GreenJackets, fans offer farewells to Lake Olmstead

Jewel Whitten keeps a baseball card in her purse for every home game at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

 

Originally attached to a pack of cigarettes, the card is of her father, Whitey Glazner, who pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies between 1920-24.

Whitten, 92, is one of many diehard baseball fans who’ve helped turn Lake Olmstead into a successful venue for nearly 30 years. She was in attendance along with a packed crowd to offer their farewells to the only location they’ve known since baseball returned to Augusta.

“I have arthritis so bad, and when I come here I forget about my arthritis,” Whitten said. “I’ve just loved it here. I look forward to it every April. There’s lots and lots of memories here. It’s just been a great outlet for me.”

After 29 seasons, the Augusta GreenJackets played their final game at Lake Olmstead on Monday night. The ceremonial final night marked nearly three decades of baseball at the lake, including 22 at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Bill Heaton, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who passed away last month, was the driving force to bring baseball back to Augusta. He personally built the ballpark to make it happen, naming it Heaton Stadium, and the Pittsburgh Pirates moved their affiliate from Macon to Augusta in 1988.

The facility was upgraded to Lake Olmstead Stadium for the 1995 season, and the GreenJackets have called it home since.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily hit me yet,” GreenJackets president Jeff Eiseman said. “It doesn’t feel like a funeral. It feels more like a celebration. This old park has served up a lot of memories for me, but I’m real anxious to make a lot more.”

The GreenJackets will move to North Augusta for the 2018 season. SRP Park is currently under construction and will give the team a riverfront facility.

Before the move came one final game Labor Day night to look back on the many memories from Heaton and Lake Olmstead stadiums.

John Scherer was in attendance with his son, Jason, for the first game at Heaton Stadium.

“It was a cold and miserable night,” John Scherer said. “It was a winning night, too. It was just nice to have baseball back in Augusta.”

“I remember the first night when we had the bleachers,” Jason Scherer said. “Somebody finished their Coca-Cola, and he looked down and said, ‘Somebody has to be the first one.’ He threw it underneath the stands.”

Whitten was one of a handful to throw out the first pitch, and all have been season ticket holders since the team started. Heaton was honored when his family took the field in the second inning to a standing ovation.

The GreenJackets, who played host to the Charleston RiverDogs, capped the final game with fireworks before turning off the lights one more time.

“It’s sad to see the team leave here, but it’s neat to see so many people here tonight, fans that we’ve hung out with,” Jason Scherer said. “You think about all the people who worked so hard to make this stadium a success.”

 

More