Rich Stevens: All-State teams will not please everyone
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Early in my journalism career - about 1989-ish - a colleague of mine told me, "Our job is to p*** people off."
I laughed it off at the time, but I came to understand what he was getting at.
If you're doing your job correctly, somebody is going to be mad.
That is, you can't be friends to everybody all of the time.
Personally, I don't do my job to be anybody's friend.
Which brings me to the West Virginia Sports Writers Association's daunting task of putting together All-State teams.
The association includes about 100 sportswriters in the Mountain State stretched from northeast of the state in Martinsburg, south to Bluefield, west to Huntington and north to Weirton.
The All-State teams go back longer than I've been around and include only print journalists working in our geographically challenged, tiny two-panhandle state.
A panel of writers, representing 10 regions of the state, gather near the conclusion of each athletic season - football, boys and girls basketball and baseball. In recent years we've added volleyball, soccer and softball to our overwhelming list of All-State chores.
These meetings - I'm chairman of the All-State baseball committee - last 6-9 hours during which we hammer out what we believe are the best players in the state in their respective sports.
In sports like baseball, it's more of a challenge because of the specified positions of players. Naturally, if a kid is a team's starting shortstop and best pitcher, he likely is their best player.
If he plays center field, he's likely their best outfielder. If he's the shortstop, he's their best infielder. A pitcher can pile up numbers against ordinary competition, but if he's only a pitcher, he won't win out against the aforementioned SS/P.
We make every attempt for a utility spot to be filled by a player who excels in multiple spots. A pitcher likely will also have to be a good hitter, unless he's an exceptional hurler.
Competition, spot in the batting order, and statistics - we have to use stats as a guide but not the only one - are considered when picking these teams.
Trust me when I say the responsibilities of the state's sportswriters are not taken lightly, even if many folks looking at the completed lists think we draw names from a hat or that we have something to gain by being nice to our area teams' starting shortstop.
Until a coach, athlete or parent gives me $1 million to sugarcoat the truth in print, then I will continue doing what I do.
We don't pretend to see every player in the state, particularly with cuts being made to every sports staff and the need to multi-task daily, design pages, write stories and take phone calls on deadline.
No system is perfect, yet ours of choosing all-state teams remains among the best of any in the United States, and certainly is considerably better than coaches exclusively making the selections.
What we don't attempt is to cheat anybody, but some sure think that way.
There are 37 Class AAA baseball-playing schools in West Virginia, giving us 333 players from which to choose, mostly regular starters. In Class AA, there are 40 (360 players), and in Class A, there are 46 (414). First and second team has 15 players each for a total of 30 in each class. Special and honorable mention are the players pushed by coaches, receiving the most votes and also chosen by the WVSWA.
The antiquated system of parents and athletes airing their differences or concerns through the telephone or letters is long gone. We are now blessed with Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and message boards where athletes, parents and coaches can be anonymous. Yea, that's responsible.
The final WVSWA high school season awards of the 2012-13 school year were announced Sunday with Hedgesville's Daniel Heleine being named baseball's state player of the year.
Heleine, whose 16 home runs set a school record for the Eagles, beat Cabell Midland's Seth Kinker by two votes in Player of the Year balloting among the sportswriters at the meeting.
Some players were first-team All-State, some were second, some earned special mention and some honorable mention. Some didn't make it.
Some decided to air their differences on social networks.
Most decided to keep their feelings to themselves.
With our sports editor, Chuck McGill, doing work in the office, I managed to see more than 30 games and 25 teams this season.
I have no axe to grind and certainly nothing to gain by not trying to get the state's best players on all-state, which is also the case with the other all-state baseball committee members.
I guess the bottom line is that you can't please everybody all of the time.
To be honest, that's not what I want to do anyway.
We seek perfection, an unattainable goal but one that we strive for, and that's good enough for me.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.