Ron Savoie is walking with a little more spring in his step today.
The Johnstown softball coach lost quite a bit of weight Friday night when he shed the monkey that his been on his back for nearly three years.
Three years ago in a game played May 13, 2005, Johnstown beat Gloversville 4-3 in eight innings at Johnstown to close out the regular season. Alix Leo reached on an infield single, driving in Brittany Thomas for the win. The Lady Bills finished that season 8-11 overall and 4-10 in the Foothills Council.
Since then, the program was winless before Friday’s 7-6 win over visiting Bishop Maginn. The win snapped a 46-game losing streak.
Seniors Katie Kollar and Heather Power experienced every one of those 46 losses and felt what it was to win on the diamond for the first time Friday. They, too, have had that monkey, nearly 3 years old, swinging from their shoulders for three seasons.
For those who were wondering, as I was, just how heavy that monkey was getting, I called Mary Hall at the Utica Zoo to ask her about monkey dimensions. Hall is the education manager at the zoo and assured me it was the strangest call she has ever taken.
It turns out that monkey was getting to be adult-sized. Were it a spider monkey, which is a mid-sized monkey, it would mean Savoie and his girls are 13 to 14 pounds lighter and missing a 14- to 26-inch-long shoulder jockey.
I told Hall a mid-sized monkey really didn’t cut it.
It probably felt more like a male baboon, the largest of the monkeys at 33 to 82 pounds and 20 to 40 inches.
So unlike this hairy hitchhiker, the Lady Bills can now walk a little more upright.
And they should be walking tall. This win is as big for them as a win in the postseason for other teams.
Imagine losing all season long. Imagine coming back next season and doing the same. Starting to feel numb yet?
That frustration just tightens around you until it constricts the blood flow so much that the pain is less sharp.
When Savoie walked back out to the coach’s box at third base for the bottom of the seventh inning, he was in unfamiliar territory. He had stood there as a varsity coach in 66 games now, but it had been so long since he stood there as anxiously.
He was soon joined by Kollar, standing on the bag with one out and an 0-2 count to Katherine Bant. She told him she was scoring on a passed ball. He said, “You go. You go.”
The next pitch was a passed ball. The next moment, she was sliding home, popping back up and hugging Savoie.
This win sent the blood back into those competitive extremities and with that rush came the tears. Some of the girls were just so darn happy to finally win one, they didn’t know what to do.
Some knew exactly what to do and went for the water cooler.
Savoie was standing — dry — at the plate after shaking hands with the Lady Griffins and their coach. Then he was ambushed, drenched, dripping, but still warm.
He’ll take ice water on his shoulders over that monkey any day of the week.