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Wholesale changes in store

In what first appeared to be a convincing effort to make the Sonics’ brain trust appear capable, the Yakima Sun Kings turned to an assistant manager at the local discount warehouse to be the CBA team’s next general manager. But 35-year-old Kellie Connaughton, plucked from the Price-Costco in Union Gap, won’t be running the team’s war room come draft day. Instead of basketball, she’ll focus on marketing.

“We didn’t want to hire a basketball person and try to train them to be a business person,” Sun Kings investor Bob Hall reasoned.

Catching record-holders

The fastest way Eddie Murray could have gotten his 3,000th hit would have been for Junior Ortiz to be the catcher. So says Jose Mesa, and the Indians pitcher ought to know. He gave up Robin Yount’s 3,000th hit on Sept. 9, 1992.

“Never should have happened,” Mesa groused. “The first three times up, I struck him out. Got him on a slider every time.”

What Mesa didn’t know is that Ortiz was giving Yount advice.

“He told Robin that I was going to throw nothing but fastballs,” Mesa said. “I couldn’t figure out why he kept calling fastballs. Yount was 2 for 19 against me, and I got him on nothing but sliders.”

Mesa followed Ortiz’s advice. “He lined a single right up the middle,” Mesa recalled. “Never should have happened.”

There’s more. “I gave up Andre Dawson’s 400th homer,” Mesa added. “Guess who was the catcher? Junior Ortiz again. And I gave up Juan Gonzalez’s 44th homer, which was a Texas team record.”

And Ortiz was catching? “You got it,” Mesa said.

Who said a catcher can’t throw a game?

Brent should’ve gone to Canada for this draft

Being told you’ve just been drafted by Denver and traded to the Clippers is sort of like finding out you really didn’t win the lottery. Which makes being drafted by the Clippers and traded to Denver the basketball equivalent of picking six. That’s why Antonio McDyess couldn’t stop smiling when he found out the Clips were shipping him to Denver in a series of deals that also called for L.A. to get Denver’s 15th pick - poor Brent Barry.

Barry was on a plane from Chicago to the Bay Area during Wednesday night’s draft and didn’t learn his fate until the next day, when the Oregon State star watched the draft at home on videotape.

“It’s been a crazy day, totally crazy,” Barry said Thursday from San Francisco, where family members hushed the draft outcome until the 23-year-old could see it for himself. “They had to pretend like we were on some cop show and recreate the excitement.”

We’ll bet Barry didn’t have to recreate the ensuing anguish.

Skip it

During a recent Braves game, Atlanta announcer Skip Caray said of Chipper Jones, after his long fly ball was caught: “Chipper should have eaten an extra biscuit this morning.”

Less than 2 hours later, in a Cubs game, Chicago’s Brian McRae nearly hit a ball out, but it was caught at the wall. Said Cubs’ announcer Harry Caray, Skip’s father: “That one might have gone out if he’d eaten an extra biscuit this morning.”

The last word …

“I guess I can’t sign until it’s over. And I was that close to a big new deal with Jerry.”

- Mediocre Phoenix center Danny Schayes, lamenting the NBA lockout that keeps him from negotiating with Suns owner Jerry Colangelo

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo