For more than a half-century, Hannibal resident Bill Tonini has yelled "Play ball."
His career behind the plate has spanned an incredible seven decades and he has spent a total of 52 years working countless baseball games throughout the Ohio Valley and beyond. From 1957-2010, he also served 30 years as a football official and 10 years as a basketball referee.
For his longevity and dedication to baseball in the OVAC, Tonini will be inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame Class of 2012 at WesBanco Arena Aug. 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Legendary OVAC?baseball umpire Bill Tonini is pictured, calling one of his last high school baseball game before he retired in 2010, after 52 years. Here, he takes his position behind Paden City Wildcat Malakai Anderson. (Photo by Bruce Crawford)
"I appreciate this recognition from the OVAC, whose athletes, coaches, and fans are very much a part of my memories over the years," said Tonini.
Then, in a standing joke to many who know him, Tonini quipped, "I was hoping to get the good conduct medal."
His expertise as an umpire, primarily behind home plate, earned Tonini numerous high school post-season assignments, including five state tournaments in Ohio and five in West Virginia. He also umpired more than 30 years of OVAC tournament action.
Tonini worked 10 NCAA Division III College World Series games, several NCAA Division I games with Ohio State and Ohio University, and American Legion games.
He also worked three years in the minor leagues, including the Northwest League in Eugene, Ore., and Walla Walla, Wash. In addition, he was an instructor at Bill Barr's Umpire School.
Tonini is in the Western Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame and has received a special award from the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club. A World War II veteran who received commendations from both the United States and France, Tonini, age 90, resides in Hannibal.
In addition to Tonini, several other OVAC Hall of Fame Class of 2012 members will be enshrined, including coaches Gene Ammirante and Gary Sprague; OVAC Family Tom "Bear" Bechtel; conference contributor, the late Burdell "Jimmy" Carey; and media, the late Charles "Red" Donley.
Also to be honored are "Legends of OVAC Schools," individuals who made their marks either before the conference was established in 1943 or before their schools joined the OVAC. The honrees are Tony Carna of Caldwell; the late Jim George of Smithfield; the late Carter Howell of Flushing; Dave Jones of Jewett-Scio; and Kenny Mikes of Sistersville.
Among those being honored are former players Shawn Vincent of St Clairsville; Chris Starr of Buckeye Trail; Kenny Howell of Bellaire St. John; Denver Williams of Cadiz; Amber Allison of Meadowbrook; the late Eudie Joseph of Martins Ferry; Art Hehr of Bridgeport; Danny Abramowicz of Steubenville Catholic; the late Dick Kerwood of Bishop Donahue; Doug Swearingen and Alex Welker of Linsly; and Joe Maroon of Bellaire St. John.
The Robinson Auto Group serves as sponsor of the OVAC Hall of Fame, which, along with the OVAC Museum, is on permanent display inside the WesBanco Arena.
Tickets are $30 each, $240 per table of eight. Tickets can be purchased by sending a check to the OVAC office at 64962 Breezy Point Lane, Bellaire, OH 43906.