The Post-Crescent from Appleton, Wisconsin on April 7, 1996 · 25
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The Post-Crescent from Appleton, Wisconsin · 25

Appleton, Wisconsin
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 7, 1996
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1 g3OgBKdilIUAkfJ 1 PORTS YOUR CONTACT: Larry Gallup, Sports editor 414-993-1000, ext. 375 PAGED-1 Sunday, April 7 1996 CHUCK CARLSON Post-Crescent ' staff writer iW.JLij-WWHljj j .' -"7 ' Wins warm Rattlers' frozen fans Town of Grand Chute By the time the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers had wrapped up an improbable doubleheader sweep to open their sophomore season Saturday evening, there were exactly 17 people on hand to observe it. - I know this for a fact because I counted. -; Seventeen folks who probably could have found something better to do than freezing off their yik-yiks watching the Rattlers play this thing that degenerated from a baseball game into something that resembled simple survival. ( They could have, but they didn't. : ' As a result, they bore testament to what could be one of the Rattlers most stirring rallies of the season. - And you missed it. Hah, hah. Trailing 6-0 heading into the fifth inning of this seven-inning affair, the Rattlers pounded out seven hits, sent 1 1 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on the way to an 8-6 win. " It ended as the Rattlers turned a snappy 6-4-3 double play and several people actually rose to applaud the effort - or to regain feeling in their lower extremities. " So that was that. Opening day 1996 for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. - Let's face it, on the pomp and circumstance meter, this day fell somewhere between a trip to the grocery store and karaoke night at theVFW. It wasn't like last year when the Rattlers opened their season with a new name, a new logo, new colors and - oh yeah - a new $4 million sandbox. - This was year two. The year after an unqualified and unexpected success that saw 209,000 souls stream through the turnstiles, buy overpriced merchandise and save . baseball in the Fox Valley. And while the signs all point to this season being as successful, if not more so, than last year, you've got to walk before you can run. "- So, no matter how much most - people like baseball, only the . .thickest of the thick skins were going to be out Saturday to welcome back the Rattlers. . It was too cold. It was too windy. It jvas too .,. everything. " Actually, that the game was played at all is due solely to the efforts and "sorcery of general manager Mike Birling, assistant GM Gary Mayse, head groundskeeper Chad Huss and a small band of tireless helpers. They worked nearly nonstop from Friday morning (even though the opener that night had to be postponed) until game time Saturday to get this pasture into something resembling a baseball field. ' Two hours before game time, even the optimistic Birling had his doubts. ' "We have a lot of work to do in two hours," he said as he prepared to wage war again on the ice, snow and fliud that was the playing surface. Z But they did it. No one really knows how, but they did. "It's a matter of pride," said the 23-year-old Birling, who assumed the GM post recently from Steve Malliet. . "We work so hard to make sure we don't lose any games. We only lost ' five last year and we didn't want to lose our first two this year. Once we .met with the umps and they said we'd play, it was a big relief." Most of the crowd of 1 ,937 stuck around to see Wisconsin pull out a 3-I first-game win with a late-inning rally. But once it was over, 95 fled the place so fast you'd have thought it was on fire. " " ' They surrendered this ballpark to a handful of curious hangers-on, determined to see the thing through tp the end because they wanted to. . But in the frozen silence that enveloped Fox Cities Stadium, you couldn't help but look ahead. In two months, the place will be packed with fans. It will be loud. It will be fun. It will be full of the sights and smells and sounds of baseball as it should be and this twilight, very likely, will be forgotten. Except by 17 very cold baseball fans. Packers' '92 draft had silver lining While Green Bay struck out early with Buckley and D'Onof rio, they picked up three starters in Brooks, Bennett and Chmura 'Without question, I think, it's the best draft we've had." RON WOLF, Packers general manager By Tom Mulhern Post-Crescent staff writer GREEN BAY - Ron Wolf's best college draft with the Green Bay Packers began with his worst pick. That was quickly followed by his worst luck. Wolf was five months into his new job as general manager of the Packers going into the 1992 draft. He was armed with two premium picks, Nos. 5 and 34 overall, and a burning need to completely overhaul a moribund 4-12 team. : What followed speaks volumes about the finicky nature of the draft, something to keep in mind in the days leading up to this year's event, which will be held April 20 and 21. Every Packers fan knows what happened at the top of that draft. The Washington Redskins made a trade to move into the fourth spot and draft wide receiver Desmond Howard, one of two players the Packers coveted. With little hesitation, the Packers then pounced on cornerback Terrell Buckley. After failing to move up into the bottom of the first round .in an attempt to take wide receiver Carl Pickens, they were elated to come away with linebacker Mark D'Onofrio. At the conclusion of the first day of the draft, Wolf and coach Mike Holmgren had a hard time restraining their glee. "You can't imagine the feeling of that, how excited you are," Wolf said at the time of his reaction to Please see DRAFT, D-6 CP , Post-Crescent photo by Dan Powers ROBERT BROOKS proved to be a third-round steal in the '92 draft. - "DTIdddDd or MfSDdG5 Wisconsin sweeps West Michigan in a doubleheader The offense comes alive in 3-1 and 8-6 season-opening victories By Chuck Carlson Post-Crescent staff writer TOWN OF GRAND CHUTE -Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Mike Goff said all along this year's team would be different from last year's spunky, but offensively challenged, group. And, if initial results are any indi-. cation, he was right. The Rattlers, who last year usually fell apart like a wet newspaper when they got behind, made a impressive debut Saturday, coming from behind twice to sweep a doubleheader from the West Michigan Whitecaps in front of 1,937 hardy souls at Fox Cities Stadium. ft t 3 1 r "These are our first couple of days together but we knew we could hit the ball." KARL THOMPSON, Timber Rattlers 1 catcher In the opener, the Rattlers made the best of five hits, scratching out two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth to pull out the 3-1 victory. Even more remarkable was the second game when Wisconsin rallied from a 6-0 deficit, scoring seven runs in the fifth and holding on for the 8-6 decision. And the Rattlers did it in 30-de-gree temperatures and a steady wind that dropped the wind chills into the low teens. "I was very proud of them," Goff said. "They fought back and in that kind of misery. We made a lot of mistakes but fortunately they were aggressive mistakes. They played hard and that's all I ask of them.'' But early in both games it seemed that the Rattlers would once again be plagued by poor offense and worse defense, which would negate some decent pitching perfor- fa c i 7 w VY w v if : ' ' ' - - t 1 If I Post-Crescent photo by Sharon Cekada WISCONSIN TIMBER RATTLERS PLAYERS huddle by a heater in the dugout to stay warm during Saturday's chilly doubleheader. mances. . In the opener, West Michigan starter Andy Smith held Wisconsin to one hit through the first four innings, seemingly wasting a solid opening effort from Rattlers starter Greg Wooten, who went three innings, allowing one run and just four hits. But in the fifth, against White-caps reliever Chris Morrison, the offense Goff had hoped would arrive this season finally did. After a leadoff walk to Faruq Dar-cuiel and Chad Sheffer's infield single, Jose Amado slapped a single to left to tie the game at 1-1. A Scott Smith infield hit loaded the bases and Chris Dean followed with a walk to put Wisconsin ahead. The Rattlers added an insurance run in the sixth when Joe Mathis singled, was sacrificed to second by David Arias and scored on a wild throw. That was all reliever Dan Kurtz needed. Kurtz, a New York native who was unfazed by the weather, pitched four innings in relief of Wooten, allowing just one hit and striking out three to earn the win. The second game, though, was truly bizarre. Wisconsin starter Roy Smith lasted barely two innings, walking eight and allowing four runs. Reliever Brent Iddon managed to slow the bleeding, but when he gave up a two-run homer to Randy Ortega in the fifth to give the White-caps a 6-0 cushion, the Rattlers appeared dead. But Kevin Gunther came on in relief of West Michigan starter Benito Baez in the bottom of the inning and gave Wisconsin life. Doubles by Dean and Vickers and an Amado single resulted in one run, and a Karl Thompson ground out brought home a second run. Then came a Darcuiel RBI single, and two-run hit from Joel Ramirez, a run-scoring hit from Dean to tie the game and a wild pitch that scored Ramirez with the go-ahead run. The Rattlers pitchers frustrated the Whitecaps all afternoon as they stranded 23 runners in two games. But it was the offense that raised some eyebrows as it banged out 14 hits in the second game. "These are our first couple of days together but we knew we could hit the ball," said Thompson, the Rattlers catcher, who went three for four with two RBI. "In that fifth inning, we were a lot more agressive at the plate. We looked at a few too many pitches earlier and we decided we better start swinging. (The sweep) was a big confidence-builder for us." D Boxes: D-5 Mariners' power is too much for Brewers D The Mariners outhomer Milwaukee 4-2, including two by. Sorrento, and win 8-5 SEATTLE (AP) - Paul Sorrento drove in six runs with a pair of homers, including a grand slam in the first inning, and Randy Johnson earned his 100th career victory as Seattle beat Milwaukee 8-5 Saturday night. . Sorrento, replacing Tino Martinez at first base this season, hit his first homer of the season on an 0-2 pitch from Steve Sparks (0-1) with two out in the first inning. He also hit a two-run homer off Sparks in the sixth, Johnson (1-0), who missed his scheduled Friday night start after he became the father of his first son, wasn't his usual overpowering self, In 6 Innings, he gave up four runs on four hits while walking six and striking out six. Sorrento's grand slam came after Sparks, a knuckleballer, gave up a single to Darren Bragg, walked Ken Griffey Jr. and allowed a single to Edgar Martinez. Russ Davis, the Mariners' new starting third baseman, then hit the next pitch out for his first homer of the year and a 5-0 Seattle lead. The Mariners had four homers. Ken Griffey Jr. homered off Angel Miranda in the seventh, his second in two games. Sorrento's second homer followed a walk to Jay Buhner in the sixth. Johnson surrendered Greg Vaughn's third homer of the season after Kevin Seitzer's single in the fifth. Vaughn added another homer, a solo shot with two outs in the ninth off Norm Charlton. Johnson was taken out after throwing a ball on his first pitch to John Jaha after walking Pat Listach and Vaughn in the seventh. Jaha then had a two-run double off Mike Jackson. !,,., n i i ii i mi n in .ii. J Posl Crmcenl photo by Sieve Appt AARON STECKER is battling with four others for the Badgers' starting running back position. pirepcfce Steckerwantstobe judged as an individual 0 Unlike other times in his life, the running back is confident he will be treated fairly by the UW coaches By Mike Woods Post-Crescent staff writer Madison Judgment day is coming for Aaron Stecker Again. But he is comfortable this time. He is confident For he knows, unlike so many times in his life, he" will be judged fairly. The decision will based on who he is and the talents he has, not the way he looks, or the way he talks, or because he is viewed as an athlete, a black athlete, and nothing more. Stecker, a sophomore tailback for the University of , Wisconsin, is currently locked in a battle with four Please see STECKER, D-6

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