FINDLAY - Outgoing Mayor Tony Iriti thought the city was still looking for a sponsor for the fifth baseball field at Findlay's new $2 million-plus complex next to the recreation center.
But at yesterday's dedication of the lighted fiveplex, the mayor got a touching farewell gift: The Anthony P. Iriti Field was unveiled.
"There's really nothing I can say. I'm just really humbled," an emotional Mr. Iriti said. "This is a tremendous honor. You know I'll be here watching games."
A longtime proponent of youth baseball, Mr. Iriti and other community supporters talked for years about building a tournament-suitable complex for baseball and softball. The city bought the land and, with the help of the local Rotary Club, solicited contributions to build what was originally dubbed the "Field of Dreams."
"Anyone involved in youth baseball has heard this talked about for about 25 years," Mr. Iriti said. "People wanted to know why can't we in Findlay have a facility like Bowling Green, like Sylvania. Through our visioning process, we found out that we could. It was just going to take a lot of hard work and effort and money."
Marathon Oil Co. kicked in $500,000 and earned naming rights for the complex, to be called "The Diamonds." The Rotary Club built a concession stand and press box in the center of the complex.
Fifth Third Bank, National Lime and Stone Co., and Findlay residents Craig and MaryLou Anderson sponsored three of the fields, while the fourth was named for Rettig Enterprises Inc., which sold the land to the city at a reduced price with the understanding its name would be on one of the fields, Mr. Iriti said.
Lu Draper, Findlay's superintendent of recreation facilities/downtown, said city employees, friends, and family of Mr. Iriti contributed to name the fifth field for the mayor, who lost the Republican primary and leaves office Dec. 31.
"We're still in the process of raising funds, which we will keep collecting until the opening on March 29," she said.
The NCAA-regulation Fifth Third field will be the home field for the University of Findlay men's baseball team, beginning in the spring. UF's women's softball team will play on the Anderson field.
Coach Ron Ammons said the women's team has played at Riverside Park in the past, but is thrilled to be moving.
"Riverside Park is nice. It's a traditional venue in Findlay," he said. "It's a nice city park, but this is a complex, a step up. We are so pleased."
The fields are to be used by everyone from Little Leaguers to slow-pitch softball players.
"We're actually gaining 10 fields because of the lights," Ms. Draper said. "Every day and every night, there can be games on those fields."
- Jennifer Feehan