Beatty High School’s attempts to grow a decent grass field for its baseball and football teams is a long story of spending and frustration. But last year’s installation of turf fields was a huge step for Hornet athletics.
And Dale Norton, Nye County’s superintendent of schools, knew exactly to whom the new baseball field should be dedicated.
“There was not a doubt in my mind when I found out this field hadn’t been dedicated and memorialized that it would go to Keith Koerner,” Norton told a crowd gathered at the conclusion of the Hornets’ doubleheader sweep of Spring Mountain on Friday, March 29. “If you go up to the parking lot up above and look down, this is truly what Keith would say is a field of dreams.”
Koerner, who died in 2009, spent 24 years at Beatty High School as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal. His daughter, Kim Friel, and his son, Tim Koerner, were on hand for the ceremony. A third son, James, flew out from Washington, D.C., a week earlier but was unable to attend the dedication when it had to be postponed because of weather.
“On behalf of the Koerner family, we would like to thank the communities of Beatty and Amargosa for giving our parents a home and for taking care of them when they became very ill,” Friel said before the ceremonial ribbon cutting. “We were living far away, and the community took very good care of our parents.”
Keith Koerner’s son-in-law, Jim Friel, also spoke at the ceremony and shared an anecdote that summed up his father-in-law’s kids-first attitude.
“He wasn’t really concerned what the adults thought,” Jim Friel said. “He was concerned if it was good for kids. One time he had done something and I asked him, ‘How did you get that approved?’ He stepped back, gave me a funny look, and he goes, ‘James, it’s a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than be given permission. It was good for kids, so we did it.’
“For 25 years, he was a coach, a teacher, an athletic director, a principal, a father figure and a father, and his motto was we’re going to do what’s best for kids.”
The Friels noted the irony of a new turf field on a spot where they spent hours trying to maintain the old field.
“We’d like to thank SH Architecture for designing such a beautiful athletic field,” Kim Friel said. “We also would like to let the architects know that all the times my brothers and I were down here helping my dad mow the field, water the field, put new turf on the field, we could never have dreamed of anything so beautiful. And the town deserves this.”
“I think about the 25 years that he spent here, and about half that time was on field maintenance,” Jim Friel added. “I think in the back of his mind today, he would be thinking, ‘What am I going to do now with all of the extra time I have on my hands?’”
But memories of Friel go beyond the time he spent working at Beatty High School.
“I got the opportunity to engage with him in his retirement,” said Norton, who often can be seen officiating at high school athletic events. “Mr. Koerner would be there watching his grandson participate in activities, and somehow he’d find his way to the locker room when I was officiating to say hello and tell me what calls I missed.”
Principal Chris Brockman presented Tim Koerner with a plaque that noted the field was “Dedicated to Keith Koerner, for being instrumental in building the long history of athletics at Beatty High School.”
After the speeches, Beatty baseball players brought out a ceremonial ribbon for Kim Friel and Tim Koerner to cut, and the group then went off the field to a spot near the dugout for the unveiling of a stone marking Keith K. Koerner Memorial Field.
A comment by Jim Friel perfectly summed up the spirit of the occasion.
“To all of his former players, who still refer to him as Coach, thank you for your dedication and support of a man we all loved,” he said. “And once again, to the community of Beatty, for allowing them to be such a big part of your life and a part of his life. We appreciate it.”