Former baseball player Dick Havekost is making quite a pitch to folks from his hometown.
And to fans of the classic American game.
Havekost, who grew up on a farm near Hooper, is part of a committee working to renovate the town’s baseball field.
Project Dream Field is underway with plans to create a new state-of-the-art facility that will provide a playing venue for youth and adults in the community.
The total cost of the project is $330,000 – a good portion of which will go toward lighting for nighttime games. Besides lighting, the project will include seating, fencing, a scoreboard, dugouts and a press box.
Fundraisers state that they hope grants will pay for almost half of the project.
Along with the quest for grant funding, committee members are launching a community campaign to raise the rest of the funds for the project.
After campaign goals are reached, renovations will start with an estimated completion date of June 2020.
The site is anticipated to not only serve future generations of players from the Hooper area, but also attract regional officials seeking sites for baseball and softball events.
Havekost’s connection to the project actually began years ago.
He grew up in a baseball family.
His father, Marion, pitched in three national tournaments and later was elected into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame.
During his years in baseball, Marion played against then-16-year-old Bob Feller, who already was being scouted for the Major Leagues.
Feller went on to play 18 seasons in Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
“My dad was always the most proud of the fact that he played against Bob Feller,” Havekost said.
Realizing that night baseball would be the wave of the future, Hooper’s community leaders already had decided to add lighting to the town’s baseball field in 1950.
Many accomplishments were realized under those lights.
In the 1950s, Marion Havekost coached his sons Dick and Ron and other athletes around Hooper.
“We won two American Legion State Championships and had one State Runner up during those years,” Havekost said. “Baseball was strong back then around Hooper. It was something that Hooper was very proud of.”
Dick Havekost graduated from Hooper High School in 1958 and his brother in 1959. Dick first went to Midland College for two years.
There, he played baseball for M.C. “My” Draemel.
Dick Havekost then went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he played baseball. Ron went to UNL on a full-ride baseball scholarship.
Both Havekost brothers were civil engineering graduates.
Years passed, but Dick never forgot his hometown.
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“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy,” he said. “I have fond memories of my upbringing in Hooper.
“And I always felt through the years as I gained success in the corporate world that one day I would like to do something nice for Hooper – to give back to the town that meant so much to me when I was a boy.”
The dream lingered.
Then in 1989, the movie “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner came out. The movie is the story of a farmer inspired to build a baseball field.
“That movie just mesmerized me, because I envisioned being able to do something like that for Hooper,” Havekost said.
A year ago, Dick Havekost was at his 60th Hooper High School class reunion and began talking with one of his former teammates, Al Hagerbaumer.
Hagerbaumer told Havekost that the ball field had deteriorated.
Data in an informational brochure also states that the original lighting system has become a safety concern and nighttime play soon may need to be abandoned.
Havekost agreed to help with the renovation project.
“If the community is supportive of it and is really interested in doing this, I will match what they can raise,” Havekost said.
There has been some project delay, because the field is next to the dike that surrounds Hooper. Committee members have been working with the Army Corps of Engineers for project approval.
“We’ve pretty well been given the green light and we’re ready to proceed,” Havekost said.
Seven people are part of the committee. They are: Hagerbaumer, Havekost, Garrett Johnson, Jason Korman, Roxanne Meyer, Bob Weisenberg, and Dave Hingst, the representative for the Hooper Area Community Foundation (HACF).
The HACF is an affiliate foundation of the Fremont Area Community Foundation umbrella.
“It appears as though we’re going to have to raise about $150,000 through grant money,” Havekost said. “If we’re pleasantly surprised by the results of our fundraising, then we won’t have to have as much grant money. But that kind of appears where we’re headed.”
Havekost, who lives in Florence, South Carolina, comes back to Nebraska for meetings as often as he is able.
The informational brochure reflects the fundraising campaign theme of “If We Rebuild It, They Will Come” – similar to the theme of the Field of Dreams movie is: “If you build it, they will come.”
Brochures and pledge cards already have been sent to subscribers of the Rustler-Sentinel newspaper.
Havekost said construction won’t be able to start until some funds are in hand.
“We’re very hopeful that we can get started on it this fall,” he said. “It does not take long to get things done if you get the money.”
Donors are instructed to mail checks to: Hooper Area Community Foundation, P.O. Box 26, Hooper, NE 68031 and make them payable to HACF. The HACF is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.
“What happens to us in the next 60 days will determine the success of this project,” he said. “We don’t want to think about it, but if we fall short of our goals we would then have to draw back and determine what our priorities are; we definitely need new lighting.”
But in a field of dreams, anything can happen.