Play ball?

Jeremy Nash-News-Herald

With the ballpark still in question, the Eaton Crossroads Ruritan Club took a step forward Monday night, electing new officials and voting in 13 total members.

Van Shaver, Ruritan member for 23 years, said the club plans to sign a lease agreement with the county to keep the ball fields open to the public. Shaver was one of three directors elected. Shaver will serve as a one-year director, Stephen Smith will serve as a two-year director and Andrew Busie will serve as a three-year director.

"Now that the club is going to be back and going and the park is going to continue to be a community recreational facility, everything will stay as it has since 1974," Shaver said. "The land will continue to be the county's. The park will be managed by the Ruritan Club."

Bob Bowman, Loudon County attorney, said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development deed restrictions imposed on the property would not be an issue. He said he would present the proposal to county commission next week before forming a lease agreement.

"I have been informed of that of Mr. Shaver that the club was going to continue to operate as it has from since 1970 to the present," Bowman said. "I would recommend to the county that there be some sort of written document between the county and the club so that we could ensure that the club carries proper insurance on the property, and that would be in the form of a lease, lease from the county to Ruritan Club for that property."

County commissioners Steve Harrelson and Bob Franke both agreed there should not be any opposition for the proposal.

Franke said the park was "a real asset to the community."

New club president Damon Hughes said he already had "several different ideas" that would help promote the Ruritan Club, including taking recreational teams to assisted living facilities and allowing the North Middle School baseball and softball teams to use the park as a home field.

"We plan to use the park as a channel or a type of medium to be able to reach out to the community and start things over and make it a place where you can become a member and become involved and not just planning to, you know, simply just bring your kids and have them involved in sports," Hughes said. "We want all types of involvement."

Harrelson said allowing North Middle School to use the ball fields would be "a positive for everybody."

"I'm pretty confident in them because the folks that have been elected as officers tonight, they are, they're going to step up to the plate," Ray Houk, Smoky Mountain district governor for Ruritan, said. "I think there are people on the sidelines that are waiting for this club to get reorganized so that they can get their kids into it.

"You've got new subdivisions everywhere, and the schools are running over with kids, and they're needing activities, they're needing projects," he said. "And I think that these guys really want to work with the youth in the baseball program and the softball program and whatever, and also get them community service-minded."

Shaver and vice president Mike Hickman both agreed the club was looking at the recreational league structure and would decide at a later point which ages would be eligible to play.

"It may be different than it's been, but some form of little league is going to continue at the Eaton Ruritan Community Park," Shaver said.