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Cultural program brings Utah baseball team to Oregon

Each year Highland High School travels to a different part of the United States to play baseball and gain exposure to a new cultural experience
This week a baseball team from Salt Lake City, Utah, spent most of their spring break in central Oregon.
   Highland High School spends spring break each year traveling to a different part of the United States to experience a new cultural experience. The inner-city school is from a poor school district and is 50 percent minority students.
   "We were able to bring them to central Oregon because of Athletic Director Casey Waletich's connections," said school board member Jeff Landaker. "He coached football with the father of Highland's head coach, and was instrumental in getting this put together."
   Last season the Highland team spent their spring break in Mississippi so this year was a stark contrast for the team. Team members from Highland noted that they were not used to small towns and wondered what there was to do in the area.
   Teams from South Eugene and Reynolds were also in town to play games with Summit High School.
   Summit still has a problem with their fields from sinkholes that first appeared two years ago, which is how Crook County got involved. Some of Summit's games were played at the Crook County High School baseball diamond while CCHS was scheduled to be playing games in Eugene.
   Yesterday Crook County played Highland at Vince Genna Stadium in Bend. The game was a close one that went down to the last out. Highland won 7-5 when the Cowboys left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning.
   Following the game, team members had the opportunity to eat pizza together. This is an opportunity that large schools seldom get to experience but that I believe can be a great experience.
   While I was an athletic director at a 1A high school we frequently ate with teams from other schools and occasionally even stayed overnight in their houses. Sometimes the experience worked better than others, but at the very least it helped to foster better sportsmanship between the players. It is hard to stay overnight with someone and then the next night get mad at them during a ballgame.
   Today, weather permitting; the Highland team is getting the opportunity to see Oregon State play Washington State in a Pac 10 baseball game. With Waletich's help the team was able to get 20 tickets to the game. That means all of the players and one coach will be able to see a game. Hopefully the remainder of the coaching staff will be able to get in once the team gets to Oregon State, but OSU baseball games are one of the toughest tickets there are to get.
   Since we are on the subject of college athletics, last night there were a couple of great games in the NCAA basketball tournament. Xavier held on to defeat West Virginia in overtime in one of the early games, and the UCLA Western Kentucky game turned out to be a great game.
   For those of you who didn't get a chance to see the game UCLA jumped all over WKU in the first half absolutely dominating the half. UCLA led 41-20 at the break and I actually considered turning the game off. I am sure glad that I stuck with the game. In the second half UCLA got into foul trouble and then they lost their composure. WKU got back to within four points and gave the Bruins a real scare. Largely because of the heroics of Kevin Love of Lake Oswego and bench player James Keefe UCLA held on for the win. Keefe who was injured much of the year and seldom played, averaged two points a game during the season, but last night he came up huge with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Love had a career high 29 points and also had 14 rebounds. That was just enough to offset the 31 points of WKU guard Tyrone Brazeltone who had 31 points, 25 in the second half.
   Tonight has the potential to have some great games as well and I am looking forward to watching the Lopez brothers from Stanford play against a quick and talented Texas team.
   Davidson and Wisconsin may also be an interesting game. Davidson has at least one likely NBA star but they will be playing against a stifling Wisconsin defense. Depending on how the games are officiated, the Kansas Villanova and Memphis Michigan State games have the potential to be interesting also as the teams play such different styles of basketball.
   It's nice that I have an understanding wife. Karlene doesn't even like basketball, but she humors me and lets me watch it all the time. This year is even worse than usual as CBS has kindly offered all of the games on the Internet for free. That means that instead of watching one game at a time like in the good old days, or being switched from game to game by CBS like the last couple of years, I can watch all of whatever games I choose. It's a great time to be a sports fan.