State family

Claude Newman, also known as “Big Daddy,” wears a Daviess County softball T-shirt and Owensboro Catholic baseball cap while standing with his grandchildren, from left, Finley Munsey, Millie Roberts, Hattie Newman, Abby Newman and E Munsey on Thursday at the Newman Grain and Cattle Farm, where they’ve spent a lot of time working and playing while growing up. The five grandchildren, all standout athletes, play tournaments Saturday against state-level competition.

Claude Newman has an important decision to make this weekend.

Affectionately known as “Big Daddy,” Newman is the grandfather of Daviess County High School softball stars Abby Newman, Hattie Newman and Millie Roberts, as well as Owensboro Catholic baseball standouts Finley and E Munsey.

The Lady Panthers and Aces both won their respective 3rd Region Tournament titles earlier this week — and, as fate would have it, both teams play again Saturday as they look to continue deep postseason runs.

The only problem? They play in two different places at nearly the same time.

“On the same day — that’s bad. I don’t know who I’m going to make mad,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know which game I’ll go to yet.”

Daviess County will face Louisville Ballard in a KHSAA State Softball Tournament semi-state matchup at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium at 10 a.m. CT, while Owensboro Catholic will square off against Lyon County in a KHSAA State Baseball Tournament semi-state contest at Western Kentucky University at 1 p.m.

Newman hasn’t missed many games over the years, even dating back to when his own children played. His daughters, now Carrie Munsey and Molly Roberts, played softball on playground and travel teams growing up, and they helped Daviess County win a slow-pitch softball state title together in the 1990s. His son, Shack Newman, gravitated toward football as a youngster.

“We love it,” said Claude Newman, 73. “My wife (Anita) loved it, too, before she passed last year. It’s just tradition. It’s embedded in us.”

Finley and E Munsey are the sons of Carrie and Donnie Munsey; Abby and Hattie Newman are the daughters of Shack and Heather Newman; and Millie Roberts is the daughter of Molly and Gavin Roberts.

The family’s love for softball began not longer after Claude’s daughters starting playing, and he soon jumped in to help coach during the summer.

“We went from Idaho to Florida and just about everywhere in between,” recalled Newman, who operates Newman Grain & Cattle Co. in Philpot. “There were no cell phones back then, no Google Maps — we’d get in a caravan and go.

“Seven of those girls who won state for Daviess County played for me for six or seven years. They knew the game, and they were expected to compete.”

As time passed, and Newman’s grandchildren began getting involved in sports, that competitive spirit carried on to the family’s next generation of ballplayers.

“We’ve all been really involved in sports, we all played T-ball together at a really young age,” said Abby Newman, a senior for the Lady Panthers. “We have a really competitive family.

“We always push each other to get better. Even when we were really young, we’d play out at the farm or in the backyard. Competing pushes us.”

Finley Munsey, a senior for Owensboro Catholic, agreed.

“It was always very competitive around here,” said Munsey, whose father Donnie also played baseball at Catholic. “Everyone was always playing some type of game and trying to win. Anyone who won would be happy, and anyone who lost would be mad.”

More so than anything, the eldest Newman simply wants to see his grandchildren succeed. By helping to teach them the benefits of hard work early on, he hoped to instill a solid work ethic for the rest of their lives.

“Work hard and play hard, that’s our philosophy,” he said. “You push them, you expect a lot from them, to try to make them realize how good they are and how good they could be. Then when it finally clicks for them, they work a little bit harder. And they’re all talented, too. They’ve put in the hard work.”

Newman has seen a lot of wins over the years — he’ll likely see more in the future, too — and he’s collected countless clothing items to show his support along the way.

“Carrie buys me every piece of green that comes out,” he said, laughing. “I’ve been going through my closet and found two Daviess County T-shirts that still have the tags on them. I’ve got plenty of stuff to wear. ... I’ve probably got five hoodies with Catholic baseball or football, then I’ve got the All ‘A’ sweatshirt and the district T-shirts. I’ve got it all.”

Of course, with as many games as he attends, there have been a few mistakes along the way.

“The year before last, the girls had a softball game at Daviess County, and then later that day Catholic was playing Daviess County in baseball,” Newman recalled. “(Catholic catcher) Braden Mundy brought me out his Catholic hat and took away the Daviess County hat I was wearing.”

Newman has become a fixture among both programs — even having the Catholic baseball team help plant 70 acres of tobacco on his farm — and he knows how important sports have been for his family.

Abby Newman has signed to play in college for Western Kentucky, Millie Roberts is verbally committed to Auburn, and Finley Munsey has signed with Olney Central.

“Work hard, and you’ll succeed,” Claude Newman said. “If they expect as much out of themselves as I expect out of them, and they work hard, they should succeed. I’ve seen kids that were talented who didn’t work hard, and they go by the wayside. You’ve got to stay competitive and have a winning attitude.”

So far, it’s worked.

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