Friday Fix: J.J. Hardy one of a few big-leaguers who were signed by Arizona baseball program





Former Sabino High School player J.J. Hardy signed with the Arizona Wildcats with the intent to be a pitcher

Add Baltimore shortstop J.J. Hardy to the list of noteworthy big-leaguers who signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Arizona but never played for the Wildcats because the lure of professional baseball and the money to go with it was to great to resist. Hardy, a former Sabino High School standout who was recruited by Arizona primarily as a pitcher, produced the game-winning RBI in the 13th inning in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Yankees on Thursday night. Other accomplished major-leaguers who were signed by Arizona but never played for the Wildcats include Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay and Jason Schmidt. …

Former Sabino football coach Jeff Scurran, who communicated with me via Facebook after Hardy’s heroic hit at Yankee Stadium, stated that Hardy is “the only player that I would NOT allow to come out for football. It was, in fact, a no-brainer.” Another sound move by Scurran, who is in my top five of Tucson-area high school coaches in my lifetime. The others are Amphi’s Vern Friedli, Sahuaro’s Howard Breinig, and Sunnyside’s Paul Petty and Richard Sanchez. A side note, Petty, who passed away last year at age 81, exuded class similar to Scurran and the other coaches on that list. My brother Hector played for the Blue Devils under Petty, who coached at Sunnyside from 1972-1981 and was 70-36-1. After Hector suffered a serious back injury during practice and was confined to our home for a few weeks, Petty often visited to check on my brother’s condition. His visits were like clockwork. … Scurran is in Europe for a month doing football clinics. He will travel us to Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. Earlier this year, he coached a football team in Florence, Italy, comprised of volunteer players who were able to practice only three days a week because of work and family commitments. …

YouTube videos produced by the University of Idaho Library provide us the opportunity watch film of the “Cactus Comet” Art Luppino

Kudos to Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com for bringing to our attention recent video clips of the “Cactus Comet” — Art Luppino — that were made public via YouTube by the University of Idaho library. Luppino’s swift style of running and cutting ability are obvious. He was also clearly a gamer. He also was the place-kicker, kickoff and punt returner and a defensive back. … The release of these videos brings to mind past Arizona basketball, baseball and football games that would be very interesting to watch. Among them: The Wildcats’ 1976 game at UCLA for the chance to move on to the Final Four under Fred Snowden, the 8-7 victory over Maine in the 1986 College World Series in which Dave Shermet hit a two-out home run in the ninth that capped a rally from a 7-0 deficit, and the 1981 victory over No. 1 USC and Marcus Allen at the L.A. Coliseum. More: The Wildcats’ 14-7 victory over Ohio State and Woody Hayes at Columbus in 1967, any game that Eric Money and Coniel Norman played for the UA hoops team from 1972-74, and the 1976 College World Series semifinal win over ASU after the Sun Devils won seven consecutive games over the UA in the regular season and earlier in the CWS bracket. Steve Powers pitched a complete game in the 5-1 victory over ASU and the Wildcats captured their first CWS title the next day against Eastern Michigan. Somebody please get their hands on film of these games and allow us to relive the memories. …

In only two years since playing his last game at Arizona former defensive lineman Ricky Elmore has attempted to make his mark as an outside linebacker in the NFL for Green Bay, San Diego and Arizona. Last month, it was reported that Elmore was signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad. NFL insider Aaron Wilson, who covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Baltimore Sun, tweeted that Elmore is scheduled to try out for the Tennessee Titans today. … How furious do you think Arizona fans would have been if Mike Stoops made the decision to play for overtime at the end of last week’s Stanford game rather than try to get in position for a potential game-winning field goal? Post-game callers would have called for Stoops’ firing, no doubt about it. For now, Arizona followers are willing to give Rich Rodriguez a pass and that is understandable. Another question to ask: What if fiery Nick Foles was the quarterback instead of Matt Scott? Do you think Foles would have quietly allowed Stoops and his staff to make such a call? Tom Tunnicliffe with Larry Smith? Keith Smith or Ortege Jenkins with Dick Tomey? No question those former UA quarterbacks would have gotten in the faces of the coaches about wanting to go for the potential win. Many times the strong suggestion of a player, especially the captain at quarterback, can change a coach’s mind. Scott is equally competitive and more efficient operating an offense as any of those guys. One clear difference, however, from this point of view, is that Scott is more of an inward leader. If that works best for him, Rodriguez will take it. …

Donnie Salum with his three children

Former Arizona linebacker Donnie Salum had a PET scan performed Monday that revealed that tumors on his skull and spine are more than likely chordoma, which are malignant and extremely rare. Treatment is to surgically remove the tumors as much as possible and then radiation. Chordoma tumors are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy does not help in the treatment process. Surgeries to remove the tumors are very dangerous and risky because his tumor covers three bones and is located where the brain stem and carotid arteries feed from the brain into the spine. Salum, 46, was having earaches for more than a year and started having extreme headaches in late July. After many tests and doctors appointments, the tumors were discovered on three bones in his skull and spine. … Salum, a former walk-on who became the Wildcats’ leading tackler in 1989, has given plenty to the university, donating $600,000 worth of equipment to the school’s weight-training facility when he owned a sports equipment business. The Salum family has posted two sites on the Internet — Prayer Page for Donnie Salum on Facebook and BearDownDonnie.com — to bring awareness to his condition and fund-raising efforts. With mounting medical bills and other expenses, Salum and his wife Missy and their three young children are in need of support. A fundraising dinner and silent auction will be held Nov. 8 to support the Salums. The event is at the Wrigley Mansion (2501 East Telawa Trail, Phoenix, Ariz., 85016) starting at 6 p.m. with a cocktail reception and private auction. …

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez needs a couple more recruiting classes to get the right amount of athletes he needs for the 3-3-5 defense to work (YouTube)

Arizona’s 3-3-5 defense is a topic of an Associated Press article this week that indicates why the Wildcats are struggling defensively. Simply put, Rodriguez does not have the amount of athletes needed to make it efficient. The 3-3-5 defense is designed to be unpredictable much like the spread offenses that are being utilized in college football. It requires an abundance of interchangeable skilled athletic players. The defensive linemen are smaller and more mobile. Their objective is to tie up blockers so the linebackers and safeties can fill the gaps and make tackles. As the AP story reports, the secondary typically features a pair of cornerbacks and a free safety with two other safeties — Arizona calls them spur and bandit — who are often hybrid strong safeties/outside linebackers who can stop the run, play the flats or cover tight ends in man coverage. The formation also allows for blitz options from the linebacker, safety up the middle or a cornerback charging from the edge. … The defense was exposed against Stanford with Arizona forced to match shorter linebackers Jake Fischer (5-11, 215) and Hank Hobson (6-3, 224) against taller tight end Lavine Toilolo (6-8, 265) in single coverage. Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel need a couple of more recruiting classes to bolster the defense with more skilled players who can make up ground fast to reduce the chance for breakdowns. …

While gathering information on Pac-12 point guards, it became obvious that Arizona reserve Jordin Mayes could start for almost half of the conference teams. Coaches at Oregon, ASU, Colorado, Utah and Washington State would jump at the chance to have Mayes on their roster. The competition between starter Mark Lyons against Mayes and Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell (who must sit this year per NCAA transfer rules) gives an advantage for the Wildcats over most of the teams in the conference. Lyons will go against a quality player in Mayes and a starter at the Division I level in McConnell daily. No better way to prepare for the rigors of facing UCLA’s Larry Drew II, Washington’s Abdul Gaddy and Cal’s Justin Cobbs. … A year ago, former Arizona forward Derrick Williams fell out of favor for Minnesota coach Rick Adelman and became trade bait when the NBA held its draft in June. Williams did not land elsewhere. Minnesota and Adelman became more committed to his development Now, Williams’ existence with the Timberwolves has made a 180-degree turn. How so? Williams ran full-court wind sprints in practice this week by himself for nearly five minutes while his teammates watched. And Williams had fun doing so. Adelman told the media that Williams was the victim of a “poor decision” when he chose to attempt a three-pointer to determine whether his losing scrimmage team would have to run sprints. “Up until today, he had been making pretty good decisions in camp,” a smiling Adelman is quoted as saying by the Pioneer Press. “Unfortunately, he missed.” Adelman allows the losing team in scrimmages to decide what type of shots to attempt in order to avoid running sprints. In most cases, players decide to shoot free throws. If the shots are made, players don’t have to run. Williams opted to try a three-pointer. He missed. Williams was encouraged by his teammates — including former Arizona forward Chase Budinger — as he did his sprints.

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner



Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.