July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Football: Tucheks leaving press box duties after 30-plus years

Something will be missing tonight in the Kenneth Dukes Stadium press box when the Medina football team opens the 2013 season by hosting Brunswick.

More accurately, two very generous, knowledgeable, hard-working and well-liked people will not be present.

Bill Tuchek, seated, and son Jeff are calling it quits after serving as “spotters” in the Medina press box for more than 30 years. Bill, a retired dentist, started helping out in the press box in 1980. Jeff, a 1974 Medina High graduate, started in 1977. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

For the first time in 34 seasons, Bill Tuchek and son Jeff won’t be working together as “spotters,” ensuring the proper tacklers, ball carriers and receivers get credit over the public address system.

“It’s simply amazing to have had two individuals like the Tucheks who volunteered their time all those years for the betterment of the program,” Medina athletic director Jeff Harrison said.

“They never asked for anything in return. You could always count on them to be there. We never had to call them to see if they were going to do it. They were just always there.”

Tonight, they won’t be, though they’ll likely be sitting together in the stands somewhere.

Jeff Tuchek, whose career as a spotter actually began in 1977 at what is now Medina Memorial Stadium, decided several months ago to call it quits after spending 36 seasons in the press box.

Bill Tuchek, a retired dentist who started working with his son when the Bees moved to Kenneth Dukes Stadium in 1980, then decided he might as well follow suit after 33 years in the booth.

“I loved it,” said 77-year-old Bill, a former Medina Athletic Booster Club president who now leaves town in early October and spends his winters in Arizona. “It pulled us together on Friday nights.

“Jeff was the hard worker of the whole thing. He’s a computer guy. He got everything computerized and got the rosters and got everything printed up. I just showed up before game time and ate some free pizza and called the tackles. Jeff did the hard work.”

Jeff, 57, graduated from Medina in 1974 and played defensive tackle on the 1973 football team that won the Southwestern Conference championship under coach Alan Cooksey. No Bees football team has won a league title since.

The younger Tuchek earned an associates degree in computer technology and works as a data quality analyst for PNC. He’s been married to wife Carol for 28 years and has one child, 21-year-old Michael, a 2010 Medina graduate.

“Jeff was very good on the computer,” said Mike Eleo, who has served as the PA announcer for Medina home football games since 1992. “He was always keeping a lot of stats, so he’d have the roster and everything else you could need listed right there.

“For the last four or five years, he’d hit whatever key and it would immediately bring up whoever had run the ball or passed the ball or caught the ball. He had it down to a science.”

Jeff first worked as a spotter for the legendary Ken Dukes, who not only did the announcing, but kept stats for Cooksey.

“Ken Dukes was amazing,” Jeff said. “He memorized all the rosters. It would be muddy and he still would be calling the right numbers.

“It was a lot different in the old days (at what is now the soccer stadium). Three people sat down (in the press box). I had a seat, Dukes had a seat and the guy running the scoreboard had a seat. Everybody else stood behind us or went outside.”

The oldest of three boys — Scott graduated in 1978 and Bob followed in 1980 — Jeff’s first work in the press box actually came at a road game in Rocky River, which didn’t have lights at its stadium.

Because the game was played on Saturday afternoon and Dukes had to work security at Old Phoenix Bank, Jeff filled in doing stats for Cooksey. The next week, he began spotting for Dukes in Medina.

“My dad was president of the booster club (for seven years) and he got us boys into volunteering,” Jeff said. “I always figured that when I was playing, somebody was doing this for my games. It was my way of paying back.”

That Jeff got to work with his dad for so many years — son always spotted for both offenses and father always did the defense — made it better still.

“We are 20 years and 2 days apart in age,” Jeff said. “We were selling programs at a game once and he kept trying to tell people I was his brother. He’s amazing.

“One of the nicest things, before a game, he’d pick me up or I’d pick him up. It was just something we did together year after year after year.”

Bill Tuchek, an upbeat and vibrant man who looks much younger than 77, has done a lot more for Medina athletics than work as a spotter since moving to town in 1970.

As booster club president, he was one of the driving forces behind the building — and eventual naming — of Kenneth Dukes Stadium. With help from his three sons, he also awards a $3,000 merit scholarship to a deserving Medina student each year in honor of his wife of 50-plus years, Joan, who died three years ago.

“He’s just class,” Eleo said. “There’s absolutely no doubt about that. He’s very loyal to Medina. I would chuckle once in a while because he’d get all upset if radio people or the reporters next door said something that seemed to be favoring the other team.”

One of those naturally nice people who has pride but absolutely no ego, Bill’s least favorite subject is probably talking about himself. On the rare occasions when he does, it’s usually to point out he could have done something better.

“In the press box, the thing that bothered me the most was when I knew a kid made a tackle but I couldn’t catch his number, so we couldn’t give credit where credit was due,” he said.

“At the end of the game, when all the subs came in, I tried to make sure their names got mentioned, because that meant as much to them and their parents as it did to the starters. I didn’t just want to call them a ‘swarm of Bees.’”

That phrase was used by every PA announcer — Dukes, Dave Palamountain, John Wilson and Eleo — the Tucheks worked with, but they always did their best to make sure the correct players got credit.

That held true whether the coach was Cooksey, Jim Dobney, Mike Schmitz, John Semenik, Tom Fasko, Greg Reed, Larry Laird, Ray Hradek or Dan Sutherland.

It held true whether Andy Sutandar was playing in the ’80s, Josh Lenaburg was playing in the ’90s or Jason Suggs was playing in the new millennium.

“They’re great people,” Eleo said of the Tucheks. “I can’t say that enough. You just wish the kids would learn after the play to get up and turn their backs to the press box.”

The lighthearted but professional approach of the Tucheks was witnessed by many in the Medina press box, but the biggest compliment they can be given is probably that they went unnoticed by thousands upon thousands of people who attended football games over the years.

That means that regardless of rain, sleet, snow or mud, they were doing their job pretty darn well. Because of that, high school football players were getting credit for doing theirs.

“They were an asset in the press box,” Harrison said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work goes into making a Friday night football game go off without a hitch.

“It’s people like the Tucheks that make Medina a special place. They put in a lot of hard work. When Jeff said they were done, I knew they were done. They put in their time. I’m grateful for all the work they did.”

Being the humble people they are, the Tucheks are quick to point out they had seats together on the 50-yard line for 33 seasons, so what they did really wasn’t work.

And, though their days in the press box are over, they are likely to attend quite a few more Medina games together in the coming years.

“Are you kidding me? I can’t stay at home on a Friday night,” Bill said. “There’s no better place to be than at a high school football game. There’s no question in my mind. As long as I’m in town, I’ll be there.

“I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. When I’m out in Arizona, I go to a high school game there every week, too. I just love watching kids play high school football.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.