When teams in Salt Lake City's Emigration Baseball League show up to play at Sunnyside Park, it isn't uncommon to see an extra player in the outfield.
Using 10 players instead of nine on occasion is the first rule Bob Jones came up with when he started managing the league almost 40 years ago.
No kid, he says, should ever have to sit alone on the bench.
There's one other rule, too.
"When anybody comes to play," says Bob, "it's time to have fun. If parents want competition, they'll have to take their kids to the parks up the hill. In this league, every kid plays, every kid has a good time. If they're not out there with a smile, I want to know why."
Now 65, Bob has devoted countless hours over the years to organizing the Emigration community league, raising funds for trophies and uniforms, coaching and counseling players, grooming the field and selling hot dogs and snow cones during games.
After so many years of quiet service, few people were surprised when the Salt Lake City Council adopted a resolution a few weeks ago naming one of Sunnyside's baseball diamonds after Bob Jones. But there's something else that few people know about the retired custodian.
Bob moves a bit slower around the ball diamond these days because he was recently diagnosed with cancer. Since his doctor gave him the bad news, he hasn't returned for treatment and has no intention of ending up in a hospital bed.
"I figure what's going to happen is going to happen, and I want to enjoy my time," he says. "I can feel things winding down. But I'm really hoping to be here to open the season next year."
Bob agreed to meet me for a Free Lunch chat at the park after the father of one of his players suggested that I give him a call. Sipping a tall glass of orange juice, he looks out over the freshly raked baseball diamond and grins.
"When I first started with the league, I'd use my old T-Bird to rake the fields before each game," he says. "Now, I have a couple of teenagers help me out, but it looks pretty sharp, doesn't it? You always want the kids to have a nice field to play on."
With league games over for the summer, Bob is busy cleaning up the snack shack and filling out paperwork for the next season. "I want it to all be ready," he says. "Just in case."
Now living in West Valley City where he's a single father of two teenage daughters, Bob says he can't imagine not coming to the baseball diamond in March to assign boys and girls to teams. It isn't uncommon for him to make three or four trips a day to Sunnyside Park.
"The kids are what have kept me going they're all winners," he says. "I used to love baseball when I was a kid in San Diego, so it's fun to pass it along." Frequently, the money for baseballs, bats and trophies comes out of Bob's own pocket, but he never complains.
"We were only $300 in the hole this year," he says. "That's not bad. I'd say we came out pretty good."Here's hoping that the same can be said about Bob Jones when it's time to hand out the uniforms next season.
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