We realize, save for Shawnee graduate Jake Hutchins this season, that our Lima Locos don’t really live here full time, but don’t try telling that to the core Loco fans who pretty much adopt them each summer, hoping for their favorite sound effect that emanates from the Simmons Field press box, that train whistle heard whenever a Loco dents home plate from early June to August’s threshold.
As a guy still working full time with quite a few irons in the fire, I’m hardly a dedicated attendee like so many, but I do make time to get out to the old ballyard to watch the young men who come each summer as often as I can. This year, it was three games, with the third being last Saturday evening when the Locos hosted the Hamilton Joes in the championship game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
To be honest, I’m not really sure how many games you have to attend to avoid being referred to ignominiously as a bandwagon jumper, but I risked that and on as picture-perfect a summer evening as any artist could paint. I grabbed my notepad and pen, walked in and ascended the stairs to the press box.
I figured my writing about the evening qualified me to join the other media types in what iconic broadcaster Red Barber used to call “The Catbird Seat.” Earlier in the day, I contacted WIMA’s Todd Walker and Loco General Manager Tim Clark, who did such a terrific job broadcasting what one of those power bands of the 1970s, the Bee Gees, would have called a “Stayin’ Alive” game on Friday evening, a 5-3 Loco win, which forced a final game for every marble you could have found. I asked each questions, and both responded both with celerity and zeal about their Loco roles.
I’ve known both of these good folks for years and have admired them, both for the careers they’ve crafted and for their passion for the grand old game. While working around the yard Friday and listening to pretty much every inning, I couldn’t help but think of my childhood and listening to baseball on the radio.
As a child of the 1960s when televised baseball games were so very rare, on most summer evenings, I was trying to fine-tune that AM dial to hear Harry Caray’s broadcasting Cardinal games on KMOX, Ernie Harwell’s broadcasting Tiger games on WJR and Waite Hoyt’s broadcasting Reds games on WLW.
As for my watching from the press box, of course, I wanted the great view it provides. However, I also wanted the vibe of the press box, the exchange of information that goes on and the excitement of two different broadcasts, Lima’s and the two Hamilton announcers bringing the game back to their town.
Despite the 3-1 loss and the wrong team dog-piling in the center of the Simmons Field after the Locos’ 27th out, I very much enjoyed the evening. Prior to first pitch, I found out through talking with Walker and Clark there were departures of three Loco hurlers during the course of the summer, and I also found out the Joes had their well-rested No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers, Sebastian Gongora and Chase Hopewell, both 6-foot-4 and hard throwers with great off-speed secondary pitches, which would probably make for a tall Loco order.
Surely, down just 3-0 and then 3-1, the Locos were competitive, but I just never sensed throughout the crisply played game that wrapped up in about 12 or so minutes north of two hours (compared to the three hours and 10 minutes that Major League games are averaging this year) that the Locos would grab their seventh league title on this evening.
However, I enjoyed watching Walker and Clark work, I enjoyed the Loco interns from nearby colleges who come to work for the team each year calling out each pitch velocity from the radar gun, and I enjoyed my banter with The Lima News’ Tom Usher, a true pro’s pro when it comes to covering games and producing game stories, no wonder since he’s been doing it since 1987 when the Locos were the Blues or, as Tim Clark said to me, since Ty Cobb was a batboy.
Some of the visuals in the booth were quite interesting. From the game’s first pitch at 7:06 p.m. until almost 8:30 p.m., the sun set ever so slowly in the west beyond the centerfield fence, thus playing havoc with us. Walker, a Loco mainstay at pretty much every home game either doing the PA or radio broadcasting since his own days as an ONU student intern in 1992, shielded his eyes with his Loco hat constantly. I also enjoyed the Loco interns’ (inside out) rally caps they fashioned in the last two innings.
To Coach Furuto and staff, to all the young men who repped Lima so well this summer, to Tim Clark and the rest of the front office and to all the terrific volunteers who make a Loco season look so effortless when everyone surely knows it’s not, thanks for the many memories. God willing, we’ll be waiting for our boys again in early June of ’22.
WIMA sports director and play-by-play announcer Todd Walker shields his eyes from the setting sun during Saturday night’s championship game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/08/web1_Grindrod-John-CMYK.jpgWIMA sports director and play-by-play announcer Todd Walker shields his eyes from the setting sun during Saturday night’s championship game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. John Grindrod | For The Lima News
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/08/web1_Walker-Todd.jpgJohn Grindrod | For The Lima News
By John Grindrod
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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