By Bill Cross
For The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
For one last time Friday evening, the Pendleton Heights Arabian baseball club suited up to play on the Field of Dreams for the first game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference game against the Rushville Lions.
After a thrilling 5-4 extra-inning win, Pendleton Coach Travis Keesling brought the team and coaches out to honor a mentor and a legend. Several former players lined the first and third base lines as fans applauded and snapped pictures.
When the teams returned for Game 2, they were playing on Bill Stoudt Field.
The idea came shortly after Stoudt retired in June 2012 after a 32-year career that included 654 wins, 14 sectional titles and three regional championships, along with 10 conference titles.
Included in a long list of players that came through the Arabian program were 17 All-State selections and 16 Indiana All-Stars.
“Some boosters started the process (of renaming the field) a little early,” Pendleton Athletic Director John Broughton said. “There was a (school) board policy that they could not name anything after anyone until they were retired. The minute he retired, the boosters jumped on it and the board approved it soon after.”
Stoudt’s teaching career began at Markleville in 1971 and led him to Pendleton Heights in 1976.
Stoudt was an assistant on the football and baseball teams before taking over the baseball program in 1981.
“It’s overwhelming,” Stoudt said of the honor. “You don’t go into anything like this expecting in the end to have a field named after you. The greatest feeling is that so many former players, so many friends of mine came out tonight. I also had six of my classmates from my high school. That’s something special.”
Stoudt fondly recalled winning his first sectional title when the Arabians beat a ranked Greenfield Central squad. “Tim Howard hit a grand slam and we won the sectional and went to the final game of the regional,” he said. “It was a springboard for our program.”
The Arabian program grew into a tight-knit group, just as the Broughton and Stoudt families have been over the years. “We’ve been close friends for 40 years,” Broughton said. “We were happy here (at Pendleton) and our families have grown up together.”
The main theme of the night was appreciation for someone who meant so much to not only the baseball program, but the community as well.
“Number one, he is a teacher,” said Broughton. “He taught on the field the right way, in the classroom the right way and he taught life lessons.” The testament to the dedication of his former players was shown by how many came. The parking lot was overflowing and the stands were full.
Not only was it a tip of the cap to the past, but also a solid assessment for the future.
“The future is great, it’s bright,” Stoudt said. “I love this group. It’s fun to watch them play and develop.”
The free time also gives Stoudt a chance to see the fruits of his labor, including trips to see his former players in college and in professional baseball systems.
“I get to go to college games to see them play and sit back and relax,” he said. As for the Arabians, what better way to continue the spirit of the program than to have a former Stoudt player at the helm?
Keesling took over in June, leaving the head coaching job at Greenfield Central to come home. “He coached freshman baseball under Bill before he got the head coaching position at Greenfield,” Broughton said. “He prepared himself well as a player and we felt he was the best person to carry on Bill’s tradition and the way Bill handled things.”
With the framed jersey of his now retired No. 28 in hand, Stoudt walked among his former players and chatted briefly with current Arabians before walking off the diamond that now bears his name.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams to be able to do something like this,” he said. “Pendleton Heights has been very good to me.”