When it was announced Tim Chambers was stepping down as UNLV baseball coach, the first things that came to mind was his health and family, because those things are more important than a season-opening, three-game series at Texas.
I thought of Kevin Higgins, the former Arizona State Sun Devil and Texas League batting champ and San Diego Padre, who was a Chambers’ assistant. Higgy is a heck of a baseball man, and one hopes at some point — such as now — he would be considered for the full-time gig.
The third thing I thought of was, of course, what happens to the 335 Club?
The news release about Chambers stepping down suggested his legacy would be taking UNLV back to the NCAA Tournament after a long hiatus and reaching 100 wins faster than any other UNLV coach. While these are laudable accomplishments, I applaud him most for bringing back the 335 Club.
The 335 Club — 335 feet being the distance from home plate to the foul lines at Wilson Stadium — is UNLV’s unofficial baseball booster club. It has been around since the 1980s, when gruff but lovable Fred Dallimore was Rebels coach. Members would sit in the back of a pickup truck in the shadow of the scoreboard. They would take off their shirts and tap a pony keg and raise brooms in the air when UNLV swept somebody, which happened with regularity when Dallimore was coach.
Then when Jim Schlossnagle became coach, he put up a windscreen in left field blocking the 335 Club’s vantage point, leading to its demise. Schlossnagle would later say that nobody told him about the 335 Club; had he known, he said he wouldn’t have put up the the windscreen.
When Chambers became UNLV coach, not only did he welcome back the loyal and vociferous baseball supporters, he built a grandstand for them down the right-field line and put their name on it, along with Fred Dallimore’s.
This week I received a text from longtime 335 Club member Jim La Rocca, who said the interim coaches will allow the fellas to continue beating the drum, and tapping the keg, and tossing hot dogs with heavy mustard to opposing right fielders. And whatever else they do out there beyond the UNLV bullpen.
He also said the 335 Club would be making the season-opening road trip to Texas, where members will mingle and interact with lots of Longhorns fans, who also have been known to tap the keg. Which should be really interesting.
Just for kicks
Three reasons why this Global Legends Series soccer game at Sam Boyd Stadium could be a success:
* These are players you’ve probably heard of, even if you’re only a casual fan of the Beautiful Game. People in Las Vegas like getting autographs from and posing for selfies with players of which they’ve heard.
* Tickets start at $35. That seems reasonable for World Cup talent, even if it was two World Cups ago.
* There will be goals. In a game in Thailand last year, a team headed by Italian star Fabio Cannavaro defeated a team headed Portuguese star Luis Figo 8-5. Casual soccer fans love to see guys of which they’ve heard score goals.
“It’s not every day you sit next to a World Cup champion (Alessando Del Piero of Italy) and a Mexican soccer legend (Oswaldo Sanchez of Mexico), so this is cool for me (too),” Landon Donovan, the longtime U.S. Men’s National Team (and LA Galaxy) stalwart said at the news conference.
“I think when people come to Sam Boyd Stadium on the 20th of February they’re gonna see something special.”
Wally’s World revisited
It’s looking very much like Wally Backman will return as 51s manager, according to a team source. An announcement may be forthcoming. The only thing holding it up is a bench coaching job with a major league team for which Backman may be in the running.
If Backman returns, he’ll become the first man to serve four consecutive stints as Las Vegas manager. Jerry Royster was skipper for five seasons overall: three from 1996 through ’98, and then two more in 2005 and ’06.
Royster won 323 games as 51s manager; Backman is sitting on 239. They are the only managers in Las Vegas history to top 200 wins.
Heath wave in Tennessee
Remember a couple of seasons back, when Dave Rice would call a timeout at a UNLV basketball game and Heath Schroyer, one of his assistants, would do most of the talking in the huddle?
Schroyer doesn’t have to interrupt anymore. He’s in his second year as head coach at Tennessee-Martin. Last season he guided the Skyhawks to a 21-13 record and a semifinal berth in the CIT (College Insider Tournament), one of those booby-prize postseason tournaments, which was nice job for a first-year coach at a school with a hyphen in its name.
This season UT Martin is 10-10. Schroyer’s guys lost 82-72 to Ohio Valley Conference juggernaut Belmont on Thursday night in a game show on ESPNU.
Three dots …
* ESPN college football guru Kirk Herbstreit this week blamed former UCLA standout and longtime Las Vegan Ed O’Bannon for the demise of the popular EA Sports NCAA football video game franchise. “Ed O’Bannon ruined that for all of us,” Herbstreit told SECcountry.com. Herbstreit was the voice of the football video game before O’Bannon sued to prevent college players from having their names and likenesses used in video games without permission or compensation. …
* People who follow Middle Tennessee State football are steamed with former Las Vegan Colin Cowherd, for suggesting on his show that if Middle Tennessee (and other smaller schools) can’t afford to pay its football players stipends, which he espouses, then “Screw Middle Tennessee State. Who says college football is about central divisional trucking schools? I don’t give a rip about Middle Tennessee State. You’re telling me we don’t pay college athletes so Middle Tennessee State can survive?” I believe the middle in Middle Tennessee State represents the finger the good people in Murfreesboro are now showing to Colin Cowherd. …
* Locals who didn’t get enough curling at last weekend’s Continental Cup at the Orleans — or locals who want to curl the rock themselves — should check out the Las Vegas Curling Club’s Sin City Spiel beginning Friday at the Las Vegas Ice Center. Go to lvcurling.com for more info.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski