Puhl takes the official first bat (The Melville Advance)
It was only fitting the man behind the idea would be the one to hit the first official ball.
Terry Puhl opened the batting centre named after him Friday evening.
Both Puhl and Garnet Keller, who helped spearhead the project, said the cages will help local youth with one of the frustrating aspects of ball.
“Kids don’t quit ball because they can’t throw or catch, but because they can’t hit,” Keller said to the crowd of 100 people gathered.
“Even at spring training I’ve never hit out of anything as good,” commented Puhl, a former star with the Houston Astros of the National League.
The cages, located just north of the swimming pool, are a project of the Terry Puhl Baseball Foundation which raised over $26,000 plus $2,000 in kind in June 1992 at the Terry Puhl Sports Dinner and Auction. The cages have four pitching machines with two programmed for baseball, one for fastball and one for slowpitch.
Mayor Jim Walters says Puhl, a native of Melville, has “never forgotten his roots” when he was with Houston, helping out with the auction sale or with the opening of the cages.
Walters added baseball in the city was “close to extinction” but concerned community members revitalized the sport in the past few years.
“Credit Garnet Keller for reorganizing ball,” Walters said.
Alderman Merv Ozirny, another member of the Terry Puhl Baseball Foundation, said Puhl’s major-league career was filled with class and dignity.
“His career ended with injuries, he fought on, but he knew when to quit.”
Ozirny also recalled a time when he watched Puhl on television. The announcers had “no problem with his name, no problem with the city but a problem with Saskatchewan.”
“One fellow finally announced he was form Northern Canada,” Ozirny smiled.
The ceremonies ended with those gathered using the cages at no charge.
“How many home runs have you got,” one small child asked Puhl.
“Hang around, there might be one more,” Puhl replied.
EXTRA: Puhl and the 1973 Canadian midget champion Melville Elks will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Saturday in Battleford.