Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Fields' names considered

Newport looks to honor 2 longtime youth baseball coaches

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - City officials will consider naming youth baseball fields for a pair of long-time coaches after it crafts a policy for putting names on city property.

Family members, former players and youth sports advocates have begun an effort to name two fields in the city's Veterans Park after Walt Wiefering, who died in 2002, and Oscar Bartel, 81. Between the two, they coached for more than 85 years in Newport youth and Knothole baseball leagues.

"I couldn't think of two more deserving people to name the fields after," said Newport City Commissioner Robbie Hall, who is pushing for the change at city hall.

The topic of naming city property came up at Monday night's Newport City Commission meeting, said City Manager Phil Ciafardini.

"We feel like a process is necessary, and we want to put something together for how we can name city property," Ciafardini said. "But there is no question these two gentlemen have given a lot to the community at large. They are both respected, both well known and both (Navy) veterans."

A $1.5 million restoration of the city's baseball complex at Veterans Park and Bartlett Field - named for Red Bartlett, another long-time coach - will be dedicated in April, Ciafardini said.

After that, the city will draft and approve the naming policy, he said.

"We did not want to rush to get the fields named before we opened the new complex," Ciafardini said. "So after we come back with a (naming) process, we'll have a separate dedication" ceremony at the ball fields.

The naming effort was started by Bobby Mullins, who has been active in Newport youth sports; Wiefering's son Bill, owner of the Transfer Station sporting goods store in Newport; and Bartel's son, Dennis.

"After his family, coaching baseball was the most important thing in my dad's life," Wiefering said. "He loved it. I remember his saying he wanted to be buried in center field at Bartlett field. We couldn't do that, but naming a field after him would be great."

Fort Thomas resident Jerry Schmits, the District 22 Knothole director, said both men "played an important role in shaping the lives of many players."

"I can say that I'm involved with the league because of the influence of my coach, Roy Daines, had on me," Schmits said. "Walt and Oscar had the same effect on their players for decades."

Dennis Bartel said this is likely the last season his father will coach.

Oscar Bartel's players in tee-ball often went on to play for Wiefering, who won a city championship with one of his Knothole teams.

"Both coaches were in it for the kids," said Newport Central Catholic athletic director Ron Dawn, who played for Wiefering while his son Ronnie, a Marshall University basketball player, played for Bartel.

"I think it would be great to name the fields after them," Dawn said. "They certainly deserve a tribute like that."


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