Friday, April 30, 2010

We're throwing a party and you're invited!...what 68 means for the other 282

I’m sure we’ve all heard by now…no no no, not that Carrie Underwood will be performing at the Stockton Arena (September 28th for those who feel like taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights)…but that the NCAA has officially approved expanding March Madness to 68 teams.  But what does it really mean for our valley Mid-Major schools like Pacific, Fresno State and UC Davis?....well, the Spot put on his investigative hat too dig a little deeper and asked those in the know what impact it might have for some of our hometown schools…(ok ok, so I really just asked really nice and hoped people would answer)

The question on everyone’s mind is who will tourney expansion favor?  Does this mean an additional 3 spots for deserving Mid-Majors? Or does it mean more teams from the ACC, Big East, SEC and all the other power conferences with 7-9 leauge records get the undeserving tourney bid (yep, as you can tell, the Spot is totally biased on this one).  One person who was very enthusiastic about the impact that expansion will have on Mid-Majors was Angela Lento, co-founder of, a website devoted to all things Mid-Major.  In Angela’s view:
“Expanding to 68 has made sense for years.  Rather than having one game in Dayton, there can be four games. It would feel more like an NCAA Tournament site. Essentially it would be four play-in games, which means eight mid-majors. If done properly it can be a mid-major showcase of sorts, like a postseason ‘Bracket Buster Tuesday.’  I really like this concept a lot. I do think it will create more competitive 1 vs. 16 matchups. I don’t think the bye is really beneficial (see Big East Tournament this year) so there is an advantage to the mid-majors. Do I think we are going to see a run of 16 seeds beating 1 seeds? No, but I do think the 14-16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament are better than ever before, while the elite in college basketball are not nearly as strong as they were just a few short years ago.”

Angela also had a rather positive view of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.  When asked if the tournament expansion would create more access for Mid-Majors, she was of the belief that:
“The NCAA Tournament selection process has become more predictable in recent years.  Greg Shaheen has done a great job of conveying the NCAA ‘formula’ and selection process to the media and fans.  Years ago it was easier for someone on the selection committee to push an agenda. That’s difficult today. The selection committee changes annually, but the criteria does not. In a given year mid-majors will be better represented.  But how well mid-majors did in 2010 will not have any bearing on how many are selected in 2011 (remember Wake Forest, which was on the bubble, did not have a good showing in the last two NCAA Tournaments but that did not keep them out of the 2010 NCAA Tournament).”

Someone who is hopeful, yet realistic, about tourney expansion meaning greater access for mid-majors is Pacific Athletic Director Lynn King.  Lynn has a quite a bit of experience with the NCAA tourney selection committee having served as the A.D. at Drake University (which just happens to be a member of the model for all Mid-Major Conferences, the Missouri Valley Conference) before his current ten year run at Pacific.  In talking to Lynn (who was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a couple of my questions), the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has shown over time that they are not disposed to select mid-major teams when it comes to at-large spots. To back up his point, it’s interesting to note that the conference with the most NCAA Tourney snubs with teams that had a top 40 RPI just happens to be the mid-major poster child, the Missouri Valley Conference (5 teams with a Top 40 RPI were not selected, including Missouri State, which was once excluded with a RPI ranking of 21, the only team with a top 30 RPI ever to be excluded from the tourney).  Other notable mid-major exceptions were the Patty Mill’s led St. Mary’s Gaels from 2009 and the 2004 Utah State Aggies, who weren’t selected even though they were ranked in the Top 25 (Then again, they lost to Pacific in the Big West Finals that year, so it’s not like the Spot is crying too much over that one!)  In Lynn’s view, the Tournament Selection Committee is pre-disposed to the “power conferences” and it’s his expectation that we won’t see a change in philosophy in how the selection committee chooses its at-large teams.

Last but not least, there are those who are of the opinion that the focus shouldn’t be on who the extra three slots will go to, but that the focus for mid-majors should be on continuing to improve their product as to better compete with the big boys, both on the court and in the tourney selection room.  In speaking with Big West Conference expert Steve Chen (why is he a Big West Conference expert? Probably because for his day job he serves as the Director of New Media for the Big West Conference…go figure!)…the focus shouldn’t be on trying to guess who will and who won’t get the three extra tourney spots.  Instead, the focus for the Big West and its member schools (and all mid-majors for that matter) should be on:
building programs that can compete in the tournament on a national level.  In some sense, it's not a matter of just making the field, but also of having a chance to win.  It can obviously be done, as Pacific has shown recently, and we have been in games in the past few years, though, of course, we would all like to win.  When you look at the current crop of coaches and players that lead the Big West, they are all young and growing, so I think there's a bright future ahead.”

So there you have it Spot fans.  Three different opinions on an issue that can probably garner 3 million different views in any given barber shop on Main Street U.S.A.  So which will it be?  Will expansion mean more opportunity for your favorite mid-major?  Will it just mean more mediocre teams from the Big East and ACC (paging the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, please report to the mediocrity service desk)…well, we won’t find out until selection Sunday…and that everyone, is why they call it March Madness…

‘Till next time….

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cougars and asparagus and volleyball oh my!...the Spots weekly odd's and ends...

What happens when you mix deep fried asparagus, some female footy, cougar action and a triple play involving some BBQ? That can only mean one thing…time for the Sport Spot’s weekly “Odds and Ends”

Well Spot fans, after weeks of anticipation, it finally arrived, yes, the World Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Championships…won by none other than Joey Chestnut as he devoured a whopping total of 8 lbs of deep fried asparagus, with the 2nd and 3rd place winners (Ben Monson and Pat Bertoletti) consuming 6 lbs 13 oz. and 6 lbs, respectively, of the deep fried stuff…no word on weather their parting gifts included a $10 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble and a map to the “over eating/addiction” section of the bookstore.

The Stockton Thunder closed out their Semi-Final series with the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday with a dominating 7-4 victory, advancing to the Kelly Cup National Conference Finals to face the top seeded Idaho Steelheads…rumor has it in their continued push to “go green” the Steelheads will use potatoes instead of hockey pucks.

Bad news for fans of former Hilmar, and current University of Oregon QB Nate Costa…by all accounts what started off as Costa firmly in as the #1 QB has now turned into a horse race with Darron Thomas, creating a position battle that will spill over into the fall. Things could be worse for Costa…he could be forced to wear a uniform that looks like one of these…oh wait, he already has.

Speaking of Hilmar (aka, the Spot’s hometown, so it’ll get a little extra love today) congrats are in order for Daniel Mouro and Quentin McCown. Daniel has signed a national letter of intent to play football at Adams State College in Colorado, while Quentin has signed on to play basketball for coach Paul Brogan over at Modesto Junior College…ahh, this reminds the Spot of his glory days roaming the hardwood at Hilmar High School…ok ok, sorry…back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Fresno State Bulldog fans were happy this past week as their very own Ryan Matthews was selected #12 overall in the NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. The ‘Bolts traded up to make sure they got their hands on Matthews, who steps into an excellent situation in San Diego. Coming on board with a playoff team and perennial title contender is never a bad way to start off your pro career.

Staying in the Fresno area, let’s hear it for the Clovis West High School Baseball Team, who with a record of 21-2, were ranked this week as the #1 high school team in America by Baseball America.....and yes, there is no truth to the rumor that Major League Baseball was looking at replacing the Baltimore Orioles with Clovis West in the AL East…

Turning our attention up north…programs being cut, players leaving the men’s basketball team, petitions being signed to get rid of the head coach…what’s next for the UC Davis Athletic Department? Me thinks that Athletic Director Warczeka is burying his head in his hands hoping this all goes away very very soon…or that it’s just a real bad nightmare induced by some very shady cooking.

Whats this? Good news coming out of the Sac State Athletic Department? Congratulations are in order for both the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Sac State, as both won Big Sky Conference tennis titles…next stop, the NCAA tennis tourney.

Well, this is about as official as we’re gonna get…but the cat is now out of the bag, as 3 Pacific players, Sterling “Sporty” Carter, Everson Lacerda, and Royal Edwards are all transferring to other schools. Also transferring out from his respective school is David Norris, a 6-6 combo guard/forward now formerly of Sacramento State….

Speaking of Sacramento State, they’ve added some beef to the front line with the signing of 6-9 Konner Veteto, a transfer from UC Riverside…kudos to Coach Katz as he seeks to bolster the talent base in Hornetland….

Ok ok the Sacramento King's Tyreke Evans won the NBA's Rookie of the Year...I'd be rookie of the year too if I could average 5 rebounds a game by getting my own missed lay far as the Spot's concerned, he still likes to chant "overrated....overrated" when thinking of Tyreke....and he definitely isn't Ricky Rubio!...

Congratulations are in order for Granite Bay High School's Libby Jelinick...the Senior Basketball player was recently named the Female Citizen Athlete of the Year...along with her prowess on the court, she carries a 4.32 GPA and is involved in pretty much every club and cause she could get her hands on...

The Pacific Women’s Volleyball schedule is officially out…among the highlights are the 32nd annual Bankers Classic which will also include Santa Clara University and the University of Idaho, and road matches against Texas A&M (Season Opener), Arizona State, Arizona and Michigan….

Members of the Tiger's volleyball team also competed in the USAV Beach Collegiate Volleyball Challenge recently coming in 3rd place out of 24 teams....why does the spot mention this...because he was sad to hear that none of the teams feature Misty May-Treanor or Keri Walsh ......
Did I hear some Cougar action taking place? Noooo…not this kind of cougar action….the California Cougars indoor soccer team of the PASL-PRO Leauge will be hosting a booster club meeting this Saturday at 2pm at Cancun Restaurant in Downtown Stockton.  The Spot is happy to see the Cougars getting active in the off season.  He's been to a few games at the Stockton Arena and not only is indoor soccer fun to watch, its relatively affordable family entertainment come out if you can make it and see what the Cougars have planned for the year's Chile Verde rocks the house...

Last but not least, the Spot once again wants to give a shout out to the FC Gold Pride. The one thing he failed to mention in his story was that post game, the Gold Pride players were more than gracious to answer any and all questions we media types had for them. Same goes for Atlanta Beat Coach Gareth O'Sullivan, who after a heart breaking loss was more than happy to share his time with us. In a day and age where professional athletes can have a “prima donna” complex, these ladies are doing their best to not only help their fledgling league succeed, but to make our jobs as easy as possible too…and believe me, we appreciate it!

Looking for something to do this weekend? Here’s the Spot’s picks for getting out and about:

Stockton- Saturday May 1st- 12pm- Pacific Tigers “Triple Play”…Join the Pacific Tigers for their spring “Triple Play” as the Tigers Softball take on the Cal State Fullerton Titans at noon, followed by a BBQ at 4pm and to finish it all off Pacific Baseball battles the Titans at 6pm. Tickets for the triple play are $5 dollars with proceeds going to programs for people with disabilities.

Stockton- Saturday May 1st- 5pm- Calling all skateboarders! “Prowln’ the Mile” an event put on by the University of the Pacific’s Marketing Association Club will be having a skateboard competition for all the “Tony Hawk’s in the making”…starting at 5pm on the Miracle Mile…just show up, sign up, and show off your mad skills on the skate ramp!

Fresno- Friday April 30th thru Sunday May 2nd- It's the battle of the Central Valley as the valley's two Triple A baseball clubs, the Fresno Grizzlies (S.F. Giants affiliate) and the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's affiliate) square off in Fresno at the home of the Grizzlies, Chuckchansi Park.  Game times for the Friday and Saturday games are 7:05pm while the Sunday matinee kicks off at 2:05 in the afternoon...

'Till next time Spot fans....remember...stay classy Central Valley...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Game Day Experience: FC Gold Pride vs. Atlanta Beat (Women's Professional Soccer)

Charles Barkley once said “I am not a role model”…Paula Cole once sang “Where have all the cowboys gone?”…In a day and age where most female role models that the media puts out there for young women go by the names of Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Lady GaGa and anyone from the cast of “The Hills”, it was refreshing to hear during a recent interview with the Spot, FC Gold Pride Illisa Kessler state: I hope what we’re doing on the women’s side is creating opportunities for young women to think about hopes and dreams they didn’t already have. We want to fill a void for young women and give them role models they didn’t already have.” It was with this quote in mind that the Spot traveled to Castro Valley High School to take in the FC Gold Pride vs. the Atlanta Beat.  Were GM Kessler’s words just buzz words you use with anyone in the “media” or would the Gold Pride organization actually back up what their GM was trying to do.  The Spot is very happy to say that GM Kessler’s word’s didn’t ring hollow.  What the Gold Pride is attempting to do is both admirable and much needed…giving today’s young women role models to follow and look up to that their mother’s and fathers would be proud of.  If his initial trip (hopefully they’ll have the Spot back!) to an FC Gold Pride match is any indication, they are well on their way to accomplishing what GM Kessler has set out to do.

First off, the Spot would like to state how professional and smooth everything rang when arriving at the Gold Pride match, especially for the game being played at a temporary venue. (Castro Valley High School will be the temporary home of the Gold Pride until renovations at their permanent home at CSU East Bay are complete in time for their June 19th match vs. the Boston Breakers).  Parking was clearly marked, and the Spot had no hassle getting into his assigned parking lot.  Once checking in at the media table (yes, they gave the Spot a media credential…does that make me official now?!) I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth the ticket and bag check line ran…in and out in no time.  The Spot was also pleased that most everything was in one location.  Concessions, merchandise, restrooms, all located at the south end of the stadium, unlike most stadia, where concessions are on one end, merchandise the other, so on and so forth.  All this made for a very easy and convenient flow of the 3000+ fans from the entrance, to concession area to their seating.  Once at his media location (of which the FC Pride Staff were very helpful as I meandered around aimlessly trying to find said media area) all the necessary amenities that us media types require were available: free wi-fi, up to date stats, and most importantly…yes, free pizza…and some pretty good pizza at that too! (yes people, the Spot is easy to please).  All in all, a professional staff, creating a professional atmosphere out of a temporary residence…that’s what being a class organization is all about and the Gold Pride definitely succeeded.

Upon entrance, and thru the entire game actually, 

the one thing you notice is how fan and family friendly the entire experience is.  Pre-game you’ll find scores upon scores of young girls, all dressed up in their youth soccer jerseys, from teams such as Mustang FC, Pleasanton Rage, and the Spot’s new favorite all time sports team name, the Albany-Berkeley Soccer Monkeys, lined up along the entrance to the field getting ready to escort the Gold Pride team onto the pitch.  You had Ali Riley’s father singing the national anthem for all to hear, and wondered not only how proud Ali must have felt having her own father sing our nation’s ode to freedom, but how proud her father must feel looking out upon the field and seeing his daughter’s dream come true. You find the best seats in the house, the field level seats, literally right behind the ad boards along the west sideline, putting a fan so close to the field you could probably easily reach out and touch your favorite Gold Pride player.  You have your half time entertainment of four youth soccer teams playing on the same field that the pro’s played on just minutes before, and knowing that at school on Monday they are going to be telling everyone about it.  You had the sight of dozens up dozens of teddy bears being hurled from the stands after Tiffeny Milbrett’s 9th minute goal put the Pride up 1-0…because lets face it, who doesn’t love a good teddy bear toss, and it definitely beats throwing octopus out on the ice (Detroit anyone?) and last but not least, you have the lucky fan in the front row of section 103 who was able to snag the official game ball after it was kicked into the stands in the 2nd half, and unlike most other professional sport leagues, be able to keep said ball as her memory of her trip to an FC Pride game.  Yes, the Pride seek to make their games as family friendly as possible, and the Spot is happy to say that they definitely are succeeding at doing so.

Now as fun as all of the above might be, it still isn’t the main attraction…that honor belongs to the players on the pitch, the women who make up the team called the FC Gold Pride.  You have Tiffeny Milbrett, the 37 year old Olympic Gold Medal and World Cup winner, showing that “age ain't nothing but a number” by blowing past defenders 10 years her junior to score the opening goal for the Gold Pride…..There was Marta, the two time FIFA World Player of the Year, who’s skill and grace with the ball were a sight to behold.  She would maneuver the ball around like it was a direct extension of her body, commanding the ball at will to do as she pleased.  Many a time during the match she would leave an Atlanta Beat Defender asking themselves the question “ok, what just happened here?”  But more importantly, it was the grace and composure under fire that Marta showed during the 2nd half that we wish our daughters, sons, even ourselves, could emulate.  Time and time again Marta would be hacked, tackled, pushed (insert your own adjective anytime now) and wouldn’t get a favorable call from the referee.  Time and time again Marta would just pick herself back up and get back to work, remain poised and professional, and know that the best revenge would be to help her team wind up on the winning side of the scoreboard.  How many times would you see that in any other professional sport?  Hockey? Unlikely…football, not a chance…any soccer match with Zinedane Zidane in it? Not even close….last but definitely not least, we had rookie Kelley O’Hara, who encapsulates everything a mother and father would want their daughter to be when she grows up: tough, smart…and strikingly beautiful (not as beautiful as Ms. #1, but then again, who is!).  Time after time this Stanford Grad would make a run down the right side of the field, and more often than not, Kelley would get knocked to the ground more often than her classmate, Toby Gerhart, during a PAC-10 Game on a Saturday Afternoon, and each and every time, she would pick herself back up and get back to work.  It’s a drive and determination that parents seek to teach their children on a daily basis, there in full evidence for everyone to see.

After the conclusion of the game, a 2-1 victory for the Gold Pride on the strength of a Carrie Dew header with 2 minutes left in the match, that fan and family presence returned as players from both the Gold Pride AND the Atlanta Beat spent as much time as necessary signing autographs and meeting the fans that make it possible for them to make a living playing the sport they love.  Just think of it, do you think Terrell Owens would be signing autographs after a loss? Monta Ellis? Joe Thorton?  I’d be willing to bet the mortgage on my parents house that wouldn’t be the case, yet here you have members of both teams, the victors and the vanquished, making sure that the fans who came out to watch them perform had an experience they’ll remember for quite some time.

The one indelible moment that captured the entire night for the Spot occurred during our post game interviews with the players on the field.  As we conducted our interviews, you could all of the sudden hear a couple hundred young women in the north end zone chant “Marta, Marta, Mart Marta….” They weren’t clamoring for the latest Lady GaGa CD, or watching E! to see what the Kardashians were up to, they were chanting for their new hero, an athlete of displayed nothing but grace and poise on the pitch that night…and no sooner than you heard the chants you could see Marta run across the field to meet her newest fans, and give them an evening they won’t soon forget.

In all, the Spot thinks that the FC Gold Pride is a hidden jewel in the East Bay, one that is more than worthy of your support.  So check out their schedule, pick a game, or two, or three, and take your son or daughter, niece or nephew, husband or wife, or any combination thereof, and make it out to a Gold Pride game…at the end of the night you’ll be more than happy that you did. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mutiny in Aggieland?

It's looking like the UC Davis Men's Basketball Program is having its very own "Mutiny on the Bounty",  as it appears that 4 players are leaving the team altogether: Big West Freshman of the Year Julian Welch, key reserves Adam Malik and Jelani Floyd and 6-10 Freshman Deandre Medlock (giving credit where credit is due, much thanks to "stiggy" over on the Pacific Tigers Hoops Board for bringing this to everyone's attention).

Of even more interest was today's creation of a blog that isn't exactly meant to flatter Head Coach Gary Stewart.  The Real Truth About Gary has one posting, a letter signed by eight members of the UC Davis Basketball Team asking Athletic Director Greg Warzecka to fire Coach Stewart, immediately.  Among the signatures that seem to appear on the letter are those of the four departing players along with Ryan Howley, Ryan Silva, Ryan Sypkens and Jacob Ranger.  If all eight players who signed the letter were to leave the program, that would leave the Aggies with, including the three incoming freshmen, a grand total of six scholarship players on roster...definitely not good times for UC Davis Basketball.

Whats all this mean?  Whats behind this supposed quagmire?  Well, looks like its time for the Spot to do some diggin'....

'Till next time...

Friday, April 23, 2010

You scream...I scream...we all scream...for Asparagus!!!

The Spot loves his Asparagus...from the days that his mom would boil it and he'd slather it in mayo or to that episode of "Queer eye for the straight guy" where Ted showed us all how to grill asparagus spears and let the heat caramelize the spears to really bring out it's flavor, if it's asparagus related, the Spot is lovin' it.  So, in celebration of this weekend's Stockton Asparagus Festival, which gives us the world famous "World Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Championships" (Featuring none other than Joey Chestnut)'s time for the Sport Spot's Chef -in-Residence, Claudia Pruett, to give us her take on this most wonderful of veggies! for your cooking and eating pleasure...

Asparagus and Beef Saute with Lighthouse Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 pounds asparagus tips only
2 green onions
1 clove minced garlic
Olive Oil (per usual, the Spot is quite the fan of Bogetti Olive Oil, but thats just his preference!)
1 pound tri-tip steak
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup Litehouse vinaigrette

Begin by steaming 2 pounds of asparagus -tips only. Drain after 3 minutes. Place 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 clove minced garlic and a few tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Begin cooking over medium heat then add 1 pound tri-tip steak sliced into bite-sized pieces. Stir and toss so that meat cooks on both sides. Season with sea salt & pepper. After 3 minutes, add steamed asparagus tips and ½ cup Litehouse Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Stir until thick and serve.

Well there you have it! a quick and tasty asparagus dish everyone can enjoy.  Claudia will also be making an appearance at the Asparagus Festival, no...not to be one of the contestants in the asparagus eating contest...but to demonstrate this tasty recipe at 1pm on Sunday in the Celebrity if you're in the area, be sure to stop by and say hi! (you can also follow her on twitter @cookingdinner)

'Till next time...the Spot is now off to stuff his face with some Deep Fried Asparagus action!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Sport Spot's "Odds and Ends"...or...the Spot's Draft Big Board...

This week’s edition of “odds and ends” is dedicated to none other than Mel Kiper Jr.   Why might you ask…well, that’s easy, it’s the only weekend of the year we actually care who Mel Kiper Jr. is…that’s right, its time for the NFL Draft.  After all, the NFL Draft just wouldn’t be the same without Mel’s Big Board and who can’t forget Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay once asking on live national TV “Who the hell is Mel Kiper Jr.?”…so for your reading pleasure, it’s this week’s “odd’s and ends”…

There’s a Draft in the air…

Well, since this is the Mel Kiper Jr. edition, we might as well start off with the NFL Draft (Starting with the first round this Thursday 4pm Cali time….)

Fresno State fans, you’ll have something to cheer about in the first round, as Former Bulldog Running Back Ryan Matthews is widely anticipated to go in the first round.  Where to?  Well, we won’t know until sometime Thursday night, but most draft prognosticators have Matthews going to either the Houston Texans at #20 or the San Diego Chargers at #28.

Yes, the draft also means that eternal well spring of hope for those of us who are long suffering 49er or Raider fans…who will those two take in the first round this year…well, the Spot has his thoughts…

The San Francisco 49ers have picks #13 and #17 in this year’s first round.   While many may want the 49ers to pick a certain Quarterback from Notre Dame (paging Jimmy Claussen) in hopes he’ll be like another certain golden domer’ the 49ers once drafted…the Spot, like many 49er fans are sick and tired of two things, a) watching Alex Smith get sacked again…and again…and again and b) watching the 49er secondary get torched for those wonderful 60 yard bombs on a weekly basis…or c) all of the above.  So with that, look for the 49ers go to defensive with pick #13 and select Corner Back Joe Haden out of the University of Florida (no, he doesn’t get to bring Tim Tebow along) and at pick #17 Offensive Lineman Mike Iupati from the University of Idaho, who will bring some versatility, toughness…and maybe even a sack or two of Idaho russet potatoes, to the 49ers O-Line.

Now, with the 8th pick in the first round of this year’s NFL draft…the Oakland Raiders select…The Valley Sports Spot, 5 foot 11 inches tall linebacker from…ok, ok, ok I'm really not going to be the Raiders pick, but hey, could I really do as bad as last year’s pick?  Well Raider fans, with Al Davis still at the controls, and firmly stuck in 1976, look for the Raiders to select Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant.  Why?...because he’s fast and can stretch the field, and that, in Al Davis’ world, makes you the perfect raaaiiidah…oh yeah, and your current crop of Wide Recievers, to put it bluntly, suck.

Speaking of the 49ers and Raiders, Valley and Nor Cal football fans finally got to see what their seasons will look like as the NFL released its 2010 Schedule.  The 49ers get 4 prime time match ups including a game vs. the defending Super Bowl Champs the New Orleans Saints, and the NFL’s annual London football game vs. Manchester United…oh wait, WRONG football…that would be vs. the Denver Broncos….The Raiders…well, they get no prime time games but they do make a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers.  Early word is that team wives and daughters are NOT allowed on that road trip….the Spot’s early predictions for both teams…look for the 49ers to go 11-5 and win the NFC West…look for the Raiders, to, well…hopefully get rid of Jamarcus Russell sometime before the Social Security trust fund runs out.

Congrats to Pacific Women’s Water Polo, which won the Big West regular season championship this past weekend with a sweep over both Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara.  With championship in tow, the first ever for Pacific Women’s Water Polo, the aqua-Tigers (not to be confused with aquaman, aqua force or even aqua velva) head into the Big West Tournament this weekend in the LBC, as the #1 seed and prohibitive favorite.

Throwing some love up to our neighbors in Davis, congrats are also in order for the UC Davis Women’s Golf Team as they too won their first ever Big West Conference Championship on Tuesday, earning them a berth in next month’s NCAA regionals.  The Spot’s favorite golf moment you ask?...finishing the 9th hole at Bartley Cavanaugh in Sacramento, ordering a Double Cheeseburger and fries, and having it delivered out to him by the time he hit the 12th green…

Speaking of UC Davis, as the Spot wrote earlier in the week, the ax recently fell on 4 sports that once called UC Davis home.  But as expected, it’s not all going away quietly.  Now Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee isn’t happy that Women’s Crew  was cut, and also offers up that a Title IX lawsuit may be in the works against a school that hasn’t had the best of history with issues related to Title IX.

We’re a week into the Spring Signing season, so it’s time to see what our Valley DI schools have been up to hoops wise on the recruiting circuit, here’s a quick round-up of who’s signed so far, and any other tid bits of importance the Spot’s found out…

Sac St. Hornets:
Coach Brian Katz has come up with a couple of recruits who have signed with the Hornets as he tries to improve what has always been a horribly bad talent base for Sac State Basketball…Kendall Groom, a 6-3 point guard from Hyde Leadership HS in Conneticut, and 6-3 guard Antoine Proctor from Sheridan College in Wyoming.  The Hornets have 4 scholarships remaining to give, with no word on who they might be targeting with those final four.

UC Davis Aggies:
The UC Davis men seem to have everything set recruiting wise…ESPN even ranked them with the 8th best class among mid-majors…Their recruiting class includes fall signees Mike Kurtz, a 7 footer from Roseville (Woodcreek HS), Josh Richart of Forest Lake Christian and Alex Tiffin, a 6-8 forward from Thousand Oaks. 

Pacific Tigers:
Ahh, the fun that is Pacific Tiger basketball recruiting these days….who’s this guy, who’s that guy…who’s leaving….well, lets take a deep breath and start from the beginning…seems as if Everson Lacerda and Sporty Carter (via his twitter account) are on the way out opening up scholarship spots for commit 6-3 two guard Jose Rivera of Citrus Community College and 6-2 18 year old Aussie Spencer Llewellyn (hey, if his facebook page says it….)  Who are the other targets?  Rumor has it the Tigers are in play for big men Ajak Magot from Arizona (has also received interest from BYU and Oregon State) and Rundell Mauge of North Platte CC who had received interest from TCU, Texas and Baylor coming out of high school.

Ok ok…so the Spot kinda’ took the Pacific Women’s Basketball program behind the woodshed in last week’s “odds and ends”, but he’ll give Coach Robert’s the proper respect this week with the Lady Tigers signing of Ashley Wakefield, from the College of the Canyons, who also just happens to be the Ca Community College Player of the Year.  Anytime you can add a player of that caliber to your program, it’s a major coup, especially for a team coming off a 6-22 season.

Fresno State Bulldogs:
The Bulldogs seem to be stocking up for possible WAC dominance for the next few years with their recruiting haul this spring.  Yes, the Spot has recently said the Bulldog hoopsters might be in for a long season with  losing a majority of their scoring to graduation (Sylvester Seay) and going pro (Ryan George) and their best defender decided to transfer (Brandon Sperling).  But with the mass exodous of talent from the WAC in the last week (Luke Babbit, Nevada- gone, Armon Johnson, Nevada- gone, Jahmar Young, New Mexico St.- gone) the WAC will be losing 13 of its top 15 scorers from last year.  As for the Bulldog’s spring haul, they’ve pulled in combo guard Tyler Johnson of St. Francis-Mountain View, Las Vegas Point Guard Kevin Olekaibe (led the State of Nevada in scoring) and Forward Bracken Funk out of Utah, who joins the Bulldogs after a two year Mormon mission.  All of the sudden, things seem to be looking up for Bulldog Basketball.

Speaking of recruits, for San Jose State, their biggest men’s basketball recruit this spring is already on the team.  Former Modesto Christian (there’s your valley connection folks!) star Adrian Oliver, who was 4th in the nation in scoring this past year, recently announced his intention to stay in Spartanland for another year to finish his degree and get another year under his belt to better prep for the NBA.

Do you have a baseball loving youngster in the Modesto area?  If so, then you’re in luck as the City of Modesto is partnering with the San Francisco Giants for their 6-week “Junior Giants Program”, which is free to all participants.  There is however, absolutely no truth to the rumor that the Giants will also be scouting for a power hitting right fielder after their just completed display of offensive anemia in their sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres. (1-hit a team and STILL lose? Really?)

Staying on the baseball beat, it’s time to throw some love towards the Pacific Tigers Baseball team.  The Tigers currently stand at 22-13, including taking 2 out of 3 from no. 25 UC Irvine this past weekend.  Enjoying their best season since…since….well since the Spot can ever remember.  Could a trip to the NCAA regionals be in store?  We have another month or so to find out!

Last but defnitley not least for all you hockey fans out there, The Stockton-Bakersfield Kelly Cup Playoff series moves up to Stockton with the Thunder up 2 games to 1 on the Bakersfield Condors (Bakersfield just won game 3, 3-0).  Games 4 and 5 are at the Stockton Arena this Friday and Saturday…go figure, our very own version of the Stanley Cup here in the Valley…somewhere Maurice "The Rocket" Richard is spinning in his grave.

Looking for some weekend fun? are the Spot’s picks for the weekend…

Playoff Hockey!!! Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th the Stockton Thunder take on the Bakersfield Condors at the Stockton Arena in games 4 and 5 of their Kelly Cup semi-final series.  First thousand fans to Friday’s game get the Thunder’s version of the “terrible towel”!

Stockton Asparagus Festival- Saturday the 24th-  It’s gonna be a busy weekend in Stockton.  Saturday’s events at the Asparagus Festival include the annual Spear-It 5k run at 8am, starting at the Weber Point Events Center, and followed up by…yes, you’ve been waiting for it…the high noon showdown called the “World Deep Fried Asparagus Eating Championship", where none other than Kobayashi-slayer Joey Chestnut seeks to regain his title.  Word on the street is that the Spot may rush the stage post contest and challenge Chestnut to a steel-cage linguica eating match.

FC Gold Pride vs. Atlanta Beat-Women’s Professional Soccer- Saturday 24th, 7pm- Castro Valley HS Stadium- What’s this you say, a 2nd week of having an FC Gold Pride game on the Spot’s weekend picks?  Does he own stock in the team?  Is he dating one of the players?  No no no…but since I wasn’t able to attend last weekend’s home opener as planned (thank god for mom’s chicken noodle soup, cause the Spot was deathly ill!) so he’ll be making it out for this week’s match up vs. the Expansion Atlanta Beat.  Plus hey, its Teddy Bear Toss Night, and who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned teddy bear toss!!!

‘Tiill next week Spot fans…Odds and Ends is over and out! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Game Day Experience: Stockton Ports Home Opener at the BIB

Hi there Spot Fans, and welcome to our second installment of “The Game Day Experience”.  While our visit to John Thurman Field, home of the Modesto Nuts, took us to a more antiquated and neighborhood based ballpark, our visit to Banner Island Ballpark (or for all your new parents out there, the BIB), takes us to one of the newer sports venues here in the Central Valley.  While John Thurman has its old league charms that make it a unique visit, The BIB is able to use its unique built in features to make it a fan friendly atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy.  It was ranked as one of the top 10 minor league ball parks in America in 2006, and for good reason.  So with that, the Spot took off on a pleasant Thursday evening with the purveyor of all things in good taste, Ms. #1, for the Stockton Ports Home opener vs. the Visalia Rawhide.

The BIB itself is a truly unique experience among valley stadiums.  Located on the waterfront in Stockton’s downtown, name me another place that will let you actually dock your boat, to get to the game?  And it definitely is quite the view to be able to look out past the outfield and see boats docked across the channel in the Stockton Marina or one of Stockton’s signature landmarks, the Weber Point Events Center.  Once inside the park the park, there are two built in amenities that stand out and make the BIB unique.  The first is the Jackson Rancheria Back Porch, nestled in right-center field.  Listed by ESPN as one of the top 10 seating areas to watch a game in minor league baseball, instead of the Spot describing the Back Porch for you, He’ll just let ESPN do the work for him (they get paid more than me, so why not!):
            "The home park of the Stockton Ports in California offers a right-field fence as odd as fans will find anywhere. But it's odd in a fan-friendly way, as its bowed course creates a bubble off the right-field seating lawn where an elevated porch offers patrons the chance to sit out in the middle of right-field fair territory.  And these lucky fans sit in style, reclining beneath a shaded canopy in two rows of wooden rocking chairs at the Jackson Rancheria Back Porch. There are 50 rocking chairs in all." 
What ESPN failed to mention was that those lucky patrons of the Back Porch also get an all-you-can eat BBQ that includes tri-tip, hot dogs, sausage and yes, even your favorite adult beverages.  Now what’s not to like about that!
The second built-in amenity that makes the BIB a truly unique experience is where the Spot, Ms. #1 enjoyed the game, Home Run Hill.  Upon looking from home plate out to right and center fields, you see two sections of nothing but green grass.  No benches, no bleachers, no seats with cup holders, just green grass where families can bring their own lawn chairs, or just roll out a blanket, and enjoy a game at their own leisure.  It’s definitely an experience to just sit back, relax, watch a father and son, or best friends, or any combination thereof, play catch while taking in a game, or watching the mad dash that ensues whenever a home run is hit into the grass in right or center fields (as the Spot’s luck would have it, there were two home runs hit out to home run hill this particular evening, one to his right, and one to his left…go figure!).  It’s a feature that new ball parks, both major and minor league, would be smart to copy if they really want to more fan-centric.
Of course, as with any minor league baseball game, it’s not just the built-in amenities that make it an experience, but the in-game experiences, both planned and un-planned, that make a trip to the ball park worthwhile, and lucky for us, this game had its share.  The first of those experiences happened to be of the unexpected variety.  As the Spot and Ms. #1 made our way to Home Run Hill, we heard a shout from the bull pen of the Visalia Rawhide.  As soon as we turned around one of the three Visalia Rawhide players in the bullpen tossed up a baseball our way.  Why did they? No rhyme or reason, they just did.  Did we care that those guys might never make “the show”? Nope…only that three guys playing in a game they we were at took the time to help make it one of those “only in the minors” moments  .  Clearly a class act by a class group of guys…why Ron Burgundy would be proud!
Now with any minor league ball game, you have your proverbial in-game contests.  Yes, most minor league teams might just take the standard in-game contests out of your bland in-game contests hand book, but the Ports happen to go above and beyond in this department.  The Ports you see have their very own “Director of Fun and Games”, and that title falls upon one Rod Villagomez.   He did an excellent job of making those staid in-game contests fun for us fans.  Among the Spot’s favorites…the jr. slugger who seemed more intent on joining Visalia in their dug out than playing musical chairs…and the fact that some of the younger staff members of the Ports really…and I mean really, need to brush up on one of the greatest 80’s songs of all time…”Livin’ on a prayer” by Bon Jovi! (Admit it, you’re all singing it to yourselves as you read this).
Now last but not least we have the one in-game attraction that probably trumps all others.  The one thing that the Spot and Ms. #1 were looking forward to the most…wait for it…wait for it…not, not a sighting Shane Keough sighting (or anyone else from the “Real Housewives of Orange County”)…Funnel Cakes!!!  Now, we’re both of the opinion that not all funnel cakes are created equal, and it’s clear that the funnel cakes at the BIB (located on the walk way between third base and the left field foul pole…FYI) are clearly in a class by themselves.  That hot golden crisp dough, the strawberries in glaze, the whipped cream topping…yes, the Spot and Ms. #1 were looking forward to indulging in a BIB funnel cake for quite some time, and we weren’t disappointed! (Sorry Spot fans, that picture is as close as you’re gonna come to seeing a picture of Ms. #1!)  Just as we remembered them, we devoured the funnel cake in no time flat.  Yes Spot fans, the funnel cake in and of itself were worth the price of admission!
Now not every experience is perfect, and unfortunately for the Ports, what takes away from the experience isn’t even in their control.  There is a reason that at times the City of Stockton puts the “fun” in dysfunction, and the creations of the BIB (and Stockton Arena for that matter) are a testament to this.  How nice would it be to grab a bit to eat or a drink before or after a ball game?  Why we could leave the ball park, cross the street and…oh wait…what’s that I see right across the street from the BIB...let’s see…some parking lots…a boarded up house or two…but nary a sports bar or restaurant.  Really Stockton, could we of maybe redeveloped one side of the street while you did the other?  But hey, what’s a few redevelopment dollars here or there when you’re busy dropping $2.7 million on a restaurant that’s now for sale?  I’m just saying…
All in all Spot fans, our trip to the BIB was quite enjoyable, and there’s a reason the Spot made more than a few trips to the BIB last year, and will continue to do so again this year…
…’till next time…