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Blue Lick renames complex to honor 45-year park veteran

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Challis Ford Park dedicated

By Thomas Barr

 HILLVIEW — Many of the 500 youngsters assembled Saturday morning didn’t realize the significance of the moment.

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For the athletes, it was parade day for the Blue Lick Optimist.

But for many of the adults in the audience, it was much more special.

From a limo bringing in many of the former board members to the chairs assembled in the major league field, it was certainly a special day for baseball and softball enthusiasts old and young.

On this morning, the 20-acre facility off Mud Lane that is home to over 550 baseball and softball players was renamed in honor of a man who has spent over 45 years in the organization.

The facility will now be known as Challis Ford Park.

Pat Young, league president, said it was something that should have been done many years ago to honor a man who meant so much to so many over the years.

In looking back at its history, Young said the league started in the last 1960s. After playing at various locations, it was in 1980 that a dozen individuals personally signed a bank note to get a loan to build the Mud Lane facility.

With other recreational facilities located on government or school-owned property, Young said Blue Lick is a unique place.

Ford was one of the men who signed the bank note and has remained very active.

“This is the most unique baseball complex in the state,” said Young.

Ford, who has helped Tommy Parker coach two youth teams to state titles, said little during the ceremony. That was not unexpected from a man who would be the last to want any recognition for his work.

“He’s my best friend,” said Parker, who moved to the area as a 17-year-old looking for a place to play baseball.

He remains a key cog in the operation of the facility.

“He taught me about baseball. He taught me about life,” said Parker. “He taught me about the kids.”

In Ford’s 45 years at Blue Lick, Parker said it would impossible to count the number of people who have been influenced by Ford.

Currently, Parker said he is attempting to get Ford accepted into the Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. The national organization did recognize Ford with its President’s Plaque.

Instead of parade day, Parker said it would forever be known as Challis Ford Day.

Wendell Day recalled 25 years ago when his family moved to the community from Cincinnati. He was looking for a place for his son to play baseball and saw a busy ballfield off Mud Lane.

“The good Lord sent me to Blue Lick,” said Day.

Day would coach with Ford for three seasons and said the skipper had a way to get his point across.

“He had a way of getting people’s attention,” said Day, who added some of those tactics might not be quite as politically correct in today’s times.

“But he always had the respect from his players,” said Day.

Day joined many others in raising money to purchase the bronze plaques to honor both Ford and the original note, as well as the Ladies Auxiliary.

“Your life achievement is all around you,” Day said, as he looked around the hundreds of uniform-clad ball players sitting on the outfield grass. “It’s been an honor.”

Ford, who continues to coach with Parker in the senior division, soaked in the day, full of handshakes and a limo ride as the grand marshal of the parade. Several said that it was probably the first time Ford actually rode in the opening day parade, which was normally spent parking cars and organizing games.

“I haven’t done anything,” Ford told the audience, which included various family members, including his wife, Carleen.

Ford said it was an honor but something that he didn’t deserve or expect.

“Once you’re at Blue Lick, you’re always a part of Blue Lick,” said Ford.