Soon enough baseball is going to be all we really have left to get us through until the start of Ohio State’s football season in the start of September. The college basketball season has just wrapped up, the Blue Jackets aren’t going to be headed to the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing like they want to start the offseason early, and the Columbus Crew forgot how to score goals.
We are at an odd point when it comes to baseball in the state of Ohio. It’s obvious that the Cincinnati Reds have no intention of being competitive, while the Cleveland Guardians are ushering in a new era by changing their name in the offseason. The Guardians do have some young talent to get excited about, so it’s probably only a matter of time before they trade them for peanuts, because that’s how Cleveland baseball operates these days.
At least there has been plenty of talent to come from the state of Ohio to root for, so those in the Buckeye State aren’t just tied to the Reds or Guardians. Some notable names to come from the state over the years are guys like Barry Larkin, Mike Schmidt, Rollie Fingers, and former Buckeye Nick Swisher.
Today’s question: Who is your favorite baseball player from Ohio?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Paul O’Neill
Growing up in Western New York state, I grew up as a Yankees fan. While Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Toronto were all cities with MLB teams that were closer, coverage of the Yankees was what dominated our small town. One of the local AM radio stations even aired Yankees games, which made it even easier to become a fan of the “evil empire”.
My first Yankees memories came in 1995, when I was 10 years old. That year ended with Ken Griffey Jr. sliding into home in the ALDS to end New York’s season. While a lot of people think I am a bandwagon Yankees fan, I actually got in just before they started their run of winning three World Series in a four-year span.
O’Neill definitely was the fiery character in the Yankees lineup. You never knew when O’Neill was going to start beating on some water coolers, or trade some barbs with his opponents. Whenever the Yankees needed a spark, you could count on O’Neill to give it to them. It was quite a contrast to the style that Bernie Williams had, who was O’Neill’s neighbor in the outfield during his time with the Yankees.
What was also great about O’Neill was how consistent he was in his nine years with the Yankees. Even though his average slipped a little in the last couple years of his career, O’Neill hit at least 18 homes and drove in 70 runs in each of his nine years in pinstripes. A lot of times fan favorites hang on too long and they are a shell of their former selves when they retire. That wasn’t the case with O’Neill.
Lucky for me I still get a heavy dose of O’Neill, since he is currently a part of the Yankees broadcast team on YES. It’s also nice to see O’Neill still make his home in Ohio, as he lives in the Cincinnati area after spending the early part of his career with the Reds. O’Neill was born in Columbus, attending Brookhaven high school before being drafted by the Reds.
Meredith’s answer: Joe Smith
I truly didn’t realize how many great baseball players come from the state of Ohio, but I’m picking one for reasons very different from his play on the diamond and going with Minnesota Twins pitcher Joe Smith. Admittedly, I’m more familiar with Smith’s also-famous wife, sideline reporter Allie LaForce. It’s the story of their shared journey that made me choose Smith.
Smith’s mother, Lee, died in 2020 after a battle with Huntington’s disease, a degenerative genetic disorder. While it’s extremely rare, one of the many tragedies of the disease is how symptoms often don’t arise until middle age — after genes have often been passed on to any potential children.
While Smith himself has not been tested to see if he’s inherited the gene, he and LaForce have very openly and publicly made it their mission to eliminate Huntington’s from their family through PGT (Preimplantation Genetic Testing) IVF, which ensures that their embryos do not have the gene for Huntington’s.
But even as they’ve been going through their own journey of starting a family, Smith and LaForce have thought bigger — even starting a foundation, HelpCureHD, to provide grants for PGT-IVF treatment for families who need financial assistance. Moreover, LaForce has been so, so open about her struggles and experiences, including a miscarriage last year, providing support for other hopeful moms going through similar journeys.
The foundation has already supported 16 Huntington’s-free babies. They are looking to up that number to 70 through the remainder of this year.
So, no actual baseball talk here, but what’s not to love? It doesn’t hurt that LaForce recently announced her pregnancy!