Best Sports Team
University of Arizona softballREADERS' PICK: This wasn't even close. The football team did okay at 8-4; the basketball team struggled at the end of the season; the baseball team fell off the face of the earth; and there really weren't any dominant high school teams in town. Meanwhile, the UA softball team redefined excellence. This past year they lost only five games--out of 72. They obliterated the Pac-10 competition for the second straight year, marched through the regionals without breaking a sweat and again reached the NCAA championship (for the fourth consecutive year), where they lost the tainted game to UCLA and their mercenary Australian pitcher. Blessed with a beautiful on-campus stadium, a great coach and the most rabid fans in Tucson, the UA softball team is a clear winner in this category.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: THE TUCSON TOROS enjoyed nothing less than a glorious 1995 season. The Toros won a franchise-record 88 games--but even more amazing, they won 22 games in their last at-bat, reminding all of us that it really ain't over 'til it's over. Thirty-three of those 88 wins were by one run, leaving a whole lot of fans chewing on fingernails instead of peanuts.
These guys just knew how to get the clutch hit. We sure hope you had a chance to see the mighty bats of Dave Hajek, Bob Abreu, Mike Simms, Ken Ramos, Ray Montgomery, Mike Brumley and all of the rest of them. Even veteran Dave Rohde turned back up in Toros uniform, giving the game one last shot before hanging up the cleats for good. Best of luck in the future, Dave--we'll miss ya.
And let's not forget the pitching staff, led by Donne Wall, who did a pretty impressive stint at the Astrodome after he was called up by parent club Houston at the end of the season. Depending on what happens in the off-season, Wall may be done with AAA ball.
Even if they stumbled in post-season play, the Toros should be remembered for five months of crackerjack baseball. Manager Rick Sweet deserves a big round of applause for bringing a lot of joy to Mudville. If you're not coaching in the bigs next year, Rick, we sure hope to see you around these parts.
Beyond the action on the field, Toros General Manager Mike Feder, with the help of an outstanding staff, made sure the ballpark was a fun place for everyone. Feder orchestrated good food, cheap tickets and lots of fun with Tuffy the Toro. Feder gave away everything from sun visors to tote bags and even doubled the size of a cup of beer on cheap brew night. (He also doubled the price to a buck, but at least we didn't have to stand in line as often.)
Thanks for a great season, guys--and just wait'll next year!
CAT'S MEOW: For five years Tucson's own soccer team has built up a loyal following for an international sport, which in this country deserves greater recognition. The Tucson Amigos play in the minor league of a major soccer league just about to be born, developing growing support as our U.S. team continues to place highly in international competition. Sporting sombreros as their symbol, fans enjoy home games on weekend evenings April through July at Rincon High School, with prizes and promotions that are as much fun as those at Toros' games. If you find baseball too slow, football too violent, basketball too indoors--then try a game that is almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.