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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS



Notes, quotes and observations about our sporting world …

• Mark Mason is “holding,” and fortunate to be alive.

The long-time public-address announcer for the Trail Blazers and popular host of an afternoon show on KPAM (860 AM) returned home Wednesday after a week in the hospital to treat blood clots in his leg.

Mason has missed Portland’s last three games, breaking a streak of more than 900 preseason, regular-season and postseason games worked in his 20 years as the team’s PA voice.MASON

“Frustrating, because I’ve had more fun calling games this season than ever before,” says Mason, 61. “I was having just as much fun as everybody else and looking forward to every game. Then this happens. It’s like, ’Not now.’ But there’s never a good time for something like this.”

Four years ago, Mason had an abdominal aneurysm repair, in which a stent was inserted into an artery. Since then, Mason has walked two miles every day, “doctor’s orders,” he says. “I’ve been religious about it.”

Last Tuesday evening, he was near the end of a walk when he started losing function in the right leg. A neighbor drove him the final few blocks home.

“I got in my easy chair and could not get up again,” Mason says. His wife, Louise, called 911.

An emergency room surgeon determined the stent had failed.

“The whole lower right extremity was affected, which is dangerous territory,” Mason says. “It was throwing clots downstream. The trauma to the leg was pretty severe.”

Surgeons performed a limb-saving procedure called a “fasciotomy.” Mason spent three days in intensive care, and another four in the hospital before returning home. He is getting around with a walker.

“The doctors made heroic efforts to save the leg, and I’m grateful,” Mason says. “How much mobility I will have, I don’t know. I’m encouraged to walk as much as I can, and I do. But the leg is swollen and hurting and aching like crazy.

“I just have to force myself to keep doing it. There’s a chance with rehab and hard work, I can gain full use of the limb again and maybe go back to my two-mile walks.”

Mason isn’t sure when he’ll return to either the radio or PA jobs. He’s thankful to be alive, and to have received support from friends and Blazer fans via Facebook and Twitter (@markmason.pdx).

“That part of it has been incredible,” Mason says. “Thanks to everyone.”

• Another name familiar to the state’s NBA fans is having serious health issues.

Former Oregon standout Greg Ballard — you can make a case for him being the greatest Duck cager ever — is dealing with stage four prostate cancer.

Ballard, 61, is in the third of six chemotherapy treatments.

“I’m doing pretty well,” Ballard says from his home in Atlanta.

Ballard has been battling cancer for nearly four years but has continued to work as an advance scout for the Washington Wizards.

“I enjoy the work,” Ballard says. “It’s the traveling that makes it hard.”

Ballard and Ronnie Lee were the centerpieces of Dick Harter’s “Kamikaze Kids” at Oregon in the 1970s. A 6-8 power forward, Ballard was called upon to battle the middle with such as Oregon State’s Lonnie Shelton (“he was a load — so big, so strong,” Ballard says), Washington’s James Edwards, Washington State’s Steve Puidokas, Stuart House and James Donaldson and UCLA’s Richard Washington.

The fourth pick by Washington in the 1977 NBA draft, Ballard played 11 seasons, winning an NBA title with the Bullets as a rookie in 1978. He served one year as a player/assistant coach under George Karl with the CBA Albany Patroons, then spent 21 years as an assistant coach and scout with Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta and Washington.

Ballard looks back at his years at Oregon with fondness.

“I remember beating UCLA when a lot of people didn’t think we could,” he says. “We were the most physical team in the Pac-8. UCLA had the most finesse and the most talent, but we’d give them all they could handle.

“(The Bruins) would always go to the NCAA Tournament; we’d go to NIT. That was in those days when (the NCAA Tournament) was only 32 teams. Wish we could have gone to the NCAA (Tournament) to see how good our team could have been.”

Playing for the taskmaster Harter, Ballard says, “was an honor.”

“He pushed you to limits you never knew you had inside you,” Ballard says. “I’m talking both physically and mentally. The mental part was like, ‘Well, I did this, and I didn’t think I could do it, but I’m glad I did.’ You found out something about yourself.”

Ballard, who lives in Atlanta with his wife of 40 years, Donna, would like to continue scouting. His contract with the Wizards expires on July 1.

“I’ve really enjoyed it through the years,” he says. “Health permitting, I don’t want to stop.”

• Major League Football has postponed its inaugural season for a year.

West Linn High coach Chris Miller — the former UO and NFL quarterback — was set to coach the Oregon Crash in the spring pro league, with its home games to be staged at Autzen Stadium.

The plug was pulled, for now, earlier this month after the league’s majority investor withdrew its support.

Miller attended a meeting in Orlando in which representatives of the MLF’s eight teams were told by league president Wes Chandler — the former NFL receiver — that Asian Global Capital, Ltd., an international investment firm, would not come through on its proposed $20 million in equity, with a $100 million line of credit.MILLER

“It’s on pause,” says Miller, who coached the Lions to the Class 6A final last fall. “They’ve kicked the (debut season) to begin next March. They’re going to try to get it up to 10 teams. This will give them more time for marketing and promotions and coach and player announcements.”

The MLF is proposed to be a developmental league along the lines of the NBA’s D-League or Triple-A baseball. The franchises are owned by the league.

“There is a data base of 1,500 to 2,000 names of players who want to play pro football,” Miller says.

The MLF had a player draft — former UO QB Darron Thomas was the Crash’s No. 1 pick — but teams never got to training camp.

Among the head coaches are former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo, former Cowboys assistant Robert Ford and ex-Florida head coach Galen Hall. Campo and Ford were assistants on Joe Avezzano’s Oregon State staff in the early ‘80s.

Miller will continue as head coach of the Oregon team, which he thinks could wind up using Portland’s Providence Park as its home field next year.

The league “may think more Portland, based on the population base of the metro area,” Miller says. “It could be at either place (Portland or Eugene), but they want to have a team in Oregon.”

Miller says he has mixed emotions about the delay to the MLF’s start.

“I’m disappointed, more so for the players,” he says. “A lot of guys were ready to play ball this spring. They were amped up. But it will give me more time to work with my West Linn team. I’m excited about that.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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