His sports passion spans a half-century

Apr 17, 2012 By Courtney Heischman

Editor's note: Craig Blumenshine's daughter, Courtney Heischman, hijacked his weekly column in The Ranger to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Anyone who knows my dad, Craig Blumenshine, knows he loves sports. What many people may not know is that yesterday, Monday, April 16, my dad turned 50. He's been talking about this day in bitter anticipation for months, and now that it has gone by, he deserves one day to reflect and recuperate. After all, he is 50.

My dad's love for sports developed at a young age. It was a running joke between my grandparents, Betty and Walt, that if there wasn't a baseball tied to the vacuum, or a football on the end of a broom, my dad wasn't interested. My grandparents relied instead on my Uncle Kent for help around the house.

When my dad met, fell in love with and married my mom, I often wonder if she knew how much time she'd be spending in bleachers, stadium seats and collapsible chairs. She has always viewed my dad's passion for sports as a hobby. While some men find great locations to hunt, fish or golf, my dad has built-in radar that leads him to little league baseball practice, track meets and 1-A high school football games. He has organized, coached, refereed, umpired, announced and kept score for numerous sports, and now he gets to write about sports, which he truly loves. His passion for sports is contagious, and it's something he has shared with our family throughout the years.

Each of my brother's favorite memories of my dad and sports are of baseball. From an early age, Kyle remembers the summer nights he spent in the bleachers at Roy Peck Field watching our dad umpire from behind home plate. Kyle, and our younger brother Cody, looked forward to the end of each inning when our dad would make his way over to the fence to discuss plays from the previous inning and point out talented players so Kyle and Cody could watch and learn. After the first game of the doubleheader, my dad would buy the boys a burger and escort them to the umpires' room where they would enjoy their ball park meal and each other's company. The long nights at the baseball park are something Kyle said he'll never forget.

Cody remembers my dad's favorite practice of each Little League baseball season, "Running Day," which was not running for conditioning, but the art of running the bases. The team would run from base to base as my dad would coach them on the best way to navigate the baseball diamond. It was evident that my dad was passionate about baseball and that he wanted to share his passion with my brother and his peers. In addition to passion, my dad also shared an unforgettable laugh with his Little League All Star team. Cody describes how Dad slowly squatted down to show the boys a proper catcher's stance, when there was a resounding RIP. The inseam of his pants had split, and so did the guts of the All Star team who could not stop laughing.

I have a lot of great memories of Dad and sports, but what I remember most is that he was always there to support my brothers and me, even if we were being difficult. I remember one eighth-grade basketball game in which the Spartans were playing an away game against Thermopolis. My dad, frustrated with my performance, prompted me to "hustle, shoot, REBOUND!" Annoyed, I turned to the bleachers and mouthed the words S-H-U-T U-P! He swore he would never help me again, but that didn't stop him. The following year I made the varsity soccer team, and he followed me (literally) up and down the soccer field cheering me on.

My favorite sports memory is from my senior year. We were playing a do-or-die game against Buffalo at regionals. It was rare that my parents were late for our games, so when the whistle blew and my parents weren't on the sidelines I was concerned. It was about 10 minutes into the first half when Jessie Young crossed the ball from left field. I stayed wide and continued my run as the ball passed Amanda Bessey, just out of reach. One touch, into the lower right hand corner of the goal, I shot a bullet past a stunned goalie. I looked to the sidelines, disappointed that my parents had missed such a beauty. I looked back at the goal and through the net I saw my dad running from the parking lot, my mom not far behind, collapsible chairs raised high, jumping and shouting with excitement. He has always been my biggest fan.

Thank you, Dad, for showing us what it means to be truly passionate. Your love of sports has given the family many unforgettable memories. One thing we know for sure is that next 50 years will be just as sports-filled as the first.

Happy 50th birthday, from the family. Go Big Red!

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