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Local Sports Scene

An Eight-Point Buck

Yankees Preparing For First Year In Moosic
By Tom Robinson

Moosic – The marriage between the New York Yankees and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International League franchise may have been a long time coming, but both sides have reason to think the timing turned out just perfect.

"It makes perfect sense," Yankees general partner Steve Swindal, who is the son-in-law of legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, said during a press conference at Lackawanna County Stadium earlier this month. "I don't know what took us so long to get here."

Both parties became available this fall, setting the stage for a potentially devastating situation for the old Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons to evolve into an exciting change to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

After 18 years as the top farm team of the Philadelphia Phillies, the team landed professional sports' most famous franchise as a replacement. The new team nickname was announced at the press conference.

"It looked like a bad thing at first when the Phillies were leaving," Lackawanna County commissioner Bob Cordaro said.

Management of the team will transfer from the Lackawanna County Stadium Authority to Mandalay Entertainment, a situation that proved appealing to Yankees management.

"The time is here," Cordaro said. "We have the number-one operator in minor-league baseball and the number-one organization in Major League Baseball coming to Lackawanna County Stadium to take over this team."

The Yankees will be bringing the top players in their farm system at a time when the organization has placed a renewed emphasis on developing its own talent.

"We had to change the way we did business in terms of the draft and how we sign our talent," Yankees senior vice president and general manager Brian Cashman said. "My efforts in the last year and a half have been to get back to those basics."

Last week, the Yankees announced the management team that will come to Moosic to work with the team's prospects in their first season here.

Former Major League manager Dave Miley will head up a staff that includes hitting coach Butch Wynegar, pitching coach Dave Eiland, infield coach Alvaro Espinoza and athletic trainer Darren London.

"We are absolutely delighted that the New York Yankees have given us a field staff that is full of big-league experience," Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees executive vice president Jeremy Ruby said. "This is the largest and most experienced staff our franchise has ever had and is sure to be a tremendous asset when the team takes the field in 2007. What a great way to start our new relationship with the New York Yankees."

Miley managed the Yankees Class AAA team when it was in Columbus last season. Before that, he spent parts of three seasons as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He has more than 1,000 wins in the minor leagues.

Wynegar, who had a 13-year Major League career as a player, spent the last four seasons as batting coach of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Espinoza's Major League playing career lasted 12 seasons, including four with the Yankees.

The Yankees are in the middle of an off-season where they have been less active than usual in the free agent market and have traded a high-priced veteran for players they hope to have in their future. Those players may spend the near future in Moosic.

Outfielder Gary Sheffield was traded to the Detroit Tigers for right-handed pitchers Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett.

Sanchez, 23, and originally from the Bronx, was 10-6 with a 2.63 earned run average between Class AAA Toledo and Class AA Erie.

Whelan, 22, had 27 saves in 2006 after being selected as the top prospect in the New York-Penn League in 2005 when he was a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M University.

Claggett, 22, was 7-2 with 14 saves and an 0.91 ERA at Class A West Michigan.

"We still need some position players, but you guys could have a great pitching staff here," Cashman said.

Cashman said the Yankees need to return to the days when players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada came through their farm system.

"I needed a centerfielder last year and it cost us $13 million a year for four years to get Johnny Damon," Cashman said. "I want to put myself in a position where I don't have to go to the free-agent market for anything.

"That's not realistic, but I want to get as close to that point as possible."

Cashman said managing the farm system has gotten easier by putting their Class AA team in Trenton, N.J. and their Class AAA team in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.

"I think we've upgraded in all aspects," Cashman said of the Yankees, who ended a 28-year affiliation with the Columbus Clippers. "We have a huge fan base here already.

"We're excited with the business opportunities and from a pure baseball standpoint, it's a no-brainer."

Lackawanna County officials helped make that the case by removing the artificial turf and switching to a grass surface. The stadium already had a refurbished home clubhouse that ranks among the best in minor-league baseball.

"We did the things that had to be done to the stadium and did the things that had to be done to the organization," Cordaro said.


Montrose graduate Chris Snee appears to be closing in on the day when he will make his first appearance in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Snee, a third-year guard with the New York Giants, is an alternate for the Pro Bowl for the second straight season. He is the National Football Conference's third alternate at guard.

With three guards selected to the team, Snee essentially ranks as the sixth best among the 32 starting guards in the NFC.

In high school wrestling, Craig Price, Stephen Andujar, Dylan Beamer, Brant Thomas and Cameron Arthur all had first-period pins Wednesday as Susquehanna opened Lackawanna League Division II competition with a 60-15 victory over Mountain View.

Matthew Gumaer also had a pin for the Sabers.

In girls' basketball, Montrose suffered its first Lackawanna League Division III loss since February 10, 2004 when it fell, 42-29, at Carbondale Thursday night.

Caitlin Ely had nine points and five assists in the loss.

Carbondale remained unbeaten overall.


Amanda Vitzakovitch came off the bench to score 14 points in 27 minutes as West Chester University defeated Columbia Union, 65-48, in the championship game of the WCU Alumni Association Classic.

Vitzakovitch, a 5-foot-8 junior from Forest City, is West Chester's most accurate shooter in all three categories. She is 23-for-45 from the floor (51.1 percent), 8-for-18 on 3-pointers (44.4 percent) and 4-for-4 from the line (100.0 percent).

West Chester is 3-4 with the help of 8.3 points per game by Vitzakovitch.


The week between Christmas and New Year's is full of holiday tournaments for winter high school sports teams.

Five of Susquehanna County's six school districts have combined to sponsor boys' and girls Christmas Tournaments, which are new to the schedule this season.

The first Community Foundation Basketball Tournament, which are designed to provide college scholarships for local students, are scheduled at Montrose and Elk Lake.

The boys' tournament at Montrose opens Wednesday with Susquehanna against Elk Lake at 6, followed by Blue Ridge against Montrose. The consolation and championship are scheduled for Friday.

The girls' tournament at Elk Lake was scheduled to open Tuesday with Mountain View against Susquehanna and Blue Ridge against Elk Lake. Consolation and championship are set for Thursday.

In other boys' basketball, Mountain View is playing in the Forest City Rotary Tournament, which was scheduled to open Tuesday and will conclude Thursday.

In other girls' basketball, Montrose gets its second shot at what is likely the best team in the Lackawanna League when the Lady Meteors play Division I favorite Abington Heights Wednesday at 1 p.m. in a Lynett Memorial Tournament semifinal at Scranton High School.

Forest City is playing in the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament Wednesday and Friday.

In wrestling, Mountain View and Susquehanna are among the teams in the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Tournament Thursday and Friday.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at

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The Racing Reporter

JEFF GREEN Needs The Christmas Break – Jeff Green is looking forward to this year’s Christmas and a break in the action for his No. 66 Best Buy Haas CNC Racing team. When the holidays are over, activity in the Harrisburg, NC shop will shift into high gear.

Green and his wife, Michelle, will spend the holidays in their hometown of Owensboro, KY.

“I’ll do some hunting up there leading up to Christmas Eve, and then we’ll visit my family and Michelle’s family that night,” Green said. “David and Mark (Green’s brothers) and their families will be there, then we’re all sticking around Owensboro until New Year’s to see one of our cousins get married. Then it’s back to North Carolina on New Year’s Day, and back to work.”

Bootie Barker and Jeff Green.

With less than nine weeks remaining before the 2007 Daytona 500, Green and the No. 66 team have a lot of work still to be done.

Adding to the team’s urgency is the fact that the first test session of the New Year is scheduled for the second week of January at Daytona International Speedway. While getting two cars ready for that test is of primary importance, Haas’ fabricators are also focusing on preparing two “down force” cars for a test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in late January, as well as working on the Car of Tomorrow, which debuts in mid-March at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Everyone’s working their behinds off,” Harold Holly said. “We close the shop down from Christmas to January second to give the guys a break. It’s the only real vacation time some of our road crew guys will get this year. The fabricators keep working, though. There’s just too much to be done.”

Team engineers will also work after Christmas, taking two cars to the wind tunnel on Friday, December 29.

Holly will spend Christmas in his home state of Alabama, but he too will be back in the shop during the holiday break.

“I won’t be here every day, but I’ll come in and check on things,” Holly said. “I can’t stay away for a whole week this time of year.”

Crewmen like Front Tire Changer Mike Morneau and Mechanic Geoffrey McNally will use their limited downtime to travel home (to Maine and New York, respectively), one of the few times they’re able to see their families and friends each season.

The first week of January will find the Haas team making final preparations for the Daytona test.

“We won’t get our motors from Hendrick (the team’s engine supplier) until January 4,” Holly continued. “We’ll get those in the cars and make final preparations, then it’s off to Daytona and this circus starts all over again.”

Teresa Questions Dale, Jr.’s Commitment – Is Teresa Earnhardt, owner of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Racing (DEI) attempting to light a fire under Dale, Jr.?

Last week she told the Wall Street Journal, “Right now the ball’s in his court to decide whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality.”

You’re right Teresa, because his contract to drive the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet for DEI expires at the end of the 2007 season.

Is it possible she is jealous because her stepson is making his own mark in the racing industry with JR motorsports and that DEI isn’t getting a slice of it?

Recently Dale, Jr., along with his brother, Kerry and sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge announced they were partners in a $600 million Dale Earnhardt, Jr. racetrack and entertainment complex to be built on 2,500 acres just north of Mobile, Alabama.

It could take about two years to build the four-track motorsports park near Interstate 65, with a full season of activity expected in 2010.

A 5,000-space RV park, a theme park and a 7,000-seat arena also are planned, along with hotels, retail, restaurants and music theaters. The site, while near the busy north-south I-65, also would benefit from its proximity to the east-west Interstate 10 on Mobile's southern edge.

It is the Earnhardt siblings' first professional collaboration, and they will help design the seven-tenths-mile, lighted oval track in the complex. There also will be a three-eighths-mile dirt track; a 3-mile road course; and a quarter-mile drag strip.

Had Teresa made her statements at the end of 2005, most fans would have agreed with her, because Dale, Jr. seemed to have lost some of his selfconfidence. But after his win last season at Richmond and making the 2006 Chase, it appears he has his head on straight.

I don’t see any reason to question Dale, Jr.’s loyalty and sincerity to DEI, so I wonder about his stepmother’s Wall Street Journal statements.

When Dale, Sr. drove the No. 3 for Richard Childress, he still managed DEI.

I think Dale, Jr. has done a good job at DEI. He has 17 Nextel Cup victories and $41 million in race winnings, but he has made his mark outside the NASCAR garage, including, television, music, magazine, book, radio, ads, and many other honors.

Dale, Jr. is an excellent P/R person, much more so than Teresa, who refuses to speak to the news media.

It would be a shame if Dale, Jr. was badgered so much that he left DEI, because in my opinion, he is the best thing DEI has going for it.

GEOFF BODINE’S Daytona 500 Attempt Fails – Geoff Bodine has come up short in his attempt to run in the 2007 Daytona 500. Bodine said last week he hasn't been able to find a team to run a car in the season-opening race.

Bodine, who has been in retirement for the past couple years has a sponsor – energy drink Mona Vie – that wants to put him in a car during NASCAR's season-opening Cup race, but he can’t come up with a team and car.

“It's the hardest thing to find a Cup car and team to do it, so I've pretty much written off a Cup deal,” Bodine said. “I'm going to try and pursue another angle.”

Bodine won the 1986 Daytona 500 while driving for Rick Hendrick.

Racing Trivia Question: When will the 2007 Daytona 500 be run?

Last Week’s Question: What job will former Cup driver Rusty Wallace hold down in 2007? Answer. Wallace will be working for ESPN in the Broadcast Booth as TV analyst during NASCAR races.

You may e-mail the Racing Reporter at:

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An Eight-Point Buck

At 8:15 a.m. on the first morning of buck season, Dalton Brozonis, Clifford, son of Tom and Dawn Brozonis bagged an eight-point buck; its rack measured twenty inches.

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