WILLIAMSTOWN - Reverend Ken Calebaugh and wife Pat are on the highway south, heading to Florida this week.
The Williamstown Presbyterian minister is anxiously looking forward to major league baseball's spring training season in the Sunshine State.
Last year at this time, the Calebaughs had a similar itinerary, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They're not expected to return north until late March, in time for the West Virginia boys basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.
"The spring training games actually don't start until Feb. 24, and we're planning on seeing seven games while we're down here," said Calebaugh at church Sunday. "The first one (Feb. 26) will be the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater (Fla.)."
The Phillies of course are the 2008 World Series champions.
"We'll also be seeing the Reds, Pirates, and hopefully the Yankees, too," Calebaugh continued.
Calebaugh, a Parkersbugh High graduate, is an avid sports fan and longtime Cincinnati Reds loyalist, who as a teen used to take the train from Parkersburg to Cincinnati's Crosley Field to see his favorite ballclub play.
Those were the days of Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and Joe Nuxhall.
As Calebaugh drives through the states of Virginia and the Carolinas, he may have a smile on his face, thinking about Sunday night when the church had a surprise birthday roast for him, celebrating the many memorable years he's enjoyed on the pulpit in Williamstown.
Calebaugh's actual birthday was Monday. And, oh, yes, he's also expected to retire some time this year.
Before the roast, Calebaugh shared a birthday card with church members and friends that he'd received from parishioners' Linda and Lenny Rabatin.
"On the front," said Calebaugh, chuckling, "it says, 'The Angels must have been smiling when you were born.'
"And, then, inside, it says, 'Because they came back to beat the Tigers on a walk-off, grand slam home run.'"
Later, during the roast, Lenny Rabatin had to ask, "Whoever saw a baseball game played in February?"
Calebaugh, sitting in a rocker next to the podium, grinned and raised his hand.
Rocky Poole was the birthday toast and roast master of ceremonies, and his rapid fire delivery had everyone in stitches.
"Ken, when you do retire and need a friend, call me," Poole said, "and I'll see if I can't find you one."
One of the funnier moments came when Poole's cell phone rang while he was speaking.
"Excuse me, folks, but I've got to take this," Poole said, stepping back.
After a couple of "uh-huh and OKs," Poole disconnected, and pointed to Calebaugh.
"That was Brett Favre, and he says to pick a (retirement) date," Poole said.
Also toasting and roasting Calebaugh were church members' Sam Brookover, Peter Thayer, Sylvia Miles, Rabatin, and Charles Sheaves, who, along with wife Jean, came all the way from Orlando, Fla., for the occasion.
"You know, after I retired and went to Florida to live, I tried to get Ken to come down here and preach," Sheaves said. "But he said he and his family were very happy where they were."
Calebaugh's grandsons' Andrew and Michael Badgley both play basketball for the Williamstown Yellowjackets.
While Calebaugh has the opportunity, now, to visit Florida for the spring training baseball games, home is where the pastor's heart is and always will be: Williamstown.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor and can be reached at 376-5441, or at firstname.lastname@example.org