COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. — Nestled towards the back of an older neighborhood in Colonial Heights sits a monument to America’s national pastime. Through the decades, it’s a place where memories have been made, both on and off the ballfield.

Baseball is a sport that is loved by people of all ages. On this spot in Colonial Heights, it’s a game that’s been played for more than 100 years.

“Every time I turn up the street to come up here, I get a smile on my face. I just love it,” Billy Conwell, who played at Shepard Stadium, said.

“We’re really unique to have a stadium like this, kinda a throwback stadium that has been well maintained,” Colonial Heights Mayor Greg Kochuba said.

Back in the beginning, it was just a field.

“Baseball’s been plated on these grounds since the late 1920s when it was known as the Ballpark,” Craig Skalak, the director of Colonial Heights’ parks and recreation department, said.

To walk out onto the field is a dream come true for thousands of athletes.

“No doubt about it, it was awesome to play here,” Conwell said.

While Conwell’s playing days may be over, his claim to fame still resonates among fans when they look at the city’s water tower and remember the sound of a baseball hitting it.

“I hit more home runs than one but only one hit the water tower,” Conwell said.

As years turned into decades, the ballfield changed, growing to meet the demands of fans.

“Built in 1948, dedicated in 1951 to Mayor Shepard so a lot of tradition, a lot of history,” Skalak said.

It’s a ballpark that sees a lot more use than most people realize. It’s also home to Colonial Heights High School’s junior varsity and varsity baseball teams.

“I think it’s definitely a confidence booster for a lot of our kids. They come out here and they get excited and I think it also motivates them,” Brennan Hoffer, the coach of the high school’s varsity baseball team, said.

Through the years, a long line of talent has graced the field, from players and coaches. However, there was a time when not everyone could sit and watch the sport from where they wanted to.

“Even though we could come there, you had to sit up on a certain backside, but they let you in,” James McKeever, an 80-year-old baseball fan, said.

McKeever visited the ballpark just once when he was 10. Now 70 years later, he sits and watches his grandson playing, happy with what he sees.

“Because the atmosphere is different, it’s totally different. You see kids running around, they don’t look at the color of your skin, they’re kids. They’re having a good time. This could have never happened when I was a kid,” McKeever said.

McKeever said with this experience, he won’t stay away.

The newest addition to the ballpark is the home team, the Tri-City Chili Peppers.

“Shepard Stadium and its history and how it resonates a lot of baseball was huge for us. It was an easy decision to bring it here,” Chris Martin, the owner of the team, said. “Our fans are sitting 10 feet away from the umpire at first base so that sitting on top of the field type of experience with our fans and our stadium is I think what really resonates to these players.”

In the last decade, the city has invested heavily in the stadium.

“When we invested the money into this stadium, we were looking for a return on investment,” Kochuba said.

The return they are looking for isn’t just about filling seats at games.

“It is a way to attract people to come live here in the city but other business as well,” Kochuba said.

The investment into the stadium is paying off. The Chili Peppers, who average more than 1,000 fans per game, just recently extended their three-year contract to five years.

Memories of playing here decades ago still have old ballplayers stopping by the see Shepard Stadium one more time.



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