BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – With the sun shining and a cool breeze in the air, there couldn’t have been a better backdrop for the renaming of the Lakewood Baseball Complex for a man who exemplified love for family, love for community and a vibrant enthusiasm for the game of baseball, Dr. Reginald Ligon.
Scores of community members and elected officials joined the Ligon family last Saturday to honor the life of a man who worked tirelessly to create a place that would sustain through time and ensure the city’s children had a wonderful place to grow and learn more about baseball.
“The naming of a municipal complex facility is one of the highest honors, perhaps the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a resident in our city,” said Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, who acted as Mistress of Ceremony. “It is reserved for those that make a timeless contribution that will transcend lifetimes and continue to teach valuable and important lessons.”
Born in Terre Haute, Ind., Dr. Ligon settled in Florida, eventually taking over his brother’s, Dr. Julius Ligon, Jr., practice located on the 22nd Street South. He and his wife Mendee later moved the office to Central Avenue and started the Ligon Dental Group.
Neil White, right, presented Dr. Brian Ligon, DDS and the family with a plag
His devotion for his community reached far beyond youth sports. He would often volunteer his dental services to pregnancy centers and to the county to those who had no insurance. He was involved with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life campaign, the Community Alliance, the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center, Leadership St. Pete, the Suncoasters of St. Petersburg and his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc.
“When it comes to the legacy that Dr. Ligon leaves, it was him and Larry Williams, that wanted to make sure that kids in our community had an activity that was an outlet,” said School Board Chair Rene Flowers.
Dr. Ligon was heavily involved in the construction of the Little League field, located at Lake Vista Recreation Center and Lakewood High School, and spent many years leading the organization.
Former City Councilmember Williams told the Tampa Bay Times that Dr. Ligon spoke to other leagues about tournament play, but was met with resistance because they didn’t want to drive their kids to the south side of town.
This was unacceptable to Dr. Ligon. He approached the Pinellas County School Board about the vacant land behind Lakewood High School and the Bay Point Little League field was constructed. Once the field was built, he could be seen cleaning and maintaining it.
“He is one who labored tirelessly for youth in our community,” stated Dr. Willie Felton, longtime patient, friend and fraternity brother.
Person after person came to the podium to share their stories about Dr. Ligon, including his very first dental patient, retired army veteran Neil White.
“The naming rights for sports venues around the world, they’re kinda treated as a commodity: purchased, bought, sold,” said White. “This venue has been paid for with something very unique. It’s called sweat equity. The honor, the trust, the dignity that this man brought to this community must be recognized by all.”
Deveron Gibbons said Dr. Ligon was like a second father to him, admitting that he could get him “to do stuff that my own dad couldn’t get me to do on a regular basis.”
His words reiterated Dr. Ligon’s love for his community and the youth.
“Reggie to me was selfless, giving and always took the time to make sure that the people in this community were cared for whether it was in dentistry, or as you can tell, here on this baseball diamond and across this community,” stated Gibbons, who used to babysit the Ligons youngest child Evan.
Dr. Ligon was committed to providing more than just a fun game of baseball for the youth. He was committed to setting examples and teaching lessons of respect, humility, discipline and perseverance through the game. He passed away Aug. 20, 2017, but the renaming of the field to the Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ligon Baseball Complex will serve as a reminder of his dedication to his community.
The Ligons’ daughter Shannon fought back the tears to praise her father. She remembers him working countless hours for Bay Point Little League whether serving as president, a coach, a cheerleader or a concession stand volunteer.
“And every year, whether I wanted to or not, he continued to sign me up to play softball,” she said, explaining that her father understood that no matter what level of athlete a child was, baseball was a sport they could participate in.
“That’s why this field is so important,” she said. “This field represents inclusiveness. I think my father always knew every child, regardless of race, gender, income or athleticism, deserved access to play in one of America’s favorite pastimes.”
Dr. Ligon’s wife, Mendee, the love of his life, closed out the afternoon by saying her husband was a man of great faith and led a Christian life. He embraced everybody with love and respect no matter what their background or social status was.
“So I think he would want us to love and respect each other even when we may not agree with each other. This dedication today was not by chance. It was by divine intervention. It is a reminder for all of us to act as a team player with love, determination, perseverance and dedication, just like we do when we’re playing baseball,” she finished.
She thanked all those involved with honoring Dr. Ligon’s legacy.