Arkansas — Baseball legends Hall of Famer Ted Simmons, Hall of Famer Lee Smith and Al Hrabosky will break ground for the new Majestic Park youth baseball complex in Hot Springs on Friday, August 14, to open the third annual Hot Springs Baseball Week.
The ceremonial beginning of construction of the five-field all-weather baseball complex at Carson and Belding Streets will begin at 6 p.m.
“We’ll mark the start of Baseball Week with the beginning of work on this amazing new resource for Hot Springs’ young people,” said Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison. “When it’s completed next summer it will provide the most modern complex in the South for kids from all over Arkansas and surrounding states to come to Hot Springs to enjoy wonderful competition.”
Emcee for the groundbreaking will be Derek Phillips, manager for the Majestic Park complex.
“The turf fields, team facilities, fan seating and concessions at Majestic Park will be second to none,” Phillips said. “The complex will be a fitting tribute to the dozens of legends such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and others who played on the original Majestic Park fields during the first half of the 20th Century.”
Also participating in the groundbreaking ceremonies will be members of the Majestic Park Committee who led the campaign for voter approval of the complex’s construction, the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, Mayor Pat McCabe, City Manager Bill Burrough and members representing Ritter Communications and the Oaklawn Foundation.
Mike Dugan, a Hot Springs baseball historian, and Elizabeth Farris, chair of the A&P Commission, will speak briefly
“We want the groundbreaking to be fast and easy so we can get started on the complex,” Phillips said.
The Third Annual Hot Springs Baseball Weekend will continue Saturday, August 15, with a full day of activities at the Hot Springs Convention Center celebrating Hot Springs’ role as The Birthplace of Major League Baseball Spring Training. Starting in the 1890s, Major League teams such as the White Sox and others began bringing their players to Hot Springs in the springtime to get in shape for the upcoming season. Up through the 1940s Hot Springs was the Spring Training mecca for dozens of players who went on to Hall of Fame careers.
The Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail, a series of informative markers throughout the city, including Majestic Park, traces the city’s role in the early years of Major League Baseball.
“All the Baseball Weekend events are absolutely free, and the public is welcome for all of them,” Arrison said. “We have arranged for proper social distancing during all of the events in Horner Hall at the Convention Center, and face covering will be mandatory at all our events.
“It’s going to be a great weekend for fans. In addition to our three baseball legends and the Majestic Park groundbreaking, we’ll have a really great Major League Baseball photo exhibit that opens that Saturday and runs through October 21 at the Convention Center. It’ll be a baseball lover’s dream.”
“Ted Simmons and Al Hrabosky are returning for this year’s Baseball Weekend because of the overwhelming response to their appearances at last year’s Baseball Weekend,” Arrison said. “The addition of Chicago Cubs legend and former Cardinal Lee Smith should really take those conversations to the next level.”
Smith is known as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, Arrison said.
“Ted Simmons was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this year, and his installation ceremony will be held in 2021,” Arrison said. “A switch-hitter, Simmons was a catcher for most of his Major League Baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves.
“Al Hrabosky is returning for his third Baseball Weekend. A great Cardinal pitcher and a fan favorite during his playing days, ‘The Mad Hungarian’ has entertained Baseball Weekend fans tremendously. He’s currently a TV broadcaster covering the Cards on Fox Sports.”
All three players will participate in panels and question-and-answer sessions with the public.
The revised schedule for the weekend (accommodating changes brought about by the virus pandemic):
Friday, August 14
• 6 p.m. — Groundbreaking at Majestic Park, Hot Springs’ new youth baseball facility at Carson and Belding Streets, featuring legendary Major League Baseball players Lee Smith, Ted Simmons and Al Hrabosky along with local dignitaries.
Saturday, August 15
• 10 a.m. — Picturing America’s Pastime, National Baseball Hall of Fame
Photography exhibit, opens to the public (Exhibit Hall Concourse)
• 10 a.m. — Baseball Card Show (Plaza Lobby)
• 10 a.m. — Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) Meeting (Room 208)
• 1 p.m. — Panel on Local Baseball History (location to be determined)
• 2:15 p.m. — A Conversation with Hall of Fame Pitching Legend Lee Smith (Horner Hall)
• 3:30 p.m. — Baseball Talk- Hall of Famer Ted Simmons and “The Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky (Horner Hall)
• 4:30 p.m. — Q&A – Audience members can ask their questions and get answers from Lee Smith, Ted Simmons, and Al Hrabosky
At the time of his retirement, the numbers left little room for doubt.
Lee Arthur Smith – by virtue of having saved the most games in Major League history – was one of baseball’s greatest relief pitchers.
Simmons was the greatest offensive catcher in Cardinals history, playing for St. Louis from 1968-1980. He was named to six All-Star Games, caught two no-hitters and set a National League record with 182 home runs as a switch-hitter.
Al (The Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 11th round of the 1967 amateur draft, but did not sign with the club. Two years later the Cardinals made him their first-round choice. Within a year, at the age of 20, he made his Major League debut, pitching a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres.
During his time with the Cardinals, Hrabosky became a fan favorite for his antics on the mound. Between each pitch he would turn his back to the batter, walk toward second base, vigorously rub the ball between his palms several times, take a deep breath and pound the ball into his mitt. He would then storm back to the mound, staring down the batter. Although the crowd would roar in delight, most batters were not fond of the pitcher’s routine.
Dozens of baseball legends came to Hot Springs in the early years of the 20th Century to train on the city’s mountain trails and “boil out” the residue of the off-season in the city’s world-famous thermal waters. Hot Springs became known as The Birthplace of Major League Baseball Spring Training because of the presence of scores of future Hall of Famers up into the 1940s and early ‘50s.