Driving Mr. McCoy

Ray Snedegar has a lot of drive in his life — and he needs a whole lot more.

Snedegar is the sole survivor of 437 volunteers to be my driver to and from Cincinnati Reds games this season — a 180-mile round trip from his Centerville, Ohio, home to my Englewood, Ohio, home to Great American Ball Park and back.

For 81 games, that’s 14,580 miles, more than halfway around the earth.

For 10 years I have been legally blind from strokes of the optic nerves in both eyes and the last time I drove a car, shortly after the vision blurred in my eyes, I wrecked it. Then parked it. Forever.

Snedegar is replacing my driver of five years, retired school administrator Larry Glass, who did it for five years and was late twice, both times with car problems.

Glass was forced to take his foot off the pedal due to health reasons, so in search of a replacement I posted a notice in my personal blog, hoping to receive a dozen or so solid offers.

My inbox filled, 437 offers after last count. Some were for weekend duty, some wanted to do it one time, some wanted to be part of a carpool.

There was an offer from a man in Dubai, who wrote, “If I can be your driver, I’ll return to the United States.”

There was an offer from a man in Florida, who wrote, “I have an RV here in Florida, but If you want me to drive I’ll bring the RV to Dayton and be your driver.”

Amazingly, offers came from all over — male, female, college students, senior citizens, budding journalists who wanted to pick my brain, firemen, policemen, lawyers, truck drivers, professors and the unemployed.

Snedegar’s email jumped out at me. He said all the right things. He was the first I contacted and I invited him to lunch. Within five minutes, I knew: “This is the guy.”

He is retired from the Air Force, “Where I was a loadmaster for 31 years, four months and 21 days, but who’s counting?”

He lost his beloved wife, Barbara, on Nov. 19, 2011 and said to himself, “What now? I’d still get up at 6:30 in the morning, read the paper, drink my coffee and ask myself, ‘What now?’”

To keep busy Snedegar volunteers at the National Museum of the USAF at Wright Patterson Air Force Museum and he works part-time at Routsong Funeral Home in Centerville.

When he saw my blog, Snedegar sent his email, “Because it would give me a chance to mix and mingle with a lot of new people after losing my wife. I love baseball and I love Hal’s writing.”

To be certain he was the right man, I emphasized there was no pay, just 55 cents a mile and he said, “No problem there,” and I made certain he knew there were long, long hours. For day games, I leave my home at 1:30 in the afternoon for the hour-and-15 minutes it takes to get to GABP and usually it is close to 1 a.m. when we return.

“That’s fine with me,” he said. “I’m used to long hours. As loadmaster, I also flew on the planes and some flights were 12 and 14 hours and a few were 15 to 17 hours, so I’m used to long days.”

And the driving?

“I love to drive,” he said. “I’m a season ticket holder for University of Kentucky basketball games and it is 2 1/2 hours one way for the drive to all the home games. I’m also a season ticket holder to the University of Dayton basketball games.”

Snedegar begins his driving chores on Opening Day, which is April Fool’s Day. But he knows he isn’t getting fooled for this gig and said, “I’m counting the days. I can’t wait to get started.”

Hopefully, his car feels the same way.