Conway coach Chata Hickey, who coached the East softball team, put high school All-Star Week into perspective in am out-of-perspective way to some.
“It’s probably my biggest accomplishment outside of giving birth,” said Hickey, who was selected as an all-star head coach after one year of coaching the Conway High team. “It’s a big honor, something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Adding to the thrill was Hickey got to coach her daughter, Kayla, one more time.
“It’s great that in my last high school game, I get to play for my mother again,” Kayla said.
The softball and baseball games had several intertwining elements that reflect the best of what is happening this week in Conway.
• Hickey also got to coach for a final time Maddie Shaw and Cheyenne Kuhn, players who have meant a lot of the successful high school program the last few years.
• Farris Field at the University of Central Arkansas is a second home for Kuhn. Her father is David Kuhn, head softball coach at UCA. “Yeah, I’ve spent a little time there,” she said.
• East head softball coach Kevin Sullivan of Vilonia, whose Lady Eagles gained statewide admiration for reaching the Class 5A state title game while enduring the effects of a tornado, got to coach two of his star players, Sissa Mulligan and Leah Thomason for the final time. He saw Thomason become the winning pitcher in the second game of a doubleheader.
• Greenbrier’s Autumn Russell, a University of Arkansas softball recruit, got to play alongside Mulligan and Thomason, two players she had been rivals in many games.
• Mount Vernon-Enola’s Hayley Brewer, who missed the initial gathering and practices of the All-Stars on Monday to attend a funeral, got an emotional release by getting to play Tuesday.
• Meanwhile, a few blocks away at Bear Stadium, Mayflower coach Joe Allbritton got to coach two of the building blocks of his program, Jordan Burns and Michael Post, for the last time. Those two helped the Eagles to a 54-8 record over two seasons with two one-run losses to Fordyce (one a no-hitter) denying them trips to the state 3A title game.
• Cade Jones, a Conway product who is headed to Northwestern State to join Conway alumnus Chris Curry, who is an assistant baseball coach for the Demons and recruited him, earned Outstanding Player honors for the East.
After the doubleheader, Allbritton helped clean debris out of a dugout, then he gathered the entire team for a final word.
“It’s been a honor to spend a couple of days with you,” he said, encouraging them to continue to be good citizens as they enter the next phase of their life.
He shook hands and hugged every player for the East, some of whom he had only a brief relationship.
He joined Burns and Post for a photo.
Solidifying relationships. Parting shots. Making memories. Ties that bind.
The scoreboard was turned off.
Not the connections.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)