Local connections to Major League playoffs make baseball fun

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake native Jason Cooper shows off his World Series ring.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake native Jason Cooper shows off his World Series ring.

The Boys of Summer are about to embark on another chase for a world championship and the baseball world is waiting to see who emerges as this year’s Mr. October.

I had a chance to see a real World Series ring this summer when Jason Cooper came back to town for the Senior Babe Ruth World Series. I thought it was pretty special that Cooper, who is now a special assignment scout with the World Champion Chicago Cubs, would come back for a reunion of the 1998 national champion River Dogs. He flew into Seattle from Detroit and drove back to the Basin for a quick visit and joined in the opening ceremonies at Johnson-O’Brien Stadium. Not a lot of guys in his position would do that in the middle of the season. But that’s who we are here in the Columbia Basin.

I’ll tell ya what, that Major League Baseball World Series ring is a remarkable piece of jewelry and it’s incredible that a kid from Moses Lake would have one.

The Chicago Cubs clinched the 2016 World Series in Game 7 in one of the best World Series in recent years and Cooper was part of that process as a special assignment scout for the big league club.

“The Cubs organization are now built to contend on a regular basis. The front office has gone to great lengths to improve our draft process, to identify undervalued free agents through analytics and find the right types of personalities that will mesh in our clubhouse,” Cooper said. “This is just an exciting group to watch. There’s a lot of old school hustle and blue collar effort to this club. They pick each other up and find ways to win. It’s a young, talented group who is just hungry to go get another title.”

The Cubs open the 2017 postseason on Friday against the Washington Nationals in Game 1. We’ll have to wait and see if Cooper, who earned his degree in anthropology at Stanford in three years and enjoyed a minor league career with the Cleveland organization, adds a second World Series ring to his jewelry collection.

In another little side note, local fishing guide Rick Graser from Moses Lake is pulling for his former roommate Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black. Graser, who was drafted 214th overall in 1978 by the Seattle Mariners, spent some time with Black during Mariners spring training. Both were left-handed pitchers coming up through the ranks. Black went on to join the Kansas City Royals staff that won a World Series in 1985.

“Bud Black and I played and roomed together during spring training in 1980. Buddy’s just a great guy, focused, kind of serious. He liked to read science fiction books back at the room after practice,” Graser said. “He’s done a heck of a job getting the Rockies back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and I’m happy for him.”

It all starts today with the Minnesota Twins at the New York Yankees on ESPN. On Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies are at Arizona in NL Wild Card action on TBS.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer with the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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