The idea of coaching at South Carolina's largest high school was a challenge Martins Ferry native Dirk Thomas readily accepted.
After all, Thomas brought with him a blue collar mentality and the strong family values instilled growing up in the Ohio Valley.
"Dad (Dave Thomas) was a coal miner so I understood at an early age the sacrifices and work ethic required on an everyday basis," said Dirk.
At Wando High, located in Charleston, S.C., Thomas made a commitment to instill those same qualities in his varsity baseball team.
"We were expected to be a .500 team (this spring) but our guys dug deep down and achieved probably more than many felt possible."
So much so, under Thomas' leadership, Wando recorded a 23-4 record, won its regional tournament before being sidelined in the state districts.
As the season progressed, Thomas initiated a special "Coal Miner's Helmet Award" presented weekly to the player who excelled both on and off the field.
"The award seemed to be a motivational tool and our players responded," Thomas reported. "What was most special was Dad (being here) to present our first Coal Miner's Helmet."
That honor went to Thomas' son, "Babe" a junior catcher for Wando whose skills have already earned him a scholarship to Division I Winthrop University.
Young Babe hit a robust .448 this spring and is involved in a number of summer baseball activities.
"We've been fortunate to have a number of talented players. It's a good situation and we've set the bar pretty high," said Dirk.
Thomas recently returned home for a visit. "I'll always treasure my years in the valley," he noted. "It's truly a special place."
THOMAS' son, Babe, is also a outside linebacker on Wando's football team. "He's athletic really looking forward to his senior year," Thomas indicated....
FORMER River High multi-sport performer Jon Dierkes, now residing in Michigan, had a first time opportunity to caddie in this week's U.S. Senior Open. Dierkes reports he worked for Tour veteran Graham Marsh, a 1997 US Senior Open champion.
"What a great experience!" Dierkes exclaimed. "We (Marsh) were paired with Fuzzy Zoeller and Dr. Gil Morgan. I enjoyed it very much. It's definitely different being (inside the ropes)." Marsh and Morgan, incidentally, failed to qualify for weekend play...
HARD to imagine the Pirates falling out of contention anytime soon considering the Bucs' schedule has the Black & Gold playing eight of nine series against team's with sub.500 records until Aug 13....
No buzz kill, here, though I expect the Bucs to play at least at a .500 pace the second half. Unfortunately, I foresee both the Reds and Cardinals finishing ahead of Clint Hurdle's ball club. Having said that, some meaningful baseball in September should be a reality....
I"M NOT sure how much credence I'm putting into Louis Freeh's investigative report regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the administrative group (including Joe Paterno) deemed complicit in a long-time cover up. If Freeh was paid a reported $3 million for his services, what a crime that is.
The idea of removing Paterno's statue seems ludicrous. I also find it impossible to believe the Nittany Lions' icon would purposely, for years, overlook continual criminal activity committed by one of his closest associates. Paterno may well be guilty of a passive approach after first being informed of an on-campus incident involving Sandusky. Unfortunately, Joe Pa is no longer around to defend himself. The Sandusky scandal killed Paterno, not cancer.....
I could be wrong but I don't foresee a total collapse of the football program at Happy Valley. Life goes on and the Nittany Lions' gridders will do the same.....
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org