State Stories

31

IHSA Spring Sportsmanship Stories

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As a part of the IHSA Do What’s Right! Sportsmanship Program, member school personnel and licensed IHSA officials have the ability to recognize acts of exemplary sportsmanship and integrity that occur in IHSA events throughout the school year via the Sport A Winning Attitude Report (SAWA). Those who are recognized receive a special certificate from the IHSA and select SAWAs are featured here on the IHSAState website.

The following is an updating compilation of SAWA Reports submitted by IHSA officials from spring sports during the 2017 season:


Prior to today's game between St Viator and Hersey, Coach Mike Manno and his staff honored visiting Coach Bob Huber of Hersey. Coach Huber is retiring after 23 years of coaching baseball at Hersey. During the pre-game presentation Coach Manno spoke to the crowd about Coach Huber's outstanding career. He not only talked about the baseball side of things, but more importantly, complimented Coach Huber for the work he did in building the characters of several hundred student athletes over the years. St Viator arranged for the young man who pitched in Coach Huber's first victory in 1995, to also speak about Coach Huber. In addition, Coach Huber was presented with a special framed picture honoring his career. Coach Manno and his staff showed a lot of class today and set a great example of great sportsmanship for all the student athletes from both schools.


Oak Forest HS & Shepard HS were engaged in a well played, entertaining, conference varsity baseball game. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with the winning run on 3rd and 2 outs, a defining moment took place. A wild pitch caromed off the brick backstop in the general direction of home plate. The runner dashed toward the plate as the catcher, Dylan Hanson, scrambled to recover the baseball, secure it in his glove and dive toward the plate. He arrived an instant prior to the runner's foot touching the plate. Unfortunately for him, the glove missed tagging the runner. The pitcher turned to me, exclaiming, "What? He tagged him!" Dylan, on his knees, head bowed, quietly said, "no, he got it right." My paretner and I exited as the the teams lined up to shake hands. While removing my gear at my car, the Oak Forest team passed on way to their bus. Dylan stopped, waved & wished me well. We had a brief, positive conversation. This was an example of the very things we should be encouraging, teaching & expressing. A young man was the best he could be, treated his teammates and opponents as he wished to be treated and did the right thing. It is never easy for any of us to admit we were wrong, made a mistake, did not succeed. In a tense, stressful, potentially volatile situation, Dylan Hanson did that and did it as if it came naturally to him. He should be commended, respected & admired for that.


I have had the opportunity to umpire several Streator High School varsity baseball games this season. On each occasion when I was behind the plate, I had the pleasure of working with catcher John Beckendorf. He demonstrated leadership and outstanding sportsmanship each occasion. He never questioned a call, he always responded “Yes Sir” or “No Sir”. On one occasion when I was struck with a foul ball he took the time to ensure I was okay and apologized for letting the foul ball strike me. When a teammate made a great play, he was the first to recognize that player. When a teammate made an error, he was the first to encourage the player “to get it next time”. Not once did he criticize a teammate. He would even congratulate an opponent on a good hit or play in the field. John has demonstrated some of the best leadership and sportsmanship that I observed this entire 2017 season.


Early in the game, with St. Ignatius Coach Sean Mason's team trailing 4-0, one of his players hit a deep fly that the home plate umpire signaled as a home run. Per the ground rules discussion at home plate, the ruling should have been a groundrule double or a live ball. As both umpires were discussing the play, Coach Mason came out on the field and reiterated that it actually was not a home run, rather a groundrule double. Not many coaches would have come out to actually take a run off the board for his team in the sportsmanlike fashion that he did (especially already losing in the contest). We appreciate coaches who do what's right and show their student-athletes to do what is right in these situations. Coach Mason...thanks for being a wonderful role model!


I would like to recognize Buffalo Grove High School catcher Tyler Rundquist for an outstanding job today. Tyler’s display of athleticism was the best I have seen this season. He was working extremely hard today, hustling in and out of the dugout, blocking pitches, and hustling to make plays. What impressed me the most was the way he communicated and kept a good working relationship throughout the game. Tyler defines SAWA with his positive attitude and work ethic.


I was umpiring the bases for the first game of a scheduled doubleheader on a very cold day when a situation occurred concerning a ball hit by Waubonsie Valley player. Glenbard West was losing by about five runs when the ball was hit and my partner was unsure if it went over the outfield fence on the fly. He and I were discussing it, when I heard the centerfielder (Lexi Gregule) call out that it had indeed gone over the fence. I told my partner and we ruled it a homerun. It was very sportsmanlike to have a fielder confirm the homerun even though the run would be against her team. Often times, players will remain quiet in situations like this. I appreciated her honesty and informed her coach after the game to obtain her name. Lexi Gregule should be commended for her sense of fair play and honesty while playing the great game of softball.


Thornton Fractional North Coach Anthony Pignietello demonstrated terrific sportsmanship during his contest vs. Thornwood. Coach Pignietello would not advance runners on passed balls or allow players to take extra bases and score runs which normally would be certain runs. Coach took the spirit of opposing players into consideration while his team was having a leg up on their competitors. Coach Pignietello also did a great job teaching his players in a stern yet father-like manner throughout the contest and the players all responded in a more than positive manner. I commend Coach Pignietello and would be honored to officiate for him and his team anytime in the future.


I am writing this SAWA because I had the pleasure of working a game where I had one of the most positive young ladies I have seen in a long time. Riverton catcher Leah Foreman has a great presence in the game. During the game, Leah communicated great with me as an official, and did several things that I felt I had to report. I watched her time and time again when the opposing team hit a foul ball, she would pick up their bat and hand it to them before going back to her catching position. During the game I was hit by two foul balls, on the first one I didn't realize what Leah was doing at first. It became rather clear that without anyone telling her to do so, she called time and went to talk to the pitcher to give me some time to make sure I was okay. The second time I was able to let her know that I was okay and was amazed that she had the presence to do this without be told to do it. Now for what I thought was the best show of sportsmanship during the game, there was a play at the plate and the opposing player slid into the plate and the two of them got tangled up. After calling the player out, the players got up and started in different directions. I watched Leah turn and go to the opposing player and ask her if she was okay. Leah is the type of player that every coach would love to have on their team and every official loves working the game when she is playing.


I'm writing to recognize Mahomet-Seymour freshman catcher Grant Harvey for his diplomatic ability in handling a parent that was getting vocal regarding the strike zone in Mahomet's game versus Normal Community West. I was the plate umpire for this game. A Mahomet parent was getting disgruntled and vocalizing his displeasure at my calling pitches that were crossing at the bottom of the knee strikes. In the bottom of the third inning, I called a "ball" on a pitch that was clearly a strike on a Normal West batter. I told Grant that I had flat out missed the call. As this parent started to voice his opinion of the pitch, Grant gestured to the parent to "calm down." After gesturing to the parent, Grant turned around and said, "Don't worry, I got you blue." As play about to begin in the bottom of the fourth, I asked Grant which parent he was to which he replied, "don't worry about him, he's just loud and has no filter." Grant then turned toward the Mahomet parents, put his index finger over his mouth as if to say "shhh" to the Mahomet parents. There was little said about balls and strikes by the Mahomet parents after that. I feel that it takes a lot of maturity for a 15 year old to be willing to take control of the situation like Grant did.


I want to take this opportunity to recognize Newark High School baseball coach Coach JR Veliz for his outstanding coaching in the game I umpired vs. Amboy High School. Coach Veliz has a very young team. The team jumped out to a five run lead early in the game. As Amboy began their comeback which was assisted by several errors (mental & physical) mistakes by Newark players, there wasn’t one negative comment from Coach Veliz to his players. Newark regained the lead late in the game, but Amboy mounted another rally to finally win the game in the bottom of the 7th inning. Again, not one negative comment from Coach Veliz, all positive comments to the players. In my opinion, Coach Veliz demonstrated what coaching your players should be, all positive.


In the 3rd inning, with Argo on a slight rally against Richards, I called one of Coach Andrew Corbin's players out for leaving early on a fly ball from 3rd base. It would have tied the score, but instead it ended the inning. I was working the plate and instead of rushing towards me aggressively, which normally would happen in this situation, both he and his assistant coach asked me very nicely what I saw, listened to my explanation and excepted what I told them. I would also like to also say that he has made tremendous strides with the Argo softball program, which for many years was down. I welcome more opportunities to officiate their contests I hope they feel the same.


At the sophomore level game, Sycamore catcher Matthew Cusumano exhibited great sportsmanship during the entire game. He was complementing opponents for great play, and just overall a very friendly and upbeat person. He had a winning attitude the entire game, winning or losing. He was a great example of how a high school player should play the game.


Seneca High School made the effort to recognize an opposing Head Baseball Coach, Jerry McDowell, from a rival school (Coal City) who is retiring at the end of this school year. It was done at the pre-game coaches/umpires meeting so that Coach McDowell would already be on the diamond at the center of attention. It was a nice gesture to honor a good coach and good man in Jerry McDowell during his last coaching appearance at Seneca.


Great sportsmanship displayed by the varsity boys baseball team at Plainfield East. I umpired a game at the school recently, and it was a distinct pleasure. Several plays by the opposing team kept the game close. I could see appreciation by the Plainfield East players with their 'thumbs up' for some great efforts by the visitors. It was a game well played & coached by both teams. All of the players from Plainfield East played with enthusiasm and heart. Several close calls went against the team, but everyone kept their heads up and played with good sportsmanship through-out the game. It was obvious head coach Adam O'Reel and his assistant coaches are big factors in teaching these values to the student athletes. Keep up the good work and good luck with your season!