Lubbock, Texas and Gainesville don’t have a lot in common except they are both college towns and it’s hot enough to grill salmon on the sidewalk in both places right now.
But later this month, Lubbock and Gainesville will have a lot in common.
Three friends will be in northwest Texas for the same reason on June 30. All will be honored by the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
“This is the Gainesville year,” said John Magnusson.
Magnusson, a Florida graduate and Gainesville resident, will be given the National Collegiate Umpire Award for “a lifetime of excellence.” Rick Reichardt, who also lives in Gainesville, and former Gator coach Joe Arnold will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Three friends. Three big-time honors.
“Isn’t that something?” said Arnold. “You couldn’t have planned it any better. It’s going to be fun.”
They all made it in different ways, took different paths. But they will all end up in the same place with their peers giving them ovations.
Magnusson was an umpire for 30 years, mostly in the SEC and ACC. The last time he was in Lubbock, he was umpiring an NCAA Regional Tournament.
“They called me and told me I was on the ballot,” he said. “I didn’t even know there was a ballot. Then they called me and told me I’m in. It’s really cool. It’s an amazing thing.
“The SEC gets some negative feedback because it’s so good. There are people who think, ‘He’s an SEC umpire so he thinks he’s all that.’ So for them to honor me like this is exciting and it’s really exciting to be going there with Joe and Rick.”
Magnusson graduated from Florida in 1972 and coached at P.K. Yonge with legendary baseball coach Bob Hawkins. One day, Magnusson was complaining about umpires at a game.
“You think you can do better?” Hawkins asked him.
“Yeah, I do,” Magnusson replied.
“Prove it,” Hawkins said.
That was the beginning of a long career for Magnusson.
“Once I started to get some training, I found out how little I knew,” he said.
Magnusson was a fixture umpiring Florida games for much of his career and was good enough to have umpired at three College World Series, plus some Division II and junior college championships.
“Mag is one of the all-time great umpires,” Arnold said. “I’m going to say that (at the induction ceremony) and that, yes, he did throw me out of several games.”
Arnold was Florida’s baseball coach from 1984-94 after seven stellar years at Florida Southern. He was the first UF coach to take a Gator team to the College World Series in 1988 and returned in ’91. Arnold won 434 games at Florida.
But it is not as a coach that he earned the Hall of Fame.
“I’m going in as a small college player,” he said.
Arnold, who is retired and living in Lakeland, still holds the record for most innings pitched in a national junior college tournament. He threw 31 innings in the 1967 tourney for Miami Dade Community College.
“I was the closer, the set-up man and the starter,” he said. “We only had 13 players so I played some shortstop, too.
“What an honor. I’m thrilled. When I got the call, I just said, ‘Holy cow.’ ”
Reichardt is going into the Hall because of his career as a player at the University of Wisconsin. He twice led the Big Ten in batting and was also a fullback for the Badgers’ football team.
“I was excited when I heard, but I wasn’t sure of the organization,” he said. “I asked a few people including (former Texas Tech basketball coach) Bobby Knight and they all had good things to say.
“It’s just a shame there won’t be anyone from Wisconsin there to present me. (Wisconsin dropped baseball in 1991). I think them not having a program might have been a deterrent (for his induction). But I’m very honored.”
It’s a bittersweet honor for Reichardt, who lost his mother Bernice last week at the age of 96.
“She knew about it,” he said. “I think she was proud of her oldest son.”
Reichardt also had an 11-year major league career and signed for what was considered a groundbreaking amount of $200,000 by the Los Angeles Angels in 1964. The bidding war led to the implementation of the MLB draft.
He moved to Gainesville in 1980 and served as a volunteer coach at both Florida and Santa Fe. Reichardt has a batting cage and pitching machine is in his yard where he’s always willing to help young hitters with the finer points of the game.
Reichardt and Arnold and Magnusson have been in touch about their special night. Reichardt and Magnusson often sit together at McKethan Stadium to watch Florida baseball games.
In a little more than a week, the three friends will sit together in Lubbock, letting the applause wash over them for jobs well done.
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