Do you believe in destiny or the karma of sports? Maybe you should.
Tucson’s 1965 all-city baseball team included Rincon High pitcher Ken Jacome and Tucson High catcher Rich Alday.
On Wednesday, Jacome’s son, Ken Jr., replaced Alday as the baseball coach at Pima College.
Here’s another one:
The Star’s 2000 all-city softball team included player of the year Rebekah Quiroz of Flowing Wells, coached by the Caballeros 1999 coach of the year Armando Quiroz.
On Wednesday, Bekah succeeded her father, Armando, as Pima’s softball coach.
These connections weren’t lost on PCC athletic director Edgar Soto.
“We’ve been putting this together for a couple of months,” he said. “There’s so much history involved.”
Baseball was long Pima College’s anchor sport, traced to Alday’s arrival as the school’s first coach, 1974. He reached the NJCAA championship game in 1985. Alday’s tradition was nobly carried on by Roger Werbylo, whose Aztecs played in the 1993 NJCAA championship game. When Werbylo left, Soto coached his alma mater. He, too, excelled.
“When I coached the USA Junior National team in 2002, Ken Jacome was my lead assistant coach,” Soto said. “There’s a lot of trust involved in this hiring.”
Once Soto transitioned from baseball coach to athletic director, the Aztecs baseball program slipped. As if on cue, softball became Pima’s signature sport. Stacy Iveson coached PCC to national championships in 2004 and 2007. When she left for a higher calling, the Aztecs hired Armando Quiroz, the city’s premier softball coach, guiding Flowing Wells to state championships in 1999, 2000 and 2002.
By 2013, Quiroz’s softball team finished No. 3 in the nation.
Over the past decade, Pima College’s athletic program has flourished. Dave Cosgrove’s men’s soccer team is a perennial NJCAA championship contender, No. 3 in the nation last year. Brian Peabody’s men’s basketball team finished No. 2 nationally last season. Todd Holthaus’ women’s basketball team has been a Top 10 program for almost 10 years, finishing as high as No. 3 in the NJCAA.
Soto’s idea is to add to that excellence with Ken Jacome and Bekah Quiroz, and it’s no timid venture, or one without healthy roots.
“We’re moving up from Division II to Division I in baseball and softball beginning in 2018-19,” Soto said. “We’ve got high expectations.”
This doesn’t all happen without some bittersweet moments.
Armando Quiroz won 501 games in 11 seasons as PCC’s softball coach. He was limited last year, requiring knee-replacement surgery, and he said, candidly, “I wish I was just starting, not finishing.”
He’ll never have to apologize for the impact he made on Tucson softball. His Flowing Wells teams once went 86-18 in three seasons, as he sent star-level players such as Ashley Monceaux, Desiree Williams, Stephanie Nicholson, Candace Abrams and Cyndi Duran to four-year colleges.
And, of course, his daughter, Bekah.
“We were winners, but we didn’t win the big one,” he said. “I still think about the 2013 nationals when we went 12 innings with Salt Lake Community College for the right to play for the national championship. That was so painful. It lingers.
“In that sense, I didn’t reach my goal, but you’ve got to stop sometime.”
Quiroz played baseball at Tucson High, graduating in 1967. He served in the Army, making his late father Chino so proud. Chino Quiroz, who grew up on the X9 Ranch near what is now Vail, earned two Bronze Stars in World War II as an infantryman in the South Pacific.
Armando’s love and respect for his daughter Bekah is similar.
“She has taken me on an incredible journey,” he said. “She was all-city in soccer and softball. She’s such a good person. She’ll be an outstanding coach. This whole scenario is just so far-fetched it’s hard for me to believe.”
The baseball part of Pima’s transition to Jacome is a scenario just as hard to believe.
Ken is part of one of Tucson’s most grand baseball families. His grandfather, Eddie Jacome, was the No. 1 pitcher as Tucson High won 52 consecutive games and two state championships in the late ’40s. Ken’s father, Ken Sr., more than held his own on those Rincon High teams of a generation that produced major-league pitchers Jim Crawford, Pat Darcy and Paul Moskau. Ken’s uncle, Dave Jacome, pitched for Frank Sancet at Arizona.
And then there’s this: Ken’s younger brother, Jason, won 18 games at Pima College in 1991, was a first-team NJCAA All-American and subsequently pitched for the New York Mets and Cleveland Indians.
Pima’s new baseball coach has a pedigree second to none in JC baseball: He coached for Jerry Stitt at Arizona and for Alday at New Mexico and has been a head coach at his alma mater, Rincon, as well as at Pueblo High and El Paso Community College.
Someone suggested that hiring Jacome and Bekah Quiroz amounts to back-to-back home runs.
“It’s not often you can sort of hand-pick the two candidates you most wanted,” Soto said. “It’s a special day for us.”