Bochenek discusses stats career | News, Sports, Jobs

Bochenek discusses stats career | News, Sports, Jobs

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — For the past 23 years, Struthers native Tom Bochenek has served as crew chief and official sports statistician for the Cleveland Browns, overseeing a crew of five who supply all gameday statistics to the NFL while following a strict computer game program that is monitored in-game by the league office.

Little did he know back then, but his chosen profession was already being shaped while a young student at nearby St. Nicholas grade school.

“My late father [Frank], who would have turned 100 years old on Dec. 1, was a bus driver for the Struthers High School football and basketball teams and I would accompany him to all their away games back in the 1960s,” Bochenek told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “When I was in eighth grade, former Struthers director of athletics, Joe Paris, had me on the sidelines charting plays for our varsity football games and everything just seemed to take off from there.”

Bochenek’s high school years began to prepare him for the tub-thumper that he has become, now in its fifth decade of operation.

“When I was a high school freshman, I worked in the press box with a statistics program that was started by the Steel Valley Conference,” Bochenek added. “That was 1970 and Paul Gregory, a teacher at Cardinal Mooney High School, served as the coordinator of statistics for all SVC schools. He would send out a weekly release to the media with all league stats for football and boys basketball after we called him on Sunday morning with updated stats on our teams.

“Those two backgrounds shaped my desire to continue and pursue an education in journalism and public relations while working as a student assistant in the sports information office at Kent State University from 1974-80. You were required to do an internship in journalism for your degree but their School of Journalism waived that internship due to my daily experiences in the office. When I graduated from KSU, they created an assistant SID position for me and what a thrill that was,” Bochenek said.

In 1986, Bochenek became sports information director at Mount Union College – now the University of Mount Union – and since 1989, has served as a game night assistant for public relations for the Cleveland Cavaliers, talent statistician for the Indians-Guardians telecasts for Bally Sports Great Lakes as well as Fox Sports Ohio and SportsTime Ohio, is an associate producer for ESPN and ESPN regional college football and basketball games and since 2010, has served as graphics coordinator for OHSAA championship football and basketball games on Spectrum News 1 and Fox Sports.

“My work habits and creativity have shaped my career, and I have always looked for the unconventional way of doing things,” Bochenek said. “I work ‘outside the box’ and truly believe that has carried me forward in my work. There is no shortage for preparation and I still do that to this day when I am called upon.”

Bochenek has worked various meaningful games but one of the most memorable, albeit unusual, occurred during his time at Kent State.

“I was with our men’s basketball team on a three-game road trip to California. It was the week of Christmas and we had a 32-game road losing streak heading into our game against Pepperdine in Malibu,” Bochenek said. “Before the game, I was introduced to Waves’ head coach Jim Harrick, who would later lead UCLA to its last NCAA basketball championship.

“That game was a late addition to our schedule to justify a three-game, weeklong trip to the West Coast. Pepperdine was great that year, taking eventual NCAA champion North Carolina State to double overtime before losing in the tournament. The date was Dec. 21, 1982, and I could tell Pepperdine wasn’t prepared for us because in my brief meeting with Harrick, he asked me in his Southern drawl, ‘Tom, how you do say your coach’s name, is it DOO-ma or DOW-ma?’”

“Deadpanned, I said to the coach its Ed Douma, but he was fired after last season. Our coach’s name is Jim McDonald. When I left, something told me we were going to beat this great team and we led throughout the game. Pepperdine would take a one-point lead late and had the ball with five seconds remaining. At courtside and right in front of me the official called a Pepperdine player for traveling as he moved his foot barely an inch. We got the ball back, inbounded it to Londell Owens who quickly turned at the buzzer and made a 25-foot game-winning shot that snapped our losing streak.

“I sprinted to a phone to call the Akron Beacon Journal and Kent-Ravenna Record Courier, doing voicers until nearly 1:30 a.m. just to get the score to our local media. It was the most astounding win in Kent State basketball history, and I don’t care about the last 20 years of some very good KSU teams.”

Bochenek has remained true to his Struthers roots, calling his time there as very special, formative years.

“I am proud to have known and helped publicize Struthers superstars and Kent State standouts Larry Robbins and Bonnie Beachy,” Bochenek added. “Bonnie was the finest female basketball player at KSU and the first female to have her No. 13 jersey retired at KSU. Larry scored over 1,600 points at KSU and I was very proud of him, too. Both are deceased, they meant a lot to me then and just as much now.”

Next Monday, Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame wrestling honoree and Boardman native Dom Mancini will serve as guest speaker.

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