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Sculpture dedicated to ‘baseball pioneer’

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Stratton honored at ceremony at Clear Creek Park

By Lisa King

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Shelby County lost a much-loved citizen two years ago, but he has never been forgotten.

To show appreciation for all that Robert Stratton has done for the community, and especially in recognition of his dedication to the youth of Shelby County, a bronze sculpture was dedicated at a ceremony in his honor at Clear Creek Park on Sunday.

The sculpture depicts two children playing baseball, a most appropriate way to honor Stratton, who in addition to being county judge-executive for 21 years, was credited with establishing organized youth baseball in Shelby County.

The sculpture, designed and made by the Randolph Rose Collection in Yonkers, N.Y., was commissioned and paid for by Shelby County Parks and Recreation  in recognition of Stratton’s years of service to youth baseball.

Shelby County Magistrate Hubert Pollett, who is also chairman of the parks and recreation board, called Stratton, “The pioneer of baseball in Shelby County.”

“It’s a fitting honor for him,” he said.

Stratton’s son, Wayne, agreed.

“Baseball and kids were his passion,” he said. “He dedicated his life to kids and to his community, and the family thanks the parks board for taking the initiative to do this, and we really appreciate it.”

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger, who took office after Stratton retired in 2001, spoke fondly of him and remembers his 21 years as county judge-executive before him.

“He was passionate about road improvement and water service,” Rothenburger remembered. “Under him, every gravel road in the county got paved, and he also pushed for water into areas that were unserved. He was also very fiscally responsible; he took care of county funds like it was his own money. He was an absolutely fantastic person.”

During his administration, Stratton, a Bagdad native and owner of Stratton Sporting Goods for 25 years, also presided over the building of the detention center, the purchasing of the Multi-Purpose Community Action Center and building of the Stratton Center, which was named for him.

The sculpture that honors him is one of the company’s best, said Harlan Rose, co-owner.

“It is made of a wax mold, with all the details, then bronzed,” he said. “We designed an entire line of baseball-related sculptures; they are a very popular part of our collection, and we make them for a lot of dedications and memorials. It’s a great way to honor someone.”

Wayne Stratton said the family is very humbled by such a touching gesture to the man they always looked up to, and still do today.

“He always taught us to give back to the community in which you live, and he personified that,” he said. “He set a good example for us, and we try to follow it the best we can. He taught us it’s OK to make a mistake – but it’s not OK not to try.”