DARNOLD, DE ROO AND DAMON JUST PART OF “CONNECTIONS”

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Mike Darnold was the latest “connection.”

Throw in football’s Jim Weatherwax and Brian DeRoo.

Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright showed up here, with his team, one Saturday morning in 2003.

“Black” Jack Gardner left here in 1928.

Jerry Tarkanian lifted off from here in 1961.

How many Redlands Connections can there be?

It’s the basis for the Blog site, www.redlandsconnection.com. Dedicated to the idea that there’s a connection from Redlands to almost every major sporting event.

The afore-mentioned have already been featured. There have been others. Plenty of others.

Golf. Track & field. Tennis. Baseball and basketball. Softball and soccer. The Olympic Games and the Kentucky Derby. The World Series and the Super Bowl. You name it.

For a city this size, the connections to all of those are remarkable.

Softball’s Savannah Jaquish left Redlands East Valley for Louisiana State.

Bob Karstens was just shooting a few baskets when I saw him at Redlands High. Turned out he was one of three white men ever to play for the usually all-black Harlem Globetrotters.

Brian Billick coached a Hall of Famer. Together, they won a Super Bowl.

09_Billick_PreviewPreseason_news
Brian Billick, a key Redlands Connection.

Speaking of Super Bowls, not only was a former Redlands High player involved in the first two NFL championship games, there was a head referee who stood behind QBs Bart Starr and Lenny Dawson.

That referee got his start in Redlands.

One of racing’s fastest Top Fuel dragsters is a Redlands gal, Leah Pritchett.

LEAH PRITCHETT (leahpritchett.com)
Leah Pritchett has punched her Top Fuel dragster over 330 mph many times.

Greg Horton forcefully blocked some of football’s greatest legends for a near-Super Bowl team.

At a high school playoff game at Redlands High in 1996, Alta Loma High showed up to play a quarterfinals match. It was Landon Donovan of Redlands taking on Carlos Bocanegra.

The two eventually played on the same Team USA in the World Cup and the Olympics.

Karol Damon’s high-jumping Olympic dreams weren’t even known to her mother. She wound up in Sydney. 2000.

In the coming days, weeks and months, there will be more connections.

  • A surfing legend.
  • Besides Landon Donovan, there’s another soccer dynamo.
  • When this year’s Indianapolis 500 rolls around, we’ll tell you about a guy named “Lucky Louie.”
  • Fifteen years before he won his first Masters, Tiger Woods played a 9-hole exhibition match at Redlands Country Club.
  • University of Arizona softball, one of the nation’s greatest programs, was home to a speedy outfielder.
  • As for DeRoo, he was present for one of the pro football’s darkest moments on the field.
  • In 1921, an Olympic gold medalist showed up and set five world records in Redlands.
  • The Redlands Bicycle Classic might have carved out of that sport’s most glorious locations – set in motion by a 1986 superstar squad.
  • Distance-running sensation Mary Decker was taken down by a onetime University of Redlands miler.
  • Collegiate volleyball probably never had a greater athlete from this area.

As for Darnold, consider that the one-time University of Redlands blocker is the father of Sam Darnold, the USC quarterback who might be this year’s No. 1 draft selection in pro football’s draft.

Jaquish became the first-ever 4-time All-American at talent-rich LSU.

Jacob Nottingham, drafted a few years ago by the Houston Astros, probably never knew he’d be part of two Moneyball deals.

Gardner, who coached against Bill Russell in the collegiate ranks, tried to recruit Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas State.

Wright, whose team went into the March 31-April 2 weekend hoping to win the NCAA championship for the third time, brought his team to play the Bulldogs as sort of a warm-up test for Hawaii.

Tarkanian? Few might’ve known that the legendary Tark the Shark started chewing on those towels while he was coaching at Redlands High.

Norm Schachter was head referee in three Super Bowls, including Green Bay’s inaugural championship win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Norm Schachter with Hank Stram
Norm Schacter, wearing No. 60 (not his normal official number), synchronizes with Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram during halftime of the inaugural Super Bowl in 1967.

Speaking of Tarkanian, Weatherwax played hoops for him at Redlands. Eight years later, Weatherwax wore jersey No. 73 for the Green Bay Packers. It makes him the only man to ever play for Tarkanian and Vince Lombardi.

There will be more Redlands connections.

 

REDLANDS CATCHER PLAYED ROLE IN MONEY BALL

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Jacob Nottingham, a four-year Varsity catcher-designated hitter, might’ve been in the rarest of positions for a Redlands High School athlete in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had apparent legitimate scholarship offers to play football at Arizona or Oklahoma.

What an opportunity!

Ranked No. 2 in Redlands’ citywide football – trailing that of highly successful city rival Redlands East Valley – consider that donning a Sooners’ uniform might’ve been right there with the Wildcats’ football supremacy over Nottingham’s Terriers.

REV had sent guys to football juggernauts like UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington, at least among the major universities. It might seem like Oklahoma football would’ve trumped all of that. Sooner football lore stands firmly ahead of the Bruins, Ducks, Utes and Huskies.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham may be the Brewers’ catcher of the future (Photo by Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).

Nottingham, though, who played on a couple of the same Terrier baseball teams as my son, Chet, also loved catching. Batting. Ninety feet instead of 100 yards. He chose to chase the pro diamond dream over the college gridiron.

Redlands has produced other major leaguers. Included on that list is undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), plus Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), not to mention Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

Who knows? If Nottingham had chosen football, he’d have likely been college teammates at some point with future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.

But when the Houston Astros drafted him 167th overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

Even as a minor leaguer, Nottingham turned some heads. He was front and center in a couple of Money Ball transactions.

Money Ball definition: One of baseball’s newest and most notorious activities away from the diamond. It’s the art of dangling a major league product to a pennant-chasing franchise, but for the right cache of minor league prospects.

Nottingham was, apparently, just such a prospect.

NOTTINGHAM NETS KAZMIR FOR ASTROS

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. They were in a heated pennant race. So they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.

Scott Kazmir
Scott Kazmir, a veteran southpaw with a dozen years in major league baseball, landed at another team in a Money Ball exchange for Redlands product Jacob Nottingham (Photo byline unknown).

That July 23, 2015 move came when Houston’s Class A Lancaster team was hosting the Stockton Ports, the California League Class A affiliate of the A.s

All Nottingham had to do was switch locker rooms at the JetHawks’ stadium. Instead of heading to his Lancaster digs, he took the Stockton bus.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s, Nottingham was in a new stratosphere.

Billy_Beane_-_General_Manager_Oakland_As_(5964095428)
Billy Beane, the legendary “Money Ball” general manager of the Oakland A’s, was responsible for both trading for and trading away Redlands catcher Jacob Nottingham in notable deals. Photo by Oakland A’s

That wasn’t the end of his Beane’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect, either. Perhaps regarded as a future Oakland payoff at the MLB level, forget it. During the off-season between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

NOTTINGHAM NETS DAVIS FOR A’S

In return from the Brewers, Oakland received outfielder Khris Davis (145 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons), who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s.

Oakland Athletics
Oakland’s Khris_Davis, who has struck over 80 home runs in two seasons for Oakland, came to the A’s from Milwaukee by way of a trade … for Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham. Photo by Keith Allison

That Nottingham could fetch such nice prizes seems amazing.

Money Ball was certainly hot & heavy surrounding the Redlands prospect.

On Nov. 20, Nottingham kept smoking it to the top. The Brewers purchased his minor league contract, thus placing him on the 40-man roster – the ultimate for any prospect. He was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.

Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.

Think about this: Nottingham was a 2015 Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League) teammate of Alex Bregman, who played a part in the 2017 Houston Astros’ World Series championship.

Another Quad Cities teammate, Derek Fisher, slugged five HRs for the 2017 Astros.

Pitchers Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77 ERA), Frances Martes (5-2, 5.80), David Paulino (2-0, 6.52) and Raymin Guduan (0-0, 7.56) also logged MLB time with the series champs … off that River Bandits’ squad.

Another hurler, Daniel Mengden was one of those shipped to Oakland from Houston in the July 2015 Nottingham-Kazmir deal. Mengden finished 2017 with the A’s – 3-2, 3.17 ERA – while looking squarely into Oakland’s 2018 future as a starting pitcher.

By the time Houston had slipped past the Dodgers in the World Series, Nottingham was on a Brewers’ team looking to climb into contention. Heading into spring training, he was on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, claiming the organization’s 17th best prospect.

Beane. Kazmir. Davis. Mengden. Money Ball. Nottingham. A Redlands Connection.