Bowling loses a great friend

Jack Hammill - Guest Columnist

Much has already been said about the loss of Vince Koza to the sporting community but please permit me to extend those thoughts and prayers from the bowling community.

It was about ten years ago during the heyday of Maverick Media that Phil Austin hit upon the idea of bowling being covered by that station. When the idea of a weekly bowling talk show fell through, the dubious honor of promoting our sport fell to Vince Koza and this writer.

I will be forever thankful that things fell the way that it did. The friendship and the memories that resulted will be forever cherished.

Interestingly enough it was Austin that uttered the best response to the question of who will replace the iconic Koza. “He will not be replaced until somebody has done what Vince has done for more than 30 years,” was his comment as we man-hugged it out recently.

Mike Maag, a fellow radio journalist of Vince said as well when he boldly stated, “There will never be another Koz.”

Vince would be humbly shaking his head if we were together right now. He would be asking about the Lima City Singles or seeking information of the recent high school event in Columbus. He would be arguing that those events were much more important than he. He would be responding that way as it is indicative of the real Koza.

He was always one that would elevate others to be more important than he. The main benefactors were always his incredible family. The love that he has for Holly as well as his daughters Sara and Brittany is very well known. Yes I am very cognizant that I just said has and not had. Vince will always be alive in each of us.

I have cried a great deal over the last couple of days, from the time that I awoke to the news that my friend had traveled home through time earlier today at Lima Community Church ad a tearful embrace with Pastor Doug Boquist and onto the junior high matches in Van Wert. The gentleman, known as Vince, has touched that many lives.

B.J. McPheron, the athletic director from Temple Christian spoke to me in the lobby at church and pointed to Vince as a living example of Matthew 25:40. “Look at us, we are a small school, and yet whenever any of us were with Koz he made us feel so important.”

I got similar feedback in the afternoon from a Van Wert fan who mentioned that he had approached Vince upon one occasion to simply tell him that he enjoyed his call of a game and the two of them talked for an extended time about sports. It was clear that it meant a great deal to that individual – that is part of the legacy of Vince.

Working with Koza was a blessing. It was like he took me to finishing school on treating people in an encouraging manor. ‘Classes’ started when I was hyper critical of either the OHSAA or the Lima Bowling Association during one of our very early segments together. When the segment ended he made it imperatively clear to me that his show was designed to promote and not tear down. There have been other moments – leading to Vince shaking his head in dismay – but they were few and far between.

I can remember the early days when he was criticized, somewhat playfully, by attorney Brad Kelly as well as others, that bowling was not a sport. There were many that felt that it was a waste of time for the station to cover the sport and those who participated in it. Koza steadied the ship however, refusing to give into the criticism.

As a result of his being steadfast, numerous adults and youth have been either interviewed or mentioned on his show and remote broadcasts have been held at a number of bowling establishments in our area. Quite simply Vince loved the game and the people in it.

Vince loved our city and the people in it. I would disagree some with my great friend Phil. What Vince has given to this community can never be duplicated. The ostentatious person that we may have seen on television or heard on radio never really existed.

He was one of the more caring and humble individuals that I have ever had the opportunity to know. He had the ability to set his needs to the side for the needs of others.

I can still remember how years ago Vince shared with me that chief among his childhood heroes was Joe Tait. Vince wanted to emulate his hero and it was one of the reasons that he moved to Maverick Media, he loved sports talk but he wanted to do games. We are blessed that he got that opportunity and somehow it was fitting that the last ‘show’ that he did was a game – though that was not be his design.

I told Vince many times that he was the G.O.A.T – the Greatest of All Time. He frequently debated that notion with me. In one of our final get-togethers at The James as he sat back and reflected on all the wonderful things that not only our area but the entire region has done for him, he began to acknowledge that maybe just maybe I may be correct. In any event he was clearly appreciative of all that people have done to honor him. I take that back he was actually overwhelmed by it.

The tears are once again beginning to pour.

Let me close by paraphrasing Gayle Sayres as he spoke of Brian Piccolo

‘I have a friend and his name is Vince Koza, he has the heart of a giant and he and his family spell out the word courage2 4 hours a day. I love Vince and his family and gives me great pleasure to know that many of you do as well. As you hit your knees tonight please keep the family of Vince in your prayers.

Jack Hammill

Guest Columnist

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