With a grateful heart, I present this message of Thanksgiving for a life spent working in sports.
I’m thankful that I grew up in a city that, although small, offered many opportunities for me to be exposed to many different sports – as a player, coach, official and spectator.
When I was young, Jamestown, New York, had a population of about 40,000. There were things to do, although some activities were limited based of the sheer fact that there weren’t enough people to participate or support every activity.
I’m thankful that not everyone who tried out for Little League baseball made a team. There was a limited number of teams and coaches, so it was quite competitive, and you had to be between the ages of 9-12 to play. I didn’t make a team until I was 11. The first two years I tried out taught me I wasn’t that good and if I wanted to get better and make a team, I needed to practice and work on my hitting. Finally, I got selected by the team sponsored by the local Optimist Club; an appropriate name for a team of misfit, bottom-of-the-barrel players.
I’m thankful that in Little League we kept score. It gave me and my team a real idea of how we stacked up against the competition in the league. It taught me how to be a humble winner and even more how to not be a sore loser. We weren’t very good.
I’m thankful we were given participation trophies, it meant something to me back then, but I’m also thankful we competed for league and city-wide championship trophies. You really had to be the best the team in town to get one of those and we weren’t.
I’m thankful that at the age of 15, and not yet driving, Larry Rodgers, Lyle “Parky” Parkhurst and Tom D’Angelo took a chance on giving me an opportunity to umpire Little League baseball games. That same summer my mother died, and because my father was working two jobs, many times I had to hitch a ride to my umpire assignments with the league president, Tony Miano. I’m thankful that Mr. Miano, a longtime friend of my mom, was willing to help me out.
That was also the summer I began coaching a City Rec baseball team. Thanks to Russ Diethrick, director of the Jamestown Parks and Recreation department and the parents for entrusting a 15-year-old kid to manage a youth baseball team by himself. May I point out, we won the league championship that first year.
I’m thankful that we had a Minor League baseball team, the Jamestown Expos, and thankful that the manager Pat Daugherty and general manager Fuller “Pat” Morrell, gave me my first job with the team as a batboy in 1978. I’m also thankful that later general managers with the Expos, Dan Lunetta and Frank Wren, inspired me to create a mascot character for the team and perform for six years as “Yippee!”
I’m thankful that Jamestown had an ice rink, albeit with only a roof over the rink, where I learned to ice skate and later referee youth league hockey games. That’s when my love for hockey flourished, and I would lay in bed at night listening to Ted Darling and Rick Jeanneret broadcast Buffalo Sabres games, only dreaming that someday I would get to do hockey play-by-play. I’m thankful that the Tulsa Oilers helped make that dream come true in 1992-93, 1999-2002, and 2015-16.
When I was growing up in Jamestown, we didn’t have youth soccer, until we reached junior high school. I’m thankful that I made that Washington Junior High School team, and went on to play soccer at Jamestown High School, and Oral Roberts University. I’m also thankful that I got a taste of semi-pro soccer in the Interstate Soccer League playing with the Jamestown Soccer Club for a few seasons. All of that led me to helping coach my two kids’ soccer teams as they were growing up, and refereeing soccer for 20 years.
I’m thankful that Chick Fasciano gave John Larson and me a chance to be ball boys/team managers for the Jamestown Community College Jayhawks basketball team when we were teenagers. I loved that team and was thrilled to be a part of every home game. Later, it was thanks to head coach Gary Heinz and assistant coach Jay John, that I was given the opportunity to be a walk-on with that same college basketball team (1983-84).
I’m thankful that when I transferred to Oral Roberts University in 1984, I was among a group of soccer players who revived the team, giving us an opportunity to play for our university. I’m also thankful that during my junior and senior years the sports information department needed a student assistant and hired me; providing me an athletic scholarship which made my father thankful. Thanks to Don Ott and Tony Brubaker for giving me the opportunity to hone my skills as a sportswriter and reporter.
I’m forever thankful to Pete Hubbell, former sports director at WJTN, who gave me an opportunity after I graduated from ORU, to do play-by-play and color with him on numerous local sports broadcasts in Jamestown over a two-and-a-half-year period. It was that valuable experience that helped me get a job in Tulsa when I decided to move back.
Finally, since this can go on for pages, I just want to express my thanks to those in Tulsa who over the past 28 years have kept me employed in some way or another in the world of sports. Thank you to Jeff Lund, Taylor Hall, Ken Trickey and Bob Brooks (both deceased), Mike Carter, Jay Stone and Larry Stone, Charles Biggs, Fred Weinberg, Barry Lewis, Mike Melega, Brian Carroll and Adam Mellor, media outlets; KRMG, KTRT, KAKC, KWHB-TV47, and others, and many sports teams, too numerous to mention.
I am truly thankful and blessed to have spent so much time in my career watching, participating, broadcasting and writing about sports, and I’m also grateful that it isn’t over yet. Happy Thanksgiving!