After Arizona won the 1986 College World Series, junior starters (and stars) Chip Hale, Steve Strong, Gil Heredia and Gary Alexander all returned to the '87 Wildcats.
That was astonishing given that Heredia was 16-3 as Arizona's top pitcher, Strong hit .396 with 10 homers as the starting catcher, Hale hit .340 at third base and Alexander, winning pitcher in the Omaha clincher, had gone 8-2 pitching and hit .345 as a left-fielder/DH.
That was a once-in-a-generation coup for Arizona; at the highest level of college baseball, junior starters turn pro about 95 percent of the time.
None of Arizona's five CWS-winning junior starters are expected to return in '13, even though their negotiating power has been compromised by baseball's new collective bargaining agreement.
Much like the NBA, baseball put some sanity into draft negotiations this year by instituting a pool amount each team can spend for the first 10 rounds of the draft.
That means UA shortstop Alex Mejia, a fourth-round pick of St. Louis, is slotted for a $294,000 bonus. Fifth-round outfielder Robert Refsnyder can expect $205,900 from the Yankees; sixth-round pitcher Kurt Heyer has a $166,100 ceiling from the Cardinals; eighth-round third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, who signed Friday with Cincinnati Reds scout Clark Crist, starting shortstop on Arizona's 1980 NCAA champs, was slotted at $136,300; and ninth-round outfielder Joey Rickard has a ceiling of $125,000 with Tampa Bay.
If a MLB team exceeds its pool bonus allowance, it is fined a 75 percent tax on every dollar it overspends. If it misses its total by more than 10 percent, it forfeits its Nos. 1 and 2 selections in next year's draft.
So the wiggle room is limited, although it didn't stop one of Andy Lopez's top pitching recruits, Salt Lake City right-hander Brady Lail, from signing for an estimated $225,000 bonus with the Yankees, as reported by Salt Lake City newspapers. Lail wasn't selected until Round 18, but then the Yankees don't often run scared of a tax/fine.
For Heyer, Refsnyder and Arizona's other junior standouts, getting to the major leagues is more of a concern than their bonus dollars.
In the last 25 years, only two St. Louis sixth-round selections, John Mabry and Rheal Cormier, reached the big leagues.
In the same quarter-century, the Yankees' only fifth-round draft picks to get to the bigs were ex-Wildcat first baseman J.T. Snow (1989) and pitcher Randy Choate (1997).
I think the best MLB prospect on the 2013 Wildcats is sophomore pitcher Konner Wade. If he continues to pitch as he did in the postseason, or anything close to it, Wade could be Arizona's sixth player selected in Round 1 this century, joining Ben Diggins, Brian Anderson, Trevor Crowe, Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry.
New NAU basketball coach will makes things happen
Jack Murphy is from the Josh Pastner School of Promotions, so don't expect the former UA director of basketball operations to hold a low profile in his first year as NAU's basketball coach. Murphy's Aug. 3-4 coaching clinic in Flagstaff includes Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap, Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Jamahl Mosley, NAU women's basketball coach Sue Darling and, of course, Murphy's mentor, Pastner. Cost is $50 total. Only 32, full of energy, Murphy will likely illuminate the long-dreary Lumberjacks program. Clinic information: firstname.lastname@example.org . … Catalina High School and Pima College grad Shaun Cooper, who began his college baseball career at Arizona in 2008, had a down season as the Utah Utes' left fielder and was not drafted. But he signed a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks and was sent to Class A Yakima where he was hitting .267 in 14 starts through Friday. … The next former high school ballplayer from Tucson to get to the major leagues, No. 42 overall, could be ex-Sunnyside second baseman Stefen Romero, an All-Pac-12 player at Oregon State. Romero hit .357 in 60 games at Class A High Desert and was promoted to Class AA Jackson, Miss., where he was hitting exactly .400 through Friday's games. … The only person in Omaha wearing an Arizona 1986 national championship ring was Phoebe Chalk, the UA's associate athletic director for major gifts. The Sahuaro High grad was a bat girl on the '86 club. Chalk was with the UA traveling party in Omaha for 13 days. The club's hotel bill was in excess of $100,000, picked up by the NCAA and paid for by ESPN's broadcast rights. … After the Wildcats beat South Carolina, former UA director of athletics Cedric Dempsey phoned 1986 coach Jerry Kindall, reliving the '86 season together. If it takes another 26 years to win a baseball title, to 2038, Andy Lopez would be 84 and Greg Byrne 68.
Pueblo grad Flores, former boxer, dies of cancer at 65
In 1965, Pueblo High grad Paco Flores won the Arizona Gold Gloves championship and subsequently turned pro. When the Tucson Conventon Center was new, in the early 1970s, he was in the middle of the two most popular fights in Tucson history: He lost to Pueblo High classmate Johnny Rico, drawing 4,270 fans, and the rematch, which Flores won, drew 5,117. That was the last time local boxing in Tucson had a buzz. Sadly, Flores died June 22 of cancer. He was 65. … Ironwood Ridge grad and UA freshman Alex McMahon made a birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff Monday to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Public Links championships later this month in Midway, Utah. McMahon shot rounds of 67-68 to qualify second overall in a group of 100 golfers. … Former UA quarterback Bryson Beirne, who threw the game-winning touchdown pass to beat Arizona State last season, earned a business degree at the UA and is now leaving for an LDS mission. Beirne will serve a two-year mission for the Mormon church in Alaska. … From the you-can't-make-this-up file: The bungling Diamondbacks front office has suspended the face of the franchise, TV play-by-play man Daron Sutton for failing to adhere to a dress code. Apparently, Sutton likes to wear suits; the D-backs high command wants him to wear a golf shirt with a team logo. How silly. Doesn't the club have more important things to do?
More short stuff
Making Olympics is hard; just ask Erdmann, Ross
Flowing Wells grad Tara Erdmann and UA junior high jumper Nick Ross were both in the right place at the right time at the ongoing USA Olympic Trials for track and field. And then crazy things happened. Ross finished third in the high jump, which should have put him on Team USA for London. But because he was 1 1/4 inches shy of Olympic minimum 7 feet 7 inches, he was denied a berth on Team USA. Erdmann ran a career best at 10,000 meters, 32:09.51, about 22 seconds faster than her previous best. And even though she was sixth overall, four of those in front of her didn't have the Olympic minimum of 31:45. So had, at any time in the last year, Erdmann run 31:45, she would've been going to London. Maddening. It reinforces my belief that making the U.S. Olympic team, in any sport, is one of the greatest accomplishments in competitive athletics. … UA football coach Rich Rodriguez will make quick use of abandoned Sancet/Kindall Field. He will move the UA's fall football training camp to the old baseball field ASAP. It's a considerable improvement over the Rincon Vista facility, which had the feel of an NAIA or junior college venue. … Sabino football coach Jay Campos and CDO coach Dusty Peace were coaches on Team Arizona at last week's Under Armour California vs. Arizona game in Phoenix. They took six Tucson players with them: Robert Metz of CDO, who will play at Dixie State; Rayvean Moore of Tucson, who will go to New Mexico State; Jeremy Timpf of Sabino, who will play at Army; Daniel Gonzalez of Cienega, who will go to Navy; Edgar Poe of Cienega, who is bound for Army; and Sabino's Dallas Brown, who will play at South Dakota State. Peace and Campos coached Arizona to a 21-16 victory.
My two cents
Memo to El Paso: Rethink $50M downtown ballpark
Tucson and Omaha are small-market sports cities of similar size, close to one million population and on nobody's big map.
Downtown Omaha isn't a happening place, even though it has the CenturyLink Center for the Olympic swimming trials, concerts and Creighton basketball. Across the street it has the new Ameritrade Park for the College World Series, Creighton baseball and a few summer concerts. Omaha's Triple-A team plays outside the city at Werner Park.
Unless it was the day of a CWS game, downtown Omaha was surprisingly listless, even with thousands of swimming fans in town. It reminded me of Tulsa and Des Moines, both of which are d-u-l-l.
Downtown sports in those Midwest cities haven't changed much about the area's lifestyle.
So when I read that El Paso's City Council last week approved plans to proceed with hopes to build a $50 million minor-league baseball stadium downtown - they hope voters approve a raise in hotel taxes from 15 to 17 percent to pay for it - I almost shouted, "Are you nuts?"
A group apparently willing and able to spend $20 million to buy the Pacific Coast League Tucson Padres would move the T-Pads to El Paso, perhaps by the 2014 season. The El Paso people should spend a week in Omaha before they buy the Tucson Padres and get in business with minor-league baseball.
Omaha sold its soul to be identified with the College World Series. Those games occupy two weeks of the year. Otherwise, the area around Ameritrade Park - the new sports bars, T-shirt shops, hotels and restaurants - were slow, begging for business, every night I was there.
If you build a new stadium or arena downtown, the only way it works for the community is to fill the calendar with more than a few baseball games in the summer.