Brian VanderBeek

Santa, buddy, just slip some sports treats under the tree

Dear Santa:

I have been a very nice boy this year, which, of course, you already know. So the way I figure it, I've stored enough joy in my personal goodwill account to allow me to be greedy for one day.

I have a long list of things I want for the holidays, and I thought I'd share them with you to allow you seven days to make my wishes come true:

1. An apology from Bud Selig.

Before baseball's commissioner suspends the first player for the use and/or possession of steroids and/or HGH, he needs to confess and apologize for the way the commissioner's office handled and thus fostered the entire situation.

Not only did he turn a deaf ear when this problem surfaced publicly in the late 1980s, but he made sure the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase, which brought fans back after the 1994 strike, was safely in the books before acknowledging the problem.

He brags about baseball's financial growth under his "leadership," but another kind of growth -- the kind helped by chemical means -- will be his legacy.

All I want is an "I'm sorry."

2. Home Depot Center amenities.

Santa, thanks for letting me attend the state high school bowl games Saturday as a fan. The Home Depot Center is a wonderful venue and perfect for soccer.

It would also be perfect for high school football if it had the following accoutrements: a scoreboard capable of displaying down and distance, a play clock and restaurants within walking distance.

Notice, please, that I'm not asking for artificial turf (international soccer still hasn't accepted the surface), nor am I asking for the beer taps to flow during high school games (although that would have been nice).

Hey, Santa, it's David Beckham's home field. There has to be some money there to make these things happen.

3. Action for Downey High's field.

A lot of effort from many people went into financing and installing the artificial surface at Downey's Chuck Hughes Field. Is it too much to ask of Modesto City Schools to allow the field to be used?

Downey isn't allowed to use the field for football practice, so it spent this season running practices on the bumpy, worn, on-campus patch, while next door, the stadium sat empty.

When the Downey soccer team made its run through the playoffs, the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal victory over Franklin at Stockton's Lincoln High marked the third time all season it played on an artificial surface. Like the Knights' football team, the Downey soccer team practices (and plays) on a horrible grass-and-dirt field while, again, the stadium was idle.

Santa, I apologize for making such a practical request.

4. Jazz at The Gallo.

Santa, you know there were three years there where you filled my stocking with season tickets for the jazz series at the Mondavi Center in Davis. Is it too much to ask for you to help the people in charge at the Gallo Center for the Arts book some real jazz in their new hall?

The Gallo's first jazz series is only three deep. The Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars is a top-notch act with a lineup of Terence Blanchard, James Moody, Nnenna Freelon, Benny Green, Kendrick Scott and Derrick Hodge.

But after that is a "ghost band" tribute to a deceased band leader and the Manhattan Transfer -- a group I saw at its peak of popularity in 1981 barely fill the Fresno State University dining commons. There's nary a Marsalis, Herbie, Chick, Metheny, Fleck or Redman on the menu. And anyone trying to get a table at the Barking Dog on a Saturday night knows how good a jazz town Modesto has become.

I know this isn't a sports request, but please, Santa, all I want is a more post-bop and a little fusion in my backyard.

5. A left fielder for the Giants.

I'm quite at ease with the Giants cutting ties with Barry Bonds, but no matter how much his defensive skills had eroded, his departure still leaves a huge hole in the team's batting order.

As of today, Dave Roberts is the Giants' starting left fielder. He can still catch the ball, but offensively I'd rather have Cokie Roberts batting leadoff.

San Francisco should have signed Eric Byrnes on the cheap last year when he was available. Byrnes has dreamed of being a Giant from the days he snuck into Candlestick Park as a teenager.

Of course, the best possible situation would be for the Giants to actually develop an outfielder in their farm system, but Santa, I never would ask you to grant the impossible.

Sincerely,

Your nice boy, Brian.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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