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08/02/2013 - From The Press Box: Hickman-Norris Wins Class B Legion Title In An Unusual Way

 It's not the way Hickman-Norris' Legion baseball team wanted to end their season, let alone winning a state title.  It definitely wasn't the way Waverly wanted to end their season, either.

But when you are short one player to play in the Class B State Legion Baseball tournament championship, you have no choice to forfeit.  Waverly was in that position and had no choice.

For Hickman-Norris, it wasn't the way they wanted to end their summer journey to Scottsbluff.  Even though they automatically won the state title, it wasn't as dramatic and exciting as it would have been playing their longtime Lancaster County rivals.

The reason for Waverly's forfeit: six players allegedly out drinking and vandalizing property in a Scottsbluff neighborhood early Wednesday morning.  Four of the players were cited for minor in possession, one of them for vandalism after he apparently hit a mailbox with a baseball bat.  Quite a sad ending for two teams about 15 miles or so apart from each other who traveled six hours west to decide a state champion.

In light of the incident, the founder of the Waverly High School baseball program and longtime Legion coach Michael Goodrich resigned.  His resignation has yet to be accepted by Waverly school officials as of Friday morning.

The other eight Waverly players are left wondering the rest of their lives how the season would have ended for them if this incident wouldn't have happened. 

As for the six young men involved, they have this ordeal looming over their heads for the rest of their lives.  It's easy to say selfishness played a role, but I'm not going to further elaborate on that aspect.  I will say their actions impacted everyone involved (teammates, coaches, parents, fans and opposing team members). 

Both baseball programs are well respected for their accomplishments during the spring and Legion seasons.  Norris won the Class B crown in May, while Waverly qualified for the state tournament and went extra innings in the tourney opener against the Titans before falling 2-1.

For Coach Goodrich, I feel nothing but sympathy, if that's an appropriate word to use in this context.  I don't know him personally, but my observations of him from afar show that he's demonstrated early success in Waverly's baseball program.  Yes he's held responsible for the players he coaches, but he can't always watch them 24 hours a day.  

It's a judgment call on the players' part.  They're at an age where they should start to understand the types of choices they make.  NOT every choice they make will be perfect, but you hope they understand the consequences.

Reading Matthew Hansen's article in Friday's edition of the Omaha World Herald where the players from Norris played an inning against their dads and coaches only to culminate with a dogpile on the field as if they actually played in the title game was fabulous.

It brought some closure to a season-long journey to a state championship they received and never played for on a warm, sunny day in Scottsbluff.  Hickman-Norris coach Will Raftery had to break the news to his players and parents with an awkward mix of emotions. Regardless, before they left town the team stopped by the ball field and played an inning, only to have the team celebrate after the parents couldn't score in the final half of the inning.

As a former athlete, I could understand the pain both teams are enduring. It's not the way a season in any sport should end. This will likely be talked about by everyone involved forever. Then again, it may not and simply be a nightmare that everyone wants to forget.

Those of you from both schools or have relatives connected to each program, don't take this as a criticism in a negative sense.  Norris and Waverly are great schools, have wonderful people and student-athletes and shouldn't have this "incident" reflect against their quality of life. 

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