Two of the most well-known area athletes in recent memory are part of the 2016 NIAA Hall of Fame Class.
Former Douglas High pitcher Shawn Estes, the 1991 Player of the Year and a 13-year Major League player, and Greg Hess, Virginia City basketball and baseball standout from the early 1980s, are part of this year’s class.
Eight other athletes, officials, coaches and administrators who make up this year’s 10-person class will be honored on Feb. 25 at Lawlor Events Center.
Hess was a key component of the legendary Mucker basketball teams of the 1980s. He started all four years at VC, helping the team to three straight state titles (82 through 84). He was a three-time all-state player and 1A Player of the Year as a junior and senior.
“I was kind of surprised,” Hess said during a telephone interview on Wednesday morning. “I didn’t really expect it. It’s a great honor. It’s something I’ve always wanted to make.”
Hess was part of the Muckers’ record-setting 93-game winning streak, and he also helped VC win its fist-ever state baseball title back in 1984.
“When I was at VC, the win streak wasn’t a big thing,” Hess said. “My junior and senior years we were beating the 3A teams pretty regularly, and we were a little more focused on that.”
Virginia City had a 55-game streak, and it wasn’t until the Muckers surpassed it the streak started to mean something accoding to Hess.
Hess fondly remembers the day when the tiny high school gym was packed with more fans than were allowed by law.
“When Gabbs or Pyramid Lake came to town, I think the fire chief would leave because I’m sure there were a lot of violations being broken,” Hess said. “The local watering holes would do a pretty good business after those games. The kids would come in, and they would make sure to serve ice tea or root beer.”
After his career at VC, Hess went to College of Siskiyous and played two years. He then went to University of Nevada, and was redshirted by former coach Sonny Allen.
In the off-season, Hess suffered a foot injury as a result of a chainsaw accident. He ended up leaving school before he ever got a chance to play for the Wolf Pack.
Hess served as a county commissioner for 14 years in Storey County. He’s now in the construction business.
He’s also helping Tom Maurer coach this year’s VC boys team.
Estes knew he was being nominated for the honor, but didn’t know until a few days ago he had made the cut.
“The athletic director at Douglas (Jeff Evans) called me two weeks ago, so I knew then I was being nominated,” Estes said from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s a great honor to be recognized.”
Estes, a former first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, posted an 8-2 record and a 0.79 ERA as a senior at Douglas. He had 141 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. He had 20 strikeouts in an eight-inning game against Reed and struck out 18 in a game against McQueen. He was no slouch at the plate, hitting .448 with eight homers.
The highlight of his career, however, was his sophomore year when the the Tigers reached the state baseball playoffs in Las Vegas.
“I have to say the most joy was when we made it to state my sophomore year,” Estes said. “We got to go down and play in Las Vegas. The first round we played Valley, and they had three or four guys that would go on and play in the Big Leagues. Baseball in the north is not as deep as it is in Las Vegas. We had a pretty good team, but we lost that first round, and then had to play Eldorado which lost to Carson. We beat Eldorado, and then had to play Valley again.
“I was the third or fourth pitcher on the team that year. I came in and relieved that third game. It was the first time I’d had a chance to pitch in front of scouts and the first time I’d ever been clocked. My dad was sitting next to a scout I think from the Reds, and he asked him what I was throwing. I was throwing 80 or 81 then. Each year I picked up about 5 miles per hour, and by the time I graduated I think I was up to 92.”
A broken leg suffered during basketball season forced Estes to get a late start his junior year. He had a sensational senior season, but the team lost in the zone finals.
“I had signed to go to Stanford, and coach (Mark) Marquess was there that day,” Estes said. “I gave up a game-winning homer I think.”
Estes never had a chance to play college ball, and he doesn’t regret it. Signed by Seattle out of high school, the 11th pick overall, he never pitched for the parent club. Estes pitched 13 years, seven with the San Francisco Giants. He pitched for the Giants in the NLDS back in 1997 and 2000. His best season was in 1997 when he compiled a 19-5 record with a 3.15 ERA. His overall record was 101-93. He also pitched for the Padres, Reds, Rockies, Cubs, Mets and Diamondbacks. His record with the Giants was 64-50.
The 42-year-old Estes has never forgotten his roots. His recent donation helped Douglas improve its baseball facility, and he’s also sponsoring an event to help raise more funds for DHS baseball and Carson Valley girls softball.