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Piney Road Field remnant of NFM’s past
February 20, 2019

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In 1963, a group of North Fort Myers residents decided to build a baseball diamond for the fledgling North Fort Myers Little League on a piece of borrowed land on Piney Road.

Thanks to the generosity of the North Fort Myers Civic Association and the work of countless volunteers, they were able to build a field - called Northside Stadium - that not only served the needs of the Little League, but was renowned throughout the country as one of the true jewels.

Today, the field is gone, with no evidence it ever existed except in the minds of longtime residents who played, coached or umpired there or had kids who played.

Last week, at the inaugural Wiffle Ball Bash at the North Fort Myers Community Park, those people who coached and played at the field were honored, with one of the fields set up just like the one on Piney Road with the replica scoreboard and the Al's Supermarket sign that challenged players to hit the ball through the hole.

Some of the league's old-timers played an exhibition game on the Piney Road replica, and the other fields were named in honor of people instrumental to the league's growth.

North Fort Myers Little League, which was founded in 1961, started at Judd Park. Before that, kids would have to play in the league across the river in Fort Myers or Dunbar.

Northside Stadium was funded, and built solely through sponsorships, private donations, and the dedication of those who inspired the area youth, such as Mike Greenwell, who would go on to play Big League ball for the Boston Red Sox.

"It was great. It was such a great community. We all knew each other and everybody had fun with each other," said Doug Heinkel, who played on that field in the 1970s. "We were all on different teams and we all knew each other."

Among those who coached the kids was Guy Hubbard, who at age 88 is one of the very few left to have helped start the league. He was at the event, as was Don Heinkel, who was an original Little Leaguer at Judd Park and moved to Northside Stadium.

"It was one of the prettiest fields of all. All the parents and kids cleared the land and built the stadium from scratch," Don said. "We had state All-Star and county tournaments there. That was so much fun. We played each other, went to the same schools and were really close knit."

As the league's only field, it was used constantly, with two games played every weekday and night (the field had lights) and four of them on Saturday as the league had six major and minor league teams apiece and added two more later on. All teams played twice a week.

The field fared well. In fact, just a few years into its life, it was named one of the best fields in the country according to Little League Magazine, a copy of which is still being sought.

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