Sunday, September 26, 2004
Ken Boehme doesn't get chances to revisit St. Xavier and the soccer team for which he loved playing more than 20 years ago, but the current St. X players are making sure thoughts of Boehme are at every game this year.
You can't take the St. X out of Boehme
Good Sports column
Boehme, a four-year soccer and baseball player and 1983 graduate of St. X, is now LTC. Kenneth Boehme, commander of the 1-33rd Field Artillery Battalion in Iraq. He has more than 600 men under him, Boehme's parents, Ken and Jean, said, so making it back for soccer games isn't an option. But he has found a way to keep his St. X spirit alive.
"They adopted each other," Jean Boehme said.
On Thursday night before the varsity soccer game, the St. Xavier players unveiled warmups that had sewn on them green patches with a red numeral "1," sent by "Kenny," as he was called in high school, from Iraq.
1. Barry Larkin. Pay attention to the final eight days of the season of arguably the greatest shortstop in Reds history. He very well might never play for the team again. The good news: The spectacular new Reds Hall of Fame will have a place for him.
2. The Bengals. Who knows how many nationwide viewers turned the channel after three ugly quarters against the Dolphins Sunday night. But a late, game-winning drive did wonders for Bengal nation.
3. NASCAR. It didn't hurt the new chase format to have a racer (Robby Gordon) intentionally cause a wreck that in the end helped Dale Earnhardt Jr. move atop the standings.
4. Tiger Woods. Sure, he caught grief for pulling out late from this week's event. But that just shows what a draw he remains. The PGA Tour is about to renegotiate its deal that has seen ratings slip 16 percent - not including majors - since 2001. That loosely coincides with Woods' so-called slump. Coincidence? We think not.
1. Ricky Williams. The former Miami Dolphins running back has been ordered to repay the team more than $8.6 million for breaching his contract when he suddenly quit before training camp. Hope he enjoys that trip to China.
2. Bud Selig. Forget the fiasco that is the potential move of the Expos. Had the Baseball Czar bothered to reinstate Pete Rose over lo these many years, we wouldn't be subjected to the ESPN movie Hustle.
3. The Yankees. The Evil Empire clinched its 10th straight playoff berth. So what. How hard can it be when you lose Aaron Boone, then simply take on Alex Rodriguez's contract?
4. Hurricanes. (Third in a series.)
The patches represent Boehme's 1st Infantry Division, Big Red 1. Boehme asked the players to wear them to honor the 80 men who have died in the division.
"It's a huge honor," St. Xavier senior Ricky Sharma said. "It makes us realize that we're playing for something bigger than just ourselves and the guys on the field. We're playing for the tradition."
Said senior Andrew Greiwe: "He said we'd be playing for their memory. That part of the e-mail really touched me, to play for the memory of all the people in Iraq and those that have died."
After Boehme originally contacted his former coach, Mark Wilkins, Sharma and Greiwe began sending Boehme e-mails following St. X games, letting him know how things are going and "thanking him, mainly," Greiwe said.
They also plan to send him photos taken Thursday, and St. X coach Henry Ahrens plans to send a bag of soccer balls for kids in Iraq, too.
Most of the players have never met Boehme, "but if he's anything like he sounds, he's a good guy," Sharma said. And they have met his family. When Boehme's eighth-grader son, Alex, who lives in Germany, was in Ohio on vacation, he practiced with the freshman and varsity teams. And Thursday, Ken Sr. and Jean Boehme and their daughter, Karen's, family were all present for the ceremony. The players presented the family with red, white and blue flowers and a No. 14 St. X jersey - Kenny's number in high school - that Ken Sr. said he would send to his son in Iraq.
Ken and Jean said they try to attend as many St. X games as they can now.
"It's like bringing us home. Sitting here tonight watching the kids, it's like Kenny's out there all over again," Jean Boehme said. "They have a motto here at St. X, which is 'Men for others,' and he said, 'They are truly men for others.' He was just so thrilled that they would have done that for his son, and he's so thrilled and honored that they're wearing his patches."
Jean Boehme said she talked to her son Thursday. Boehme called her from his home in Germany, where he was able to return for a two-week rest period.
"It happened on this very same day, which is just unbelievable," Jean Boehme said. "It's just perfect."
Adding to the perfection: St. X won its game Thursday night over Claymont Northmont, 3-0.
Kyle McNeely spent two weeks this month in a different world of baseball. He watched teams bring cheerleaders and bands to baseball games that had a halftime after the fifth inning. He learned to bow with the other umpires before he entered the field for a game. And at times, he needed an interpreter to relay his umpiring calls to players and coaches.
McNeely was the only umpire from the United States to be selected to travel to Taipei from Sept. 3-12 to officiate the International Baseball Federation AAA Junior World Championships for players 18 and under. He called nine games, five from behind the plate, with 25 umpires and 12 teams from around the world.
"Seeing other teams and meeting umpires from other parts of the world, it was a thrill to do that," McNeely said. "Once you get between the lines, the game is just baseball. Once I got started, I really felt at home, really comfortable."
McNeely said he speaks only English and broken Spanish, which sometimes led to misunderstandings. But there was one advantage.
"When you have people yelling at you, you can't understand, so it doesn't matter," McNeely said, laughing.
Cuba won the tournament, and the United States placed fourth. It was the first international tournament for McNeely, a 51-year-old who has been umpiring and teaching baseball rules for more than 20 years. He hopes to travel to more international tournaments from the contacts he made.
Runner Michael Stain is in his second year as a member of Team Active Elite, a nationwide group of runners, cyclists and triathletes sponsored by the companies Active.com, Eggbeaters and Road ID, based in Fort Mitchell. After being contacted by the team in April 2003, Stain has received free racing gear, has his progress tracked and has contacts at races throughout the country in return for promoting the products.
He also has improved his times since beginning the program. Stain, a runner for more than 20 years, runs 20-25 races a year for the program. His 23rd race this year came last Sunday at the State-to-State half-marathon, where he finished in a personal-best time of 1 hour, 26 minutes and 54 seconds for third place in his age group. He plans to run his seventh marathon in Chicago Oct. 10, when he hopes for a personal-best three hours flat.
"I'm looking forward to Chicago," Stain said. "I've never been running as well as I am right now, knock on wood."
This team went 6-1 to win the USSSA Slow-pitch Women's 35-&-over World Tournament at Disney's Wide World of Sports last week.
It was the team's second straight world championship and the fifth overall since coach Colleen Needham and two others helped start the world masters tournament for women in 1993. The team beat the Florida Storm twice - 11-7 and 18-7 - to claim the championship.
Theresa Hirschauer was named tournament MVP, and Celia Fritz was named offensive tournament MVP. Lisa Tyler, Michelle Cummins, Susan Garnier, Rhonda Klette and Brenda Ryan were named to the all-tournament team.
"We've all been involved in softball for a long time. We have some of the best players in Cincinnati on our team," Needham said. "That was the climax of our year. Now we'll start thinking about whether we can three-peat."
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