BY CAROLYN LaWELL
LEXINGTON, Kentucky | Ty Cobb stepped and twisted his body toward the ball, a perfect angle to make contact. Thwock! He did this over and over, hours every day for years, until he perfected his swing. Thwock! His form and power peaked somewhere in his 20s and, for his accomplishments, he earned a varsity letter.
From Central College in Pella, Iowa.
Oh, you thought this was something about the ornery Hall of Famer with the .366 career batting average? Afraid not. This is Ty Cobb, the director of creative services for the Lexington Legends whose name has linked him to baseball from the day he was born. He has a great swing. You should see his serve.
Ninety-eight years to the day after William and Amanda Cobb welcomed their son, Tyrus “Ty” Raymond Cobb, Bill and Sheila Cobb gazed down at their newborn and debated names. What about Tyler?
The story told for years is that Janeth O’Dell, a baseball fanatic, called her sister and brother-in-law to congratulate them on the birth of their son and asked, “Do you know who was born today?” December 18. Tyrus Raymond Cobb. It became Tyler William Cobb’s birthday, too.
The younger Cobb grew up in Humboldt, Illinois, though, he never rooted for the Chicago teams to the north or the older Cobb’s team, the Detroit Tigers. His first baseball memories are of Busch Memorial Stadium — the bright AstroTurf and the heat rising in waves off the field, watching the St. Louis Cardinals with his Aunt Janeth, a season-ticket holder.
As he grew, the he shared less and less with the baseball legend with the same name. Instead of catching fly balls in the outfield, he ran up and down tennis courts and soccer pitches. He doesn’t have a fiery temperament or aggressive personality.
His parents aren’t homicidal maniacs.
He made lots of headlines, though.
While Cobb was majoring in art, he applied for internships with loads of minor league baseball teams. Rob Crain, then the assistant general manager of the Omaha Storm Chasers and now the president and general manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, was flipping through resumes when he spotted a header with the name Ty Cobb. He didn’t believe it. So he called Cobb. An interview later, Cobb was in baseball.
Cobb worked the 2008 season as the marketing and community relations intern for the Storm Chasers. All sorts of stories followed almost immediately. The team held a Ty Cobb Night, when Cobb dressed as the baseball legend, autographed baseball cards and was auctioned off for a date. ESPN called for an interview and ESPN The Magazine awarded the team a Veeckie.
“I’ve gone by Ty since I got to Omaha,” Cobb says about shortening his name from Tyler. “It’s mostly since I’ve worked in baseball. I’ve kind of assumed that, so people recognize me.”
Cobb moved to Lexington after the season to work for the Legends, the Storm Chasers’ sister team, where he’s responsible for the team’s graphic design and marketing, and oversees music and in-game production. He updated the Legends logo and plans to unveil a new look this offseason.
“I like a job where I can have freedom,” he says. “Being in graphic design and working with that staff is satisfying to me because I can design things my own way. I have input with my bosses, but I’ve also gotten introduced to new aspects of business.
“I like to do it my way.”
Not brash, but confident. Maybe there is a bit of personality resemblance.
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Time for minor league trivia. Drafted in the first round back in 1974 by the Houston Astros, he managed the Legends to a 92-48 record in their inaugural season in 2001. Who is he? (Keep reading for the answer.)
Legends starter Michael Foltynewicz and relievers Murilo Gouvea and Dayan Diaz limited the Kannapolis Intimidators to five hits in a 2-0 win. Second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. scored both of the team’s runs, leading off the game with a single and two steals before third baseman Matt Duffy doubled him home. He followed that with a homer in the seventh.
Once the Lexington Colts disbanded in 1954, the city went nearly five decades without professional baseball. Attempts to bring a team to Lexington dated back to 1984, but public funding could never be secured, even when teams offered to relocate. That changed in 1999 when a group of private investors led by Alan Stein announced they would finance the construction of a stadium and purchase a franchise without using taxpayer money. Baseball returned to Lexington when the Legends opened the 2001 season. Stein stepped down as president of the Legends and the Storm Chasers in 2011, but the baseball tradition remains strong in the state’s second-largest metro area.
Want the answer? The Astros selected Joe Cannon 16th overall in the 1974 draft. He appeared in 17 games for the Astros in 1977 and ’78, then was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom he played 131 more games the next two seasons before finishing his career back in the minors.
And in random statistical news, the first pitch was a strike and the first batter flied out to left. James Young sang the national anthem in 1 minute and 29.5 seconds. (Before Foltynewicz fired his pitch, we fired two of our own ceremonial first pitches, along with a handful of people on the mound in support of worthy causes, including Kentucky governor Steve Beshear.) Also, we ate far too many hot dogs.
Want to read stories about the other teams on our schedule? Click here and scroll to the calendar