By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
PINCKNEY — Bob Reason has been the voice of Pinckney High School football and basketball for more than 30 years.
It’s his voice you heard over the public address system, good times and bad, through wins and losses.
He’s always played it down the middle, in the style of public address announcers at Michigan Stadium.
“I get excited when Pinckney scores,” he said in the Pinckney Stadium press box last week. ‘But I don’t want to take away from the athletes.”
Reason, a 1961 Pinckney graduate who moved back to the house he was born and grew up in during the mid-1980s, announced his last football game Oct. 11, Pinckney’s homecoming game.
Fittingly, it was against Dexter, where Reason lived for more than a decade and, with former Dreadnaughts athletic director Al Ritt, helped pass a bond issue in the 1970s that built a stadium now named for Ritt.
At 76, Reason decided it was time to retire.
“I just enjoyed doing it, but at 76, I feel it’s time,” he said.
He’ll still do Pinckney basketball for at least two more seasons. His son, Tom, is the boys coach and grandson Dylan is a junior.
“I’m going to try to sucker him into announcing for the girls program when my daughter is old enough to play,” Tom said, chuckling. “But he wants to sit in the stands, and sometimes it’s nice to sit there and be a grandpa.”
It will be a well-earned retirement for Reason, whose athletic career at Pinckney ended when he tore a knee ligament on the first play of his senior football season.
He became the Pirates public-address announcer after moving back to Pinckney from the Toledo area.
“One of his first games was announcing my brother’s games,” Tom Reason said. “I remember being a rug rat running around the stands. I thought it was pretty neat. When you’re a young one, you think your dad is the coolest dad in the world because his voice is coming out of the press box.
“To this day, my daughters love it. They always go up and visit him and he gives them candy. It’s a neat thing. I’ve been around Pinckney athletics for a long time, and it’s neat to hear his voice.”
Bob Reason has been active in the community too over the last 30-plus years. He’s served on the Pinckney athletic boosters board and spent a quarter-century running Saturday morning basketball programs at Pinckney, including enlisting varsity players as referees.
And it’s the athletes that kept bringing Bob Reason back to the microphone.
Well, that, and a slight bit of chicanery the last couple of years.
“He tried to retire, but I wouldn’t let him,” former Pinckney athletic director Tedd Bradley said.
“I was going to retire five years ago,” Reason said. “(Bradley) said, ‘OK, but we’ll have to find someone, so you have to do it this year. And then the next year, they didn’t find anyone.”
Current AD Brian Wardlow finally bent to Reason’s wishes this year, hiring Pat Allen, who worked the Pirates’ final home game against Jackson this season.
“There were a lot of people there (at homecoming), and people who had been around for decades got to hear one last game,” Wardlow said. “When I was in Pinckney, Bob was our football announcer, too, so he’s the only voice I’ve ever known in football and basketball.”
And, through his years working for Pinckney athletic programs, generations of Pinckney athletes know him and say hello.
“We went to Disney World as a family a few years ago, and three people came up to us. At Disney World,” Tom Reason said. “They come up and say, ‘Hey, Mr. Reason!’ We can’t go anywhere without someone knowing him.”
Bob Reason said part of the impetus toward retirement was his eyesight, which had been slowly failing due to cataracts the last couple of years. He credits his longtime spotter in the press box, Linda Lambert, with helping him credit the right athletes at the right time.
“Some of the teams that have played have white jerseys with white numbers outlined in black, and it’s hard to see the numbers,” he said. “I could not have done the games the last two years without her.”
The man in the PA booth, so calm with his delivery, is a Pinckney Pirate through and through.
Take the 1989 season, for example.
The Pirates had made the playoffs with an 8-1 record and had drawn a home game with East Grand Rapids in the first round. Below the “Welcome to Pinckney” sign outside of town, he and some co-conspirators hung a sign that said, “Welcome, East Grand Rapids. We’ve been waiting for you.”
East Grand Rapids won the game, 37-30 on a touchdown in the final minutes, and Reason went to Flint to see the Pioneers play Oxford in the next round.
“I had a Pinckney hat on,” Reason said, “and a guy from East Grand Rapids saw my hat and talked to me about the sign.”
The gentleman, as it turned out, was more than a little chapped about the sign.
“I said, ‘We just wanted to welcome you,’” Reason said, laughing at the memory.
After all these years, he said, the games and players all roll together in memory, but the lure of high school sports remains.
“I still think high school athletes give all they’ve got,” Reason said, “every game they play, regardless of position. Athletics is not just about winning. It’s about learning to play with your teammates, developing your skills, trying to be the best you can be and learning life lessons. I think one of the most important things high school athletics gives all of our kids is never to give up. Regardless of what happens in your life, there’s tomorrow, and never give up. Keep trying and keep working, and I think that carries forward into life itself.”
“He’s always super-complimentary about every kid who’s out there trying,” said Wardlow, who grew up in Pinckney and has been employed by the school district since 2002. “It’s important in a community like Pinckney to have that guy you can always count on, and the community knows what it’s going to get.”
Reason said he’s not going anywhere.
“I don’t have any interest in moving,” he said. “I talked about moving to Florida once. I said to my kids, ‘Do any of you want to buy the house? I’ll sell it for $500,000.’ I was joking, of course, and they said, ‘No, Dad. It’s too much. We’ll give you a dollar.’”
So Bob and his wife, Dorothy, are staying in Pinckney.
“The football team gave me a cushioned seat for the stands,” he said. ‘I’ll go to the home games. I love it. I like to watch the band play at halftime.”
Bradley, who retired in 2015, looks forward to attending games with his friend next fall.
“I will enjoy standing next to him at those games,” he said. “Bob is a tremendous gentlemen. He and his family are special people.”
PHOTO: Longtime Pinckney announcer Bob Reason takes his familiar seat in the stadium’s press box. (Photo by Tim Robinson.)
LAWRENCE — While COVID-19 affected many students in different ways, it definitely made an impact on Austin Vasquez.
As a freshman at Lawrence High School during the pandemic, Vasquez lost his grandmother Theresa Phillips to cancer on March 25, 2021.
Two days later, on March 27, his father Tom Vasquez, died of complications from COVID. And on April 19 that spring, his grandfather Darrell “Gene” Phillips also lost his fight against the coronavirus.
“There is no way (to cope). You just have to keep on moving,” Austin said. “It’s what (my dad) would want me to do.
“He was my biggest (influence) in sports. He talked to me about never giving up – leave everything you’ve got.”
That is just what Vasquez is doing in the midst of his three-sport senior year.
He is the top wrestler at the school, competing at 175 pounds with a goal of making the MHSAA Tournament. He was a versatile contributor on the football field this past fall, and he’s planning to join the baseball team this spring.
He’s 8-3 with six pins on the mat this winter after a busy summer of camps and tournaments. Those experiences helped lessen the nerves he’d felt during matches previously, and now he’s wrestling with an outlook of “everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
And Vasquez said he feels his dad’s presence as he prepares for competition.
“Before every match, before every game, I just think about what my dad would be telling me,” he said. “Everything he’s always told me has taught me to get better.
“In life, I still remember everything he taught me. He was definitely a great man, and I want to be like him someday.”
Wrestling also has made Vasquez more in tune with his health.
His sophomore season he went from 230 pounds to 215, and by his junior year was down to his current 175.
“I just wanted to be healthier, not just for wrestling,” he said. “I started going to the gym every night, watched my calories, and from there grew (taller).
“Now I’m at 6-(foot-)2, and I don’t know how that happened,” he laughed.
Lawrence coach Henry Payne said Vasquez always has a positive attitude and helps the other wrestlers in the program.
“When he notices a kid next to him doing a move wrong, he’ll go over and show him the right way,” Payne said. “We have a lot of young kids that this is their first year, and he’s been a good coach’s helper.”
The coach’s helper gig will continue after graduation.
"Next year we’re hoping to open up a youth program here, and I got him and an alumni that graduated last year and is helping the varsity team this year (Conner Tangeman) to take over the youth program for us,” Payne said.
On the football team, Vasquez was a jack of all trades.
“He started at guard, went to tight end, went to our wingback, went to our running back. He was trying to get the quarterback spot,” football coach Derek Gribler laughed.
Vasquez said there is no other feeling like being on the field, especially during home games.
“Wrestling is my main sport, but I’d do anything to go back and play football again,” he said. “I just love it.”
Although the football team struggled through a 1-8 season, “It was still a really fun season,” Vasquez said. “Everybody was super close. Most of us never really talked before, but we instantly became like a family.”
Vasquez had the support of his mother, Heather, and four older sisters: Makaylah, Briahna, Ahlexis and Maryah. He also found his school family helped him get through the end of his freshman year.
“(My friends) were always there for me when everything was going on,” he said. “I took that last month off school because it was too hard to be around people at that time.
"Every single one of them reached out and said, ‘Hey, I know you’re going through a rough time.’ It really helped to hear that and get out of the house.”
The family connection between Vasquez and Lawrence athletic director John Guillean goes back to the senior’s youth.
“I was girls basketball coach, so I coached his sisters,” Guillean said. “I remember him when he was pretty young. I knew the family pretty well. I knew his dad. He was pretty supportive and was there for everything.”
Vasquez said that freshman year experience has made him appreciate every day, and he gives the following advice: “Every time you’re wrestling, it could be your last time on the mat or last time on the field. Treat every game and every match as if it’s going to be your last. If you’re committed to the sport, take every chance you have to help your team be successful.”
Gribler has known Vasquez since he was in seventh grade and, as also the school’s varsity baseball coach, will work with Vasquez one more time with the senior planning to add baseball as his spring sport.
“When we talk about Tiger Pride, Austin’s a kid that you can put his face right on the logo. His work ethic is just unbelievable,” Gribler said. “Everything he does is with a smile. He could be having the worst day of his life, and he’d still have a smile on his face. He pushes through. It’s tough to do and amazing to see.”
The coach – who also starred at Lawrence as an athlete – noted the small community’s ability to rally around Vasquez and his family. Lawrence has about 150 students in the high school.
“It goes beyond sports,” Gribler said. “Austin knows when he needs something he can always reach out and we’ll have his back, we’ll have his family’s back. It’s not so much about winning as it is about the kids.”
Vasquez is already looking ahead to life after high school. He attends morning courses at Van Buren Tech, studying welding, and returns to the high school for afternoon classes.
“I’d like to either work on the pipeline as a pipeline welder or be a lineman,” he said, adding, “possibly college. I would like to wrestle in college, but let’s see how this year goes.
“I’m ready to get out, but it’s going to be hard to leave this all behind.”
Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence senior Andrew Vasquez, right, wrestles against Hartford this season. (2) Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. (3) From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (4) Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. (Wrestling and football photos courtesy of the Lawrence athletic department. Headshots by Pam Shebest.)