If any country fans need to pick a favorite team on Major League Baseball's opening day, keep in mind a trivia answer about a certain big league skipper. Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo's dad, Sam Lovullo, was a producer and casting director for Hee Haw from episode one until it came time in 1993 to clear out his office at the Grand Ole Opry complex in Nashville.
The elder Lovullo was among the creative minds behind CBS' The Jonathan Winters Show drawing a larger rural audience by bringing Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Minnie Peal and others on board as special guests.
That decision led to the series Hee Haw, CBS' summer replacement in June 1969 for The Smothers Brothers Show. After getting cancelled by the network during 1971's "rural purge," the series moved to syndication for a lengthy run.
Beyond Hee Haw's nearly 600 episodes, Sam Lovullo worked on spin-off series Hee Haw Honeys and a short-lived, country-themed show with Hee Haw co-executive producer John Aylesworth titled The Nashville Palace.
As for the younger Lovullo, he's a baseball lifer. His playing career spanned from 1988-1999 and included stints with the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. The journeyman second baseman hit 15 career home runs with a .224 avg. and 60 RBIs.
After nine years as a minor league coach for the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox farm systems, Torey returned to MLB as a position coach for the Toronto Blue Jays (2011-2012) and the Red Sox (2013-2016). During his first year as the Red Sox bench coach, the club won the World Series.
Torey served as the Red Sox's interim manager in 2015 while John Farrell underwent hernia surgery. His performance while leading one of the game's top franchises caught the attention of new D-Backs general manager Mike Hazen, who hired Torey on Nov. 4, 2016.
Torey claimed 2017's National League Manager of The Year award plus a playoff berth that season, followed by winning records in 2018 and 2019.
While Sam Lovullo would definitely be a first-ballot selection for the Kornfield Kounty Hall of Fame for bringing a long list of country legends to the small screen, his son Torey's trying to make a name for himself against the Cardinals, Giants, Cubs, Brewers and other historic franchises.
So, the Diamondbacks could be your team, country fans. Being based in Phoenix, where Bobbie Gentry co-owned the NBA's Suns, might sweeten the deal. That is, if you're not already siding with the Gene Autry-founded Los Angeles Angels or the team with ties to thhe late Charley Pride, the Texas Rangers. Or maybe you appreciate the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates for the years they invited some rookie named Garth Brooks to spring training.
This story previously ran on July 20, 2020.