The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

Senior Jackson Hallum was busy doing his homework long before he headed back to classes at Saint Thomas Academy last month. During the day, he’s currently with his classmates preparing to advance to college. However, at night and on weekends he’s been working on a subject not covered in the classrooms of the Mendota Heights campus.  

One of the top hockey players in the state, Hallum is watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs closely, even though the hometown Wild’s cameo appearance is long over. Recently, Hallum committed to play college hockey at the University of Michigan. Before hitting the ice there, he hopes to have a strong senior season with the Cadets and, in all likelihood, a year of junior hockey before joining the Wolverines.  

Also considered one of the fastest skaters in the state, Hallum has been taking notes on what some of the best in the game have been doing in the belated NHL postseason action. “I’ve been told I need to slow the game down a bit,” Hallum said. “When I watch a Connor McDavid (Edmonton’s top forward), I see how he works with his linemates. He’ll draw guys wide at times. That opens up options.”  

In turn, options can become scoring chances, which can lead to goals and wins. Lessons learned.  

Such is the evolution for a forward who led STA last season with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists). The Cadets shook off a slow start to win their last six regular-season games. And they kept on winning before falling in the state Class AA semifinals to eventual state champ Hill-Murray.  

“Speed is deadly,” said STA coach Trent Eigner. “It’s tough to come by, but Jackson clearly has a lot of it. If you know how to use it correctly, you can be even more difficult to deal with.”

 

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“Speed is deadly,” said STA coach Trent Eigner. “It’s tough to come by, but Jackson clearly has a lot of it. If you know how to use it correctly, you can be even more difficult to deal with.”

Hallum is working on that part of his game as he plays this fall in the Elite League against fellow high school players. The league is expected to run until early November. “I’ve been able to do a lot of skating and some skill work,” Hallum said. 

At this writing, nobody has a clue what will happen with high school hockey this winter. Whenever the season starts, Eigner is looking forward to seeing what Hallum can do. “The fact that he wants to understand the game better is a good thing,” he said.  

Eigner was pleased to hear Hallum was taking mental notes while watching the game’s best players. “Jackson is a true student of the game,” he said. “You can learn new things all the time. For example, if you’re a wide receiver who can run the 40 in 4.0, it doesn’t do any good if you can’t catch the ball.”  

At 6 feet and 168 pounds, Hallum has size to go with his speed. “He’s a very aggressive player and a tough kid (who) brings a bit of grit for a guy who’s really skilled,” Eigner said. “I think that’s something that the average person who watched him play probably wouldn’t realize.” 

A senior season plus a year in juniors should hone Hallum’s skills for the college game. Although he considered other schools, Hallum chose to head to Ann Arbor. One of his reasons: “They have a history of developing players,” he said. There are 20 ex-Wolverines currently on NHL rosters. 

Although Michigan doesn’t have a huge imprint here, there are two other Minnesotans on the Wolverine’s current team. Last year, the Wolverines went 18-14-4 overall. They were headed to the Big Ten semifinals when the pandemic virus snuffed out the season.  

For now, Eigner and Hallum are thinking short term as they await news about when high school hockey practices and games will start. When they do, Eigner is looking forward to seeing him in action.

“My expectations for Jackson are super-high,” Eigner said. “There are very few players like him.” 

They don’t make ’em like this anymore 

One of baseball’s most intriguing features is you never know when you’ll see something historic. If you happened to be among the 20,492 folks who gathered at the Metrodome to see the Twins lose a 3-1 decision to the Boston Red Sox on August 18, 1986, you may have walked away disappointed.   

That would be understandable because Minnesota starter Frank Viola pitched a marvelous game with just one serious mistake all night—a pitch to Rich Gedman that ended up in the seats for the game-deciding, two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning.  

What we didn’t know at the time was this would indeed be a night to remember. That’s because Viola’s mound opponent was 42-year-old Tom Seaver, who allowed just three hits in 8.2 innings. It was the fifth win that year for Seaver since joining the Red Sox a month before and the 311th of his career.  

It was also his last Major League Baseball victory. He suffered a knee injury in September of that year that kept him out of the pennant race and the World Series. 

Seaver passed away recently at age 75. He’s probably best remembered for his workhorse efforts on behalf of the 1969 New York Mets, whose World Series win over Baltimore ranks as one of the biggest surprises in baseball history. In that series, working on just three days of rest, he tossed a 10-inning, complete-game victory.  

It would be 22 years until that feat would be matched in a World Series by Highland Park’s Jack Morris, who did so in Game 7 of the Twins’ equally unlikely championship.  

Seaver and Morris were two peas in a pod in many ways. Both liked to finish what they started with 408 complete games between them. Both could rack up strikeout totals with nearly 6,000 combined. Just as important, both could get outs in other ways. Seaver got batters to hit into 316 double plays in his 20-year career. Morris threw pitches that resulted in 299 double plays over 18 years, including 16 consecutive seasons of double-digit production.  

Seaver had the advantage of being on better teams in his younger days. Morris came to Detroit as that team was rebuilding and, thus, had some tough early years. As he got older and the teams he was on improved, he responded with terrific efforts for three World Series champions. 

Baseball has changed considerably since those days. The complete game, which was a source of pride for guys like Seaver and Morris, is now an anomaly. This year, doubleheaders are just seven innings, requiring even less work from starting pitchers. The bullpen game, where the starter goes two innings and turns things over to more short-inning specialists, is now a staple.  

One thing, however, hasn’t changed. The guy with the ball on the mound still has to have the mentality that made guys like Seaver and Morris so formidable. He cannot let up for a second or disaster can strike swiftly. Such was the case recently when the Twins saw a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead at home against Detroit disappear in a hurry after three home runs from the visitors turned the game into a 10-8 loss for the Twins.  

Minnesota rebounded for a 6-2 win the next day, calming down some jittery fans. As this was being written, the Twins were a game out of first place in the AL Central and held the top wild card position.  

So while game formats at the MLB level are changing, some things remain constant. Bulldogs on the mound, in the field and at the plate still end up on top.  

Dave Wright can be reached at dwright53@msn.com.

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