VINTON — Long-time Ward 7 Rec District employee James “Cuz” McCardle will be retiring soon. But it was abundantly clear at a ceremony held here in his honor Saturday, that he’ll not be forgotten by Vinton residents any time soon.
During the opening ceremony for the 2018 Vinton Dixie Youth Baseball and Softball Jamboree at the Ted Lyons Ballpark, a field was dedicated to McCardle in honor of his many decades of service maintaining the ballpark, announcing games, running the concession stand with his wife and four sons, and doling out jokes, encouragement, and guidance in equal measure.
Many of the coaches present recalled a childhood spent at the park hearing McCardle calling everyone “Cuz,” (which is how he got his nickname).
A letter from McCardle’s colleague and friend Bubby Henderson, who was unable to attend, outlined a brief history of the ballpark and McCardle’s role keeping it running.
Henderson notes that McCardle moved to Vinton in the late 1960s, when there was only one ball field. McCardle, known as the “Oakdale Flash” at the time, coached the Sheriff’s league teams on the field in the summer. In the 1980s the ballpark had grown to include a Little League field and McCardle was Sports Director for the Town of Vinton, which owned the park at the time. When the Rec Center took over the ballpark, McCardle hired on to maintain and improve the property.
“He treated all the kids who played on these fields as though they were his own,” Henderson writes. “These fields were watered with his sweat and blood.
“He was the first to arrive every day and he was the one who turned off the lights when the games were over,” he continued.
Henderson said McCardle is a walking encyclopedia of which teams made the playoffs, who holds the records in every sport and who the coaches were. Vinton Councilman B.B. Loyd recalled a time that McCardle remembered the name and statistics of a high school track athlete from an opposing team who had beaten a Vinton runner 20 years ago.
During the ceremony, young baseball and softball players read jokes to the crowd in honor of Cuz’s sense of humor.