COMMENTARY – Last month I had the great opportunity to broadcast the state championship run by the Snow Canyon Warriors baseball team.
I have never stopped and counted, but I figure I have been the hometown broadcaster for a couple dozen state championships, from baseball, to football, to basketball, and even a state volleyball title. As a former Dixie State broadcaster, I also did a couple of national championships in which Dixie won (2004 baseball and 2001 basketball).
It’s a unique position as a broadcaster when the team you have followed wins a championship.
You didn’t win anything. You don’t get a ring. You don’t get to cut down the nets or participate in the post-game dog-pile. You don’t get your name on the trophy.
I’ve never won a state championship. And in all those title games I’ve broadcast, I never got a first down, never made a basket, never got a base hit. Not one.
And yet, I have shared in the joy. In my heart, I have rooted for these young men and women. I felt the pain when Hurricane lost those three heart-breaking state championships in a row in football. Certainly not as deeply as those coaches, players and fans who were directly involved. But I felt it, nonetheless.
I experienced the disappointment that Snow Canyon felt after making it to the championship day undefeated in the 2011 state baseball tournament, only to get beaten by Spanish Fork twice in a span of four hours. It was excruciating watching the Dons celebrate on the field at Brent Brown ballpark that spring afternoon.
So I did experience some measure of joy at Kearns High on May 19 when the Warriors, led by senior stars Michael Jensen and Austin Ovard, defeated Juan Diego 5-1 to capture the 2012 3A baseball title.
The thrill felt by Warriors fans and players I hope was conveyed in my voice as the team jumped exultingly around the infield before piling atop one another between the pitcher’s mound and first base.
Right in the middle of that pile was second baseman K.J. Harrison.
I didn’t know K.J. personally. We brushed shoulders a couple of times in the dugout. I exchanged greetings with him once or twice while on the field during my pregame duties. But to say I was his friend would be presumptuous.
Except for this fact: Everyone was K.J. Harrison’s friend.
That’s the kind of kid he was.
Harrison, who was laid to rest Monday after a tragic accident in the Grand Canyon during a Boy Scouts activity, fit in perfectly with the Warriors because he seemed to fit in everywhere.
When I asked various coaches about the young man, the words that kept coming up were coach-able, hard-working, happy, dedicated and full of life. Reed Secrist, SC’s baseball coach, even said that he’d be proud to have K.J. as his son.
High praise, certainly, and I’m sure Secrist could say that about many of his players.
But it got me to thinking about the words we use in sports sometimes. Pressure, choke, and do-or-die are things we often associate with competition, even at the high school level.
One famous coach said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
K.J. Harrison was happy and his love of life and of baseball was infectious.
His teammates have said that he never acted intimidated or nervous about playing varsity, even during the state tournament. For a sophomore, Harrison could easily have been star-struck.
Instead, he seized the moment. Time and again he produced great plays on the field: an extra innings base hit here, a dandy defensive play there.
K.J. didn’t choke or feel the pressure because he played the game the way it should be played. He was out there having the time of his life.
And there’s the lesson we should all learn. In today’s sports world, we get so caught up in results, we forget how much fun it is to be an athlete, to compete and give our very best.
K.J. Harrison left this world as a champion.
Not because he had just won a championship, but because he lived life like a champion every single day.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.