Jerry Patterson devoted nearly six decades of his life to youth baseball in the Fort Dodge area.
In order to preserve his legacy and solidify a future for the ballpark he called home, the time has come for the community to pay it forward at Patterson Field.
Tom Chalstrom and Art Johnson, board members of Fort Dodge Amateur Sports Inc., are spreading the word this spring in an attempt to fill Patterson's enormous footsteps after the local legend passed away at the age of 74 last November. FDAS, an organization founded by Patterson, has been the controlling body of the facility since 1974.
Messenger photo by Eric Pratt
The Patterson Field entrance, shown here last summer.
''Jerry always wanted to make sure everyone had a place to play baseball. His goal was centered around participation among the kids (from the area),'' said Chalstrom, who both played and worked for Patterson as a teen. ''Now our responsibility as a board is to help sustain that vision and carry it into the future for both the short and long term.
''To do that, we need the help of Fort Dodge and the surrounding area. Patterson Field has always been a community-oriented, fan-friendly place, where volunteers have been the lifeblood of (the complex). With Jerry gone, that is important to reiterate.''
Chalstrom and Johnson - Patterson Field's grounds and maintenance supervisor - serve with Mike Cormack, Sandra Patterson and Mark Patterson on an FDAS board approved by Jerry Patterson. Cormack, a Fort Dodge native, works for Iowa's Department of Education. Sandra (wife) and Mark (son) represent Patterson's immediate family.
Established: 1967 by Jerry Patterson.
Controlling body: Fort Dodge Amateur Sports, Inc.
Gypsum Hollow Teener League director for 2013: Neven Conrad.
Grounds and maintenance for 2013: Art Johnson.
Baseball Committee Members: Art Johnson (515-408-8066); Tom Chalstrom (515-571-6308); Mike Cormack (515-490-4506).
Financial or volunteer support: Please contact Johnson, Chalstrom or Cormack at the respective numbers above.
In a letter dated Dec. 13, 2011, Jerry Patterson addressed the board by saying ''Ol' Jerry hopes to be around for a while longer, but sooner or later, (I) will be moving on to his new ballpark in the promised land.
''I want to thank all of you for agreeing to serve on the board of Fort Dodge Amateur Sports, Inc., which will oversee the operation of the park after I am gone,'' Patterson wrote. ''Everything is in place for a smooth transition, and I am confident this will happen.
''There are a lot of people who really believe in (Patterson Field) and want to see it continue.''
Chalstrom said that Neven Conrad will assume the duties of Gypsum Hollow Teener League director for the upcoming season, and Johnson confirmed his commitment to the park's maintenance.
Support for the facility - both physically and financially - continues to be at a critical stage, though, as the 46-year-old Patterson Field opens for the first time without its namesake this spring.
''We are working diligently to follow Jerry's plan,'' Johnson said. ''We all want what Jerry wanted. That will continue to be (the board's) goal: to keep Patterson Field active for the kids of our community well into the future.''
Recently-appointed Fort Dodge Baseball Association president Nick Pederson said his organization will do its part. The FDBA plans on using the facility for its upcoming ''Legends'' youth league this spring, and Pederson said the group will ''without a doubt'' do ''anything we can'' to help.
''We want to give back and be there for (Patterson Field),'' said Pederson, a former Fort Dodge Dodger player and 2001 FDSH graduate. ''It's an incredible asset to our community - just a great space. We respect Jerry and his mission so much; his devotion to and passion for baseball was second to none, and we would love to be a part of bringing that into the future at his field.''
Pederson has already established a ''beautification day'' at Patterson Field this Friday. Dodger and Gael baseball players and coaches will be in attendance, as well as parents and players from the FDBA.
Later this season, Pederson would also like to hold a ''parent/child catch'' evening at the park, with all of the proceeds going directly to the facility's fundraising efforts.
''They will definitely have our support,'' Pederson said.
Chalstrom said the board is ''incredibly grateful and thankful'' for the initial response, and he hopes it will continue.
''We all have such a close relationship with the field; it means a lot to all of us (on the board),'' Chalstrom said. ''I know a lot of people in our community feel the same way. The appreciation for Jerry's work is well-known.
''Any contribution in any capacity would be greatly appreciated. We just want people to understand that their support is needed so that we can continue with Jerry's vision.''