John F. Russell: Finding passion in the games we play
Steamboat Springs — I’ve met a lot of great people since I first started covering sports more than two decades ago.
Most of these people had a sincere love for the game they played, a love for the game they coached. But a few of those people have displayed a love that goes beyond the field.
It was a love that went beyond just being a part of the game. It was a love that drew others in, a love they couldn’t help but share with others. In some cases it was a love to play the game, but in other cases, it was the love of sharing the game with anyone who was willing to lend them an ear.
My list is short and includes, but is not limited to, longtime high school basketball coach Kelly Meek, longtime junior golf enthusiast Bill Nickey, volleyball coach Wendy Hall, former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine director Deb Armstrong and Carl Ramunno, the coach who led Steamboat Springs to high school wrestling dominance for generations. He wasn’t coaching when I first arrived in Steamboat Springs, but his passion for wrestling was easy to see, and he never held back when it came to explaining that love when I bumped into him on the floor of the state wrestling tournament years after his coaching career came to an end.
The past several years another Steamboat man has impressed me with his love of the game and his desire to share his love of the game with the next generation. If you have ever met former high school baseball coach Dave Roy, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
For years, he taught the game at Steamboat Springs High School hoping to inspire young players to raise the level of their own game and cultivate the same lifelong love of the game he has.
Dave left the high school coaching position a few years ago but retiring and walking away from the game are really two different things. He has continued to coach Legion baseball, and I’m never surprised when I hear Dave’s voice on the other end of my phone line passing along a bit of information. He doesn’t do it to get his name in the paper but because he is always looking for ways to draw players, coaches and the community of Steamboat Springs into the game he loves.
But even though Dave no longer coaches at the high school, he still has the desire to expose local players to a higher level. This summer he played a key role in bringing the Mountain West Collegiate Baseball League to Steamboat Springs.
The Steamboat Storm is one of six teams in the league. Other teams hail from Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Eagle, Summit County and Vail. The teams are made up of players who are either currently playing at the college level or will be reporting to a college team next fall.
The season started earlier this month, and Steamboat is sitting in second place, tied with Vail at 8-6. Grand Junction Rocky Mountain is leading the way with a 10-6 record.
The league is designed as a development league for young players. Teams play three doubleheaders each week (32 to 36 games including a post-season tournament) with half the team’s games taking place on the road and the other half at home. The team plays its home games at Emerald Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
But the success of the program has little to do with the reason Dave wanted to bring this team, this league and this sport to Steamboat Springs. He is one of those people who is driven by the desire to provide more opportunities for locals to come out and watch the game, more opportunities for youth players to be exposed to a higher level of play and more opportunities for young players to step on the field and play the game he loves.
I’m not sure what motivates people to find ways to share the games they love with others, but I’m impressed. They give their time to coach, you can see their love for the game in the way they smile, and they are always looking for ways to push the sport forward. The thought of walking away from the game to pursue other things in life is a second thought, and while they may stop coaching because they don’t have the time, the game is always at the front of their thoughts.
For all those men and women who have made an attempt to share the love of the game with those in our community, I say “thank you.” Without people like this, the games we play would simply be a pastime, but thanks to their efforts, these games have become a passion.
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