John Clay: Snedegar is Reds scribe's Show-ffeur

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistAugust 3, 2013 

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy, left, hired Centerville, Ohio, resident Ray Snedegar to drive him to Reds home games this year.

CINCINNATI — At first, Ray Snedegar thought he had missed his chance.

Returning from a trip out of town, the Centerville, Ohio, resident, near Dayton, had turned on his computer, called up Facebook and saw a post from a friend saying he had found his dream job, only the friend couldn't take it because he had to keep working to pad his 401K.

The job: Drive Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy to and from Cincinnati Reds games.

Snedegar thought that could be his dream job, too. An Air Force retiree, his wife, Barbara, had passed away two years before. The two were sweethearts at old Mays Lick High School where Ray graduated in 1958. They went everywhere together, to California for Ray's job, back to Ohio to be closer to their parents and everywhere else.

Snedegar volunteers at the Air Force Museum and works part-time at a funeral home, but admitted to being lonely. He liked the Reds. He was a big Hal McCoy fan. He didn't mind driving. Heck, he is a Kentucky basketball season-ticket holder and made the 270-mile round trip to Lexington over and over without a second thought.

"But I saw I was four days late," Snedegar said of McCoy's published plea for a new driver. "He's probably got 1,000 emails already. No need for me to do that. I forgot about it. Then about midnight, I thought, 'You know what, I think I'll just send him an email. It can't hurt.'"

McCoy's previous driver, retired school administrator Larry Glass, had to give it up after five years because of health reasons. McCoy said he received 437 e-mails from people wanting Glass's old job. One was from a man in Dubai.

Snedegar was the first person McCoy contacted. Snedegar said he missed the call and was glad he did. He would have been too nervous to talk. When he worked up the nerve to call McCoy back, a lunch was arranged. Five minutes into the meal, McCoy said he knew "This is the guy."

You see, McCoy is legally blind. The longtime Dayton Daily News and Fox Sports Ohio reporter has been for 10 years after suffering optical strokes in both eyes. He has no peripheral vision. He thought his sportswriting career was over. He was wrong. He has a lot of friends.

Now, Snedegar is one. Snedegar grew up just across the Ohio River in Lewisburg. He served in the Air Force for 31 years. Like McCoy, he is in his early 70s. And, like McCoy, he loves sports and a good story and doesn't mind a long day.

Say it's a normal night game, a 7:10 p.m. start at Great American Ball Park. Snedgar makes the 15-mile drive from his home to pick up McCoy at 1:30 p.m. so Hal can get to the park and do pre-game interviews. It's a 75-mile trip from McCoy's house to GABP.

During the game, Snedegar sits beside McCoy and helps fill in any information missed. There is a large flat-screen TV above McCoy's seat, but the writer is working on stories, a blog and a live chat during the game.

"I have to watch every play," Snedegar said. "Then I can fill in those blanks. Most of the time, I don't have to do anything, but I have to be on my toes."

Snedegar brings his iPad and books. He talks to his new friends in the press box and the dining room. The first time he met Marty Brennaman, the Reds Hall of Fame play-by-play man, Snedegar expected a short nice-to-meet-you. Brennaman and partner Jeff Brantley told Snedegar to pull up a chair.

"They kept me in there talking," Snedegar said. "Everybody here has treated me like I've been here 30-40 years."

After the game, Snedegar waits while McCoy writes his story. He normally gets McCoy home around 12:30 a.m. Snedegar gets to his own home around 1:30 a.m.

"Then we start all over again," he said.

Their story has been a popular one. The MLB Network did a video piece on McCoy and Snedegar. Rick Reilly just wrote a column on the two for ESPN's website.

But with baseball winding down, Snedegar can't wait for his other passion to start. He's had Kentucky basketball season tickets for years, working his way down from the upper level to Section 19 in the lower arena.

Get this: He's also a Dayton basketball season-ticket holder.

"I'm known as a college basketball nut," he said. "I can watch anybody play basketball. The 'First Four' at Dayton for the NCAA Tournament, I have tickets for that every year. In the last 30 years, I think I have missed two SEC Tournaments. My wife and I used to go every year."

There have been Saturdays when Senedgar has been known to drive to Lexington for a noon tip-off, then drive back to Dayton for a Flyers game that night.

"People at Dayton think I'm crazy," he laughed. "Remember the year that Dayton beat Kentucky in Cincinnati? I had a Kentucky shirt and a Dayton hat.

"I was actually somewhat happy that Dayton won because it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them. And I called a couple of my diehard friends in Lexington and they got mad at me because I was rooting for Dayton."

He asks to be sure and put in the story that, "I'm getting anxious, and excited, about the upcoming basketball season. I can hardly wait to watch Coach Cal and the Cats weave their magic. It's going to be an exciting year."

Back when he worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, there were days Snedegar would get up at 4:30 in the morning, go to work, then he and Barbara would go to the game in Lexington. On the way home, she'd drive and he'd sleep.

He had Barbara as his traveling partner then.

He has Hal McCoy now.

Said Snedegar with a laugh, "I keep the roads hot."

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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