Leading Off

Merced climbs in poll

The margin of victory wasn't as impressive as the previous week, but Merced High's 16-6 victory over Sonora was enough for the Bears to jump five spots to No. 19 in the Top 25. Merced (3-0) routed Madera 50-0 in its second game to earn a spot in the state rankings, and has a bye this week before facing Pitman in its Central California Conference opener. Vacaville, which beat the Bears in last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final, is ranked No. 16.

Public will decide Bonds' ball fate

The fate of Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball is now in the public's hands after its buyer announced Monday he was taking votes on whether to give the ball to the Hall of Fame, brand it with an asterisk or blast it into space. Fashion designer Marc Ecko revealed himself as Saturday's winning bidder in the online auction for the ball that Bonds hit last month to break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. Ecko said he plans to announce the final tally after voting ends Sept. 25. "I bought this baseball to democratize the debate over what to do with it," Ecko wrote on the Web site. "The idea that some of the best athletes in the country are forced to decide between being competitive and staying natural is troubling."

Sharks invite Ozolinsh

Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh is getting a tryout with the San Jose Sharks in an attempt to restart his NHL career in the city where it began. The seven-time All-Star played his first 3½ seasons with the Sharks, but ended last season on injured reserve with the New York Rangers after managing just three points in 21 games.

NBA reinstates ref

NBA referee Joey Crawford was reinstated by commissioner David Stern on Monday, five months after he was suspended indefinitely for improper on-court conduct. Crawford enters his 32nd season as an NBA referee. He has officiated more than 2,000 games during the regular season and 266 in the playoffs, including 38 in the NBA finals.

Tirico takes over Patrick's old slot

Mike Tirico will take over part of Dan Patrick's old sports talk time slot on ESPN Radio. "The Mike Tirico Show" will debut Thursday from 1-3 p.m. EDT. Tirico serves as the play-by-play commentator for "Monday Night Football" and the NBA finals on ESPN. Tirico was one of the original hosts when ESPN Radio launched in 1992.