Oak Forest resident Angela Prichard spent many childhood days sprinting around Oaks Dads Club, whether swinging for the fences on the field or exploring the grounds.
And though the experience is now but a memory and her active involvement with the club has passed, Prichard’s joyful experience with the ODC remains etched into her mind.
On Saturday, March 23, the Oaks Dads Club will join the Timbergrove Sports Association in kicking off their Spring 2019 season with opening day festivities beginning at 9 a.m. It’s an occasion Prichard will always remember fondly.
“The kids felt like rock stars going down Lou Ellen (for the parade),” she said. “Even though we didn’t see many other people, they still waved and held their banners proudly.”
Oaks Dads club is celebrating 65 years of memories in 2019. And for much of her early life, Prichard’s family was part of those memories.
When her family joined ODC in the mid-1980s, she began playing softball at age 8. Her brother, then 4, began playing tee ball at the same time, and played through the league’s oldest Pony Division – with more family help along the way.
“My dad coached my brother every year he was there through Pony league except for the year he had his heart attack, and then my mom coached his team,” Prichard said.
Prichard’s father also served as president of both the club’s main board of directors and baseball board of directors in parts of the ’80s and ’90s, while her mother was also president of ODC’s Auxiliary Board, which used to run concessions for the park.
“Most of my childhood was spent playing ball or running around with friends at ODC,” she said.
The family line continued for a time with Prichard’s two daughters. Her oldest daughter played 6-and-under tee ball with ODC for two years, with Prichard serving as her coach, while her youngest played coach pitch for one season before moving on to a select team for the past four years.
Despite her youngest daughter moving on to select ball and not being involved with ODC any longer, Prichard said the club will always have a place in her and her family’s heart for the memories it gave them.
As opening day approaches, those memories – the parade down Lou Ellen Lane, the carnival, the well-manicured fields resulting from volunteers staying late – come flooding back. Prichard also attributes much of her daughter’s recent success to the coaching she received during her season at ODC, and hopes others have the same experience.
“I couldn’t imagine a better childhood. I made many friends there who I still remain in touch with,” she said. “There’s not many leagues still around for our kids to grow and develop as players. I hope people will still bring their kids to ODC.”
Pritchard isn’t alone in cherishing those moments.
“For my son to play on those fields, and for me to coach him like my father coached me, is awesome,” said Oak Forest resident and parent Jason Holcombe, whose son now swings for the fences on the same ODC turf he did. “ODC greats from the past not only taught my generation about baseball, but about life. This is something I try to pass along to the kids today.”
ODC’s opening day festivities begin at 9 a.m. March 23 with a parade that starts at Waltrip High School. It will showcase all 652 players signed up for spring sports. The event continues with carnival games, official opening ceremonies and lunch.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for seeing all the kids in their uniforms, seeing them and their whole team together for the first time,” ODC President Danielle Soria-Orozco said. “It really all comes together for the kids and the parents, too.”
Soon, it will be time to play ball. And that was always music to Pritchard’s ears.
“It meant the season was finally underway and we would spend the majority of our nights under the lights at ODC,” she said.
She wouldn’t have had it any other way.