First pitch

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94-year-old’s love of sports lasts a lifetime

By Navar Watson

Almost everyone at Wellbrooke of Westfield, an assisted living facility, knows Chalmer Springer.

The 94-year-old was the second resident at Wellbrooke when it opened two years ago. With a room decked out in sports memorabilia, the staff quickly knew him as a “guy’s guy” who liked to have fun, Jessica Strausbaugh, life enrichment director, said.

Therefore, when the possibility of throwing an opening pitch at the Indianapolis Indians game came up, she instantly thought of Springer.

“He’s very into sports,” Strausbaugh said. “Who better to throw an opening pitch than him?”

And so, on June 3, Springer stepped onto Victory Field, assisted by his son, Norm, and threw an underhand pitch right across home plate, where first baseman Hunter Morris played catcher. The crowd roared.

“Well, it was fun,” Springer said, but “(the pitch) was nothing what I’d call ‘really outstanding,’ standing by itself.” He laughed.

Springer’s experience was accomplished through the Live A Dream program with Trilogy Health Services, Wellbrooke’s parent company. Live A Dream strives to “grant the wishes” of senior residents.

Springer said he never dreamed of pitching for the Indians, but when the opportunity fell in his lap, he was eager to accept it.

Norm recalled visiting his father less than a month before the big game. Springer, thinking it was game day, was excited to get out and pitch, only to find out the game was still three weeks away.

When the day did come, he was accompanied by about 25 family members and friends – including staff and residents of Wellbrooke and Sanders Glen Retirement Community, where Springer used to live.

“We had a lot of pride,” Norm said. “It was a very neat experience for him to be invited to do it and to go out and do it … and to get it across the plate!”

Springer lived most of his life near Fort Wayne, Ind. He played ball every year at Ossian High School, where he graduated in 1940. To this day, he still sports his class ring, having never taken it off.

“When he pitched (in high school), he never lost a baseball game,” Norm said. “That’s his story, and his yearbooks pretty much document that.”

Springer also played on the semi-state basketball team. Norm said his father has always enjoyed sports. When camping with his wife, Springer would enter into horseshoe-throwing contests, winning nearly every tournament.

He even bowled until age 91.

Springer said he wasn’t nervous about throwing the opening pitch, though he was worried he might have to pitch the whole game.

“It was funny; he was wanting to know how many pitches he was going to have to throw,” Norm said. “He didn’t think he could throw a whole game.”

Chelsea Lowman, community relations and promotions coordinator for the Indians, helped organize the special day. Most ceremonial pitches go to sponsors and community partners, she said, but when Wellbrooke called about setting up a pitch for one of its residents, she was happy to arrange it.

“Throwing out a pitch at a professional baseball game is not something many people have the opportunity to experience,” Lowman said. “Seeing him throw right down the line and the smile on his face afterwards is one of the many reasons I enjoy my job so much.”

Springer got to keep the baseball, which now sits proudly in his room.

He said he doesn’t have any big dreams at this age, but he’s always open to opportunities.

“I’ll take them as they come,” he said. “I’ve done everything. Not much I haven’t done.”

About Chalmer

Age: 94

Hometown: Ossian, Ind.

Family: Springer was married to Emmagean H. Young for 71 years and 11 months—from May 23, 1943 to her death in April 2009. Springer has three children (Danny, Norman and Stanley), nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Occupations: Springer helped on his parents’ farm during high school and through World War II. He then worked at General Electric in Fort Wayne for several years before going to Mueller Vendors, also in Fort Wayne. Springer and a partner eventually bought the vending business until his retirement in 1974. His days consisted of driving his vending truck throughout Fort Wayne filling candy and cigarette vending machines in factories and gas stations. He was known to everyone as the “Candy Man.”

Favorite sport: Basketball

Favorite sports teams: Springer listened to high school tournaments on the radio and followed Indiana University basketball for several years, as Norman and Stanley graduated from IU.


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