Unless you are from Kokomo you likely have never heard of Dennis and David Kasey. The identical twins were fixtures in the Kokomo area when it came to sportswriting. Both men did a lot for youth baseball in Kokomo and had a history with the Kokomo Tribune as writers. Dennis passed away a few years ago, while David went on to work several years as the sports director for WHMB-TV40, which has produced a high school football and basketball game of the week in Central Indiana for many, many years.
He is also the grandfather of Hammer & Rails, which saddened me when I saw this earlier tonight:
Our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dennis Kasey. A true gentleman and friend who LOVED Indiana HS sports. @WHMBTV40— IHSAA (@IHSAA1) June 10, 2015
You see, it all goes back to June 28, 1988. I was 8 years old and my grandparents, whom I named my son after, decided to take me to Wrigley Field for the first time. The Kokomo Tribune sponsored an annual bus trip to Wrigley every summer and my grandfather, a die-hard Cubs fan and the reason I am one too, decided he wanted to take his only grandson. To this day it is one of the happiest memories of my childhood, as the place I had seen hundreds of times on TV with my grandfather came to life. I got to see the ivy. I got to see Harry Carey lead the 7th inning stretch. It may have been a meaningless game against the Phillies, but for me it felt like I was in a movie.
On the trip up and back we sat near Mr. Kasey who was amazed that I knew so much encyclopedic knowledge about sports as a young kid. I made an impression that day, so much so that 11 years later my name came across his desk as I finished my freshman year at Purdue. He helped me get in touch with Dave Kitchell, the long time sports editor at the Kokomo Tribune, and in May of 1999 I covered my first of hundreds of events as a part-time writer for the Tribune.
That part-time job helped me discover that I wanted to write about sports as much as I could. Back then blogs were virtually unheard of and in many of my early high school games I was sent to far-flung locales such as Fowler, Decatur, Culver, and Bunker Hill to cover lots of high school football and basketball blowouts. Covering games on Fridays and Saturdays gave me extra money throughout my final three years at Purdue and helped me grow as a writer.
Eventually, I was able to grow in confidence to start the long-winded boilermakerfootballblog.blogspot.com, which morphed into Off the Tracks and eventually became Hammer & Rails. Every once in awhile I would see Dennis when my path would cross the with TV 40 game. We would chat for a few moments, often about our beloved Kokomo Wildkats and other HS sports. He also had a smile and was one of the great ambassadors of HS sports in Indiana. He was a man with a great heart that was kind in every interaction I had with him. He also always remembered that 8-year-old boy that impressed him so long ago now.
So I thank you, Mr. Kasey. If not for you, Hammer & Rails may not exist.