Santoro Column: One final weekend of WAC baseball in Reno
May 11, 2012
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Western Athletic Conference baseball will be making its farewell tour through Reno this weekend when the San Jose State Spartans come to Peccole Park to face the Wolf Pack. All we can say is good riddance. The WAC has been horrible for Pack baseball. It all but wiped out the Pack’s ability to recruit in Southern California. That led to no league titles and no NCAA regional appearances. Fan interest, which was at its all-time high during the Big West Conference years (1993-2000), was reduced to a trickle in the WAC. The WAC always treated baseball like an afterthought at best. Coach Gary Powers and his assistants, all things considered, did a remarkable job keeping the program’s head above water in the dozen barren seasons in the WAC.
So far, the best things to happen to the Wolf Pack in its final year in the WAC are Wolfie Jr. winning the national Mascot of the Year award and Olek Czyz winning the NCAA Dunk of the Year award. How cute.
Most Pack fans couldn’t tell you the name of their school’s mascot if their seat at the Little Wall depended on it. Is it Wolfie, Alphie, Wolfman Pack, Teen Wolf? And Czyz’s dunk – he was all alone after a steal and merely dunked the ball with his back to the basket – was in front of just 4,000 fans in a meaningless November blowout. You gotta love Internet voting contests.
The New York Yankees have come under ridiculous criticism for allowing 42-year-old closer Mariano Rivera to shag fly balls during pre-game batting practice. If a bunch of kids can do it, fighting, scratching and clawing each other during the All Star Game home run hitting contest, then it’s OK for a highly trained athlete to do it. What are the Yankees supposed to do, cover Rivera in bubble wrap until the ninth inning? Baseball players are famous for suffering silly injuries. Rivera’s knee injury doesn’t even make the Top 100. Glenallen Hill once injured himself while sleepwalking during a nightmare about spiders. Sammy Sosa hurt his back while sneezing. Adam Eaton stabbed himself in the stomach with a small knife while trying to take the shrink wrap off a new DVD. Wade Boggs hurt his back while taking off his cowboy boots. Rivera was in more danger trying to get through New York traffic on his way to Yankee Stadium each day than he was jogging after fly balls in batting practice.
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It is time for Trent Johnson and Mark Fox to give back to the university that made them rich men. Johnson, now the men’s basketball head coach at TCU and Georgia’s Fox need to put the Wolf Pack on their road schedules. Johnson has been gone for eight years and Fox for three but neither one has come back to Lawlor Events Center to play the Pack. They owe it to the Wolf Pack to do so. The Pack needs all the sell-outs it can find. Pack fans are sick of all the Prairie View A&Ms, Portlands, Nebraska-Omahas, UC Riversides, Cal State Bakersfields, Cedarvilles and Longwoods on the schedule every home season. The Wolf Pack gave both Johnson and Fox their first head coaching jobs. They parlayed that opportunity into millions of dollars. It’s time they show a little appreciation.
The NBA needs the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics to win the NBA title this year. The NBA thrives when it has a champion everyone loves to hate. The Heat and LeBron James, the Lakers and Kobe Bryant and the Celtics and all of those washed-up veterans would certainly qualify. The Association is in need of a little intensity and passion right about now. A Kobe vs. LeBron matchup in the Finals would force everyone to put away their 2013 NFL mock drafts for a few weeks. The last thing the NBA needs is another forgettable champion like the Dallas Mavericks.
The Kentucky Derby just might be the greatest sporting event in the world right now. The history, color, tradition and pageantry are phenomenal. Betting is encouraged. You can whip the competitors. All of the action takes place in a little more than two minutes. And once the event begins there are no coaches, TV timeouts, stupid referee or umpire calls, rain delays or annoying commercials. The athletes aren’t doing it for the money and when it’s over they have no idea if they finished first or last. Nobody can throw a towel in the middle of the ring and stop the action. There are no ties or overtime shootouts. Nobody gets to pull into a pit stop to change a tire or gas up. You won’t see a driver doing a GoDaddy.com ad.