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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | Eric Sondheimer

Profiles Display Courage

March 18, 1998|Eric Sondheimer

Courage is facing your worst fears. It's placing yourself in jeopardy to protect a loved one. It's standing up for what is right even when others disagree.

Courage is as simple as a teenager refusing to drink at a party. Courage is as inspirational as UCLA soccer player Shea Travis giving his NCAA championship watch to a 16-year-old boy with Down's syndrome.

Courage happens on instinct and impulse.

Courage is former Poly baseball coach Jerry Cord returning to work as a dean even though his body has been severely weakened by Hodgkin's disease.

He underwent a stem cell transplant operation in September and was hospitalized for a month while his body was bombarded with radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

"Not feeling good isn't fun," he said.

But returning to Poly two weeks ago was something he had to do.

"I enjoy being around the kids," he said.

Courage is wrestler Keith Thomas of El Camino Real enduring excruciating pain in the City Section 152-pound final from a knee that was reconstructed during surgery only four months earlier.

Thomas could have defaulted. He could have been pinned. But he refused to let down his teammates. Somehow, he finished the match to keep his team's City title hopes alive as friends and family looked on in tears.

"They knew what he was doing was so heroic," El Camino Real wrestling Coach Terry Fischer said. "It was a defining moment in their lives."

Courage is former Westlake pitcher Tim Carr quitting professional baseball at 19 because he just didn't like it and coming home to face his disappointed family, friends and coaches. Courage is eight months later, Carr calling the New York Mets to ask for a second chance.

Courage is sophomore basketball player Eric Alvarez of Taft waking up at 5:30 a.m. every weekday to board a bus near the Coliseum for the ride to Woodland Hills to help himself obtain a better education.

Courage is longtime sportswriter Pete Kokon, 84, insisting on driving himself to high school games despite suffering pneumonia, a broken hip and having a blood clot removed from his leg in the last year.

Courage is Darryl Stroh coming out of retirement to try to resurrect a once successful Granada Hills football program after he swore his coaching days were over.

Courage is the grandmother of former Kennedy pitcher Jon Garland vowing to live long enough to see him pitch for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Courage is Justin Fargas of Notre Dame choosing to leave family and friends for an unknown future at Michigan.

Courage is Burroughs baseball Coach Jose Valle suspending one of his top players five games because he cut school for one day.

Courage is freshman basketball player Daryl Ellis of Village Christian taking 12 charging fouls.

Courage is senior Bryan Levine of Grant giving up years of playing baseball to try golf.

Courage is Joe Borchard ignoring the naysayers who told him playing three sports at Camarillo High would hurt his college and professional opportunities. He received a football scholarship to Stanford and is a freshman starter for the nation's top-ranked college baseball team.

Courage is every member of North Hollywood's baseball team promising to complete the L.A. Marathon.

Courage is a 5-year-old Karina Siam asking her parents to buy a basketball hoop for her birthday, then 10 years later as a freshman at Alemany High, scoring 19 points in the Division III Southern Regional championship game.

Courage is the mother of Canoga Park freshman basketball player Brandon Lasley forcing him to leave the team after his grades fell below expectations. "She wanted to send a message," Hunter Coach Ralph Turner said.

Courage is football player Joe Looney of Reseda, a rebel in junior high, breaking up fights instead of starting them.

Courage is El Camino Real baseball Coach Mike Maio never giving up the dream of one day becoming a varsity coach while he spent 17 years as a junior varsity coach. Three City titles later, everyone knows what a special coach he is.

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Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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