Vidakovich column: Thinking of you
It’s hard to know where to begin, or to adequately put all of my thoughts down into words. So I will just say that I was thinking of you.
I was thinking of you, Coach Chavez, as I watched the entire crowd rise to its feet when you were introduced to them on Friday night in the gymnasium named after you and Mr. Spencer. Through most of my young life and into my later years I witnessed firsthand all of your accomplishments on the court while you guided your cherished Demon boys. This isn’t what really matters to us, though. What was most important is that you treated us all like we were your very own, not just basketball players to help gain a victory that really factors little into life. We can never repay what you taught and how you have continued to set an example of success for us all. I can only say thank you, but I wish I could do much more.
I was thinking of you, Scott Bolitho, Rick Chavez and Chris Massaro. You always have been and always will be three of my best friends in life. Seeing you this weekend, even if it was for a brief time, meant so much to me. You often chose to put me on a pedestal, but I never understood why. I am the one who looked up to you, and I will continue to do so. Just like Coach, your lives are an example of what honesty, hard work and compassion will lead to. I’m going to make a point to see you all more in future days. None of us know how many chances we have left with the precious commodity called time. My time with you has always been well spent.
I was thinking of you, Rick Eccher. If friendships are forged through hard times, competitions and challenges, then we set a shining example for each other. With every contest we embarked on, the ultimate goal was to beat the tar out of the other person. Some of our one-on-one basketball games in your driveway would often end in an argument, scuffle, or a put-on-the-boxing-gloves fight. We made each other better through it all, and it drew us closer as friends and teammates. I would have gone to war with you then, and would go in a heartbeat now.
I was thinking of you, Glenn Samuelson and Jim Brockway. I may have spent as much time at your homes when I was a kid as I did my own. Your parents welcomed me and took me in like I was a member of the family. We don’t see each other much these days even though we’re not that far away. Thank you for being my friend through all of these years that have gone by way too quickly. Like the others, I will try to keep in closer touch before we grow so old that we forget how important we are to one another.
I was thinking of you, Greg Piper and Norm Bolitho. The two youngest members of our team. You worked hard and tried not just to fit in but to help make us better. I’m glad I still get to see you from time to time, Stormin’ Norman. The kids at GSHS love you, and it’s easy to see why. As for you, Pipe. Houston is far away, so I may not see you again for awhile, but I will always remember the diligence with which you approached the game of basketball. You made yourself a great player to go along with the great person you already were. Your life is the marvelous success I always knew it would be.
I was thinking of you, Kevin Flohr. The new kid who moved in when we were in junior high school and immediately went toe to toe with everyone. You were talented and driven. It has paid off in a big way for you with all of the career accomplishments and wonderful family you have. Just like with Eccher, I battled you every step of the way, never wanting you to get the upper hand. But in the end we were teammates with a common goal in basketball and life. Your life has been one to be proud of.
I was thinking of you, Troy Holman. You were an unsung hero on our team. I could never beat you on that little court in your backyard, but I kept trying and trying with little to ever show for it. You were the quiet one who always went about your business in a calm and focused manner. On any other team in the state, you would have been a starter. You accepted your role with us, and always did a heck of a job, just like you continue to do now.
I was thinking of you, Jim Richmond. Speaking of battling someone for an entire lifetime, I think we have proved to be classic rivals. Whether it was tennis, basketball, running, ping pong or you name it. Neither one of us ever cared to harbor the thought of losing to the other. I would storm the beach with you, though. Your hard work in life speaks volumes. It always has. The folks at the Glenwood Golf Course would be lost without you, Mr. Superintendent.
I was thinking of you, Ed Brady. We weren’t really close in high school, but I always loved watching you football guys. I never missed a home game at Glenwood High and wouldn’t have for the world. I’m glad you could make it on Friday. Most of the team was there, and you were as big a part of it as any of us. I hope to see you again soon.
I was thinking of you, Bill Pearce. We all missed you. You were taken away from us way too early in life. I’m sure our paths will cross again someday. We’ll have some catching up to do when we meet.
I was thinking of you, Fred Heisel and Rhonda Moser. It was so thoughtful of you to have your players line up on the baseline and watch our ceremony. It meant a lot to all of us. They seem like very nice kids, and they are good players. Even though you two are much older than them, I think you are nice kids also.
I was thinking of you, too, Rifle Bear Masi Smith. When I introduced you to Coach Chavez following your game with the Demons, I saw the tears streaming down your face when he hugged you. I know you were thinking of your Grandpa Jack Smith, who was a rival competitor — but a close friend — of my coach. When I saw your emotions, I had to fight back some of my own. Don’t worry, Masi, your grandpa is still watching over you, and he always will be. And isn’t it amazing that on a night as special as Friday, it can even bring young Bears and old Demons to stand side by side and shed a few tears. Maybe there is hope for us all in this life.
I was thinking of all of you, and I always will.
Mike Vidakovich writes freelance for the Post Independent.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.