By Moira Blazi
High school baseball is more American than apple pie. As a summer sport in small towns across Ameri-ca, nothing could be more ubiquitous.
It may come as a sur-prise to many Montanans that our state is one of only two, Vermont being the other, that does not have school-sponsored high school baseball. “Wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “I know the Loggers play all summer in their beautiful stadium down by the river.” Yes they do, but if it weren’t for the American Legion and many other local busi-nesses and individuals, the field would be quiet and empty.
Dinner on the Dia-mond is an annual fund-raising event held to sup-port the Libby Logger American Legion Baseball program. The sold out event was held on Friday, June 8 at the Lou Gehring field and included a prime rib dinner served by the Legion ball team, live mu-sic, and silent and live auc-tions.
Luckily, our beautiful Lou Gehring field is “one of the best in the state, said JV pitcher Will Reichel. He should know, his grandpa, Pete Nelson, played on this very same field in the nineteen-fifties. In fact, the history of Libby’s Lou Gehring field runs deep through many of Libby’s family trees.
Begun way back in the nineteen-thirties on va-cant land just east of downtown between the railroad tracks and the river, with money from J. Neils Lumber mill, the field was used for track and football as well as baseball, until Libby High School, with its sports sta-dium was built in the mid nineteen-seventies.
The first grandstand was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the nineteen-thirties or early fourties. WPA was a New Deal agency that employed mil-lions carrying out public works projects around the country. The present one, was built by W.R. Grace in 1985.
Although very well equipped for track, foot-ball, and soccer, the athlet-ic department at Libby High does not have a base-ball diamond. This is be-cause of the gender equity requirement that all American high schools must adhere to. Simply stated, it requires boys and girls to have the same number of sports available to them. For most states this is no problem, since, football is usually bal-anced by volleyball, soccer by soccer, basketball by basketball, track by track, etc. Baseball can be bal-anced by softball, or field hockey, or possibly an aquatic sport, none of which are state sponsored in Montana. But baseball is just too important, not to have a field.
“It is a sport you dream about playing,” Said Gar-rett Gollahon, varsity third baseman for the Loggers.
“Baseball is so psycho-logical, 90% mental 10% physical,” he said. “It’s a sport where it doesn’t matter if the score is 10-0, everything can change so quickly, you always have a chance to win. It’s really a gentleman’s game, and I really like watching the old guys play.”
Tim Carvey, varsity shortstop has been playing since T-Ball when he was four years old. “Its really a team sport, not all about a single person, it’s important to have a solid player in each position,” he told The Montanian at Dinner on the Diamond.
Giving a shout out to big-time sustainers Dr. Scott Foss and Jim Germany, who personally keep the field groomed, Carvey made sure to thank his legion coach, Kelly Morford too.
The boys love this sport. “This is a chilling, fun sport, I get to hang out with my friends, said JV catcher Ryker McElmurry.
“I love traveling to different towns, and we only play during the summer, when its nice out” said varsity left fielder, Cole Murphy.
When asked by The Montanian about home run balls going over the fence into passing traffic on First Street, Murphy laughed and said, “We have more foul balls breaking windshields in the parking lot than homers over the right field fence, but once, someone did break a window in the apartment across the street,” he added with a grin.
Since it is not school sponsored, team membership does not depend on grades, enabling more kids to play. “This league provides so many kids with the opportunity to make something of themselves,” said Gollahon.” For a first year player, I’m impressed with the effort it takes to make this whole thing work, we have a great field and fantastic community support, we have the whole thing.”
Loggers baseball players volunteered to sell raffle tickets, serve dinner and help in other ways at the Dinner on the Diamond fundraising event last Saturday evening. Photo by Moira Blazi, The Montanian.