From the Sidelines
By Mike Stegall
When I was working in radio in Wilmington, Ohio (WDHK) I was fortunate enough to be there and have a sports show every day. I was the only person who had a radio program live from the football field with legendary coach and owner of the Bengals, Paul Brown. I got the chance to interview quite a few famous athletes because of that program, Bengals and other team’s members too, and I also got to meet a lot of the Reds players. I have been fortunate enough to meet Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and others from other teams too. I guess I have been lucky enough to meet plenty of famous people. I have met MLB All Stars, NFL All-Pro players, NASCAR Champion drivers, Military Leaders and others. But, in all the people I have met and interviewed, I have never had the chance to talk to a High School All-American…until Tuesday!
Susie Blocher is a special person. She is one of only 48 athletes in America to earn the ALL-AMERICAN title in softball. That puts her in an elite group of athletes in other sports who are the best in their sports too. She is also an outstanding student. Susie and her parents, Kent and Tonya Blocher, are good people (I have known her dad a long time!), and they have done a great job in raising such a happy, charming, responsible, and fiercely competitive daughter.
We met at the Coffee Pot and I had a wonderful time listening and talking to Susie. She watches all sports, except hockey, which she just can’t get excited about, and watches as much softball, mostly in the S.E.C., as she can. She is interested in going south to play softball and casually mentioned Georgia and South Carolina, but nothing solid yet.
She has a part time job at the Dairy King here in town, (she is special if she can put up with Dave McCartney! I owed him that!) and seems to be handling everything that has been thrust upon her this year, and coping fairly well. It is easy to see that there is a fire within when she talks softball, and is very quick to give her teammates and her coaches credit. I asked her why she came to Greenville, and she stated she saw the history of the program’s success, and was sure she would learn more get more opportunities here. She said the difference between Jerrod and Greg Newland, the coaches, is that Jerrod is more of a tactician (my word) and Greg is more old school. She also stated that the coaches trust the players, and that leads to success in her opinion. She thinks the combination works well.
I asked if she feels like an All-American, did she feel special? She paused for a moment, you could see it in her eyes the thought she was putting into the question, and how to answer it. She said yes, and the responsibility that comes with it can be stressful. That is a tough question to answer without sounding arrogant. She explained she knows because of the award, she has a leadership position and must live up to it. She nailed it — it was a completely honest answer said without a hint of arrogance. I asked her what she did to became an All-American and she immediately said it was because of all the work she puts in. Hard work does not bother her, she is goal-driven and you can tell it. She will put in hours down at the Academy this winter getting ready for softball, and helping others to get better too. Susie does not want to disappoint anyone, and she takes her leadership seriously. She did mention the stress she has inflicted upon herself because now she feels the burden of being an All-American in her senior year again. She did however state that once the game starts, she can shut all that off and just play ball, what she really loves to do. College softball is in her future and she would like to get a degree and become an athletic trainer, or something in that field. I asked her why and she stated with a laugh that she seems to be always injured! When she was younger she injured an ankle playing basketball and all she said she did was jump up! It still bothers here, somewhat.
Our talk lasted about 45 minutes and covered a number of topics. Susie is dealing with the burden of being a student, a leader, and special athlete because of her award. She feels the pressure to be an All-American again. That is understandable. Once you get to the top of that mountain, it is tough to get there again. Whether or not she becomes All-American again, she is still, and always will be an All-American PERSON. Her mother and father have done an amazing job with her, keeping her down to earth. Of all the All-Pros, All-Stars, and other high achieving leaders I have met, she has become my favorite. She is living in a tough time for her generation, and they get maligned all the time. This young lady is the poster child for everything good about kids now. She is focused, driven, and knows her responsibilities, and the burdens they bring with them. She is generous, hard working and caring towards others. She is everything you could want in a person. I am happy to tell everyone I know her, and am proud to call her my friend. That’s the way I see it, from the sidelines.
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27-year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner.