Students play favorites with history

Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Pinkstaff
Precious Blood School fourth-grader William Schmitt took batting practice with the Jasper varsity baseball team Tuesday evening at Ruxer Field in Jasper. William recently won a statewide essay contest in which he wrote about Ruxer Field as a historic place in the community. He took batting practice on the field after he went there to take pictures for winning the contest.

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Precious Blood School fourth-grader William Schmitt has been a baseball fan for his entire life.

It was his love of watching and learning about his favorite game at Ruxer Field in Jasper that helped him win a statewide historic places essay contest earlier this month.

“I can hear the roar of the crowds and see the glowing field at night right from my back porch. I also like to hear stories from my grandpa about going to the field to watch baseball when he was my age,” William, who lives on Ninth Street, wrote in his award-winning essay. “Grandpa” is former Jasper mayor Bill Schmitt.

“The history of Ruxer Field goes back to the 1930s. My neighbor, Tommy Becher, would talk to me about playing for the Jasper Reds when the field was still Recreation Field. He would tell me the entire town would come out to watch the games on Sunday afternoons,” William wrote of the field named for Jasper businessman Alvin C. Ruxer.

All of the students in William’s class researched the history of their favorite locations through Internet searches and interviews with community members as a class assignment. Their final essays showed that, for each student, the historic place was special.

Ava Noblitt was inspired to choose the county courthouse for her essay because of an enjoyable field trip last school year.

“Do you know what’s so cool about the courthouse? In one of the rooms there is a metal detector,” she wrote. “I went there with my third-grade class last year so we got to go in a room while a prisoner was in there.”

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Precious Blood School fourth-grader William Schmitt talked with his father, Nathan, right, and his great-uncle Alan Mehringer, second from right, all of Jasper, as they sat in the stands at Ruxer Field to watch Jasper’s sectional game Wednesday against Washington. William’s essay about the field won a statewide contest.

Meredith Heim, another baseball fan, used her experiences watching games at League Stadium in Huntingburg to write her piece.

“There were some things that I knew and there were just some things I remembered from when I went there,” she said. “It was way older than I thought.”

Meredith explained in her essay that the stadium opened in 1894 and was called The Grandstand.
“It was renovated in 1991 and then the named changed to League Stadium. ”˜A League of Their Own’ was filmed there in 1991, too,” she wrote. “One of the players even signed one of my baseballs, and I have one of the bats they used in their game, too.” she added, referring to the Dubois County Bombers, the Ohio Valley League collegiate summer baseball team that calls League Stadium home.

Abe Lehmkuhler, who chose the Gramelspacher-Gutzweiler Building in Jasper, Antony Roelle, who chose Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, and Austin Wolf, who wrote about Cabby O’Neill Gymnasium, all had visited their favorite places many times and knew several facts from memory.

“My dad (Jeremy Wolf) is one of the coaches, and I have a lot of experience there,” Austin said of the gym. “I talked to people who knew a lot about the Cabby O’Neill Gym. I learned that it was saved (from demolition) in 2009.”

Antony said that he likes the monastery’s outdoor spiral staircases, and he wrote that he often visits the sisters’ gift shop to purchase cookies.

“The dome sits on a high hill over the town of Ferdinand. It is very special to me!” he wrote. “The construction of the old church was completed in 1867. Then in 1870, the girls’ boarding school, Academy Immaculate Conception, was opened.”

The essay competition was sponsored by the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, a branch of the Department of Natural Resources. Fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Pinkstaff heard about the opportunity for the first time this spring and instructed each of her students to write a 100- to 400-word essay for submission. The only requirement was that the places they chose had to be at least 50 years old.

Pinkstaff said the assignment was a success, especially because William’s essay beat all the other submissions from throughout the state. She plans to continue sending student work to the competition in future years.

“It was fun,” she said. “I think the kids overall had a really neat time doing Internet searching.”

Other places covered in the student essays were Schnitzelbank Restaurant, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Dairy Queen, Precious Blood School and the John Opel House in Jasper; Santa’s Candy Castle, Holiday World and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Spencer County; the French Lick Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel; Angel Mounds in Evansville; Quarry Caverns and Spring Mill State Park in Lawrence County; Mount St. Francis Center for Spirituality in Floyd County; the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes; the Children’s Museum and Motor Speedway in Indianapolis; and Indiana Dunes in Porter.

Contact Claire Moorman at

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