Greg Gibson was reluctant at first to accept being put on the Portsmouth baseball mural wall.
It wasn’t that the current major league umpire wasn’t flattered with the offer but he didn’t seem worthy.
Being placed beside area baseball greats like Don Gullett, Al Oliver, Larry Hisle, John Stephenson, Gene Tenace, Gene Bennett and even Branch Rickey, among others, can humble a person in a hurry.
Gibson wasn’t really from the Portsmouth area, growing up down the road in Ashland.
But family matters. That was a lesson his wife, Michelle, drove home to him.
“Being the wise wife she is, she told me ‘This isn’t for you, this is for family.’”
With that, Greg Gibson agreed and on Wednesday he’ll be recognized along with Pat Borders during the Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet, an annual affair that always attracts a Hall of Fame audience to the river town.
“Gene (Bennett) called my dad (Acie Gibson) and told him ‘We want to do this for Greg,’” Gibson said.
Acie Gibson is from the Portsmouth area and was pastor of the New Boston Church of God for 17 years. He and his wife Joyce are beloved in throughout the area and sons Greg and Barry, both Rose Hill Christian School graduates, have made them proud.
But the family ties don’t end there.
Gibson said he did some research on the floodwall that will bear his image and understands it was built after the 1937 flood that devastated river towns.
“It came during the depression and was built for safety and to stimulate jobs and the economy,” he said. “That’s the very floods that may have taken some of my family member’s lives. My grandparents went through this. That meant something.”
He also did it to honor his parents, who were dedicated to that community for so many years.
“They stood with friends on the best days and stood on the worst days,” he said. “They gave a lot. My dad is 100 percent a pastor. He put a lot of heart and soul to that community. He started the National Day of Prayer Day for quite a few years.”
Said Gibson: “It also will mean a lot to his boys and someday my grandkids will see that.”
At the end of the day, it will also be very special to this outstanding Major League umpire. He has been call in the big leagues for 15 years. He grew up in Ashland but spent many summer days with his grandparents in Franklin Furnace, Ohio.
It was Gibson’s grandfather, a diehard Reds’ fan, who got him interested in baseball. He played Little League in Ashland for Frank Rolen.
Now, he’s going up on the murals beside a special collection of baseball greats. Incredibly enough, he will be the second umpire — the first one was South Shore native Terry Craft.
Craft and Gibson never called regular season games together although they did work once in spring training, Greg remembered.
Gibson is building a nice resume for himself. He has umpired six Division Series, two League Championship Series, the 2011 World Series and one All-Star Game.
He’s still an active umpire and will leaving on Sunday to prepare for spring training in Phoenix.
Speaking on Wednesday will be one of Gibson’s idols — former major league umpire Randy Marsh. The Covington native is “a 5-star General” with five World Series assignments. He also umpired four All-Star Games and countless LCS and divisional series. Today he is an umpiring supervisor — essentially Gibson’s boss.
“Randy Marsh has looked out for me, taken care of me and yelled at me when I needed it,” Gibson said. “He’s like an uncle is the best way to put it. He’s a member of the family in many respects.”
It was Randy Marsh who gathered Kentuckians Larry Vanover, Sam Holbrook and Gibson to umpire the first game played in Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park in 2003.
Marsh was recently named Director of Umpiring for MLB. He worked in the National League from 1981-99 and both leagues from 2000-2009 until retiring.
Sharing the spotlight with Gibson will be Borders, the former Toronto Blue Jays star who spent most of his childhood growing up in Scioto County. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 1992 World Series after hitting .450 with one home run. He is also one of only four players to win an Olympic gold medal and a World Series title.
If you need a way to start thinking baseball, this is the event to attend.
Gene Bennett, the legendary Reds scout for 58 years, spearheads the event. They come from far and wide, many because Bennett asked them.
“They come out of pure respect for Gene Bennett,” Gibson said. “He does a lot for the southern Ohio area. He does a lot for his community.”
Greg Gibson has been a good ambassador for his community, too. Being enshrined on the Portsmouth Murals may be humbling to him but it’s deserved as well.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.
Greg Gibson was reluctant at first to accept being put on the Portsmouth baseball mural wall.
- Local Sports
Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)
The Fleming County Panthers waited nearly an hour to ascend the ladders set up under the goals at Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Tuesday night.
To the victor belongs the spoils, which traditionally includes the nets after winning a tournament title. But Fleming County milled around on Morehead State’s floor taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere after handling Ashland 82-59 in the 16th Region Tournament final.
Snipping the twine was almost an afterthought. In fact, except for a minute or so of celebration with their student section immediately following the final buzzer, the Panthers didn’t really even seem all that excited.
They expected to be here, and they were all business after earning back-to-back region titles and trips to Rupp Arena.
AARON SNYDER: Truth or Dare unkind to ’Cats
Ashland was left feeling like the shy kid after an intense game of Truth or Dare.
Truth: Fleming County outrebounded Ashland, 39-24, after Ashland outdueled Greenup County by 10 the night before.
'Relaxed' Steward earns MVP award
Both Fleming County coach Mark Starns and stellar senior Troy Steward attributed his significant strides this season to aggressiveness.
Playing a part, too, in Steward earning the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player award was the lack of nerves, which were nearly overwhelming at times a year ago.
Central's 15th Region reign continues
Once was good.
Twice was nice.
Three was sweet for the Johnson Central Eagles.
Senior Slade McPeek scored 22 points and earned most valuable player honors Tuesday night as Johnson Central rolled past Shelby Valley, 81-56, for its third straight 15th Region championship at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
- Fleming goes for two: Panthers beat Ashland for 16th Region repeat Fleming County pulled away early and never looked back as the Panthers pounced on Ashland, winning 82-59 in the 16th Region championship game on Tuesday in Morehead. Fleming County will face Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Panthers pound Ashland for repeat trip to Rupp (with video)