Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — If you’ve ever been to a Chillicothe Paints home game, chances are you’ve met Ron Adkins.
Adkins, who’s never met a stranger, usually stands at the very end of the Party Deck just under the 327 feet sign in left field at VA Memorial Stadium. There’s usually good company surrounding him, including his wife Carol and, sometimes, his dog Sadie.
He’ll wonder to the concession stand, meet an old friend and catch up, or simply watch a ballgame under the lights. But no matter the case, he’s got a smile on his face.
He’s sported that same smile at that same location for close to 20 years now.
“I started working in Kenworth in 1998 and I heard a lot about the Paints while working there,” Adkins recalled. “But I didn’t move to Chillicothe until 1999. I started coming to the games just because I loved baseball. I fell in love immediately. Being from Portsmouth, it’s a baseball town. So I had grown up around that.”
When Adkins first started coming to games, the Paints were a part of the Frontier League … a league that still exists to this day. Things have since changed with the franchise moving into the Prospect League back in 2009.
But what hasn’t changed is Adkins’ profound loyalty to the club. It’s something that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Ron has been a fixture at VA Memorial Stadium for a lot of years now,” Paints owner Bryan Wickline said. “And that’s not just attending Paints games … he comes to many high school and college baseball games throughout the spring and summer. He and Sadie are always willing to lend a hand to our staff. Ron in a genuine baseball fanatic and, more importantly, a fantastic human being that would do anything for anyone.”
At this point, Adkins’ daily activities from about March to August have become routine. He wakes up for work at 5:30 each morning, punches his time card for the final time around 3:30 in the afternoon and heads home to change into, probably, a baseball jersey.
Then, it’s off to VA Memorial Stadium to watch that night’s game.
Not too long ago, he followed the routine like any other day. However, this time around, his life changed forever with a chance encounter.
During that night’s game, Adkins saw a woman get out of her seat and walk towards the concession stand. Little did he know, that woman would be his future wife.
“Carol and I met at a Paints game. I stalked her to the bathroom that night,” Adkins said, chuckling. “We talked a little bit, started dating and six or seven years later, we got married. She came out of the bathroom and I asked her to go to a concert with me. She said yes and the rest is history. It all worked out great.”
It’s the perfect installment into Adkins’ life story.
“Ron is just as much a part of the Paints family as anyone,” Paints play-by-play announced Jacob Wise said. “He’s here throughout the year for high school games, college games and, of course, Paints games and usually wearing a jersey of one of the many players he’s hosted throughout the years. He is a tireless supporter of the Paints and a great friend to all of us here.”
Wise hit on something that Adkins takes great pride in. He’s acted as player host for many years now. To further explain, Paints players call Chillicothe their summer home but need a place to stay.
Adkins has provided that service for close to 20 years and, according to him, it’s been one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“James Callahan, Joe Colameco … there’s so many names I remember,” Adkins said. “I got divorced in 2001 and everybody was telling me I needed to host players. I had a big house to myself and, once I did it, it was the best thing I ever did. I’ve done that ever since. I love the kids just like they’re my own. I root for them in baseball and in life.”
Adkins has hosted numerous players over the years, including but not limited to fan favorites Chad Roberts, Dylan Shockley, Lance Elder and Jamie Lackner. Many of the players he’s hosted make sure to keep in contact with him long after their playing careers have ended.
“The families I’ve met, the kids I’ve met, I still keep in contact with a lot of former players,” Adkins said. “They’ll all tell you it’s probably the best summer of their lives. It’s changed a lot since the Frontier League days. I feel like I’m more of a father figure with the younger kids. But I’ve got friends in Florida, California, Canada, Australia … people all over.”
20 years of baseball memories is sometimes hard to sift through. But if you ask him about his favorite moment, he has no trouble reminiscing.
“The championship season in 2010, the walkoff home run … that was just an exciting season for me,” Adkins said. “They had played well in spurts but to come back and win the way they did, it was special.”
This season, the Paints are 15-10 overall, sitting in third place in the Prospect League’s East Division and just 2 ½ games out of first place. That’s after starting the year at 2-7.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Adkins said. “We had a rough start where we were losing one-run, two-run games. We have to keep getting better and beat West Virginia. That’s our rival.”
Adkins, of course, has been watching closely. He’s still under that left field sign, still hanging out with friends and, you guessed it, still sporting that ear-to-ear grin.
The steadfast Paints fan would have it no other way. If you need him, you know where to find him.
“We’re just so lucky that Chris Hanners and Bryan Wickline have kept [the Paints in Chillicothe],” Adkins said. “Most towns this size don’t have baseball like this. It’s a getaway. It’s my favorite thing to do. This is my relaxation. I don’t think some people know what we’ve got here.”