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Medina County Sports Hall of Fame: Alan Kiene had fun while becoming a star at Buckeye

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    Former Buckeye three sports star Alan Kiene will be inducted into the Medina County Hall of Fame.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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The resume speaks for itself with 10 letters, 10 All-Gazette awards, one Gazette MVP and one All-Ohio accolade at Buckeye, a substantial football scholarship to a Division I school and three all-star nominations in the highly regarded Greater Akron AA Baseball League.

If not for his mother’s detailed scrapbook, Alan Kiene would not have been able to recite more than a few of those honors. Even 47 years after he graduated from high school and decades in the real estate business, the Liverpool Township native has a hard time talking about himself.

“Ego” and “stardom” are two words that fail to register in his vocabulary. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound three-sport standout, who will be inducted into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame during Thursday ceremonies at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth, naturally deflects conversation to his friends, talented teammates and coaches because they always have meant the world to him.

Kiene will tell people linebacker Bob Rising had arms the size of his thighs, Jim Walter and Vic Feist fired electric 90-mph fastballs, lineman George Houghtaling wrestled at Kent State, Rich Stalnaker played basketball at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Bill Schnurr battled him to a seven-inning scoreless tie in Little League, the Schaefer boys’ father played sports with his father at Liverpool High and varsity coaches Mike Lewis, Leo Sparr and Bob Kramer were great role models.

And don’t forget Bob Dieter, Kiene’s best friend.

To Kiene, sports were everything for the first 29 years of his life. The relationships formed from them, however, turned out to be more important because they have lasted a lifetime.

“In Valley City we had the frog jump, street fair and, for me, I had sports,” he said. “Frankly, getting this award for things that happened over half my life ago, it’s pretty cool. I appreciate the 15 minutes (of fame), but thinking back to the friends, coaches and family and how supportive they were is amazing.”

Amazing could also describe what Kiene could do in football, basketball and baseball.

“Oh, my gracious, he was superior in anything he would put his mind to,” Dieter said. “That’s what he was at Buckeye in basketball, football and baseball, and if he wanted to run track or pole vault, he’d have been one the best.”

Love of the game(s)

Alan Scott Kiene was born Oct. 14, 1952 and grew up in a fanatical sports family just east of Valley City on Myrtle Hill Road. Father Harold, a realtor, was a 1942 Class B state qualifier in the high jump, pole vault and long jump for Liverpool High and mother Margaret, a music teacher at Brunswick, equally loved the Browns, Indians and Ohio State Buckeyes.

Much of Alan’s childhood was spent playing catch with Dieter while calling balls and strikes, emulating the batting stance of Indians star Rocky Colavito and teaming with his buddies to dominate the Little League circuit. In his annual “best of” column in 1965, Gazette sports editor Al Thomas named Medina’s Mike McMullen “best big pitcher” and Kiene “best little pitcher.”

Kiene’s parents naturally embraced his love of sports. It’s not like he had a choice, though, because there was always an Ohio State game to watch on television or a local high school event to attend.

“My mom was a music teacher up in Brunswick in those years, so every Friday night we were at Brunswick watching (basketball legends Tom) Beeching and (Mike) Carlson or we were up at Buckeye watching Tom Masters, Body McCourt and Billy Inman on the football field,” he said. “There was a lot of interest in sports. There was Big Ten football on Saturdays, and I remember the Buckeyes playing in ’61 and ’62 against Oscar Robertson (and Cincinnati). They never beat him, but I remember that being a big deal.”

Youth football and basketball did not exist in the 1960s, so Kiene did not experience those sports on a competitive level until middle school. When he did suit up in brown and orange for the first time, however, magic followed.

In seventh, eighth and ninth grade, Kiene quarterbacked football teams that were undefeated and unscored upon. The Bucks also never lost a basketball game with Kiene at point guard until the 1968 Medina County freshman tournament championship against Medina.

“I don’t mind bragging about my junior high teams,” he said. “That (Medina loss) was devastating at the time, but one (loss) in three years, that was pretty cool.”

The success was understandably unsustainable, but Kiene was a consistent performer from the time he played varsity for the first time as a freshman shortstop.

While baseball was and still is his passion, Kiene’s most publicized exploits were on the gridiron. He was a three-time first-team All-Inland Conference safety known for hard tackles, though, in typical fashion, Kiene said that was only because “nobody in the Inland Conference was a threat to throw the ball over my head.” He also still holds the school record for punt return average in a season (21.4, 1969).

Where he really stood out was as a running quarterback in a T-formation offense. With a simple sweep as the go-to play, Kiene finished his career with a then-school-record 170 points, including 102 as a senior. His 32-point outburst in 1970 against Avon that also included 209 all-purpose yards was a school standard for 45 years.

In 1970, Kiene had 106 carries for 631 yards while going 38-for-73 for 473 yards and adding 100 tackles. He kept the Bucks alive in the IC title chase with a 42-yard punt return for a score and late fumble recovery to set up the winning TD in a 14-7 decision at Lutheran West, and scored the only touchdown in the fourth quarter of an 8-0 triumph over South Amherst.

Kiene was named All-Gazette Team Captain and third-team All-Ohio, but, as so many athletes do, all he really wanted to talk about was coming up short against archrival Highland. The Bucks had a chance to share the IC crown in 1969 but were walloped 52-14 and settled for third place after a 24-6 defeat in 1970, when Medina County Sports Hall of Famer Don Tomko (Kent State) and Paul Orchard (Ball State) combined for 48 carries and 274 yards.

Dieter, a tight end, remembered those losses, too, but also the toughness Kiene showed.

“Highland just drubbed us, but (Kiene) took a beating every darn game,” Dieter said. “Don Tomko and Paul Orchard, they ripped through our line and it seemed like he never missed a tackle. He got the crap beat out of him. He’d take abuse, but he always came back. He never shied away from it or wanted to come out. To me, he’s one of the top football players to ever come out of Buckeye.

“I don’t remember him missing a tackle, but of course this is 50 years ago and my brain doesn’t work like it used to. It didn’t matter if they were 10 yards down field or 20 yards across field. You hear about football speed? He put it in another gear and he got ’em.”

The Bucks could never replicate the middle school success of basketball due in large part to Chuck Inman and Don Bryenton moving to Medina — Inman averaged 16 points for the Bees as a senior — and compiled 9-10, 6-13 and 9-11 records over Kiene’s three seasons. The volume-shooting point guard with tremendous range still was honorable mention All-Gazette as a sophomore, second team as a junior and first team as a senior, as Kiene, the 6-4 Stalnaker and Feist were forced to carry the offensive load.

“If you let him alone anywhere from 10 to 22 feet, he’d knock your socks off,” Dieter said.

That wasn’t to say there weren’t fond memories in an 862-point career that probably would have pushed 1,000 had there been a 3-point line.

Upsetting eventual 1971 IC co-champs Columbia and Avon on back-to-back nights was definitely a highlight, but nothing topped a 46-point outburst against Keystone on Jan. 24, 1970, when Kiene was 21-for-37 from the floor and 4-for-6 at the foul line. The Bucks led only 53-44 after three quarters before Kiene’s 22 points in the fourth helped them pull away for an 81-60 victory.

“That was crazy,” said Kiene, whose career point total in only 57 games still ranks fifth in school history. “Ronnie Miller was playing beside me that night and keeps telling me how many assists he had that night. He says he had as many assists as I had points. That was a fun night.”

The least-documented of Kiene’s three sports, baseball, was clearly his best.

Batting approximately .400 for his career and striking out 17 against Norwayne in 1970, Kiene was second-team All-Gazette as a sophomore and junior, first team as a junior and senior and likely would have been 1971 Gazette MVP had the award existed. He was primarily a shortstop but also the No. 3 pitcher and adored the intricacies of catching when he moved to the position as a senior to call pitches for Feist (Valdosta State) and Schnurr (Ohio State).

The 1971 Bucks were loaded with Kiene, Schnurr, Feist, All-Gazette picks Dieter and Stalnaker and rising sophomore Steve Union. They compiled a 19-3 record and still hold the school record for winning percentage (.864).

Kiene hit two homers in a 5-3 win over Columbia as Buckeye rolled to the IC championship. The right-hander also threw a five-hit shutout against Highland in the inaugural Medina County Tournament championship and blasted another homer in Feist’s sectional no-hitter against Norwayne. Schnurr then starred as the Bucks defeated Woodridge 3-2 for their first district title.

“Oh, my, he had quick wrists and could just roll those wrists over,” Dieter said. “If you see him, you know how big he is. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but those wrists, I never remember him striking out in a clutch situation. He had the ability to put his mind on something and he could come through.”

The Bucks couldn’t hold on to a 6-1 lead after 5ᄑ innings and lost to LaBrae in the Barberton Regional, but Kiene helped set the foundation under Kramer, a Medina County Sports Hall of Famer who coached the school to the 1975 and ’77 state semifinals.

“Baseball is a timeless game,” Kiene said. “There’s no clock. It’s really the best game, I think.”

After high school

Though he didn’t care for the notoriety, Kiene knew he had the natural talent and press clippings needed to play collegiate sports in the 1970s. On-the-rise Division III Marietta came after him hard for baseball, but Kiene knew football offered the most scholarship money.

Ohio State assistant David McClain visited Kiene at Buckeye High. Kiene also was accepted to the Naval Academy — it was never a serious option — had conversations with Princeton and visited OSU, Indiana and Miami of Ohio.

Ultimately, D-I Davidson won out with a combination of scholarship and academic prowess. Kiene played one year of defensive back but was enticed to return home after an offer to play for former Medina star McMullen, who was manager for the Medina Merchants of the Greater Akron AA Baseball League. Kiene transferred to Ohio State and earned a degree in business/marketing.

Kiene played for the Merchants from 1972-81, earning all-star nods twice at shortstop and once as a catcher. The league had multiple future or former MLB players, including Wadsworth native Scott Fletcher, 1969 Miracle Mets pitcher Jack DiLauro and ex-Detroit Tiger/New York Met Billy Baldwin, and Kiene still gets a kick out of the 1965 Al Thomas article mentioning him and McMullen and the fact McMullen coached Kiene’s son, Alex, at Medina in the early 2000s.

Once again, Kiene downplayed his exploits because they never resulted in a minor-league contract. He enjoyed playing with Union for a second time, raved about how Walter could throw a nasty slider as hard as a fastball and joked that McMullen prevented his wife Joan, whom he met at Ohio State, from having a desirable June wedding in 1980 because of McMullen’s steadfast rule of no marriages during the season.

Kiene moved to Florida for a few years before returning to Medina to help maintain Weymouth Valley Country Club, where his parents were initial investors. He soon got into self-employed real estate appraisal and land development, specializing in buying and developing farms that is still a trend in Medina County but also one that hit him hard during the 2008 financial crisis.

Kiene had mostly forgotten his athletic exploits, but he never forgot his friends. He still keeps in contact with Dieter and Stalnaker and is looking forward to catching up with them and others at the hall of fame banquet.

To him, everything he accomplished was simply a kid living his dreams.

His buddies completely understand why.

“Al’s a very quiet, keep-to-himself type of guy,” Stalnaker said. “Al and I have been best friend since high school, so I guess that doesn’t surprise me. He’s just one of those guys. He’s a great guy. I don’t know how else to put it.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.


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