Love, softball and those tricky pop quizzes

Published March 31, 2006

Justin Wentworth, a 1999 Crystal River graduate, has returned to his alma mater to teach geography and serve as assistant football coach and head softball coach. The 25-year-old spoke with Times staff writer Brian Sumers about his athletic interests, his fiancee and his knowledge of the subject he teaches.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy my time off from school. I watch sports. I participate in sports.

What kind of sports?

Usually slow-pitch softball or maybe a pick-up game of football.

Are you any good?

I can hit it out of a missile silo.

That means you can hit it straight up?

Yup. A lot. I don't do so well with the lob ball. Straight ball I hit very good.

Your fiancee, Lanna Hough, was an accomplished softball player at Crystal River. Has she taught you anything?

Hough does real well. That green bat I use, she bought me that for Christmas. She dents the fence real well out there by Centennial Field, but I don't usually do too much.

Basically she's a lot better player than you are?

A lot better than I am.

How does that make you feel?

I'm okay with it. My thing is defense. I don't make a lot of errors. I catch the ball and then I throw the ball.

How did you propose?

I pretty much just asked her. I said, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?' and she, in a roundabout way, said, "Absolutely.' We're not the type that do the candlelit dinner and stuff like that. It's more to the point.

How did you meet Hough?

We went to high school together. She was a senior when I was a sophomore. We just kind of knew each other, we didn't really hang out or anything like that. She was the awesome pitcher on the softball team when they went to the final four. Then I came back here and I got the softball coaching job and I begged and pleaded with her to please help me out. She did, and we were around each other a whole lot. And then it's pretty much on from there.

What do your players think of this?

I don't know if they care. I think they think it's funny. At first they would try to play us against each other every now and then, like kids do with their parents. Is it weird for you guys to be working together?

It's not weird. We do well. It's not like there's a relationship during the job. If there's a problem, she points it out. If there's a discrepancy, then we talk about it. Being able to get along with each other makes it a lot easier.

What did your friends say when they found out you were dating an older woman?

They all like Lanna. Everybody likes Lanna. Lanna is hard not to like. I don't know if she has an enemy. She may have opponents, but not enemies. I don't think I can find somebody to say something bad about her.

When's the wedding?

Dec. 30. We were going to do New Year's Eve, but we decided against it because there is always something big on New Year's Eve. This way you can have Christmas with your family and come to Key West and watch us.

Do you think your kids are going to be pretty good athletes?

I don't know. I think it was pretty much a miracle that I came out the way I did. I had an uncle that played (football) at Michigan, but there's no direct connection there. I don't know. Hopefully they'll get all of her brains and a little bit of whatever I have.

What is Coach Hough's finest talent?

She's smart and she keeps me from losing my temper. And if I do lose my temper, she knows how to put it out real quick.

What's it like for you to coach and teach at the school you attended?

It's fun. At first it was a little different. You remember or you think you remember the way it was. There's a big difference between 15, 16, 17, 18 and 25. Even after that first year of college you come back and you're different. It's just like when a kid goes back from the high school to the middle school and says, "Did I really act that way? Was I really like that?'

Changing the subject a little, we hear you're a geography teacher. What do you know about geography?

Well, I have a history degree from Missouri Valley College. In order to get that history degree, you have to complete some other social sciences. I took geography in high school and I took two geography classes in college.

What's the most important thing about geography?

Well, there are five important things. The five themes of geography.

And what are they?

There's place, region, uh ... I hate you, Brian. Place, region, uh ... (laughs) ... we don't teach it anymore. We don't teach the five themes anymore. It's place, region, I don't know. Don't quote me on that. It's the five themes of geography and that's what it is.

We're going to have to put that response in the paper.

Okay, just as long as you know that if you put down I don't know the five themes, I probably won't have a job on Monday.