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Druley: Former Cougars skipper Scarsone satisfied with climb

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 9:00 a.m. CDT

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Then-Cougars manager Steve Scarsone sported a light black blazer to the club’s 2009 winter banquet.

The color was noteworthy because it wasn’t gold or red or any other eye-popping shade chosen by real-estate agents everywhere.

Scarsone had dabbled in the home-selling biz before returning to baseball, a former Major League infielder itching to climb another ladder. The parent Oakland Athletics offered him the chance, and Scarsone only keeps moving up.

He’s made stops in Advanced-A and Double-A since managing the Class-A Cougars five years ago. This season will mark Scarsone’s second in charge of Triple-A Sacramento (Calif.).

“The A’s have been great about promoting me and getting me up to the higher levels,” Scarsone, 47, said. “The feedback from this past season was very positive.”

Sacramento finished 79-65 in 2013, two games behind division champion Las Vegas. In other leagues, the River Cats likely would have advanced to the playoffs, but the Pacific Coast League has four divisions and is tied into an overall Triple-A Championship Series against the International League champion.

A handful of players Scarsone managed for much of the season – first baseman Daric Barton, right-hander Sonny Gray and catcher Stephen Vogt – contributed to the A’s American League West title, boosting their skipper’s worth.

Gray had a 2.08 ERA in two American League Division Series starts against the Tigers, including eight shutout innings in Game 2. Vogt delivered the game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth in that game.

“That’s our satisfaction. That’s what we hang our hats on,” Scarsone said.

With Oakland excelling on the big league level – manager Bob Melvin is 237-186 in two-plus seasons and also guided the A’s to the playoffs in 2012 – Scarsone’s advancement might have hit a temporary hitch.

That wouldn’t be the worst fate for the Anaheim, Calif., native, who helps former Giants and Angels closer Greg Minton run an indoor hitting facility in Arizona during the offseason.

“Bob Melvin is very open and willing to talk and listen and answer questions and ask questions. He makes all of his coaches feel that they have an equal amount of contribution, which is important,” Scarsone said. “Because just being in the room and not feeling like you have anything listened to is frustrating, because we’ve all been in the game a long time.”

They can dance: St. Charles North drill team members spent much of their winter break working with – and impressing – professional dance choreographers.

A contingent of 23 North dancers traveled to Memphis ahead of Tuesday’s Liberty Bowl between Mississippi State and Rice. The North Stars earned their share of accolades before performing as part of the halftime show during Mississippi State’s 44-7 victory.

North earned a sportsmanship and spirit team award, while senior MaryKate Purcell was recognized as individual MVP. Dancers from high schools across the country put in a handful of eight- to nine-hour days training and learning choreography before the gameday festivities, which included a parade down Memphis’ storied Beale Street.

“It was fabulous. It far exceeded all my expectations. It was so much fun,” North coach Nancy Prentiss said. “The girls had a great time, but it wasn’t just a fun trip for them. They did a lot of dancing.”

Harrell finds inspiration: Aurora Christian senior guard Johnathan Harrell fielded almost as many well-wishes as questions Monday night as he spoke with reporters after the Eagles’ third-place finish at the Plano Christmas Classic.

A little more than three days earlier, Harrell learned his older brother, Jarred, had died in a head-on car crash after watching him play at Plano.

Older sister Janella went to intensive care but is expected to recover fully.

Harrell admits the outpouring of support from the ACS community and other schools has made him emotional, but credits his Christian background for stabilizing him on and off the court.

“ ‘Difficult’ is not synonymous to ‘destructive,’ ” Harrell said.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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