A longtime Butler County educator walked from Hamilton to a Reds game. But, why?

Editor's note: This column first published on July 28, 2019.

The way the Cincinnati Reds have played at times this season, some fans wouldn’t walk across the street to watch them play if the tickets were free.

Then there’s Tom Alf.

To celebrate his 70th birthday on July 18, Alf and five of his buddies — Jeremy and Julie Rogers, Scott Dennis, Jamie Harrison and Mick Tasso — walked 26 miles from his Hamilton home to Great American Ball Park to watch the Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals.

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They left Alf’s house at 6:30 a.m., walked along Ohio 127/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Pleasant Avenue, Ohio 4, to Vine Street, and arrived at the game at 7:30 p.m., 20 minutes after the first pitch. Alf, a long-time Butler County educator who routinely walks five miles a day, said he averages about 2 1/2 miles per hour. They averaged 3 miles an hour the first six hours and expected to get to the park early, in plenty of time to mingle with the more than 80 family members and friends there to celebrate Alf’s milestone birthday.

But along the way, this story “took some twists and turns,” Alf said with a smile.

Harrison suffered heat exhaustion after 12 miles in the 90-degree heat. The group waited for Harrison’s wife to pick him up and drive him to the stadium.

Then as they walked through Woodlawn, they were caught in a severe thunderstorm. It was time for a beer.

“Just one,” Alf said.

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When Alf and his buddies walked into Springfield Pike Bar and Grill soaking wet, the bartender thought it was odd since it just started raining.

Then she was told the rest of the story.

“You are absolutely crazy,” she told the group.

They were strangers in a neighborhood bar. They sat in the bar, surrounded by regulars who were having beers and burgers for lunch. As each of them walked up to the bar and whispered to the bartender, “Who are those guys?” she sent them over to hear the story first-hand.

That one beer lasted 75 minutes, or as Alf called it, an hour and 15 minute rain delay.

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“We couldn’t get out of there,” Alf said.

After one emergency stop and another to get out of the rain, Alf said it was time for “Plan C or Plan D.” As the group neared GABP, the 26-mile goal met, they tried to get a ride on the city’s bus system, but that failed. Then they called an Uber that never showed, so they caught a ride on the bus.

Eventually, the group was reunited with Harrison and 80 of Alf’s family and friends, many he met during his 50-year educational career.

“It was like a reunion of 50 years,” he said. “I couldn’t have had a better time. I’m just blessed with family and friends. On top of the world.”

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Alf and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters, Sarah and Katie, and two grandchildren. Alf has worked in every Butler County school district and his wife is a retired teacher/principal of the Hamilton City Schools. Sarah and her husband, Robert, are career educators.

Alf said he remembers Bill Moeller, former sports editor of the Hamilton JournalNews, writing about Joe Becker, a Hamilton mailman, who once walked from Hamilton to Crosley Field when he was a Hamilton High School senior. On the anniversary of Becker’s historic walk every year, Moeller mentioned it in his newspaper column.

“As a kid,” Alf said, “that was pretty neat.”

So now, as a senior citizen, Alf has repeated the feat. Is he ready for GABP Walk II, maybe for his 75th birthday?

“There are a lot of fun things in this life,” he said. “Some of those fun things you don’t have to do again. This is one.”

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