My Sun-Gazette colleagues hear the stories at least 15 times a year, especially come early June. There never really is a wrong time for me to remind them that I played center field for the only District 1 champion in Garnet Valley history.
We also won the only state tournament games in program history before losing to Southern Columbia in the state quarterfinals. I have never, nor will I ever, get over that loss and that is why I envy the Montgomery baseball and Warrior Run softball teams today. They are living the dream, I and so many former, current and future athletes have shared.
They are playing for a state championship. As a high school athlete it simply does not get any better than that. This is the ultimate payoff for all the hard work.
Writing about teams making this run is great and I love it. But I would much rather be playing today.
What I remember most about our 1994 run is not the league and championship wins or the state quarterfinal loss. It's the little things. The practices, the bus rides, the fun times we shared simply playing a game we loved.
That likely will be the case for Montgomery and Warrior Run players, too, as they grow older. They both have made history and etched their names into community lore. But the one thing I admire most about these teams is that they seem to be enjoying every moment of this ride.
Every playoff game has been an elimination contest and the difference between winning and turning in the uniforms in some cases has been one play, one pitch or one hit. But neither team has ever appeared tense. The bigger the games, the better these teams play and the more fun they have.
And that is exactly the right way to approach this.
Today is not about gaining state supremacy and earning a title banner. Yes, both teams want to win and both teams should go all-out pursuing those prizes. But more than anything, today is about having fun. For the four seniors on both teams this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. No matter how bright the future may be for the underclassmen, it could be for them as well.
So there is no reason to be nervous, no reason to be overwhelmed by the environment. It's just another game, a game Abner Doubleday invented for fun and enjoyment.
That is exactly what these two teams have provided their many fans. These programs have never experienced anything like this. Montgomery had never won a state playoff game prior to this season and Warrior Run had never won anything, enduring eight straight losing seasons from 2002-2009.
Montgomery has been knocking on the door since 2005 and has kicked it down in 2012, joining the state's elite Class A programs. It is ironic, too, because the Red Raiders entered the season having to replace five starters while doing so with only three seniors. But this team jelled as the season has progressed, has played well in all facets and now is doing something only one other team, the 2010 softball squad, has ever done in school history.
Warrior Run had never even won a league title prior to this season. It reached that goal late in the regular season before adding a district title two weeks later. Once in states, the Defenders have played at an incredibly high level not seen in District 4 since 2008 Loyalsock went undefeated and 2003 South Williamsport romped to a Class A state championship. Like Montgomery, it has been a team effort, that point being proven in Monday's win as all nine starters had a hit or scored a run.
These two schools are separated by only a small patch of road on Route 54. Many students are friends with each other and know each other well as do their fans. They are pulling for each other today and are backed by not only their throng of fans, but also by all of District 4. They are the district's teams now.
They also are the best teams in their programs' respective histories and win or lose, they always will be fondly remembered.
As for the players, they will remember today and this entire season forever. I wish I would have realized that when I played. I wish I had not been so caught up and winning and losing. I wish I would have looked around and took it all in. I wish I would not have taken the experience for granted and had more fun. I wish...
Montgomery and Warrior Run players do not have to have to wish. They now own their collective moments. They are living the dream of so many.
Now is the time to bask in the glow. Now is the time to have as much fun as you have ever had on the field.
Now is the time to make the most of it.