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Frank Giardina

Frank Giardina

In this time of COVID, our state has become a soccer state. One of the individuals who elevated men’s college soccer in our state, Chad Duernberger, was in the area over the holidays.

Duernberger helped raise the bar for the program at the University of Charleston when he was the head coach from 2008-2010. He took over a team that was 0-17 in 2007 and, two years later, he was 19-4.

Duernberger left to become an assistant coach at Penn State and is now an assistant at Dartmouth in the Ivy League. He set the table for Chris Grassie, who led UC to two NCAA Division II runner-up finishes. Grassie is now at Marshall and won the NCAA Division 1 national championship last spring.

Grassie paved the way for Dan Stratford, who won two NCAA Division II national titles at UC before moving on to WVU. Stratford took WVU to the NCAA Division I quarterfinals this past fall.

Now, UC, Marshall and WVU are all national championship contenders, and the foundation was laid back in 2008 by Duernberger.

n In recent years, there have been many sports movies that have become popular. One of the most relatable and popular sports movies of all time is “The Sandlot.”

As someone who grew up in the 1960s, I feel as if knew all of the characters in that movie. You probably did also. For me, my favorite spot for pick-up basketball was the Malden Elementary playground. However, for baseball, our spots were the vacant fields in Port Amherst near the mouth of Campbells Creek. It was like playing in Heaven.

In the movie, the best player among the sandlot kids was Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez. He was clearly the best player. He could hit the ball farther, run faster and he was passionate about baseball.

In the real world, every neighborhood or sandlot had a “best” player. Our Benny was Randy Hodges. In our sandlot baseball games he got to be Mickey Mantle. In football, most of the kids were Browns fans so he was Jim Brown or Frank Ryan. In basketball he was John Havlicek, Bill Russell or Jerry West.

Not only was he the most talented player on the sandlot or the court, he was also the nicest. He never had an ego. Heck, I was our worst player and I had a bigger ego than him.

Randy grew up to be a local DuPont high school star and was one of the better basketball and baseball players in the Kanawha Valley.

Lately, he has been facing some serious health challenges and the outpouring of love and support for him has been significant. He was a sandlot hero in the 1960s and he is a community hero now.

Thanks to the transfer portal, West Virginia’s football season opener at Pitt next fall just got a little more challenging.

Pitt’s football staff is feeling a little better after getting the news that former USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is transferring to the Panthers. After losing Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett, Slovis will give the Panthers a QB with game experience. .

Contact Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com.