New diamond honors local Little League pioneer
Bruce Miller loved youth sports.
He was one of the founders of the Olentangy Little League in 2010. Friends say he worked tirelessly to expand the league and open up new spaces for children to play baseball around the community.
He even devised a baseball league for developmentally disabled players called the Challenger League and was working to get it off the ground in 2012.
Miller died suddenly last November at age 48, but his memory lives on.
A brand-new baseball diamond that opened in Liberty Township last month is dubbed the Bruce Miller Memorial Field. It is part of the new Patriot Park, located just north of Fire Station 321, 7761 N. Liberty Road.
A grand-opening ceremony was held April 27 at the park to honor Miller.
"It's hard to overstate what he meant to the league," said league President Michael Falter. "We're at close to 1,300, 1,400 players, and we owe so much of that success to Bruce."
As the league grew, it was split into three divisions, including the Braves, Patriots and Orange charters, each loosely arranged around the boundaries of the three Olentangy high schools.
The Patriots teams in particular were need of new baseball space, Falter said.
It was Miller who took the initiative to start a partnership with Liberty Township to create the new field.
Olentangy Little League spent about $25,000 to help cover costs for materials and installation of a gravel parking lot with space for 50 cars, as well as a backstop, infield fencing, dugouts and vandalism-proof signs for the park.
The township itself spent roughly $32,000 on the project.
A partnership with the Woodlands Glen Homeowners Association also helped to make the new park a reality. The association and township split the $14,000 cost of installing a split-rail fence to delineate the boundaries of the park from adjacent homes.
About 250 people attended the grand opening of Patriot Park, and several inaugural baseball games were played on the new field after the memorial ceremony.
Falter said Olentangy Little League hopes to add a second baseball diamond to the park in the future. Members also want to push forward on the creation of the Challenger League envisioned by Miller.
In addition to being a league founding father and coach, Miller was known as a master craftsman. He worked as an engineer, and members turned to him for help building storage sheds and other amenities around the league.
Township Administrator Dave Anderson said Patriot Park will need some work in the years ahead to alleviate drainage issues, and an asphalt parking lot may be installed.
"But we wanted to get this field in while the neighborhood kids are young and can use it," he said. "We'll deal with those other issues later."