Cornerstone Baptist adds concession stand at its ballfield
By Susan Shinn
CLEVELAND ó Just to make sure, I doublechecked those verses in Ecclesiastes to see if there’s anything about “a time to play church league softball.”
But there should be.
Cornerstone Baptist Church is in the midst of its third season of men’s softball. This season, they’ve added a beautiful new concession stand and a cement walkway that leads to the well-kept field.
It’s all looking good.
“It takes a while for the grass to come in just right,” says the church’s pastor, Mack Jarvis.
The softball field has a singular purpose ó to reach people through sports.
But there’s a heck of a lot of fun and fellowship that has taken place, too.
Justin Nelson serves as commissioner for the six-team league. There are two teams from Cornerstone, as well as teams from Unity Presbyterian, Back Creek Presbyterian, St. Luke’s Lutheran and Cleveland First Baptist churches.
They’d eventually like to expand outside the West Rowan area, Jarvis says.
“We want to have coach pitch and T-ball and girls’ softball and Little League,” Nelson says. “That’s our vision down the road.”
There’s just one teensy problem holding them back.
“What we need are lights,” Jarvis says.
Lights would allow them to play two more games a night. But lights cost anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000.
The church is just beginning to look into ways to make that dream a reality.
For now, the league is comprised of guys who used to play together at Enon Baptist Church, which no longer has a field.
“We were looking for somewhere to get back together,” Nelson says.
Most of the guys grew up together and have known each other for years.
Nelson works with about 10 other members on the church’s sports recreation ministry committee. He talks with Mike Eckmann, who faithfully marks the field lines, and Jessie Link almost daily during the season.
The league is sanctioned through the National Softball Association.
“There is a lot of camaraderie,” Jarvis says. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a cheap way to have a lot of fun.”
Nelson plays on the same team as his brother, Jason.
“That brings my parents back out and our wives,” Nelson says. “I don’t think there’s a bigger sports fan than my mother.”
“Or louder,” Jarvis adds.
For Nelson, the fun is in “being able to get back together as buddies.”
“We have gotten new members,” Jarvis says, as a result of the league. “We’re not keeping statistics, but we’re having success.”
Just after 5:30 in the afternoon, team members who’ll play the 6 o’clock game start to arrive.
There are three crock pots of chili warming in the concession stand. You can buy a hamburger or hot dog, and the grill’s going underneath the connecting pavilion.
Three sets of bleachers squat between the two dugouts. It’s hot now, but more spectators will show up as the weather cools.
Players roll in, their bat bags slung over one shoulder, carrying either water bottles or Gatorade.
Tonight’s first matchup has the Cornerstone orange team against First Baptist. Both sides greet one another by name, and pretty soon, the satisfying thwack of ball to glove can be heard as everyone warms up.
As the game begins, Cleveland’s player, Keever ó no one seems to know his first name ó starts things off. He advances to third, then later home.
(Later, you find out his first name is Jeffery).
“Go, Daddy, go!” a toddler yells as the teams trade places in the outfield.
Nelson makes it to third, them crumples to the ground, hit by a softball in the shoulder blade.
He lies in the dirt for a moment, eventually getting up and shaking it off, slapping the ground as he rises.
Jarvis, who calls himself a retired player, watches from behind a dugout.
“It’s been a very well behaved league,” he says. “It really is a good group of guys.”
Over at the dugouts, good-natured ribbing continues among players, who debate previous plays as the game wears on.