Friday, June 5, 2009

Uncle Ralph (& other ramblings)

I'm in trouble. When he reads this, there's no doubt in my mind he will, at the very least, attempt to beat me with a softball bat. But like you've heard me say before, some things just need to be said. "Uncle Ralph" Kelley is an invaluable part of Hub Athletics and his dedication and hard work need to be recognized. Thanks Uncle Ralph.

This guy wears a lot of different hats. During football and basketball seasons he films our games. This is not a hard job. This is a hard job to do correctly. Just ask Coach Harris. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we've been given by schools we've traded films with over the years. Those films vary from looking like satellite video from outer space to being so zoomed-in you can only see 3 players, while the other 8 are roaming around in video no-man's land. Not the case with Uncle Ralph's videos. Always in focus. Always showing the entire offense or defense. This takes skill, and Ralph is the best there is. He also does something that other videographers rarely do. He constantly cuts to the clock and scoreboard. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It's not. It's a big problem, especially in basketball. Try scouting a team when you don't know what the score is or even what quarter it is. You have no context, no feel for what's happening. That's a problem we don't have thanks to Uncle Ralph.

Softball season is Ralph's favorite time of the year. He helps in so many ways it's hard to keep up with them all. He works with batting practice, the JV, the outfielders, and generally helps Coach run practice. This is on top of helping with mowing, groundskeeping and getting the softball fields in game-ready condition. Ralph is always there, helping in any way he can. But his main claim to fame is as a scout and defensive positioning expert. I'm not exaggerating a bit when I tell you he is a legend in Alabama high school softball. When we go to tournaments, we don't get through the gate before other coaches begin to ask both him and Coach Harris for information on teams we've played or scouted. They all know Ralph has them pegged. Have you ever noticed that you very rarely see one of our players make one of those spectacular ESPN Sportscenter catches? There's a reason for that. That reason is Ralph. He charts where every player on every team we play hits the ball. If that weren't enough, he also keeps up with who's pitching. He can tell you where hitters will hit the ball against different speed pitchers. He can tell you who can or can't hit a change-up, who likes the pitch on the outside half of the plate, who doesn't like the fastball up and in, and on and on. The man is amazing.

People like Ralph are getting increasingly rare. In this age of "what's in it for me," his only concern is how he can help out. And if you're looking for some ulterior motive, don't bother. He's not on the payroll and his kids finished high school years ago. He has no "dog in the hunt." Dedication like this is pretty much a thing of the past. I hope everyone realizes how fortunate we are to have Ralph as part of our athletic family.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009. Mark that day down on your calendar. That's Veterans Day. Please hunt up Uncle Ralph and thank him for his service and sacrifice. Thank him for defending you, your family, your way of life, your country. He and tens of thousands of others gave so much and expected so little in return. For those of you who don't know the story, Ralph was badly wounded in Viet Nam--that's how he got the wounded arm. Not a carwreck, not an industrial accident, but gunfire from a man who meant to kill him. That makes Ralph Kelley a hero. Somebody we can all look up to and respect. And in all the years I've known him, I've never once heard him complain. That's what American heroes do. They play the cards they were dealt and do the very best they can. And that's what we of the Maroon Nation get from Ralph Kelley every day. His very best. Thank you, Ralph.

The Old Gray Lion

This month's recommended reading: "The Prince of Frogtown" by Rick Bragg.
The final installment in Rick's trilogy about his family. Great stuff.

This month's recommended movie: "Stay Hungry"
Filmed in and around Birmingham in 1975. A cult classic. Wildly funny. Lots of local folks make appearances. Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger, R.G. Armstrong, Robert Englund, Roger Mosley and Scatman Crothers. Pretty tame by today's standards but still Rated R. No kids, please. Don't miss the moonshine/buck dancing scene filmed up in Blount County. Classic.