Elliott column: Rapp deserves today's tribute

Elliott column: Rapp deserves today's tribute

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Elliott column: Rapp deserves today's tribute

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WAITE PARK

Darrell Rapp isn’t sure what all the fuss is about.

“I’m just an old man who’s retired,” he said. “Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

It’s a lot more than that, of course. Rapp, 74, is being honored at 11:45 a.m. today at River’s Edge Park. That’s when there is a dedication ceremony to rename one of the eight diamonds “Darrell Rapp Field.”

It’s a fitting tribute to someone who has poured his heart, soul and sweat into Waite Park youth baseball and softball for more than two decades.

“He was and is Waite Park Babe Ruth baseball,” said Mike Dehler, president of the Waite Park Babe Ruth baseball board of directors. “It just seems very fitting to name the field after him.”

River’s Edge Park is an impressive youth baseball and softball facility, one of the nicer ones in the Upper Midwest. A lot of that is because of Rapp, who retired from the Mobil Oil Corp. in 1993 and basically made taking care of the fields and helping run the youth program ever since.

“I’ve got some family (who) thinks I’m nuts because I do have a lake place that I never spend any time at,” Rapp said.

The brief ceremony is open to the public. Games are scheduled at 12:05 p.m.

Rapp said he’s not exactly sure what’s going to happen, just that he is expected to be there.

The field renaming was decided upon over the winter.

Rapp, who is having some health problems, told the board of directors last fall that he was done and that others needed to step forward.

“My health went to hell in a minute,” said Rapp, a smoker. “Last summer, I was working and then I wasn’t working. I didn’t have any go.”

His doctor calls his condition pulmonary hypertension. It’s caused from a combination of smoking and dust from the fields.

“It’s a combination of things,” Rapp said. “I don’t get enough oxygen. I go across the house and it feels like I just got done running a 440-yard dash.”

It made him step back from long days and nights at the ballpark. As a volunteer, youth baseball became a passion. There are between 600-700 players ages 6-15 playing at River’s Edge this summer, from in-house leagues to 11 travel baseball and softball teams.

It’s safe to say that tens of thousands of players have made their way through the Waite Park program in Rapp’s 20-plus years.

His presence there is definitely missed, Dehler said.

“We’re just figuring out what it takes to run an organization like this,” Dehler said. “From working with sponsors to taking care of the fields to everything else, it’s a lot of work.”

Rapp often had days where he’d be at the complex from 8 in the morning until the last games ended at 10 p.m.

“The longer I was there, the more I had to be there,” Rapp said. “I just liked being around the park. I enjoyed the kids, I really did. It was enjoyable watching the kids. And, I told the board members I liked the challenge of keeping it green and repaired.”

Rapp gets appropriately honored today.

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