By John Burbridge firstname.lastname@example.org
CHARLES CITY — A reporter once asked Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Hampton why he remains so passionate — if not maniacal — about his former Chicago Bears team well after his retirement.
“It’s like Lee Iacocca leaving Chrysler,” Hampton said of the former automotive executive. “Just because he’s no longer there, does that mean he no longer cares about a company he put so much time and effort into building?”
By the end of this week, the Comet softball careers of seniors Sara Martin, Bailey Mitchell and Shantel VanHauen will be like those of Hampton and Iacocca — “retired”.
But that doesn’t mean they’re soon to sever ties with the program.
“I see that this team is going to be good for a long time,” Martin said. “I plan to continue to watch them and support them.
“We’re building a legacy here that’s going to last. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Though the Comets may be good in the future, they’re not too bad in the present. After knocking off top-ranked Benton Community last Tuesday on the Bobcats home field in a Class 4A regional final, Charles City is making its second-straight State Softball Tournament appearance.
On Tuesday, the Comets will face Fairfield in a first-round game starting at 5 p.m. on Rogers Sports Complex’s Buena Vista University Diamond in Fort Dodge.
Fairfield is the No. 2 seed of the tournament; Charles City is No. 7.
Last year, the Comets lost to Carlisle — also returning to state — in the first round before winning the consolation bracket for fifth place.
Martin believes this year’s state run may produce better results.
“We peaked at the right time meaning right now,” said Martin, an all-Northeast Iowa Conference first-team outfielder who leads the Comets in batting average (.471), home runs (12) and RBIs (52).
“Last year, we peaked a little earlier in the season,” Martin said.
Mitchell is also optimistic about a better showing at state. She gives a one-word answer of why.
“Sami,” Mitchell said about sophomore ace Sami Heyer, who has overcome numerous knee injuries to become a 22-game winner and a prolific strikeout artist.
“She’s one of the best pitchers in the state, and she makes us a better team when she’s out there for us,” said Mitchell, a two-time all-NEIC selection at shortstop.
No matter how things go in the first round, the Comets have three more games left in the season.
The championship-bracket semifinals are scheduled for Thursday followed by the championship game and third-place game on Friday.
The consolation-bracket semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday followed by the fifth-place and seventh-place games, also on Wednesday.
“I makes me sad everything is coming to an end,” VanHauen said, “but I’m glad we’re playing a little longer.”
VanHauen had already assured herself to play a little longer after high school as she signed her letter of intent to continue her career at Graceland University back in early spring.
Martin just recently decided to play softball at Wartburg College in nearby Waverly.
As for Mitchell who will attend Iowa State to study English Education, her softball career will conclude at Fort Dodge.
“I may play on a club team if I could find one,” Mitchell said, “but for me, this is going to be it.”