Members of the Sampson family pose with Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler (far right) after cutting ribbon to re-dedicate Sherman Field Wednesday afternoon. (Jeff Motz/LincolnPrepSports.com)
By Jeff Motz
The weather may have been dreary at the beginning and end of the Sherman Field renovation project, but the improvements still shined regardless of the elements.
Mayor Chris Beutler was joined by civic leaders Wednesday afternoon to cut the ribbon in re-dedicating the 66-year-old baseball stadium's latest upgrades.
Due to the rainy weather, the Lincoln Northeast-Lincoln Southeast varsity baseball game was postponed. Mayor Beutler and Sampson Construction president John Sampson were expected to throw out the first pitch of the high school game.
A $2.2 million fundraising campaign led by the Lincoln Parks Foundation helped renovate support facilities at Sherman, such as new dugouts, restrooms, maintenance and storage facility. A new concession stand, eco-friendly lights and ticket booth were also part of the new concourse upgrades.
The park surrounding the baseball field was renamed Sampson Park, in honor of Sampson Construction founder Morris "Sam" Sampson, and his wife Evelyn. Sampson Construction and several subcontractors helped in the upgrades with the concourse.
"This is among the largest donations made to our City Parks and Recreation programs, " said Mayor Beutler. "We sincerely thank John (Sampson) and his family for helping to build Lincoln and for their generous contribution to the iconic Sherman Field."
Like many Lincoln kids, John Sampson grew up hanging around Sherman Field. He watched the old Lincoln Chief minor league baseball team, which featured former major leaguer Dick Stuart. Sampson then played for Gerry's Sports Shop and Lincoln High during his prep career. His construction company has sponsored the Lincoln High senior Legion team for years.
In addition to Sampson's lead gift, major contributions came from the City of Lincoln, Lincoln Public Schools, Lancaster County Visitors Improvement Fund and the Lincoln Community Foundation among others.
Parks and Recreation director Lynn Johnson says Sherman Field hosts about 250 games a year. "Of all the high school fields in Nebraska, Sherman Field is a favorite among players, coaches and fans because of its history, field surface and the large grandstand, which gives everyone the feeling of being in a classic ballpark."
In addition to Stuart, other major league stars such as Nellie Fox and Bobby Shantz played at Sherman in the early days. Lincolnites Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain also played at Sherman in high school before embarking on their college and Major League Baseball careers. Gordon was a star at Southeast, while Chamberlain played for Northeast.
The concourse area features custom crafted recognition ball tiles and grand slam bats that will be added to the display under the grandstand. Proceeds go toward an endowment fund for the ongoing care and maintenance of Sherman Field. You can find out more details at www.lincolnparks.org