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Jim Hughes Field dedication held Saturday, May 11

By John Estridge, Sports Editor

Franklin County High School Athletic Director Denny Dorrel was the emcee for the Jim Hughes Baseball Field dedication held Saturday afternoon, May 11.

He started the ceremony with a quote from his dad, Dan Dorrel.

“Dad said 'I think a man should not be proud of the place that he lives, but the place that he lives should be proud of the man,'” Dorrel said.

Dan could have been speaking solely about legendary teacher, coach, parent and friend Jim Hughes.

Hughes passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 12, 2018.

He left behind more than a loving wife, children and grandchildren. He left behind a community who was touched by him in so many different ways.

Several people went to the lectern during the moving ceremony, and the words passion and dedication were used over and over. It would seem the continued use of the words would trivialize their meanings, but it did not. Instead, it reinforced their meanings to the man who inspired them.

Brendan Bergin, Class of 1992, sang a very beautiful and moving “National Anthem” to open the dedication ceremony

Afterwards, Denny told the story behind Bergin singing the National Anthem. At the start of a baseball sectional, the Anthem was always played off a tape. Then athletic director Charles “Chuck” Grimes suggested Bergin sing the Anthem. And he did. Jim Hughes turned around, and Grimes gave him a thumbs up. They then played ball.

Franklin County Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Debbie Howell read the field proclamation naming the field Jim Hughes Field.

Before she read the proclamation, she said some personal words about Jim.

“It’s both a privilege and an honor to be here today,” Howell said. “Jim was someone I considered a friend, a mentor and he was one of the most genuine, gentle and generous individuals that I had the honor of work with through my career.”

After reading the proclamation, Howell walked over to Jim’s widow, Mary Lou Hughes, a retired high school counselor, and handed her the proclamation.

Next was Brookville Town Council President Mike Biltz. He read a proclamation naming Saturday Jim Hughes Day.

And like Howell, before he read the proclamation, he talked about Jim as a teacher.

“I was not an athlete, but Mr. Hughes affected my life because he taught me how to drive,” Biltz said. “It was the year Mary Lou and him were going to be married, and I spent a lot of time in the car with him.

“He napped, I think, part of the time because he was tired from getting ready for the wedding,” he continued.

As Howell did, after he was finished reading the proclamation, Biltz walked over to Mary Lou and handed her the proclamation.

A classmate of Jim, Eddie Thackrey, a fellow 1962 Brookville High School graduate, talked about growing up with Jim in Fairfield.

“We had a lot times together growing up,” Thackrey said. He was our classmate, friend and colleague. He was the glue that held our class together after high school.”

He talked about attending grade school in Old Fairfield. When they attended second grade, they went to a new building across the street that had indoor plumbing.

Thackrey said he and Jim had sleepovers, and they wore out rubber baseballs throwing them against walls.

As they grew older, they spent time together hunting mushrooms, doing farm work and just hanging out together.

“Sometimes, I got in trouble spending too much time at Jim’s house,” he said.

At Fairfield, the students played competitive softball during the warm weather on Friday afternoons, taking on area schools. Thackrey said that was a great joy for Jim because it involved a bat and a ball.

He said Jim continued to play baseball at BHS and then later at Ball State University.

“Where he did very well,” he said.

At the end of his speech, the BHS Class of 1962 dedicated a tree at the Jim Hughes Baseball Field in Jim’s honor.

Next to speak was assistant athletic director Brad Stacy.

First, Stacy talked about his memories of Jim taking care of his baseball field prior to school.

“I remember him coming into school, and Jim and his dress pants pulled up to his knees out on the field working on the wet, dewy grass before school,” Stacy said.

He talked about how the athletic department is going to sell white pavers that can be inscribed. They will be laid in a semicircle between the two stands.

The price is $35, which includes the inscription. It will pay for the project.

Brian Abbott was a coach at BHS from 1983-84.

He was a baseball player in college, and he came to Brookville fresh out of college. Jim asked him to coach baseball. Abbott said yes before he understood exactly what coaching with Jim entailed.

“The next thing you know you’re at the house; you’re watching baseball; we’re going over to Miami (University) to do this; we’re going here to do that; we’re out at the field; we’re all over the place working on the program; we’re in the old gym; we’re doing all kinds of things. You just hit the ground running. The man is nothing but passion. He’s full of passion.”

But as their relationship went on after Abbott left Brookville, he found another part of Jim. Those who know Jim know how giving he was. He was always giving people all kinds of things. He was always thinking of other people.

“Every time we see him, he’s always talking,” Abbott said. “He’s sending me things. And you guys know what I’m talking about. He’s handing you things; he’s giving you stuff. ‘I got this; I picked this up; you’d love this; let’s go here.’

“He left me a message one day, the night Pete Rose got his hit that broke the record. He said ‘I have a ticket for you for the game.’ That was before cell phones ... saying he had a ticket for me for the ball game, and I missed it.

“He’s always thinking about how he can serve other people, what he can do and how he can help you,” Abbott continued.

His voice began to break as he continued.

“So, my memory is – as I look at Mary Lou – I told you (Mary Lou) standing right over there he took me into your family, and I appreciate that.

“Those are the things I think a lot of people sitting out here will remember about Jim,” he said. “Is how he made you feel as a part of his life.”

Ken Handley played on Jim’s first baseball team at BHS in 1970. And then he came back and was an assistant coach with Jim from 1991-95 at FCHS.

“It’s a great pleasure to speak at this dedication ceremony,” Handley said. “The naming the field after Coach Hughes. I never could call him Jim. It’s an honor he richly deserved. He was a man I respected as a coach, a colleague and a friend.”

Handley said that first team in 1970 started the winning tradition at both BHS and FCHS. He then joined the coaching staff in 1991.

“That’s something I really enjoyed,” Handley said. “In probably all the years I coached, that was probably my favorite. We won. I like winning. I learned so much from coach Hughes. How he treated his players. How he taught the fundamentals of the game. And the pride and attention he put in taking care of his ball field.

“The hours he spent on this field amazed me: fertilizing, watering, cutting the grass, edging the field, raking and of course, the brick dust,” he continued. “I still remember him driving that tractor with the brick dust flying.

“It was definitely the best-kept field in the area,” Handley said. “When we had coaches meetings here at the school, he could not wait to show it off. He was so proud of this field.”

While Jim taught driver’s ed, he would call Handley, who lived nearby, to go move a hose to another part of the field.

“He was worried about too much water in one area,” he said. “And of course, I did (move the hose).

One time Jim asked Handley to mow the grass for him.

“I thought I did a pretty good job, but he never asked me again,” Handley said.

“My wife came up with one word that would describe Coach,” he continued. “The word was passionate. He was passionate about everything. First his love for Mary Lou, his children, his grandchildren, his effort he put into his coaching, doing the baseball yearbook, mushroom hunting, his golf game, dancing lessons and planning that class reunion.

“I know I’m going to miss a few other things that he did,” he said. “But he always gave a 110 percent in everything he did.”

Handley said the naming of the field for Jim meant that his legacy would continue far into the future.

“Coach Hughes coached many family generations including my son and me,” Handley said. “I think that is so neat. And naming this field after him, his legacy will continue for generations of players and people at Franklin County High School.”

Handley then led the large audience in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

Audience members filled seats set up behind home plate and both metal stands usually used for baseball fans. People also stood around the field watching the ceremony.

Former assistant baseball coach Wayne Lanning was at BHS and FCHS from 1984-95.

“I have two words that best describe Jim Hughes, dedication and passionate towards his wife, children and grandchildren,” Lanning said. “Dedication and passionate towards his community, his school and the kids he taught and coached over the years.”

He talked about the Oakland look-a-like uniforms for the Brookville Greyhounds. Many people wore the A’s jerseys for the program.

Lanning also talked about how he innocently agreed to be an assistant coach and then was kidded by the other teachers on what exactly that entailed.

“I began my teaching and coaching career at Brookville High School 35 years ago in the fall of 1984,” Lanning said. “I knew of Jim because he had coached several of my cousins. Jim asked me that fall if I would be interested in coaching baseball, and I said yes.

“Little did I know the commitment I made,” he continued. “It soon became apparent to me while eating lunch with several of the other teachers and coaches in the basement of the old Brookville High School cafeteria. Three questions I was repeatedly asked as they chuckled were: How’s your baseball net mending skills? Second, Can you mow straight lines with an old Cub Cadet tractor? And finally, can you whistle? And if so, how loud?

“I think many of you remember hearing Jim’s piercing whistle to get someone’s attention,” Lanning said. “And most of us witnessing Jim hour after hour on that old, red Cub Cadet mower.

“Jim was not only the head coach; he was the field maintenance man, selling advertisement spots for the football and baseball programs to raise money for the baseball and athletic programs,” he continued. “There was nothing he wouldn’t or couldn’t do. Jim, was always on the move.”

Lanning said Jim’s love of the game was passed onto countless other people through the course of Jim’s life.

“Jim passed his love of the game to his players, coaches and kids, spending countless hours putting on clinics for kids of all ages, attending clinics and working with players who needed extra help,” Lanning said. “And he did so long after others had gone home.”

Lanning said many times he was invited into Jim’s home for dinner and to watch a game with Jim and his family.

“Being single my first year of teaching, a free meal was always welcome, especially a meal Mary Lou had fixed,” he said.

Lanning then compared the field that was being dedicated to the movie “Field of Dreams” and the character the actor Kevin Costner played.

He said Costner spent most of the movie trying to figure out who was supposed to come to the field built out of a cornfield.

“Jim, on the other hand, knew what to build and what to develop and who it would impact,” Lanning said. “He, with the support of many others, took what was once an old cornfield and developed it into one of the nicest baseball diamonds in the state.

“Many of us here lived that dream,” he continued. “Jim taught more than the game of baseball. He taught us life skills: to be passionate about everything we do in life. He will forever be remembered.

“This is the field and baseball program Jim Hughes built, so it is fitting it carries his name,” he said.

Signs that will be erected in the home dugout and on the scoreboard were revealed to the crowd.

Ben Jones, a son in law of Jim’s, spoke for the Hughes family.

He began by thanking everyone who came out to the dedication celebration. And he also thanked all the people who worked to make the dedication ceremony possible.

“Dad spent countless hours on this field coaching and maintaining,” Jones said. “Many of those hours were spent with family and friends.

“We couldn’t imagine a more fitting tribute for him,” he continued. “Some people spend their entire life existing in the community. Others spend their entire life helping to shape how that community exists.

“It is clear to me today dad was a big part of the fabric of this community,” Jones said. “I’m sure he’s smiling down on us now with that infectious smile and unmistakable happiness that was his trademark.”

Then, a sign that will be placed next to the dedicated tree tells Jim’s story. What the sign will say was read by one of his daughter’s, Melissa.

Scott and Greg Hughes, his sons, threw out the first pitches on the newly dedicated field, throwing the balls to their sisters, Melissa and Amy.

Kim Simonson has worn many hats while in education at BHS and FCHS. He is now retired. He talked about his 37 years in a classroom next door to Jim.

“He was meticulous,” Simonson said. “He was something special and something unique.”

Simonson talked about a time Jim was watering the field in late fall. The temperature dropped and a glacier formed in left field.

He said he and the rest of the teachers kidded Jim about his glacier for some time.

Simonson then talked about a memorial scholarship that is in Jim’s name. It is being administered by the Brookville Foundation.

Jim’s son Scott presented it to the student who was chosen to receive the first scholarship in Jim’s name. The presentation was done on Wednesday, May 8.

A fundraiser for the memorial scholarship was held at Third Place after the dedication ceremony.

Third Place owners, Mick and Jenny Wilz, donated all the food at Third Place for the benefit.

A free-will offering was taken at the establishment.

“Thanks for coming,” Simonson said. “Carry his memory forward. Let’s make this day a very special day.

“A moment today is a memory you will keep tomorrow,” he said. “So, let’s make some memories today.