Where Are You Now – Dennis ‘Dink’ Blatt
Located in upstate New York, Syracuse University is buried under some pretty deep snow by this time of year. It has earned its reputation as one of the snowiest areas in the country with an average annual snowfall of 124 inches. I can relate to this number. Spending 25 years along the shores of Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, you get used to not seeing the grass for several long months.
But I bet your Syracuse memories trend more toward the Mountaineers playing Syracuse in the Big East. Possibly you recall rowdy WVU fans belting oranges at Syracuse football players as a clear signal of the intense rivalry. In short, WVU fans don’t like Syracuse.
But you know what? There is a lot to brag about if you are a Syracuse fan. Did you know they have the biggest snow plow in the country on their campus? They need it. All kidding aside, here are some bragging rights Syracuse owns. President Biden is an alumnus of the Syracuse University College of Law, and the Carrier dome, home to the Syracuse basketball, football and lacrosse teams, is the biggest domed stadium on any college campus. And of course there is Jim Boeheim, Syracuse’s much loved men’s basketball coach. And there is one more important fact that has more of a hometown importance. Paden City’s own Dink Blatt was recruited to play football for the Orange and offered a full ride Division I scholarship. Now that is something to cheer about and is worth some bragging rights, too!
Dink Blatt was born in New Martinsville, WV in 1953. Dink grew up on Paden Fork Road, just two miles outside of Paden City, WV. Except for the 4 years that he attended Syracuse University, Dink has lived in our area making homes in Paden City, Marietta and Williamstown.
Dink and I had an enjoyable visit by phone a couple weeks ago, and I was able to ask him some questions about what it was like growing up in Paden City. We also reminisced about his high school and college sports careers. I think you will enjoy reading his perspective on what it means to have roots in our valley and the things he values most in life.
Dink has fond memories from his childhood years in Paden City. “As a kid growing up I enjoyed outside activities such as playing tag, running, pick-up games of baseball, football and basketball and hide and go seek to mention a few,” Dink recalled. For as long as he can remember Dink has been interested in sports and enjoyed playing on both youth baseball and basketball teams as a youngster starting around the age of ten. Many of Dink’s earliest memories revolve around throwing and catching some kind of ball with his older brother, Bob. Dink was a popular kid and made friends easily, but when you come from a big family there isn’t always time or the need for play dates. Dink explained, “I was friends with everyone, but growing up with 8 siblings and many cousins, I had an abundance of family friends.”
Like many kids of his generation, Dink says his earliest heroes were his dad and mom. Dink is the son of the late Bob and Carolyn Blatt. Even when Dink was young he was able to appreciate their love for each other and their strong work ethic. “My parents showed me that if I was willing to work hard, anything was possible,” Dink fondly recalled.
Upon arriving at Paden City High School, after attending St. Vincent de Paul Grade School in New Martinsville for grades 5-8, Dink was immediately and strongly influenced by Coach Henry Healy. Dink explained the high regard he holds for his high school coach, “He was the ultimate Paden City Wildcat. Coach Healy was a natural leader, loyal, tenacious and caring.”
Some of the best memories Dink holds of his days as a Paden City Wildcat are pure simple pleasures that become more valuable as the years become more numerous. Probably one of his favorites was just wearing the green and white Paden City uniform. Another was being able to play beside friends that you knew always had your back. And a remembrance that will ring home for many Paden City fans was hearing the Wildcat Band play before the opening kick-off.
Injuries can serve as a frustrating reminder to athletes that no matter how strong you think you are, you are not invincible. For Dink an injury delivered him one of the lowest points of his athletic career as a junior in high school; Dink took a direct hit to his left thigh and the result was a painful calcium deposit that took him out of action. “It hurt no longer being an active member of the team. I worked harder in the weight room to become stronger,” recalled Dink.
A treasured memory from his high school years that stands out for Dink is being able to play on the same team as his brother, Bob. Playing on the same team gave them both the opportunity to learn the value of hard work and sticking with a project until it is done right. Those moments might seem small to some, but it is this work ethic and stick-to-itiveness that have contributed to the overall success of both men.
Well known Wildcat Coach Bob Burton relayed a memory of the time Paden City was in a hard fought game against St. Marys. At the end of the first half, the Blue Devils were leading the Wildcats by 3 scores on touchdowns runs of 80, 70 and 65 yards. At halftime, Coach Hen Healy told the Paden City team they were only going to run one play the entire second half with Dink getting the ball every time. “Paden City eventually lost the game 26 to 20, but Dink definitely put on a show to remember,” revealed Coach Burton.
Dink graduated from Paden City High School in 1971 after a very successful high school career. During his senior year he served as senior class president and was a member of student council.
Dink was also a member of the national honor society. By far the highlight of his senior year was winning the Class A WV State Football Championship, especially after losing the championship game to Monongah during both his sophomore and junior years. Other accolades awarded to Dink were: 1970 first team All-State, first team OVAC in football and honorable mention Prep All American in 1970. In 1968 and 1969 Paden City finished as state runner up in football, and Dink made All-State honorable mention in both years.
After high school graduation Dink was off to New York playing for the Orange of Syracuse University on an athletic scholarship. In 1971 when Dink played for Syracuse, freshmen were not eligible for varsity. He played on the SU freshman team and then began a three year stint playing for the varsity. “I lettered 3 years on the varsity football team. I was the only member of my freshman class to make the traveling team for all road games,” recalled Dink. After an average freshman football season at Syracuse University, Dink became especially happy to be the starting full back in the second game of his sophomore year when playing Michigan State. Another highlight he will always remember was scoring 2 touchdowns in a game against WVU.
Dink explained how he and some of his teammates from college have remained friends through the years. “I still keep in touch with many of my SU teammates. Three of my former teammates are especially close: Rick Schmidt, Tom Spoth and, our captain, Bob Petchel. We have traveled, sometimes with our wives, to South Africa, Hawaii and Alaska,” said Dink. He has always been impressed by the strong bonds formed when playing sports. It is a wonderful way of making lifelong friendships.
Coach Burton also shared a little bit of Syracuse and WVU trivia. Paden City holds an honor given to the high school by two of its former standout football stars that still stands today. Coach Burton was not sure if the year was 1973 or 1974, but the memorable game he referenced was when Syracuse played WVU at Old Mountaineer field in Morgantown. Coach Burton went on to explain how Dink and Mike Nelson gave the Paden City community quite an honor. The starting full back for Syracuse was Dink Blatt and the starting fullback for WVU was Mike Nelson, another stand out football player at Paden City High School. Coach Burton believes that this event was the first and only time two West Virginia high school graduates from the same high school played against each other at the Division 1 level.
Dink graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Management with a bachelor’s degree in 1975. Since the initial bachelors’ degree, Dink has earned a Bachelor’s degree in education from West Liberty State College, a Master’s degree from WVU and a Doctor of Education degree from WVU.
Dink Blatt has had a long and successful career for 43 years in the field of education. He has served as a coach, social studies teacher, assistant middle school principal, high school assistant principal, high school principal, Career Center director and Career Center superintendent.
Today you can find him living in Williamstown, WV with his loving wife of 45 years, Barbara Blatt. They are the proud parents of three adult children: Natalie Mason, Valerie Gibbons and Amber Gray.
In closing some may think it’s corny to talk about love as a motivating factor in football, but something Dink said to me during our conversation really hit home. Coming from a small town like Paden City where high school sports dictate the activities of the community for the weekend, you get pretty sentimental when remembering the Friday nights spent under the lights playing for your high school team. In the words of Dink Blatt while thinking of his hometown team and his community, “There’s nothing better than being a part of winning a state championship for the greatest fans ever.”