GIBSON CITY -- On Sunday, the Gibson City Little League baseball and softball organization will hold its opening day ceremony at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Middle School.
Soon afterwards, they will play games at Roy Roemer Field, a ballpark at Gibson City's West Park that has been renamed after a fan who, according to some of his former colleagues, would have known each kid by name.
Roy Roemer, who arrived in Gibson City in the early 1970s, was known as a super fan of youth athletics around the GCMS school district before passing away in October 2017. A dedication ceremony will be held at the newly-named ballpark at a date to be determined.
"He knew every kid's name," Tim Leonard said. "If you needed to know a kid's name, you could go up to him and say who's this kid, and he knew their name. It didn't matter what age, what size. He followed them throughout their life in sports."
Tim Leonard and his wife, Miranda, had known Roy Roemer since moving to Gibson City 10 years ago.
The Leonards, along with Roemer, were involved with the little league organization.
"He was at everything and cheered for every player," Tim Leonard said. "It didn't matter who it was. He spent countless hours and was at everything. He was an amazing man."
Tim Leonard has been a volunteer high school softball coach at GCMS for three years while Miranda has been the head coach of the GCMS High School cheerleading squad since 2016.
"Roy was always present at all of the sporting events regardless of the age of the children participating. He could always be found at the baseball field or softball diamond," Miranda Leonard said. "He was always at the football games and basketball games. He supported all of the kids regardless of what they were participating in, and he was always a presence. He was always the constant Falcon fan in the stands. He was always the cheerleader for everybody."
The Leonards have three children, including Lauren and Peyton, who are each on GCMS High School softball team as well as the cheerleading squad.
"Roy has been a fan of all three of them. He's been a fan of every GCMS kiddo. He was just the biggest fan of all the kids," Miranda Leonard said. "They always knew that he would be present. They always knew that he would be in the stands. He was always the first one to the field or to the gym and always the last one to leave."
Roemer's fandom of GCMS went beyond sitting in the stands.
"He was always willing to help," Miranda Leonard said. "He would always help set up the field. He would always help play catch with the kids. He would help shag balls. He had a certain spot where you knew you could find him in the stands, whether it was the gym or on the baseball or softball field."
Roemer's knowledge went beyond knowing the names of the kids.
"He also had a very brilliant mind. He had statistics on all of the children," Miranda Leonard said. "On the football sideline, you would always find him with a clipboard, and he would keep his own stats. In the gym, he would always have a program, and he would keep stats in the program. On the baseball and softball field, he always had a little piece of paper that he kept stats on. He could tell you history, batting averages, percentages for all of the kids. He just had a brilliant mind."
Roemer was diagnosed in January 2017 with esophageal cancer. While he was in the hospital during the Class 2A boys' basketball regional title game between the host Falcons and nearby rival Paxton-Buckley-Loda in February 2017, GCMS announced his induction into the GCMS Athletic Hall of Fame.
"He was just always the No. 1 Falcon fan. He was known by other schools -- administrators, coaches knew him by name," Miranda Leonard said. "At the end of his life, they were very supportive of him and came to visit him and sent cards and well wishes. He was just well-liked by everyone.
"I think it's just an awesome tribute to see his name on a ball field with all the hours and the time he spent at the ballparks. It's great to have a field at West Park dedicated to his name because he really did spend so much time helping to develop all the children and the program."
Along with the renaming of the West Park field to Roy Roemer Field, Roemer -- who left a donation of $136,000 to the school district that was announced last July -- also had new scoreboards at the GCMS High School baseball and softball fields built in his honor prior to this season.
"It's just amazing to see his name on the new scoreboards at the high school softball and baseball fields," Miranda Leonard said.