1982 and '83 Regional Champion Team Members Get Involved: You Can Help
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The term "once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat" rings true in Edmonson County, especially at times when there are specific needs. Spring sports for high schools are oft times difficult to navigate because of unpredictable weather. Soggy, wet grounds, cold temperatures, and sometimes even snow, hinder baseball and softball seasons as they begin in early March.
Those weather conditions can cause problems for game and practice schedules, and for teams that don't have a place to practice inside, they can find themselves falling behind other schools.
Head baseball coach for ECHS Michael Meredith began working with the baseball boosters to figure out the possibilities for constructing an indoor practice and workout facility for the Wildcats, as they are the only team in District 12 that has no place of their own.
"We have always been able to use the gym to do some workouts and throwing, and we've always appreciated that, but there are limitations and we felt like our kids deserved a facility of their own where they could throw and hit," said Meredith.
Hitting a baseball inside a gym is not feasible for several reasons and the size limitations can cause safety issues.
Coach Meredith said he and the boosters started putting a plan together, pricing, and determining needs. The cost obviously became an issue very soon.
"Our boosters have been phenomenal over the years and they took it upon themselves to go seek out some funding for the project."
They went to the CEO of Houchens Industries, Dion Houchins, who also happens to not only be an ECHS alum, but also a member of the back-to-back regional baseball championship teams in 1982 and 1983. It didn't work out this time for Houchens Industries to be part of the project, but Houchins, the former Wildcat, had an idea.
"It just sort of hit me, personally," Houchins said. "I just felt like this was something that me and some of my old teammates could help. I got on the phone with Craig Browing, (Managing Principal of The Glenview Trust Company), (a former teammate) and asked him if he thought we could generate some interest with some of the guys and he was immediately on board. We divided and conquered. I started a text list and Craig started another and immediately we had half a dozen guys that wanted to be involved."
1982 and 1983 ECHS Baseball Team Members
1982 Team Members: Mike Buttram, Glendale Meredith, Lynn Meredith, Sonny Prunty, Kevin Raymer, Barry Vincent, Todd Webb.
1983 Team Members: David Alexander, Brad Houchin, Keith Ohmer, Bryan Thompson, Jimmy Wilson, Mark Woosley.
1982 AND 1983 Team Members: Robbie Alexander, Tim Basil, Craig Browning, Dion Houchins, Scott Key, Greg Meredith, Shane Meredith, Eugene Spradlin, Kevin Ray, Chris Raymer, Roland Simmons, Jason VanMeter, Allen Vincent. Assistant Coach – Ricky Houchin. Head Coach – Mike Houchin.
Not only did the 1982 and '83 teams win the region, they also advanced to the finals in 1980 and '81. It was a stretch of high-level baseball with tremendous athletes in Edmonson County that unfortunately is often overlooked.
Browning said that he was impressed when he learned of Coach Meredith's vision for the facility and for the future of Edmonson County baseball.
"Dion reached out to me and shared what had been presented to him, then I started contacting other guys," said Browning. "It was an all-around effort. When the news got back to Coach Meredith, he was encouraged and he and some others started working even harder to make it happen."
Coach Meredith said that from the beginning, local people were working together to see that the facility could be built.
"We had Dennis Arthur, an architect that has a grandson on the team (Carter Hodges), donate his services to draw up the plans, and that saved us no telling what," Meredith said. "We had our own crew put together of working on it here and there, pricing materials, selling signage, and then the guys from the '82 and '83 teams got involved and we could see that this could really happen."
The former Wildcats raised nearly $17,000 by themselves, by simply calling, texting, and emailing, rallying each other to get involved.
"When we think about those regional championship teams, they were special," said Browning. "But not any of us want to selfishly be the last regional champions. We just want to give back so that our present and future teams have the best opportunities to do it again."
Houchins had similar thoughts.
"It was impressive what was done during those years," he said." Going to the regional finals four years in a row was really something, and what I hope is that our kids now and in the future can be better prepared to do the same."
Coach Meredith said the list of people to thank was getting longer by the day.
"The support from the community, our parents, our boosters, the school, everyone, has just been phenomenal," he said. "It looks like we've raised enough money to put up the building, but we'll need to finish it out on the inside later. We'll still need nets, a way to construct a mound inside, other equipment, I mean, there's always going to be something we'll need so there's still plenty of ways people can donate."
Signage is still being sold for the building and donations are being accepted. The team hopes to use the building this season if all goes well. Coach Meredith said the facility can also be used for other county teams and other purposes on down the road.
"This could not have been possible without the support and oversight of Brian Alexander, Jonathan Williams, and Callie Belilies," Meredith added. "They have helped oversee the project from the get-go."
He also wanted to thank Stewart Lich, president of the baseball boosters, and his wife, Mandy, for their work on the project, as well as the Edmonson County Lions Club and Jonathan and Lori Hodges for allowing the team to use their properties for practice over the last two years.
The Lady Cat Softball team was able to build a similar facility several years ago and they also had to rely on fundraising and donations. It wouldn't have happened without the support from the community, volunteers, and local businesses.
"There have been great improvements made to our program over the past few years," he said. "We've improved our field, scoreboard, our new press box, and now this. We just want to continue to build on what is here and I believe these things will help make us better."
For more information, email Coach Meredith at email@example.com, or donations can be sent to:
EC Baseball Boosters
c/o Christy Logan
205 Noah Stevenson Road
Bee Spring, KY 42207