Cricket behind baseball giant
FAR North Coast Baseball celebrates its 80th birthday on May 11, when the association will reflect on its proud history that has led to it boasting one of the best facilities in Australia and producing the most state and national players in any sport in the region.
Its humble beginning was in 1936, when half a dozen cricketers were having a drink and decided they needed something to sharpen their skills in the off-season.
One of the men was a young player from Sydney, Laurie Thew, aptly named the Father of Baseball on the FNC.
The game was played from 1937 to 1940, when it was disrupted by the Second World War.
It went into recess until 1947, when Thew again got the ball rolling to start the competition up.
A meeting was held at the Daffodil Tea Rooms in Lismore to resume the game. On the first Saturday nine players turned up and the next weekend there was enough players for two teams.
The following season four teams formed the competition, including teams from Casino and Kyogle.
Thew organised representative games between FNC and Queensland and also took teams to Sydney to compete in Country Week.
In 1959, Alderman Bob Pilling approached Reg Baxter to see if the association would be interested in having its own baseball area.
Pilling took Baxter to an outlying area of Lismore being used as a rubbish tip. There was barely enough room for one diamond. Despite this there was no hesitation in taking up the offer and Albert Park was born.
The volunteers wasted no time in turning the area into a baseball field. On a wet Saturday couch grass was planted which was the beginning of an era when gigantic efforts by the Lismore City Council and volunteers transformed an ugly site into what it is today - the envy of many visiting baseball teams.
The number of fields has grown from the one main diamond to four fully enclosed fields.
In 1994, a joint effort by the baseball and softball associations secured a State Government grant to fix up Baxter Field.
After the field was upgraded the idea of a clubhouse was rekindled, and at this point the organising ability of Bill O'Sullivan came to the fore. O'Sullivan explored every possible avenue, seeking funds and persisting until the State Government came up with a grant of $300,000 which was matched by the local association.
After a number of years of hard work the new clubhouse saw its official opening in 1999 with a game between Perth Heat and the Gold Coast Cougars, which were part of the Australian Baseball League.
FNC Baseball continues to push forward and is still hoping to see Lismore become the home of Baseball Australia, which would result in major improvements taking place at the Albert Park complex.
Thew would be extremely proud of how much the game has grown since 1937, all from a couple of drinks after a cricket game.