HOF ‘a diamond for Indiana, Jasper, Dubois County’

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Dexi Kirchoff, 8, left, Ally Wagner, 7, and her sister Ella, 9, all of Jasper, listen to audio by Don Mattingly during the ribbon cutting for the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper on Saturday. 

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

JASPER — It’s no secret how important baseball is to Dubois County, in general, and Jasper, in particular.

But in case you needed a reminder, you didn’t need to look any further than Saturday afternoon’s grand re-opening of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in the Alvin C. Ruxer Student Center at Vincennes University Jasper Campus.

Spectators waited anxiously to see the new wing of the Hall of Fame, while past inductees — such as current Jasper baseball head coach Terry Gobert — and several prominent members of the community — such as Jasper mayor Dean Vonderheide and Christian Blome, dean at VUJC — were also in attendance.

The expansion, which was made possible thanks to help from Donna and Joe Buehler, is the first expansion for the Hall of Fame since 2007.

“I really don’t have the words to express how grateful I am — not only that [the expansion] is done, but for the people that helped support this,” said HOF director and former Jasper High School baseball coach Ray Howard. “It was a two-year project to get this done, and the main thing is that it’s not nearly full and that’s a good thing. I’ll run out of life before we fill out that wall, I’m sure of it.”

What sparked the need for an expansion?

Brad Eckerle of Jasper points out baseball player Pete Rose to his children Luke, 6, left, Kate, 8, and Sara, 4, during the ribbon-cutting of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper on Saturday. Eckerle played for Jasper High School from 1995 to 1998. "I haven't been here in a while and it's nice to see all of the new things," Eckerle said. 

Howard said the facility was starting to run out of room on the walls for more HOF inductees, and they didn’t want to have to tear up any old displays or plaques in order to make room for future representatives.

“It’s not just the Jasper Hall of Fame, it’s for the whole state,” Howard said. “Hopefully we can get a lot more visitors. I realize that it’s not the easiest place to get to, but you can get here if you try.”

Taking a look at the facility, the interior display is set up like a baseball field. The original part represents the infield, with Evansville native Don Mattingly representing the first base corner, and Jasper native Scott Rolen representing the third base corner.

Now, the new section will represent the outfield — hence, the reason why the wall in the expansion is curved. There’s also painted murals on the wall of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark for the Reds and Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. In front of each mural, there are desks representing a press box view, as well as green and brown tile to represent grass and the warning track of the outfield on the floor.

Kate Eckerle, 8, left, and her brother Luke, 6, both of Jasper, look for their father, Brad Eckerle, in a photo of the Jasper High School 1997 state championship team during the reopening of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper on Saturday.

There’s also a section of baseball bats representing each Indiana baseball state champion since 1967, as well as a display section of older ballparks and stadiums that no longer exist.

“Some of these places most people haven’t seen,” Howard said. “They’ve seen the modern day ones, but not the old ones.”

There’s also a new section in the expansion that highlights the history of semipro baseball in Indiana, with teams such as the Jasper Reds and several Huntingburg clubs represented. However, Howard is still hoping to get some more semipro memorabilia in the Hall, as he knows there were once teams in “nearly every town.”

But something that rang true no matter who you asked was just how important it is to have the state’s baseball Hall of Fame in Jasper.

“We consider it an honor and a privilege to host the Hall of Fame on our campus,” Blome said. “It’s not only a diamond for the state of Indiana, but for Jasper and Dubois County.”

Vonderheide added: “I’ve been in Jasper since 1967, and when I look around and see the people who were involved in the baseball programs here, I just feel it’s really appropriate that the Hall of Fame is right here.”

A baseball signed by Don Mattingly is on display at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper on Saturday.
Baseball bats with the state championship winners on them are on display at the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper.
Mayor of Jasper Dean Vonderheide, center, cuts a ribbon for the opening of the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame expansion at Vincennes University Jasper Campus in Jasper on Saturday.



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