During a week in which the Pacific Coast League's Reno Aces installed lights and planted home plate at their $40 million Nevada ballpark, Pima County administrator Chuck Huckelberry told the Star "perhaps the Rockies and the Diamondbacks are a lost cause."
Tucson Electric Park, former home of the Sidewinders, will be dark when the Reno club has its home opener April 17. At about that time, Reno politicians and developers say they will launch an "entertainment district" adjacent to their new ballpark.
It likely won't be long before politicians and developers in the Phoenix area are breaking ground for a ballpark and surrounding entertainment variables for the Rockies and D-backs.
So it's difficult to take much comfort in Huckelberry's words that Pima County can "pick up three or four teams out of Florida" in 2014 or later.
Not going to happen. Not even close. Nobody in government acted to save the Sidewinders or White Sox. It's unlikely anyone is going to be able to keep the Rockies and D-backs from a similar exodus.
Not all of the blame is on Pima County administrators. Professional baseball is a business of infidelity and greed. Unfortunately, more than most, Tucson has been duped like some backwoods village on the "Mayberry R.F.D." show.
The Cubs, for example, last week boldly proclaimed they want Mesa to build them a new spring training facility or they might move to Florida. Cubs officials said they have "been in touch with a number of municipalities and states." They further stated they will not share a ballpark, as the White Sox and Dodgers do, but rather insist on solo occupancy.
Next to the Yankees, the Cubs are the jewel of all spring training tenants. At another time and another place, Tucson would've been crazy not to become pro-active and do whatever necessary to have the Cubs relocate here. But not now. We had our shot.
PCC GOES BIG TIME
Success is just beginning for Aztecs' women's basketball team, Holthaus
This is probably just the start of good times for Pima College women's basketball and its coach, Todd Holthaus, who reached the NJCAA Division II championship semifinals Friday, losing in overtime.
The Aztecs (28-6) return nine of their 11 leading scorers next year. In two seasons under Holthaus, PCC has erased memories of the school's 1-29 season of 2006.
"I probably got 100 text messages, phone calls and e-mails," Holthaus said of PCC's experience at the national tournament. "It's been such a whirlwind, I sometimes forgot what day of the week it is.
"We'll be deeper next year, especially at guard. But we'll also have the bull'seye factor next year. Now people will be shooting for us. That'll be a nice problem."
Peabody (6), Ferguson (5) pile up state title games
Ironwood Ridge and Santa Rita nobly reached their respective state high school basketball title games two weeks ago. The Nighthawks lost in the 5A-II title game on a last-second shot to Phoenix North; the Eagles went to the final shot before losing to undefeated Phoenix Greenway in 4A-II.
What wasn't said was that Ironwood Ridge coach Brian Peabody and Santa Rita coach Jim Ferguson reached historic levels in those games.
Ferguson has now coached in five big-school state championship games (1999, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009). In the whole history of Southern Arizona prep basketball, only legendary Bud Doolen of Tucson High and Miami (1932, 1935, 1940, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1949) has more state title appearances.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Ferguson, a Sahuaro grad, got to his sixth state championship game next March.
Sahuaro's Dick McConnell had five: 1970, 1982, 1988, 2000 and 2001.
Actually, Doolen was involved in a seventh state title-game season, 1955. He died of a heart attack midway through the '55 season and his assistant, Tony Morales, led the Badgers to the championship game. Morales then coached Tucson to state title games four more times, 1956, 1960, 1962 and 1969, the latter a 23-1 team that is often viewed as the greatest team in Tucson history.
Peabody officially has six state championship game appearances overall. Two of those in the early 1990s were with 1A Green Fields. He coached Salpointe to title games in '97 and '99 and has taken IRHS there in '08 and '09.
The late John Tissaw of CDO coached the Dorados to four state title games. In girls basketball, state Hall of Fame coach Mike Dyer of Marana is the local leader with seven state title games: 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989.
Pac-10 honors ASU's Dosty as a scholar-athlete of year
Salpointe Catholic grad Sybil Dosty last week was named the Pac-10's scholar-athlete of the year for women's basketball. She has a 4.0 GPA in her master's program. She earned a degree in liberal arts last year. The Sun Devil senior center is competing in her fourth NCAA tournament; two with ASU and two with Tennessee, in 2005 and 2006. … Desert View High School and Pima College grad Mark Sanchez completed his college basketball career by being selected to the All-WAC second team last week. Sanchez averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for Boise State, which lost at Stanford in the CBI postseason tournament. … Tucson basketball referees Chris Rastatter and Bob Scofield again were selected to work NCAA tournament games. Rastatter was sent to Boise for the men's tournament and Scofield is in Albuquerque this weekend for the women's tournament. … Rincon/University High grad David Jackson, one of the top players in coach Rich Utter's program, will get a homecoming next season at McKale Center. Jackson will be a senior at Louisiana Tech, which has agreed to play at McKale in December. The next UA basketball coach is also scheduled to play nonconference games at Rice and at home against North Carolina State and BYU.
Nicklaus plans to dedicate Ritz-Carlton on Saturday
Jack Nicklaus will officially dedicate the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, on Saturday. He will walk the Tortolita nine-hole layout with invited guests and the media the same way he did when he designed La Paloma Country Club 25 years ago. During the recent WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Nicklaus was criticized for designing greens that were "tricked up," too many levels, too many bumps, too much of everything. That was basically nonsense. The pros were shooting mid-60s-type scores all week. Tim Clark, who took out Tiger Woods, was 6 under par through 15 holes. Yes, the greens are unusually difficult, but isn't that the appeal to the average Ritz-Carlton golfer? It's a unique challenge. … UA assistant swimming coach and 1972 Olympic gold medalist Rick DeMont will be featured tonight at 6:30 on Channel 6 when the PBS station features his "other occupation," painting. The art and inspiration program will document how DeMont went from a world-record-holding swimmer to an accomplished artist. … Had to feel a bit older Thursday. It was the 42nd birthday of Anthony Cook, one of the cornerstone players in Lute Olson's basketball empire at Arizona. Cook, who lives in Portland, Ore., was a first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Suns 20 years ago this year. … What goes around comes around: Michigan basketball coach John Beilein implemented a motto of "burn the boats" with UM's NCAA tournament club this year. It is the same inspirational theme UA football coach Dick Tomey deployed in the early 1990s during the Desert Swarm years. It is a reflection on ancient Spanish explorer/conqueror Hernando Cortes, who, while invading Mexico in the early 1500s, ordered his boats to be destroyed to let his soldiers know there was no turning back.
Three Tucson pitchers headed for minor leagues
It doesn't appear that Tucson pitchers Jesus Castillo, Donald Veal or Gilbert De La Vara will make their big-league opening-day rosters. Castillo, from Tucson High School, was sent to the Dodgers' Class AAA camp Friday after four spring appearances. Veal, from Buena, has walked 11 batters in nine spring training innings with the Pirates, including four in 1 2/3 innings on Friday. De La Vara, from Flowing Wells High School, has given up 11 hits in nine innings for the Astros. … Mustafa Shakur has been dropped from the roster of Greek EuroLeague contender Panellinios Athens. He played in just six games, averaging 11 minutes per game. His ex-UA teammate, Ivan Radenovic, leads Panellinios with a 13.9 scoring average. … Former Sunnyside and PCC first baseman Stefen Romero was leading the Pac-10 in RBIs heading into weekend play. The sophomore was hitting .344 with 22 RBIs through 15 starts at Oregon State. He is a pharmacy major at OSU. … Tucsonan Brian Prouty continues to progress on the pro golf circuit. The Salpointe and UA grad finished sixth in the Gateway Tour event last week in Phoenix, shooting 67-74-65 to earn $3,575, a spot ahead of former UA teammate Nate Tyler.
MY TWO CENTS
Lost season of Hoosiers might be precursor at UA
The Indiana Hoosiers completed a dreadful basketball season, finishing 1-17 in the Big Ten and 6-25 overall, which included a home loss to Lipscomb. The Hoosiers had a program meltdown — coach fired, players exiting — that is likely to be the mirror of what Arizona experiences in 2009-10.
But IU's revenues didn't plunge dramatically; the Hoosiers still averaged 14,331 in paid home attendance while buying time and investing in first-year coach Tom Crean, formerly of Marquette.
While Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood searches for a new basketball coach, armed with a war chest to potentially allow him to hire at the elite level, it is vital for his budget that the Wildcats be able to average at least 12,000 at the gate next year. Season-ticket holders have until April 30 to renew.
That's why the hiring of a win-the-press-conference basketball coach is so critical. In this economic crisis, the self-supporting UA athletic department probably can't absorb a loss of, say, 4,000 basketball season-ticket holders without considering staff layoffs or eliminating a sport.