Saturday, May 17, 2008

Looking Back at the High Points of the Spring Sports Season

I have had some great jobs in my life, but walking around Fort Borst Park the other night watching a smorgasbord of high quality fastpitch games made me realize this one ranks right up there in with the likes of great opportunities. There I was watching the defending 2007 State Champion Castle Rock playing against the 2006 champion Onalaska in a 5-4 slug-fest. In the field immediately to the east, Toutle Lake , a team that beat Castle Rock just last week in a non-league contest went two extra innings in a dramatic loss to Pe Ell. By the way, those two were among the five last teams left at state last year in their division.
While the season is coming to a close, it just seems fitting. I witnessed in what seems like a few weeks what every adult should see in kids, in teams and in sports. I loved watching the improvement of the Winlock boy’s baseball team and the Napavine girl’s fastpitch teams as they went from winless to respected in the waning days of the season. I remember the intensity of Mike Ayon as he was able to deflect a Rochester penalty kick to the left and deliver a victory for Toledo-Winlock United. I recall watching Onlaska’s, now district champion, Spencer Hunt as he won the 3200 meters, 1600 meters and then within 30 minutes came back to be apart of the winning 1600 meter relay in a very competitive race. As I watched that same track meet, I watched the Onalaska girl’s fastpitch team practice. When they finished up, and were packing up all of their gear, Hailey Givens asked Coach Bill Barnes if he could hit her some grounders. One after another, in almost a rhythmic dance, I heard the clink, bump, slap as the bat connected and hit a blistering roller or bouncer in her direction that was handled well and in quick succession returned to the coach. They were still there as I left the track meet.
Of course there was the hitting clinic of Castle Rock’s Zack Gehring on the day he hit three home runs and drove in 12 RBIs in a double header against Ilwaco. There was the incredible over the shoulder, game saving catch by Winlock’s Kayla Rakes that saved a victory for the Cardinals over Onalaska who is now playing in the post season. Finally, it will be years before I forget the agonizing scene that played out in a muddy fastpitch game between Adna and Toutle Lake . Rachel Dahlman had just collected the ball to make a tag on Adna’s Jessica-Jo Sandrini at home plate. A violent collision ensued and when the mud cleared, Dahlman and Sandrini lay on the ground with the yellow ball right between them, prompting a safe signal by the umpire.
The great events outweigh all of the mistakes I made just trying to find games in the early season (like driving to Morton on a rainy Saturday to find out the game had been moved to a drier field in Napavine). The raw fingers as I took notes and photographs in the rain, hail and wind. There was the endless search to try and photograph Ashlee Coffey throwing the shot and discus along with the plethora of Lady Indian track athletes in the other field events. Yes, and who can forget the baseball game between Rainier and Winlock that started on March 20th and ended on April 14th?
Everywhere I went, there was joy and excitement that seemed to give life to even those not on the field of play. Yes, I have had some great jobs before, but this one has satisfaction beyond all personal expectations.

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