Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Remembering two of the good guys...

A couple weeks ago I blogged about Season finales and farewells and included an audio clip from the last broadcast of locally-known WMVR disc jockey Gordy Price. That same evening a friend of mine commented to me that as a kid, he too listened to Gordy, and even delivered his Sidney Daily News every day after school. He told me Gordy was the same in person as he was on the radio - full of life. This past Sunday the other radio deejay I listened to as a teen passed away. Casey Kasem, who was nationally known for his "American Top 40" music countdown, died at age 82. I especially enjoyed his long distance dedications and the positive stories that came out of them. Like Gordy, Casey was full of life. It's hard to find guys like that these days when shock jocks seem to dominate the airwaves. Casey said it best at the end of each and every broadcast with his signature sign-off, "keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Casey Kasem's final countdown in July 2009 ended an era

We also said good bye on Monday to another one of the real good guys, San Diego's "Mr. Padre" Tony Gwynn. When I was a kid, you were only as good as your baseball card. I loved collecting cards and if your baseball card was worth a lot, well, then so were you. In 1983 the three most valuable players in my book were Topps rookie cards #83 Ryne Sandberg from the Cubs, #498 Wade Boggs from the Red Sox, and #482 Tony Gwynn from the Padres. Those cards were worth $20-$30 back then, which was a small fortune to me. I never had the opportunity to watch Tony play much on television, since he was a west coast guy, but I certainly followed the stats on his baseball cards every year and always watched the All-Star game, which he played in 15 times during his career. Of course an all-star appearance meant an additional baseball card in next years edition. Those cards of the 80's have lost popularity in today's market, so my investment is worth about half of what it once was. But comparing Tony Gwynn and all his achievements to the players that came after him, he's no doubt one of the most valuable players that ever played the game! 

I still have the three best baseball players in 1983

Friday, June 13, 2014

Shop until you drop...

I read in the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday that the Dayton area has plans for another shopping complex. Apparently there's a proposal for 38 acres of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds to be redeveloped into a "Midtown District" composed of 60% residential-40% commercial similar to The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek. Is it just me or does it seem like Dayton is already saturated with shopping options? I remember when the Dayton Mall and Salem Mall were the two main choices if I was heading south. I usually stopped at the Piqua Mall and found everything I needed there.

Rike's once anchored the old Salem Mall that became a dead mall in the mid-late 90's

While the Dayton Mall has managed to survive, the old Salem Mall died about the same time as the cassette tape. Some of the other major shopping options in the Dayton area, in addition to the The Greene, include The Mall at Fairfield Commons and the 142-acre Austin Landing that's currently under development 15 minutes south of Dayton. Both The Green and Austin Landing seem to have a similar theme as the proposed Midtown District complex. All three seem to cater to a younger, hipper and wealthier crowd. The Green offers luxury living, valet service and trendy retail. Austin Landing advertises that Dayton's wealthiest zip codes surround it. And the developer of this newest project says it's intended to attract UD-graduates and young professionals ages 22-35.

If this Midtown District proposal is approved, and a lot has to happen, it will feature 600 residential units, at least one hotel, and create or retain 800 jobs. I work in the building products industry, so I'm all for new construction. I also would also be thrilled to see 800 decent-paying jobs available in this economy. I just wonder how much retail is too much and will we see another dead mall in the near future?

An artist rendering of the proposed Midtown District as seen in the Dayton Daily News

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Prayers to a great coach....

Following up on what was a spectacular state track & field meet, I got some sad news on Wednesday. Long time Findlay Liberty-Benton High School girls track and cross country coach Pat Wagner, who coached a sophomore sprinter to a state title this past Saturday, suffered a stroke on Monday and is currently not doing well at all. At age 65, Coach Wagner has been the track coach at Liberty-Benton for over 40 years and the cross country coach for over 30. Below is a write-up on Pat from 2008 when he received the distinguished Ed Barker Award from the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches:
"Pat Wagner from Liberty-Benton High School is this year’s Ed Barker Award winner. Pat has been, and continues to be, an outstanding example of dedication to both Track and Field and Cross Country. He has been a track coach for 37 years and has coached Cross Country for 25 years. His combined teams have won 40 District titles and 20 Regional titles. He has 6 State-Runner-up titles to his credit and his teams have won 4 State Championships in Cross Country and one in Indoor Track. 
Pat has earned several State awards including State Honored Coach of the Year twice. He was elected to the OATCCC Hall of Fame and was also inducted into the Hancock County Hall of Fame. Coach Wagner further earned the Ohio Association of USA Track and Field Achievement Award.
As a tireless worker for our organization, Pat Wagner has served as District 7 Representative for 11 years keeping the districts coaches involved through numerous memos, letters and off-season clinics that he organized. He further served as Vice President in 1996-1997, as President in 1998-1999, and as Past President in 2000-2001. Mr. Wagner has served on the Cross Country Poll Committee since its beginning and was Chairmen of the committee to write the Cross Country booklet in 1991. Pat further served as the Mid East Coach and is a registered track official. His tireless energy and dedication to the sports have earned him this award."
My thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Wagner, his family and his supporters.

Coach Pat Wagner is also the PE teacher at Liberty-Benton

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A few notes from State Track...

Now that the 2014 State Track & Field Championships is in the record book, and a spectacular one it was, here are a few notes from my perspective...

I heard one track coach from another conference comment how well fans from the SCAL and MAC travel to support their athletes. I had never thought about that until it was mentioned, but it's true. Schools like Russia, Ft. Loramie, Minster and Versailles had a lot of "non-family fans" in the stands from what I saw. I guess it shows the pride those communities have in their schools and athletes!

The Russia fans had a strong turnout at the state meet

One "problem" I dread seeing almost every year at the state meet is when an athlete scratches an event. Scratch means they qualified for the event, but decided not to compete in it. This can happen in any event, but it's not uncommon to see it in the distance runs. For example, an athlete qualified at regionals to run both the 1600 and 3200 at state. But because those are the two longest distance races, the athlete decides to scratch the 1600 and better their chances in the 3200. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. What I don't like is that someone else could have ran in that spot if it's just being given up. It's part of track and will probably always be, but that doesn't mean I have to like it!

Liberty Center's Brittany Atkinson (#9) scratched the 
1600 and it paid off with a 23 second victory in the 3200

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous blog post last Friday, the state meet always has more stories than a media person can handle. This year was no exception. As much as I prefer stories about local athletes and their outstanding achievements, my favorite of the weekend wasn't about a hometown kid. It was the story of Defiance Tinora senior Tori Abdul. Tori had a tougher childhood than I could ever imagine, in foster care for five years and could have easily taken the wrong path in life. Instead, she used track and God to help her out of some ruts in life. On Saturday it all paid off and she took home four 1st-place medals in the D-III 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x200. Listen to this post-race interview with Tori from WOSN-TV!

Tori Abdul gives thanks to God for her four victories

Thursday, June 5, 2014

D-III State Track - What it takes and what to watch

I'm a fan of most all high school sports. Boys and girls, team and individual, indoor and outdoor. I also appreciate what it takes to get to the highest level, rather the state tournament. It's not an easy task in any sport. I've watched plenty of team practices, attended hundreds of games, and talked to a lot of coaches and athletes over the years. In my opinion, those that advance to the state tournament do so for the following reasons. 1) They work harder 2) They play smarter 3) They are mentally tougher. Contrary to what some might think, nobody gets to state because they are lucky. Tell me someone that did and I'll tell you it was a result of the three reasons I just mentioned.

That being said, this weekend's OHSAA Track & Field State Championships on June 6 & 7 epitomizes what it takes to work hard, play smart, and be mentally tough. It's also, in my opinion, the best of all the high school state tournaments. Below are my reasons why:

Something For Everyone - My favorite team is the Russia Raiders, that's no secret. However, I told a few track fans this past weekend I'd be heading to Columbus even if there weren't any Russia kids competing (there are six by the way). No matter where you live in Ohio, there's a good chance you can watch someone from a community near you. They'll all be competing for a state title and how cool is that?! The state meet has 34 different events (17 boys events, 17 girls events) and almost every one is decided by inches or seconds. Rarely do you get a blowout, so excitement is never a problem. $10 gets you in the gate and you can stick around for all three divisions of boys and girls if you like.

Jesse Owens Stadium - Have you been to Jessie O? There's no arguing, it's the best track & field facility in Ohio. It's also centrally located, has plenty of close parking, and not a single bad seat in the house. It certainly beats the days of the state meet at Ohio Stadium or Welcome Stadium and I hope it never changes. One bit of advice if you're coming to Jesse Owens: Use the Ackerman Road exit off State Route 315. The Lane Avenue exit is typically slow due to several high school graduations going on at the Schottenstein Center.

Media Stories Galore - The state meet always has more stories than a media person can handle. So many interesting individuals and teams it's often hard to focus on just one or two. At least it's hard for me and that's why I'm most interested in the following local stories in Division III this weekend:

The Minster Girls Team - 12 state championship banners from girls track & field hang in the Minster gymnasium. The most recent is from 2004, the final of four consecutive titles the girls took home 10 years ago. With 11 girls heading to Columbus this year in eight different events, and coming off a southwest regional championship, the Wildcats are no doubt contenders for the team title.

The Minster Boys Team - 0 state championship banners from boys track & field hang in the Minster gym. Is this the year? I'm not sure about that, but I like their chances at improving on last year's 4th place finish. Like the girls, the Wildcats have 11 boys in eight events. Included in that are four good relay teams and opportunities in the 800, discus, shot, and pole vault.

Jackie Siefring - It's a pretty remarkable accomplishment to qualify for state in the maximum allowed four events. Nine different girls have done that in Division III this year. However, eight of those nine will be running in at least two relays and have teammates to support them. Covington senior Jackie Siefring is heading to state as the lone Buccaneer girl and will be the only girl competing in four individual events. That's even more remarkable.

Lane White - I always thought Lane White was a cool name for a track runner? It would sure sound cool if the Covington senior had his name announced as the winner of the 400 dash. He has the fastest 400 time coming in. Perhaps Lane might hear his name again if he gets on the podium for the 200 dash a little later in the meet.

The Montgomery Brothers - How many schools have two brothers competing in the same event? How about in two of the same events?  Lehman Catholic does with senior Brad Montgomery and junior Ben Montgomery. The brothers have been dominating back home all season in the shot put and discus throw and now compete together on OHSAA's biggest stage.

Meg Westerheide - Ft. Loramie senior Meg Westerheide has been to the state tournament four times in cross country, two times in basketball, and this is her fourth time in track. She's a coach's dream to say the least. Meg qualified in the 4x200 relay and the 4x400 relay, but her best shot is the 800 run where she has the fastest time of the 16 contenders. I'll be rooting for Meg.

Logan Konst - Last weekend at the four regional meets, two pole vaulters reached 14'-08" to win. One was a senior from Seneca East and the other was freshman Logan Konst from Anna. I already think those pole vaulters are crazy. But a freshman winning a title in pole vault?! That would be even crazier.

Lauren Heaton - Russia sophomore Lauren Heaton will have a busy weekend having qualified in three events. The 4x200 relay, the 400 dash, and the 200 dash will probaly all be decided by 100/ths of a second. Last year Lauren anchored the 4x800 relay team to a state title and knows what it takes to win. Maybe more importantly, she knows what it feels like after you win.

Emily Borchers - She's only competing in one event and that's a good thing. Russia junior Emily Borchers will be running the 3200 and it's the longest event of the day at 11:25am. She's the southwest regional champ and has the second fastest time coming into the weekend. She also shined last year on that 4x800 relay team that won a state title, passing a long pack of runners during her third leg to put the Raiders in first. By the way, she watched her sister winner a state title on the same track four years ago.

The rest of the Raiders - Like I said, I'm a big Russia fan. Russia junior Leah Francis is seeded 6th in the 100 hurdles. So what, you say? Last year she was seeded 8th in the same event and finished 4th on the podium. - How many schools this weekend will have sisters competing together in the same event? I don't know, but Russia does. Senior Kirsten Voisard will take the baton from sophomore sister Karissa Voisard in the 4x200 relay. - Junior Nick Colby makes his first appearance at state in the discus throw. I was at a graduation party this past weekend and someone asked Nick how it sounded that he was heading to Columbus with five girls. Nick said, "I actually like the sound of that"!

Jessie Owens will be a fun place to be this weekend. And it why wouldn't it be. After all, it's the best post season tournament in Ohio.

Season finales and farewells...

Just a week ago last Wednesday was the Season 3 finale of our webcast Fish Report LIVE! After 32 broadcasts that began in September and ran through May, it was definitely time for our yearly break! The FRL crew loves producing the show, but we also look forward to our summer vacation when we can recharge our batteries. I always enjoy making a big deal out of the season finale thing, just as we did last week. It got me thinking about why I like season finales, farewells and show-enders (or whatever you want to call them). Apparently, it goes back to when I was a kid. Below are some of my favorites finales from my youth, maybe you can recall a few of these as well!

  • Before iTunes and XM you actually had to tune into FM radio to hear the hit songs. As a 10-12 year old kid in the early 80's, I used to listen to local disc jockey Gordy Price on WMVR in Sidney. Gordy took dedications, played new music and was a star to boys and girls my age. I remember being disappointed when he left Sidney and moved on to Lima radio. Sadly, he has since passed away, but here was his final sign-off on WMVR from December 30, 1983!

  • Growing up in Ft. Loramie I used to walk the hallways of a school building that no longer exists today. In the summer of 2009 Ft. Loramie Elementary was demolished and local photographer Jack Hoying did a wonderful job preserving the history. Although I wasn't present for the demolition, I can clearly remember sitting on the locker room benches below for a couple 'season finales' as a junior high basketball player!

  • The Big Red Machine had split up, and my heroes on the Cincinnati Reds were guys like Ron Oester, Buddy Bell and Paul O'Neil. I lost interest in the Reds after high school, but now I see my 9-year old son enjoying their games like I once did. One thing has remained constant from when I was a kiddo to him, and that's Hall of Fame radio announcer Marty Brennaman's famous game-ending call whenever the Reds win!

  • You can find sports highlights on the television 24/7 these days, but back in the mid-80's it wasn't so easy. ESPN was certainly around, but our family didn't have cable, so on Sunday nights I would tune into George Michael's Sports Machine on NBC channel 22 for all the highlights. I especially looked forward to his year-ending plays of the year! 

  • Perhaps the Country Concert at Hickory Hills stirred my interest in country music, but at some point in high school I became a big fan. One of my favorites acts was a mother-daughter duo called The Judds. While I was in college at Wright State University I went to their farewell concert tour at the the Ervin J. Nutter Center. By the way, the opening act was some new guy named Garth Brooks!

All memories of finales I enjoyed at one time! Fortunately, I'm not looking to hang it up anytime soon and the FRL show hasn't been cancelled by our host NK Telco (thanks guys!). We'll look forward to starting Season 4 next fall and eventually making a big deal out of another season finale!

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