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Ol' sluggers will play for kids

Medford High School baseball players from 1956 to 1976 hit the fieldto raise playground funds

In the 1950s through the 1970s, they all wore the same uniforms and hailed from the same school. Today they are teachers, bankers, millworkers, bricklayers and real estate brokers ready to step up to home plate to raise money for grade school playground equipment.

— — — — — The Big GameWhat:

Medford High School Alumni Baseball Game.

When:

Gate opens at 11 a.m., game time is noon Saturday, Sept. 7.

Where:

Miles Field, Medford.

Cost:

&

36;5 per person, includes lunch.

Sponsors:

city of Medford, Liberty Bank, Lithia Motors, Mahar Homes, Rogue Federal Credit Union, WL Moore Construction, JB Steel Inc., Sabroso Corp., People's Bank of Commerce, Ashland Insurance, Key Title, Amerititle, Rogue Disposal and Recycling, Bank of America, Mike Winters/Wesco, PremierWest Bank, , Boise Cascade, Sherm's Thunderbird, Rogue Valley Manor, Medford Rogue Rotary and Washington Mutual.

Who:

Players from 1956 to 1976 who are interested in participating should call John Kovenz, 773-4944, or Jim McAbee, 779-5062. — — Medford High School alumni will play ball at noon Sept. 7 at Miles Field on Highway 99 in Medford to raise money for Playgrounds for Kids.

The gates open at 11 a.m. and admission is &

36;5, which includes a barbecue lunch.

I hope their mitts are oiled and I hope their legs are in pretty good shape, said longtime Medford baseball coach John Kovenz. We'll play one base at a time.

Kovenz, a retired English teacher, will coach the same players he coached from 1956 to 1967, including some from his state championship team in 1961 ' the year Medford High won the triple crown in football, basketball and baseball. His successor, Jim McAbee, will coach players from his era, which was 1967 to 1976.

Coach Kovenz and I have never coached against each other ' it will be interesting, McAbee said.

Playgrounds for Kids is made up of community leaders raising money to replace aging and unsafe playground equipment at Medford elementary schools. The group raised &

36;38,000 so far this year and hopes to get a &

36;25,000 grant from Jeld-Wen to help meet a &

36;65,000 goal, said City Councilman Sal Esquivel, a Medford High School right fielder in the 1960s.

It's a great synergy of everybody coming together to make this work, said Debra Lee, head of Connecting with Kids, the Medford Rogue Rotary Club's team that has completed several playground projects at Jackson Elementary School.

It's a good community investment and it's taking care of kids, which fits into the city of Medford's vision, Lee said. When they asked kids what they wanted for their future and their community, one of the things they said was a safe place to play.

Lee has been raising playground money for four years with the help of Andy Batzer, Gary Miller, Kovenz, Bev Powers and Greg Jones, the city's interim parks and recreation director.

Playgrounds are a place where kids can go out and explore, experience, push the limits and learn, Jones said. Some of your best lessons are probably learned on the playground.

The city budgets &

36;10,000 annually to help Rotarians, parents, students or any group raising money for playgrounds, including new play structures at Lone Pine, Kennedy and Hoover schools.

Washington Elementary also received a new playground recently with federal funds and help from KOGAP, the school's business partner, Jones said.

The September fund-raiser will reunite Medford High baseball stars from McAbee's era, including Scott Goings, a Medford builder, Rod Peterson, a Scenic Middle School teacher, Dave Orr, Rogue River High School's principal, and Steve Earl, a bricklayer.

They will take the field against Kovenz's team, including Esquivel, owner of Diamond Key Properties in Medford, Henry Snow, who operates a lumber mill in Roseburg, Dean Smith, who owns Mr. Smith's Sports Bar & Grill, lumber broker Andy Jones and Oregon Institute of Technology's athletic director Danny Miles, the son of Shorty Miles, for whom the baseball stadium was named.

Some of them might not be able to see my signals ' maybe we'll use flags, Kovenzjoked.

We plan to get out there and have fun and not get hurt.

Reach reporter Melissa Martin at 776-4497, or e-mail