After more than four years of planning, fundraising and putting in the work to restore the fields that were once home to some of the best ball players Maysville has seen, Wald Park was officially reopened on Saturday, roughly 70 years after originally opening.
“It’s awesome. It’s an awesome feeling to be here now four years later. It’s a great feeling,” said Dr. Josh Owens, president of Wald Park, Inc.
“There were times when I thought, ‘OK, is this really going to happen?’” added Owens. “There’s a lot of people that are involved that believe in this and that’s what it takes – people with a passion to get behind you and help you through the way.”
The park, located on Lexington Street near the intersection of Kentucky 11, was purchased in July 2014 through private funds, with a portion of the purchase price donated by the prior owners, Jones and Verville LLC. The organization has raised over $700,000, and have also had numerous people volunteer time or donate supplies.
“That’s Maysville. That’s Maysville and that’s this community. That’s what we thrive on,” said Owens. “It takes money to do pretty much everything. The people here understand that if they have it, they’re going to give it and if they don’t have a lot of it, they’re going to give what they can. That’s pretty much what people do in this community.”
While open and in use, the construction of the field isn’t quite done. The next phase is to install lighting, which Owens says won’t take long once funds are secured, since the bases and wiring for the lights are already in place.
Wald Park was originally intended as a home field for St. Patrick athletics, but the decision was made later to use it as a facility to complement the community as a whole, as well as St. Patrick. The mission statement of the nonprofit organization is “To establish, operate and maintain a first class multisport-complex, where the youth of Maysville and surrounding communities can compete in baseball, softball and soccer. We will foster competition at all levels with our focus on instruction, discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, honesty and integrity.”
The Saints and Lady Saints have already played at the facility, which features a large baseball field that doubles as a soccer field, as well as two smaller fields to be used for baseball and softball.
St. Patrick’s boys’ soccer team tied in-town rival Mason County, 4-4, on Aug. 14, and the Lady Saints followed the game with a 2-2 tie against the Lady Royals. The Saints got their first win on the field Thursday, topping Fleming County, 8-2, with the help of hat tricks from Pedro and Cesar Briseno.
“It’s been great,” said Wald Park director Lamont Taylor. “The time that Josh and the board members have put into this and, with me being a late comer to this, to see the excitement on their faces and just to see the kids down here at Wald Park playing was just exciting.”
The plan is to bring youth baseball back to the community with Cal Ripken leagues. Youth baseball has been absent in town in recent years, and several from the community have had to travel to Fleming County or Lewis County to play on Little League teams
“We’ve been talking with the guy in Northern Kentucky that runs the Cal Ripken league there and he’s going to come in October and come to one of our board meetings and talk about what we need to get the Cal Ripken league going. By next spring we hope to have it up and going,” said Taylor.
“It’s going to help tremendously. It’s going to give the kids the opportunity to come here and play, and that’s what this is about. It’s about these kids and it’s about giving them the opportunity to come and do something that Josh has loved doing all his life. He was a standout player at St. Pat, went to the University of Kentucky and played and was a standout player there,” added Taylor. “His vision to have these kids here and have these kids that are going to come is going to be great. To have these facilities is going to be great for them.”
The opening ceremony included a flag raising, a home run derby, a softball exhibition game and a variety of keynote speakers, including Owens, State Representative John Sims, Economic Development Director Owen McNeil and local sports historian Ron Bailey, who provided the crowd with some insight on Maysville’s baseball history.
“In the old movie [Field of Dreams] they said, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ It is fantastic. Unbelievable,” said Bailey. “In my wildest dreams, I didn’t ever think I’d see Wald Park restored this beautifully. I mean, it is awesome”
‘Shotsie’ Tolle, who played in the first game at Wald Park in 1948, was pointed out during Bailey’s speech. The local sports historian also referenced some of the accomplishments of teams that played home games at the original Wald Park, including the 1958 KHSAA state baseball championship from the Maysville Bulldogs and the national knothole championship from Clover Leaf Dairy in 1966.
Now, Bailey is excited to see what history can be made in the future with the return of Wald Park.
“I’ll be the first to admit it – baseball has been down here in the last few years. Mason County won a regional tournament in 1994 and they haven’t won one since. Now, with this, kids will be interested in baseball, they’ll get knothole, Little League tournament play,” said Bailey. “It’s unbelievable what can be done here.”
All donations to the park project are tax deductible and can be mailed to Wald Park, Inc. P.O. Box 607, Maysville, Ky 41056.