Inmates Repair Jefferson City Baseball Landmark

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JEFFERSON CITY - George Lammers said he couldn't help but smile Wednesday as he saw the finished product, a new baseball statue to mark the entrance to Ernie Vivion Field at Washington Park. Vandals destroyed the previous fiberglass baseball that stood atop a 15-foot pole about eight months ago. Vivion was Lammers' father-in-law. The field was dedicated to Vivion in 1963, the same year the first baseball statue went up.

The Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Department wanted to replace the baseball after the vandalism, but the cost was too high. According to Paul Beck from parks and recreation, vandals unscrewed bolts at the base of the ball. This caused it to fall off its post and shatter to the ground. Beck also said the best price the city could find was more than $2,000. However, the department found an alternative.

Inmates in the Missouri Department of Corrections began working on a new baseball statue more than a month ago after a corrections employee reported seeing the damaged ball. Inmates at the Potosi Correctional Center worked on the project because that facility contains a welding shop and materials.

"To know that our offenders played a part in restoring it... is just an awesome feeling," Missouri Department of Corrections Communications Director Chris Cline said.

The inmates' final product only cost Jefferson City about $350 for the new baseball. The grand total came out to about $700 with the cost to replace the old pole. The baseball is about three feet in diameter.

"We're really tickled about having it back up," Lammers said. Ernie Vivion earned the field dedicated in his honor through his involvement with Jefferson City baseball. Vivion played for and managed a local, minor-league baseball team called the Jefferson City Red Birds during the 1950s. The team phased out after his death in 1962, and his family hopes the new statue continues to serve his legacy.

"It means a lot to the family, as well as all the kids who have played under Vivion Field," Lammers said. With good weather, the city hopes to dedicate the new baseball at 10 a.m. Thursday.