At 23, Nick Renault is much younger than Dennis Quaid's character in 'The Rookie,' the movie based on the life of pitcher Jim Morris. Renault would like nothing better than to have his story turn out the same.
The former Putnam High and Oregon State pitcher has stepped in as assistant coach for a woebegone Catlin Gabel High program that went 1-21 last season, its only victory coming by forfeit.
Two years ago, the Eagles struggled to find enough players to field a team. Last year, the varsity for the Class 2A school had 12 players. This spring, there are 16 players and a new enthusiasm for which second-year coach Brian Thomas gives Renault much credit.
'Nick is a good kid Ñ definitely brash, but exactly what this program needs,' says Thomas, also the school's assistant principal. 'He has taken a bunch of kids with very little baseball background and given them confidence. The kids relate to him well.'
Adds pitcher Grant Stone: 'He has added a lot of energy and technical knowledge to the program. He is nit-picky, which is good, because baseball is a game of details. He has given us intensity.'
Thomas calls Renault his 'field general.' Renault coaches third base, works with pitchers and is heavy on motivational tactics. Not long ago, the coaches gathered the players for a talk.
Each player was asked to do something if the Eagles reached their goal of making the playoffs.
'My suggestion was to challenge the kids, make them have something at stake for the season,' Thomas says. 'I told Nick, 'You need to do the same thing. How about trying out for a major (pro) team?' '
Renault told the players if they made the playoffs, he would shave his head É and work toward a pro tryout.
It might not be as crazy as it sounds. OSU coach Pat Casey says Renault, whose fastball tops out at more than 90 mph, always had the arm, if not the head.
'I was not only immature; I was greedy,' says Renault, who pitched at three colleges with little success. 'I had a couple of chances to sign (pro) but asked for too much money. Playing pro baseball isn't all about skill; it is about your mental makeup and the window of opportunity.'
Renault says he is working at getting his arm in shape. His players are watching with interest.
'He definitely throws hard,' Stone says. 'He has a lot of control and a nasty split-finger (fastball). I have mixed emotions about him making pro. It would be great for him, but I would hate for the program to lose him.'
The playoffs are probably a pipe dream, but the Eagles are 2-5 and competitive in most games.
As 'The Rookie' shows, dreams can come true. And respect is something that carries it along the way.
• University of Oregon student Mary Schieffer died March 17 after a long battle with cancer, but not before a visit from one of her sports heroes. Joey Harrington called on the 20-year-old Springfield High graduate weeks before she passed away. 'She was really nervous, but she had the biggest smile,' Mary's mother, Sharon Schieffer, tells the Oregon Daily Emerald. 'It really made her day.'
• Not everyone considers pro golfer Brian Kontak's bid to play in the U.S. Women's Open this summer at Pumpkin Ridge a smart thing.
'It is ridiculous when a guy says he deserves a chance to play in a women's tournament,' John Daly tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 'Go get a sex change and put on a skirt if you want to be a girl. It is stupid what that guy is doing. But I have nothing against the women wanting to play our tour.'
'It is in their bylaws; men can't play on the ladies' tour,' Daly says. 'There are no bylaws against (women participating) on our tour.'
nÊ'Putting is my strength,' Ben Crane told the Trib in February. No kidding. The former Beaverton High and University of Oregon golfer needed only 47 putts as he finished with rounds of 64-63 to win the PGA Tour's BellSouth Classic in Duluth, Ga., last weekend. Averaging 297.1 yards off the tee helped set things up, of course. Crane's work with swing coach Butch Harmon earlier this year has paid off; he toiled as much as he had since his formative years at Portland Golf Club. Crane always could 'go low,' as the pros put it ÑÊhe ranks second on the tour this season with 165 birdies. His first prize of $720,000 vaulted him to 13th on the season money list at $989,963, already exceeding his rookie year total of $921,076.
• Blazer coach Maurice Cheeks is featured in the latest edition of Slam magazine, taking a look back at his playing days.
• Ironic twist: While an assistant coach at San Diego State, new OSU assistant LeCharls McDaniel was the primary recruiter for running back Lynell Hamilton, who signed with the Aztecs after being hosted by Onterrio Smith on his visit to Oregon. Hamilton complained that sex, alcohol and marijuana were made available to him while he was in Eugene.
nÊPortland middleweight Reggie Davis, fighting with a surgically repaired eye, knocked out Ishwar Amador in the third round last weekend at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, Wash., running his record to 6-1.