TOUCHING ALL THE BASES
By Mike Sypher
Chronicle Sports Editor
 
Reprinted with permission of The Chronicle.  Appeared in the August 9, 2003 edition.
 
You can learn a lot about a man while driving hundreds of miles in a 2-door Geo Metro hatchback, especially if that man stands a shade over 6-4 in his Reeboks.
 
Wayne Norman and I drove down to Salem , Virginia back in 1998 to cover Eastern Connecticut State University 's run to a third NCAA Division III national baseball championship.
 
I would be writing and sending stories home to the Chronicle for publication each day.   Wayne had also asked me to once again team up with him and provide a bit of color analysis for his play-by-play call on WILI 1400-AM's Division III World Series coverage.
 
It was an easy ride, a ride shared by a pair of men who love their jobs, appreciate the sound of bat on ball and the sweet, unmistakable smell of a baseball diamond.
 
I had shared many other rides with Wan-O.   Over the next 5-plus years, I would share many more.
 
But the ride down to our hotel in Roanoke that May would be a bit more memorable because of the talks we shared and the bond that was fortified.
 
Wayne was a captive audience.   Again, when you're 6-4 and folded up in a Geo like cheese in an omelet, you're bound to be captive.
 
But the miles flew by because of the conversation we shared.   All of our rides do, actually.
And when WILI's morning personality spoke, I listened intently as well.   This guy's got a million stories and a memory that rivals those of the nuns at St Mary-St Joseph School when I was misbehaving during my formative years.
 
Each day's broadcast from Salem seemed to fly by effortlessly.   Listeners were evidently pleased with the product.   Having the Warriors win title No. 3 of an unprecedented four national crowns certainly helped with the response.
 
But those broadcasts were effortless simply because of..... Wan-O's efforts.
 
Listeners who tune into WILI's morning show from 6-to-10 a.m. each weekday most certainly do not know the amount of preparation Wayne puts into his broadcast.
 
Ditto for his play-by-play work on ECSU baseball broadcasts as well as his color analysis gig alongside WTIC 1080-AM's Joe D'Ambrosio with the University of Connecticut men's basketball and football programs.
 
That trip to Salem proved it to me.
 
Reams of paper and score sheets and ad work and scribbled notes and stapled sports information material covered Wan-O's bed and spilled over onto the floor.   The car ride from hotel to the stadium in Salem each ay involved collecting all that paperwork and stuffing the Geo full of pertinent facts, unloading and setting up shop in the broadcast booth---again and again and again.
 
No matter.   I didn't even mind when I was compelled to head out to the hotel lobby to write my stories each night because Wan-O -- he's a bit more "mature" than me -- asked for lights out in our room.
This guy needs his down time, I reasoned.
 
In the seconds prior to every broadcast I have shared with Wan-O, there is a crisis.   A phone jack is lost.   The levels are off.   Where are the line-ups?.....
 
And then we go live.   Wan-O clicks into cruise control and the jumble of facts and papers and numbers and stats and memories flow smoothly over the airwaves.
 
Amazing, simply amazing.
 
Wan-O has never big-timed me on or off the air even though I have made more mistakes than Byung-Hyun Kim in a tight game.
 
We have shared talk of our successes, failures, dreams and fears.   Professionally and personally, I am proud of the man every single day.
 
So when Wan-O and WILI newsman John Tuite sit behind the microphones in Booth A on Sunday afternoon while bringing home the 2:05 p.m. Red Sox game against the Baltimore Orioles during a 1-day dream broadcasting venture, I will smile.   Then I'll turn down the volume on my Magnavox and turn up the dial on WILI 1400-AM to listen to my friend.
 
You see, Sunday is Wan-O's 55th birthday.
 
He has a history of traveling on his birthday, venturing to Africa , Russia , the Grand Canyon and various other parts of the world.
 
On Sunday, he'll be at Fenway Park .   Turn the dial and he'll pay a visit to where he has felt the most comfortable for the past 33 years -- your home.
 
I guess the Hartford Courant had it right after all.   There is a Hero In Town in Willimantic.   His name is Wayne Norman.  
  
Happy Birthday, Wan-O....
 
Mike Sypher is the sports editor of the Chronicle

 

John Tuite and Wayne Norman high above Fenway Park
 
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