June 17, 2009

James Burns: Rice won't soon forget this meet

The photo is fuzzy, but clear enough to make his point: Adam Rice was in the company of greatness.

Specifically, U.S. Olympic gold medalists and swimming posterboys Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and Australian Ashley Delaney.

The trio posed for Rice following their 100-meter backstroke final at the prestigious Santa Clara International Grand Prix over the weekend -- an event that draws from the deepest talent pools stateside and abroad.

Rice wasn't just a spectator. He more than held his own in the pool, too, competing for Modesto Pirate Aquatics.

The Atwater High grad set personal-bests in three long-course events: the 100-meter butterfly, 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.

"I really didn't think I was fast enough to swim with these guys. And, really, I'm not," Rice said. "But being at the same meeet, so close to these Olympians was so amazing."


John Ward recently unlocked a treasure trove of baseball information.

The Burlingame baseball historian called the Sun-Star last week looking for any information on the old-time Atwater Packers, a decorated mid-20th century semi-pro team.

On his phone the following morning: Bob Dallas, a former star of the Packers eager to take a trip down memory lane.

According to Dallas, the Packers were the biggest thing going in Atwater in the 1940s and '50s.

Their games, he said, would pack Memorial Ballpark to the point that ropes had to be hung to keep the crowds from spilling onto the field.

"There was nothing to do around here," added Dallas, who played with the Packers as a high schooler in 1947 and was one of their youngest players.

"Major League Baseball wasn't out here. There was no television. No air-conditioning and it was hotter than hell.

"We would draw 1,500 people down there. It might have been 2,000, who knows."

And under the management of Jim Daley, the Packers attracted big-league talent.

Daley paid Bill Wight (Pirates), Bill Morgan (Yankees), Bill Clemenson (Pirates) and Rocky Stone (Reds) as much as $150 to pitch for the Packers.

In relative terms, nothing short of a fortune.

"(Daley) wasn't a baseball guy. He came into town on a railroad track with no money, got into real estate and spent the money to put (the Packers) across," Dallas said.

The Packers won three or four state titles in the 1940s and 50s, Dallas estimated, qualifying for a national tournament in Wichita, Ka., each time.

Ward got just what he was looking for.

"I hit a triple ... and it should soon become a home run after receiving some memorabilia in the mail," Ward wrote.


Ryan Lancaster, the Sun-Star's 2004 Boys Golfer of the Year from Atwater High, has got some words of encouragement for two-time player of the year Bobby Park.

Like Park, Lancaster went the way of a golf academy, enrolling and eventually graduating from the Golf Academy of America in San Diego.

"It's great. It's an excellent choice in career path in terms of what he wants to do," said Lancaster, now the assistant pro at Modesto's Del Rio Country Club.

"It's busy. It's almost like a full-time job. A lot of your activities and class times are planned out for you.

"They have a lot of things you have to follow, like what you wear and your grooming.

"But it's fun. You're surrounded by those that want the same thing you want. It's a great way to make friends and ties into the business."


Tony Guerra, who was born at Castle Air Force Base and whose family hails from Winton, was recently named the U.S national team's head coach for the World Greco Roman wrestling championships in August in Turkey.

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at

Related content