A look at the top sports stories in the Napa Valley in 2017:
Professional baseball coming to Napa
The Napa Silverados will begin their first season in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, an independent league based in Northern California, in June of 2018.
“I’m excited for Napa. I’m excited for the County. I’m excited for the City,” said Silverados owner, president and general manager Bruce Johnston. “I’m excited for the people that live here. And I’m excited.”
The six-team Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, founded in 2013, also has the Sonoma Stompers, Vallejo Admirals, San Rafael Pacifics, Pittsburg Diamonds and Martinez Clippers. Each of the teams plays an 80-game schedule, with the season running from June through August. Forty of those games are home games.
Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs is not affiliated with major league teams.
Tito Fuentes Jr. will be the team’s manager and Megan Castellucci is the assistant general manager.
The Silverados will play their home games at Napa Valley College’s Storm Field.
Napa Valley 1839 FC plays its inaugural season
Napa Valley 1839 FC, a local men’s amateur soccer team, played its inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League’s Golden Gate Conference. Napa Valley went 1-6-5.
The NPSL is a semi-pro league and is recognized as a fourth-tier league.
According to its website, the National Premier Soccer League is a member-driven national league committed to the support of its teams on and off the field and growing the sport nationally.
The Napa Valley team is led by head coach Jesus Medina.
A change in sections for area schools
The league that Napa, Vintage, Justin-Siena and American Canyon high schools will begin playing in starting in the fall of 2018 has a name: Vine Valley Athletic League.
The principals from each of the league’s seven schools – which also includes Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande – voted for the Vine Valley Athletic League in December after getting eight nominations of potential names for the new league.
The Vine Valley Athletic League, which will be a member of the CIF North Coast Section, begins with the 2018-19 school year.
The CIF North Coast Section Board of Managers voted unanimously in October to approve a proposal to group Napa, Vintage, American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande-Petaluma into a league together starting with the 2018-19 school year.
The vote was 47-0, in favor of the new seven-school league, which will be part of the Marin-Sonoma-Mendocino Conference. The move will start with the mid cycle alignment, for 2018-2020.
In August, a North Coast Section alignment committee unanimously voted to approve a proposal to group Napa, Vintage, American Canyon, Justin-Siena, Sonoma Valley, Petaluma and Casa Grande into a league together starting with the 2018-19 school year. The alignment committee, at its meeting at the NCS offices in San Ramon, voted 5-0 to accept and support the proposal.
Napa, Vintage and American Canyon high schools were each accepted into the North Coast Section at a board of managers meeting in April.
Each school received unanimous approval during a vote of the board of the managers, which consists of school district superintendents, league commissioners and presidents, principals and athletic directors.
The move takes effect for the 2018-19 school year and returns Napa and Vintage to the North Coast Section, where they were members through the 1975-76 school year.
Phoenix Suns select Josh Jackson
The Phoenix Suns selected Josh Jackson, a 2016 Justin-Siena High School graduate who starred at Napa’s Prolific Prep Academy and the University of Kansas, with the fourth overall pick in the NBA Draft.
There were lots of cheers from those in Prolific Prep’s offices on Main Street when Jackson, a 6-foot-8 guard and the 2017 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, had his name announced.
Prolific Prep staff and guests were on hand for what was called Josh Jackson’s 2017 NBA Draft Party.
Fiske undefeated for Vintage
Alyvia Fiske was absolutely perfect for Vintage High School during the 2016-17 girls wrestling season.
Undefeated. No points allowed. State champion for the second year in a row.
Fiske went 36-0 with 32 pins in the 160-pound weight class. She won her second consecutive 160-pound title at the CIF State Championships in February at the Visalia Convention Center.
She signed a national letter-of-intent with Simon Fraser University of Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. She is wrestling for the Clan on an athletic scholarship.
Fiske was twice named as the Napa Valley Register’s Female Athlete of the Year and compiled a 148-9 record, winning two CIF state championships, during her career at Vintage.
Big year of golf
* Brendan Steele became the first repeat winner of the Safeway Open, a $6.2-million event that is played on the North Course at Silverado Resort and Spa. He battled difficult conditions in the final round – winds out of the north at 15-25 mph, gusting to 30 mph – to shoot a 69 and win with a 15-under 273 total. He edged out Tony Finau by two shots and two other players, Phil Mickelson and Chesson Hadley, by three strokes.
The Safeway Open is the kickoff event of the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 schedule.
Safeway Open Executive Tournament Director Jeff Sanders announced on Oct. 17 that the tournament will donate $200,000 in support of fire relief efforts in Napa and Sonoma counties. Sanders is with Lagardere Sports & Entertainment, a golf event management company.
The fires began on Oct. 8, several hours after the conclusion of the Safeway Open.
None of the permanent structures at Silverado were damaged by fire. The wildfires caused the resort to be closed from Oct. 9-24. The resort re-opened to guests on Oct. 25.
“Throughout the course of that night, we put out approximately 30 small fires around the property,” said John Evans, Silverado’s general manager. “The team was running on instincts, adrenaline, but in a very calm manner throughout. There was just so much to take care of, that you really couldn’t get rattled about it.
“You had to just keep prioritizing and working on those fires that you thought were going to endanger the mansion or the assets of the resort.”
* The Northern California Golf Association honored Jason Anthony, a 2001 Justin-Siena High School graduate, as the Player of the Year at an awards ceremony earlier this month Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach.
Anthony is a resident of Fairfield and a member at Green Valley Country Club and The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Anthony also played golf at Napa Valley College and Fresno State.
* Scott McCarron, who is a Vintage High graduate, finished third in the final Charles Schwab Cup standings on the PGA Tour Champions.
He had four wins, 14 Top-10 finishes, and earned $2,674,195.
Football on hold during wildfires
Schools throughout the Napa Valley Unified School District, as well as Justin-Siena, were closed for two weeks in October because of the devastating wildfires that destroyed homes and structures and caused unhealthy air conditions due to the heavy smoke.
The NVUSD’s three varsity high school football teams returned to practice on Oct. 18.
Teams were forced to leave their school sites in Napa County due to air quality issues, caused by wildland fires, which started on Oct. 8. Games were canceled one week.
Napa and Vintage practiced at Benicia High.
American Canyon went to the Mare Island Sports Complex and Cal State Maritime in Vallejo.
The Napa County Office of Education and the five school districts in Napa County – Napa Valley Unified, St. Helena Unified, Calistoga Joint Unified, Howell Mountain Elementary and Pope Valley Union Elementary – developed in conjunction with Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio, Emergency Air Quality Guidelines for staff and students, the NVUSD said.
Justin-Siena had two games that were canceled.
American Canyon coach Larry Singer and his players volunteered at two evacuation centers – at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, where they cared for horses, and in the gym at American Canyon High, where individuals and families were sent during the wildland fires.
The Vintage football program donated food, drinks and toiletries to shelters and donation centers.
Coaches, players and parents from the Napa High program helped out at an evacuation area at Napa Valley College and different emergency shelters.
At NVC, the school’s gym and athletic department facilities were used as an evacuation area for individuals and families affected by the wildfires.
CalPac title for Pacific Union College
Rae Hubbard hit the game-winning shot as Pacific Union College beat host Cal Maritime, 71-70, in the California Pacific Conference men’s basketball championship game on Feb. 28 in Vallejo. Hubbard hit a running jumper with no time left. He scored 14 points and had five rebounds.
The historic win – the Pioneers’ first CalPac title – advanced Pacific Union to the NAIA Division II National Championship for the first time.
It was the greatest season in school history for PUC (18-7 overall, 11-4 CalPac), a small Seventh-day Adventist school from Angwin.
Coach Greg Rahn’s Pioneers were the No. 8 seed in the Liston Bracket and lost to No. 1 seed Cornerstone University (Michigan) on March 8 in Point Lookout, Missouri.
Napa Valley greats pass away
The year marked the passing of three Napa Valley greats – Jim Landis, Amy Atkinson-Vieira and Jim Hunt.
* Landis, who passed away on Oct. 7, played for the Chicago White Sox from 1957 to 1964 and still ranks among the top outfielders defensively all-time with his .989 fielding percentage. A Napa resident since 1969, he was 83.
Landis was a five-time Gold Glove outfielder who played 11 years in the major leagues.
Landis retired after the 1967 season. He played for the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland, Houston and Boston late in his career.
* Atkinson-Vieira, a five-sport star athlete for Napa High School in the early 1980s who passed away on April 18, was remembered by family and coaches as a team leader and role model who was very competitive and exceptionally talented in all that she did. She was 51.
She is a member of the Napa High Athletic Hall of Fame and went on to play basketball on a scholarship at NCAA Division I Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles.
Atkinson-Vieira graduated from Napa High in 1984, where she played volleyball, basketball, softball and was on swimming and track and field teams.
She starred in volleyball and basketball for two years at Napa Valley College before transferring to Loyola Marymount.
She earned 12 varsity letters at Napa.
* Hunt, a 1962 St. Helena High graduate who starred in football, basketball and baseball for the Saints, died on June 27. He was 72.
Hunt did it all for the Saints. A two-way player in football, he completed 62 percent of his passes with 20 touchdown passes as the Saints’ quarterback and also intercepted 10 passes as a defensive back. He scored over 1,000 points in basketball. He had a .325 batting average and as a pitcher compiled a 2.05 earned run average in 65 innings.
Hunt played football at UC Berkeley from 1963-65. His seven interceptions during the 1964 season rank as the third-most in a single season in school history. He also was a quarterback for Cal.
He was one of the greatest football coaches in Calistoga High history, leading the Wildcats from 1978 to 1984, and guiding them to the CIF North Coast Section title in 1978.
He was a founder and the committee chairman of the St. Helena High Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sac-Joaquin Section softball title for Napa High
Napa (21-8-1 overall) won its first Sac-Joaquin Section softball title. After finishing in a tie for second place in the Monticello Empire League, Napa advanced to the Division II playoffs and as the No. 8 seed, won five straight games. The Indians beat No. 9 seed Bella Vista-Fair Oaks, 6-0, and No. 1 seed Elk Grove, 4-1. The Indians didn’t stop there, as they shut out No. 12 seed Vacaville, 8-0, in the quarterfinals.
Napa had back-to-back wins over No. 3 seed Del Campo-Fair Oaks in the semifinals and finals, 5-4 and 9-8.
Sac-Joaquin Section places Napa High athletic program on probation
The CIF Sac-Joaquin Section placed the entire Napa High School athletic program on probation through June of 2018 for committing a violation at a postseason event. Confirmation of the Level Two Misconduct violation was made by Will DeBoard, the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Assistant Commissioner.
Napa High Principal Annie Petrie and Napa Valley Unified School District Athletic Director Jill Stewart reported in an email that a Napa High School parent, who they did not identify, brought a bottle of champagne onto the field for the postgame celebration, popped it open and sprayed it on the Napa High School girls team at the conclusion of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II softball championships on May 26 at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.
The Sac-Joaquin Section imposed the sanction and said in a letter to Petrie, “The SJS Executive Committee was flabbergasted that a parent would think it was appropriate/acceptable to bring an alcoholic beverage to an educationally based athletic activity – an extension of school,” according to the email sent by Petrie and Stewart.
Bonnie Mott, a parent, acknowledged to the Register that she sprayed a bottle of champagne and sparkling cider following the game.
In an email, Bonnie Mott wrote: “I sincerely apologize to Napa High coaches and athletes. I am a huge supporter of all athletics and am devastated that the Sac-Joaquin Section saw fit to put our entire athletics program on probation because I sprayed a bottle of champagne and sparkling cider. I am not a coach or an athlete and in my opinion, the punishment does not fit the crime for (Level 2) offense. It is disappointing that (administration) did not see fit to appeal this harsh decision. I guess times have changed and we all must walk a straight and narrow line.”
Despite the sanction, Napa High teams are still eligible to win league titles and compete in the playoffs, the SJS said.
Mott resigns as Napa High head football coach
Troy Mott, the winningest head football coach in Napa High School history, resigned in March after leading the program for the last 11 years.
Mott turned in a letter of resignation to Principal Annie Petrie.
The program has been rocked by allegations of hazing by players over at least two years.
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett said the entire coaching staff had been told earlier this year that they would have to reapply for their jobs in the wake of the hazing scandal.
Mott’s departure came after what he described as “varying philosophies” on the future of the program between him and the administration.
Therefore, he wrote in his resignation letter, “I will no longer be able to fulfill the duties as required to be the head football coach at Napa High School.”
Emmett said the disagreement involved the rehiring process for the seven coaching staff positions. Mott had wanted control of the process but administrators insisted on being part of the process.
The case ends an otherwise distinguished career for Mott with Napa High football. Mott was honored by the CIF state office as one of its Model Coach Award winners for the 2015-16 school year.
Mott’s career record at Napa is 94-35. He led Napa to Northern California and state rankings.
Napa won five MEL titles and the 2007 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship under Mott.
New coach for Napa High football
Jesus Martinez took over as Napa’s head coach in the late spring.
The hiring came just days after school officials said they might cancel the season entirely if they could not find a new coach by June 15. They said that six candidates had turned down offers to replace head coach Troy Mott, who resigned in March after a dispute with administrators on how to rebuild the football program after a hazing scandal.
Family tragedy has rocked Napa Valley sports community
Daryl Horn and his youngest son, Joe, an eighth-grade student at Redwood Middle School, and two others died on Nov. 25 when the vehicle that they were in was involved in a hit-and-run crash in San Pablo. Daryl Horn’s brother-in-law, Troy Biddle, and Daryl’s nephew, Baden Biddle, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, were also killed in the five-vehicle crash, which occurred on Interstate 80 at the San Pablo Dam Road exit.
Daryl Horn was 50. His son, Joe, was 14. Troy Biddle was 52. His son, Baden Biddle, was 12.
Contra Costa County prosecutors are charging a Sacramento man, Fred Lowe, 47, who was arrested in connection with the multiple-fatality hit and run crash, with four counts of murder, according to eastbaytimes.com.
The driver of the vehicle in which the Horns and Biddles were passengers was Jared Horn, Daryl’s oldest son and a 2016 Vintage High School graduate who is a pitcher on the UC Berkeley baseball team.
Jared Horn, named as the Napa County Male Athlete of the Year in August of 2016 and the All-Napa County Player of the Year for baseball in July of 2016, was the only survivor of the wreck.
They were on their way home from the 31st annual Oyster Basketball Tournament – a father and son event – in San Carlos.
Daryl Horn was a three-sport star at Novato High School, earning All-Marin County Athletic League honors in football, basketball and baseball. From there, he settled on one sport in college, and he was a standout in baseball at the College of Marin-Kentfield for two years and then at Sacramento State for two years.
He played on one of the greatest teams in Sacramento State school history – the 1988 team that finished as the runner-up at the NCAA Division II World Series. Earlier this year, Horn and his teammates were inducted into the school’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
The deadly crash has rocked the Napa Valley sports community, as Daryl Horn, a Napa resident, was well-known and highly respected for his work with Napa Little League, the Napa Valley Baseball Club, CYO and Napa Parks and Recreation youth basketball.
Joe, an honor-roll student with a perfect 4.0 GPA, had recently been selected as an all-star for his Napa Saints youth football team at the center position.
Daryl Horn did not just coach, but imparted life lessons on to his players over the years. He gave each of the players on his teams a nickname. He took time to work with young players, providing them with
instruction and fundamentals, sharing his knowledge and wisdom, helping them with everything from hitting and fielding to base running and pitching.
A software sales executive, he found time to coach and manage Napa Little League baseball teams and serve on the board for 13 years. He was a board member with the Napa Valley Baseball Club. He was also a youth basketball coach and was in the stands at each of his children’s games.
Jared is a sophomore at Cal and has honored his commitment to play for the Bears after being selected in the 20th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Joe was a three-sport athlete, playing youth football for the Napa Saints, CYO and Napa Rec basketball, and played in the Napa Valley Baseball Club.