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The former St. Helens star ends his pro career, turns to coaching, then loses almost everything.

SCREENSHOT - St. Helens graduate Shorty Ames is shown on his rookie league baseball card as a member of the Kingsport Braves in Tennessee in 1980.Shorty Ames was a legend in St. Helens.

The Lions' quarterback and top pitcher in the late 1970s could seemingly do no wrong on the field.

But of course, life happens in places other than athletic fields.

Ames found that out during a roller coaster ride through baseball as a player and coach, a long-term job that devolved into alcoholism, a jail sentence and, finally, redemption built on the strength of his marriage, rehabilitation and faith in God.

You can read the first part of Ames' story on our website: 'Whatever happened to Shorty Ames?'

Trouble in the pros

But Ames battled arm and conditioning issues in his second season (as a starter and closer) for the Class A-level Anderson Braves in North Carolina, then ran into more trouble in his third season, serving primarily as a closer at Anderson.

By the end of his three professional seasons, Ames had amassed a disappointing 8-17 overall record with a 3.98 earned run average, with 77 strikeouts and 72 walks in 147 innings. In his final season at Anderson in 1982, Ames put together a 5-4 record with two saves, a 3.71 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 17 walks in 34 innings pitched before being released.

"I pitched well my rookie year, had a low ERA, but then didn't come back the next year in shape and my arm was kind of sore and I just didn't throw very well," he said. "And then my third season, they put me in as a closer and I just didn't get as many innings, and I got in trouble in spring training."

Despite Ames' success in 1982, that season marked the year his pro career ended, thanks at least in part to some of his off-the-field exploits.

"I was in spring training and I was driving a girl's car back from the bar and I crashed it. And then I kind of hid it, tried to hide from that," Ames said. "She went to the Braves and kind of turned me in, and then I got called into (vice president) Hank Aaron's office one day. I went in for a one-on-one with Hank and he told me straighten up, but then, midseason after the draft, I got released.

"They didn't like my performance off the field as much as they liked it on it. That was absolutely the reason (I got released)."

"(The Atlanta Braves) didn't like my performance off the field as much as they liked it on it. That was absolutely the reason (I got released)."

Shorty Ames

After baseball

After being cut by the Braves, Ames was lost. He had identified himself through sports for so long that he didn't know who he was without baseball.

"I didn't know what to do with my life. You know, baseball was gone," he said. "That's what had always held my hand."

Coupled with challenges in his home life, the loss of baseball was overwhelming.

"My mom and dad were alcoholics and they were fighting all the time (when I was growing up), but I got to go to baseball practice after school. I didn't have to go home, and it was great. Baseball was my babysitter, it was my family, my best friend — all of it, baseball, football and basketball — and then it was gone."

After his release, Ames moved out of the apartment he shared with baseball teammates and into another he shared with friends. He drank and partied to deal with his depression, and he withdrew into himself. After three weeks shut away from the rest of the world, a South Carolina state policeman came to his door.

"He had a (warrant to find me) and … said 'Your mom and dad are looking for you.' They called the Braves because I hadn't called them, so they had to search me up in South Carolina," Ames said. "I was so embarrassed that I got released that I didn't even call my mom and dad.

"I wasn't a very mature young man. But then I called (home) and I had a conversation with my father, and he did most of the conversing, and I was on my way home a couple days later."

COURTESY PHOTOS: THE ST. HELENS CHRONICLE, ALAN HOLINBECK - St. Helens' Shorty Ames was a three-time all-league pitcher and 1979 all-state pick before being drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fourth of the 1979 MLB draft.

Life back home

Being back home in St. Helens with his family didn't help. Ames was still dealing with the end of his baseball career the only way he knew how — drinking and partying with friends — and working at a local gas station.

To make matters worse, his longtime girlfriend, Tammy Brady, broke up with him and later married another man.

"I didn't know what to do. I wasn't coached in life. No one told me what to do," he said.

So when longtime friend and high school classmate Pat Broders called from Phoenix, Arizona, and invited Ames to move in with him in 1983, he didn't hesitate — Ames was on the road south three days later.

More baseball ahead

From that low point, however, Ames saw baseball make its way back into his life. While living in Phoenix, he got a call from Rick Anderson — a former St. Helens baseball teammate and an assistant with the Taft College baseball program — saying the Cougars needed a pitching coach and Ames was the man for the job.

He moved to Taft, California (just outside Bakersfield), assisted with the baseball program for three seasons and also used that time to get his associate's degree.

Even better, Ames met his wife, Leslie, during his years in Taft.

"I was coaching third base and she was the editor of the school paper, taking pictures on the baseball field," he said. "That's where we met."

Baseball kept its place in Ames' life, too. He and Leslie moved to Eureka to continue college at Humboldt State University, and in short order, Ames found work as an assistant coach for both the College of the Redwoods and the Humboldt Crabs (the oldest continually-operated summer collegiate baseball team in America).

"I was at a bar and I heard these guys talking baseball so I had one ear kind of open, and they were talking about the Humboldt Crabs," he said. "I had no idea what the Crabs were … but I started talking to them … about my baseball background."

From there, Ames arranged a meeting with Crabs' Board President and General Manager Ned Barsuglia and Manager Tom Giacomini (who was also head coach at College of the Redwoods) and secured his assistant coaching jobs.

Ames also took a job with Pierson Building Center in Eureka — a home improvement center with a full-service lumber yard and nursery —as its charge counter manager, a position he held for the next 20 years.

COURTESY PHOTO: LESLIE AMES - St. Helens grad Shorty Ames (left) managed the Humboldt Crabs — the oldest continually-operated summer collegiate baseball team in America — for a decade and led the team to an 80% winning percentage.

The Crabs years

After four years as an assistant coach, Ames interviewed for the manager's job with the Crabs — and got passed over. The team hired a new manager who lasted just one year, then a another who stayed with the team for three seasons. During that four-year stretch, Ames, for the first time in his life, wasn't directly involved in baseball.

But that all changed in 1996. He replaced Vince Miaocco as manager of the Crabs in '96 and led the team for the next decade, eventually finishing as the second-longest serving manager in the team's 76-year history. Along the way, he helped the Crabs amass a winning percentage of better than 80%, with a total win-loss record of 394-86.

In addition to continuing his love affair with baseball, Ames explained his long years with the Crabs this way — "I don't have any children, so I kind of felt like all the players … here in Humboldt County were my kids," Ames said to the Times-Standard newspaper in 2005.

Two of his best teams played in 1999 and 2003, with the '99 Crabs going 45-3 and the '03 squad completing its summer at 43-5.

But after a decade, Ames was ready to be done with baseball, this time on his own terms.

"After being on the ballfield so many years — and I don't think I ever didn't want to go to the ballfield, but I saw that coming down the road — I was just a little burnt out and it was time for someone else younger to get in there and put their time in," Ames said.

Trouble after baseball

After leaving the Crabs following the '05 season, Ames continued his career at Pierson for another six years. But he had already sown the seeds for his eventual downfall, a fall that manifested itself when he was arrested for embezzlement in July 2011.

According to a 2011 report in the Lost Coast Outpost, Ames used his position at Pierson to embezzle $250,000 over a period of many years. But that scheme — a system Ames used to pay for vacations, bills, house payments and much more — came to a painful and unhappy end.

"I went to work one day … and the manager asked me to step into his office," Ames said, adding that he'd been a longtime friend of the office manager, going to NFL games and vacationing together with their wives. "So I go into his office and there's another guy sitting there. I don't know who he is, but he's a detective and they say, 'We think you've been stealing from the company.' And at first I denied it, but then I said, 'Yeah, I have.'"

Loss of freedom

In the ensuing days, Ames considered his very uncertain future, hired a lawyer recommended by his wife (a paralegal) and decided — finally — to address his alcoholism. He enrolled himself at Singing Trees Recovery Center in Garberville for a month. And then for another month. And then for another month.

"And when I got out, I got my graduation coin and certificate. And three days later, Leslie drove me down to the county jail and dropped me off and I went in, and I was there for six months," Ames said.

During his six months of incarceration at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility, Ames learned what life without freedom was like, regularly working on the Caltrans crew that picked up garbage from the side of the road.

"I was working on the side of the road for six months," he said. "Those guys I used to drive by and laugh at — now I'm one of them."

In part 3, Ames continues to pay for his misdeeds, comes to grips with his mistakes and figures out how to live life again.


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