Community and ‘The Sandlot’ movie dignitaries unveil new multi-million-dollar softball complexSep 11, 2023 01:25PM ● By Carl Fauver
Way back in 1976, when Gerald Ford still occupied the White House, the United States celebrated its bicentennial. That same year our country marked its 200th year of independence – and still 20 years before Taylorsville would become an incorporated city – a then state-of-the-art, 4-diamond softball complex opened at Valley Regional Park (5100 S. 2700 West).
It’s probably safe to assume more than 100,000 softball games were played at the popular site, by the youngest of girls to the oldest of men and women alike. But just as Ford gave way to Carter… then to Reagan, Bush and the rest… so too did the always bustling (in the summer, anyway) softball complex give way to, well, old age.
“The city council noticed a few years ago our softball complex was starting to crumble; we knew something needed to be done,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson said. “Softball and baseball are huge in our community. Thankfully, Salt Lake County and the Miller Family Foundation also recognized the problem – and provided the funds to fix it.”
About 18 months ago, heavy equipment was dispatched to the “old” softball complex to remove it completely. And last month, several million dollars later, elected officials and other dignitaries gathered at the site to officially open the “new” softball grandstands – which everyone involved hopes and expects to last for the next 50 years.
The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation jumpstarted Salt Lake County’s effort to replace the softball complex with a $5 million donation. That money – combined with County funding – actually replaced two different aging softball complexes. A nearly identical facility opened in Millcreek’s Cottonwood Regional Park a year ago.
“Both softball complexes host numerous tournaments and community league play,” County Parks & Recreation Director Martin Jensen said. “The renovations allow current and future generations the chance to enjoy the sport Larry H. Miller loved. We are grateful for the community partnership that made these renovations possible. We are prepared to continue supporting the growth and popularity of softball in Utah.”
More than 300 people attended the softball complex ribbon-cutting ceremony. Among those addressing the audience was Salt Lake County Councilwoman and Taylorsville resident Aimee Winder Newton.
“We need to make time to put away (electronic) devices and get together, outside,” she said. “I’m thrilled Salt Lake County continues to support play, through the building and maintenance of incredible spaces such as these. Thank you to the Miller Family Foundation for your support of programs that enrich lives. If it weren’t for the Millers, we would not have been able to prioritize the construction of these two softball complexes.”
Representing his parents’ Miller Family Foundation, Steve Miller was the final speaker of the day.
“My dad loved softball and really worked on his game,” he said. “He also mentored many young players. We’re proud this will be a first-class venue where friends can gather to enjoy outdoor recreation.”
Larry H. Miller loved softball from a very early age and played competitive fastpitch softball well into his adult life. In 1985, he was inducted into the Utah Softball Hall of Fame. Seven years later, he was inducted into both the Utah Athletes’ Association Hall of Fame and the International Softball Hall of Fame.
“Salt Lake County is such a great supporter of many outdoor recreation amenities here in Taylorsville,” Overson concluded, following the ceremonial speeches. “They are always willing to come to the table to discuss potential projects – and are very easy to work with. We are proud to be Utah’s unofficial ‘Baseball and Softball Capital.’ I look forward to watching games at this complex for many years to come.”
Several cast members from the 1993 Utah-filmed motion picture “The Sandlot” also attended the softball complex ribbon-cutting. They were in the area for a series of events marking the 30th anniversary of their popular film. Actor Chauncey Leopardi – who played “Squints” in the movie – threw out the ceremonial first pitch. That was followed by an exhibition softball game – played by young ladies who could very well all be grandmothers by the time these diamonds need replacing again. λ