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KURT’S FOREVER FIELD: Ball field named in honor of departed Little League volunteer
It wasn’t much of a softball field, until Kurt Lindsay stepped up to the plate.
Actually, there wasn’t even a plate at the time. What later became known as Field 3 at Strawberry Hill Park wasn’t much more than a cow pasture.
But earlier this week, just before the start of the Bainbridge Island Little League Majors softball championship game, a crowd of more than a hundred gathered to help dedicate the now well-used field in Lindsay’s name.
Marked with a fresh new sign reading “Kurt Lindsay Field,” Monday’s dedication marked a first on Bainbridge Island. The ball field became the first sports field on Bainbridge Island to be named after a person, and the tribute was marked with tears and fond memories and many, many hugs as a great group of Lindsay’s friends and family — plus current and former softball players, coaches and Little League “old-timers” — gathered for the ceremony.
Little League and Bainbridge parks officials said the honor was well-deserved.
They recalled how Lindsay, who passed away in March 2011 at the age of 56, was a dedicated and tireless volunteer for the Bainbridge Island Little League.
Tony Gaspich, head of the Bainbridge Island Little League’s softball program, said Lindsay exemplified what the Little League program is all about.
“When you think about Little League ... you think about bats and balls and all that stuff,” Gaspich said.
The purpose of Little League is much more, he said. It’s a program dedicated to helping youth become good and decent citizens.
“I’ve seen lots of volunteers, and lots of excellent volunteers — past and current. A lot of them are here today,” Gaspich said. “Kurt stands out because he really exemplifies the foundational principles of what Little League is all about.”
Gaspich pointed to a photograph showing Lindsay sitting on an old red Toro Sand Pro tractor, chin in hand, waiting for the call to get the field ready again for ballplayers.
“You would see him day in and day out. Whenever there was something to do here, Kurt would be here and answer the call and do it. He really believed in the mission of Little League and more importantly, he exemplified what that was all about. He was here for the girls.”
Gaspich recalled the old tale about two bricklayers. When someone asked the first what he was doing, he simply replied, “Laying bricks.”
When the second bricklayer was asked, a different answer came: “I’m building a cathedral.”
“Kurt never looked at it as pulling a rake. He never looked at it as driving a tractor, as setting blocks in a wall. Kurt always looked at it as contributing toward the kids, whether it was his own daughter or somebody else,” Gaspich said.
The honor was a long time coming. Lindsay’s friends have been lobbying the Bainbridge parks board for a few years now to name the field after the stalwart volunteer.
At this week’s dedication ceremony, Parks Commissioner Jay Kinney quipped that they could finally stop sending him emails every month on the topic.
Kinney briefly recalled how he started coaching in Little League years ago when his oldest child was in the first grade, and said he had met many wonderful people in the program.
“Along the way, I met Kurt, and I’m so glad I did. He was a very, very dear friend, and it warms my heart that we can name this field after him,” Kinney said.
The field was once so bad nobody wanted to even use it for practice. Then Lindsay stepped up, Kinney said.
He did everything, Kinney added, from improving the field, putting in the batting cage, to the scoreboard to the dugouts, the roof over the dugouts, to the scorer’s shack.
“He did it all. And then when he was done ... he kept it going,” Kinney said.
Kinney also recalled that Lindsay was a fixture at the field in another way: Teaching his daughter Emma the fundamentals of the game; working on fielding, hitting.
Emma Lindsay, a junior at Bainbridge High, is now a varsity player for the Spartans. She’s the catcher, but Kinney said he’s seen her ability to swat line drive after line drive.
“A lot of times when she was hitting those balls, I was thinking about Kurt and how he taught her, and how he got her so far,” Kinney said. “We miss him an awful lot and we’ll think about him forever.”
Many of Lindsay’s family came from Seattle’s Eastside to attend the ceremony, including his mother Lois and his brother John. Friends gave beautiful bouquets of lilies and peonies to Emma and Kurt’s wife, Lisa.
Tor Berg, his brother-in-law, spoke for the family.
“We just want to say thank you from our hearts. May this field last forever,” Berg said.