A couple with strong ties to Higginsport has restored what was once a beacon of the community.
The Higginsport baseball field, known as Slim Sallee Field, is back in action and looking for a new team to call it home.
Mark Herron, a small business owner and technology coordinator for Williamsburg Local Schools, and his wife Nancy Sanborn, took it upon themselves to clean up the field and give kids another arena to play baseball or softball.
“We were at a town council meeting one night and we had a brainstorm of to how we can bring life back to the town,” Herron said. “We asked the council about the ball park and if they had any plans to keep it mowed and they said they didn’t have the funds to keep it up. My wife and I talked to each other and we made a proposal to council that if they lease it to us for $1 a year, we would mow it and fix it back up.”
Higginsport Village Council agreed to the deal in November 2014, and by April 2015, Herron, and other local businesses and volunteers began working on cleaning the field. They removed weeds, brush, as well as the remnants of a tobacco field in the outfield, Higginsport leased out a portion of the land on the field after it had gone into a state of disrepair to a local farmer to grow tobacco, and started to replace the benches, light bulbs, and bases.
By September, the field was good enough to host a home-run derby for baseball and softball players. Herron said the event helped raise more than $400, which will go towards the maintenance of the field.
“Some kids came down and participated and had some fun,” Herron said. “We don’t even know the last time the ball field was used. I’ve been going down to Higginsport for 30 years now, my wife and I have been married for 20, and I’ve never seen the ball field used before this.”
One issue facing Herron and the town is the annual flooding of the field. Although there’s a seven or eight-foot-high levy along the Ohio River, the field is susceptible to flooding.
In the past, when the river would flood onto the field, local townspeople would come together to help clean up the field. But in recent times, as the Higginsport community grows older in age and youngsters are growing up elsewhere, no one had been around to continue the cleanup tradition. Herron said he even found the last used home plate about four to five inches underneath the surface, showing how long it had been since the field had been cleaned.
Herron hopes that if a team can call the field home, they’ll be motivated to keep it nice and suitable for games.
“If (a team) takes care of the ball field, maybe they’ll take pride in it,” Herron said.
Herron said that he’s received plenty of calls from local youth teams, and he’s bullish on the Ripley Knothole Association or youth softball league to not only use the field but take it over as well. Once the field has a permanent resident, Herron can apply for grants for improvements, including from the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund.
For all the work that the Herron’s, Patrick and Jennifer Elliott, and others have done, there is still more work they hope to do. The outfield continues to recieve work and four of the 20 lights need to be replaced, in order for ball games to take place at night.
“It’s a group effort to try and bring business and entertainment back to the town,” Herron said. “I think it will be a good thing in a long run. We’ve taken a lot of pride in doing it.”