EATON TWP. — Excited Midview High School students crowded together under umbrellas, ready to try out their new batting cages and honor the school’s baseball coaching legend.
The Jantz family unveiled the new, permanent batting cages Friday dedicated to Ron Jantz Sr. and his memory. Jantz Sr., who died in November 2014, was a graduate of Midview’s first class in 1956 and coached the Hot Stove baseball team from 1988 to 1993.
Green concrete is surrounded by metal cages, with netting strung across the top. Current Midview softball and baseball players took the first cuts inside the cage after the ribbon was cut before they were joined by a person affectionately called “Grandma.”
Barb Jantz, a retired Midview schoolteacher and Jantz Sr.’s wife, stepped inside to take a swing. She hit the ball across the cage, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Standing beneath an umbrella later, she held a bright yellow softball in her hands that simply said “thank you.”
“(Jantz Sr.) would be very pleased, very proud,” Barb Jantz said. “Hitting was very important to him. My kids loved their dad very much.”
The dedication was a family affair, with some of Jantz Sr.’s kids also in attendance, along with his grandchildren. Several of them took a swing inside the cages.
Despite the gray skies and slight drizzle, a small crowd turned out for the unveiling.
Handshakes and hugs greeted Ron Jantz Jr., as people expressed appreciation and reflected on the impact his father had in their lives.
“I actually played for your dad,” one man said. “I graduated in ’92. Yep, I played for him. I’m coaching here now.”
Jantz Jr. could be called the reason his dad started coaching. Jantz Sr. was a basketball star in high school and fan of the sport, but when Jantz Jr. expressed an interest in baseball, his dad became his coach — and then many others’ after that.
“It’s generational,” Jantz Jr. said. “There are guys that came up here just now that played for my dad and they’re 55 years old and they’re coaching their own kids. And then those kids will coach their kids someday. They may not have a direct connection to my dad, but through the line of years they will.”
Midview softball coach Mike Ives stood watching his players in the batting cage. He said the moment meant a lot as he’s been neighbors with the Jantzes for years. Ives recalled his many conversations with the coach and said Jantz Sr. was a “significant part” of his life.
“It’s so heartwarming,” he said. “This is pretty special to me.”
The high school players lined up on both sides of the cage and took their turns swinging a bat or pitching.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for our kids, but it also encompasses the Midview spirit,” said Dan May, Midview’s athletic director. “The kids will be able to experience this, and all due to the (Jantz) family.”
Jantz Sr. led his teams to five Lorain County championships and made four trips to the Hot Stove state semifinals and to two state championship games. He officially coached for almost 25 years and has a scholarship in his name.
He also received a plaque that stands outside the baseball cages, which his family posed for a picture next to.
There was a feeling of excitement in the air, but also of fond remembrance. Some who knew Jantz Sr. or were coached by him at times became emotional.
“Remember when,” Jantz Jr. said. “Remember when we hit the batting cage. Remember when we were teenage softball and baseball players at Midview …”
The two new batting cages are open for use by Midview Schools and the community. The Jantz family and several other donors — the Carmel and Cromling families, both well-known names in the Midview community were among them — contributed to the hitting facility, which was paid for with donations.