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Colin Kaepernick picked pro football over pitching

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Colin Kaepernick picked pro football over pitching

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Chicago Cubs scout Sam Hughes watches Colin Kaepernick nowadays and still wonders what the strong-armed NFL quarterback might look like on a pitching mound, as a power arm in the pros. It's hard not to, seeing the zip and accuracy on each throw, the competitive fire and fierce focus.

The Cubs never even watched Kaepernick throw a baseball before drafting him in the 43rd round almost four years ago. They did watch him throw a football for Nevada, and decided that college game told them more than enough.

Ultimately, the Cubs just couldn't lure Kaepernick away from his first love: football. Now, he's headed to the Super Bowl to lead the San Francisco 49ers against Baltimore on Feb. 3.

Hughes, the longtime national cross-checker in the Cubs' scouting department, and several others, including then-general manager Jim Hendry, figured they should give it a shot and hope Kaepernick might reconsider.

``Yeah, that wasn't happening,'' Kaepernick said with a smile Wednesday, shaking his head.

Hughes tried for two weeks to convince Kaepernick, who had made it all but clear he wouldn't sign. He was surprised anybody drafted him at all given he had been so upfront about sticking with football.

But Chicago's NFL sources - Hughes said three different teams - figured Kaepernick would be a late-round pick or even someone who might have to go the route of the Canadian Football League.

That seems so laughable now. The Niners picked Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft, made him the starter midseason this year and now will ask him to carry them all the way to the franchise's sixth championship in what will be just his 10th career NFL start.

``I was looking at this tall, kind of gangly at the time quarterback that was super athletic and had this really long throwing motion,'' Hughes said. ``I was talking to some of my buddies at Reno and said, `Boy, I wonder if this kid's ever played baseball, he's got an arm stroke like a pitcher.'''

That sent Hughes on a fun little research project. Kaepernick regularly threw 90 mph in high school, but was now some 40 pounds heavier as a college football player.

He certainly would throw harder.

``So, I was definitely intrigued, bigger, stronger, more athletic,'' Hughes said. ``Colin had no idea we were even considering drafting him. I kind of caught him off guard when I called him after we drafted him. He kind of got a kick out of it and said his phone was ringing off the hook that he'd been drafted by the Cubs. He had no idea.''

Then-Nevada coach Chris Ault had the challenge of developing Kaepernick's football motion - and that wasn't an easy task with the QB having been a pitcher.

``His first two years he was a thrower from his pitching days. It was all sidearm,'' Ault said. ``That was a habit we had to break. You could see his throwing motion, timing and touch was there. His senior year I saw the whole package. He was a guy ready for the NFL who could do all things they'd like him to do plus run. Now I look at him with the Niners and Jim and those guys are doing a super job. He has all the throws. What I really enjoy watching is he really learned to put the touch on the ball when he has to.''

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh can appreciate the Cubs' attempt to recruit Kaepernick to baseball. He would have tried, too, had he been in their position.

``He's a man for all seasons,'' Harbaugh said. ``Tremendous football player, basketball player, baseball player, a tremendous athlete with a lot of gifts of God. And a tremendous competitive fire, readiness and willingness to compete, to be able to make cool-headed decisions under fire. Who wouldn't want a player like that in baseball or football?''

Or basketball, for that matter.

Kaepernick was a three-sport star at John H. Pitman High in Turlock, a couple of hours east in California's Central Valley.

At 6-foot-4 and about 180 pounds as a high school senior, he went 11-2 with a 1.27 ERA with two no-hitters and 10 complete games - now-retired Pitman coach Mick Tate couldn't remember Wednesday if there was a second, but the quarterback sure knew.

``There were two,'' Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick batted .313 with 17 RBIs and a .407 on-base percentage. In basketball, he averaged 15.4 points.

``The thing we're most proud of, those who coached him in high school, is we want to make them better people,'' Tate said. ``We didn't have to work very hard to make him a better person.''

And those close to Kaepernick had a pretty good idea which way he was headed.

``He was a phenomenal basketball player here,'' said Philip Sanchez, Kaepernick's high school guidance counselor who remains a close family friend. ``Don't forget that. People think of it as just baseball-football, no. He went from football, the very next day he was leading his team in basketball. Then the very next day when basketball ended, now it was time to start pitching. That's rare that you get kids who play three sports these days.''

The Cubs figured they had reason to be somewhat optimistic of swaying Kaepernick. They have had success drafting football players, such as pitcher Jeff Samardzija and outfielder Matt Szczur - a pair of former star college wide receivers who picked baseball.

And Kaepernick had tremendous ``upside,'' a common phrase the scouts use to describe potential.

The 49ers saw the same upside. Harbaugh made a midseason switch to him as starter over Alex Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick.

``We're not really surprised at his success, because he's always had success,'' Sanchez said. ``I'm just happy that the world has seen the person that we know.''

At Pitman, they sure appreciate Kaepernick to this day.

So do the folks in Reno.

During the San Diego State-Nevada basketball game Wednesday night, the plan was for everybody to pose Kaepernick style, flexing the right biceps muscle and kissing it - a new sensation known as ``Kaepernicking.''

Even the Cubs folks are cheering for him.

``I've followed him since the first time I saw him. He's a very entertaining, fun guy to watch, great athlete, great competitor, very good arm strength, good touch, good feel,'' Hughes said. ``After I drafted him, I talked to him and his father, Rick, four or five times each throughout a two-week period trying to convince him to give baseball a shot. I got to know him through several conversations and since then I've shot him a few text messages - in college after they beat Boise State, which was huge, and after he got drafted by the Niners. A credit to him, I talked to him over a two-week stretch and he didn't know me from Adam and he has returned each one of my text messages. That says a lot about the young man.''

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AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this story.

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John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

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USA TODAY Sports

John Carlson once again an All-Star snub

The Capitals' Stanley Cup run may be even more remarkable than we thought considering there were zero all-stars on Washington's roster apparently.

As part of Wednesday's NHL Awards, the First and Second-Team All-Star rosters were released and not a single Capital made either team.

Here is a look at both teams:

In the interest of full disclosure, the All-Star Teams are voted on by members of the Pro Hockey Writers Association of which I am a member. I did not, however, have a vote for the All-Star rosters.

The first thought most Caps fans will have when looking at these teams is what about Alex Ovechkin?

I'm actually OK with Taylor Hall and Claude Giroux getting the nods at left wing.

Hall won the Hart Trophy for what he was able to accomplish in New Jersey in leading a team that looked like a trash heap before the season to a playoff berth. Compare the Devils' roster to the Caps' and there's no question Hall had a lot less to work with than Ovechkin and tallied 93 points as compared to Ovechkin's 87. Giroux finished second in the NHL with 102 points, one of only three players this season to finish in the triple digits. He very narrowly beat out Ovechkin for Second Team honors.

It was a coin flip and Ovechkin lost. That's not what Caps fans should be crying foul over. The fact that John Carlson was not among the four defensive all-stars is a far more egregious omission for which there is no excuse.

After inexplicably being excluded from the NHL All-Star Game in January, Carlson was snubbed once again as he came in fifth in the voting.

Just what does Carlson have to do to get some recognition?

No defenseman in the entire NHL had more points than Carlson's 68 this season. That's not just because of increased minutes as Carlson finished 13th among defensemen in ice time per game.

But being a good defenseman is not about the offensive stats.

That's right. Now go ahead and show me which of the four who finished ahead of Carlson was partnered with a rookie for most of the season. I'll wait.

The answer is none of them.

It's very easy now to look at the Capitals as a team that had all the pieces in place and managed to put it all together at the right time to go on a Cup run, but that's not what happened this season. Carlson was very heavily relied upon by the Capitals during the regular season when the blue line was an obvious weakness, especially after an injury forced Matt Niskanen out of the lineup for 14 games. Carlson was averaging nearly 30 minutes per game in Niskanen's absence. Carlson also spent the majority of the season with his primary partner being a rookie in Christian Djoos.

Charlie McAvoy was a rookie too. Does that mean Zdeno Chara should have been named an all-star?

A player like McAvoy is very much the exception, not the rule. Djoos has a bright future ahead of him, but his career is not yet at the same level as a player like McAvoy.

With all due respect to the voters, it seems like not enough attention was paid to what the Capitals asked of Carlson this season. His strong play on both ends of the ice made up for a weak defense that was only bolstered by a late trade for Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks just prior to the trade deadline.

If you looked at Carlson's stats and saw just an offensive specialist who was not strong enough in his own end to warrant an all-star spot, then you were not paying close enough attention to the role he played in Washington this season.

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Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

Orioles weather long rain delay in 3-0 win over Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The rain was heavy and relentless. As the puddles grew deeper on the tarp at Nationals Park, the Baltimore Orioles were left to wonder if their bid for a rare road victory would be thwarted by, of all things, the weather.

During a season in which very little has worked in their favor, the Orioles withstood a long rain delay to beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night.

Baltimore led 2-0 after four innings when play was stopped. After a wait of 2 hours, 43 minutes, the game resumed with a few hundred fans from the announced crowd of 32,153 sprinkled around the lower seating bowl.

Mark Trumbo homered for Baltimore, and Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hitter in a game that ended long after midnight.

"It was nice," Trumbo said. "I'm glad that we actually kept the game going. Had we not been able to, it might have been a wash. But it ended up being pretty big for us."

Baltimore ended a six-game losing streak to Washington that began last May, won for only the fourth time in 20 games and improved the majors' worst road record to 10-28.

This one was worth the wait.

"It's never easy, especially when you get over the hour mark, two-hour mark," Trumbo said. "Then you have to restart. It's almost two games in one, so, great job by our guys tonight."

The Nationals managed only two hits following the delay, both in the ninth inning.

"It happens. You can't do anything about the rain," manager Dave Martinez said. "You've got to come out and get yourself ready to play. I'm not going to make any excuses."

The rain delay cut short a solid pitching performance by Cashner, who allowed three hits and no walks over four innings in his return from an 11-day stay on the disabled list with back spasms.

Miguel Castro (2-2) followed with two hitless innings, Darren O'Day pitched a perfect seventh and Zach Britton got four outs.

Brad Brach allowed the Nationals to load the bases with two outs in the ninth before striking out Mark Reynolds .

Trumbo hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Gio Gonzalez (6-4), and for a while it appeared the drive would be washed out by the rain.

"One pitch. That was the whole game," Gonzalez lamented. "That was it."

Indeed, it all ended well for the Orioles, who added a run in the sixth when Adam Jones doubled off Shawn Kelley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia .

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