All-area: It was like pulling teeth
Jim Stassi, Eric Lay, Dave Deniz, John Kukuruda, James Bowen, Jake Stassi — these are the names that were bouncing around the sports desk for weeks.
And not just at work ...
There were times when the all-area baseball conversation carried on after hours — I got a call at 1 a.m. about it.
There were times the newsroom wanted to tell us to be quiet because they couldn't hear the police scanner.
There were times, even after a busy night, it would come up again in the parking lot. Then we almost came to blows.
OK, just kidding.
But there wasn't a more discussed topic at the Appeal-Democrat sports desk all season, unless we're debating pizza toppings.
Not to overshadow the all-area softball team — we were going back and forth on Jolene Graham and Jordan Stanaland for some time — but baseball took the cake as far as pure debate.
It was a tough one, folks.
We could have easily given the coaching award to Jim Stassi. Roughly 30 years of coaching reached its pinnacle when he announced he was stepping down as the head coach for the Yuba City High baseball team.
Stassi created a powerhouse program and in his final season led the Honkers to its unprecedented fourth consecutive section title.
And not to take anything away from Stassi, but the award may as well be named after him. How many times has Stassi received it — probably enough for those in the community to yawn as they experienced déjà vu once again.
What about Eric Lay?
The coach has been one of the most consistent and respected over the recent years for doing a similar job on at Maxwell — and of course, the Panthers won a section title, too.
The only element in giving it Lay would be that he did it with just about everyone back, a team more talented, more mature and a year more experienced than the prior season. And yes, he gets all those blond-headed kids back next season.
Which brought us to our final vote — the guy who had both elements going for him.
Dave Deniz is a departing coach who did it with much less than the year before.
He lost five senior standouts (Andrew Rubalcava, Brian Johnson, Joe Kukuruda, Stewie Judkins and Jared DePaul), he carried more underclassmen than most and rode his three East Nicolaus senior studs to a section title.
As far as the Player of the Year accolade went, well, it probably came down to who would win in a steel-cage match — just kidding, again.
Maxwell's James Bowen and East Nicolaus' John Kukuruda were both deserving, but we felt Yuba City's Stassi did it on a higher level against tougher competition and was probably the best all-around player in the area.
Altogether, all six candidates in the two categories were deserving, which is why we took so ridiculously long to finish it.