PEORIA — Harold Fay is one grateful dad.
The father of Harold Fay — a junior on the Putnam County baseball team who shares his dad’s first name — watched this weekend as his youngest son helped the Panthers to a second-place finish at the Class 1A state tournament.
While most parents dream of watching a child play at state, it was the third time Harold has watched a son compete at state.
In addition to his youngest playing at the state baseball tournament, oldest son Carlton and middle son Kevin competed at the 2007 Class A state basketball tournament.
A year later, Kevin was a member of the PC baseball team that finished third in Class 1A.
“It makes you feel old for one thing,” the older Harold joked. “But, obviously, I am very proud of them and they have all worked hard. It’s been fun and, as far as sports, we’ve been very fortunate.”
The father Harold also played in two state tournaments himself. He was a member of the 1981 state-qualifying PC basketball team as well as the 1982 state-qualifying baseball team.
“It’s a little easier to play than it is to watch,” he said. “Obviously, this is so much fun. It goes fast when you’re playing and goes even faster when you’re watching.”
The 24-year-old Carlton watched his younger brother pitch PC past Salt Fork in Friday’s semifinal but missed Saturday’s title game.
Kevin, who will be a senior on the William Penn University basketball team, was unable to attend the state tournament due to a prescheduled trip.
After watching his brothers play at state, the younger Harold was happy to get the state experience himself.
“It’s a little better playing than watching,” he said. “This is exactly how I imagined it — besides losing. Just the whole environment and this huge crowd is just crazy.”
A long time coming
After a whirlwind of a postseason and nearly a month of working two baseball jobs, PC coach Dave Garcia did something Sunday he hasn’t done in awhile: take a day off.
The fifth-year Panther coach spent Sunday and will spend Monday with his family before he reports full-time Tuesday to the Joliet Slammers, for whom Garcia is the hitting coach and has spent the last month coaching for in addition to guiding PC.
The time off also gave Garcia an opportunity for reflection about state, which he experienced as a player in 1998, an assistant coach in 2008 and a head coach this season.
“Every single year has a different emotion,” Garcia said. “Going to state my senior year in a two-class system and finishing fourth was awesome. When I was an assistant coach, the biggest part was I got to be in the dugout for (longtime PC coach Ken) Jenkins’s last game. And this is my first trip down here as a head coach and I did it with a great group of seniors.
“Every trip has something a little different. Right now I’d say this has been the best, but every single one has something that pulls at the heartstrings.”
A warm welcome
Following their program-best second-place state performance, the Panthers were welcomed back to Putnam County on Saturday evening with a welcome home rally at the high school.
After the team received a police-escort throughout the county, fans poured into R.M. Germano Gymnasium to show their Panther pride.
“To make school history is the greatest feeling in the world,” senior Xavier Warren said. “We left a mark on Putnam County, which is what we planned to do. I couldn’t ask for a better group of fans and supporters. I love them all.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.