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After embezzlement and incarceration, Shorty Ames comes back thanks to his wife, AA and God.

COURTESY PHOTO: LESLIE AMES - Former St. Helens baseball and football star Shorty Ames said that the love of his wife, Leslie, the support of Alcoholics Anonymous and a renewed faith in God helped him rebuild his life.First, Shorty Ames made his name as an athlete in St. Helens and a top pick in professional baseball.

Next, Ames overcame the end of his playing career by moving into coaching.

Then, when alcoholism and embezzlement finally caught up with him, he hit bottom and spent six months in jail.

But that wasn't the end of Ames' story. Not by a long shot.

You can read the first two parts of Ames' story on our website:

Whatever happened to Shorty Ames?

Whatever happened to Shorty Ames?

More trouble

Incarceration was only one of Ames' problems. His crime — which he successfully hid from his wife until his arrest — put a major strain on his marriage.

"So, when I went to jail, (my wife) told me, 'I don't know if I'm gonna be here when you get out,'" Ames said. "But she came and visited me all the time. And it's just like a movie — you're on the phone between the glass, right? … And she says, 'I prayed on this and … I forgive you. I'm going to be here for you.'"

That wasn't all she said, either.

"(Leslie) said, 'You know, when we stood in front of the preacher and we said, for better or for worse, this better be the worst,'" Ames said.

Ames also had to pay financial restitution as required by the court — he had to repay $170,000 to Pierson Building Center (the longtime employer he embezzeled from), pay for his three months at Singing Trees (the rehab center he entered before going to jail), pay his court fees and pay his lawyer — as well as serving three years on felony probation.

By the time it was all over, he'd been forced to remortgage his home in Eureka and pay a total of $330,000.

As painful as all that was, Ames knew he'd brought it all on himself.

"I did it all. I did it," Ames said. "(Jail was) where I needed to be. Yeah, I had done something that I shouldn't have done. I was a convicted felon."

Why he did it

Looking back on his years at Pierson and the crimes he committed there, Ames has no excuses for his behavior, and no explanations, either.

"I don't remember the first time I did it and I don't remember why," he said. "I just think it presented itself and I thought to myself, 'Well, this would be easy. And no one's ever going to catch me if I take a $20 bill or whatever.'

SHORTY AMES

"I was the money guy and I figured out a way to take money."

— Shorty Ames

"And I manage the money. I was the money guy and I figured out a way to take money. Some days I would take $100 and some days I would take $700. Being successful in sports all these years, I kind of patted myself on the back quite a bit, you know? And I just thought that I wouldn't get caught."

The road back

Ames, who still lives in Eureka with Leslie, knew the road back after jail wouldn't be easy, and he was right.

That road back was paved with apologies and forgiveness — Ames offering apologies and asking for forgiveness.

Because of his commitment to the ideals of Alcoholics Anonymous learned at Singing Trees, Ames had to go back to all the people he hurt — in person as often as possible — and apologize for what he'd done.

"You're supposed to make amends for the problems you've caused so every single person I've ever seen that I worked with at Pierson, I made sure I walked up to them and looked them in the eyes and apologized. Every single time," Ames said. "I've done apologies through the mail, on the phone, a lot face to face. I am not afraid to admit I'm wrong. And you know, it's been nine and a half years now and I don't know anything else I can do to make amends for what I did. But if someone knows something, let me know."

How he survived

The hurt that Ames caused — to his wife, to his former co-workers, to his former players and to his community — was almost incalculable.

So how is he still here, almost a decade later, and perhaps healthier than ever before?

It's not complicated, but it's also incredibly important. Ames says he survived because of God, his wife and, over time, forgiveness and humility.

"(Alcoholics Anonymous) saved my bacon and introduced me back to God," he said. "Now I have a wonderful relationship with my higher power in Jesus Christ today. It saved my marriage. It just, it turned me into a different person."

Pre-pandemic, Ames attended AA meetings almost daily and worked to build his faith at church at Eureka's Calvary Chapel.

Regarding his relationship with his wife Leslie — they've been married for 34 years now — Ames said her support was crucial in helping him move past the biggest mistake of his life.

"I wasn't just in the police blotter — I was the front-page story in the newspaper. 'Coach Ames indicted for embezzlement,'" he said. "And I was the … first story on the TV, and the TV news people were here knocking on my front door. I was hiding in the house.

"But now, our marriage is tighter than it's ever been. It's really good."

COURTESY PHOTO: ALAN HOLINBECK - This display shows off Shorty Ames' high school baseball letter, along with baseballs highlighting some of his many pitching accomplishments for the Lions from 1977-79.

Transitioning back to life

Returning to the post-jail world in northern California — in the same community where he coached the local ball team and stole from the local store — wasn't easy.

Ames knew it wouldn't be, and he was right.

"When I got out of jail, the first time I had to go … grocery shopping, I was scared to death … because I knew I was gonna see someone that I hadn't seen," Ames said. "… Everyone in Humboldt County knows who I am, so yeah, that was tough."

Tougher, in some ways, he said, than incarceration itself had been.

"Going to jail was tough, but you know, I'm a pretty tough dude — I can handle that," Ames said. "But if you're having to look someone in the eye when they come around the corner trying to get a gallon of milk at the grocery store, that was tough."

It wasn't easy, but there were markers along the way — markers that let him know there was life after jail — that Ames continues to cherish.

"I was pulling weeds next to this guy's house way up on the hill — he's a doctor, a fancy place," Ames said. "And this FedEx guy came in … dropped off a package and he turned around and … goes, 'Shorty? Shorty Ames? How are you doing?' And it was the first time anyone cared about how I felt (that) wasn't family or something. Someone actually asked how I was doing … and that brought a tear to my eyes. That was that was a huge moment for me."

Life after the hurt

It took time — a long time — but Ames has found ways to continue living.

He now owns his own business — Ames Grounds Maintenance — mowing lawns, pruning trees and trimming hedges, and doing yardwork in and around the same California community where he's lived for more than 35 years. It's not glamorous, it's not public and it's not baseball, but it has given Ames both purpose and humility.

"I'm just content, wherever I am," Ames said. "I mow lawns for a living. That ain't too special, you know, but that's OK. That's who I am. That's how I provide, and you know, life's a lot simpler than it used to be."

He also sees the value in sharing his story, knowing that other young people might be on the verge of their own lesser choices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"By younger people seeing mistakes I made, (maybe they won't) make those same mistakes with alcohol," Ames said "I have nothing against alcohol. That's not the issue. I'm the issue."

Ames knows what he did was wrong. He knows he deserved the punishment he got. And Ames knows, finally, that there's life after jail, and even life after baseball.

"People asked me if I was going to move (away from Eureka) and I'd say, 'No. This is my home,'" Ames said. "I'll stand up and look you in the eye and tell you what I did was wrong. I did my time. I did everything I was supposed to — just like if I was on a baseball team. And here I am, you know, I'm finally at home plate."


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