Local product Newton picked by the Giants

It took 1,122 picks but the San Francisco Giants finally gathered up Gilroy resident and Live Oak High grad Dave Newton in last week’s Major League Baseball draft. Newton, who starred for the Acorns before impressing pro scouts during his freshman season at West Valley College in Saratoga this year, had a workout for the Giants at SBC Park recently, so his selection in the 37th round was no huge surprise.

But the all-Coast Conference talent, who played outfield and tossed a 90-plus m.p.h. fastball on the mound for West Valley, has a decision to make. Does he stay with the Vikings and play one more season with former Live Oak teammates Doug Porras and Andrew Cummins, both headed to play for one of the Bay Area’s most successful community college baseball programs? Does he move on to a four-year university to further develop his skills? Or does he turn pro and likely spend his summer in rookie ball? All in all, not a bad set of choices.

A few other Live Oak grads drafted as pitchers include:

– Brandon Villafuerte, who also played at West Valley before turning pro. Villafuerte, who signed with the Giants before this season, is 4-0 with a 3.98 ERA for the Fresno Grizzlies – the Giants’ Triple-A franchise. Don’t the Giants need pitching right now?

– Ryan Muller, who was drafted by Detroit in 2003 after his senior season at Live Oak. Muller just finished his sophomore season with the University of San Francisco. Another possible Giants’ draft pick in a year or so?

– Adam Montarbo, who played at West Valley and Chico State before being drafted by the San Diego Padres. After bouncing around the minors for a few years, Montarbo signed to play with the Long Beach Armada of the brand new Golden Baseball League this season. But a week before the new league was supposed to start in late May, Montarbo was released by Long Beach. No word on what his next move is.

nAs many fine ballplayers as Live Oak and the other Tri-County Athletic League schools have produced over the years, there has been an increasingly obvious lack of postseason success. According to longtime Acorn baseball coach and current athletic director Mark Cummins, no TCAL school has ever won a Central Coast Section baseball title, either before or after the league was inaugurated a few years back. Palma came close this season, losing to Carmel in the Division III finale. But the league’s other three playoff teams – Live Oak, Gilroy and Hollister – all lost in the first round of the section playoffs. And the CCS powers-that-be have noticed. Cummins said there was some discussion about removing the TCAL’s coveted A-league status, at least partly because of its lack of postseason success. CCS officials decided to hold off for this season but will review the section’s various leagues’ ratings after next season. Live Oak will move to the Blossom Valley Athletic League after next season. But don’t be surprised if the new TCAL, which will add Alisal in 2006-07, loses its A-league status.

nSwitching sports, with all due respect to all those in the national and local media who publicly dreaded the NBA Finals with San Antonio and Detroit, I’m lining up with the minority on this one. Frankly, I’m much more entertained by two teams who demonstrate a real commitment to playing the game the right way – actually playing defense and running an offense – instead of scampering helter-skelter at breakneck speeds up and down the court, and tossing shots in bunches in the general direction of the rim. This NBA Finals is a victory for basketball purists over ESPN highlight junkies. (Besides, how can you hate the two teams who put the hurt on the Kobe-Shaq Lakers? Especially if you’re a Northern California sports fan with a healthy disdain for all things L.A.)

That said, wow, is this NBA Finals turning into a yawn-fest. Unless the Pistons show up in the next few nights, this is going to be all Spurs. On the bright side, that should really mess with the NBA’s money-money-money business plan. Any sport that talks about locking out its players during the championship finals deserves a little financial pain, and a swift kick to the backside. If the NBA isn’t careful, it’s going to end up on the scrap heap of history alongside the NHL.

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