a frustrating season so far, but they are still only 3 1/2 games out of first behind Arizona.

Is anybody reading?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer's Coming

The problem with writing a blog is that you have to have time to keep it updated... I think about it every day, but then other stuff takes work and that kind of thing. But here are some thoughts for the start of June...

  • I love that the Lakers are back in the NBA Finals, and playing the Celtics makes it all the better. No matter how good or how bad the series turns out, it will have some of those "moments" that will live on for years. Like Magic hitting the baby sky hook, Worthy diving head-first to save a loose ball, Rambis getting closelined by McHale or Kareem celebrating LA's first championship series win over the Celtics in Boston Garden. Or even the meltdown of 1984, which might have been the best Laker team during those years. I just don't have those kinds of highlights etched in my memory from the more recent LA championships against Indiana, Philadelphia and New Jersey. But I think my favorite memory from the 1980s championship teams was how we all thought we were responsible for the Lakers' success. We all had superstitions and had to sit in the same seats if they were playing well. If the Celtics (or 76ers or Pistons) played well, we all traded seats. And one year we had the same thing to eat at every game the Lakers won--pepperoni and mushroom pizza...
  • On his radio show this morning, Dan Patrick tried to pick his all-time Laker team to go against an all-time Celtics team. This is a tough one. I think I'd start Kareem, Kobe, Magic, Elgin and Jerry West. Wilt would come off the bench. I think I always used to think Wilt would be the top guy, but I've seen video of Kareem recently from his days at UCLA, with Milwaukee and the Lakers, and he was quick. He had the touch, but he could block shots and had enough strength to battle Lanier and Walton and the others. I can't imagine Wilt with so many tools, even though he was probably the most dominant center ever. Shaq would be the third center. Maybe one of them would play power forward. I'd figure out how to find playing time for Worthy, Wilkes and Goodrich. But who else fills out the roster? Probably Norm Nixon and Byron Scott, but I don't know after that....Maybe Tommy Hawkins, because I know him and he's a great guy...
  • I love that there are so many Lakers who are recognizable only by their first names or nicknames ... Wilt, Kareem, Kobe, Elgin and Magic are obvious. And Laker fans would know who you meant with Big-Game James, Jamal and Byron. But if first-name recognition was the only criteria for selecting the all-time team, we might end up with a roster including Vlade, Kermit, Eldon, Sedale, Archie, Cedric, Sasha, Connie, Happy, Spencer, Elmore, A.C., Luke, Flynn and John Q. At least you know who I'm talking about.
  • It's got to be pretty exciting for Kevin Bosson right around now, with his high school graduation on June 12. After he is presented his diploma, he'll rush over to the Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga to pitch in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin's annual all-star game before heading out to the grad night party. Claremont High usually has a great all-night party at a location they'll reveal to graduates that night. With all that's going on, I doubt Kevin will be looking ahead too far, since he might be tuning in this week to the Major League Baseball draft. He has his sights set on pitching at Cal Poly Pomona next year, but it would still be very cool to hear his name called on June 5 or 6. He's worked out for the Royals and Cardinals in the past week...
  • Sid and Sam played over-the-line with cousins Brent and Kevin, and sort-of-cousin Spencer last weekend, along with some other friends. It brought back memories of all the many over-the-line games we used to play. We'd always be able to gather enough guys for a game, and we'd have no trouble finding a good field. But the best were the all-day tournaments that Greg Setlich would organize over at the Pomona College field in Claremont. The place was renovated years ago, but back then, it was not really cared for. The fence down the left-field line was 346 feet away, but only 345 in straightaway center. Then it came to about 320 in right. Because of a big old tree in right, the fence was only 292 down the line. We'd have two games going at once -- one in left field about 15 feet from home plate, and the other in right. Greg would organize the events well in advance and get at least six teams of four guys. Then he'd draw up a bracket and set it up as a double-elimination format. We'd start first thing in the morning and play until the champion was crowned, which usually wasn't until it was almost dark. Oh yeah, there was a keg in the dugout, too. So we'd start playing baseball and drinking beer in the morning and go all day. The two teams who were not playing kept the keg flowing, while the four other teams were on the field. As teams were eliminated, players sat in the dugout refilling their cups. Around noon, somebody would always seem to show up with tons of In-n-Out burgers. I think the Pomona College baseball coach even showed up once, and we promised to clean up, so he let us stay... We'd hold those tournaments once or twice a year, but it seemed we were always playing over-the-line. Great memories. I hope my boys keep playing -- and I'm sure they will -- they keep bugging me to revive the Visitors softball team... Stay tuned...
  • Hi Dave. Thanks for reading.
I'd ramble more, but I need to do some work. Leave some comments, including your all-time Laker memory or team... I'll be back.