Stephen “Steve” Coombs worked for the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department for 26 years and was known for his dedication to lining ball fields.
He also loved helping kids in sports and coached Little League for 27 years and elementary basketball for 25 years.
On Dec. 2, 2018, the Seymour man died at age 63.
As a way to keep his memory alive and let people know about his dedication to the city’s parks and local youth, his nephew, Chad Hubbard, pitched the idea of naming the large ball field at Shields Park in his honor: Coach Steve Coombs Field.
Hubbard, who also is a member of the Seymour City Council, had shared his idea with Parks and Recreation Director Stacy Findley, and she brought it before the department’s board during a recent meeting.
After Hubbard and Coombs’ son, B.J. Robbins, spoke, a motion immediately was made, seconded and approved 5-0 for the naming of the field.
“I did not know Chad prior to 2020 when I started with the department, and what I can say is that Chad is a true community ambassador,” Findley said. “He embodies the community, he’s involved and he has a heart of gold, and so when he started describing his uncle, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness! This must be where you get it.’”
During the meeting, Hubbard was the first to speak about Coombs.
“His dedication was on the baseball field,” Hubbard said. “Steve lined fields for 20 years. He didn’t want to veer off that path. He didn’t want to go into mowing. Baseball was his passion.”
He said his uncle had “a heart of gold” and became emotional while talking about him.
“He was not only a friend to players. Steve didn’t know a stranger,” Hubbard said, noting Coombs often took his baseball players back and forth to practices and games, bought them mitts and paid their player fees if they couldn’t afford it.
“He was just a coach,” Hubbard said. “There wasn’t a right name back then. Everybody was a player. He made sure everybody had a good time.”
For Robbins, Coombs not only helped him on and off the field, he made an impact on the other players, too.
“There are a lot of kids that benefited from the coaching style that he had. He didn’t care where you came from, whatever kid you were. He would just take care of them. He was always giving back to kids, making sure we had gloves, balls,” Robbins said.
“One thing that was cool, I was too young to play, but my brother played, and I would be out there with my mitt, and then he would stick me in the outfield and he would allow me to catch. Then at the end, I’d be able to bat last,” Robbins said. “He was just taking care of kids.”
Growing up, Robbins said he often accompanied his dad to line the fields at Shields Park.
“He told me about how tranquil it was to be on the field in the morning and see the dew on the grass, and we would chalk the lines,” Robbins said.
Later on, Robbins said the first local baseball tournament he was able to play in was on that same diamond with his dad as the coach.
“We were able to have these special events,” he said. “He did a lot of good things for the park.”
Robbins also recalled getting his first job with parks and rec keeping score at Freeman Field, and his dad was the announcer for the games.
Given all of his dedication, Robbins said naming the ball field after his father would be a way to honor his legacy.
“We’ve got to remember those who help us get where we’re at now. We need to take care of those that were there before us,” he said. “Naming a park (ball field) after somebody is a big deal. If he knew we were trying to do this, he wouldn’t want it. That’s just not what he was. … He knew everybody, and nobody ever had a bad word to say about him.”
After Robbins spoke, Hubbard returned to the podium to ask the board to name the field after Coombs and said he already has spoken with fellow Councilman Matt Wheeler, who works at The Engraver in Seymour, about making a plaque to place on the field.
Following the vote of approval, Findley told Hubbard to get a quote for the plaque so that can be ordered. She said a dedication ceremony can be scheduled for the spring of 2023.
According to a Tribune story in August 2019, there are three other named fields in the city — two at Freeman Field and one at Gaiser Park — so that makes the one at Shields Park the fourth.