Nice to see these athletes succeed

Some thoughts for the week.

One of the things I enjoy most from being a sportswriter and an umpire, how's that for a massochistic combination, is watching the progress of athletes you covered for the newspaper or players you umpired for.

As a college baseball umpire, I was lucky enough to do games involving the likes of Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Gil Heredia, Mike Mussina, Ed Sprague and Jack McDowell. It was a thrill just a few years later to see them performing in the majors and doing well.

Mussina, in fact, was the starting pitcher in one of my first-ever college umpiring assignments when the Cardinal hosted Fresno State. He was always a class act in his three years at Stanford, and has gone on to bigger and better things with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

I got an even bigger thrill last weekend while watching the U.S. Open. Spencer Levin, one of eight amateurs to make the field, was a kid that I covered when I worked for the Sacramento Bee.

Levin was a two-time NorCal champion at Elk Grove High School, and owner of one of the best all-around games I've seen in 30 years in the business. He did himself and the Sacramento area proud by finishing as the low amateur, finishing tied for 13th at 8-over par which was a resapectable score (288), considering only two players in the field broke par. He even had his first career hole-in-one.

Heck, the kid even beat Tiger Woods. Even if he never plays in another U.S. Open, he can tell his kids that he beat the best golfer in the world in the 2004 U.S. Open. What a tremendous story.

A new format will be introduced to the Little League District tournaments this year.

Instead of the now-traditional double-elimination tournament, districts can go to a pool-play format.

Chris Downs, who works for Little League Baseball Inc. in Williamsport, says that this format is only for the first tournament. After that, all tournaments will be double-elimination.

"The districts are allowed to whatever best suits the number of teams in their district," Downs said. "It's always been available in recent years."

While players, coaches and parents may embrace this, I'm not so sure it's a good idea. I certainly realize that all-star teams put a lot of prep time for the district tournaments, and playing more games would make it a better experience. However, based on what I saw last year, there simply aren't enough pitchers, let alone good pitchers, for each team to play four or five games.

I certainly think the single-elimination format that prevailed during my time was unfair. I think double-elimination format was OK. Now, you're going to see more games crammed into a short amount of time, and kids' arms are still in danger of being overused.

Nevada outfielder Chris Gimenez, who signed with the Indians recently, is playing for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in Single A ball.

Gimenez, an outfielder, has played in six of the team's seven games, and is 5-for-20.

Nevada catcher Brett Hayes, who just completed his sophomore season, is competing for a spot on the Team USA roster.

Hayes, one of 36 players contending for a spot on the 20-man roster, started in left field for the Blue squad and struck out in his only plate appearance during the 4 1/2-inning scrimmage Monday night.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadappeal.com or 881-1281.

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