An old friend and legend

From the Sidelines

337

While I was in Kentucky playing golf with some friends, I received a text from Denis Short that Coach Al Hetrick had passed away. I knew Al had not been well, but I must say this was an awful surprise. Al Hetrick was one of the most genuine people I had ever met. He told you what he thought, and was always respectful of me, even when we sometimes disagreed. Al will be sorely missed because he was what most coaches and people should be, and I, for one, was honored to know such a man.

Coach Hetrick coached for 38 years before he retired in 2005. I can’t begin to imagine the positive impact he had on so many of his players. I know quite a few of them and they are all positive contributors to their communities, and they still talk about him. Coach Hetrick won 18 conference championships, and was in nine state title games and won six of those.  He won three in a row from 1993 to 1995.  He had an all-time record of 334-95-4, a record that he should be awfully proud of.  

Al was a coach in every sense of the word, and a developer of young men. I liked him a lot. We first met when I was driving my own dump truck for the C. F. Poeppelman stone company, and Al needed his driveway done. When I got to his house on the old rte 242, now Chase Road, I did the job, and afterward, as I handed him the bill, we started talking.

I had just started officiating and hadn’t had one of his games yet. He wished me well and said he hoped I got to do one of his games in the future. From that conversation came a long friendship with him, and he got his wish……I wondered sometimes if he regretted that! I did his driveway many times, and we always had a long talk afterward. I did Versailles games when I got my MAC assignments, and I always looked forward to who I had Versailles against. Al was always considerate, even when he was yelling at me!

I will leave you all with my best memory of Coach Hetrick.  I refereed a game between Sidney Lehman Catholic and Versailles. Versailles was winning, but Al kept pacing up and down the sidelines, and whenever a penalty was called, or not called when he thought it should be, Al would yell “Come on Mike, you’re better than that!” This went on the whole game, but Al never really looked at me when he said that, he just kept pacing and looking at the ground. 

I took that as just nervous energy because Lehman was supposed to be very good, and they were, but Versailles was winning anyway. Finally in the fourth quarter, there was a sweep to the Versailles sideline and the Versailles runner was spotted, 15 yards downfield mind you, so the call wasn’t even mine, it was the linesman’s call all the way. 

Al didn’t like the spot, and once again yelled “Come on Mike, you’re better than that!” This time I yelled back, “Apparently not Al, you’ve been telling me I suck the whole game!”  He stopped pacing, looked at me for the first time, and got that Al Hetrick grin, and never said a word, just grinned at me.

The game lasted only about 10 minutes more and at the end of the game, Al and I shook hands and still grinning said “Nice game, Mike!!” That was Al Hetrick. A legend, and a friend who I will miss dearly.

That’s the way I saw it, and will always remember it…..from the sidelines!