OVAC re-names baseball award for T-L’s Gibson

Rich Gibson was passionate about sports, music, his work and the Ohio Valley.

Unfortunately, the long-time Times Leader sports writer was taken from this Earth far too soon when he died last July after less than a year-long bout with mantle cell lymphoma.

While a fan of all sports, it was baseball that Gibson had said on more than one occasion was his favorite … if he was going to be forced to choose.

The Ohio Valley Athletic Conference is making sure that Gibson’s love of baseball is known for years to come.

“Leo Durocher once said, ‘baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.’ Hoot understood the game, the fans and the student-athletes,” Times Leader Publisher Lori Figurski said. “Hoot was dedicated to sports and The Times Leader. He will never be forgotten.”

The OVAC has decided to re-name the baseball coach of the year award it gives annually at the June all-star game as the “OVAC Rich Gibson Baseball Coach of the Year.”

“I felt after “Hoot” died that something should be done (to honor him), but was never quite certain as to what,” said OVAC Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak. “Hoot was a special person. He was as much a part of Valley sports as (Cal) Pokas and (Bill) VanHorne.”

A collection was taken up from Times Leader employees to donate to the OVAC in the memory of Gibson.

“When Lori told me she had a memorial donation from the T-L employees, I tried to come up with something that we could fund for years and not just a one-shot deal,” Rataiczak said.

“Hoot had a special way with his warm heart and just down-to-earth, matter-of-fact way of doing things,” Figurski said.

After thinking about it and bouncing ideas off of other conference officials, Gibson’s passion for baseball continued to be recognized.

“Hoot had done the standings for years, obviously covered games, followed MLB, even coached (an OVBL team) at times,” Rataiczak said.

Rataiczak decided to pursue adding Gibson’s name to the coach of the year award since it is given annually.

“In some small way, we hope this will allow us to say, ‘thanks, Hoot, you’ll always be remembered,'” Rataiczak said.

Gibson worked at The Times Leader for more than 30 years in both sports and news. He was inducted to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, posthumously last August.

“I want to thank the OVAC for (re-naming) the coach of the year award for Rich. Now, his legacy will live on year after year.”

Along with covering prep baseball, Gibson also spent a season as a Pittsburgh Pirates beat writer for the Ogden Newspapers. He was also a long-time supporter of the Ohio Valley Baseball League and area American Legion squads.