On the ball: Updated Lemon Park opens

For Ed Corley, the night could have been described easily by New York Yankees baseball legend Yogi Berra: "It's like deja vu all over again."

For Corley, it was deja vu in a sense as he participated in the grand opening for the new Lemon Park sports complex April 17.

The Rev. Kenneth Catoe opened the ceremony with a prayer and the city of Barnwell Tourism and Community Development Director Lynn Cox read letters from S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, each congratulating the city on completing this portion of the complex.

Air Force guard Steve David sang the National Anthem before Corley threw out the first pitch for the new complex.

Then the deja vu starts - all over again.

That pitch resembled one Corley threw 48 years before.

In 1961 Corley threw the first pitch following the ceremonial pitch by the mayor.

In 1961, the Lemon Park sports complex was then called Citizens Park.

An article in the May 11, 1961 edition of The People-Sentinel captured the ceremonial pitch by Mayor Herman L. Mazursky and the game that followed.

The first game that followed the opening ceremony, pitted Holland's Grocery, managed by Bob Collins, against the Tigers, managed by Don Spitzer.

Even though Holland's Grocery came up short in the end, the battery - the pitcher and catcher - Ed Corley and Bobby Collins, each garnered a hit.

The following is from the 1961 story.

"Each gathered one hit in addition to playing a fine defensive game.......... This was the only game played on opening night."

Those 12 year-old little boys would grow up within the confines of the new park.

With those memories, Corley said he was humbled to be asked to perform the honor of the first pitch.

"It was a privilege and an honor," he said. "I didn't throw the pitch for me but for every citizen. I respected every moment of that."

Of the game in 1961, Corley said he thought they were too young to have been nervous about playing but knew they were excited to be playing on the "new" field just as the kids today will be excited to play at the new facilities.

He said they usually had been playing ball in someone's back yard before hitting the playing field with the respective teams.

Most players were friends off the baseball diamond, so even though they may be rivals on the field, the friendships lasted, even today, Corley said.

The 1961 season may have been forgotten by some, but for those who played, the memories are still just below the surface.

A short time after the opening game was played, Andy Weeks, who played for the Busters, hit the first home run in the new field.

It was described as a "low, liner which cleared the 180-foot marker with room to spare."

Corley said he hopes those memories will make way for new memories at the new park.

Corley said his coaches stressed fair play and encouraged players to give their best effort at all times.

"You learn from winning and from losing. To win, you have to learn to lose," Corley said of the games to be played.

Those lessons - timeless - began anew April 20 at the new complex.