BOGACZYK: Newman Mural Hits Home for Herd Coach
The Word on the Herd-Jan. 19, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Josh Newman says he’s “just a small-town guy.”
OK, but he also formerly pitched in the bigs, and now Newman is larger than life.
Newman, the Marshall pitching coach, is one of the latest baseball additions to the floodwall murals in Portsmouth, Ohio, where the visages of Scioto County and surrounding community star athletes are featured in addition to the Ohio River region’s history.
The second-year Herd coach will be among those honored Wednesday night at the $50-a-plate Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet at the SOMC Life Center. The annual banquet attended by numerous baseball “names” benefits Portsmouth Murals Inc., raising funds for new murals and maintenance of the ones that already adorn the floodwall.
Newman, from Wheelersburg, Ohio, joins baseball names like Branch Rickey, Al Oliver, Gene Tenace, Don Gullett and Larry Hisle and umpires Larry Craft and Greg Gibson -- among others like Roy Rogers and Jim Thorpe -- on the floodwall.
Newman’s likeness in his Rockies’ uniform was painted on the wall late last year by artist Robert Dafford.
Dafford worked on the Newman mural from last June and finished in early December. The former Colorado Rockies’ and Kansas City Royals’ left-hander is about 8-9 feet tall on the wall.
He took his daughter, Ayda, 6, and son, Kash, 4, to see the mural when it was finished.
“To have my kids be able to see that was so special,” Newman said Monday. “My little guy, he’s very inquisitive and he’s like, ‘Why are you on the wall?’ And my daughter went up to it – and what really made me get emotional -- is she went up and hugged it and gave it a kiss.
“I’ve always been very blessed, having great family and friends, and my kids are very special to me. My daughter got to see me play a little bit when she was a baby. Now, what they’ve seen is clips on the MLB Network of Carlos Quentin trying to charge the mound on me (in a Triple A game in July 2007).”
Newman, 32, starred at Wheelersburg High for Ohio High School Hall of Fame Coach Jack Branon, and after his 2000 graduation headed to Ohio State, where he was a three-time All-Big Ten pitcher for NCAA Tournament teams. He signed as a Buckeyes’ senior in 2004, a 19th-round draft pick by the Rockies.
In 2007, Newman was recalled from Triple A in September and made his Major League debut on Sept. 12 against Philadelphia. With the Rockies wanting another lefty in the bullpen for the postseason, Newman was kept on the active roster, and he received a World Series ring as Boston swept Colorado.
The next season, he bounced between the Majors and Class AAA with Colorado before being waived and he was claimed in July 2008 by Kansas City. In his two big league seasons, Newman worked 17 2/3 innings in 14 games.
He then got into coaching at his alma mater and was a volunteer coach for the Buckeyes before moving to Marshall prior to last season. His only previous connection to the Herd – other than being an area native (born in Portsmouth) was being recruited as a football linebacker by Coach Bob Pruett and staff.
“When I got the opportunity to come back here to coach, lot of people questioned why I’d leave Ohio State to come here,” said Newman, who starts the 2015 season with Coach Jeff Waggoner and the Herd on Feb. 13-15 at Florida A&M. “This is a special place for me, it’s where I grew up, the Tri-State, where I have so many awesome memories.
“The murals that I grew up with in Scioto County, that is kind of our claim to fame, you know? All the steel mills and manufacturing and manual labor have pretty much moved out of the region. It’s still a tight-knit community and that floodwall is something that’s always been kind of a claim to fame for us.”
So, just how did Newman get on that floodwall?
“When I got the call wanting me to send my baseball cards to them as a sample, it was almost surreal,” Newman said. “We didn’t believe it at first. They first called right after our (Marshall) season ended. My wife, Sarah, went and met with the painter, and he said the City of Portsmouth was looking into wanting to put me up the wall. The (Portsmouth Area) Chamber of Commerce had contacted me.
“I’m just a small-town guy. It’s still kind of hard to fathom, growing up there, seeing the murals, the stars on there, the names. It’s pretty cool to be with them. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to believe it.”
Initially, he didn’t.
“My first thought was, ‘My buddies are pranking me,’” Newman said, laughing. “My thought is, ‘Who’s (phone) number is this? Who’s doing this?’ But they were just persistent and I thought maybe it wasn’t a prank.
“We took my baseball cards down there, met with the painter and the Chamber of Commerce. They called me back when it was completed … I get emotional just talking about it.”
And he hasn’t talked much. Asked about the Newman mural over the weekend, his fellow Marshall assistant coaches didn’t know anything about the distinction.
“I told the people for the banquet, ‘I’ll do anything you want, but I don’t want it to be about me,’” said Newman, who is joined as a floodwall mural newcomer by Tim Maxey, a Shawnee State alumnus and former Cleveland Indians strength coach who is the Joint Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for MLB. “That’s just how I am.
“It’s hard to explain. I've had so many family members and friends help me along the way. Coach Jack Branon, a man of faith, took me under his wing and taught me there’s more to life than just baseball. It’s about being a good person, doing things the right way.
“It’s just special to be recognized like this where I’m from. Baseball has meant so much to me. Now, people go by the floodwall and tell me they saw me up there. That’s awesome. I almost don’t know what to say.”