Father of T-ball, rec baseball backer Lewis is honored

October 2, 2013 

Editor’s note: This is fifth in a series of columns about each of the 2013 Warner Robins Hall of Fame inductees.

Claude Lewis. When most people hear the name they immediately associate it with baseball, and they would be right. Lewis’ name is forever tied to baseball, not only in Warner Robins but across the country. But his contribution to this community has been more than just baseball.

He was born in Macon and played high school baseball for Lanier High School. The University of Georgia offered him a baseball scholarship; instead he went off to fight for his country in World War II.

After his discharge in 1946, he attended Mercer and began working for the Macon Recreation Department. In 1958, he was hired to be head of the recently formed Warner Robins Recreation Department.

That was also the year that Lewis brought T-ball to Warner Robins, basing the game on his old high school coach’s batting practice using a tee.

It was a way for kids to play ball and learn the game without the danger of getting hurt, using not hard balls but tennis balls.

Lewis wrote the rules for the game -- literally -- sending copies of the rules of his new game all over the United States and as far away as Israel and the Philippines. In June 2007 he was invited by then President Bush to participate in a T-ball celebration on the White House lawn. Later in 2007, he was inducted into the Georgia Recreation Hall of Fame.

The recreation department grew and grew under Lewis with playing fields, gymnasiums and swimming pools all being added. Lewis established a program for senior citizens and his Teen Council programs won Outstanding Teen club for the state of Georgia for more than 10 years. The recreation department was recognized as the Outstanding Recreation Department in the state in 1963, 1968 and 1986.

Lewis retired but continued to stay committed to recreation in the community. He coached Little League, carried the chains for Warner Robins High School football games for 25 years and threw out the first pitch of the first Veterans High School baseball game.

The city had added many baseball fields while Lewis headed up the recreation department, but the Little League was still using the three fields at Flint Field, located next to Warner Robins High School. There was no parking and nowhere to expand.

Lewis contacted one of his former players, Larry Snellgrove, who at the time was a Houston County commissioner, about the county donating land to the Little League. He then gathered up more of “his boys” and together signed a note for the start-up costs.

The Flint Energies Sports Complex was dedicated in 2001.

His contribution to youth baseball in the city of Warner Robins was recognized by the Warner Robins American Little League in 2006, when the T-ball field at Flint Energies Complex was named the Claude Lewis field. Along with the T-ball field, the recreation center building is named for Lewis.

Contact Alline Kent at 396-2467 or allinekent@cox.net.

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