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.