Fresno State alumnus and former student-athlete Ray O’Canto passed away at age of 60 on Sept. 14.
O’Canto played two seasons with Fresno State baseball, starting in the outfield on the Diamond ‘Dogs in 1980-81. The Bulldogs went 86-34 in those two seasons, won two NCBA championships and made a pair of NCAA tournament appearances. After starring in high school at Redwood High in Visalia, O’Canto moved on to the College of the Sequoias before joining the Bulldogs and becoming an All-NBCA selection as a senior in 1981.
When his time on the baseball diamond ended, O’Canto moved on to a long career in media production and sales. He ran his own advertisement agency, NTD Media, and joined Voice of the Bulldogs Paul Loeffler in the radio booth to call Diamond ‘Dogs games from 2008-13.
His first year in the booth, alongside Loeffler, was quite memorable as Fresno State went all the way to the College World Series in Omaha, capturing the program’s first national championship. It was O’Canto who made the famous call of Steve Detwiler catching the final out of the game as he exclaimed to the Bulldogs to, “Get dirty, baby! Get dirty, get dirty, get dirty!”
“The Red Wave will always remember Ray‘s exuberant spirit. Even as his physical strength left him, his greatest strength – his contagious enthusiasm and his gift for making people feel special – never waned,” said Loeffler. “We saw his Bulldog mentality again as he bravely fought and prayed for more time. Ray will never be forgotten.”
O’Canto also appeared in front of the television screen as he hosted acclaimed shows, “Dine Out Along the Road” and “Beyond the Harvest” that highlighted the foods and history of places around the Central Valley.
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(Story by Travis Blanshan)