Hometown hero: Ashland has a Host with the most

Jim Host, George Rupert and Jack Ditty at the Highlands Museum’s Hometown Sports Banquet.

ASHLAND, Ky. – Jim Host, the very definition of an entrepreneur, was the first person in his huge family to graduate from college.

His impact on the sports marketing and business world are immeasurable. Host isn’t just a giant in the industry, he practically created it. He’s the King Kong of that world. It’s truly not that much of a stretch to say the March Madness that we all enjoy so much is fruit from Host’s tree as is the familiar phrase “Final Four.”

Jim Host is from Ashland and darn proud of it. The man who grew up on Elm Street in South Ashland made that abundantly clear on Friday night during the Highlands Museum’s Hometown Sports banquet.

Living history was on display with the likes of basketball greats King Kelly Coleman and J.R. VanHoose, Mr. Basketballs about 40 years apart, and high school football coaching great Ivan McGlone in the house along with Host and a host of others.

Jim Host isn’t just proud to be from Ashland, he says it was this little town on the Ohio River that helped him succeed in life. Because of the nudges he received from what he considers his “hometown,” despite only living here for eight years, Host became only the second scholarship baseball player in University of Kentucky history and springboarded from there to become a giant in the industry with more Hall of Fame rings than a team of New York Yankees.

He hasn’t forgotten how Marvin Hall took him under his wing and coached him, the impact of the legendary Ernie Chattin and Bo McMillen, who made sure kids had bats and balls to play with in Central Park before organized baseball came to our city in the mid-1950s, and the tenacity and no fear attitude that he learned from being around the coaching of George Conley.

Make no mistake, Ashland has a friend in Jim Host.

It’s not just lip service either. He’s always helped me with projects and been supportive of any effort that I’ve made to enhance sports history in northeastern Kentucky.

Ashland also has always had a friend in Dr. Jack Ditty, who joined me on the platform along with one of Ashland’s great businessmen and athletes George Rupert, who we learned was instrumental in being the one to give Dr. Ditty the nudge he needed. It was a bit humbling to stand up there with those three great men who have done so much in their lives with Ashland at the root.

Jack talked about Donald Putnam and Sam Mansbach, businessmen who were doers in Ashland and the reason why one of our town jewels – the Ashland Area YMCA – is here today. Few cities this size have a YMCA quite like Ashland.

The momentum that Ashland is currently feeling with the news of Braidy Industries arrival has revived us. Hope is no longer in the rearview mirror. Ashland has a proud past and we should look back with much pride, but let’s not discount the future at our fingertips. Braidy not only brings in jobs but it brings in bright people with big, new ideas that could reshape this area for years to come. A town has no better resource than its positive thinking people and we may get a bunch of them with Braidy. We have them here already rolling up their sleeves (think Build Ashland) and leading by example.

Looking around the fourth floor of the museum, where the banquet took place, put you in an Ashland past mode. Many of us “old Ashlanders” remember the museum as Parson’s Department Store. It was on the mezzanine in Parson’s where I learned of a love for books. When my mother shopped in Parson’s I didn’t go to the toys, I went to the books – sports books (of course). I looked through dozens of them as she shopped and almost always came away with one to read. That put me in a world of sports history that I’ve never stopped loving.

You may get that same feeling of history if you go into the old Parson’s building now that has transformed into an amazing museum. The sports exhibit that is being showcased for the next few weeks will not disappoint. Kudos to progressive thinking Carol Allen and her capable staff that includes Matt Potter and curator Heather Akers. I’ve worked with all three of them in different areas at the museum and they should all be commended.

Carol’s leadership at the museum has given Ashland another bright light for the future as we navigate toward a new beginning. It sure is a lot easier to follow the path with a spotlight in front of you.


Bill Lynch first of ‘Dynasty’ Tomcats in KHSAA Hall of Fame

Bill Lynch was 27-2 in three seasons with the Tomcats, including 11-0 with a 0.31 ERA as a senior.

ASHLAND, Ky. – More than 50 years since winning the first of three consecutive state high school baseball championships from 1966 to 1968 – a feat equaled only one other time in Kentucky high school history – the first member of the Ashland Tomcats dynasty era is being inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

Billy Lynch, who as a senior left-handed pitcher in 1966 orchestrated maybe the best individual season in Kentucky baseball history, is one of 13 members in the Class of 2018 that will be inducted Saturday night in Lexington, Ky.

Here are Lynch’s numbers his senior year when Ashland was 25-0 and state champion:

-11-0 record

-0.31 earned run average

-Eight complete games out of 10 starts

-150 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings

-Averaged 15 strikeouts per game

-Allowed only 17 hits

-Allowed only 3 earned runs

Those are Hall of Fame numbers in anybody’s book and that’s just his senior season, which also included a .386 batting average. During his Tomcat career, he carved out a 27-2 record and as a junior was on a team that lost only once, in the state semifinals. That year he was 8-1 with a .679 batting average (you read that correctly; during one stretch he had a hit in 14 consecutive at-bats).

Ashland was 42-1 during his junior and senior seasons combined.

There are 469 members in the KHSAA Hall of Fame, including this year’s class, so saying Billy Lynch’s induction is overdue is obvious.

Hopefully, Billy Lynch isn’t the last member of the Tomcat dynasty era to make the hallowed halls. On deck should be Billy’s little brother Bob, who also went 27-2 in his Tomcat career and started on all three state championship teams and was the winning pitcher in the state finals during two of those seasons.

No question, Bob Lynch belongs, too. Very few players in state baseball history were starters on three state championship teams. Only the Tomcats and Pleasure Ridge Park (1994-96), whose coach Bill Miller is a member of this year’s class, achieved the feat.

The Lynch brothers, who were also both dominant basketball players for the Tomcats, were nominated through a herculean effort from teammate John Mullins, who must have contacted more than 100 people to submit forms. Mullins was relentless, just like he was as a player, to give his Tomcat teammates an opportunity to at least get on the ballot.

Ferrell Wellman, who spoke during the Elks Sports Day when Bill Lynch was honored two years ago, also shook the rafters for his friend to be among those included in the KHSAA Hall of Fame.

Hopefully, next year, Bob Lynch can join his older brother in the KHSAA Hall of Fame. These two great players certainly weren’t the only reasons why the Tomcats dominated the state to the tune of 109-11 from 1965-1969. There were other great pitchers and hitters who simply knew how to play the game of baseball.

I’m not sure northeastern Kentucky, or even the state of Kentucky for that matter, will see a program so dominant in a five-year period. The ’65 team made it to the semifinals before suffering a one-run loss on a throwing error and the ’69 team lost 1-0 in the championship game. That’s how close Ashland was to winning five state titles in a row.

Congratulations to Bill Lynch on being the first of hopefully several from the Tomcat dynasty era to receive some overdue state recognition.






AL EAST (Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays)

AL CENTRAL (Indians, Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals)

AL WEST (Astros, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, A’s)

NL EAST (Nationals, Mets, Braves, Phillies, Marlins)

NL CENTRAL (Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates)

NL WEST (Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Padres)


Red Sox over Angels


Astros over Red Sox

Yankees over Indians


Astros over Yankees


Diamondbacks over Mets


Nationals over Diamondbacks

Cubs over Dodgers


Cubs over Nationals


Astros over Cubs



NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals

NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

AL CY YOUNG: Chris Sale, Red Sox

AL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees


14 more will be added to Ashland Baseball CP-1 Hall of Fame this summer

ASHLAND  Ky. – The 14-member class of the fourth Ashland CP-1 Baseball Hall of Fame includes six more members from the Ashland Tomcat “Dynasty Era” of 1965-1969 and other players and coaches who spanned four decades in Central Park.

Induction day will be Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. in the Central Park.

Don Lentz, Fred Leibee, John Sieweke, Dave Staten, Larry Stevens and Mike Tackett were members of state championship teams during the stretch when the Tomcats won three titles in a row from 1966-68.

Players from the 1950s and early 1960s era include Larry Castle, David Patton, H.F. Dixon and Ernie Daniels.

Players from the late 1970s era are Greg Swift and Donnie Allen while Ashland Post 76 American Legion co-managers Rick Reeves and the late Frank Wagner, who coached together for nearly 20 years, are also among the 2018 class.

“Just like our previous classes, there are some heavyweight players in this one,” said CP-1 Baseball HOF Chairman Mark Maynard. “We’ve got several players who were members of state championship high school teams with the Tomcats and also played on state championship Little League teams in Ashland. It’s a massive amount of talent. I’d take these guys in their primes and take on anybody. We have a little bit of everything, including great coaching and some of the best clutch hitters in CP-1 history.”

The 2018 class is the biggest in the four years and brings the total enshrined to 49.

Previous CP-1 Hall of Fame classes:

2017 (13): J.D. Browne, Bo Carter, Joe Conley, Tim Huff, Mike Smith, Steve Hemlepp, John Mullins, Kevin Gothard, Mike Gothard, Dale Griffith, Nard Pergrem, Jim Speaks, John Thomas.

2016 (10): Bob Lynch, Steve Rolen, “Big” Ed Hughes, Dale Griffith, Wayne Workman, Bill Workman, Chuck Dickison, Ellis Childers, Clyde Chinn, Marvin Hall.

2015 (12): Brandon Webb, Don Gullett, Bill Lynch, Drew Hall, Charlie Reliford, Jody Hamilton, Dykes Potter, Squire Potter, Bob Simpson, Reecie Banks, Jim Host, Gene Bennett.