At the MSU Alumni baseball game, before I started talking with Tim and Raj (Day #279), I hung out on the concourse and people watched. Ned Reynolds walked by and immediately a young man ran towards him.
“I know you! You’re Ned Reynolds! Aren’t you? Yes, you are! You’re Ned Reynolds. I know it.”
Ned shook the man’s hand and exchanged pleasantries before heading to the field, conducting interviews with athletes like he has for the past 60 years. Until he “retired” in 2014, Ned has been the face and voice of sports throughout southwest Missouri, sharing highlights and interviews and stories on KYTV.
I don’t think he really retired, though.
“Retirement is definitely in quotes. I stepped away from the daily procedures and having my life governed by the clock. In the morning, I’m on the radio at 104.7 The Cave and then I’m on the road with Cox Health three days a week.”
He still announces Springfield Cardinals games with Scott Bailes and emcee’s charity events, like last week’s Turkey Trot.
The sun finally peaked out from behind the winter clouds as I pulled into the parking lot of the KY3 studios, providing a semblance of warmth and only increasing my desire to finish the year on a ballpark somewhere in Arizona or Florida. Just outside the studio doors, while Children’s Miracle Network was broadcasting on the other side of the wall, Ned and I tossed the ball.
Ned grew up in New Jersey, in suburban Philadelphia, cheering on the Phillies — Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Del Ennis — and played some ball while serving in the Navy. He last played catch with his grandson, a former outfielder at Glendale High School.
“My glove was in a flood,” he said as he stretched and flexed the stiff, black leather.
In July 2015, the Finley River flooded. Three feet of water flowed through his house. His glove was just one of the many treasures that were damaged. I offered to let him borrow one of my gloves, but he insisted in using his. I completely understand glove loyalty.
Ned confirmed what I have always believed, that I would be a horrible sports reporter. I am incredibly biased when it comes to supporting my favorite teams.
“I try my best to maintain objectivity. Of course, I’m kind of torn, the hometown fans want to hear a partial broadcast, but that’s not fair to the player or the teams, that’s not fair to the profession. Trying to do what is fair for everyone can be a hard line to walk. I do have my favorites, though. I like to see the local teams win. I always like seeing the Bears win.”
I asked who he would play catch with if he could play catch with anyone. Ned thought long and hard before making a response.
“Beethoven,” he said. “In my opinion, he was the greatest genius in world history. I love classical music and his compositions defy the imagination. Completely deaf, his ability to create within his own mind is staggering.”
I, too, appreciate the power and importance of music in our world. For years, I have slowly been working on a book about the healing power of music. I love listening to Kaylea practice her violin audition pieces and look forward to hearing Springfield Youth Symphony’s concert next week. (Tuesday. At Glendale.)
I then asked what event in sports history past he wishes he could have broadcast.
“In 1938, Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling at a sold-out Yankee Stadium. The Axis powers had already started flexing their muscles and Hitler was hailing that event as some kind of white supremacy match, even though Schmeling wasn’t part of the Nazi party. Sure, Schmeling was a proud German, but he denied the claims Hitler was making. That fight was full of so much heart, so much emotion. Two minutes into the first round, Louis knocked out Schmeling, and America came together — black, white — everyone was unified.”
This is the power of sports.
“Everyone I encountered on my broadcasting journey told me to be myself. And I’ve found those words true. Be yourself. Don’t imitate others. And don’t take yourself too seriously, either. You’ve gotta roll with the punches.”
His words of wisdom resonate with this catch-playing year. Playing catch has nothing to do with competition or proving myself better than anyone else. I find great joy in a simple game of catch, even in these winter months, and have seen that joy spread to friends new and old, one slider at a time.