The first thing to know about Ron “Reno” McGuire is that he doesn’t like to miss games.
He’s been a part of Modesto Junior College athletics for 40 years, the past 22 as the athletic department’s equipment manager. By his estimate, he’s missed two football games in four decades.
Imagine the surprise of school officials when he was hospitalized with pneumonia and could not attend two baseball games this spring. The baseball team especially felt McGuire’s absence, because he’s the Pirates’ public address announcer, official scorer and equipment coordinator. He takes pride in sending the box score to the community college website 15 minutes after the last pitch.
Simply, MJC notices when McGuire, 57, is absent. He’s hard to replace.
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Raised in Grayson, McGuire graduated from Patterson High and arrived at MJC in 1974 as both a student and a volunteer trainer. He carried a daytime job at California Water Labs for many years before he finished each day at MJC. He was a natural to succeed Ralph Bradley, the school’s jack-of-all-trades equipment manager from 1969 until his death in 1991.
Only then did McGuire earn a paycheck from the school he always loved. He married his wife, Carolyn, on a Friday in 1978, worked the MJC football game on Saturday and went on his honeymoon on Sunday.
He’s recovering, though not yet at full strength, from his bout with pneumonia. Still, MJC relies on him. He’s the equipment point man for a 21-sport athletic department and plans for everything from shoulder pads for the football team to attire for the golfers.
McGuire’s headquarters, a dingy office piled from floor to ceiling with uniforms, files and even trophies, looks chaotic and disorganized to a visitor. But to the man in charge, it’s all in order.
What was your first connection to MJC?
I was a senior at Patterson High when MJC coach Gary Ard came to our campus. I thought he was recruiting football players, but he ended up recruiting me. I served as an assistant trainer under Roland Pang, MJC’s first certified trainer. Later on, I took a 50 percent pay cut to work full time for MJC. I never really expected to get that job. I thought Ralph (Bradley) would live forever. I bleed red (for Patterson) and blue (for MJC).
Have you given much thought to the fact that you came to MJC in 1974 and never really left?
I think about that almost every night. About six years ago, I passed out when I was preparing meals for the MJC football’s team annual retreat. I just overheated, but I realized I wasn’t 18 anymore and it reminded me how long I’ve been here.
How did you get the nickname “Reno?”
My siblings gave it to me because I love to gamble in Reno. I could sit in front of a slot machine for six hours and not realize it. I’m proud to say that I usually come home with more money. I’m pretty good at winning. My philosophy is that I don’t care. I water-skied a lot when I was younger, but now gambling is relaxing to me. I like Texas Hold ’em, blackjack and the slots.
Who are the best athletes you’ve seen at MJC?
In football, the best were John Rade (later a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons) and Mark Garcia. Rade was an overachiever. The best in baseball was Ray Lankford (who went on to become an all-star for the St. Louis Cardinals). When he was here, he didn’t even touch his potential. He was that good. The best in track were Tyke Peacock (one of the best high jumpers in the world in the early 1980s) and Dot Jones (better known these days as Coach Shannon Beiste in the TV comedy “Glee”). No one could jump like Tyke. Dot is an awesome person and was a trainer for a while with us and Bob Boswell. She did a lot of games here. Peacock and Lankford probably are the most talented athletes that I’ve seen.
I’m surprised you can find anything in your office. How do you manage?
It’s organized chaos. It’s really crazy during football season. I have to keep everything close to me. You have to love it because you don’t do it for the money. It’s pretty hectic when we’re setting up for the Big 3 – football, basketball or baseball. There’s no vacation from the last week in July through the end of May. But after that, Carolyn and I leave for Reno and go camping.
What are the most rewarding times for you at MJC?
My wife is shocked when people call my name in places like Hawaii or Arizona. People know me from my time at MJC. Our former athletes are all over the place. Football players come back and say, “MJC was the best place to play football.” When they go on to play at a higher level, it’s like legalized slavery. But here, you went to class, enjoyed yourself and played football.
You and Carolyn raised three children and have five grandchildren. What next?
I will retire in four years when I turn 62. I’ve been blessed my whole life here. It is truly a family at MJC. The school didn’t have to train anyone after Ralph Bradley died. I was already trained. I hope I can train someone, too.