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Once the season ends in September, minor-league baseball players generally stop making progress toward the major leagues until spring training.
That is not the case with Montroses Rich Thompson.
There may not be a player in professional baseball that did more to move closer to his major-league debut than Thompson has done in the past three months.
Thompson took two major steps.
In the Arizona Fall League, which features baseballs brightest prospects, Thompson was the leader in runs (28), triples (four) and stolen bases (13). He hit .346 in 25 games.
With his stock climbing, Thompson was then selected in Dec. 15s Rule 5 Draft, making it likely that he will spend all of 2004 in the Major Leagues if he has a strong spring training.
By the time Dec. 15 was over, two major-league teams had spent money on Thompson.
First, the San Diego Padres selected Thompson second in the draft, paying the Pittsburgh Pirates $50,000 for his rights. Players who have completed four professional seasons but are not yet on their organizations 40-man roster are eligible to be taken by any other team in the Rule 5 Draft for the $50,000 fee and the understanding that they will spend the entire season on the 25-man active major-league roster. If they do not stay in the majors, they must be offered back to their original team for $25,000.
Kansas City wound up trading for Thompson later the same day, but they are still bound by his Rule 5 status. The Royals have picked up two players in the Rule 5 Draft the past two seasons and in both cases the players stayed with the team for the entire season.
"We like him," Kansas City general manager Allard Baird told MLB.com. "We see him as a fifth outfielder for us. He has well above average speed. That speed is transferable to production offensively as well as defensively.
"He can play all three outfield positions. He does have arm strength."
Thompson was one of 20 players selected by 16 teams during the draft. About half will probably stick in the big leagues for the whole season.
After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth round in 2000, Thompson went from Toronto to Pittsburgh in a 2003 mid-season trade that Baseball America has repeatedly referred to as a "steal" for the Pirates. Thompson has made his name by stealing bases, including 48 in 55 attempts while batting .293 combined for three teams in 2003.
Thompson has a career .287 average in the minors. He is expected to be called on as a pinch runner in addition to the projections as Kansas Citys fifth outfielder.
The summer trade sent Thompson to Pittsburgh for major-league pitcher John Wasdin. Last weeks trade was for pitcher Jason Szuminski and cash. Szuminski had also been selected in the Rule 5 Draft earlier in the day.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Blue Ridges Nick Pease won the 152-pound title Saturday night in the 42-team Times Leader Invitational Wrestling Tournament at College Misericordia.
Pease led Blue Ridge to a 17th-place finish in the event with 108 points.
Spring-Ford from District 1 won the tournament with 186.5 points, followed by District 4 power Wyalusing with 180.
Honesdale was the top District 2 team, placing fifth with 156.5 points.
Blue Ridge was by far the best of four county teams in the event.
Mountain View placed 33rd with 44.5 points, Elk lake was next with 43 points and Susquehanna was 39th with 30.5 points.
Pease defeated Bangors James Sciascia, 6-1, in the final.
In the tournament, Pease had a pin and four decisions in which he allowed just four points.
Pease started on the path to the title Friday with a pin of Scranton Preps Dan Loftus in 2:49. He then beat Ryne Salsavage of Hanover Area, 15-2, to advance to Saturdays quarterfinals. Before beating Sciascia, Pease won Saturday matches, 3-0, over Chris Gwaltney of Spring-Ford and, 3-1, over West Scrantons Bob Baresse.
Mountain Views Matt Panasevich finished third with a 5-4 victory over East Stroudsburg Norths Joe Peteroy in the consolation finals at 171 pounds.
Blue Ridges Justin Herbert lost to Wyalusings Jason Crawford, 4-3, in the consolation finals to finish fourth at 160 pounds.
Louis Villella of Blue Ridge was fifth at 125 pounds.
Elk Lakes Dylan Griffiths (135) and Mike Noldy (160) and Susquehannas Scott Meagley (103) finished eighth.
In girls basketball, Montrose defeated Forest City, 49-37, Thursday in a match-up of defending District 2 champions.
The win allowed the Lady Meteors to temporarily maintain a share of the Lackawanna League Division II North lead, but they lost their other two games for the week, including one in the division.
Chelsey Parvin led the win over Forest City with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Parvin had eight of the points in the third quarter when Montrose used a 17-10 advantage to build a 40-26 lead.
Erika Brown finished with 13 points. Brown and Parvin each had five during a 15-6 first quarter.
Amanda Lass added 11 points, Tiffany Palmer six steals and Kate LaBarbera five assists for the Lady Meteors.
Forest City was led by Amanda Vitzakovitchs 11 points.
The win over Forest City put Montrose into another match-up of Division II North unbeatens. This time, the Lady Meteors fell 49-39 to Carbondale, which also remained perfect overall.
Natalie Winters hit three 3-pointers while scoring 19 points for Carbondale.
LaBarbera also hit three 3-pointers while leading Montrose with 15 points and five assists. Erika Brown added eight points and six rebounds.
Montrose lost to Lakeland, 53-34, in a crossover game earlier in the week.
There were two upsets and two games in which county teams posted their first division wins.
Elk Lake knocked off Mountain View, 43-36, Thursday but Mountain View recovered to dump Forest City, 42-40, Saturday.
Susquehanna got its first league win, 32-27, over Carbondale Sacred Heart Thursday, but then was on the losing end when Blue Ridge got its first league win, 65-21, Saturday.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tied the Binghamton Senators, 1-1, at the Broome County Arena Friday night then passed the Senators into fourth place in the American Hockey League East Division Saturday night.
The Penguins moved into fourth when they overcome a two-goal, first-period deficit to beat the Albany River Rats, 6-2.
Montrose graduate Chris Snee was named first-team all-Big East for his play at offensive guard for the Boston College football team.
Snee is a 6-foot-3, 331-pound junior.
Boston College (7-5) will face Colorado State Dec. 31 at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN2 in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.
A two-time, all-state selection while at Montrose, Snee started the final six games of his freshman season and all of the last two seasons. This season, he helped Derrick Knight rush for 1,599 yards and become Boston Colleges all-time leading rusher with 3,603 career yards.
Snee and Augie Hoffman gave Boston College both guards on the first team.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Many local high school teams will compete in tournaments during the holiday break.
The biggest of those tournaments is the 26th annual Tunkhannock Kiwanis Wrestling Tournament. Mountain View, Elk Lake and Montrose are all in the field for the event Dec. 29-30.
Montroses basketball teams are also in two of the more established events in northeastern Pennsylvania Dec. 26 and Dec. 29. The Meteors will play in the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament. The Lady Meteors are in the Riverside Christmas Tournament.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Hat Man Is Alive And Well
He visited victory lane more than any other person. Each Sunday he was seen by millions. Even though he starred in the movie, "Stroker Ace" with Burt Reynolds, he was simply known as the "Hat Man."
Bill Brodrick, racing public relations supervisor for Unocal 76 for 29 years and who is known to thousands of race fans because of his orchestration of victory lane over the years, is the general manager and person in charge of day-to-day operations of 4-C-SONS Motorsports and will work closely with Joey Clanton.
We caught up with Bill at the ARCA Re/Max Banquet in Covington, Kentucky, where he was honored, and asked what he had been doing since his departure from Unocal.
"They say I am retired, but I think I am more retarded than anything else," says Bill. "I put 34 years of good racing experience to good use.
"I bought a saloon in the northwest part of Chicago where I live, and built the business up. After four years, I sold it to my son. He took it over and runs it now.
"Ive been dabbling in racing, doing some contract work with General Motors. I worked with Herb Fisher on the Le Mans Project for Cadillac and Corvette, and a few other things.
"This year I will be working with Joey Clanton, a Busch Grand National team, and keeping tabs on the rest of racing."
Not All Drivers For Points Change Jimmie Johnson would have been the 2003 Winston Cup champion if NASCARs proposed 2004 "championship playoffs" had been in place this year.
Kenseth won the 03 Cup with one win. Under the post-season system, Johnson would have been the champ.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have missed the top-10 cutoff by four points.
Not all the Nextel Cup drivers welcome the idea of a change in the way the Nextel championship will be determined.
"I'm all for doing things to make our sport more exciting and entertaining for our fans," said Kevin Harvick, who finished fifth in points this season. "But we have a lot of things going on next season a new series sponsor, new gas supplier, tighter templates on the cars.
"In my opinion, we need to take small steps and not try to do everything at once."
NASCAR officials are seriously considering a plan that would create a 26-race "regular season" and 10-race playoff format. Only the top-10 drivers in points after 26 races would be eligible to race for the championship over the final 10 races. A decision is expected next month.
"If you take 26 races and just lock in 10 drivers, then the rest of the field might as well not show up the rest of the season," Harvick said.
"If you look at our history, 10th in points means a lot. Many seasons the race for that 10th spot has been a great race in itself. Why are you just going to throw that away?"
Harvick said he wouldn't change much to the current system.
"I think you should give the race winner an additional five points, just something to make winning the race a bonus from someone who finishes second and leads the most laps," he said.
Harvick also believes fans and the media naturally will focus on only the 10 drivers eligible for the title in the series' final 10 races.
"If you win a race at the end of year and youre not locked in the top 10, no one is going to care," Harvick said. "A championship in this sport has always been about how you perform over the whole season not in a seven-game series.
"If you want something like football or baseball, then go out and buy a football or baseball team."
However, Harvicks car owner Richard Childress, who has won six Winston Cup championships isnt so sure the idea is all bad.
"From a purely selfish standpoint I would prefer the system stay the same," said Childress, who won Cup titles in 1986, '87, '90, '91, '93 and '94 with Earnhardt, the late seven-time champion. "When I first heard about it around the time of the (Cup awards) banquet in New York, I didnt think much of it."
Childress said he recently spoke extensively with NASCAR officials, looking for answers to several questions he had about the proposal.
"I think I have a better understanding now of what NASCAR is thinking. Sometimes you have to step back and take a look at the big picture," he said.
"I can certainly see where the added media exposure and excitement surrounding a playoff atmosphere would help grow the sport and continue its success.
"I'm not saying that I'm high on it right now. All Im saying is that it makes a little bit more sense once you get a better understanding of it, which I was able to do."
Childress maintains he doesn't have a problem with some changes to the points system. He said he was also "well aware" of the overwhelming negative response fans have to the playoff plan.
Nextel, which takes over sponsorship of the Cup series in 2004, has been meeting with NASCAR over the proposal. Many fans have mistakenly cited Nextel as the reason for the change, when in fact it has been heavily promoted by new NASCAR chairman Brian France.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Winston Cup championship?
Last Weeks Question: How many races did Michael Waltrip win in 2003? Answer. Waltrip won two races, the Daytona 500, and the EA Sports 500 at Talladega.
If you would like to read additional racing stories by the Gerald Hodges/ the Racing Reporter, go to: www.race500.com.
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