DARLINGTON — For decades the Old School Park in Darlington was the top of the line baseball and softball facility in Montgomery County.
Each summer the sound of a ball smacking off an aluminium bat or popping into a leather glove could be heard throughut town along with the cheers from hundreds of fans that flooded all four diamonds each evening and every weekend. The fields always in perfect condition, each nights’ ball games conducted without interruption.
And it was all because Dick Ames was hard at work.
Ames, who passed away in late December, had dedicated his life to the Montgomery County sports scene and town of Darlington.
“The time and effort that man took for the youth in Darlington was outstanding for what he did,” Dave Paddack, who spent many years on the Darlington Fire Department and helped Ames work on the fields, said. “He always had that park looking perfect for those kids all summer long. That’s what I’ll always remember about him.”
Ames coached girls’ and womens’ softball for nearly 40 years and was an ASA National umpire. When he wasn’t working at RR Donnelley or for the town of Darlington, he was spending every ounce of effort making sure the Darlington fields met his high standards.
Mike Morgan will never forget the day Ames was able to help deliver a second set of lights to the Darlington diamonds.
“I spent eight or nine years helping Dick work at the park and organize youth softball on the Montgomery County Youth Softball board ( which no longer exists),” Morgan said. “He was very passionate about the youth and all sport events at the park. I remember the day we installed the lights on field No. 3. He was so excited to finally have two lighted fields at the park. We spent hours setting flags and looking at maps to make sure the light positions were correct.
“Dick was a great man, loved his family and the Lord. He was always willing to help if he was able. He will be missed by many.”
And when Ames did have a moment to spare, he was helping extend his love for sports throughout the entire county.
“I had the honor and privilege of working with Dick Ames for better than 30 years, and there was never a moment that he didn’t have the best interests of his team, his league or a bigger picture at heart,” Jeff Nelson, President of the Crawfordsville Area Softball Association said. “His dedication to Darlington sports, which extended to Montgomery County sports and the athletes and teams it encompassed, was truly inspiring.”
Whether it was the pre-game work on the field or in the game coaching or umpiring, Ames always had a steady hand — and Nelson will never forget that.
“Along with his never-ending hard work, what I will always remember is Dick’s calm demeanor in any raging storm, whether from the sky or from a player or coach,” Nelson said about Ames, who was the 2001 recpipient of the RTV6 Leadership Award for outstanding service to the community. “He never wavered in his love for the people and program he was building and supporting. He was a good and righteous man. While he will be missed among us, his lessons will never be forgotten.”
Youth sports will never be the same as they used to be, but thousands of boys and girls who grew up in Montgomery County will always be able to look back on fond memories of playing youth baseball and softball and have Ames to thank for helping make those moments so special.
“If it wasn’t for him there probably wouldn’t have been a youth sports program in Darlington. Just some place for the kids to go play in the summer,” Paddack said.