Kick the can

Wagon Mound High School, the place from which our youngest son, Ben, graduated, has always been proud of its basketball, whose season generally runs from Aug. 1 through July 31.

It was the school my dad attended around the turn of the last century. “We didn’t have a fancy name for our team,” he said, when asked if he played for the Trojans.

The team has captured its share of state championships, especially during the tenure of Alfred Romero, after whom the gym is named, and there have been many more appearances at state as well. A host of coaches — some serving as many as three stints ­— have led the Trojans. They include Romero, Bobby Clouthier, Danny Gray, George Marquez, Matthew Baca, Fabian Trujillo and Felipe Garcia.

Remember, also, that when teams like the Immaculate Conception Colts, from Las Vegas, competed against the Trojans, the schools were of similar size.

But the really challenging part was competing in a state that had only two size classifications, A and B. The really big schools were Class A; the rest were B.

The classifications have multiplied even if the number of schools has not. The team I covered, as a sports writer for the Optic, competed against Farley, Mora, Des Moines, St. Gertrude’s of Mora, Maxwell, Springer, Roy and Mosquero. Today, even if there were a forced mass consolidation, the total enrollment might not equal the numbers enrolled at certain schools of the past.

A big part of Wagon Mound’s tradition is the crowded gym, which on winter nights packed everyone in and made the smokers in the crowd impatiently wait for halftime so they could get their nicotine fix in the atrium. A pack-a-day smoker myself, I was often the first one out the door. That was a million Salems ago.

People love the Trojans. That includes Don Schutz, himself a high school and college hoopster, whose sons, Mike and Steve, played for the Trojans, then Fort Lewis College. Steve, the younger son, played for a professional basketball league in Switzerland.

That topic constituted part of last week’s Senior Profile in the Optic.

But here’s something I witnessed in Wagon Mound during a particularly tense game in which Mike and Steve played. The action was out of view for most fans, but certainly not out of earshot.

The boys’ mother, Mary Schutz, tells the story much better than I could. Here it is:

“In the mid/late 1980s, Don Schutz was a volunteer elementary basketball coach in Wagon Mound Schools, coaching both girls’ and boys’ teams. One particular game, as the game progressed, he was becoming increasingly frustrated with the way the game was being officiated. He was concerned that the officials were not watching the same game that he was.

“In order to prevent a scene in front of the kids and fans, he went down to the end of the bleachers out of sight, he thought, to calm down. To his delight, there in the corner stood a metal trash can, which became the object of his frustration. He kicked it several times. When he returned to the bench, he realized that his actions had been observed by some of the parents and kids, and the sound of his kicking the trash can had been heard throughout the gym.

“After the game, they had several chuckles about what had happened, and he thought that was the end of the episode. The next time the teams had a game, when Don went into the coach’s office, he found a rubber trash can, painted in black and white, to look exactly like a referee.

“The parents and the kids had given him his own trash can to take out his future frustrations on. For the next few years, at each home game, it sat at the end of the gym where he could find it and kick it when he needed to.

“He offered to pay for the trash can that he had kicked, but was told it wasn’t necessary. Some of the kids still tease him about it today.”

• • •

A recent column on baseball, as played in the Railroad Avenue barrio, ended with the question as to how many ways a batter can get on first base.

The first two ways were easy: getting a hit or drawing a base on balls. Readers Jeff and Debbie Mills have provided more. Debbie said she’d come up with three ways: a hit, a walk and a pinch runner. “But,” she added, “my husband, Jeff, rattled off the next four without even hesitating: fielder’s choice, hit by pitch, dropped third strike and a balk.”

Can we allow the pinch runner to count? The last guess, a balk, made me wonder. Isn’t a balk a funny salsa-type move on the part of the pitcher that entitles base-runners to advance one position? Realizing the shaky ground I was on, I phoned Art Abreu a former teacher and coach who is my Renaissance Man when it comes to sports rules.

Art said that a balk is the same as a ball, and if the count is already three balls against the batter, the fourth ball would put the runner on first.

The discussion started taking on the magnitude of the International Convention of Referees — way beyond my ken.

Therefore, if any of these methods are wrong, we welcome input from the public.

• • •

Remember that ill-fated attempt, some 25 years ago, to stress metrics in American math classes? Although I readily see how much more accurate and efficient it is, I “still can’t think metric.” When my oldest son, Stan, would tell me, “You’ve got three meters to go before you back the truck into the wall,” I’d answer, “I can’t think metric. How many feet is it?”

So what did I just now come across? It’s some metric definitions that somehow make sense. Here they are:

  • 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz;
  • 2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds;
  • 1000 ccs of wet socks = 1 literhosen;
  • 8 nickels = 2 paradigms

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