Vail Valey preps: Suddenly the games are not quite so important |

Vail Valey preps: Suddenly the games are not quite so important

“You know who was the last Battle Mountain pitcher to throw a no-hitter? Tucker Thissen,” I was saying Tuesday night to current Huskies manager Jason Spannagel.

This was the routine call-in deal with Spannagel. Senior Joe Webb had flirted with a no-no Tuesday against Steamboat Springs, so it was natural to bring up “the last guy.” Upon further review, it was actually not for an official Battle Mountain team, but for its summer American Legion squad in 1998.

There had been a few walks and errors, so it wasn’t until the Vail Renegades got to a KFC and looked at the scorebook that everyone realized Thissen had twirled a no-no, prompting my story to be led, “This no-hitter was finger-lickin’ good.”

One takes pride in a turn of a phrase like that.

Little did I know Tuesday night that Thissen, 30, had died Monday morning in an auto accident on Interstate 70.

As the school year ends, one tends to get reflective. There have been tremendous moments, and we’ll run them down in our upcoming Senior Section. But this has been a grim year, especially at Battle Mountain.

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Andrew Claymon, 16, lost his fight with cancer last summer. Eric Spry, 19, died of pneumonia in February. Todd Walker, 20, was shot and killed in an attempted robbery down in Boulder in March. And now, Thissen. Battle Mountain athletes all in their day, and gone way too young.

We can delve into the handy sayings about having perspective and that sports are only games. They’re small comfort.

What do you say to these families? No parent should survive a child.

Why the heck do these things happen? Yes, people die of disease, but why Claymon and Spry? Why did Walker end up just being at the wrong place at the wrong time after a St. Patrick’s Day party in Boulder? Thissen had doubtless driven from here to Denver and back a ton of times.

There are no answers here.

About the only way to get through dreadful times like this is to keep living and loving. When you receive that awful call – I got mine Aug. 18, 2006, when my father died of a heart attack – you’re lost.

I was in a fog for most of the rest of 2006. My brain, which is a sports encyclopedia, barely remembers what I covered for those months.

I remember Battle Mountain football beating Moffat County, 14-6, an improbable upset at the time. I was sitting with the Battle Mountain coaching staff, and assistant coach Jeff Krumlauf, at one point, said, “I’m going to have a heart attack.” He realized what he said and apologized. I laughed. You either laugh or you’ll cry and it’s better to laugh. (In retrospect, I find this moment really funny.)

I remember being down in Glenwood Springs for Battle Mountain soccer clinching a league title and being on the floor of the Denver Coliseum as Huskies volleyball won state. The rest is a blank.

I only know that Battle Mountain cross-country won state in 2006, by covering the 2007 state meet, where the Huskies boys won again. I simply know that Eagle Valley football beat Battle Mountain that year because the Devils had a streak going at the time.

The “firsts” are miserable – first holiday season, other holidays, birthdays, etc. But as I discovered, we’re still here – no matter the injustice of the loved one lost. And as trite as it sounds, life does go on until you reach a “new normal.”

And one gets there with the love and the support of family and friends. While my situation – a son losing a father as opposed to parents and their child – is different, you can’t get through it alone.

And while we shake our heads about how crazy some people are in this county and complain about its problems, this is a good community, where we take care of our own. We’ll get through this time by crying and laughing over the lost, and keeping them with us in our hearts.

To the Claymons, the Sprys, the Walkers and the Thissens, we’re with you every step of the way.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or