Field to honor Merritt
by Joey Martin - posted Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 @ 10:11 am
Cliff and Debra Merritt spent many a spring afternoon in their backyard watching baseball games, especially Vidalia High baseball games, at the Vidalia Adult Baseball Field on Alabama.
So Debra could find no better way of honoring the memory of Cliff, who died July 23, 2012 at the age of 54 after a four-year battle with cancer, than purchasing sponsorship of one of the fields at the new Recreation District 3 Complex for eight years..
"Cliff and Debra watched many a game in their backyard," said former Vidalia High baseball coach and current Recreation District 3 and City of Vidalia Recreation Director Johnny Lee Hoffpauir. "They shagged many a foul ball for us."
So Hoffpauir was pleasantly shocked and thrilled when Debra presented him with a check for $40,000 Tuesday to name the feature baseball field (Field No. 1) after Cliff.
"I came up through the leagues almost the same time as Cliff," Hoffpauir said. "He was always very supportive to the community for all events. We're honored to have his name on our baseball field."
Debra said watching baseball games was not the only reason she wanted to honor Cliff, who would have turned 55 Tuesday.
"It's not just about a legacy or leaving his name on something, baseball was a big part of who he is and he always talked about the coaches who influenced him," Debra said. "I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I spent 34 years with Cliff and the main thing he talked about a lot was playing baseball while growing up in Vidalia. He talked a lot about the coaches were were incredible influences. Somebody would come up to talk to us and Cliff would say, 'He was my baseball coach.' He told me about the time he hit a home run on his birthday. Baseball was a big part of him growing up in Vidalia. It was a big part of his stability."
Debra did say when they moved to Oak Street, watching baseball games was a bonus.
"When he got sick that was a very important place for him to go to see the ballgames," Debra said. "He could be a part of that. And people always came up and spoke to us. There were a lot of things Cliff was connected to, but he always talked about baseball. That's what made this so right."
Four other fields at the complex are being sponsored by businesses.
Goldman signed an 8-year contract for $40,000 for Field 2, Concordia Bank the same for Field 3 and Delta Bank paid the same for sponsorship of C Field, the premier softball park.
All three purchased Package A, which is a 5-year contract for $8,000 a year or two years for $8,500.
There is also a Package B which is for four smaller fields for five years for $7,000 or three for $7,500.
Package C is for two fields for $5,000 for five years or $5,500 for three years.
"We're going to have a big sign on the field, a sign outside the fence and a sign at the entrance listing all the sponsors," Hoffpauir said.