Charles has earned right to skip a few
Last year was unforgettable for Clive Charles. His University of Portland Pilots claimed the NCAA soccer championship, he was named Slats Gill Man of the Year at the Oregon Sports Awards, and he continued to wage a courageous battle against the effects of prostate cancer.
One of the most inspirational people in the state's long sporting history says he is feeling good, but not great.
'Some days are better than others,' Charles says, 'but I am doing pretty well.'
The Pilots' spring season begins at Merlo Field this weekend. The women face Brigham Young today, while the men go up against Gonzaga and Washington on Saturday. Charles will coach at all the games, though he has missed some of the practice sessions and will continue to do so.
'I tend to take some time off to recoup,' he says.
• Portland's Donny Reynolds is serving as hitting coach for the Colorado Rockies' single-A team in Visalia, Calif. For Reynolds, who has served in player development for the big-league clubs with Texas, Houston and Montreal most of the last decade, it is not exactly a step up, but it is work.
'It is an interesting step back in time,' says the Corvallis native and former University of Oregon football and baseball great, choosing his words carefully. 'But I am grateful for the job, and it is an opportunity to get back on the field and to reconnect with the coaching side.'
• Bruce Bochy, San Diego Padres manager, says PGE Park would work on an interim basis for a major league facility, even with the artificial FieldTurf surface.
'It plays a little better than the old turf here,' Bochy says. 'It looks real Ñ I like that. It's a little quick, but walking on it and talking to players, it's not a turf that is real hard on the knees. The turf in Philadelphia is the best I've been on, and this is very close to that.'
Bochy spent a few days in central Oregon on land owned by Padre outfielder Ryan Klesko last winter, and says he will be back.
'I chased some elk around,' Bochy says. 'Didn't shoot anything, but I scared 'em. I was the front man for the other guys so they could do some hunting. I am like Sasquatch going through the woods. I'm not real quiet.
'I never spent much time in Oregon before, but I flew into Portland and the drive over Mount Hood was beautiful. It is as pretty a state as I have been in. I plan on coming back after the season. I love to fly-fish, and there are so many places up here to go. I am going to bring my son with me and travel around.'
• Dennis Erickson has spent most of his working hours as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers preparing for the April 26-27 NFL draft. The 49ers own the 26th pick in the draft and need the most help on the offensive and defensive line and at receiver. 'We will hold minicamps in May and June, so that is the next order of business,' the ex-OSU coach says.
Erickson's only complaint is apartment life: 'Haven't looked much for a house. We haven't sold our house in Corvallis yet.'
• Paul Banta has a nice field in place for the Oregon Track Classic, which will be televised live by ESPN on May 17 at Mt. Hood Community College.
Feature competitors include Maurice Greene (2000 Olympic champion) and Ato Bolden (2000 Olympic silver medalist), who will run both the 100 and 200, and the world's top three shot-putters, Adam Nelson, John Godina and Kevin Toth. During a spirited OTC competition last year, all three eclipsed 71 feet and Nelson threw 73-10, equaling his 1993 world-best mark.
• Philadelphia's first sporting couple continue to do well, reports Heather Mitts, beau of ex-Duck A.J. Feeley.
Mitts is the star defender for the WUSA Charge, Feeley the backup QB of the NFL Eagles. They met when their roommates began dating last September, 'and A.J. happened to come over with his friend to our place one night,' Mitts tells the Tribune.
What does Mitts like about her boyfriend from Ontario?
'What don't I like?' she asks. 'I am still kind of like, 'You are too good to be true.' We are dating exclusively. No talk of wedding bells in the future, but everything is wonderful.'
When the hot pair makes the social scene in Philly, 'it is big news,' Mitts says. 'We have been in the newspapers here a few times. It's a little tough being in the public eye like that. You go out for drinks or dinner, and the eyes are always on you. We try to avoid that stuff, but you just have to live with it.'
A fan set up Mitts' Web site (www.heathermitts.com) two years ago, and she receives from 50 to 100 e-mails a week. She answers them all.
'It is a little overwhelming,' Mitts says. 'A.J. was making fun of me last night, saying, 'Heather, why in the world are you answering all of these?' But it is great to interact with the fans.'
Are they mostly guys seeking a little action?
'Some of them you laugh at and delete,' she says, 'but most of them are genuine questions. You have little girls who say I am their idol, or fans who want to know about your career or the game. I feel it's important to connect with them.'
• Salem's John Simmons, for eight years the official scorekeeper at Blazer games, has long been a collector of sports items. Now his life's passion has been organized into an exhibit ('What's the Score?: The Private Collection of John Simmons'), being shown free to the public through April 27 at Southern Hills Assisted Living Community, 4795 Skyline Road S., Salem.
Among the items: The first 244 issues of Sports Illustrated in near-mint condition; stacks of college and pro sports game and event programs; and football, basketball and baseball cards from the late 1940s and early '50s, including rare 1949 Pacific Coast League cards that were the only set Bowman ever made of minor league players.
'I don't know how many people would be interested in it, but it has been good for me to kind of relive some of these great memories from my life,' says Simmons, 63, who is recuperating nicely from debilitating symptoms brought on by diabetes.
• Hawaii football coach June Jones has invited Western Athletic Conference rival coach Pat Hill of Fresno State to Honolulu to observe spring practice.
'He is coming over on vacation and wanted to have a few beers, so I said, 'Hey, come on over and watch our practices,' ' Jones tells the Honolulu Advertiser.
Maybe Jones has an ulterior motive. Hill's son, Matt, is a high school sophomore safety interested in one day playing for Hawaii.
'I don't know if he will be good enough to play for June,' Hill says, 'but he loves Hawaii, and it would be a good school for him to go to.'
• Portland's Gary Beck is both lucky and good. The veteran sports photographer at KOIN (6) earned a round trip for two to England in July by winning the grand prize in the Racing Series Championship, beating out 2,400 other handicappers worldwide whose mission was to make predictions in a series of international horse races this year.
Beck, 48, was in 10th place going into the final race in Hong Kong in which his horses finished second, third, fourth and fifth, 'and two of them were long shots,' he says. 'When I found out I was the winner, I went crazy. I have entered a lot of contests in my life, but this is the first one I have won. It is an amazing feeling.'
A nice aside to the story: Beck is taking his mother on the trip to England.
•ÊSeen at the Rose Garden Tuesday night: Super Bowl champion Warren Sapp, sitting in a Nike courtside seat, wearing a Bill Walton retro Blazer jersey.