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The Little Things and the Big Thing About Baseball

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By Chris Potts

From the Spring 2010 Caller

The argument that “baseball is a game of little things” is, to me, unassailable, as is the philosophy that high school sports should be used as vehicles to teach students lessons that can carry them through the rest of their lives. Holding these truths in tandem, you quickly realize that the avenue to reach these larger lessons is to build a cohesive team, a community of ballplayers. Unfortunately, there’s no handbook for this, there’s no one way to do it. Just like baseball, it’s putting all of the little things together in the right way.

When I interviewed for this job, I was told, “Baseball at Catlin Gabel is on life support.” But when I first met the team, I realized that they were a great group of young players who needed somebody to give them some discipline, some foundation.

We’re not a winning program. In my five years at Catlin Gabel, we’ve lost many more games than we’ve won. It’s not even close. I would argue, however, that we’re an extremely successful program. Each year, this group of students comes together. We’ve grown in numbers every year. Our baseball team is an inclusive and incredible, albeit unique, community.

What follows isn’t that elusive handbook for team-building. It’s a look at a few of the little things that we’ve done together.

Each year I choose a theme around which to build our team mentality. The theme for our first year was “Building Something We Can Be Proud Of.”
 When we won our first game, I worried that our players were so excited that they’d offend the other team. Then again, when you haven’t won a baseball game your entire high school career, wouldn’t you jump up and down and scream when you got your first “W?”
 
February 26—Manhood—Outside the gym, after practice, I pull one of the new players aside. He’s been struggling this week. He’s a good player (we’d say, “he’s got a lot of upside”), but we need to rebuild some of his fundamentals. He’s also never had to work this hard, physically, ever.
 
There’s a big transition between middle school sports and high school varsity athletics. We’ll be playing against 200-pound gorillas looking to play in college. Wrestlers. Linebackers. The kid I’m talking to is 14 and could probably make the scale hit 140 if I handed him a 20-pound dumbbell.
 
We do a lot of physical conditioning. The younger players typically take some time to adjust. During this physical adjustment period, the boy I’m talking with has lost all accuracy with his throwing. We’d say “he couldn’t hit the ground if he dropped the ball.” I’ve been playing catch with him during warm-ups to protect the other players. I’ve seen tears well up in his eyes during three of these first four practices. Time for a chat.
 
At one point in the conversation, I say, “This is why I love baseball, because you can learn lessons through the sport that you can apply to the rest of your life. Right now you need to learn to make the adjustment from 8th grade baseball to high school baseball. Just like how you’re making the transition from 8th grade academics to high school academics. In both things you’re going to have to get tough, you’re going to have to work harder than you’ve ever had to before and you’re going to have to learn to control your emotions. I think you can do it.”
 
I do think he can do it. I need a #3 starter.
During my second year, the theme was “Playing the Game with Class.”
March 1—Playing in the Mud—It’s still a little wet to be using the whole field, but we need to put in defense and relays as soon as possible. The first game is two weeks away. The field is still holding too much water.
 
The players circle around the third base cutout, and we talk about the geography of our field. There are three layers. First, there’s the soil underneath everything. That’s what the grass grows out of. Surrounding the bases, there’s a layer of clay that builds the foundation for the cutouts. On top of that is a top-dressing. I explain to the players that this stuff is baked at like 5,000 degrees so that it becomes porous and can absorb three times its weight in water. This, I believe, is the science portion of baseball.
 
We squat around the perimeter of the cutout, grabbing chunks of clay that we’ve churned up during defense and conditioning, and rolling them into balls. When we’ve grabbed the biggest chucks, I have the players throw them so that I can lay them out for one of my captains to tamp back into the clay foundation.
 
One of the sophomores says, “I get to throw mud at my baseball coach.” I’m not too fond of how this sounds, but I don’t think I can argue with him.
The theme of my third year was “Learning to be Competitive.”
We drive a long way to get to some of the games. To the Pacific Ocean, literally. The team was shocked when I instituted the no-headphones, noelectronics, human-interaction-only rule. “Why can’t we listen to our iPods?” The answer was no.
 
In deference to my totalitarianism, a group of students began singing on the bus rides home. They got very into it, going so far as to print out lyrics.
 
It was awful: adolescent boys screeching the lyrics to Britney Spears, NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys. It was an assault on human musical aesthetics. It was the sound of my group of boys coming together. It was music to my ears.
 
The dynamics always change after our first road trip.
During my fourth year, our theme was “Working as a Team.”
Close to the deadline for this article, I get an email from a former player. He’s hoping to be in town and catch the end of a Friday double-header. I want him to come to the game, to cheer us on, and for the younger players to realize that they’re a part of something bigger than the second game of a double-header.
This year’s theme is “Respect for the Game.”
April 26—Heart—An unusually large wet-weather system has rolled in. We’re in the gym, hitting practice balls, tennis balls, softies, and whiffles. We’re looking ahead at the season: 8 tough games in 11 days. The arms are ready. Though we’re having difficulty getting on base, I’m fielding the best defense in my time at Catlin Gabel. We’ve seen each of the teams in our league. We know we’re the underdogs, but there’s a palpable sense that we can put it all together and make a run at the playoffs. I’d say our biggest asset is our cohesiveness. This team is all heart.
Chris Potts is an outdoor education teacher at Catlin Gabel and is in his fifth year as the head baseball coach.

 

Boys golf team wins state title

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Senior Matt McCarron wins individual medalist honors

Boys golf team advances to state after winning sixth consecutive district title

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Congratulations, Eagles!

Catlin Gabel won the district title at a two-day tournament at Quail Valley in Banks. Individual honors include league MVP for senior Matt McCarron, first-team all league honors for junior Philip Paek and freshman Conor Oliver, and second team all-league honors for sophomore James Furnary, and co-coach of the year for John Hamilton.

The Eagles established several records on their way to state. In round two the team recorded Catlin Gabel’s lowest 18-hole score of 311 breaking last year’s 315. Combined with the day one score of 330 the team achieved a new 36-hole record of 641, eclipsing last year’s 658 record. Matt McCarron shot a sizzling 69 on day two beating the previous record held by Gary Coover ’00, who shot a 71 at the 2000 state tournament.
 

Sophomore Mariah Morton breaks CG's longest standing track and field record

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Mariah  jumped a whopping 17 feet, 2 ½ inches at the Lake Oswego Classic to break the school record set by Wendy Miller Johnson '68 in 1968. Mariah came in second at the meet.

Watch Mariah's jump on YouTube
 

An Eye on the Goal

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Longtime soccer player Eric Watson '93 is now an award-winning coach
From the Winter 2010 Caller
By all accounts Eric Watson ’93 was a superb athlete at Catlin Gabel. But he knows he didn’t just go it alone, and that great coaches make great players. Now it’s his turn. A teacher and soccer coach since his college days, Eric loves working with his student athletes to realize their potential to become better players—and better people.
 
Eric had some fine role models at Catlin Gabel. “Mike Davis, Brian Gant, and John Hamilton were always there to inspire, instruct, and occasionally discipline me if my competitive desire got the better of me,” he says.
 
Eric concentrated on mathematics for his undergraduate degree from Williams College, and earned his master’s in leadership and sports administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. During summers he coached at Mike Davis’s soccer camps, which led to a job teaching and coaching at a private boy’s school in Connecticut. After a year there, Eric got an invitation from his coach at Williams: would he consider coaching there, at an 85 percent pay cut, with no benefits? “I jumped at the opportunity,” he says.
 
That opportunity paid off for Eric. He moved on from Williams to a coaching job at the University of Richmond, then finally got his big break: the position of head men’s and women’s soccer coach at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. “I was fortunate enough to have a very talented and dedicated group of players,” he says. The team advanced to the NCA tournament twice during his five years there, and Eric was voted Coach of the Year in 2005.
 
Another great chance came his way, and although he had loved being back in Oregon, Eric moved to New Paltz, New York, where he is now the men’s soccer coach at SUNY New Paltz. He lives there with his wife, Paola Gentry, and their children, Aracely, 7, and Oliver, 4. He also serves as assistant coach with the United States Under-23 Women’s National Team.
 
Eric says it’s never felt like a job to him to make a living in soccer, a game that has always been his great passion. “I feel that I can show my players how to best approach a passion of theirs, whether it is athletic or academic, and then use my position as a coach to help them reach their goals,” he says.
 
“The challenge of trying to make my players, my team, and the overall program better keeps me going back, day after day. Certainly there are days, especially after a loss, that make going back more difficult, but as long as there are still games to be played the team can improve and we go back to work. In the end the real job I have done won’t be measured in the four years I have direct contact with my players, but in 5, 10, or 15 years after they leave the school and forge their lives out in the world.”

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Soccer player & scientist, 5th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: soccer, science

“Soccer’s great because you can socialize and make new friends. It relieves stress and helps you to not burn out and get tired in the rest of your life. I started playing classic soccer late this summer. It’s a more competitive form of soccer that’s played mostly year round, and all outdoors in all seasons. We do two practices a week after school. We have a game on Saturday, and sometimes on Sunday. I really, really love it.
 
Two friends and I were playing recreational soccer and we switched to classic soccer. It’s more physical and more demanding. The coaches train us hard on all the skills, like shooting, passing, and defense.
 
I also love science. When I grow up, I want to be a brain surgeon and fix things when people have problems. I’m interested in the brain because it uses up the most energy in the body, and it controls everything.
 
At home my mom is teaching me Japanese, and it’s hard. I’ve also been taking Chinese for four years. Learning Japanese makes Chinese easier because the characters came from Chinese, and the sounds are similar. We visit Japan most summers, and it’s fun. I speak Japanese with my relatives, and I’m pretty comfortable with it. By being with relatives I get to see the whole culture.

Having something you like is good for you. It makes life easier and more enjoyable.”

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Math & puzzle problem solver, 5th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: math, puzzles, soccer
Interests: acting, music

“I’ve loved math since 2nd grade. I do a lot of Sudoku, and now I’m working on the harder ones. I like all kinds of puzzles, and math and logic games.
 
I like the mindset of having to figure out where to put something. You can really feel it when you’ve accomplished something. I like logic puzzles. I like following a train of thought.
 
We’re doing multiplication and division in 5th grade, and I like the problems. I go for the challenge math in my homework, which has percents or fractions or logic.
 
I play classic soccer year round, and it’s really fun. It’s one sport where your size doesn’t matter and you have to work as a team. Where you are when you don’t have the ball is as important as when you do. It’s a thinking game: where should I be? Where’s my mark?

I also take some acting classes and did improv classes over the summer. I enjoy memorizing the script line by line, and it sticks in my head. I work to project, stay in character, and not make nervous gestures. Acting can help in life. It helps you get confidence in speaking in front of an audience. I’ve learned to focus on myself and what I’m doing. Then I’m not so nervous.”

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Synchronized swimmers, 10th grade & 7th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: Synchronized swimming
Interests: rock & mountain climbing, dance, gymnastics

K: “When I was 7, I took a synchronized swimming class and they asked me to be on the team. When my sister was 6 she came to watch me practice and by the end, the coach had her in the water. Synchronized swimming became a passion for both of us. Competition is really fun. We both make friends from all over the country and sometimes the world.
 
E: “Synchronized swimming is the ultimate team sport. We have to work together, and we depend on each other. It’s a ten-month- a-year sport, but has a lot of rewards. In the end it all pays off. We travel a lot for training and competitions with our family or our coaches, and we don’t always go to the same place. It’s crazy. We spend a lot of time in airports.
 
K: I’m trying out for the junior national team and hope to make it in the next couple of years. You need a lot of strength to be a good competitor. Training includes weightlifting, dance, Pilates, gymnastics, and yoga. Core strength is everything. My sister and I do lots of cross-training on weekends.
 
E: I’ve learned how to make a group effort and cooperate with others, and that’s helping right now in our collaborations in 7th grade world cultures class.”

K: Catlin Gabel’s arts program, especially theater, has helped me realize how I can better get across emotions, which is important in our sport. I’ve learned dedication, focus, and good time management from synchronized swimming, and that really helps me here in school, too.”

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Installation artist, senior

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: creating art installations, outdoor exploration
Interest: track & field

“For my first art project I hung an old picture frame with a picture of a galaxy set into it on the big, inviting blank wall of the science building, hung to appear like a window of the building itself. Another time I set up a spider’s web of wires, with tin can phones on the ends, connecting six trees in the campus forest. You could hear the sounds of the trees groaning in the wind through the wires.
 
I have two projects right now of trees wrapped in string. There’s almost nothing more stereotypically organic than a tree, and the strings contrast as a straight line you don’t often see in nature.
 
Art is a key facet of how I see myself. I enjoy the outdoor program just as much. I’ve been to truly amazing places not many people know of, and seen many wonderful things. These trips are a source of inspiration, and I think about these places every day.
 
My art is a product of wanting to explore methods, tools, and ideas—and wanting to do something different for the first time. It’s realizing my daydreams and not always about other people seeing it. It’s very personal.

Sometimes something clicks and I think about an idea a lot. The vast majority of ideas I come up with are things I’ll never do, but that’s not an unfortunate thing. Is that art? Thinking about it, for me, is as important as the actual creation.”

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Fencer, 8th grade

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From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passion: fencing
Interests: music, visual arts

“Fencing is my great passion. It’s a good sport for me because I’m meticulous, I like moving around, and I’m pretty coordinated.
 
I love to compete all around the country. I hope that if I rank high enough in the next couple of years in the 16-and-under division that I’ll be able to travel around the world for competitions.
 
I’m not as nervous these days as at my first competition, but I do get more so when the stakes are high. When it’s going well I’m thinking clearly, and I’m focused, and things are not distracting me. When you wake up and everything’s too loud and is distracting, then it’s hard to fence. When you’re on top, and you’re prepared, and you have great focus, you can do whatever you’re capable of.
 
Fencing is a thinking game. Before every touch you have to know your plans, and you have to be able to change them depending on how your opponent reacts. The key to good fencing is to be one step ahead of your opponents so you can outsmart and outfence them.

Fencing is not the only thing in life I think about. I want to go to the Olympics, but right now it’s not my whole life. In a few years, maybe it will be, but not now. My life is about school, friends, music, fencing, and family. It’s a good life when you go to a really good school and love everything you do.”

Alumna Corina Gabbert '06 earns Academic All-American honors for women's soccer

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Press release from Whitman College, December 09

Boys and girls soccer teams head to state finals

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Congratulations, Eagles!

The boys varsity soccer team faces OES for the state title after beating St. Mary's of Medford 1-0.

Game time for the boys: Saturday, 1 p.m., Wilsonville HS.

The girls varsity soccer team won their semifinal match against Sisters, 4-3, and take on Gladstone for the championship.

Game time for the girls: Saturday, 6 p.m., Wilsonville HS.

Adults - $8, Students - $5 at the door
VISA / MasterCard accepted

Come cheer on the mighty Eagles as they play for the state championships!

Video of game-winning shot from the boys semifinal game against St. Mary’s of Medford. Thanks go to Jennifer Davies, parent of alumni, for shooting video.

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Junior volleyball powerhouse McKensie Mickler named Oregonian athlete of the week

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Oregonian article, November 09

Eagles athletes fall season most successful in decades

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This has been the most successful fall season in decades for Upper School athletics with four out of our five varsity teams making the state playoffs. After more than thirty years without a state berth, our girls volleyball team completed the regular season with a 13-1 record, going into the seeding game on November 4. A win on November 7 will take them to the state tournament in Eugene on November 13 and 14.

The boys varsity soccer team finished as league champions with a 7-0 sweep of the competition, sending them into the league playoffs as the number one seed against OES on November 4, and a spot in the first round of state competition on November 10.

Our girls soccer team also completed their league season as champions with a 9-1 record and secured an automatic berth to the state playoffs. They will play Valley Catholic on November 3 to determine who enters the state tournament as the first and second seeds from our league.

The girls cross-country team repeated as district champions. On November 7 at Lane Community College, they will attempt to wrestle the state title away from St Mary’s of Medford who narrowly won last year’s championship.

The Middle School has seen wide participation in sports this year with athletes competing in cross-country, soccer, and girls volleyball, The girls Blue volleyball team made it to the league semi-finals before being eliminated in a close match. The boys Blue soccer team competes for the league championship next week.

Catlin Gabel News Fall 09

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From the fall 2009 Caller

AWARDS TO OUR TEACHERS
7th grade history teacher Paul Monheimer was awarded a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching from the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to conduct research in Israel. He plans to spend the spring semester in Israel researching and creating meaningful virtual exchanges, using graphic software to overcome language barriers. . . . Upper School Spanish teacher Lauren Reggero-Toledano received a grant from the American Immigration Law Council to work with students on a project about the Hispanic presence in Oregon during the Great Depression and today. Students will create interactive, multimedia presentations for display at Teatro Milagro/Miracle Theater.

ANUAL FUND REACHES GOAL
The 2008–09 Annual Fund reached its goal of $892,500 by June 30. Thanks to everyone who participated and gave so generously, especially during this economically challenging year. Big thanks to Eric ’83 and Tiffany Rosenfeld for co-chairing the 2007–08 and 2008–09 Annual Fund.
 
AROUND HONEY HOLLOW
The campus was jumping during Summer Programs, with more than 20 instructors, 43 classes and programs, and 300 participants. . . . Catlin Gabel was selected by Oregon Business magazine as one of the 100 best nonprofits to work for in Oregon, based on staff responses to a survey about workplace satisfaction.
 
HONORS TO OUR STUDENTS
Poems by Conner Hansen ’15 and Annika Carfagno ’15 were published in A Celebration of Poets, a national anthology. . . . The Upper School chamber choir placed 4th at the OSSA state choir contest. . . Erica Berry ’10, Flora Field ’13, Guillem Manso García ’09, Fiona Noonan ’13, Sage Palmedo ’14, and Yu (Victor) Zheng ’12 placed in the top five in the nation for their level on the National French Contest exams. Rahul Borkar ’13, Brynmor Chapman ’10, Casey Currey-Wilson ’12, Rose Perrone ’10, and Leah Thompson ’11 came in first in the state for their level in the national Spanish exam.
 
ATHLETICS
The boys golf team won the state championship and set a team record.
 
The girls track and field team also won a state championship and set a new state record. Hayley Ney ’09 was state champion in the 3000m and 1500m. Leah Thompson ’11 was state champion in the 300m hurdles, set a new school record, and was second in state in the 1500m. Isabelle Miller ’09 was 3rd in state in the 400m. Calley Edwards ’09 was 4th in state at both the 800m and the 3000m. Cammy Edwards ’12 was 2nd in state in both the 100m hurdles and the 300m hurdles. Eloise Miller ’11 was state champion in the triple jump. Mariah Morton was 4th in state in the long jump. The 4x100m relay team was state champion: Mariah Morton ’12, Linnea Hurst ’11, Isabelle Miller ’09, and Eloise Miller ’11. The 4 x 400m relay team was state champion: Hayley Ney ’09, Isabelle Miller ’09, Eloise Miller ’11, and Leah Thompson ’11. . . . In boys track and field, Nauvin Ghorashian ’10 was 3rd in state in the 110m hurdles, and Ian Maier ’10 was 5th in state in the 300m hurdles.
 
The girls tennis team set a team record and was 2nd in state. Kate Rubinstein ’12 was state champion in singles, and Rivfka Shenoy ’09 and Ainhoa Maiz- Urtizberea ’09 were 2nd in state in doubles. . . . The boys tennis team also set a team record and were 2nd in state.
 
Andrew Salvador ’12 was state champion in singles.
 
Katy Wiita ’12 won numerous top places nationally for synchronized swimming, as did her sister Elli Wiita ’15, who was named to the 11–12 national team with the second highest score.
 
Devin Ellis ’12 won gold for his age group in scratch bowling at the State Games of Oregon and qualifies for the 2011 State Games of America.

 

Kate Rubenstein '12 and Andrew Salvador '12 win state tennis championships

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Ainhoa Maiz '09 and Rivfka Shenoy '09 take second place in doubles. Congratulations to the boys and girls tennis teams.