Time for a star to emerge
The Little League all-star
Happens almost every August. One of the Little League state champions at the regional in north San Bernardino shows up with the 12-year-old answer to Babe Ruth.
Big, and bigger than life. A power pitcher, a power hitter and the game-changing monster of the regional. The kid people would pay to see - if Little League charged admission.
Who have been the best of the bambinos?
One reporter's Top Nine, going back to San Bernardino's debut as regional headquarters, in 1971 - with a big assist from former colleague Chuck Hickey:
Victoria Brucker (San Pedro Eastview, 1989). The best female Little Leaguer ever. Batted cleanup and hit two homers in her San Bernardino debut. Was the first girl
to play in the Little League World Series.
Sean Burroughs (Long Beach, 1992-93). Genuinely Ruthian. Pitched a no-hitter and slugged a homer on the only strike he saw vs. Northern California in the 1993 semifinals. Crowds of 14,000 saw him play.
Darnell Coles (San Bernardino San-Ri, 1974). A future first-round pick and big-leaguer, like Burroughs, and probably the best Little Leaguer in the Inland Empire since Ken Hubbs, 20 years before.
Hank Conger (Huntington Beach Ocean View, 2000). Hit 33 homers in 38 games for the 2000 regional runner-up, and was the Angels' No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft.
Danny Gronski (Issaquah North American, Washington, 1996). Pitched nine scoreless in perhaps the greatest game in regional history, SoCal's 2-1 semifinal victory over Washington in a game that lasted 16 innings over two days.
Ricardo Ponce (Mexicali, 1984). Gave up two hits in two dominant pitching victories, leading the Mexican team to the regional title and to the World Series title game. (Little League changed its rules to prohibit foreign teams from representing the U.S. in the World Series.)
Matt Tuiasosopo (Woodinville West, Washington, 1998). Son of former NFL star Manu Tuiasosopo and a dominating presence. Now playing Double-A ball for the Mariners.
Cody Webster (Kirkland National, Washington, 1982). Big and burly, a missile-launcher as well as a heat-chucker. Led Washington past mighty Taiwan for the World Series title.
Ashton White (South Mission Viejo, 1997). Son of Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, and a man among boys. A knee injury shortened his career.
Best player thought to have played in San Bernardino but didn't? Chase Utley of the Phillies. Utley played on a Little League team with Sean Burroughs, but not on either of the two regional teams Burroughs led.
Burroughs had a strange grown-up career. A Little League slugger, he was a big-league singles hitter. He joined the Padres at age 21 in 2002, was a regular at 22, a sub at 24 and is now out of baseball entirely at 26; the Mariners released him in mid-June.
Has anyone noticed elite youth baseball has become a province of the monied classes? All that expensive individual instruction, it would seem. The days of sandlot players is over.
Barry Bonds generates attention, love him or hate him. The game Thursday night was the 23rd consecutive sellout the Giants have played to.
Every at-bat generated a buzz in the crowd, and a steady strobing by flash cameras throughout the stands.
Commissioner Bud Selig suggests these are baseball's salad days. He said more fans attended big-league games last Saturday (717,478 at 17 games, including two day-night doubleheaders) than on any day in the history of the game. That was 42,200 per opening.
Frank McCourt's Dodgers have made stadium improvements in recent years, most of them aimed at upscale customers. But fans still can miss a inning or two just trying to buy a hot dog, and lines out the door of the women's restrooms are not at all unusual.
Kobe Bryant can't be happy that Kevin Garnett was traded - but not to the Los Angeles Lakers. KG is in Boston, instead, which gave the T-Wolves seven players and two No. 1 draft picks.
The Los Angeles Lakers offered Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, but the T-Wolves mostly wanted expiring contracts to create cap space and rebuild.
The Los Angeles Lakers should play with what they have. The only quasi-superstar perhaps available is Jermaine O'Neal, but Andrew Bynum's first- and second-season stats were far better than O'Neal's.
The Los Angeles Lakers play again on Christmas, this time against Phoenix as Game 2 of a tripleheader. Miami and Cleveland are in the early game, Portland (Greg Oden) and Seattle (Kevin Durant) in the nightcap.
The Hall of Fame Game is the traditional exhibition opener for the NFL, but don't try finding it on TV on Sunday - unless you are among the few who pay for the NFL Network.
The NFL prefers we all call exhibition games "preseason" games. Probably because it charges regular-season prices, and doing that for an "exhibition" might really annoy fans.
Football fanatics must wait until next Thursday to see a game on a real network. Colts at Cowboys on Fox at 5 p.m. Don't tune in past 5:15; the starters already will be out of the game.
You officially are old and stodgy if the X Games leave you unmoved. Utterly unmoved.
Ran into former Rim of the World High School volleyball coach Bill Dickson at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Dickson, now 80, coached the Scots when they won consecutive state titles in 1981-82.
Rim won a third state title for Jill Whitney in 1983. All three title teams were led by setter Wendi Rush and the Hert twins, Liz and Dorothy.
Did you see the Galaxy score on Tuesday? It was 6-5 over Dallas. Had to assume it was a shootout. But no, it was 11 goals. Landon Donovan had a goal and three assists.
Who needs David Beckham?
Department of Corrections: Bad stat in this space last week on the last Inland Empire team to make the West Region tournament. It was Rancho Cucamonga Vineyard in 2003.
Kudos: To Margaux Jones of the Rising Stars club in Redlands who set a 10-under meet record with a long jump of 15feet, 4 inches at the U.S.Track and Field Junior Olympics.
Condolences: To Claremont Little League's all-stars, who fell a game short of the West Regional.
Lookalikes: The revamped Celtics, a real NBA contender.
Where are they now? Former Rim volleyball star Wendi Rush, who played in the NCAA title game with Stanford in 1984, 1985 and 1987, is "living in San Diego and having kids," according to her prep coach, Bill Dickson.
They said it: "She had a son born in the bathroom. She named him John." - Dickson, on Wendi Rush.
And finally: Who will be this year's Sean Burroughs at regional headquarters? Check back in a week.
SBSUNFor more musings from columnist Paul Oberjuerge check out his blog at sbsun.com/sports.
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