Good News From The Bad News Bears

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The Coolidge Bears won't field a fast pitch softball team this spring because only nine players turned out for the opening practices.

The lack of a team is a bad news, good news situation for the Lady Longhorns.

The positive aspects of Coolidge's departure is it increases Payson's opportunity to earn a berth in the state tournament with fewer teams competing for the three playoff slots. The negatives are that the Lady Horns now have less competition and fewer games to prepare for a playoff run.

Because players are traditionally lost to academic ineligibility and injuries, a minimum of 15 are needed for a team.

Coolidge coach Helen Henry told the media she believes the lack of interest in Coolidge is because some of the girls get burned out on sports by the time the spring season rolls around.

Also, she said, the team's practice site is about a mile from the high school campus and that creates problems.

Coolidge's problems are in direct contrast to those at Payson High School where coaches and administrators struggle to fund new programs.

All-State wrestlers
The Arizona Coaches' Association announced its 1999 All-State Wrestling team Friday and two PHS athletes were named honorable mention.

152-pound Mike Armstrong and heavyweight Blair River both picked up the honors.

All-Arizona
The Arizona Republic newspaper selected its All-Arizona basketball team for all classifications based on staff observations and coaches' nominations.

Sunday, those results were announced and the PHS boys' program was shut out.

That wasn't much of a surprise since Payson's most viable candidate, Hunter Walden, missed most of the season with a knee injury.

For the Lady Horns, senior Stephanie Robertson was selected honorable mention.

Coolidge's Terrance Gant, who Horn fans had their fill of during the past season, was named the small school (1A-3A) player of the year.

Mesa Mountain View boys' coach Gary Ernst - who has a second home in Payson and annually brings his Toro team to the PHS summer tournament - was named the top boys' coach among the 4A-5A schools. Ernst, a genuinely nice guy, has built a 307-124 record at Mountain View that includes three state crowns.

Away from the court, he loves spending time in Payson with his family.

Parker-bashing
Wouldn't you know it? At least one in the big city media - probably someone who's never worn an athletic supporter or coached a day in his life - has begun to throw brick bats at legendary coach Jesse Parker after he was chosen head coach at Gilbert High School.

Parker, who has a record of 232-64-3 has won five state championships and is the third winningest coach in Arizona prep history.

Some don't like his stern disciplinary approach to the sport and the role he played in the infamous pink bellies controversy at Mesa Mountain View last year.

Sure, coach Parker is controversial but nobody will ever debate the positive impact he's had on the kids he's coached.

My pa - raised a California rancher and farmer - often said, "Remember, you can't plow a field without raising dust."

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