Olivia Orozco throws out the first pitch under the watchful eye of her father Hector during the First Pitch Ceremony June 26 at Kerrie Orozco Field in Miller Park. (Photos by Antone Oseka)
Miller Park Field Named After Fallen Police Officer
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
After the fanfare that included a helicopter, horses and bagpipes, the real celebration came after the crowd of hundreds had dwindled to friends, families and the group of core supporters that made the Kerrie Orozco Memorial Ballfield a reality Wednesday afternoon.
J’Dyon Bullion, who wears No. 8 on Orozco’s old team – the North Omaha Boys and Girls Club Jaguars – stepped up to the plate and hit a 2-run homerun in the top of the third inning, putting his team on the brand-new scoreboard against the home team Miller Park Grays in an exhibition game.
“Today is about celebrating Kerrie and her legacy,” said Doug Reid, a game announcer and master of ceremonies for a first pitch ceremony at Millard Park, which is located near the corner of 24th Street and Kansas Avenue.
Reid highlighted the volunteer efforts of the Police Athletics for Community Engagement, Black Police Officers Association and Latino Peace Officers Association across the Omaha community.
“The goal is to build stronger relationships between neighborhoods and the officers who patrol those communities and make Omaha a better place, one kid at a time,” Reid said.
The game between the Jaguars and Grays reflected the history of the two teams as Omaha police officers dedicated their time and efforts growing a youth baseball program to help build trust, love and relationships within the city.
“This field will be a lasting tribute to Kerrie’s legacy of kindness and of giving,” Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said. “I hope every player who takes the field and every fan who sits in the bleachers will think about everything that Kerrie taught her players: the rules of the game, good sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership and respect for others.”
The newly renovated ballfield took what was once a dirt field with overgrown weeds and a backstop into a state-of-the-art facility featuring artificial turf, batting cages, a concession stand, modern bleachers and a scoreboard. The work was performed by the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department with financial support coming from donors like the Sherwood Foundation.
“As we continue to move forward in our city, every step we make ought to be toward moving forward to being a better community,” Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray said. “This is a testament to that. This is a great community that is going to be even better as we move forward.”
The field has served the Police Athletics for Community Engagement leagues. Omaha
Police Officer Kerrie Orozco coached there until she was killed in the line of duty in May 2015.
Omaha Police Lt. Kenneth Fox said the Black Police Officers Association wanted to honor her memory. The project grew much larger than originally envisioned.
“This is what the power of unity, trust and love looks like,” Fox said. “Kerrie brought us together again to celebrate. She gave so much to the community.”
Fox told a story about how he was coaching the Grays against Orozco’s Jaguars, and they had a friendly rivalry. He said his team fell behind but began to rally, and Orozco called a timeout. She smiled, asked them to stop blaming each other and then reminded them they were all family and she believed they could do their best.
“I could instantly see the change in those kids’ confidence,” Fox said. “Kerrie reminded me about something that day that was important. It’s not about wins or losses. It’s about instilling trust and love and building relationships. That’s why we were out there.”
Orozco’s husband Hector and their daughter Olivia threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the end of a dedication event that included a landing by police helicopter Able 1, music by the Omaha Police Department’s Bagpipes and Drums, the raising of the Kerrie Orozco flag by the OPD Honor Guard and an appearance by the OPD mounted patrol, which now includes a horse donated by Hector Orozco.
“Kerrie’s legacy, albeit born out of tragedy, was an extension of herself,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. “The way Kerrie cared about her youth and community will now play out for years to come – game after game, pitch after pitch.”
The Kerrie Orozco memorial flag flies under the American flag at the new Kerrie Orozco Field in Miller Park June 26.