Prior to 1961, Fort Collins lacked a vital piece of the American experience. Yes, it was decades before Starbucks and cell phone kiosks, but I’m referring to organized youth baseball. Baseball’s origins date back to 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and by 1860, it was widely recognized as the national pastime. Fort Collins wouldn’t be established as a military outpost for another four years, so we had some catching up to do.
For half a century, the private, non-profit Fort Collins Baseball Club has provided kids ages 5-18 with the opportunity to participate in recreational and competitive baseball (including, for the past five years, indoor winter ball). The first season, 8 teams played on CSU’s vacant lots at the corner of Shields and Laurel Streets. Larimer County donated the materials used to build the diamonds, and volunteers brought their own lawn mowers to cut down the weeds.
FCBC has come a long way since then. Executive director Pat Wunsch, the board of directors, and the recreational and competitive committees currently oversee more than 250 teams and 3,300 players. The Club does not limit participation based on enrollment or ability to pay. The scholarship program has raised a whopping $90,000 for financial assistance, making baseball possible for approximately 8,500 families. In addition, FCBC provides trained umpires for the majority of games and works with the city in prepping and maintaining fields.
My husband has coached and volunteered with FCBC for years, and my sons have played on FCBC teams since T-ball. My own involvement has been more along the lines of sunscreen, snacks, and spectating, so I was pleased to be able to join in Saturday’s community celebration of FCBC’s 50th Anniversary. The festivities included an alumni game, kids’ regular season baseball games, vendor booths and activities, food, and free instruction by the Fort Collins Foxes. Community Historian Maggie Dennis of StoryForge assembled a fantastic display of FCBC memorabilia and wrote the script for the anniversary video, which is well worth a look.
The highlight for many of the kids was no doubt the dunk tank, where they lined up for the chance to dunk their coaches and umpire/board member Alan Hampson, who good-naturedly egged the kids on while dressed in his umpiring gear. All proceeds from the day, including a $500 donation from Dellenbach Motors, will help fund the scholarship program.
In 1960, the population of Fort Collins was about twenty-five thousand. Our city has grown considerably since then (we’re over 140,000 at last count) but it has managed to maintain much of its sense of community. And for my money, few things exemplify the idea of community more than kids spending their summer evenings playing the great game of baseball.
Historian Maggie, Coach Mark, and Director Pat enjoy the day.