RENO - Joe Sellers was a young batboy when he came to Northern Nevada for his first visit in 1956. Now a high school football coaching legend, Sellers shared some old stories as keynote speaker for the Western Nevada Community College "Legends & Tales in Nevada Sports" Athletics Dinner at the Peppermill Hotel/Casino.
A sell-out crowd of 200 gathered in the Peppermill's Tahoe Grand Room for an event which served as a fund-raiser for WNCC's three athletic programs - rodeo, baseball and women's soccer.
Another boost to WNCC athletics came on "Wildcats Wednesday" when it was announced the E.L. Cord Foundation has awarded $50,000 to support athletics at the college.
The WNCC rodeo program is already competing, while women's soccer will debut this coming fall and baseball will debut in the spring of 2006. Sellers has links to two of those programs from his days as football coach, teacher and administrator at Wooster High, where he knew WNCC rodeo coach Tye Fitzpatrick and baseball coach D.J. Whittemore.
"I've been around D.J. for a long time. My boys, Luke and Jake, played with him going back to their Babe Ruth days and then in high school. And Tye was another one of my Wooster guys. So for me, it's a real honor to be here," said Sellers, who coached through three decades at Wooster and is now the head football coach at Bishop Manogue.
Along the way, Sellers has compiled a 250-45 record as football coach and his teams have won a combined total of nine state championships - seven at Wooster and two at Manogue.
"I grew up admiring him. I knew I wanted to be a coach someday so I always picked his brain whenever I could, just to learn what it takes to be successful," Whittemore said. "Probably the biggest thing I learned from him was that everybody in your program is important. It doesn't matter if it's the trainer, the statistician or any player, they are important to your program, and I certainly aspire to do the same thing."
The new coach noted that the new on-campus baseball field is expected to be ready to play on by the time the team meets on Aug. 10 for the start of its fall conditioning season.
"We will play 20 games in 10 weeks and we're going to have a lot of growing up to do," Whittemore said. "None of these kids have ever played at this level so they're going to be gaining experience. And since we have kids from five different states and several cities, everybody is going to be new to each other, so we're going to have to learn to pull together and develop team chemistry."
He is excited to face the challenge.
"We had a great turnout here tonight," Whittemore said, nodding toward the crowd. "I'm really happy with the support we've had from the community. This is just a great place to be a coach."
Sellers, who began his keynote speech by recalling the first time he came to Reno as a 10-year-old batboy when Bakersfield's California League team played the Reno Silver Sox at Moana Stadium in 1956, regards an athletic program at WNCC as a big benefit to the entire area.
"I think it's a win-win situation," Sellers said. "A lot of kids here have had to go to out-of-state community colleges for a long time. Now, more kids are going to have opportunities to play and that's exciting.
"And, I think it's going to be a plus for the University (of Nevada) because some of these kids are going to develop late and have an opportunity to keep on playing close to home."
Donations such as the $50,000 from the E.L. Cord Foundation is vital since the Wildcats are bidding to become a member of the Scenic West Conference, which includes schools in Utah, Colorado and Idaho.
"We are extremely grateful for the support of the Cord Foundation. Since our intercollegiate athletics program receives no state funds, it is only through the generosity of individuals and organizations like the E.L. Cord Foundation that we have been able to build our program so quickly."
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.