Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on August 27, 1999 · Page 214
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 214

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Friday, August 27, 1999
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1 2 c The ArUuna Rf public Friday, Augunl 27. mt SportsLine Got a story Idea for Community Sports? Call us at (602) 444-8156 or send a fax to (602) 444-8686. On the Internet, write to dale.hajekpnl.com. mm OUTDOORS I C Just call them a SDliiiter mow DEWAYNE SMITH Republic correspondent Baseball league thrives on wood bats Night fishing a good idea in summer Photos by Deirdre HamillThe Arizona Republic Softball team ends 2nd at Nationals 12-and-under girls pull big surprise By Jim McCurdy Special for The Republic Lance Dixon is walking around with a bald head these days. But that was the deal he made with his 12-and-under Li'l Saints softball team. Make it to the championship game of the American Softball Association Nationals; the coach said, and you can grab your razors. . "Sure enough it happened, and now my head is shaved," Dixon said. The Saints, made up of 10 girls from all over the Valley and one from Payson in Tracy Lub-ken, finished second in the 60-team, double-elimination tournament conducted Aug. 10-15 in Fresno, Calif. Only one other Arizona team, the Phoenix Storm, has finished higher in the tournament. The Storm won it all six years ago. No other state team had finished higher than fourth since then. "It was really unexpected," Dixon said. "We reall surprised a lot of people, ft was an amazing ride, believe me. We were just happy to even be playing (in the title game)." The Saints went 6-2 in the tournament, losing both times to eventual champion San Diego Thunder, including an 8-0 setback in the title game. They beat No. 2 seed California Crunch, 1-0, in the losers bracket final to get to the championship game. The Saints, who compiled a 60-28 record since February, had lost to the Crunch three times this year. "It was good to go travel and then beat them in the end," said Dixon, who has guided four straight teams to the ASA Nationals. "Each day it was like, 'Let's get into the top 40.' I don't know if they were taking us lightly, but they were just in shock." Through the first five games in the tournament, the Saints had given up only one run. "They're not the biggest team, they're not the fastest team, they just somehow found a way to win," Dixon said. "It was a team where when you don't expect something to happen and it does, makes the experience that much greater." In addition to Lubken, team members were Larissa Anthony, Britnee Barnett, Jackie Fierros, Breanna Meeks, Amanda Morris-sey, Natalie Perkins, Stephanie Perkins, Lindsey Rittenhouse, Courtney Shlee and Jessie Whitfield. A transcript of the broadcast of the championship game can be seen online at Baseball as it was meant to be requires wood, not metal, says the Fountain Hills Men's Baseball League. One player, Paul , ; Langworthy (above) of the Fountaineers, gets in a few cuts with the lumber for a game against the Pirates at Golden Eagle Park. Larry Wolfe of the Fountaineers tags out Dennis Green in that game. The five-team league is in its second , session. Bass fishing legend Bill Dance puts summer fishing into perspective quite nicely. I think. "J "Remember, the best time to go fishing ;,lS any time you can, but I'll take one night trip over three day trips when the summer sun is as hot as it is right now." . True, the daytime temperatures in the ."South where Dance lives can't hold a candle to what us desert dwellers experience, but their high humidity makes daytime fishing forays as uncomfortable as they are .here. Anglers call these hot summer days the "dog days" because the fish are lethargic and even a dog knows that being in the -6hade is better than standing underneath the broiling sun, even if the fish are biting. That's why so many bass and crappie anglers do their fishing just before and af-4er the sun sets. The temperatures are still ""warm, but nothing like when the sun is "Out, so night angling makes a good alternative to the sunburn pattern. Oh yes, there is another good reason to iish at night. The fishing is usually better, "Ss temperatures do drop a bit, and the lake is quieter because all your friendly Jet Ski riders have gone home. Many bass tournament organizations 'hold night events. Some go from 6 p.m. to midnight, while others last all night. Wa-terdog Willy's has been hosting a come-one, come-all big-fish event on Wednesday-knights at Lake Pleasant for years. Open to "everyone, with no membership required, the Wednesday night events are cheap to 'fish, and the angler who weighs the big-"gest bass takes home the jackpot. Waterdog owner Craig Schultz says that fish of normal size usually win the event, but he told of an 1 1-pounder taking the big "money several weeks ago. One cast in the dark by one lucky angler was all it took. -; I never will forget my first nighttime iass outing many years ago. I was fishing with the late Floyd Preas, who cut a pretty "wide swath through the fishing community in his day. Full of yarns and country humor, Preas always kept you entertained no "matter how bad the fishing was. " We were on Saguaro Lake, and there was no moon. He would turn on a light ev-ery now and again to make sure we -weren't too close to the shoreline. It took a "while for one's eyes to adjust to the blackness again, so every cast was a sheer uess. I found out that my hearing seemed to become more acute. After a cast, I would listen intently to see if I could hear where ihe plastic worm landed. If I heard a splash, it was time, for celebrating because 1 knew the worm was in the water and it "Jvas business as usual. 2 More often than not a sort of crackling ound could be heard. That meant that my 3ure was in the top of a bush or tree on the Jvater's edge. And then sometimes I didn't Jear anything at all. Now, that was quite unnerving. In that case, the lure either By Jim McCurdy Special for The Republic Doug Ketchen likes to reduce big pieces of wood into splinters. No wonder the former Triple-A pitcher is playing in the Fountain Hills Men's Baseball League, the only known wooden-bat league in the Valley. The five-team league is in its second session, having completed its inaugural session in June. Composed of players 1 8 and older, mainly from the northeastern and eastern' areas of the Valley, the Fountain Hills league will wind through a 12-game summer season that will carry into late October. . Games are played at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with an occasional Saturday or Sunday contest, at Golden Eagle Park. Do you like the sound aluminum makes when it hits a baseball? Then you might want to look for another league. "As a pitcher, you like to hear the crack of the bat, you like to see a broken bat," said Ketchen, a Cave Creek resident who last pitched in Triple-A with the Houston Astros in 1995. "Aluminum bats aren't much fun. "Those of us who've gotten into the wooden bat thing, I don't think we'll ever go back," Commissioner Mike Briguglio said. "It's baseball how it's supposed to be played. A lot of us, as kids, used wooden bats. Those of us that used them know it's nostalgic. "Plus, once you hit it right on the sweet spot, there's no better feeling." Yet as the men of the league have discovered, hitting with a wooden bat again was an adjustment. No longer could they rely on the pop created by aluminum. "With the wooden bats, it kind of balances out the game," said Fred Bibeau, 46, of Ahwatukee, who plays for the Diamondbacks in the league. That's for sure. Only 10 home runs were hit in the spring. Five belonged to fellow Ahwatukee resident and Diamondbacks teammate Scott Sachwitz. "There are not as many cheap hits," said Sachwitz, who broke two bats the first two weeks of the spring season. Scott Novack of Mesa, a former Ball State player, said the trick to using the wooden bat lies in the palm of a hitter's hands. league." They must be doing something right for guys like Sachwitz to drive 55 minutes to play a game. Briguglio says he would like to have a six- to eight-team league while still keeping the quality of play at a premium. "Some guys weren't really sure what they were getting into," he said. "It's a lot more competitive than they thought, which is good." In the spring, the Diamondbacks beat the Fountaineers, 2-1, for the championship. Ketchen took the loss. "As competitive as I played for all those years," he said, "it's nice to get out there and play in kind of a relaxed league. Every -once in a while, I get the competitive edge when I'm doing well." And if he's lucky, maybe he'll even break a bat or two. league, his idea was to create a level playing field. Obviously, implementing the wooden bat is a big neutralizer. The league also uses a draft in which incoming players are evaluated in a workout and then selected before each season, reducing any one team's chances of stacking the deck. "The goal is to have as much parity as possible so you always have a good game," Briguglio said. "Our goal is to develop a local league that is competitive week in and week out, and from, there develop a travel league." With all of the games played at well-groomed Golden Eagle Park, reliable umpires and strong support from the city of Fountain Hills, the league became an instant success. "We're real grateful to the town of Fountain Hills," Briguglio said. "Without their cooperation, we couldn't have the "It forces you to concentrate more and bring your hands through," said Novack, who also plays for the Diamondbacks. "The biggest thing is the power numbers went down. It's more of a pure game." "It makes you appreciate the pro game a lot more," Sachwitz said. As far as Matt Stofko of Fountain Hills is concerned, aluminum bats should be retired permanently. "I think they should get rid of it, period," said Stofko, who coaches the Phillies in the Fountain Hills league. "The expense of a wooden bat has always been there. If teams used to be able to use them, I feel they should be able to use them now. You're getting away from the aluminum bat and playing baseball the way it should be with the wooden bat." When Briguglio organized the SunBird has flavor of vanilla on white bread F03E HACKERS c::ly Janded on the shoreline dirt or wrapped it-Self around a tree limb. So that meant turning on the light to see where it was. 2 Serious bass anglers prefer to time their Slight fishing with the moon. Dance suggests hitting the lake during the three days before and after a new moon or three days before or after a full moon. Something ibout the moon's gravitational pull trigger-3ng intense fish feeding periods. " I always thought that the more moon, the better one could see, but I could be wrong. Z Wild West Bass, a team-tournament lass-fishing circuit, also runs a few night Jmtings. Last week at Roosevelt Lake, the winning anglers weighed in six fish that lipped the scales at a bit over 24 pounds. "That's a hefty stringer of bass. Their big Jish was close to 8 pounds, and the winners, Roy Hawk of Salt Lake City and 3vtark White of Tucson, clobbered their opponents by nearly 10 pounds. 2 WWB's night events begin at 6 p.m. and ynd at midnight, but the story is that the Hawk-White duo had it won on crankbaits "Before the sun disappeared. For them, it was just a matter of waiting and hoping that nobody else had stumbled into such good luck. Fishermen who are planning a night-fishing experience should make sure their . boat's navigational lights are operating properly. By law, they must be on, fore and aft, when the craft is under way. And, if anchored in an area where there might be traffic, it is a good idea to leave the lights on to serve as a warning to other boaters who are sneaking around in the dark. And if the need to sleep overpowers the fishing urge, tie up in a cove and find a spot in the boat to stretch out for a snooze. That's what makes it fun. Oe Wayne Smith can be reached at gnuzman6aol.com via e-mail ther side of the green makes errant shots painful. No. 1 1 also slides between two water holes, although the area around the green is safe. It's even shorter at 94 yards from the "tips" so even a skulled wedge will likely find safe ground. I'll still take No. 1 1 over the glut of 260-or-so yard par 4s where you can play a couple high irons and still reach the green easily in regulation. No. 15 is only 210 yards so if you know how to put one of those nifty draws on the ball -- we do not you can reach this green with a 3-wood and putt for eagle. PAUL: The clubhouse looks quite fancy at SunBird, even though the pro shop entrance is almost hidden like a backdoor employee entrance. Those pro shop employees were just as friendly as could be, and there was a decent variety of goods offered there. There was no beverage-cart service on the course, but the business certainly did not warrant it Maybe that's the beauty of SunBird right now. If you can avoid the group outings and shotgun starts, it's a fair, cheap, well-conditioned course that you can scoot around in four hours or less if need be. CRAIG: SunBird also serves All Sport, my new sport drink of choice because it puts Gatorade and PowerAde to shame when it comes to flavor. But that's about as tasty as it got at SunBird. Even Coras weekly tree escapade turned into a dud when his drive on No. 15 struck a tree square and then vanished without a trace. Any other course, that ball's on the green. Ah, well, at least we turned in another spirited game of skins with Thunder Dave playing the part of a frightened groundhog on hole No. 18. Classless victory is oh, so sweet (Rancho Manana) and weeds at much cheaper courses (Precision). Other than that, SunBird was a meal of dry, charbroiled chicken, white rice and white bread. Here's a quick list of the few things out there that managed to ruffle my pulse, one way or the other. No. 9 is a nifty finishing hole for the front, snaking through a very narrow approach with houses on the right and hills on the left. No. 7, the only par 5 on this tract, also sports a long and tricky approach over water from the right side of the fairway. The standing lake, er, water, on No. 2 has to go, as do those silly Cayman driving range balls that left me feeling emasculated, PAUL: Me again already? By the way, that is the "practice rainge" that you hit those Cayman balls on, according to the course map. But, hey, SunBird's a cute little name. It reminds me of my favorite Saturday Night Live skit the Jackie Rodgers Jr. $100,000 Jackpot Wad hosted by an albino Martin Short with Billy Crystal and Jim Belushi playing Sammy Davis Jr. and Captain Kangaroo as guest stars. It's better than it sounds. SunBird is not The $ 1 6 green fee and the barren course were quite nice on the wallet and watch, though. The entire course is played , along homes but usually offers enough room for error to not bang them unless you're a dork like me and try to reach a short dogleg par 4 in one. SunBird offers some intrigue in spots, like the 1 75-yard, par-3 third hole with the pin placed behind an uphill trap or the tree planted between the pin and tee box on the par-3 17th hole. CRAIG: As a group, the par 3s are the most interesting aspect of the course. No. 8 is a bit short at only 115 yards, but water on ei Each week, this subpar golfing duo will tear up Valley golf courses, literally, and tell you everything a true hacker really wants to know, from beverage cart ratings to bathroom counts to the best places to find other people's lost balls. THIS WEEK'S COURSE: SunBird Golf Club. LOCATION: 6250 SunBird Blvd. in Chandler. East of McQueen and Riggs roads. PHONE NUMBER: (480) 883-0820. PAR: 66. YARDAGE: Championship tees, 4,350 yards; regular, 4,079; ladies, 3,601. EASIEST HOLE: Little, puny No. 1 1 . You may want to try a putter here, but it probably wouldn't carry across the water very well. This hole measures a whopping 52, 83 or 94 yards about the right distance for a Phil Mickelson flop shot and has three bunkers to the back of the green. CHEAPEST CURRENT RATE: After 10 am, it's $13 with cart. STUFFY RATING: On a scale of 1 to 5, its a 3. It is obviously geared for the local community's residents, but at least they open the doors to the rest of us. No soft-spike requirement They don't allow tank tops but are pretty loose on the clothing otherwise. Denim "in good repair" is fine, and they prefer you wear collared shirts, although hetileys are accepted during these triple-digits days. PAUL: Urn, uhhh, urn, hello. Craig, your turn. Craig? Craig? Bueller? Oh, what to say about SunBird. It's a golf course, and its in very good shape for the summer. Beyond that, By Craig Morgan & Paul Coro things are pretty vanilla at the southeast Chandler course tucked inside retirement neighborhoods. There s nothing particularly wrong or fabulous about it It is disappointing that the front nine, a decent par-34 run, is followed up by the 1,674-yard back nine (regular tees) that amounts to a pitching contest For you big hitters, every par 4 on the back is reachable off the tee. For those of us who reek like an irrigation lake, it just doesn't matter. I take it the folks at SunBird don't get outside visitors too often. Most of the regulars have their own carts, tricked out like a high school kids hot rod. Both of the carts our group took out had windshield-size spider webs that would have scared the collar off of Scooby-Doo. CRAIG: 7jjsjijjjj (sound of gums smacking). Are we done yet? Regrettably, my cohort is all too correct about SunBird. There was plenty of mowed, green grass to be thankful for, especially after experiencing burned-out greens at much pricier courses it

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