Ribbon Cut

Lincoln Junior High School celebrates grand opening of the first turf baseball field in Logan County

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[August 16, 2021]   Saturday was an excellent day for a ballgame and many people turned out to celebrate the first game ever to be played on the first ever turf baseball field in Logan County.

After a lot of effort from school board members, District 27 Superintendent Kent Froebe, Lincoln Junior High School Principal Mike Workman and many, many others, the first ball was thrown out on the new Ralph Gale Field by Woody Jones. Soon after the first game began between the LJHS Trojans and the Chester-East Lincoln Panthers.

Before the game, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held, hosted by District 27 with assistance from Lincoln Daily News. The cutting began with welcoming comments and acknowledgement by LDN of people in attendance including 2021 Miss Logan County Fair Queen Caroline Ahrends, Logan County Tourism Bureau Executive Director Alice Roate, Lincoln Fire Chief Bob Dunovsky, Lincoln Alderwoman Wanda Lee Rohlfs, and Lincoln Alderman Rick Hoefle.

Lincoln Mayor Tracy Welch was unable to attend and asked Hoefle to address the crowd on behalf of the city. Hoefle kept his comments brief commenting first on what a magnificent ball field he was seeing. “All I can say is ‘Holy Cow!’ on behalf of Harry Carey; this is one heck of a field. This makes the city very proud, and I am overwhelmed by the response out here this morning; obviously, you guys like baseball.”

The microphone was then turned over to Superintendent Froebe for the remainder of the event.

Froebe opened by thanking all who had come out for the first game on the new field. He noted that getting the field ready had come right down to the wire due to the intense rain on Thursday. He noted that on that day he had sat in one of the new dugout buildings and watched the rain pour down and thought to himself that there was no way the field was going to be ready for play by Saturday.

But, when the rain stopped, the crew at J & L Strawn, Jeremy Strawn, Principal Mike Workman, Athletic director Bret Bainter and many volunteers worked long hours on Friday to get everything ready. He noted that Strawn personally was very committed to being ready for the day and had not left the field until well after midnight Friday night/Saturday morning as did several of his helpers.

Of course, not everything was spit polished on Saturday morning, The raw ground with no grass covering around the outside of the fence and bleachers were covered with large sheets of plywood in foot traffic areas to help reduce mud getting onto the field. Froebe noted that the batting cage located out past the centerfield and the bullpen by the first baseline were the last of the pieces that needed to be completed, and of course, the grass needed to grow.

Froebe recounted that he brought his family to Lincoln in 2006. His son Kaden was around seven years old. They had traveled to Jacksonville to play ball on a turf field. He came back to Lincoln and told Principal Workman that he wanted to have a turf field in Lincoln.

Froebe said that the dream of a turf field continued throughout the years, and when a grant opportunity came along, it was District 27’s chance to do something that had not been done in Logan County. The grant, he said was written by himself with tremendous help from the district’s Chief Financial Officer Colleen Jodlowski. He acknowledged Jodlowski in the group behind the ribbon and asked for a round of applause for the person whom without, none of this could have been accomplished.

He also acknowledged school board members Alli Williams, Kurt Hullinger and Brian Stoltzenburg in the group along with Board President Steven Rohrer. Rohrer would be snipping the ribbon later along with Woody and Sue Jones.

The Jones’ are the ones who donated the scoreboard for the field. Froebe said that (Woody) Jones had played as a Trojan on the original Ralph Gale Field back in the 1950’s and 60’s. Woody went on to play at Illinois State. The Jones’ son Jason grew up playing as a Chester East Lincoln Panther and was “one heck of an athlete.” Now, the Jones’ grandson is playing ball and will be playing on the college level in the next few years.

Fittingly, the first game on the field would be between the Trojans and the Panthers, and Jones would throw out the starting pitch.


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Froebe talked a little bit about the J & L Strawn Sports Construction company, saying that Jeremy Strawn has led construction on fields for the Dolphins, Patriots, Florida State and several other major ball fields in the country, and now Ralph Gale Field.

Froebe said when Strawn won the bid for the construction of the field, it was also important to Froebe and the school board that as many local contractors as possible be used in the construction of the field.

He sent out a big thank you to Strawn, and to D & D Sewer, Lincoln Iron and Metal, Goodman Trucking and Excavating and Wurth Trucking for the huge role all had played in completing the field.

Froebe singled out Wurth Trucking saying that they had come to the rescue on Wednesday for the scoreboard. He said that the trucking industry is suffering loss of manpower right now because of the pandemic. Because of this, it looked like the new scoreboard would not arrive until the middle part of next week. However, Wurth Trucking found a way and on Wednesday made the trip to Greenville to get the scoreboard, bringing it back in time to be installed and used for the opening game on Saturday.

Concessions were set up behind the third base line outside the fence. Froebe drew attention to the concession area and sent out a thank you to Lincoln Police Officer Christy Fruge and Lincoln D.A.R.E. along with Teresa and Randy Goff who would be providing free hot dogs and drinks during the game.

Drinks would also be served in souvenir cups while supplies lasted.

Froebe’s wife Kari and son Kruz were holding one end of the ribbon with Lisa Ramlow of Lincoln Daily News holding the other. Froebe said that he needed to say a special thanks to his family for their support. He said that his father had been out at the field multiple times helping out. His wife and kids and been tremendous in their support and had been on the field helping out as well. At the same time, he joked that not too long ago he came home to find that the family had “staged an intervention,” letting him know that it was not okay to constantly be talking about the new turf field.

Froebe then called for all to turn to the flag in front of the Junior High School for the playing of the national anthem. Then it was time to snip the ribbon.

The CEL Panthers who were lining the third base line and the LJHS Trojans lining the first base line were called to join the crowd behind the ribbon.

The large crowd in attendance helped with the three-two-one-snip countdown as Steven Rohrer joined by Woody and Sue Jones did the honors.

The field cleared and the ball teams went to their respective dugouts, leaving Woody Jones standing on the pitcher’s mound prepared to throw out the first pitch. Jones surveyed the distance to home plate and opted to move down into the far edge of the landing area then delivered his pitch into the glove of the catcher.

The game was on, and teams quickly took their positions with the host team taking the field at the top of the first inning.

At the end of the day, the Chester-East Lincoln Panthers took home the first win on the new field.

The following summary of the game was posted on the Trojan social media page. “The Trojans hosted CEL who scored three runs in the first only to see LJHS claw back with two of their own in the later innings. Unfortunately, the Panthers would use a five run seventh to blow it open and take a home an 11-2 victory. Congratulations to both teams on playing with sportsmanship and class throughout the day!”

[Nila Smith]

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