By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — When hundreds of Troy Junior Baseball players take to the fields at the Mark Knoop Baseball Complex for opening day at the end of April, they’ll become a part of a tradition much deeper — and older — than they can possibly understand.
For more than three decades, Troy’s youth baseball program has run through the baseball complex located on the corner of County Road 25-A and Eldean Road. The Mark Knoop Baseball Complex has produced hundreds of high school players, dozens of college baseball players and at least one Major League Baseball player in Heath Murray, who would go from pitching at the Knoop Complex to pitching in nearly every park in the big leagues.
Tens of thousands of young baseball players never would have got the chance to play ball at the complex had it not been for the generosity of Mark Knoop. In 1979, Knoop — a fifth-generation Miami Countian — donated 21 acres of land to Troy Junior Baseball, Inc. Knoop had originally donated the land to the Miami County Park District, which turned down the gift because it lacked the staff to maintain the area.
“The only restriction I place on this gift is that it continue to be used by the Troy Junior Baseball Inc. and properly maintained,” Knoop said in a 1979 letter to the baseball board.
On March 19, 1981, ground was broken on the Mark Knoop Baseball Complex. Games were being played on the complex’s four field — more fields would be added later — soon after.
“This has been our dream since we incorporated,” former Troy Junior Baseball president Charles Sotzing said in a Dec. 28, 1979 interview with the Troy Daily News. “In honor of his most generous gift, we will name the park Knoop Park.”
Knoop — a farmer by trade — had a history of public service. He served as president of the Troy Rotary Club, the Troy Country Club, the Ohio Cattle Feeders and the Stouder Memorial Board of Trustees. He was a member of the Upper Valley Medical Board, director of the First National Cincinnati Corporation and director emeritus of the First National Bank and Trust Company, Troy.
Knoop passed away several years ago at the age of 91, but the baseball complex he was such an instrumental part of still bears his name.
And every spring, hundreds of Troy children become a part of the tradition he helped start.
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong