Most people who know me, know that I have always been a die-hard Tennessee fan. That’s not to say that I don’t like other teams, (UTC, MTSU, Clemson) but since I was old enough to remember anything, I have always rooted for the Big Orange. There was a stretch when I was a teenager that I actually pulled for Vanderbilt’s basketball teams, but I attribute that to simply not knowing any better, and thankfully, I grew out of it.
Occasionally I have pulled for Vandy to win a time or two; like when they play Alabama in football, but mostly the word Commodore is never spoken around our house. Tonight, Vanderbilt will face Virginia in the final college baseball game of the year in Omaha, Ne. The best of three series for the NCAA Baseball crown is tied at 1-1, with Vandy taking the opener 9-8 on Monday, and Virginia evening things up with a 7-2 win on Tuesday night.
Since I was in high school, Vanderbilt baseball has been pretty good. Larry Schmittou got the Commodores off to a great start when he took over the program in the early 1970s. He even signed a few of my old teammates and school buddies and won right away. Prior to taking the Vanderbilt job, Schmittou was a very successful summer league baseball coach, and from 1983-1986 was the Vice President of marketing for the Texas Rangers. He coached Post 5 in the Nashville American Legion league and the local Connie Mack league. My father was the coach at Post 105 in Madison, which is a suburb of Nashville and was where we lived.
When Coach Schmittou started coaching in the summer leagues, his teams would play my dad’s teams several times. Post 5 always had more talent to choose from but Post 105 would always play them tough and actually won quite a few games. He and my dad got along okay, but there was always a tremendous rivalry; especially when Coach Schmittou started raiding Post 105’s roster. There was always more money and prestige in playing for Post 5, and my father understood this better than anyone else in our family did.
Larry Schmittou did a lot for baseball in Nashville and middle Tennessee, as it was he who helped to bring professional baseball back to the city in 1979. In fact, he has been honored for his many contributions to baseball and sports in general. He was named to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, and was presented with the Fred Russell Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.
In the last 30-40 years, Vanderbilt has been to the College World Series several times, but they’ve never won a title. That long drought could end tonight against the Cavaliers. I know my buddy and former teammate Gene Menees will be watching closely tonight. Gene, who is an assistant director for the TSSAA in Nashville, is a former Vandy player. After he left Vanderbilt, he played several years of minor league baseball and has also been a very successful college basketball official.
I don’t know if Larry Schmittou will be watching tonight’s game against Virginia or not, though I assume he will be among the viewers. If the Commodores pull off a win and take the NCAA crown, I hope the Vandy officials know how important Coach Schmittou has been to Vanderbilt and baseball in general. Go ‘Dores!
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org