ALDAMA: HUGE PART OF REDLANDS IN SUMMER OF ’01

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 and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, 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

It couldn’t have been a better summer in 2001. At least it was for a local sports editor seeking sports news for a reading public that rejoiced over such information.

Heather Aldama was playing pro soccer for the Boston Breakers.

Landon Donovan was up in San Jose, playing for the Earthquakes.

Donovan, for his part, would eventually become arguably Team USA’s greatest player.

Heather Aldama
Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Santa Clara University).

Aldama had been a stud scorer at Redlands High just as Landon was arriving at Redlands High in 1995-1996. The Lady Terriers, built around Aldama’s goal-scoring and goal-producing passes, won four league championships.

In one season alone, she racked up a phenomenal 38 goals and 22 assists.

Over four seasons at Redlands, Aldama was All-CIF Southern Section each year. Her Lady Terrier teams reached the CIF quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once. The play was usually in the top tier of Division 1.

She was surrounded by terrific talent, plus coach Rolando Uribe who had been a scoring phenom for RHS’ boys side a few years earlier.

Part of a Southern California Blues side that won a state Under-19 title is, most likely, what landed Aldama in the collegiate spotlight; and, evetually, the pros.

That summer of 2001 was great for a small-town daily sports editor.

SUMMER PERKS OF ALDAMA, DONOVAN

The way it works on a small daily is simple. You’re obligated to produce as much local copy as possible.

That routine wasn’t necessarily so simple.

Due to shrinking budgets, the Associated Press wire services were all but unavailable to produce a sports section. Local copy was becoming even more mandatory.

During summer months at a small local daily newspaper, it’s tough to crank out local copy, particularly because schools are shut down between June and September.

You’d have to make up for it with all-star baseball, country club golf results, bowling scores from the local House, maybe some Junior Olympic swimming results courtesy of Redlands Swim Team, while we followed the exploits of that year’s Redlands Bicycle Classic entries throughout their summer seasons.

But when that pair of soccer-playing, midfield scorers put on their professional uniforms, they attracted plenty of attention.

That summer, though, was great. For me. For readers. You rarely read much in the county or regional newspapers about either player. Each time Aldama, or even Donovan, took the field for their respective sides, it was an opportunity for local coverage.

ALdama - Washington Freedom wins FreedomWinSemi
This is an example of a photo that was available to the local sports desk in Redlands during summer play in WUSA. While Redlands’ Heather Aldama walks off the field in disappointment, the Washington Freedom is celebrating a playoff semifinals triumph (photo by Women’s United Soccer Association).

It almost defied the odds when AP would staff many of those matches with a photographer. A handful of photos from their matches would come across the wire on game nights. Both players, Aldama and Donovan, showed up in photos on local sports pages in their hometowns.

In a way, it almost defied the odds. At any point on a soccer pitch, there are 22 players. One photographer. It seemed like every match included a shot of the Redlanders. It’s not hard to really imagine. Aldama and Donovan were playmakers. Photographers like action. Their lenses are usually aimed toward those making plays.

Photos filled at least one-third of the page.

It’s one way to fill a local sports section.

SANTA CLARA WAS COLLEGE CHOICE

Unlike Donovan, who skipped college to play the European pro leagues at age 16, Aldama chose NCAA powerhouse Santa Clara University as her collegiate stop. Four seasons of Varsity play as a Lady Terrier attacker, plus her club-playing roots, had left her as a prime target for most of the top colleges.

There were some highlights for the Lady Bronco.

As a freshman in 1997, Aldama nailed a game-winning goal against West Coast Conference rival Loyola-Marymount.

She played against No. 3 Florida in the 1998 NCAA semifinals, against No. 19 Brigham Young University, playing in virtually every big Santa Clara match during her 1997-2000 collegiate career.

Aldama netted a 16-yarder against third-ranked Nebraska in a 2-1 win over the Lady Huskers on Sept. 19, 1999.

In an NCAA playoff match against UCLA that same season, she scored in the 23rd minute, assisting on another goal in a crucial win.

Against Connecticut in the NCAA quarterfinals one match later, Aldama assisted on a pair of Aly Wagner goals, helping produce a 3-0 triumph.

In other words, Aldama always seemed to find herself in the mix – scoring, setting up goals and other plays, streaking downfield to work her way open.

Once college was over, though, what next?

REPLACING TEAM USA

Aldama was part of a replacement Team USA side at a Jan. 13, 2000 match in Adelaide, Australia. In an event called the Australia Cup, Aldama surfaced as a substitute in the championship match, 3-1, over the Matildas.

Team USA’s main side had boycotted the match.

Sherrill Kester, Danielle Slaton and Wagner, Aldama’s college teammate, scored in front of 3,500 at Hindmarsch Stadium.

Playing against a more experienced Matildas’ squad, the U.S. held a 20-6 shots advantage, plus a 10-5 edge in corner kicks. It was in the 82nd minute that Aldama fed Wagner for Team USA’s final goal.

Mandy Clemens was part of the team, plus Jenn Mascaro (Streiffer), Michelle French and Veronica Zepeda with Lakeyshia Beene in goal.

Team USA, 2-0-1 in the four-nation tournament, had the same record as Sweden (playing to a 0-0 draw), winning on goal differential, holding a plus-nine to Sweden’s plus-four. The Czech Republic and host Australia made up the remaining tournament qualifiers.

It was that 8-1 win over the Czech Republic that did it for Team USA.

Considering that Sydney, Australia would be the host of that year’s 2000 Olympics, it had to occur that Aldama could see action when the Summer Games started.

Team USA’s co-coach Lauren Gregg noted the team’s approach.

She told Associated Press that Team USA achieved its objectives.

“First, we won by playing some exciting, attacking soccer.

“Second, these players invested in their development every minute they were on the field and took every advantage of this opportunity.

“Finally,” she said, “these games gave us a chance to evaluate our young personalities against much more experienced players, which gives us extremely valuable information as we go forward toward the Olympics.”

Team USA, Olympic gold medalists in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, took silver in the 2000 Sydney Games. That team was largely built around the same group of historic women that won World Cup in Pasadena a couple years earlier.

China and Team USA played to a 1-1 draw, but the American women made it to the championship match, won by Sweden, 3-1.

Aldama was not part of the side.

SETTING STAGE FOR WUSA

While USA’s women were forming a global powerhouse at the international stage, Aldama was on the bubble to crack onto a formidable national team that included the likes of Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Carla Overbeck, Kristine Lilly, Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow, Tiffeny Milbrett, Clemens, Tisha Venturini, Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan, Julie Foudy and goalkeeper Brianna Scurry, among other well-known American players.

Brandi_Chastain_ESPN_Weekend_2010
Brandi Chastain, a 1999 World Cup hero, was a Heather Aldama rival during their days in the Women’s United Soccer Association (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

In its most famous triumph in 1999 came in a 5-4 shootout win over China after a 0-0 draw through extended time. Chastain’s famous goal-winning shot was celebrated, dropping to her knees, whipping off her jersey and photographed in her sports bra.

That match was played at the Rose Bowl in front of nearly a packed house while shown on live international TV.

It had to affect an up-and-coming player like Aldama, who was still playing at Santa Clara – Chastain’s collegiate stop, incidentally.

The U.S., who knocked off North Korea, Nigeria and Denmark in pool play, had beaten Germany, Brazil and China, all world soccer powers. By contrast, Team USA’s men had never been able to produce a winning equation during international play.

Aldama had a few national team appearances. The timing of her departure from Santa Clara, however, was met with the formation of a new pro women’s soccer league.

SQUARING OFF AGAINST ’99 CUP SQUAD

In 2001, the Women’s United Soccer Association, or WUSA, was created. One of the founding eight teams was the Boston Breakers. The league lasted three seasons.

Aldama was part of a side that included Lilly, plus Kate Sobrero and Tracy Ducar. International players came over from Germany, Maren Meinhart and Bettina Wiegmann, plus Norway’s Dagny Mellgren and Ragnhild Gulbrandsen.

Lilly-2010-stl
Kristine Lilly, another of the 1999 USA World Cup heroes, was a Boston Breakers teammate of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Aldama showed up in Boston, courtesy of being the 28th player selected in the 2001 draft, a fourth-round pick by the Breakers. They played her on defense.

It was tough beginnings for Boston, which played to an 8-10-3 mark in its inaugural season, following that up with a 6-8-7 mark in 2002 – but no playoffs.

Matches were played at Nickerson Field in Boston. The team was owned by Amos Hostetter, Jr., who had served as chairman of C-SPAN.

That third and final season, though, under coach Pia Sundhage, former Norwegian scoring playmaker, was a little different. Boston finished 10-4-7 and reached the semifinals before a shootout against the Washington Freedom ended the Breakers’ season.

Aldama, wearing jersey No. 12, missed a shot in the penalty kick phase.

Eventually, when WUSA suspended operations, that was about it for the 25-year-old Aldama.

The Breakers reappeared, however – twice.

In 2007, they showed up as part of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), folding in 2012. After that, the Breakers became part of the Women’s Pro Soccer League Elite.

Who was Aldama playing against in WUSA?

It was that same core group of 1999 World Cup players.

Mia_Hamm_corner
Mia Hamm took her celebrated career into the WUSA ranks, where she competed against the likes of Redlands’ Heather Aldama (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Instead of watching them or dreaming of being their place, Aldama was attacking the likes of Scurry, plus defending against the all-star talents of Fawcett, MacMillan, Akers, Parlow, Milbrett, Venturini, Foudy, Hamm, Chastain and Clemens, among others – America’s best players.

In a July 3, 2003 match between Aldama’s Breakers and the Washington Freedom, Aldama notched her first professional goal in the 66th minute. There were 8,105 fans at Boston’s Nickerson Field to witness the two sides play to a 1-1 draw.

The shot was a curving, 25-yarder into the upper right hand corner of the net.

That shot might have originated in Redlands.

 

 

K.K. LIMBHASUT GOLFS HIS WAY FROM REDLANDS TO BERKELEY

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 and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, 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

For years, Redlands High’s K.K. Limbhasut worked his way into the Terriers’ golf lineup at the No. 1 position — all four seasons, in fact. When he notched a victory at  the Ka’anapali Classic in Lahaina, Hawaii last November, he shot his way to collegiate golf’s mecca.

He has just capped his junior season at Cal-Berkeley, shooting just over 71. Limbhasut’s collegiate career includes two prominent wins, a dozen top 10 NCAA finishes, plus a 10th place at the 2016 NCAA Championships as a freshman.

The Thai-born Limbhasut (pronounced Lip-ah-SOOD) was one of those athletes that showed up as a Terrier, who averaged 68 shots every time he played 18 holes as a prep.

KK LIMBHASUT
K.K. Limphasaut, a Redlands High School product, is playing his way through UC Berkeley on a golf scholarship. The fifth-year senior has won some collegiate events in his time (photo by Cal Bears).

He goes into a list of Terrier athletes that might’ve been surprises in the school’s traditional Blue Line.

Athletes like future Olympic high jumper Karol Damon, plus Brigham Young University tennis’ Hermahr Kaur, soccer’s Landon Donovan, football and track star Patrick Johnson, among others, who showed up, perhaps unexpectedly, to carve out a niche.

Those athletes could’ve easily shown up on some other campus.

When Limbhasut shot a 67 at the CIF-Southern Section championship at Mission Lakes, he’d outplayed Oregon-bound Aaron Wise (now on the PGA Tour), of Corona Santiago, by a single shot to win the 2014 championship.

Names like Tiger Woods (three times, in fact, for Anaheim Western) are on that same winner’s list. So are PGA Hall of Famers like Dave Stockton (San Bernardino Pacific) and Billy Casper (Chula Vista), plus Vista Murrieta’s Ricky Fowler.

Limbhasut  probably won’t ever forget that eagle on the 16th hole at Mission Lakes which lifted him to his win over Wise and an entire field of gifted prep players.

His grades, not to mention his game, got him a shot, literally, at the academically sound Berkeley campus.

He’s paid his dues at Berkeley. There was that 2014-2015 Aggie Invitational triumph in Texas, plus a tie for first place at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate Tournament in Hawaii one season later.

Limphasut has been a three-time All-West Region. Like most top-flight amateurs, he’s played in plenty of major events. He just finished playing at the Arnold Palmer Cup, held in France, losing in match play while representing the International team.

Let’s not forget that any time, he tees up in a collegiate match — particularly in the super talented Pac 12 — Limbhasut’s taking on top-flight future pros. In Cal’s NCAA Regionals, played in Raleigh, N.C., an 11th place finish failed to land a spot in the NCAA Championships.

Limbhasut’s tie for 32nd place, shooting 212, was middle of the road play.

It’s probably far too premature to pronounce a pro future on Limbhasut, which is the likely conclusion to draw from any golfer with such a growing list. It’s probably too premature to rule it out.

His final round 66 at the Royal Ka’anapali Course included three pars on the final three holes, shooting 12-under par for a 200 total, edging South Carolina’s Scott Stevens by a shot. Limbhasut’s Cal teammate Collin Morkiwaka started the final round in first place.

Limbhasut’s patience and iron play held steady.

“I controlled my ball flight this week,” he told an area magazine, “which helped when the trades (infamous Hawaiian winds) picked up.”

Noting a 25-foot uphill putt he sank for an eagle on the ninth hole, Limbhasut seemed perfectly up to that up-and-down part on the 18th hole to close it out.

Next stop: Limbhasut, a fifth-year senior, will begin play this fall.

‘CUP’ CHAT: DONOVAN SEEMED PREPARED TO MAKE THE CALL

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, Wimbledon and the Olympics, 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

It’s July 6, 2018. A World Cup quarterfinals day. France had just beaten Uruguay, 2-0. At 11 a.m., Pacific, Belgium took on Brazil for a spot in the Cup semifinals.

American soccer icon Landon Donovan had made a bold prediction a few years earlier. He talked about Belgium in 2014. By 2018, that European nation was bidding for a Cup.

Flashing back, it’s a distant memory in the days when young teenager Landon Donovan flashed up and down high school soccer fields, darting in to take a pass, dribble up the field, set up a teammate, or launch a shot into the mouth of a soccer goal.

In years ahead, he wasn’t worried about playing Rialto Eisenhower, San Gorgonio or Victor Valley from the Citrus Belt League.

What was on his mind that summer of 2014 is Group G – Germany, Ghana and Portugal. Or on just making the Team USA roster. America’s coach at the moment was German legend Jurgen Klinsmann.

Landon Donovan 2
Redlands’ Landon Donovan, who was America’s greatest soccer scoring threat, left America to train in Europe at a young age. Maybe that’s the secret to lifting Team USA to more of an international presence (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

America had been in such a state of disorganization as a soccer side, Team USA went international to hire a coach. Klinsmann, a goal-scoring superstar for the Germans, was brought over to direct the American side.

Donovan would eventually feel the sting.

In reality, his days at Redlands High as a freshman – when he was the ’96 CBL Most Valuable Player – and his half-season at Redlands East Valley, were just soccer matches in miniature.

He was an IMG Academy (Fla.) kid playing for club and national youth teams, plus prepping for a remarkable career that was about to unfold. Leaving REV midway through his sophomore year (1997-98) to play professionally overseas, Donovan’s touch seemed magical.

The magnificent Donovan, an L.A. Galaxy/U.S. World Cup player, has scored an American record 57 international goals – and likely would’ve added to that mark in his fourth Cup appearance in 2014.

“I hope so,” he said at the time.

As of April 22, 2014, Donovan claims he didn’t have a clue if he’d be included on USA’s roster. “We’ll find out in the beginning of June,” he said.

Was he being coy? After all, he’s one of the greatest USA scoring threats ever. Donovan shrugged.

“You never know. I hope so – yes.”

DONOVAN: MESSI, RONALDO BEST IN THE WORLD

It’s amazing that such a remarkable talent as Donovan grew up in the Redlands area. Klinsmann, though, didn’t pick him.

Donovan to USA soccer is what Phil Mickelson is to golf, or LeBron James to basketball – American stars without controversial baggage away from the arena (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, among others).

Asked to identify the world’s best players, Donovan pondered for just a few moments. No American players came from his lips.

Cristiano_Ronaldo_(35480124482)
Cristiano Ronaldo, called by Landon Donovan, one of the top players in the world, was certainly on the field against USA’s best-ever product (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

“Cristiano (Ronaldo, of Real Madrid) and (Spaniard Lionel) Messi.”

The pondering, perhaps, came just because he was trying to separate the two between No. 1 and No. 2.

It’s impossible. “They’re both good for different reasons,” says Donovan, who may have settled on Messi being best-on-the-planet.

Donovan’s been on the pitch, playing against both players, incidentally.

Messi’s a goal-scoring legend.

Lionel_Messi_Player_of_the_Year_2011
Lionel Messi might get the nod, at least from Redlands’ Landon Donovan, as the world’s greatest soccer player, as of July 2018, that is. Donovan’s played against the great Argentian scoring legend (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Said Donovan: “He gets himself into position better than other people can. He’s more of an individual talent when he gets the ball alone.” Messi might be five or six inches shorter than NBA great LeBron James, “but it’s the same athleticism.”

The 2014 World Cup was wide open. Donovan was hoping to play. It would be one last hurrah.

Germany, he said, “is emerging. A lot of people are talking about Belgium.”

Belgium? Four years later, Belgium was on the threshold of winning the 2018 World Cup. They’d taken down 5-time Cup champion Brazil, 2-1, in St. Petersburg, Russia. In the semifinals, however, France ended Belgium’s run with a 1-0 outcome.

Team USA wasn’t in the 2018 field.

DONOVAN’S GOAL-SCORING WAS PHENOMENAL

Four years before, in 2014, Donovan’s name wasn’t on Team USA’s roster. It might’ve been the first breakdown of the American side. By 2018, Team USA couldn’t even qualify to be among the 32 World Cup teams. Donovan, by then, was gone.

You have to wonder, though: If Klinsmann hadn’t taken him down in 2014, would Donovan, at age 36, have lasted through a 2018 attempt?

Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann, the famed German goal-scoring legend who became Team USA coach, might have slowed up the development of America’s soccer movement after cutting Landon Donovan from America’s team in 2014 (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

The USA/Donovan side shouldn’t be taken for granted, though. An eventual USA World Cup triumph, though perhaps unexpected, would be a great story.

In 2014, he said, just getting out our group “would be good. Getting out of our group would be success. Anything after that is icing on the cake.”

Soccer fascination’s growing in the USA, he says. “Our young kids now are passionate about it.”

Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo, meanwhile, said there’s too much club, too many parents paying for their kids’ involvement. The inference seemed to be that toughness is limited.

“A rich white kid sport,” she called it.

Donovan: Interest level is high. “It takes time (to grow the same fascination between the USA soccer and the European Premiership).”

That’s part of the answer, perhaps: Grow up USA players on European rosters. To gain the toughness. To gain the experience. To gain the international flavor. It’s just the way Donovan pulled it off.

During qualifying, those USA players would reassemble for their national team. Donovan did it. As a teenager who trained for Bayer Leverkusen, a Bundesliga (league) side, he trained — rarely appeared — before being “loaned” to the Earthquakes for 2001-2004.

There were 11 seasons in Galaxy colors. On loan to Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen, Donovan’s cap time started coming to an end.

Donovan, at 32, retired after the World Cup. Perhaps, but only as a Cup player. “We’ll see,” he said at the time.

By 2016, Donovan retired as a Galaxy striker.

Playing for six Major League Soccer Cup championship teams (four in L.A., two in San Jose), the Redlands kid was a goal-scoring dynamo — 160 in MLS matches, plus those 57 international net-finders.

Briefly, he returned to play for Leon, a Mexican team, but Donovan’s contract was terminated in June 2018.

As a U.S. player, he played in more international matches than all but one.

It’s kind of cool, isn’t it, that Donovan sprung his worldwide legend from Redlands?

 

 

 

RUMBLINGS CIRCULATED ABOUT JACOB NOTTINGHAM’S CALL-UP TO BREWERS

Rumblings on onetime Redlands High catcher Jacob Nottingham began on Sunday night. Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher Manny Pina was headed for the 10-day disabled list, among a flurry of other moves.

Those rumblings were Redlands’ baseball observers — parents, coaches, former players, ex-teammates, observers from all corners of the city, you name it — that included social media attention.

On July 8, Nottingham was recalled to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was expected to share catching duties with Erik Kratz over the next week.

Nottingham may be the Brewers_ catcher of the future (Sean Flynn, Houston Chronicle).
Redlands’ Jacob Nottingham returned to the major leagues, called by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 8. He started one day later, getting a double and single for his first two MLB hits.

Sure enough, Nottingham was placed in the lineup — batting eighth, in fact — in Milwaukee’s game at Miami. He would be facing Marlins’ pitcher Jose Urena while catching Brewers’ pitcher Chase Anderson.

Nottingham, a catcher who spent a few days with the Brewers earlier in the season over a similar situation, had been recalled again. He was hitting .303 with 10 HRs at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

He’s the Brewers’ No. 25 prospect, according the MLB Pipeline.

This could be no ordinary Redlands Connection. Perhaps, it’s just the latest.

Nottingham singled off Urena, who fed him an 89-mph off-speed, hitting it to left field off the end of the bat. Next time up, against Javy Guerra, Nottingham drilled a double to left field.

In the end, Miami beat the Brewers, 4-3.

Milwaukee, which held a two-game lead over 2016 World Series champion Chicago in a rough-and-tumble National League Central Division race, could be the surprise force in 2018.

Nottingham, along with a bevy of other Milwaukee youths, might be a vital cog in the expected summer duel with the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

Nottingham-to-the-big-leagues is big news.

Redlands has produced previous major leaguers, including undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), plus Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.

When the Houston Astros drafted Nottingham at No. 167 overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.

After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. On July 23, 2015, 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.

Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s.

But it was hardly the end of Bean’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect. Between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns dealt outfielder Khris Davis (166 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons) to Oakland. Davis, who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s, has 21 bombs so far this season.

That’s how highly Milwaukee must’ve viewed Nottingham’s potential.

On Nov. 20, 2017 Nottingham’s minor league contract was purchased. The Brewers placed him on the 40-man roster, the ultimate payoff for any off-season transaction.

Nottingham 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.

Upon his call-up to the Brewers in April, Nottingham received the full treatment. His father, Greg, was spotted being interviewed on the Brewers’ TV network.

Brewers’ history is traced back to the 1969 season when the American League expanded to two teams, the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals. When the Pilots’ support floundered prior to the 1970 season, the were sold to a group in Milwaukee, which included eventual baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

When baseball needed to even up its 30-team alignment in 1998 — there were, at one point, 16 N.L. teams and 14 A.L. teams — the Brewers were shifted to the National League to evenly align the leagues.

Other than a playoff season in 2008 (wild card) and 2011 (N.L. Central Division title), the Brewers’ post-season appearances have been limited.

As for Nottingham, he had one final swing in the Brewers’ loss in Miami. That he struck out against Marlins’ closer Kyle Barraclough is only part of the story.

Against Barraclough’s 95-mph fastballs, Nottingham unloaded back-to-back swings that were hard-core, all-out powerful, home run-conscious hacks that would’ve tied the score if only he’d connected.

He’s a true Big Leaguer.

Nottingham’s call-up, most likely attracting attention from all corners of his hometown, got the rumblings rolling.

Next stop is an N.L. Central Division showdown between the second place Cubs and first place Brewers. That showdown would have true Redlands Connections if Tyler Chatwood, a Redlands East Valley prospect, were pitching for Chicago with Nottingham catching for the Brewers.

FROM A PHONE TIPSTER: PRO BOWLER EARL ANTHONY WAS IN TOWN

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, Wimbledon and the Olympics, 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

It was a mid-afternoon call. Mid-summer. Very little was taking place around Redlands.

Hardly anyone was in the newspaper office. In those days, the telephone was the lifeblood at any newspaper. Most of the time, when callers weren’t complaining or spouting off, good calls often proved exotic and helpful. One afternoon in early 1982, a very quiet voice who was at Empire Bowl, the local bowling alley, had an alert.

“Earl Anthony,” she said, “is here right now … bowling.”

Anthony was a legendary figure on the Professional Bowling Association tour.

Though I doubted the caller’s accuracy – what would a guy like Earl Anthony be doing in Redlands, of all places, right? – it wouldn’t take a whole lot of effort to drive a few miles from the office to verify this report.

Earl Anthony? In Redlands? No way!

Earl_Anthony
Earl Anthony, who missed the cut at a PBA tournament in Torrance, was on his way to another tournament in Tucson, Ariz. when he stopped off, at all places, Empire Bowl in Redlands (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Empire Bowl, located right next to a portion of Interstate 10, was in a fairly prominent spot along Colton Ave. It bordered along the North Side neighborhoods. A couple blocks west sat Bob’s Big Boy, a popular little restaurant. A little east was historic downtown Redlands.

I parked, got out, walked into the House. A crowd of people had converged to the far right portion.

Empire Bowl
This was the view from the corner of Redlands’ Empire Bowl, where PBA star Earl Anthony stopped by for practice (photo by Empire Bowl).

Sure enough, there he was, rolling a ball. Alone. A lefty, to be sure. Smooth. Effortless. Confident. He knocked down pins the way Jack Nicklaus or Lee Trevino landed golf shots on the green.

That phone tip turned out to be true. Suddenly, I became a bowling writer. I hadn’t written much on bowling. Our newspaper relied on people turning in results.

“Earl, do you have a minute?”

The bespectacled gentleman motioned me over. We chatted for awhile.

First question: What in the heck was he doing here?

Earl Anthony laughed.

Just passing through, he said. Thought he’d stop and roll a few just to get some exercise. We became quick friends. He ordered us a couple Cokes.

It was small talk, mostly. Lots of PBA titles. Some major championships. Anthony shared the news that he, at one time, had been a left-handed pitching hopeful with the Baltimore Orioles, along with a few other insights about his life.

“My pitching helped my bowling, though. It helped my rhythm and concentration.”

PRO BOWLING IS ROUGH

We chatted a little about those local showboats. They have them in every city. They’re the dominant bowlers at their “House.” Pro bowling stars roll into town and have to take them on. You know, kind of like gunslingers taking on the city’s fastest gun.

Anthony, who was 43 at the time, laughed. “Yeah. Yeah. Sure, I’ve faced those kind of guys. A lot of times. Didn’t always win.”

He’d just missed the cut at a tournament in Torrance, “so I figured I’d better get out here and practice a little.”

Each week, the PBA’s top bowlers were in contention.

“Mark Roth, Mal Acosta and guys like that,” he said. “I don’t mean to put down any town’s best bowlers, but usually the difference between them and us is the same difference as a high school player coming up to the big leagues.”

Referring to the rabbit squad, a rabid group of bowlers trying to qualify for one of those 144 tournaments spots, he noted there were 200 to 300 guys trying to qualify for 60 or 70 spots.

“When they qualify, they’ve made no money – just the right to play in the tournament.”

Pro bowling is tough, he said.

At that time, he told me, “pro bowling was at an all-time high in popularity. There is more television coverage than ever.”

In the early 1980s, ABC was televising 16 straight weeks of events.

At that very moment we were talking, the Pennzoil Open in Torrance – the tournament at which he’d failed to qualify – was set to televise on ESPN.

His home “House” was in the Northern California city of Dublin, bordering the Bay Area. Acosta and Rich Carrubba, current PBA members, were connected.

He spoke of a new PBA rule which required its members to take on a 2 ½ -day course – things like how to handle money, talk to the press and public, plus learning PBA history.

“I’m insulted by it,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea for guys coming out. But they want me and everybody else to go back and I think it’s ridiculous.”

Sarcastically, he added, “I’ve only been on the tour for about 13 years.”

In other words, he was history.

I’d reminded him that professional golfers, upon inception in the 1960s, did not require its current membership to qualify.

Said Anthony: “I used that same analogy with the PBA. They’re not listening to any of that. They still want us to attend.”

We sipped our Cokes. In between questions and answers, he’d effortlessly roll his ball down the lane. Here was a guy that made his living by rolling a ball better than most.

ANTHONY CLOSING IN ON HIS GOALS

Anthony’s goal, he told me, was “to win 40 tournaments and a million dollars before I quit.”

At that moment, Anthony had compiled 36 pro titles to his credit, plus over $900,000 in total purse winnings.

Before leaving, I said, “You know, I’ve never taken a photo before. Would you mind?”

“Not at all,” he said. “Tell me what you need.”

The photo came out a little dark. It was publishable. I think I was more excited about the photo than I was the article I’d written. Redlands’ bowling public would discover that a PBA star had stopped briefly in their community, en route to Tucson, his next tournament stop.

Two years earlier, Anthony suffered a heart attack.

“I’m fine now. I just want to start winning.”

I was done.

On my way out, I stopped at the front desk. Spotted an older woman.

“Are you the one who called me?”

She nodded.

“I owe you dinner for that. Appreciate what you did.”

“I get off at 6.”

“Bob’s?”

“Should I meet you there?”

It was, it turned out, the first and last time I’d ever see her.

Because of her, though, I’d met – and interviewed – Earl Anthony.

 

 

 

NO REV ATHLETE COMES CLOSE TO KRISTA VANSANT’S ACHIEVEMENTS

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 and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, 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

I could hear the whispers in the stands at Redlands East Valley High, circa 2007.

“She’s only on the team,” said one volleyball-players’ mom to another, “because her mom’s the coach.”

That was enough evidence for me. I glanced down the roster. Saw there was actually a Vansant, jersey No. 16. Freshman. Sure enough, Tricia Vansant was the coach.

Can’t stand a pushy parent. Here’s one mom that pushed her daughter right onto the Varsity – as a freshman. It takes something special to make Varsity as a freshman.

Right?

REV had a squared-away squad. Victoria Brummett, a college-bound (Univ. Colorado-Boulder) junior was playing middle. At setter was sophomore Johnna Fouch and libero Kyla Oropeza, both eventually winding up at Univ. San Diego.

“Two Story Tori” – Brummett’s nickname – would eventually transfer back to NCAA Division 2 powerhouse Cal State San Bernardino and win All-American honors.

Then there was that little REV freshman.

Little? She was listed at 6-feet, 2-inches.

Talk about a “loaded” team.

COLLEGIATE POWERHOUSE IN SEATTLE

Krista Vansant probably wasn’t kidding when she spoke about hopes of winning a national volleyball championship for the University of Washington. She’s that competitive. There was a breathtaking come-from-behind win over Pac-12 rival USC in the 2014 NCAA Division I Western Region championship.

Krista Vansant
Team USA was Krista Vansant’s final stop on a brilliant volleyball career that included Rancho Volleyball Club, Redlands East Valley High, University of Washington, a little European pro ball, capped by a near-miss on reaching the 2016 U.S. Olympic team (photo by Team USA).

One match later, Washington landed in an NCAA semifinals against second-ranked Penn State.

The onetime REV superstar outside hitter had risen from the Gatorade National Prep Player of the Year in 2010 to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Player of the Year in 2013.

It was quite a run – for Vansant, her team and coaches, family and friends, plus all those that followed her exploits – in a season full of remarkable achievements. After that match against USC, though, she was full of hope.

She spoke about not being satisfied, setting goals, never reaching the Final Four despite great teams, winning a national title. For athletes like Vansant, nothing short of winning is ever enough.

Said Vansant: “So I think we’re not being complacent. We’re in the gym working hard every day to get better.”

(Speaking of working hard. During her REV days, Vansant might’ve been among two or three volleyball players working in the weight room – alongside the school’s high-achieving football team.)

When third-ranked University of Washington took the floor against No. 2 Penn State in the NCAA Division 1 women’s volleyball semifinals on a December night just before Christmas, Vansant was the logical force in the Lady Huskies’ attack.

Vansant, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, would likely be a factor in lifting the Huskies to the national title game two nights later. But the Nittany Lions swept Washington’s women in three sets.

One match earlier, top-ranked Texas, the defending NCAA champion, was knocked off by No. 16 Wisconsin – a huge surprise. In an all-Big Ten showdown, Penn State later knocked off Wisconsin for the NCAA title.

Against Penn State, Vansant looked tall, lithe and athletic, totally ready to fire. Penn State, no stranger to national championships (seven titles since 1999), took her out of the flow, its attack dwarfing Washington in that semifinals matchup.

Washington’s win over USC became ultimate triumph.

Vansant’s efforts were key – 38 kills and 30 digs – the first-ever 30-30 performance for a Husky in the NCAA tournament’s long history. Her 38 kills notched a Washington record, beating Stevie Mussie’s 35 kills against BYU in 2007.

 

Washington, trailing USC by two sets in the NCAA Western Regional finals, likely stunned a national TV audience, completing a comeback that included saving two match points to knock off the sixth-ranked Lady Trojans in five sets, 26-28, 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 17-15.

I watched closely on TV. You couldn’t miss her. Vansant was seen instantly breaking into tears on the court after the emotionally-draining marathon.

Vansant eventually joined eventual Team USA Olympian Courtney Thompson, a previous Washington star, as the only Honda Award winners in program history.

Finalists included Haley Eckerman (Texas), Kelsey Robinson (Nebraska) and Carly Wopat (Stanford).

For good measure, Vansant was also the espnW Player of the Year.

Incidentally, Vansant was a two-time Honda Award winner.

It’s hard to keep all those awards straight.

CAPPING HER PREP CAREER

At REV, Vansant was a monster – part of a stacked REV lineup that won three CIF titles (2007-2009), winning CIF Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, junior and senior from 2008-2010 – her Lady Wildcats’ squad winning all 59 Citrus Belt League matches with her mother, Tricia, as coach.

In Dec. 2010, Vansant, who was REV’s Homecoming Queen, and later named national Gatorade Player of the Year just after completing her senior season at REV.

She was in my wife’s English class at REV. If I quoted Laura Brown properly, there’d be comments about how classy and responsible, humble and honest, forthright and work-conscious.

Let’s not forget that was in English class – not on the volleyball floor.

It was for that reason that Mrs. Brown forced Mr. Brown to drive all the way to Redondo Beach to watch REV play in a Division 1 playoff match. In a rarity, REV lost the Division 1 showdown to Redondo Union.

It was Vansant’s final prep match. She was a senior.

REV’s end was just the beginning for Vansant. She became the first-ever Lady Husky to win the AVCA Player-of-the-Year honor. On hand to present the award was none other than multi-Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh-Jennings.

The comments were typical Krista:

“I did not prepare a speech, I just want to thank my friends and family and all my teammates for everything you guys do for me. You make my life so easy and I love you all so much.

“Love you Mom and Dad (Robert). Thanks to my previous club coaches. I would say my previous high school coaches but those are my parents, so thanks again!”

As for Vansant’s freshman year at REV, there were 38 matches. Thirty-four of them were victories … team-high 367 kills … she could receive a serve (201) … she could serve well (30 aces) … she could play the net (26 blocks).

The Lady Wildcats went through the playoffs without blinking much – Monrovia, San Bernardino Cajon and Wildomar Elsinore, all in 3-game sweeps.

South Torrance went down in four.

In the finals against North Torrance, REV won in five.

So much for being the coach’s daughter!

 

Down The Road: Stories to come – Vansant came within an eyelash of making Team USA at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics … her coaching career is underway at Indiana.

TENNIS STAR DARRELL HUDLOW HAD THE HOTTEST DRIVE-IN AROUND

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 and the Olympics, plus NCAA Final Four connections, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500, 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

I wished there were more guys like Darrell Hudlow.

Redlands, the city where football tried to be king, soccer and softball became high-level sports, while swimming, baseball, track & field and golf willed its way to prominence, there was an original Mr. Tennis.

It might’ve been Hudlow.

In a city that’s produced multitudes of high school and collegiate tennis champions, Wimbledon and U.S. Open players, Hudlow comes quickly to mind.

Darrell Hudlow, one of the first top-flight players at the University of Redlands back in the 1930s, had quite a list of opponents that could have included Bobby Riggs and definitely included Jack Kramer and Gardner Malloy (photo submitted by Rachel Roche, assistant athletic director and head sports information at the University of Redlands).

I wasn’t even aware he played tennis. The place to go dancing, said once-young lovers, was Hudlow’s drive-in, located on “the highway to Redlands.”

 

He was Hudlow’s proprietor. Upon moving to Redlands in 1979, you couldn’t miss the greenish sign out there on a Redlands Blvd. building — where the Bank of America now sits, I think.

Hudlow was a University of Redlands Hall of Famer.

It was stressed to me by someone –  probably by my City Editor, Dick West –  that Hudlow had been a tennis player. A damned good one at that.

Jim Verdieck may well be the name associated with championship tennis around Redlands, but Hudlow showed up on the scene long before Verdieck came to the city.

Verdieck’s teams won an unheard-of 921 tennis duals over a 38-year span. In 35 of those years, Redlands copped the conference championship. There were plenty of top players, namely Verdieck’s sons, Doug and Randy, not to mention Ron and Richard Bohrnstendt.

Hudlow may have set an early tone for high level tennis in Redlands.

Hudlow’s, incidentally, is a now-disappeared liquor store over on that Redlands Blvd. site. The old-timer just laughed.

“I went into the liquor business,” he said. “I quit tennis because I didn’t have time anymore.”

The liquor business, at least in Redlands, was taboo in those days of the 1940s and 1950s.

“The university fought me,” said Hudlow, who carried a grudge against his alma mater for years. “It was a staid old school. You couldn’t even dance up there.

“Anyway, they took this liquor thing to the city council.”

Hudlow won when the school turned over a new leaf, he told me.

When the school inducted him into its relatively new Hall of Fame in 1984, they extended a familiar hand. “The university,” he said, sarcastically, “is having a cocktail hour before the (Hall of Fame) dinner.”

Maybe, I told him, he ought to provide the liquor.

“If I did that back when I was going to the university,” he said, “I’d have gotten kicked out of school.”

The UofR had long been a dominant tennis program.

Hudlow was conference singles champion from 1937-39.

It was curious timing. Verdieck, who hailed from nearby Colton, was playing football for a dynamic group called the Vow Boys up in Palo Alto. Stanford University had vowed that it would never lose to USC.

Following a loss to USC in 1932, Stanford players vowed they would never again lost to the Trojans.

Hudlow, for his part, was playing championship-level tennis while Verdieck was making football his mission.

He’d won amateur singles titles in Arizona, Michigan and Arkansas.

Some of his opponents were Frank Kovacs, a Wimbledon champion who later lost to Bobby Riggs in the 1941 U.S. Tennis Championship finals.

Bobby_Riggs_at_1939_Wimbledon_Championships
Bobby Riggs, a 1930s and 1940s tennis star, might have played Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow along the way. “I can’t remember if I played Bobby Riggs,” he said (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Hudlow also played Gardner Mulloy, the four-time U.S. Tennis Champion (with William Talbert) in doubles.

Then there was Welby Van Horn, who lost to Riggs in the 1939 U.S. Tennis Championship finals. Hudlow beat Van Horn at Ojai, Calif.

Another big name opponent was Frankie Parker, a former U.S. Tennis champ.

Said Hudlow: “I played Jack Kramer in an exhibition in the university gym,” he said, “to raise money so I could go back east. I think we played to a tie that night.”

Jack_Kramer_portrait
Jack Kramer might have been the biggest name in tennis for a few decades. Kramer and Redlands’ Darrell Hudlow once played an indoor tennis exhibition (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Kramer, who would become a huge tennis executive in years ahead, was a U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion.

“I can’t remember if I ever played Bobby Riggs,” said Hudlow. “I knew him. You know, on rainy days at country clubs, all people do is sit in the clubhouse playing poker. I held his one-dollar bills for him.”

Hudlow was in the second class of UofR Hall of Famers.

The headliners had to be Verdieck himself, along with football coach Frank Serrao.

Lee Fulmer (baseball, basketball), John Fawcett (cross country, football and track), Charles Gillett (football), Lee Johnson (track), faculty member S. Guy Jones, track’s Samuel Kirk, Donald Kitch (football, basketball), Sanford McGilbra (football, basketball, baseball), Robert Pazder (football, basketball, baseball), football and tennis star Randy Verdieck.

While Hudlow was inducted, so, too, was his coach, Lynn Jones (1928-44).

There was a lengthy list of names, likely trying to catch up with a near century’s worth of athletes and other sports-related contributors that needed to be enshrined.

Hudlow, who died on June 19, 1998, said he didn’t play tennis for nearly 40 years before he sold his liquor store.

When he decided to return, he played recreationally.

Darrell Hudlow, in his later years, put aside playing tennis because he had plenty of other activities to take care of, including business-related items. His tennis-playing lifestyle took him to places and opponents that eventually made him a Bulldog Hall of Famer.

“I could tell you lots of stories,” he said, chuckling. “I think I’ll hold off for awhile.”