As I turned right, my eye caught the street sign on the corner. Upon reading the white words on the pine-green background, I smiled.
“Harry Church Drive” is the name of the road leading into the baseball and softball fields at Skippon Park, the home of the Conneaut Local Youth Organization.
As my thoughts drifted to what a wonderful man Mr. Church was and how sad we were when we lost him last August, I made my way down to the ballfields.
On one diamond, there was a varsity softball game going on.
On a neighboring field, it was a junior-varsity contest.
Down the road a bit, it was a sandlot game.
Balls rolled around and flew out of play. Kids yelped and chased one another. Music blared from a car occupied by a teenage couple. On one field, a dog somehow found his way through an opening in a fence and everyone laughed as players — and umpires — gave chase after the pooch, who was finally corralled.
For anyone partial to the world of sports... of play, it was a Norman Rockwell image ready to be captured.
Suddenly, as is often the case, my mind did a complete 180, almost in the snap of a finger.
Something a friend sent my way as part of a Facebook message a day or two previous, for some reason, came to the fore:
“Conneaut — The School Nobody Wants.”
On the outside
The previous sentence was in reference to the news that the All-American Conference superintendents had voted to extend invitations to Ashtabula County schools Edgewood and Pymatuning Valley. Another Ashtabula County school, Jefferson, has been a member of the AAC for two years, now.
Conneaut was also considered by the AAC, which sent representatives up this way to tour the school’s athletic facilities.
For the past few years, a lot of hard-working people in Spartan Country have been working their tails off in an effort to upgrade the school’s athletic facilities, which had been plagued by age and lack of funds.
The football facility, the previously named Municipal Stadium, was constructed in 1939 as a Work Project Administration project.
The basketball facility was built in 1952, named “Garcia Gymnasium” in honor of the now-late five-time Hall of Famer and Conneaut coaching legend Andrew Garcia on July 27, 1968.
In fact, the “Care for Kids” committee, people who organized and have been diligently working to provide private funding in an effort to upgrade the Spartans’ facilities, have done an admirable job.
The efforts to revamp and redo the football facility have produced Conneaut Stadium, built on the same land as Municipal Stadium.
Garcia Gymnasium, while spruced up with paint and lighting, is one of the oldest gymnasiums still in use in the Buckeye State.
Still, Conneaut superintendent Kent Houston has led the charge to find a home for the district’s athletic squads in terms of a conference.
Therein, is the white elephant in the room.