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Hall of fame honors local greats

A few days before Christmas may seem like an odd time to be talking about baseball. The local diamonds are snow-covered, but the “hot stove league” is in full swing, and the Springfield-Clark County Baseball Hall of Fame is getting ready for its annual induction banquet.

You read that right, there is a baseball Hall of Fame here in Springfield. It’s housed inside the Carleton Davidson Stadium on Mitchell Boulevard in Springfield (on the site of the old Municipal Stadium), and it showcases Clark County’s rich baseball heritage.

Hall of Fame President Mark Miller says the hall dates back to 1959, when Roger Sharp, Don Rinker and Roy Crozier saw the need to recognize those who contributed to the rich local baseball history, which includes a lengthy list of minor league teams that were based here from 1887 to 1951.

Around 1990, the organization took a “time out.” Miller said at that point, the facility amounted “to a cardboard box full of a couple of plaques and papers and files in Rinker’s office at Meek’s Sporting Goods.”

The hall was resurrected in 2002 as the stadium was being built.

There are approximately 175 individuals and some 17 teams in the hall. The list includes players, coaches, managers, umpires and even sponsors and sportswriters. Twenty-three made it to the major leagues, and five have played on World Series winners. Their names are inscribed on small baseball bats that adorn the walls of the hall. Potential inductees are nominated by the community, a committee screens those nominations and whittles the list down to a half-dozen, then Hall of Famers select the three inductees.

This year’s inductees are Darrin Spitzer, Jason Ronai and Adam Eaton.

Spitzer is a Southeastern High school graduate who went on to become an All American and National Champion at Marietta College.

Ronai played at Catholic Central — leading the county in hitting — and attended the University of North Carolina/Asheville. He played professionally for the Alexandria Aces and coached baseball at the United States Naval Academy. Miller believes Ronai was “a better baseball player than a basketball player.”

Eaton, a Kenton Ridge High School graduate, attended Miami University, made his Major League debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks and was recently traded to the Chicago White Sox.

Three local teams are also set for induction: The 1877 Springfield Blue Sox —Springfield’s first professional baseball team; the 1987 WBLY squad that was state and regional champions, advancing to the Connie Mack World Series; and the 1988 Foreman/Armoloy team that posted a 41-17 record.

The hall contains interesting displays and memorabilia and is open Wednesdays from 2 until 4 p.m., and by appointment by contacting Miller at The stadium hosts the “Talkin’ Baseball” events the first Wednesday of each month, except next month, when it will be on the first Thursday.

This year’s class will officially join the Hall during a banquet Jan. 4 at the UAW Local 402 Hall, 3671 Urbana Rd.

Tickets are available at the National Trail Parks and Recreation District office, 1301 Mitchell Blvd. and through Miller. The banquet will also honor Will McEnaney, “Clark County’s representative on one of baseball’s greatest teams — The Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds of the middle 1970s. Some McEnaney memorabilia will be on display, thanks to the Reds Hall of Fame.

With McEnaney and Eaton in attendance, Miller points out “we’ll have the oldest and youngest living major leaguers from Clark County.”

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