‘Best of the best’

Justin Kline following his dream to build local Baseball Hall of Fame

By LANA MUTHLER

lmuthler@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN –Baseball has a rich history in this area.

And nobody knows that better than Justin Kline.

The Beech Creek man has a dream to preserve all that local history so people can look back and remember the special teams and talented baseball players who have excelled over the years, many of them reaching far beyond the community Little League fields where they enjoyed the game as a boy.

Kline’s goal is to build the Clinton and Centre County Baseball Hall of Fame to recognize the local boys of summers past and display their uniforms, gloves, bats, trophies and other memorabilia donated by some of the area’s best baseball players ever.

And he’s just the man to make it happen.

Kline was one of the coaches of the 2011 Keystone All-Star team that made its way to the Little League World Series, coming up just short of the title in the final hours, but placing third in the United States and fifth in the world after an unbelievable run that captured the hearts of this community in a way never seen before.

That awesome experience still on his mind, Kline’s goal only becomes more important to him.

Although a bout with leukemia set him back a spell a few years ago, Justin’s back in the game and has begun rounding the bases to make his dream come true.

Last year, Kline organized a 15-man committee and put together the first-ever induction ceremony into this Hall of Fame, securing sponsors and donations for the event and setting up the Hall of Fame building fund.

“Our goal is to recognize the top… the best of the best… who played baseball from Clinton County and northern Centre County,” Kline said.

There are two divisions, he said, explaining the first is to honor outstanding players, coaches and volunteer contributors and the second part is to honor an outstanding team.

The committee got together with a list of nominations and whittled it down, choosing those honored at the first induction ceremony held last year.

They include the 1948 Lock Haven Little League All-Stars team which won the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Dr. Robert Wise and John Heckman, members of that historic team, were on hand to accept the awards. Dr. Wise has since passed away.

Others inducted last year included players Gaylord Hanley Sr., Paul “Bubb” Pletcher, Terry Yearick and Jerry Heverly, who were presented with specially designed rings signifying their amazing talent displayed on the baseball field.

“It was an amazing event,” Kline said, his thoughts rewinding to the premiere induction ceremony and then quickly moving on to the second annual induction ceremony to be held on Sunday, July 21, at Haywood’s on the Green in Mill Hall.

Those chosen to be inducted this year include the 1947 Lock Haven All Stars team which was runner-up in the Little League World Series, and five outstanding local baseball players — Joe Caruso, Shawn Weaver, Gerald Kistner, Tom Randecker and Jim Gardner.

Family members of the Hall of Famers will be on hand to talk about their “favorite” baseball player and memories of his special moments on the baseball field.

In 2020, the 1949 Lock Haven team, which also played in the Little League World Series, will be inducted.

And in 2021, on the 10th anniversary of the Keystone All Stars appearance at the World Series in South Williamsport, that team will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Kline said.

He’s quick to thank those who supported the event last year –Central Contracting, Killingers Contracting JC Forestry, Jerry Heverly, Bill’s Happy Camper and Miller Brothers Auto Sales; and this year’s contributors — Dave Bowes, Beech Creek Legion, Howard VFW, Lock Haven Sons of Italy, Midstate Awning, Walker Funeral Home, Don Litzel and Brothers Pizza of Beech Creek.

A building fund has been created for donations and contributions and a fundraiser is currently underway with a 2009 Harley Davidson motorcycle as first prize in the raffle, and more prizes to follow. Those interested in tickets can call Justin at 570-660-0491. The drawing will be Sept. 28.

If anyone can make this happen, it’s Kline.

He’s excited and he loves to talk baseball.

It’s mind-boggling how he spits out so many statistics, players names and other baseball trivia, and it’s easy to understand why this project is such a big deal to him.

Now headed toward second base with next week’s induction ceremony, Kline’s convinced … with continued support from family, friends, business owners and the community … this dream of his will come true.

And, hopefully sooner than later.

Perhaps the long run from second base to home plate won’t be as long as it could be.

Afterall, we all know there are local “players” who are more than capable of hitting a home run and winning this game for Kline.

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