Earlier this week the Sidney IUTIS Club opened its 74th consecutive season of boys youth softball at Harmon Field, coinciding with the group’s 90th anniversary. Ernest Shively, Milo Taylor and Cecil Watkins founded the service organization when it became apparent they would not be able to generate momentum toward a Sidney YMCA at that time. The country was in a depression, but the trio moved forward with the rallying motto “In Union There Is Strength” via the name IUTIS. Membership steadily grew.
Early efforts included helping to feed the hungry and putting lights on Holy Angels Field where IUTIS members played on a pair of softball teams, followed by many other worthy projects over the 90 years. Funds have always been creatively raised. Beyond the annual and traditional ice cream social, does anyone recall a rodeo at the local drive-in theater? Fellowship has been fostered through club meetings and teams along with the funding and service processes.
In 1947 IUTIS saw a need and took the bold step of establishing the boys softball program that endures today. I’m one of the many thousands who proudly wore the IUTIS shirt, playing from 1962-65 while also working in the concession stand with my dad and serving as a batboy for my brother’s team.
I grew up in an IUTIS environment. My dad and many of his work associates were active members including officers, coaches, umpires and project chairs. My playing career produced at least two oddities that have likely not been duplicated. I was once the winning pitcher by tossing a complete game in a 22-21 slugfest. In another outing, I scored from third on a sacrifice fly that was caught by the pitcher.
On Monday afternoon of this week, I gazed onto Harmon Field from the elevated parking lot across Wapakoneta Avenue from left field. I smiled as I recalled my first season almost 60 years earlier. We were the Red Sox, and Frank Lynch was our coach. I wasn’t the best player in 1962, but IUTIS mandated playing time for everyone who attended regularly. Assistant coach Bob Bertsch took us to the new Frisch’s with horns blowing when we won our league tournament in August. Great memories.
I was fortunate to grow up in Sidney and participate in so many enjoyable activities including IUTIS softball. I also had four special summers across town with Sidney Amateur Baseball where another fine group has provided an ongoing quality opportunity.
I close by thanking and congratulating IUTIS for being a major contributor to the Sidney experience of so many of us. “In Union There Is Strength” has stood the test of time.
Sports Extra appears each Friday. Special thanks to Dave Miller, John Hemp and Bruce Pence for contributing to this article.