And you thought you had a tough day. This post won't come close to doing David Iery justice, but here goes any way.
Thursday evening of last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Diamond Dinner event at the beautifully-decorated Carter House in my hometown of Vanceburg, Kentucky.
Before I get too far into the topic at hand, first let me say thank you to Kevin Duff for making me his +1 for the evening – much appreciated! And secondly, Kevin and I thoroughly enjoyed the company at our table. We sat next to Kenneth and Lorna Kay Sapp and Coach Gary and Alice Kidwell. Oh, the stories (and jokes, of course) we heard! Kevin gave a heartfelt invocation and Gary helped emcee.
The Diamond Dinner is the brainchild of David Iery, a person that you may or may not know, but if you don't know him, you need to hear his story.
David is one of the biggest baseball fans you'll come across. He has many contacts throughout Major League Baseball including scouts, coaches, front office executives and players from the present and the past. He brings all these people together once a year at the Diamond Dinner to raise money for his foundation, aptly dubbed the David Iery Foundation (DIF).
David is a very busy guy. By now you already know he's a philanthropist, but by my unofficial count, he's also a student, a businessman, a politician and a huge fan of Westerns and bluegrass music.
He'll put on a bluegrass/gospel concert to benefit his or another good cause in the blink of an eye. He has an uncanny knack for getting what he wants out of people. He's a smooth talker is what he is, but I really don't mean that in a negative way – it's definitely a compliment. Call it one of David's many superpowers.
Oh yeah, check that, mark student off his list because now I remember reading about him graduating from college with a business degree.
David is the reason major league phenoms such as Don Gullett, Tom Browning, Ron Oester, Steve Delabar and Al Oliver and many other baseball notables came to our sleepy little town on the banks of the Ohio River on a brisk November evening. Minus Delabar (who had a wonderful story and only because he's a recent retiree from baseball) these were the guys on my baseball cards growing up! Here, in little ol' Vanceburg during basketball season!
Putting an event together with four or five of these players and then also listening to Kentucky resident/major league umpire Greg Gibson chime in with a couple of stories, it was an unforgettable evening.
Don Gullett was asked about his teammates. His reply: well let's see, there was Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Dock Ellis…😮 I guess he could've gone on and on.
Witnessing Tom Browning talk about pitching his perfect game, I found his perspective on the game refreshing. He was most proud of the fact that his history-making outing helped his team stay alive in the playoffs.
I got the feeling Tom Browning's teammates appreciated him because he earned the nickname “Bulldog” and prided himself on giving an all-out effort every time he started. Hearing Browning relate that when his teammates hoisted him up on their shoulders after the perfect game, he felt like he was having an out-of-body experience and looking down on it all. As a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, that story gave me and more than a few others in the audience chills.
One other thing gave me chills this evening and that was David's introductory speech.
If you don't know David, at least we've hit the high notes already, right? He's a great guy, active in the community, huge baseball fan, county magistrate, helps his brothers run their logging business. I'm just scratching the surface here.
But, one thing you wouldn't know about David if you hadn't met him already is that he's quadriplegic. [Please know that was really a tough sentence to type.]
Now you see, we're getting to the good part. I'm going to share with you our region's best-kept secret because David is truly an inspiration to anyone that crosses his path.
Let's dive a little deeper into David's situation. In order to appreciate him fully, you need perspective. Gruesome as it was, you need to know how David sustained his injury.
David was catastrophically injured sliding into home plate playing for Lewis County as a senior in high school without a care in the world in the spring of 1989. Such an injury would have caused an ordinary person to curse baseball and hate everything it stands for.
David is anything but ordinary.
David wound up in a hospital in Ashland, Kentucky. Now Al Oliver was the type of player who would visit sick kids in hospitals, but he was a native of Portsmouth, Ohio. He opened his speech Monday wondering why he was even in Ashland at the hospital the day he stopped by David's room.
Neither Al nor David could figure out why he was there. The only explanation Al could offer was divine intervention.
Al gave David the time of day, paid attention to him, fed him inspirational quotes and made him feel special. I like to think Al gave David the gift of hope. Their friendship exists to this day and it's a beautiful relationship.
Speaking about those dark days, David revealed during his speech,
You can't get much happier than having a guy like Al Oliver in your corner, so thanks for that Al.
The theme of the evening was perseverance, overcoming obstacles, giving back to others and making the world a better place. We should have Diamond Dinners every week!
David hails from a very special place in Lewis County called Quicks Run. Baseball, softball even more so, was always in David's blood probably because it's in the Quicks Run water.
Long story short, Quicks Run is home of the “Hoosiers” of men's softball in Kentucky. (I'm referring to the team in the movie, not Indiana University.) It's a movie just waiting to happen. Indulge me for a couple of seconds…
Opening scene shows a beautiful farm with boys working in tobacco fields. It's early in the morning and it's going to be a hot one. Soon a truck pulls up to the edge of the field and lays on the horn, “You boys wanna go play some ball?” Three boys, the twins and their younger brother, and a couple of their uncles drop their tobacco sticks, park the tractor and take off sprinting for the truck. They jump in the back and it speeds off down the highway.
Cut to a scene where several large ballplayers depart a chartered bus decked out in fancy uniforms with shiny new bat bags slung over their shoulders. It's the (pick a year…) 1976 state tournament. These city slickers strut off the bus and scoff as they walk past the Quicks Run team in their faded red t-shirts, blue coaches shorts and black cleats. A couple of the Quicks Run players pull a bologna sandwich out of a brown paper bag that they packed earlier that morning.
Cut to a scoreboard showing a score of Guests 12, Home 2 and the team with the dirty, sweat-stained red shirts and shorts, ever so humbly shaking hands with the still clean, custom-uniformed team whose ass they just whooped. (Hollywood – call me, we need to talk!)
Because David's love of the sport ran so deep, that same love and devotion had to withstand the ultimate test when he sustained his injury.
Baseball had a large hand in all of David's recovery. It took Al Oliver to pull David out of it. David intimated that another thing that helped him tremendously was when the Reds won the World Series in 1990, a year after his accident took place. Maybe there was hope.
It also took the love of another great baseball icon from our community, Keith Prater, then an energetic, young head baseball coach of Lewis County High School, to pull David out of his abyss.
In 2012, his first year coaching high school baseball, Prater established the David Iery Classic in honor of David and gave him a platform to share his story. Ever since then David's baseball blood started boiling again and hasn't cooled down since.
Prater departed for Rowan County a few years later and remains one of the brightest and most charismatic young men to ever coach high school baseball. After racing to over one hundred wins in his first four seasons and leading Rowan County to the state tournament, he was informed by doctors that he had contracted leukemia.
Coach Prater sadly passed away a year later at an age that quite honestly has been hard for me to understand and come to grips with. Those who knew him still think of him daily. As good a coach as Keith was, he was an even better husband and father and left behind his beautiful family as his legacy.
David picked up the torch and expanded the Classic to include more games. He set up his foundation around this time and started hosting numerous fundraisers and baseball showcases, some of which have been played at the lovely Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington, Kentucky.
Thanks to David there are countless high school baseball players whose coolest moments in their career include the privilege to play on that field and hang out in a big-league dugout.
The Cincinnati Reds devote a game to the DIF each season and thousands of baseball (and David Iery) fans from our community attend. The Reds made David an honorary captain – how cool is that?!
The David Iery Foundation donates to spinal cord injury prevention and cure efforts. David Iery's efforts give help and hope to so many people and include bestowing scholarships to senior high school baseball players.
David and his board of directors choose who receives the awards based on how they played the game. If a kid hustled and gave one hundred percent, that's David's kind of player.
The DIF's mission is simple: to cure paralysis and educate our youth.
Here's a guy with every reason in the world to be bitter towards baseball, heck, to be ticked off about life or anything else for that matter.
But you'll be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy, sweeter soul and busier fella than David. He always greets you with a smile and offers his hand to shake. I've never once heard him complain about his circumstances.
I'm deeply honored to write this post, because I don't have the nerve to tell David how I feel about him to his face. Guys just don't talk about stuff like that. But he deserves to know how much love, respect and admiration I have for him.
I'm not just writing this for me though because he lights up our whole community! Save a Lot, Super Quik, McDonald's…anywhere he goes, it's a twenty-minute conversation with somebody because if he doesn't know the person, they'll know him.
He'll talk your leg off about baseball, U.K. basketball, the weather or just about anything. He's not, however, one of those people that you try to get away from and that's where ten minutes turns into twenty.
The next time you're feeling down, a little depressed, woe-is-me…it happens to all of us…my hope is you'll fondly think of David Iery. Because at that very moment, he's probably trying to get a road paved or making sure some logs got hauled or planning his next showcase. If it's #ThrowbackThursday, it's entirely possible that he's posting a Quicks Run softball picture from the archives to social media.
And I'm relatively certain David would be the first person to tell you that he couldn't do it without his support team of family and friends. These are wonderful people.
Some folks win Oscars, Grammys and espys in their lifetimes. But awards aren't given to salt of the earth-type people and that's what David and his supporters are.
So, next time David calls or texts and asks you to support his foundation, don't give him any excuses, he doesn't have time for such nonsense.
KentuckyNotary.net is proud to be a member of #TeamIery. For more information on the David Iery Foundation, visit their Facebook page and check out their website. Tell 'em the Kentucky Notary guy sent you!