Greg Wahl, a University of Cincinnati alumnus and former pitcher, now owns and operates an alpaca farm and store near New Richmond, Ohio. photos/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services





Former University of Cincinnati pitcher Greg Wahl used to throw a hard-to-hit curveball. Now he is a farmer shooting straight with a small business developing soft alpaca fleece.



By Ethan Rudd

Photos by Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Oct. 10, 2017


Before he became a business owner and an alpaca farmer, Greg Wahl was a potential big-league baseball prospect. Wahl was only 17 years old and in high school when he was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1972. Instead of pursuing his dream, his parents insisted he stay close to home and go to college.

“I’m 63 years old, and I’m still mad at my parents,” he says during a crisp October evening on his farm in New Richmond, Ohio.

He still wonders what he may have missed by passing on the opportunity to enter the Yankees’ system where he could have developed his pitches with professional coaches and players. Instead, Wahl — who was an only child — stayed in town in accordance with his parents’ wishes to play at the University of Cincinnati. He turned down over a dozen other scholarship offers to play for the Bearcats, a team that had a fledgling program at the time.

The Bearcats, however, never had a losing record during Wahl’s tenure at UC between 1972-75. In fact, the team won 94 games over that span of time and made the NCAA tournament. Local talent made up a lot of the roster — many of the players had grown up in Cincinnati facing each other on high school and club teams.

Wahl rose through Cincinnati’s club baseball programs. “I think one summer I was 26-0,” he says. “I had a damn curveball that nobody could hit.” He even pitched in club baseball’s final game of the national championship series in 1971 in Texas and helped his team win the game.



Wahl recalls pitching for the Bearcats to the tune of an 8-3 record during his senior year at UC. By the time he finished his collegiate career he had left a mark on the UC program. He still ranks 11th all-time in program history in career starts (32) and 10th in complete games pitched (12).

Still, Wahl admits, everything wasn’t perfect. “Out of all this glory talk about baseball, I had a freaking attitude,” he recalls. Maybe that was why no professional teams contacted him after he graduated, despite the fact that he had been drafted out of high school. “They tell you in the big leagues to forget your emotions if you don’t like a call on a certain pitch from an umpire,” Wahl says. “I had a lot of umpires who didn’t like me because I’d show my disgust and emotion. I didn’t throw a tantrum or charge the umpire off the mound, but I let them know how I felt.”

Walt Sweeney — a fellow business owner who operates a successful car dealership in Cincinnati — distinctly remembers playing with Wahl at UC. From his position at second base, he stood behind Wahl over the course of many games.

“He was very composed,” says Sweeney, referring to his pitcher. “Greg didn’t throw the ball extremely hard, but he had a lot of control, and he could change the speeds of his pitches very well.” Sweeney adds that Wahl had a competitive attitude, but did not think it was detrimental.

“Greg was a strong pitcher. He was one of our better ones,” says former teammate and pickle factory operator Rick Linz. Linz, however, recalls seeing a bit of change in Wahl’s composure on the mound at times. “When things are going good it’s happy-go-lucky but if something went wrong — an error or something — it would upset him, but I thought he did a hell of a job for us.”  

Ultimately, Wahl’s baseball career ended after his final year at UC. “I was incredibly disappointed not hearing from anybody [pro teams] at the end of my senior year, and to be quite frank, I took my baseball cleats off and put them on a nail and never touched them again,” Wahl says. “I was just that disappointed because I knew in my heart I had not taken advantage of the opportunities that were given to me.” Wahl pauses, choosing his words carefully: “I don’t know if I was more disappointed in the scouts or more disappointed in myself. I still think about it today.”


A group of alpacas wander about a field.


Life as an alpaca farmer

On his farm, Wahl reclines in a chair on his porch. When he speaks of the old baseball days, he seems measured, thoughtful and contemplative. Paint splatter covers the old pullover he wears. The walnut trees in his backyard have dropped their leaves and nuts, but leaves still cling to the ancient-looking silver maple to the side of his red barn. The farm has been in his family for 135 years; the hay barn’s main high beam was the keel of Wahl’s ancestor’s river barge. For many years Wahl’s family raised cattle, tobacco or hay on the farm; the conversion of the farm to a place for alpacas came more recently.

Around 10 years ago Wahl’s mother — who lived alone on the farm at the time — received a letter from the county auditor’s office that said the property was being rezoned as a residential property because there was no current agricultural activity. The property tax would soar because of the rezoning, and the Wahls didn’t know what to do.

“A day later — I’m not kidding — my father-in-law called from Michigan and told my wife he had bought an alpaca,” Wahl says.

It didn’t take long before Wahl started researching alpacas; he visited the farm in Michigan that his father-in-law’s alpaca came from, and eventually bought five alpacas. Lori, Wahl’s wife, said it only took a few months to make the decision to get alpacas. The old Wahl farm became the New Richmond Alpaca Farm, and the county auditor’s office dropped their pursuit of rezoning. Transitioning into an alpaca farm was not easy though. Alpacas can’t graze in clover and alfalfa fields, so Wahl had to transform his pastures. “We had a minor earthquake that day,” Wahl jokes. “It was dad rolling over in his grave when I put that first spray on to kill his pastures.”



Today, more than 30 alpacas mill around the gentle hills of the New Richmond farm grazing, chewing their cud and sunning themselves. Occasionally, an alpaca rolls in a wallow stirring up a fluffy whirlwind of dust and kicking legs. “All they really do is chill all day long,” Wahl says, laughing.

“For me personally, the only thing I don’t like about the alpaca is their personality.” He compares them to cats: They don’t always respond to people and can be a little solitary. “When they want attention, they’re hanging out by you, and when they don’t, they’re gone,” his wife  says. But alpacas are docile; they do not bite, nip or spit like a llama. In fact, llamas are used as guard animals for alpaca herds sometimes, because they are more aggressive.

Wahl stays busy on his farm — plus he flips a couple of houses a year, too. “He is extremely busy. He’s always got something going on. He’s the biggest workaholic I’ve ever met,” says his adult son Joey, who won a baseball national championship at UC Clermont as a pitcher. “That guy, he’s going to work until the day he dies, which is sad because you’d think he’d go ahead and ride off into the sunset.”


A group of alpacas graze in front of a hay field.
Wahl approaches two alpacas in a field.

Instead, Wahl and his wife maintain the herd and operate a store on his farm that is filled with scarves, sweaters, socks, hats and stuffed animals made from alpaca fleece. “I just think he’s a hard worker and I think he likes working for himself, knowing he can make or break his own success,” wife Lori says.

The alpacas are sheared once a year; a single animal can produce anywhere from five to 10 pounds of fleece. Some of that fleece goes to a local fiber mill where it is made into roving and yarn; that yarn is then sold or distributed to local knitters who create products for the Wahls to sell. The balance of fleece is sent to an international fiber co-op where it is manufactured into alpaca products which can be purchased back by the Wahls for resale. 

Additionally, the Wahls travel to alpaca shows in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee to network within the industry. “Getting a first place in the show ring shows the quality of your animals where someone might want to buy an animal to be bred because it’s all about improving the quality of the fiber. The density, the fineness, the softness — that’s what makes the beautiful yarn in the clothing industry,” Lori says. The Wahls are constantly trying to improve the quality of their herd and products by using feed supplements and selectively breeding their alpacas. “I really do like our business plan and the opportunity to generate income,” Wahl says.  



Reflecting through the years, Wahl transitions from baseball to farm stories with ease.  He is relaxed and easygoing. He laughs at his own expense — he says people who cut his hair say he has more hair growing out of his ears than on his head now. “As much as I complain about being the only child, if I could look back, I would tell you I’m really happy with the decisions I’ve made. I would not change anything. I’m really happy and content with everything,” Wahl says.

That old attitude he described in his baseball days is not readily apparent now. “That must have been a younger Greg. I don’t know that side of him,” Lori says. “The Greg I know is very patient, understanding, calm, reserved.” Now, it seems that Wahl has channeled his attitude into operating his own business. “I took my competitiveness off the baseball field, and I made it part of my life in other areas,” Wahl says.