Scores of area ballplayers encircle the Forrest Hicks Field in Jefferson to watch 3 "first pitches" be thrown by selectman Norm Brown, center, and two members of Hicks' 1st Santa's Village baseball team: Rick Bedell, left, and Dwayne Bosse, plus emcee Bruce Hicks, partially obscured in the background. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
May 07, 2014JEFFERSON — Some 30 area Cal Rifken and Lou Leaver baseball and softball teams and coaches, starting with the T-ballers directly behind the John W. Weeks VFW Post 3041 Color Guard, marched west on Route 2 at noontime on Saturday to attend the official dedication of the beautiful Forrest Hicks Field.
"Thank you for coming today as we begin yet another season while also dedicating this field in recognition of Forrest's outstanding contributions to our youth," said master of ceremonies Bruce Hicks of Jefferson, one of Forrest's brothers, who stood on the recently installed pitcher's rubber on the just-completed ball field.
"It is not a time of sorrow, but a time to celebrate his legacy as we begin a new one," the emcee said.
Looking out at the scores of youngsters, most wearing colorful short-sleeved shirts that sported commercial sponsors' names, Hicks commented, "We trust that the children of Jefferson and the entire area will have lasting memories of their games at Forrest Hicks Field. We also trust that some of these youngsters will continue as coaches and mentors to our children for generations to come — much like Aaron Gross who played for Forrest some 30 years ago and is now coaching for his 16th year.
"Or Ross Conway who had Forrest and Aaron as coaches then Forrest again at the high school level and now, although he has no children in the program, is coaching for us.
"This is just part of Forrest's legacy!"
Hicks detailed his brother's efforts — almost 35 years ago — to bring organized ball to Jefferson so that its youth could have a chance to play.
"He got the League to let his team in … who could say 'no' to Forrest? He gained sponsorship from Santa's Village and with lots of help eventually established a playing field on land donated for use by Paul Couture in Riverton. His team would be known for its red-and-white pin-striped uniforms, and over the years they won nearly as many championships as the team from New York that also wear pinstripes!
"Success breeds success," Hicks said, noting that Six Gun City sponsored a junior division team and then the Old Corner Store fell in line.
Volunteers developed a second playing field behind the Jefferson School. Later the selectmen supported the Jefferson Athletic Association in designating a spot for a field — the first on town-owned land — dedicated on Saturday to Forrest Hicks.
Volunteers, plus such locally owned businesses as Hicks Logging and Central Paving, "donated hours upon hours of labor, and Association members used their own equipment, shovels, rakes — and backs — to bring the spot to life," the emcee said.
When Forrest Hicks became ill the selectmen dedicated the field to him, and after he died peacefully on August 22, 2011, his widow and family established the Forrest Hicks Field Fund, to which donors have contributed over $11,000.
Thanks to the board of selectmen and taxpayers, the donated funds were matched by local tax dollars. And the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund awarded a $13,000 grant.
"Our plans for the Field are not yet complete, however," the emcee explained, pointing out that the locations for a playground, shelter and picnic area, as well as bathrooms, are on the drawing board.
Donations to the Fund are still being sought.
Hicks added that many, many community members have generously donated time, effort, materials, and money to the project, including the Olsen family and Mike and Elaine Gainer and Santa's Village. "Mike Josselyn did all the seeding, weeding, fertilizing and mowing the field," Hicks marveled.
Mike and Elaine Gainer unveiled the memorial stone, located behind the backstop, whose inscription reads: "Dedicated to Coach Forrest Hicks who for over 30 years inspired area youth to do their best at sports and at life. Play Ball!"
Forrest and Bonnie Hicks' youngest two grandchildren — Alexis and Benjamin Hicks — carried the American flag to two older grandsons — Tyler and Garrett Hicks — who, in turn, raised the flag on the new flagpole located just outside center field.
Emma Dean of Jefferson, a 2013 WMRHS graduate who now attends WMCC, sang the "National Anthem."
Jefferson School combination 3rd-and-4th-grade teacher Kelly Smith introduced all the teams, whose members and coaches ran from the outfield fence's warning track into second base, located not far from on the skinned infield to wave to the crowd, that included many members of the extended Hicks family.
The Color Guard was from the John W. Weeks VFW Post 3041, where Forrest Hicks was a member.
Hicks was a highly decorated soldier who was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star as well as Air Medal for his outstanding service as a combat medical corpsman in the Army's First Air Calvary during hostilities in the Republic of Vietnam.