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Not Just Another Town

Story ID:5266
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Greenfield Ohio USA
Year:2009
Person:Greenfield
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Not Just Another Town

Not Just Another Town

I read story in the news back in May that caught my attention. It was about little league baseball
in Greenfield, Ohio.

The story signified spirit and community.
It's the type of story I love, so I looked up
Fred Everhart on the internet, got his number,
and waited until the end of the season to give him a call and find out how things went.

This is the story


Not Just another Town


Fred Everhart read the mail and felt sick. What would the kids do? Fred, head of
the recreation commission, experienced what many American towns and committees felt
– loss of funds.

Greenfield, Ohio, population 5000, just another town reliant on the auto industry.
Five hundred jobs (70% of the town’s industrial employment) would be gone by October
2009. In Willington, the nearest town, DHL Express announced it was pulling out,
leaving another 8,000 employees without work. Due to the economic downturn,
Greenfield lost fifty percent of the money budgeted to run the city.

The economy didn’t factor in people like Fred Everhart. In January, 2009, Fred
called a meeting. Twenty-five to thirty angry parents showed up. The anger and
frustration prevented productivity. The parents understood their own hardship, but how
could a city face the same?

Fred, not to be beaten, called a second meeting. Nine people attended – The Gang
of Nine. Together, they convinced the town to give them $5,000.00 of the $20,000.00
budgeted for little league baseball.

Greenfield had only one ballpark, which it could no longer afford to maintain.
The “Gang of Nine” convinced the city to give the park to them. Fred posted an
advertisement in the local paper a few weeks before opening day – Memorial Day –
volunteers needed.

On that Saturday morning, Fred arrived at 9 A.M. Only two others waited. They
looked out over the field. A small breeze picked up a piece of paper and sent it tumbling
over the barren field. The grass was uncut. Holes surrounded the bases, dug into the
dirt by last season’s players. Water rimmed home plate.

Fred looked at his two companions, “Looks like it’s just us.” He surveyed the
field. “Where’s the flag?” He frowned, “For that matter, where’s the flag pole?”

“It blew down five years ago.” One of his companions said. “They couldn’t afford
to replace it.”

“No matter,” Fred said, “Let’s get to work.”

They pulled their mowers, shovels, and rakes from their trucks and began to work.
At 9:30 A.M. another truck pulled into the parking lot. Behind it, trailing dust, were more
cars and trucks. They soon had fifty to sixty men, women and children working. The
small army mowed the grass, painted dugouts, patched the fields and mended fences.

A local newspaper picked up their efforts and printed a story. The “Gang of
Nine’s” efforts symbolized the strength of community and was picked up by national
media. Fred was overwhelmed with emails, letters, and donations from around the
country. They came from Hawaii to Vermont. One lady called from Illinois. She’d
lived through the depression and knew what it was like to go without. She didn’t
want the kids to do the same. A few days later, Fred received a check for $500.00
from her.

Baseballs arrived. Twenty-four dozen came in one delivery from New Orleans.
Donations of equipment arrived from individuals and little leagues in Pennsylvania and
Illinois.

The league was featured on “Good Morning America”. They received more
equipment from the major baseball leagues, and the Cincinnati Reds invited the entire
Greenfield league to see a game at “Great American Ballpark” in Cincinnati.

Fred wasn’t done. He spoke to members of the “Concerned Veterans of
Greenfield”. Their bylaws prohibited them donating money, but they donated a flagpole
and a flag.

Fred spoke to a stone mason, Jay Hardy, owner of Hardy Memorials. Fred
wanted to do something in return to the veterans. Jay agreed to donate his work to
those who fought then and now. Fred expected a small plaque, but one morning, Jay
pulled into the parking lot with a section of marble three feet, by two feet, by two inches.
The flagpole and monument where mounted in cement.

The league made concessions: only one new baseball per game; the scoreboard
and lights remained dark; and restrooms were locked, replaced with portable toilets.

Four hundred and fifty children, ages five through sixteen, signed up to
complete forty-seven teams. On opening day, Fred and his gang surveyed the field
once again. Fred remembers one thing – sounds. He listened to the laughter of children,
the crack of bats against balls, and above it all, the snapping of the flag blowing in the
wind.

A call for silence - the national anthem played and the plaque was dedicated to the
veterans.

“Play ball!” The umpire yelled.

The season was on.

On July 3, 2009, the last game was played. The last ball was struck. The last game
of the season came to an end. The players, parents, coaches, and umpires left the field.
The last breath of wind rolled a hotdog wrapper over the infield. The sun dropped below
the horizon. The light of day faded. The stars and stripes gave a final wave in the dying
wind. It hung limp against the pole – vigilant – waiting for another season. One could
imagine the sound of a bugler playing, signaling the end of the day, the end of a season.

The economy caused problems around the globe, but in Greenfield, it was
beaten – Greenfield, not just another town.

Michael T. Smith