Little League in Ashland, Ky., Honors Best in Baseball
CANNONSBURG — It was spitting snow outside but it was all baseball inside Thursday night at the El Hasa Shrine Temple.
Arizona Diamondback Brandon Webb, former major leaguer Drew Hall and major league umpires Charlie Reliford and Greg Gibson were honored at the Ashland American Little League’s “Dreams Come True Field” fundraiser.
The league will officially dedicate its field at the Water Works in the spring, specifically honoring these four who played Little League baseball on Ashland’s fields on the way to the major leagues.
“To see the guys that are being recognized and what they’ve accomplished, like Brandon and Greg and Charlie, I’ll tell you, it’s all very humbling,” said Hall, who pitched in the major leagues from 1986 through 1990. “It’s great to come back to Ashland and be honored and remembered like this.”
Three of the four honorees — Hall, Gibson and Webb — played on Ashland American Little League teams growing up. Reliford played in the Ashland National League for the Phillies.
They all had fond memories of playing. Reliford’s were the most reflective, right down to the first time he put on the Phillies uniform.
“The Reds were everybody’s favorite but now it’s the Reds and the Phillies,” Reliford said. “I’d say today it’s the Diamondbacks, too.”
Like many youngsters his age, the park was Reliford’s personal playground. “My main focus was always looking at the big diamond,” he said. “We always played on Saturdays and we’d go get those Snow-cones in the middle of Central Park.”
Hall played for the Red Sox, Gibson for the Twins and Webb for the Angels.
Interestingly enough, Gibson didn’t play baseball again after Little League and Hall almost quit, too. His primary sports love was football until he was a sophomore in high school and attended a Steve Hamilton camp at Morehead State University.
Hall played for Jim Prince and Rusty Consiglio in Little League. He was a first baseman and a pitcher, but not near the best one on the team, he said.
Gibson said he was a “third baseman who pitched a little and didn’t hit much” while playing for Frank Rolen, who was in attendance at the fundraiser. The Twins won the league twice though, Gibson said. “Steve Rolen was on our team and he just made everybody around him better,” he said. “Steve was better than any of us.”
Gibson said the Twins were also better fundamentally than the other teams in the league because of coaches Frank Rolen and Fred Fields. “Frank taught us how to run the bases,” he said.
Gibson said he remembered a foul ball that busted a window of a car driven “by a city commissioner” although he didn’t recall his name.
“I just remember he was mad,” Gibson said. “It was a brand new Corvette.”
The All-Stars were also part of Webb’s Little League days. He was a member of the 1990 state champions as an 11-year-old, pitching a gem in the tournament against Russell-Flatwoods in an extra inning game at Summit and then winning the state finals in Hazard.
Marvin Childers, his coach with the Angels, was known for working his teams through rigorous practices, hitting harder ground balls and throwing harder batting practice than anybody else.
“He was the toughest and the best coach, him and Steve Moore,” Webb said. “We were the only team in the league to practice every day.”
Webb’s father, Phil, was another volunteer coach who threw batting practice to the Angels. “He threw it up there pretty good, too,” Brandon Webb said.
Brandon Webb was called on in All-Star play and he delivered, lifting Ashland American to the dramatic win over Russell-Flatwoods with a devastating curveball.
“That was a very memorable game,” he said.
Each of the honorees was grateful to be part of the “Dreams Come True Field” project.
“It’s awesome, I can’t believe it’s going to happen,” said Reliford, who lives in Bradenton, Fla., but will always call Ashland home. “I called my daughter and told her about the sign. I told her ‘In a way, your name is up here, too.’’’
The “Dreams Come True Field” sign and four huge baseballs with the names of the honorees adorned the stage and will soon become a permanent fixture at the Ashland American Little League field.
Reliford, a catcher in Little League who was coached by Milt Waggoner, said he was humbled to be part of this group that was being honored. “Not only have they been successful baseball-wise but all three are such good people.”
The veteran umpire called Webb “a true gentleman of the game” and an outstanding Ashland ambassador.
“For all my years of preaching what a great place this was, Greg lived up to the billing and now Brandon has,” he said. “I’m extremely proud he’s (Webb) from Ashland, Ky. If he keeps going like he is, he’s going to be in the Hall of Fame.”