Coach Nick and the final dance

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes In 1999, the McNary High School varsity baseball team made it to the state title game with Lakeridge High School and lost 6-3. It was Craig Nicholas’ first year as head coach. “We beat some really good teams and we did some really good stuff, but we got to the game and lost. I felt terrible about that game,” said Nicholas, who retired from the school two weeks ago after 29-and-a-half years as a teacher and coach in everything from football to wrestling and baseball at McNary. In the minutes after the game, someone walked up to Nicholas and asked how he was doing. He responded that he was trying to breathe. “The thing is, you get on a run in baseball and suddenly you lose and you’re done, but it was more than that. I felt like I’d let the city of Keizer down,” Nicholas said. One of the things that becomes clear when talking with Nicholas about his career is that it was never about a single game or a single title. It’s always been about representing the city of Keizer well. It was a decade before the Celts returned to the final dance in baseball. “That was group of kids I knew were going to be pretty special even as freshmen,” Nicholas said. “But then, in their senior year,...

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