What you're about to read is old news.
More than a year ago, I set out to find sports moments and memories from readers and coaches in Washington County. I largely failed to deliver on the project.
I received some feedback, but the information I gathered, figuratively, got dusty. I saved the notes, but never wrote anything off of them.
That changes today.
Once I finally reread the responses back this week, I realized they'd be perfect for a Thanksgiving column. I have to believe these are moments, memories and stories the respondents are thankful for. And, like them, I'm thankful for sports.
Kent Ferris, a former Blair resident who as of 2018 lived in Muscatine, Iowa, sent the Enterprise a memory from his days as a high school student in the early 1980s. He was keeping scorebook at a T-ball Little League game in Blair when the unthinkable happened.
Ferris said there were little runners — he guessed second- and third-graders — on first and second base with no outs when the batter hit a line drive to the second baseman. That young ballplayer caught the ball, stepped on second to get the too-eager runner who was on his way to third and tagged the runner who was making his way from first to second.
After making the play, the second baseman hustled off the field and spiked the ball on the ground “à la Pete Rose,” Ferris said.
At first, none of the players, coaches or crowd realized they'd just witnessed an unassisted triple play in the middle of a T-ball game.
“I don't remember the second baseman's first name, but his last name was Ray,” Ferris wrote to us. “Triple Play Ray. I'll never forget it.”
Blair wrestling coach Erich Warner provided plenty of material for my story that never materialized, too. Here's what sticks out, though — a 2004 Blair dual win against Gretna.
Warner was an assistant to coach Aaron McClain, who's squad topped the Dragons 33-27. The Bears' victory was a “huge upset.”
“I just talked to Aaron, but we can't remember Gretna's exact record. They were somewhere around 92-1 over the previous eight seasons when Blair beat them,” the current coach wrote me last year. “It was a pretty big moment for our program and no one wrote about it, not even the Blair Enterprise who just put in a small writeup over the dual and a box score.”
Hopefully, more folks remember this dual today after this column.
Arlington softball coach Janelle Lorsch responded to my request for memories as well, but couldn't pick just one.
“I have too many favorite memories to count, and it would be hard to pick just one,” she wrote. “My favorite memories all involve watching players achieve personal and team successes. It's so much fun as a coach to watch an athlete's face when they hit a game-winner, pitch the final strikeout or make a diving play.”
Fort Calhoun football coach Andrew Christensen and Arlington girls golf coach Jason Wiese echoed the sentiment.
“It’s not a specific memory, but watching these players transform from boys to young men is my favorite aspect of coaching,” Christensen said. “We meet these players in our youth football camp as young as third-graders and work with them until they graduate as successful students, athletes and young men. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
“The fact that I have had the opportunity to work with high character ladies every year is something I cherish,” Wiese said.
Reading through these old comments more and more, I realized that coaches are truly thankful for the time they spend with their athletes. Michaela Curran, Kyle McMahon, James Slie, Steven Gubbels, Jennifer Fangmeier, Ginger Appel, Heather Mueller, Ross Udey and Bryan Soukup all responded to my 2018 question with similar, appreciative answers.
So, while I may have not delivered on the project I set out on in 2018, I feel like I got a thoughtful Thanksgiving column out of the feedback received. Whether it was just a single moment in time, or an experience as a whole, sports have given us a lot to be thankful over the years.
“I love this job,” coach Soukup wrote me in 2018. “I have great memories of each year. (I'm) thankful for all the young men that have played and been members of the Blair football program.”
P.S., if anybody knows who Triple Play Ray might be, tell him to call 402-426-2121 and ask for Grant.