TOP PHOTO: Lloyd Jenniges, Kay Jenniges Flock and Donna Jenniges hold the original Norm Jenniges Field sign surrounded by the Hot Springs Bison baseball team, their coaches and Mayor Bob Nelson during the unveiling of the new sign dedication on Tuesday May 9 at the main baseball field; the Norm Jenniges Field. (Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star)
BOTTOM LEFT: Norm Jenniges was born to play ball, pictured here in 1913 at the age of four with a catchers mitt, his chosen position throughout his life.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Bud Jenniges, his wife Donna Jenniges, Dale Jenniges and her husband Norm Jenniges at the 1981 Butler Park baseball field dedication.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – In June 1981 the main Butler Park baseball field and one time horse track in Hot Springs was officially named after the man who made the community baseball diamond dream a reality; Norm Jenniges.
Now, decades later, on May 9th, his memory and love of the game was once again recognized through a newly created and unveiled sign at the main field denoting the field in his name.
“It looks so nice up there,” said Donna Jenniges, Norm’s son Bud’s wife of the new sign and its placement on the crows nest.
“It’s amazing,” said Kay Jenniges Flock, Norm’s daughter.
The members of the Bison baseball team applauded when they learned they were in the presence of Norm Jenniges family.
Mayor Bob Nelson took a moment to honor Norm’s name and thank the family saying, “On behalf of the city, youth baseball and our future we thank you.”
Norm Jenniges, born in 1909, had been a lover of baseball all his life beginning as a youth at the age of ten, playing the sport through high school and when he moved to Hot Springs in 1928 he was playing semi-pro catcher with the Northwest Nebraska League where he was drafted by the New York Giants and headed off to Sarasota to train at their summer camp.
Yet a deathbed promise changed his life’s path and while he was in summer camp he was called back home.
“He made a death bed promise to his father, who had tuberculosis, that he would take care of his mother and five siblings as he was the oldest,” explained Flock.
“They simply didn’t have enough money to survive,” explained Flock, “His family needed him.”
He took a job digging ditches for water lines for the city, though any dream of going pro was lost, he continued to play for the Northwest Nebraska League until the early 1930s when due to the depression it was disbanded.
Yet his time playing semi pro allowed Jenniges the distinguished honor of being inducted into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.
At 22 he met the love of his life, Dale. They had 5 children; “four girls and one boy,” laughed Flock. “He wanted a baseball team, well, he almost got a softball team.”
Yet baseball was never far from his mind; baseball was in his blood.
In an effort to share his passion with not only his son Bud, but the youth of the town, he became a founding member of the Butler Park Board after a large chunk of land had been donated to the city for recreational purposes.
“When I first came here (Hot Springs), what is now Butler Park had a polo field on the north end and at least 140 barns on the west and south end,” he said in a newspaper interview in the Hot Springs Star in 1981. “The grandstand for horse races was on the west side of the track and the ball diamond was built in the middle of the track.”
Soon the polo field and race track were converted into a baseball field and by 1937 he was coaching the first baseball town team in Hot Springs.
“It was a family affair,” said Flock. “My dad coached, my brother Bud played and my mom ran the concession stand.” And the girls pitched in where needed.
Norm could often be found liming the lines, dragging the field or putting down the place pads before games to make sure everything was perfect before a game.
In the early 1940s he continued to try to improve the baseball field so he and many others began raising funds for lighting to promote night baseball.
A few things happened to make lighting a real possibility.
“In 1948 when the (Angostura) Dam was started, there was lots of heavy equipment in the county. In addition the bridges were being rebuilt after the 1947 flood,” said Jenniges in his interview. Jenniges managed to get one of those companies, Kiewitt and Northwestern Engineering, to loan their equipment so the light poles could be erected.
Jenniges made sure that the youth of the community had access to a baseball field to learn the sport he so loved. That vision that became a reality has now been in use since the race track and polo field were converted.
After the new sign dedication a Bison baseball game ensued. This caught the eye of each of the Jenniges’.
“We need these young guys playing here,” said Lloyd Jenniges, “it’s so good to see them playing ball.”
“My father would be so happy,” said Flock. “He would probably be shedding a few tears, he would be so proud.”