(Column originally published Aug. 26, 2011)
I first met Bud Hertzog back in 1997 or 1998. I had no idea he was a veterinarian, that he could mend a mouse, a horse and a turtle in the course of a day, that he held a spot on the Jackson County Legislature or that he was so involved in the school district.
I just knew he was the grandpa to Chad and John.
And true to form, Bud didn’t tell me any of those things.
He just wanted to talk about wrestling.
In the mid and late 90s, I spent a lot of time wandering the gymnasium at old Lee’s Summit High, hitting the wrestling duals and spending countless hours at the annual holiday tournament with Ethan Hauck, Jay Helland and, of course, mama Hertzog (as we all called her) and the hospitality room.
Sure, we came for the wrestling – but we stayed for the food.
And even though it wasn’t football season, the elder Hertzogs were there in full force to support their grandsons on the wrestling mat.
As Lee’s Summit High School prepares to honor Dr. Bug Hertzog tonight with the naming of their football stadium, I have to wonder how much time over those decades Bud and his wife Betty spent at the Lee’s Summit football stadium and field house. Hours upon hours of wrestling, football, track and volleyball dedicated to their grandkids over the years – which are one of many reasons Bud is receiving this enormous honor.
He says he doesn’t deserve it.
I bet a lot of Lee’s Summit residents would disagree.
Grandson Chad, now an assistant principal at his alma mater, won an impressive 122 wrestling matches during his wrestling days. In 1998, he went 39-0 on his way to his second state championship. Later, he would put on the black and gold again to wrestle for the University of Missouri. I bet grandpa and grandma were there for just about every one of those wins.
Those long afternoons in the gym at Lee’s Summit were always made easier when I would see Bud Hertzog approach.
I never met anyone in Lee’s Summit during my days as a sports writer who was as appreciative of the press as he was as proud of his kids and grandkids.
Bud never slapped me around for not writing more about Chad or John or Mark. As a proud grandpa, he just wanted to be there and be supportive.
It would be years later that I would figure out just who Bud Hertzog was and what he meant to Lee’s Summit High and the community at large. And more than a decade later, I would move to Lee’s Summit and join him at many community events.
He still likes to play “remember that time” when talking about old athletes. Those are stories I love to hear.
And while the longtime school district supporter may not fully accept this honor that is about to be bestowed up him, everyone around him Friday evening will know why – why they will now call it Bud Hertzog Stadium.