Rick Sweet would rather have stayed close to home. But when the San Diego Padres demoted the Vancouver, Wash., resident from manager of the Triple-A Portland Beavers to the organization's roving catching instructor, he figured it was time to look elsewhere.

So Sweet, 51, leaves Feb. 22 for spring training in Tigertown at Lakeland, Fla., as manager of Detroit's Double-A Erie Seawolves.

'There are good people in the organization, people I have known for some time,' says Sweet, the Beavers' manager the past three years. 'They want to hire people who can help turn things around, and I get to be part of that.'

Sweet says it was never spelled out why San Diego replaced him as the Beavers' manager with Craig Colbert.

'Never heard anything from anybody but that I was doing a great job, that what I was doing was appreciated,' Sweet says. 'The only thing I heard afterward Ñ and I take it as a compliment Ñ is I made the players too comfortable. Rather than scream, yell, get mad, I just took care of things. But I never had anybody tell me I needed to change something.'

Was he screwed over?

'In terms of the real world, yes,' Sweet says. 'In baseball, it is just something that happens. I am disappointed more than mad. I wish there had been better communication. But after the (job) change, it just wasn't going to work out the way I wanted.'

Sweet says the situation with the instability of ownership of the Beavers 'is fixable. It is a matter of everybody getting together and getting it done, citywise and ownershipwise. In my three years, we never had a legitimate general manager. That is no knock on Mike Higgins or Mark Schuster. I got along well with both of them. But it was never run like a Triple-A team. Portland should be one of the best Triple-A situations in the country, and it is probably the most unstable.'

nMike Riley had more than a passing interest in the Super Bowl. The Oregon State coach had New England defensive end Willie McGinest while he was an assistant at Southern Cal and Patriot safety Rodney Harrison when he was head coach at San Diego.

But Riley also has a connection to the quarterbacks.

Carolina's Jake Delhomme was the backup during Riley's year at New Orleans.

'A special guy,' Riley says. 'I'm glad he got his chance this year.'

Riley was the man in charge of recruiting the Patriots' QB, Tom Brady, a Bay Area native, during his time at USC.

'I recruited him for a year and a half,' Riley says. 'Then at the end, we had two other quarterbacks commit, and we didn't have a scholarship to give him. I had to go to his home and tell his parents.'

• John Copeland, respected director of ticket operations for the Winter Hawks over the past decade, has been laid off in a cost-cutting move by the Western Hockey League club. It's a shame, because the Marshall High and Portland State graduate, who has 30 years of experience ranging from the Ice Follies to the Doobie Brothers to the Golden State Warriors, is renowned as one of the best in the business.

'I'm crushed,' says Copeland, 50. 'I loved working there. It's a great organization with great people. I feel lucky for the time I spent there. It's one of the best jobs I've had.'

The Copelands were hit with a double whammy: John's wife, Jennifer, learned this week she is also losing her job. Here's hoping they both find work so they can remain in the area, which is their wish.

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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