Layport will be missed
Here's a mixture of thoughts for a spring Saturday:
• I and the rest of the Northern Nevada softball scene lost a dear friend last week. Mike LayPort, a longtime umpire who lived in Sparks, suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 62.
I talked to him a week ago Monday, and he was in fine spirits, and then I found out three days later that he died. It wasn't a total shock. Between Agent Orange that he was exposed to while in Vietnam and diabetes, his body had been through a war of its own. A few months before his passing, he had five shunts put in his heart.
I first met him when I joined the Northern Nevada Officials Association five years ago. LayPort was on the board of the NNOA and worked high school ball for many years, worked throughout the country as a Division I softball umpire and assigned summer ASA games for many years.
He talked about himself in the third person, a trait I first found annoying, but later accepted. He was helpful to young and old umpires alike, and continually tried to recruit young men and women into the profession. If you ever called him on the phone, you never got off the phone quickly. He would pepper you with situations and ask you to make the proper ruling.
He started officiating at an early age, and credited Booker Turner, a former Pac-10 official for helping him get started. He truly loved officiating, and that came out each and every time he worked or you spoke with him.
What a lot of people didn't know is that he was a world champion speedskater during his days in Southern California, and even got a mention in Sports Illustrated.
All I know is that I will always carry a special place in my heart for him. I will always remember him for the help and guidance he gave me.
• The recruiting for Nevada basketball has now gone worldwide. Nevada is trying to dip into the overseas market for a big man, according to several well-placed sources.
The name of 6-foot-9 Nicola Kecman, a native of Belgrade, Serbia, appeared in a recent story in the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this week. Kecman, who averaged 13.3 points and shot 59 percent from the floor at Eastern Arizona College, recently visited the University of Kentucky and is scheduled to visit Ohio State next week.
It's not known whether it was Kecman that was in Reno last week on a recruiting trip, or another player with Serbian ties.
Tim Walsh, Eastern Arizona interim head coach, didn't return calls. He told the Herald-Leader reporter that Nevada, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas State, St. John's and Fresno State were also interested in his power forward.
• The annual NFL Draft takes place this weekend, and there are three Nevada football players who will be waiting for phone calls from NFL teams.
Linebacker Ezra Butler is expected to go the highest. There are reports that he could go as high as the third round depending on a team's need. Butler has great quickness on the outside, and has the ability to rush the passer and drop back in coverage. It will be interesting to see if the revelation that Butler missed the Nebraska game because of marijuana use has hurt his draft status.
Adam Bishop, the Pack's 255-pound tight end, is blessed with good hands and is a solid blocker. He is considered one of the top 20 tight ends in the country. What may help him is that he's a long snapper, and draft expert Mel Kuiper Jr. told Nevada assistant sports information director Chad Hartley that Bishop was the best long snapper available. The earliest Bishop would go is the sixth round, and he could end up signing a free-agent contract with somebody.
Charles Manu, who played guard and tackle for three seasons, is in the same boat as Bishop. The 300-pounder is expected to go late on Sunday. He also could end up being a free agent.
• Sarah Johnston, a 2005 graduate of Carson High School and now a junior at Dartmouth, was recently named to the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association first team crew. The honor came after Johnston and teammate Becca Dellenbaugh turned in strong performances at the Women's New England Championships at Yale last weekend. Johnston, competing in the B Division, needed to beat the Boston University boat and four others. Johnston and teammate Adele Wilhelm passed two boats, including BU, but were unable to pass the two additional boats that they needed to get the Big Green into the top five and a berth in the ICSA Women's Nationals.
• If you're a fan of the Nevada Wolf Pack, circle May 1 on your calendar. That's when the first of several Nevada Educational Fund caravans visits Casino Fandango in Carson City. Admission to the caravan is free. The University of Nevada will supply appetizers and there will be a no-host bar. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m. This event gives fans a chance to mingle with head coaches and administrators, and get the inside scoop on the athletic program. Any contributions go directly toward offsetting the educational costs of student-athlete scholarships. If you are attending, please RSVP to Kim Dandos at email@example.com. Anybody interested in contributing should call Mark Urick at 682-6972.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281