Dicky Martin has mellowed over the years, but that has never stopped him from speaking his mind.
The longtime voice of the Ashland Tomcats is never at a loss for words.
Well, almost never.
Martin was practically speechless after learning he had been named this year’s honoree for the Distinguished Tomcat Award at this week’s 58th annual Ashland Invitational Tournament. He will be honored before the AIT night session opener at 7 p.m. Thursday in James A. Anderson Gymnasium.
“I don’t know if it’s deserved, but it’s quite an honor,” he said. “It’s very humbling. This is probably at the top of the ladder. I’ve grown up a Tomcat.”
Martin had the microphone passed down to him from his father, the late Richard Martin in 1976. He has been doing Tomcat games ever since, covering 36 years and a lot of victories. His broadcasting partner, David “Dirk” Payne, has been with him nearly every step of the way. They are one of the longest-running broadcasting duos in the state.
Martin takes a certain amount of pride in being Ashland’s radio mouthpiece. But he said it also carries responsibility.
“I’m the voice of the Tomcats,” Martin said. “If we’re not playing well or if the other team is not playing well, I’m going to let the listeners know about it. I’m their eyes and ears.”
In Martin’s earlier days, his rants sometimes earned him a spot on the outside. He was once banned from the Boyd County Middle School gymnasium and even some of the Tomcats’ own fans have voiced their displeasure. But they still listen, often wearing headsets while sitting in the stands and watching the game. Controversy has followed him closely, but the fans stay tuned in to hear what he’s got to say about the Tomcats.
“I was taught well, no question,” Martin said. “My dad, I still think he was the best. I learned from him and (UK legend) Cawood Ledford, and I love to listen to (Reds broadcaster) Marty Brennaman. I think he’s the best one living.”
Martin may be patterned after those great broadcasters, but make no mistake, he’s one of a kind.
“I’ve mellowed a lot,” he said. “I’m kind of like a fan in a way, because if a guy misses a holding call or a walking call, whatever the case may be, the fan goes ‘Oooooooh!’ I just get to do it over the air.”
Martin lets his feelings be known about officials and referees and he’s had his share of run-ins with them. But he refuses to be muzzled and continues to tell it like he sees it — even if it is sometimes seen through maroon-colored glasses.
He is an unabashed fan of the Tomcats. But he doesn’t take it easy on them or their coaches if things are going bad.
“I’ve been called into the principal’s office, so to speak, on a couple of occasions,” Martin said. “They’ll say, ‘Why did you say this or why did you say that?’ I’d say, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ They’d say, ‘Kind of watch what you say,’ and that’d be it.”
Martin says his radio partner, who won the Tomcat award last year, was much more deserving than him.
“There’s not too many men in this world that I love more than him, I tell you that,” Martin said. “I really didn’t realize how much I loved the guy until my dad was killed in that automobile accident. When he (Payne) found out about it, he thought it was me. That’s when he had a stroke. One day I lost my father and then I damn near lost Dirk.”
Martin and Payne have a good rapport on the radio and as lead officers in the Ashland Tomcat Booster Club. They do a lot for the community, under the guise of the boosters, that goes unnoticed.
“Dirk is for the kids and he’s been around a little longer than I have,” Martin said. “It would have been neat to do it together, but he deserves his own award. Everybody says, ‘You deserve one, too!’ Maybe, maybe not. When they decided to give it to me, I was still very surprised and very shocked.”
Martin’s broadcasting career has included every state basketball tournament since 1976. He’s been going to the State Tournament since his father took him in 1961 when the Tomcats won their last state championship. Martin was only 7 at the time.
His favorite sport, though, is football. He loves Friday nights at Putnam Stadium.
“I never dreamed I’d be doing this for as long as I’ve done it,” Martin said. “But I love every second of it.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.