Lovullo strolls down memory lane, reminisces on late father and "Hee Haw"

September 28th, 2023

When D-Backs manager was growing up in Los Angeles, he was surrounded by the Hollywood elite. He called R&B legend Barry White, Blues extraordinaire Johnny “Guitar” Watson and actor Telly Savalas neighbors, and often saw Marvin Gaye walking in the neighborhood.

“It was a very special community where I grew up, a tight-knit community,” Lovullo said. “We knew some talented individuals outside of our own household.”

There was also talent in the Lovullo household. Torey’s father, Sam, was an executive producer for "Hee Haw," a TV variety show in Nashville that featured country music and comedy skits. The show ran from 1969-71, and then for 21 years in syndication. For most of those years, Roy Clark and Buck Owens were the hosts, while characters such as Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones and Gordie Tapp did slapstick and the twins, Jon and Jim Hager, sang country songs.

The young Lovullo’s favorite skit was “Pickin’ and Grinnin’,” a segment that featured Owens and Clark playing the guitar and banjo, respectively, and telling jokes in front of the Hee Haw Gang. Who can forget Tapp and Archie Campbell doing their comedic rendition of “PFFT! You Was Gone!,” a song about a woman leaving her husband?

“I would watch it from behind the camera,” Lovullo said. “I would see the energy they all had. It was an upbeat, fun show that got everybody engaged. Everybody was feeling the moment.”

Torey Lovullo's father, Sam, accepts an award in 2007 surrounded by Willie Nelson and the cast of "Hee Haw" | Gus Ruelas, AP

Lovullo said he didn’t know how successful his father was until the fourth grade, when his teacher asked him what he did during the summer. He downplayed it and said he went to Nashville to spend time with his father.

The teacher then asked if Torey saw anyone special in Nashville. He said no, but that he'd seen his father’s friends who were cast members from Hee Haw. The teacher then pulled Torey to the side and said, “I need to let you know your dad has a different job. You are around TV studios. You are around actors. You see them on TV.” Lovullo didn’t deny it. That’s when the light bulb clicked on in his head and he realized that his father was different from most fathers. Before that conversation, Sam was just dad and Torey’s baseball coach.

“Once I recognized it, I realized I was in a very special household where I got to meet some incredible people,” Lovullo said. “I loved the fact that my dad was responsible for putting that show together. He was the glue and the conduit that kept everyone together. He managed people and managed personalities, and he genuinely loved his cast. That’s what I will remember most.”

It was very common for Torey to wake up and have breakfast with Jones and his wife, Ramona, who would also make occasional appearances on Hee Haw. Not only were they talented, but they were also kind people, Lovullo said.

But his closest friend from the show was Roy Clark, who took an active interest in his baseball career. Clark would show up at Lovullo’s games unannounced when he was in the Minor Leagues. No surprise because Clark, himself, was a baseball fan and the co-owner of the Tulsa Drillers, then a Double-A affiliate for the Rangers.

“He was a great human being -- he was close to my siblings and close to me,” Lovullo said. “He passed away in 2018. I will never forget him. He was a special man. He just liked baseball and he loved Minor League Baseball and that’s where I spent a lot of my career. He was always pulling for me.

“He would always ask me what it was like to hit against Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens. He wanted all of the details. He just loved talking baseball.”

While he was busy producing Hee Haw, Sam Lovullo found the time to teach Torey what it was like to be a man. Torey’s eyes welled up when talking about his father. Sam passed away on Jan. 3, 2017, almost two months after Torey was named manager of the D-Backs, who find themselves in the middle of a National League Wild Card hunt, hoping to make the postseason for the first time since 2017.

“I’ll never forget the conversations that I had with my dad, but it’s how he lived his life and did, in my opinion, everything perfectly," Lovullo said. "I miss him every single day. I know he is on this journey with me from a different seat, but he is my hero. Plain and simple.”