By CHAYSE HELD, Times Sports Editor
There's nothing more important than family.
And even though it's only a game, there's nothing that brings the Held family together more than baseball.
That's because baseball is more than just a game for our family.
It's a way of life.
This past weekend in Columbus I was fortunate enough to attend the Ohio High School Athletic Association state baseball tournament at Huntington Park and witness two of my family members guide their teams to state championships.
Although it wasn't the first time seeing my father (Defiance head coach Tom Held) and cousin (Cincinnati Moeller head coach Tim Held) win state titles, the feeling of pride from having the family together to watch our relation have success at the highest level will always be special.
Tom and Tim both have their roots in Williams County - Tom graduated from Edon High School and Tim graduated from Bryan - and a large contingent of the family traveled to Columbus from places like Bryan, Edon and Montpelier, among other communities in northwest Ohio and around the state.
There were fathers, mothers, sons, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins all in attendance - and many others who were there in spirit - to show support for two of our family members as they competed in the final games of the season in what is truly a year-round job for these two coaches.
Tim started the family celebration Saturday morning by winning the Division-I state championship with a 16-0 rout of Westerville Central, the largest shutout victory in state final history.
Although Moeller is a team loaded with talent and players headed to top colleges to play baseball, the way the team carried itself on the field was truly impressive and is something that can only come from the teaching and discipline of a strong, dedicated head coach.
Tim's team is based several hours away in Cincinnati, but what he's done for the Moeller program is incredible and should be noted. The former Golden Bear baseball and basketball player - who was the second baseman on the last Bryan baseball team to make it to state in 1991, a team coached by his cousin, Tom - has now won four state championships in Ohio's largest division, keeping Moeller's status as the top baseball program in the state alive and well.
Moeller - which boasts legendary baseball alumni such as Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin - has won eight state titles and Tim Held has been the head coach for four of those championships. I don't think I'd get too many arguments from people when I say he and Moeller have many more chances at state titles ahead of them, even though each one is difficult and not to be taken for granted.
But beyond seeing Tim's team win, being able to watch the Moeller game with his parents, my great-uncle Ron and great-aunt Penny, who live here in Bryan, along with my cousins and Tim's sisters Katie and Stacy, was something that I'll remember for a long time.
Then, just a few short hours after Moeller won, it was Defiance's turn to take center stage on what is an amazing setting for baseball in the downtown Arena District of our state capital.
And even though Defiance's state final against Poland Seminary was a little more tense than Tim's game, the Bulldogs were able to come away with a 5-3 win and their second Division-II state championship in the last three years.
As most any high school baseball fan from Bryan who's been around for the last 20-plus years will know, Tom Held is the standard when it comes to high school baseball coaches in northwest Ohio.
I know what some might be thinking, 'Well, you're just saying that because he's your dad.' Well, he is my dad, but two state championships, five appearances in the state Final Four, and a long list of professional baseball players including current Major Leaguers who have come out of his programs make me confident I am unbiased in my opinion that he's the best coach around.
Not to mention, he's willing to work with players from opposing schools throughout the area in an effort to make them better players, even if that means sometimes those same players will be going up against his team in big games. He just loves teaching the game that much.
I'm thankful every day that I had the opportunity to play for my dad on one of those state teams in 2002, even though we came up short in the state semifinals. But even more than having the chance to play baseball for Tom Held, it's the fact that I can say that he's my dad for which I'm most thankful.
Being able to share the moments after the final out on the field with my step-mom, Deanne; sister, Cassidy; and brother, Calvin was a special moment for me that I will cherish. We all have our busy lives and may not get to see each other as much as we'd like, but moments like that bring us together and none of us would miss it for anything.
But even beyond all those special things, the greatest part of what was an amazing day for our family is the fact that many of the elders of the Held family were there.
My great-aunts LaRue and Irene made the long drive from northwest Ohio and were at all four of Tim and Tom's games which spanned over three days. If there's one thing about Held women, they know their baseball. And aunt LaRue, Irene and Penny, as well as Tom's wife, Deanne, and Tim's wife, Leslie, I'm sure would tell you how much the game means to them.
For me, the greatest thrill of the entire weekend was sitting about 20 rows behind home plate for the Defiance games with my grandfather, Melvin, who lives here in Bryan.
A former Major League pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles and state-record holder for most strikeouts in a seven-inning high school game - he struck out all 21 batters he faced in a game against Hilltop when he was playing for Edon - my grandpa has one of the sharpest baseball minds I've ever been around. Talking baseball is something we enjoy to do at each of our weekly breakfasts or whenever we're together, and watching the Defiance state games with him is something I will keep in my heart forever.
Seeing my grandpa and dad embrace each other on the field after the game, showing the pure emotion that we Helds aren't always the best at, was truly priceless.
That's why when I say that baseball is more than just a game for our family, I'm really not using hyperbole.
Baseball will always be a huge part of our family.
And there's nothing more important than family.