BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — When Maumee’s Roby Fairchild closed out his senior bowling season at the district tournament on February 29, he may have wrapped up an impressive high school sports career as well.
Though he was due to play his first full varsity baseball season for the Panthers, the spring season suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic has put those plans in jeopardy.
As a bowler, Fairchild was a two-time individual district qualifier who helped Maumee to an overall record of 23-17 (22-8 over his first three seasons), the Panthers’ first OHSAA-sanctioned Northern Lakes League bowling title and two third-place conference finishes.
“I always loved going over to Timbers to bowl,” Fairchild said. “My grandpa, Gene Buckland started me out with the basics, but (Timbers Bowling Lanes owner and former Maumee bowling coach) Marty Teifke got me going on the more sophisticated elements of bowling.”
He rolled a 175 at his freshman NLL tournament and posted a 176 that year at sectionals.
As a sophomore, Fairchild managed the fourth-highest average in the conference at 204 and totaled a three-game series of 446 at the sectional tournament.
His junior season saw him roll a 524 at the NLL tournament, a 523 at sectionals and a 582 at districts. Fairchild’s high game that year was a 257 and his 205.87 average was the best in the league.
While this year’s team had its share of bad luck by dropping four of the five closest NLL matches of the season by a total of just 65 pins, Fairchild saw many individual improvements.
He set personal league bests with a 257 game and a 206 average and totaled 582 to place 11th at sectionals and qualify for districts for his second time.
“I would say he’s a ‘leads by example’ kind of team captain,” said Maumee bowling coach Brian Zattau. “He’s not a loud, in-your-face kind of leader. He’s steady, consistent and confident – but not cocky.
“He’s had the highest average on the team the past two years and still asked for more coaching than any other bowler on the team. Some athletes are hesitant to ask for help because they may be perceived as less able. Roby recognizes that learning from those that know more than you is simply how you get better. That’s what really sets him apart.”
During the same season Fairchild was leading the Panthers bowling squad, he was also setting records as a goaltender on Maumee’s hockey team.
He’s been a fan of the game for nearly his entire life.
“All I can remember is my Grandpa Gene taking me to the Toledo Storm games at the old Sports Arena and being one of the only kids in the crowd whose eyes never left the action,” Fairchild said. “I also remember my dad playing some of the old NHL games on PlayStation, which really was cool to watch as a kid.”
He first began skating when he was 3 years old and was already playing competitively by age 5. He didn’t start his path as a goalie for another two years.
With the Panthers not being able to field a hockey team during Fairchild’s freshman year, he played for coach Ed Kretz’ Springfield club squad.
The team was similar to Maumee’s squads over the next three seasons, with many players being new to the game and a low number of skaters on the roster.
Fairchild’s sophomore team housed the most talent of his tenure, as the squad went 5-15 under then coach Joe Linnenkugel. For his part, Fairchild posted 530 saves.
The Panthers next went 3-12-2 during Fairchild’s junior campaign, when he increased his save total to 800 under new coach Devin Crosser.
This year’s team featured just six returning players, a fact that led to a 2-19 mark.
The increased pressure by Maumee’s opponents led to Fairchild racking up a staggering 1,287 saves – an Ohio record for the most stops in a single season.
“It was kind of interesting because a lot of the teams that I faced had a lot of my former teammates from travel hockey,” Fairchild said. “I usually just try to keep my cool and focus on what I have to do. If my mentality is focused on what I have to do in a game, then expect a big performance.”
That mentality led to a 112-save game against Whitmer on February 14, giving him the No. 3 spot for most saves in a single Ohio season. He also holds position Nos. 4, 6 and 7 in the same category.
“Roby has meant a lot to this Maumee hockey program in many ways,” Crosser said. “He has grown into a leader over the past couple of years and really played a huge role in helping the first and second-year players in their development, along with providing a strong crutch during this rebuild.”
After receiving honorable mention from the Northwest Hockey Conference, he earned second-team honors as a senior. He finished his high school career with 2,617 saves – an average of just over 872 a season.
“Roby is a very hard worker on and off the ice and his determination is something you don’t see come around very often,” Crosser said. “He is truly a unique talent and blends that with character, a sense of humor and leadership. Roby has sure made his mark on Maumee High School and its hockey program, and will forever have his name etched in both Ohio and Maumee hockey history.
“He is nothing short of a pleasure to coach and be around. Roby has touched my life in a special way and I know the same can be said from so many others throughout his journey at Maumee.
“He will be missed tremendously by myself and all his coaches and teammates. We are extremely grateful we got the chance to call him our goalie.”
Fairchild began playing baseball in Maumee Little League when he was 6 years old, and went on to play travel ball for the Panthers before transitioning to Dream Park Baseball as a catcher and outfielder.
“I got into it because a lot of kids in school were playing and also because my grandpa used to take me to a few Mud Hens games when I was young,” Fairchild said.
He began his high school career on Maumee’s freshman team and played on coach Buzz Rothenbuhler’s junior varsity team the past two seasons.
“Coach Rothenbuhler is a nice guy who really cares about his players and the game itself,” Fairchild said. “He taught me to just have fun and always keep my head if I was in a tough situation.”
Fairchild got a taste of varsity action last spring and said he had been looking forward to this year before the season postponement.
“With what is happening, I am not sure if there will be a senior season or not,” he said, “but I am still hoping to play with a lot of the kids I have been playing baseball with pretty much my entire life and to move far in the state tournament – just like the team did back in 2017.”
Roby is the son of Rob and Michelle Fairchild.
“The Fairchilds are an amazing family,” Crosser said. “They are extremely supportive, would give you the shirt off their backs and are a big factor in who Roby is as a person. I can’t thank Roby and his family enough for their impact and loyalty to Maumee. The Fairchilds are a true Maumee family and take a lot of pride in this school.”
He currently carries a 3.07 GPA and has also been involved in MHS Link Crew for two years, as well as the Maumee Rotary Strive Club.
When asked if it was difficult to keep his grades up while being involved in four sports, as well as his other extracurricular activities, Fairchild said, “Not at all.”
“My parents really encouraged me to become successful in the classroom,” he continued. “They have urged me to be smart with the choices I make regarding studying. Playing all those sports kind of relieved that stress and eventually helped me succeed in the classroom.”
Fairchild is tentatively planning to attend either Bowling Green State University or The University of Toledo upon graduation this spring.
“Right now, there are a few possibilities of what I could be doing at the next level,” he said. “I am more focused on hockey right now. I have been invited to the BGSU club team prospect skate in a month or two, as well as the UT prospect skate. If neither of those happen, I will end up going to BGSU and trying out for their bowling team.
“I hope to major in sports management at BGSU, but if I play hockey at UT I will study business. I would love to work for a professional sports organization like the Walleye or the Mud Hens, but working at any pro organization would be my dream.”
Fairchild pegged both his parents and his grandfather as the biggest influences on his life thus far.
“They all have been supporting not just my athletics, but also what I have wanted to become,” he said. “They inspire me to become a better person and to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I want to thank them for being there for me and tell them that I couldn’t have accomplished all of this without them.”