By Alison Bailin Batz
Arizona native Scott Hanson knows that behind every jersey number and stadium name is a hidden story of grit, dedication and inspiration. Before moving to the Airpark in 1990, Hanson was a sportscaster – first in Flagstaff and then in the Valley at KPHO TV 5. But his professional connection to the local sports community began much earlier.
“I started officiating high school football and baseball as a college student in 1979, when high schools like Chaparral, Coronado and the now-defunct Scottsdale High were considered north Scottsdale,” says Hanson, whose own sons – Matt and Mike – attended Horizon High School in the early 2000s. “I’ve seen a lot in my 30 years behind the plate and on the various fields in this town, and beyond. So much, in fact, I want to help preserve the legacy of high school sports throughout Arizona.”
Over the course of the last several years, Hanson has penned two books – Who Is Gym? and What’s Your Number? (both available for $19.95 at scotthansonauthor.com).
“Who Is Gym? is focused on telling the fascinating stories about the names behind Arizona’s high schools and their sports venues,” Hanson says. The book, released in 2015, was the result of three years of research and interviews with Arizona’s high school athletic directors, administrators, alumni, librarians, local historians, long-time school employees, relatives of those honored, the honorees themselves and others who may have known the people whose names adorn the buildings and fields across Arizona.
“The idea for the book started around 2012 on a Friday night at Cactus High School as my football crew was preparing to officiate the school’s varsity football game. The field was named M.L. Huber Stadium. Not familiar with Huber, I asked a couple people at the school who he was. To my surprise, they didn’t know who Huber was either,” Hanson says. “Then a week later, our football crew was at Independence High School and I asked about the story behind their Tolmachoff Stadium. I got the same answer. It was then that I was motivated to action.”
Among the Scottsdale and Northeast Valley schools’ stories shared in the book are North Canyon High School, Paradise Valley High School, Shadow Mountain High School, Horizon High School, Notre Dame Preparatory, Scottsdale Christian Academy, Scottsdale Preparatory, Thunderbird Adventist, Coronado High School and Chaparral High School.
Hanson thought he didn’t have a second story in him. But it was again on the field – this time while umpiring at Paradise Valley High School in 2016 – that inspiration struck.
“Just after the national anthem, my umpire partner Stan ‘The Man’ Hoover pointed to the right field fence and said ‘That’s your next book’,” Hanson says. “He was motioning to the retired jersey numbers that adorned the fence, and by the third inning, I had already asked the coach about the stories and people behind those retired numbers.”
After a year of research and writing, Hanson released What’s Your Number? this fall. The book shines a light on Arizona’s most legendary high school athletes, as well as those we lost too soon and those who inspired others to greatness.
“To date, only 186 individuals have retired numbers at Arizona high schools,” Hanson says. The most notable in the Airpark area include former MLB pitcher and Arizona Diamondbacks legend Curt Schilling, whose number 19 is retired at Shadow Mountain High School; current MLB outfielder Peter Boujos, whose number 8 is retired at Notre Dame Preparatory; current MLB catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, whose number 2 is retired at Horizon High School; and former MLB All-Star catcher Paul Konerko, whose number 9 is retired at Chaparral High School.
“There are also many stories, not only of amazing athletes, but tremendous people who had such a positive impact on those around them,” Hanson says. “Basketball player Jared Frame, for example, whose number 30 is no longer issued at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He lost his life at just 20 years old just before his junior year at Baylor, due to complications from a heart defect. In addition to his number no longer being issued, SCA’s national holiday basketball tournament is now called the Jared Frame Memorial Cactus Jam in his honor.”