Hal Kirby Jr.: Young man’s death spurs naming of ballfields

PROGRESS 2023: What’s In A Name

Look back through the pages of history, and the name Hal Kirby is prominent at every turn. Chamber of Commerce president. Probate judge. Radio DJ. Agriculture Coliseum board member. The list goes on.

This is not, however, the man for whom the Hal Kirby Jr. Park is named. These fields, located on Underwood Road, are named for the elder Kirby’s son, who died from an illness in grade school.

“This fields have been named Hal Kirby Jr. for as long as I can remember,” said Jackie Bradford. Bradford was a classmate of the younger Kirby’s, and though he said he can’t recall exactly when Kirby Jr. passed away, he thinks it would have been when they were in sixth or seventh grade.

“Those fields have been here forever,” said Bradford, who became Parks & Rec director in 1976. “I played Little League over there.”

Of course, over the years the fields have been renovated, and a press box and concession stand have joined what were once modest amenities. In 2015 the city received a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant to refurbish the park, which was severely damaged by flooding. The grant brought new fencing, signage, walkways and a multi-use building to accommodate the concession stand, restrooms and press box at the park.

“I don’t live far away from the four-lane, and I go by there a lot going to town,” Bradford said. “It means a lot to see his name there because he was a friend and a classmate. I think he would be proud to see his name on the concession building, all lit up.”

Current Parks & Rec director Donnie Flanagan said the Kirby fields are key to his department being able to offer adequate facilities when it comes to baseball, softball and T-ball seasons. Softball and baseball players might be found at any time throwing or hitting at Kirby, which is left open for community use when games aren’t scheduled.

“Having Hal Kirby with three fields really helps us. If we just had one small field, it would take too much to run a T-ball league,” Flanagan noted.