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Hero worship a sign of the times in Pasco County

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Start ordering the taller traffic sign poles. The Pasco County Commission wants to honor its native sons.

Lots of them.

Signs proclaiming Pasco County as "Home of World Tennis Champion Jim Courier" already greet motorists entering the county via major roads. Courier graduated from high school in Bradenton, no longer lives in Dade City and watched his tennis ranking tumble almost as soon as the signs went up a few years back.

No matter. Tuesday, the commission decided to add Jim "Mudcat" Grant and his nephew, Dallas Cowboy draftee Darren Hambrick, to the highway honor roll. Later, the commission agreed the Bellamy Brothers, cousins of Commission Chairwoman Sylvia Young, will get the designation, too.

The tally means the names of a former No. 1 tennis player, a retired baseball pitcher, a football player who hasn't signed a contract with a professional team and a country-western singing duo will be staring at you when you drive into the county.

And you thought the Legislature's rush to name the turnpike after Ronald Reagan was frivolous.

Hambrick, a Pasco High graduate, was a fine collegiate football player. But, it must be remembered, he got booted from the University of Florida football team because of his role in an off-field brawl with a teammate.

Maybe the commission just got caught up in pomp and circumstance. The road-sign frenzy came the same day the most excitement exhibited on the dais was during selection of the new county seal.

Still, the signs are hard to figure. After all, this is the same commission considering an ordinance banning roadside clutter along 31 "scenic corridors."

The problem with honoring a few is you forget the many. The list of notables stretches beyond the playing field and concert stage.

Surely people like Margarita Romo, who tries to make life better for migrant families; Rich Pugsley, a volunteer caregiver for AIDS patients; Russell Bain, the founder of the Pediatric Care Foundation; or Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper, who has gained national attention for fighting illiteracy, deserve consideration.

But, if the county persists in sticking with sports and pop culture, there are still plenty of snubs.

Don't you think Gene Nelson probably feels just a little bit slighted? Nelson, a relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics during their World Series stretch of 1988-90, only has a street named after him.

The Bellamy Brothers have their own boulevard, too. So, Gene Nelson Boulevard shouldn't preclude him from the "Home of" designation.

Dave Eiland lives in Pasco County. The former Zephyrhills High and University of South Florida standout was a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. He signed with the Devil Rays over the winter and now pitches in Durham.

What's wrong with including him? Eiland Boulevard doesn't count, either. It's named for his late father, who was chief of police in Zephyrhills for more than 30 years.

Bob Tewskbury went to college and played baseball at Saint Leo. He deserves a sign.

Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart lives in Land O'Lakes. He's one of the villains of professional wrestling. Let's drop-kick a sign his way.

Gene Sarazen, the guy who invented the sand wedge, lived in New Port Richey 70 years ago. He seems worthy of a sign.

Former tennis phenomenon Jennifer Capriati used to call Saddlebrook home. She lived in Pasco County when she won an Olympic gold medal. Surely, an Olympic medal, even if it was won in an exhibition among professionals, deserves designation from Pasco County.

The show business types are getting slighted also. The Battersby Duo, a husband-and-wife team who sing children's songs, live in northern Pasco close to the Hernando County line. They must be pretty good. They've played at the White House Easter egg hunt four consecutive years and shared the stage this year with Art Garfunkel.

You think they'd like a sign?

"Yes. Now, you're talking," said Tim Battersby.

Did we forget anyone?

Oh, yes. Darren Hambrick's younger brother Troy is still playing at the University of South Carolina. Why not him?

Maybe a more simplistic sign would be appropriate:

"Please drive safely."

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