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Back in the 1960s, Waterworks Park was the host of countless baseball games as the home of the Kenton Reds.
While the park has been used at times over the years, it has been mostly desolate in recent years, falling into a state of decay.
Pat Healy hopes that won’t be the case in the future as he is working to bring baseball back to the mid-Kenton site.
Healy has been renovating the field throughout the spring in hopes of getting it ready for the Kenton Kings to play several home baseball games this summer with the idea of having it serves as the adult team’s permanent home in the future.
The Kings first game is slated to be played at Waterworks on July 8 against the Lima Buckeyes.
“It’ll give the people of Kenton something to do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to come out and watch some pretty good baseball,” said Healy of his vision for the Kings at Waterworks.
He is paying for the costs of the field improvements out of his own pocket.
“We played a couple of home games at Kenton High School our first year and we had some pretty nice crowds out there,” Healy said. “In the old days when we played here (with the Kenton Reds), people parked all the way around (the drive surrounding the field) and if you didn’t get here early you didn’t get a parking space.”
So far in his renovation of the field, Healy has removed the outfield fences, dug up the infield, painted and moved the foul poles, moved home plate forward because it needed to be farther from the backstop and painted the dugouts.
“One of the biggest hurdles was removing all the weeds from the infield that have taken root over the years,” he said.
He added that building up the pitcher’s mound has taken a lot of work as well.
“The mound is not as easy as people think it is,” he said. “Technically a mound is supposed to be 18 feet in diameter and 10 inches high to be correct. So what I do is go out and get top-soil and get my SUV and drive over it. … There’s still plenty of work to be done down here, but at least the infield and outfield will be playable for a baseball game.”
Healy noted he could not be doing what he is doing at Waterworks without the help of a number of people including Mayor Randy Manns, the Parks and Recreation Board, City Council and city workers, who have come to the park in their spare time to help.
He also said he could not have gotten the infield playable if not for a friend of his, Don Griffith, from Bellefontaine.
“I had a terrible time finding anybody to tear this field up for me and Don drove his tractor down here from Bellefontaine with a disc on the back and did it for me,” Healy said.
With the fence gone, Healy said “old-time” baseball rules will be used. “The ground rules will be that if a ball hits the road from the air then it will be a home run; but if it rolls up to the road, it will be a two-base hit.”
A self-described “baseball man,” Healy said he is kind of following in the in the footsteps of his father, Dode, who led the effort to reconfigure the setup of the field for baseball in the early 1960s when the Kenton Reds began playing at Waterworks.
“He (Dode) built this diamond,” Pat said. “The original baseball field and men’s fastpitch softball diamond was down the left field line, but a lot of the balls would end up in the river. My father is the one who came up with the idea in 1964 of turning the field completely around.”
He added that he was reminded recently by a city worker that at one time there was an old manual scoreboard on the left field line that noted that this field was dedicated to Dode Healy because of his efforts.
Pat Healy said renovating the field at Waterworks hasn’t really seemed like work to him.
“It’s been more like a passion. I love working on baseball fields,” he said. “This has been a little more difficult than I thought, but I love doing this. It’s been quite a challenge and we didn’t schedule a lot of games on this diamond the first year because we didn’t know if it was going to be playable. But it’s something I enjoy doing.”
The Kenton Kings are in their third year. Healy started them four years ago, but they took last year off due to Healy having some health issues.
During their first year the Kings split their games between Kenton High School and Ohio Northern and in the second year played all their home contests at ONU.
“Hopefully it will be a long-term thing here for us,” Healy said.
Five players on the current team, including Kentonite Tyler Slonecker, have been with the Kings since they started, Healy said.
“The players love the game,” he said. “I enjoy them and they’re a good bunch of guys to have play for you.”
Healy said the Kings are not necessarily about winning and losing, but making sure the players are having fun.
“Winning isn’t a high priority. It about getting to play baseball and we want to do it the right way. We bunt if we have to and that type of thing. If we based it on wins, I don’t think they (the players) would have as much fun doing it.”
In addition to the game against the Lima Buckeyes, the Kings will also host the Van Wert Twisters in a wooden bat doubleheader later in the summer.
By KENDRICK JESIONOWSKI
Times sports editor