Column as I see ’em …
Kentwood High senior Reese McGuire, who helped lead the Conquerors to the 2012 4A state baseball championship, has won the Dick Case Award as USA Baseball’s top player.
McGuire had a prominent role in the USA’s 18-under world championship in September in Seoul, where he hit .400. A 6-foot-1, 190-pound catcher, McGuire also filled in as a third baseman, first baseman, left fielder and designated hitter for Team USA, coached by Scott Brosius.
McGuire, who has committed to the University of San Diego, is a left-handed hitter with power potential. A scouting report notes that he’s certain to be a first-round selection in the baseball draft, “and could be a top 10 pick with a good spring and if the right team sees him at the right time.”
The Case Award, which will be given to McGuire at a school assembly Tuesday, is a rare distinction for a high-school player. Previous winners have included pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Huston Street, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak.
• Washington Huskies center Aziz N’Diaye converted seven of his eight field-goal attempts against Arizona State on Saturday. N’Diaye’s accuracy was not unusual: If the big guy from Senegal is targeted for a pass in the low post, and if he manages to hold onto the ball long enough to release a shot, there’s an excellent chance the shot is going in.
What was unusual was N’Diaye’s free-throw form. He went 2-for-2, and looked, well, polished. He lined up his feet perfectly. He took a deep breath. He bent his knees and let the ball go and bingo, nothing to it.
A superior athlete who carries his 7-foot, 260-pound body with the agility of the soccer player he once was, N’Diaye already has late second-round NBA potential. If he continues to progress at the free-throw line, his stock could really soar.
But first things first. There’s half a conference schedule remaining for the Huskies, whose disappointing season could be salvaged once the guards realize the benefits of feeding the ball to N’Diaye and fellow big man Shawn Kemp Jr.
• The Phoenix Coyotes are in flux, which is a shorthand way of saying there’s an NHL ownership quandary that soon could find the Coyotes relocating. Meanwhile, groundbreaking for the Seattle arena capable of serving as home for an NHL team awaits assurance of an NBA franchise, presumably Sacramento’s Kings.
Chris Hansen, the multi-millionaire who has tangible visions of bringing two major sports teams to Seattle’s SoDo district, doesn’t need my advice. But what the heck, I’ll give it anyway.
Take the Coyetes off the NHL’s hands, Chris. Find some investors, move the team to Seattle where it could use KeyArena as a sort of temporary, obviously flawed halfway house.
Another option is the Tacoma Dome, which also would be temporary and obviously flawed. But the Tacoma Dome offers 10,000 more unobstructed seats for hockey than KeyArena. Not especially premium seats, granted, but over the course of a season with 41 home games, 10,000 extra tickets a night translates into 410,000 more tickets a year, and 820,000 more tickets over two years.
The average price for a Coyotes ticket last season was $36. If the hockey team relocated from Phoenix offers fans an average ticket price of $36 during the two seasons it plays in the Tacoma Dome, that’s a $29.5 million ticket-revenue bump over playing two seasons in KeyArena.
I’m not advocating the T-Dome as a permanent settlement for an NHL franchise. (Though I must admit, the idea intrigues me.) All I’m saying is: think outside the box. The Phoenix Coyotes are going somewhere, possibly to the Pacific Northwest. Two years of incubation in Tacoma, while an arena is built in Seattle, makes sense.
• Congratulations to former Green Bay linebacker Dave Robinson, who Saturday became the 20th Packers player voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of those 22 Hall of Famers, half of them – 11 – are associated with Vince Lombardi’s powerhouse teams from the 1960s.
And yet something’s wrong, because Jerry Kramer, the right guard who helped spring Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung on those legendary sweep plays over the frozen trunda, isn’t among the 11.
Kramer, a five-time All-Pro from Idaho, was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1960s. That’s saying a lot, but it doesn’t say it enough: Kramer also was a member of the NFL’s 50th anniversary team.
Kramer’s leveling of the Dallas Cowboys’ Jethro Pugh created room for Bart Starr to score on the quarterback sneak that decided the 1967 Ice Bowl, the defining moment of a team that ushered pro football into the Super Bowl era. Before the Lombardi Trophy was awarded on Super Sunday, Kramer put three field goals and an extra point through the uprights at Yankee Stadium in 1962, providing the decisive points in the Packers’ 16-7 victory over the New York Giants in the NFL championship.
When Kramer was done with football, he devoted his considerable acumen toward granting indigent players retirement benefits. Some of Kramer’s investments paid off, some didn’t, but he was OK, and a lot better than ex-teammates living on the sidewalk.
Jerry Kramer, the heart and soul of the Packers’ Lombardi Era – he blocked, and kicked, and he endured 22 operations before taking on an off-the-field fight for players beaten down by a violent game – is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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