Tuesday could have been just another game day, just another one of the countless installments of the classic Glendale-Kickapoo baseball rivalry, but in a pregame ceremony the host Chiefs made sure it was a day unlike all the rest.
Before the game, Kickapoo High School and its baseball booster club remembered former Glendale coach Howard Bell, who died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis on March 29. Bell’s widow, Kim Bell, is a Kickapoo graduate and threw out the first pitch Tuesday.
It should have come as no surprise that the ensuing game took on the characteristics of the fallen coach.
Glendale fell behind by three runs in the first inning, but like Coach Bell during his battle with ALS, the Falcons fought to the final out as Kickapoo held on for a 3-2 Ozark Conference win.
“We knew that we needed to get to (Glendale starting pitcher Evan Payne) early if we were going to get to him,” Kickapoo coach Jason Howser said. “I figured he would settle in.”
“We came out ready to play in the first inning and obviously that was the difference in the game.”
The Chiefs (10-8, 2-0) caught a break in the bottom of the first when the third strike of the third out bounced over the Glendale catcher, scoring senior Cole Macchi from third and prolonging the inning.
The Falcons (9-7, 1-2) then committed an error that scored two more Kickapoo runs and the Chiefs held a 3-0 lead by virtue of one hit.
Glendale stranded runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings before plating a run in the fifth and another in the seventh, making the score 3-2.
Payne reached on a hit by pitch but Kickapoo freshman Kyle Giefer struck out Glendale junior Ty Clinkenbeard to end the game.
“The first half of the game, we did not play very well,” Glendale coach Mike Snodgrass said. “It’s kind of been a trend of ours to start poorly.
“We had a slow start offensively, but we had a chance. We had the tying run on in the seventh with a good hitter up.”
Sophomore Logan Wiley gave up one run on six hits and got the win for Kickapoo.
In the ceremony preceding the game, the Chiefs presented Kim, a 1982 graduate of Kickapoo, with a framed Kickapoo baseball jersey with Howard’s No. 1 on it and a plaque.
But perhaps the most touching gesture was the red seat placed in the front row of the visitor’s section, nearest the visiting dugout, that will be a permanent reminder of a special coach.
“This is amazing; overwhelming actually,” Kim said.
“I’m so touched. It shows how much of an impact Howard had on everyone. It warms my heart to know that so many people cared about him.
“To have something so permanent, at my alma mater, is really special to me.”
The idea to remove a Kickapoo yellow chair and replace it with a Glendale red chair was the product of a brainstorming session during a Kickapoo baseball trip to Oklahoma.
“The idea came from Cindy Crews, Bill O’Dell and Greg Macchi to put in a red chair and I thought that was awesome,” Howser said. “That will be a lasting memory for a guy that we all thought very highly of and who was extremely courageous during his fight.
“And as a group, as an organization, we wanted to honor that.”