Monthly Archives: May 2016

A beautiful sight.

19 years. 

For me, through the ten years as an assistant coach and four years helping from the fringes, this picture speaks volumes. It represents 14 years of hope and work and falling just short. 

It had been 19 years since Clay Center Comminity High School qualified for the KSHSAA state baseball tournament. 

I remember the first appearance in 1997. It was the first high school baseball game I’d been to in years. I had turned my back to the game after flaming out as a college freshman in 1983. Immaturity, poor decision making and crappy lifestyle choices ended my career playing a game I had love so much. 

I went to that game in 1997 mainly to see my old Legion coach, Dennis Hurla, who coached Clay Center’s opponent, Bishop Ward. Seeing Dennis and watching the high school game being played woke me from the frost of my self-impose exile. I became excited about the game again, began to learn & relearn as much as I could about the game, and found a new path in coaching. 

19 years later, the boys scratched their way into the state tournament. They lost their first round game to a good team but, more importantly, I hope they’ve triggered another wave of hope to the young (and old) baseball communities in our grand, little town.

A huge “Thank you” to the seniors who scratched and clawed and found a way to succeed. Also, a great amount of appreciation goes to Coach Bent and Coach Carlson for setting high standards and demanding excellence, even during the darkest of times.

Finally, a challenge to the Tiger Baseball underclassmen. Don’t be happy with how 2016 ended. There is still A LOT of work to be done to get the program where is needs to be and where it should be. Don’t assume success in 2017 is a done deal. Nothing is a given in sport. You need to put yourself in position to grab the brass ring first. And then you need to reach out and grab it from your competition.

Let this appearance change your life the way the Tiger Baseball game in 1997 helped change mine. 

Baseball can be “our” sport.

And, after a 19-year hiatus, this can be our time. 

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“Are you proud?”

I was doing my best to be a badass. It was working pretty good. Well, it was working well enough to keep second graders in line at their fine arts visit to the university. It was the class of second graders that my eldest daughter teaches. I walked across campus on a brisk, cloudy morning to help corral and keep the kids in line. A job right up my alley? Perhaps.

For you folks with no experience in the art of elementary school field trip duty, let me tell you a 30 minutes cello + piano concert is an amazing cultural opportunity for these kids, but…it is not the easiest thing to get an auditorium full of 8 & 9-year-olds to behave and listen to a 30-minute cello + piano recital. Not an easy thing at all.

The kids were awesome! They paid attention and listened; really listened to the music. I only had to pull out the Coach Hays death glare a couple of times and even had a productive discussion with the supposed “naughtiest” kid in the class who I had the pleasure to sit next to.

After the show, the class waited for their bus to arrive on the sidewalk outside the venue. Classic elementary school style of single file line order. My daughter leads the line and my job is to bring up the rear and not to lose any kids. The precision spacing and order of the line begins to break down as soon as we quit walking and start waiting. Kids start nervously moving around and telling “interesting” stories about their cat, their little brother, or their mother’s current boyfriend. Herding goats is actually easier to keeping these kids in alignment, but we survived.

A group of girls drifts back to the end of the line and the spokesperson of the group slides over until she is standing directly in front of me. She looks up with an angelic, second-grader face and asks, “Are Ms. Hays’s dad?”

“Yes.” I begin to wonder where this is going as the throng of girls collectively inch closer.

“Mr. Hays, are you proud of her?”


I was stopped in my tracks. My badass failed me. My cold heart melted.

Yes. I am extremely proud of my kids. One teacher and, in a week, two college graduates. I am beyond proud the way they’ve started their lives outside the nest.

“Yes, I am.” was my simple answer. Three words that easily could have blown up into a thousand words (and possibly with colorful language not appropriate for second-grade ears). The little girl’s face lit up and her smile almost made me break down in tears. The bus soon came and I said goodbye to all my second-grade friends.

As I walked across campus a proud dad, I hoped each of the little girls, and the rest of the kids in the class, had someone in their life to be proud of them. I wished the people in these kid’s lives appreciated their potential and will help them grow into something they can take great pride in.

It’s a great feeling having kids turning into adults, especially when they are turning into much better adults than their “badass” old man.

It feels kind of like…


Every single day.


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