Ballfield names stir great memories, gratitude

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kelley, Barnett, Norris, Weiland, Elks, Russell, Karrer, Jaycees.

They're local parks and ballfields that bear the names of individuals and groups that could see beyond themselves to make things better for generations to come.

They've provided settings for thousands of memories and life lessons that sports can provide.

Today's obituaries include a name that's familiar to generations of McCook baseball fans, back to the days when the McCook Cats semi-pro team played here.

Donald Vincent Felling, 88, died Sunday at Bellevue, Wash., where he spent 32 years as an engineer for the Boeing Company.

In 1932, at age 4, he helped his dad, Skip, convert an old cornfield into what Eastside Ballpark, now, 84 years later, Felling Field, "still a ball field where the kids dream big and swing for the fence!" according to his obituary.

Don, who once played at Felling Field as a Cat, shared many priceless stories during a visit to McCook in 2008 when the McCook Midget Baseball Association tournament took place.

"He told stories of the grandstands and how the lumber was the old bridge planks and beams from the viaduct rebuilding in the 1930s," MMBA official Tom Bredvick wrote following the visit.

"During the Dust Bowl, he remembered being able to walk over the six-foot hog wire fence after drifts of dust buried the fence so deep it was not visible on the eastern side of the field."

Don threw the first pitch on the championship Sunday of the tournament.

"The accuracy and speed of the strike would have made his father proud," Bredvick wrote.

"For a few moments that day, the past and the present of McCook baseball were combined and everyone in attendance was the richer for being part of the experience," he observed.

The Jaycees and Elks and Fellings and others played key parts in creating facilities for the young people they loved to play the sports they enjoy.

Hearing those names all these years later should stir a feeling of gratitude for their foresight and dedication.

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