Bay Area gets shunned

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Bay Area gets shunned

Robert Braunstein

On Sunday the CIF announced the teams and sites for the first ever NorCal regional playoffs. The winning teams earn the right to play for a state title the following week, December 15 at the Home Depot Center in Southern California.

You can certainly argue the merits of one team making the regional game over another. Sacred Heart Prep as Section champs has a right to be upset not being chosen after a one loss season and section title. Both McClymonds and Central Catholic have more losses as the two teams chosen to play for the D-IV NorCal crown.

What you cannot argue is how the Bay Area is being slighted by the CIF. With five Bay Area teams earning spots in the NorCals, not one of the games will be played in the Bay Area. All five games will be played in Sacramento or North. In fact, no CIF event in any sport will be played in the Bay Area this year.

I shot the De La Salle game in a downpour Saturday night at Dublin High School, a site that works well for the section title games. I talked with NCS Associate Commissioner Karen Smith at the game and expressed my concern I was only hearing about Sacramento sites for the NorCal games. She assured me there were sites in the Bay Area like Dublin High and Diablo Valley College also being considered.

But neither was chosen, so national power De La Salle will, in effect be the visitor when the Spartans play Folsom at Sacramento State University this Saturday night. I asked the CIF in a conference call why all five Bay Area teams have to travel when there were other options in the Bay Area.

There was no real answer.

They talked about fine facilities where both schools will be honored to play. Sure, the facilities are great, they’re just not in the Bay Area. Clayton Valley is an easy choice to play at Diablo Valley College instead of Lincoln High school. Instead the Ugly Eagles will drive to Lincoln High in Stockton to play Oakdale, a big drive for both teams and against what the CIF tries to avoid in having a neutral site in the middle.

None of this seems to make any sense. The Southern Section has its regional games being played all over Southern California, one game in Long Beach, another in San Diego, another in Orange County. So why is Northern California different? Why is there not a single CIF event scheduled for Northern California this year? Basketball regionals and finals are also in Sacramento and Stockton. The state football finals are in Southern California, as is wrestling, golf, and track and field. Cross Country is in Fresno.  The Volleyball finals were just held in Irvine where the South won three out of the five matches. Sacred Heart Prep lost a fifth game 15-13 after traveling 300 miles to play.

It wasn’t too long ago when CIF final games were played in the Bay Area. The Oakland Coliseum was the site for many state basketball final games. Volleyball finals were played a few years ago at San Jose State’s Events Center. We have lots of great facilities in the Bay Area. Kezar stadium would be a great place to host the St. Ignatius vs Granite Bay game this Friday night. UC Berkeley hosts the NCS Meet of Champions and would be a fine location for a state meet. The CIF doesn’t seem to consider how people will get to these events. How do you get to Bakersfield from the Bay Area for the wrestling finals? You can’t fly there, you have to drive. Not a problem if you live in Southern California, but if your home is the Bay Area it’s kind of a big drive.

Money is the main reason the state basketball finals are at Arco Arena every year (or whatever it’s called now). I understand you get a great deal, but could you not get just as good a deal at UC Berkeley, Maples Pavilion, or San Jose State?

It all comes down to fairness. Bay Area schools are at least an equal part of what should be the equation in putting together sites each year for these games. Bay Area teams shine every year with great representation in every sport in the final games. To not have a single CIF event hosted at a Bay Area site is inexcusable.

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

A's spring training Day 8: Top pick AJ Puk attracts a crowd

MESA, Ariz. — The A’s are excited about 2016 top pick A.J. Puk, that much was apparent by the crowd the lefty attracted for his first “live” bullpen session Tuesday.

Among those watching closely were executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young.

Puk, who shaved about 20 pounds off his 6-foot-7 frame over the winter, looked strong against a group of hitters that included touted infield prospects Franklin Barreto and Yairo Munoz.

Melvin in particular liked the way Puk, the No. 6 overall pick out of the University of Florida, worked his curve ball into the mix. That’s a pitch he hadn’t used since high school, but he dusted it off back in the fall instructional league with some encouragement from minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, and he’s working to sharpen it this spring as a complement to his fastball, slider and changeup.

“It’s just nice to have another pitch that’s slower than my other three pitches,” Puk said before Tuesday’s workout.

“It’s a four-pitch mix,” Melvin said. “He’s really starting to distinguish between this slider and curve ball. It was quite a crowd around his cage too. When you’re a young kid you tend to notice that, but I thought he responded really well.”

Puk, 21, is rooming with shortstop Richie Martin, a teammate at Florida whom the A’s made their top pick in 2015. They also lived near each other in Tampa this offseason and worked out together.

Puk comes off very quiet upon meeting him, but Martin warns against being fooled.

“It takes him a while, but once he feels comfortable he’ll break out. You’ll see.”

Melvin was impressed with Puk’s physical shape, saying he’s fielded his position well in pitchers’ fielding drills.

CAMP BATTLE Jesse Hahn will start the A’s Cactus League opener Saturday against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It’ll be a chance for Hahn to make an early impression in his bid for the fifth starter spot.

“After the year he had (in 2016), it’s important for him this year. We have to show some faith in him,” Melvin said. “He performed well for us the year before. Last year wasn’t really consistent. We’ll try to get him out there and get him off to a good start.”

Kendall Graveman will take the ball in Sunday’s spring home opener against the Angels. Sonny Gray and Sean Manaea both will pitch Monday against the Giants and Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will be among the group throwing Tuesday against the Indians.

PROSPECT WATCH: Sean Murphy, the A’s third-round pick in June, has shown a very strong throwing arm early in camp. Is it any wonder Melvin, an ex-catcher, was impressed?

“The kid can throw, it’s special,” Melvin said. “We really like him.”

NOTEWORTHY: Still no word on when reliever Santiago Casilla will arrive at camp from the Dominican Republic. Melvin said he isn’t concerned at this stage, and noted that Casilla has been working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic and gave a motivational talk to the younger players there.

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

Cousins thanks Sacramento: 'Wouldn't trade it for anything'

The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, prompting the All-Star big man to post a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. 
#LoyaltyisLove #sactownkingforever

Cousins, 26, averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 34.4 minutes per game for the Kings this year.

Words can't even express how hard it is for me to have to leave the city of Sacramento and all of the amazing people that I have met while out here. I gave it my all for you and you gave it right back. The most amazing fans on the planet and I just want you to know that your support has meant everything to me. It's hard to believe that it was seven years ago that this young kid from Alabama showed up in Sacramento scared and not knowing a soul. As I look back upon my time here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have met so many amazing people, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel right at home from day one. Each and every one of you have played such an important part in my life and helping me become the person I am today. I don't just consider you all as fans, you all are my family...and a couple thousand miles aren't going to change a thing. Thank you Sacramento. #LoyaltyisLove

A post shared by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on