The Seasons And The Nature Of Competition
A look backwards at Jack Hick’s record of accomplishments delivers a sense of success and excellence. His life, in fact, is a series of events well-accomplished – and not simply the sporting life. While he will have his regrets, just as we all do, the color, form, noise and sensations of these highest moments are 360 degrees of experience and are represented by the impressions delivered by a thousand players who each brought something different to the games. They also had an equally different perspective on the lessons learned and the thrills implied.
I have included reminiscences from various players in my analysis of these seasons. They somewhat complete a picture not only of glory but of youthful experience and the education for life which constitute the character-building enterprise of athletics in general and of Owensboro, Kentucky baseball specifically.
Included are heart-breaking disappointments. My own experiences include the losing end of a 17 inning marathon, 5 and a half hours of baseball played on a warm early Summer day in the Semi Finals of the Kentucky High School State Championships in Lexington. We were all near tears – exhausted, failed and especially sad for our pitcher who pitched the entire game – Wayne Greenwell – who deserved a better fate after striking out 27 batters in what had to be a 200 pitch performance. That was the hardest loss I ever experienced in sports.
Jack’s earliest team reached the State Finals in the first year he ever coached high school in 1957 and in 2 other years following soon on the heels of that. It was their misfortune to run up against the Louisville Manual baseball juggernaut of that era. Yes, they also fell short and the bitterness of loss was a palpable thing. Indeed, “Loss”, as a concept, is probably the single most vital element of sports. Especially in baseball. I know from my own perceptions, even with the team I played on who won it all, there was never a moment before a game, watching another team warm up and do their pregame drills, when I did not wonder how the heck we were going to beat anyone that “good”. Secretly, I often wondered after ball games how we could have done so well with such equality in talent. The unfolding of success was always such a wonder to me. I felt so lucky to have the players around me that I did. We could do anything.
I believe the magic lies there. The every day refreshment of competition is a self-sustaining thing. It is actually a secret reward to play for a team. Everyone “wins” who competes. I believe this with every fiber of my being and I know this is Jack Hicks’ approach to the game of baseball and , even life itself. For every sublime moment of outright success and venerable accomplishment, there is a Shadow Element of failure motivating the winning. Humility becomes a team’s most prominent ally, proven so often it should be etched as script for every Mom and Dad who suffers with their sons’ and daughters’ experience as athletes.
When your tomorrows look as rosy as they should, great things happen.