On Sunday I journeyed to Lehman Catholic High School to help celebrate the life of Jerry DeLong, a celebrated teacher and coach from the school’s early years that began in 1970. A nice cross section of his life was represented, and I was provided the opportunity to renew a number of acquaintances.
I spotted a white beard and goatee that didn’t initially register. Then it hit me that he was John DeLong, the late coach’s brother, a basketball starter on a great team and a member of the first Lehman graduating class following the merger of Sidney Holy Angels and Piqua Catholic. JD, as he is still known, made the trip from North Carolina. Seeing him rekindled a story that I will now share.
I entered Holy Angels Elementary in the fall of 1960. No, I’m not the one who drew horns on the south stairway campaign poster of presidential candidate Richard Nixon, who was running against John F. Kennedy, a Catholic. After the first of the year, I was given the opportunity to skip a year and advance to mid-year of the second grade where I often found myself “in over my head.”
We had one English homework assignment that totally bewildered me, and it was due the next day. At my parents’ suggestion, I called a classmate for guidance. I chose John DeLong since he sat next to me. I called him and found an ally in my quest.
“We’re supposed to write our own original paragraph,” he informed. My response revealed the depth of the problem. “John, what’s a paragraph?” He said something like, “It’s a few sentences with a common theme.” I completed the assignment adequately without revealing any future tendencies toward becoming a newspaper columnist.
I thanked JD again as he mentioned remembering that I’d called him at home 60 years ago but didn’t recall the subject. We both had a good laugh. This was especially ironic since one of my most popular Sidney Daily News columns was about Jerry DeLong, the brother of the guy who first told me what a paragraph was.
Incidentally, my premature elevation to the second grade was reversed shortly after the paragraph revelation. It had been a well intentioned bad idea. Sister Mary Laura got to see me for an entire school year in 1961-62 after a preview a year earlier.
I’m again checking box scores daily to follow Fort Loramie’s Jared Hoying as he plays at the top level of minor league baseball in the Toronto Blue Jays organization for the Buffalo Bisons. He homered in his first plate appearance and also has a four hit game in his early resume.
I’m often fascinated by who’s on the other team that’s looking for one more big league opportunity after some previous success. Upon Jared’s arrival in his team’s temporary home of Trenton, New Jersey, the opponent had a name very familiar to Cincinnati Reds fans. Infielder Derek Dietrich hit 19 homers for the Reds just two years ago, the big majority of them early in the 2019 season. He’s now struggling for the top affiliate of the New York Yankees at Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
Hoying turned 32 last month while Dietrich will do the same next month.
I’ve communicated regularly with Hoying and saw a Lima TV feature interview with him earlier this week. He’s embracing the current opportunity regardless where it leads and is genuinely glad to be playing baseball again. It’s been just over five years since he became Shelby County’s first major leaguer when he was called up to the Texas Rangers.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. The first Dave Ross byline appeared in the Sidney Daily News in 1975.