Pitman: 21-mile walk inspired by an educator and a lefthander

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided

A near-marathon walk inspired by the late Tom Alf will get a second wind ― well, at this point, it’s probably a third or fourth wind.

Ben Otto and Eric Judd, friends and longtime supporters of The Nuxhall Foundation, have separately walked to raise funds for the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields, Otto in 2021 and Judd in 2022. This year, together on Sept. 18, they will again make the very, very, very, very long walk to downtown Cincinnati from Fairfield.

Since it’s now a tradition, it’s officially known as the Miracle Walk, which will honor the late Joe Nuxhall, a former Reds pitcher and announcer known by many as the Ole Lefthander, and his legacy represented by the Miracle League Field.

“I remember hearing about Tom’s walk and thinking how cool it was that he was doing it,” said Otto, referring to Alf’s July 2019 26-mile walk (he started in Hamilton) to mark his 70th birthday. “Although I never got to meet Tom, I wanted to honor his life of service and commitment to our community by adding a fundraising component to the challenge.”

Tom Alf, a Butler County educator for more than half his life, died in November 2019.

In 2021, Otto made his trek from Hamilton to Greater American Ball Park in Cincinnati, but it was a little closer than Alf’s walk. Just 21 miles. But that generated $12,000 in donations, though he had a goal of $1,000. All of it was donated to Nuxhall’s memory to the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields.

Otto was injured for the 2022 walk, so Judd stepped up, walked in his place, and raised another $3,000.

Together, their goal this year is to raise $15,000 for the Nuxhall Foundation’s Miracle League Fields, where they’ll start their journey, which should take 10 to 11 hours, give or take any weather delays. From Fairfield, they’ll make their way through Mount Healthy and North College Hill before walking through the Cincinnati neighborhoods of Northside and Over-the-Rhine on their way to Great American Ballpark.

Judd said he believes this walk is a “minor” contribution.

Someone needs to remind him there’s nothing minor about a 21-mile walk.

But all joking aside and to his point, Judd does hope this walk will ― which includes first-time Miracle Walkers Jared Baker and Tyler Parker ― motivate others to do something small to help the Nuxhall fields “in a big way.”

“The walk is small compared to what the special needs families at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields do on a daily basis,” Judd said. “We are donating 12 to 14 hours of our time, and hope to make a big impact. Giving your time like we are, that’s something anyone can do to make this organization and our community better.”

It may not be a “one small step for man” moon-walk moment, but if Otto, Judd, and others can influence others, it has the potential to be a giant leap for the Miracle League Fields.

Judd and Otto will use a GoFundMe page to raise funds for The Nuxhall Foundation. Supporters can learn more about the Miracle Walk by visiting the website nuxhallmiracleleague.org/walk, and any business or organization wanting to sponsor the walk can reach out to Nuxhall Foundation Executive Director Tyler Bradshaw at tyler@nuxhallmiracleleague.org.

“What Ben and Eric are doing is just jaw-dropping,” said Kim Nuxhall, president and board chairman of The Nuxhall Foundation. “We love the generosity of our team of donors, but we especially appreciate their ingenuity and creativity. This is about as creative as it gets.”

While Nuxhall will see Otto and Judd, as well as Baker and Parker, off, he’ll only be walking with them as far as his truck. He’ll drive down to the Cincinnati ballpark later in the day.

Though the finish line is Great American Ballpark, they’ll have to do a little more walking. Judd and Otto will be introduced on the field and place the game ball on the mound to finalize the journey.

Then, after that final act, Otto and Judd, with their first-time walking friends Baker and Parker, will kick back and enjoy what we all hope is a Reds win over the Minnesota Twins.

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