MENTORS OF THE GAME

The McCormick family of Tommy, left, Sean, Ryan, Missy, Tom and Megan pose after a Fallon football game last season.

The McCormick family of Tommy, left, Sean, Ryan, Missy, Tom and Megan pose after a Fallon football game last season.

Her career had just ended, bringing a close to many years of competitive softball in the Pinder family.

No more cleats to tie. No more jerseys to wash. No more arms to ice. It was the end.

But while Jill Pinder’s career at Lewis and Clark was over, her father, Phil, couldn’t have been anymore thankful. Older sister Kate Coffey finished her career at Dixie State several years ago, leaving just Jill as the only show in the family.

“My dad put his arm around me and said, ‘Well kid, it’s been a good ride,’” Jill recalled. “’I can’t tell you enough how much I’ve enjoyed coaching and watching you.”

Possessing a strong and talented lineup, Phil guided the Greenwave to back-to-back state championships in Fallon’s first two years in the Class 3A. He was fortunate to coach both Kate and Jill while Fallon competed in the 4A and watch his daughters grow before his eyes. He was there for the ride in college, watching both of his girls compete and live their dream.

“Through our years of traveling the country playing softball, we developed some traditions, one of my favorite being, I carried my bag into the complex, and regardless of the outcome he carried my bag out,” Kate said. “This gave us the opportunity to leave together, sometimes with me in tears after a tough loss, or full of pride leaving with a first-place victory.”

The last pitch she threw for Dixie State three years ago happened to be in the best game of her career, and her parents and husband were there to watch the extra-inning game unfold.

“I remember the last game I ever pitched, probably the best game I ever pitched,” Kate said. “After a 15-inning victory, I ran over to the sidelines to see him standing next to my husband, beaming with pride and excitement. That day, he carried my bag to my car for the last time.”

There are no regrets between the Pinder sisters. They both played for their father, had storied careers with the Greenwave and continued that success into college to earn degrees. Their father’s words of encouragement, support and advice have never felt stronger.

“It was a year later when I told him that I was starting my master’s degree that I realized it wasn’t the sports that had brought us so close and made him so proud,” Kate said. “It was everything I did in life that made me a better person. Little does he know, he is what makes me a better person. His concept of being the best you can in every situation has molded me into who I am today.”

For Jill, the no-quit attitude on the field and in the classroom sticks out the most in addition to holding up those state trophies.

“If I were to face the best batter in the league or the hardest test in college, never give up,” she said. “He taught me that regardless of the outcome of the game, the exam or the choices in life that I’ll be making, he will always be there as my biggest supporter. My dad has impacted my life more than even I can comprehend.”

BROTHERS’ STRONG BOND

Ryan McCormick’s relationship with his older brother and his family was unique when he was younger.

He moved in with Tom and Missy McCormick when he was 13 and viewed them more like parents instead of an older brother and sister. Children Megan, Sean and Tommy were 5, 3 and 1 at the time and Ryan felt more like a big brother while growing up and attending school in Fallon.

“I’ve always been like an older brother to these kids,” he said. “Being an uncle has been all about being a role model for them.”

Ryan grew into a competitive football player and wrestling star for the Greenwave and continued his football career at Carroll College, where Tom and his brother Daren attended and played for the Saints. Missy’s brother, Benji Robinson, also played at Carroll. By the time Ryan returned to Fallon after getting his degree from the Montana school, he felt more like an uncle to those three and developed a stronger relationship with Tom.

“Being able to grow up with Tom has taught me how to be an amazing father,” said Ryan, who helps coach football and wrestling. “When I was younger, Tom had to teach me how to be a man, but we still had fun like brothers.”

Tom’s experience, especially with sports with his children, and Ryan being a fierce competitor, set the model for his parenting style. Megan just graduated from Fallon and will play softball at Carroll. Sean finished his freshman year and won a state wrestling title, while Tommy will become a freshman this year.

“If you want to be successful in both (sports and life), you need to set goals, prepare, work hard and work well with others,” said Tom, who’s a surgeon at Lahontan Valley Surgical Associates. “The example I want to set is that I work hard at my job, my marriage and being a good dad. My dad also supported me in sports and academics and encouraged me to always be prepared for whatever I was doing.”

Megan’s success with the Greenwave in her four years is a result of a relationship with her family and its history to strive to be the best. Her father’s motivation helped pave the way in becoming a better athlete and person.

“He’s my go-to for anything, whether it be about strategy for an upcoming game, what I’m doing wrong at the plate when I don’t’ feel like I’m hitting to the best of my ability or about life and what path I want to take after college,” she said. “He’s my rock.”

Ryan said he wants to emulate his brother’s formula when he has his own family. The years spent in the McCormick house helped Ryan learn what it meant to be an uncle at an early age.

“Since I’ve grown up, we’ve transitioned into more of a sibling relationship, but he’s still the first guy I ask for advice and the first guy to tell me when I’m wrong,” Ryan said. “Being an uncle for me has taught me how to be a great father. I was able to learn from him, both from firsthand experience and watching him with his own children. I’ve been able to have a more hands-on experience versus the more traditional role of uncle. I’m still the guy that has a ton of fun with the kids but we can also share similar growing pains.”

For Megan, though, Ryan will still feel like that older brother who was supportive every step of the way of her career, especially when she chose Carroll to continue her education and softball career.

“He was ecstatic when I chose Carroll because at the end of the day, he wants what will suit me the best and with his experience there, he knew it was a perfect match,” she said. “Ryan is the energy that keeps everything flowing. Without Ryan, my life would be quiet and my life would not be the same without him.”

FARMING TO FOOTBALL

Farming, sports and family can best describe the de Braga family.

A mainstay that continues to drive the agriculture business in the Lahontan Valley, if the de Bragas aren’t working on the farm, they’re at the ballpark or gym.

Trevor, Trent and Frank played for the Greenwave, earning state accolades along the way. Trevor and Trent won individual state wrestling titles in the 4A while Frank picked up a baseball title in the 3A. All three played for their father, Lester, in the youth leagues, from baseball to football.

It was an anomaly not to see a de Braga roaming the field or their mother, Angela, cheering for the Greenwave.

The relationship between Lester and his three boys helped benefit Greenwave athletics with them contributing to the success as players and coaches.

“I can honestly say that everything I learned growing up, whether it be athletically, academically or in society has been learned through my dad,” said Trevor, who played football at Colorado Mesa and returned to Fallon to help with the farm and coach football, wrestling and baseball.

And while they helped Lester on the farm when they were little, he still found a way to connect farming and sports.

“At an early age, dad had me out on the tractor raking hay on the ranch. Dad would do anything he could to help us athletically,” Trevor recalled. “He built us a half-court concrete basketball court, a full-size batting cage and a full-size bullpen out at our house on the ranch. He worked hours and hours with us to correct our swings, or throw a perfect spiral in football or a good breaking ball for baseball.”

Lester’s passion as a father and coach is what helped Trent become successful on and off the field. Trent also played football at Colorado Mesa and then returned to the Silver State and attended law school at UNLV.

“He has taught me so much, not only about athletics but about life,” said Trent, who also helps coach Bishop Gorman’s wrestling team. “My brothers and I have always said that if we can be half the man my dad is, then we will be successful. He is our role model, and the one we try to emulate, but more importantly, he does the right things by leading by example.”

Unlike his older brothers, Frank was fortunate to play for his dad in high school, helping the Greenwave win its first state baseball title in nearly 40 years. Since then, Frank fulfilled his dream of playing college football at Colorado like his brothers before him and was also accepted into grad school recently. With his parents’ support, none of that would have been possible.

“On the rough days when he was pushing me to be better, it wasn’t just as an athlete, it was as a human being as well and I am forever grateful to him for making me who I am today,” said Frank, who was also bit by the coaching bug and helped the Greenwave this season. “He’s not only the greatest coach I’ve encountered, he’s the greatest dad and mentor and I will always take his lessons throughout my life. He took Greenwave baseball over the hump we desperately needed to get over and continues to excel with his program. I would do anything for a chance to play for my dad one more time and was lucky enough to coach by him this year.”

BASEBALL BRINGS CORNUS TOGETHER

Rick Cornu knew what it took to play baseball at college’s highest level.

He spent many hours at the ball field when he grew up, frequenting Oats Park like a second home. Baseball was in his blood and nothing would stop him from achieving his dream.

His father, Rick Sr., was a well-known farm and ranch mechanic in Fallon and always found a way to make time for his boys, Rick and Thad. Whether it was driving him down to the park for practice or into Reno for travel ball, he was there every step of the way.

“He was always busy year-round but always found time to make it to our games to coach me and my friends until about the age of 13, 14,” Rick Jr. said.

His laid-back demeanor seems more uncommon in today’s sports. Coaches constantly yell at their players, slipping the occasional expletive that could demoralize a kid trying to make it big. But Rick Sr. was more of a player’s coach and wanted to make everyone better, regardless of talent level.

“He let us enjoy the game and be competitive at the same time,” Rick Jr. said. “It takes a special someone to be able to teach young kids and have the patience to do so.

But what stood out the most was his father’s perspective. Rick Jr. felt like travel ball coaches spoke in a different language at times and his father would find a way to translate the message.

“One thing I have learned is that not everyone will get the concept or understand what you’re trying to teach the same way as someone else,” he said. “Therefore, you have to be able to teach the kids in a language they understand and that’s where my father was able to help out more once he stopped coaching us.”

The baseball stories never tire with the Cornus, especially after Rick Jr. landed in Utah and played baseball for the Utes, who are now in the Pac-12. For Thad, who played in the youth league with his brother, having their father on the same field, coaching from the dugout or at third base is a son’s dream.

“My relationship with my father was great, not everyone gets to have their father coach them as they grow up,” Thad said, “but my brother and I were very fortunate to have our dad coach us until we were 13. The biggest thing I learned that stuck with me is to never quit or give up.”

Their father wasn’t the only staple in the baseball household. Uncle Ron Cornu helped coach and guided one of Fallon’s Cal Ripken teams in the regional tournament last decade, while grandfathers Don West and Hank Cornu were big supporters who put in “countless hours.”

“They put in (the time) when my parents were busy working to make it possible to be able to play travel ball,” Rick Jr. said. “We all know the game isn’t cheap.”

A father playing catch with his son or daughter. A grandfather watching his kin follow in his footsteps. An uncle admiring the careers of his niece and nephew.

Sunday brings special meaning to many people when Father’s Day is celebrated. But in the tight-knit community of Fallon, sports exemplifies those relationships, bringing a father closer with his children.

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