April 8th, 2013
|01:33 pm - Richmond's Duvall produces the winning runs in Flying Squirrels' weekend sweep of New Britain|
The Richmond Flying Squirrels won both weekend games with the New Britain Rock Cats, 7-5 and 3-2. The Squirrels took three of the four-game Eastern League season-opening series.
Richmond third baseman Adam Duvall produced the winning runs in both games against Minnesota's AA team. He homered for two runs in the 8th Saturday to break a 5-5 tie, and in the bottom of the 11th Sunday, Duvall led off with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice, and scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Duvall saved the Flying Squirrels with defense in the 10th, robbing New Britain with two Rock Cats on base, diving toward the line for the grounder and emphatically smacking the third base bag for the force.
That's my boy.
At San Jose's Municipal Stadium, the cheap seats on the first base side are shaded (which makes them premium). I get my tickets for the third row on the third base side because that's the best perch to find the next great San Francisco Giants third baseman.
It didn't take great baseball savvy to love first baseman Brandon Belt in San Jose, who was hitting .400 before his promotion — *everyone* loved Brandon Belt (now a big leaguer with a World Series ring and a stupid nickname). Duvall, on the other hand, was struggling in the first half of 2012, but I knew he was the guy. He finished 2012 with 30 homers.
The last great Giants third baseman was Matt Williams. The next great Giants third baseman isn't the fat guy, but if he keeps winning World Series MVP awards and knocking down ground balls with agility that belies his girth… ehhh, I might be swayed.
April 6th, 2013
|07:46 am - Flying Squirrels split a pair of 1-0 games, winning the second by no-hitter|
The Richmond Flying Squirrels and New Britain Rock Cats split a pair of 1-0 games Friday.
In the eighth inning of Thursday's season opener — delayed overnight by rain — New Britain scored on two walks, a HBP, and a single, all with two outs.
Richmond loaded the bases with one out in the third. In the fourth, Adam Duvall was tagged at home while trying to score from second on an infield error. (The play went 3-4-2. I don't recall from the radio how deep the ball got after the first baseman's mistake — if it rolled 10 feet into the outfield, it might have been a spectacular play by Rock Cat 2B Eric Farris.)
Squirrels starter Jack Snodgrass and Darryl Maday combined on a no-hitter in the regularly-scheduled game, shortened to seven innings.
In his first AA Eastern League game, Snodgrass allowed one walk in six innings. Richmond likes the left-hander because he gets many outs on the ground (on Friday, 10 groundouts). I saw one start in San Jose where Snodgrass couldn't keep the ball down, and he was relieved early.
A starter for three seasons in Richmond, closer Maday made his first save. Rock Cat baserunners reached second and third in the seventh, in the Team Torture fashion of the parent San Francisco Giants.
April 5th, 2013
Opening Day for the Richmond Flying Squirrels was postponed by rain Thursday. The Squirrels and New Britain Rock Cats were tied 0-0 after four innings, and will resume Friday, followed by the regularly scheduled game.
The Squirrels, who led the Eastern League in double plays in 2012, turned a 6-4-3 in the first — Adrianza to Panik to Oropesa. Those guys were all in Class A San Jose last year and the year before. They followed "Crawford to Noonan to Belt", who are now San Francisco Giants — that double play combination was my favorite in Richmond because it showed big league promise, and it's in the same rhythm as "Tinker to Evers to Chance".
Fine metaphor: Richmond's play-by-play man looked out at the mound and said starter Craig Westcott's uniform was white, and they're never as white as they are on Opening Day.
March 31st, 2013
|05:36 am - "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone", providing another "black square on the right" in mainstream media|
I've been watching Alan Arkin in this and that for about 40 years, but I've just begun loving the guy since he started playing "very old guy" roles — the grandpa in "Little Miss Sunshine" and most recently in "Stand Up Guys" (with other very old guys Pacino and Walken) and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone".
In "Wonderstone", Arkin sits down at a chessboard. Before the board comes into view, I thought "I'll bet anything this chessboard is placed incorrectly".
Then the whole theater hears some moron laughing at some unfunny expository dialogue.
I've shared this crackpot theory many times: There's a silent conspiracy among propmasters and set designers to place chessboards incorrectly in film, TV, and print media.
The US Chess Federation Official Rules of Chess say (4th edition, rule 2C) that the chessboard is placed so that the light-colored square is at each player's right hand.
(In most elementary school chess classes, some kids learn one thing in three months: White plays first. Some get that there should be a white square on the right. Many know the touch move rule, but can't fathom the commonsense exceptions. Chess programs award certificates of merit and cake in all cases, which is one reason I no longer work in the business.)
If a chessboard serves as a prop in moving or still pictures, there is a 50 percent chance that it will be situated properly, according to USCF Rule 2C. If *no one* on the set knows the convention, there's a 50 percent shot that they get it right.
But they get it wrong more than 50 percent, and why is that? In a random group of people, oughtn't there be *one* person who knows how to place the chessboard? Even if propmasters and set designers don't play chess, don't you agree that they whould've read about the convention during their careers?
I think they set the boards incorrectly just to gaslight the chessplayers. They think "I can screw with those asshole chessplayers by putting the black square on the right". (Then the script calls for someone to answer a check by delivering checkmate, which makes us claw our eyes out.)
I've ventured this nutjob theory like a crazy guy on a street corner, but we chessplayers see the black square on the right often enough to put on the tinfoil hats. Dan Lucas, the Florida chap who edits the national chess magazine (poor SOB), asked me a month ago if I wanted to put my nutbar notion in his magazine. This is where my writing career has gone: crackpottery for chess magazines.
(Chess writer Tim Krabbe was exaggerating when he said the board is wrong *all* the time in media, while suggesting that non-chessplayers might just prefer the appearance of the black square on the right: http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary_2.htm.)
March 28th, 2013
|06:04 pm - Come on, get happy|
Consider the possibility that Pacific wins the WNIT while Cal wins the NCAA tournament, and I'm not happy.
That "happiness is a choice" stuff is swell and all, but depression is like a dark room in which you know the happiness switch exists, but you can't find it in order to flip it.
Utah and Pacific tip off in moments in the round 3 of the WNIT. I love this team, but I hate my life.
March 10th, 2013
|04:32 pm - All-Big West selections|
Treshanti Nottingham, UC Riverside
Sydnee Fipps, UC Davis
Kamilah Martin, Hawaii
Sweets Underwood, UC Santa Barbara
Molly Schlemer, Cal Poly
Camille Buckley, UC Irvine
Ashlee Guay, CS Northridge
Alex Sanchez, Long Beach St.
Gena Johnson, Pacific
Erica McKenzie, Pacific
Ashley Wakefield, Pacific
Kendall Rodriguez, Pacific
Kendall Kenyon, Pacific
Marta Masoni, CS Northridge
Molly Greubel, UC Davis
Brittany Crain, UC Riverside
Ashleigh Karaitiana, Hawaii
Player of the year: Martin
Freshman of the year: Masoni
Coach of the year: Lynne Roberts, Pacific
March 9th, 2013
|03:37 pm - It's a long road to the Spokane Regional; Pacific 65 UC Irvine 53|
Pacific at UC Davis in a couple of hours brings the end of the regular season. The Tigers might get their first Big West championship, and they might not. They might get the #1 seed in next week's conference tournament, and they might not.
We might have a clue they're returning to their January form as the best team in the Big West, and we might not. In the second half last Saturday in Irvine, Pacific limited the Anteaters to 6-of-31 shooting, including this sequence. Trailing 40-32, Pacific put together this 7-0 burst:
w 10 1oa 10k 11d
b 4 3m 24a
b 24fbm 22a
It took less than a minute, from 18:00 to 17:05. A Gena Johnson layup, then a Kendall Kenyon block plus Ashley Wakefield defensive rebound, a Kendall Rodriguez trey assisted by G. Johnson, then an Erica McKenzie steal plus assist to G. Johnson on the break to the other end.
That evokes the Pacific that was running away from teams at the end in January. The Pacific we saw in February was starting slow, building leads for being more athletic and experienced, and staggering at the end.
If they've recovered in time for March — and win the Big West championship in a couple of hours at UC Davis — we can forget all about the February that fell short of the very high expectations for this team.
Then they can go to Anaheim following the standard sports story trope about not having beaten Cal Poly in Rodriguez and McKenzie's four years, then running into Poly one last time in the tournament final.
March 2nd, 2013
|03:41 am - What a waste of a perfectly good hotel room|
I got canned at my job just in time for the last two weeks of conference play, and Pacific's trip through Long Beach State and UC Irvine. It's been a bad trip — the airplane broke twice in San Francisco on Thursday, resulting in a four-hour delay. I arrived at Long Beach State in time to watch Pacific's 16-point, second half lead dwindle to three. Practice Friday was mostly uninspired, and a small stage production of "Amadeus" lacked the necessary grandeur.
The inbound flight was held up so long that I would've done better to drive. Then I could've finished listening to Carole King's memoirs. She's mentioned in a few places recordings by her daughter Louise Goffin — "What a Waste of a Perfectly Good Hotel Room" is a song on Louise's third album; I think about that song whenever I'm lonely on the road.
Practices for the 1982 Ohlone College Renegades, who weren't as good as their 10-21 record, included shooting drills in which I had to count makes. We had a shooter who was just awesome — in practice. "He hits 'em like crazy during practice," said Coach Mohatt, whose confidence in Jim was reduced almost to zero.
At the end of the week, I'd compute the results of the shooting contests. Jim won every day for two months until he quit over playing time. He made one more outstanding bid for PT — in one practice, if he didn't hit from 25 feet, he was the first guy after the rebound, grabbing them among the trees. Coach got him off the bench once, after which a stupid turnover shelved my road roommate for good.
After two weeks, Coach wanted to throw the team a bone, and announced "the winner of this month's three-point shooting contest is…". Then he muttered to me from the side of his mouth, "who won this month's three-point shooting contest?".
I looked at my clipboard. "Dion," I said.
"Dion quit," Coach said. "What about the last two weeks?"
"Dion," I said, because even after comparing Jimmy's last few days to two weeks for the other guys, he was still leading.
"Who won the two-point shooting contest?"
"Dion," I said.
Coach looked around the gym, and finished his announcement with a guess. "…Brannon", he said, naming the backup point guard.
I was reminded of that during Pacific's practice today at UC Irvine. The team just went through a three-point drill, and six Tigers missed before Claire Conricode got the ball. Streak over.
The similarities between Claire and Jim Dion probably end there, at least as far as the coaches were concerned.
I hate to say it, but Pacific looks to be headed for a greatly disappointing March unless they recover the sharp edge they had in January.
When the team was 4-0, I moaned privately that we were the worst 4-0 team in the country. They looked better while getting to 7-0, but the first loss at Florida — in which they dug themselves too big a hole — was too reminiscent of last year (when the Tigers were regularly overcoming late 12-point deficits). Then we visited #1 Stanford, who brushed us away like lint, though I was most pleased to have time for dinner and a movie after the "road" game.
The Florida and Stanford losses had the desired effect. Pacific looked so good between mid-December and late January — finishing games with big defensive runs — that 18-0 in conference seemed possible.
They swept another homestand at the cusp of February, but on Feb. 3, I wrote: "For an 18-3 team that's just won a pair of home games by 21 and 16, our kids are looking rather suspect." We lost three of four, starting games flat and finishing weakly.
Unfortunately, that team is still in evidence. They could win Saturday at Irvine, and next weekend at Davis to land on a gaudy 24-6 — better than my "best possible" prediction of 23-7 — but still be a paper tiger at tournament time.
February 20th, 2013
|08:04 am - Please sign the Change petition to help my friend get an interview, and to help me test our software|
My friend Carrie needs a job to pay for med school, ice cream, dog food. She thinks she'd like to work here at Change dot org. Even though the recruiting staff said they'd put Carrie's résumé on top, she thought to use Change — the world's largest petition platform — to build her campaign to get inside.
It's working as well as we could imagine. Carrie's learned how to use the site, and how to test it — hey, if she's going to work here, I'm going to give her all of my work to do. Colleagues in the tech world said this is a creative use of the technology (bonus: I found a bug), while folks who can recommend Carrie, do. Others have used their comments to say that if I respect the woman's abilities, get her.
Celebrity signing: We got an NBA player!
Carrie doctoring a Haitian kid:
January 22nd, 2013
My first impression of Pacific's freshmen in 2009 was that they looked very young and small — like my 9-year-old chess students, but with university basketball scholarships.
The three of them were pretty good. I thought point guard Erica McKenzie was the best freshman in the Big West, and that the other two — forwards Jordan Rogers and Kendall Rodriguez — belonged on the all-freshman team. An 8th-place team can't have three postseason award winners, however, so only McKenzie was named all-freshman.
I said then that they comprised a promising core for the future if they stuck together, and that I'd be traveling to Stockton in a flying car.
Sportswriters say that kind of thing all the time. It's de rigeur. A big league pitching staff could have a couple of rookies with 12-10 records, then a veteran can be swapped for a prospect, and a kid in Triple-A could show a live arm. The writers start talking about them like they're the next coming of the early '70s Baltimore Orioles.
No one takes that crap seriously because it never develops that way. One of the 12-10 guys gets as good as 18-12, the other gets Tommy John surgery. Or maybe one of them gets really good, and goes to a team with huge media contracts. The live-armed guy in Triple-A never gets command of his pitches. And so on.
The part of me that hoped for Pacific to grow into a good basketball team wanted #4, #22, and #23 to be its foundation, but another part of me didn't wholly believe it was going to happen.
It didn't. After our miserable 2010-11 season, Jordan decided to study fashion design, and transfered to San Francisco Academy of Art. I've been saying for years that you'd expect SFAA's uniforms and print media to be the best in the country, but it wasn't until this season that the uniforms started to look good — who knows, maybe Jordan designed them.
Danielle Peacon was a very promising freshman on that rotten 2011 team, but she wasn't ready for college. (Neither was I at that age.) Peacon and Rogers, who got most of Pacific's points and rebounds, were gone, which made it possible for Pacific to find their true heart — McKenzie, Rodriguez, and Samantha Pettinger — and they improved from 8-22 to 18-13, while I think another leap to 28 isn't farfetched. 25-5 or 26-4 should't surprise anyone, then two wins in the Big West tournament, plus an upset in the first round in Spokane.
Kendall — delightful kid who works like a horse; the best player in the Big West last year, but Kristina Santiago's name was engraved preseason — reached 1000 points a few weeks ago. Erica — if the team needs a rousing three or a slick behind-the-back move, she makes it, but otherwise she's quietly clutch — hit 1000 last weekend.
I never thought of 1000 points as a remarkable milestone — score nine points in 29 games for for years. But then there are the obstacles I was just talking about — injury, immaturity, change in career plans — a kid has to be durable and diligent to score 1000 points.
In her senior year at SF Art Academy, Jordan is leading the Knights in scoring. True or false: in two seasons at Pacific plus almost two seaons at SF Art Academy, Jordan Rogers has scored 1000 points.