Friday, June 14, 2013.
The Boise Hawks open the season tonight in Eugene coming off a berth in the Northwest League Championship Series last September. Interestingly enough, though, the Hawks did not have a winning season last year, finishing 37-39 before making a playoff run. Boise is due for a winning campaign, having now endured four straight losing seasons. The Hawks were accustomed to victories as they built their place in the local sports landscape. They rolled up 13 consecutive winning seasons from 1990 through 2002, the first 11 of them during the record-breaking tenure of manager Tom Kotchman. Winning teams aren’t absolutely essential to minor league success. Major league parent clubs want their affiliates to develop talent, and fans want a good time from their gameday experience. But W’s sure help.
Kotchman became synonymous with Boise summers during his remarkable run in the 1990s, but he was still a Floridian (and an Angels scout), and when the season ended every year he was gone. Now the Hawks are local at the top for the first time since Mal Fichman roamed the third base coach’s box at Memorial Stadium, as Gary Van Tol manages his first game tonight in Eugene. Van Tol lives in Boise—his wife Christina is the Senior Women’s Administrator at Boise State—and he’s spent the past five years working with a local prep travel team and serving as bench coach for the Hawks. Van Tol also gets a local icon working alongside him. Bill Buckner is staying home again to serve as hitting coach after helping the Hawks to the Northwest League lead in batting average, runs, hits, doubles, triples and home runs last year.
Maybe Boise State didn’t invent the concept, but the Broncos have certainly been ahead of the curve. When Brad Larrondo moved from athletic department marketing to the football office almost two years ago it changed the standard definition of “director of football operations.” In his case it’s external operations. And this is one of the key weeks of the year for Larrondo, as Boise State’s Elite Football Camp begins this evening. He’s kind of the coordinator/public relations director/travel agent/player-family liaison for the camp. Larrondo does those things in general for the program year-round, adding recruiting visit coordination, social media, website presentation, external relations, and herding coach Chris Petersen hither and thither to those duties.
Geoff Martzen was an unpaid intern in football ops for the Broncos for nine months when he got a call from BYU this spring. Now he’s in a similar post for the Cougars—and getting paid for it. Which goes to show that people who have learned this new-age role are pretty marketable. Martzen credited his previous employer for his recruiting acumen in a Deseret News story about his hiring. “Boise State is careful about who they bring in and is much more concerned about how they will fit in the school and community than anything else,” Martzen told Dick Harmon. “They try to make sure that Boise State is a great fit for the recruit and that the recruit is a great fit for Boise State.” The Broncos dedicate people to that very task, and BYU gets it.
As for the Boise State Elite Camp, it has become a huge vehicle on several different levels, including teaching and recruiting. Players are there to learn and to be seen, and some of the Broncos’ top recruiting prospects are attending. There’ll be approximately 450 players from 15 states—and as far away as England—in the individual camp, and 12 teams in for the team camp from Idaho, California, Oregon, Washington and Montana. More than a few offers and subsequent commitments could result from the three-day event.
Speaking of BYU, this comes from the Deseret News. A Cougar recruit received a few tweets from former New England and now Denver wide receiver Wes Welker, and it might get Welker’s alma mater, Texas Tech, in a little bit of trouble. During an official visit to BYU, Nick Kurtz, a wide receiver from Grossmont College in California tweeted, "Time of my life right now. Everything I expected and more." Welker responded, "@TheKurtzWay You are visiting Lubbock already?" A potential NCAA violation occured because Kurtz had clarified to Welker that he had just visited BYU. Welker tweeted more: "@TheKurtzWay Name me the last WR in the league from BYU? Think big picture. I will give you 50 more reasons why they would be a bad move." Welker qualifies as a Texas Tech booster under NCAA rules.
Idahoan Chris Williams was tied for seventh at the U.S. Open yesterday when the first round was suspended after play was pushed back by a 3½-hour rain delay. The former Moscow Bear and Washington Husky was one-under through 10 holes, posting three birdies and two bogeys. Of the three former Albertsons Boise Open champions in the field, 2000 winner Tim Clark is off to the best start, tied for 16th. Clark was able to finish his round yesterday, shooting an even-par 70.
Borah High grad Stephen Fife gets his third straight start and his fourth overall this season when the L.A. Dodgers open a three-game series tonight in Pittsburgh. It’s been 11 days now since Fife chalked up his first big league victory in a game that is being increasingly known as the one when Yasiel Puig made his major league debut. Puig was 2-for-4 that night and preserved Fife’s victory with a running catch on the warning track that saw him rifle a rope to first base to double off a Padre to end the game. The Cuban defector is now 10 days into his career and is hitting .486 with four home runs, 10 RBI, and an infamous instigation of a brawl Tuesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. As for Fife, he’s 1-1 this season with a 3.78 ERA.
Nothing can puncture a batting average quite like an 18-inning game, and emerging Oakland star Josh Donaldson went 0-for-6 yesterday in the A’s marathon win over the Yankees. That dropped the former Boise Hawk’s average to .310—still pretty darn respectable, but it’s slipped more than 20 points in the past week. It was a week ago tonight that Donaldson hit his first career grand slam to rally the A’s past the White Sox, 4-3.
This Day In Sports…June 14, 2010:
Trumping conventional wisdom in what had been the wildest week and a half in college sports history, Texas announces it is not moving to the Pac-10 after all, and the Big 12 is saved. Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State immediately followed suit, allowing the Big 12 to continue with 10 teams after the loss of Colorado to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten. The downside for the Mountain West and newly-invited member Boise State was the resulting departure of Utah to the Pac-10, which would come two days later.
(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.)