After a 35-year absence, Little League Baseball is back in Grove City.
An opening-day celebration is planned Saturday, May 4, at Windsor Park, 4414 Broadway.
"It's a dream to restore Little League," said Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage."
Grove City first had a Little League charter from 1950 to 1978. During that time, Stage said he played one year as a second baseman, coached another two years and served on the board of directors. Stage said he remembers the camaraderie and pride of the players and coaches.
"All of that was a great memory," he said.
Grove City Little League will be run by the Grove City Parks and Recreation Division and an all-volunteer board of directors.
"We've been operating youth baseball," said Parks and Recreation Director Kim Conrad. "We're now chartered through Little League. ... We're just excited to be able to offer quality baseball to the community."
Among the board members is Larry Thomas, who like most members is a lifelong Grove City resident who played Little League himself when it was first in the community.
"Our goal and my goal is to raise the level of the abilities of the kids," he said. "I believe these kids have a better chance of developing under the Little League banner."
Thomas devoted his career to baseball. In addition to playing college ball and spending some time in the minor leagues, he worked for the Boston Red Sox as a scout for more than 30 years. Today, he teaches hitting in Grove City. That journey began in 1950 when Thomas threw out the opening pitch of the very first Grove City Little League game.
"I was the very first pitcher," Thomas said. "I made a career out of baseball, and I felt Little League contributed to that."
Board treasurer Jack Widner said Little League needed to be brought back for the community's 11- and 12-year-olds. He was Little League shortstop as a child back in the '50s. He also coached for four years.
"We were on the first diamond built in Grove City," Widner said. "Now, we've got a beautiful complex with 11 fields."
Little League, Widner said, brings a certain prestige, and it gives teams a chance to advance on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
"I'd love to see a team from Grove City go to the World Series," he said. "It's my dream."
The board is also spearheading a fundraising effort to bring a "Dream Field" to Windsor Park -- a baseball ball diamond specially designed for children with disabilities. The only other such field in central Ohio is in Dublin, said city Community/Business Relations Officer Don Walters, who is also on the board.
There's no bid yet on the field, but cost estimates ranges $250,000 to $350,000 for the field.
A special fundraiser kickoff dinner is scheduled for May 3, at Eagle Pavilion at Fryer Park, but Walters said the event is already sold out. Widner said a number of local businesses, organizations and residents have already pledged money for the field.
"We're a bunch of old players, but we got a lot done," Widner said. "It's amazing how generous the people of Grove City have been."
Thomas said baseball offers positive life lessons for the youth who play.
"I feel baseball, as well as any sport that's played, teaches kids values that can help them go on in life," Thomas said. "It's not necessarily about winning and losing. It's the dedication, the focus. You're involved with other, and I feel it teaches kids how to be better leaders."
For more information about Grove City Little League, visit gclittleleague.com or call 614-277-3050.