Long before he was known throughout the world as “Flash” and years before he was in the title of a Stephen King novel, he was just Thomas Gordon—a young kid who loved the game of baseball. He honed his skills in Avon Park and when Durrah Martin Sports Complex had an opportunity for a makeover, Gordon was there to help out.
“This is where it started for me,” Gordon said at the complex on Saturday. “I played on these very fields. “
Six ball fields across the United States were selected by Wal-Mart and their partners Scott’s Turf, Warner Brother Pictures, Hillshire Farms, Cal Ripken Basebal, and MLB.com Baseball Academy to be refurbished and with the backing of the Thomas Gordon Foundation and the Jerry Clark Foundation in Atlanta, Durrah Martin was selected to have two of its four fields receive a makeover by Cal Ripken Baseball and Scott’s Turf.
According to Robert Goding, the local Wal-Mart district manager, Wal-Mart got involved with Scott’s Turf and Warner Brothers Pictures with the release of “42” to select fields to revitalize.
“They are backing the movie and Scott’s Turf to help rebuild the ball fields,” said Goding. “Selection process was done at the corporate level, what seems to have happened in just a few days has been in the works for quite a while.”
Avon Park is by far the smallest market as other fields were chosen from much larger cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Wal-Mart home town of Bentonville, Arkansas.
Jerry Clark got involved with the Avon Park project because of his relationship with Thomas Gordon and the Gordon family.
Clark stated the Gordon and his family has been helping him for years with baseball camps in Atlanta and they have become close friends.
“They used to tell of Avon Park and how a close knit community it is,” said Clark. “I knew that this is what I stood for in refurbishing a field and I know that this is what Wal-Mart, Scott’s Turf and everybody else is looking for.
“He has never turned me down for anything. That is why we are here for him now.”
To Gordon, there was no other choice than Avon Park.
“This is home, this was my first choice,” he said. “It’s a true blessing to get this opportunity and to work with so many wonderful groups such as Scott’s Turf, Wal-Mart, Hillshire’s, Jerry Clark Foundation, Thomas Gordon Foundation; for all of us to come together to put on a pretty good event for the community and the kids.”
Chris Strunk, who is with the Sponsorship Marketing Program for Scott’s Turf said Ripken Baseball will be doing most of the work on the field and they would not be doing any major replanting, except for areas the workers have already cut out.
“They will level the fields, improve the grading and redo the mounds,” he said. “Then in some spots we will over seed and fertilize a little and that should help out.”
Scott’s Turf also partnered with MLB.com and its baseball academy. They brought a hit analysis and kids ran through an agility test on Saturday
Kids were videotaped hitting in the batting cages and will have the ability to download the video from the new platform MLB.com will be launching this spring or take the video home instantly on their iphones or other devices to upload.
Accounts manager and events for MLB.com Academy, Melissa Schulte said that the kids would be able to compare their swing to their favorite MLB players.
“They will get instant results on what they should be doing and corrections to their swing,” said Schulte. “It will not be only a place where kids can connect with their favorite players, but coaches can go online and use our practice planner to organize their routines and practices.”
Dixie League President, Jared Cloud, stated that this was a tremendous boost to the league.
“The fields are in pretty bad shape so any help we can get is great,” said Cloud. “And this is a lot of help; beyond anything we ever thought possible.”
The Ripken group is going to put together a maintenance plan according to the equipment that the league and city has.
“We are going to get a copy and the city of Avon Park is going to get a copy,” said Cloud. “Hopefully they will be able to keep the fields in tip top shape.”
Fields are going to down for only three days. The league plans to continue with their current season games and to work scheduled games to other fields as they will be only working on one field at a time.
Gordon said it was a wonderful feeling to be able to give something back to the community.
“I am grateful for this opportunity,” Gordon said. “I love Avon Park and everything in it.”