May 19, 2016
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ray Gilmore’s association with University of Iowa baseball has spanned 38 years and four head coaches.
Gilmore officially announced his “retirement” leading into the team’s final regular-season home series against Michigan State from May 13-15. It was his swan song.
“Thirty-eight years is a long time,” said Gilmore. “I am 46 years old, so I have grown up at Duane Banks Field. I have a lot of memories and met a lot of great people. It was a hard decision, one I have been thinking about for the last year, and I thought this was a good time to do it.”
It started in 1978 when Gilmore, then 6-years-old, attended an Iowa game against Northern Iowa with his mother. He asked UI head coach Duane Banks if he could be bat boy that afternoon.
“Iowa baseball is a big part of my life. I grew up with the program; I lost my dad at an early age so coach Banks was a father figure to me. There are so many memories, I’ve met so many neat people, and there are life experiences that have hopefully made me a decent person.”
Banks obliged. After the game, Gilmore went back to the dugout to retrieve his wallet when Banks told him, ‘Be back here the next home game, you’re our bat boy from now on.’
“I kept coming back,” said Gilmore. “He never told me to go away.”
Gilmore served as Iowa’s bat boy for 13 years before ascending to the press box. He has served as a scoreboard operator, public address announcer, and for the last 20 years he has traveled with the team, serving as its official scorer.
“It was (sports information director) Phil Haddy’s idea to have me travel with the team,” said Gilmore. “He asked coach (Scott) Broghamer what he thought of the idea and they asked me if I would be willing to travel. I said I would love to do it.”
Gilmore worked with Banks — Iowa’s all-time wins leader — Broghamer for six seasons, Jack Dahm for 10 years, and Rick Heller the past three seasons. They are four of the top six winningest coaches in program history.
“Each one has a neat quality,” said Gilmore. “Coach Banks was like a father to me, Broghamer was a guy that gave me a chance to do this, and coach Dahm and Heller are friends. Coach Heller is a guy that has shown this program how to win again.”
Gilmore’s top memories go beyond the wins and losses. He remembers experiences and people.
Gilmore chuckles when telling a story of Tom Snowberger running to the infield during a game in Davenport yelling for time when a skunk entered the playing field under the right field fence. Gilmore knew better when players encouraged him to chase the skunk from the field.
Gilmore recalls a game against Minnesota when he slid on the tarp during a home rain delay and raced the Gopher bat boy around the bases. There was a scuffle at second base when his opposition tried to trip him; Gilmore got the last laugh by tackling him at home plate.
Last season was a magical ride for the Hawkeyes and Gilmore. Iowa won 41 games, was in the Big Ten regular season title hunt until the final weekend, and advanced to an NCAA Regional for the first time in 25 years. He was in Springfield, Missouri, to see Iowa’s first NCAA Tournament victories since 1972.
“It has been one fun experience after another over the years,” said Gilmore. “I have gotten a chance to see a lot of different places and meet so many great people. To cap it off last year with that team winning more than any other I have been a part of and being in the NCAA Tournament… that was the highlight to be part of that team.
“That’s something I wanted to be a part of at least once. I got that checked off the bucket list.”
That opened the door for a farewell. It’s a decision he didn’t take lightly.
“Iowa baseball is a big part of my life,” said Gilmore. “I grew up with the program; I lost my dad at an early age so coach Banks was a father figure to me. There are so many memories, I’ve met so many neat people, and there are life experiences that have hopefully made me a decent person.”
When the 2017 season rolls around, Gilmore’s spring schedule will be baron. He plans on scheduling a February vacation to help fill the Iowa baseball void and he’s hoping to break into collegiate umpiring to supplement his role as a long-time high school umpire.
In March, Gilmore will still be a fixture at Duane Banks Field, just in a different capacity.
“I want to sit back and be a fan,” he said. “That first home game, I’ll still be here, but they may have to lock the door to the press box.”