i attended the San Jose Earthquakes Media Day this afternoon at McAfee Stadium in sunny Oakland, California. Both the Quakes and Fire trained and i was able to catch up with a number of old friends.
Stepping out of the A's dugout, i thought of A's greats Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi and Vida Blue and A's non-greats Herb Washington, Skip Pitlock and Mike Andrews who were among the hundreds of baseball players who represented Oakland since the team completed its two-stop cross country journey from Philadelphia (with a decade plus layover in Kansas City) in 1968.
Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney, MLS' Will Kuhns and ESPN Soccernet's Jeff Carlisle immediately came over to exchange greetings. i soon made my way across the sod covered batters box for my quest - current Quake and former Fire All-Star midfielder Ivan Guerrero. Ivan is one of my favorite Fire players ever and he was unceremoniously lost in the expansion draft last fall to the San Jose Earthquakes V.03. It was great to see Ivan and be reminded what a great gentleman he is and how his skill, hard work, heart and friendliness benefitted the Fire on the field and in the locker room.
After a short talk with Quakes Head Coach Frank Yallop, i caught up with Fire players Andy Herron, Gonzalo Segaras, Wilman Conde, Justin Mapp, Chad Barrett, Dasan Robinson and John Thorrington. i also spoke with Fire coaches Chris Armas, Mike Jeffries and Daryl Shore as well as Fire staffers Ron Stern and Charles Raycroft. I then got Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett alone and asked him how Ivan got away. He made it clear that it wasn't his idea, but he also laid out a scenario where, short of a trade, San Jose was going to select an important player from the Fire's senior roster whether or not Ivan was protected.
i then spoke to Cuauhtemoc Blanco and long time Monterrey Security supervisor Juan Gaytan, who now serves as Temoc's personal security and translator. Temoc and i spoke about the to-die-for Red Snapper in Diablo Sauce at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, El Barco. i first met Temoc at the Ashland Avenue eatery last fall.
Media relations stars Jed Mettee (San Jose Earthquakes) and Lauren Brophy (Chicago Fire) were both welcoming as ever. Finally, i spent a little time with Quakes VP David Alioto and commiserated with him over the challenges of changing and upgrading stadia.
Afterwards, Soccer Silicon Valley's Jay Hipps, his co-hort Pete Ratajczak and Chicago WPS email vendor and iPost executive Katrina Anderson (who is also a former Chicago Fire and current San Jose Earthquakes season ticket holder) went out to celebrate the start of the weekend with a frosty beverage.
It was there, in Brennan's in Berkley that i received the news...the BlackBerry started buzzing with emails, texts and phone calls - from former Fire colleagues Yaro Dachniwsky, Kenn Tomasch, Dave Sarachan, Trent Sheridan, Kim Beauvais, Andy Stengren, Steve Dilenardi, Pat McNamara, Greg Zaskowsi and others...in addition to messages from former Fire staff, they came by the dozens from friends, family and fans.
Coincidentally or not, the news that the Chicago Fire was going to replace John Guppy, was made three years to the day after he was named to replace me.
A number of good things happened under John's watch including the opening of Toyota Park, the capturing of the 2006 US Open Cup, the signing of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and the signing of jersey sponsor Best Buy. This offseason however, it became apparent that the Fire had lost much of its luster as a place where players, coaches and staff wanted to work and that ultimately cost him his job.
i wish John all the best and hope his successor will lead the Fire to more success on and off the field.
i'm looking forward to cheering the Fire on in person Saturday as the team battles San Jose in its first game following John's departure. Ironically, the Fire's first game after John started was a win over the San Jose Earthquakes V.02. Here's hoping for a repeat performance.