By Bryan Gaskins
Tribune sports editor
San Diego Padres television play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg is more than happy to speak at Kokomo native Joe Thatcher’s fourth annual “Pitch in for Youth” dinner and live auction on Saturday at the Kokomo Country Club. Proceeds will benefit the Carver Community Center.
Thatcher is a left-handed relief pitcher for the Padres and one of the squad’s longest-serving players, having made his big league debut in 2007. He has pitched in 237 games in his career.
“Joe is one of our favorite players. He does a lot of good things and he represents all that is good about sports — to fight for your dream, to persevere and become a major leaguer when a lot of people after Indiana State didn’t think he had a chance,” Enberg said, recalling Thatcher’s unlikely road from undrafted player to major leaguer.
Enberg is a Hall of Fame broadcaster. He has called a long list of big events over his 55-year career including Super Bowls, Summer Olympics, Wimbledon tennis tournaments and college basketball games. Now 77, he is enjoying his role as the Padres’ TV voice. He estimates he called approximately 130 games this year.
Thatcher is happy to bring in Enberg as his guest speaker. Enberg follows “The Rookie” inspiration Jim Morris (2010) and Hall of Fame member Lou Brock (2011) as guest speakers.
“We tried to get Mr. Enberg last year, but he was getting inducted into the NCAA Hall of Fame that weekend so he couldn’t make our dinner, but he said he wanted to do it [in 2012] so we went ahead and booked him,” Thatcher said.
“I’ve gotten to know him over the last two years. He has a distinct voice that when you hear it, you think of all the times you’ve heard his voice and all the events he’s done, and then you look at his career and his long list of accomplishments. He also has ties to Indiana, doing IU basketball for awhile, so he’s excited to come back to Indiana and we’re excited to have him.”
Enberg has called San Diego home since 1983, but he has strong Midwest ties. He is a Mount Clemens, Mich., native and a Central Michigan University graduate. He earned master’s and doctorate degrees at IU where he handled radio broadcasts of IU football and basketball games and the
Little 500 bicycle race.
“I have a good feeling of the pulse of the Midwesterner and what they represent. They’re good neighbors and loyal friends and they’re quick to help other people. It doesn’t surprise me at all that [Thatcher] has this charity event to try to do something for his community,” he said.
Previously, Thatcher’s “Pitch in for Youth” events have benefited Bridges Outreach, the Kokomo Family YMCA and Special Olympics.
He is excited to help the Carver Center this year.
“The whole goal of our endowment and what we do is to help the kids,” he said. “We know how important Carver is to that part of town and to the kids who grow up around there and spend time there.”
Thatcher noted his own ties to the Carver Center.
“It was a great place for our family — we used to spend four, five nights a week up there playing basketball. To be able to give back and help them is great,” he said.
Thatcher credited his parents, Phil and Sara, for taking care of “pretty much everything” in advance of Saturday.
The event looks promising once again. Thatcher and Enberg will sign autographs at the front door. The auction will include items from Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, a U.S. Open golf flag autographed by Tiger Woods and autographed jerseys from Thatcher and fellow Kokomo native Brandon Beachy of the Atlanta Braves. Also, a raffle will offer smaller prizes.
“We’re excited for it and hopefully the city of Kokomo is excited for it. Every year, it has gotten better. It’s a lot of stress leading up to it, but then things always seem to work out just fine. It’s a fun night for everyone involved,” Thatcher said.