The world lost a special man on Sunday night. For more than a decade, Buddy Hurlock was the high school sports beat writer for the Wilmington News Journal. He also spent almost half a decade covering Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball for the paper. He was a familiar face in the Delaware sports scene. Unfortunately, that face, as well as the warm personality that accompanied it, vanished from most press boxes when he was diagnosed with cancer last year. Hurlock fought the disease valiantly, but finally succumbed to it with his family on Sunday night.
Hurlock will always hold a special place in my memory for two reasons. First and foremost, he was an incredible guy. Buddy may not have always looked like he was having fun when he was covering a game, but he was. If you talked to him during the game, he was always nervous he might miss something; but approach him beforehand and he’d be rearing to go. He was consistently excited to be at the stadium and hyped for whatever contest he was covering to start.
Nobody loved a good hot dog more than Buddy. It was one of his favorite things about being at the game. Some folks look for a good atmosphere or great weather when they attend a sporting event; Buddy just wanted to know if they grilled the dogs or boiled them.
One year when he was covering the Blue Rocks, he convinced the News Journal to go on a road trip with the team. Normally the paper relies on staff reports to cover the Rocks when they leave Wilmington, but Buddy thought (accurately so) that he could find a lot of clever story ideas at different Carolina League venues.
His stories were interesting, but in the first game of every series in every town he visited, early in the article there was always a scouting report on the hot dogs.
One time he even came up to me at Frawley Stadium when I was in the media relations department and started explaining a way we could tweak the cooking method on the stadium hot dogs to add a little more flavor. I looked at him in disbelief. He knew I didn’t cook the things and had no influence over who did, but he was dead serious. The man was passionate about his hot dogs.
I’ll miss conversations like that. Buddy kept you on your toes and was always good for a laugh.
That brings me to the other reason why I’ll remember him so fondly. Buddy was a part of the lives of anybody who played high school sports in the state of Delaware during the last decade. It didn’t matter what sport you played, or which school you played for, at some point he covered one of your team’s games. There’s also a pretty good chance, since he loved talking to different people, that he interviewed you at least once. And anytime he was at one of your games it cemented how big the contest was.
Buddy used to take so much junk from high school kids on the sidelines of football games. People knew he was in charge of the rankings the News Journal printed each week, and they always felt comfortable sharing with him just how inaccurate they felt those rankings were. They came up with some crazy one-liners (I ought to know, I was part of that crowd in high school at Middletown), but Buddy never took it personally.
One time I joined in with my friends taunting Buddy about where he had MTown ranked in his latest Top 10. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know it was immature. Everything you yell in eleventh grade is either stupid or immature. He turned and looked at me and we made perfect eye contact. When he asked to interview me during basketball preseason eight days later, I thought, “this guy is going to remember me.” I could tell he did when I walked up, but Buddy was Buddy. As nice as could be and asked me like 10 questions over the next 15 minutes. Then he shook my hand, wished me luck and seemed to genuinely mean it. He held no ill-will towards my ribbing at all.
The only reaction I ever saw him give to kids giving him gruff was an ear-to-ear grin. He was a great sport.
That was my impression of him in high school and that feeling only became stronger when I started covering the same games as him in college. The guy never let anything bother him and he always kept a sense of humor.
I asked him once how he did it, and he said, “because I used to say silly stuff in high school too. I know they are only having fun. They’re just kids being kids.”
He was also a good reporter. The high school beat isn’t easy, especially when you’re charged with covering an entire state. But Buddy always found a way to dig up interesting stories.
When he’d come out and cover the Blue Rocks he would do the same thing. He’d ask the weirdest questions, and sometimes he’d even make you think, “what the hell is this guy aiming at with that.” But then you’d log online that night or open up the paper the next day and everything would come together in his article.
He was good. Sports in Delaware will not be the same without him. They already haven’t been for the last year.
Rest in peace Buddy, the sports page just isn’t as much fun to read with you gone.