Iowa Alumni Magazine | August 2008 | People

Ray Gilmore

By IAM Staff
Because Ray Gilmore's participation in UI baseball spans three decades, he's often referred to as an "unofficial mascot"—even though he doesn't wear a costume.

Few seasons in Ray Gilmore's life compare to the spring of 1978—the year he attended his first Hawkeye baseball game. More than just a game, that event helped chart the course of his life.

Nine-year-old Ray had just finished his paper route when he and his mother, Rose, headed for the bleachers to see the Hawks take on the University of Northern Iowa. Baseball was always Rose's favorite sport, and Ray was happy his mother finally deemed him old enough to join her at a game. Rose was Ray's only parent—his dad had died in a farming accident when Ray was only three—and baseball was their shared passion.

As he watched the players warm up, Ray noticed that UNI didn't have a batboy, and so he volunteered. UI Coach Duane Banks was so impressed with Ray's enthusiasm that he offered him a position as the home team's batboy from that point forward. Coach Banks went on to become a father figure to Ray, turning UI baseball into more than a young boy's pastime. He turned it into family.

For the past 30 years, Ray has remained steadfast in his devotion to the coaches and players who have enriched his life.

"Working with these guys is like being around the dinner table," says Ray, by far the program's longest tenured member (he's also served as a team manager, public address announcer, and scorekeeper). "This program helped me grow and gain self-confidence; these people shaped who I am today, which I like to think is a fairly decent person."

Like any family, they've shared holidays, life milestones, and personal losses. When Rose died from pancreatic cancer earlier this year, Ray came to realize the depth of his friendships. As he greeted friends at the funeral home, someone whispered that a "bunch of young guys" had gathered outside in the parking lot. One by one, members of the UI baseball team filed in to offer their condolences. Ray was overwhelmed.

As current UI baseball coach Jack Dahm says: "Ray means a great deal to our players—and to me. I keep saying we need a bobblehead doll in his honor. I think that would be a hit."