BOSTON – Thirty four years.
Yes, it was 34 years ago and its hard to believe that much time has passed since we rolled out the basketballs for the Chinese Olympic team at Queens College for an NBA-style training camp, an hour after we met the team at the LaGuardia Airport Marriott in Astoria for their first team meal, a buffet breakfast.
“We need more fresh fruit,” was the advice to Matt Winick, then the NBA’s Director of Basketball Operations, the head-honcho for a six-week training tour, dubbed the NBA-China Friendship Tour.
The core group, tapped by the newly-anointed NBA Commissioner David Stern to organize, coach and operate the goodwill training mission, consisted of:
- Matt Winick, NBA
- Coach Ed Badger, then assistant coach and head scout for the Celtics
- Coach Bill Blair, then NBA assistant coach (Wash and NJ Nets)
- Yours truly
“David Stern was at the forefront of the growth of international basketball and this was certainly a big step,” said Winick recently. “Though the trip received minimal attention due to other sporting events at that time (that October), I realized that we had to be careful in the way things were handled in order to avoid any issues.
“Looking back, I’m not sure that any of us who were involved could picture the result in the spread of basketball in China to the level at which it is today,” added Winick, recalling many of the building-block moments from the trip.
Possibly the most noteworthy anecdote, among hundreds – maybe thousands – of behind-the-scenes stories, experiences and oddities from such a trip, was the fact a rookie named Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls had only faced his own teammates at the time before he matched-up against the Chinese national team at his very first NBA training camp in Beloit, Wisconsin. At the time, everyone thought the late, great Orlando Woolridge (Notre Dame) was the best player in the gym. We changed our minds that October, 1985 day.
A week or so before setting eyes on Jordan and the Bulls, I remember rebounding the basketball during practice as Boston Celtics great – the late Red Auerbach was conducting shooting drills and a full basketball clinic, alongside the Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell, each brought in to share their basketball knowledge as the NBA began its international sports diplomacy program in earnest. Honestly, I can close my eyes and see Red in the Queens, NY gym. The memory is that clear.
This column is written with one thing in mind as the 24/7 news coverage this week brought the NBA into a full-blown geo-political storm of controversy, following the tweet posted by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey. That is to remind people of the long – brick-by-brick foundation in place underlying the story of the NBA in China this week. The sky-is-falling approach taken by many, the alarming calls for boycotts and mass exodus called for by politicians is quite unproductive in working towards a common solution to the political stalemate We the People of the USA face with China.
I believe sports – especially NBA basketball and its resulting sports clinics, player appearances, NBA-FIBA Basketball w/o Borders camps and the exchange of common decency stemming from those rather small in scope events – put the world in a better place to find common ground to discuss political issues. Quite simply, sports – and music – are the common denominators for human kind. I simply state: let’s not lose site of the role of sports and the role of diplomacy as we discuss our differences.
In August of 2008, when this sports news site was experiencing its very own training camp as a mere “Blog” @ terry lyons (dot) com, some basic typing, cutting and pasting skills begot this post. I share it now, un-edited from its original form:
NBA CHINA FRIENDSHIP TOUR – (blog entry 8-10-08)
In September of 1985, I spent six weeks of my life running the NBA’s PR effort for an interesting adventure. A group of NBA players, as part of a player’s association off-season tour had toured China in the the early 1980s. To explore future possibilities and to be gracious members of the basketball world, the NBA league office offered to return the favor and play host to the Chinese National team.
The offer, made by NBA Commissioner David Stern in his first year on the job, was open-ended and somewhat vague in terms of timing. The funny thing that happened? The Chinese Basketball federation acted on the offer and accepted it. I can remember the old telex machine on 645 Fifth Avenue’s 15th floor where the acceptance came in as a telegraph. (that is before the fax machine and before email, for you youngsters out there).
They were on the way.
The NBA’s Matt Winick took care of all the basketball operations matters, Coach Ed Badger and Coach Bill Blair were asked to head up the coaching and teaching efforts for the entire tour, and I was tabbed to do the day-to-day PR and media relations. I can remember walking into the gym at Queens College with the team on the very first day, September 25, 1985. They were pretty friendly and open and the core group of NBAers and the coaches and players from China hit it off pretty well.
Some of the players had been to the States a few times with their prior national team tours. A handful of the players knew NYC’s Chinatown better than all of us put together. We were amazed that they could navigate their way from the Laguardia Airport Marriott to Chinatown better than most New Yorkers could take the trip.
Pete Newell and Red Auerbach were asked to help out and they each conducted clinics in the first week of the training camp.
Clearly, at no point in the six-week NBA China Friendship tour did I ever believe that the NBA would have a 7-foot-6, No. 1 draft pick as one of the very best centers in the league sooner than 20 years from the date of the tour. Nor did I think that China would make it to the medal round of the 2004 Olympic Games, never mind play host to the 2008 Summer Olympics.
(Editor’s note a la 2019): “This is written to call out to many who took a very brief snapshot of the NBA’s long road of sports diplomacy with the people of China. Many do not know the history, or the fact the Washington (then-Bullets), then-owned by Abe Pollin, took a goodwill trip to China in 1979 to help build some diplomacy bridges after the “Ping-Pong Diplomacy” efforts of 1971.
Since then, the NBA has played a major role in the foreign affairs efforts of the USA and China, including a massive program together with the US State Department in 2004 and the highly successful Basketball Without Borders programs, held throughout the world since its beginning in 2001 (with the former Yugoslavian provinces being invited to one camp in Treviso and Yao Ming hosting the first Basketball w/o Borders camp in Beijing in 2005.
There’s been a LOT of water under the bridges of sports diplomacy since 1985-2005-2019. To learn a little more of the backstory, read on with Pete Thamel’s NYT piece and a Rocky Mountain News story by Chris Tomasson, each posted before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.”
Back to the 2008 post:
First, the NY Times piece:
Chinese Basketball Builds Toward Podium
By PETE THAMEL
BEIJING — While at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for a function in 1985, N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern met with a group of Chinese basketball dignitaries and issued a polite invitation.
“Someday I hope that we can entertain you as our guests,” he recalled saying during the course of the conversation. A week later, a message arrived at N.B.A. headquarters in New York announcing that the Chinese had accepted his invitation and would be in the country later that summer.
Stern’s bit of accidental international relations, which turned into what became known as the N.B.A.-China Friendship Tour, will be reciprocated on an exponentially larger stage this weekend.
The Chinese will host the United States men’s basketball team Sunday in Beijing for what is being billed as one of the seminal moments of the 2008 Olympics. Hundreds of millions of people around the world are expected to watch and President Bush will be in attendance.
“Other than the opening ceremonies, it’s the toughest ticket of the Olympics,” said Tim Chen, the chief executive of N.B.A. China, adding with a laugh, “I hope that I don’t have to stand.”
Although China, with the N.B.A. players Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, is hoping to provide formidable competition for the United States, the game will be viewed here as more of a referendum for the country’s progress in the sport.
With 300,000 million people playing basketball across the country — roughly the same number as the population of the United States — and with money being poured into the sport at the youth level, China is aiming to make the medal round at these Olympics. It also wants to become a legitimate contender for gold within a decade. The Chinese finished eighth at the Athens Games in 2004.
“They’re a good team and they’ll continue to get better,” Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They have too many resources and the passion to become better. They’ll make a commitment to become better because they love the game.”
Chinese basketball’s progress is similar to the way Beijing has evolved in the last 20 years, from a place of bicycles and rickshaws to a bustling economic hub filled with all the trappings of a modern Western city, right down to a preponderance of KFC fast-food restaurants.
That N.B.A.-China Friendship Tour in 1985 offers a convenient comparison for demonstrating the national team’s progress. The tour was so hastily organized that Stern recalled with a laugh that he found a sponsor for $20,000 — a non-alcohol beer called Kaliber — when the team was in the air on the way over.
Ed Badger and Bill Blair, former N.B.A. head coaches, were part of the staff for the Chinese team. Badger served as the coach, and the assignment was so unappealing that he did not even want it at first.
“I said, No, I don’t even like Chinese food,” Badger recalled in a telephone interview.
But Stern asked Red Auerbach to call him. “You don’t turn Red down,” Badger said.
The Chinese were so far behind the United States in basketball at the time that Badger asked George Karl, who was the Cleveland coach, to take it easy on them during a scrimmage before the Hall of Fame Game in Springfield, Mass.
In the other scrimmages against N.B.A. teams, Badger arranged it so they played 20 minutes with one team on offense and the other on defense, then switched. That way, the Chinese team was not embarrassed on the scoreboard and the N.B.A. coaches could run their offensive sets so they did not feel as if their practice time had been wasted.
“They were a decent Division I basketball team, probably,” Blair said. “No better than that. It just wasn’t as important to them at that particular time. No one had been over and started teaching them American basketball.”
The team improved, but the coaches had difficulty bridging the cultural gap. Badger recalled struggling to pronounce the players’ names. One player had a toothache and needed to see a dentist, so Badger called him Toothache for the rest of the tour. A guard who had a penchant for diving to the floor earned the nickname Kamikaze. Another was a major in the Red Army, so Badger saluted him on the bench as a signal to enter the game.
“I had to do it, so I was going to enjoy myself for six weeks,” Badger said. “We worked hard and tried to improve. Bill and I had a good time, I thought.”
Matt Winick, the N.B.A. vice president for operations, said that his most distinct memory of the tour came during a bus trip from Chicago to Beloit, Wis., for a scrimmage. He recalled with a laugh the stares from other diners when the team entered a McDonald’s at a rest stop.
“All they wanted to do was eat McDonald’s hamburgers,” Blair also recalled.
The Chinese team stayed for the most part at the LaGuardia Airport Marriott and practiced at Queens College, not exactly stops for basketball luminaries. They were able to beat Queens College, a Division III program, in a scrimmage that no fans attended.
Perhaps hundreds of millions more people will be watching Sunday, a testament to just how far Chinese basketball has come. Along with Yao and Yi, Wang Zhizhi has played in the N.B.A. and the Chinese team also features Sun Yue, a 2007 Lakers draft pick.
“A lot of people are asking, ‘How many players like Yao or Yi will we have in the United States in 10 years?’ ” Chen said. “My vision is that if we start to look at grass roots and training the talent on the way up, I hope to see China in the top four in 10 years. Given the population and talent, there’s certainly a chance for that.”
And just about 20 years after the N.B.A.-China Friendship Tour, the world will see their progress.
Now, a follow-up on the NBA’s business efforts over the past two decades-plus:
The N.B.A. and China Are Fans of Each Other
By PETE THAMEL
BEIJING — In 1990, N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern assigned the league’s first employee to be based in Asia. He tapped Rob Levine, then a vice president for international development, who worked out of an apartment in Hong Kong and often participated in conference calls in his pajamas because of the time difference with New York.
Since those days, the N.B.A. has built such a sweeping presence — and following — in China that Stern said there was potential for his champion to one day meet the Chinese league champion in a playoff series.
When China and the United States men’s basketball team play here Sunday, the contest will probably deliver one of the signature moments of these Games. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to watch on television, President Bush will attend, and the ticket is considered among the more difficult to secure of any Olympic event.
Team USA is filled with N.B.A. stars and may dominate the game, but it is the competition off the court that offers a compelling subplot of these Olympics: the international race to tap the lucrative basketball-crazed Chinese market. The N.B.A. is using the Games as a way to further its reach in a country in which it already has a presence on things like Mongolian Milk containers and on the Internet to even the most remote villages.
That fledgling effort begun by Levine less than 20 years ago has blossomed into a 100-employee enterprise called N.B.A. China. It has grown with roughly $250 million from major investors like ESPN and China Merchant Bank. Timothy Chen, the former chief executive of Microsoft’s China operations, was hired last year to run the basketball organization.
The N.B.A. is so enamored with China and its estimated 450 million fans that Stern said in an interview earlier this summer that officials were in talks with the Chinese Basketball Association about a partnership in an N.B.A.-branded league in China.
“A decade from now, the champion of the N.B.A. of China could be playing the champion of the N.B.A.,” Stern said.
The biggest challenge the N.B.A. faces is navigating the tricky political road from being a marketing giant in China to becoming a financial partner in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Xu Jicheng, a former Chinese national team player, said that with sports reform in China just a decade old, it was unclear how much of a financial interest the government would allow the N.B.A. to have in the Chinese league, in which many of the teams are state-owned.
“Nobody knows,” said Xu, the most prominent basketball news media voice in China. “Just like 30 years ago, no one knew that McDonald’s would be so prevalent in China.”
There is no questioning the N.B.A.’s presence. About 1,000 people lined up outside for a recent opening of an N.B.A. store in Beijing, and N.B.A. merchandise sales are expected to increase by 60 percent in China this year. As many people play basketball in China — an estimated 300 million — as live in the United States.
Asked about the future here, Chen said: “Whatever forecast we would do is too small.”
Because prime-time games in the United States usually tip off in the morning in China, bosses are often forced to look the other way as employees watch N.B.A. Webcasts. Just last week, someone was spotted on the Great Wall wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey and a straw hat. And although Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is perhaps China’s biggest celebrity, his jersey recently ranked No. 10 in sales in China behind those of stars from the United States like Bryant, Allen Iverson and LeBron James.
On a recent visit to China, James was not allowed to leave the DoubleTree Hotel in Beijing without government security because of the crush of crowds. Bryant received one of the biggest cheers of any athlete at the opening ceremony on Friday. Dwyane Wade, who has played in the Final Four and the N.B.A. Finals, said the crowd outside the team hotel in China two years ago was the biggest scene he had experienced in his career.
“When they start chasing the bus eight blocks — that was crazy,” Wade said with a chuckle. “I’ve never experienced anything like that. I expect it now to be crazier this time around, with this being the Olympics and everything.”
China’s love of basketball stretches back more than a century. The Chinese started playing the sport in the late 1800s and fielded an Olympic team in 1936.
“During the Cultural Revolution, they got rid of Western classical music and anything else Western was frowned upon with only a handful of exceptions; one was basketball,” said Alexander Wolff, who wrote the international basketball book “Big Game, Small World.”
Early during his tenure in China, Levine toured the countryside and many of the most populated cities. He was struck by seeing basketball courts in the center of rural villages and in the middle of urban settings.
“We’re not introducing the game to them,” Levine recalled thinking. “We’re introducing our game.”
The N.B.A. initially gave countries like China television rights for little or no money to help build interest and loyalty. The league now reaches 215 counties in 41 languages, and 51 broadcasters in China show its games.
Levine said the most important factor building the following was allowing Chinese fans to get to know the players. He helped start a program similar to “NBA Inside Stuff,” the show featuring players off the court. It was locally produced and hosted by David Wu, who was well known from his role on MTV Asia.
“People started knowing the players’ stories, and they started becoming like rock stars,” Levine said.
Heidi Ueberroth, the N.B.A.’s president for global marketing partnerships and international business operations, recalled visiting the city of Guilin in the mid-1990s on a weekend trip while in China on business. Nobody knew she was affiliated with the N.B.A., but she remembered a young and energetic tour guide’s introduction of the city as, “The sister city of Orlando, Fla., the home of Shaquille O’Neal.”
The N.B.A.’s presence can also be felt in the smallest villages, and the league is financially supporting China’s goal of building 800,000 courts.
“In many places around China, having an hour of physical fitness a day means playing basketball,” said Ueberroth, who is the daughter of Peter Ueberroth, the chairman of the United States Olympic Committee and a former commissioner of Major League Baseball.
The Rockets’ selection of Yao with the No. 1 pick in the 2002 N.B.A. draft took the league’s presence to another level. Stern and the deputy commissioner Adam Silver have traveled with Yao to China, an experience Stern compared to “traveling with the Beatles.” Stern has been in China numerous times and has noticed an evolution.
“I was struck by how the kids looked the same as American kids,” Stern said. “It’s the global teenager. Their hair was streaked blond, and their shorts were around their ankles. They wore headphones.”
One factor in determining the N.B.A.’s financial future in China revolves around its knowledge of building, operating and maintaining arenas. The N.B.A. played a large role in the building of the arena that will be used for the Beijing Games, and the league’s production department is involved here this month.
The N.B.A. is in talks with AEG, a leading sports and entertainment presentation company, and the Chinese Sports Ministry about an arena in Shanghai. Stern described what he called a “grand plan,” an N.B.A. partnership with AEG to build as many as 12 arenas in China.
John Huizinga, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, said the Chinese Basketball Association was expected to be overhauled after the Olympics. The question is what role the N.B.A. will have in that.
“Consumers of basketball are not going to resist the N.B.A,” Huizinga said. “They’re going to find resistance on the business side, and it will be tough. And the government side will be tough.”
How receptive the Chinese will be remains to be seen. “The world needs China rather than China needs the world in the basketball market,” Xu said.
As the N.B.A. tries to navigate China’s fertile ground, it also prepares for the next frontier.
“Heidi just got back from a trip to India,” Stern said. “We see India as China 20 years ago.”
And the Rocky Mountain News piece:
NBA China Friendship Tour:
By Chris Tomasson
Before their nation had a McDonald’s, Chinese basketball players discovered Big Macs and Quarter Pounders on the other side of the world.
It was October 1985. David Stern had been NBA commissioner for 1 1/2 years, and it was nine years after Mao Zedong had died.
Stern had a vision. With China having more than 1 billion people, he saw it as a fertile marketing ground.
“He was thinking about selling T-shirts and basketballs and whatever,” former NBA coach and longtime assistant and scout Ed Badger said.
So, for the NBA/China Friendship Tour, Stern invited the Chinese national team to the U.S. for a month to scrimmage teams and play a preseason game. Badger, a Colorado Springs resident who then was a Boston scout, was selected to coach the Chinese.
Badger also played a role in where the players ate. That was the easy part of the job.
“They loved McDonald’s,” Badger said. “Once, we stopped at a McDonald’s off the Illinois Tollway. The bill was over $400.”
These days, the Chinese can go to McDonald’s whenever they want. The first one opened in China in 1992, and now they’re all over.
NBA’s big presence
The Chinese, with countryman Yao Ming having played in five All-Star Games, also can follow the NBA whenever they want.
On the eve of the Olympics in Beijing and 23 years after Stern began his effort to conquer China, the statistics are staggering:
* NBA games are available on 51 broadcast outlets in China, and, through April 30, games last season had generated a combined audience of more than 1.4 billion viewers. That was up 59 percent from the same time frame the previous year.
* NBA.com/China, the league’s Web site for China, gets 25 million unique visitors a month. That’s up 136 percent from the previous year.
* In a 2007 survey, 89 percent of Chinese ages 15 to 54 said they are aware of the NBA. Of aware men age 15 to 24, 70 percent called themselves avid fans.
“The year we decided to focus on China was 1985, when we invited the Chinese national team over here to be our guests,” said Stern, who took over as commissioner in February 1984 from Larry O’Brien, who made an initial inroad into China when the then-Washington Bullets played two exhibition games there in 1979.
“Over the years, we’ve just kept our relationship going. . . . (The NBA in China is) as popular as ever, and we’re really looking forward to its development further in a very cooperative way.”
From a competition standpoint, the Chinese also have made tremendous strides. Badger said the 1985 Chinese team, which featured the nation’s top players, was the equivalent of a Division II college team.
League officials had wanted that team to play a half-dozen preseason games against NBA opponents until Badger warned they’d “get slaughtered.”
While they scrimmaged New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Indiana, Philadelphia and Washington, the Chinese played only one preseason game and were wiped out 120-80 by Cleveland.
“It was a pretty easy win, but it was good for basketball,” said Nuggets coach George Karl, then the Cavaliers coach.
Wang led the way
Now, China has two top NBA big men in Houston’s Yao and New Jersey’s Yi Jianlian, called by longtime Chicago assistant Del Harris the “best athlete of all the 7-footers in the NBA.”
Harris, a former NBA head coach, was China’s coach in the 2004 Olympics. He was a Dallas assistant in 2000 when the Mavericks brought over Wang Zhizhi to become the NBA’s first Chinese player.
Between the 1985 tour and Wang’s arrival, the rise of the NBA’s popularity in China was steady. China Central Television was signed as a broadcast partner in 1987, and by 1994, all games of the NBA Finals were televised live in China. But Wang’s arrival accelerated the process.
“It’s most unbelievable,” Harris said of the NBA’s rise in popularity in China. “I don’t think anybody could have seen it happening. I got involved in international basketball in the late 1960s, and you can see how far South America and Europe have come. But that’s over 40 years. It’s exploded in China the past 10 years.
“Wang coming over with the Mavericks was the catalyst. That got (numerous) NBA games on TV in China. That was the spark, but then Yao Ming has been the explosion.”
Wang played in the NBA from 2000 to 2005 and averaged 4.4 points. China’s second NBA player, Mengke Bateer, averaged 3.4 points from 2001 to 2004, including spending 2001-02 with the Nuggets.
But any frustration the Chinese might have had at Wang and Mengke not showing much was forgotten because of the instant success of Yao.
He was the No. 1 draft pick in 2002, and interest in the NBA in China since has soared.
Yao’s popularity has morphed into the Chinese becoming enamored of many NBA stars. Yao, after all, ranks only ninth in jersey sales in China, with Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James comprising the top four.
“Yao Ming and Yi have created interest but even as both of those have been injured and slowed down (last season), we monitored China media and it’s extraordinary to see the (overall) interest,” Stern said of Yao and Yi missing a combined 43 games last season. “Yao’s jersey is not No. 1, but that might be because everyone has one already. So they’re now going out and getting Kobe and Yi and Allen Iverson and LeBron.”
Still, more than 200 million watched in China in November when Yao met up with Yi in an NBA game for the first time.
“It’s kind of like Memphis always had the music movement, with the emphasis on blues,” said Mavericks general manager Donn Nelson, an assistant for the Chinese Olympic team. “But then they got Elvis Presley and it was totally different. That’s what Yao has done to the game in China.”
Appetite for hoops
Nelson has aided the NBA’s rise in China. After Wang was drafted in the second round by the Mavericks in 1999 and leading to his 2000 signing, Nelson traveled a half-dozen times to China to convince officials to let him be the first man from the country to enter the NBA.
Let’s just say the challenge was a mouthful.
“Once, we went out to dinner, and they brought out a live king cobra to the guy at the head of the table,” Nelson said, telling one of his favorite stories about meeting with Chinese officials. “He says something in Chinese and they take it back (to the kitchen), and the next thing you know, they’ve brought it back with this organ that has been extracted from the snake.
“They chopped it up and put it in this shot glass of sake, and it looked like green mulch. They passed it around the table, and everybody drank from it. . . . I’m like, ‘Wang, you better be worth it, if this is what I’ve got to do to close the deal.’ “
That helped continue to foster basketball relations between the NBA and China, even if the Chinese got off easier by getting to eat at McDonald’s in 1985.(CREDIT NYT AND Rocky Mountain News)
Here Now, The Notes: A lot of “Diamond Dust” today … If the late Tyler Skaggs were an NBA player, the sky would be falling. … May he rest in peace, of course, but may the MLB and Federal investigators get straight to the bottom of the drug sources that fueled his downfall and death. … It’s dump your manager week in MLB. … Manager Gabe Kapler was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. … Kapler, 44, completed two seasons as Phillies manager and posted a 161-163 record. He had one season remaining on his original three-year contract. … Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement, “Several years ago, I promised our loyal fans that I would do everything in my power to bring a world championship team to our city. I will never waver from that commitment. During the second half of this season and continuing into this week, I have evaluated our organization extensively, a process that included talking to many people both internally and around the league. Reassuring to me was the endorsement that people outside the Phillies gave to the progress we have made recently, both organizationally and on the field. … Kapler will get another chance, as the SF Giants will reportedly interview him for the vacant managerial position vacated by the retired Bruce Bochy.
“Nevertheless, with the knowledge that I have gained from my evaluation, combined with my personal reflection on the 2019 season, I have decided that some changes are necessary to achieve our ultimate objective. Consequently, we will replace our manager. I am indebted to Gabe for the steadfast effort, energy and enthusiasm that he brought to our club, and we are unquestionably a better team and organization as a result of his contributions. With (general manager) Matt (Klentak) leading our search for our next manager, I am confident that we will find the right person to lead us.”
Strangest story of the week: San Diego Padres right-hander Jacob Nix faces criminal trespassing charges after an incident in which he allegedly entered a home in Peoria, Arizona, apparently through a doggy door. … According to a Peoria police report, authorities were called to a home around 3:30 a.m. Sunday due to an incident involving an intruder. Police say the homeowner confronted Nix and kicked him in the face. Padres minor league pitcher Tom Cosgrove was with Nix and reached through the doggy door to help pull him from the resident. … As Nix and Cosgrove fled, the homeowner fired his Taser at Nix and struck him in the back, according to the police report. A short time later, police found the two players and arrested them. Nix reportedly told police he thought he was entering his own home but also admitted to not having a doggy door, multiple media outlets reported. … According to CBS8.com in San Diego, Nix and Cosgrove were charged with first-degree criminal trespassing, and Nix also was charged with criminal trespassing for allegedly unlawfully entering a home. Cosgrove appeared in court Tuesday while Nix is due to return to court next Monday, CBS8.com reported. The Padres released a statement regarding the situation on Thursday. … “We are aware of the alleged incident involving Jacob Nix last Sunday in Arizona,” the team said. “We take this matter seriously and have been in contact with the Commissioner’s Office and local authorities. Due to the ongoing legal proceedings, we will not have any further comment at this time.” Nix, a third-round draft pick in 2015, went 2-5 with a 7.02 ERA in nine starts for the Padres in 2018. He missed most of the 2019 season due to an elbow injury and didn’t pitch in the majors. He was 1-2 with a 1.85 ERA in six minor league outings across three levels. Cosgrove, a 12th-round pick in 2017, has yet to pitch above the Class-A level. The left-hander went 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA in nine 2019 starts across three levels. … Both players are currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will return to the team in 2020, despite the team’s heartbreaking loss in the National League Division Series, the Los Angeles Times reported. … TheTimes cited a pair of sources who confirmed Roberts’ status. … In four seasons at the helm of the Dodgers, Roberts has a 393-256 (.606) record with four National League West titles and two NL pennants. Still, his teams haven’t lived up to expectations in the postseason, finishing 25-22 (.532). … The Dodgers lost to the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros in seven games and the 2018 series to the Boston Red Sox in five games. … Roberts was roundly criticized following Wednesday night’s loss to the Washington Nationals in the deciding fifth game of the NLDS. The Dodgers were up 3-1 entering the eighth inning, but Clayton Kershaw, pitching in relief, surrendered back-to-back solo home runs to tie the game. … In the 10th inning, Roberts didn’t remove reliever Joe Kelly, who had loaded the bases and went on to give up the game winning grand slam home run to Howie Kendrick. … “If the blame falls on me, I’ve got no problem with it,” Roberts, 47, said after the Game 5 loss. “I feel that my job is to put guys in the best position to have success and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always going to be second-guessing, and I got no problem wearing the brunt of that. That’s OK.” … Roberts is signed through the 2022 season.
Digital Sports Desk posts a once-a-week Sunday Notes column, entitled: “While We’re Young Ideas.” It’s a throwback of sorts to the days when sportswriting and the baseball beat were the best jobs in the entire sports industry, maybe the entire world. One of those sportswriters was named Dick Young and he wrote “Young Ideas” with a “Diamond Dust” section for notes and quotes. … We welcome feedback and suggestions (psst, they call ’em pitches) for mentions within “While We’re Young Ideas” or Digital Sports Desk. Please follow and encourage (at least) another person or two to plug into (@DigSportsDesk) (@WhileYoungIdeas) and (@terrylyons).