Tuesday, June 12, 2012.
Could Cuban phenom Jorge Soler possibly start his pro career in Boise? He would seem to be ticketed for a higher level. Soler is a 20-year-old outfielder who defected from Cuba last year and was declared a free agent 10 days ago when he was cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. His age would seem to be a perfect fit for the Boise Hawks, but his skills—and the investment the Cubs have made in him—may not. Big league clubs have been in a bidding war of sorts for his services, and Chicago reportedly threw $30 million out there over nine years. Then again, Soler hasn’t played at all this year as he works through residency requirements, so he’s starting from scratch. Peoria would seem to be a match, allowing the Cubs to keep watch over him close by. But what a coup it would be if the Hawks were able to put their uniform on him.
If Soler did end up here, he’d hardly be a fish out of water as a foreign player. The initial list of 21 Boise Hawks released last night includes 14 players who are not from the United States, 12 of those from Spanish-speaking countries. American highlights include returnee Bryce Shafer, who was second in the Northwest League with 12 saves last season, and outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., son of longtime Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston.
The Hawks face a dizzy week, starting with their arrival at the Boise Airport early this afternoon. They’ll attend a host family event this evening and will go through Media Day tomorrow, followed by their first workout at Memorial Stadium. Thursday morning the Hawks hop on the bus for the trip to Salem and Friday night’s season opener against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Hopefully the new Hawks will have a built-in tour guide, as it’s expected that Izaac Garsez, the Cubs’ 30th-round draft pick out of the College of Idaho, will be a Hawk sooner or later. Opening Night in Boise is a week from tomorrow night against the Eugene Emeralds.
I talked during spring football about Boise State’s fifth annual visit from a contingent of coaches and players out of Hosei University near Tokyo. The group picks the brains of the Bronco staff, sponging up all it can about American football. And the Hosei Tomahawks have learned well from the Broncos, advancing last December to the Japanese collegiate semifinals. The two entities have formed quite a bond, and the Japanese have honored it with blue turf and orange end zones of their own in Kawasaki, dedicated at a ceremony on Sunday. Officially it’s the first international licensing of the playing surface as a Boise State trademark. There’s also been an annual academic student exchange between the two schools since 2006.
Better late than never? I don’t know. But the Big East is suing TCU for $5 million for reneging on its agreement to join the conference this year. This came 19 days before the Horned Frogs enter the Big 12. TCU announced its move to the Big East in November of 2010—then changed course 11 months later. The Big East claims the Frogs agreed to pay $5 million if they failed to join the conference. Could be one more veiled message to Boise State in case the Broncos really have any designs on staying in the Mountain West.
A couple NFL notes: former Boise State star Legedu Naanee will have an extra competitor at wide receiver in Miami’s training camp next month. The Dolphins signed Chad Ochocinco yesterday after a workout preceding the team’s OTA drills. But Naanee is said to have been impressive in Miami practices and is considered the team’s No. 3 wide receiver and one of its biggest playmakers. So there would appear to be room for both Naanee and Ochocinco. And Borah High grad Caleb McSurdy has signed with Dallas. The former Montana linebacker was the Cowboys’ seventh round draft pick in April. Dallas begins a three-day minicamp today.
Update on Anthony Drmic’s quest to make the Australian Olympic basketball team: no news is probably not good news. The YouYi Series, a three-game exhibition between the Australia Boomers, the squad from which the Aussie team will be chosen, and China tipped off in Perth last Saturday. Drmic, a sophomore-to-be at Boise State, did not play as the Boomers beat their Chinese counterparts, 66-55. There are 25 hopefuls overall on the Boomers roster, with the number to be pared to 12 players who will compete for Australia at the Summer Games in London.
Boise State’s Kurt Felix is no doubt getting a lot of questions about his chances to medal for Grenada in the Summer Olympics after winning the national championship in the decathlon last Thursday. This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated demonstrates what a long shot any London hardware would be. SI features three U.S. decathletes who it says could sweep the event at the Summer Games. Ashton Eaton, a former Oregon Duck, preceded Felix as a three-time NCAA decathlon champion and has posted a career-high of 8,457 points. Bryan Clay, the 2008 gold medalist in Beijing, has a personal best of 8,832 points. And Trey Hardee, the 2005 NCAA champion, has put up 8,790 points. Felix’s PB last week at the NCAA’s was 8,062 points. That’s a big gap.
Back to baseball—it doesn’t look good when a guy like former Boise Hawk Andrew Cashner is optioned to Double-A San Antonio by the San Diego Padres. But there’s a method to the madness. The Padres plan to move Cashner from the bullpen to the rotation and started him in the Padres’ 5-2 win Saturday over Milwaukee. The former TCU star and Cubs first-round draft pick allowed two hits and one run over 2 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking two. Padres manager Bud Black wants Cashner to use his time in San Antonio to make the full transition to starter. Cashner, who was traded to San Diego in the offseason, is 3-3 this year with a 3.81 ERA.
This Day In Sports…June 12, 1997, 15 years ago today:
Boise’s new bowl game gets official sanctioning from the NCAA to play that December. It would hook up in the summer of ’97 with the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame to become the Humanitarian Bowl, matching the Big West champion against a team from Conference USA. The game was crucial to the Big West Conference, which had lost its bowl affiliation when the Las Vegas Bowl dumped the league after the 1996 season.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)