Monday, December 27, 2004


Wait until next year. Whoops, it is next year.

The great thing about the toy department of life is the hope that springs from inside a wrapped box. An unsung fan favorite, a generous gift from a long time booster, a buzzer-beating, bottom of the ninth, eagle from the fairway, drop shot at the net, corner kick with a triple block.

True enough we had some of all of those in 2004 but 49er fans always toast the new year with the expectation that the coming year will restore order, bring back the golden days, defeat the evil empires where ever they may be, in Fullerton, Santa Barbara, Irvine, or Davis.

Did I say Davis, yes indeed because you will begin to see a lot of UCD on those refrigerator schedule magnets in the coming year. The Aggies have married into the Big West family and frankly in their mind LBSU is the gold standard to which they aspire. From top to bottom over the years the best of the Big West has been the Beach . Niner sports has a storied tradition in almost everything, not withstanding a checkered recent history.

Getting back to the moment, the best of this next year will likely be Beach baseball and men’s volleyball.
The Diamond men always seem to be around the top 25 and Collegiate Baseball ranked the Dirtbags No. 14 in its pre-season national rankings. They do so based on tradition, coaching and a trio of pre-season All-Americans, left-handed starter Cesar Ramos who was first team selection, and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki a third team pick along with closer Neil Jamison.
Players are a big part of the Niner winning picture but don’t forget the coaching of Mike Weathers, Troy Buckley and Dion Barbara. Last season was the second time in school-history that the team has produced back-to-back 40-win campaigns. The 49ers have been ranked in the top-25 to start the season in 13 of the last 16 seasons. The 2004 season ended a base hit shy of Omaha at 40-21 an in their second-straight Super Regional

The Niners open the season January 28 at No. 11-ranked Arizona State and have a ton of other top teams in their path, include, Texas, Fullerton, Stanford, Baylor, Wichita State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine. To get you all warmed up the Niners have a hat trick of festivities starting with the Annual Lead-Off Dinner on Thursday January 20 featuring American League Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby . Followed by Alumni golf on Friday at Big Rec and baseball exhibitions on Saturday at Blair. Pat West at 562-985-4662 can give you the inside pitch.

Now the other good “next” on the Beach line-up is guided by the reigning AVCA Coach of the Year Alan Knipe. In just his fourth season at the helm of the 49ers, Knipe guided his team to a 28-7 (18-4 MPSF) record and a runner-up finish in the 2004 NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship. The Beach owned win streaks of seven matches twice during the season, won 14 of 15 matches in February and March and did not lose to a single unranked opponent in 2004. The Beach loses All Americans Scott Touzinsky and David Lee but return a slew of hitters and Tyler Hildebrand, the All-America First Team setter.

Closing football memories. The late George Allen was selected as a coach for one of those college all star games in Hawaii and true to his life pattern was actually scouting the East All Stars as well as his West team. After he passed his son Bruce was asked to represent George. Bruce’s pal and a LBSU fund raiser Merle Makings was with us in Las Vegas for a Niner basketball game against the Running Rebels. Merle asked Bruce who his dad thought would win. “Dad said that we (the West) had a terrible draft and he felt sure the East would win.”

I was chatting with Merle at the old Stardust and a couple of rounders overheard our conversation and bee-lined to the sports book, saying, “wow we got a tip from George Allen, I wonder if they take action on all star games.” P.S. The West won.–DR. DAN

Sunday, December 19, 2004


We here at Christmas Dust hope you haven’t maxed out the plastic because we have some gift suggestions for the 49er sporting set.

This report comes from the South Florida not the North Pole but Santa still knows who has been naughty and who has been nice.

Let’s start with the sweethearts of swing, the ladies tennis team of Jenny Hilt. She and our gals would like healing of all the hitters, an angel or two to build out the tennis complex and patience in the international admissions office. Oh yes, beating back UCI and some of those rival coaches who shift seeds faster than a carny pitchman.

For Pete’s sake, that’s veteran softball skipper Pete Manarino, another Big West title can wait if he can get his truly young squad to hit and field. The pitching looks stronger than his mom’s Christmas soup but the there are still a lot of roster spots yo for grabs.

For Mike Weathers and the Dirtbags a case of post-season poise would be nice.

Our hot stove league web wizard Jeffrey from his Dirtbag Blog reports that a Nor Cal baseball buff has the Beach picked pre-season 16. The report reads, “LBSU upset Stanford in the regionals last season, before [being] upset themselves by Arizona in the supers. Golden Spikes winner Jered Weaver was a first round draft pick, but last year's #2 starter Cesar Ramos (12-4, 2.29) is back to anchor the rotation. All of the key relievers return as well led by closer Neil Jamison (3-5, 4.35, 12 SV). Meanwhile at the plate, five offensive starters are back with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.317-7-44) again expected to lead the offense. Ramos will be an outstanding starting pitcher again for the Dirtbags, but numerous other players are going to have to step up for Long Beach to overtake Fullerton in the Big West.”
I think the Titans and the Beach will split it up as usual but Jeff and I agree that the Bags will need at least two outfielders, a first baseman and a catcher to perform well on both offense and defense. He adds, “The loss of Mike Hofius at first leaves a defensive void that will be tough to replace. And the D'Bags have got depth at catcher, but it remains to be seen what offense will come from the position.”

For basketball coach Larry Reynolds a home grown seven footer would be nice and we ran across a Californian over on the Islands who fills that bill, but wait, where have I heard that name Alex Graham before? Oh yes, that was last years gift and it was returned. So what for Mr. Reynolds, how about a giant can of white out to erase the pre-season and start the Big West race in with a fresh 0-0 mark. They start Tuesday and Thursday on the central coast tour at UCSB and SLO before home games again Pacific and CSUN.

Now back to the ladies side of the gift list, all Mary Hegarty really needs is a chemistry set to settle her talented club down and get wins. She has height, international experience, speed, and a favorable schedule the rest of the way. Incorporating new comers Hollans and Santos with her returnees, and finding time for talented Jeanie Saunders is a difficult formula but like a lot of your Christmas presents there is some assembly required.

Back to the inside net set, no gifts other than health is needed for newly minted AVCA Coach of the Year Alan Knipe and his powerful 2005 team and rightfully celebrated NCAA host coach of the century Brian Gimmillaro. You knew that Brian and his boosters would run a first class tourney and I would hate to the host site for the next few years and try and match the Long Beach experience that out of towners enjoyed. Plus the downtown cash registers will be smiling for a long time this spring.

Finally some stocking stuffers for the little people behind the scenes, like trainers Dan Bailey and Debbie Williams–maybe a year off from MRI’s, the academic tutors, maybe players turning stuff in on time, Events boss Michol Coppock –a chance to actually sit down during a game and Pat West and the friend-makers in fund-raising --people stopping by her desk to give a hug as well as a check.

And finally, a million bucks to the ever patient editing of Harry Salzgaver and the Gazette gang for opening up the space for our weekly chat. And Happy New year too.–DR. DAN

Sunday, December 12, 2004


I know that we’ve got company coming this weekend so thanks for taking a break from your holiday house cleaning to visit this space.

The big story in town of course is the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship Thursday and Saturday at the Long Beach Arena. It would have been nice to have the host team in the Final Four but youth was not served and youth, out-blocked and out-dugged and that was that for 2004.

The championship weekend of course will feature the annual national convention of coaches filling the cash registers downtown and with city scenes impressing the national televison audience. Officially we should report that Thursday’s lineup begins with Stanford facing Washington at 5:30 p.m., while two-time defending champion USC plays perennial Cinderella Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. Minn won their way out of a regional at the Pyramid last year and have another Long Beach connection, former Niner setter Jen Bowman, albeit buried on the bench.
So do yourself a favor and get some title flavor while the company’s here. It might be a good weekend to be Iowa by the sea again.

END GAME DUST–Winning teams struggle like losing teams but the difference seems to be what happens at the end. Exhibit 49 in that category was last weekend during the Beach’s come from ahead loss to Portland in the Blue Pointed Place.

A visiting player named Pooh Jeter likely his 24 point effort for the Pilot’s would just be a losers footnote, frustrating for him and his Coach Michael Holton who was a applicant for the Niner hoop job several times in the past. But after a clock-running-down three point miss by Cody Pearson (right shot wrong shooter), the both Louis Darby and Sam Byrd tried for tip ins as opposed to running off the final 11 seconds or trying to get fouled. End of game and food for thought. The Beach will chew on that December 20-23 when they holiday-tourney in Hawaii.

For those more home-bound, or those who figure LB is paradise without waiting in line at LAX, a great New Year’s resolution might be to get the old tennis elbow greased up when the 49er women's tennis team and coaching staff host Beach Tennis Day on January 15 at the 49er Campus Courts. The all-day instructional camp is open to the first 12 people who enroll.

And now the rest of the story. Years ago during the Greenberg era, I organized the first LB basketball Tip Off event. At the last minute some lottery money came available for guest speakers so we hired TV guy Billy Packer. There wasn’t enough time to sell out a ballroom so we ran what I called the world’s most expensive happy hour, a hundred bucks a pop and a no-host bar! Got about 35 folks and raised a nice chunk of change. Back to the net set, their entry fee is $500 but you do get lunch, a Hollywood style gift bag, undying love from team and coaches and no speeches.

We close today with a rare wildlife report. Critics have noted that we spend a lot of time reporting on official fun and games and have neglected the great outdoors. As some of you may have already deduced I have slipped off to Florida a tad early for the family holiday. Later I will lie about big fish but first I want to report on the unusual small-game trapping talents of my lovely sister-in-law Christine.

In between putting up with out of town guests, over-nighting kids, and massive office parties, Christine is the official hunter in her household. The Barber home is on the Banana River which was ruled by racoons, and their poor cousins the possums, before the SUV crowd settled in. One morning she awoke to see a critter had clawed through the patio screen and was working the trash in her kitchen. Quick to the humane society to rent a couple of traps, placed outside, and the current score is Christine 7, Critters 0.

Last add, the captured are not served for dinner but released into the wild "right next to a big dumpster in the woods," That’s a relative you gotta love.–DR. DAN

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Last week's lesson in sporting syntax was respect. This week it is all about timing.

The three year clock on Ty Willingham ran out in South Bend. Like Ron Zook at Florida. things may be better next year but neither man will be around to harvest the coveted crop of Wins. After cross-town meltdowns at renowned UCLA and hardly known LMU Larry Reynolds of Long Beach probably starts his morning paper with the crosswords, and skips the sports and classifieds.

On the other side of timing is Long Beach women's volleyball. Their eight year wait to host the NCAA Final Four is realized this year but despite fab frosh efforts by Makini Thompson and Alexis Crimes the 49er Ladies of the Spike were just to green and too dinged to make a run back home this year but may have enough talent in the next two years to get back to the big stage. Timing you know is a cruel mistress.

IN-BASKET DUSTING-In the crowd of cards and letters is a reminder from Blair Field that the Long Beach State Dugout Store will be open on Saturday from noon until 3 with the usual lineup of sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, polo shirts, jackets plus a lot of the never before seen 2005 season gear. Plus every shopper will get a FREE ticket to the men's basketball game that night vs. Portland in the Pyramid.

Still diamond mining, thirteen coaches from college baseball programs throughout California will participate in the third annual College Baseball Media Day at The Pyramid on January 12 at 9:30 a.m. Area teams are among the most successful post season entrants with 42 College World Series appearances and 17 national championships.

The Fall ball season for the Dirtbags is done and onlookers seemed to focus on the two top guns returning, SS Troy Tulowitzki and lefty pitcher Cesar Ramos who both summered with Team USA and three new kids on the Blair, 3B/DH Evan Longoria, a JUCO All-American from Rio Hondo JC, RHP Cody Evans, Jr., 2.98 ERA at Golden West CC and RHP Jared Hughes, a 6-7 transfer from Santa Clara. Oh yes and visiting pros like Bobby Crosby.

You have had enough of the Negativist Niner Alums so let's brighten your day with this list of the top prospects to help the World Champion Boston Red Sox's next season.The are Hanley Ramirez, ss, Brandon Moss, of , Jon Papelbon, rhp, Jon Lester, lhp, Anibal Sanchez, rhp and our own crooked cap assassin Abe Alvarez. Abe was also noted by the organization to have the best change-up and best control. Now two big ifs-the Bosox lose some arms to free agency and Abe has a great spring camp, another Dirtbag will be working in the Show next season.

Our closing quote is from the Sixth Man Boosters who say, "Don't forget to remember the kids at Christmas and bring a toy to the December 11th men's basketball game. Our team will play Santa for the Miller''s Children Hospital this year." That is the good kind of turnover and your timing could not be better.–DR. DAN.