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Little league, big heart

Beloved coach Clifford
to be honored at Oldham County Day

Baseball enthusiast is a hit with players

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

July 2009 Kentucky Edition Cover

July 2009
Kentucky
Edition Cover

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2009) – To say Brad Clifford is an extremely devoted Little League Baseball coach is an understatement. As if this didn’t keep him busy enough every week, he can often be found flipping burgers, mowing baseball fields, raking the dirt on the mound, and generally lending a helping hand whenever games are played for the North Oldham Little League.
Clifford, 44, has held the title of Little League Coach since he was 20 years old. “I love baseball,” he said.
And there are many in the community that love Coach Clifford. He was chosen to be the Grand Marshal of this year’s Oldham County Day Parade on July 18.
The parade them is “A League of Our Own,” and was decided upon after Clifford was chosen to be Grand Marshal, said Ann Brown of the La Grange Project Guild. The organization puts on Oldham County Day every year. Clifford was primarily chosen for his “work with the North Oldham Little League,” said Brown.
Clifford was nominated last year by several people, but did not have quite enough votes to be declared Grand Marshal. In his honor, a Grand Marshal Luncheon will be held at noon on July 14 at the John Black Community Center in Buckner.
Oldham County has two Little Leagues, and Clifford is a coach for the North Oldham Little League. The league holds their games at the 12-acre Walsh Park in La Grange and is run by a 10-member board of directors. Field No. 1 at Walsh Park has been designated as the Brad Clifford Field.
“Baseball is it for me,” said Clifford, a Notre Dame University fan. “This is where I hang out.” Clifford can be found on the fields long after the last game has been played for the night.

Brad Clifford

Photos by Helen McKinney

Brad Clifford does whatever it takes to
keep the fun going at the ballpark.

Brad Clifford

He began coaching in 1986. During his coaching career, Clifford spent three years as a Babe Ruth Coach and the rest of his time as a Little League coach. When he was young enough to play Little League, his mother, Patricia Upton, was the league secretary.
In addition to serving as the current president and a past board member of the North Oldham Little League, Clifford recently became the District Administrator of the North Oldham Little League. He said 800 kids play ball every spring in the league, and 350 kids play ball every fall.
The North Oldham Little League is comprised of teams ranging in ages from 5-12 who play Tee Ball, Coach Pitch, Rookie, Minor and Major League. Girls’ softball teams play in the league also and range in age up to 16 years old.
As current president of the North Oldham Little League, Clifford is “the first one there and the last one to leave,” said Brent Hackworth, who has coached for the league for the last five years. Hackworth’s two sons have been coached by Clifford.
Clifford makes sure money is present to support the needs of the league and cover the costs of improvements while staying within our budget, Hackworth, who is vice president of baseball for the league, continued. “He lives every day for the kids,” arriving at 8 or 9 a.m. on his days off, said Hackworth. “He’s always helping others, that’s his main focus.”
As a coach, Clifford has “a lot of knowledge about baseball and a baseball mind. He’s a wonderful manager of our facility and wonderful with the kids,” said Hackworth.
Hackworth said Clifford is dedicated to coaching. He chalks the fields, rakes the dirt, mows, organizes uniforms, purchases everything needed at the park, cooks burgers and hot dogs, and will even clean the restrooms to make sure every single aspect of the park is looked after. The amazing thing about him is that “he knows almost every single kid by name,” said Hackworth.
Clifford also organizes the draft after sign-ups, creates all the schedules for the entire league and keeps the website current. He easily spends 50 to 60 hours a week at Walsh Park when baseball season is in full-swing.
Although “the park seeks more of him than I do, I try my best to support him,” said Clifford’s wife, Sheri. The couple have two children, and Sheri said her husband “lives, breathes and eats baseball.”
Sheri said Clifford has been disabled since 2000 and believes part of his dedication to the league comes from the fact that “everyone in that situation needs an outlet.”
Clifford is a very private, humble person who will never take the credit for anything, even though he makes it happen, Sheri said. “The league is so fortunate to have him.”
“He teaches kids not only the fundamentals of baseball, but helps them learn the fundamentals of life,” Hackworth said. “If kids win a game, he tells them to enjoy it; if kids lose a game, he tells them to enjoy that also, because it’s a learning experience.”
One highlight of Clifford’s coaching career was in 1992 when he won both the Major and Minor Divisions in the same year. Clifford believes in “giving everything” to help his team win at what he believes is the best baseball facility. He strives to give his team “the best opportunity to play ball at the best possible place,” he said.
He has been a staple in the county and the community since he originally began playing for the North Oldham Little League in 1973, said Hackworth. Hackworth will speak about Clifford at the Grand Marshall Luncheon.
Oldham County Jailor Mike Simpson has known Clifford for 25 years. Having met through the Little League system, he’s been vice president of the league under Clifford, on the board of directors, has coached with and against him, and had one of his sons coached by Clifford.
“He truly enjoys every aspect of coaching young kids,” said Simpson. “It’s pure enjoyment for him and exciting to be a part of the team. Kids learn about more than just the game of baseball.”
Kids he has coached have learned commitment and dedication on top of learning how to play, said Simpson. Clifford is a good-hearted person who cares and disciplines the kids so they will remember what they are taught.
Clifford has relied on the Inmate Work Program quite a bit, using inmates to help with field maintenance, to build dugouts and paint. As President of the league, Clifford is one of the first persons to step up and get things done, Simpson said.
“He’s a true friend,” said fellow league coach Chris Wilson. Wilson met Clifford when he and his wife and four children moved to Oldham County four years ago.
“The way he does things is simple,” said Wilson. “He wants kids to have fun. If a kid struggles, Clifford tells the kid he’s putting too much pressure on himself. I’ve never heard him say it’s all about winning; it’s more about the game and having fun.”
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Coach Clifford is always at the ball park. If it rains, he’s at the fields at 5 or 6 a.m. getting them ready for a 10 a.m. game, said Wilson. “He loves people and kids that much to donate his time to them.”
Being chosen as this year’s Oldham County Day Parade Grand Marshall is an honor “absolutely way over due” for Clifford, said Simpson.

• To purchase tickets for the Grand Marshal Luncheon, contact Ann Brown at (502) 222-0023.

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