BY JEFF FALK
Lyle Krall has spent the better part of seven decades promoting the health of young men through the game he loves, baseball. Now there’s a movement afoot to assure Krall’s influence on local youth baseball will reach beyond his days on this earth.
Spearheaded by his grand children, a fund has been established for the purpose of lighting Lyle Krall Field, which is located on the campus of Elco High School, in Myerstown. It is projected that the project, which is in its infancy, will need to raise about $125,000 to make Lyle Krall Field Lebanon County’s fourth lighted baseball venue.
Eight years ago, the baseball diamond that is home to the Elco baseball team, the Richland entrant in the Lebanon County American Legion and some fall baseball contests was named for Krall, one of the County’s few living sports legends. The former Raider head coach and current Elco assistant coach, as well as Richland’s head coach, Krall has spent more than 50 years directly promoting local baseball.
“When you go to other venues, a lot of baseball fields have lights,” said Krall, a resident of Schaefferstown. “It’s a way to promote the sport. When I go to Florida and see lighted fields, I think to myself, ‘Why can’t we do this in Pennsylvania?’
“It’s about the opportunity to play the game,” Krall continued. “If I had the funds, I’d put it up. But I can’t afford $125,000. But maybe someone will come forward.”
Originally, the idea for lighting Lyle Krall Field was hatched by Irv Lutz, a Myerstown resident and promoter of baseball and softball locally, who passed away in October of 2011. Recently, in honor of Krall’s 80th birthday, his three grandchildren vowed to pursue Lutz’s dream and turn it into a reality.
“It was on Irv Lutz’s bucket list,” reported Krall. “He’s the one who got the whole thing started. When he mentioned it to me, I knew it would be a huge undertaking. When he died the family asked if anyone wanted to do anything in Irv’s memory that they should send money to the Elco baseball lighting fund at the high school. Irv was such a good guy.
“He’s (Krall’s grandson Travis Thome) doing a lot of the leg work,” Krall added. “He’s the main contact. I really have nothing to do with it. It’s sort of awkward for me because the field has my name on it. It’s the grandchildren who are now carrying the ball.”
Since the field was named for Krall in 2004, there have been incremental improvements made on the facility through the efforts of the Elco Baseball Boosters, among other organizations. Improved fencing, a press box, a concession stand, a maintenance shed and a sound system have been among the improvements.
But is $100,000-plus worth of lighting a necessity or a luxury?
“It was a surprise to me,” said Krall. “I think it’s a monumental task. There’s going to be some road blocks for sure. The grand kids are doing something I’d like to see done. I’d like to see it come to fruition. And the grand kids are pretty adamant about this.
One of the so-called ‘hurdles’ for the project is getting approval for certain aspects of it from the school district. While over the years Elco has been very loyal to the dedicated Krall, there would have to be enough positive things in it for the school district for it to receive the go-ahead.
“Absolutely,” said Krall. “Since it’s on school grounds, it would have to go through the school district. They’re going to have a lot of questions. I’m sure one of them is: ‘How many games in the spring would be played under the lights? Who’s going to pay the electric bill?’ There may be concerns with Title IX. Maybe it’s worth a try. We’ll see how it goes.”
Currently, American Legion baseball is played during the summer at Earl Wenger Field in Fredericksburg and Fifth Ward Athletic Field, and twilight baseball is played at In The Net Sports Complex in Palmyra.
“Lights are pretty expensive,” said Krall. “We’ve (the Richland legtion team) played a lot of games under the lights at Earl Wenger field in Fredericksburg, and the kids like to play there. In the summer it would be like Fredericksburg and Fifth Ward, and we’d start the games at 7 (p.m.). In the spring time, (high school) games would probably start a little earlier. But you could play more games (under the lights) in legion. Basically it would be used for night games in the summer. But they could also be used for fall baseball.”