By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Talk about family support.
“My parents taught me that life is not about being the best but about always trying and doing the best at everything you do,” Heather Hoyle Sams said. “They displayed unconditional love and support for all their children, and they’ve always been there – even when it meant driving four hours to watch me run a 12-second race.”
Hoyle Sams, a track sprinter, along with basketball players Katie Gariss Marsh and Eddin Santiago and men’s soccer coach Dr. Hal Bodon were inducted last weekend into the Missouri Southern Athletics Hall of Fame.
Gariss said some of her family would drive their car until they could get good radio reception on the Lions' games.
“If I think back to all my moments, if I could consolidate all of them into one, I think the best ones for me are the ones spent in an empty gym at 11 o’clock at night with my dad rebounding for me after he had spent an entire day at work,” Gariss Marsh said. “I saw my parents’ dedication, I saw their commitment, I saw their sacrifice, I saw their selflessness day in and day out. “
Bodon, who started the Lions’ men’s soccer program as a club sport in 1972, certainly appreciated his Hall of Fame honor. “You made an old man very happy,’’ he said at the luncheon on Saturday.
But Bodon’s weekend became a reunion as many of his former players returned to campus – including one who flew to Joplin from the country of Lebanon and another who flew from South America.
“To see the guys I haven’t seen in 35 or 40 years … in fact, some of them I didn’t recognize until (Saturday),” Bodon said. “They said ‘Coach, we were here (Friday)’ and I said really? Paul Knight came up and said ‘I’m Paul Knight’ and I said come on, you’re not Paul Knight. He had changed quite a bit. They all recognized me. I don’t change much apparently.’’
Santiago’s wife, Daisy, a professional basketball player in Puerto Rico until a knee injury ended her career in 2008, came to Joplin last weekend for the first time.
“I always knew Eddin would be a good coach when his career is over,” Lions basketball coach Robert Corn said while introducing his former point guard on Saturday. “After meeting Daisy, I know he’ll be a great recruiter.”
“It’s been a great weekend, especially for my wife,” Santiago said. “Meeting everybody … I know how people are here. I know it’s going to be cozy and everybody all together, but she’s never been here. I’m happy for me, but I’m happy for her, too.
“I wish the rest of my family could be here, but I know they got my back. This feels great.”