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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Reprieve

Good morning!

On Thursday night, Pioneer Valley Regional School boys’ basketball coach Dave Hastings was notified by Principal Bill Wehrli that he’d be keeping his job. Hastings had been in limbo for six months, not knowing if he’d be back for a 12th season after being told the position would be advertised, which is the polite way of saying you’re done.

Athletic director Gina Johnson did add one caveat, telling Hastings he could reapply and address the issues that had caused school administrators to decide to look elsewhere for a boys’ basketball coach.

Somewhat shocked, Hastings submitted a 56-page, shock-and-awe resume that described his coaching background and was buttressed by personal references and letters of support.

During several email exchanges on Thursday and Friday, Pioneer Principal Bill Wehrli said a successful coach is the mentor who comports himself well during a game and has the proper perspective about what a win or loss means in the grand scheme.

“Last season wasn’t successful,” he wrote. “The goal of our athletic program is for students to learn teamwork and gain perseverance and character.”

School administrators don’t want a repeat of what happened at the turn of the century when Pioneer was fined $5,000 and the boys’ basketball team was banned for one season of postseason play after the MIAA ruled that coach Perry Messer had used an ineligible player in 2000-2001.

“They didn’t want to run into the same thing they had with Perry,” said Rick Gamelin, the school’s longtime PA announcer who moved to Florida three years ago. “Perry got too involved. You wouldn’t want to go into the locker room at halftime, the language and the way he was screaming and yelling. I couldn’t say the same thing about Dave because I was never in the locker room at halftime with him, but he was really into it.”

Three other candidates applied for the job, including former Greenfield High School standout Angelo Thomas and Pioneer alumni Mike Kachelmeyer and Matt Llewelyn. Thomas decided to take the head coaching job at Hopkins Academy while neither Kachelmeyer nor Llewelyn have prior varsity coaching experience.

Consequently Hastings might have kept his job by default. What he needs to do now is tone it down, establish boundaries, put a wall between himself and the EDGE basketball program and realize that neither Wehrli nor Johnson consider the final score to be the essential indicator of job performance.

“We’re building character, that’s what it’s all about,” said Wehrli. “Back in the day athletes were accorded special status. Now we want our athletes to be good citizens, to step in when somebody’s mean in the hallway and say, ‘we don’t do that here.’ Dave showed us he’s willing to show his players what it means to be a good member of our community.”

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A record 50,740 runners competed in last Sunday’s New York City Marathon, including the millionth runner in its 43-year history. Greenfield native Joe Martino competed in the city’s inaugural race and forwarded a copy of the registration form that required a one dollar entry fee.

It was 1970, a time when the New York City subway system was considered unsafe, the World Trade Center was under construction and the Yankees were hopelessly out of it, trailing Earl Weaver’s Baltimore Orioles by fifteen games.

“I talked Rick Sherlund into buying a bus ticket and off we went,” wrote Martino. “I’m 18 and he’s 16 and we stayed in the West Side Y and we’re country boys in the big city. It was hot and humid and we ran the hills in Central Park four times and we’re dodging people and looking for water stations.

“Only 58 (of 128) finished. I was 13th and Rick was 34th and we were the two youngest runners. My friend Tom Fleming thought he’d won but was second. He came back and won twice.”

Sherlund ran for coach Pete Conway’s cross country team at Greenfield High School. “Coach Conway wan’t too happy with me bringing Rick to a marathon during cross country season but Rick recovered in time to win the western Mass. championship.”

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Amherst College grad John Lacey is in Williamstown today for the 128th edition of the “Biggest Little Game in America,” the gridiron clash between Amherst and Williams.

It’s been an off year for Williams, only 2-5, but Amherst is 6-1, its only loss coming against Wesleyan on Homecoming Day.

“We’re using a ‘hurry-up’ offense and two quarterbacks, sort of platooning, makes no sense to me,” writes Lacey, who likes the improvements to 121-year-old Pratt Field, the third-oldest football playing site in the U.S. “It’s beautiful. They turned the field 15 degrees to minimize the afternoon gaze and flipped sides so that home fans stay warm and the visitors freeze.”

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Tuesday’s no vote by East Boston voters for a casino at Suffolk Downs has fired up proponents of a gambling casino in New Hampshire, where Rockingham Park is a 40-mile breeze up I-93 from downtown Boston.

“This will give them a huge push,” said one Granite State insider. “Not having Suffolk to worry about will really charge them up.”

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Aforementioned Pioneer athletic director Gina Johnson said she couldn’t schedule night games this fall because of the threat of mosquito-borne viruses. “This was per order of the Northfield Board of Health. We had to be off the fields before dusk up until there were two hard frosts.”

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Writer’s block and a looming deadline sometimes breaks down the thought process. “Michigan isn’t known for its lakes,” I wrote two weeks ago, searching for a segue into Eastern Michigan’s puzzling motto “Row the Boat.”

Reader Nelson Lebo of Northfield knows otherwise. “A look at a Michigan map will show you that Michigan is surrounded by mostly water,” he snail-mailed. “There are some famous endurance canoe races that occur on the Au Sable and Manistee rivers from Grayling to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, respectively. I wonder if you missed a geography lesson in grade school.”

Please, not a trip to the principal’s office.

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Each season Dustin Pedroia leads the league in one category or another like runs, hits and doubles and this year he led the league in plate appearances with 724 trips to the batter’s box, two behind MLB leader Joey Votto of the Reds.

I watched an at-bat on YouTube of him stepping in, tapping the outside of home plate, taking his stance, taking a pitch, kicking the batter’s box dirt with his back foot, fixing his batting gloves, looking to third, looking into the dugout, stepping back in the box. From the first day of the Grapefruit League to his last at-bat of the World Series, Pedroia saw 3,327 pitches over 197 games. That’s a lot of concentration, and it doesn’t count the pitches and swings he looked at while winning his Gold Glove at second base.

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Football spreads: Northern Illinois covered the 24-point spread before halftime en route to its 63-13 thrashing of UMass before 10,061 at Gillette Stadium last Saturday. ... The Minutemen are the eighth worst team in the country and need to draw 5,618 fans to the last home game against mighty Akron to reach the 15,000 average that somehow makes them a legitimate FBS team in the eyes of the NCAA. ... At Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill on Saturday a decent-sized crowd of 30,129 watched Boston College beat Virginia Tech, 34-27. Today the Eagles are in beautiful Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they are 241∕2-point favorites to beat the New Mexico State Aggies, rated the worst team in the FBS by USA Today.

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Squibbers: Syndicated talk show host Jim Rome could’ve come up with something better than “This does not suck!” after his gray mare Mizdirection won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last Saturday. ... More poignant was trainer Bob Baffert breaking down in tears after winning the B.C. Juvenile. A few races earlier his two-year-old filly Secret Compass had to be euthanized. “This business is so hard. One minute I lost a great little filly and then I win this ...” The tears came and he walked away.

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Shake a vet’s hand today and remember the words of Elmer Davis, the director of the U.S. Office of War Information in World War II.

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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