Friday, February 27, 2009

A great day for Oregon Ducks baseball

I’ve been waiting 28 years to say -- or write -- this about a University of Oregon baseball team: Go Ducks!

I watched my former team beat St. Mary’s last week in their season-opener in Moraga. Today, I followed the inning-by-inning action via Adam Jude’s “Talkin’ Baseball” blog for the Eugene Register-Guard as the Ducks beat defending NCAA champion Fresno State 1-0 in their home-opener at PK Park.

Not bad for a program that was disbanded after the 1981 season for reasons that still don’t make sense to me nearly 30 years later. But that’s history. I’m more interested in the new era of Oregon baseball.

From what I saw at St. Mary’s, this young Oregon team has amazing fire and spirit, which is a credit to coach George Horton. The Ducks may not have a ton of power, but they hustle and play hard.

It looks like Horton found himself an ace in Tyler Anderson, a freshman lefty from Las Vegas, who held Fresno State scoreless for eight innings. I saw him pitch against St. Mary’s. He’s got some great off-speed pitches, a good fastball and a lot of presence and guts for a freshman. He’s already been thrown into two pressure-packed games and handled both amazingly well.

Jett Hart (What a great first name for a guy who can run) and Caleb Tommasini look like they’ll give the Ducks’ offense a little juice.

I got a chance to look at PK Park a few weeks ago. I liked the setting of Howe Field better because it was in the middle of campus, with the forested hills beyond left and center-field. But man, this new park is truly a gem that will only get better when the second phase is completed, replacing the temporary stands with a permanent structure.

I only wish that Mel Krause, my old coach from 1973-77, had lived long enough to watch the Ducks play this season. He would have loved how hard these Ducks play and respected the job that coach Horton has done.

I was sorry I didn’t get a chance to attend today’s game. If there are any Ducks out there who saw the game, it would be great if you could share your impressions and thoughts.

Go Ducks!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More signs that sports world can't escape harsh economic reality

If you didn’t already know the economy was in freefall, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hammered home that reality Wednesday.

The NFL confirmed that Goodell is voluntarily taking a 20-25 percent pay cut from the $11 million in salary and bonuses he was to receive in the 2008 fiscal year, which ends March 31. A few months ago, the NFL slashed 169 jobs, a reduction of over 15 percent.

No, Goodell won’t have to apply for food stamps. And NFL teams are still throwing around money for players (see Al Davis, Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler) as if times were flush. But when the biggest sports cash cow in the world starts cutting salaries and jobs, you know the entire industry could be approaching very tough times.

It could be that Goodell’s salary slash is a PR move as the league approaches negotiations with the NFL Players Association over the collective bargaining agreement. The league can go to the negotiating table trumpeting its staff and salary cuts as it argues for a bigger piece of the pie.

But enough cynicism.

Tough times are hitting more than just the NFL. While scanning a few headlines today, I saw that Greg Norman suggested that the PGA Tour should reduce its prize money purses, in light of the huge economic downturn. The Tour is losing some high-profile title sponsors, including FBR, the sponsor of that cocktail party/tournament near Phoenix, which will bow out after 2010.

Even some baseball teams, other than the Yankees, have shown some fiscal restraint in free agency. Manny Ramirez is still looking for a team to pay him as if it’s 2007.

Times can’t be that tough for baseball. Commissioner Bud Selig is still making $18 million a year. When Selig slashes his salary, I’ll know that the sports Apocalypse has arrived.