Valley sports teams keep Balash busy


By Greg Gulas

sports@vindy.com

BEAVER TOWNSHIP

He’s the first to dish out credit and usually the last to leave when covering a story.

He’s also quick to point out that there’s no room for “I” when talking about his “team” of reporters, a group that he has canvassing the entire Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania every fall Friday night, just so he can deliver the most complete high school football recap show on TV.

Talking to the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly luncheon session at Avion Banquet Center, Dana Balash noted that each and every day presents a new challenge and until it is no longer fun, he’ll continue to bring his viewing audience news from around the sports world.

“October and November have been extremely busy months, but I like it that way because that means something new is on tap or one of our local teams is making a playoff run,” he said. “Add to the mix the Cleveland Indians and their postseason success, the upcoming basketball season and YSU’s fall sports and you readily understand the fun that I am having right now.”

Currently in his 25th year WFMJ as its weeknight sports anchor, Balash added that covering the World Series this year between the Indians and Cubs was as exciting as it gets for him.

“This was my third World Series assignment, having already done the 1995 Fall Classic when Cleveland played Atlanta, and again in 1997 when they squared off against Miami. I can tell you that Wrigley Field is one amazing stadium, complete with history and tradition,” Balash said. “The concourse reminds me of Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium so just to be there to experience a game was very exciting. Add to the fact that it was the World Series and to see all the Cubs fans celebrating, the environment was absolutely electric.”

Balash said that you don’t have to be a baseball fan in order to appreciate the stadium that has housed baseball’s “Lovable Losers” during their 108-year championship drought.

“Whether you are a baseball fan or not, visiting Wrigley Field has to be on your bucket list. If you are a baseball purist, then make sure you get there,” he said. “The setting in Wrigleyville, complete with rooftop seats on the outside is something you won’t see anywhere else.”

Balash was also impressed with the nation’s third largest city and how it handled the onslaught of fans and media for its three home games.

“The city of Chicago handled the thousands of fans outside the stadium without any problems. There were 1,000 police officers, very visible and at no time did I ever not feel safe,” he said. “The Indians didn’t have home-field advantage in the seventh and deciding game and when I eventually had to go outside to set up for our nightly broadcast, the cheering that I heard wasn’t necessarily coming from Indians fans.”

Of the many story lines, none was more compelling for Balash than that of Poland resident John Hirschbeck.

“It was great to see John serve as crew chief, ending his career with the World Series and especially in Cleveland,” he said. “I know how much he is looking forward to retirement and enjoying time with his wife and daughters.”

With baseball season officially over, high school football playoffs and YSU currently command most of his time.

“I’m not surprised that the area has just five teams remaining. Every team will have a tough challenge ahead, but I fully expect two, perhaps three teams to advance to regional play,” Balash said. “Several local players continue to excel at playoff time and Warren Harding’s Lynn Bowden is a viable candidate for Mr. Football in Ohio. He is one of the very best this area has ever seen and has the potential to score any time he touches the football.”

Balash also added that YSU’s football team is still in the postseason hunt.

“We knew the Penguins’ defense would be pretty good, but the offense remains a puzzle,” he said. “If they win their next two games and finish 8-3, they’ll make the playoffs, however, if they split and end up 7-4 then they could be in danger because they will have lost two of their three November contests.”

WFMJ’s popular “Friday Night Overtime Report” officially surpassed 5,000 games covered this fall and will soon conclude its 23rd season on the air.

Next week, local boxing trainer Jack Loew and South Side Boxing Club super featherweight hopeful Alejandro “Popo” Salinas will be the featured speakers.

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