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Morris blocks out pressures

ST. LOUIS — The audition starts anew on opening day for Matt Morris.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ ace pitcher is in the final year of his contract and facing an uncertain future with the only team he has played for. The Cardinals’ offer for an extension represented a big pay cut, reflecting doubts resulting from a tough 2003 season, so he must prove himself all over again beginning April 5 against the Brewers.

Camp hoping to join K.C. bullpen

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Shawn Camp came into the Kansas City Royals spring training as an unheralded, nonroster invitee with little chance to make the club.

Camp has pitched so well that he may break camp with a spot in the Royals’ bullpen. In eight games, Camp is 2-0 with one save and a 2.38 earned run average, while walking one and striking out nine in 11 1/3 innings.

Detail oriented

Spring is the time for new beginnings, and for many of us, washing away the winter blues means scrubbing off the icy, dirty build-up that has plagued our cars over the past three months.

Washing a car is a delicate art. What is the best way to bathe your possession? In search of the perfect car washing techniques, we talked to the experts at Gaines Car Detailing in Columbia to compile this list.

Privatizing state jobs questioned

JEFFERSON CITY — A customer-service operator in India answers the phone when Missourians have questions about the state’s food stamp program.

That’s because the state contracted with a Scottsdale, Ariz., firm, and its customer-service department in India two years ago to manage Missouri’s electronic benefit cards for food stamp and welfare programs.

Women discuss changes to policy

Armed with ideas and giant notepads, more than 100 people from across the state brainstormed Saturday about how to improve women’s lives in Missouri.

Via teleconference, the largely female groups gathered in Columbia, Kansas City, Kirksville, St. Louis and Springfield to discuss how to change public policy as part of the Alliance for the Status of Missouri Women’s “A Call to Action.”

Heavy rainfall floods Boone County roads

Record-setting heavy rain Friday caused up to $200,000 in damage to county roads, and officials are hoping a federal disaster declaration will provide money to help pay for repairs.

Some sections of northern Boone County roads remained under water Saturday. David Mink, director of the Boone County Public Works Department, said areas around Harrisburg and Hallsville suffered the most damage. Floodwaters eroded many roads. “It put tremendous pressure on drainage pipes,” Mink said of the day-long storm. Many pipes were washed out, he said, because road debris clogged them, allowing water to collect and erode the surrounding soil.

Columbia impresses State Farm workers

Carol Van Gorp had only one rough spot in her presentation to State Farm employees visiting what could become their new hometown. After telling her audience about moving her family to Columbia from southern Florida last year, the Columbia Board of Realtors CEO said, “... and I can tell you there’s more to life than warm weather and palm trees.”

The comment drew a collective groan from the audience, comprised mostly of Louisianans.

Walks turn to runs

The conference season has not begun the way the Missouri baseball team would have liked.

The Tigers dropped their second straight game, losing 6-4 to Kansas State in 11 innings Saturday at Taylor Stadium, in their first Big 12 Conference series. A Kansas State win today would be the second year in a row an opponent swept Missouri in its opening conference series.

Cardinals’ closer key to success

ST. LOUIS — All spring, Jason Isringhausen has taken the ball.

That’s the biggest change for the St. Louis Cardinals, much bigger than the additions of Reggie Sanders, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and the question marks surrounding second base, left field and the leadoff slot.

Royals eager to prove last year no fluke

KANSAS CITY — A breakthrough by some promising young pitchers, a healthy Juan Gonzalez and one or two lucky bounces could halt Kansas City’s 19-year postseason drought.

The Royals, in Tony Pena’s second full season at the helm, could also melt right back into the small-market pack and return to their familiar losing ways.

New Sunday Missourian

Dear Reader:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s what several of you have told me in the past few weeks. There is a lot to like about today’s Missourian.

School board forum draws few

Apparently, sunny Saturday afternoons aren’t the best times for getting the public involved in political discussions.

A school board forum sponsored by the Central Columbia Get Out the Vote Committee demonstrated that point Saturday, when little more than a dozen people — nearly half of them from the media — showed up to hear the five candidates debate.

Pay for council scrutinized

Despite the long hours and occasional personal expense involved in their service, members of the Columbia City Council get no salary and no stipend.

At a forum sponsored Saturday by the Central Columbia Get Out the Vote Committee, however, all three candidates for mayor — incumbent Darwin Hindman and challengers Arch Brooks and John Clark — said the idea should at least be re-examined.

Caucus picks local delegates

Misty-eyed and biting back his lips, Fred Hicks walked toward his wife at the back of a room awash in applause.

The Columbia clergyman had just stood in front of dozens of Missouri Democratic delegates pledged to North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and made his pitch to be allowed to cast a vote for the candidate at the Democratic National Convention this July in Boston.

Surviving hotel hygiene

Coming from a family with six kids, I can’t remember as we were growing up ever staying in a hotel. Our vacations meant sleeping on the hard ground in a tent. We had a couple of sleeping bags, but they were for those who couldn’t fit in the tent and had to sleep in the VW bus.

It wasn’t until I started looking at colleges that I spent a night as a paid guest. I felt like a princess. The bathroom had shampoo and conditioner in tiny little bottles. There were little bars of soap wrapped in pleated paper with a gold seal. The room even had a Bible in the drawer, although it was the King James version.

Rising star

Chioma Anyawu learns how to put on fake eyelashes in the faculty lounge bathroom at Hickman High School.

The 18-year-old star actress studies the directions on the box.

Cartoon commentary

During this stormy season of campaigns, caucuses and primaries, political cartoonists have been whipping the political winds into tornadoes. These artists dissect the issues to find the comedy and turn human-looking candidates into unattractive mistake-makers who don’t deserve to be elected.

The political fervor that takes over the country during the winter primaries and leads up to the November general election gives cartoonists even more fuel for their fires. With all the issues to sort through and candidates to lampoon, the work of a political cartoonist can be more challenging, but also more fun.

Passionate reads

The surprise blockbuster, “The Passion of The Christ,” seems to have subtly changed the tone of this year’s Lenten season. On opening day, as the faithful and the curious flocked to movie theaters in Columbia and around the world, many churches passed out free tickets and biblical tracts.

Quiet chapels and foggy incense — the traditional markers of Ash Wednesday — gave way to a box-office boom as Lent moved toward a public experience instead of a personal one.

Varsity football coming to Ashland

Football fields need bleachers, goal posts, a press box, concession stands and scoreboards. And you can’t forget the lights for Friday night football. The must-have list for players includes uniforms, helmets, padding and training equipment.

The total cost of starting a football program can be upwards of $500,000, which is a pretty steep price for a school to pay.

Smithton Ridge neighbors unite

When residents north of West Broadway learned last summer about plans to build a connector road through their neighborhood to Interstate 70, they banded together to voice concerns about increased traffic, reduced property values and effects on wildlife.

Residents began meeting and presenting their views at Columbia City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission meetings in an effort to preserve the integrity of their neighborhood.

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