A local scribe goes around the horn on three subjects:
MAKINNA AKERS: The former Roseburg High softball pitcher, who played Division I ball at Boston University, relished the opportunity to play professionally overseas in Germany the last two summers.
Akers, 23, was a player and coach for the Neunkirchen Nightmares in 2017. She was a player/coach for the Stuttgart Reds last summer. She shared some thoughts on Facebook, then we had a phone interview after she returned to Oregon in September.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate since graduating from BU,” Akers said. “I had an amazing experience (with Neunkirchen) last year, so I decided to come back and play again between my coaching seasons (for George Fox University in Newberg).
“Softball is very different outside the states, but it’s more fun. Everyone does it for the love of the game and they play every position. I would promote softball overseas for any girl who wants to keep playing after college. You meet amazing people and get to travel, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences.”
A highlight last summer for Akers was playing for the Croatian Prince team in the European Cup in Turin, Italy, in late August.
“I got to hit a lot this year,” she said. “I’ve always loved hitting and being able to play a full game. I also saw time at first base and third base (in addition to pitching).”
Akers says Stuttgart covered her housing and food costs, and some travel.
“Living in Germany was stress-free,” she said. “Learning the language was challenging at times.”
Akers is undecided whether she’ll play in Germany next year. She’s going to Israel in March to play in a tournament.
She loves working with kids. Akers has worked with young players who have participated in Indian Fastpitch during the summer months and gives private pitching lessons.
“Softball and sports have opened up so many doors in my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done without sports.”
Akers, who lives in Sherwood and is a substitute teacher in the Lake Oswego school district, enjoys being on the George Fox coaching staff, headed by Jessica Hollen.
Two former Douglas County players, Katie Ladd of Roseburg and Allison Michel of Glide, are on the Bruins’ 2019 roster.
Akers is working toward completing her requirements for occupational and massage therapy.
“Life’s very good for me right now,” she said.
ERIN COWAN: The former Umpqua Community College basketball standout, who went on to play at Idaho State University, passed away on Sept. 3 of complications due to an adverse reaction to medication for treatment of a condition of gout.
He was 46.
Cowan, a 5-foot-9 point guard out of Jefferson High of Portland, played for the Timbermen (now Riverhawks) from 1989-91. UCC finished third in the NWAC tournament in 1990 and was fifth in 1991 under Rod Snook.
Umpqua compiled a record of 45-17 during those two seasons. Cowan averaged 22.5 points, 8.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore.
Cowan ranks second behind Anthony Steward on the all-time UCC scoring list with 1,078 points and is among the top five in assists.
“Erin was very outgoing. He dealt with the (Roseburg) community well,” said Snook, who attended a celebration of life for Cowan on Sept. 17 in the Jefferson High gym. “Erin and Anthony were the best guards I had at UCC.”
Cowan stepped up his game at Idaho State, receiving all-Big Sky Conference honors as a senior.
He went on to become a major player in video marketing.
Cowan was an agent for Ime Udoka, who went on to play in the NBA, and served as an adviser for Damon Stoudamire, who had a successful career in the NBA — including the Portland Trail Blazers.
Cowan’s service was conducted by The Rev. Carlos Richard, who was a teammate at Jefferson and UCC.
“Erin made a tremendous impact on the Jefferson community,” said Snook.
Cowan is survived by his wife of 11 years, Kamiko; and daughters Brandi, Jade, Mia, Eryn and Seiji.
JARED CASTLE: I was sorry to learn the Sutherlin High graduate passed away on Oct. 19 following an illness. He was 47.
Jared worked at The News-Review as a part-time sports reporter during his high school days in the late 1980s. Former sports editor Craig Reed and myself always enjoyed his bubbly personality.
He was the sports editor of The World in Coos Bay after college. Jared went on to spend five years in Japan teaching English. He returned to Oregon in 1999 and was a public information officer for ODOT until his death.
A co-employee at ODOT called me the other day, praising Jared’s work for the company behind the scenes.
Jared is survived by his wife, Yumi; sons Kai and Kou; parents John and Jann; and sisters Jennifer and Vicky.