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Manteca honors sports heroes
Crowd jams BLD arena for 2009 inductions
Inductee R.C. “Alley Oop” Owens shares a few remarks. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
R. C. Owens, Bill Stricker and Kevin Wentworth are no strangers to hall-of-fame type enshrinements.
Owens, the legendary San Francisco 49ers pass catcher, belongs to eight separate hall of fames.
Stricker, East Union High’s retiring dean of athletics, and Wentworth, who was on the PGA tour for several years, earned similar type honors at their respective colleges.
Yet they still considered induction to Manteca’s Sports Heroes Hall of Distinction as something quite special.
At last Saturday’s second annual event, Owens, Stricker and Wentworth were joined by Mike Morenzone, Bob Scharmann, Ron Strmiska Sr., Ken Huckaby, and the East Union High girls golf teams of the past three years were provided with a special place in the Big League Dreams facility alongside the inaugural group. The event was sponsored by the sports commission of the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“I’m going in with a great group of people,” said Morenzone, who is currently a counselor at Ripon High.
In fact, he was a bit surprised but greatly honored about his nomination to this rather elite group of those with Manteca roots or ties.
Morenzone, who was the athletic director at Weston Ranch High during its first few years of opening, enjoyed a stellar coaching career at East Union.
From 1994 through 2000, his girls’ volleyball teams qualified for six CIF playoffs. Included were three Valley Oak League titles and one Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
Morenzone’s varsity softball teams, from 1988 to 2002, captured eight league championships with 11 playoff appearances and one section crown.
He also achieved coach-of-the-year honors 10 times.
Meanwhile, Brian Goulart, head coach of the East Union girls’ golf program, along with his assistants, Ron Gutierrez and Dennis Wells, are continuing a winning tradition.
This includes an unprecedented three straight CIF crowns with a chance to add yet another this year.
According to Chuck Crutchfield, who had the honors of introducing each of the Hall of Distinction recipients, this feat is unmatched by any teams in the history of Manteca schools.
“This would include every sport participated in by either men or women,” he added.
Goulart noted that his squad is also the first group of females to the local sports heroes list.
“This is an amazing group of young ladies,” he said. “We’re proud to see them earn this recognition.”
Members, both past and present, include Amanda Agostini, Krysta Clark, Rashonne Founts, Brionna Goulart, Jillian Goulart, Katie Vaught, Christin Gowan, Jackie Ketner, Jenny Ketner, Amanda Lewis, Kailee Nuding, Ellen Parker, Danielle Reichmuth, Megan Scholl, Lindsay Shoot, Tori Souza, Nycole Teeple, Frances Telles, Salina Tiscareno, and Krystal Young.
Earlier, the group received words of encouragement from Wentworth, who was a standout golfer while growing up in Manteca.
During his days at Manteca High, he earned numerous golf accomplishments, including all-VOL and VOL champion from 1984 to 1987, section titles (1986-87), and individual honors as Nor Cal (1985) and state (1986) champion.
But his fondest memories of those days were with his teammates.
“It wasn’t on the golf course but rather in the school van with a bunch of us goofing off as coach (Steve) Winters drove us (to tournaments) throughout Northern California,” said Wentworth, who had a stellar career at Oklahoma State coupled with a few highlights on the PGA Tour.
He was also a standout football and basketball player. Wentworth, who was quarterback, had concerns about his backup, Huckaby.
“He had a gun (of an arm),” he recalled.
Huckaby, who is a 1989 graduate of MHS, was unable to attend the function. According to older brother Karl, Ken Huckaby is currently operating a baseball boot camp in Chandler, Az.
Yet he continues to chase his MLB dreams, with Huckaby playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2001), Toronto Blue Jays (2002-03, 2005), Texas Rangers (2004), Baltimore Orioles (2004), and Boston Red Sox (2006).
A catcher, he’s best remembered for a play covering third base while with Boston involving New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who, as a result, was injured in the aftermath.
“He would rather put that behind him,” Karl Huckaby said. “But I still saw it as a hustle play.”
These days, Scharmann and Strmiska can be considered patriarchs of their trade.
Scharmann, who was a longtime football official, basketball referee and baseball umpire - he worked games involving both Wentworth and Huckaby - has a son and two of his grandsons carrying on the family tradition as sports officials.
Strmiska, who was the 1977 state champion in his stock car circuit, has two sons and a grandson now racing.
During his 24 years as coach at East Union, Stricker was considered both a father figure and mentor to those involved in his basketball program.
Mark Ibanez, KTVU2 sports director, served as the MC of the event, and was joined on stage by prestigious group of special guests. Included were former NFL linebacker Mike Merriweather, former Niners linebacker Dan Bunz, founder and president of the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame Arif Khatib, USA Masters Track gold medalist Irene Obera, and Olympian / Pan American Games gold medalist Cherrie Sherrard.
Eric Wright, a seven-time NFL Pro Bowl cornerback, was unable to attend the event. However, legendary coach Ben Parks, who was in the area to attend the funeral services of Edison High football coach Charles Washington was in attendance.
Parks, who worked with Owens as a 49ers administrator, was an assistant under Washington from 1958 to 1968 before establishing a winning football tradition at Menlo Park.