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Friday, June 4, 1999

Pecos girls set for state rodeo finals

PECOS, June 4 -- Two Pecos High School girls will be heading for Abilene this weekend, to compete in the Texas High School Rodeo Finals, beginning on Monday.

Junior Brandi Harrison and sophomore Courtney Clark will be entered in the state finals, with the top four finishers earning the right to represent Texas in the National High School Rodeo Finals, scheduled for July in Gillette, Wyo.

Harrison, in her first full year of high school rodeo competition will be entered in four events at Abilene. At the Region II finals in San Angelo on April 10, she placed fourth in pole bending, ninth in barrels, seventh in goat tying and 10th in breakaway roping, and was fifth in the All-Around standings, enabling her to win Rookie of the Year honors for
region II.

Clark earned a berth at state with a second place finish in the girls' cutting competition. Pecos' other local entry, Clay McKinney, just missed a state berth by placing 11th in the team roping competition in San Angelo.

The top 10 finishers in each event at San Angelo advanced to state from Region I, which includes most of the Permian Basin, Concho Valley and Big Bend areas.

Luster off interleague games for players

AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK, June 4 -- Interleague play is still getting mixed reviews.

Fans seem to love it, but players such as Mark McGwire, Pedro Martinez and John Franco believe it's still a big miss.

``It doesn't do anything for the game,'' McGwire insisted. ``It screwed up the schedule and hasn't gained the notoriety they thought it would. I think we should go back to the way the game of baseball is meant to be played.''

No such luck, Big Mac.

Instead, interleague play returns for the third season starting tonight. The featured matchups: New York Mets at New York Yankees, Anaheim at Los Angeles and Oakland at San Francisco.

Also, McGwire and his St. Louis Cardinals visit Detroit, while Sammy Sosa and the Chicago Cubs travel to Cleveland.

Once again, it will be East teams vs. East teams, Central vs. Central and West vs. West.

But there's a new wrinkle this year. Some natural rivals, such as Yankees-Mets, White Sox-Cubs and Blue Jays-Expos, will play six games, up from the previous three.

``Six games is too much,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``If you have to have something like this, three games is enough.''

Said Toronto outfielder Shawn Green: ``It's kind of weird. We play Montreal six times and some American League teams only seven or eight games.''

For those counting, AL teams held a 114-110 advantage last season. The year before, NL clubs had a 117-97 edge.

Crowds ran above the average for those games, though last season's attendance figure of 31,447 dipped from 33,407 in 1997. Naturally, the upcoming games in New York will be sellouts; Minnesota and Milwaukee next week might not do so well.

This year's 252 interleague games will be played from June 4-13 and July 9-20. Originally proposed by owners as a two-year experiment, the players union gave its approval to continue it this season.

Clearly, AL teams are hurt when they lose the designated hitter for games at NL parks. While Edgar Martinez might become a pinch-hitter when Seattle plays on the road, Anaheim manager Terry Collins intends to use Mo Vaughn limited to DH duties since May 11 because of a sprained left ankle back at first base at Dodger Stadium.

``There's a lot of history there,'' Vaughn said. ``They've got a great ballclub, I've got some friends over there. I'm looking forward to it.''

Fanfare is certainly down from the first year, when the concept became one of the most hotly debated issues in baseball history. Proponents said the plan would take the sport into the future, while critics claimed it would wreck more than 100 years of tradition.

``I thought it was more exciting the first year,'' St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. ``I thought the original idea made the most sense that you give the fans in either league a chance to see all players from the other league, which means we were going to play the Central, then the East, then the West, instead of just playing the Central all the time.''

Because the NL Central has six clubs and the AL Central has five, St. Louis does not play Cleveland at all. That could be an advantage to the Cardinals if they get into a wild-card race with the Mets.

``We have to play the Yankees six times. I don't think it's fair to do that, especially when they're not in your division, your league,'' said Franco, the Mets reliever.

``If it was up to me, I'd keep it just National, no interleague at all. But it brings a lot of money to owners, so we have it,'' he said.

La Russa agreed, up to a point.

``If you wanted to get a microscope out, you might find a little inequity,'' he said. ``I think because of the nature of the game, that stuff works itself out. You're only talking about 15 games.''

To Pedro Martinez, who pitches for Boston against the Atlanta Braves and Massachusetts native Tom Glavine tonight at Fenway Park, this interleague stuff is no big deal.

``It's just other players, I don't see anything exciting about it,'' he said.

But for Philadelphia manager Terry Francona, there's a side benefit. In a plan right out of the old days, the Phillies struck a deal with Amtrak for a charter to take them to Baltimore this weekend.

``Shoot, we get a train ride out of it,'' he said. ``You can't beat that.''

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