by: JAIME VALDEZ - FAB FIGHTER -- UFC middleweight Chael Sonnen, a Tualatin native, smiles as he sits in the ring at Team Quest during an interview with The Times earlier this summer. Yes, all of the signs of the upcoming fall are here.

It’s almost time for football, volleyball, soccer, cross country and water polo to take over the local sports scene.

But, before taking in that first high school football game of the season, I want to take a brief look back at summer.

For me, it was a very interesting and fun summer. That’s because of the people I got to meet, events I got to see, and former area stars I got to catch up with.

So, here’s a look at some of the people who made my summer one to remember.

Chael Sonnen

Now, I’ve never been a big Ultimate Fighting Championship fan (I’m more of a pro wrestling guy), but I knew who Chael Sonnen was.

After all, he was the No. 1 contender for the UFC middleweight championship and he was getting ready to headline one of the biggest pay-per-view shows in the company’s history. He’s been on the Jim Rome show, he was on Spike TV’s MMA Uncensored Live show. The list went on an on.

So, admittedly, I was a big apprehensive when I went to meet with him back in June.

But, when I got to the Team Quest facilities in Tualatin, Sonnen, sitting in the ring after a workout, signaled me to get up into the ring (luckily, just to talk). He treated me like he’d known me for years, and we sat there, in the squared circle and just talked for about an hour.

And the result was maybe the most interesting, and entertaining, interview I’ve ever had.

Sonnen can talk. He has opinions. And he’s not afraid to speak his mind.

Things got a little bit more interesting after my story on Sonnen hit the Web.

There were a handful of UFC bloggers who took part of a Sonnen quote from my article and turned it into their own story trying to stir up some controversy before the fight.

Matt Hoover

I was back out at the Team Quest facilities later in the summer to take in part of the Tualatin Wrestling Camp.

The camp featured guest instructors each day, and the day I was out there, the guest instructor was Matt Hoover.

Hoover wrestled at the collegiate level for the powerhouse University of Iowa squad. With enthusiasm, he led the drills at Team Quest that day.

Hoover also is known for being the winner of the second season of NBC’s The Biggest DAN BROOD - FAN FAVORITE -- Matt Hoover was a hit at the Tualatin Wrestling Camp this summer. He's also been a winner on the Biggest Loser.

My 8-year-old daughter, Ruby, is enthralled with that show. The day I interviewed Hoover, my daughter and wife were at the coast. I sent a text message to my wife, telling her to let Ruby know that I just interviewed a Biggest Loser winner.

According to my wife, Ruby’s jaw dropped. She still wants me to get her an autograph from Hoover. So, Matt, if you see this, you’ve got a big fan in my daughter, and you may soon be getting a photo in the mail to autograph for her.

Athletes of the year

One of my favorite things ever summer is to sit down and talk with our respective athletes of the year.

This year was no exception.

First, there was Sherwood’s Paul Dodson. Paul is just a super-nice kid who turned the tables and asked me a bunch of questions — “Where do you live?” “Do you have any kids?” “How long have you been doing this?”

He just seems to care.

Then there was Tualatin’s Nathan Suyematsu.

Now, I first interviewed Nathan back when he was 10-years-old playing for the Tualatin City Little League baseball team that won the ages 9-10 state championship. I sort of feel like I’ve watched Nathan grow up.

Nathan was just an amazing athlete in high school, excelling at football, basketball and baseball for the Timberwolves. Even more impressive, he’s a smart, polite, well-spoken kid who comes from a great family.

He’s got a bright future playing both football and baseball while studying physical therapy at Pacific University.

And then there’s Tigard’s Jeremy Moore, who is another three-sport star.

Jeremy just might be the nicest kid ever.

The first thing I told him was that whenever I saw him, he would always be surrounded by a lot of friends — mainly girls.

He just smiled, humbly, and said that everyone just seems to like him.

I don’t doubt that one bit.

Little League kids

One of the best aspects of the summer for me is covering Little League baseball and softball. These kids always give it their all, and it’s fun to watch.

Two of those teams really showed me what Little League was all about.

First, there was the Tigard Little League Majors all-star softball team. That team lost a game 37-0 during District 4 tournament play.

But, despite the score, those Tigard girls kept playing hard, they kept supporting each other and they kept cheering — loudly — the entire game. And, when that game finally ended, there were still smiles all around.

Then there was the Tualatin City Little League Majors all-star softball squad. In the District 4 tournament title game, with a World Series berth at stake, that team may have suffered the most heartbreaking loss I’ve ever seen in any sport.

Still, those girls acted with class following that contest. They wiped away the tears, smiled and held their heads high. It was just amazing.

Special kudos go to the manager of that Tualatin City team, Joey Hall.

Hall has coached Tualatin City softball teams for many years now. He coaches with enthusiasm and with a positive attitude. He cares about the girls.

Joey is also a chiropractor in the area, and he helped me get through my debilitating bout of sciatica that I suffered back in the late part of the spring.

So, thanks, Joey, and keep on coaching.

And the rest

I got to meet with former Tualatin baseball standouts Ryan Schurman and Ryan Shoun and former Jesuit star Steve Fish as they brought an Australian baseball team to the area this summer. I covered Fish back in his Jesuit days, when I worked for our company’s Beaverton paper, so it was fun catching up with him.

It was also fun talking to some of the Australian players, who were impressed with American shopping malls and American girls.

Just earlier this week I talked with former Tualatin soccer standout Courtney Verloo. Once again, my daughter, who is big into soccer, was impressed.

After all, I told her I just talked to someone who may be playing soccer in the Olympics one day.

Dan Brood, who is ready for some football, is the sports editor at The Times.

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