CANTON — Construction continues to move forward on Kenney Askew Park’s new addition of a five-field baseball complex named for a legend in Cherokee County recreation.
The Richard Mauldin Baseball Complex, which the Board of Commissioners named last month for the longtime Cherokee resident and sports enthusiast, is expected to be complete in spring 2014 and is costing Cherokee County $3.1 million from the countywide parks bond, said Bryan Reynolds, Cherokee Recreation and Parks director.
Reynolds said the addition of the new ball fields has added about 50 acres to Kenney Askew Park and will give competitors of
different ages a place
Cherokee resident Jimmy Long said it’s about time.
“They’ve been promising us some new ball fields for 50 something years,” Long said. “Now, we’re finally getting them.”
Long was also one of seven residents who the Board of Commissioners also named individual fields at Kenney Askew Park’s new complex and Harmon Field in Canton. The other six were Herman Lawson, Homer Adams, Ty Adams, Arfellow Gates, Willis Waters and Terry Darby.
But Long said he couldn’t imagine a better sports fan to name the whole complex at Kenney Askew Park after than Richard “Hunkey” Mauldin.
Mauldin, a past inductee into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame, was a celebrated baseball player at Cherokee High School and later signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1960. He has been active in Dizzy Dean Baseball and helped to start the first adult softball league in Cherokee County.
Mauldin’s son-in-law, Lt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, said the 71-year-old is a “legend” in adult softball.
“If I had a nickel for every middle-aged man that has come up to me and told me he played with and for Hunkey in softball I could have retired from the Sheriff’s Office several years ago,” Baker said.
Baker said sports in general has always been a passion for his father-in-law.
“I don’t think he has forgotten a single play in any game he participated or coached in his entire life,” he said.
“He is very emotional about sports and very emotional about the men who coached him at an early age. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about them.”
Long said Mauldin originally asked Cherokee County to honor one of these men, Herman Lawson, who coached him as a child.
Cherokee Commissioner Harry Johnston also said Mauldin has asked for others to be honored in naming the baseball complex.
“He never asked for anything to be named for him, and in fact recommended others for that honor,” Johnston said. “But they all told us it should be Hunkey, and I agree.”
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Mauldin was is a deserving of the honor, because he pushed the county to build the complex.
“Mr. Mauldin has been diligent, if not insistent, that we get those fields built,” Ahrens said. “It was obviously a passion for him, and truly this a just reward.”
Long also credits Mauldin with getting construction going on the fields.
“He’s been pushing and pushing and pushing,” Long said. “I’m satisfied without Hunkey we never would have gotten it.”
Mauldin said he’s happy with the honor.
“I’m proud to be associated with the gentlemen (who were also honored),” Mauldin said. “I’ve known them all, they’re good men.”
He’s also pleased to see that Cherokee County is making progress with the construction.
“There was a time in this county when they didn’t believe in recreation very much,” Mauldin said.
But with much construction on parks throughout Cherokee County as a result of the $90 million parks bond, Mauldin said the county has moved out of the “dark ages.”
Many credit Mauldin as being one of the key players in making that shift.
“Hunkey has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of people through sports and recreation,” Baker said. “He definitely deserves this honor.”