Finally time to play ball
Champion baseball team gets first cuts on new diamond
CHAMPION — At last, the Flashes’ long wait is over.
Champion High School’s baseball team is finally playing on the new Larry J. Durch Baseball Field. Completion of the facility was delayed in 2019, and then the 2020 season was called off due to the ongoing pandemic.
A special dedication and throwing of a ceremonial first pitch for Monday’s baseball game were held at the field, located behind the school complex off state Route 45.
Durch, a 20-year school board member including board president, died at 72 in 2013.
Superintendent John Grabowski said this year is the first time the field has been used for the baseball season.
He said a softball field dedicated to board member Roger Samuelson was put into use two years ago, and again this year.
In addition to being a long-time school board member and supporter of athletics, Durch had worked 38 years as a circulation manager for The Vindicator.
Athletic Director Tim Cope said the dedication was an honor.
“We know the field had been done, but because of the pandemic situation we faced we couldn’t play last year. It is a great honor to dedicate the field on Larry’s behalf. Larry was a great member of our community. He loved baseball and was actively involved in coaching baseball with the youth programs,” he said.
Board of Education President Patricia Fisher said “the day has been a long time coming.”
“Our patience has paid off. This is an amazing facility. Larry has touched the lives of many children with his 20 years on the school board and the many years he volunteered with the Champion Athletic Club. Because of his dedication to the youth of Champion our baseball and softball programs have flourished, offering experiences and memories for so many of our children,” Fisher said.
Darlene Durch, Larry’s wife, and other family and friends attended the special event.
“We are excited that this is finally happening. He always liked baseball and supported the school teams,” she said.
Champion 2020 graduates Abe Bayus and Willis Howell, who were varsity baseball team members, were not able to have their final season.
“We can’t express how sorry we all are you missed your senior baseball season, but we are honored that you are here to officially inaugurate the Larry Durch Baseball Field with the ceremonial first pitches,” Fisher said.
Varsity baseball coach Rick Yauger said the school administration and the community made the field possible.
“We are very glad to be playing this year and to be on this field,” Yauger said, noting they have played two official games and some scrimmages on the field.
Durch was a founder and past president of the Champion Athletic Club, co-founder of the Hoop and Net Girls’ Basketball Association and a board member of the Ohio Hot Stove Baseball Association of Alliance.
He received numerous awards, including induction into the Warren Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997 and Champion Alumni Association Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. He was the grand marshal of Champion Baseball Parade in 2010.