THREE OAKS — The Three Oaks Baseball Association celebrated the start of its season on May 12 by meeting this year’s teams and revisiting its past.

Honored during the ceremony at the Jim Vickers Memorial Baseball Complex at Watkins Park were Gary and Gail Martin and George and Sally Frye.

Public address announcer Garry Lange noted that Three Oaks’ first Little League games were played on the field that now is the exclusive home to the local adult softball league.

“The first Little Leaguers to play on that field are turning 70. In the 1980s, a field was build between that field’s outfield fence and the railroad tracks. It served as the Little League field for over a decade. In the mid 1990s, the Watkins family, who had Three Oaks first supermarket, made this land on which you are standing or sitting, available to the community. What happened next was a true story of a community coming together.”

Lange said a group of Little League parents got together and approached the village of Three Oaks with the idea putting in a Little League complex. The village said yes, and then the work began.

“Over the course of the next 12 months, generous donors, area contractors, and more than 200 people contributed thousands of man hours of their time to put together what is one of the finest complexes in the area, giving each and every Little Leaguer a special place to play,” Lange said. “Our honored guests played important roles in guiding the project to completion.”

He said Gary Martin learned the game and enjoyed it by playing with friend Curt Smith and other family and friends in a beautiful meadow on Martin Road.

“Gary became involved in Little League when his son Tommy began to play. Like many dads, he coached his son’s team, and also served as a league officer. Gail was also very involved, doing all the usual Mom things for the league. She also handled all of the books and accounting for the construction of these fields,” Lange said.

He said George Frye learned the game as a Little Leaguer in New Buffalo, fell in love with teaching the game, and had a coaching career that spanned 40 years and included several championships at Eaton Park.

“In a special season, one of George’s Little Leaguers was Brian Terry. Brian’s mom Sally and Coach George struck up a friendship that season, which resulted in their marriage. George’s love for baseball also resulted in him finding the love of his life. Sally has been the ultimate baseball mom.”

Lange said the Jim Vickers Memorial complex took about 12 months to build.

“During those 12 months, if you wanted to know where Gary, Gail, George or Sally were — after work or on the weekend — it was right here. They all saw the joy the game brought to kids, and they wanted them to have a special place to play. Both couples, of course, had children in the league. They now have grandchildren in the league,” he said.

Gary and George both threw out ceremonial “first pitches” (to Pony League catcher David Forker).

Todd Noble then led a prayer.

Coaches and players from the following teams were introduced during the ceremony: T-Ball — The Rays (players Allison Meyer, Azayla Acree, Camden Donkersloot, Elijah Miller, Evan Rogers, Grayson Rogers, Hailey Hesser, Keegan Perry and Oliver Petroff); the Indians (players Andy Izydorski, Arch Beckman, Braxton Smith, Carter Southwood, Justin Hatfield, Ryne Wagner, Sammy Spiekhout, Wyatt Smith and Xander Smith); and the Yankees (players Ashlynn Beregsasy, Boston Hollihan, Coleman Heubner, Emily Berry, Garrison Gibson, Kai Harrison, Karina Hamm, Scarlett Nesbit and Teegan McNabb); 8U — the Red Sox (Bowie Strieter, Brogan Conway, Carson Patton, Henry Hein, Hunter Smith, Hunter Thomas, Josh Hatfield, Kai Schmaltz, Michael Chase and Reirdan McBride); and the Orioles (Aaron  York, Audynn Rowles, Brandon Sheldon, Colt White, David York, Gavin McCarty, Hunter Toole, Logan Zeiger, Mason Rogers and Truitt Rowles); 10U — the Angels (players Johnny Harrison, Caelex Novacek, Tristan Nesbitt, Levi White, Malaki Geigler, Makail Geigler, Lucas Zeiger, Hunter Gnodtke, Kyle Kirk, Mavrek Bergman and Ronald Clemons); and the Tigers (Lauden Freehling, Xavier Acree, Brody Schroeder, Logan McNabb, Jacob Toole, Parker Volstorf, Jason Wilson, Mason Bolton and Clay Burk); 12U — the Cubs (players Cadden Krieger, DJ Freehling, Grant Schumm, Hunter Maerz, Jack Seifert, Jayden Witter, John Riley, Josiah Hatfield, Kaden Gibson, Kylan Sobolewski, Matt Moore, Matthew Hollingsowrth, Noah Kelley, Zander Acree and Ryder Wolnik); and the Three Oaks Pony League squad (players Aidan Coy, Alex Patton, Ashton McNabb, Braden Lindemann, Caden Olson, Daniel Vollman, David Forker, Ethan Izydorski, Gabriel Pauff, Jagger Wolnik, Jaren Christ, Jayden McNabb, Josh Seifert, Merik Freehling, and Parker Tentyck.

Players were credited with selling $3,496 with of popcorn in a league fund-raiser and raising $1,643 in pledges during a Hit-A-Thon.

The 2018 Three Oaks Baseball Association (TOBA) officers and Board of Directors are: Officers: President Jeff Zeiger, Vice President Tom Krieger, Secretary Gail Freehling, and Treasurer Shannon Moore.

Board of Directors: Shawn Smith, Stephanie Hollingsworth, Lisa Toole, Abby Smith, Randy Harrison, John Hollingsworth, Kris Coy, Elizabeth McBride.

“These are the volunteers that run this program,” said Lange.” For a lot of them, this is their first year. Major changes have been done and they are proud of them. The age divisions that opened our teams to play more teams, the South Field was upgraded and the infield is bigger, that now allows for 12U teams to come in and play here. A special thank you goes to Tom Krieger. Tom was instrumental in getting the 12U field updated and spent many hours of his personal time getting it repaired. Thanks Tom! Thank you to all the board members for everything you have done and continue to do.”

Lange announced that the 37th Annual TOBA Flag Day Tournament will start on June 8, ending with schampionship game expected on June 16.

Thanked for being team sponsors were Art FX, Coy Construction, Dewey Cannon Trading Company, Harbor Country Insurance, Horizon Bank, Iron Workers Local 292, Bob & Lynn Keefer, Moore Family Farms, Nelson’s Saloon, Patellie’s Pizza, Seifert’s Excavating & Trucking, Semco Energy, Tom Rossman State Farm Insurance, TDK Lawn Service and Versaw Earthworks. General sponsors are RV Electric (Jim Culverhouse), Green Thumb of Southwest Michigan, and Brownie Memorial.

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