Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Success in sports is a Hoying family tradition
By Robb Hemmelgarn
CARTHAGENA - Peacefully sitting in his quiet dining room and gazing out his back window into a recently-fallen six inches of snow, Herman Hoying reminisces back to when he could "hit the ball further than anyone around back in those days."
He proudly emphasizes that "those days" refer to his athletic prime and the countless moments on his family's farm near Carthagena during the Great Depression when he enjoyed knocking baseballs out of sight.
While most of us aren't near old enough to distinguish between fact and exaggeration concerning Herman's batting prowess, what leaves no room for debate are the sporting accomplishments of his grandchildren and their impact in our area's sports lore.
The athletic limbs of the Hoying family tree are extensive, diversified, talented, and downright impressive to say the least, beginning with son Vern, an accomplished basketball player at St. Henry in the late 1960s who still holds the school's all-time record for career rebounds.
Vern's sons, Bob and Tom, are two of St. Henry's most distinguished football alumni after each quarterbacked the Redskins to state championships before they earned scholarships to The Ohio State University.
While in Columbus, Bob's record-breaking career helped him earn All-American honors before he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and finished his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders earlier this decade.
While Tom never enjoyed the same significant playing time for the Buckeyes as his big brother before closing his career in 1998, he did grab a Rose Bowl ring to conclude his redshirt junior year in 1997.
Bob and Tom's younger sisters both dominated on the volleyball courts for the Redskins. They also eventually went on to play at the Division I collegiate level. Molly at Cleveland State in the late 1990s and Betsy, who was on the Ohio State roster two seasons ago.
"Someone once asked us how we were able to get the kids and the older grandkids so interested in sports," recalled Herman, as if the inquiry was borderline absurd. "To be honest, we didn't have to do anything more than put up a hoop on our farm and they were always wanting to go out and play. That was all it took."
Before succumbing to the rigors of traveling great distances in their later years, Herman and his wife Merilda also enjoyed passing the time on Friday evenings watching their grandsons Greg and Mark Gels play running back on state championship football teams at St. Henry in the early 1990s, while at the same time, the Gels girls, Mandy and Jodi, each flourished in volleyball, where Jodi played on two state championship teams for the Red and White. Greg continued his football career briefly at the University of Dayton, while Mandy enjoyed four years of volleyball at Wright State University.
The Hoyings' daughter, Linda, married Mike Kanney, who has served as boys basketball coach at Celina and Coldwater. While in Celina he coached his son Doug, who later went on to play hoops for Shawnee State University.
Celina is also where their grandson Tim Hemmelgarn made his mark in track and field as a state-qualifying high-jumper for the Bulldogs in the 1990s.
Down the road at Coldwater High School, Herman and Merilda's granddaughter, Gina Knapschaefer, inflicted her damage on opponents in track and basketball.
Rounding off the stable of athletic achievements of the 1990s for the Hoying family is Julie Hoying, who stood out on the tennis courts at Springboro High School and later at Wright State University, where she starred on the tennis team for four years.
"Over the years we tried to go to as many of our grandkids' games as we could, no matter the sport," Merilda explained, being cautious not to show favoritism toward one sport over another. "As we got a little older, it became much more difficult to move about and go from place to place, but that is just when we get to watch it on television."
The family's most recent rash of accomplishments is obvious to most area sports fanatics, as Ross and Adam Homan also hold spots at the Hoying's dinner table during holidays. Ross completed his junior campaign at The Ohio State University last season, has had a stellar career as a linebacker and is expected to be a high-round draft choice in the NFL draft a year from now. Adam, a bulky freshman fullback, joined his big brother in Pasadena, California in January, before both returned home with another Rose Bowl title in the family.
"When Bob and Tom played in bowl games, we were fortunate enough to go out and watch them played," commented Merilda. "This last Rose Bowl, we just couldn't go out to California, but we did watch it and talked to the boys afterward, so that was very nice."
Versailles fans certainly recall the recent accolades of Mary Prakel on the cross country course - she is the Hoying's oldest great-granddaughter - and is currently in her freshman year at the United States Military Academy, where she runs track and field. While the roots of success extend through nearly two decades, it isn't quite finished, as their grandson Chase Paxson is a junior at Minster High School, where was the starting point guard on the basketball team and plays football for the Wildcats.
Last year, Mara Hoying - their youngest son Gary's daughter - captured the NFL-sponsored National Punt, Pass, and Kick title as a third grader in Coldwater, where she also menaces opposing teams on the little league softball diamonds.
"We are so proud of all of our children and grandchildren no matter what they do in life," Herman proudly exclaimed. "We have been very lucky through the years to experience what we have. I have considered ourselves just ordinary people so that was always something that we tried to pass on no matter the amount of success our grandchildren endured."
When our conversation was through, there was no denying how humbled the Hoyings are by the accomplishments of all of their children and grandchildren. Athletes or not, the Hoyings repeatedly added words such as "lucky" and "fortunate" when referring to everyone in their family. Another thing that I was pretty certain of as I made my way toward their door, was that Herman's tales of being the "best hitter around" were probably truer than he even gave himself credit for.