Notebook: Pro baseball a couple hours away

News, notes and a few overdue cheap shots at professional athletes...

-- In about two months, the Sacramento Rivercats will play their first baseball game ever at Raley's Field.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Triple-A Rivercats, they are the team formerly known as the Vancouver Canadians. As part of the Pacific Coast League, they will play in a beautiful 10,000-seat downtown ballpark on the west bank of the Sacramento River.

The Rivercats are affiliated with the Oakland Athletics, a major league franchise known to have one of the best-stocked farm systems in baseball. There's bound to be some good baseball in Sacramento as a result.

It's actually a pretty nice little setup for Sacramento, because the San Francisco Giants affiliate in Fresno is only a couple hours away. That means the parent clubs' Bay Area rivalry is extended to Central California.

Just think, last season you could've caught A's pitcher Tim Hudson before he was called up to the majors. Hudson is one of many quality players in that organization, so with a quick two-hour trip you'll get to watch the stars of tomorrow.

Those of you with Sacramento roots know that a team like this has been a long time coming in that region. Fortunately, those of us just over the Sierras can benefit too, and the team also won the 1999 Triple-A World Series champions as the Canadians.

For ticket information, call (916) 447-4487, or visit the team's web site at Opening day is set for May 15...

-- Anyone who doubted that Bud Selig's one-month suspension of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker would be reduced wasn't paying attention.

Selig had originally suspended Rocker for all of spring training and the first month of the season for making offensive comments about foreigners, gays and just about everyone else in a December issue of Sports Illustrated.

An arbitrator has since reduced the suspension to the first two weeks of the regular season and allowed Rocker to join the Braves in spring training.

Any urge Selig may have had to whine too much was probably tempered by baseball's handling of Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry finally garnered a year's suspension after multiple offenses against baseball's drug policy. His most recent was in January, when he tested positive for cocaine - again.

If Strawberry, somebody who broke the law, has to get caught a few times to get a year, how harsh is a month's suspension for exercising free speech?

Baseball's hypocrisy was no more evident than in that past week. What Rocker said was putrid, but so is Selig's attempt to make it seem as if baseball players are squeaky clean. If that were the case, Albert Belle would be flipping burgers right now.

And we haven't even touched Steve Howe...

-- The latest buzz from San Francisco is the 49ers trading away their No. 3 pick to Washington for extra draft selections.

A columnist at another local paper scoffed at the decision, saying the 49ers need to draft an impact player rather than get a bunch of "mediocre" ones.

It's actually quite the opposite. The 49ers have so many holes to plug that they need to upgrade talent across the board before worrying about the impact player. The only thing a franchise-type pick will do is complicate the salary situation on a team already riddled with cap problems.

Bill Walsh made a smart move. Solidify the team with young (and cheap) talent, ride out the tough spots and use future picks to nab a franchise player. You don't get terrible players in a seven-round draft unless you don't do your homework, and every once in a while you get a star in later rounds.

Look at teams like Indianapolis, which put together a solid team and then drafted stars like Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James only in the last two years.

The 49ers have a lot of problems, and a franchise player won't make them any better...

-- After hearing that Don King may have lost as much as $5 million on Felix Trinidad's fight on Friday, does anyone out there still think the latter has the star quality needed to sell a big fight?

I'm sure King has Oscar De La Hoya's camp on his speed dial now...

-- If Donald Brashear doesn't want to forgive the sucker-stick job Marty McSorley gave him last week, maybe he should retire. Should he really be so offended he was assaulted by one of his fellow hockey goons?

Maybe he's just upset he didn't think of it first.

Hockey is a violent game, and Brashear knows how to dish it out himself. True, he hasn't hit anyone in the head with a stick of late, but in a world of one-upmanship, he of all people shouldn't be surprised by McSorley's behavior.

Apparently, there is no honor among goons either...

-- I'm no economist, but could last week's dip in tech stocks have anything to do with all those Anna Kournikova web sites shutting down after she got engaged to Pavel Bure?

Just think how many sites there would've been if she could actually play tennis.

Jeremy Littau is the Nevada Appeal sports editor.


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