The baseball world was hit with a loss this week. A loss of someone who never played in the major leagues, never had a highlight tape, doesn't hold any records, but had more impact on more baseball games than anyone could ever imagine. Harry Church, a community icon, passed away this week after a lengthy battle with cancer. Church was the groundskeeper for the baseball fields at the Conneaut Local Youth Organization (CLYO).
These fields sat less than a half-mile away from my house and is where my friends and I spent the majority of our childhood, and even then I can remember Harry always being at the fields working. He would be there in the afternoons when "pitcher's poison" and "opposite field out" were common rules and he was certainly there in the evening when the Cardinals and Red Sox battled it out for league supremacy. He made it so every game felt like a trip to Williamsport was at stake. But he also made it feel like he opened the park everyday just for us.
Even while battling cancer, he knew he didn't have much time left, and outside his family, the upkeep of the park was what he cared about most. In Mark Todd's article in today's edition of The Star Beacon, community members illustrate his dedication to the park.
As recently as this past spring, Church — despite his illness — could be found astride a riding mower, Taylor said.
"Harry was 150 percent dedicated to the park," he said. "I think that's what kept him going."
Taylor was Church's neighbor, and the two spoke about the park and Church's fears about its upkeep in the years to come, he said. Church was comforted to hear the park will continue to receive good care, Taylor said.
That was his biggest concern," he said.
Church's devotion to the park has earned him accolades over the years. One of the fields bears his name, while the park entrance is known as "Harry Church Drive." In 1989, he was honored as Conneaut's Citizen of the Year.
For the past 50 years you were a staple in our lives, your efforts and service can never fully be quantified, and your impact on the community can never be overstated. You will certainly be missed. May you rest in peace.