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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Everybody Needs a Guy Like Dick Vaske

Jim Ecker        

Every baseball program needs an unsung hero who gets things done. Somebody who makes the phone calls, rakes the infield, hires the umpires, arranges the schedule, buys the baseballs, chalks the lines, cuts the grass.


Every program needs a guy like Dick Vaske.


Dick, 71, began coaching Little League in 1968 when his own sons were playing. He graduated from Little League to Babe Ruth and then the American Legion program, where his labor of love continued. All told, he spent more than 40 years as a volunteer in those programs, making sure all the little things got done  – and the big things, too.


The folks in Dyersville, Iowa,  and the West Dubuque County American Legion program appreciated what Dick accomplished and said thanks.


He received the Outstanding Service Award from the Dyersville Jaycees in 1978, and received a certificate of appreciation from the American Legion for Outstanding and Dedicated Service to the West Dubuque County Legion program. He also received a plaque from the American Legion players, coaches and parents in 1997, and in 1999 the “Left and Center Field of Dreams” named him their Manager of the Year.


The 20th Century gave way to the 21st, and the honors kept coming. Dick was inducted into the Iowa American Legion Hall of Fame in 2001, and was inducted into the Dubuque County Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 as a contributor.


That’s pretty heady stuff for a guy who played only a few baseball games in high school. He wanted to play more, but duty called. Farm duty.


“I remember one time my brother and sister were in the car, waiting for me at the field,” he said. “I had to drop my bat, go home and hop on the tractor.”


Dick spent 18 years with the Dubuque County American Legion program. They won their first state title in 1987 under Dick’s leadership, then won five more titles in the next 10 years. He also served as the assistant director of the Shoeless Joe Jackson American Legion baseball tournament, held in Dyersville on July 4th weekends, and also ran an American Legion regional tournament one year.


During all those years, he spent hundreds of hours – probably thousands of hours – as the grounds crew and caretaker at Commercial Club Park in Dyersville, meticulously taking care of each blade of grass and working with baseball boosters for new bleachers, dugouts and a Wall of Fame.


His work has not confined to Iowa, however. A devoted fan of the Chicago Cubs, Dick has worked on the grounds crew at Chicago’s spring training home in Mesa, Ariz., for a number of years, keeping the field in shape and getting it ready for games. That’s been another labor of love.


Dick had a “real” job during most of the time he served as a volunteer for all those Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion teams. He worked for the John Deere company for 36 years, retiring in 1995, but he hasn’t retired from an active life.


Dick is the equipment manager for Perfect Game USA, and he’s still one of those unsung guys who gets it done, organizing and shipping equipment, building shelves, setting up display tables, keeping his eye on things. “My years with Perfect Game baseball have been rewarding, to see many young baseball players display their talents at showcase events,” he said.


Every program needs a guy like Dick.


“I have met a lot of good people,” he said, reflecting on a life well-spent.


Dick can be reached

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