Boise Hawks: A Rockies family tie unlike any other

If you drill down the Colorado Rockies’ draft list from earlier this month, you see Yorvis Torrealba as a 20th-round pick from the University of Tampa. And from there, we revisit a scary and amazing story. Torrealba has been assigned to the Boise Hawks and arrived in town Monday. Assuming his physical was fine, he could at any time now. Yorvis’ dad, Yorvit Torrealba, played for the Rockies himself and was a standout during the team’s run to its only World Series in 2007. Two years later, an 11-year-old Yorvis Torrealba was walking to school with two uncles in Caracas, Venezuela, when he was kidnapped at gunpoint by bandits and held for a $500,000 ransom. It’s not the only time a family member of a major leaguer has been taken in this manner in the despair-ridden country.

But despite the blind-folded horror of that life-altering experience, the younger Torrealba never game up his love of baseball. “I asked him a long time ago if that’s what he wants to do with his life,” Yorvit said of his son in a story at “I told him, if that’s what he wants to do, I support that. And when I found out he was drafted, it made me cry. It was so great.” As for Yorvis as a talent? “He’s a pure baseball player,” Tampa coach Joe Urso told Nick Groke of The Athletic. “Exactly what you’d expect with that bloodline.” How about this? Urso began the 1992 season with the Hawks and played two games before being called up to long-season Class A. Meanwhile, the current Hawks—Torrealba’s new teammates—beat the Everett AquaSox 7-2 Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium.


A certain Darwin Vander Esch of Riggins was among those who took notice the other night when Doug Farrar, lead analyst and writer for NFL Wire, listed his top NFL off-ball linebackers for 2019. Darwin naturally found it tweetable, because Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys were Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Writes Farrar of LVE, “He reads quarterback intentions very well, which puts him where he needs to be to snuff out big plays, and he’s strong enough to stack and shed blockers to get to the ballcarrier with ease. Vander Esch should only get better as he continues to refine his game.” Yes, Leighton does things that 6-4, 256-pounders just aren’t supposed to do. And to think it’s been just five years since he graduated from Salmon River High.


BYU doesn’t have a conference in football, so it can hold Media Day whenever it wants. This year it was June 18—as in Tuesday—and the feature story was the health of sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson following his January shoulder surgery. “Recovery is going good,” Wilson told the Deseret News. “I’m 100 percent on schedule for where I’m supposed to be.” Wilson’s the one-time Boise State commit who went 18-for-18 for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the blue turf last December. What does Cougars coach Kalani Sitake expect of Wilson this season? “To throw an incomplete pass at some time,” said Sitake.


BYU is finally back on the Boise State men’s basketball schedule, with the two schools announcing a home-and-home series the next two seasons. BSU really needed a feature home game during its non-conference schedule (from the fans’ perspective, anyway), and this is the ticket. The Broncos and Cougars have played football every year since 2012 and will continue the current series through 2023, with discussions underway to extend it, according to senior athletic director Brad Larrondo. But they haven’t faced off on the hardwood since December of 2008. Boise State gets the first game on November 20 in ExtraMile Arena, and BYU will host the Broncos next year.


Boise State women’s basketball is in the news today as well. First, coach Gordy Presnell’s new contract is up for State Board of Education approval in Coeur d’Alene. Presnell’s new base salary is slated to be $300,000, making him the highest-paid women’s hoops coach in the Mountain West. He’s going into his 15th season at Boise State, where his teams have won four of the past five conference tournament championships. In 32 seasons as a head coach at Seattle Pacific and Boise State, Presnell is 667-299.

Also, the Broncos released their full non-conference schedule Tuesday. Beyond the Preseason WNIT opener against Portland State, there are two marquee games on the ExtraMile Arena schedule. BYU, which made the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March, visits December 11 in the first women’s meeting between the Broncos and Cougars in 17 years. And Washington State is in town November 20. Away from Boise, there’s a return game at Louisville on November 24. The Cardinals, then ranked No. 5, won in Boise last year 72-55 and ended up in the Elite Eight in March.


One of Boise’s favorite sons of sorts, Bryan Gates, has landed another NBA assistant coaching job. Gates was swept out with the rest of the Sacramento Kings staff when Dave Joerger was fired in favor of Luke Walton (a curious move, since the Kings were 39-43 this past season and were on the rise). Now, Gates is back with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he coach in 2015-16 under the late Flip Saunders. Gates is a two-time D-League (now G-League) Coach of the Year and led the Stampede to their only championship 11 years ago. Gates’ story is an amazing one—he attended Boise State but didn’t play hoops there. Then he willed his way onto the Stampede staff and is now a respected NBA assistant.

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June 19, 2016: The Cleveland Cavaliers make history with their first NBA title, beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 in a riveting Game 7. In doing so, the Cavs became the first team ever to come back from a three games-to-one deficit in the Finals. It was also the first major pro sports championship for the city of Cleveland since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. It was LeBron James’ second season back with the Cavaliers after returning from Miami—he had promised Cleveland a title, and he delivered, outshining the Warriors’ unanimous NBA MVP, Stephen Curry. The defeat was bitter for Golden State, who had compiled the best regular season record in NBA history at 73-9.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)