1. Move your game as close to the end of the school year as possible. The Lions Game had always been held in late or mid-July, but I recommended late June. Why? The players go straight from graduation-related activies to their all-star football game. Then they are completely done with high school and can start getting ready for college, which is what they tend to want to do as soon as possible. For media coverage, a late June date works best because newspapers can go directly from their post-season honors teams in baseball and softball and then start covering the all-star football game. In short, the late June date ties the all-star football game more directly into the previous school year. People tend to forget about high school sports once the school year ends, hence it's even tougher to get them thinking about it after a month-long break.
2. Start your game no later than 7 p.m. This can be tricky in a city like Stockton where the heat can get brutal in the summer. But the 7 p.m. start is much better for families and it's better for media coverage as sportswriters everywhere hate it when games end right on deadline for their next morning's paper.
3. Come up with a strong media relations campaign. This includes sending rosters to the targeted media orginazations in your area at least 10 days before the game, keeping the media as up to date as possible on roster changes, informing the media of each team's practice schedule and sending out cell phone numbers of the head coaches so they can be contacted for interviews or to help a reporter reach a player.
Note: We did these three simple things for the Lions Game in Stockton two years ago and this year the attendance was definitely higher, possibly by as much as 1,000 people. We didn't notice the increase as much last year as this year, so I believe it takes two or three years for the benefits of these changes to take effect.
•ALL STAR FOOTBALL ROUNDUP: In the 44th Orange County game last weekend at Orange Coast College, the South beat the North, 22-7. Irvine running back Terrell Vinson was the offensive MVP. Mission Viejo defensive end Justin Williams was the defensive MVP..
Ericks Clark from El Camino of Oceanside forced a fumble that Vista's Isaiah Crawford recovered for a touchdown with 1:18 left to give the North a 20-14 win over the South last weekend in the Alex Spanos Classic for San Diego area players at Mesa College.....
Another thriller last weekend was in Palm Springs as a team of DeAnza-Desert Valley league players edged a team from the Southwestern-Sunbelt leagues, 29-28, in overtime...
In the 30th Lions Central California All-Star Classic back on June 28 at the University of Pacific, Stockton Edison's Reuben Jackson brought back a punt 71 yards for a score and caught and TD pass in the North's 42-7 lopsided win over the South....
On June 21 at the University of Redlands, Riverside County knocked off San Bernardino County, 27-17...
Finally, way back on June 8, only a day after the CIF state track meet concluded, the Ventura County all-star game had the East rolling the West, 27-7. Royal High's Kyle Uebelhardt passed for 188 yards and two TDs and was named MVP.
•SJ MERC'S MARK GOMEZ LIGHTS A FIRE: With the baseball all-star game this week in Chicago, the San Jose Mercury News' Mark Gomez has come up with an all-time all-star team of players from CIF Central Coast Section schools. We love this type of story and here was the Merc's team (SP stands for starting pitcher, RP for relief):
SP Mark Langston (Buchser, Santa Clara); SP Dave Stieb (Oak Grove, San Jose); C Joe Ferguson (Camden, San Jose); 1B Keith Hernandez (Capuchino, San Bruno); 2B Gregg Jefferies (Serra, San Mateo); SS Joe Cronin (Sacred Heart Cathedral, S.F.); 3B Ken Caminiti (Leigh, San Jose); LF Barry Bonds (Serra, San Mateo); CF Harry Heilmann (Sacred Heart Cathedral, S.F.); RF Glenallen Hill (Santa Cruz); DH Carney Lansford (Wilcox, Santa Clara); RP Mark Eichhorn (Watsonville); RP Dave Righetti (Pioneer, San Jose).
This got us pumped up to come up with a similar list of players from the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. This wouldn't be for the entire North Coast Section, just the schools from the Oakland Section and those in the East Bay from the NCS. Wow, what a list. It's even better than the CCS and we think it would be hard for any other similar region in the world that could match it. Check it out:
C Ernie Lombardi (Oakland)*; 1B Willie Stargell (Encinal, Alameda); INF Joe Morgan (Castlemont, Oakland); INF Billy Martin (Berkeley); INF Ron Hansen (Alameda); INF Chris Speier (Alameda); INF Jimmy Rollins (Encinal); OF Frank Robinson (McClymonds, Oakland); OF Harry Hooper (St. Mary's, Oakland); OF Rickey Henderson (Oakland Tech); OF Chick Hafey (Berkeley); OF Jackie Jensen (Oakland); OF Willie McGee (Ells, Richmond); OF Vada Pinson (McClymonds); OF Curt Flood (McClymonds); SP Randy Johnson (Livermore); SP Dave Stewart (St. Elizabeth, Oakland); SP Lefty Gomez (Richmond); RP Dennis Eckersley (Washington, Fremont). Note: Current rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis was a teammate of Jimmy Rollins at Encinal. *Note: Hall of Famer Lombardi only attended an elementary school in Oakland and didn't go to high school.
In the next edition of Prep Notes with a Twist, we'll run a list of all-time baseball greats from the L.A. area and one from Orange County that was once sent to us by author Steven Travers. How about the Sac-Joaquin? Central Section? San Diego? Any other city? Don't hesitate to send us your own all-star squad from your own region of the state. California absolutely crushes any other state for all-time baseball dominance and the two lists above are only a small portion of the pie.
•AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN BASEBALL: A recent feature in Sports Illustrated raised a few eyebrows about the increasingly low numbers of African Americans in the major leagues. If you know as much about California history as we do, though, the problem isn't so much a national one as it is simply what has been happening in Oakland and Los Angeles. Those two cities accounted for a high percentage of the African Americans who used to be in the majors, especially if you include Alameda and Berkeley with Oakland and cities like Compton and Long Beach with Los Angeles. The top black athletes in those communities are now drawn more to football and basketball than to baseball. Baseball can come back in Oakland and L.A., but it's going to take some very dedicated youth and high school coaches who can coordinate their efforts for that to happen.