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Truckee High to honor fallen baseball coach, player

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com
The Truckee High baseball field is pictured under construction this past fall. A ceremony will take place at the field between the Wolverines’ doubleheader Saturday honoring former coach Mike Ellis and player Andrew Metlenko. The event will also recognize Larry Harper of the Good Tidings Foundation, which helped make Truckee’s new field a reality.
Courtesy Laura Metlenko |

Elly would have shown his appreciation with a giant smile, his chest puffing with pride.

This Saturday, just over a year after the death of longtime Truckee baseball coach Mike Ellis — aka Elly — the school’s baseball program will hold a ceremony on its revamped field that pays homage to the former coach.

The ceremony also will honor former Truckee player Andrew Metlenko as well as Larry Harper of the Good Tidings Foundation, which helped make the new field a reality.

Ellis died of a heart condition April 5, 2014, hours after a doubleheader against South Tahoe. Metlenko died in a car accident in June 2013, just days before his high school graduation.

“I think Elly would be overjoyed,” about the field’s makeover, Metlenko’s mother Laura said this past fall, while Truckee’s new diamond was under construction. “Elly was so devoted to Truckee baseball, and he and Andrew were like two peas in a pod. Both of them are an instrumental piece of why this got done.”

Forever 18 Field of Dreams

Following Metlenko’s death, his mother and grandmother, Nina Ski, began a fundraising campaign called the Forever 18 Field of Dreams. As a gift to the community, and as a way to honor Andrew, they initially sought to raise enough money to replace the scoreboard on the Truckee baseball field.

Then they met Harper — a former San Francisco Giants scout whose Good Tidings Foundation helps rebuild athletic fields in areas of need. Harper, who owns a second home in Tahoe Donner, suggested a complete reconstruction of the field.

In addition to the help from Harper’s foundation, former major leaguer Eric Byrnes, who owns a home in Truckee, contributed funds to the project. The Oakland A’s also donated money, as well as countless individuals both locally and from out of the area.

In the end the project raised nearly $50,000 toward the field’s reconstruction, Harper said.

“Elly was just so stoked,” Laura said, explaining how thrilled Ellis was to talk with Byrnes and Harper about the project on a conference call.

On Sept. 8, 2014, Robert A. Bothman Inc. — “the best of the best in Northern California,” Harper said — began construction on the field.

They tore up the infield and replaced the outdated sprinkler system. They placed new sod and a new high-dollar, professional-quality infield dirt mixture. They replaced the mound and all the bases, painted the dugouts and foul poles, and replaced the outfield fencing, among other improvements.

“It’s unbelievable,” first-year Truckee coach JR Murphy said of the field. “It’s a really neat deal what they did. We’re excited to have it.”

The ceremony

The ceremony will take place between games Saturday, as Truckee hosts a league doubleheader against Lowry starting at 11 a.m. Games typically last about two hours but can vary considerably.

Keith Thomas, who is helping organize the event, said the roughly 15-minute ceremony will include recognition of Ellis and Andrew Metlenko and the unveiling of plaques in their honor.

Ellis’ parents will receive a Truckee jersey signed by the players, while Laura Metlenko and Nina Ski will receive a signed hat and a brand new No. 18 jersey — Andrew’s number. Thomas also will speak along with Harper.

Shortly after, the Wolverines and Buckaroos will take the field and play ball — just as Elly would have wanted.


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