Nebraska team still gets to celebrate

August 2, 2013

It’s not really a championship unless you get to celebrate on the field, is it?

So when the Hickman-Norris High School team, preparing to play for the Nebraska Class B American Legion baseball title on Wednesday, was gathered by its coach and told there would be no game, but it had been awarded a state crown, just think what a comedown that was.

What happened was that six players from Hickman-Norris’ opponent, Waverly, had allegedly been caught out the night before drinking alcohol. Under American Legion rules, the six were suspended, leaving Waverly with just eight players, not enough to field a team, and forcing Waverly to forfeit.

“A tough moment, honestly,” coach Will Raftery told the Omaha World-Herald. “And to be honest with you, I think I was more emotional about not playing even than the team was. You talk about it all year, you set the goal, and then you are right there and all of a sudden the phone rings …”


The players still wanted to go to the field. So they did. And then one of Raftery’s assistants, whose son plays on the team, had an idea. Go ahead and play: Fathers vs. Sons.

And so they did, for one inning. Two important things happened: Apparently, none of the dads got hurt. And the Hickman-Norris players got to celebrate on the field, rushing the pitcher’s mound, falling in a joyous dogpile, just the way teenage boys should when they do something as momentous as win a state championship.

Hickman-Norris’ Trey Hair, whose father, Ted, had the idea to play the “game,” said: “Yeah, it stunk that we didn't get to play. But we're still state champions. We know we earned it. And that dogpile … that dogpile was perfect.”

If it seems all we can think about when it comes to baseball these days is Biogenesis and A-Rod and looming suspensions, let’s pause to think of the Hickman-Norris kids instead. Let’s think about Trey and Ted Hair remembering that moment together for years to come. And if that doesn’t make you grin or give you a little catch in the throat or maybe both, fine. Don’t mind us. We’ll just linger here a little longer, remembering playing catch with Dad in the backyard.

H/T: Omaha World-Herald