ASHLAND, Ky. – Saturday is a day of redemption and celebration for northeastern Kentucky as it relates to state achievements. The spotlight is shining brightly.
Five of the 12-member class of 2020 will be inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame in Lexington have direct ties to northeastern Kentucky. Two of them made the mark right here in the Ashland area and are overdue for the recognition. Neither could have done anymore than they did. But let’s not go there because it’s a time to celebrate our Bobs – Ashland’s Bob Lynch and Boyd County’s Bob Stacey – and Paintsville coaching great Charlie Adkins and football-basketball star Joey Couch and Meade Memorial’s Donnis Butcher.
Lynch played for the Tomcats 50 years ago during the golden era of Ashland sports in the 1960s. He is arguably the most dominant pitcher to ever take the mound in Central Park since he never lost a game on that field. Not in Babe Ruth League, not in high school or American Legion. He was undefeated at CP-1. While he would be quick to credit his teammates – and he had some great ones – Bobby Lynch was that dominant of a pitcher.
He was 5-0 in the state tournament when the Tomcats won three championships in a row from 1966-68. He was unflappable and unhittable. Calm under pressure even as a sophomore pitching in a state championship game where the Tomcats defeated Shelby County 2-1 to begin that championship streak that has only been matched one time in Kentucky history.
Lynch was 27-2 with an 0.42 ERA in his Ashland career. He was also a 1,000-point scorer in basketball and a regional track champion despite running hardly any regular season meets because of baseball.
Bob Lynch is in the conversation as the greatest athlete in Ashland Tomcat history. I’ve said before he’s on my Mount Rushmore of Tomcats.
If your choosing up teams, you wanted Bob Lynch in whatever sport it happened to be. His competitiveness drove him like few others and maybe that’s a credit to growing up the younger brother of Bill Lynch, a fireballing lefty who had an equaling amazing 27-2 record during his Tomcat career and signed a professional contract with the Cleveland Indians (not the Guardians). He went into the KHSAA Hall of Fame a few years ago – another long overdue honor. It’s a shame the Lynch brothers didn’t go in together.
During their days of growing up and competing, they pushed each other to greatness and took us along on the ride with them. They were both generational athletes during a day when there was a lot of those in the area (think Don Gullett, Larry Conley and many others).
I can say this about the Lynch brothers too: There are none better as people. They are more than friends to me but that doesn’t bias me about their athletic abilities. Ask anybody who competed with or against them about those attributes.
A competitive streak was also motivational for Bob Stacey, who I came to know closely while he was building an incredible track and field program at Boyd County. Bob was always pushing me to do more for those athletes at the newspaper. It was because of him that we started an All-Area track and field team and that those athletes were given the same kind of space normally reserved for basketball and football.
Bob made me aware of the sport and was the greatest advocate for the running community that this area has ever known. I respect him so much for his passion and desire for what he taught so well. It was never about him but it was because of him that track and field and cross country became an important part of the coverage of sports in The Daily Independent.
Bob made a difference for decades and his daughter has carried on that legacy.
He coached track and field and cross country at Boyd County from 1975 to 2000 and I’ll never forget the girls state championship team in 1980. He made the most of four or five incredible athletes to bring home the title. It was amazing and something I’ll never forget watching. I never knew track and field could be so exciting but Bob showed me differently.
He won 25 regional titles, two cross country state runner-up finishes and the state title. He also coached track and field at Fairview.
Bob Stacey, like Bob Lynch, was relentless in his pursuit of greatness. Maybe it was something in the neighborhood since they lived on the same street.
The two inductees from Paintsville High School are deserving of this honor as well as Donnis Butcher. Adkins was a fierce competitor on the coaching sidelines and Couch and Butcher were also generational athletes that could do anything.
But I’m especially excited for our Bobs and their families. The wait has been so long, including an extra year because of COVID, but the day has finally come.
A big congratulations to Bob Lynch and Bob Stacey. Your footprints in northeastern Kentucky cannot be filled. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about both of you.