PDT Sports Writer
COLUMBUS — If there is a list of modern-day Scioto County baseball legends, Jack Branon is on that list.
Branon’s biggest baseball accomplishment came in 1996 when he took Wheelersburg to the school’s first-ever state championship. He currently is the head coach of the American Legion James Dickey Post 23 Senior baseball team, helping the area’s best players develop their skills during the summer.
The area almost lost Branon Friday after the semifinal game against Fredericktown. While driving through downtown Columbus, Branon was pulled over for a traffic violation.
During the stop, Branon complained of chest problems and was rushed to Grant Medical Center, where he was placed into the Critical Care Unit. He had suffered a heart attack and a stint was placed to help with the blockage.
Hours after being watched by Branon in the semifinal win, members of the Pirate baseball family went over to make sure he was fine.
“We were happy to see him when we went over there,” current Wheelersburg baseball coach Michael Estep said. “He really didn’t seem that much different to us, talking baseball, watching the Reds, very excited for us being here today, regretting that he wouldn’t have an opportunity to be here.”
Estep told Branon, who also coaches the East girls basketball team, the game would be available live either on radio or on television, which brought smile on Branon’s face.
“For a gentleman that has given so many years to this baseball program and establishing the tradition that fortunately we’ve been able to get back on track here and continue, I’m super proud for him too because he’s probably smiling right now,” Estep said after the Sat
The last few chats Estep had with Branon, the talk of winning it all was always in discussion.
“I know that he’s probably staring down at that ring right now, knowing that we are ready to get our sizes,” Estep said. “That’s for sure.”
Andy Heimbach played for Branon in 1996. He was the pitching coach for this year’s title team.
“Coach Branon is one, he’s not the only, but is one of the foundations, the building blocks of Wheelersburg baseball,” Heimbach said. “I really feel like he and some teams really put us on the map on the state level.”
Today Post 23 will take on Circlevile Post 134 in Ashville to start the season. It’s a rematch of last season’s District 7 Championship.
Andy Riehl and Wes Loop will assume bigger roles on the coaching staff in Branon’s absence. Area baseball dignitaries such as Valley coach Dean Schuler have pledged help with the program while he recovers.
While Martin, Brett Hood Austin Boyer, Derek Moore and Zach Brown gear up a day after winning a state championship, their summer coach will be recovering from a big health scare.
Martin was told during tryouts Branon was cancelling Legion practices so everyone could come up and watch.
“That shows us how bad he wanted this game and I’m glad we that we could give it to him,” Martin said. “I hope he’s getting better.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or email@example.com.