True story: Walt Rock, video coordinator for the Seattle SuperSonics, ascends the stairs to the nosebleed section of the Rose Garden an hour before the recent Sonics-Blazers game. He spots a father and son sitting together and hands them a pair of vastly upgraded tickets, backdoor passes to a primo post-game autograph spot and a $20 bill and says, 'Enjoy yourself.'
It is a scene that has played out at cities throughout the NBA the past few seasons. Rock, 43, gets two tickets for every road game and, unless he has family or friends in town, gives them away in a 'Kings for the Day' routine.
'I always try to go to the top of the arena, and I always try to spot a father and son together,' Rock explains. 'I remember as a kid, my dad didn't have much. I only got to go to one pro game, when I was 10 years old Ñ Chiefs against Raiders. It was 30 below zero that day, and we sat at the very top row of the stadium, and I didn't mind at all. But if I can do something nice for somebody, I love doing it. And those folks at the top probably spent most of their money on the ticket, so it's nice if they can each have a hot dog and a soda.'
Even in this jaded world, there are good people out there. Rock, bless his heart, is among the best.
• Kevin Gregg got a sniff of the big-time last year, and he might be in line for a larger dose this season.
The 6-6, 220-pound pitcher from Corvallis High is in the Anaheim Angels' plans, though he may not open the season in the major leagues.
Gregg, 25, is 2-0 in eight relief appearances with the Angels in spring training, allowing 13 hits and six earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. Gregg, a starter through much of his seven-year minor-league career, came up to the Angels last September and was 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA in five games. He was 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three games as a starter, limiting opponents to a .205 batting average.
'Kevin pitched so well for us last September, he really came onto our radar screen,' says Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black, a Longview, Wash., native. 'We are excited about his development. He has thrown the ball with a purpose this spring. He has a nice live fastball, a nice slider he can turn into a cutter, he can manipulate the break on his breaking ball. We like the way he goes after hitters, pitches with an aggressive mind-set.'
Anaheim is stocked with starting pitching with the likes of Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Washburn, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz and Aaron Sele. If Gregg is to make the big club, it will be as a reliever. Brendan Donnelly's health Ñ he suffered a badly broken nose three weeks ago and underwent surgery on it last week Ñ might impact whether Gregg opens with the Angels or with Salt Lake City.
'If Donnelly isn't able to start the season, it will open up a spot for someone,' Black says. 'I would say Kevin has a pretty good chance of sticking with us. He is a guy we're watching closely. If he doesn't make the team out of spring training, we know he will play an integral part with us some time or another this year.'
• Vancouver, Wash., native Rob Ramsay is in Baltimore's camp, trying to earn a spot somewhere in the Oriole organization. The 30-year-old lefthander, who continues to recover from January 2002 surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor, pitched an inning against Montreal last week, allowing one earned run on two hits. He probably will begin the season with Triple-A Ottawa in Ontario, Canada.
• ESPN Insider's latest report predicts two Beavers and two Ducks to go in the first two rounds of the NFL draft Ñ OSU tailback Steven Jackson to New England at No. 21 in the first round, OSU defensive tackle Dwan Edwards to Chicago at No. 47 in the second round, Oregon defensive tackle Igor Olshansky at No. 48 in the second round and Oregon defensive tackle Junior Siavii to New England at No. 63 in the second round.
The report says Jackson may not last to No. 21: 'The Patriots may need to package a couple of their seven picks in the first four rounds in order to get him. Jackson grades out as an early- to mid-first round prospect, so the Patriots likely would have to move up to the 10-to-15 range to secure him É he has emerged as the top running back in this year's class, and there probably will be a bidding war for him in the middle of the first round.'
• One of the players getting plenty of notice by NBA scouts is Martynas Andriuskevicius, a 7-3 center from Lithuania being tutored by Arvydas Sabonis. Still needs work on strength and is a few years away, but he could go as high as the top five in the June draft.