After half a century, Swarts living his field of dreams

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

COAL GROVE - As the sun beat down on the Coal Grove Little League Field, Joe Swarts was outside in a straw hat and shorts lining the field.

For about 50 years, the Coal Grove resident has been a mainstay in Coal Grove youth athletics, volunteering his time as an official, a coach and a maintenance worker at the field named in his honor.

"I just love doing it. It keeps me active," he said.

Email newsletter signup

Shortly after graduating from St. Joseph High School in 1952, Swarts began working as an umpire for several sporting events. When his son Mike began playing little league baseball in 1962, he began coaching with taking a few small breaks in between. However, he has worked continuously for Coal Grove athletics since 1981.

Now, his work consists of caretaker duties such as lining the athletic fields for practices and games and running the clock for elementary school games, high school girls' and boys' basketball games, and football games. He is also the Coal Grove Little League treasurer.

"I try to keep things running and in good shape," he said.

One reason why Swarts has continued his work for such a long time is just a love for sports.

"My whole life has reflected around athletics," he said. "In one way or another, I've been in there helping them out."

However, he does the volunteering for more than the love of the game.

"I get satisfaction from teaching the kids the sport. I'm hoping I made them a better person," Swarts said. "I get satisfaction when I get a 'thank you' from the kids for teaching them the sport and they show appreciation for the time spent."

His son Mike commented that his father's coaching work began when he was a small child. Now, Mike is 47 years old and coaching girls' softball for the Dawson-Bryant district.

When asked why he has not stopped working after doing so much, Swarts replied, "That's a quote from my wife," and smiled.

Swarts' "day jobs" include working for Alpha Portland Cement for five years, then working for Dow Chemical until his retirement in 1995. He and his wife Rose have five children and 10 grandchildren.

His work was rewarded when the Coal Grove Little League Field was named after its longtime mainstay. While working on the field approximately two years ago, two other men working at the field were waiting for Swarts to go home. However, Swarts was not going to leave until the work was done. The men finally gave up and showed him the sign with his name on it. Swarts was not supposed to know until the next morning.

"It stunned me," he said. "I was really honored."

Swarts is also proud of how far the athletic facilities have come. Six years ago, the facilities moved from the high school area to Memorial Street.

"I help keep it in good operating condition, looking nice. It's come a long way," he said.

Swarts worked for the school's athletic events when Brian Mulkey was in school. Now, Mulkey is the athletic director for the Dawson-Bryant school district.

"We're lucky to still have him around," Mulkey said. "Joe has always enjoyed being around sports. I think he just really likes the kids too. It doesn't surprise me [that Swarts has worked for Coal Grove athletics for this long]."

Naming the field after Swarts was the least the athletic department coulddo for Swarts, and the honor was fitting for him, Mulkey said.

"You really have to have a desire do something like this," Swarts said. "Some people work too much and would like to spend their free time with their families. It takes dedication to get started and then stay with it."