Columns & Blogs

Don't expect Tri-Cities to have Seafair problems

KENNEWICK -- Albert Lee III was one of those kids who grew up in Seattle racing hydroplanes.

Not on the water, mind you, but in front of his house.

"We'd carve these boats out of balsa wood," said Lee, the namesake of his grandfather who started Albert Lee Appliance 71 years ago in Seattle. "We'd turn the hose on and let the water run in the gutter, and then race those boats. But we had to get them before they went down the drain."

Lee got a little more serious with hydroplanes last month when he ponied up the major sponsorship money to keep the races going at Seafair.

The race was in trouble when General Motors, the main sponsor of the race, declared bankruptcy last year.

Lee stepped up and will sponsor the race for the next three years, with an option for the next gthree years after that. It'll be called the Albert Lee Cup.

"It took four days to get the deal done," said Lee. "I wish my grandfather was alive to see it."

Could what happened to Seafair last month happen here?

Mike Denslow, president of the Tri-City Water Follies, says no.

"We're doing really well," Denslow said. "Ever since we changed things four years ago, we've watched our numbers on a daily basis. I never felt (a Seafair cancellation) was going to happen. There was only $40 grand separating the groups. Somebody would have stepped forward."

But Dr. Ken Muscatel, who owns and drives the U-25 Superior Racing, said the Seattle situation was serious.

"Seattle almost had to fold its doors," Muscatel said. "If that happened, this race (Columbia Cup) probably wouldn't happen because I wouldn't have raced here. And I know of other teams that wouldn't."

As for getting more races on the schedule -- this season there are just five -- everyone is hopeful.

Muscatel said the group still hopes to get Evansville and San Diego back into the fold -- not for this year, but hopefully next year.

Greg O'Farrell, who owns the U-21 Albert Lee, says he's one of the owners who is pushing harder for more races.

"You know, I'm one of a few owners who want to make this a business rather than a hobby," O'Farrell said. "But I think we'd be happy with six races (stateside) and three in the Middle East."

Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, who brought the boats to race in Qatar last November, is looking for a second race site in the Middle East for next season.

Lokken shines at Montreat

Congratulations to Jamie Lokken, the former Kamiakin and CBC standout who was named the Appalachian Athletic Conference softball player of the year last week.

Lokken was a home run shy of completing the Triple Crown for 23-23 Montreat College in North Carolina.

A junior, Lokken led the conference with a .429 batting average and 40 RBIs. She was second in home runs with 11.

Two other CBC players, Kristine Valdez (Othello) and Stephanie Morrison (Davenport), also play for Montreat.

Beard a man of many hats

PASCO -- While perusing CBC's website, it occurred to me that Jeremy Beard wears a lot of hats for the Hawks.

First, he's the associate athletic director for CBC, and one of his most important jobs is to work toward raising money for the athletic department. His work in organizing the school's annual Follow Your Dreams fundraising banquet has resulted in almost $100,000 raised for athletic scholarships and facilities upgrades since 2007.

Second, he's the school's sports information director. It's his job to act as a liaison for the school and the media.

Finally, when he has time (and he makes it), he's the pitching coach for head baseball coach Steve Farrington and a team that's 31-9 and in first place in the East Region.

That's more than a full week's work for anyone.

Kennewick's Scott top hitter

SPOKANE -- Kennewick High graduate Landon Scott looks to have the Northwest Conference batting title wrapped up.

The sophomore hit an astounding .465 (74 for 159) for Whitworth this season, with six home runs and 40 RBIs.

Speaking of Whitworth, the school celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first national championship team by honoring the 1960 baseball team during a party May 1.

The 1960 team was 20-8 en route to the NAIA title. Ray Washburn, a standout at Burbank and CBC before pitching in the majors, was part of that team and was present at the celebration.

Mattair taking a break from baseball

Southridge graduate Travis Mattair wasn't listed on any of the Philadelphia Phillies' farm clubs after teams broke from spring training last month.

Turns out that Mattair has left baseball for personal reasons.

He hasn't returned any of the Herald's phone calls, but the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, which covered him in the minors, said Mattair is planning on walking on at Boise State University to play basketball.

Boise State's new coach is Leon Rice, the former Gonzaga University assistant and Richland High grad.

Weisner stars in CWU scrimmage

ELLENSBURG -- Walla Walla grad David Weisner might just be the next Central Washington University quarterback.

The sophomore fired a 13-yard touchdown pass and threw for 155 yards (15 for 22) to help lead the Crimson over the White 14-7 in the football team's spring scrimmage Saturday.