MITCHELL – Mitchell High School’s newly-turfed softball field now has a name; Parker Field.
The name change, approved unanimously by the Mitchell Community Schools board on Monday honors former Mitchell residents Ted and Gail Parker, whose names are synonymous with softball in the city after they dedicated much of their life to volunteering to operate the Mitchell’s softball league.
Board member Steve Burton spoke during the meeting, explaining the importance of the Parkers to the community.
He said that Ted came to the community in the 1964, at which point he began umpiring games for the Mitchell Little League. He coached in the league from 1965-1977, before stepping away and then eventually returning to become the league’s director from 1993-1996.
Ted began coaching softball in 1977, according to Burton. He said he also began directing the city’s softball league in 1978.
Around that time, construction efforts near the area of the MCS schools left the softball league with nowhere to play. Because of this dilemma, Ted, along with the help of others in the community such as Lee “Plush” Powell began constructing the softball field that still currently sits in front of Mitchell High School to this day after receiving permission from then MCS Superintendent Jeff Bowman.
Burton said that Ted ran the area’s softball league from 1979 to 2008. He also coached varsity girls softball from 2004-2008.
“He was a dedicated, loyal volunteer to Mitchell’s youth for over 44 years. Thirty-one of those years were on that field right over there. OK, and throughout those 44 years, he touched hundreds and possibly thousands of Mitchell’s youth and their dedication, from him and his wife, Gail, And it just touched many, many, many people,” Burton said. “And then you get thinking about 31 years on that field. Forty-four years but mainly 31 years on that field when had we had a girl softball league, that was there every night. And I look at this family here. And I think how many meals did they miss? How many family meals did you miss? You know how much family time was taken away that him and Gail were at that field? How much leisure time did that husband and wife lose for the benefit of our children?”
Much of the Parker family was in attendance at the meeting.
Jill Morse, daughter to Ted and Gail Parker, was grateful for the board’s recognition of her parents.
“It’s been brought up a few times and it’s a long time coming. So it’s very emotional for that reason, a long time coming. And even I mean, Steve [Burton] had wonderful words to say, absolutely wonderful. And in totality, it would have been 52 years that our dad volunteered, he has probably had a hand in building every single field in this town. But this is about the girls softball, but a lot of people don’t know the totality of the year spent by our parents,” she said.
Morse hopes the naming of the field can serve as a reminder of her parent’s dedication to the community, as well as inspiration for others, showing them that their hard work does not go unnoticed.
“I think it’s really important, especially nowadays, for students, young people, especially. I mean, I know that sometimes it’s kind of going by the wayside of naming things after people, but in my opinion, not because it’s our parents, but in my opinion in general, so you never forget the history. You do not forget and you also know that in the future, maybe I could be that person. Maybe somebody I know could be that person. Maybe someone in my family could be that person. And so it’s always something that, not only to strive for, but to think, wow, people can make a difference,” she said.
Jamie Philpott, also the daughter of Ted and Gail Parker, shared a similar sentiment.
“I’m just glad they finally did this. This has been a long time coming. Long overdue,” she said.
Philpott further explained some of the ways her father went above and beyond to contribute to the softball league.
“There were many, many that got the play for free and they didn’t know,” she said. “He never left the field at night leaving kids there waiting on their parents to come pick them up. He stayed right there with them until somebody came and got him and if nobody came and got them he took them home,” she later added.
According to Morse, her family had never pushed MCS to make this decision, instead she said it was the support of the community that made this possible.
A petition was started by former softball league player, Ashleigh Mesarosh, one month ago, seeking support for the naming of the field after the Parkers. Within two weeks, the petition had over 700 signatures. Now, it sits at over 850.
“I really thought that if we could just find a way to ask people that I knew that this was something they would support,” Mesarosh said. “I had heard before that the board had voted it down. And so I just wanted to show that it’s not just the family who wanted it, it was community wide. So, that seemed like the easiest way to get the word out.”
Mesarosh was happy to see the community’s voices had been heard by the members of the board.
“It means everything. The amount of people, of girls specifically, that Ted and Gail had an impact on like, just immeasurable. It’s something that is so desperately needed now. If you’re outside, playing together doing something physical and not watching TV. The teams, you would be together with people that you wouldn’t interact with at school, you made new friends,” she said. “Everyone looked forward to it and he knew that and that’s why he continued.”
Morse said the community’s support on the online petition and her being able to see how many people had been impacted by her parents was incredibly meaningful to her.
“My thought in the last few days has been, has there ever been a mayoral candidate that has ever gotten 1,000 votes? Like seriously, in any election, not even 1000 votes. That is the biggest thing to me. Whether this passed tonight or not. It was such a huge honor. For that many people to have spoken up, taking the time to just do the simple ‘I’ll sign that because I believe in it.’ And that meant more than even if this didn’t pass, that meant more than anything,” Morse said.