Call it apropos; maybe ironic or simply coincidental. But as the last rites are being administered to Fair Grounds Field, and a demolition company has begun taking mighty swings at Shreveport history with a wrecking ball, the Frisco RoughRiders stormed the field in Wichita, Kansas, to celebrate a Texas League baseball championship.
Yes, those RoughRiders — the franchise that bolted this city and that stadium 20 years ago.
The dichotomy certainly wasn’t lost on the RoughRiders’ vice president of community development and executive director of the RoughRiders Foundation, Breon Dennis, who joined the celebration and got hands on the trophy.
“I felt like I was lifting Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana on my shoulder,” Dennis, a Shreveport native, told The Journal. “It was a long time coming. I spent a lot of time at Fair Grounds Field chasing down those baseball cups with ice cream, trying to collect all the teams.
“To be a part of a championship with the Frisco RoughRiders, aka Shreveport Captains, is huge.”
The baseball dreams for the Byrd graduate were created inside the stadium that used to inspire and foster imagination, but was left to rot into an eyesore along Interstate 20.
Dennis was still a teenager when manager Ron Wotus and players like Bill Mueller and Rich Aurilia led the real Shreveport Captains – then an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants – to their final Texas League title (1995).
“My favorite memory was seeing Royce Clayton,” said Dennis, who earned degrees from Bossier Parish Community College and Dallas Baptist University. “He was famous for replacing Ozzie Smith at shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals, but was with the Giants organization at the time. Our paths later crossed when he played for the Texas Rangers. “
Dennis broke into baseball with the Texas Rangers in 2000. During more than a decade in Arlington, Dennis served as senior director of baseball programs and assistant vice president of community outreach and the youth ballpark.
Despite two decades in the Metroplex, Dennis still looks for ways to spotlight his hometown. During his time with the Rangers, he rolled out the red carpet for the HUB softball team, a squad made up of mostly homeless players that competed in a SPAR league.
Next year, Dennis says the RoughRiders’ 20th anniversary wouldn’t be complete without a “Shreveport” night. The festivities could include the presence of former Captains and fans.
“It makes sense,” Dennis said. “We’ll have to get with the visitors bureau or the sports commission. There are so many people from North Louisiana over here. It would be great to be able to spotlight those people in North Texas.”
As for the death of Fair Grounds Field, the host for so many of Dennis’ childhood memories? His answer may come as a surprise.
“I love it. We have to be visionaries and get back on the map,” Dennis said. “It’s long overdue. We need to put it in perspective and appreciate it for what it is, put an historical marker at the spot and make some new memories.
“Now it’s about, ‘How do we make the region of North Louisiana, as well as East Texas, thrive.’”
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