January 18, 2006 - On January 10 the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Bruce Sutter into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It's considered the highest honor one can achieve in pro sports. The thought of being elected to the hall has been known to make little boys dream of becoming men and reduced grown men into crying like little boys.
The former St. Louis Cardinals reliever can attest to that. In several interviews after his induction, Sutter readily admitted breaking down and weeping with joy - and relief.
While Sutter weeps and those turned aside by the baseball writers bristle over the rejection, the sports world moves on to anoint another batch of athletes into hallowed company in a different sport, football.
But these days a run on hall of fames - from halls and walls such as sports, music, state, astronaut and clown - is watering down the field. For instance, see the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis.
So the question needs to be asked: What about a hall of fame for Northwest and Foothills high school students? The idea should sound absurd and, in a sense, it is.
But should it stop individual schools from recognizing some of those who went beyond the call of homework and rose above those awkward years, where even your own body could be a worse enemy than that lineman in the huddle across from you?
The Pima County Sports Hall of Fame is exploring its options to relocate from downtown Tucson to Oro Valley. Currently the Pima Hall, which houses the busts of former Northwest sports icons like Marana basketball coaches Mike Dyer and Joe Acker, can be found in the La Placita Village, 110 S. Church Ave.
But this hall is not the place to pay homage to the throngs of athletes who have and will traipse through the local sports landscape. It should be done in the schools where they played.
Canyon Del Oro High School has the right idea, or at least it did. Inside the CDO main gym is a hallway of past "greats" from the Oro Valley school, reminiscent of the ones that snake the hallways of the McKale Center. Most of the CDO photos are either in black and white or show off an athlete sporting funny looking hair and iron-on jerseys from the 1970s. For a classic retro-CDO look, seek out the picture of basketball player Mike Redhair.
Unfortunately, CDO hasn't kept up the practice of honoring its athletes.
The problem with honoring former athletes is how you select them without infuriating both students and parent of those not chosen.
The criterion to get hung on the wall at CDO is to play a college sport. But CDO has apparently run out of room. If it still had space, you would be able to find former CDO athletes such as track and field star Jordan Powell (UA), football player Matt Griebel (New Mexico State), softball sensation Kira Zeiter (Adams College) or, to go further down the alphabet, baseball player C.J. Ziegler (Central Arizona College).
Ziegler is the perfect example of a player on the bubble. After one of the most impressive slugging seasons in Southern Arizona history, one that saw him hit .592 with 14 homeruns and 49 RBI, Ziegler failed to find that pop in his first season at CAC, hitting no long balls. He did hit .309, however, playing in a team high 51 games.
What about former CDO infielder Ian Kinsler? After a solid, but not overly impressive high school career, Kinsler has worked himself up to the Texas Rangers this spring. Would he be hall or wall bound based on his accolades in high school or in the pros?
Most schools pay tribute to their former athletes through the teams they played on and the traditional banners and trophy case. These are well deserved and vital to any school but they only immortalize the team and not the players that made those titles happen.
Plus, schools are given trophies for anything it seems these days. In late December, the CDO girl's basketball team took third place in the Flowing Wells Holiday Shootout. CDO's award for two teams finishing ahead of them was an enormous trophy roughly the size of reserve point guard Kiki Johnson.
If the schools are collecting hoards of trophies for third place and up, older schools, like CDO and Marana, must be running out of room to put all of the Johnson-sized hardware.
If the room for trophies is becoming limited, than the space to salute former athletes becomes even smaller.
Sports are already put on a pedestal. Perhaps a hall of fame is asking for too much. The same can be said for retiring jersey numbers, issuing bobble-head dolls and having a high school Old Timers Day.
However, with club sports on the verge of swallowing high school athletics whole and rendering them obsolete, maybe it's not a bad idea to remember those who came before.
So as athletes slip out of the public's stream of consciousness, perhaps it's time to honor individual athletes along with the championship teams. For without the former, you rarely have the latter.