Craig Counsell Park Dedicated Today in Whitefish Bay
If you played Little League in Whitefish Bay, chances are you probably grew up playing at Water Tower Park. For 35 years, it has been the home to village Little League teams.
Personally, I have many memories there growing up and playing Little League with some great friends and coaches. I remember my first game pitching (it didn’t go very well), I remember seeing the disappointment on my coach’s face after getting picked off at first base for the third out of an inning (Mr. Grebe, you were one of the best, take no offense), I remember bringing a bucket of baseballs to the park with my dad for extra practice. I remember being a member of the Brewers, Blue Jays, Reds, Angels and Giants.
Today, I made another memory there as I was on hand for the renaming and dedication of the park to Craig Counsell Park. Counsell, a native and current resident of Whitefish Bay also grew up playing Little League at the fields and today was on hand for the dedication along with his family. It was a simple ceremony but one that meant a lot to the community.
Counsell reminisced about growing up and playing baseball at the park before watching his own son, Jack, play for a Little League Championship at the very same fields later in the morning (Counsell just let me know that his team took home the title).
A large group turned out that included different generations of Little Leaguers. There were kids getting ready to play in league championship games this morning. Older “kids” like me who once played on the fields. Even some of Counsell’s former Little League teammates and their parents were at the park. It was neat to see all the different people there who spent part of their childhood at this park and who were excited to see the park passed on to another generation.
I learned a little history about the park as well. It became the home of the Whitefish Bay Little League in 1977 when village resident Tom Rice made it his goal to ensure the league had a permanent home. He led a fundraising effort that raised enough money to build the fields that were dedicated in June of 1977. Rice touched a generation of young baseball players—including Counsell—in the community with his vision, hard work and generosity.
Rice passed away in May and the World War II veteran was honored at today’s ceremony with a new flagpole that was named in his honor at the park. Rice’s wife, son and grandson were all on hand for today’s event. It’s good to know that Counsell won’t be the only hero remembered at this park for years to come.
A 1988 graduate of Whitefish Bay High School, Counsell graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1992 and was selected by Colorado in the 11th round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft. He enjoyed a Major League career that began in 1995 with the Rockies and included time with Los Angeles, Arizona, Florida and Milwaukee.
Counsell owns a career .255 batting average in 1,623 career games and scored the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins. He was also a member of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
Everyone can remember the fun they had while playing Little League and today brought back a number of those memories as I haven’t visited Water Tower…..err, I mean, Craig Counsell Park in years. It was great to be back and hopefully the park will breed another Major Leaguer like Craig Counsell in the future! If not another Major Leaguer, maybe another Media Relations manager!?