Hill keeps Taylor Field shining more ways than one

With plenty of statewide and regional baseball tournaments lined up this year, this summer at Taylor Field has been one of the most enjoyable for its executive director in recent years, he said Tuesday.

“It has, but it’s been enjoyable because we all enjoy it when someone comes and plays,” Jim Hill said during a Pine Bluff Rotary Club luncheon. “Maybe the best year of tournaments we’ve had out there in a while.”

Just last week, the South Arkansas Babe Ruth 15-year-old state tournament wrapped up at Taylor Field with a Pine Bluff-area team, the Seabrook All-Stars, earning a bid to the regional tournament. Next up for the staid old field is the PRO-DAY World Series, which will host some of the top older-aged youth teams Aug. 7-10.

But the best is yet to come for Taylor Field, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year. It is that August when the Babe Ruth 14-year-old World Series will take place, bringing 12 teams from across the country together.

In honor of the anniversary, Hill announced, anyone 75 or older will receive a commemorative ticket good for admission to all games in the tournament.

It is not the first time Pine Bluff has played host to a national championship tourney in Babe Ruth Baseball, and Hill said the city has earned a profit each time. He has big plans to keep Taylor Field literally shining bright with any profits from the 2015 event.

“It’s a $100,000 tournament with all expenses, but when you get through with this initial fee (of $45,000 to Babe Ruth Baseball to host), everything you raise and donate is yours to keep,” Hill said. “Taylor Field stuck out (its) neck to have what profit, if we make any, (and it will be) to redo the lighting system that’s been there for 75 years.

“The old transformers (from 1940) are still there, and they can go any day. I can go out there and push that switch, and they’ll be gone and you cannot replace them. They’ve all got to be done.”

In the meantime, Hill is hoping to secure grants to improve lighting before the Babe Ruth World Series. His goals include replacing the overhead wiring and the 42-year-old light poles in the outfield.

“That’s got to be my last ultimate project,” he said.

That’s what Hill said when he help Taylor Field land on the National Register of Historic Places four years ago. But he’s still in business after more than 50 years involved in local baseball, so his latest prediction only drew laughs from the audience.

Responding to a question from the audience, Hill said he plans to bring in Detroit Tigers standout Torii Hunter as a special guest for the Babe Ruth World Series, likely to speak during a players’ banquet. The 18th-season Major League Baseball veteran grew up in Pine Bluff.

“I haven’t got to Torii financially, but I have a lot of things on my mind,” Hill said, drawing more laughs.