SIOUX CITY -- Quite a business I wound up in when I actually volunteered for a life in journalism.
Just a terrific idea, you know?
Newspaper people don’t have to worry about what to do with all their money because we don’t have much.
We don’t have to be suffocated by an admiring public because the truths we’ve disseminated for a couple of centuries now have stepped on enough toes to make us rather unpopular.
On top of all that, there’s this guy who’d like to rewrite the U.S. Constitution because we’re all very bad people.
After 45 years with all those perks, you’d be a fool not to stay involved to some extent even after they’ve turned you out to pasture. And, I’ll just turn off the sarcasm now as I tell you one of my fondest news-gathering memories.
That’s what we do, after all. We gather news and then pass it along to you. Much as I love how technology has simplified the process, the relay of data has lost the personal touch.
Thirty-some years ago, for example, it brought a smile to my face when one or two tall kids from East High strolled across our newsroom, walking up to my desk to present results from a swimming meet in which they’d almost always done something impressive.
Figuring all of that out required me to know a little about their sport and apply it to the info they’d provided. Most of all, Nick and Eric Hansen just wanted to say hello. That’s because Nick and Eric were the sort of young people that made you want to tackle this job in the first place, long hours and all.
Like a great many of my favorite headline-makers from over the years, they are now quite mature adults who’ve both coached Olympians -- Nick as the head men’s and women’s swimming coach at Wisconsin, where Eric was his successor before taking over the program at the University of Arizona.
Both of them make their home these days in Colorado, where they can enjoy active lives in the great outdoors right along with their parents, Roger and Cleo, former coaches and educators who went west after taking early retirement.
Every first Sunday in November -- a “sacred weekend,’’ says Eric -- the brothers do a “double cross” of the Grand Canyon. Running from the south rim to the north rim and then back, they cover 48 miles and delight in how much fun they’ve had. See what I’m saying?
Eric, whose high jump record at East of 6-9 still stands, is one of just nine Sioux City swimmers who’ve won a total of 11 individual state championships (none since 1998). He went on to earn All-America laurels several times at Iowa State, which inducted him into its athletic hall of fame in 2004. He then competed several years for Team USA, but he narrowly missed joining swimming’s dominant men’s team in both the 1988 and ’92 Olympics.
Nick, like Eric, won several state meet medals on the East swim teams coached by their mother. Nick, a more sturdy 6-5 compared to Eric, a slender, 6-6, was also a very capable football player, the sport where their dad had a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nick made a very early exit from the coaching profession in order to watch a talented son and daughter develop in Loveland, a half-hour south of Fort Collins. Brooke was a state champion swimmer and landed a scholarship to Texas, where she swam on two Big 12 Conference title-winning relays as a freshman. She still has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Which brings me to Alec, a pitcher whose high school baseball career was so impressive he could have just had his choice of college scholarships. A 6-7, 235-pound righthander with a fastball clocked at 97, he wound up pitching three seasons at the University of Oklahoma, where some scouts saw him as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick.
When you’re that tall and have that sort of velocity, you’re conspicuous, to be sure. When you strike out 185 batters in 145 innings over three college seasons, nearly 1.3 per inning, the buzz gets even louder.
Professional baseball wasn’t dissuaded by a modest 8-12 record and a 4.53 ERA in his years with the Sooners. That’s why the Chicago White Sox ignored some of the stats and made him a second-round draft pick last year, the 45th selection in the 2016 draft.
The Sox, who are making significant headway in a bid to build something special like the guys across town have developed, have been quite happy with their choice. Here’s why:
As a rookie last summer, getting the customary late start most draft picks do, Alec made 12 starts for three different lower-level affiliates and went 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA, striking out 81 batters in 54.2 innings. Opponents batted just .133 against him.
This year, continuing a fairly meteoric climb, he’s made 24 starts and fashioned a 2.68 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 131 innings. All of which has earned him a promotion to the Birmingham Barons of the Class AA Southern League. Just two more steps to go.
According to a feature story in the Chicago Tribune, Alec has supplemented his repertoire of fastball, curveball and slider with a knee-buckling change-up. He has cleaned up the control issues that led to 96 costly walks in 145 innings at OU, allowing just 68 free passes in 185.2 innings.
The 22-year-old told The Tribune’s Colleen Kane his progress stems most of all from being able to relax. After all the expectations, “slipping” to a second-round pick (with “just” a signing bonus of $1,284,500), he called his junior (final) season at Oklahoma “kind of a failure.”
“I know people had expectations of me, but I had greater expectations of myself,’’ he said. “I put too much pressure on myself and I wanted everything to be perfect. When a little thing went wrong, I kind of blew up. Having that weight lifted off my shoulders after the draft last year helped a lot.’’
Knowing this family, I’ll bet Alec wouldn’t have minded hand-delivering his baseball results to the hometown newspaper. Pretty soon, though, he’ll probably be too busy with the hordes of horrible folks swarming around his locker.
Sure hope so.