OHIO VALLEY UNSUNG HEROES: Merryman fulfills many roles for Tigers

SHADYSIDE — Deanna Merryman is never far from her job.

Just across the street, actually.

As a custodian for the Shadyside school district, Merryman is tasked with attending to the fieldhouse at Fleming Field.

“I look out my window and I’m actually looking at the ticket box,” said Merryman, a 1984 Shadyside High graduate. “It’s like the football field is my neighbor.”

Merryman is well-known for her attention to detail in keeping the fieldhouse spic and span, but she takes on dual roles this time of year. Merryman is also a football mom and the wife of a coach, so as the Tigers prepare to play host Martins Ferry on Friday night, this week will be a busy one around the Merryman house.

“It’s just our way of life,” said Merryman, wife of longtime Shadyside assistant, Randy, and mom of Tiger senior, and long-snap specialist, Sam.

“We are always involved. We are always there to help with whatever. And people know they can come and we will do what we can, when we can.”

But while she holds the title custodian, Merryman is more of a caretaker. The fieldhouse at Fleming Field is another child, in a sense. It’s a source of pride of her, a place she takes care of like it were own home.

“People don’t realize how much custodians do, especially when it’s one person,” she said. ” It’s a big building.

“We have 50 kids up there every day. So, basically, you’re cleaning up after 50 kids. Imagine if your house was this big and you had 50 people come in and you had to clean up after them every day.”

The fieldhouse does get its fair share of dirt and grime. The smell can’t be great, either. But Merryman keeps it looking great — for home and visiting teams, alike. Then there’s the press box and the restrooms, too.

‘Everything has to be cleaned,” she remarked.

“I’m so particular on how I want things to look. I have an eye for detail. I’m always trying to improve or suggest things.

“I’m surrounded by great co-workers. We work really well together. Tommy Duncan takes care of the field. Tommy and I have the same drive and spirit, so we work really well together.”

The fieldhouse got a fresh coat of paint this summer so fans arriving Friday will see a new look on the venerable structure.

“It looks nice,” she said.

Merryman was part of Ray Ponzo’s band during her days as a Tiger, so she knows full well what Friday nights mean to the community. She tries to carry on that spirit and tradition to her work with the football moms.

This week, the past president of the organization, or “Mrs. Hot Dog” as she’s known to many, will also be helping paint the hillside near the field and tending to “Senior Row.”

“That’s always a pretty big job to take on,” said Merryman, who enjoys mentoring up-and-coming football moms.

“Even though I don’t hold an office (in Football Moms), I’m still very involved.”

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1