Because it’s located at 18050 Kinnan Street, many people know New Tampa Little League Park as Kinnan Fields. But soon it could be getting a whole new name.
A final decision has yet to be made, but a public meeting on Feb. 10 to discuss options ended with one clear choice among interested parties.
“Every person there spoke to renaming the park Eber Park, after Dick and Kathy Eber,” said Jack Carlisle, director of Parks, Recreation and Conservation for Hillsborough County. The couple was instrumental in the formation of the league, first as the Northeast Little League, and then its move to New Tampa.
And the Ebers still live in the area, Carlisle said, with Kathy Ebers an assistant athletic specialist for the county, and Dick Eber a retired postal carrier.
The Ebers have a vocal group of supporters who want to see them honored with the park naming, but the couple was not informed of the effort, Carlisle said. His plan was to meet with Kathy this week and reveal the news, ahead of Wednesday’s Hillsborough County Commission meeting, where the item is on the agenda.
The ball to recognize the Ebers got rolling when Harald Stone, a former Little League president, spoke with Commissioner Ken Hagan about the possibility of renaming New Tampa Little League Park in their honor. Stone then spoke before the Park Advisory Board to present the issue, which led to a public meeting to consider all options and opinions.
“I had been thinking about it for two or three years,” explained Stone, who has known the Ebers for more than two decades. “They have just been the heart and soul of Little League.”
Kathy, Stone said, served as Little League president multiple times, and would handle the league’s administrative duties in the early days, while Dick would work on managing, coaching and umpiring. After their own children grew out of the league, the Ebers stayed and even sacrificed vacation time to mentor children, remain active and help it grow.
In an organization where leaders tend to come and go as their children moved through the system, the Ebers remained a constant presence and source of support. “Through all the comings and goings of the various of adults and parents who were involved in the league, there was one constant, and that was Dick and Kathy Eber,” Stone said. “We were there when our kids played. They were there long-term.”
The meeting had enthusiastic supporters for the name change in attendance, but it wasn’t a large group. Only six people came to speak to the issue, but some had well-recognized baseball credentials. Major League Baseball Hall-Of-Famer Wade Boggs and former University of South Florida baseball coach Eddie Cardieri were among those speaking on the Ebers’ behalf.
Carlisle explained that while there might not have been large numbers in attendance, it’s not surprising that those who showed up were passionate about the topic.
“I’m fond of telling staff in almost every meeting that at Parks and Recreation, we’re in the business of creating memories,” he said. “When people walk away from the park with their family or from some sporting event, they’re walking away with a memory. I believe that collectively, over time, that creates a kind of passion for a particular place.”
The renaming of the park — which boasts three fields, batting cages and a concession area — won’t be official until the board approves it. But there aren’t any other names in contention. If approved, appropriate signage will be placed at the park, and a ceremony will be scheduled to mark the change.
That could happen sometime in the middle or end of the current season, which runs through closing ceremonies scheduled for May 17.
While he was the catalyst behind the name change, Stone said he’s just one of the couple’s many admirers, and represents the sentiments of those who appreciate their contributions to youth baseball.
“There would have been a hundred other guys who, if I had been hit by a car, would have kept it going. I can tell you that,” he said. “I was not alone in this.”
Published Feb. 19, 2014
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.