Paul Smith loves baseball. No sport ranks higher for the former sports editor of The Lima News. He used to proudly wear a Detroit Tigers jacket to work, and we’re talking back in the days when the team was losing 100 games a year.
That’s why we had to give Paul a telephone call the other night.
Three years ago Paul landed the perfect retirement trifecta for any baseball nut. He became an usher, stadium tour guide and greeter for the Washington Nationals. This past year he’s watched 77 games from his perch behind third base and will be there for every playoff game this season. Thus, it’s possible he could see the Nationals play the Tigers in the World Series.
But hold that thought a moment. Let’s talk about the usher gig first.
The job pays $11 an hour plus tips. The tips come when an usher escorts someone to their seat, cleaning it off before they sit down. A typical tip is $1, although not all fans tip.
“In a town like D.C., with so many dignitaries attending a game, the ushers do talk about who tips and who doesn’t,” Paul admitted.
Jill Biden, wife of vice president Joe Biden, is among the good tippers, plunking down $5. George Will, a syndicated newspaper columnist for the Washington Post, puts a few bucks in the palm of an usher’s hand. Then there is Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
“He doesn’t tip,” Smith said.
This year, Smith escorted Spike Lee to his seat — “it took me a few minutes before I realized who he was.”
He also sat through a game that started one hour and 40 minutes late because of rain, then experienced another rain delay, and finally ended around 1 a.m.
“There were 25,000 to 30,000 people in the stands when the game started and a 100 people left when it ended,” Smith said.
An usher is expected to work at least 80 percent, or 64, of the team’s 81 home games. At one point, Smith saw 10 straight games; which is enough to “tire out even the biggest baseball fan.”
He said he’s fortunate his wife Sue puts up with his hobbies. She plans to join him in retirement in 2014, just having sold an accounting firm she started. They live in Haymarket, Va., just an hour from Washington, D.C. He rides in a car pool to and from games with other ushers.
“I just really enjoy watching the Nationals play. After the second inning, an usher isn’t that busy and we can sit back and enjoy the game,” Smith said.”Bryce Harper is one of my favorites. He’s only 19 and has the most home runs for a teenager since Tony Conigliaro … more than Mantle, Griffey or Mel Ott.”
So, what happens if the Nationals and Tigers face each other in the World Series?
“I know I’ll be torn,” Smith said, “but in my heart, I have to go with the Tigers.”
ROSES AND THORNS: Celebrities and ordinary folk hook up in the rose garden.
Rose: To the Rev. Bill Croy, who returned Sunday to Trinity United Methodidst Church, where he delivered his final sermon. The 63-year-old Lima minister is suffering from ALS.
Rose: To Delphos resident, Jessica Alt, who was crowned Bowling Green State University’s 2012 homecoming queen. She is a 2009 graduate of Delphos St. John’s High School, and the daughter of Lisa and Adam Williams and Don Alt.
Rose: To Lori Smith, a social studies teacher at Ottawa Elementary Schoool. She was one of 1,000 teachers nationwide to receive $1,000 in school supplies from OfficeMax as part of its “A Day Made Better” award.
Rose: St. Charles School in Lima dedicated its cafeteria in honor of its late manager, Diane Dorely, who for 26 years prepared lunches for students.
Rose: To Jim Reber, who won the prestigious Mercy Club award from St. Rita’s Medical Center. The award recognizes a person with dedicated service to the community.
Rose: A couple of celebrity visits to the area last week. Chad, the Alltel guy, was in Lima and St. Marys, where he donated funds to a youth football organization and smartphones to a school classroom. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile was also spotted in Delphos, Lima, Celina and Coldwater.
Rose: To Debbie Converse, of Elida, who helped raise $1,150 to underwrite the costs for a sign that will dedicate the site of the former hgh school.
Rose: To fellow Lima News associate Connie Ruhe, who passed away this month. We’ll miss her laughter and strong work ethic in the newsroom.
Thorn: Ten teenagers, some as young as 13, were arrested in a burglary spree that targeted 15 houses on Lima’s north side.
PARTING SHOT: Ideas don’t work unless you do.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. To suggest a rose or thorn, email him at email@example.com or write to him at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.