A man, 40 yards, a clock, and a most unusual challenge

It has long been my contention that I am faster than future baseball Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He’s now retired, but in the last couple of years of his career, I’d watch him waddle down to first base – barely even picking his feet up – and think that even though I am 20 years older, I have to be faster than that.

I’m not in the greatest shape, but I do regularly exercise and have been known to pick up the pace at more than just a light jog for someone who is a 60-something. And when I do, I’m usually thinking “there’s no way Albert Pujols can run this fast.”

If only there were a way to prove it …

One day, I noticed the Loyola football team was going through summer drills and had automatic timers set up to determine 40-yard clockings. What if I timed myself and translated that data into the speed from home to first? Baseball analytics are now such that you can find just about any speed you want, so getting Albert’s speed shouldn’t be a problem.

But what about my speed? What was a reasonable expectation about my 40 time? What could I be happy with?

The answer, I figured, had to be between 5.5 and 7.0. Having no idea what Pujols could run it in, I settled on a goal of 6.0 seconds in the 40 and see if that would prove anything.

However, I still had to weigh the risks of running the 40 on hot artificial turf in running shoes — and not just the physical risks. There was an entire football team that was looking for a good laugh.

After almost as much stretching as deliberation, I decided to give it a shot. In 6.0 seconds (hopefully) it would all be over with.

Because it was automatically timed, I wouldn’t have to worry about a slow reaction at the start. When I started, the clock would start. I had on workout clothing, so that wasn’t going to be a hinderance. There was basically no wind.

I gave it one last do-I-really-want-to-do this, got in a stance (no starting blocks) and took off.

This I hadn’t planned on: For each 10 yards of the 40-yard run, I had a different thought. I don’t know what Usain Bolt thinks about, but it’s fair to say that it’s probably not the same things I thought about on my “sprint.”

First 10 yards: I was relieved that I didn’t fall down. As long as I stayed vertical, I could probably keep the laughter to a minimum.

Second 10 yards: I was realizing that the shoes didn’t seem to have much grip. I never felt like I was getting a solid foot on the turf.

Third 10 yards: Isn’t this the part of a sprint where guys pull up and immediately grab their hammy like they’ve been shot in the leg? Man, I hope that doesn’t happen.

Final 10 yards: Finally, a rational runner thought – finish strong and run all the way through. And that these were 10 yards that Albert Pujols never has to run going only 90 feet from home to first base.

I was surprised that I wasn’t winded in the least, but even as I was crossing the line, I was already thinking that I felt like I could have run faster. Had I done better than 6.0? I wasn’t sure.

Thankfully, the clock was hidden from all observers, so I couldn’t just look and get the result. I had to ask.

“Six point one,” the assistant football coach said.

Sure, I wished I had cracked 6.0, but I wasn’t crushed. It was respectable (for someone my age) and I was emboldened when a player said “We’ve got guys on our team that can’t run that fast.”


Now it was time to do the computation, so bear with me. My speed of 6.1 equates to 16.36 miles per hour. But baseball measures speed in feet per second and that translates to 23.99 fps.

At age 42, Albert Pujols was timed at 23.2 fps – about seven inches faster. However, he’s only running 90 feet; I ran 120. It is reasonable to think that I slowed down the last 10 yards of my timed run.

I’d probably feel a whole lot better about the whole thing if it weren’t for that 703 home run advantage he has over me.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Will youth be served at State Amateur?

IS THE FUTURE NOW?: At 20 years old, Shreveport golfer Burke Alford hopes to benefit from local knowledge in the 104th Louisiana State Amateur golf championship beginning today at Southern Trace Country Club in Shreveport.  (Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports)


On the day Burke Alford was born, Eddie Lyons was already old enough to play on golf’s senior tour.

And yet there they were on Wednesday as they played a practice round together in preparation for this week’s Louisiana State Amateur, which begins today at Southern Trace Country Club.

It’s the perfect example of an event that takes all types.

There is the 70-year-old Lyons, the 1991 State Am champion, first played in this event in 1972 – almost even before Alford’s parents were born. That year it was played at Shreveport Country Club, which doesn’t even exist anymore.

The 20-year-old Alford, who just finished his second year on the UL-Lafayette golf team after graduating from Loyola College Prep, is playing in this event for the second time. Actually, Alford is trying to finish his first State Am after getting DQ’d last year following a mix-up on the back nine in the second round after it looking like he was on his way to making the cut.

But if you think the 50 years difference in their ages for Lyons and Alford would make for an unlikely pairing for a practice round, think again. It’s a learning opportunity for both.

“These kids hit it 40 yards past me … I can hit it 280 (off the tee),” Lyons said. “It’s just a different game now from what I am used to. But I get a look at what I am up against.”

“He’s obviously played in a lot of these events, so I’m just looking to kind of pick his brain on how he plays,” Alford said. “I like to see why he plays certain shots on certain holes and see what his perspective is.”

Alford had better get as much information as he can. “This is it for me,” Lyons said. “I still love to compete and I still get that feeling on the first tee. But I wouldn’t be even be playing (this year) if it wasn’t for it being at Southern Trace.”

“I’ve got a couple of years of amateur golf under my belt and this is a tournament at home so there’s a little bit of an advantage,” Alford said. “The first couple of days I’m just trying to put myself in position and hopefully on the weekend, I can try to be in it.”

This will be the sixth time for Southern Trace to host the event, but the first since a major renovation two years ago. That played a role in the State Am getting back to Shreveport for the first time since 2013, according to Jacob Oaks, the director of championship operations for the Louisiana Golf Association.

“That was a huge deal for us (for selection),” Oaks said. “First of all, they did an amazing job. It’s incredible what they did and it’s in almost perfect condition. If you played it a lot in the past, I don’t think you’d notice too much difference. Except for the greens. They are fair, but they really provide a good test. It’s going to be a treat for the players.”

Lyons, a member at Southern Trace, agrees with that assessment.

“It will be interesting because of the renovations,” said Lyons, who last played in the State Am in 2019 and made the cut at age 67. “The greens are fast and they are hard to read. It takes a while to pick up on what putts are going to do.”

There is a wide variety of participants in the 144-man field – including two former NFL players (Kyle Williams and Billy Joe Tolliver) – but Lyons thinks the winner after four rounds will come from the under-25 age category.

Winners typically haven’t typically come from the host city (though Shreveport’s Eric Ricard won in 2013, the last time it was played at Southern Trace).

If you add heredity into the mix of age and location, Shreveport’s Holden Webb should feel pretty good about his chances. The first-year LSU golfer (and a 2022 graduate of Loyola) is the son of Craig Webb, who finished second at Southern Trace in 1992 and went on to win in 1994 and 1999.

“He doesn’t talk much about it,” Webb said of his father’s success at the State Am.

“Everyone is always there to win,” Webb said. “I think that’s a given. I’m just going to try to stay in the present with each shot and just take it step by step and just try to let the results take care of themselves. But this is my first State Am, so I really don’t know what it’s going to be like.”

And if he drives back home with the 104th State Am crown, his father might well remind him that he’s still one behind in their Webb household.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

One last look at a special place in a special time

They will be putting the shovels in the ground soon to begin the construction of the YMCA’s Youth Baseball and Softball Complex. When they do, they will also shovel away a small part of my heart.

Please don’t get me wrong: I am all in favor of this project. Those who have made it happen are to be applauded and congratulated. It’s a giant step forward for youth sports in this area. Its potential is off the charts.

This didn’t just happen; it’s been in the works for quite some time. Knowing that, I knew I needed to take one last look at what it was before it becomes what it’s going to be.

The new facility will replace the existing Little League facility, which was built a little more than 30 years ago. Much has changed in youth baseball and softball and what Little League was that long ago hardly even resembles what it is now.

I was fortunate to be a part of Shreveport Little League during its heyday of the mid-to-late 1990s and even a few years afterward. On a personal level, I don’t exactly remember those years very fondly – we all have periods in our life when things aren’t exactly rosy – but being a part of what was going on at that facility brought me joy when I needed it most.

So I took one last walk through the Little League Complex while I could still see it for what it was. It was a very personal walk.

I still saw a T-ball game in which I realized it was next to impossible to keep five or six defensive players from all running after the ball at the same time … while the kid closest to the ball just stood there and watched.

I saw the spot where the coach of the opposing five-year-old team and I argued as to whether the final score was 23-21 or 22-21 (even though “we don’t keep score”). It got a little heated.

I saw the parking lot behind the left field fence where my father, who was getting on in years, sat in his lawn chair and watched his grandson play. It would be the last athletic event he would ever witness.

I saw the place on the Coach Pitch field, where the teenaged umpire, who had grown tired of my a-little-too-intense coaching style and was looking to get me in trouble, asked one of my players, “Does your coach ever hit you?” and the seven-year-old answered “Sure. All the time.”

Thankfully, before the arrest warrant was issued, it was realized that my player was innocently talking about how I would hit them with a ball when I was pitching and they couldn’t get out of the way. (You try pitching to a little bitty strike zone.)  Everyone had a good laugh. Me? Not so much.

I saw the right field foul pole on the Minor League field, where a 9-year-old hit what would have been the greatest home run in recorded history had it been two feet to the left of the pole instead of two feet to the right in the league championship game. Over the fence. Waaay over the fence. Definition of a long strike.

I saw the walkway behind the first base dugout, where I was sacking up the bats after we won a 12-year-old State Tournament semifinal playoff game against Alexandria and got cussed out by an opposing mom for having the gall to intentionally walk their team’s best player with two outs and a base open with the game on the line. (It worked, by the way.) “We are driving back tomorrow night and cheer for Lake Charles,” she told me. “I’ll save you a seat,” I told her.

(Spoiler alert: She never showed.)

I saw the coaching box where I stood in the final game of the State Championship game and couldn’t decide whether to run the first-and-third play in the bottom of the sixth inning with a trip to the Regionals in Florida on the line. While trying to figure out what time would be right, and a quick pop up and a ground out led to the heartache of leaving the tying run only 60 feet away from scoring. I’ve always wonder what would have happened if I had pulled the trigger.

And that’s about one percent of the memories I will take with me.

But what I saw most of all is the parking lot behind the center field fence – the Skybox – where we all gathered as 30-somethings to watch our kids play. We’d show up even when our own kids weren’t playing. Every night felt like another World Series game. Almost three decades later, hardly a day goes by when we don’t recall a game or, even better, an incident from those years.

Parents getting white-knuckled mad while grabbing the fence. Shortstops already crying before the ball had stopped rolling after it had gone through their legs. Umpires trying to explain the infield fly rule. Over-the-fence home runs. Left-handed catchers. Seeing a curveball for the first time.

They’ll take the current Little League facility and make it into something truly special. But what I’ll remember is also truly special. Maybe not the facility as much as the people who spent countless hours making countless memories.

I’m not sure who grew up more during that time – the Little Leaguers or me. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

A Mother’s Pride: Travinski lived a dream at CWS

She was waiting in the same place she had been positioned every day as the LSU baseball players made their way out of the hotel and on to the team bus. As she stood in that spot in the lobby, a 10-year-old boy with an LSU shirt on was also waiting to get a glimpse of the players as they walked by.

“Who is your favorite player?” she asked the boy, who was a local Midwest kid.

“Hayden Travinski,” he said. “Without a doubt.”

“Hang on a second,” she told him.

And that’s when she left her spot to grab the one LSU special souvenir item she had left – a Hayden Travinski-designer hat – and gave it to the boy.

“I want you to have this,” Dickie Travinski told the boy she had never met until a few minutes earlier.

You want to know what it meant for Hayden Travinski’s mother to be in Omaha at the College World Series for 11 days and see her son be a part of a national championship?

Start with that.

There are a lot of things that will bring tears to Dickie Travinski’s eyes when she recalls what she has just been a part of during the last two weeks. But it’s hard to explain.

“There are just no words,” she says. “You think those kids were excited? You should have seen me.”

Sure, the atmosphere was incredible. The excitement of being there as her child reached the pinnacle in college baseball was amazing.

But it was a lot of more than that.

It hasn’t been an easy road for her son. Though he committed to LSU when he was a freshman at Loyola (he would later play at Airline), it wasn’t as if Travinski walked on the field in Baton Rouge and began dominating.

His mother has watched as he battled injuries, slumps, a coaching change, more injuries, and an uncertain role on the team.

“You just can’t describe how amazing it is to watch your son, who has fought and scrapped and gone through some stuff, to come out as a national champion,” she says.

Given an opportunity a few weeks ago, it all began to click for Hayden Travinski as he went from an afterthought to the cleanup hitter in the potent LSU lineup.

During the SEC tournament, Dickie paused in front of the TV at her job at Cascio’s Market Bistro as the Tigers were playing. You would have never known it was her son at the plate as he delivered a base hit to knock in a run. She gave it a quick fist pump, let out a barely audible “Yes!” and went back to work.

But when the Tigers earned the trip to Omaha to play in the College World Series, she wouldn’t have to watch it on TV. “That was when all the power went out, but we just packed up and went,” she says. “Drove all night to get there and stayed for 11 days.”

She did not get much time with her son – “their schedule was pretty regimented,” Travinski says – but she knew what her main function was going to be: “Show up and cheer.”

Every day, there was a send-off for the team at the hotel with LSU fans crowding the lobby. Dickie Travinski knew there was only one way to see her son. “I stood in the same place every day so I knew he could see me,” she says. “That was everything to me.”

When it was over Monday night, and after a post-game hug across the rail, Dickie Travinski had a moment to reflect on what it all meant.

“It’s not just my son who fought to get there,” she says. “There are so many stories on that team just like that. (Hayden) reached that goal and so did our family. But so did all of those other families.”

Including a 10-year boy who now owns a Hayden Travinski hat.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Cart Failure: Let’s all do the right thing

We interrupt your grinding of the College World Series to give you a message about shopping carts. Not just any shopping cart; your shopping cart.

Every once in a while, I’m prone to go off the sports reservation (witness the East Texas Smoking Incident of January) and this is one of those times. So if you want an analysis of a pitcher’s backup slider or who has the best rally cap in college baseball, this is not the column for you.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden probably didn’t do a whole lot of grocery shopping at Safeway, but his quote of “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching” still applies in parking lots all over this great land.

Sure, it’s taken a few decades for it to come into focus for me, but we all need some kind of reminder that we all have it in us somewhere that we can be a good person. But we need something we can do on a repeated basis.

A few years ago, I came across this passage and thought it was nice little nugget. Too bad I didn’t take it to heart at the time. Then it re-appeared a few months ago and it’s almost as if some kind of spiritual conversion has taken place.

“The shopping cart is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing.

“To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognize as the correct, appropriate thing to do. To return the shopping cart is objectively right. There are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person is not able to return their cart.”

(I love those two words — objectively right. Because it is so true in this circumstance. I know it. You know it. The American people know it.)

“Simultaneously, it is not illegal to abandon your shopping cart. Therefore the shopping cart presents itself as the apex example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it.

“No one will punish you for not returning the shopping cart, no one will fine you or kill you for not returning the shopping cart. You gain nothing by returning the shopping cart.”

(And don’t give me the ol’ “it’s raining” or “it’s too far away” line. Suck it up and do the rest of the humanity a solid.)

“You must return the shopping cart out of the goodness of your own heart. You must return the shopping cart because it is the right thing to do. Because it is correct. 

“A person who is unable to do this is no better than an animal, an absolute savage who can only be made to do what is right by threatening them with a law and the force that stands behind it.”

(OK, I agree … that’s a little harsh. I’m not sure some lazy guy in the Brookshire’s parking lot qualifies as a savage.)

“The Shopping Cart is what determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society.”

BOOM! There it is! Right up in your grill!

Trust me, I’m not going to give you the tap if I spot you leaving your cart in the middle of that four-corner spot by your front right tire.

But just think about how much better you will feel if you do the “objectively right” thing.

You’re welcome.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign … on your wristband

Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball – some historians say the only thing he started was the Civil War – but even if he had, there are a few things I don’t think he had in mind when it comes to the National Pastime.

It’s actually not the National Pastime anymore; it’s the National SaveTime. And while I’m all about it – one major league team recently hosted a night game that ended before actual nightfall – there’s something you’ll be seeing more and more as the College World Series cranks up Friday.

Lots of pitchers are appearing to check their watch, so much so that you’ll think they are either waiting for a train or wondering if it’s time to take their medicine.

Actually, the answer is neither. Instead, they are getting the signal on what they are supposed to throw on the next pitch. It’s a wristband with a digital read-out that the dugout sends directly to the pitcher. For example “1-1” could mean “fastball, away.” Throw a pitch, get the ball back from the catcher or infielder, check the wristband, throw another pitch and hope the catcher hasn’t fallen asleep. It’s (unfortunately) that simple.

What? No more “1” finger by the catcher for a fastball, “2” for a curve? Abner (or somebody) must be rolling over in their grave!

It’s done for two reasons; only one of which I hate. The first is for the speed of the game. Let’s not even get into how great it was when catchers – even if they were in the fifth grade — actually called the pitches because that’s how you learned the game. But with this new technology, the signs don’t have to be relayed six times before it gets to the pitcher.

These days, coaches at every level want to be in total control. And, to be honest, pitchers and catchers can now just worry about pitching and catching. Though I always loved it when a junior varsity kid would shake off the catcher signs six times before throwing a pitch (really? You’ve got that many in your arsenal?) I guess it’s OK in the name of saving time.

But what I don’t like is another element it has taken out of the game – stealing signs. Somewhere along the line, stealing signs has taken on the same implication as cheating on your taxes or chewing with your mouth open.

I think stealing signs is a great part of baseball and eliminating it is penalizing someone for being just a little bit smarter than the dudes on the other team.

The use of this product from a small tech company in Virginia named “Game Day Signals” – another investment opportunity I failed to act on — was approved by a number of conferences for use this year. LSU’s pitchers prominently use it and they are far from the only ones.

One current college coach told me that his team will be using it next year and he is very excited about for one main reason – eliminating sign stealing.

Of course we should have seen this coming, once batters began coming to the plate with some Pythagorean matrix printed on their sweatband. (Isosceles triangle means drag bunt.) Forget about checking with the third base coach to see if he gave the double hat touch for the indicator. Now it’s just stand there, get a number and do whatever the chart says.

I’m all about change and making the game faster. But to me, it seems like this is just making the game dumber.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Archives – old and new – help tell the story of Ronnie Coker

There are a lot of reasons why, but old baseball scorebooks are something that I hang on to. They are from which I played, coached, or covered. From Little League to high school to minor league, even semi-pro games I once played when I refused to believe I was too old to give it up.

It’s not enough to say that these are stories of a game – a mini-history you might say — played out on two pages of a spiral notebook. If that’s all they were, that would certainly be enough.

But what these scorebooks represent to me – and I have more than 40 years worth — is much more than that.

They are treasures.

Every time I look at one, it brings back a memory. Something that might be long since forgotten or something I remember like yesterday.

So when I found out that Ronnie Coker had passed away this week, I went straight to my old, dusty scorebooks. He was known for many accomplishments – a successful coach, a leader in high school athletics, and lately, a powerful force in the lives of the people he loved and for people he had never met.

I was fortunate to know Coker in three of his “lives,” all three thankfully still accessible in one way or another.

The old scorebooks reminded me of what I already knew; he was a tough out for Minden’s American Legion team in the summer of 1982. He was a really good player surrounded by two really great players, but you never could afford to look past Coker. In one game, he came to the plate five times against us and reached base all five times. In another, he had a two-run single in the eighth inning and in another he had a sacrifice bunt to set up the go-ahead run.

Whatever he needed to do.

I remember Coker being a part of one of the most storied games in local state championship history – one ended by a two-out, eighth inning, walk off three-run home run to give Minden a win over Catholic High.

What I didn’t remember was that he was the losing pitcher in one of the most incredible games I have still ever seen. Minden’s two best players were gone (one was the catcher) and so the team I coached stole 18 bases. But even with that, we still couldn’t put Minden away as the game moved to the 13th inning. Being the bulldog he was, took the ball after playing in the field for 12 innings and went to the mound. We ended up winning on a single by one of my players whose life, sadly, also ended way too soon.

The next year, he was playing semi-pro ball and there in another old scorebook it was shown that he was the starting pitcher against the team on which I was playing. All I could manage was a fly out and ground out against him, so I bunted the third time up. At least I did something.

When I became a sportswriter and he became a coach (at Parkway), the first article my search engine took me to was dated April 30, 1993. It was a feature I wrote about how the Panthers were preparing to open the playoffs. It was a story about motivation; how Coker had taken the team’s best catcher and made him into a pitcher and how he had decided to play four freshmen among his top players.

“The biggest thing we have is leadership,” Coke said in the feature. “We really don’t have the greatest offense or defense around. But for some reason they don’t give in.”

But for some reason they don’t give in. Little did I realize how those words would have an impact 30 years later.

And then there is the modern way of archiving – the cell phone.

One day last summer, I was sitting in the Querbes parking lot waiting to cover a golf event and Coker was a-calling me back. Trying to casually let him know that this would be quick, I began by saying I only had a couple of questions about the quantum leap improvements that have been made over the years to local high school baseball fields.

The conversation lasted 17 minutes.

Once Ronnie got started, you couldn’t stop him. Listening to that conversation, it was evident of the passion in his voice, even though he had been stricken with cancer a couple years earlier. He had thoughts on what had been done and thoughts about what needed to be done and wanted to share them with me.

Also on my phone, I also checked last text I ever received from him. It was about a project for his foundation and he was wanting to drum up interest to show what was being accomplished by young athletes – and to young athletes.

Just like he did with thousands of other people he knew, he ended it with “WTD.”

Win The Day.

That was his signature, in more ways than one. It was how he played the game, it was how he coached the game and, until he couldn’t do it anymore, it’s how he lived his life.

He had 21,540 days to win on this Earth. Ronnie Coker gave every one of them his best shot.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

The pain of lives lost during graduation season

Coming back from Houston last week, I was about to make the loop around Lufkin and just happened to notice a rotating billboard flash a message: “Always a Panther.” The picture that went with it was of a high school baseball player.

My first thought was that it was a graduation message by a proud parent, but of course it wasn’t. As I passed by Lufkin High School, the flags were at half-staff, so I began to do the research and found out the ugly truth.

Lance Modisette had been killed earlier in the week. He was driving a car that was traveling at a high rate of speed and struck a vehicle making a left turn into a private driveway on a hill just north of Nacogdoches.

Modisette had been a member of the Lufkin team – famously known as the “Thundering 13” — that won the Little League U.S. Championship in 2017. He went on to be a member of the Panthers baseball team. The words in the media account of the accident read: 

“He was scheduled to graduate next Friday with the Class of 2023.”

A few days later, Cameron Robbins, a pitcher at University Lab in Baton Rouge, was on a senior trip in the Bahamas. There was a sunset cruise involving a number of the trip participants. For whatever reason – reportedly on a dare — he jumped into the water and never surfaced. The Coast Guard called off the search two days later. The words in the media account of the story read: 

“Robbins had graduated just days earlier from the University Lab.”

Both are horrible, devastating events and a reminder of how precious life is. But for a couple of days, I couldn’t stop thinking about either one of them.

And then I realized why. It was the word “graduation.” One was about to graduate; one just had.

We think of high school graduation as one of the happiest times of a young person’s life. It is such a transition moment and a signal that the rest of your life is about to begin. Maybe it’s college or a job or the armed services, but for those who are about to graduate (or just have), there is no feeling like it.

Admittedly without knowing all of the details, it does appear that both made decisions that cost them their life. And in the case of Modisette, it also cost a 71-year-old woman in the oncoming vehicle her life as well.

Think about those fellow students on the Bahamas cruise who had to witness the events unfolding right in front of them. As a sign of times we live in, there is also a video of it.

Because his name sounded familiar, I went back and checked my scorebook from 2022 and discovered that I had actually seen Robbins pitch in a playoff game for the Cubs.

And I had watched the Lufkin Little League team – only about 100 miles from Shreveport — win the U.S. Championship that year (before losing to Japan in the finals).

The loss of life – no matter what the circumstances – for an 18- or 19-year-old is always tough to comprehend. Two young men — baseball players who had probably just played their last games on the diamond – were in the midst of such a joyous time in their lives.

It was a time to celebrate. Instead … 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Cold weather, hard reality: the greens aren’t grassy enough

If there’s one sign no golfer wants to see when they walk into the pro shop, it’s “Cart Paths Only.” Nobody ever says “All right! We get to stay on the paths all day, never have any idea what club to hit and get to walk as far as possible!”

But a close second is the notification that there is a temporary green on the course. Course officials will shave down an area by the actual green and try to make it a manageable putting surface, but it’s not anywhere close to the same. The fairway is the fairway; the green is the green. No amount of close cropping is going to change that.

So if finding out that one hole has a temporary green is something of a nuisance, how would you feel about 36 of them? Because that’s what local golfers are about to get.

Dates haven’t been officially announced, but here’s what’s about to happen: The Club at Huntington Park will be closing down its regular greens in the first week of June and will begin using temps. A few weeks later (probably at the beginning of July), Querbes Park will do the same.

Can you say “automatic two-putt”?

There is someone to blame, of course, and it is someone golfers are quite familiar with – Mother Nature.

Remember those six-degree nights we had during the winter? Then a few weeks later, those 11-degree nights? In the middle of April, the temperature got down to 42. In each of the next two weekends, it was as low as 51 degrees.

“It was terrible,” says Querbes pro Nathan Barrow. “At Huntington, the poa annua (grass) had become resistant to any kind of chemical. It just wouldn’t go away. The cold temperatures didn’t allow the Bermuda (grass) to grow.”

The simple formula is this – you need about 150 degrees to grow grass. When the daytime and the nighttime temperatures add up to 150, you’re in business. This region didn’t even come close to that in April, which is why it should be no surprise that the city courses are in this spot.

“This is something everybody throughout the South is dealing with,” Barrow says. “But I’m excited that we are actually doing something about it.”

And let’s be honest. If you’ve been to Querbes, for example, there are only three greens that are worth putting on. The rest are just mounds of some combination of dirt and sand. Strange as it may sound, temporary greens are actually a better alternative.

Huntington will be fumigating the greens this weekend and begin cutting in the temporary greens while the course is closed. (Do you really want to be anywhere near greens that are being fumigated?) Then, those greens will have grass sprigs installed on June 8-9. Querbes will repeat that process.

So what does it mean for Joe MuniGolfer?

“We will be open,” Barrow says. “What we will do is have something like a twilight fee all day. We will have other reduced prices. But we want people to still be able to get their exercise, play golf and work on their games while the greens grow in.”

Which leads us to the question everyone with a 5-iron wants to know: How long is this going to take?

“We estimate 6 to 8 weeks of growing time,” Barrow says. “So at Huntington, that’s an estimated re-opening around July 20 or early August.”

Also, the greens are not just being re-done. There is an entirely new type of grass that will be installed. It’s a hybrid Bermuda named Calcutta. “It’s a newer strain and a healthier grass,” Barrow says. “We’ve got a great story to tell with Querbes celebrating its 100th year next year. We have a record number of rounds and we are going to keep them coming with new greens by Labor Day.”

Might even ease the pain when it’s Cart Paths Only.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Today’s Field Days are not like the ones we remember

When you are making your list of Things That Have Been Ruined, be sure to have “grade school Field Days” on your list. Might want to make it fairly near the top.

The late April/early May corridor is always riddled with Field Days – for the love of God, don’t try to drive on a street anywhere near one – and if you haven’t picked up on the seismic shift that has taken place, then you obviously don’t have any children. Or grandchildren.

And the future is not bright. At the rate we are going, Field Day for your great grandchildren will consist solely of face painting and sno-cone eating. (We are dangerously close right now.)

One of my men recently had his first Field Day and I asked his mother how he enjoyed it. “Kinda hacked there wasn’t any competition,” she said.

That’s my guy!

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the Pizza Box Relay Challenge being an Olympic event any time soon.

Speaking of Olympics, that’s basically the idea of Field Day. Well, at least it was the idea.

Line ‘em up! See who can run the fastest, jump the highest/farthest, and throw in a feat of strength and/or dexterity. You want to mix in a ball throw? Have at it! We got time! Better yet, we have ribbons for the winners!

Look, I get it – some kids aren’t cut out for that. Coming in last in the 40-yard dash isn’t exactly their idea of fun. But nobody is mandating that they line up and run.

For those who want to compete, let them compete. For those who want to at least give it a try (I was embarrassingly bad at chin-ups), come on and give it a shot. For those who just want to enjoy the day off from school, we got stuff for you too.

That’s a nice concept, but that’s about as far as it goes.

If you want to know who can get it done when it comes running to the hula hoop, changing into clown pants, doing three swings of the hoop and then racing back to tag a teammate with a Frisbee, go ahead and leave open a Friday in April or May next year.

I know it’s not a basic tenet of our educational system, but I have always held to the belief that in every grade level, everyone should know who is the fastest kid. Everybody knows who the smartest kid is, so what’s the diff?

Instead, we are getting all these made-up events that are masquerading as competition. Oh look, Timmy is trying to run around the cone without dropping the egg and then he’ll hand it off to Janie!

Next time you see a stopwatch or a measuring tape, let me know.

I’d love to be at a Field Day planning meeting one time, just to hear how they come up with some of the events. First on the agenda, obviously, is “what color T-shirt each class will be wearing?”

Next would be to determine who is going to call and reserve the table for 40 at Superior Grill.

It’s right after that when I would raise my hand and suggest “How about three rounds of boxing?” 

End of meeting. At least for me.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Chasing after a legendary baseball story that (might have) happened

It has been a line I have used and re-used ever since I’ve been involved in baseball, either as a  player or as a youth coach. It speaks to this: No matter how good and complete of a team you think you might have, there’s always one thing you have to worry about from the opposition.

“… As long as Vida Blue or James Rodney Richard doesn’t show up.”

The great thing about baseball is that it is the defense, specifically the pitcher, that controls the action. The other team might not be able to play catch before the game without injuring a few teammates, but that doesn’t matter if the guy who takes the mound is better than the rest of the team — his and yours — combined.

This was particularly true before baseball scouting became so precise. You could be playing an opponent from a small town you’d never heard of, but when you saw those first warmup pitches from the guy on the mound, you knew what you were up against. And there was a really good chance it wasn’t going to be pretty.

For you.

You can’t win, as they say, if you can’t score.

Blue (DeSoto Parish) and Richard (Lincoln Parish) were two great examples because they played high school baseball in North Louisiana before integration and their prep careers were largely unknown. But within a decade, they would become two of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball; the classic flame-throwing country kids.

There’s no doubt that the LHSAA high school coaches around here were glad they didn’t have to worry about Blue or Richard, who played in the LIALO, showing up in the other dugout.

But what about a day in which Vida Blue and James Rodney Richard both showed up?

For years, I’d heard the story of how Blue and Richard played against each other in high school. The timeline offers the possibility – Blue’s last year at Mansfield’s DeSoto High was 1967 when Richard was a sophomore at Lincoln High (in Vienna, just north of Ruston).

No kidding: I thought that one day I could literally write a book about this epic game. Imagine getting these two baseball greats together to talk about what that day was like. Sadly, Richard passed away in 2021. Blue, who won the Cy Young and the MVP for the Oakland A’s four years after playing for DeSoto High, died last weekend at age 73, so my opportunity has come and gone.

But you can do like I have done for years and imagine what that scene was like – scouts from every MLB team in attendance behind home plate, fans lining the field all the way around. Batters helplessly flailing at pitches they couldn’t see, much less hit.

After all, it is documented that Blue did strike out 21 batters in one game in his senior year. However, he did give up a foul ball that day.


So go ahead and think about what it must have been like to see a game like that between two future major league stars before anyone knew a thing about them. It’s one of those I-would-have-given-anything-to-see-that events in local high school lore.

There’s only one problem.

It didn’t happen.

At least there is no proof that it ever took place.

If y’all only could understand how much I wanted it to be true. I just knew that I was going to find something, somewhere in the archives, but I couldn’t make it happen. Search after search, newspaper after newspaper, keyword after keyword … nothing.

But I kept symbolically fouling off pitches, hoping that I could find that nugget hidden away somewhere. And then I realized that there was this thing called the internet, which means you could find just about anybody anywhere.

After a week of research, it took about 15 seconds to find one of Blue’s DeSoto High teammates living in Mansfield. I called, he answered.

(“Please, please say you have great memories of that game and that it was fantastic and you even have a scrapbook filled with memories.”)

No, he said, no memory of ever playing against James Rodney Richard.

There were no more pitches for me to foul off. Legend had given me hope, but reality struck me out.

Vida Blue is expected to be buried next week in Mansfield. You can bet there will be plenty of great memories shared during that time.

But I can’t help but imagine how great it would be if there were just one more.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Jimmy Butler as a Centenary Gent? Oh, what could have been

It’s NBA Playoff time and once again, Jimmy Butler is tearing up the league. It seems to happen every spring and this year is no different. And it’s not like he’s on a great team surrounded by talent – there have been times when Butler is on the floor with four Miami Heat teammates who were all undrafted.

You might remember that Butler is from Texas and played college basketball at Marquette, so what does that have to do with Shreveport?

Well, legend has it that Jimmy Butler, six-time NBA All-Star, could have easily been a Centenary Gent.

There was a Sports Illustrated article in 2017 in which it was written in the second paragraph that Butler only “received a single scholarship offer out of high school from Centenary.”

But if you want to find out if the legend is true, you need to go to the source. And you’ll have to go a long way. All the way to northern Michigan.

That’s where you will find Rob Flaska these days, where he is currently in private business as well as head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Glen Lake High School. (Go Lakers!)

But from 2005-08, Flaska was head coach at Centenary. And there was a 6-foot-6 kid coming out of high school in Tomball, Texas, in 2007 averaging 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds who Flaska thought might look nice in maroon and white.

“I was always looking for players,” says Flaska. “He was listed on the (recruiting) board as a ‘1’ (mid-major prospect). So I called him up and offered him a scholarship. But I didn’t get too far with him.”

In 2007, Steve Roccoforte, who was once an assistant coach at Centenary, was the head coach at Lamar in Beaumont, about 100 miles from Tomball, Butler’s hometown. “I didn’t know anything about him,” says Roccaforte, now an assistant at Texas A&M.

These days, everyone in basketball had heard of Butler. He’s been the best player in the NBA playoffs this year, averaging 35.5 points per game and had a 56-point game against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

Flaska was the one who did the recruiting of Butler, not one of his assistant coaches. After walking into a tough situation – Centenary won only three games in the year before Flaska arrived – he knew he had to find players.

“When I first got the job, I don’t remember there being very many guys available,” he says. “After that, I started really recruiting in the Houston area and signed some kids from there.”

Says Flaska about the prospect of landing Butler at Centenary: “It would have changed a lot of things for us.”

No kidding. There probably would be a special Jimmy Butler burger on the menu at the Kings Highway Strawn’s by now.

“We definitely tried and would have taken him in a New York minute,” Flaska says. “I didn’t know he was going to be this good, but we knew he could be good for Centenary.”

In what turned out to be Flaska’s last year at Centenary, the Gents were 10-21 overall but got off to a great start with wins over SMU and Texas Tech. However, they lost 17 of the last 19. Adding a future NBA All-State to the mix – even as a freshman – would have certainly changed things.

“Obviously a guy like him is who you need to make your program,” Flaska says. “But you see it happen at small schools all the time. We got lucky on a couple of guys we brought in, but that one right there …”

He didn’t need to finish the sentence.

Though he tried, Flaska knew it was an uphill battle to get Butler.  “He pretty much had it in his mind he was going to Tyler Junior College,” he says. “We tried to get him up for a visit, but the coach over there got him to come for one year and then he got a scholarship for Marquette.”

Three years later, Butler was a first-round draft pick.

“I tell people all the time ‘I tried to get that guy!’” Flaska says. “We were so close back then to really turning the corner. We just needed a few more guys.”

Or one guy named Jimmy Butler.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Three locals open LHSAA baseball quarterfinals; Falcons focused at home

AS EXPECTED:  The Northwood Falcons, shown celebrating last weekend’s Game 3 victory over Tioga, will host Rummel in Game 1 Friday night at James Farrar Stadium. (Submitted photo)


They’ve been here before, but that’s not enough for the Northwood Falcons.

Reaching the LHSAA baseball quarterfinals is always a nice accomplishment and the Falcons did that last year. But they lost.

Northwood is back again for another shot to get to the state’s Final Four tournament, but the Falcons will have to get past Rummel (New Orleans) to do it. The Falcons, the No. 5 seed, will play host to Game 1 of the best-of-three series Friday night at 6 p.m. at James Farrar Stadium in the Division I (Select) playoffs.

“This year (reaching the quarterfinals) was an expectation,” Northwood coach Austin Alexander said. “Unless you are building a program, you expect to get this far and beyond. This year has kind of a been-there-done-that. Last year, we just got our feet wet because we hadn’t been there before.”

Northwood survived a Game 3 last weekend against No. 12 Tioga when Jaxon Bentzler hit the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh for a walk-off home run.

As exciting as that was, it didn’t surprise Alexander. “It’s the same stuff we’ve been doing all year long,” he said. “We are not going to give up or quit. We are going to keep fighting. We’ve played in a lot of close games. I always tell our guys that the better team will win those games.”

As the old sports cliché goes, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores and that’s especially true for the Falcons’ pitching staff. When they were freshmen in ’22, Christian Blackmon, Jack Carlisle and Bentzler helped lead Northwood to the quarters last year and are back at it again.

“They have all had really good years,” Alexander said. “We haven’t quite yet decided on how we are going to pitch it this weekend, but we’ve got confidence in all of them.”

In their two years on the Falcons staff, the trio has combined for 46 of the team’s 58 wins. Northwood only lost two starters from last year’s 29-11 team and got back designated hitter Mason Welch, who skipped his junior year to concentrate on football.

Rummel, the 13th seed, is making the trip back to Shreveport after beating fourth-seeded Captain Shreve last week, including a 5-4 win in 10 innings to clinch it.

“At this point of the season, everyone is good,” Alexander said. “Everybody has good pitchers and guys who can hit. We are just proud to be in the top eight and still playing.”

CALVARY at NOTRE DAME: Don’t expect Calvary coach Jason Legg to spend a lot of time grinding through the analytics when it comes to a scouting report on the Pioneers. Game 1 between the sixth-seeded Cavs and No. 3 seed Notre Dame will be this evening at 6 p.m. at Crowley’s venerable Miller Stadium (built in 1948 but renovated in 2021 with turf.)

“They are going to be a very scrappy bunch of guys from what I can gather,” Legg said. “I don’t take a lot of stock of what people send me with spray charts and other stuff. I really just want to know tendencies. Do they run? Do they bunt? Does the catcher have a good arm? Other than that, we are going to go out there and play our game. I’m not going to overthink this thing.”

Calvary had no trouble last week with Fisher, winning by scores of 3-0 and 18-0 to advance to the Division III (Select) quarterfinals.

“We are playing very well right now,” Legg said. “We are as healthy as we can be and hitting it very well and been getting complete games out of our lefties.”

That would be junior Landon Fontenot in Game 1 and senior Jackson Legg in Game 2 on Friday. Calvary comes into the game having won 20 of the last 21 games. Notre Dame is 26-5 and winners of 15 of the last 17.

BYRD at JESUIT: They may be separated by 300 miles, but there is no lack of familiarity between the Yellow Jackets and the Blue Jays. It was Jesuit that knocked Byrd out of the playoffs last year and two years ago when Byrd was in the state championship game, it was Jesuit who denied the Jackets.

Byrd, the No. 10 seed, will travel to New Orleans to play at Jesuit’s John Ryan Stadium for the three-game series against the second-seeded Blue Jays in the Division I (Select) quarterfinals. The first game is Friday at 6 o’clock.

“We are obviously very familiar with them,” Byrd coach Greg Williams said. “It’s a typical Jesuit team. They have some power and some really good arms on the mound.”

The Yellow Jackets are coming off a wild three-game series against seventh-seeded Brother Martin (New Orleans) with Byrd claiming the first 6-2 before the Saturday double-header had two run-rule games — Brother Martin winning 14-3 and Byrd taking the decider 16-5.

“Any time you get to play in the playoffs in New Orleans, it’s fun. It was a great atmosphere and we just fought to the end,” Williams said. “And now we get the opportunity to do it again.”

He will be hoping for another big performance by senior right-hander Kevin Robinson, who pitched a complete game last week in the opener. He struck out five and did not allow a walk.

“And we’ve been hitting it well one through nine in our lineup,” Williams said. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

A deep dive into the pros and cons of a simple sport

To paraphrase a very wise man, the only thing I know less about than “track” is “field,” but in case you haven’t noticed, ‘tis the season for high school meets all over the place.

Allow me to assure you of one lead-pipe certainty – if you go to one, you’d better pack a lunch.

And dinner.

Nobody has ever called me “Mr. Track,” but give me about a day to figure it out and I’d have these meets running on time like Mussolini did with the trains in Italy after World War I. If you think Major League Baseball had a problem with game length, high school track would like a word.

It’s a good thing graduation season is coming up or they might have to start handing out diplomas between the girls and boys 4×400 relay.

All of that notwithstanding, the thing I like about track is its simplicity. The events aren’t very hard to figure out.

In track, it’s basically this: You start here, you run to there, and whoever is first wins. (They might ask you to jump over something along the way, but that doesn’t seem to be too complicating.)

And field isn’t all that tough, at least for the most part. I mean, I look at the javelin or shot put and figure I could do that if I were (1) younger (2) stronger (3) had a better arm and (4) knew how to yell when I threw it.

High jump and long jump? Doesn’t take a rocket scientist: Run, then jump. (However, I would like to add whoever thought of the triple jump probably had a screw loose.)

Which brings me to the most fascinating event in all of track and field – pole vault.

Quick question: Are you (expletive) kidding me?

I’m being totally honest here when I say that I have NO IDEA how they do it. There are few athletic events in which I would be concerned about dying, but pole vault is one of them. Yes, I think I could avoid death at Talladega easier than I could at pole vault.

We all know how this would go. I’d saunter down the runway, plant the pole, rise up about four feet, then fault flat on my back before ever reaching the pit and suffer a massive head injury.

I realize there is a large, foam mat awaiting at the other end, but that doesn’t do anybody any good if you can’t get there.

Who in their right mind grabs an abnormally long fiberglass pole, looks up at the bar that seems way too high and says “Gimme a shot at that.”

And I found out earlier this week that it’s even more complicated than I had previously thought. Not only are there horizontal settings for the cross bar, there are also vertical settings for the standards that hold the bar. You can move them closer or farther away.

I’d want them moved into the equipment room.

Full appreciation for the technique, strength and athleticism that goes into it, but you people are crazy.

About as crazy as the people who put out a schedule of events and expect the meet to run on time.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

 LHSAA needs to halt baseball schedule manipulation

In the summer of 1975 in American Legion baseball, Ricou-Brewster won 15 straight games and was running away with it in the standings as the North Louisiana playoffs approached. But by the end of July, things started to go south for the Jesuit (now Loyola)-based team.

Night after night, Ricou-Brewster piled up one-run losses – including two on the same night. Once 16-2, the team was now 16-7 and battling to stay alive for the post-season.

A series of rainouts had forced the team to play these games on consecutive nights, so they were rapidly running out of pitching.

Now, this is where the story gets a little fuzzy, so you can believe what you like. One of the remaining games had to be postponed because of poor field conditions. It seemed as though someone had gone out to Cherokee Park field in the middle of the night and put tire tracks all throughout the infield.

Therefore, the game had to be postponed, giving the team a much-needed day of rest.

The young coach of the team is alleged to have said to his players upon giving them the news of the day off, “If one of y’all did this, I don’t want to know about it.” And then he looked at one of his star players. “But if it was you, Jones, good job.”

These days, a few high school baseball coaches across the state are basically doing the same thing, only they are far less obvious in their methods.

What they are doing is not against the rules, but it should be. What has been happening – and it will get worse unless the LHSAA does something about it – is the manipulating of the schedule in order to try to either get their team into the playoffs or move into a better seeding position.

A quick primer: Baseball uses the power-point system, based on 20 points for a win, one point for each of your opponents’ wins and two points for each classification you play up. Without getting into too much detail, you could actually improve your position by losing to a team in a higher classification with a bunch of wins.

One local coach says he got a call last Friday night about 10 o’clock from a Division IV coach in South Louisiana wanting to know if he wanted to play a double-header the next day. The local coach, whose team is one of the top seeds in its division, told the caller that he already had a game scheduled. Undeterred, he was asked about the possibility of working something out with that third team so that everyone could get in two games on Saturday.

Spurned by the local coach Friday night, it should come as no surprise that the Division IV coach found games on Sunday and Monday – both against Class 5A schools — that weren’t previously scheduled.

And that was from a coach whose team already had a playoff spot locked up, just trying to move up a spot in order to get a potential home quarterfinal series. He did win both of the “add-on” games, but failed to move up.


A Division III team in the New Orleans area posted a schedule in the pre-season that showed the final game of the season would be played on April 13. But when that school found itself on the outside looking in when it came to making the playoffs, suddenly a game against a Class 5A school with more than 20 wins appeared on the schedule for the final day of the season. Not just one game — a double-header. They lost both games, but didn’t move up enough to make the playoffs.

One local coach had a game cancelled on him during the last week of the season as his team was fighting to make it into the playoffs. No reason given. Unspoken was that the cancelling team didn’t want to take a chance on a loss and dropping out of a potential first-round home game.

Didn’t work out and, by the way, the team that had its game called off made the playoffs anyway.

There’s a simple solution to all of this: there should be a date, certainly before the end of March, in which no games can be added or cancelled. Right now, it is allowed until two days before the end of the regular season.

That’s ridiculous.

If a game gets rained out, you can make it up, but that game has to be on your original schedule. But only as many games as were previously scheduled.

And you can’t leave the water hose on all night and call it a rain out. If that’s the case, then the opponent gets to be the home team.

If you want to cancel a game, it’s a forfeit. Because that’s basically what happens if you do that during football season. (This also happens in basketball on occasion, but not to the degree that it does in baseball.)

And so what eventually happened to that Ricou-Brewster American Legion team in 1975? They lost that postponed last game. Of course, it was by one run.

You might say they had tire tracks all over them when the season was over.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Second thoughts about the first pitch

It’s something that has baffled me for years, yet it continues to happen and I continue to not get it.

It has to do with the ceremonial first pitch before a major league baseball game.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for it as a nice way to honor someone in front of a large group of people.

Run ’em out there, wave to the crowd, throw one reasonably close to the plate, take a couple of pictures and exit stage right.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

No one is expecting a 98-mph heater on the black to come firing in there, but it seems like there are more and more examples of these going wrong every year.

It’s one thing for Miss America or some random politician to lob one up there that won’t make anyone forget Nolan Ryan. Not Nolan Ryan, the pitcher who threw seven no-hitters. I mean the retired version of Nolan Ryan, who threw an 85-mph ceremonial first pitch in 2010.

He was 63 years old.

There are two standards here: One is the standard set by 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), who threw one before a Mets game that is probably more famous than any rap song he ever produced. Plenty of others have fallen into this category, highlighted by Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory missing home plate by so much that he hit an umpire standing 20 feet away. The ump tossed him.

Amazingly, Mallory was re-elected two years later.

No, the real problem here is the standard being set by pro athletes who throw out a first pitch. Don’t we expect a little bit more out of them than we do out of Miss Texas?

It happened again this year with Travis Kelce, famed tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was throwing out the first pitch before the Royals’ opening game and got it maybe halfway there.

How does this continue to happen? How are there professional athletes – and I don’t care what sport – who are not able to simply throw something that resembles a pitch? Throwing a ball is not that much of a specialty.

Carl Lewis is one of the greatest athletes this country has ever produced. Ever seen his first pitch? Makes 50 Cent look like a Cy Young winner.

NBA star John Wall’s first pitch had all the trajectory of a dunk when he threw one out before a Nationals game a few years ago. He’s made millions of dollars, by the way, throwing basketballs to people. But he can’t throw a baseball 60 feet?

MMA star Conor McGregor can throw a punch, but he can’t throw a baseball. Last year, he threw one into the backstop.

That’s only a little bit worse than Michael Jordan – a former professional baseball player – who one-hopped the backstop before a 1998 playoff game.

They could all take a lesson from George W. Bush.

Presidents have been throwing out first pitches since portly right-hander Billy Taft in 1910, but nobody delivered like “W.”

It was at Yankee Stadium for the World Series after 9/11 and rather than just walk out there and lob one, Bush actually warmed up in the batting cages. This was no time to make a fool of himself.

“Don’t bounce it,” Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter told the President while he warmed up. “They’ll boo you.”

Not a chance.

Properly warmed up and wearing a bulletproof vest, the 55-year-old leader of the free world went to the top of the pitcher’s mound – both symbolic and proper – and fired a literal strike. The look on his face when he walked off the mound on that emotion-filled night said many things, including this: When it comes to a first pitch, everyone is now playing for second. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Parkway’s Trenton Lape: A story of perseverance

There are times when Trenton Lape will stand in the outfield during a game and wonder what things would be like if he were 200 feet closer.

It doesn’t happen all the time, the Parkway senior admits, but he can’t help but wonder. After all, were it not for a set of unfortunate circumstances, he’d be the one standing on the pitcher’s mound, controlling the game with every pitch.

“I think about that every day,” Lape says. “It’s something that goes through my head all the time.”

Instead, he plays center field and stays ready for the infrequent moments when the ball will come his way. He has to stay ready to make a play because he knows it’s what is needed for the Panthers. Once the play is made, Lape also has to be ready to make a throw back into the infield. And when he does, he knows something else.

It’s going to hurt.

“In the moment, I’m more concerned about trying to throw the runner out,” he says, “but there’s no doubt it’s going to hurt.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Almost by the time Trenton Lape had figured out where the school cafeteria was located at Parkway, he had an offer (and was verbally committed) to play college baseball at LSU. Pretty strong stuff for a freshman.

As a sophomore, he was 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA, striking out 68 in 41 innings. On March 16 of that year, he threw a no-hitter in which he struck out 11 and yet only threw 70 pitches. His fastball that night was clocked at 92 miles per hour. He was only five days removed from his 16th birthday.

You talk about a kid who had it all going for him … until he didn’t.

The Panthers were playing Haughton in the final week of the ’21 regular season in a big district game. “I went out to long toss that day, but I hadn’t even reached the full distance and my arm started to hurt,” Lape remembers. “But I got on the mound and was still getting it up there pretty good. But by the fourth inning, it was hurting worse and worse.”

The diagnosis was bone spurs and he had surgery in the beginning of the summer. But as it turned out, the problem wasn’t bone spurs; it was actually a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) injury and he had surgery for that in November of his junior year.

He was not able to recover enough to pitch in 2022, but that wasn’t going to keep him off the field. Lape was able to play second base (where the length of throws are not as strenuous) and was one of the top hitters in leading Parkway to a share of the District 1-5A championship.

He had hoped that the strength in his arm would return for this season, but it never did. The idea of picking up where he left off as a sophomore has not panned out. The surgery he had during the fall of his junior year did not do what had been hoped.

So after Lape finishes his senior season at Parkway, he will have another surgery on May 31. This time, it will be a complete “Tommy John” surgery to give him a new ulnar collateral ligament, rather than just to try to repair it.

“I didn’t get hurt again,” he says. “I’m still hurt. The last two years have been a grind. I’m just playing through it as best I can.”

Proof of that has come from some occasional appearances on the mound (three innings) this year, even coming in to close a district game against Captain Shreve. Most high school pitchers would kill to be able to throw 88 miles per hour; Lape was throwing that hard at what he says was “75-80 percent.”

Lape knows he’s likely headed for a redshirt year once he gets to LSU, but he’s not necessarily going to be a pitcher once he gets to Baton Rouge. Sure, his arm is what got him noticed in the first place, but he’s primarily been a second baseman and an outfielder the last two years, so he’s nothing if not versatile.

He’s batting .383 with three home runs and 21 RBI and had two home runs, a double and five RBI in a game earlier this week.

“I still feel like when I’m on the mound, I can strike out anybody and when I’m at the plate, I can get a hit off anybody,” he says. “But this whole experience has taught me a lot.”

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

The in and out of prep baseball warmups is no longer routine

The Loyola baseball team had just finished taking infield practice before the 1999 Class 2A state championship game in Baton Rouge and the Flyers were coming off the field as Teurlings Catholic was preparing for its turn.

“Have a seat, guys,” said Flyers’ assistant coach Glen Hunt. “It’s time to watch the circus.”

And it was. Teurlings put every single player on the field – not just the starters – and proceeded to have an infield-outfield session that had to be seen to be believed. (Loyola had seen it the previous day in the semifinals.)

There were always at least three live baseballs in play at one time and nobody ever stopped moving. There was enough choreography going on to make a Broadway producer jealous.

It’s hard to know exactly what kind impact it had on the Flyers as they watched from the first base dugout. It may be too much to say that the Flyers had lost before the game even started, but it sure didn’t take long. Loyola lost 12-1. It only took five innings.

There’s a lot more going on in pre-game practice in baseball than just take a few ground balls. Or even for those who don’t take any.

The popular term for taking pre-game infield and outfield practice is “in and out” but while some teams are still “in,” there are a growing number who are “out.” Put it this way – don’t be surprised if at least one of the teams doesn’t trot out there for a few grounders before the game starts.

“I’ve got a philosophy on that,” says veteran Haughton coach Glenn Maynor. “If the team we are playing doesn’t want to take infield or outfield before a game, that team shouldn’t beat us.”

Imagine going to a football game and the place kickers didn’t come out early and practice some kicks. Not a care in the world about the wind conditions.

How about a basketball game in which the players didn’t take a few layups or practice a few free throws just to get a feel for the tightness of the rims or the depth perception of the goal?

But it happens in baseball – and a lot more than you’d think.

At the Class 5A level, almost all continue to take in-and-out before the game, but the lower you go in classification, the more likely it is that they might not.

“We take it (on the road) so that we can get used to the field and get settled in before the game starts,” said Byrd coach Greg Williams. “On the road, you are looking to see how the grass plays and how the ball reacts. At home, you already know that, but baseball coaches like routine and that’s just what we like to do.”

You probably won’t see the “circus,” but most teams that do take it like to send more than just the starters on the field. “It’s not really a game, but it feels like one to the younger players,” Northwood’s Austin Alexander said. “It’s a free chance to get some game experience for some of those guys.”

Early-season tournaments or weather conditions can be a reason to not take infield, but for teams that don’t take it before a game, there’s a simple reason why: They don’t want to give the opposition a free scouting report.

At least, that’s the thought process.

Maynor says he really doesn’t pay much attention to what the opposition is doing. “I might ask my assistant coach about how the outfield arms are,” he says. “But for most part, I’ve got my own team to worry about before a game starts.”

“I check to see about the outfield arms,” Williams said. “A lot of times I’ll look and see if a guy pitched a few nights before, how he’s throwing the ball.”

Alexander says he didn’t take in-and-out his first two years, but does it now and his players look forward to it.

“They love it,” the fourth-year coach said. “It’s a big deal to them and they take a lot of pride in it.”

So what if the pre-game session doesn’t go so well, with dropped fly balls and through-the-wickets grounders?

“Better to get that out of the way before the game,” Alexander says, “than during it.” 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

A reason to celebrate 100 different ways for the legendary Sibley Raiders

When you think about it – even four decades later – it’s still incredible to think that a team from a tiny town in Webster Parish won 100 games. Some schools have a hard time winning 100 in a decade. The Sibley Raiders won 100 the hard way.

In a row.

And in a way, the symmetry of it all makes it even better. Not 93 in a row or a 103 in a row.

A perfect 100. Easy to remember.

Of course, who could forget what the Sibley Raiders did in the late 1970s and early 1980s? Certainly not those involved, and they will get together Saturday as part of the Celebration of Champions at the Minden REC.

They need not worry about being forgotten, because it will be a long time before their accomplishment gets matched. For that matter, it’s probably not a good idea to hold your breath waiting for anybody else to even come close.

The Raiders were state champions in 1978-79, then went 58-0 on the way to another state championship in 1979-80. They kept it going into a third season before losing to next-door-neighbor Doyline on Nov. 22, 1980 – in Sibley’s own tournament.

But to be sure, it wasn’t by accident.

“We had passion,” says Willie Jackson, the unquestioned star of the team who went on to play at Centenary before being drafted by the Houston Rockets. “We loved each other and we were a group guys who lived in the same community.”

Basketball is just what they did. They’d play on dirt courts and nail a backboard to a pole if they needed to, or they’d head over to someone’s house and get up a game.

“That was a special time.” Jackson says.

Which is why they have some special memories. Especially one.

The previous national record for most wins in an unbeaten season was 52 and the Raiders were 56-0 when they entered the state semifinals against Leonville. Sibley was down a point with four seconds to go when the Raiders inbounded the ball, made two passes – and two dribbles – before the ball ended up in the hands of Carl Myles, who sank a game-winning 12-footer just before the buzzer to keep the streak alive.

Everybody touched the ball on that game-winning possession … except Jackson.

Sibley went on to win in the finals 72-61 over Holy Rosary and set the national record.

“To be honest, I really didn’t know how special that was at the time,” Jackson says. “As years have passed, I see it now. It was something special; something that may not be broken for a long time.”

Scheduling restrictions are certainly a reason, but Jackson thinks he knows another factor.

“It was a lot different than it is today, where guys just don’t have the passion for it like they should,” he says. “We loved each other and our success was because we hung around each other and shared the game of basketball. I guess that’s because there wasn’t that much more to do.”

The team got together a few months ago to plan this weekend’s celebration. It is sure to conjure a lot of memories brought back to life.

“It’s going to be an exciting time,” Jackson says. “I’m happy to be with the guys again and celebrate our basketball heroics from back in the day. It’s going to be great to share the fellowship with the guys.”

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

How ‘The Flop’ fascinated a boy, and changed a sport

There was a nine-year-old boy living in the Broadmoor neighborhood of Shreveport who was fascinated with an athletic achievement he had just seen on television. 

So he went outside, put together a makeshift practice area, and tried to copy what he had just seen. And tried. And tried some more. 

This was something different. This wasn’t a center fielder crashing into the wall or a running back bowling over a linebacker. This was something he had never seen at a major sporting event. In fact, almost nobody else had either. 

When you look back on it, this may have been one of the seminal moments in the history of sports. It was a technique that no one had ever done, much less even thought about. And if it was going to be introduced to the world, the nine-year-old boy wanted to be the first to introduce it to grade school Field Day a few months later. 

In the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, Dick Fosbury changed an entire sport with his technique of going over the high jump bar “backward” instead of the established way of the straddle or Western roll. The “Fosbury Flop” resulted in a gold medal and the high jump event has never been the same since. 

Fosbury died last week at age 76 and it received little notice. That’s a shame, because he is one of the few in sports history to completely revolutionize a competition. 

Don’t give me Michael Jordan; there was Julius Erving and Elgin Baylor before him. Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus didn’t revolutionize anything – they just played their sport better than anybody else. There were players hitting home runs before Babe Ruth came along; he just hit more of them. 

Muhammad Ali certainly changed things in boxing, but not everybody immediately started floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. 

Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry shot underhanded free throws, but that hasn’t exactly caught on. 

You might argue Notre Dame’s Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne “invented” the forward pass against Army in 1913, but it had actually been around, though sparingly used, for a while. It’s just that nobody had used it like the Irish did in that game. 

Who else has completely changed the way something was athletically done? 

Somewhere out there, Pete Gogolak probably has his hand up. In 1966, he became the first soccer-style kicker in the NFL, now the universally-accepted way to kick.  

But other than that, it’s not a long list. 

After Fosbury set an Olympic record in Mexico City, far more than half of the competitors in the 1972 Olympics were using that technique.  

Fosbury began using the “flop” because he just couldn’t figure out how to make his body work with the preferred method of the time. He couldn’t even jump five feet in high school, so he began to experiment. It took a couple of years to perfect before it all came together. 

Another reason the Fosbury Flop caught on was because, up until that time, high jump pits weren’t exactly a soft place to land. You try landing on your back on sawdust from seven feet in the air and see how quickly you get back in line. Deep foam matting brought in more possibilities. 

Thankfully, the father of that nine-year-old knew a place where he could get some foam padding. A car repairman friend had some extra back seats that he had ripped out and let him use the padding that was left.

It made for a unique Christmas present – who asks Santa for a high-jump pit? – but after that, it was game on. The boy then set his sights on St. Joseph’s School Field Day 1969. Lo and behold, it paid off.  

And I still have the first-place ribbon to prove it. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Nobody wants to hear about your bracket!

NCAA tournament brackets are like the 79 you shot in your latest round or the new car you just bought.

Your friends are happy for you, but no one really wants to hear any details about it.

We are about to enter the “How’s Your Bracket” season and I’m here to tell you that it’s the definition of a rhetorical question. An answer isn’t really necessary.

It’s not like somebody at work will get on the intercom and announce, “Hey everybody, Joe picked all the winners in the second round and is leading in the company bracket pool!”

What’s worse are the television announcers who let us know they have only two of their Final Four picks remaining after the opening weekend. What are we supposed to do? Send you a fruit tray and offer our condolences?

NCAA Tournament brackets seem like scorecard playoffs in golf – somebody else always wins. Someone who is not named you.

There’s no doubt that playing the NCAA bracket is fun and adds excitement to the Creighton-Utah Valley game. But no matter how well you think you are doing, there’s always someone out there who is doing better. What’s worse, they might not even know a basketball from a pumpkin.

I’m about 1-for-20 in bracket pools and I consider myself among the elite because I actually won one. It was 2010 and early in the season, I had seen Cornell go to Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas. That nugget landed somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain for a few months, knowing that it would need to be recalled come March.

One night during that same season, I couldn’t sleep so I found myself watching West Coast basketball and thought that St. Mary’s team wasn’t bad.

So when the bracket time came, both were double-digit seeds but I figured they were worth a shot. You know why? Because I didn’t care. I didn’t bother analyzing FanGraphs or KenPom; I realized that I didn’t know any better, so I took the morsel of information I had and went with it.

Not only did I pick Cornell and St. Mary’s to win one game; I picked them to win two. That was enough points to sock away the winner’s prize before the Final Four even started.

But if I were so smart, how come I haven’t even sniffed a title since? When I won the cash in 2010, I figured I was playing with house money for the next eight years. The house money ran out five years ago, proving that I am just like the rest of y’all.

A loser.

This year, they are claiming that there are 20 teams that can win the championship, but history does not bear that out.  Despite all of this talk about “Madness,” the tournament has been won by a No. 1 seed the last five times it’s been played. Overall, a No. 1 has won it 65 percent of the time, so you really don’t have to go fishing in a very deep pond to find a winner.

But the actual Final Four isn’t where the fun is. No, that comes when some guy from Northern Iowa with a last name so long it takes two jerseys to fit all the letters on it beats No. 1-seeded Kansas in the second round (that also happened in 2010). Unless you are related to Ali Farokhmanesh, you would have no reason to think that was possible.

So close your eyes.

Or throw a dart.

Or decide which mascot name would beat up the other mascot name in a fight. (That would rule out the Centenary Gentlemen if they were Division I.)

Choose however you’d like, because it doesn’t matter.

And whatever you do, keep it to yourself. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Apparently, finishing the Tech game didn’t mean enough for Ole Miss

The SEC slogan of “it just means more” apparently has taken on new meaning for the Ole Miss baseball program.

It didn’t mean enough to find a way to finish a game that Louisiana Tech was winning 5-4 in the top of the seventh inning before it was called after a weather delay and the score reverted back to the previous inning. And wouldn’t you know it? Ole Miss was winning 4-3 after the sixth. So yes, Tech lost a game in which it scored more runs than the Rebels.

It didn’t mean enough to start the game early enough to get far ahead of the predicted bad weather. Something about how it would be unfair to the Ole Miss ticket holders to move the start time up more than an hour.

It didn’t mean enough to bring out the tarp when the delay started, so as to give the game a better chance to be completed.

What it does appear is that it meant more for Ole Miss to not lose two games to Louisiana Tech.

It meant more for Ole Miss to protect the integrity of its future mid-week schedule of opponents – Jacksonville State, Alcorn State, and Arkansas Pine Bluff – than to find a way to complete the Tech game. Even though the Bulldogs offered to come over on their own dime and finish it off. Just in the month of March, there are three dates that would obviously work for both teams (even more if you don’t allow for a travel day if one of the teams is going out of town).

But let’s go back to two years ago, when Tech hammered Ole Miss 13-1 in Ruston. As for the scheduled game the next day? It meant more for Ole Miss, ranked No. 4 at the time, to come up with the good ol’ we-got-Covid excuse than to actually play the second game. So they bolted back to Oxford. Two days later, the Covid-ravaged Rebels miraculously got well enough to sweep a three-game series against Auburn.

Ole Miss offered a lot of excuses as to why what happened Wednesday in Oxford couldn’t be helped and all of them are flimsy. But the Rebels do have one thing going for them – it’s a rule.

And has been for years.

Years ago, when Billy Tubbs was the basketball coach at Oklahoma, he was asked why he backed out of coming to Ruston to play the opening game at the Thomas Assembly Center.

“Because I don’t have to,” he said.

That’s basically the same message the Rebels (metaphorically) sent to Tech: We are Ole Miss.

You’re not. 

We don’t have to.

Obviously, having a chance to win two games on the road against the defending national champions and No. 4-ranked team would be a potential season-maker for Tech. A tainted win by Ole Miss over the Bulldogs probably isn’t going to be a difference maker for the Rebels’ post-season chances.

Remember, this is a Tech program that hosted an NCAA regional two years ago. The Bulldogs are a legit Group of Five power, but those teams need as many check marks as they can get when it comes to the post-season. Maybe it makes the difference in a seed number. Or maybe hosting another regional.

To be sure, it would be best if you didn’t hold your breath waiting for another Tech-Ole Miss game. Tech felt compelled to put out a news release giving its side of the story, but it’s not going to change anything.

And the first two words from the Ole Miss Twitter account after the game? “That’s baseball!”

Can we be a little more smug?

It’s not as if Tech coach Lane Burroughs fell off the turnip truck last night. He knew the rule as well as anybody as the game was playing out under threatening conditions. He’d be the first to say “that’s baseball” if there weren’t obvious signs of some chicanery going on. Plus, it doesn’t help that Burroughs is a Mississippi native.

Yep, for Burroughs, it would have meant more. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Lighten up! It’s just a golf thing

Far be it from me to be considered a defender of Tiger Woods, but sometimes you have to stand up for a guy when he’s catching grief from people who are in serious need of getting a life.

Just so you know where I stand, I was no fan of Woods when he started scorching the golf world in his 20s and 30s. It wasn’t so much him as it was the world around him. He seemed more like a corporate creation and even more bothersome, at least to me, was the media’s fawning of him.

Now in his 40s, Woods seems much more Regular Dude and I’ve found that to be somewhat appealing. You got to admit, the guy has had a lot to deal with.

But this is something he shouldn’t have to deal with.

Last week at the Genesis Open – his first PGA event back after a prolonged absence – Woods was playing with Justin Thomas, a good friend on the Tour, in the first round.

When Woods, 47, outdrove the 29-year-old Thomas on a hole, he casually walked down the fairway with Thomas and slipped something into his hands. Thomas looked down to see what it was, gave it a smirk, and continued on. (Almost) nobody noticed it.

But a photographer got a picture of the exchange, zoomed in on the photo and discovered – gasp! – it was a tampon.

Look, I don’t need to translate it for you. It’s pretty obvious what was at play here and, I might add, somewhat creative. I mean, it’s not like Woods just happened to have said item in his golf bag. The pre-meditation of it is part of the beauty.

Social media blew up over it and people who just don’t get it lined up to take their shots. Woods was forced coached coerced into giving an apology “to anyone who was offended.” (Which is very much code for, “I really don’t mean it, but it’s what I’m supposed to say to get you morons off my back.”)

Say whatever you want about the whole thing, but there is one indisputable fact at play here – it’s what guys do. And particularly in golf, which is fertile ground.

Christine Brennan of USA Today predictably weighed in. (“He employed basic misogyny to insult his good friend Thomas, a knee-slapper of a dig against female athletes: You hit the ball like a girl!”)

The Athletic found Sarina Wiegman, a female English soccer coach who nobody has ever heard of, and did an entire story on how she was offended. (“Very inappropriate.”)

So let me speak for an entire gender when I say this: You’re offended? Well how about this – I’m offended that you’re offended.

So there.

But, hey, maybe I’m missing something here. So I checked in with two golfers who might not think the same way I do. You know, just in case my inner misogynist was taking over.

Shreveport’s Meredith Duncan has played on the LPGA Tour and is a former winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Sandra Smith is the former president of the Louisiana Women’s Golf Association, a two-time winner of the LWGA Fourball tournament and a recent board member of the Louisiana Golf Association.

Let’s hear from them!

Duncan: “I thought it was really funny. As a woman I wasn’t offended at all. I don’t understand the big deal, really. It was a funny ribbing between two friends.”

Smith: “Although I thought Tiger’s passing off a tampon to JT was kinda dumb, I certainly wasn’t offended by it. I took it for what it was … a prank gone bad and caught on video. I shudder to think of all the dumb things my girlfriends and I have done through the years … fortunately most of them happened before social media reared its oft-times ugly head.”

So it’s not just what guys do. It’s what golfers do.

“We need to lighten up,” Smith said, “and quit being so damn sensitive.”

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Sigh… LSU court’s name goes on trial

Whenever you go to a basketball arena, do you ever notice if or who the court is named for? Better yet, do you ever care? Didn’t think so.

Which makes this whole Dale Brown/Sue Gunter thing at LSU equal parts typical, laughable, and, of course, political. (After all, this is Louisiana.)

A year ago, the LSU Board of Supervisors voted to name the court at the Maravich Assembly Center in honor of Dale Brown, longtime LSU men’s coach. They trotted out Dale and his supporters for the ceremony and the whole nine yards.

But then, the wind started blowing and a movement began to add Sue Gunter, the longtime women’s basketball coach (who passed away 15 years ago) to the floor naming. Last week, a new vote was taken and was approved.

Insert uproar here.

If it is your inclination to say “who cares,” you certainly have my permission. To me, there is only one person in the history of LSU athletics who has reached the level of greatness that should merit a naming opportunity. Take a bow, Skip Bertman. You take a program that few even knew existed and then win five College World Series titles? Now that’s where the standard ought to be.

That’s it. That’s the list.

What has been truly amazing is to see how polarizing the basketball court has become. And don’t let anybody try to tell you differently; there were plenty of folks who would tell you that it shouldn’t have been named for Brown in the first place.

But we all know that we live in a world where the standards have been lowered. Harold Baines, who was a .289 career hitter, never led the league in anything and was never higher than ninth in MVP voting, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For some reason, people feel compelled to put up statues at sports arenas for coaches and athletes who are no one’s idea of legendary.

Now, if you ask who has had the greatest impact on LSU basketball? Then Dale Brown is your guy. He didn’t build LSU basketball out of nowhere – that Maravich kid was pretty good and Bob Pettit would like a word – but yes, he was the dominant force behind LSU’s rise to a new level for an extended period of time.

Plus, Dale was a dominant personality. You always kept your eyes (and TV screens) on him.

But let’s be honest as well: there are plenty of answers from the other side as to why naming the court after him wasn’t standard worthy. Most will point out that he won as many Final Fours as you did. And there are many other reasons that get thrown around.

Let’s see if we can agree on this – if you say that LSU has to name the court after somebody, then Dale Brown is the best choice. (The better question is, do you have to?)

If Sue Gunter were so worthy, then why wasn’t her name brought up originally? You know the answer.

But the furor over this is really something to behold. Just like to point this out: no one is saying Brown’s name was ever going to be taken off the court.

Naming the court at Duke for Mike Krzyzewski? Of course. Tennessee named its after women’s coach Pat Summitt, who won eight more titles than Gunter (8-0). That’s the kind of standard that should be met.

Instead, Lou Henson, who never won any national titles, has not one, but two courts named for him (Illinois and New Mexico State).

We have accepted the Lou Henson standard instead of the Krzyzewski-Summitt standard when it comes to all of this.

So what should LSU do? At first, this idea seemed laughable, but now it seems perfectly in keeping with what this has all come to. Have two decals ready to apply to the court — one for Dale Brown when it’s a men’s game and one for Sue Gunter when it’s a women’s game.

Everybody wins! And we all get orange slices afterward!

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com