Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
June 12, 2013
DALLAS -- When you check out the 2013 Class 5A all-state softball team in Wednesday's Oregonian, it will be quickly apparent that something big is missing.
Well, several big things.
Not one player from Dallas, which went 24-4, reached the state quarterfinals and was the No. 5 team in the Oregon School Activities Association's final power rankings, is on that list.
Yeah, that's what I said, too.
Let's go over some quick history to explain this glaring omission.
In 2012, then-junior shortstop Caitlyn McCarron was selected as a first-team all-state infielder.
In 2013, she raised her batting average by 36 points -- to a whopping .530. Her slugging percentage went up 337 points to an unbelievable 1.217. She had four home runs in 2012. McCarron -- headed to NCAA Division I Bradley (Ill.) on a scholarship -- had 12 in 2013.
Those are just numbers.
Dallas teammates Dani Ackerman, Julie Postma and Kassidy Totten also made the all-state team in 2012, as underclassmen.
In 2013, the Dragons, who again reached the 5A state quarterfinals, were shut out.
So, what the heck happened?
While I don't really put that much importance on all-league and all-state lists -- please realize they don't really matter in the grand scheme of athletic success, or life, for that matter -- I still felt that the athletes deserved an explanation.
As Dallas High Athletic Director Tim Larson put it, this is "very sad for our players."
And from what I have gathered, through plenty of research, emails and phone calls, it all comes down to a lack of communication, effort and leadership.
"The ball got dropped," Dallas coach Al Perkins said. "It's a disappointment certainly to them and it's a disappointment to me as a coach that this fell through the cracks."
Unlike some of the other major prep sports (i.e. football, basketball) in the state, The Oregonian, which publishes the all-state lists for classes 4A through 6A, does not tally the state's coaches' votes for baseball and softball.
In other words, coaches at those classifications are on their own in determining an all-state team.
In 2012, the Class 5A coaches organized a meeting amongst themselves, where they nominated players from their respective leagues based on season statistics and performance. Not all coaches were in attendance -- and they don't really have to be, as the state's seven leagues are supposed to send a representative bound with the conference's compiled stats in order to nominate players not just from their team, but their entire league.
Tim Carey, Pendleton's head softball coach who sends out the email with the meeting's date, time and location, said that there is no secret balloting to this process. The coaches have an open discussion, nominating players in order of position before making an informed decision.
The only catch? You have to have a league representative - or at least send your stats to someone that is attending the meeting - for your players to be considered.
In 2012, all Class 5A leagues except two -- the Intermountain and the 6A-5A hybrid Southern Oregon -- were represented.
This year's list -- the state's coaches again held an organized meeting that took place June 2 at Sandy High -- had players from every league except one -- the Midwestern Conference, which included state semifinalist Churchill.
Mid-Willamette Conference champion West Albany did have several players make the 2013 list, but only because its coach faxed his team's stats directly to Carey. Carey said there were no coaches in attendance from the MWC or the Midwestern leagues.
Carey said he realizes the system is not perfect. In 2011, the coaches tried to eliminate the travel and do a mail-in ballot, but only three were returned by coaches.
The result? There was no all-state team that season.
"It is very unfortunate that several teams were not represented, but the committee was faced with a tough decision," Carey wrote in an email. "Proceed with the meeting with the people who took the time to show up, or get back in your cars and drive back home. We chose to proceed with the meeting."
So, what happened with the MWC's representation?
"In the past, there's been a representative that's gone from our league to the meeting," Perkins said. "The representative didn't show up and I don't know why."
Last year, that was Silverton coach Ralph Cortez.
This season, Cortez didn't go, and neither did anyone else.
What I gathered, and I think Perkins would agree with me, is this: Everyone assumed that someone was going to the meeting, but no one actually found out for sure.
I think everyone knows what happens when you assume.
It's a flawed system, and because of that, the all-state list doesn't even factually represent the state -- I'm betting there were some deserving kids from that 22-6 Churchill team that knocked Dallas out of the playoffs, too.
So how do we ensure that this doesn't happen again?
One, I think every coach in the state needs to realize that if they deserve it, you need to fight for your kids. It's part of the job.
Two, this all-state process needs some leadership. There is no head of the committee, the Mid-Willamette Conference certainly didn't have any leadership when it came to representation, and the all-state committee just decided to make a team based on what was convenient to them at the moment, and I suppose you can't blame them for that.
But there should be someone held accountable for an incorrect representation of the state's best players.
That someone should also care enough to make sure everyone is represented. In this day and age, it takes little effort to send an email, text or make a few phone calls.
"If we actually had someone in charge of it, that would help a ton," Larson said. "I think it's important enough for our kids to actually have someone who's running it."
Now, it's just a matter of someone stepping up to the plate.
The players who do that all season long deserve that much.
Nicole Watkins is the sports editor at the Itemizer-Observer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-623-2373.