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Ex-Foothill High star shines in MLB debut with Pirates

There is an island in the Palau archipelago in Micronesia called Peleliu that is known for its beaches, rocky caves and coral reefs, its friendly and hospitable people, a significant World War II battle — and, as of June 20, a rookie outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates with a first name often associated with buccaneers.

A day after being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, Foothill High School product Bligh Madris collected three hits in his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs.

It was a night to remember for the first big leaguer of Palauan ancestry. Madris’ father, Style, grew up on Peleliu — as well as his parents and others in his inner circle who hurriedly traveled to Pittsburgh to watch Bligh.

“Our flight landed at 5 p.m., and we were still on the plane when he sent me a text — ‘Hey, mom, I’m starting in right field,’ ” said Kim Madris, who was born on the south side of Omaha, Nebraska, and met her husband in 1990 when the two were waiting tables at the Fremont Hotel downtown.

They had to hustle like Pete Rose to make it to PNC Park for the first pitch and join a group of Bligh’s well-wishers that included his high school coach, Matt Iglitz.

“I use the term remarkable to describe it, but, to be honest, I don’t think there’s a word that describes it well enough,” said Kim Madris, whose 26-year-old son drove in two runs with a single and became the first Pirate since Jason Kendall in 1996 to hit safely three times in his big league baptism.

“Having my family in the stands and finally being in Pittsburgh is amazing,” Bligh Madris said on the field afterward.

His second night in Pittsburgh was pretty remarkable, too.

Madris — named for an uncle and not the vice admiral of the HMS Bounty — hit a long home run in his second big league game against the Cubs.

Even after going 1-for-9 entering a weekend series at Milwaukee, the former standout at NCAA Division II Colorado Mesa still was hitting .310 after his first 42 at-bats in baseball’s biggest show after a 1-for-3 outing in a 19-2 loss Friday.

“He’s taking advantage of every opportunity that has come his way, and that’s how it has been kind of his entire minor league career, too,” Kim Madris said of her son whose first name and impressive start has resonated with the Pirates’ small but loyal fan base.

“I couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Around the horn

— When longtime Oakland A’s radio play-by-play broadcaster Ken Korach of Las Vegas skipped a recent three-city road trip, it helped an understudy fulfill a lifelong dream. After 31 years of calling games for the A’s’ Texas League affiliate in Midland, Texas, 71-year-old Bob Hards pinch-hit for Korach at Atlanta’s Truist Park.

“It kind of revitalized my baseball heart and soul and gave me a new desire to do as much of a major league job as I can (in Midland),” Hards told The Athletic.

— It was a big week for the NASCAR champion Busch brothers of Las Vegas off the track.

A full-length documentary about Kyle called “Rowdy” debuted in theaters to positive reviews. Kurt crooned “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch of his beloved Chicago Cubs’ 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday at Wrigley Field.

— Associated Press national sports columnist Tim Dahlberg of Las Vegas retired Thursday after an award-winning 43-year career.

“I’ve always wondered what people did at night and on weekends; now I’ll find out,” said Dahlberg, who began his career in the news business with a Review-Journal paper route and was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame — the Nevada Press Association’s highest honor — in 2018.

Dahlberg was one of the nation’s premier boxing writers. But as I wrote at the time of his Hall of Fame induction, he has witnessed and written about so many major sporting events that he doesn’t have a bucket list anymore.


— Barrett Sallee, CBS college football writer, on Southern California and UCLA bolting the Pac-12 for the Big Ten:

“Oregon has left the Pac-12 for the LIV Tour.”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.