Athletic association celebrates 100 years of making Moorefield ‘super ball town’

MOOREFIELD – The Moorefield Athletic Association recognized a century of making the community the local destination for a good, old-fashioned ball game.

Residents, several of whom had played on the Hilltops girls’ team or volunteered with the association, gathered for the celebration held inside the Maryborough Community Centre on Ball Avenue on June 10.

Ball regalia surrounded the room, replete with archival photos and newspaper clippings from the Community News and Drayton Advocate, providing a glimpse into the past when Moorefield, according to a 1993 Community News story, was known as “super ball town.”

“What a bunch of history we have going on here,” Mapleton Mayor Gregg Davidson remarked.

“I don’t think we have anybody 100 years old, but Bill Cummings will be coming up shortly — he’s close,” Davidson quipped to much laughter.

Cummings spoke of times when bleachers at the ball diamond were packed, as they were that Saturday, drawing the likes of Detroit pitchers Booker Thomas and Edward Johnson.

An article in the Drayton Advocate harkens back to 1954 when Thomas and Johnson were in Moorefield and ball games reportedly kept “fans on edge.”

“We can remember when to see ball at its best you had to travel to Toronto or Detroit,” the article states.

“Now, they have the real thing at Moorefield,” it continued. “You are in Moorefield Floodlite Park – wowie!”

“But there was no minor ball,” Cummings said on Saturday.

After, it would be those minor ball games that brought families together and kept kids coming back for generations.

“We had big tournaments here every year,” Cummings recalled, noting the money raised allowed for another ball diamond to be built as well as fencing and lighting to be installed.

“Anybody that came and played, even from other towns, still talk about playing in those tournaments,” Cummings said.

The Hilltops won the first all-Ontario championship, and successive minor ball teams continued to bring home trophies throughout the 1980s and onward.

“The rest is basically history,” Cummings said.

Politicians, including Perth-Wellington MP John Nater and MPP Matthew Rae, and county councillor Earl Campbell were on hand to present certificates of recognition to the association.

Representing the township with a certificate was councillor Marlene Ottens, who said “it’s such a thrill to see a celebration of 100 years; it’s just an amazing accomplishment and we hope there’s another 100 years after this.”

Gerty Ottens teared up when making some brief comments of thanks to everyone who came out for the centennial celebration.

For the past 30 years, she has been the go-to for the association. But this year will be her last, she announced.

With around 200 children said to be playing ball in the sunshine-soaked ball diamonds that day, it made for a good ending to her final season.

“It’s pretty exciting how many people are here,” Gerty said as she was pulled in different directions by people wanting to know if she really was moving on.

Indeed she is. The time has come after decades of summers dedicated to softball, she said.

Bev May, who held Gerty’s role at one time, was also in attendance.

May is considered responsible for bringing minor ball to Moorefield in 1974, and played a key role for the next 11 years by bringing the community together at the diamonds where games were sometimes held six nights a week.

To keep the association alive, more dedicated volunteers like May and Gerty are needed.

Certainly there’s a lot of time involved in convening teams, organizing game schedules, handling last-minute hiccups, orchestrating repairs and even making sure the finances line up.

But if you asked either of the women if it was worth it all just to hear the cheers and whistling coming from the families outside after the thwack of a ball hitting the bat, they’d certainly tell you it was.