Baseball is a way of life for Roth family

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

The Roth household is always buzzing about sports.

Ricky Roth and sons, Turner and Nathan — are real fanatics — especially when it comes to baseball.

The Roths —Nathan, Ricky and Turner — used baseball to form an unbreakable family bond. All three have been involved with Ottawa baseball for decades.

“It was all sports,” Turner said. “As long as I can remember we have been playing sports. We have videos of me playing catch with what looks like a regulation-size football with my dad when I was 2 out in the yard. Hitting nerf balls at roughly 2. That is what everything revolved around.”

Nathan said sports was the topic all the time and still is.

Ottawa Arrows coach Turner Roth gives some advice to Carson Hein on the bench.

“It was all sports,” he said. “As we got older, it was more focused on baseball.”

The Roths played recreation baseball then went up the ladder to Babe Ruth and American Legion. Turner and Nathan also played for the Ottawa High School team.

“There was always a special love for baseball,” Turner said. “How can you not be passionate about baseball. I definitely was since I can remember. It is a game that I love.”

Ottawa Arrows coach Nathan Roth gives a fist bump to Jackson Lytle after he earned a walk.

Ricky never forced any sport on his sons, but did steer them to the game he loved growing up.

“We always came out and played,” Ricky said. “We played in the backyard first. That is all they wanted to do. I pushed them to other sports. They played Storm football.”

Turner said anytime they asked their father to play catch or hit in the cages, he would find time.

“When he would get home work, Nathan and I would ask to go out to the cages,” Turner said. “He would take us every time. He would throw to us and ask him to play catch or shoot hoops. Sports was everything.”

Nathan said playing ball meant everything to him as a youngster.

“Baseball was my life when I was a kid and still is,” he said. “I don’t know anything different. We always had a tight bond because of baseball, especially after Turner and I got to play on the same teams. Even before then, I would go to all his games that I could and Turner would come to all of mine that he could.”

The three would gather at home talk baseball after their games.

“We were always talking about any sport,” Turner said. “We would stand in the kitchen and develop our pitching wind up. Nathan’s wind up stayed fairly the same. We came out and played baseball for the rec and went home and watched what was left of the Royals, even though they were not as hot at the time.”

Even their vacations, baseball would be a priority.

“Nathan and I had to go on a two-week family vacation in a camper from Kansas to California and back [with] our older cousin Ty Gardner,” Turner said. “The three of us anytime we would stop at a campground we would find a stick and rocks and play home run derby. That is what everything was revolved around.”

The Family Game

Ricky started at the 4 tagging along with his older brother to play neighborhood baseball games.

“We went over to Garfield and played neighborhood ball all the time,” Ricky said. “We played across from our house after school every night.”

Ricky started playing in the PeeWee leagues.

“We were groomed up,” he said. “I was bat boy for my brother’s teams. I was playing midget league when they opened up the diamonds [at Orlis Cox]. The place would be packed during the week when we were playing. We had the huge stands.”

Baseball meant everything to Ricky and his friends.

“It is what we did,” he said. “It is all we did during the summer. Everybody played baseball.”

Another influence was the Kansas City Royals coming into existence, playing their first games in 1969.

“I remember laying in bed with transistor radio, listening to games,” Ricky said. “You could turn in the St. Louis Cardinals late at night.”

Ricky played three years for the American Legion in 1979-81 and went on to play college baseball.

Turning Point for Turner

Turner came to his father and told him he was through with baseball.

“Dad had to remind me when I was in midget league I was not doing so hot and was not having fun,” Turner said. “I told my dad, ‘I don’t think I want to play baseball this year.’ He told me, ‘well why don’t we do it this year and if you don’t like it, we can stop.’ I ended up doing a lot better and had a lot of fun.”

Ricky said when Turner was 10 or 11 he told him he was not going to be a professional baseball player.

“Let’s worry about that later,” Ricky told his son. “Let’s just have fun right now.”

Turner turned into a baseball player who could play anywhere on the field. Turner said his Ottawa Mustang coaches were the ones that made a big impact on his understanding of the game.

“Anytime they were correcting someone they would get onto someone if they were not paying attention when they were correcting the third baseman,” Turner said. “I took that to heart. I paid attention every time they were talking. They would ask us what position do you play. We would give out an answer. They would say, ’no you play the position that is best for the team.’ I bought into that too. Wound up learning all those positions.”

Turner said he would practice another position if he saw that as a weakness on his team.

“I am good at challenging myself,” Turner said. “What motivated me at times, if I felt like we did not have a player good enough at a position, I took it upon myself to practice those positions. “Sometimes I did not get a lot of chances as far as catching on my travel teams. I would ask my rec coaches, ‘can I catch.’ I would practice in the driveway during the summers and after school. Pay attention when was watching the majors, watching what those catchers were doing. I wanted to fill a gap I saw in our teams. It kept me in the game a little more.”

Natural Nathan

Nathan had the luxury of following Turner at every level in baseball, which helped his development.

“I got to watch Turner and see what each step was along the way,” Nathan said. “I was never nervous about playing the game. I knew it was just a game. I would always get mad at myself when I didn’t do well. That is the great thing about baseball, you get to go out there and do it again tomorrow. I loved it.”

As a youngster, he was a dominant player of his age group. He practiced all the time.

“ I would go out and throw a tennis ball against the brick wall on the side of our house every day,” Nathan said. “Turner and I would be out there throwing ground balls to each other. Taking turns being first baseman. Playing in a game with any team that I could.”

Nathan took to pitching early in his youth days.

“When I was 9 and we had All-Stars, we had to have guys pitch,” Nathan said. “None of us had pitched before. I was natural at it.”

Ricky said Nathan was thrown onto the mound the final two innings of his recreation season when he was 9.

“The first time he rocked a pitch, he knocked his hat off and threw a strike,” Ricky said with a laugh. “He told me ‘I want to pitch some more. When he went to state, all he did was throw strikes. He practiced on his form. That is how he got started pitching.”

Fun Times

Ricky said all he ever tried to do was instill how fun the game was to his sons and others he coached.

“It was not about winning championships,” Ricky said. “It was about getting a chance to play, throw, field and hit in game action. It hones their skills. Having fun.”

Ricky coached at the Babe Ruth level in the early 2000s when he was president of the Ottawa Babe Ruth League.

But was not keen on coaching his own kids.

“I wanted to groom them as they were playing,” Ricky said. “Teach them how to do things right.”

Ricky did coach Nathan’s age group when it came time for Babe Ruth district and state tournaments.

“It was both good and tough at times,” Nathan said. “Sometimes when you hear things from your dad or older brother, you don’t want to listen to them. Overall it was awesome to have them there all the time.”

Legion Love

All three Roths have a love for the Ottawa American Legion Post 60 baseball program. All three played for the Legion teams. Turner played from 2009-13 and coached the 2014-15 teams and returned to coaching this year.

Nathan started playing in 2011 and has been apart of the program as either a player or coach since.

Ricky is now on the Legion board for baseball and continues to keep score for the games.

“That is my team,” Turner said. “We are Ottawa Post 60. We played for the guys that gave us the freedom to play.”

Nathan saw how much fun it was to be a Legion player and his love grew even more when he became part of the organization.

“Coming out here to watch Turner play and they were good,” Nathan said. “We had Brian Clayton up in the booth making the games fun. Especially when we used the wood bats. When I got to be apart of it, it was the best.”

The Roths stay involved for their love of the game and community.

“I come here and coach these guys and go home and watch college, Royals or whoever is on and go to bed,” Turner said. “Get up and do it the next day. I love baseball.

“Coaching saved me. I was a wreck when I was done playing. I can keep living through the game. I am trying to help these guys out. I was so anxious to get back here. One of the first things that was said to me, even before we closed on our house, Luke Queen was requesting me to come back and coach. I definitely want to be here.”

Nathan said coaching is different than playing, but the game itself is the drawing card.

“I would not be coming out here to every practice and game, if I did not love it,” he said. “Some of the things I picked up from various coaches is not trying to make everything perfect. Especially the mentality of playing.

“I like to ask what is the most important pitch in baseball is. It is the next pitch. You can’t change the last pitch or play. You have to move onto the next one. I try to instill in them to play the game the right way. Carry that over to other things and do things the right way. Whatever you are doing, doing it has hard as you can.”

Turner said, “We don’t have to be out here. We are out here because we want to. We have ties to this organization. We love baseball.”

A Father’s Influence

Turner said their father is the reason behind their passion for the game and giving back to the community.

“He encouraged us to go out and do the best we could,” Turner said. “He was always there to give advice if we needed it. He was the best dad we could ask for.

“He is a huge impact on the reason why we are out here doing this. I know he enjoys us doing this.”

Ricky said seeing his boys follow in his footsteps into coaching Ottawa kids is fulfilling.

“They are telling it the right way,” Ricky said. “They are not tearing kids down. They are building them up. You are trying to make the kid a better human being to begin with because it is more than just baseball. They love it and want to be involved.”

Now both younger Roths have sons of their own. Both said they will not push them into playing baseball, similar to their father’s approach.

“It will break our hearts if they don’t want to play baseball, but definitely are not going to force them into it,” Turner said. “I could not imagine a kid not wanting to play sports.”