If you happen to be around the eastern edge of Ralston or La Vista just before sunrise on Sept. 30, there will be a few guys on the softball fields at Seymour Smith Park who would gladly let you help put up a few fences.
Those guys will be the athletic directors of the Eastern Midlands Conference schools participating in the conference tournament.
Plattsmouth AD Shaun Brothers said Wednesday a change to the conference’s constitution was made to create a new one-day format for what usually turns out to be one of the state’s two or three best conference tournaments.
Now that Elkhorn South has joined the Metro Conference, there are just eight schools in the EMC. So instead of playing first round games at home sites, then the semifinals and championship at the team with the highest seed, every team will get to play three conference tournament games.
That means there will be a championship bracket and a consolation bracket complete with third-, fifth-, and seventh-place games. Previously it’s been a single elimination tournament.
Now back to the fences. Because the Seymour Smith fields have slow-pitch league games going late into the night on Friday, the temporary fences needed for the girls fastpitch games can’t be put in place until Saturday morning.
So Brothers and his EMC brethren will be at the complex before 7 a.m. installing the fences 200 feet from home plate.
Not having temporary fences wasn’t an option for a tournament of this caliber — Gretna, Elkhorn, Blair and Waverly all are in the Class B ratings this week — so hats off and a round of Scooters to the ADs for the early wake-up call.
Thunder (Chicken) with Storm
There’s still a way Elkhorn South can help make sure the Storm’s former conference tournament gets those fences set up in time.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Thunder Chicken. This colorful stuffed chicken has his own seat in the Elkhorn South press box.
For those who take care of Thunder during games, he’s become something of a good luck charm. Thunder Chicken doesn’t gloat or celebrate — his role is to rally the troops.
If Thunder’s humans believe the Storm need an extra boost of luck heading into a pivotal inning, the button on his left wing is pressed and he lets out a noise only his true believers could appreciate.
So if the EMC athletic directors need a wake-up call for the morning of Sept. 30, a short video of Thunder Chicken doing his thing is posted with this column on Omaha.com. They can download the squawk and use it as the alarm on their phone.
Helmets needed for coaches
Another more serious concern came up during Tuesday night’s Papillion-La Vista-Elkhorn South game. While standing in the third base coaches box, Storm coach Terry Graver took a foul ball off his arm.
Graver went down to the dirt in pain, eventually shaking off the pain a couple of minutes later. But if that ball is a couple of feet higher, Graver would have been holding more than his arm.
Someone razzed Graver by showing him the video of Tommy Lasorda getting knocked down by a bat that got away from Vladimir Guerrero in the 2001 MLB All-Star game when Lasorda was in the third base coaches box.
Following Tuesday’s postgame interview, Graver said he still occasionally feels the pain from another foul ball he took off his ankle in Nebraska City.
Coaches don’t need to go to the first or third base boxes wearing suits of armor to protect their bodies. What they all should be required to wear is a helmet while on the field; Legion coaches do during the summer baseball season; so do college and professional coaches.
I’ve advocated for this before. And whether it’s a rule or not, it’s something coaches should consider doing on their own. Don’t wait for it to happen to someone else before donning a lid of your own.
Antlers, Monarchs finally meet
The last big pool-play tournament of the season is Saturday’s Lincoln Southeast Classic at the Doris Bair Complex.
One of the more intriguing four-team pools includes Papillion-La Vista and Elkhorn. Monarchs coach Todd Petersen said the schools have won 18 state championships between them but have never played each other.
That’s one of the things that makes these pool-play tournaments in Lincoln so much fun — the chance to create matchups like this. It’s not always fun for the organizers. Some teams need to play early games to get back for homecoming festivities. Others like to start later because they have a little bit longer of a drive.
Lincoln East and Norfolk are in the same pool as the Monarchs and Antlers. Grand Island, Omaha Marian, Grand Island Central Catholic and Norris are in another, and there are two 9 a.m. showdowns between rated Class A teams — Millard West vs. Lincoln North Star and Millard North vs. Lincoln Pius X.
With games like that, the anticipation for the start of postseason play is starting to build.