On Saturday, April 12th, 2003 ball players – boys and girls – between the ages of 5 and 18 took to the field on Mason Drive to celebrate Elmhurst Little League’s 50th year. Opening day ceremonies began with a prayer. Introduced by Pat Lee, 2003 President of Elmhurst Little League, was this years’ Board of Directors, as well as, 50th Anniversary Honorees. These men who were honored were instrumental in the building of Mason Park: Ralph Kiester, Marvin McCoart (Team Manager), Ron Janson (Team Manager and League President 1984 & 1985), Bob Dick (League President 1970 & 1971), not present were Galen Dettmer (Team Manager), Larry Rice. Coaches and Players from the 1954 Elmhurst Little League included: Jack Hornberger (Coach-Indland Oil Team), Tom Kinder (Player-Indland Oil Team), and James Springer (Player-Indland Oil Team).
It was on Memorial Day in 1953 that a group of men from Elmhurst Civic Association gathered to start a playground. Originally it was an old farmyard owned by Wayne Township Schools used as a dumping ground for leaves, located on Hayden Road (now Ardmore Avenue- next to Elmhurst High School). After the dedication of Steve Willits Memorial Ball Park, Earl Bolyard urged the making of a Little League. The league credits Wendell Anglin, Dwight Willits, O. F. Shallenberger, and E. H. Wolf for forming the first 4 ball teams that played on the ‘old’ Elmhurst Little League Diamond. It is reported that 55-60 boys between the ages of 9 and 12 took to the baseball diamond that year. These teams included: Indland Oil (Coach-Jim Bolyard), Spacemaker Homes (Coach-Don Buffenbarger), May Sand & France Stone (Coach-Ken Pearson and Don Waldrop), and Waynedale Lions (Coach-Victor McCoy). Their backstop in 1954 came from Brewer Park and the concession stand was a cooler under the ol’ shade tree.
The Elmhurst Little League kept up the tradition of 4 teams until 1970. Bob Dick (President of Elmhurst Little League 1970-1971) said, “This is the year we began dreamin’ of what we were going to do.” And that year they added 2 more teams. The following year they divided into 2 divisions: Major and Minor. Today, the league has grown to over 280 players and includes t-ball and lob-ball for the younger players.
It was in 1976 that league officers, Bob Dick, Ralph Kiester, Marvin McCoart, Ron Janson, and Ken Roe realized that additional ball diamonds were needed and began searching for land. In 1982, the City of Fort Wayne-Department of Parks and Recreation and Elmhurst Little League agreed to a certain tract of land (10 acres) in Waynedale, commonly referred to as Mason Park. The park is still owned by the city of Fort Wayne.
Parents, local businessmen, Elmhurst Little League Officers, and volunteers from all over the area pitched in to build their ballpark dream. Architect Ron Dick drew up the plans and before long donated labor and equipment to clear and grade the land came from Indiana Air Guard and the International Union of Operating Engineers along with area construction companies. Wayne Asphalt, Prime Construction, Air Guard, Homrig Rental, Galen Dettmer, Howard’s Lawn Service, May Sand and Gravel, Bunsold, Graves, Radabaugh Trucking Companies, and many others donated equipment, fuel, and labor to haul soil, grade, and seed the area for the diamonds. Between 20-30 additional businesses contributed financially.
Over the course of 5 years of hard work and a great deal of effort from the community, the new ball diamonds were completed. The original 1954 Little League ball diamond located on Ardmore was demolished at the end of the 1982 season, as the Fort Wayne School System needed the area for additional bus parking. The newly developed Mason Park area included a parking lot and 3 baseball diamonds, with backstops, dugouts, and fences, as well as, restrooms, storage areas, and concessions.
Last year Elmhurst Little League signed up 280 ball players and they are still growing. Players from the ages of 5 to 18 play. Elmhurst offers t-ball, machine-pitch leagues, instructional minor league ball, competitive major league ball and junior/senior leagues. Let’s play ball! Or just come and watch this 50-year tradition of great baseball in Waynedale at Mason Park.
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