Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sabbatical OVER! Time to write again

UPDATED July 19, 2018

About six months ago I wrote that I was stepping away from sportswriting here on the Sports Corner.
I was taking a sabbatical. That time to return to a labor of love is now.

I will be returning to these pages to tell the stories about our local athletes, teams and those who are continuing their sports careers away from the Elk Grove area.

It's time to be that "other" voice of sports that isn't a part of the traditional media in and around our area. I'm working on some relationships that will add to the quality of reporting you'll read here on this sports blog. Check back here for some of those features to come.

NOW, to some quick comments on a few recent stories that broke during my time away from these pages:

Jeff Carlson will, as we expected about a year ago, step away as baseball coach at Elk Grove H.S. after 19 seasons, most of those as Delta League/Delta Valley Conference champions, and with eight Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships. Twice his teams won three Section banners in a row (05-07 and 15-17). But, what may be more impressive is how many of those players went on to play in college and/or the pros.
Jeff Carlson, center, who will step aside as baseball coach at
Elk Grove H.S. Longtime assistant Joey Bellotti will take over
the head coaching helm.

I don't think anyone in Northern California (and, perhaps, anywhere else) can brag that three of his baseball players were drafted in the first round by the Major League Baseball clubs. Derek Hill ('14-Tigers) and Dylan Carlson ('16-Cardinals) were selected just days after graduating from high school. Nick Madrigal was drafted a month ago fourth overall in the first round by the White Sox after three great seasons (and a College World Series championship) at Oregon State.

"Carly" is just being a good dad and husband by stepping away now from baseball. He and wife Caryn will now be able to watch older son Dylan play in the Cardinals' farm system and younger son Tanner at Long Beach State. In the fall, he'll be helping coach football under second-year Herd coach John Heffernan.

The new head guy in the dugout will be Joey Bellotti, an assistant coach for the last ten seasons. Bellotti won't be working the umps like Carlson did, but he has great baseball knowledge and there should be little, if any, drop off in the Herd program.

R.I.P.

Since I last wrote there were three men who did much for area sports that passed on to the great arena in the sky.

Kenny Hottman was a frequent fan at the Elk Grove H.S. baseball and football games the past few years and a great guy to talk to.  He was one of the best baseball players to come out of our city. Hottman played five games in left field for the Chicago White Sox in 1971 after a terrific season in Double-A baseball in Asheville where he batted .302 with 37 homers.
His 1972 baseball card, Ken Hottman passed away
April 16 at the age of 70.

Hottman never returned to the Majors and ended up leaving his playing days in 1975. Sacramento City College placed him in their Baseball Hall-of-Fame several years ago.

Hottman passed away suddenly on April 16 at the age of 70.

Equally as fine a gentleman, Larry Price, left us way too early on March 12. He was 61. The Elk Grove and Florin High School girls basketball coach regularly coached his teams deep into Section playoffs. The Florin girls were two-time Division III runner-ups while Elk Grove was a CIF State Division II runner-up in 2016.

But, talk to his players and they have nothing but fine words for this stately man, who in his latter months was dealing with a lung disease.

A fixture in the press box of the Elk Grove football games was John Zehnder. Along with two or three of his seven sons, Zehnder was a local dairy farmer and an area businessman. For sixty seasons he ran the clock during Herd football games and contributed thousands of dollars over the years towards sports in our city.

Zehnder passed away March 2 at the age of 91.

We will miss all these fine men.

Wiggins now a Lion


John Zehnder, Sr., who passed away at the age of 91.
"Little Kenny" Wiggins saw an opportunity to make some good money in the sport he loved and a couple months ago announced he was leaving the San Diego, err, Los Angeles Chargers to play this coming fall for the Detroit Lions. Wiggins was the longest-tenured offensive lineman on the Chargers, starting virtually all of their games at right guard the past two seasons. But, now 29 years old and with just a few more years - likely - to play the sport, he saw the opportunity to go play in Detroit for new head coach Matt Patricia.

According to media reports, Wiggins signed a two-year, $5 million deal to head north. The 6-6, 314-pounder played his college ball at Fresno State and is projected to start at left guard for the Lions.

Kyle Larson UPDATE

I was away from sportswriting for several months, but not away from being a sports fan. Each weekend I either sat down to watch Elk Grove NASCAR driver Kyle Larson speed Chip Ganassi's No. 42 Chevy around the ovals each weekend or checked regularly on his status on the NASCAR app on my I-Phone.

Larson has yet to win this year, but he's had six top-five finishes and 11 times in the 19 Cup races this year, he's been in the top ten. His finish at Chicagoland Speedway in dualing Kyle Busch on the final lap was one of the most memorable conclusions to a NASCAR race, ever. He's eighth overall in season points going into this weekend's race in New Hampshire.

Parting Shots ....
If you have a tip on a sports story that is worth telling in the Elk Grove area, please email me at jrhull1004@gmail.com. Your comments are always welcome, too.


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