by Kody Acevedo
TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s a lot more to Jack Cutlip than just knowing how to help you find your seat at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Cutlip, 76, is working his sixth Spring Training as an usher for the Angels. It’s something the retiree looks forward to every year.
“I love the fans,” he said. “I made a lot of good friends with some of the fans. Some of the players, also.”
He loves the game, too.
It’s not just a job for Cutlip, it’s a lifestyle. The Washington state native was introduced to the game of baseball as 9-year-old when he noticed a ballfield next to the orphanage he and his brother, Rusty, were raised in.
The field happened to be the home of Little League team made up of African-American players. Cutlip was asked to join as the only white player on the team.
“I go into right field. I had no idea what I was doing,” he recalled. “We didn’t have gloves. We didn’t have the money for gloves or anything. First kid gets up to bat and hits it into right field.”
When he had a chance to bat for the first time, Cutlip tripled. It might have been a home run had he known where he was supposed run.
Playing with re-stitched baseball and a bat wrapped in tape with tacks to hold the tape in place, it was at that moment that Cutlip developed an affection for the game that has spanned decades.
“I love (baseball),” he said. “I really do.”
Cutlip went on to play the game through high school and eventually tried out for the Yankees organization. Later, he spent time in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization before joining the Navy in 1960, where he was assigned to the elite SEALs.
When he left the service in 1968, he landed in the Valley and went on to get an education at Arizona State.
But his passion for baseball never faded as he played in adult league games up until 2011. Nowadays, he enjoys mingling with the players and fans just to stay close to baseball.
And he especially enjoys spreading his love for the game to children.
“We work really (well) with the kids,” Cutlip said. “I try to get some baseballs, so when I’m coming back up to stadium I can give them a baseball.”
Fellow usher Donald Nelson has worked with Cutlip for six years. He said Cutlip is always eager to mingle with Angel fans.
“Jack is one of those guys that’s always active, always moving, always talking to the fans,” Nelson said. “He’s just a nice person.”
Usually, Cutlip works at the Angels practice fields before heading to the stadium at game time.
Cutlip said his favorite aspect of the job is watching young players work to accomplish a dream he once had, too.
“You can see a lot of these young kids coming up, and they just can’t wait to try to make the team,” he said. “You can see the enthusiasm they have.”
Despite his age, Cutlip is hoping to get his glove and take the diamond again soon with the Arizona Scorpions in the Men’s Senior Baseball League.
“I’m really looking forward to playing again. I really am,” he said. “I’m going to have to work out again.”
In the meantime, he’ll be happy to help you find that seat.