(By Cathy Cobbs, Dunwoody Crier) Murphey Candler Little League has come a long way in the 50 years since its inception, but it’s never lost its small-town flavor and emphasis on character development.
MCLL President Stan Klinger said it became very obvious to him when he was paging through the league’s archives that the park was light years away from its humble beginnings, but never lost its primary focus: the children.
“I came across an article from 1962,” Klinger recalled. “The then-president of the league was inviting registration in the local paper. The fee he announced was $5, per family.”
“But what really caught my eye was the fact that he went on to say, ‘If you don’t have the money its okay, come out anyway, we want the kids to play,’” Klinger said. “The magic of the league is that for 50 years, including that registration day in 1962, it’s always been about the kids and the community and providing a nurturing environment for both.”
Former state Sen. Jim Tysinger also has fond memories of the park’s early years. Prior to his involvement, the DeKalb Kiwanis Club procured the land donations upon which the park was built. And Tysinger, in his role as state senator, helped obtain funds for the park and the surrounding area.
“It was a grassroots effort, done by the people, not the county,” Tysinger said. “From the start, it was, in my opinion, one of the best youth programs in its time.”
That tradition has been continued throughout the half century of the park’s existence, former and current league officials say.
DeKalb County School Board member Jim Redovian, who was involved as a parent, coach and board member during the time that his six children played at the park, said while the leaders changed, the mission remained the same.
“I’ve seen it become one of the biggest programs in the country, then dip down, and then come back better than ever,” he said. “But it always remained one of the best family-oriented parks I’ve ever been involved with.”
Redovian said he has long ties to the park, not only as a past leader, but today as a spectator. His grandson is now playing at the park.
“I’m proud to have been a part of that park,” he said. “It’s a safe and great environment for kids.”
Klinger agrees heartily with Redovian’s assessment.
“Before my oldest son first started playing here, someone said that in Dunwoody ‘all roads lead through Murphey Candler,’” Klinger said. “I didn’t know exactly what they meant, but seven years later, I do. While it provides a place for kids to play baseball, it provides so much more. The program is designed to help children develop and gain self-esteem. As they do, their coaches and other parent volunteers learn that one person really can make a difference in the life of a young person. In that kind of an atmosphere, it is almost impossible for families not to build lasting friendships.”
The league is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week with a celebration that will touch on its storied history, but will focus more on the present and future of the park.
“It will be a strong Murphey Candler opening day,” said Mike Glennon, who is the chair of the 50th anniversary celebration. “But like we’ve always done, it’s going to be mostly about the players.”
As always, several dignitaries will be on hand when the celebration starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, including District 1 DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, U.S. Rep. Tom Price, state Rep. Fran Millar, Redovian and various county officials.
Park officials are eager to tout all the improvements to the fields over that last few years, including new scoreboards, netting and fencing and renovated bathrooms, all of which have contributed to a record number of registered players this year.
“Our registration was robust this year, with about 840 kids signed up to play,” Klinger said. “Thanks to a phenomenal board and auxiliary, the fields and facilities have never looked better. The leadership is working very hard to attract and keep families in our program, but the tremendous reputation and platform created by those who came before us unquestionably makes it a much easier task.”
Everyone who has been associated with the park – past, present and future – is invited to come out to the festivities at the park, which is located at 1551 West Nancy Creek Drive in north Brookhaven.