ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Starting high school baseball and softball a few years ago at Hillsboro High School appeared to be a no-brainer. After all, baseball is America’s so-called pastime.
My only regret was that HHS didn’t have baseball when I went to high school. Unfortunately, we were limited to summer baseball because baseball as a high school varsity sport wasn’t yet in vogue.
Track and field was the major spring sport offered, so I dabbled in track as a high school freshman. Field events didn’t offer me any hope. Picking up a shot put was a chore and throwing it was out of the question. I might have been able to carry it as far as guys like Milford Klaassen were throwing it, but that’s about it. My jumping ability was nondescript, so I tried running.
I didn’t have blazing speed so that ruled out the dashes. My best event was running long distance, but it took me far too long to reach the finish line. It didn’t take as long to realize that track and field wasn’t for me.
But let’s get back to the future.
I’m surprised the HHS track and field program is doing so well. It doesn’t make sense. It’s illogical. It’s great!
When HHS started baseball and softball some years ago I figured the demise of the track program was only a matter of time. There’s no indication the demise is imminent.
Let me be clear. I wish no ill will to the athletes and coaches in track and field. In fact, I admire what they’re accomplishing. It takes a special breed of athlete to participate and compete in track. Yes, there are team scores, but it’s mostly an individual sport.
Track and field records are dropping like flies this spring. The boys’ team has dominated or soundly beaten most opponents. The girls are either winning meets or coming close. It’s hard to predict whether Hillsboro will win a state championship, but it will be fun to watch.
Track doesn’t attract much attention. ESPN doesn’t show track and field highlights every night. Instead, you see home runs and great defensive plays. There’s very little encouragement for those in track and field.
About the only time track and field is covered extensively on television is during the summer Olympics. The other years, dog shows probably get more TV time than track and field.
Track and field also doesn’t capture broad fan support like most team sports. People are frequently classified as football, volleyball, basketball, baseball or softball fans-not track-and-field fans.
Unless you’re a parent of a track athlete, it’s a challenge to follow track and field. There are very few home track meets. Besides, how many sporting events do you know that run from 3 to 9 p.m.?
There’s also the matter of field events being held simultaneously. It’s impossible to keep up with all events while sitting on your hands in the stands. It’s more complicated than a three-ring circus.
Class 3A high schools have a limited pool of athletes for some spring sports that require significant numbers. The law of averages would say its next to impossible to field strong teams in track and field, and baseball and softball.
Would the HHS track teams be stronger if baseball and softball weren’t offered? Probably. Would it be worth it? Probably not.
HHS has more than its share of talented athletes right now. They are successfully competing in their respective sports. I still predict-and I hope I’m wrong-that sometime in the not-to-distant future, track and field will suffer a downturn.
As far as that goes, the HHS baseball and softball teams won’t always be as strong as they are this year. A Class 3A high school will seldom have such a group of talented athletes.
But that misses the point. As long as athletes are interested in a particular sport, they deserve a chance to give it their best.