Doug Corta prepared to go to church Sunday morning, getting dressed and climbing into his wheelchair.
But after discovering more than 90 softballs arranged in a heart on his lawn, each with a handwritten message from a former player, Corta knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
Tom Atkins, who coached with Corta on the Idaho Sliders club team, sent out an email Thursday night to Corta’s former high school and club players, asking them to write tributes to Corta on softballs.
Doctors diagnosed Corta, 47, with a brain tumor in March of 2014. He has ended treatment and entered hospice care.
Atkins said he expected maybe 40 or 50 players to respond, but when he arrived at Corta’s house after midnight Saturday to set up the surprise gesture, the turnout stunned him. Balls littered the lawn. Atkins and a few former players used the softballs to arrange a heart with Corta’s initials in the middle. Players added to the arrangement throughout the night.
“We asked them to put their number, the year they played and a thought or prayer or memory for Doug,” Atkins said. “And it just kind of spiraled.”
Corta’s wife, Jacki, first discovered the arrangement Sunday morning.
“When I walked out and saw what it was, I began to sob,” Jacki Corta said. “To know that he has touched that many lives has overwhelmed me. One of my favorites says, ‘Thank you for believing in me when no one else would.’ ”
Jacki Corta asked her husband if he still wanted to go to church, and he shook his head no. He remained home as Mackenzi Corta, his oldest daughter, Sara Hingsberger, a former player, and Nicole Rollins, an Eagle assistant coach, read him all the messages while they ate breakfast and drank coffee.
“He cried and he laughed, and it would trigger stories that he would tell,” Jacki Corta said. “It was a great day.”
Jacki Corta said the family has moved all of the softballs into Corta’s office, where they’ve spent the past couple days pulling them out and re-reading them. One player wrote on the only home run ball she ever hit.
“You realize you’re more than a coach,” Jacki Corta said. “And that’s what coaching should be.”
Corta took over the Eagle softball program in 2009. In seven years, the Mustangs have reached the state tournament six times. Eagle went 30-1 last spring to win the 5A state title and finished ranked as the No. 10 team in the nation, according to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
Boosters have announced plans to build an indoor softball facility at Eagle High, a longtime goal of Corta’s, and name it, “The Doug Corta Softball Complex.” A YouCaring page with a goal of $150,000 for the project was set up Tuesday.
“So many people say cancer is a horrible thing,” Jacki Corta said. “But through this journey, we’ve learned cancer is an amazing thing. We’ve got to touch numerous lives. Doug has got to share his story with thousands of people. I think we’ve helped change our small community a little bit.”
STATE CYCLING FINALS SATURDAY
The Idaho High School Cycling League concludes it first season Saturday near the Avimor subdivision, eight miles north of Eagle alongside Highway 55.
The final mountain bike race of the year will award individual and team state championships for the race, as well as for the season series, which includes results from the three previous races this fall.
The boys varsity race starts at 9:30 a.m. and the girls varsity race at 12:30 p.m. Both cover four laps around a five-mile course.
Seventeen teams representing high schools around southern Idaho joined for the first year, and Dylan Gradhandt, executive director of the nonprofit league, expects nearly 200 athletes for the state championships.
The club sport operates as part of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA).
“We’re just really excited for the first year,” Gradhandt said. “Idaho is one of the smallest states NICA launched a league in. But in terms of per capita, we’re setting records. Idahoans love their outdoors.”
VALLIVUE’S BARKER NATIONALLY RANKED
The Oct. 8 GolfWeek rankings lists Texas Tech sophomore Gabby Barker as the No. 8 women’s collegiate golfer in the country.
Barker, the highest ranked player in the Big 12, finished as the co-champion at the Jim West Challenge in Boerne, Texas, on Oct. 6, shooting a 5-under 211.
TIMBERLINE GRAD PUNTING FOR WAZZU
Zach Charme walked on to the Washington State football team this fall and immediately took over as its starting punter.
The 2015 Timberline graduate is averaging 41.3 yards a punt, ninth best in the Pac 12. He averaged 36.8 yards per punt on Saturday as Washington State upset Oregon in Eugene, Ore.
Charme, a first-team All-Idaho selection as a punter and a kicker as a senior, is one of seven true freshmen listed on the depth chart for the Cougars. Washington State even trusted him to run a fake punt Oct. 3 in a loss to Cal. But Charme fumbled, and Cal’s Stefan McClure returned it for a touchdown.
ROCKY’S STANDLEE NETS FIRST GOAL
Freshman Addy Standlee (Rocky Mountain) found the back of the net for the first time in her collegiate career Friday in the Boise State women’s soccer team’s 4-0 win vs. UNLV.
The midfielder is one of eight Broncos to play in all 15 games this season, and she has started 11 games.
Senior Brooke Heidemann (Rocky Mountain) leads the Broncos with five goals and five assists, and junior Baylee Blaser (Mountain View) is the second-leading scorer with four goals.