When he was growing up, Eugene “Skip” Sullivan would head to the Oak Lawn Community High School baseball diamond and play.
He played baseball with the Spartans at this field in the 1960s.
He coached the Spartans on this ground as an assistant or head coach from the 70s to 2008.
He took care of the ground. He mowed the field. He dragged the inner earth to the field.
He liked the field.
As of Tuesday, this land, located at 9416, avenue Ménard, will bear his name.
Sullivan died aged 70 in November, and the 41-year-old former teacher and coach at the school will be remembered and the pitch will be named in his honor at a ceremony at 4 p.m. before the Spartans welcome Reavis to a South Suburban Conference red game.
The event is open to the community and the organizers are anticipating such a large crowd that they have organized a shuttle service from the south parking lot starting at 3:30 p.m.
“The only thing that’s kind of sad is that he will miss all of these former players and coaches and the people associated with the program,” current Spartans baseball coach Bill Gerny said. “He would have loved to reconnect with all those people because he was such a positive influence on everyone.
“Any student at Oak Lawn Community High School who participated in track and field between 1973 and 2014, chances are Skip Sullivan coached or taught them in some way. He spent his whole life going to school, excelling in sports and coaching as a Spartan, he was truly one of a kind.
Gerny called Sullivan “Mr. Oak Lawn,” and recalled how he helped people as a teenager on the most tragic day in Oak Lawn history.
On April 21, 1967, a devastating tornado ripped through the city, killing 33 people and injuring many others as it destroyed over 100 homes and buildings and overturned cars.
Sullivan was a sophomore at OLCHS and his baseball game at Sandburg was missed. He and his teammates were back at school when they saw the dark clouds coming. They entered the school and hit the ground in a hallway outside the gymnasium, he told the Daily Southtown in 2017 on the 50th anniversary of the tornado.
When he passed, he said he and his friends had gone out and seen the destruction and tried to help those in need.
“We saw all these bodies and debris everywhere. We were just in shock,” he told the Southtown.
With no paramedics available in the 1960s, he said the fire department asked for everyone’s help.
“Everyone was a firefighter that day,” he said.
That Sullivan went out of his way to help people as a high school student comes as no surprise to anyone who worked with him in school.
“He was very welcoming when I started here in 2003,” Gerny said. “His personality has always resonated throughout the building.”
Janet Meyers, a former women’s basketball coach who had Sullivan on her team, is happy to see Sullivan honored.
“It would mean so much to him,” Meyers said in a press release. “He loved Oak Lawn Community High School and dedicated his career to helping students succeed in the classroom and on the field. He touched so many lives in his 41 years as a teacher and coach.
“He brought out the best in everyone. It’s a great way to honor not only his love of the game, but also the time and effort he put into creating the baseball program and updating the field.
The District 229 School Board passed a resolution in February to name the land after Sullivan.
Twice a week
News from the southern suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday
Sullivan attended Oak Lawn as a college student from 1965 to 1969. He played college football, basketball, and baseball, and won all-conference honors in basketball and baseball during his junior and senior years. Sullivan attended Iowa State University on a football scholarship and played both football and baseball there.
He began coaching at his alma mater in 1973 as an assistant football, basketball and baseball coach. He was baseball’s head coach from 1995 to 2008. In 1993-94, he won the Fred Parks Coach of the Year Award at the OLCHS. In 1996, he was named Pitch and Hit Club High School Coach of the Year. In 2009, he was inducted into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
There will be speeches at the event and a street near the pitch will also be named in his honor.
Gerny thinks he’s expecting a big crowd because of all the athletes and students Sullivan has impacted over the years.
“He was really that glue that held together not just the baseball program, but the whole school,” Gerny said. “I think the peloton will be packed that day.
“He lived a block or two from the lot. Everyone in the community knows him and no one has ever had a bad thing to say about him.
Jeff Vorva is a freelance journalist for the Daily Southtown.