It’s been awhile now, but I haven’t had a column since Creston’s homecoming and I wanted to touch on some things this year’s Hall of Fame inductees said during the Sept. 20 induction and coronation ceremonies in the school auditorium.
Each had some insightful things to say in describing their gratitude for being considered for the honor of joining that wall of honor in the fine arts hallway behind the gymnasium.
Steve McCann is the epitome of someone who works behind the scenes to make a community, and a school, a better place.
Besides running the shoe store that equipped so many athletic teams over the years, “Magic” has been a tireless official of several sports. It’s been well chronicled that he continued performing that task while battling cancer. He didn’t have to do that. It’s been an incredible example of selfless service.
McCann was selected as both a distinguished alumnus and a contributor. He was involved in several activities at the old high school south of Burton R. Jones Middle School. (The first time I came to Creston as a new Atlantic sportswriter I couldn’t find the dang place! No cell phone app to guide me there.)
Magic played in the old Panther Pit, where I covered Creston sports for my first four years in this community. The balcony provided overflow seating for fans, and those big beams had to have padding around them so players wouldn’t get hurt running off the edges of the court. It was tight quarters and extremely loud in that place. I wedged myself in a corner stairwell or the balcony right above the basket to shoot photos.
I share the opinion expressed by Magic that Creston is a great place to call home, to raise a family and educate your kids.
He made his remarks on the same stage that he’s presented so many scholarships over the years on behalf of the Creston Elks Lodge. It was nice to see him get his moment there.
He closed with a great quotation: “Of all the things you wear, remember that the smile on your face is the most important. And, most of us will never do great things, but we can all do many small things in a great way.”
I covered all of Vic Belger’s coaching career in Creston except the first three years, and even then I saw his teams as sportswriter for the Atlantic News-Telegraph.
In his induction speech, he began by thanking his family. He and wife Pat will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next summer.
Belger also cited the terrific teachers and administrators he worked with here, in particular principals Ron Levine and Russell Hobbs. Also mentioned were assistant coaches such as Mike Gerleman and Dave Hartman, and of course, the players.
Belger was particularly proud that 25 of his former baseball and basketball players got into teaching and coaching, including two current Creston administrators — Brad Baker and Scott Driskell.
Driskell was a senior pitcher on the 1990 state runner-up baseball team and a Shrine Bowl quarterback the same week the Panthers were playing in the state tourney. But, it was the next year’s team that left an impression on Belger on how a team can rise up and perform well beyond expectations.
“We started the 1991 season 1-1, we had graduated many good players from the year before, and then we lost our No. 2 pitcher and cleanup hitter, Chad Willets, to a broken hand,” Belger said. “I realistically thought a .500 season was a strong possibility. Luckily, the players did not believe that. They worked hard, believed in each other, and stepped up and won the next 40 games in a row before losing in the 4A substate final.”
That season was probably the most incredible thing I’ve witnessed in covering sports here. You just figure, somewhere along the line, a fluke play in the late innings or a bad call or some strange circumstance will lead to a defeat over the course of 40 games.
I remember an outfielder on the team telling me once, “Belger won’t let us lose.” I think he was serious. He could get on them hard, but Driskell said after graduating most of them realized he was just trying to get their best out of them.
Belger closed by saying his years in Creston were the most enjoyable of his life. We should be proud as a community that a successful coach and counselor with several other schools in his background would make that remark.
I think it’s really cool that people like Jim and Rhonda Giles get Hall of Fame recognition, because doing so acknowledges the value of those who unselfishly give back to their community.
Their history of volunteering extends beyond the walls of the schools, although it has been extensive there. You often see them at the volunteer desk at Greater Regional Medical Center, and for many other causes helping children and those in need in the community.
“We couldn’t have done it alone,” Rhonda said during the induction ceremony. “You’ve welcomed us into your classrooms, into your homes, you’ve allowed us to chaperone to take them places and you let us lead you down the hallways of the hospital when you’re lost. You let us enter your lives, so thank you very much.”
In brief remarks, Jim said he was humbled and honored for the distinction and the opportunities to share in so many activities over the years.
Rhonda closed with the following appropriate poem, one that she selected as a high school student for a different induction ceremony.
‘Taint who we are, but what we are.
‘Taint what we have, but what we give.
‘Taint what we do, but how we do it,
that makes this world worth going through it.
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