Haines signs with Red Sox organization

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Talley Haines is going to try his hand with the organization of baseball's world champions.

There is no assurance he'll ever actually pitch for the Boston Red Sox -- and finally make it up to the major leagues -- but the 1995 Central High School graduate is hoping for the best.

Haines, a right-handed pitcher who has primarily been used as a middle reliever, recently signed a contract with the Boston organization that guarantees him at least a spot with the Red Sox's Class AAA affiliate in Pawtucket, R.I.

Haines spent his seventh professional season last year with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class AAA affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., where he went 4-2 with three saves.

But once again there was no promotion to the majors, as had been the case when Haines put up strong numbers the previous few years in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' organization.

"It gets frustrating sometimes, but I've just got to keep working hard," Haines told me recently.

Haines actually blames himself somewhat for not making the big leagues last season. After being acquired by Toronto from Tampa Bay in the Rule 5 draft, the Blue Jays apparently had high hopes for Haines -- but he struggled in spring training.

"They gave me an opportunity, but in spring training I just didn't take advantage of it," he said.

This year marked the first time Haines could be a free agent, and when Boston showed interest, he took advantage of the opportunity, partly because the Red Sox assured him a spot in Class AAA and partly because Pawtucket is known as one of baseball's top minor league organizations.

"A lot of teams bring in a lot of guys and then release them, but they guaranteed me a spot in Triple-A. All you can ask for is a chance," Haines said. "And Pawtucket really treats their players right."

Haines, the son of longtime Southeast Missouri State University track coach Joey Haines, lives in the area each offseason. As he continues working out and staying in shape before reporting to spring training toward the end of February, he remains realistic about his situation.

"I don't think the Red Sox signed me to make the team out of spring training. They signed me for Pawtucket," he said. "But hopefully I'll be able to pitch well there, and then if they need me, I'll get called up."

If that happens, it would fulfill a virtual lifelong dream for the classy Haines, who figures to have plenty of local people -- this writer included -- rooting for him along his journey.

Although they haven't beaten anybody they weren't supposed to, Southeast's women are off to a strong 4-1 start and have proven to be quite an exciting basketball team to watch.

Coach B.J. Smith's third Southeast squad is averaging a little more than 84 points per game, once again utilizing an up-tempo style on both ends of the floor.

With so many newcomers playing key roles, Smith knows Southeast is going to be a work in progress for quite some time this season. But the team sure does appear to have plenty of potential and seems destined for a strong run at the program's first Ohio Valley Conference title.

Southeast should face a big test this week as it travels to the University of Hawaii for a tournament that also features Brigham Young. While neither of those squads is a national powerhouse, they do compete in bigger conferences and figure to pose plenty of challenges for Smith's group.

And one other thing about Southeast women's hoops: Tatiana Conceicao is definitely the real deal.

Conceicao, Southeast's touted junior college transfer who Smith said could have played at most schools in the country, has lived up to her advance billing -- and then some. She's averaging 21.2 points per game.

I bashed the OVC -- and deservedly so -- in last week's column for another dismal showing in the NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs after conference champion Jacksonville State was destroyed by host Furman.

But another I-AA league with fairly local ties also stumbled in the playoffs, as both Gateway Conference representatives fell in the opening round. SIU, the nation's top-ranked team, lost a close one at home to Eastern Washington, while Western Kentucky was routed at Sam Houston State.

So, Barry Bonds supposedly didn't know what he was putting in or on his body?

A guy who is a workout fanatic and treats his body like a temple didn't even bother to make sure he knew what his trainer/supposed best friend was giving him?

I find that pretty hard to believe, as I'm sure most people do.

And, regarding the whole steroids issue, I had a guy ask me how much I think they actually help a baseball player's performance. I have no idea, but you can bet players wouldn't use them if they weren't getting something out of it.

A former Southeast coach has been getting plenty of national attention these days.

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White has been a subject of scrutiny all over the airwaves after the university fired coach Tyrone Willingham, although most people don't think White actually had much to do with the decision.

As for the Southeast connection, White was the school's head track coach in 1981 and 1982.

Congratulations to Notre Dame High School girls basketball coach Jerry Grim for recently notching his 400th career victory with the program.

Grim is one of the many really good guys on the area coaching scene.

The recent NBA "BasketBrawl" toward the end of the Pistons-Pacers game in Detroit was almost hard to believe, although nasty incidents between professional athletes and fans really don't seem to be all that unusual these days.

While I'm in no way excusing the idiotic fans who incited the riot, Ron Artest was definitely at fault for rushing into the stands like a maniac after having a cup of liquid thrown on him, and I believe he deserved to be suspended for the remainder of the season.

Not to make light of having some beer or soda tossed on you, but countless athletes have had that happen to them over the years without exacting the type of revenge that Artest did. It's not right, but they still have to show some self restraint.

But with the way Artest has acted in various situations over the last few years -- including earlier this season when he wanted to take some time off because he was supposedly worn out from working on his fledgling music career -- seems to indicate that he has more than a few screws loose to begin with.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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