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City starts process of renaming baseball field

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City starts process of renaming baseball field

One of Hobbs’ longtime supporters of youth baseball may get a baseball field named after him.

“The (Hobbs) community affairs board has had several discussions over the past few months related to honoring a Hobbs citizen by naming a field after them at the Jefferson Ballpark Complex,” said Hobbs Parks and Recreation Director Doug McDaniel during Monday’s Hobbs commission meeting.

McDaniel said the community affairs board recently voted unanimously to recommend to the commission renaming the park’s southern-most ball field. The name change would be in honor of the late Ronnie Martin, who passed away on May 17, 2017 at the age of 75.

“Ronnie was a life-long advocate for baseball in Hobbs,” McDaniel said. “Ronnie was growing the game of baseball for many, many decades in Hobbs. He was a great ambassador for the game of baseball.”

Martin grew up in Hobbs playing Little League and high school baseball. As a Hobbs Eagle, his head baseball coach was famed Eagles basketball coach Ralph Tasker. Martin graduated from Hobbs High School in 1959. At the age of 19, he began working for the U.S. Post Office and as a Little League coach. He worked for the post office for 37 years, but coached for more than four decades.

Along with coaching Little League, Martin played for a Lion’s Club team and was the founder of the West Texas-New Mexico Men’s Baseball League. He played well into his 50s and hit his last home run at age 51. He is credited with instilling the game of baseball to hundreds of youngsters, including former New Mexico Junior College head baseball coach Ray Birmingham.

McDaniel asked Birmingham, currently the University of New Mexico head baseball coach, for suggestions on who to name the ball park after. Martin was at the top of Birmingham’s list and during the meeting McDaniel read a few words from Birmingham in support of Martin.

“No man gives a greater gift than that of himself to help others,” Birmingham stated. “Ronnie Martin helped so many of us with baseball. His dedication to the game and (to) us was life-changing for myself and so many others. God bless Ronnie.”

Community af fairs board chairman Kevin Naegele told the commission Jefferson Park was originally a two-park facility that was named for the McKinney and Bensing families of Hobbs. Two additional baseball fields were constructed a few years ago.

“Since we have added two fields, we have felt like two of those fields needed to be honorably named after individuals who contributed to our community in the sport of baseball,” Naegele said. “Ronnie was a multi-sport guy. Not only was he involved in our youth baseball programs over the years, but he also helped young adults in the West Texas/New Mexico Baseball League. Ronnie himself played slo-pitch softball and was a big contributor to that league. I can’t think of anyone in our community who deserves this honor more than Ronnie.”

Martin’s daughter, Kim Martin-Gonzales, spoke to the commission about how her family’s lives revolved around baseball.

“When I was growing up our summer vacations were planned around whether or not his beloved Lion’s Club went to state or not,” Martin-Gonzales said. “Which more often than not, they did. Winning wasn’t everything to my dad. He was definitely a competitor, but he always made sure that his players were good sports and good human beings.”

Martin-Gonzales said that one of her father’s favorite sayings was, “Your word is everything. Without that you have nothing.”

On Wednesday, Mayor Sam Cobb said he plans to speak with city staff about putting the measure on the March 19 commission meeting agenda. The commission will make its decision on the name change if it’s on the agenda.

Burkett Shaw
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