Kindsfather Field opens, then so do skies

But rain can’t spoil dedication of baseball field at Clark

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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The school waited 19 years for this, so Mother Nature probably figured she could hold on for a half hour or so.

The doubleheader between the Clark College and Lower Columbia baseball teams was called due to rain in the bottom of the fourth inning Saturday, but that’s not what the people came out to witness.

For Clark, this weekend marked a far more substantial moment than the final score of a game. Saturday morning, with the sun beaming between rainclouds, the school dedicated Vern Kindsfather Field on its campus.

“It’s awe-inspiring to see this come to fruition,” Clark president Bob Knight said. “This is years and years of effort from community members that really wanted to bring baseball back to Clark.”

This is the first season since 1992 that Clark has fielded a varsity baseball team and the first year it has ever played home games on campus.

Responsible for reinvigorating the program are a bevy of alumni and community members who all privately donated to the cause — returning baseball to the school without a single dollar from state funds.

That’s why Vancouver councilmen such as Larry Smith and Jack Burkman were on site to celebrate the dedication. That’s what brought together former Penguin baseball players to take part in the pre-game ceremony.

And that’s why Clark alumnus and former Major League All-Star pitcher Randy Myers addressed the crowd to acknowledge those responsible for helping revitalize the program, which gives local kids the opportunity to play baseball without leaving home.

“I wasn’t a star or anything when I came to Clark. It took a couple of years of development here,” Myers said. “If I didn’t play here at Clark, I probably would have ended up becoming a mechanic.”

Vern Kindsfather coached at Clark for 25 seasons. Knight said one can’t discuss Clark County baseball without mentioning his name.

Before the game, current Clark players marched on to the field while carrying a sign reading “Kindsfather Field,” which will be placed atop the scoreboard once it’s installed.

Kindsfather’s son, Marc Kindsfather, then threw out the first pitch, which was followed by ceremonial pitches by Knight and Myers.

Clark coach Don Freeman noted the advantage of finally having an on-campus field, saying that players no longer have to walk a great distance for practice or “change in the bushes.”

Clark pitcher Joel Johnson said that he didn’t realize how many people were involved in restoring the program and that he found the effort “inspiring.”

And infielder Cory Henning said quite candidly that if Clark didn’t field a team, he wouldn’t be playing college baseball.

Then again, nobody played much baseball Saturday.

The first game was scheduled for noon but precipitation kept it from starting until about 1 p.m. Lower Columbia, which sits in first place in the NWAACC West standings, jumped out to a 7-0 lead thanks in part to a five-run fourth inning.

Clark rallied with one out in the fourth when Bryce McKinney singled in Nick Woods to make it 7-1, but that would be Saturday’s final at-bat.

Barring another rain delay, the teams will make up the games Monday.

So there has not yet been an official game logged at Vern Kindsfather field, but talk to Burkman, who’s also a Clark College trustee, and he’ll still call the day successful.

“I feel a great sense of pride for our community. This is not a government thing, but a group that was committed to make something happen,” Burkman said. “It’s gorgeous. Just an amazing site.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 ormatt.calkins@columbian.com