LIMA — It took a great deal of time and effort, but several famous names from the world of sports were on hand Saturday at the Lima Mall as part of the Playball Ink SportsFest.
“It took about four months and several negotiations to get them in,” event organizer Derek Kill said.
For Lima Mall manager Theresa Morocco, the event is a great way to bring the area’s many sports fans together for a great weekend.
“We like to try to be a hub for the community,” she said. “People really enjoy this.”
Concluding Sunday, SportsFest features standouts from both football and baseball, with college football, Super Bowl and World Series champions in the ranks.
One former player on hand Saturday was Jim Lachey, a former St. Henry Redskin and Ohio State Buckeye who played in the NFL for 10 years, seven with the Washington Redskins. Lachey and the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI in 1992. With roots in the area, Lima is very familiar territory for Lachey.
“Being from St. Henry, I played many a game over at Lima Senior,” he said.
Many in the area are familiar with Lachey as part of the Ohio State football radio broadcasts.
“I’ve been on the radio for the last 17 years, and a lot of people hear the voice and are able to place it,” he said. “Covering the Buckeyes has been a lot of fun.”
Also on hand was Pete Johnson, another former Buckeye and standout running back for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1977 to 1983. For him, this kind of event that allows players to reconnect with fans is always a positive experience.
“I do these all the time, all over the country,” he said. “It’s always good.”
Johnson enjoys the opportunity to share memories of his playing days with the fans, while also discussing how his former teams are doing these days.
“We get to talk about the Buckeyes and the Bengals and how they almost pulled it off,” he said with a laugh. “My coach in college was Woody Hayes, and people always want to hear some Woody Hayes stories.”
Another former Bengal, Ickey Woods, known for his famous “Ickey Shuffle,” was on hand Saturday. Woods rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1988, leading the Bengals to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIII. He, along with the other former players, was happy with the turnout Saturday.
“It’s been a real good response out here,” he said. “I think whenever we get to come to these smaller towns, you get nice turnouts when they get to see someone they may not get to see much.”
Despite his short tenure with the Bengals, fans still remember Woods’ on-field antics.
“The most common question people ask me is if I’ll do the shuffle,” he said. “I still do it when I can.”
While enjoying reconnecting with fans, some of the players are also using the event to give back.
“I do a football cheerleading camp for kids with autism, and this is one of the ways I go out and raise the money to pay for it, so I don’t have to charge the participants,” Johnson said. “So I’m here and then on Thursday I’ll be in Biloxi, Miss.”
“I do a lot of these in the Cincinnati area to help raise money for my son’s foundation,” Woods said. “I lost my son three years ago to an asthma attack, so I started a foundation in his name called the Jovante Woods Foundation. I go around the country raising money for asthma resarch.”
For the fans who came to the mall Saturday, the event was a great way to gain a personal connection with the games they love.
“It’s always fun,” said Gary Brown, a Defiance native and longtime Buckeyes and Browns fan. “It’s great to see these people in person after watching them through the years.”