Saturday, February 21, 2009


Think of nine letters, two words and opening the season. Long Beach (nine letters) is the two words and finally today, the home opener. For the first time in years, 49er fans begin the season without seeing their team in the NCAA’s top 40 and, despite last year’s co-championship, picked to finish fourth in the Big West.

“It is really different for us this year, with so many really good players leaving,” the recently contract-extended Mike Weathers told the overflow crowd at the Long Beach State Leadoff dinner last Thursday. Last Saturday his 2009 edition intra-squaded to a 6-6 tie on the scoreboard and a 2-2 tie in execution--hitting and running well but catching and throwing poorly.

Last night it took a while but the Beach prospects began to brighten. Stuck in a 5-0hole, Taylor Krick finally muscled the Beach onto the scoreboard with a three run homer in the eighth and the latest of the Beach closers, Dustin Rasco, fanned the side. In the ninth however multi-talented Robert Stock, 2-3 as the starting catcher, had a 1-2-3 inning and somewhere downtown Trojan Coach Chad Kreuter exhaled. His team has missed the postseason altogether five of the past six years and the Cardinal and Gold alums are not noted for their patience.

Coming in each of the teams had an expected star, Trojan junior shortstop Grant Green (.390, 9 HR last year) and Niner sophomore pre-season All American Jonathan Jones (.343, 6-8 stolen bases). Green had an 0-4 Friday with three Ks while Jones got on base three times, one base hit and two walks. SC manufactured their scores in the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th but fanned 13 times. USC starter Brian Boxberger whiffed 11 in his six innings.

SPRING DUSTING—At the Leadoff dinner the filets, and the fillies and the 49er players got the wit and wisdom of a T-Squared hero from the recent past, Troy Tulowitzki. His message (longer than the Gettysburg address but shorter than my tax return) covered topics from T- Ball (“I loved it because you never struck out”) to memories of playing day and night and even under the family Christmas tree, ( “I think I might have taken out an ornament”). In college, after practice, there was some homemade midnight baseball games played against the wall behind Von’s across from his Atherton street apartment. “A homer was when you put the whiffle ball in a shopping cart….after finishing second in the 2007 Rookie of the Year race, Tulo had that sophomore slump but this spring Colorado coaches plan to hit him in the two hole and are confident he can turn the franchise back on…as is the case early in every season, a good many of the 17 Niner pitchers on the roster will take the hill of thrills sometime this weekend and today the home boys are hopeful that young Mr. Thompson, a perfectly proportioned 6’3” 220lber with some giddy-up who got off to a fast start last season against Rice, going six innings and giving up only two hits. His opposite number will be SC’s Kevin Couture (6-2, 4.27 in `08 plus their cast of bull penners. Jake finished 2-5, 4.95 in `08 but with all those draftees gone he’ll have to become the Dirtbag ace very quickly….meanwhile the rest of the Big West came out mostly on the short end--California 8, UC Riverside 7, Pepperdine 4, Cal State Northridge 3, Baylor 2, Pacific 1 (10); UCLA 13, UC Davis 1; Rice 10, Cal Poly 7; Cal State Fullerton 7, TCU 6 and UC Irvine 5, Hawaii 1,…one of the soon to be revealed differences this year is playing up to five games a week with a mere 11.7 scholarships and a cap of just 35 players, all of whom have to get at least 25% of a full scholarship….next season, the maximum number of players who can receive aid drops to 27….Niners have 17 letter winners back from a team that finished 38-21 and shared the Big West Conference regular season title but still only close encounters of the Omaha kind.

While the Niner fandom was upset about being picked fourth in the BWC pre-season poll, USC was picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10 …and our closing Oscar note, the Beach’s number one actress, Sandra Bullock, will throw out the first pitch…not counting an unlimited supply of those great Cisco Burgers that her beau Jesse James (cable star of Monster Garage) grills up when not making motorcycles, in 2007 Forbes Magazine estimated Ms Bullock had earnings for the year of $10 million…now that is another pretty figure—DR. DAN


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