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Russell coach Tim Rice encourages his players during a game in 2016.

Jim Moore wasn’t initially sold on the idea of WLGC’s fantasy baseball 16th Region Tournament. After all, what could replace the loss of his son Ronan’s senior season playing for Boyd County?

“You know, I thought the fantasy playoff broadcast was a stupid idea,” Moore said. “Then ... I tuned in to hear the game. I couldn’t turn it off! I envisioned all that was happening (great announcing). I must say when Ronan was at bat, along with his close friends, it affected me deeply. Something you can only get in Small Town USA.”

Moore was among those who found value in Kool Hits’ fantasy region tournament. Broadcaster Jim Forrest played it out by rolling Yahtzee dice to determine the outcome of each at-bat. Forrest, Dicky Tiller and James Collier then manufactured broadcasts for the simulated games and aired them the week the tournament would ordinarily have been held.

“The reception to the games was phenomenal,” Collier said. “Fans of baseball, regardless of the team, were tuned in simply to hear ‘live’ sports again. We received so many texts and tweets complimenting the efforts. Even some of those who originally thought the idea was farce quickly changed their tunes after listening in.”

Moore shared what was going on with friends in Chicago, where his family had previously lived, and they reported back they “thought it was the coolest thing ever,” he said.

He wasn’t the only parent who relished at least the mental image of his or her child stepping between the lines in a spring in which the COVID-19 pandemic robbed them of the genuine article.

Tracy Newman’s son, Logan Bays, was to compete in his sophomore season for Greenup County. The virus wiped that out, but the Musketeers “won” their simulated region tournament quarterfinal against East Carter when the dice smiled upon Bays, to the tune of a game-winning RBI single.

“I think it’s pretty cool, but sure do miss watching them actually play games,” Newman said in response to a Twitter inquiry.

Kim Blanton, the mother of Russell junior Daniel Blanton, responded similarly.

“I thought it was fun,” she said. “It did make me miss baseball, though. Just wish they could have played the season. As a parent, I did appreciate the effort put into this for the fans and the kids.”

Russell “beat” Boyd County, 6-5, in the simulated region final. Red Devils coach Tim Rice isn’t likely to order a banner to commemorate the accomplishment, but he recognized it as a worthwhile effort to salvage something, anything, from an otherwise lost sports season.

“It was fun to follow the games,” Rice said. “I think our kids really got into the experience. I think Kool Hits did a great job and allowed people to forget about all that was lost for a few hours each day.”

How closely did players and coaches follow along? Collier cited this instance: Lewis County catcher Wyatt Yates texted Lions coach Sammy Holder to ask to run the bases — not something catchers ordinarily do in real games.

“Certainly not as good as the real thing,” Collier said, “but it gave everyone tuned in a taste of live sports in a time where there’s nothing guaranteed anymore. As a broadcaster, it was one of the best times I’ve had calling the game.”

(606) 326-2658 |

zklemme@dailyindependent.com

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